Renters need more protections as Hollywood booms, community groups say

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With an unstoppable wave of development washing over Hollywood, a “rag-tag” group of nonprofits and community and labor groups is pushing to ensure that residents and businesses are able to stay put as the neighborhood grows.

The group—called Just Hollywood Coalition—is seizing on updates to the neighborhood’s long-term planning guidelines to put pressure on city leaders and planners to incorporate “strong anti-displacement, affordable housing, and sustainability policies,” says Mariana Huerta, a spokesperson for ACT-LA, which is part of the group.

Called the Just Hollywood Coalition, the group, which has spent about a year and a half organizing, plans to deliver petitions and letters in support of those policies along with roses to councilmembers and city planners today.

It’s calling for the creation of an “anti-displacement zone” in Hollywood that would halt the conversion of rent-stabilized units to condos and put a cap on demolitions of those units. One part of the area that’s covered by the plan lost 108 rent-stabilized units last year alone, putting it among the top neighborhoods that lost units to Ellis Act evictions in 2019.

The group also wants any “upzoning,” or an increase in the height and density of the housing that can be built on a site, to be tied to the creation of more affordable units.

The coalition’s plan also calls for creating a new conditional use permit that hotels would have to obtain as a way to ensure they encourage public transit use and hire locally, and for a number of “sustainable” policies, including requiring certain new projects to encourage non-car transportation through a free transit-pass program.

The push to help renters comes as housing costs rise steadily in the neighborhood. The average price of a one-bedroom shot up from $1,757 in 2014 to $2,047 last year, according to real estate data tracker CoStar.

As it stands, the draft plan does acknowledge that the preservation of rent-stabilized units and affordable housing should be encouraged, while promoting the creation of new affordable housing near transit.

“If you look at housing production in the last three years [citywide], what you see is affordable units on an upward trajectory,” says planning department spokesperson Yeghig Keshishian.

But coalition members say more could be done. In a January 2019 comment letter on the plan update, the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council called the plan’s existing affordable housing requirements and incentives “severely inadequate.”

Councilmembers David Ryu and Paul Koretz, two of the three councilmemberswhose districts are part of the Hollywood Community Plan area, have generally been supportive of the group’s goals, Huerta says. But there hasn’t been any concrete movement toward making the coalition’s additions to the community plan, she says.

Huerta says that what is really needed is an outpouring from numerous community members indicating that they share the coalition’s concerns.

A fact sheet for the plan’s current iteration outlines goals that have been shaped by the community’s input so far, and include keeping development “away from hillsides and low-density neighborhoods,” maintaining current parking requirements, and promoting “tourism, entertainment, and media jobs.”

In 2012, the city attempted to update Hollywood Community Plan, but the update was walked back after three groups—including Fix the City, which is suing the city now over its transit-oriented communities program, and the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association—successfully sued the city over its approval. The groups said that the data the city used to evaluate the environmental impacts of the 2012 update was inaccurate, and that alternatives in the plan were not thoroughly analyzed.

According to the planning department, post-lawsuit, the city reverted to the 1988 version of the plan for Hollywood and uses the zoning rules for the area that were in place before the 2012 update went into effect.

The Just Hollywood Coalition’s goals are less focused on derailing the plan and more focused on adding to it.

The coalition wants to repeat the actions of the UNIDAD Coalition, a multi-organization group that developed its own ideal planning guidelines for South and Southeast LA neighborhoods when those community plans were updated, Huerta says.

UNIDAD worked with planners to successfully incorporate about 75 percent of its plan into the version the city officially approved in 2017. A similar plan—the Central City United Coalition People’s Plan—is in the works in Downtown as a counter to the city’s Downtown LA Community Plan Update, which is also underway.

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