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AIA|LA

 
January 31, 2011

Bud Ovrom, General Manager, Department of Building & Safety


Michael LoGrande, Planning Director, Department of City Planning
City of Los Angeles
201 N. Figueroa Street, Suite 1000
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Re: Development Reform Recommendations from the American Institute of Architects

Dear Mr. Ovrom and Mr. LoGrande:

On behalf of the AIA, thank you for the opportunity to provide suggestions for streamlining the
development approval process within the City of Los Angeles. The following suggestions have
been culled from our members who work on the front lines every day in both Building & Safety
and City Planning. We believe that the improvements in processing and code reform that we
recommend are necessary to create a more reliable and predictable development process. These
development reforms will help the City of Los Angeles reach its goals of economic growth,
budgetary reductions, and a high quality of life for its citizens without sacrificing thoroughness or
public safety.

 Break  down  departmental  silos  to  reduce  inefficiency  and  poor  communication  

Background:  Our  members  find  that  departmental  silos  of  DOT,  BOE,  LAFD,  DWP  and  others  lead  to  
redundant  approvals  and  frequent  conflicting  requirements  for  a  single  development  project.  For  
example,  on  a  recent  project  LAFD  rejected  trees  in  a  side  yard  that  were  required  and  approved  
through  the  WWDRB  process.  Lack  of  communication  causes  conflicting  requirements  and  creates  a  
time  consuming  circular  process.  In  another  example,  conflicting  requirements  for  grey  water  
systems  between  the  Health  Dept,  Grading  Dept,  LADBS  and  the  Project  Soils  Engineer  required  that  
the  customer  act  as  a  go-­‐between  to  get  a  resolution.  

Recommendations:    Create  a  position  of  department  ‘ombudsman’,  a  person  who  acts  as  a  trusted  
intermediary,  internally  and  externally.  Give  this  person  authority  to  make  interpretations  that  all  
involved  departments  adhere  to.  Institute  regular  meetings  and/or  conference  calls  between  
departments  to  resolve  issues.  
 
Remove  redundant  clearance  requirements.  If  an  item  is  required  to  be  on  a  permit  set  of  plans,  do  
not  require  further  documentation  of  that  item.  For  example,  eliminate  the  requirement  for  a  
separate  fee  and  a  notarized  letter  for  a  highway  dedication  because  this  is  required  to  be  shown  on  
the  approved  plans  for  permit.  

Improve  communication  between  LADBS  and  LAFD.  The  rules  change  and  there  is  sometimes  
inconsistency  even  within  LAFD.  Currently,  multiple  sign  offs  between  LADBS  and  LAFD  are  required  
resulting  in  the  time  consuming  process  of  trying  to  locate  the  specific  contact  in  each  department  to  
negotiate  with  and  sign  off  a  modification.  In  some  cases  one  department  refuses  to  sign  off  until  the  
other  signs  off  and  vice  versa,  resulting  in  a  circular  approval  process.  

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Provide  a  public  system  to  resolve  the  LAFD  interpretations  of  code  issues  that  are  often  at  odds  with  
published  ICC  IRs.  In  some  cases,  this  department  refuses  to  implement  adopted  code  changes.  

Make  DWP  a  stakeholder  in  the  plan  check  process.  As  a  participating  team  member  they  will  have  
incentive  to  resolve  conflicts  and  work  in  a  timelier  manner.  Currently,  costly  consultants  are  hired  to  
coax  answers,  designs,  and  approvals  from  the  Department.  

 Improve  customer  service  and  response  time  to  speed  revenue-­‐generating  development  
projects  

Background:  The  plan  check  process  takes  an  extraordinary  amount  of  time  especially  now  that  the  
volume  of  projects  is  down.  Even  so,  many  times  plan  checkers  just  circle  the  standard  corrections  
and  do  not  really  look  at  the  plans  in  a  thorough  manner.  A  lack  of  detailed  review  requires  repeated  
checking,  additional  plan  check  fees  and  inspectors  to  pick  things  up  in  the  field  that  should  have  
been  caught  during  plan  check.  

