DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - In a reasonable world, the New Genesis would have opened two or three months ago. Unfortunately, we don’t always live in a reasonable world.
This is silly. This is a mistake. This is something the city needs to fix, right away, so that it does not happen again.
Los Angeles Downtown News last week wrote about the long-awaited housing complex at 458 S. Main St. The $22.3 million development from Skid Row Housing Trust finished construction in June. City officials signed off on the 106-unit building with 79 apartments set aside for low-income residents.
The property, however, could not open. Representatives from the city Housing and Planning departments claimed the developer owed them $436,000 for fees related to park creation. Despite the need for affordable housing, the new building had to sit empty.
The matter should have been minor. Developers of market-rate housing complexes have to pay a state-mandated “Quimby” fee, which goes toward park creation. Those who build affordable housing are exempt.
The city, through its Downtown Housing Incentive Ordinance, has a requirement for a fee equivalent to the Quimby tax. What Skid Row Housing Trust staff did not realize until the last minute was that affordable housing projects are not exempt from the city hit. They were told to pay up and were not allowed to open until the cash changed hands.
Thus, the low-income units remained off limits. The problem was not rectified until late last month, and then only because a payment was arranged thanks to an advance from the project’s general contractor.
It seems obvious that city leaders should have worked out a deal in which the fees exempt from the state could also have been forgiven by the city. After all, this is the type of housing that gets people off the streets.
This city stumbling block was a problem. Elected leaders need to take up this matter and should remove affordable housing projects that meet specific criteria from the local ordinance. Downtown would have benefitted by having the New Genesis open several months ago. No one’s life is better because the project was pointlessly delayed.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2012