How a TOD/TIF Could Create Grand Boulevards


Move LA has been investigating a number of ideas suggested by constituency leaders to create more affordable housing in mixed-income mixed-use neighborhoods along underutilized commercial corridors served by high-frequency transit—places where land may be cheaper and construction costs lower, and where residents wouldn't need to own cars because they could walk, bike and use transit instead. These are just a few of the more interesting and provocative ideas being discussed:

  • The creation of tax increment financing (TOD/TIF) zones where half the increment to be used for affordable housing and half for urban greening, bike lanes, better bus stops, crosswalks and improved sidewalks, etc., to enhance street life and make these neighborhoods pleasant and healthy places in which to live.
  • A requirement that in these zones cities build detached public-private parking structures—with groundfloor retail and live/work spaces—with the goal of reducing the cost of construction because developers wouldn't have to build parking and businesses wouldn't need to provide it.
  • The possibility of providing a categorical CEQA exemption for multi-family housing located in these locations that has no more than 50-60 units, 20% of which would be deed-restricted affordable housing—with the goal of encouraging moderate-density development that is likely to win the approval of neighbors.

"Land prices along many of these underutilized corridors are likely to be lower, and if construction costs are also lower and the approval process is made easier, that will also keep costs down for developers. And if these corridors are truly livable then the creation of mixed- or middle-income neighborhoods becomes possible," says Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane.

Denny has experience with this kind of development, having played a major role in the development of the mixed-use Third Street Promenade (pictured above) while on the Santa Monica City Council, and also planning for more than 2,000 units of moderate-density housing (with more than 30% affordable) in downtown Santa Monica in buildings that averaged 5 or 6 stories. Denny began his career doing rent-control campaigns in Santa Monica and founding Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, which has maintained Santa Monica's progressive agenda over 4 decades.

Below is a proposal for legislation to create a TOD/TIF that could facilitate the development of housing, especially affordable housing, near transit.

  • Cities should be enabled to create TOD-TIF districts that:
    • Facilitate successful community revitalization near transit stations and along transit-rich boulevards;
    • Facilitate the development of much-needed affordable and mixed-income housing near transit;
    • Facilitate enhanced transit ridership and reduced emissions of air pollution and greenhouse gases;
    • Mitigate the displacement of households living near transit improvements, and
    • Provide opportunities for permanent supportive housing near transit for people who had been homeless.
  • These TOD-TIF districts could include:
    • Properties within a half mile of a rail transit station, including a regional commuter rail station, or
    • Properties adjacent to boulevards served by Bus Rapid Transit or other high-frequency bus service.
  • Thereafter these TOD-TIF districts should be enabled to capture the full increment of property tax increase within the district, except the share that is dedicated to schools, so long as:
    • At least 50% of the tax increment generated within the district is dedicated to the development of multifamily housing affordable to and occupied by households with incomes below 60% of the area median income—and including the costs of predevelopment and of operations, and
      • Half of the funding for affordable housing should be expended on permanent supportive housing for people who were homeless or for extremely low-income people;
      • Priority for the occupancy of this housing should be given to households displaced from the district through no fault of their own; second priority should be given to people who are employed within 2 miles of the district.
  • Cities where the districts are located should provide a 25% local match for the share of tax increment that is used for affordable housing.  
  • The remaining share of the tax increment should be available for investments within the district including:
    • Urban forestry and other landscaping and greening improvements to enhance district livability;
    • Publicly owned decoupled/detached parking in lieu of on-site parking in proposed developments;
    • Improved first-last-mile access to transit service including pedestrian and bicycle improvements;
    • Improvements to facilitate access to transit services for older adults and people with disabilities;
  • Rail station or bus stop improvements.
  • Within such districts mixed-use projects with 60 multifamily units or fewer and with at least 20% of the units deed-restricted affordable to and occupied by low-income households should be categorically exempt from CEQA so long as:
    • Pedestrian-oriented commercial uses occupy at least 50% of the ground floor;
    • There is no demolition of existing multifamily units or displacement of existing residents.

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