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Mixed-Use Draws Mixed Reaction

June 03, 1990

Re: "It's Back to the Future: Living Over the Store" by Larry Kosmont (May 20).

Kosmont believes that elected officials are encouraging or compelling retail (commercial) developers to include low-cost housing in their projects--so-called "mixed use"--out of concern for the shortage of affordable housing. He states, "the prime motivation for housing linkage programs is the severe shortage of low-income housing units in most metropolitan areas."

I think "mixed-use" has nothing to do with the affordable housing crisis because the amount of affordable housing generated is trivial compared to the overall need.

According to the mayor's 1988 housing report, 4,000 affordable housing units are demolished each year, and the demand for housing outstrips supply by 14,000 units a year, (not 11,000 units, as Kosmont indicates), yielding a need for 18,000 new affordable units a year in Los Angeles. The report states that an additional 68,000 affordable housing units will be lost due to expiring HUD covenants and earthquake renovation of brick buildings.

For comparison, let's look at the two largest mixed-use, jobs/housing balance developments to hit Los Angeles for their affordable housing yield. On the Westside, Playa Vista will provide 1,760 units "for people of average income" (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 29); and Porter Ranch will provide 600 affordable units (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 16, 1989). This yield is insignificant compared to the yearly need documented in the mayor's report.

In my view, mixed-use is simply another way of packaging and selling detrimental high-intensity, traffic-generating uses that maximize profits for the developer and minimize the risk of opposition from "reasonable growth" forces in the community: It is difficult to oppose a commercial project that includes affordable housing; it's akin to opposing motherhood and the American way.



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