Recommendations:  Provide  incentives  for  staff  to  review  projects  efficiently  and  make  returning  
phone  calls  promptly  a  standard  way  of  doing  business.  Provide  continuity  with  another  plan  checker  
if  one  is  on  vacation.  
 
Allow  back-­‐room-­‐plan  check  during  morning  hours  again.  Limiting  plan  check  to  the  afternoon  has  
caused  a  delay  in  plan  check  verification  as  the  plan  checkers  have  limited  time  for  appointments.  
 
Provide  flexibility  in  allocating  the  resources  of  the  counter  plan  checkers.  Allow  them  to  plan  check  
simple  projects  if  they  are  not  busy  even  if  the  plans  were  started  in  the  backroom.  
 
Delegate  more  decision-­‐making  to  lower  level  checkers  so  they  feel  freer  to  make  code  
interpretations  and  resolve  conflicts  without  involving  senior  managers.  While  upper  level  staff  is  
very  helpful,  there  can  be  a  tendency  to  retribution  by  counter  staff  if  they  feel  overruled.  
 
Eliminate  the  tendency  for  frequent  inspections  and  re-­‐inspections.  This  creates  delays  in  
construction,  is  more  frequent  than  in  the  past,  and  is  unnecessary.  Create  a  standard  policy  to  
resolve  discrepancies  between  LADBS  plan  check  and  Inspection.  
 
Provide  customer  satisfaction  surveys  in  each  department,  review  the  responses  and  identify  
problems  that  may  be  recurring.    Engender  helpfulness  and  service  (yes,  we  can  help  you!).  
 
 Improve  online  resources  to  create  efficiency  and  transparency  
 
Background:  The  internet  offers  a  huge  opportunity  to  submit  plans  for  checking,  track  job  progress,  
note  special  requirements,  and  list  approvals  that  may  be  required.  An  online  job-­‐tracking  system  
would  minimize  lines  at  the  counters  and  save  staff  time  on  routine  appointments.  For  example,  the  
California  Department  of  the  State  Architect  (DSA)  accepts  electronic  plan  submissions.  
 
Suggestions:  Create  a  universal  web-­‐based  portal  system  for  all  relevant  City  departments  that  the  
customer  and  all  City  departments  can  use,  with  an  online  project  tracking  system.  Make  the  
clearance  summary  worksheet  viewable  online  to  applicants.  Create  a  “notes”  space  to  track  issues,  
questions  and  requirements  for  each  clearance  that  all  parties  (and  applicants)  can  access.  Provide  a  
mechanism  by  which  the  customer  can  be  told  up-­‐front  (before  plan  submittal)  which  clearances  will  

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be  needed  for  which  type  of  project.  Provide  online  requirements  for  each  department  with  contact  
information  tied  to  the  standard  clearance  summary  sheet.  
 
Improve  clarity  and  uniformity  of  City  forms  by  developing  a  comprehensive  online  document  that  
walks  applicants  through  the  process  for  each  item  on  the  clearance  summary  worksheet  that  is  more  
in-­‐depth  than  just  a  phone  number/address  to  contact.  
 
Maintain  current  information.  Update  the  "Current  LA  Building  Code"  page.  
(http://ladbs.org/LADBSWeb/codes.jsf).    It  is  confusing  to  many  contractors/clients  as  to  
which  code  is  currently  in  effect.  
 
Allow  plans  and  forms  to  be  submitted  electronically.  The  complications  and  cost  imposed  
on  both  LADBS  and  project  teams  for  printing,  submitting  and  archiving  paper  submissions  
are  enormous.  If  paper  submittal  is  required,  provide  ‘one-­‐stop’  submittal,  to  one  counter,  
with  routing  handled  internally.  The  following  White  Paper  by  the  AIA  can  help  guide  the  City  
through  the  process  of  implementing  online  plan  checking  and  gives  specific  examples  of  
other  large  cities  accepting  electronic  submittals:  
http://www.natlpartnerstreamline.org/whitepaper.php  
   
 Simplify  City  Planning  processes  and  approvals  by  eliminating  duplicative  or  conflicting  
requirements  
 
Background:  LADBS  typically  enforces  zoning,  but  sometimes  there  is  a  standoff  between  Planning  
and  Building  where  the  one  defers  to  the  other,  with  neither  willing  to  make  a  decision.  This  was  
recently  the  case  regarding  minimum  dimensions  related  to  the  space  required  between  residential  
buildings  on  a  lot.  Additionally,  unnecessary  time  is  spent  in  redundant  planning  reviews.  
 
