The process for getting new housing approved can be complex, and there are many different types of housing that we can build, from large apartment buildings all the way down to single accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Occasionally, we’ll use this space to spotlight projects that we have supported, look at the process and approvals the project needs, and explain why we think it’s important for people to voice their support.

What is it? A 136-unit, 5-story apartment building. This is on the larger side for a housing development in LA. Outside of Downtown LA, residential construction almost always tops out around 5 or 6 stories. This is due to two factors. First, in most of the city, the zoning doesn’t allow for taller structures. Second, this is the maximum height permitted for wood frame structures by the building code due to concerns about fire safety. Since wood construction is cheaper than concrete and steel, it is often not economical to build taller structures that would require concrete and steel.

8820 Sepulveda Eastway rendering. Source: City of LA Planning case file.

What discretionary approvals did this project need? A discretionary approval is one where a special permit or a change from zoning regulations is required for the project to be built. In many cases, the current zoning requirements are stricter than the existing buildings surrounding the site.

The only discretionary approval that this project required was a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), a government action that finds the project, as proposed, will not have a significant impact on the environment under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While this is only a single action, CEQA provides an opportunity for opponents of new housing to slow down or stop construction by appealing the city’s decision.

Why should we support this project? Larger buildings add a significant amount of housing capacity with one project. Large buildings sometimes can offer more amenities, because the cost can be spread out over a greater number of units. Promoting a variety of building sizes and types – from ADUs up to large apartment buildings – helps create a diversity of housing types, increasing the diversity of people that can find housing in the area.

While this project only needed to clear CEQA, this can still be an issue if there is opposition to the project. The city’s decision can be appealed on subjective grounds, such as impacts to views. It is important for people who want to help solve the region’s housing crisis to speak up and register their support so that decision makers don’t only hear anti-housing voices.