In 1982, the State of California adopted the Mello Act to preserve and increase the supply of affordable housing in the State’s Coastal Zone. Among other measures that protect housing, it requires, wherever feasible, that affordable dwelling units be replaced and that projects incorporate new affordable housing units.
Several neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles are in the Coastal Zone, which includes parts of the Brentwood – Pacific Palisades, Venice, Palms – Mar Vista – Del Rey, Westchester – Playa Del Rey, San Pedro and Wilmington – Harbor City Community Plans.
Since 2001, the City of Los Angeles has been operating under Interim Administrative Procedures for complying with the Mello Act in the Coastal Zone areas. The City Council instructed Los Angeles City Planning in 2015 to prepare an ordinance establishing permanent procedures for implementing the Mello Act. That ordinance, which is now up for consideration by the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, would strengthen the protections offered by the interim procedures.
For instance, under the current procedures, projects that demolish affordable housing in the Coastal Zone can replace those units offsite. City Planning’s proposed ordinance would require all affordable housing to be replaced onsite, where feasible, and require units to be replaced on a one-for-one basis, at like-for-like affordability.
City Planning’s draft ordinance would also improve on the current procedures by strengthening and clarifying the review process, specifying clear objectives and expectations, and standardizing the criteria for assessments of affordability and feasibility.
Another important feature of the ordinance is that it would establish the Coastal Zone Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would collect in-lieu fees from projects that are unable to replace affordable units and use that revenue to fund the construction of new affordable housing.