As big developments make their way through the approvals process in Los Angeles, the Department of City Planning and the communities surrounding the projects can ask developers to meet all kinds of conditions—for community space, mitigations for health effects, historic preservation—and developers often agree, but what good does it all do if pretty much no one is actually responsible for making sure those conditions are met? Nearly six years ago, a city audit found that "none of the city departments involved in vetting new developments could ensure that such promises were kept," the LA Times writes. And today the situation is basically the same (though there is one four-person team checking up on the concessions made in exchange for selling alcohol). Not surprisingly, that leads to lots of wonderful-sounding promises that end up extremely broken at a lot of big, high-profile projects. Here are some of the worst cases:
· Planning documents for The Grove in Fairfax promised that the shopping mall would include a 500-square-foot employment center, but the planning department found out last year—more than a decade after the mall opened—that the employment office didn't exist. Today The Grove has job postings and applications available at its concierge desk and online, but only "after years of hectoring by a local consultant, who remains unconvinced that the developer and property owner Gilmore Co. fulfilled their promises."
· The Grove also agreed to a provision to build a 3,000-square-foot public senior center on the mall's grounds. Instead, the planning department decided an extant room on the second floor of the adjacent Farmer's Market fulfilled that requirement. But it's in a pre-1939 structure without elevators, meaning that old people would have to walk up stairs, and people in wheelchairs are totally out of luck. The president of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association says that this space is nothing like what they'd agreed on when the condition was added.
· The planning department told CIM Group, the developers of the 22-story Sunset/Gordon tower in Hollywood, that the historic Old Spaghetti Factory building on the site of the future high-rise was to be spared from the wrecking ball and incorporated into the street-level exterior of a new tower. Like kids who hear "no" from one parent and ask another, developers got a demolition permit from a different city department and took the old building out. They ended up putting up a replica of the old building in the same spot, but it's the principal of the thing that angered everyone. "In an internal email, one city official called it a 'demo permit fiasco.' " Most recently, a judge revoked the project's permits—scary news for the 40 tenants who are already living in the building and, depending on what happens next, may eventually have to move out.
· The entire Da Vinci apartment complex (half of which was consumed by flames about a month ago) was required to have a special ventilation system with extra-strong air filters to mitigate the effects of, you know, more or less living on a freeway. Developer Geoff Palmer's company didn't even start to move toward installing the system they promised to put in "until after The Times began asking city officials about the requirement," a Building and Safety rep tells the paper.
The Department of Building and Safety, which watches for this kind of thing, explains that they're working with a limited staff, and that the system they use to monitor projects is set up to react to complaints rather than go around proactively checking up on projects. A rep for LADBS also noted that sometimes planners approve conditions that can't practically be enforced (like ones that would require multiple, random drop-ins by inspectors). Some conditions can't even legally be enforced by LADBS, because they're not linked to "planning department findings about how the development will affect the area," or because they're actually in another agency's jurisdiction (like the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, for instance).
· In L.A., conditions placed on developers go unheeded [LAT]
· Anti-Density Lawyer May Have Just Forced 40 People Out of Their New Homes in Hollywood's Sunset/Gordon [Curbed LA]