Recommendations:  Create  a  tiered  planning  review  process.  Assign  easy  cases  to  associate  staff  for  a  
quick  review,  leaving  the  senior  ZAs  to  review  difficult  cases.  
 
Offer  a  speedy  administrative  review  option  if  there  are  no  known  complaints  to  a  Planning  variance  
or  CUP.  Planning  should  create  standard  conditions  to  facilitate  CUP  approvals  and  it  should  extend  
the  amount  of  time  given  with  a  CUP  approval.  It  should  reduce  the  unnecessary  Plan  Approvals  
when  a  project  has  not  received  any  complaints.  
 
Provide  a  mechanism  by  which  projects  get  an  initial  zoning  code  approval  prior  to  building  plan  
submittal.  This  will  assist  with  confirmation  of  entitlement  and  will  provide  a  level  of  reliability  so  that  
the  expense  of  the  full  building  plan  submittal  is  spent  wisely.  
 
Protect  the  definition  of  ‘by-­‐right’.  If  a  potential  project  meets  all  the  requirements  imposed  by  
zoning  and  planning  with  no  variances,  the  customer  should  be  able  to  build  that  project  without  
further  public  review  or  City  approval.  
 
Design  Review  Board  plans  should  be  vetted  through  City  Planning  before  DRB  approval  is  granted  
and  then  only  one  department  should  plan  check  and  sign  off,  not  both.  Eliminate  the  requirement  
for  LACPD  to  review  plans  that  already  have  been  approved  through  the  DRB  process.  Currently,  DRB  
approvals  are  given  without  thorough  verification  of  planning  and  zoning  requirements.  During  the  
DRB  process,  accurately  verify  zoning  requirements  with  LACPD.    
 

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Provide  an  expedited  administrative  approval  for  simple  variances  such  as  over-­‐in-­‐height  fences  and  
minor  yard  variances.  If  neighbors  are  in  support,  the  City  and  customer  can  save  time  and  expenses  
eliminating  a  one-­‐year  to  review  thousands  of  dollars  in  fees  that  could  be  well  in  excess  of  the  actual  
cost  to  construct  the  fence.  
 
Eliminate  redundant  requirements  between  CRA  and  Planning.  Establish  formal  review  
guidelines/protocol  for  CRA  that  do  not  duplicate  or  overlap  LACPD  requirements.  
 
 Provide  transparent,  predictable,  simple  plan  check  procedures  
 
Background:  Frequently,  it  is  impossible  for  the  customer  to  determine  how  many  plan  checks  are  
needed,  what  should  be  in  each  set,  and  at  which  counter  they  need  to  be  submitted.  This  lack  of  
clarity  slows  down  the  process  considerably  and  creates  an  undue  burden  for  the  customer.  For  
example,  currently  customers  have  to  plan  check  in  the  Valley  then  drive  to  WLA  for  a  BOE  clearance.  
 
Recommendations:  The  case  management  system  for  larger  complex  projects  worked  well  and  should  
be  expanded  to  include  all  projects.  Establish  a  preliminary  meeting  with  customer  and  all  relevant  
departments  so  that  major  issues  are  reviewed  early  (during  schematic  design)  and  do  not  wait  until  
final  plan  submittal.  
 
Establish  a  point  of  contact  for  all  projects.  This  individual  will  be  responsible  for  shepherding  the  
project  through  the  entire  plan  check  process,  assisting  with  interdepartmental  conflicts,  resolving  
code  ambiguities  and  modifications,  and  maintaining  a  schedule  to  clear  plan  check  and  move  
projects  out  of  the  City  and  into  construction.  This  will  create  more  reliability  for  the  customer  and  
will  streamline  the  process  internally  by  simplifying  communication  between  departments  and  with  
the  customer.  
 
