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LA Will Finally Get a Major Overhaul of Its 1946 Zoning Code

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The City Council yesterday approved the Comprehensive Zoning Code Revision Ordinance, paving the way for the city to update its zoning code for the first time since 1946. The Council vote in effect provides five years of funding for Planning Department staff to overhaul the zoning code using money from the Construction Services Trust Fund (a city fund that generates revenues through the General Fund Maintenance Fee). The zoning code revision is part of a larger Planning Department effort to streamline the development approval process. (If you really want to know, the Multiple Approvals Ordinance, Core Findings Ordinance, the Community Plan Implementation Ordinance, and the Development Services Case Management Office are also included in what the city is calling the Development Reform Strategic Plan.) As Deputy Planning Director Alan Bell explained in April, those earlier ordinances were incremental, targeted steps taken to improve the most problematic parts of the Zoning Code, "a down payment on a comprehensive effort to reform the code," so now the heavy lifting begins.

The City Council hearing brought out a rare solidarity between industry groups and a homeowners association. Anne Williams, a representative from the Central City Association, hopes that the revision will fix "a zoning code that is truly broken," and Bob Anderson, boardmember from the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, told the council that his organization hopes "a revised code will help enforce local plans." Wouldn't it be great if government could always get cats and dogs to get along like that? Of course, the private sector's interest in zoning code reform has a fiscal incentive: The fee-generated funding structure of the ordinance (the General Fund Maintenance fee will be increased from three percent to five percent for the next five years) means that the private sector will generate about two-thirds of the funding for the process. Representatives from the CCA, the Building Industry Association, and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association all spoke in favor of the ordinance, so clearly they think that a new zoning code is a good use of their money.

And for those of you paying really close attention: yes, yesterday was an unofficial Planning Department Day at LA City Council. The Comprehensive Zoning Code Revision Ordinance approval followed the big final showdown over the Hollywood Community Plan, but clearly the zoning code isn't as sexy as Hollywood. The hundreds of observers and speakers in the room for the Hollywood debate left early, leaving only the hard core wonks to monitor the Council vote. Next up for the zoning code reform effort is a comprehensive schedule to be presented to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee no later than October 2012.
· LA Moving Ahead With Huge Overhaul of 1946 Zoning Code [Curbed LA]
· Comprehensive Zoning Code Revision Ordinance [City File 12-0460]