Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hollywood Community Plan Update - A Fiasco in the Makine

The Update of the Hollywood Community Plan is not only opposed by every neighborhood council and resident group in Hollywood, but also by city planning professionals like myself. I was part of the team of Los Angeles city planners who prepared the General Plan Framework in the mid-1990's, the adopted citywide plan which public officials, like Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilmembers Garcetti and LeBonge, claim the Update implements.

In fact, the Update totally conflicts with LA's General Plan. It is nothing more than the city planning version of the fantasy film, Field of Dreams, in which an Iowa farmer built a baseball diamond that magically materialized high caliber baseball teams and games.

The politicians promoting this "plan" believe that a slew of mega-projects in Hollywood will propel economic growth. Nothing could be further from the truth, which is why the General Plan Framework is strongly opposed to such real estate bubbles.

First, Hollywood's public infrastructure and services cannot support super-sized projects, a barrier clearly documented in the Update's Final Environment Impact Report.

Second, there is no evidence that the upscale tenants, shoppers, and residents required to make these mega-projects succeed will ever materialize. LA is no longer a boomtown, but an old, deteriorating city, mired in poverty, inequality, and decay. Instead, like the Hollywood and Highland shopping center, the new skyscrapers encouraged by the Update will languish until their developers are forced to beg for public handouts to avoid bankruptcy.

If City Hall really wants to revitalize Hollywood and the rest of Los Angeles, it must provide amenities, not green light financial speculation. This city desperately needs code enforcement, bans on supergraphics and billboards, undergrounded utility wires, good schools, extensive transit and bike lanes, more parks and community centers, repaired streets and sidewalks, and an urban forest.

This ought to be the clear local lesson from the Wall Street financial crisis that began in 2008 and has yet to be resolved.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


After 18 years of work, LA’s Department of City Planning has finally unveiled a draft update for the 1988 Hollywood Community Plan, including 105 pages of detailed amendments to increase permitted building densities in Hollywood, as well as a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). If or when this update is eventually adopted, it will then become a template for similar updates of LA’s 34 other community plans. In theory, it also could become a model for Specific Plan amendments to permitting greater densities.

Because of the Hollywood plan’s importance to potentially alter private land use patters all throughout Los Angeles, many analysts have carefully scrutinized the draft, especially its DEIR, and submitted their analyses to the Department of City Planning. Among these many submissions, one theme stands out; the Draft Environmental Impact Report does not present a credible planning rationale for the proposed Community Plan update.

The following six points summarize much of this DEIR testimony:

1. Infrastructure and Services: First, LA’s public infrastructure, which has not been monitored in over 11 years, and in some categories, not planned in over 40 years, cannot handle the needs of the city’s existing and projected population and commuters. In the case of the DEIR, there is no analysis to demonstrate that local services and infrastructure in Hollywood are capable of meeting the demands of the larger population which could result from the update’s extensive up-planning and up-zoning. Without demonstrated unused infrastructure capacity in the DEIR, there should be no increases in permitted densities in Hollywood according to the General Plan’s Framework Element.

Furthermore, there is no proposal in the DEIR or the draft Community Plan itself to monitor local infrastructure conditions, including changing demographics and user demand, as well as the effectiveness of the updated Plan's infrastructure-related policies and programs. The proposed plan also fails to identify any threatened infrastructure systems in Hollywood and offers no mitigation process to address these likely infrastructure breakdowns.

To put it bluntly, this is a plan that will dramatically reduce the quality of life in Hollywood. For that matter, the hope that increases in allowed densities will spur increased investment in real estate is unfounded. Who will want to live, work, visit, or invest in a Hollywood which has inadequate, deteriorating, unplanned, and unmonitored infrastructure and public services?

2. Conflicts with the General Plan: The city’s outdated but still official and legally required General Plan is "growth neutral." According to the 1996 General Plan Framework Element, Los Angeles has enormous untapped potential for population and housing expansion based on adopted plan designations and zones. In fact, the Framework notes that Los Angeles could double its population without any need to change its underlying zoning or plan designations.

To exceed local densities in Hollywood, City Hall must therefore present a clear rationale based on documented increases in population growth and housing demand which have outstripped locally permitted densities but still retain sufficient public services and infrastructure capacity. Yet, in the case of the proposed update of the Hollywood Community Plan there is no analysis of the remaining buildout potential for the privately zoned parcels in Hollywood or the area’s remaining infrastructure capacity based on projected deterioration and increases in user demand. Likewise, there is no evidence that if these parcels were fully built out, they still could not meet the housing and employment needs of Hollywood’s current or future residents.