Follow  the  example  of  other  cities  and  provide  a  mechanism  by  which  the  customer  can  schedule  a  
‘fast’  plan  check  for  a  much  larger  fee,  with  all  department  staff  at  one  table,  reviewing  the  plans,  
after  which  a  permit  is  obtained  (Las  Vegas  had  a  mechanism  for  this  at  a  high  hourly  rate,  and  permit  
could  be  obtained  in  as  little  as  2  days—or  a  12-­‐day  plan  check  turnaround  for  projects  over  $5  
million).  This  will  provide  options  to  those  who  require  a  very  fast  turnaround.  

Require  the  project's  Plan  Check  Engineer's  managing  supervisor  to  review  the  Plan  Check  
Engineer's  clearance  sheet.    Frequently,  projects  have  clearances  that  later  are  deemed  
unnecessary.  

Delegate  authority  to  sign  off  on  issues  while  the  project  is  under  construction.  Senior  inspectors  
could  be  given  authority  to  sign  off  standard  modifications  based  on  template  justifications  which  will  
avoid  unnecessary  trips  to  LADBS  to  meet  with  a  principal  or  chief  inspector  or  plan  checker.  
 
Allow  for  concurrent  plan  check  and  internal  routing  between  all  departments  and  establish  time  
frames  within  which  the  City  must  process  the  plans.  Make  it  one  of  the  department’s  services  to  the  
customer  to  route  plans,  establish  fees,  and  obtain  separate  clearances.  
 
Simplify  fee  calculations.  Base  fees  and  bonds  on  the  size  of  the  project  and/or  depth  of  subterranean  
garage  rather  than  requiring  the  customer  to  wait  until  after  plan  check.  For  example,  some  fees  for  
shoring  are  based  on  the  number  of  a  certain  type  of  anchor,  something  not  verified  until  after  the  

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plan  check  is  complete.  Also,  the  City  should  evaluate  the  total  cost  of  permits  and  fees  required,  as  it  
has  been  growing  over  the  years  and  is  much  higher  than  other  cities.  

Eliminate  the  separate  fee,  different  location,  and  plan  check/clearance  for  Industrial  Waste  and  fold  
that  into  the  normal  Plumbing  plan  check.  

Require  one  fee  in  lieu  of  several  small  ones.  95%  of  all  checks  written  for  clearances  are  written  to  
‘City  of  LA’,  however,  each  ‘counter’  requires  that  a  separate  check  be  written  for  each  specific  
clearance  item.  Generally,  amounts  are  not  known  or  clearly  stated.  Providing  a  more  consistent  and  
transparent  accounting  of  fees  will  enable  the  City  to  reduce  staff  time  and  will  provide  the  customer  
with  predictability.    Once  amounts  are  determined,  allow  customers  to  log  onto  a  web  site  and  pay  
one  fee  in  lieu  of  several  small  separate  fees.  
 
 Clarify  routine  requirements  to  avoid  delay  and  inefficiency  
 
Background:  There  are  some  processes  and  code  items  that  consistently  result  in  the  same  work-­‐
around  or  variance  or  that  case  unnecessary  delay.  Since  these  are  known  ahead  of  time,  
institutionalize  the  solutions  so  they  are  not  treated  as  exceptions  in  the  future.  Every  checker  
undoubtedly  has  their  own  list  of  what  these  are  and  the  following  list  might  prompt  some  more  in  
depth  study.  
 
Suggestions:    Soils  report  addendum  letters  need  to  be  generated  by  the  soils  engineer  then  put  back  
in  the  cue  and  rechecked.  Ideally,  addendum  letters  would  not  be  re-­‐queued  and,  even  better,  a  
quick  call  from  plan  checker  to  grading  might  resolve  an  issue  without  additional  submittals.  
 
Provide  better  coordination  between  LADBS  divisions  and  applicants  and  clearer  requirements  for  
storm  water  mitigation.  Currently  large  amounts  of  coordinated  effort  between  SUSMP/grading  and  
structural,  is  required  to  facilitate  this  on  tight  urban  sites.  The  customer’s  ability  to  execute  more  
innovative  solutions  is  still  rough  and  inefficient.  For  example,  removing  non-­‐permeable  surface  
should  not  count  toward  the  5,000sf/50%  trigger  for  redevelopment.  Removing  hardscape  and  
replacing  it  with  permeable  paving  should  help,  not  hinder,  this  requirement.  
 
