Call it a real estate tug-of-war between downtown Los Angeles’ garment workers and local business leaders.

The city council will vote on Wednesday on a 20-year growth roadmap that could add 100,000 dwellings in the city center — with new language stipulating “no net losses” for sewing factories and fashion-related businesses, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The DTLA 2040 plan, which proposes enough housing to meet one-fifth of the city’s new housing needs, has faced fierce opposition from the city’s lowest-wage workers, who fear new apartments and apartment buildings will displace clothing businesses.

Those workers and union organizers with the downtown Garment Workers Center, successfully added “no net loss” language to the plan last week.Their goal: to protect tens of thousands of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants filled jobs in the garment industry.

Business leaders, represented by the Central Cities Association, warned that the new restrictions would make as many as 12,000 residential units economically unviable for developers. Union leaders say garment workers need their jobs to pay for housing.

The committee plans to vote on the DTLA 2040 plan as well as a long-delayed update to the Hollywood community plan, blocked by a judge Rewritten in 2013 and later.

Both plans lay out rules for the development of new homes, offices, studios and more in downtown and Hollywood, with new provisions aimed at reducing evictions, boosting the production of affordable housing and extending the life of these affordable projects.

The urban plan extends from the Convention Center east to the Arts District and north to Chinatown. But most of the debate centers on the fashion district, where there are an estimated 20,000 apparel jobs.

The most competitive area, stretching from 7th Street to the north, 17th Street to the south, Crocker Street to the east, and Santee Street to the west, is known as District IX3.

The DTLA 2040 plan will prohibit industrial buildings in District IX3 from being converted into lofts or hotels. Developers can build mixed-use projects — buildings with apartments and spaces for “production” uses, such as sewing factories or other types of light manufacturing.

Until recently, the proposal required developers in District IX3 to provide 5,000 square feet of production space for every 10,000 square feet of land.

But then the Garment Workers Center, working closely with the powerful hotel workers union Unite Here Local 11, persuaded a city council committee to rewrite the clause, doubling the amount of manufacturing space required. They said the changes would help protect workers from “luxury commercial development”.

The council’s planning and land use management committee voted to double the amount of fabrication space required for a proposed new residential project in part of Fashion District IX3, The Times reported.

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The five-member group also approved a clause requiring new developments in the area to include freight elevators, loading docks and loading bays — the kind that can accommodate heavy machinery and large rolls of fabric.

If the council approves the two changes, the roughly 12,000 planned housing units in DTLA 2040 would not be financially “viable” — at least not in the immediate future, according to city planners.

— Dana Bartholomew

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