Op-Ed: No Room for Subjectivity in Los Angeles Design Guidelines

Sam Lubell outlines the good and bad of recent small lot design guidelines approved by Los Angeles.

1 minute read

July 6, 2014, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Lubell supports design guidelines in theory, but is concerned about where Los Angeles' recent efforts to implement citywide and small lot design guidelines might go wrong: "Intelligent requirements include adding permeable paving; designing for pedestrian access; locating parking to the rear of dwellings; and demarcating clear entryways. But the problems lie, as is often the case, with the more subjective requirements, like 'enhancing the public realm,' creating 'high-quality' environments, and making housing 'compatible with the existing neighborhood context.'"

The problem, Lubell argues, is when the questions of taste are left to a few non-architects, including planners: "Design guidelines can be effective tools, but micro-managing them can lead to a limitation of creativity and a bending of design to the tastes of a few. That can become a bigger problem for architecture when those few are planners, or other officials, or neighbors, not architects."

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