November 30, 1992 - From the November, 1992 issue

RLA Co-Chair Offers Summary of Planning Goals

By Kenneth Bernstein, Editor of The Planning Report. In light of criticism that the Rebuild L.A. (RLA) Committee has been directionless and slow to act, RLA’s leadership has gone public in recent weeks, outlining more clearly the mission and projects of the group.

Perhaps the most detailed statement to date of RLA’s planning and land use philosophy came from RLA’s co-chair, Latham and Watkins attorney Barry Sanders, who spoke at the American Planning Association’s statewide conference in Pasadena on November 10th. Sanders’ message was clear: RLA will not try to be all things to all people, but will instead pursue a focused agenda of attracting private investment into communities where disinvestment has occurred historically.


To those who have criticized RLA’s ever-expanding Board of Directors, Sanders said, “the purpose of the Board is not to have a model U.N. … It’s to get people who’ve never talked to each other together in the same room.”

Reversing Disinvestment

RLA starts from the premise that its task is to reverse what Sanders called a “downward spiral” of disinvestment in the inner city. This trend was abetted, said Sanders, “by an earlier generation of planners” that embraced Corbusier’s “Radiant City” theory and a destructive freeway system. Sanders said it was further exacerbated in Los Angeles by the city’s divisiveness — the “warring encampments of ethnic groups and policies that emphasize this” such as “electing officials from small districts.”

RLA will tackle this disinvestment by bringing large corporations into the inner city “because they see it’s good business to be there,” said Sanders. Sanders also pledged that RLA would tackle the problem of redlining by banks in home and business loans.

Sanders said that RLA will have a five-year life, but hopes to leave legacies that will last beyond that period. He also emphasized that RLA is “not a poverty agency… We haven’t got any money to give out… and we’re not seeking funding in an active way.”

Responding to criticisms that RLA has been overly focused on rebuilding South Central alone, Sanders said, “We’re not just L.A.; furthermore, we’re not just the places where there were fires.” Sanders said RLA will focus on all areas where the poverty rate exceeds 20%, including areas of the San Fernando Valley, Pico-Union, East L.A., the Oakwood area of Venice, and some areas of Long Beach.

To those who have criticized RLA’s ever-expanding Board of Directors, Sanders said, “the purpose of the Board is not to have a model U.N. … It’s to get people who’ve never talked to each other together in the same room.”

RLA’s Land Use Strategies

Sanders also outlined some specifics in planning and land use policy. He said that the Urban Planning, Transportation, and Housing task force will be led by Dan Garcia, Steven Sample, Felicia Marcus, Jackie Tatum, and Ed Avila. Sanders emphasized that RLA is not trying to prepare an urban plan, nor is it trying to usurp the City’s land use role. He sees RLA as “creating demand for buildings, and we’re confident the supply will follow.”

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On land use, most of RLA’s efforts will go into permit and bureaucratic streamlining. Sanders said that RLA will also work with developers to find potential sites, and will help create a community development bank. RLA is also working with L.A. Planning Director Con Howe to develop a coordinated land use database.

On the environment and open space, Sanders admitted that RLA’s early hopes to create small, temporary parks bumped up against the realities of land ownership, insurance claims, and toxics. The RLA committee is now pursuing a “mobile park” prototype that can be put on the back of a truck and carted away when rebuilding begins.

Confronting Skepticism

Despite Sanders’ speech, many in the APA audience remained skeptical of RLA. “It’s amazing that all RLA can offer in planning is some vague notion of bureaucratic streamlining,” said one Los Angeles planner involved with the rebuilding effort. “They haven’t gotten as far along on these land use projects as he led people to believe."

And for all of RLA’s attempts to lay out a narrow, defined agenda, he also left the door open to a broader mission. Asked whether RLA would fight for state strategies to promote urban reinvestment by discouraging suburban sprawl, Sanders responded, “We’ll be happy to push a legislative agenda, and a regulatory agenda.”

Such a broader agenda may rekindle early fears that RLA represents an unaccountable shadow government. But with its task forces in place, RLA finally appears to be making progress toward rebuilding.

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