Downtown Community Plan Update (DTLA 2040) | Los Angeles Conservancy
Downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Downtown Community Plan Update (DTLA 2040)

UPDATE: On June 17 the City Planning Commission (agenda) met to review the Downtown Community Plan (DTLA 2040). More than 80 people commented and/or shared comments. 

On August 26 the Commission will reconvene to continue this discussion and consider various comments and proposals regarding amendments to the plan. Save the date and it is not too late to submit comments (send to cpc@lacity.org) on the plan!  

The Conservancy shared the following public comments:

We support the Community Benefits equity program, legacy business support, the Arts District TDR, and the adaptive reuse streamlining. The form districts, height standards, and base/bonus systems that have been carefully calibrated for Chinatown and Little Tokyo are critical to maintain in this plan, to allow for more affordable housing, flexibility, and acknowledging the value of cultural assets. The same needs to be afforded to the Historic Core historic districts. Until recently this plan had very generous story height limitations in place; these need to be reinstated. Otherwise we are leaving these areas extremely vulnerable as increased hi-rise development pressures will most certainly lead to greater demolition and the erosion of a significant community asset. The preservation components will help but do not go far enough without some reasonable height limitations in place for the Historic Core.

Councilmember Cedillo's office spoke against the base/bonus system proposed for Chinatown. Councilmember de León's office is opposed to the proposed Community Benefits Program and proposes it be replaced with a undefined inclusionary zoning program. The Conservancy is concerned about both of these council office positions, as each potentially undermines years of planning efforts and ultimately will put historic resources at risk in the future.  

The Conservancy has shared the following recommendations directed toward preservation, equity, affordable housing, and implementation purposes:

  1. SurveyLA findings should be included, expanded, and fully articulated in a revised DTLA 2040 Community Plan document, including a detailed analysis that discusses potential conflicts. We would like to see this prior to the plan’s introduction and review at the City Planning Commission.
  2. Distinguish between historic and non-historic adaptive reuse types of projects and offer additional incentives that are needed to offset costs and unique challenges associated with historic buildings. Change the criteria to clearly state any building 25 years or older is eligible for the Adaptive Reuse Program. By specifying 25 years, Adaptive Reuse 2.0 will allow new building stock to become eligible for incentives year after year, rather than tying it to 1974.
  3. Apply the full range of Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) preservation protections, procedures and existing tools to the Downtown National Register historic districts as a policy component within the plan, to offer adequate design review and mechanisms to maintain eligibility and integrity of this unique historic district. 
  4. Maintain consistent maximum height building limitations within the Historic Core as they offer a much-needed tool and mechanism to balance growth pressures. We recommend this should be reinstated within the plan and expanded, by identifying transition or buffer zone areas with measures to ensure there are some inter-connectivity and gradation between various areas within the DTLA 2040 plan. While we appreciate the inclusion of Chinatown and the Arts District in Appendix C (Historic-Cultural Neighborhoods Best Practices), we ask the City to add best practices for the Broadway and Spring Street Financial District historic districts. In addition, additional language should also be included that acknowledges and encourages the preservation and rehabilitation of existing historic/eligible resources in these neighborhoods.
  5. Expand the Villages land use designation in Chinatown to ensure it encompasses and captures the key areas that reflect Chinatown’s rich history.
  6. Acknowledge, define, and identify tools and incentives that can help support and avoid the displacement of longtime community-serving small businesses (legacy businesses).

While much of downtown's success in recent years can be attributed to the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the neighborhood's historic building stock, the demand for higher density and new infill construction has increased as well.

The continued revitalization of downtown Los Angeles over the last two decades has brought about a new wave development, spurring discussions over the compatibility of new buildings in historic districts and affordable housing.

Following nearly six years of outreach, the draft Downtown Community Plan was released in early August and is now awaiting comments and feedback from the public (due on January 13). Once adopted by the city council, this plan will outline what can and cannot be built in specific areas, helping guide growth and development in Downtown for the next twenty years.

The Plan offers a number of new provisions as part of the re:code LA zoning and more contextual-based guidance. It also includes important incentives for preservation such as, an updated adaptive reuse ordinance and a pilot Transfer of Floor Area Ratio (TFAR) incentive program for the Arts District.

DTLA 2040 also introduces a new “Village” designation for some low- to mid-scale areas within downtown, supporting their role as historic and cultural destinations. We believe this approach could be applied elsewhere within downtown to both help preserve existing affordable housing units and legacy businesses.