Eliminate  a  separate  accessibility  plan  check.  The  structural  plan  checker  should  be  able  to  review  
accessibility  issues,  thereby  eliminating  an  entirely  separate  plan  check.  This  is  standard  in  other  
municipalities.  Note:  The  Disabled  Access  Division  tends  to  be  very  conservative  in  its  interpretations.  
For  example,  Los  Angeles  is  the  only  City  that  requires  a  5’-­‐diameter  circle  or  a  T-­‐turnaround  in  multi-­‐
family  bathrooms  (more  restrictive  than  code).  
 
Revise  the  interpretation  of  the  Retaining  Wall  Ordinance  as  the  current  interpretation  is  complicated  
and  not  in  line  with  the  intent  of  the  ordinance.  

Plan  check  should  verify  code  required  CalOSHA  items  that  are  required  for  the  permanent  building,  
such  as  window  washing  and  unscheduled  maintenance,  which  are  not  now  checked  by  LADBS.  
Unless  the  customer  knows  about  this,  it  can  be  a  surprise  that  some  buildings  do  not  comply,  usually  
late  in  the  process.  

Provide  clear  requirements  for  projections  into  the  public  right  of  way.  The  building  code  has  to  be  
complied  with,  but  it  is  usually  Public  Works  that  makes  the  final  decision,  and  they  can  be  difficult  to  
pin  down.  

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Allow  exterior  fences/walls,  grading,  retaining  walls,  etc  to  be  shown  on  one  set  of  LADBS  plans  for  
approval.  
 
Update  the  handout  for  Type-­‐V  Single-­‐Story  Residential.    It  is  outdated  due  to  the  new  code.    
LADBS  is  reviewing  each  submittal  on  a  ‘case  by  case’  basis  using  their  ‘best  judgment’.  This  
indecision  makes  planning  and  scope  of  work  difficult  when  speaking  to  clients/contractors.  

Redefine  the  ‘open-­‐to-­‐the-­‐sky’  roof  deck  so  that  it  is  not  considered  a  story.  The  current  code  is  fairly  
clear  on  this,  but  City  of  Los  Angeles  considers  this  a  story,  which  creates  issues  when  the  project  has  
a  limitation  on  stories  based  on  occupancy  and  building  type  –  usually  for  multi-­‐family  projects.  The  
City  has  required  mitigation  through  the  modification  process,  which  usually  takes  an  inordinate  
amount  of  time.  The  mitigation  is  usually  the  addition  of  an  additional  exit  stair  creating  a  less  
efficient  and  more  expensive  building.  

Eliminate  the  modification  for  specific  ‘crack  repair’  products.  


 
Eliminate  the  modification  for  a  sump  pump  for  storm  water.    
 
Eliminate  the  modification  to  have  a  community  kitchen  in  an  affordable  housing  project.  
 
Eliminate  the  modification  for  customers  that  utilize  the  CA  State  Historic  Building  code.  
 
Eliminate  the  modification  to  waive  the  bond  requirement  from  a  property  within  the  ‘Hillside  
Grading  Area’  that  is  clearly  flat.  
 
Eliminate  the  requirement  to  pull  an  excavation  permit  and  bond  prior  to  pulling  a  building  permit  for  
‘minor’  underground  work.  

For  ‘substantial’  underground  work,  eliminate  the  requirement  for  an  excavation  haul  route,  staging  
diagram,  hauling  company,  public  hearing  etc  prior  to  pulling  a  building  permit.  Typically,  the  
contractor  is  not  hired  until  after  the  permit  is  ready  and  this  information  cannot  be  obtained  two  
months  prior.  A  public  hearing  for  excavation  of  greater  than  1,000  cy  takes  a  minimum  of  6  weeks.  
Providing  approved  shoring  plans  prior  to  building  permit  should  be  adequate.  Remaining  hauling  
paperwork  and  public  hearing  can  be  done  by  the  contractor  after  the  permit  is  pulled.  

Eliminate  separate  Geotechnical  review.  This  traditionally  takes  a  considerable  amount  of  time.  Los  
Angeles’  is  one  of  the  only  building  departments  that  has  a  separate  review  process.  

