Thursday, March 25, 2010

View of West LA from Franklin Canyon

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Stacie said...

I found this article very illuminating. Unfortunately, I agree with most all of your points because most of what is addressed could be cut-and-pasted for the City of Oakland. You are correct, the tighten-your-belt, doing-more-with-less municipal practices do not pass muster.

At issue: With regard to urban planning in Oakland, less is being done with less, while thrusting regressive taxes on its citizens and furloughs on its workers. Recently, when I asked a councilperson her justification for imposing exhorbatent increased parking fees and extended hours from 8-8 in all commerical districts, the response was to ask me a false question: Would you rather see the libraries close completely? The Mayor posters a bit differently. While residents are told by its City Council to pay higher taxes, the Mayor has been exposed for tax evasion for the past 3-years and will not issue a public comment on his criminal behavior. In fact, he is notorious for simply being MIA during his tenure while his city suffers its worse crisis since the Great Depression; his silence is deafening.

With regard to your point that Los Angeles officials are using the Great Recession as an opportunity to rush big projects through the planning process - and ignore its legal responsibility to update its General Plan/Community Plans - I do not see this as any change in planning practice comparative to the pre-Great Recession. If you recall, the only reason the plan was updated in the 1990s was because the city was sued for being out of compliance for
35-years! In addition, of the 35-out-of-date CPs, it took a grassroots effort by 10-communities to update those 10-communities most affected by the 1992 LA uprising. To this point, the residents planned its own communities - no longer waiting for the planning department to do it for them. Those community plans were formally adopted into the General Plan and became law. I know first-hand because I played a leadership role in organizing and implementing the process.

At the end of the day, urban planning is always much more effective if done by the people for the people. Left to only the municipal planners, which really means their bosses (city councils), planning documents are hollow, ineffective and rpepresent only a few special interests. A true inclusionary planning process yields greater functionality affecting all area residents, not just the fortunate few. However, you are correct that right now many municipalities will wield its mighty hand, utilizing exclusionary planning practices, in the name of "we-had-to-balance the-budget-in-these-harsh-economic times" mantra. Oh the burdens they bear.

Ultimately, I fear you are correct that urban planning staffing levels throughout the country, not just in Los Angeles, will never be replenished once the Great Recession finally ends. Urban Planing is not a priority in this country until there is a crisis. Even then we see a lack of political will to really plan as we witness, to date, New Orleans has yet to be rebuilt. Perhaps if the many displaced urban planners continue to write these types of articles and conduct peripheral planning, we can hope to slowly breathe new life into our ignored profession. And, by the way, Oaklanders organized a true grassroots effort to rescind the abusive parking fees and hours. Power to the people! A Luta Continua!

Stacie said...

I forgot to put my contact name and information on my last comment regarding "Race to the Bottom Plan: March 7, 2010"

Email follow-up to: Stacie Sanders: