Last week, the City of Los Angeles released its long-awaited draft housing element, a roadmap for how the City will encourage the production of over 450,000 new homes by 2029. We’re still working through all the details, but one positive sign is that the housing element includes a high-quality, data-driven site inventory analysis – essentially, a fair estimate of the City’s current realistic capacity for new housing.
Here’s why this matters: for a city to successfully achieve the RHNA housing growth goal, the housing element needs to fairly estimate how much capacity the city has for housing growth under current law. To do this, cities must estimate how much theoretical zoned capacity they have, but also how likely it is for individual parcels to be redeveloped in the coming years. That way, cities can rezone enough parcels to meet the RHNA housing growth goal – the same way that UCLA admits a class of 4,000 students when they want 2,000 students to attend.
We are delighted to see LA’s site inventory analysis includes a thorough quantitative model that estimates this likelihood, and the housing element acknowledges that significant rezoning is needed for LA to achieve its RHNA goal. Our friend Professor Chris Elmendorf has a more detailed explanation here.
But most cities’ site inventories are completely missing the mark. Cities like Santa Monica, South Pasadena, and Beverly Hills aren’t including any analysis of the likelihood of development, which allows them to pretend that they don’t have to rezone to meet the RHNA goal. It’s a recipe for failure and continued housing scarcity.
Every city in Los Angeles County needs to adopt high-quality housing elements that fully accord with state law and expert recommendations, and this includes a fair estimate of realistic capacity and development likelihood. They don’t have to do it the exact same way that LA did, but they have to do something.