Allow  narrow  drainage  devices  such  as  “Trem-­‐drain”  (a  standard  industry  product)  in  zero-­‐lot-­‐line  
shored  conditions  for  subterranean  retaining  wall  drainage.  Currently,  the  Department  won’t  accept  
this  but  will  only  accept  “rock-­‐pocket”  details,  which  can  be  difficult  to  build.    

Define  Urban  Forestry  requirements.  These  seem  to  change  in  terms  of  the  type,  location,  and  
number  of  street  trees  wanted,  and  this  usually  occurs  at  the  end  of  construction,  when  the  
contractor  is  trying  to  obtain  the  certificate  of  occupancy.  

 Simplify  plan  check  requirements  within  BOE  


 

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Background:  The  plan  check  for  B-­‐permits  and  the  process  to  finalize  and  index  B-­‐permits  takes  much  
longer  than  necessary.  The  entire  process  should  be  modernized  including  electronic  submittal,  
electronic  clearances,  and  indexing  with  fellow  departments.  
 
Recommendations:  Eliminate  BOE  reviews  of  lateral  support  as  it  is  redundant  with  LADBS  review  by  
structural  plan  checkers  of  all  shoring  projects.  This  is  a  duplicative  review,  increases  costs,  bonds,  
and  time.  LADBS  should  be  the  only  department  reviewing  private  property  shoring.  
 
BOE  should  provide  an  option  for  expedited  review/plan  check  of  B-­‐permit  applications  and  provide  a  
set  time  for  review  of  all  revocable  permits.  
 
BOE  should  coordinate  with  the  Planning  Department  during  all  Community  Plan  updates  to  remove  
road  designations  that  are  not  appropriate  to  an  area.  For  example,  many  hillside  streets  are  
designated  as  "hillside  limited  streets"  with  a  right  of  way  of  36  feet.  There  are  few  streets  in  the  hills  
actually  widened  for  a  full  36  feet  with  curbs,  sidewalks  and  gutters.  The  usual  road  width  is  20  feet  
and  it  is  unlikely  that  any  of  the  existing  roads  will  ever  be  widened  for  the  full  36  feet.  Furthermore,  
the  existing  homes  encroach  into  what  is  considered  the  ROW  triggering  the  need  for  a  revocable  
permit.  Eliminate  the  need  for  a  revocable  permit  while  the  required  width  of  hillside  streets  are  
evaluated  and  updated  to  reflect  reality.  
 
Reorganize  off-­‐site  plan  check.  Approvals  of  all  off-­‐site  improvement  projects  suffer  from  overlapping  
and  conflicting  design  requirements  and  guidelines  among  BOE  and  DOT,  resulting  in  a  circular  plan  
check  process.  Separate  the  ‘design’  and  ‘plan-­‐check’  processes  by  removing  the  plan-­‐check  and  
inspection  functions  from  BOE  and  place  them  within  LADBS.  Consolidate  the  design  functions  of  the  
Street  Lighting  and  Street  Tree  divisions,  including  those  which  reside  within  DOT,  into  one  group  
along  with  the  Engineering;  preferably  this  group  would  be  in  DOT  rather  than  BOE.  A  further  
simplification  would  be  to  place  portions  of  DOT  under  City  Planning  so  that  the  design  of  our  streets  
builds  great  cities  and  not  just  vehicular  roadways.  

 Eliminate  unnecessary  departments  


 
Background:  In  the  quest  to  streamline  and  reduce  the  City  budget  every  department  should  be  
looked  at  to  see  if  its  functions  are  already  performed  as  well  by  others  or  could  be  easily  folded  into  
an  existing  department  eliminating  redundant  middle  management  positions  and  reducing  overhead.  
 
Recommendations:  Eliminate  the  Flood  Division  of  BOE  completely  as  a  very  small  number  of  
properties  fall  within  a  flood  zone.  Review  could  be  done  within  another  existing  department.  
 
