The City Planning Department’s Transit Oriented Communities program, which was released in 2017 has been a big hit with developers because it presents greatly enhanced profit opportunities in return for a relatively small number (typically around 10%) of units set aside for low-income tenants. But not everyone is a fan.
A local non-profit called Fix the City (FTC), which is dedicated to protecting public safety and quality of life, has filed lawsuits against two TOC projects in the WSSM area, challenging – amongst other things – the lawfulness of the program itself. FTC’s position is that:
- The TOC incentives and TOC “tiers” granted by the City Planning Commission were not authorized by voters via Measure JJJ and therefore violate City Charter Section 464(a).
- In particular, TOC grants developers additional building height and reduced setback incentives that were not included in the Measure JJJ package and are therefore not voter-mandated.
- The City Planning Department is not authorized to revise/expand the scope of Measure JJJ (or any other ballot initiative for that matter) without returning to the voters for a new mandate.
- There was no public City Council hearing or vote on the TOC, which means the TOC is not a legitimate zoning ordinance or General Plan amendment, even though the City Planning Department and Planning Commission treat it as such. In addition, City Council does not have authority under the Charter to amend an initiative approved by the voters
We must stress that these legal arguments have yet to be tested in court. But it is telling that, when FTC filed a lawsuit against City for approving a 6-story TOC Tier 3 apartment building at 2301 Westwood Boulevard, the project was immediately abandoned – which suggests that the developer in that case recognized at least some merit in FTC’s complaint.