Cities across the country are engaged in conversation about how to improve development services—making the process easier to navigate, providing predictably, and rooting decisions in long-term planning visions. In Los Angeles, a recommendation at the end of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s term proposed streamlining by merging the departments of City Planning and Building & Safety. Now that a recent consultant report has advised against this move and Mayor Eric Garcetti has concurred, Los Angeles must consider how best to proceed with development services reform without combining departments. Kevin Keller, who serves as the Director of Planning and Housing Policy under Garcetti, offers his perspective. Keller articulates the administration’s likely course of action, reflecting on the challenges inherent in overhauling a system this complex.
In reflecting on the context of LA—where the Departments of City Planning, Building & Safety, Transportation, and Fire, along with the Bureau of Engineering, each exercises authority over different steps in the permitting and construction process—Keller highlights strategies for consolidating functions in city government. He addresses concerns about prioritizing speed and ease for developers, perhaps at the cost of long-range planning efforts. With funding shortfalls still posing a threat in the wake of the recession, Keller touches on ways to advance development and planning with limited resources. Garcetti's administration believes that such function consolidation in Los Angeles will resolve long-standing bureaucratic inefficiencies. This perspective falls under the broader, national trend of utilizing metrics and transparent processes to achieve results.