January 18, 2006 - From the January, 2006 issue

Bob Scott Assumes Chair of VICA; Seeks to Increase S.F. Valley's Prominence in Global Economy

Though the secession movement of 2002 fell short of its goal of separating the San Fernando Valley from the city of L.A., much of the energy and optimism behind the movement continue to promote a vibrant and dynamic economy. Bob Scott has recently been named chair of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, and he ranks among the Valley's strongest promoters. Most recently helped win official recognition as a statistical sub-region from the U.S. Census and as a SCAG planning region. TPR was pleased to speak with Mr. Scott on the occasion his election as VICA chair.

Bob Scott

You were elected chairman of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association in December and in your 2006 agenda address you said over-regulation, unchecked fraud, abuse of the legal system, addressing LAUSD's reorganization, and job creation would be VICA's priorities for the new year. Can you elaborate on one or more of those to give our readers a better sense of VICA's organizational direction this year?

Obviously, every year that goes by, the world becomes increasingly globalized, and the market in which we have to deal is the global market. Unfortunately, the city of Los Angeles and state of California have chosen to take the lead nationally in regulating businesses. To some extent that's good for protecting consumers, but, on the other hand, it also tends to depress the economic marketplace for business attraction and retention.

The ultimate solution is still not known, but in the short term we still have to maintain our competitiveness, not only globally but also relative to other states. We've lost a lot of our core industries to other states and other countries. The big question is, what kind of an environment is the state of California and, more particularly, the city of Los Angeles for attracting major businesses and the well-paying jobs that come with them?

Can the San Fernando Valley, or even metro Los Angeles, retain and grow manufacturing jobs given competition from low cost offshore entities? Is the region competitive?

As author Thomas Friedman observes, the world is becoming more and more flat. I don't think it will ever become entirely flat. There will always be industries that will be available to us, but they may be types of industries other than the traditional ones we've become accustomed to. I think it's a matter of transitioning – transitioning to be more globally competitive. I don't think we'll ever be able to compete with Third World countries in their ability to turn out mass produced goods and services. That doesn't mean there won't always be a market here for manufacturing and services that can't be sent offshore.

In his recent "State of the Valley" address, Mayor Villaraigosa said that the Valley needs to loosen its grip on the idea of single-family homes and start building up and not moving out. Could you give us your reaction to the Mayor's admonition and your assessment of its significance for future development in the S.F. Valley?

The idea of smart growth – building up, not out – has been generally embraced in most areas of planning, but the Valley's identification with the single family home with the backyard is not going to die easily, and probably not in our lifetimes. It is the hallmark of the middle class. It is the ultimate form of existence for a lot of folks, to live in a neighborhood of single-family homes. Even if the backyard is only 15 feet deep, at least they have property they can call their own. I don't think people will give that up easily, and, personally, I don't see why they should be asked to.

Following up on that theme, you were president of the L.A. Planning Commission during the Riordan years and have closely followed planning for some time. The mayor has just picked a new planning director. If you were writing an open letter to Gail Goldberg and her department, what would you advise?

I would suggest that they take a broad vision. Make sure that we actually read and implement a lot of the great planning ideas that are contained in the existing General Plan Framework. They should avoid of ad hoc planning . . . planning by exception rather than implementing the general plan that has been developed through an extended outreach process to the entire city.

Are there reforms needed in the department or better collaboration among departments in the city – such as transportation – that you could recommend?

I think the overall trend of the Planning Department and delays in the entitlement process have had the effect of pushing responsible developers out of the city along with the irresponsible developers. There should be rewards in the system for those people who play by the rules . . . rewards that encourage development in places where it's appropriate. I would also suggest addressing the problem of monopolization of the planning process within each council district by individual council offices. Their authority over planning derives from their membership in the 15-member City Council, not as individuals.

