Archive for April, 2014

PlanCheckNC Meeting Minutes for 3-9-14

April 11th, 2014

PlanCheckNC – Los Angeles

Minutes: Mar. 9, 2014

Chair: Cindy Cleghorn –

David Lara, Building & Safety Dept., Asst. Bureau Chief-Code Enforcement

40% are zoning issues (parking, fences, uses).

Frank Lara, principal sign investigator

Reactive, based on complaints received (may not be anonymous).
No longer have the PACE (proactive inspections) team, which would do public education and send notices in advance to target areas with many problems and visual blight.

Process: Issue order to comply with inspection fee ($256), 30 days to fix problem and compliance inspection in 45 days. If fail to comply, fee increases to $550 + interest. City can place lien for unpaid fee. If legitimate excuse, fee is excised.

Abandoned construction sites: Can only fence it off, will remain ugly until construction re-starts.

Community care facilities: Nuisance abatement is the governing law.
Doing an assessment of property is difficult, can’t determine who actually lives in building.
This is a problem with the <6 residents properties.
DBS can assess illegal construction and prosecute that.
DBS and City Attorney have had success with trained staff, but need funding to re-activate.

Pasadena does inspections at close of escrow to ensure code compliance.
LAHD enforces Building Code and Zoning for existing.
Building and Safety enforces during construction.
Lack of smoke detectors is problem (fires in illegal attic/garage conversions) – more inspectors are needed.
NCs should promote criminal and financial risks of illegal conversions for housing.
Home business uses: DBS will respond to complaints, Bureau of Street Services can enforce on public or private property.
Inspectors cannot report observed violation on another property if on a call for another property, unless it’s a safety hazard.

Dick Platkin, retired planner (
Teaches planning at USC, CityWatch writer, Beverly Wilshire HOA.

Density Bonus Ordinance (implements SB1818):
Best advocates for a fair program were Jane Usher (fired by Mayor Villaraigosa for taking strong stands) and Noel Weiss (attorney, active in tenant rights).
Incentives are easy variances with limited CEQA review and quick approval.

Grants discretionary approvals without sufficient public notice and limit rights to appeal, as part of DIR process. State does provide criteria to reject (no financial need, detailed environmental impacts).
No connection to General Plan – it’s a top-down legislation.
Growth is targeted anywhere, not targeted to smart growth areas.
Circumvents CEQA but limiting environmental review while exceeding zoning.
No evidence that it actually increases affordable housing – many cheap apartments are demolished and replaced by condos and luxury apartments.

Suggestions to increase notification and radius for those allowed to appeal (only adjacent parcels).

Cute bungalows are being replaced by huge mansions that run to the property lines.
General Plan protects “scale and character” but McMansions are continually approved.
Gail Goldberg also got fired as Planning Director for trying to protect neighborhoods.
Baseline Ordinance was gutted by bonuses that aren’t enforced and are too easily achieved, and create out-of-character houses. A base FAR of 0.5 can increase to 0.73 with no real, certified benefit to the neighborhood.

Garages are exempt, so an extra 400 sf is allowed.
A “green” design is given a bonus, but city does not require this to be certified.
25% of the front is required to be recessed for articulation (minimal impact).
Recess 2nd story by 25% (stepback), but information is not readily available on the plans.
During demolition, little evidence that asbestos and lead paint is remediated per safety codes.
During demolition and construction, little evidence that separation of debris for recycling is done.

Solution is to limit base FAR to 0.42.

West Hollywood has 45-day moratorium and overlay district to protect neighborhoods. Cities have legal right to do legal actions like this.

L.A. does Residential Floor Area Districts (overlay zones) to reduce FARs. City should do citywide, instead of patchwork (done in Brentwood, Valley Village). New districts are rarely approved. Suggestion to get RFA districts inserted into Community Plans.

City should establish formal relationship with County Dept. of Public Health and SCAQMD for neighbor notification and enforce lead paint and asbestos removal.

Other issues:

Billboards: Why is any grandfathering of existing, illegal signs being considered? All altered signs are illegal.
State law says that if no determination on legality within 5 years of installation, city must be the party to determine that it’s illegal. Owner would not have to prove it’s legal.

Trees: Illegal to remove protected trees (only 5 are listed – black walnut, California oak, western Sycamore, diadora). Need permit to plant / remove any tree.

Re-Code LA zoning revisions: Big push to trade green design elements for higher densities.

Murals: City cannot regulate content.
May not have commercial / advertising, but some new murals have them.

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