May 8, 2013 - From the May, 2013 issue

The Planning Report Endorses Eric Garcetti for Mayor of Los Angeles

TPR endorses Eric Garcetti for Mayor of Los Angeles. From city planning to transportation, infrastructure, and the environment, Garcetti’s vision is one of economic and environmental innovation and increased connectivity for the City of LA and the LA Metropolis. In an exclusive interview, less than two weeks before the election, we ask the candidate/councilman for his views on a set of policy issues central to TPR’s interests, specifically: Measure R, the restructuring of Planning and Permitting, and the need for policy paradigm shifts at the DWP.

Eric Garcetti

"We’re not going to say “yes” to every development because there are plenty of poorly-thought-out developments, but we’re going to have community plans that reflect the values and predictability of what we can expect to see in our neighborhoods, granting us guidelines, roles, expectations for design, scale, and dynamism." -Eric Garcetti

Three policy issues have been the focal point of The Planning Report since day one: planning and smart growth; multi-modal transportation; energy and water.  Your commitment to each and your investment in translating policy into practice is one of the many reasons that The Planning Report is endorsing you today for Mayor of Los Angeles. For our readers to appreciate our endorsement, the first ever for TPR, please begin by briefly sharing your perspective on the value of city planning and the merit, if any, of community plans in achieving your goals?

Eric Garcetti: Los Angeles has all the ingredients for success for the next decade. We’re blessed with incredible topography, geography, weather, and people. We have amazingly creative and strong institutions, and neighborhoods that sparkle. What we have unfortunately lacked is the sort of visionary planning to put those ingredients together in a better way.    

I’m not a top-down kind of planner. I believe that planning has to be an organic, neighborhood-focused process. But my faith and idealism toward the City is rooted in twelve years of doing that at the neighborhood level at different scales, from Atwater Village, where we created a pedestrian-oriented zone that revived a bad business district that people used to drive through and that neighbors used to avoid; to Hollywood, a regional economic hub where live production had not been seen in three decades, where hospitals and studios had stopped expanding. We were able with each of these neighborhoods to look at and realize the role that good planning played.    

Planning has to listen to the community, but it can’t be afraid of moving forward. I don’t want to see a Los Angeles that is like a ship so afraid of wrecking at sea in a storm that it instead rots in port. We have to be able to go forward and say that we are going to build our way out of our problems. We’re not going to say “yes” to every development because there are plenty of poorly-thought-out developments, but we’re going to have community plans that reflect the values and predictability of what we can expect to see in our neighborhoods, granting us guidelines, roles, expectations for design, scale, and dynamism. Then we leave the rest to the creative thinkers that know how to attract small businesses, progressive developers, or the City itself, which acts as an infrastructure developer. I think that’s the change.

Because we are also running in this issue of TPR a companion interview with Michael LoGrande about the effort of the out-going administration to merge the Department of City Planning with the Building and Safety Department, do you have a position on the appropriateness of the City Council adopting this merger before the May 21 election contest is settled?

Eric Garcetti: Well, I think it’s important for us to move forward to consolidate the entitlement and permitting process. I’ve been saying that for six or seven years now until I’m blue in the face. I’m excited to see what they do, but it’s going to be up to the next mayor to implement and it, as it won’t be done by the time he or she is elected, so I look at this as a great opportunity.    

I absolutely endorse the consolidation. There’s been great input from the business and neighborhood communities about how to do that. But the devil will always be in the details. So while I’m firmly committed to moving forward, I think having watched the consolidation and creation of a new Economic Development Department, which needs to move forward with clean goals, I want to set goals first before we rearrange bureaucracy. I want to see there be a quicker time period for entitlements and the resolution of permits. The bottom line is we need to be customer-focused and we need to make things quicker for communities and for the business community too.    

Though I’m excited by the energy of this project, I’ve only had one flow chart briefing from Michael LoGrande about it. It looks good, and I intend as a mayor to see it through its implementation so that we see real goals being met, like, say, reducing the amount of time it takes to get a business up and running.

Will there be a national search for the director? Should the merger be approved of a newly-merged Planning and Building and Safety Department?

Eric Garcetti: The City deserves such a search, and we have great talent here, too.


On transportation, Measure R has granted the County of Los Angeles with more than 30 billion dollars of transportation infrastructure investment. If elected mayor, you’ll have four appointees to the Metro Board. How committed are you to Measure R and the priorities and funding allocation agreements that were adopted by the present Metro Board and set forth in Measure R?

Eric Garcetti: I’m very committed to Measure R. I campaigned for it, and I think this is going to be a golden age of transportation construction in Los Angeles. But Measure R by itself won’t go far or quickly enough. I think that despite the failure of Measure J we need to accelerate those Measure R projects, and we’ll need to continue to look for funding sources to do projects that weren’t on the Measure R list. For instance the 405/Sepulveda Pass rail line will take resources. Some of that will come, I think, from public-private partnership, and I’m excited to explore that as a way to financing new projects. But I also believe that we’ll have to look at other things, like reducing the threshold for a transportation initiative to get approved.    

As mayor, I want to be a good regional leader, as many residents in the City of Los Angeles work in other cities and many residents of other cities work in the City of Los Angeles. So I really want to make sure that we have buy-in from our entire region for transportation improvements, because when Southeast cities get public transit or the San Gabriel Valley gets public transit, there’s a benefit for Los Angeles in that. Vice-versa, I think that the folks who live in Pomona or Long Beach can understand the importance of an extension to the Wilshire Subway Corridor to their daily lives and the region’s economic health. So I’m very supportive of Measure R and am very committed to those projects that are locked in there, but I see that as a base and not a ceiling.  

Lastly Eric, regarding the LADWP, your campaign has pressed your relative independence, especially as compared to your opponent, from the Department of Water and Power’s union politics. Does that afford you an opportunity to look anew at what the possibilities are with respect to recommending a paradigm shift in how LADWP assures adequate water supply and energy to the city and the region?

Eric Garcetti: Absolutely. The Department of Water and Power as a public utility has done an incredible job of fostering growth in Los Angeles over the years. It has been one of the key pillars in the story of our economic progress. We need a new, greener path that produces not only clean energy and does well by our environment, but that produces new jobs out here in Los Angeles the way that the DWP did a century ago in bringing water through the San Fernando Valley to the city. I also think that having independence will allow me to be a good partner for all stakeholders at the DWP—from the ratepayers to the employees. So that is a clear difference in this race.     

I was just with an aerospace company today—aerospace is still a surprisingly important and strong part of our economy. But they talked about ways that the DWP could help them compete with other states. If the DWP can rethink itself as a job-creator and an environmental steward, it will help us get the resources we need in the next decade of this city.

I hope you will continue to share your views on these issues via The Planning Report over the years, as you have so eloquently done here. Thank you.

Eric Garcetti: Thank you, David.


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