December 30, 1988 - From the December, 1988 issue

"Vigilante Planning"

Judie B.A. de Turenne, then current president of a local homeowners association, co-opt a developer's consultant's remark of homeowner involvment in city planning as vigilante planning. Turenne argues that developers ought to take homeowners considerations into consideration when planning future development.

“When homeowners dictate planning, it is vigilante planning,” cried the developer’s consultant, expediter cum lobbyist as he objected to the neighborhoods’ requests which he characterized as being “unjust to the builders.” This bit of unconscious humor was reported in a Los Angeles newspaper recently. The homeowners in question were amused to find what they considered vigilance being construed as vigilantism. Therein lies the tale. With ever increasing intensity a schism divides the residential and development communities. The question – Is this necessary?

The project that led to the creative name calling cited above received a Negative Declaration which was appealed. A Mitigated Negative Declaration was then issued. Citizens armed with far more knowledge of CEQA than any mortal should be called upon to bear, pointed out to the Department of Building and Safety that the “Mandatory Findings of Significance” contained within both Declarations mandated an Environmental Impact Report. Additionally, the “new mitigations” supplied by DOT were identical to those described in the original document. The Environmental Review committee concurred with these observations, calling for a full EIR.

The technical knowledge required to deal with development in an intelligent manner is awesome. No neighborhood groups maintain a bevy of attorneys on retainer, nor do they generally have the time to pursue these issues to logical conclusions. At this point, however, many have made the time and some are approaching a level of true expertise. The development community has responded to this in some cases with frivolous lawsuits and ever increasing campaign contributions. If the general public appears a bit antagonistic in the fact of this arrogance, it is understandable. Many developers who have worked with communities rather than in spite of them, have created successful projects and good neighbors. This is a two-way street. All too often both sides find themselves entrenched in untenable positions with no room to pivot. Extremism on either side is insupportable; compromise is almost always a viable alternative.

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There is no basis in holding that these factions are natural enemies. It is illogical to assume that for a project to be successful it must inherently have a negative impact on a community or vice versa. By the same toke, when a developer describes a project with a gross floor area in excess of 1.6 million square feet on an eight acre site, and speaks of having 4200 parking spaces to accommodate mixed residential, retail, office space, a health club and 2500 theater seats, a voice of reason had better be interjected and as quickly as possible. The developer who goes into the community and attempts to ascertain specific goals and more importantly, specific concerns, will have a far greater chance of enjoying support rather than adversarial opposition. It is essential that communities know that they are being heard and acknowledged. The intelligent developer realizes that there are non-negotiable issues and fears, and then moves visibly and vocally to mitigate.

All concerned would be well advised to realize that criticism no matter how sharp does not a NIMBY make. To the politicians with feet firmly planted in mid-air and fannies affixed to well-worn fences, know that while activist may not fill campaign coffers, they will fill polling booths.

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