May 30, 1989 - From the May, 1989 issue

The Politics of Land Use Planning or… What I Say on the Campaign Trail

Lyle Hall, councilperson candidate for the 7th District, describes the political landscape of land use planning in the district. Hall describes the district as a very unique area where there are those who oppose development and those who are in favor. Hall finishes by declarig a candidate, like himself, who understands the importance of land use planning should be voted for in the district race. 

I would like to begin this discussion of the politics of land use with an important disclaimer: I am not a planner, a builder, or developer. But I have been witness to and a victim of the haphazard planning practices which have defined the San Fernando Valley in general and the 7th District in particular. I feel strongly that each member of the City Council must take an aggressive and pro-active role in creating residential and commercial developments which add to the quality of life for area residents and business people.

The 7th District differs greatly from the other areas of Los Angeles. Our citizens are not anti-growth and are not averse to development. However, there is a strong and justified support for requirements of quality and benefit to the local community. New projects must have an aesthetic standard considerably higher than the majority of those already put in place and need to upgrade the community and increase the value of the development itself. And our neighborhoods need to be protected from poor planning. In my neighborhood of single family dwellings in Panorama, three single family homes were replaced by a tall, 50-unit apartment house. With the recent addition of another apartment house, this inconsistent planning has hurt the character of this single family neighborhood.

The planning process in the San Fernando Valley has been reactive to specific requests or projects and has not been creative in its community-wide focus. Political considerations have been substituted for professional recommendations from our Planning Commission, and the vocal minority has been allowed to unduly influence councilmanic decisions. We need to establish the direct and continuing involvement of citizen advisory councils in each of the community specific plans so that those residents who will have to live with the results can have some say in the direction their communities will grow.

These groups have been established successfully in other parts of the city and the state and provide the opportunity for developers, builders, community leaders, and government to exchange ideas and views during the formative time prior to the start of a project. Issues of traffic flow, intersection load, parks, open spaces, recreation, library, utility, police, fire, and paramedic service can be anticipated and provisions made. Growth management plans can be developed as tools to expedite quality growth along a planned tract—not as stumbling blocks or barriers to inhibit growth. These plans—jointly developed and approved can be politically supported and advanced throughout the process in a timely fashion.

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The 7th District is also an area where creative use of the Community Redevelopment Agency should be pursued. We need a redevelopment project on Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima, an area characterized by vacant lots, boarded-up businesses and general blight, which is in desperate need of help. We need to view the San Fernando Valley as the resource it is and ensure its part in the orderly growth of the city. Affordable but quality housing, coupled with full service commercial endeavors that complement our neighborhoods can enhance the level of enjoyment of valley living.

The 7th District is not a homogenous area. While interest and concern over growth and development are wide­spread, one issue stands out citywide as paramount—crime. Walking door to door throughout the district, I am saddened to see the proliferation of walls, fences, and barred windows. No city can develop or grow to its full potential while its citizens live in fear.

Effective leadership must address the myriad of interests that affect the citizens of the district. We must plan for and master our growth or we will be the victims of uncontrolled circumstances. The political process and its role in land use can provide the direction and impact we need to regain control over our lives. We must act decisively or we are doomed to failure. It is time for a change in our attitudes, in our approach, and in our actions. It is time for a change.

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