Talk of creating a single development department in Los Angeles has abated as Mayor Eric Garcetti has directed the Departments of City Planning (DCP) and Building and Safety (DBS) to instead consolidate key functions. “We took a deep look at both departments, and now we’re moving forward with reform that makes sense, instead of just combining departments for the sake of combining departments,” said Garcetti in a statement.
A joint report released by the Chief Legislative Analyst and City Administrative Officer makes seven recommendations for improving development review at the DBS, DCP, Public Works, Bureau of Engineering (BOE), Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD). The report was based on 329 recommendations made by Matrix Consulting Group after months of consultation with the involved departments, community groups and stakeholders.
Recommendations include drafting Memoranda of Agreement between departments that clearly outline the process and assign specific responsibilities to a single lead department and co-locating staff in existing San Fernando Valley and Downtown service centers with an eye toward expansion of these one-stop shops in South Los Angeles and San Pedro.
The goal is to reduce conflicting answers by multiple agencies, according to Kevin Keller, director of Planning and Housing Policy at the Mayor’s office. “It looks at centralizing code enforcement authority to Building and Safety, to ensure plans approved are the plans that are built. It also looks to centralize the zoning plan review to City Planning, so developers can determine if their project is by-right or requires discretionary approval early in the process.”
Though the move isn’t the merger plan offered last year, the result is still favorable, said Will Wright, director of government and public affairs at AIA Los Angeles. “The end result is what we’re in agreement on,” said Wright. “It is a choice to go for a system that has more clarity—not necessarily more simplicity. It’s a good thing for the design community. Rather than dedicating more resources on navigating a byzantine maze to get a project permitted, we can spend more time actually designing.”
Affected departments are now being asked to come up with suggested timelines and concrete steps for implementation.