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The Impossibility of Updating Los Angeles’ Community Plans

Despite years of community engagement, political discussion, and planning, the city of Los Angeles has struggled to pass updated community plans, and in many neighborhoods, developments may suffer through years of litigation and bureaucracy.
May 30, 2014, 7am PDT | Kevin Madden
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The Westside Urban Forum, a networking organization dedicated to the land-use dialogue impacting Los Angeles’ Westside, hosted a May panel, “The Art of Getting to Maybe: Why has Updating LA’s Community Plans become Impossible?” examining the failure of the Hollywood Community Plan. Despite years of community engagement, the plan was challenged by community groups, thrown out by a judge, and repealed by the Los Angeles City Council in compliance with a court order. Moderated by Michael Woo, Dean of the College of Environmental Design, Cal Poly Pomona and former Los Angeles City Councilmember representing Hollywood, the panelists—Jane Usher, former Senior Assistant City Attorney and Planning Commission President; Dale Goldsmith, Partner, Armbruster, Goldsmith & Delvac; and Tom Donovan, West Los Angeles Area Planning Commissioner and Attorney—answer the “Why” question, citing a lack of political will behind community plans and the uniqueness of Hollywood. 

Los Angeles' Community Plans are supposed to be updated on a regulate basis. The lack of support behind planning at the City Council and in neighborhoods, however, can severely slow down the process. With the Hollywood Community Plan now void, planners and developers must rely on the 1988 plan and the Los Angeles City Council for direction and approval. 

The Planning Report shares the following excerpts from the Forum, focusing on how things operated in City Hall and whether Angelenos believe in real planning. Panelists agree that the scale of the geographic and social diversity of Los Angeles makes uniting constituents behind a common vision particularly challenging for City Councilmembers and officials. As Dale Goldsmith notes: "It is certainly a question of political will. If the city council was really focused on getting the plans up to date, I think you’d see a lot more progress. But keep in mind that Los Angeles is a vast city. Mike, when you were a city councilmember you had more constituents than a Senator in Wyoming. And you have huge geographic variation, even with some of the 35 community plans. Hollywood, for example, has hillsides, dense urban areas, and ethnic neighborhoods—I think that makes the planning process a lot more difficult. I agree with your professor that LA is different and harder because of the scale. Size does matter in planning."

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Published on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 in The Planning Report
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