ASK THE PLANNER:
By Dick Platkin*
In response to several recent questions on how
It all begins with the State of
But, a careful look at these adopted policy documents reveals that they are a facade. To begin, they have no monitoring program, an act of negligence which has landed the city in court.
Furthermore, in addition to the failure to monitor these plans, many of them are older than the city planners in charge of them. Their update is long overdue, and the ball is clearly in the court of City Hall to bring these antiquated policy documents into the 21st century.
Open Space - 1973
Public Recreation/Service Systems - 1980
Air Quality - 1992
General Plan Framework - 1995 (not mandatory, but prepared to comply with an EPA action whose settlement directed the city to update and integrate its General Plan elements.)
Noise - 1999 (1996 Council File)
Transportation – 1999 (Preparation began in 1987)
Conservation - 2001 (based on 1990 data)
Housing - 2009
Other adopted, optional elements which have not been uploaded to the city’s website include Power Systems (1968), Libraries (1968), Public Schools (1968), Sewerage and Wastewater (1968), Cultural and Historical Monuments (1969), Water System (1969) CD 12 Equestrian Trails (1968), and Bicycle (1996).
In violation of State laws, these mandatory and optional General Plan elements have different base years, different horizon (expiration) years, different graphic formats, different policies, and different base maps. They, nevertheless, have two things in common. First, they are all shelf documents ignored by the city’s officials in land use, budget, capital projects, and work program decisions.
Second, they were prepared in an era when
So, repairs to this deplorable situation are desperately needed. Just as the navigator of a modern commercial airplane could not do his or her job with old, inconsistent maps and technical manuals, the second largest city in the
1) Immediately update the seven required elements of the General Plan, as well as the integrating discretionary element, the General Plan Framework. These updates should be based on the recently released 2010 census data, and they should have realistic assumptions about LA’s future: minimal population gain, minimal economic expansion, and aging underfunded public infrastructure and services. Furthermore, these updates should reflect two other unfolding crises: climate change and peak oil (i.e., the end of the oil era). Many cities have already prepared new elements or amended their adopted General Plan elements to respond to these new realities.
2) Since the General Plan’s Land Use element applies the other seven General Plan elements to the city’s 35 local communities, these community plans should be the last ones updated. Clearly, the city’s current approach of updating several community plans (e.g.,
3) Once the General Plan is updated, it must be immediately applied to the governance of the city. It is the city’s navigation system. Since the General Plan minimally determines the city’s priorities for the next 20 years, these policies should be reflected in year-to-year budgets, as well as the city’s annually updated five year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). This document, prepared by the City Administrative Officer (
4) The fourth priority is to use the updated General Plan to review the city’s many zoning overlay ordinances, such as specific plans, historical preservation overlay ordinances, and transit oriented districts.
5) The final step is to implement the updated General Plan by amending the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC). At present the Department of City Planning is preparing several dozen amendments to the LAMC in order to reduce administrative barriers for discretionary actions (i.e., legal loopholes in the zoning code). This process should take place after the city’s plans are updated, not before.
6) During the entire General Plan update process, the city’s elected officials must ensure that city’s code enforcement authorities, in particular the Department of Building and Safety, are properly staffed and fulfilling their requirements. After all, politicians who continuously profess their commitment to law enforcement should stop slighting the city’s adopted zoning laws, building codes, and environmental regulations. If these officials had the foresight to adopt them, then they should guarantee their enforcement.
None of these six actions chart new territory to fix
* Dick Platkin is an LA-based city planning blogger, consultant, and teacher. Please send any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org .