July 30, 1991 - From the July, 1991 issue

Los Angeles Design Review Board Update

New boards, new rules. Ken Bernstein, Editor of The Planning Report, looks ahead of upcoming design review boards in the City of Los Angeles.

The City of Los Angeles has four existing design review boards: Pacific Palisades, San Vicente Scenic Corridor, Westwood, and Park Mile. But with new specific plans continuing to add design standards, design review boards may be expected to proliferate in the coming years.

The CRA’s Experiences

The Community Redevelopment Agency also has two design review committees: the Downtown Design Advisory Committee and the Hollywood Planning and Design Review Committee. The Hollywood committee spent its first two and a half years developing the Hollywood Boulevard Urban Design Plan, which, in creating its design standards and a review process, struck a balance between freedom and rigidity.

A DRB Ordinance

Due to concerns over the lack of clearly defined responsibilities and procedures for design review boards, the City of Los Angeles’ Planning Commission established an ad hoc committee in 1989 to review and standardize design review board procedures. This review led to the development of an ordinance containing guidelines for the establishment of design review boards in Specific Plan areas throughout the city.

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The ordinance specifies that design review boards should only be created in areas where a specific plan contains a design component. The ordinance’s most important effects will be in unifying the criteria used by the boards and in streamlining the process. The ordinance received consideration from the Planning Commission last year, but has remained in the City Attorney's office for several months.

Ventura Boulevard

While this ordinance awaits approval, design in the San Fernando Valley will increasingly be subject to review as a result of the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan. A Plan Review Board will begin meeting this fall, consisting of 13 appointees — two appointed by each of the six Council members affected and one by the Mayor.

This Board has broader duties to oversee the overall implementation of the Specific Plan, but will also have significant design review powers. As a result of the Plan, the Plan Review Board will review landscaping, placement and color of signage, and architectural elements such as color, texture, and building materials. The Board will also work toward developing permanent design guidelines over the next year.

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