The Community Plan Update for Westchester/Playa is proposing some zoning changes to parts of our neighborhood that may affect our homes, neighborhood character and daily commutes.
The Community Plan is a blueprint from the Los Angeles City Planning Department that sets forth neighborhood-specific goals related to housing and development. Community Plans are important because they inform developers and residents where development will be permitted. The Plan identifies and provides for economic opportunities, and maintenance of significant environmental resources. It also seeks to enhance the community identity and recognize the unique character of neighborhoods. Together, the City Zoning Code and the Zoning Maps identify the specific types of land use and development standards applicable for land use within the Westchester and Playa del Rey area.
City Planning released the first Draft of the Community Plan Update in July 2020 and held online information sessions to inform stakeholders. In-person outreach was not possible due to the pandemic. Last year, City Planning solicited stakeholder feedback and they have now compiled a summary of notes from our community members about what we liked and disliked about the first Draft of the Community Plan. In a summary of the City’s notes, they noted that 59 percent of stakeholders in Westchester/Playa strongly disagreed with City Planning’s first draft of their “Emerging Vision Statement” and 50 percent of the community strongly disagreed with their “Guiding Principles.”
Some of the proposed zoning changes that residents were most concerned with were proposed in areas bordering major corridors like Manchester Ave., La Tijera Blvd., and Airport Blvd. In some of these areas in Westchester, City Planning has proposed a zoning change from R1 or R2 with single family homes and duplexes to R4 or R5 for dense residential and/or commercial development. One goal of the Community Plan is to create more affordable housing opportunities, and according to feedback, residents felt these zoning changes would actually remove affordable housing options in some of the most diverse neighborhoods by replacing them with high density development.
City Planning is also proposing elevating Manchester Ave.’s identity as an active, walkable street corridor with retail and housing options. This zoning change would affect adjacent R1, R2 and R3 neighborhoods currently zoned with single family homes, duplexes and small apartment buildings and allow high density mixed-use (housing and retail) development. Some of the concerns residents have expressed were that dense mixed-use development removes existing affordable housing options and would create inappropriate transitions between “high-scale” development and “lower-scale” residential areas. In addition, the market rate housing created by upzoning would not adequately address the affordable housing crisis.
Other areas that City Planning is targeting for zoning changes include the Triangle area in Osage; the eastside of La Tijera from Kittyhawk to Belford; Flight Ave. between 80th and 85th in Westport Heights; and Lilienthal Ave. between 86th Place and Yorktown, just west of Airport Blvd. These neighborhoods are currently zoned R1 and R2 for single family homes or duplexes. City Planning is proposing these areas be rezoned as “Medium Residential Core,” which would allow for three to five stories and up to 10 units per lot. Residents living in Westport Heights and Osage expressed concern that these zoning changes would allow for large scale development literally right next to single family homes, with inadequate transitions and a loss of neighborhood character. Other concerns expressed by residents were that these changes would decrease quality of life, increase traffic and decrease property values for residents near zoning changes. The primary concern expressed with all of these zoning proposals is that our community would potentially lose existing affordable housing options like duplexes and small, low rise apartment buildings in favor of high density market rate units.
With the Community Plan Update, we have a unique opportunity to design a more user-friendly and walkable downtown Westchester in the Central Business District, as well as preserve and enhance the Triangle business pedestrian district. We have an opportunity to advocate for goals that are important to our community, more open green space, improved commercial and mixed-use development in appropriate areas that does not remove existing affordable housing and protects our historic beach town of Playa del Rey by limiting building height and promoting coastal resilience.
The Second Draft of the Community Plan is set to be released in the next few months. City Planning will again solicit feedback from our community residents. It’s not too late to submit your comments about these proposed changes. Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Cory Birkett. Cory Birkett is a longtime Westchester resident and has closely followed the Community Plan Update process. She also serves as a member of the NCWP’s Planning and Land Use Committee.
Posted September 2021.