3. Census Data: The update of the Hollywood Community Plan is based on outdated census data. California State planning laws and guidelines require each city’s General Plan, including its Land Use element, such as the Hollywood Community Plan, to be current and internally consistent among its required and optional elements. In this case the General Plan Framework Element is based on 1990 census data which was extended to the Plan’s 2010 horizon year. The update of the Hollywood Community Plan, which is supposed to apply the General Plan Framework Element to a local community, is, however, based on year 2000 census data, augmented by 2005 estimates, and then extrapolated to the year 2030.

The two plans are not only inconsistent with each other, but neither is current because the new 2010 census data is now available and should be used for monitoring, reviewing, and updating all components of a city’s General Plan.

4. Population Decline: Fourth, if the new 2010 census data had been used for the Hollywood Community Plan’s DEIR, it would demonstrate that Hollywood had a serious population decline from 2000 to 2010 of about 15,000 people, on top of a totally static population for the 1990-2000 decade. This means that the DEIR’s population projections, obtained from the Department of City Planning and from the Southern California Association of Governments, are highly inflated, inaccurate, and therefore not acceptable for the DEIR. Therefore, the update’s planning rationale for substantially ramping up zoning densities in Hollywood is bogus.

5. Framework Turned on its Head: The Hollywood Community Plan's implementation program of up-zoning and up-planning is being proposing to encourage growth to promote secondary Framework planning goals, such as transit use. This is an approach which turn LA's growth neutral General Plan Framework Element on its head. It also conflicts with Los Angeles City Charter Sections 556 and 558, which require consistency with the intent and purposes of the General Plan. The role of transit is to serve the public's growing need for mobility, while the update’s call to increase density in Hollywood as a planning tool to boost transit use absolutely conflicts with the intent and purposes of the General Plan.

6. The General Plan should be up dated prior to Community Plans: Sixth, to properly plan Los Angeles, the General Plan Framework Element should be totally revised based on new demographic and infrastructure data. Once this process is completed, only then should the 35 local community plans, including Hollywood, be updated. But, at this point, to implement an outdated General Plan at the local level, much less with different base and horizon years, defies both common sense and State of California planning codes and guidelines.

* Dick Platkin is a planning consultant and board member of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association. He can be reached at rhplatkin@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

LA is country's third dirtiest city and least pedestrian friendly

Provided by:

America's Dirtiest Cities

Can clean be overrated? America's dirtiest cities happen to include some very popular tourist destinations.

By Katrina Brown Hunt

How do you define a city’s soul? For a lot of travelers, it’s in the dirt.

Atlanta ad exec Patrick Scullin, for instance, loves Baltimore—but not because it’s particularly pristine. “Yes, there’s litter, smokers, and graffiti,” he says, “but that’s just life going on. The air sometimes offends, but a cool breeze off the harbor can ease all worries. It’s a gem of a city.”

While such sentiments don’t appear in tourist brochures, that glorious grit has landed Baltimore in the Top 10 dirtiest cities, as chosen by Travel + Leisure readers in the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey. Of course, visitors gauge “dirty” in a variety of ways: litter, air pollution, even the taste of local tap water.

This year’s American State Litter Scorecard, published by advocacy group the American Society for Public Administration, put both Nevada and Louisiana in the bottom five—echoing the assessment of T+L readers who ranked Las Vegas and New Orleans among America’s dirtiest cities.

No. 1 New Orleans

Can you imagine the cleanup required after Mardi Gras? Both tourists and Mother Nature have sometimes been hard on the Crescent City, which readers voted the dirtiest in America. But that doesn’t stop the good times from rolling on. Voters embraced the city’s fun-loving spirit, ranking New Orleans first for its nightlife and eclectic people-watching.

No. 2 Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love was voted the fourth dirtiest city last year and just narrowly avoided the top slot for sloppy this time around. The locals may not be helping with those first impressions—they ranked near the bottom of the style category, as well as in the bottom five for being environmentally aware.

No. 3 Los Angeles

That infamous rep for smog is tough to shake: the City of Angels, which is No. 3 for the second year in a row, continues to do poorly in national air-quality tests. AFC voters also put traffic-clogged Los Angeles in last place for being pedestrian-friendly and in the bottom three for overall quality of life.

