Hawthorne and LoGrande via Gelatobaby
Los Angeles planning director Michael LoGrande has been on the job now for about three months, so what's he been up to? Last night, LoGrande and LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne got together for a chat at Occidental, sponsored by the LAT and the college's Urban and Environmental Policy Institute. LoGrande was pretty candid--he compared taking over at planning to being 16 and getting a sweet car, then slowly realizing it's got a broken transmission and pricey insurance. And he had a lot to say about a downtown NFL stadium--he said he supports a stadium there over one in Industry.
On the Downtown NFL stadium: LoGrande has been meeting with stakeholders in the AEG stadium/convention center mashup plan. Hawthorne was concerned a huge stadium downtown might be overwhelming or albatrossy like LA Live, and LoGrande pointed to new urban design guidelines for downtown. "We're a lot better prepared than we were when LA Live came through." He also said he wants to keep the stadium architects (no, we still don't know who that is) heavily-involved and "empowered," and threw out the possibility of having a design committee for the project.
Overall, LoGrande said the idea of the stadium is to "have it improve downtown."
He said that everyone agrees it'll be important to improve Blue Line access to the project (currently, the street/track configuration makes crossing Flower complicated), and to otherwise make sure the stadium is well-connected, both to the surrounding streets and via transit and cars. He also pointed out one challenge of an urban stadium: no tailgating. What's the planning approach to pre-gaming?
On changing the way the Planning Department works: Three-quarters of the department is dedicated to responding to requests (eg, from a developer who wants to build an apartment building), and it collects fees for those requests, so they're revenue-generators. The other quarter is dedicated to advance planning work (eg, creating development around future transit nodes). That 25% is pretty overwhelmed right now, and LoGrande says he wants the department better set up to handle that work.
One thing he wants to do is change how the City Council makes requests of the Planning Department. Right now, it frequently asks for reports from the department (eg, on marijuana dispensaries), which have to be handled by the 25 percenters. LoGrande wants to set a firm agenda for the advanced planning and require the Council find funding for additional requests. He says the mayor's behind the idea.
Another way LoGrande plans to handle limited resources is by partnering up with other agencies. He talked a lot about working with Metro--to help design rail stations, for instance--but also mentioned teaming up with the Community Redevelopment Agency, the Department of Transit, and the Bureau of Engineering.
Lastly, LoGrande mentioned that the seventies era Centers Concept still influences a lot of what the department does.
On expanding community feedback: LoGrande said he wants to get a younger crowd involved with the planning process, the people more likely to favor public transit projects, density, and pedestrian friendliness. The department will use social media to reach the youngsters, and held a webinar for its recent bike plan.
On the CRA: While he didn't go into specifics, LoGrande said that the CRA has sometimes done work that his department should have been doing, mostly because of money. But he said he's making sure now that CRA's goals are in line with the Planning Department's.
On a signature LA project: Not groundbreaking, but nice to know that LoGrande thinks a river revitalization project could be our answer to Chicago's Millenium Park.
· It's a Planning Party as LoGrande is Confirmed as Planning Dept Head [Curbed LA]