Business Lead Story West Edition

Lack of affordable housing kills District Square project

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The lack of affordable housing has killed a development project that has sought city approval for almost 10 years.

The South Los Angeles Planning Commission effectively killed the District Square project last month when it voted against the proposal.

The City Council killed the plan once and for all when it refused to hear an appeal of the commission’s decision.

The District Square project was a development consisting of 577 market-rate apartments and 93,000 square feet of retail space planned for the corner of Crenshaw and Obama boulevards.

A representative for the District Square developers Mark and Arman Gabay was unable to provide information on the next steps for the development.

Damien Goodmon of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, which led the opposition to the project, believes the Gabays defaulted on their obligations to the community and has called for the city to foreclose on the site and give a community-minded nonprofit a chance to build.

“I’m optimistic and excited about the type of project that would be developed by having the [site] foreclosed upon by the city,” Goodmon said.

The crux of Goodmon’s plan is to involve the community in the planning itself.

“[I’m excited about] having a community dialogue about what’s appropriate at that location,” Goodmon said. “I think just based on the one conversation we had in our post meeting with the community that there are a lot of great ideas out there and a true community service project can be built.”

The issue of displacement was a large factor in the denial of the District Square project. Councilman Herb Wesson, who originally supported the development when plans called for a Ralphs Supermarket and a Target store, submitted a letter last month removing his support due to the displacement burden.

“There must be a significant number of affordable housing units in order for me to consider supporting this development,” he said.

The project called for market-rate apartment units. With the median income of South LA households at  $43,000, the typical resident wouldn’t be able to afford a market-rate apartment.

There is a new rule that affects developments on city-owned land. Starting on Jan. 1 only affordable units can be built on city-owned land. The City Council unanimously passed the measure Dec. 10, with an amendment that market-rate apartments are allowed if they help pay for more affordable units.

Wesson introduced the motion on Nov. 5 “due to the pace at which housing units are created in the city and the sheer quantity of homeless individuals who need housing.”

Many black business groups supported the project originally. Letters from the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce and the Black Business Association defended the development as an economic boost and much-needed “gathering place” for the community.