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Ordinance to Streamline Development Approvals is On Its Way

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A new ordinance that could have substantial impacts on the development approval process in Los Angeles is expected to appear before City Council for final approval in the coming weeks. The Multiple Approvals Ordinance would make two changes: first it consolidates the approval process for projects with complicated bundles of entitlement and approval requirements. A second change added late in the preliminary council approval process mimics state legislation to lengthen the windows for entitlements and approvals. The ordinance is a successor to the never-realized 12-2 plan, which was supposed to reduce the number of steps in the approval process. It's part of a package of code simplification ordinances coming out of the Planning Department as a part of the Development Reform Strategic Plan under the purview of the Mayor's Office of Economic and Business Policy. "If you're serious about creating jobs, you have got to be serious about cutting red tape," LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Curbed LA today in a written statement. "The Multiple Approvals Ordinance will allow stalled projects to move ahead and will simplify the development review process going forward. This will help businesses breathe new life into projects, and ultimately put people back to work." Other examples of code simplifications coming from development reform include the Community Plan Implementation Ordinance and the Core Findings Ordinance, which reduced redundancies in the zoning code. Comprehensive zoning code reform, however, is still in the works behind the scenes.

As developers of complex projects in the city of Los Angeles know, project approvals can get split among multiple agencies, which can add months and years onto the project approval process. To eliminate the procedural inefficiencies, the MAO would "create consistent procedures for the review of projects requiring multiple approvals, synchronize the expiration periods of multiple approvals granted to a single project, clarify language regarding the utilization of approvals, eliminate the redundancy of time extensions for quasi-judicial land use approvals," in the words of the City Attorney's report (pdf) filed to the City Clerk two days ago.

The MAO also added provisions late in the preliminary approval council process that will extend approvals for some projects. Zoning administrator, planning director, and City Planning Commission approvals are normally valid for three years, but will be extended based on when the project was originally approved. Temporary qualifications (also known as Q qualifications) can also be extended depending on when the approval originally occurred. In either case, approvals eligible for extension must have originally been earned between July of 2005 and December 2010. For these extensions, the MAO is following the lead of a series of state laws--SB-1185 (2008), AB-333 (2009), and AB-208 (2011)--that extended the life of approvals to mitigate the recession’s impact on the development and construction industries.

The City Council gave preliminary approval to the MAO on August 1. The Planning and Land Use Management Committee now has the option of holding another hearing for the final ordinance, or it can send it straight to Council for final approval.
· Procedures for Review of Projects Requiring Multiple Approvals [Council File: 11-1140]
· Building A Better LA: Development Reform Strategic Plan [Mayor's Office of Economic and Business Policy]
· Back to You, Planning Dept: City Responds to Zoning Code Lawsuit [Curbed LA]
· AIA|LA UDC Presents...More Planning, Less Reacting :: A Plan for a Comprehensive Zoning Code Revision [AIA/LA]