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In L.A., NIMBYs Come Out Against Parking Reforms for Granny Flats

Map of permitted accessory dwelling units in the city of Los Angeles. Image via Department of City Planning [PDF]
Map of permitted accessory dwelling units in the city of Los Angeles. Image via Department of City Planning [PDF]

Streetsblog received a tip that someone is circulating wording to help L.A. Neighborhood Councils oppose reforms that would make it easier to permit new granny flats. The document, below, would be almost humorous if it was not such a NIMBY attack on affordable housing and bicycling.

Fostering granny flats, or in planner-speak "accessory dwelling units" (ADUs) is one way to encourage affordable housing and gradually increasing density while preserving neighborhood character. ADUs help foster inter-generational connections by allowing a grandparent to live close to family or by helping young adults afford to live in neighborhoods they grew up in.

Fortunately, the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council anti-ADU resolution [PDF] was defeated at last night's meeting. The anti-ADU language was allegedly circulated by someone from the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition, so there will likely be other similar resolutions before other councils. Readers are encouraged to keep an eye on Neighborhood Council agendas and weigh in on them.

Here is the wording of the HHPNC resolution:

Re: Parking space requirements to be enforced for both new construction and remodeling (CF12-1297-S1, ADU proposal CPC-2016-4345-CA et al)

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, which represents over 60,000 Los Angeles stakeholders who reside, own property, or conduct business in our neighborhood is concerned about the escalation waivers granted developers and others that reduces the number of parking spots that are required for residential units.

Under the proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance currently under discussion (CPC-2016-4345-CA), parking requirements are not applicable when located within half a mile of public transportation or within a block of a car share parking spot or located in a historic district or HPOZ.

The foregoing eliminates the off-street parking requirement from most of Highland Park. However, it does not give anyone an alternative other than parking on the street. Street parking often raises car insurance, encourages theft and break-ins, and contributes to dangerous conditions for kids at play.

Often these ADUs, as well as existing studio and one-bedroom units, house couples with two cars, or whole families with grandparents or students who commute.

HHPNC calls for pre-existing parking space requirements to be enforced.

CF 12-1297-S1 allows that new or existing automobile parking spaces required by the Code for all uses may be replaced by bicycle parking at a ratio of one standard or compact automobile parking space for every four required or non-required bicycle parking spaces provided.

It is NOT acceptable to replace car parking spaces with bike spaces – there are too many cars parking on the streets. We do not want to see the parking shortages that affect cities such as Philadelphia where the shortage of spaces is so dire in some areas of the city that residents have no choice but to double park, park on sidewalks, or park in medians. Most people who have a bike also have to have access to a car for those trips to Home Depot for larger items, or to pick up laundry, carpool children before/after the buses start/stop running, or to go on trips outside of the city. Having bicycle spaces does NOT reduce the need for car parking and instead may cause unsafe conditions.

While there is a need for secure bike parking, until public transportation is both improved and embraced by Angelenos, we will still need adequate car parking to accommodate the needs of our communities TODAY.

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council therefore calls on the City Council to require that all departments and entities doing so immediately cease from granting parking space waivers and act to address the reality of living in Los Angeles today, and not the fantasy City of Angels in 2050.

Readers can pick this apart. How dire is Philadelphia? Whose 2050 fantasy L.A.? Many of my friends use bike parking ... which causes unsafe conditions?

Calling to enforce "pre-existing parking space requirements" is an all-too-typical example of reactive neighbors pushing to crystallize their neighborhood in the condition they found it in. It is selective in that many of these desirable neighborhoods predate L.A.'s suburban-style parking requirements, so instead of reaching for arguably authentic historic integrity, this ADU parking opposition smacks of broad general opposition to any development. It is literally NIMBY: No (dwelling) In My (or my neighbor's) Back Yard.

Ironically, L.A.'s ADU ordinance actually does not matter at this time. L.A. is aligning its policies with a new state law that supersedes city zoning rules. Many communities across the state are opposing affordable housing, so state legislators, including Assemblymember Richard Bloom, did an end run around the ticky-tacky ways that various cities block ADUs. Bloom and others worked to pass S.B. 1069 which will become law on January 1, 2017.

Section 65582.1 (e) reads:

"Notwithstanding any other law, a local agency, whether or not it has adopted an ordinance governing accessory dwelling units in accordance with subdivision (a), shall not impose parking standards for an accessory dwelling unit in any of the following instances:(1) The accessory dwelling unit is located within one-half mile of public transit.(2) The accessory dwelling unit is located within an architecturally and historically significant historic district.(3) The accessory dwelling unit is part of the existing primary residence or an existing accessory structure.(4) When on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the occupant of the accessory dwelling unit.(5) When there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the accessory dwelling unit."

For more on L.A.'s ADU ordinance, see the Department of City Planning's fact sheet.

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