Developers who construct low-income housing may soon be able to build denser units with less parking

In response to the state housing crisis and a new California law that seeks to spur affordable housing development, the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday will consider allowing more density and less parking for some apartment buildings, mostly in the Downtown and Central Long Beach areas.

The city’s Department of Developmental Services is proposing offering developers more incentives to build moderate-, low- and very-low-income housing, particularly along transit corridors and near job centers. In exchange, developers would be eligible to receive rewards depending on where the units are built, how many affordable units are included, and how low the rents will be for each unit.

The rewards include more density per lot than is currently allowed, reduced parking mandates, taller buildings and fewer requirements for open space, according to a city staff report.

The new rule applies exclusively to multi-unit buildings that are already zoned for five or more units; it excludes areas zoned for single-family housing, where multiple units per lot cannot be built.

A screenshot of a map of the areas (parcels) eligible for the construction of five or more units under a proposed enhanced density bonus ordinance.

Aside from the high concentration of eligible space in Downtown and Central Long Beach, parts of West, North and Southeast Long Beach along main corridors would be affected by the change.

The policy update, according to the staff report, would expand an existing program that offers various bonuses to developers if they include rent-reduced units that are “deed restricted,” meaning it must remain low-income for at least 55 years.

According to the staff report, developers can earn bonuses in three areas: high-quality transit corridors, major transit stops and base area.

  • High-quality transit corridors: these are areas within a half-mile of a high-quality transit corridor with a fixed route bus line with 15-minute peak service intervals.
  • Major transit stops: these are areas within a half-mile away or a rail station or the intersection of two bus routes with a peak service interval of 15 minutes or less.
  • Base area: an area outside of a half-mile of a transit corridor or major transit stop.

    A screenshot of a map of two types of transit priority areas defined by state law, which are high-quality transit corridors and major transit stops.

The number of bonuses a developer can earn depends on where the low-income units are being built. The highest number of bonuses—or where the city is trying to encourage the most below-market housing—is along major transit stops.

Examples of bonuses include a maximum two-story increase in the Base Area, and three stories in the Transit Priority Areas, according to the staff report.

Some parts of the new ordinance in Long Beach are even more generous to developers than what’s required under a new state law that went into effect in January.

For example, developers who construct a reduced-rent two-bedroom unit would be required to offer one parking space, while the state law requires 1.5 spaces, according to the staff report. However, the proposed city ordinance also requires an additional guest parking ratio at one space per eight units, while the 1.5-space state ratio includes guest parking.

Similar to the state law, the city ordinance would eliminate parking requirements altogether for 100% affordable projects regardless of location.

The public will have the option to submit a written comment via eComment or by emailing the city clerk at [email protected] The council meeting will take place at 5 p.m. at Long Beach City Hall, located at 411 W. Ocean Blvd. Anyone can also tune in virtually via a live stream of the meeting at www.longbeach.gov/lbtv

For more information about the proposed EDB, read the full staff report here.

Long Beach has room for projected housing needs, but current zoning shields wealthier areas from density

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Crystal Niebla is the West Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with the Post. If you want to support Crystal's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at lbpost.com/support.
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