September 30, 1992 - From the September, 1992 issue

Katz: State Creates New Planning Trust Fund for L.A.

By Assemblyman Richard Katz. As the people of Los Angeles struggle to shape the future character of our city, the Legislature has approved two key pieces of legislation that I authored — new laws that offer tools to help accomplish that critical task.

AB 1246: A Trust Fund for City Planning

One of the most serious obstacles to updating the City of Los Angeles’ underlying planning documents is money. Given the fiscal constraints at the federal, state and local levels, planning often takes a back seat to providing police, fire and paramedic service.

The lack of cohesive, contemporary planning in Los Angeles spurred a diverse group of people to tackle the problem — a group that included representatives of homeowner associations and community groups such as PLAN/LA, the Westside Civic Federation, the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Associations, the Inner-City Alliance, and the Coastal Area Support Team, as well as development industry representatives including the law firm of Latham & Watkins and Maguire Thomas Partners.

The result of our efforts is Assembly Bill 1246, a creative idea that would allow property owners, large and small, to voluntarily contribute a dollar per acre (or portion thereof) to a Long Range Planning Trust Fund to be established by the City. The trust fund could only be used for updating the general plan and community plans.

AB 1246 authorizes the City to establish the trust fund, and calls upon City and County officials to develop a system to collect the contributions.

How the Fund Would Work

The original concept was to use a “check-off” box on the property owner’s tax bill to authorize the contribution, and to collect the money by adding the amount to the property tax bill.

According to the county tax collector, the data processing systems used to scan the tax bills don’t have the capacity to scan for a check-off box. Therefore, every tax bill would have to be individually handled by a clerk, likely costing as much or more than would be raised in contributions.

However, contributions could be collected with property taxes, listing the contributions on the tax bill along with other assessments. Permission for the contribution would be given to the City by the taxpayer. And that information would be sent to the County in the same way that other assessments are usually transmitted. AB 1246 calls on the City and County to work out the details of this process.

Given that there are about 800,000 parcels of land in the City of Los Angeles, a number of which are larger than one acre, it’s likely that several hundred thousand dollars a year would be available for the planning trust fund from this source alone. In addition to the voluntary contributions of property owners, contributions to the trust fund would be sought from corporate givers and other private sources.

A current planning framework ultimately saves dollars, time, and energy for all parties in the planning process, including neighborhood groups, developers, and planning department staff. The piecemeal approach used today has many hidden costs including law suit settlements, while neighborhoods throughout the city suffer from both over-and under-development.

AB 1246 has been a rallying point for people who, on many occasions, have been adversaries. It’s proof that when brought together around a table, common interests can be found, and cooperation, rather than conflict, can result.

The CMP Process

The landmark legislation that resulted in Proposition 111, approved by the voters in 1990, includes a requirement that every urban area of the state develop and adopt a congestion management program (CMP).

The law establishes statewide performance standards aimed at reducing congestion, and recognizes the diversity of urban areas by giving maximum flexibility to local congestion management agencies to develop programs to meet those standards.

During the development of CMPs throughout the state, some general observations have been made:

  • The CMP has been responsible for forcing city and county public works directors and planning department staff to sit at the same table and discuss interjurisdictional land use and transportation issues… no small accomplishment.
  • The CMP does, indeed, give local officials the opportunity to fashion programs that meet local objectives and conditions. Most of the urban counties have adopted CMPs, and further refinements are underway where preliminary or “tier one” programs were initially adopted.

AB 3093: Improving CMPs

As local agencies have worked to develop and implement the CMP, several ideas for improvements have been suggested that make good common sense. As a result, I authored legislation, AB 3093, to make the following modifications to the CMP.

Because the development of affordable housing is so important, trips generated by housing built for people with low-and very-low incomes were exempted in the original CMP legislation.

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AB 3093 will also encourage high density residential and mixed-use development near urban and commuter rail transit stations by exempting trips generated by this type of development within 1/4 mile of a station. Studies by the Institute of Urban and Regional Development at UC Berkeley have suggested such a change would stimulate transit usage, while enabling transit joint development opportunities.

I believe this concept should be expanded to include “stations” where heavily used bus routes intersect. Whether by choice or necessity, the vast majority of those who use transit will continue to use our bus transit systems. We should not ignore this fact, and the opportunities it presents for areas not served by rail systems, including much of the southern and central areas in Los Angeles.

AB 3093 Ends Overlapping Air Quality Requirements

Since the inception of the program, efforts to develop, adopt, and implement transportation control measures in nonattainment areas have raised questions about the overlapping requirements of state and federal clean air regulations and the CMP.

Clean air regulations call for local mobile emissions reduction programs, currently implemented in the South Coast basin by Regulation XV, but soon to be followed by other transportation control measure (TCM) requirements which will include local trip reduction ordinances. The CMP also requires that a trip reduction ordinance be developed and implemented by every included local jurisdiction.

AB 3093 calls upon the newly created Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), in cooperation with other local, regional and state agencies, air districts, representatives of the business community and environmental organizations, to identify inconsistencies and overlaps between the CMP and clean air requirements, and to recommend appropriate changes to the CMP to reduce or eliminate any conflicts.

As a part of this effort, the study will compare how effectively the CMP’s use of level of service standards assures mobility and reductions in mobile emissions as opposed to other measurable standards such as average vehicle ridership and vehicle miles traveled.

Regional Dispute Resolution

When the CMP legislation was drafted, the consensus among local and regional agencies was to cast the CMP as a countywide subregional planning process. Consistency with regional transportation plans was required, but there was no mechanism to resolve inter-county disputes.

AB 3093 calls upon multi-county regional transportation agencies such as SCAG to resolve disputes between counties within their boundaries. Because disputes among SCAG, cities and counties hinder effective planning, this change is needed, and has been endorsed by the agencies.

Use It or Lose It

The stick in the “stick and carrot” enforcement strategy for the CMP is the loss of local gas tax dollars for non-compliance. When first conceived, funds withheld from non-complying cities and counties were to be held by the Controller until the city or county came into compliance. But this strategy could leave millions of dollars unused for badly needed regionally important transportation projects due to one city’s unwillingness to comply with the CMP.

AB 3093 will “escrow” these funds for 12 months to allow the offending city or county to comply. After 12 months, the money will be allocated to the congestion management agency, to be used for projects that benefit the region.

Relief for Rebuilding L.A.

It’s clear that rebuilding the businesses that were destroyed during the civil unrest in Los Angeles last April is a difficult and demanding, yet critically important task.

In recognition of the social and economic importance of encouraging businesses to repair and rebuild, AB 3093 exempts these activities from any requirement under CMP for the next four years.

The full impact of the CMP won’t be seen or felt for several years. However, local elected officials in Los Angeles and throughout the state have been given a tool to better coordinate regional land use and transportation decisions. It is a vital step to insure a better future in California.

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© 2022 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.