Even before COVID-19 closures—but especially in the aftermath—retail has been increasingly shifting to e-commerce and South Bay residents to work-from-home arrangements. As a result, many of the South Bay’s commercial clusters and corridors have become vacant and/or underutilized.
Meanwhile, South Bay communities are challenged to identify enough suitable properties to support the housing production needed to meet the state’s requirement under the latest, 6th cycle Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Governor Gavin Newsom has also set the ambitious target of building 3.4 million new homes by 2025.
To help the South Bay meet its housing targets in a largely “built-out” subregion, the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) is leading a project to identify and reimagine underutilized commercial properties that are strong candidates for new housing to increase housing supply.
The project leverages such underperforming parcels for potential redevelopment among the South Bay’s urban development profile. This includes strip arterials, regional malls, office buildings and industrial parks.
“The study we’re doing is very innovative in terms of the scale,” said Wally Siembab, research director, SBCCOG. “Other cities have conducted studies, but not across an entire subregion. We are looking at many different land-use configurations, sizes and community characteristics. The results will be shared across all South Bay cities, as well as with LA County.”
Cities participating in the research include Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, Carson and Hawthorne. Within these cities two redevelopment priority areas are then identified for study based on sustainable housing criteria. Such criteria ensure that any new housing would be placed in destination- and amenity-rich areas that promote zero-emission travel,
such as walking and biking.
It’s also assessing areas located near the SBCCOG’s South Bay Local Travel Network (LTN) project, a 243-mile route of streets under development. The LTN is designed to support the growing use of zero-emission, slow-speed vehicles, such as neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), which are similar to golf carts, e-bikes and e-scooters.
The project aims to preserve existing tax revenue and community benefit uses by maintaining existing, profitable retail. Once areas are identified, further analysis is conducted to determine development potential, site constraints, available infrastructure and site context.
Properties are then further prioritized for hypothetical transformations of different sizes, development scales and typologies. Possibilities include partial conversion, adaptive reuse (where the structure is preserved but adapted for full or partial housing), rehabilitation and entirely new development.
The study is being financed with California Regional Early Action Planning funding that the SBCCOG is receiving from the Southern California Association of Governments, designed to spur affordable housing production.
SBCCOG is working in partnership with a consultant team comprised of Studio One Eleven, Dudek and Kosmont Companies to identify areas suitable for targeted housing development. SBCCOG and the consultant team are highly focused on context-appropriate housing development solutions that fit with the scale and character of the existing neighborhood.
The SBCCOG staff will present recommendations on findings to its board of directors this summer. •
Visit southbaycities.org/housing for more information.