Eliminate  the  LARR  Department.  Given  the  other  testing  agencies  that  exist,  the  process  seems  
redundant.  Require  products  to  meet  ASTM,  ICBO,  ICC,  UL  or  other  appropriate  testing  agencies  used  
by  other  cities  in  lieu  of  the  LARR.  Additionally,  this  department  creates  a  barrier  for  small  
manufacturers,  discourages  innovation,  and  reduces  the  use  of  sustainable  products.  The  LARR  
process  for  new  sustainable  materials  is  very  slow  and  often  results  in  the  rejection  of  a  product  that  
is  allowed  in  other  cities.  
 
 Reduce  paperwork  to  promote  efficiency  and  customer  service  

Background:  Paperwork  is  currently  required  for  much  of  what  is  already  required  on  permitted  
plans.  Imposing  a  legal  requirement  in  only  one  location,  such  as  on  the  plan  set,  will  improve  
enforcement,  reduce  waste  and  centralize  project  information.  
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Suggestions:  Allow  digital  filing  or  station  someone  from  LA  County  Recorder  within  LADBS  for  
covenants  and  affidavits.  Or,  place  the  requirement  on  the  plans  and  eliminate  the  recordation  
process  where  possible.  

Simplify  the  complex  code  structure  within  the  city.  Without  deregulation  of  the  code  environment,  
codes  continue  to  grow  and  the  cost  to  manage  and  inform  the  public  during  the  approval  process  
will  continue  to  become  more  complex  and  expensive.  This  complexity  and  expense  punishes  the  
lower  income  and  small  business  development.  In  one  simple  example,  the  code  requires  sprinklered  
landscapes  numerous  other  laws  as  well  as  LEED  certification  discourage  use  of  water  in  favor  of  
xeriscape.  

 Complete  Community  Plans  and  Zoning  Code  reform  to  promote  consistent  development  

Background:  Enforceable  Community  Plans  are  necessary  to  ensure  predictability  in  the  development  
environment.  Completing  these  plans  will  encourage  job  growth,  reduce  discretionary  actions,  
stimulate  economic  development,  provide  for  more  housing,  and  better  integrate  our  built  
environment  with  our  transportation  systems.  
 
Suggestions:    Allow  projects  within  the  Plan  areas  to  proceed  “by  right”  under  a  blanket  CEQA  
process  and  a  master  EIR  when  a  Community  Plan  or  a  Specific  Plan  is  in  place  and  has  undergone  
multiple  public  hearings,  traffic  studies,  and  other  environmental  evaluations.  This  probably  is  the  
single  most  important  issue  that  will  jump  start  smart  growth  and  economic  development  in  the  city.  
 
Consider  looking  at  other  resources  or  partnerships  that  could  help  cover  the  costs  to  update  the  
Plans  such  as  ULI,  foundation  grants,  etc.  
 
Consider  lower-­‐cost  planning  efforts  rather  than  exclusively  relying  on  expensive  CP  updates.  As  an  
example,  DLANC  (Downtown  LA  Neighborhood  Council)  about  5  years  ago  had  a  visioning  exercise  for  
7th  Street,  led  by  USC's  Neighborhood  Planning  Project.  That  exercise,  cost-­‐free  to  the  City,  led  to  the  
"Restaurant  Row"  concept  that  brought  Bottega  Louie  and  other  revitalization  to  7th  Street,  including  
adaptive  reuse  of  previously  vacant  upper  stories.  Such  micro-­‐visioning  efforts  could  be  held  around  
the  city  in  areas  where  new  density  is  needed  or  likely.  
 
Simplify  the  entitlement  process  and  make  it  more  understandable.  Classify  all  projects  into  four  or  
five  different  processes  that  apply  to  any  type  of  entitlement  request,  from  a  simple  variance  to  a  
complicated  Specific  Plan.  When  an  application  is  filed,  the  process  could  be  immediately  determined  
and  the  level  of  environmental  review  required  made  clear  including  the  deadlines,  number  of  
hearings,  and  other  requirements.  
 
Increase  appeal  fees.  For  $100,  someone  can  delay  a  project  for  months  or  years.    Increase  the  fee  to  
eliminate  frivolous  appeals.  
 
We look forward to working with you to implement these and other ideas as a way to
improve service and operate more efficiently.

Very truly yours,

Nicci Solomons, Hon. AIACC :: Executive Director :: AIA Los Angeles

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