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Planning Wrap: Commissioner Vacancy, Planning Department Could Shut Once a Week

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This morning's Planning Commission meeting is still underway at City Hall, but some important news bits to pass on: First, a vacancy is opening up on the commission. Father Spencer Kezios, who has served on the Planning Commission for six years, announced his retirement this morning. "Thank you for your advice," Planning Commission President Bill Roschen said in a short tribute to Kezios. "More than once you kicked me under the table." The nine-member, all volunteer commission is the first gatekeeper in terms of approving development in Los Angeles, and with Kezios' departure, there are now two vacancies on the commission. Also revealed this morning: The latest proposed budget cuts may result in the Planning Department shutting its doors once a week.

Eva Yuan-McDaniel, deputy director at the Planning Department, briefed the Commission on the latest: The 240-member Planning Department is facing additional furloughs under the latest budget proposal, which the City Council will consider tomorrow. If that proposal is approved, Yuan-McDaniel said shutting down the entire department every Friday will be easier than staggering furloughs. The department would close starting February 4th for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in June.

Commission members reacted to the news of the Planning Department shut-down with horror. “This is another step in the emasculation of the Planning Department,” said Planning Commissioner Michael Woo, who warned the Commission will be faced with a parade of “mediocre projects" that haven't been vetted by a fully-staffed Planning Department.

The Department is just one of 25 city departments facing furloughs. At their City Council meeting tomorrow, the Council can either approve the plan, reject it, or seek other alternatives. Yesterday, the Council approved a plan to lease out the city's garages.
· Dept of City Planning [Official Site]