December 30, 1988 - From the December, 1988 issue

Community Plan Revisions, or, “How To Do It Right”

Written by David Duncan, former Planning Deputy for Councilman Michael Woo, the following guest columnist piece focuses on the Hollywood Community Plan Revision of 1988. 

The revision of the Hollywood Community Plan is expected to be adopted by the Los Angeles City Council in December. This culminates a two-year intensive planning and community participation effort to redefine the quality of life for Hollywood, Los Feliz and Hollywood Hills residents.

The effort was initiated by the consultant team of Gruen Associates, the Planning Department and City Councilman Michael K. Woo. When he took office in 1985, the Councilman called for a complete overhaul of the Community Plan, seeing that the 1973 Plan allowed an excessive amount of residential and commercial growth that could not be handled by existing or projected infrastructure improvements.

Hollywood’s 1973-based zoning allowed an eventual population of approximately 460,00 persons, compared to 204,000 today. The combined commercial and industrial space allowed in the 1973 plan was 140 million square feet.

When the planners looked at the street capacity, the ability to widen streets and/or redirect traffic to accommodate the allowed growth, they found that the zoning allowances would only produce a gridlock situation on most, if not all, Hollywood and hillside intersections.

An intense citizen participation effort was conducted at the beginning of the process involving almost all neighborhood groups and significant institutions to be affected by the revision. This led to community workshops and eventually public hearings. In the process thousands of Hollywood and Los Feliz residents were involved in the formation of the plan.

What evolved is a plan that accommodates a 2010 population of approximately 230,00 (as opposed to 460,00) and a combined commercial and industrial square footage of 70 million square feet (compared to 140 million allowed in the 1973 plan); these figures include the redevelopment area.

In considering with the Hollywood Redevelopment Area, planners assumed that the development levels recently adopted as part of the redevelopment plan would be left alone in order to foster the revitalization of that area. It soon became evident that the densities and square footage allowed inside the redevelopment area were also too excessive for the existing or projected street infrastructure, and had to be reduced.

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The Councilman and his staff were instrumental in finding a solution to the dilemma of encouraging development in order to foster revitalization but to also reduce densities to mitigate traffic concerns. The Council office proposed a density reduction formula that lowered by-right densities but allowed a discretionary rise above the set limits.

Floor area rations (FAR’s) were reduced from 4.5:1 in the commercial center to 3:1 around the intersection of Hollywood and Highland and in the Vine Street corridor from Hollywood to Sunset. The FAR elsewhere was reduced to 2:1. Projects proposed to be developed above the by-right FAR’s have to buy into a “menu” of transportation improvements that are being planned to reduce or divert traffic through the Hollywood core.

Landowners, speculators and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce were bitterly opposed to the reduction formula in the redevelopment area, but resident groups were very pleased with the proposal. Intense pressure and lobbying preceded the public hearings and meetings of the Planning Commission, but the plan remained virtually intact all the way to the City Council.

The strength of the plan is its commitment to retain the quality of residential neighborhoods, reduce potential traffic impacts, yet allow for a reasonable growth to an area that still needs such growth to complete the revitalization effort. The strength of the process also has to be noted, and of the people who were committed to keeping this plan strong yet workable, the Planning Commission, Councilman Michael Woo, and the City Council.

The true test came at the first City Council vote on the plan when only a handful of concerns had to be resolved, out of a potential minefield of controversies that were resolved through a thorough public participation process. The Hollywood Community Plan Revision can be hailed as a model to emulate as the City begins to revise other portions of its General Plan.

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© 2021 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.