Monday, October 6, 2014

Expo Line Bringing Zoning Changes to Westside Neighborhoods

Various developments near Expo Line Stations. Image credit: Abramson Teiger Architects, VTBS Architects, Killefer Flammang Architects, Togawa Smith Martin

A sea change is underway on the Westside, where multiple neighborhoods are reorienting themselves around phase two of the $1.5 billion Expo Line.  The 6.6-mile light rail extension, spanning between Downtown Santa Monica and Culver City, has already spurred an uptick in development activity near several station sites.  However, due to the freight railway which once traversed the Expo Line's route, many station-adjacent parcels feature zoning that is inconsistent with the walkable, mixed-use communities that the city seeks to create.  Thus, LADCP has partnered with Metro to create the Los Angeles Transit Neighborhood Plan (LATNP), a $7.5 million campaign to shape development policy around the city's newest light rail lines.  This undertaking will repurpose several blocks surrounding the Westwood/Rancho Park and Expo/Sepulveda Stations, as detailed in a document from the Westside Neighborhood Council.

Properties to be affected by proposed zone changes, highlighted in red.  Station sites are marked with blue pegs.

Although the Westwood/Rancho Park Station lies at the heart of a single-family zone, bustling Pico Boulevard is located roughly a quarter-mile north, with several properties ripe for development.  Under LATNP's plan, the northern side of Pico between Overland and Bentley Avenues would be rezoned as RAS4, allowing for the construction of new residential-retail buildings up to five stories in height.  The same changes would be applied to the opposite side of the street, on a segment bounded by Military Avenue and the Westside Pavilion shopping mall.  As it happens, developers may already be teeing up to make this vision a reality.  A rumor originating last week on Reddit alleges that the beloved Apple Pan restaurant may be amongst the first properties on the chopping block.

Further west at the elevated Expo/Sepulveda Station, LATNP proposes to rezone properties between Exposition and Pico Boulevards as "hybrid industrial," with an emphasis on jobs.  The hybrid industrial label facilitates increased population density near the rail station, as encouraged by smart growth principles, but also preserves a cache of the city's decreasing supply of job-creating industrial land.  The latter issue was frequently cited by opponents of the Casden West LA development, which will replace an active cement plant located next to the station.

Residential development is permitted on up to 30% of land zoned as hybrid industrial-jobs emphasis, with the remainder devoted to some variation of light manufacturing, office and retail uses.  LATNP's proposal also calls for the segment of Pico Boulevard between Military Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard to receive this treatment.

Plans are slightly different one block east on Military Avenue, which LATNP intends to rezone between Ayres Avenue and Exposition Boulevard.  This half-block section of Military would be zoned as hybrid industrial-residential emphasis, allowing for residential development on 70% of the property and job-generating uses for the remaining 30%.

All land bounded by Sepulveda, the 405 Freeway, Pico and Olympic Boulevard would be classified as "new industry," under LATNP's proposal.  Other city-owned properties adjacent to the rail line itself, specifically those between Overland Avenue and Westwood Boulevard, will remain as open space to accommodate the Expo Greenway.

Properties to be affected by proposed zone changes, highlighted in red.  Expo/Bundy Station is marked by a blue peg.

Though it is not included in the above presentation, LATNP also proposes changes for the neighborhood surrounding another Expo Line Station at Bundy Drive.  In particular, LATNP's plans would rezone much of the land to the north of the station for new industry or hybrid industrial uses.  A significant portion of the single-family district south of Exposition Boulevard would be upzoned to facilitate multi-family residential construction.  Properties fronting Bundy Drive would be zoned as RAS4, allowing for residential buildings with ground-floor commercial space.

These changes may come just in the nick of time, as several developers have targeted nearby properties in anticipation of the Expo Line.  A half-block north of the station, developer Hudson Pacific Properties is in the midst of construction on Element LA, a 284,000 square foot office campus which will become the headquarters of Riot Games.  Next door, the family-owned Martin Automotive Group intends to convert its longtime Cadillac dealership into a mixed-use development featuring office, residential and retail uses.  These improvements will add to an already substantial employment district along the Olympic corridor, which is home to a small cluster of mid-rise office buildings.

Renderings of Bundy Station and Element LA.  Image credit: Exposition Construction Authority and Hudson Pacific Properties


  1. The zoning change didn't come soon enough for the parcel at Pico & Military. It is now slated to be a surface parking lot for the 99 Cents Store :(

    A giant step backwards for Westside development.

    1. Yeah, that corner parking lot is a big negative from an urban design perspective. On the bright side, a 99 Cents store is certainly better than a vacant storefront.

      I'm very interested to see what the vague "hybrid industrial" zones translate to in real life. Can't imagine that people are lining up to live next door to a light manufacturing facility.

    2. If light industrial includes software development and film related uses it won't be a bad neighbor. Those jobs are also higher paying, which would fit in with the residential rents that will undoubtedly be required to allow these projects to "pencil out."

    3. Seems like there's a very broad range of job-related uses that are encompassed by the hybrid industrial label. I'm sure software development and film-related industries fit the bill.

  2. What about the 2 Hotels at 4th Strret Station in Santa Monica

    1. I thought about going further down the road to talk about some of the stuff happening in Santa Monica, but that mess is truly deserving of its own post. So much fear mongering over a bunch of five-to-seven story buildings. You'd think a bunch of skyscrapers were going up, based on some of the absurd Manhattan/Hong Kong comparisons that people are tossing out there.

  3. Most of the zoning changes are insignificant IMHO. The outreach presentation projects they'd have a minor impact on total housing supply. All of the business/industrial zones are already zoned C or M and thus already allow the proposed types of development and then some. The mixed-use on Venice & Motor in Palms is already zoned C2, which allows everything up to R4.

    The huge thing, to me, would be upzoning the R1 SFRs near Bundy to R3 or R4. It's not a huge area, but it shows that upzoning is legitimately on the table in LA.

    1. I recall your much more in-depth post on this subject, and I'm inclined to agree. Unfortunately, the NIMBY sentiment is verrrrrry strong on the Westside. Even these underwhelming changes are catching backlash from neighbors.

      Pretty much everyone wants the Expo Line, but too few people are willing to alter the fabric of the adjacent neighborhoods to help the train reach its full potential. But I suppose that's easy for me to say, being on the outside looking in.