September 30, 1993 - From the September, 1993 issue

TPR Readers Advise Mayor Riordan on Priorities for L.A.’s Planning

With the election of Richard Riordan as Mayor of Los Angeles, the city faces critical choices as it plans for the 21st century. The urban landscape of Los Angeles has and will continue to undergo tremendous changes: recovering from the civil unrest of more than a year ago, investing billions of dollars in a modern mass-transit transportation system and coping with an ever increasing population just to name a few. 

The Planning Report presented readers with the following question: 

Focusing upon the areas of urban land use, planning, housing and permit processing, what specific priorities do you urge that the new Riordan Administration pursue most vigorously?

I believe the Riordan Administration has and will continue to focus on streamlining the permit process and providing affordable housing. I do not believe that such focus will diminish the importance of land use planning. 

Gil Ray O'Melveny & Myers

I hope that the Riordan administration will vigorously pursue comprehensive, long-range planning in Los Angeles, and see planning as a potentially powerful economic development tool. If we as a city prepared real plans at the front end, we would avoid the battles on every project at the back end, which have devastating effects impacts on business. I look forward to mayoral leadership on a true citywide vision for Los Angeles, an effective Land/Use Transportation Policy around our transit stations, and an expedited update of our embarrassingly outdated community plans. 

Laura ChickLos Angeles City Councilmember, 3rd District 

Cultural Affairs is very interested in creating a cultural element for the General Plan. This would lend force of law to the citizen's needs to promote growth of cultural infrastructure. 

Barbara GoldsteinDirector of Design Review and Cultural Planning, Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department

Given the current economy, planning issues should be high on his agenda. The city should be involved to promote business and employment wherever possible. The city should adopted a less heavy-handed approach to entitlement requirements to help encourage development and redevelopment. In the recent past, the city has followed a deep pocket, go-for-broke approach on developers and it's not a bottomless well. It tends to prevent or inhibit new projects. 

Larry LarsonThe O'Connor Group

It is going to be a tough balancing act to both streamline the planning process and prevent negative effects on the environment. Our communities will thrive only if we do not take two steps back in our quality of life for every step we take forward in encouraging business development. And businesses will thrive only if we have a community with affordable housing, improved transportation, and safe streets. We should start by making sure that we adhere to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. 

Jackie Goldberg, Los Angeles City Councilmember, 13th District 

The new mayor must make streamlining the permitting process a number one priority. Along with the many specific suggestions for streamlining now being addressed, I would suggest that attitude and perception are keys to this effort. The perception of the development community that the city is unfriendly toward construction and investment is fostered by system­wide attitudes from top to bottom. The mayor must lead the city in a total re-education of all city staff to be problem-solvers instead of road­blocks. The city must send out a new message to the business community that the roadblocks arc coming down and that staff at all levels in all departments will work toward coordinated solutions. 

Clare Bronowski Christensen, Whitt, Miller, Fink & Jacobs 

The combination of the regulatory maze and bureaucratic intransigence makes Los Angeles the most difficult municipality in Southern California in which to develop anything. The simplification and rationalization of the permitting process must be the number one land use priority of the Riordan Administration. Only after this problem has been solved can the city turn its attention to terribly pressing issues such as housing and urban land use. It is axiomatic that you have to have permits before you can build houses. 

O'Malley M. Miller Munger, Tolles & Olson

Urban land use policy has got to be oriented toward the promotion of economic development (i.e., job creation) throughout the city, but particularly in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Through incentives and cash, create jobs where the people that most desperately need them to live. This has been a crucial need even in boom times: now it is even more vital… and difficult. Of equal priority is the need to continue to expand the supply of decent housing available to these same people of low and moderate income. 

Donald CosgroveUCLA Capital Programs

Los Angeles needs an intense, coordinated effort to cutaway the procedural and monetary obstructions to business growth and development. Nonetheless, housing the poor and homeless must be a top priority for the new mayor. Mayer Riordan must coordinate the programs of all relevant city departments with private sources of funding and expertise and bring their combined resources to bear on the homing crisis.



