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Council committee wants LA’s outdated community plans refreshed every 6 years

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The plans outline what can—and can’t—be built in individual neighborhoods.

A photo of Downtown Los Angeles in the daytime, as seen from the south. Steve Willard/Curbed LA flickr pool

In a move to get a better grip on guiding real estate development across Los Angeles, the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee is recommending the city review its community plans every six years.

Right now, 29 of 35 community plans are at least 15 years old. Called “the cornerstone of the city’s long-range planning efforts,” the community plans outline what can—and can’t—be built in individual neighborhoods.

“Our Community Plans affect scores of communities ... we must require that these plans are regularly updated to allow stakeholders to weigh in on what they want their communities to look like,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, who is also the chairman of PLUM.

The plans are so outdated that developers frequently seek permission to skirt the rules, allowing them to build bigger and taller than what the plans allow. Backers of Measure S—a March 7 ballot measure that would place a moratorium on large-scale real estate development citywide—view these exceptions as examples of developers circumventing the rules.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has said outdated plans “have led to haphazard development and overcrowding,” according to KPCC.

The PLUM recommendation is part of a bigger package of changes PLUM wants the city to implement to “bring accountability and transparency back into our General Plan and Community Plan review processes—the public deserves no less,” Huizar said.

PLUM is recommending the city review general plan amendment requests in batches, instead of piecemeal, requiring developers to apply for exemptions during two, one-month long windows each year. By looking at all the requests together, “they may be considered more comprehensively,” according to a January planning department report.

The committee also wants to require developers to select from list of city-approved consultants when preparing state-mandated environmental impact reports. These reports assess how a development such impacts as traffic, views, and noise, and they identify ways to offset those effects. Doing so would “allow the city to better control the quality and content of EIRs,” the planning department said in a May report.

In order to build up a list, the city would ask consultants to respond to a request for qualifications. The planning department said this process is expected to get underway this spring.

This change is another direct nod to Measure S, whose supporters see developers choosing their own environmental impact report consultants as a conflict of interest.

The full City Council is expected to vote on the recommendations in the next two weeks.