In a move that could create much-needed affordable housing in Venice, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin today proposed building housing on the site of a controversial Metro bus yard that closed last month.
In his capacity as a member of the Board of Directors of LA County Metro, the region’s transportation agency, Bonin succeeded in shutting the bus yard and making sure it would not to be sold to the highest bidder for use as office or commercial space.
“Neighbors in Venice have been calling for the bus yard to be closed for years, and I was proud to make that happen,” said Bonin. “Now that it is closed, we can use this site to deliver needed affordable housing through a neighborhood-serving project that will be a great fit in Venice.“
The 3.5-acre property, on Sunset Avenue near the beach, has been a bus yard since 1951, drawing regular complaints about noise and pollution. At Bonin’s urging, Metro consolidated operations and closed the yard last month. Under state law and Metro policy, the transportation agency can auction the property, sell it to a government agency for fair-market value, or develop the property through a community-driven process. Metro policy dictates that a minimum of 35% of the units on Metro property must be affordable units.
Given the zoning of the property, an auction would have almost certainly resulted in a large “by right” office or commercial project, creating significant traffic impacts, Bonin said.
“There was no way that kind of development would have been the highest and best use for the property,” Bonin said. “Venice is in real, desperate need for more affordable housing. As we talk about what we are going to do to combat homelessness and the housing crisis in LA, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to create affordable housing where we can.”
Bonin formally directed LA Metro to begin the “joint development process” at a board meeting January 28. Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl co-sponsored the motion.
Developing the property will likely take a few years. The first step will be an environmental assessment to determine what it will take to make a former bus yard suitable for residential use. An extensive community engagement process will follow, so neighbors can help shape and design the project. Metro recently mandated extensive community engagement processes for any development on its properties.
Bonin said affordable housing is essential, as the city and region grapple with skyrocketing rents and housing prices.
“Long-time residents are being forced out of neighborhoods,” he said. “Recent graduates cannot afford to live where they grew up. It is a crisis – and it is particularly acute near the coast. We need to take big actions to create affordable housing, and given the cost of land on the Westside, it is going to take government property to make it happen.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Kuehl recently spearheaded the Metro affordable housing policy – which requires at least 35% of housing created through Metro Joint Development efforts to be affordable for residents earning 60% or less of the Area Median Income. In Los Angeles 60% of the AMI would be about $33,000.
The lack of affordable housing in Venice has been a major concern shared by Bonin and Venice residents, and Bonin has taken a series of legislative actions to protect affordable housing in the neighborhood, including pushing for: tightened regulations preserving affordable units in the coastal zone; regulations curbing the loss of affordable rental units to short-term rentals; and state legislation closing a legal loophole that allowed a loss of affordable units under a state law designed to increase affordable units.