For several years, Los Angeles' Department of City Planning has been working to create the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (CASP). The plan forms a new 660 acre neighborhood centered around the Los Angeles River, including the Los Angeles State Historic Park (also known as the “Cornfield”).
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According to the Department of City Planning, the new Specific Plan “will guide future land uses, community development strategies, and infrastructure improvements” in the area. In addition, a Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project is underway with the release of the Initial Study / Environmental Checklist document in October 2010.
As listed in the Initial Study, the Specific Plan includes the following:
- The designation of new mixed-use zoning districts, and the identification of the types and intensities of uses permitted within these districts, as well as building height, massing, and façade standards;
- The designation of new open spaces and parks and the establishment of open space requirements for new developments;
- Circulation and parking standards;
- Revised street designations and standards;
- Stormwater standards; and
- Resource conservation standards.
CASP does not directly create new development, but instead serves as a guideline and regulatory document for new developments in the area.
The November 2010 draft of the Specific Plan makes it clear that city planners view the Cornfield Arroyo Seco area as ripe for massive changes. The majority of the land in the area is used for Industrial purposes (58%), and only about a quarter of the land is residential (27%). Those that do live in the designated area are more poor (36% live in poverty) and less educated (only 16% percent graduated high school) than people living in other parts of the city. The residents are ethnically diverse with 60% of homes speaking Spanish and 30% speaking an Asian language. To date, the Department of City Planning has held five public workshops spanning from September 2007 to October 2010. The following is a list of objectives for the Specific Plan found in the Initial Study that were “identified through the community planning process”:
- To transform an under-served and neglected vehicular-oriented industrial and public facility area into a cluster of mixed-use pedestrian oriented and aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods,
- Increase access to open space,
- Provide economic growth opportunities for emerging clean technologies, and
- Re-connect historical communities.
- To maintain and enhance the concentration of jobs, in the public and private sectors.
- To provide a range of housing types and price levels that offer many choices, including home ownership for people of diverse ages, ethnicity, household sizes, and incomes.
- To provide shops and services for everyday needs including groceries, day care, cafes, restaurants, banks, and drug stores, within an easy walk from home or work.
- To facilitate pedestrian mobility, encourage bicycle use, provide shared and unbundled parking spaces, provide access to a variety of transit options including frequent light rail and bus connections, shared vehicles and bicycles, and taxis.
- To lessen dependence on automobiles, and thereby vehicle emissions, while enhancing the personal health of residents, employees, and visitors.
- Provide “eyes on the street” to create a safe and stable community and to encourage interaction and identity.
- To respect historically significant buildings, including massing and scale while encouraging innovative architectural design that expresses the identity of contemporary urban Los Angeles.
- To reduce the use of energy and potable water, capture stormwater, improve the ecology and hydrology of the Los Angeles River Watershed and the Arroyo Seco, create connections from the community to the Los Angeles River and Arroyo Seco, and support the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan.
- To provide places for people to socialize, including parks, sidewalks, courtyards and plazas that are combined with shops and services.
- To provide adequate public recreational open space within walking distance of residents and employees and to integrate public art that contributes to the civic and cultural life of the City.
CASP envisions the area transforming from a primarily industrial area into a environmentally sustainable, highly residential, and mixed use neighborhood. Currently there are approximately 1,814 housing units in the CASP area, while the plan calls for permitting 8,766 units.
The Specific Plan proposes designating most areas in the region with one of four new land use zones: Greenway, Urban Village, Urban Innovation, and Urban Center. The language used to explain the different land use districts reveals the planner's mixed use ideals. Despite the different designations, all the zones besides Greenway seem to allow for residences, businesses and other operations to coexist. A single-family residential neighborhood in the southeast corner of the CASP area is excluded from these land use plans.
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CASP also proposes new street design for the area using a 'complete' streets ethic. All major streets are to have bicycle lanes, wide sidewalks and many trees.
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The parking standards for developments introduced by the Specific Plan are very different from standards in other parts of the city and reflect CASP planners' desire for the area to be a hub for alternative modes of transportation. The new regulations are intended to separate “the cost of renting or purchasing parking spaces from the cost of renting or purchasing a housing unit and by significantly reducing the maximum levels of parking required by developers.” If enacted as proposed, residential developments in the area will not be allowed to provide more than one parking space per unit (excluding shared vehicle spaces). Additionally, developments would be required to provide a minimum amount of bicycle parking.
Another environmentally-minded regulation central to the Specific Plan relates to stormwater treatment and flow attenuation. “Projects are required to be designed to manage and capture stormwater runoff, in order of preference for infiltration, evapotranspiration, reuse, and/or high pollutant removal treatment of all of the runoff on site to the maximum extent feasible.”
In addition to the Department of City Planning, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of the City of Los Angeles is involved in the area, and has proposed a new Redevelopment Project Area using the same boundaries and EIR as CASP. The CRA is designed to “make strategic investments to create economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for the people who live and work in our neighborhoods.”
As of February 2010, the author could not find any published criticism of CASP. Joe Linton of the LA Creek Freak blog posted a highly positive review of the Specific Plan in March 2009. Concerns expressed by the community at five public workshops are briefly summarized in the Department of City Planning's Initial Study. Some concerns reported here include job preservation, availability of affordable housing, river accessibility, and general safety. During workshop two, community members reportedly expressed a desire to “protect the industrial areas along Main Street in the southeast quadrant of the Project Area and in the northeast quadrant of the Project Area bounded by Avenue 26, Pasadena Avenue, and the Arroyo Seco.” This community interest appears to be in conflict with CASP's plans to guide the neighborhood away from industrial uses. While CASP's planners' effort to obtain community feedback is commendable, it is unclear whether the true interests of the CASP area community members were expressed through the public workshops.
Prepared by Taylor Fitz-Gibbon; Last Updated: February 2011