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Permitting Process in L.A. in Flux

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Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner wants to streamline L.A.'s planning process through "simultaneous processing," developers still complain that getting something built in L.A. can take twice as long as in other cities, and will even if Beutner gets his way.

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Details from the L.A. Business Journal:


Instead of a permit going through the departments one after another, [Beutner] wants each permit to be processed at the same time by all departments....Beutner said simultaneous processing could cut the permit approval time for most projects by more than half, from more than two years to a year or less in many cases.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had long promised cutting the number of approvals a developer needed from city departments from 12 to two. But that effort stalled amid bureaucratic resistance....

The proposal drew praise from some circles, skepticism from others....some developer advocates, who note that projects can take twice as long to build in Los Angeles than they would in other cities, say projects will still face excessive hurdles because of L.A.'s lengthy environmental review processes; complex zoning code; and inadequate City Hall staffing, especially in the Planning Department.

"On a complex project, it can take a year or more just to complete an environmental impact report," said Dale Goldsmith, partner in the West L.A. law firm Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac LLC, which specializes in land-use entitlements.

Goldsmith and other developer advocates say what's really needed are firm deadlines for approvals to be granted (or denied so appeals can go forward or businesses can cut their losses), more staff at the city's Planning Department and simplification of the city's Byzantine zoning code....

Land-use attorney Ben Reznik...a partner with Century City law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP, said what's lacking in the Beutner proposal is incentives to encourage bureaucrats to process permits more quickly, even under a simultaneous processing system.....

Meanwhile, the Planning Department has begun to simplify the zoning code by clarifying vague language and consolidating requirements for approvals of development projects. But some local homeowner activists have mounted an opposition campaign, saying the code changes would gut the zoning code and favors developers who want to build high-density projects that would transform neighborhoods and add traffic, turning Los Angeles into Manhattan.

For more on that homeowner activist fight against Planning Department's proposed changes, see D.J. Waldie here on KCET.

For a headspinning account on city planning officials failure to update and keep up with the demands of their previous General Plan Framework Element, see this essay by former city planner Dick Platkin at Ron Kaye's site. Some highlights: Our current General Plan Framework is woefully out of date, based on 1990 census data; many of its presumptions of growth overstated population and housing growth; and mandated annual reviews of the framework have not been done for the past decade.

Past City of Angles blogging on the new planning proposals.

Image taken by Flickr user JMRosenfeld. Used under user Creative Commons license.

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