Sunday, May 20, 2007

Do Real Planning #11: Nurture Planning Leadership

My indispensable friends over at Curbed LA (better than a cup of coffee in the morning for all you land-use types) interpreted this principle as a veiled entreaty to get City Council staff out of the way of planning decisions. I didn’t read it in exactly the same way.

Stakeholders in a democracy demand and depend on their voices being heard in the planning process. And this does not just mean NIMBY voices: council offices, neighborhood councils and non-profit groups are critical to positive, proactive and community-based planning.

In an era of term limits, though, the predictability of meaningful community plans becomes evident. I strongly support the Planning Director’s efforts to reclaim the role of predominant manager of the General Plan. This will rely on the strength of the General Plan revision itself, which must be done in community-focused and neighborhood-specific fashion. Right now, planning and zoning is often highly unpredictable—to the community, to builders, and to urban planners alike. It's based on a speculative land market which in turn rests on the discretionary actions of the system, rather than on adherence to well-thought-out community plans. Of course, adherence to the plan requires the plan to get regular, thorough updates.

I'm committed to helping the department get the resources to do these in a timely fashion and to have staff it needs to help these plans get implemented. I've shared the frustration of many members of the Hollywood community who have waited years for the update to the Hollywood Community Plan, for instance. This effort is now on track. We hope it can be a showcase for a Planning Department that serves the primary implementer of a community-driven plan.