October 30, 1988 - From the October, 1988 issue

Specific Plans - A New Development Strategy?

Central City West Associates: A Case Study by Urban Design Advisory Coalition (UDAC). UDAC members include prominent Los Angeles architects, urban designers, academicians, and arts professionals who have come together to create a forum for the discussion and advocacy of vital urban issues, issues which cry out for thoughtful analysis and public review. Future issues will feature articles on the urban evolution of Los Angeles by members of UDAC. 

A unique public-private partnership is currently developing specific plans for a 150 acre area of mixed residential and commercial development just west of downtown. The city of Los Angeles, realizing the need for a thorough examination of development of the area, did not have the resources on its own to undertake the large project.

Central City West Associates is an organization of major landowners and employers located in the planning area bounded by the Hollywood Freeway, Witmer/Union Avenue, Olympic Boulevard, and the Harbor Freeway. Its inception was encouraged by the city. "The Planning Commission for a long time held up redevelopment projects on the westside of the Harbor Freeway because of the critical shortage of circulation capacity," comments former commission president Daniel Garcia. "We would not develop that region on a piecemeal basis. Only a thorough analysis of transportation and land use would create the possibility of large development projects. We did everything to force a coalition of landowners.

CCWA, founded in 1985, began studying transportation in the area, and by December, 1986, had realized that the area had potential, though not until a transportation component was seriously addressed. CCWA consequently went to the city in early 1987 to discuss a transportation specific plan for the region. The vision for the region was for a unique urban village, a cluster of new buildings with housing and job opportunities, with public and "privatized" open space.

“We were sensitive to a lack of implementation of regional planning,” said CCWA project manager David Grannis. "We were trying to correct the jobs/housing imbalance, but if we went to the city to budget a specific plan, it would have taken five years. It's rare that the private sector initiates a specific plan with the city and pays for it." The CCWA consequently spent $750,000 to undertake a specific plan which included a land use plan, a housing element, and a transportation component.

The city is represented in the partnership by Councilmembers Gloria Molina and Gil Lindsay whose districts share the plan area, and the Planning Department and the Department of Transportation. The city will be responsible for formulating the final integrated transportation and land use specific plan ordinances presented to the City Council for adoption. In addition, an Interim Control Ordinance ensured that any proposed projects in the area won't prejudice the specific plan.

For large scale projects in Los Angeles, the CCWA exemplifies the relationship developers must have with the city. "This reflects the reality of the continuing budget crises of the city since Proposition 13," noted Grannis. "The money was not there in the city to do the plan. In terms of the cooperative venture, the private sector must pay for a large portion, but the public sector also has to make a project plausible by helping the process along and removing many prohibitive restraints from housing production." In other words, if developers are focusing on the jobs/housing imbalance or offsetting the transportation impact of a project, the public sector has to help guarantee that the project is implemented.

Two distinctive characteristics of Central City West which must be considered before applying the specific plan model to other areas of the city are, first, the fluidity of the residents of the community and, second, the land ownership which is highly concentrated among long-standing owners. 

The CCWA project has the advantage that it is large enough and flexible enough to address such issues as a jobs/housing imbalance and any transportation concerns. It would be more difficult for a single building project to respond to transportation and environmental concerns in the same way. As Grannis points out, "We can tackle such issues as child care, open space, and proximity of housing to employment. How can one office building work with the same amount of flexibility?"

The specific plan is now one third of the way towards completion. The data collection is now complete and the work program commenced in March, 1988. CCWA appointed the firm of Meyer, Allen & Partners as master plan consultants.


CCWA Plan Area

NOTE: The City and CCWA have established a steering committee comprised of representatives from CCWA, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Planning, the Office of Councilwoman Gloria Molina and the Office of Councilman Gilbert Lindsay (the "Steering Committee") to oversee the preparation of the transportation and land use specific plan.

NOTE: CCW A is a non-profit association of private property owners located in the west area of the Harbor Freeway, consisting of approx. 400 acres of commercial, industrial, residential, and adjoining parking zoned land bounded by the Hollywood Freeway on the north, the Harbor Freeway on the east, Olympic Blvd. on the south, and Witmer/Union Ave. on the west.

Court Decisions May Result in Stricter Controls

Regulatory control of development projects was given a boost recently in a Central District Court case, Coalition for Clean Air v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, which pressures the EPA to develop air quality plans for the region to meet the federal standards of the Clean Air Act.

Once plans are developed by the EPA, many predict that stricter controls in development will result "Our sense is that there will be more reporting and monitoring of air quality attainment deadlines,'' says Bart Doyle, legal counsel for the Builders Industry Association. "There will be tighter transportation controls, fees will be levied, and we will be looking at alternative fuels and methods of transportation."

The latest ruling states that the EPA has an obliga­tion to develop ozone and smog plans for Los Angeles to meet federal standards. "The South Coast has never developed a plan which meets the federal requirements of the Clean Air Act," comments Alan Waltner, attorney for the Coalition for Clean Air.


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