April 26, 2016 - From the April, 2016 issue

ULI-LA Releases Planning and Development Principles Statement for the City of Los Angeles

ULI-LA, the district office of the preeminent national research and education organization working to advance best land-use policies, has released the following planning and development principles statement. Weighing in on the state of planning in light of current battles that may be fought at the ballot box, ULI seeks to provide leadership in creating and sustaining thriving communities. TPR reprints these principles in anticipation of a UCLA Ziman Center / ULI-LA panel sponsored by this publication.

Gail Goldberg

"The planning and development process in the City of Los Angeles is broken. There is little to no comprehensive planning to set a clear vision for the future.” -ULI-LA Planning & Development Principles

In advance of the ballot initiative forum being co-hosted with the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate on April 27, the ULI Los Angeles Planning and Development Reform Task Force has released the following Planning and Development Principles Statement for the City of Los Angeles. 


The planning and development process in the City of Los Angeles is broken. There is little to no comprehensive planning to set a clear vision for the future of our city. The promise of the City’s General Plan Framework element, the city’s long-term growth strategy adopted in 1995, has not materialized or evolved over time. Community Plans, which are meant to implement citywide goals and accommodate growth, while supporting the unique qualities of our diverse neighborhoods, have been neglected for years. Infrastructure planning, which can best be addressed at a community and citywide scale, is relegated to a project-by-project negotiation.

Without plans that address current needs and market conditions, community plan amendments and zone changes have become the city’s de facto planning strategy. Without certainty and predictability about the future of our neighborhoods, and without a system that gives a voice to community members, there is little trust in the decisions being made. Communities want to be meaningfully engaged in the planning process; they want plans to reflect their needs and desires; they want elected officials to commit to a fair, inclusive and transparent planning process and stick to the plans that are approved. Both residents and developers want assurance that adequate infrastructure will be in place to support, sustain, and guide development defined by the community plans.


Residents, businesses and developers all share a need for certainty and predictability. We all share in the responsibility to demand change. Ultimately, our planning and development process must assure that all of the city’s diverse populations share equally in the fruits of a thriving, prosperous and dynamic city. ULI Los Angeles believes that a better system, based on the following values and principles, can be put in place to make the planning and development process in our City responsive, dynamic, predictable and trustworthy—a system everyone can believe in. 


1. All communities should thrive – Los Angeles’ unique and diverse neighborhoods are the heart of the city. The General Plan, and its Community Plans must, when updated and taken together, balance citywide needs with the needs, desires, and unique qualities of each of the city’s neighborhoods. Increasing equity should be a key consideration that guides comprehensive planning.

2. Make great plans – Our plans should respect the neighborhood character that already exists while complying with regional and state goals. Our plans can accommodate needed growth by directing it to appropriate portions of the city. Our plans should be blueprints for developing and building smarter by minimizing automobile use, minimizing impacts on our natural resources, and by providing housing for everyone, regardless of their economic status.


3. Stick to the plans once they are made – Once a community plan is adopted, no general plan amendments or increases in FAR, height, or density shall be approved within an agreed period of time. Thereafter, amendments shall only be considered collectively once a year, and not done in a piecemeal fashion.

4. Accommodate growth while recognizing the great neighborhoods we already have – Los Angeles will continue to grow regardless of city policies, regulations or the number of buildings built. This is necessary, because growth really means that our young families will continue to have children, we will all live longer, and people will continue to come here seeking jobs in our thriving economy. To ensure adequate housing for all current and future residents of our region, the planning and development system must enable the robust production of residences for all income levels. Plans can and must assure that the city can accommodate this growth in our region, in a variety of physical forms, while honoring neighborhood character that already exists. Without planning for growth, it will inevitably still occur, but in the form of significantly increased overcrowding and homelessness in all of our neighborhoods, as those with little means solve their housing problems with the only options left to them.

5. Assure adequate infrastructure is provided – Functioning infrastructure – libraries, schools, parks, streets, sidewalks – are essential to a good quality of life. Community Plans must include an infrastructure component that identifies and prioritizes all infrastructure projects necessary to support and sustain the level of development contained in the Plan, the cost of each project, and a plan for financing each of them.

6. Show us the money – The City Council and Mayor must commit to budget adequate resources every year to assure that all community plans and their infrastructure plans are reviewed and updated regularly.

7. Environmental review is a part of the process – so it must be reliable and trusted, provide accurate information, and meet the requirements of the State.  The process must be transparent and independent of any single interest, whether proponents or opponents.

8. Meaningful engagement – The Community Plan update process (and indeed all City planning) shall be fueled by an engaging community input process, in order to hear community aspirations and concerns and build trust in the Plan update process and its outcomes. Density doesn’t need to be everywhere – selective density, in appropriate locations, need not threaten the viability of single family residential neighborhoods.

The ULI Los Angeles Planning and Development Reform Task Force is Co-Chaired by Melani Smith and Jim Suhr.


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