How the Community Redevelopment Law Paves the Way for a Gentrified Los Angeles

Its design resembles an ocean liner, with rounded edges and porthole windows. The building is surrounded by a small village of bungalows, a commercial complex constructed in 1936 by Robert V. Derrah, the architect behind the Coca-Cola Building in Los Angeles. This is the Crossroads of the World.

This cluster of buildings began as a shopping center. Then, in the 1940s and 1950s, it transitioned into offices, housing Standard Oil, American Airlines, and the Screen Actors Guild. Now, it is slated for redevelopment.

The Crossroads Hollywood Project is a $1 billion project designed to bring 950 units of residential housing to Sunset Boulevard. However, before it can build these units, the project must demolish several old structures, including 82 units of rent-stabilized housing within the historic Selma-Las Palmas Courtyard Apartments.

Located in the Hollywood Section of the City of Los Angeles, the Selma Apartments are a complex of three, two-story courtyard-apartment buildings. As a property type, these courtyard apartments represent Hollywood in the 1920s, an example of the neighborhood’s transition towards higher-density forms of housing. They are also icons of the Hollywood Regency Revival style, a style characterized by “the bold use of color and contrast.” With its metallic and glass accents, the Selma Apartments signify “both opulence and comfort,” looking both frivolously overdone and sleekly modern.

On 19 February 2019 AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Livable LA commenced proceedings against the City of Los Angeles, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, and CRE-HAR Crossroads SPV. The filing demands a writ of mandate, compelling the City of Los Angeles to comply with the affordable housing requirements of the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan and the Community Redevelopment Law in its approval of the Crossroads Hollywood Project.

According to the petitioners, the Crossroads Hollywood Project fails to follow Health and Safety Code Section 33413 of the Community Redevelopment Law, as it makes no provisions to ensure that at least 15 percent of all new housing units developed within the Hollywood Redevelopment Area are affordable ones. They continue, stating that only 11 percent of the project’s residential units are set to be available to low- and moderate-income residents. In other words, the petitioners argue that the Crossroads Hollywood Project will exacerbate the affordable housing shortage, removing 37 affordable housing units from the area.

In a judicial move that illuminates the limitations of the Community Redevelopment Law, Judge Daniel S. Murphy of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County denied the request in a tentative ruling issued on June 10, 2019. His ruling is instructive, for it highlights the legal technicalities through which redevelopment projects are able to displace low- to moderate-income residents, all against the Community Redevelopment Law’s provisions to do otherwise.

The stated purpose of the Community Redevelopment Law is to ensure that redevelopment expands the supply of low- and moderate-income housing; increases employment opportunities for jobless, underemployed, and low-income persons; and provides an environment for “the social, economic, and psychological growth and well-being of all citizens.”

Judge Murphy reminded the relevant parties that the requirements for affordable housing do not apply to individual projects. As it is written, the Community Redevelopment Law does not require that the Crossroads Hollywood Project set aside 15 percent of its 950 dwelling units for low- to moderate-income individuals. The law applies to the entire Hollywood Redevelopment Area. This means that these affordable housing requirements are the responsibility of the City of Los Angeles to distribute as it sees fit. They are not the responsibility of the designers of any particular project. Legally, the Crossroads Hollywood Project is allowed to proceed, even if it will exacerbate the affordable housing shortage in the Hollywood Redevelopment Area.

As the Crossroads Hollywood Project materializes, the gap in affordable housing is expected to rise, moving the Hollywood Redevelopment Area further away from the 15 percent requirement. The City of Los Angeles will need to offset this shortfall in affordable housing somewhere else within the redevelopment area. It is unknown where and when this will happen, leaving residents sitting and waiting, all in the hopes that someday the City of Los Angeles will find a way to alleviate an ever-expanding shortfall.

Nicole Clark is the CEO/Co-Founder of Trellis: Legal Intelligence and a former business and employment litigator.