Archive for August, 2010

Zoning Code Simplification

August 26th, 2010

The Core Zoning Code case that is going before the Planning Commission on October 14, 2010, is the first of the six components of the Core Zoning Code Simplification work program that was laid out to PlanCheckNC at our June meeting. The original work program flyer is attached. This flyer identifies the six components. As you will note the schedule has been modified. In July were told that it would be late September or early October when the first of the six components would go before the Planning Commission.

The first component has now been scheduled for the October 14, 2010, Planning Commission Meeting. The staff report is attached for your review. This was originally scheduled for July 2010.

Multiple Entitlements/Approvals: Synchronize the expiration periods for projects with two or more discretionary land use approvals
Core Findings: Eliminate redundancy and update core findings to provide a better framework for analyzing the merits of proposed development projects

Alan Bell will be at PlanCheckNC on September 11 to present a status update and answer questions.

As we know from experience, the actual language of the changes can be critically important. We have been told that it is Planning Department policy to not release the actual document until it is given to the Planning Commission. Speakers at this meeting should request time to review the actual text as presented, in order to provide comment prior to the Commission vote. Also, attached is a resolution prepared by Jeff Jacobberger that provides a sample for requesting additional time to review the materials.

In terms of reviewing the content, Alan Bell will be invited to attend PlanCheckNC Programs through this work program and NCs may want to develop their own positions as well. Attached is a chart prepared by Sharon Commins that will provide some guidance in researching these issues.

PlanCheckNC will meet twice before the October Planning Commission meeting. There is also time to get this issue on the agenda’s of individual NCs. Hopefully many of you have already begun the discussions regarding this work program.and have a start on how to approach potential changes. We still have no assurances of when we will have the details of what is being proposed. The critical issue is getting time to review and react to the actual changes as proposed to the code. Sixty days should be requested. The clock on the review should not start until the proposed changes are available. There is no time to follow-up on the issues of review and comment if this moves through the system too quickly.

Also, in addition to sending a copy of your resolution/comments to Alan Bell, be sure to include copy to your Council Person and the Planning Deputy, PlanCheckNC (maggi4F@gmail.com) and any other alliances or groups you are working with on this issue.

Maggi Fajnor, Chair
PlanCheckNC
Please note my new e-mail address
maggi4f@gmail.com

2010 oct findingsreport_without_CEQA[1]

Code Simplificiation Work Program[1]

TIPS FOR RESEARCHING ZONING CODE (2)

Code Findings Draft Ordinance (CPC-2010-1572-CA)

August 19th, 2010

Dear Interested Parties, Please find attached the staff report and draft ordinance for the Core Findings Draft Ordinance (CPC-2010-1572-CA). Of the six code amendments comprising the Code Simplification Work Program, this is the first to be scheduled for CPC. Due to the size of the attachment, the environmental review has not been attached here, however, copies are available upon request. The draft ordinance updates the zoning code’s common findings for conditional uses, adjustments, and other quasi-judicial land use approvals to provide a better framework for analyzing the merits of proposed development projects and eliminate redundancy in case processing. Please contact Tom Rothmann by email at tom.rothmann@lacity.org or by phone at (213) 978-1370 for copies of the environmental review or other questions. Please feel free to share this with anyone you believe would also be interested.

Best regards, Gabriela — Gabriela Juarez Department of City Planning Code Studies Section 200 N Spring St, Room #763 Los Angeles, CA 90012 Mailstop: 395 Ph: (213) 978-1337 Fax: (213) 978-1334

CPC-2010-1572 w-out CEQA

Citywide Design Guidelines and CDO Streamlining Amendment

August 18th, 2010

The Department of City Planning invites you to attend one of three upcoming informational meetings about the proposed Citywide Design Guidelines and Community Design Overlay Code Amendment. For more information about both of these efforts including drafts of the proposals, please see the “What’s New” section of the Planning Department’s homepage: www.planning.lacity.org

Meetings will be held on August 30th and 31st at the following times and locations.

VALLEY
August 30, 6-8 pm
Marvin Braude Center
6262 Van Nuys Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 91401
(1st floor meeting room)

DOWNTOWN
August 31, 9:30-11:30 am
City Hall 200 N. Spring St. Los Angeles 90012
(Room 1010)

WESTSIDE*
August 31, 5-8 pm
Henry Medina Parking Enforcement Facility
11214 W. Exposition Bl.
Los Angeles 90064
(2nd Floor)

*The comment period for the Citywide Design Guidelines Negative Declaration has been extended to September 7, 2010.