More than a decade ago the city had a vision for the downtown which is now being realized. The opening of First Interstate Tower, 550 S. Hope Street, the Gas Tower and the Spanish Steps are major components in this. On October 3rd the vision will be complete. The opening of the Los Angeles Central Library will allow the city to once again come together, providing the connective public fabric so necessary in this area of the downtown. The Los Angeles Central Library will provide a public gathering place for learning and relaxation, its gardens preserving for future generations over one acre of open space in the densest part of Los Angeles. This was only made possible through the combined efforts of the public and private sector. I would hope that this sort of joint cooperative effort will be enthusiastically endorsed and pursued by the new Riordan Administration. 

Norman Pfeiffer AIA, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates Architects for the Los Angeles Central Library

The Riordan administration should pursue a single-unified development permit process which provides for the issuance or all necessary permits for a project and any required environmental review in twelve months or less. Further, they must reduce the level of fees, costs and exactions. In addition, they need to provide an expedited approval process for social service programs (i.e., AIDS, hospices, drug rehabilitation programs, and schools).

George Mihlsten Latham & Watkins

Efforts to achieve consensus on the planning and housing issues of the city are being undermined by the growing sense of cynicism among the general public. For the first time in my memory, I'm hearing the "grass roots" and "insiders" talking about how corruption undermines the city's ability to deliver. The mayor could rebuild legitimacy and credibility for the city (and the MTA) by rooting out the real problems. Readers of The Planning Report, insiders by definition, might think about how to support these efforts without creating new administrative nightmares and bureaucracies.

Julie GertlerConsensus Planning

The priorities must be safety on the streets and concentration on providing jobs, low cost housing, transportation and recreational facilities, the lack of which contribute in a major degree to the crime problem. The Riordan administration must accelerate planning and permit processing restructuring and institute hard-nosed oversight to assure their implementation. 

Stephen D. GavinGavin Associates

Attempt to instill public confidence in the fairness of the planning process by removing the public's perception that planning decisions are the result of "back-room" negotiations (from which the public is excluded) by requiring that those involved in the decisions make known their contacts with the developer by notice to the public and provide equal opportunity for public input before such decisions are made; and increasing the length of notice periods so that there is reasonable opportunity for public participation, requiring duplicates of all plans and materials being considered to be made available to the public within the community plan area where the project is located and expanding required notices to include all those who are on record or requesting such notices. Also, stop basing variances, exceptions, permits and new laws which permit development having long term impacts, which the city previously determined to be excessive and detrimental, merely because of the present downturn of the economy which has a far shorter cycle. 

Richard D. Agay President, Westside Community Planning Council

The Mayor has said that we need to get more "bang for the buck" in housing. He is concerned about unit cost, about per unit subsidies, and I think he has instructed Rae James, deputy mayor for housing and transportation, to really assess how we are spending our housing dollars very carefully to make sure we are getting as much as we can. 

Michael Keeley Deputy Mayor for the City of Los Angeles

The first priority must be coordination of land use and transportation planning, both with LADOT and MTA. Tame the LADOT rogue elephant. Place transportation planning under the Planning Director. Long term, L.A. needs a master open space strategy. Use new neighborhood parks, linear parkways, and the Los Angeles River corridor to create new residential frontage. Replace commercial strip over zoning with new green, multi-family and mixed-use corridors and nodes. 

Arthur Golding AIA, Arthur Golding & Associates

I believe that the immediate need of focus for the Mayor and the new administration should be the improvement of interdepartmental and outside agency collaboration and coordination in the decision-making process. We need to ensure that the city can work as an effective unit, as opposed to causing these processes to be bogged down in parochial practices. 

We need to recognize that departments do not exist in a vacuum and create departmental/agency relationships that will promote cooperation and consensus-building. In doing so, the city will be able to process matters in a more expeditious manner. 

Richard Alarcon Los Angeles City Councilmember, 7th District


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