Higher Linkage Fee for L.A.'s Westside Moves Forward

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A plan to increase the city's new affordable housing linkage fee in pricier neighborhoods was moved forward today by the Los Angeles City Council. 

Under the linkage fee ordinance approved in December, commercial and residential developers will have to pay a fee for every square foot of new construction, generating an estimated $100 million per year to be used to provide affordable housing units. 

The fee, which was one of the most hotly debated proposals to come through City Hall in recent months, will be phased in beginning in June with a tiered structure ranging from $8 to $15 per square foot for residential projects and $3 to $5 for commercial ones, depending on the market value of the neighborhood. 

But the council's 10-0 vote Friday approves raising the fee to at least $18 for high-market residential projects, although the vote directs the city attorney to draft an amended ordinance, which would have to be voted on again before becoming official. 

The Housing Committee earlier this month also asked city staff to report on the possibility of raising the fee even more, citing a Department of City Planning report that found nearby communities of Santa Monica and West Hollywood have linkage fees of $33 and $20, respectively. 

A city report found that cities such as Boston and San Francisco have linkage fees higher than Los Angeles, and that Oakland has a fee of $15. The fee has not slowed development in those cities, the report found.``I have a little bit of concern about our credibility if we put forward as a solution that we think the fee in Pacific Palisades should be similar to what it is in Oakland, because that's what we have here,'' Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said at the Housing Committee meeting. 

The report found that an increase in the fee on residential projects from $15 to $18 would likely result in approximately $6.3 million in additional annual linkage fee revenue, and that the department does not anticipate that there would be significant impacts to development with the increase. The areas that would be impacted by the higher fee are all on the Westside, including Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Bel Air, Westwood, West Los Angeles, Palms, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Venice, Westchester and Playa del Rey. 

The City Council also approved a proposed exemption from the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee for new, for-sale construction units sold to middle-income, first-time homebuyers. A staff report found that the city could lose an estimated $17 million per year in linkage fees if the exemption was approved.

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