Clearing a Vision For Los Angeles
A planning commission challenges city leaders on visual blight.
Los Angeles is infamous for sprawl, a hodgepodge of urban styles and a passive planning commission. As the 463-square-mile city grows denser- -its population edged past 4 million last year--the Los Angeles Planning Commission has issued a challenge to city officials to start doing things differently.
Called "Do Real Planning," the 14-point blueprint asks the city council to pass ordinances that would offer basic design standards to "eliminate the sea of stucco boxes, blank walls, street-front parking lots and other inhospitable streetscapes." To further meet that goal, the commission suggests burying utility lines, limiting signage and restricting the practice of widening streets to accommodate more people. That practice, the document points out, actually creates more traffic congestion and undermines goals to make the city more walkable. The document also calls for replacing suburban-style parking lots with automated stacked parking and the use of other emerging technologies.
The planning commission doesn't just address the city council. It takes itself to task. "A hallmark of our passivity," the blueprint states, "has been to offer our advice so late in the development process as to be irrelevant." One way the department can heal itself, the commission suggests, is by hiring more employees to reduce the backlog of permit applications and caseloads. "Our delayed responses abet inferior projects and kill quality development," the document says.
The 14 principles endorse ideas put forth by the city's new planning chief, Gail Goldberg, whose mantra "do real planning" became the commission's document title. How receptive the city council will be to mandating change remains to be seen.