For more information on DTLA 2040 please visit https://planning.lacity.org/plans-policies/community-plan-update/downtown-los-angeles-community-plan-update

On October 8, 2020, the Conservancy convened a Zoom on the Downtown Community Plan (also known as DTLA 2040), where we welcomed staff from city planning to share the draft community plan, with a specific focus on preservation aspects and new tools. Please watch the recorded program

There are 35 Community Plans within the city and each acts as a guiding document for land use and development over the next 20 years. Tailored to the area being served, each Community Plan provides goals, policies, and programs for implementation.The new Downtown Community Plan Update (DTLA 2040) encompasses both the Central City and Central City North Community Plans last updated in the early 2000s. 

The City first began working on the Downtown Community Plan Update in 2014. Field visits, land use surveys, data collection, and general input from community stakeholders helped to create initial goals and policies which was then shared with community stakeholders. 

Early on, the L.A. Conservancy began to work closely with the City’s Planning staff to ensure historic preservation policies were an important part of DTLA 2040. Since our initial meetings with the City, we have organized meetings with City staff, preservation professionals, and community members.

DTLA 2040 is the first community plan update to incorporate aspects of the City's new zoning code known as re:code LA. The City of Los Angeles first adopted its zoning code in 1946. For over 80 years the City has used this code, tweaking it here and there with ordinances, but overall it remains the zoning code as laid in the 1940s. For over a decade, the City has worked to create a new zoning code for the 21st century. Re:code LA introduces new and important contextual based tools we hope will encourage compatible new development in existing older and historic neighborhoods. 

On December 4, 2020 the Conservancy submitted comments on the DTLA 2040 Community Plan.

While we see the plan as headed in the right direction, we are not without some concerns. For example, the plan does not fully support compatible new development (in terms of height and scale) within designated and eligible historic districts that include the Spring Street Financial District, Broadway Theatre and Commercial District, Little Tokyo Historic District, and Chinatown districts.

The Conservancy is pressing for ways to strengthen these proposed provisions and additional aspects of DTLA 2040 to support preservation.

Previously the Conservancy has raised concerns about high-rise development that present challenges inherent to contemporary design in a historic setting, including the appropriateness of scale, massing, materials and proportion. threatens the scale and character of the downtown.   

On August 26 (8:30 a.m.) the City Planning Commission will reconvene to review the Downtown Community Plan (DTLA 2040). Plan to join this meeting and comment on the plan. We anticipate the hearing will last for multiple hours. 

Here's what you can do now:

FIRST, speak out in support of preservation issues. Speak at the upcoming City Planning Commission meeting on August 26 and submit comments beforehand.

SECOND, speak at the August 26 meeting, and/or submit a comment letter to City Planning Commission (cpc@lacity.org) prior to the meeting. 

The Conservancy has shared the following recommendations directed toward preservation, equity, affordable housing, and implementation purposes:

  1. SurveyLA findings should be included, expanded, and fully articulated in a revised DTLA 2040 Community Plan document, including a detailed analysis that discusses potential conflicts. We would like to see this prior to the plan’s introduction and review at the City Planning Commission.
  2. Distinguish between historic and non-historic adaptive reuse types of projects and offer additional incentives that are needed to offset costs and unique challenges associated with historic buildings. Change the criteria to clearly state any building 25 years or older is eligible for the Adaptive Reuse Program. By specifying 25 years, Adaptive Reuse 2.0 will allow new building stock to become eligible for incentives year after year, rather than tying it to 1974.
  3. Apply the full range of Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) preservation protections, procedures and existing tools to the Downtown National Register historic districts as a policy component within the plan, to offer adequate design review and mechanisms to maintain eligibility and integrity of this unique historic district. 
  4. Maintain consistent maximum height building limitations within the Historic Core as they offer a much-needed tool and mechanism to balance growth pressures. We recommend this should be reinstated within the plan and expanded, by identifying transition or buffer zone areas with measures to ensure there are some inter-connectivity and gradation between various areas within the DTLA 2040 plan. While we appreciate the inclusion of Chinatown and the Arts District in Appendix C (Historic-Cultural Neighborhoods Best Practices), we ask the City to add best practices for the Broadway and Spring Street Financial District historic districts. In addition, additional language should also be included that acknowledges and encourages the preservation and rehabilitation of existing historic/eligible resources in these neighborhoods.
  5. Expand the Villages land use designation in Chinatown to ensure it encompasses and captures the key areas that reflect Chinatown’s rich history.
  6. Acknowledge, define, and identify tools and incentives that can help support and avoid the displacement of longtime community-serving small businesses (legacy businesses).

Your questions and comments about DTLA 2040 may also be directed to:

Brittany Arceneaux, City Planner
City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning
200 North Spring Street, Room 667
Los Angeles, CA 90012
E-mail:  brittany.arceneaux@lacity.org

For more information on DTLA 2040 please visit https://planning.lacity.org/plans-policies/community-plan-update/downtown-los-angeles-community-plan-update