Garment workers and advocates claimed victory on Monday when City Council voted to amend controversial legislation that would rezone the Los Angeles Fashion District.
Following months of outcry from the city’s fashion workforce and its allies, Council members voted to pass the DTLA 2040 plan—with a number of modifications that would protect garment manufacturing in Downtown, L.A.
The controversial rezoning scheme was developed to double the area where housing is permitted across Downtown districts as a means of addressing the area’s pervasive housing shortage. Fashion industry insiders and advocates have argued for more than a year that the proposed plan would endanger businesses and garment workers, pushing them out to make way for residential, commercial and retail use.
The Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) voted unanimously to pass the legislation, with a number of revisions to the draft at play, following an hour of public comments from industry stakeholders and concerned citizens.
A woman speaking out against the plan said that her father had spent 40 years in the garment industry in L.A. “The conditions of this line of work have always been difficult, but it is our skill and our artistry that we have dedicated to the craft of making garments. Not many can do what we do. Not even the designers can take credit,” she said. Garment workers are being exploited and their voices silenced due to their immigration status, she claimed, asking that City Council “protect the Fashion District’s incredibly unique and irreplaceable ecosystem…and stand in support of the recommendations of garment workers.”
Mary Price, founder of women’s sustainable apparel brand Ocean+Main told Council members that her building was closed last week without notice for an inspection, “because the building is being sold, likely displacing my business plus 12 floors of garment manufacturing and [leaving] hundreds of workers without protections.”
“My business and the well-being of the incredibly talented and dedicated working garment professionals and their families is in peril,” Price said. “We talk a lot about Made in America and bringing jobs home, but the jobs are here—45,000 of them.”
Monday’s testimonies—and the organization efforts led by the Garment Worker Center (GWC) over the course of the past year—had their desired effect. PLUM opted to accept a number of recommendations submitted by City Planning that would provide greater protections for garment manufacturing operations in the Fashion District, and limit the development of housing.
GWC was “heartened and energized by the modifications made to the DTLA 2040 plan,” saying that efforts by garment workers to advocate for their livelihoods have not fallen on deaf ears. “This was reflected in the recommendations of DTLA council offices and in the outcome today,” the group added. GWC urged PLUM to swiftly approve the modified plan.
“We look forward to continuing to grow the power, longevity and visibility of garment workers in the Fashion District, the center of U.S. garment manufacturing and part of the fabric of Los Angeles for over 130 years.”
The Department City Planning, which architected DTLA 2040, amended its recommendations for the Fashion District in September 2022 after an independent consultant’s economic analysis revealed that the plan would “risk displacement” of existing businesses and workers.