No. 4 Memphis

Nothing is tidy about barbecue or the blues, two of Memphis’s biggest tourist draws. This city on the banks of The Big Muddy has more to work on than dirtiness; it came in last place in the AFC for being environmentally friendly, as well as for feeling safe.

No. 5 New York City

Last year’s dirtiest city is looking a little fresher these days. But AFC voters seem to champion New York because of its less-than-sterile vibe, and not in spite of it. There’s world-class culture, cool neighborhoods, and diverse locals. Just be prepared to pay for it: NYC ranked as the most expensive city in the nation.

No. 6 Baltimore

The Inner Harbor is a crowd-pleaser, but AFC voters weren’t impressed by Charm City’s overall cleanliness or its more land-based features. Baltimore came in next-to-last place for its public parks, hotels, and even interesting people.

No. 7 Las Vegas

This is the No. 1 town for wild weekends, so it’s no surprise that Vegas makes it into the Top 10 for dirty disarray. Impressively, Sin City has actually improved its standing by two slots since last year. And if you’re willing to splurge, any semblance of grittiness may disappear: Vegas scored No. 1 for luxury hotels and No. 2 for both luxury shopping and big-name restaurants.

No. 8 Miami

AFC voters loved Miami’s bar scene and its upscale dining, but all that hoopla takes its toll on a person—and on a city. AFC voters ranked the Florida hot spot poorly not only for cleanliness but for safety.

No. 9 Atlanta

Many cities that made the dirtiest Top 10 scored well for having a vivid nightlife, cool neighborhoods, or great live music. Alas, Atlanta couldn’t claim any of those in the survey. At least the city has its quality—and sloppy—barbecue going for it.

No. 10 Houston

This oil town could stand a green makeover, according to AFC voters. Its cleanliness score worsened by four spots since last year. The general vibe left AFC voters wanting, too. They ranked Houston near the bottom for its parks and weather. The city’s collective ego can take great pride in one thing: it topped the AFC charts for its juicy (and no doubt messy) burgers.

See more of America's Dirtiest Cities

Friday, May 20, 2011

Comments on update of the Hollywood Community Plan

My views are that the most immediate planning issue in Los Angeles is the inadequacy of the DEIR for the update of the Hollywoood Community plan since its comment period closes on June 3, 2011.

1) The plan's policy language is irrelevant. No decision makers ever look at it in making budget or land use decisions.

2) The focus should be opposition to sections of the DEIR which sanction broad increases in density through general plan amendments and zone changes because:

-- They will become a template for dramatic increases in permitted densities in the remaining 34 community plans.

-- There is no planning rationale for this up-planning and up-zoning based on the "growth neutrality" intent of the Genera Plan Framework Element. The city, according to the Framework, has enormous untapped potential for population and housing expansion based on established plan designations and zones.

-- In fact, in the Hollywood Community Plan's implementation program up-zoning and up-planning is proposed to encourage growth, an approach which turn LA's growth neutral General Plan on its head.

-- As far as we know, the city's infrastructure, which has not been monitored in over 11 years, cannot handle existing user demand, much less the demands of a larger population which result from up-planning and up-zoning. Without demonstrated unused infrastructure capacity, there should be no increases in permitted density.

-- The DEIR uses year 2000 census data, even though current 2010 census is available.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

McMansion Law Toothless, Scourage Continues Unabated

Dick Platkin

The Mayor recently signed a new ordinance adopted by the Los Angeles City Council to
halt the construction of McMansions on small hillside lots. These elected officials vow
that this ordinance will stop the mansionization process in hillside areas. But will it?
If the Hillside McMansion ordinance is filled with loopholes similar to those of the
Baseline McMansion ordinance enacted several years ago for non-hillside areas, hillside
residents should be very wary. This is because the Baseline ordinance still allowed
McMansions to be constructed -- as long as they were less than about 4,500 square feet.
Since this pActive Imagerovision effectively green-lighted nearly all
McMansions, especially in the R1-1 zone, the
Mansionization process has continued unabated in Los

To begin, McMansions are those boxy, massively
oversized, suburban-style spec houses appearing in
older neighborhoods, such as Beverly Grove, where I
They are all two stories and built by house flippers to
the maximum height limit of 33 feet. They are almost always fortified with tall hedges
and walls, painted bright white, and designed with an attached two car garage seldom
used for cars.

