September 30, 1989 - From the September, 1989 issue

Report From the AIA Urban Design Committee

Mark Futterman and Ricardo Capretta, co-chairs of the AIA/LA Urban Design Committee, detail how their committee has been involved in the urban design sphere of the City of Los Angeles. 

As the Los Angeles region faces critical challenges of growth, urban design provides an important vehicle for envisioning quality of life, managing change, and resolving problems.

Because problems of city-building rarely have clients, and architectural projects only touch tangentially on key urban issues, the Urban Design Committee of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects serves as a forum for its diverse members to discuss current events as well as long term issues.

During the past year, the Committee has tackled a broad range of subjects, including the placement of Chapter members on the City of Los Angeles' Community Planning Advisory Committees, sponsoring a seminar on the role of design professionals in growth management, and developing a Chapter policy on Los Angeles' proposed ordinance to raise parking standards.

The Committee recommended that rather than increase standards, the City adopt policies to reduce automobile dependency, promote transit and mixed use projects, and be aware of unintended side effects such as an increase in building bulk resulting from parking placed within buildings because it is not counted in the floor area ratio.

Recently, the Committee sponsored a round table on LA2000 - A City for the Future and its implications for the design professions, published in the September, 1989 issue of LA Architect. The LA 2000 plan, prepared by a Mayoral committee over a three year period sets forth recommendations on a wide range of topics including physical planning. AIA/LA roundtable participants included a range of professionals with different backgrounds and roles.

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In addition, the Committee has participated in the Los Angeles City Planning Commission’s advisory committee to develop guidelines for the proposed design review boards, and has been involved with the Los Angeles/Design Action Planning Team for the Watts community. As a result of these activities, the Committee has been asked by the Planning Department and National AIA to assist in the LA/DAPT process.

At the recommendation of the Urban Design Committee, the AIA/LA Board of Directors supported the adoption of the SCAQMD’s Air Quality Management Plan and SCAG’s Growth Management Plan, and Regional Mobility Plan. The Chapter recommended that these plans include the goals and objectives of LA 2000: clarification of the relationships between land use and transportation plans and their impacts on urban form; an urban design element to visualize the effects of policy on city form and to establish new controls to reform or replace outdated zoning codes, and further study of the impacts of proposed stationary source and mobility regulations upon the building industry.

Currently the Committee is researching the purchase and use of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railway company rights-of-way by the Los Angeles County Transportation Committee; reviewing the proposed Site Plan Review Ordinance and Landscape Ordinance, both now before the LA City Planning Commission; and reviewing the EIR for the proposed Farmer's Market development.

The Los Angeles region is in the midst of great social, economic and political change. Newly emerging conditions, including growth, changing ethnicities, and new planning policies demand the creation of an urban design agenda to guide development toward a quality public realm.

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