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LA County Releases First Draft General Plan Update Since 1980

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The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning earlier this month released a revised 2035 General Plan Update Draft--the first comprehensive update of the General Plan for unincorporated portions of the county since 1980 (that plan expired in 2000). For some context, when the 1980 General Plan was crafted, planners lacked the ability to map specific parcel details, not to mention the 1984 Olympics hadn't even happened yet, so Angelenos still didn't know what a car-free weekend looked like. As a guide for growth and development for the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, the General Plan covers a landscape both diverse (everything from the rural areas of the Antelope Valley to the urban islands of the Gateway region to actual islands like Santa Catalina) and vast (unincorporated land makes up 65 percent of the 4,083 total square miles of the county); not to mention that the planning issues of each area within the county also have to be balanced next to such difficult issues as housing and transportation. All in all, the Draft 2035 General Plan totals some 900 pages--a big effort for a big place.

County Supervising Regional Planner Connie Chung tells Curbed that although the General Plan hasn't had a major update since 1980, it's not like the whole thing is being done from scratch. The DRP has been working on the plan for "easily over a decade," says Chung, but the county updated the Housing Element, for instance, in 2008, and the recently approved Countywide Bike Plan is also a component of the General Plan. Moreover, statewide laws like AB 32 and SB 375 (the latter of which requires the reduction of carbon emissions in land use and transportation planning) have also contributed to the development of the new General Plan. One innovation of note in the new plan is the addition of 11 Transit-Oriented Districts, which will set Complete Streets requirements for half-mile areas around major transit stations. The Notice of Preparation of the General Plan (pdf), which lays out the whole agenda of the new plan, also says that TODs will provide incentives for infill developments. Chung says that although TODs and Complete Streets weren't in existence in 1980, some were written into the county Zoning Code in the 1990s.

The General Plan update also includes what the DRP is calling the"Zoning Consistencies" effort, which will add new zones and revise existing mixed use and manufacturing zoning codes. According to the Zoning Consistencies website, new codes include: "A new residential zone to allow for a much higher density than has been currently allowed and is appropriate for areas calling out for dense residential development," and, "Revisions to the existing Mixed Use Zone to allow for a greater mixture of pedestrian-oriented commercial along with maximum-density residential development." The mixed-use zoning revisions will supplement another new feature of the General Plan, mixed use land use designations--land use designations, which are broader than zoning designations, are targeted near major transit stations in Del Aire, East Pasadena-East San Gabriel, Florence-Firestone, Lennox, West Carson, and Willowbrook.

The Draft 2035 General Plan is *currently available for public comment and is available online in anticipation of a forthcoming environmental review process. Chung targets the release date for the Draft EIR for four months from now. The approval schedule for the complete 2035 General Plan depends somewhat on how the environmental review goes, but right now the hope is that the General Plan would appear before the Regional Planning Commission by the end of 2012, and then to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

By the way, GIS and mapping aren't the only technological updates this time around. The plan also has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page, natch.
· Los Angeles County General Plan Update and Antelope Valley Area Plan Update [Notice of Preparation]
· General Plan 2035 [Department of Regional Planning]