There are now two efforts in Council District 5 to finally pull the plug on the
mansionizers. One is an overlay zoning ordinance for Studio City, whose adoption is
stalled. The other is a similar ordinance proposed by the Beverly Wilshire Homes
Association (BWHA) for the Beverly Grove neighborhood. This is an area north of
Wilshire Boulevard, sandwiched between The Grove and Beverly Center shopping centers, which has been targeted by the mansionizers.

TheActive Image residents of the Beverly Grove area believe it is now time for
Council District 5 to support the BWHA proposal and finally side with
local residents, not the spec builders.

Unless the Baseline McMansion ordinance is tightened up, the entire
character of the Beverly Grove neighborhood, many other parts of
the Council District 5, and eventually all of LA’s older residential neighborhoods
will be permanently transformed by real estate speculators. They will continue to buy
and bulldoze smaller homes, in order to replace them with McMansions that are quickly
placed on the market and then flipped every two years.

Furthermore, during the nearly two years since the Beverly Wilshire proposal was first
presented to Council District 5, many more McMansions have been built despite the real
estate recession. Local residents assume this is because the mansionizers do not depend
on bank financing to quickly get their behemoths to market. Until the code amendments
presented to CD 5 in Studio City and Beverly Grove are adopted, these trends will
continue and will probably get worse. When the dust finally settles, few traditional
Spanish revival and Tudor homes will remain.

As a result, the tipping point for much of Los Angeles is at hand, and this is the time to
act, to share your views with Council District 5. It is better to do something now rather
than point fingers later.

(Dick Platkin is city planning consultant on the board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes
Please send questions or comments to: rhplatkin@yahoo.com)

Vol 9 Issue 31
Pub: Apr 19, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Infrastructure Coalition


Infrastructure Lawsuit Appeal Filed

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Infrastructure Lawsuit Appeal Filed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sabrina Venskus

April 14, 2011 (213) 482-4200


Infrastructure Lawsuit Moves to Next Phase

An appeal was filed today by several Los Angeles community groups to overturn a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s denial of their landmark lawsuit to force the city to produce and implement its Annual Report on Growth and Infrastructure. Superior Court Judge John Torribio ruled the City of Los Angeles need not follow mandatory duties and mitigation measures set out in its General Plan Framework Element, the City’s “land use constitution”. The appeal requesting review of the decision was filed in the Second District Court by group attorneys Sabrina Venskus and Doug Carstens. The original complaint was filed in 2008, case number L.A.S.C. BS115435.

As part of its General Plan update, the City promised to monitor and report upon its infrastructure, including public services, and population growth, and further to put building controls in place if growth was found to outpace infrastructure availability. The City has not produced and implemented an Annual Report on Growth and Infrastructure since 2000.

“With fire services being cut, police hiring being frozen, roads deteriorating, libraries schedules being cut, park staff and hours being cut, traffic gridlock, water main breaks occurring and water rationing put into effect, there is little doubt that the infrastructure is more than threatened – it is collapsing,” said Lucille Saunders of the La Brea Willoughby-Coalition, one of the groups suing. “ Now we know why.

Many of the city’s community plans clearly describe the required monitoring and mitigation set forth in the General Plan. Those community plans state:

“…if this monitoring finds that population in the Plan area is occurring faster than projected; and, that infrastructure resource capacities are threatened, particularly critical ones such as water and sewerage; and, that there is not a clear commitment to at least begin the necessary improvements within twelve months; then building controls should be put into effect, for all or portions of the West Los Angeles Community, until land use designations for the Community Plan and corresponding zoning are revised to limit development.”

The City provided further clarity in their mitigation program for the General Plan. It states:

“Lastly, the policy requires that type, amount and location of development be correlated with the provision of adequate supporting infrastructure and services”

Unfortunately, the City has failed to implement its own mandated policy, resulting in the predictable: existing residents and businesses are dealing with an utterly dysfunctional government that fails to improve its infrastructure and provide adequate public safety services.

Jim O’Sullivan of Fix the City, another group involved in the suit, stated: “We will pursue this lawsuit as far as necessary to force the city to do its job as required by law. The city’s failure to ensure adequate infrastructure is costing us police and fire coverage and putting public safety at risk. We just are not going to let that happen.” ###