Keeping Bees Away from Honey? Corruption Cases Expose Flaws in L.A. City’s Land Entitlement Process

Three former Los Angeles public officials share their collective perspective on how best to reform the city of Los Angeles' corrupted land use approval process.

2 minute read

September 8, 2020, 11:00 AM PDT

By Clare Letmon

Los Angeles City Hall

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

Until land use planning in Los Angeles is based on smart public policy, not raw political power, developers will be irresistibly drawn to find ways to influence politicians, lawfully or not. Here, Rick Cole, former city manager of Santa Monica, mayor of Pasadena, and contributing TPR Editor; S. Gail Goldberg, FAICP, former planning director of San Diego and Los Angeles and former executive director of Urban Land Institute Los Angeles; and Bud Ovrum, former deputy mayor for economic development of the city of Los Angeles, former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, and former CEO of the CRA/LA, share their collective perspective on how best to reform L.A. city's corrupted land use approval process

Instead of a process that demands case-by-case exceptions to outdated zoning codes or superficial knee-jerk reforms—the trio advocate for a comprehensive package of policies that will protect existing residents from slipshod spot zoning and displacement while making room for the next generation to pursue their dreams for a better life.  

"There is no quick and easy fix. Superficial reforms to curb corruption might temporarily quell the outrage -- until the next set of scandals and indictments.  But unless we replace our outdated zoning, we still won’t have affordable housing and workers will still have to endure long commutes to their jobs.  Businesses will still struggle to retain skilled workers who can’t afford to live here.   New residential and commercial building will still be held hostage to convoluted and capricious processes that drive up costs and make us less competitive with other regions.  Neighbors will still have to fight City Hall to stop ill-conceived projects and developers will still find ways to pay to play.  To fail to plan is to plan to fail.

The real fix is to do real planning.  To spend the time and money to plan for adequate new housing and to put new commercial development where it can be served by our expensive investments in public transit.  To involve our diverse communities in a collaborative effort to plan for a more equitable, prosperous, livable and environmentally sustainable Los Angeles.  To ensure that instead of allowing individual projects that make little sense, we plan comprehensively to have adequate schools, parks and transit for new growth.  To protect existing residents not from change, but from slipshod spot zoning and displacement while making room for the next generation to pursue their dreams for a better life."

Read the full piece on The Planning Report.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020 in The Planning Report

Aerial view of snowy single-family homes in suburban Long Island, New York

New York Governor Advances Housing Plan Amid Stiff Suburban Opposition

Governor Kathy Hochul’s ambitious proposal to create more housing has once again run into a brick wall of opposition in New York’s enormous suburbs, especially on Long Island. This year, however, the wall may have some cracks.

March 20, 2023 - Mark H. McNulty

Empty parking garage at night with yellow lines marking spots and fluorescent lighting

Rethinking the Role of Parking in the American City

In cities big and small, the tide is turning against sprawling parking lots, car-centric development, and minimum parking mandates.

March 16, 2023 - The New York Times

A futuristic version of New York City, with plants growing neatly on top of modern skycrapers.

Friday Eye Candy: 20 AI-Generated Cityscapes

AI-generated images are creating new landscapes and cityscapes, capable of inspiring awe or fear.

March 17, 2023 - Chris Steins via Medium

"For Rent" sign in yard of red building

Rent Increases Highest for Lowest-Income Households

Renters at the lower end of the spectrum see no relief in sight as rent hikes remain stubbornly high.

1 hour ago - Marketplace

Rendering of Baylor Scott & White Health Administrative Center in Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

A Dallas Architect Designs Statement Buildings With a Purpose

The Dallas Morning News’ architecture critic profiles one of the city’s most important current architects.

3 hours ago - The Dallas Morning News

A mountain range at sunset appears in the background of this photo, with cacti in the foreground.

Biden Designates a New National Monument in West Texas

The Castner Range National Monument in West Texas is the second of two new national monuments announced by President Joe Biden this week.

5 hours ago - The White House

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.