Please see the attached flyer for more information about both of these efforts and contact Shana Bonstin or Michelle Sorkin if you have any questions.

………………………………………………………..
Michelle Sorkin
City Planning Associate
Department of City Planning
michelle.sorkin@lacity.org | 213.978.1199
………………………………………………………..
Shana Bonstin, City Planner
Palms – Mar Vista – Del Rey | West LA | Westwood
Los Angeles Department of City Planning
shana.bonstin@lacity.org  |  213.978.1207

Request for Support

August 17th, 2010

REQUEST FOR SUPPORT

The City Department of Planning has posted the Negative Declaration for the adoption of Citywide Urban Design Guidelines (Guidelines) which has a comment deadline of August 25, 2010. These Guidelines will be an Appendix to the General Plan Framework Element for Multifamily Residential, Mixed-Use, Commercial and Industrial land uses (see project description below). The purpose of the Design Guidelines is twofold: to implement the design values in the 10 Urban Design Principles, a part of the Framework Element, on individual projects; and to consolidate basic Design Guidelines common throughout most Community Plans in one document. The Design Guidelines will establish design expectations for new development based on Citywide goals, policies and objectives.

In response to our complaints, the Planning Department has extended the public comment period on the Negative Declaration to September 7, 2010 in lieu of August 25. This update will be published in Thursday’s date LA Times classified section.

Reportedly, the draft guidelines will be released shortly along with the invitation to participate in public discussion meetings. It is time for Neighborhood Council (NC) land use committees to agendize, review and comment.

In our ongoing efforts to promote judicious communications, openness, and citizen participation in this and all planning processes, we would suggest that NC comments address both procedural and content issue concerns:

First, the date extension does not negate the primary concern that the Negative Declaration was released before the Guidelines; and, secondly, adequate time was not provided to stakeholders (community) for review of the Guidelines, after their release and before the Negative Declaration comment period closed.

Most important, we are concerned that although the letter of the law may have been followed, the process has included only a token outreach, notification and stakeholder (community) involvement and no Neighborhood Council involvement. We advocate a more open process and adequate time to review the actual guidelines. For this and all land use matters, in order for each Neighborhood Council to have the opportunity to review these materials, we urge the Planning Department to allow for and build into the schedule a minimum of 60-days for NC review and comment. In order to understand the process; to be sure NC comments are incorporated into the staff report that ultimately goes to the City Planning Commission and to allow for expanded stakeholder outreach and for participation in the process. It is important to open the dialogue and realize that the NCs not only need to see the actual product that they are commenting on, but also need time to bring stakeholders into the discussion.

The goal should be for a place for stakeholder involvement in the discussions during development of planning products so that community thoughts are incorporated into the proposals making for stronger draft documents. This could also mean that NCs are no longer placed in the position of criticizing Planning Deptment initiatives; but rather would serve as a source of support as initiatives move through the review process. NC contributions should be incorporated into the staff report that ultimately goes to the City Planning Commission. It is important to open the dialogue and realize that the NCs not only need to see the actual product that they are commenting on, but also need time to bring the discussion to their stakeholders. Too often, time is not incorporated into comment periods that allow NCs to meet Brown Act requirements, to say nothing about convening a robust community dialogue.

Below is a sample resolution and additional background information on this proposed project and related process.

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS:
The City of Los Angeles Planning Department’s contemplated Policy Motion regarding Mitigated Negative Declaration does not allow adequate time for Neighborhood Councils’ to deliberate and input,

WHEREAS:
The City of Los Angeles Planning Department has failed to post all background research documentation related to this issue (project),

WHEREAS:
The City of Los Angeles Planning Department has failed to fully disclose the precise text of these proposed changes and how they fit into the General Plan Framework Element;

The [your name] Neighborhood Council endorses the resolution to require the Planning Department to post all background research documents related to NEGATIV DECLARATION-NG-10-280-PL: ENV-2010-715 online; to provide full disclosure of the precise text of these proposed changes and how they fit into the General Plan Framework Element; and to restart the Negative Declaration process at the time these documents are posted to provide for full review of the Guidelines and the Negative Declaration in accordance with CEQA notification and review requirements.

