May 30, 1989 - From the May, 1989 issue

Insider Planning May 1989

The Mayor's budget for the fiscal year 1989-1990 is now before the City Council. The Planning Department's budget was increased by 26%. (A planning deputy recently said, “They're just like the Police Department. They come; they ask; and they receive.”) $3 million is included to pay for transportation and environmental studies for the Community Plan Revisions. The budget also includes funds to staff Citizen Design Review Boards and develop an alternative Building Permit Allocation Plan. In total, the budget reflects an increase of 38 positions at the Planning Department.

Progress continues on changing the City Council's Standing Committees. The Community Redevelopment and Housing Committee would be responsible for preliminary budget review for the CRA, grants, housing subsidies, bonds, and tax increments. It would also review program and operational matters such as rent control, operation of housing projects, and the approval of plans and programs for redevelopment areas. It is this committee which will have greater oversight of the CRA in the future.

The most important recommendation to come from the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee on Affordable Housing was the creation of a Housing Commission to coordinate housing policy. The Mayor's budget proposal includes $400,000 for a new Housing Commission which would coordinate the work of all 11 agencies currently responsible for housing. It only gets confusing when you realize the restructured City Council Redevelopment and Housing Committee is also supposed to be responsible for coordinating housing policy.

One of the first recommendations acted upon after the release of the Blue Ribbon report was the sale of a $100 million general obligation bond for the purpose of seismic rehabilitation of brick buildings that did not meet seismic standards. Brick buildings are the city's largest single source of housing affordable to very low income families. However, 2/3 of the voters needed to agree, and the bond vote failed. With the recent case of the Central Library, they might try again. However, time is running out. Nearly 50,000 apart­ment units, over 80% of them affordable to low income households, are in buildings of unreinforced masonry construction which must be reinforced or demolished in 1989. Renovation costs exceed $10,000 per unit.

The City Council recently confirmed a new Planning Commissioner. USC Professor Fernando Torres-Gil, an associate professor of gerontology and public administration, replaces Carmen Estrada who served almost six months on the Commission.

Larry Kaplan, the chief deputy of Councilman Michael Woo, was recently selected and has accepted the position of President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. The selection is a terrific opportunity for Larry and bodes well for the redevelopment of Hollywood.

The long-awaited site plan ordinance was held in committee at Planning and Environment on April 25. Councilman Bernson wants to add commercial and industrial expanded uses under 40,000 square feet to the site plan review process. One rumor is that this ordinance will be held until the parking requirements are resolved.

Coming soon to a Commission near you... The Pedestrian Overlay District and the Open Space Zoning Ordinance will be introduced at the Planning Commission on May 4. The transitional height ordinance will appear there in late May. The ordinance to restrict demolitions of single family dwellings until plans are submitted for another house will not be introduced until the new fiscal year.


In a game of musical chairs reminiscent of Don Regan and James Baker, three division managers at the Planning Department are switching jobs. Emily Gabel is taking Bob Sutton's job, who is taking David Lessly's position, etc. The idea is that Emily Gabel will bring an urban design emphasis to the Community Plan Revision process; Bob Sutton will focus on specific plan studies in Neighborhood Planning; and Lessly will manage batching and the plan implementation division.

Four scenarios are emerging for the sewer hook-up controls which will replace the current ICO by August All four, supposedly, are more restrictive than the existing controls, meaning longer lines for commercial, and perhaps residential, development.

An ordinance is now being prepared to ban period plan review, or batching for five years after a community plan is revised. The exceptions are if there is an error in the plans, a hardship case, or a need to comply with state regulations. This ordinance will soon go to the Planning and Environment Committee.

With numerous ICO's and specific plans for hillside development, the Planning Department is working to create general regulations citywide. This comes as a result of developments in Sunland, Tujunga, Sherman Oaks and the Girard Tract.

The Planning Commission will vote on the Porter Ranch Specific Plan May 11. At a meeting this month with 200 people at the Commission and 60 people testifying, the staff decreased the commercial development from 7.7 million square feet to 7 million while increasing the residential from 3,000 units to 3,280. Council­man Bernson has proposed 6 million square feet of commercial development with a height limit of 10 stories.

Housing costs continue to climb, and the average cost for a new home now exceeds $200,000. A recent report by the California Association of Realtors states, populations pressures, the virtual withdraw of federal spending, and the slow growth movement have disrupted the housing environment. This crisis, the report warns, could threaten California's position as an economic leader.


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