The existing approach to transportation is that we simply look the other way. Many of the corridors that are considered part of the CEQA mitigation for transportation purposes, such as the 101, are well beyond capacity. If we are going to be brutally honest about it, we should allow that nothing should be built near the 101 Freeway. One of the problems is the tendency to plan along so-called transportation corridors without considering if there is any remaining capacity.

2006 is shaping up to be a year of infrastructure investment, both locally and at the state level. What does the Valley need most to achieve VICA's ambitious agenda?


You could start with the interchange of the 405 and 101, as well as the general overload of these two corridors. Not only are we concerned about transportation of people, but also the transportation of goods. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are important assets to our region. Being able to have goods travel freely to and from these ports is very important. Traffic is making that more and more difficult.

The new Orange Line has enjoyed robust ridership. What's your assessment of its impact on mobility in the Valley?

The 101 is an extremely busy corridor, and the Orange Line is an alternative to being parked in traffic on the 101. But, I'm pleased and somewhat surprised that it has been used as much as it has been. The fundamental problem with the busway is that it's not grade-separated. That makes a world of difference. We've seen the accidents since the line opened. And non-grade-separated lines travel much slower than grade-separated lines. Whether it's rail or even a grade-separated busway, the more you have to interact with traffic, the less effective and the less attractive the alternative form of transportation. Commuters want to get to their destination at or about the speed they would have traveling by car.

You were one of the architects of the move for Valley secession in 2002. Four years later, how is the Valley faring as part of the city of L.A.? Is the secession movement still alive?

The movement is pretty much on the back burner at this point, but the notion of the Valley's sense of place and of Valley recognition within the greater Los Angeles area is still very much alive.

We just received our Census County Division statistical district status from the U.S. Census Bureau. That's the final brick in place to achieve official recognition on the state, federal, and local level. We have City Council approval establishing a SCAG planning sub-region for the San Fernando Valley. That is unprecedented, and it will allow us to take the Valley portion of the city of Los Angeles, which is geographically distinct, and think about it independently. Some of the goals we had in the secession movement, such as having the Valley take responsibility for its own future, are coming to light. I think the secession debate, if nothing else, made the city of Los Angeles and the region in general more conscious of the existence of the Valley and the desire of the people of the San Fernando Valley to have more of a say in the future of their planning and infrastructure.

As we look towards that future, paint for us a 2020 picture of the Valley so that our leaders have a 21st century vision of who's there and the livability of its neighborhoods.

The Valley has certainly changed over the last 50 years from a bedroom community with a homogenous population to now a very diverse area, probably one of the most diverse in the country. It still has its share of single-family residential neighborhoods, but it also has developed urbanized areas as well, and high-rise centers, such as Warner Center. There are approximately 1.8 million people in the Valley. Whereas people used to live in the Valley and work someplace else, now a large percentage of them live and work in the Valley. The Valley has its share of poverty and its share of problems. It's part of the LAUSD, and that brings with it some educational challenges.

As its own city, the Valley would be the second-largest city in California, and the fifth largest in the United States. It needs to be addressed more as a discrete entity. It tends to be a non-entity in policy decisions that are made on the state level. We have fought to try to change that. All of the discussion seems to go on between the Los Angeles Basin interests, but there's very little public policy that directly addresses the Valley.

Let's close with a focus on VICA. How should success be measured?

With VICA itself, we're hoping to add about one-third to the membership, and part of that will be to focus our energy on industry and commerce more than we have in the past. There is great concern that we may be losing some of our core industries, and we would like to make sure that we looking out for the industries and good jobs that still remain. We aim to make Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley a better place in which to work and do business. The indicators of that success would be an increase in jobs that relate to goods and services exported from the Valley. The goal is to generate more outgoing goods and services and, as a result, more income from outside the Valley, rather than internal exchange. Things like banking or restaurants where the money circulates within the region doesn't really help overall. We need to sell to the outside world. We'd like to see the numbers on domestic exports increase.


© 2024 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.