BACKGROUND

The City Planning Department has released the Negative Declaration on Urban Design Guidelines that have not been completed. It is their finding that these Guidelines have no environmental impacts. The Notice includes a close of public comment on the Negative Declaration as August 25, 2010. This date is before the Guidelines are projected to be completed and available for review.

To put out a Negative Declaration before the proposed Guidelines (the Project) are circulated is not good planning practice. They must be circulated concurrently. How can one comment on or review potential impacts without seeing the actual Guidelines? Further, if the actual guidelines differ from that described in the environmental document, then there is a real problem. In that case, the environmental document will have to be updated and re-circulated for public review. It is better planning practice to circulate the environmental documentation concurrently with the actual project description in order to avoid confusion and lack of public trust. While the published environmental notice has an August 25, 2010 deadline for comments, the Negative Declaration is not adopted until the City Planning Commission takes an action on it. Accordingly, there is opportunity to comment on the environmental document up to and including the public hearing before the Planning Commission. The date has not been set for that hearing, but is projected to be either mid-September or October.

Cindy Cleghorn, PlanCheckNC and Lucille Saunders, La Brea Willoughby Coalition, met with Michelle Sorkin and the assigned Intern at the Department of City Planning who are the lead planners assigned to this project. Sorkin said that Los Angeles does not have urban design guidelines as other jurisdictions do and that Guidelines are long overdue in the City of Los Angeles. They have studied 20 or so other guidelines as part of their research. The guidelines will be a tool in addition to Community Plans, Specific Plans and other existing design guidelines. We have been told that two public meetings are being scheduled for August 30 and 31. This is a short time window for scheduling and we would suggest these meetings not be held until the Guidelines have been released and NCs have had an adequate opportunity to review them. Public comments on the environmental aspects on the Citywide Guidelines cannot be addressed without adequate citizen input into the Guidelines. And then, the basic planning process to judge environmental impacts on those Guidelines would follow.

This has been a project of the Department of City Planning as part of their “Do Real Planning” policy for two years, but the process of the release of the Negative Declaration and Guidelines and expected adoption by the City Planning Commission in 2010 are now moving very quickly particularly given how long the City has been working on the Draft Guidelines. They also tie in with the City’s Urban Design Studio that Emily Gabel-Luddy (now retired) and Simon Pastucha established. Gabel-Luddy and Pastucha introduced their design concepts at PlanCheckNC and several neighborhood council groups and coalitions a couple of years ago. Upon adoption of the new Citywide Urban Design Guidelines they will form the basis for a checklist for all projects.

NCs have an opportunity to get involved now but we must do so quickly and work together to get the word out. By sending out this notice, we are alerting NC Land Use Committees so they can agendize and discuss the Guidelines. Attend all public meetings and weigh in at that level and encourage participation by our land use committees and stakeholders. PlanCheckNC will also continue to work to open the Department of City Planning communication loop sooner so we do not continue to find out about these types of projects and issues at this late stage.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION FROM NEGATIVE DECELERATION
NEGATIVE DECLARATION-NG-10-280-PL: ENV-2010-715 Citywide. The proposed project involves the adoption of Citywide Urban Design Guidelines (“Design Guidelines”) as an Appendix to the General Plan Framework Element for Multifamily Residential, Mixed-Use, Commercial and Industrial land uses. The purpose of the Design Guidelines is twofold: to implement the design values in the 10 Urban Design Principles, a part of the Framework Element, on individual projects; and to consolidate basic Design Guidelines common throughout most Community Plans in one document, allowing individual New Community Plans to provide tailored, neighborhood-specific Design guidelines. The Design Guidelines will establish design expectations for new development based on Citywide goals, policies and objectives. The Design Guidelines will illustrate ways for individual projects to promote walkability, maintain neighborhood form and character, and promote creative infill development solutions. The Design Guidelines will apply to all new developments and substantial building alterations that require discretionary approvals from the Dept. of City Planning. As well, they may also be used by staff in other Departments or community members for advisory review of new development applications. Please call Michelle Sorkin a DAY in advance to review the file: (213) 978-1199. If she is not available, please leave message. Documents are available for REVIEW by APPOINTMENT only at: Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., Rm. 621, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Comments can be faxed: (213) 978-1226. REVIEW/COMMENT period ends: Aug. 25, 2010.

