re:code LA Update 2
What Architects Are Saying


February 24, 2016--Is your office following the city’s re:code LA process, which proposes a revised zoning code for Los Angeles? AIA|LA Board Member Douglas Hanson, AIA, and Angela Brooks, FAIA, share insights in Part II of our series on the draft presented by the city to AIA|LA members in January.  (Check out the city’s PowerPoint at a glance by clicking on this link.) 

Douglas Hanson, AIA: I appreciate the effort toward re:code LA and believe the on-line zoning code will save time and money for all people involved in the building industry; particularly Architects and our clients.

While one of the goals of re:code LA is to have more certainty of what’s allowable and more projects built by right, an appropriate motivation, I am concerned the new code will be overly prescriptive. Other concerns include, creating an extensive menu of which among other things would allow customization of all 35 Community Plans that may have advantages; this will take decades making this approach extremely difficult to implement and manage. Limiting the number of Community Plans and eliminating the complex matrix by instead providing very few zones that are more inclusive would be consistent with how people live, work and play today and furthermore acknowledge that LA is an urban place and more similar than it is dissimilar. For these reasons we do not need the same types of segregation that may have been necessary in the past.

As long as this (5 year/$5 million dollar) effort is underway, it should be seen as an opportunity to include some overarching, big ideas that would render the code more relevant for a longer period of time. For example, rather than limit the issues to the traditional elements such as Form and Use, Initiatives such as climate, water and the housing shortage could be used to influence the code. Another option would be to limit the zoning code from dealing with elements that are taken care of somewhere else, for example parking should be part of the overall metro transportation plan.

Angela Brooks, FAIA: re:code LA is a great start. It simplifies and puts into a clear graphic framework our zoning code, which makes it easier to understand for everyone. However, the larger issue, which is a vision for the urban fabric of our city… the next 50 and 100 years, still has not been answered. What will our city look like in 2066?

Our Community Plans, which was the vehicle by which this would happen, are not moving forward at a pace that is reasonable. Almost every development project in the city requires discretionary entitlements, which the public disdains because the code on the books was written for a much different time, 35 years ago, not for the urban, walkable environments that we need now. The general public is left to wonder why the development community is not just 'building to code’ and will rally against height and density without a clear understanding of the links between them and livability and urban form. Politically, this is acceptable, because it puts the decision-making power in the hands of the city council, since almost nothing is developed 'by-right' anymore.

Rather than discuss how best to convert our existing code to a form-based one, we should be bringing our expertise to bear on the urban form of the city as a whole to change the ancient, byzantine zoning code we still have on the books, that dates to the 1980s and beyond. Let’s decide what our city will look like in 100 years and make the code work for that, so projects are done ‘by-right’. We will see better designed projects, a happier community and more affordable housing as a result.




Last updated: 24-Feb-2016 03:15 PM
Share Share