From the Desk of…
Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA, Director of Government and Public Affairs

NEXT STEPS: Planning For the Future of Los Angeles

We are thankful that so many prominent members of AIA|LA were outspoken in their opposition to the Measure S initiative, which was on the March 7th ballot for the recent City of Los Angeles election. Although, our cumulative efforts to oppose the initiative were a success, now the real work begins. The fervor of disdain for out-of-scale and out-of-place, poorly designed development is substantial and, at times well-warranted, especially in light of just how historically under-funded our community planning process has been for the past many years.

Our friends at the Los Angeles Department of City Planning are doing some excellent work and are shepherding forth many smart progressive policy initiatives.

However, they have been historically under-funded for way too long.

Since I started this job in 2002, the AIA|LA has been advocating for a more robust and inclusive community planning process. We’ve testified in front of City Council encouraging them to invest more of the city’s general fund into the Department of City Planning (presently DCP receives less than 20% of their annual budget from the general fund and depend on fees incurred from the permit and entitlement process to fund the remaining 80% of their budget).

We successfully advocated five years ago to have the city invest in an updated zoning code (Re.Code LA), which has been funded by an increase in the city’s General Plan Maintenance Fee. Yet, our pleas for more investment in a comprehensive strategy to update the city’s thirty-five community plans on a more frequent basis went mostly unheeded - until now! In fact, many credit Measure S and the political force of the Measure S proponents as the prime catalyst for the City Council’s recent decision to accelerate community plan updates on a rolling six-year basis, as well as, the motivation of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent Executive Directive 19 (Planning and Developing Housing and Transportation).

ED 19 will do the following:

  • Direct the Department of City Planning (DCP) to Accelerate Community Plan Updates
  • Ban Ex Parte Communications with Developers
  • Establishing a Mayoral Task Force on Planning
  • Establish a Measure M Steering Committee
  • Reform City Oversight of Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs)
  • Reform the General Plan Amendment Process
  • Direct the Department of City Planning to Expedite the Preparation of a Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinance
  • Call on Council to Pass an Affordable Housing Linkage Fee

Why is it so fundamental to invest in a more certain community planning process? The big idea was that if we could invest in a better, more inclusive plans, then we can all save time and money designing and building more by-right projects and that neighborhoods will benefit with more certainty in a process that is transparent, predictable and pliant.

So why has the City Council been so slow to prioritize city planning? It is my personal opinion that each council member as an individual enjoys the power of making land-use decisions and they will justify the need to retain this power by their intimate benevolence of knowing what is best for their specific districts and, in fact, will argue that the voters have elected them to office to serve as these esteemed land-use stewards. That might be well intentioned. But as a result two complications emerge: it politicizes land-use and planning and it entangles prospective development with uncertainty, which further burdens the process with a lack of clarity. It is the lack of clarity that costs time and money and exacerbates the affordability crisis.

Yes, we won with our opposition to Measure S. And yes, we won by having the impetus of Measure S finally drive forth the planning agenda we’ve been asking for all along. But like I mentioned, now the real work begins.

As the voice of the architecture profession, the AIA|LA and its membership has an urgent responsibility. It’s our task at hand. In fact, I will be so bold as to proffer that if the architecture profession doesn’t stand to the challenge and take this opportunity to serve as the leaders of land-use, then we may see the groundswell of disdain against development and change further swell.

As an architect, are you ready to lead?

The AIA|LA wants to hear from you and there are three ways to become directly involved:

1. Attend the bi-weekly urban design review sessions at City Hall and share your critical input on the designs of prospective projects.
2. Participate in the monthly roundtables of the Political Outreach Committee. Our most recent roundtable helped influence this TOC proposal.
3. Craft solution-oriented positions statement that serve as a forum to shape public policy.

If you will heed this call to action, then please review the draft proposal for the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee and share your thoughts with me.

I need to collect constructive feedback from the architecture profession so that we can help shape the direction of this important legislative policy that will greatly impact new development.

MORE DETAILS on the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee Ordinance:

Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director, Government & Public Affairs
American Institute of Architects/Los Angeles Chapter
Last updated: 14-Mar-2017 02:09 PM
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