Does Proposed Merger Signal Planning's Surrender in Los Angeles?
A city known (perhaps unfairly?) for its 'lack of planning', Los Angeles has made strides in recent years, investing heavily in its transit system and making progress on community plans. The planning and development process will soon be changing, however, from the inside as outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to merge the Department of City Planning with the Department of Building and Safety becomes a reality. A new Department of City Planning and Development aims to create efficiencies by consolidating bureaucratic functions related to the built environment.
Rick Cole, the former City Manager for the City of Ventura CA, analyzes this development for the Planning Report, noting, "The looming test in Los Angeles comes with the “merger” of the Planning Department and the Department of Building and Safety. There is nothing inherently misguided about such a combination. In smaller cities, that is the general standard. Putting those who make plans in the same department as those who enforce them comes with certain potential advantages. There are always tensions between comprehensive planning policy goals and the messier real world of applying those to specific projects. When there is one department over both functions, the inherent tensions can be balanced internally and intentionally. When the two functions are housed in two departments, those tensions often engender mixed messages and turf wars."