October 30, 1992 - From the October, 1992 issue

The Rebuild L.A. Process Six Months Later: TPR Readers Offer Proposals

With nearly six months having passed since April’s riots in Los Angeles, this issue of The Planning Report focuses heavily on the rebuilding process. Is Los Angeles truly rebuilding? What more needs to be done, and how should it be done?

The Planning Report asked some of our subscribers to assess the rebuilding process thus far and provide one planning and land-use recommendation for those spearheading the rebuilding process.

The critical issue for Rebuild L.A. is to demonstrate some clear and immediate successes. In order to have credibility in the community, they must be able to develop their issues and programs and develop a more public profile very quickly.

George Mihlsten Latham and Watkins

We need to use our imagination to find both a quick fix and long-haul solutions. I’d take every burned out area and do as Taco Bell did — make it disappear over a weekend. I’d then turn these lots into green spaces and people places while we work with the community to decide the future of these areas over the long haul. Just because we’re in between doesn’t mean we have to be inert.

Maxene Johnston The Weingart Center

It is hard to make a policy recommendation at this point because we do not know what has been done to date and, more importantly, what is planned to be done. I believe it is important for the Rebuild L.A. committee to issue a report soon. Most of us are aware of positive steps taken by private industry, including IBM, Boys, and Vons. But I am afraid most people see little positive results. Of all of the properties destroyed, I have heard that there are current plans to rebuild only about 10%. One simple but perhaps valuable policy recommendation would be to emphasize first (within reasonable limits) rebuilding those businesses which provide the most employment.

Daniel Steagall LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby, and MacRae

Much greater effort needs to be focused on growing small businesses — those with 25 or fewer employees. These companies have a much better record of creating economic activity than all large companies put together. Also, more effort needs to be put into the informal economy — street vendors, swap meets and so on — because this form of employment/economic exchange will provide more opportunities than any other activity underway.

Eugene Grigsby UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning/The Planning Group

I still don’t see a one-stop process for expediting the permitting process. Someone needs to take the leadership role in pulling together the various agencies to make this happen. Rebuild L.A. should reconvene its land use task force, which could play a major role in this effort.

Leland Wong Kaiser Permanente

While they assemble the bureaucratic organization needed to get the larger efforts in gear, a parallel program is needed to get something up and running at the grassroots level. Perhaps a community-based investment program could focus on repairs and remodeling, thereby immediately generating employment and momentum. This would at least create some sense of achievement during the period of organization and avoid further frustration and community deterioration.

James Nelson MCA Development

Do for the whole city what we’re now belatedly trying to do for South Central. We need to focus on people and on investing in our communities, giving more attention to the human side of our city and using whatever planning tools are available to do so. To get people to stay, we must show them that we’re serious about changing the entire city.

Fernando Torres-Gil L.A. City Planning Commission

I’m not very familiar with what is happening in the rebuilding effort. But after they figure out what their priorities are, the San Fernando Valley will benefit when the city as a whole is healthy. When that occurs, the rest of the state and the country will perceive our entire region in a better light, which can only help the economy in the Valley.

Bonny Matheson President, Valley Industry and Commerce Association


Given our own experience with a small 15,000 sq. ft. expansion, it perplexes me how anything could get done in rebuilding Los Angeles. Though the city is counting on small mom and pop developers to lead the way, they are going to find it costly and discouraging to develop in this city. It seems like again the system works far too slowly and ineffectively. I am not surprised that we haven’t seen much activity.

Marva Smith Battle-Bey Vermont-Slauson Economic Development Corporation

Some of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety’s efforts to expedite the rebuilding process bas led to inadequate communication between city inspectors and property owners needing to rehabilitate. I would recommend that Building and Safety make a better effort to communicate with property owners on their responsibilities in renovating their properties.

Gail Gordon Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro

I believe “they” could do a better job of involving the community in the overall process, which I understood was to be tripartite — government, private sector, and community.

Michael Cornwell Windsor Square Association

We can’t effectively rebuild L.A. without reconstructing our sense of place. Land use policy should focus on reutilizing underutilized and damaged buildings and pay particular attention to design considerations of new buildings. At all costs we should avoid fortress-like cinder block structures which are emblematic of distrust and fragmentation. What makes L.A. great is its neighborhoods, and we should strive to maintain their character.

Amy Forbes Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher; President, Los Angeles Conservancy

The problems of the riots, though focused in South Los Angeles, touch all Los Angeles County cities to some extent. You can’t build a community based on low-wage jobs — you

have to get back jobs into the region to allow people to have a quality life. I would hope that we would find a more cooperative arrangement between federal, state, and local governments to address these issues.

Michael Goodson City of Hawthorne, Director of Planning

Planning must be done in the context of holistic community development rather than simply land-use controls. It must also include broad citizen participation in identifying community needs.

On the liquor store issue, Little Tokyo Service Center and the Asian Pacific Planning Council have developed a statement calling for dialogue between the community and liquor store owners on how or where to rebuild.

Judy Nishimoto-Aguilera Little Tokyo Service Center


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