Meeting Housing Goals by Loosening Commercial Zoning

Torrance, a city on the coast of Southern California in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, recently adopted a zoning overlay that will relax commercial zones to allow more residential development.

2 minute read

August 28, 2023, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A parking lots and homes sit on a bluff above a large beach on Pacific coast in Southern California.

Parking and homes above Rat Beach on the Pacific Ocean in Torrance, California. | Nico Meucci / Adobe Stock

The city of Torrance will allow residential developments in commercial zones, after the City Council recently approved a housing overlay zone to that effect.

According to a paywalled article by Teresa Lui for the Daily Breeze, the newly approved zoning amendment is intended to help the city meet its target of planning for 5,000 additional homes by 2029, as established in the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment process.

Non paywalled details on the zoning amendment are available in an article published by the Real Deal. “The amendment sets development standards and requirements, but doesn’t replace the underlying zoning in three commercial and industrial parts of town,” according to the article.

The new overlay “targets nearly 16 acres around Gramercy Place, Prairie Avenue and Spencer Street; another 32 acres along Border Avenue, next to Downtown; and 58 acres around Western Avenue, Maricopa Street and Lomita Boulevard/Madison Street, with various density limits for the three areas,” according to the Real Deal.

“All three areas have maximum building height requirements and neighbor setbacks, which regulate the distance between potential development and single-family neighborhoods.”

Though the new housing overlay is intended to meet state-regulated targets for housing development, it’s unclear from the round of news cited here how the new overlay differs from a recent state law that preempts local control of zoning to allow residential development on all commercial zones statewide.

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