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Garcetti Proposes Major Overhaul Of L.A.'s Outdated Development Guidelines

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Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the City Council introduced major plans to revamp the city’s musty development guidelines Wednesday, calling for an update to all 35 of the city’s “community plans.” The looming specter of a ballot fight has brought much-needed attention to the woefully out-of-date state of L.A.’s community plans, all but six of which are more than 15 years old.

What, you may be wondering, is a community plan anyway? And why should you care?

Each of the city’s 35 community plans serves as a blueprint of sorts, dictating the possible future of a given neighborhood. The plans, which are prepared by the Planning Department in consultation with neighborhoods and approved by the City Council, lay down the law for land-use decisions, set the rules for transportation and govern the size and density of new buildings—all of which ultimately helps determine the livability, affordability and character of a neighborhood, along with the kind of jobs that can be supported in a community.

And when the plans in question were drafted decades ago, with archaic guidelines pertaining to a neighborhood as it was twenty or thirty years ago, almost everyone ends up needing exceptions. Which is why most new projects go through City Hall for amendments and approval, opening up the door to all kinds of NIMBYism, special interests, and general wheeling and dealing (often to the benefit of big developers).

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Any of those complaints sound familiar? The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has taken aim at the city’s outdated plans as well as the frequent practice of granting height and density increases to developers, most notably with their development-freezing proposed March 2017 ballot measure (also known as the "Neighborhood Integrity Initiative by the Coalition to Preserve L.A," and not to be confused with the "Build Better L.A." measure, which is still aiming for November's ballots). Garcetti has insisted that today’s announcement is not a response to the proposed ballot measure, according to the L.A. Times.

The Times reports that Garcetti has called on the Planning Department to revise the nearly three dozen plans by 2026, requiring the hiring of 28 new employees at a cost of $4.2 million per year. A motion introduced Wednesday by Councilmembers José Huizar, Gil Cedillo, David Ryu, Bob Blumenfield, Mitch O’Farrell and Mike Bonin called on the Planning Department to report back on overhauling the program and to offer recommendations on ways to increase oversight of the environmental review process, and upgrade outdated technology.

City leaders also called for a new citywide General Plan, which would be funded in the Mayor's 2016-2017 budget alongside the community plan updates. The city's 35 community plans make up the “land use element” of the city’s General Plan.

“Angelenos deserve a transparent and fair process when evaluating impacts on their residential neighborhoods and to ensure that the city can effectively deliver on its land-use responsibilities,” Councilmember David Ryu said in a statement. “Today’s motion is a step in the right direction to rebuilding trust in the city’s planning process.”