Two ballot measures in Los Angeles are aiming to reform the city’s development process. The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative would more or less put the brakes on all tall, dense development for the next few years and ban exemptions to the city’s zoning codes, while the Build Better LA ballot initiative would allow the city to make changes to the General Plan for development, which is typically fixed for years.
The ballot measures are a challenge to Mayor Eric Garcetti to get LA’s development plans in order, and Garcetti has accepted. Garcetti wants to head off the measures before they gain steam and LA’s development priorities are put in the hands of voters and the measures’ backers, the Coalition to Preserve LA.
Reforming LA’s 35 community development plans is a major task, but Garcetti says he is going to hire an additional 28 city planners to get it done quickly. Outdated community development plans lead to a host of special exceptions that further confuse LA’s overall plan for sustainable growth and sensible development. LA City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell says that Mayor Garcetti is already arranging funding to ensure that reforms to the city’s development plans are completed within the next 3 years. But it will take at least that long to reach a compromise between eager developers and wary residents.
Not all Los Angeles residents trust Mayor Garcetti to revamp the city’s development plans. A few years ago, when the city updated Hollywood’s community development plan to allow greater density around Metro stops, a group of local residents sued to overturn the plan. Now Hollywood is once again in the developers’ crosshairs. The Coalition to Preserve LA, which sponsored both ballot initiatives, wants to halt the unrestrained development that has drastically changed some neighborhoods over the past few years.
The city’s policy so far has been to give developers free reign for development projects, often making exceptions to community development plans to allow for more high-rises and other structures that do not sit well with residents or existing buildings. Garcetti’s reform plan will have to strike a balance between residents and developers in desirable neighborhoods like Hollywood in order to succeed.
But there is reason to suspect that Mayor Garcetti will use development reform to advance his transportation agenda by changing zoning codes to make Los Angeles friendlier to pedestrians, bikers, buses and metro lines. That’s not likely to go over well with residents in wealthier and more isolated areas of the city, who are understandably concerned about the influx of crime and drugs that comes with public transportation and affordable housing.
Ease of access and public transportation for some mean less privacy and security for others. If history is any guide, Garcetti and the city development authorities will have to compromise and balance the privacy and security interests of high-income communities to advance development reform, traffic reduction and the expansion of the city’s public transportation system.
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(all data current as of 5/29/2017)
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