Urban Design Guidelines DRAFT to be released

August 16th, 2010

Urban Design Guidelines
DRAFT to be released

Neighborhood Councils and community groups across the City should be alert to the release of the Citywide Urban Design Guidelines for the City of Los Angeles.  This has been a project of the Department of City Planning for some time but the first we’ve heard about its release for public comment and expected adoption by the City Planning Commission in 2010 is just this past week.  With the City’s budget cuts and especially the cut backs in City Planning staff, the process of the release of the environmental document (Negative Declaration) and draft guidelines are a big surprise.   We have an opportunity to get involved now but we must do so quickly and work together to get the word out.  The negative declaration document is out and has a comment deadline of Aug. 25.  Because of our efforts, this date is being extended to September 7, 2010. The draft guidelines will be released any day now along with the invitation to participate in public discussion meetings.   Its time for land use committees to agendize, review and comment.

The Citywide Design Guidelines have been a project of the Department of City Planning as directed by the City Planning Commission and part of their “Do Real Planning” policy.  They also tie in with the City’s Urban Design Studio that Emily Gabel-Luddy (now retired) and Simon Pastucha established.  You may recall that Emily and Simon presented their plans and projects at PlanCheck and several neighborhood council groups and coalitions a couple of years ago.  The Urban Design Studio is part of the City of Los Angeles Planning Department and has completed projects such as: Walkability Checklist, Downtown New Street Standards, Downtown Design Guide, Central City Community Plan: Urban Design Chapter, Placemaking Academy.  For more information on the Urban Design Studio see http://www.urbandesignla.com/   Upon adoption of the new Citywide Urban Design Guidelines there will be a checklist for all projects.

We met with Michelle Sorkin (Project Lead) and Mindy Nguyen (Intern) at the Department of City Planning assigned to this project. The Citywide Urban Design Guidelines are for residential, commercial and industrial.  Lucille Saunders who is with the La Brea Coalition, arranged for our meeting.  Michelle said that Los Angeles does not have urban design guidelines like other jurisdictions do and that they are long overdue in the City of Los Angeles.  They have studied 20 or so other guidelines as part of their research.  The guidelines will be a tool in addition to Community Plans, Specific Plans and other existing design guidelines already in place.

The purpose of our meeting was to ask about the process of the release to the public of first the negative declaration that is currently out for public comment with a Aug. 25, 2010 comment deadline.  Without the guidelines, how can the public comment on that environmental document?   We learned that it is common for the City of Los Angeles to release a negative declaration (CEQA environmental document) prior to the guidelines. It is just how the city does it.   But, even though the published environmental notice has a Aug. 25, 2010 deadline for comments, anyone can comment up to the City Planning Commission hearing which appears to be a month or so away.  Date has not been set for that hearing.  The draft guidelines look to be ready and Lucille and I received copies.  I asked for a digital copy so we can get them distributed.  Michelle said that three public meetings are being scheduled for August 30 and 31.  No other details so far other than the dates and that they will be held in the evening. They are developing a brochure to go with the public notice.  With today’s date of August 13, 2010 we let her know that this is a short time window for scheduling as most of us have meetings scheduled six weeks ahead now.  A longer time should be considered.  Michelle said that even though the published environmental notice indicates the cut off time for comments as Aug. 25, it will be extended as a result of Lucille’s concern.  Michelle’s emphasis that Environmental notices are usually allowed comment up to and including the public hearing before the City Planning Commission met with surprise.

Where do we go from here?  This is part of a work plan that PlanCheck has not been in the loop on.  I’m not sure that we can ever get that information but that may be the missing link.  Had we known, we could publish a list of Citywide work projects that planners are working on so we can check in on their release from time to time.  By sending out this notice, we are alerting our Land Use Committees so they can be looking to agendize and discuss the guidelines.  Attend all public meetings and weigh in at that level, encourage participation by our land use committees and stakeholders.  PlanCheck continues to work to get in the communication loop sooner so we don’t find out about these types of projects and issues at this stage.  Our goals have always been “early notification”.  We need to make sure we are part of the process at the earliest possible stage just like any other project.

Cindy Cleghorn,
PlanCheckNCLA