The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that provides networking opportunities for those in the real estate community, hosted a panel discussion about what makes a successful dense district, how density affects unhoused residents, and the different strategies private developers and public agencies are looking towards such as the Density Bonus Ordinance.
Greg Ames, managing director at Trammell Crow Company, one of the nation’s leading developers and investors in commercial real estate, served as moderator for panelists from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Los Angeles Chapter, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Agency, City of Long Beach Development Services Department and MacFarlane Partners. Ames began the conversation by introducing speaker Wells Lawson from LA Metro.
Density in Transit-Oriented Communities
Lawson, senior director of joint development for LA Metro, said density is about figuring out the best use of public land and going forward with joint development projects.
“Part of our joint development project is actually branding the station areas around the metro stations to make them feel attractive and identifiable, and to create places that people can celebrate,” said Lawson.
The project also calls for trying to effectively extract a variety of transportation benefits such as rebuilding portals and bike lanes. As density becomes the primary goal of transit-oriented communities, Lawson explained LA Metro’s vision for the program.
“We see these sites as gateways. We want to demonstrate and push the envelope where we can show what could be developed near transit. We are right now taking a broader look at what we’re doing,” Lawson said.
Density in Long Beach
Christopher Ira Koontz, deputy director of the development services department of the City of Long Beach, spoke about density in Long Beach and how ongoing and future projects address affordable housing.
“Density, that works, has a mix of unit sizes and a mix of affordability. In Long Beach, we are trying to add density in a lot of places, not just downtown, to address affordability and overcrowding,” said Koontz.
Many affordable projects are underway such as one next to the Metro A line in Long Beach. Koontz said that this project can deliver density even though it is not a particularly tall building, with only three to five-story elements. This allows the project to avoid some costs that would have been associated with different building typologies.
Ultra Density in Downtown LA
Kevin M. Roberts, senior vice president of MacFarlane Partners, spoke about plans to add ultra density with high-rise housing and hospitality in a downtown setting.
“The goal is to anchor what is already a growing and emerging walkable neighborhood, which many people might not think about right now. This includes the Grand Avenue cultural spine from Disney Hall to MOCA and offices on that spine, including our building, which will be a plaza leading into a wonderful Metro site connected to the rest of LA,” said Roberts.
The addition of high-rise housing will cater to a niche of luxury- to ultra-luxury operators.
Wade Killefer, president of the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter, said that the first step to approach the problem of housing and homelessness will be to stabilize those on the streets by bringing them into shelters.
“There they can get clean, get fed, get properly diagnosed and get on the list for permanent supportive housing. We’ve been working on two shoulders for the county; West Athens adjacent to the 105 freeway at Normandy, and the other on a parking lot at the West LA Armory,” said Killefer.
The West Athens location, called Safe Landing, will serve about 3,100 individuals per year. It is made up of five metal butler buildings, including a dining hall and admin, clinic and community buildings.
The second shoulder shelter in the Armory will have the units but with less clinic space. According to Killefer, the north and east walls that are joined by the National Guard campus will be 12-inch thick concrete blast walls.
In summary, proposed density in the West will benefit communities and create a better living environment for those in the area.
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