Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yes, Another Report

Here is the body of a letter from Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick.

"Ever since the mid 1990s when I was a City Councilmember. I wondered what actually happened with the conditions we imposed when approving development projects. The City often sets requirements to shape and improve a project, promote safety and mitigate negative impacts to communities.

Now as Controller, I have circled back to answer the question: "Who ensures that the
requirements attached to these developments are followed,?" The answer is: "No one." We are
actually often relying on voluntary compliance by the developers.

My report found that. in general, there is no single Department in charge of development projects from beginning to end. The Planning Department is indeed the lead agency in imposing
conditions. However other Departments, such as Building and Safety, can add or change
conditions without including the Planning Department.

The Planning Department's new data management system was intended to be a central database that tracked conditions for approval. However, this is not the cure-all it was intended. Instead we have ended up with three stand-alone systems that are neither integrated not coordinated. Further, a new computer system alone won't solve the problems in the current development process, unless accompanied by key changes in our business processes.

It is clear some significant changes must be made here. If proJects are approved with conditions
attached, is it not in the City's best interest to ensure those conditions are met? Certainly that is
what the public expects."

Mr. Farid Saffar, the Director of Auditing has contracted to produce the draft report:

"Performance Audit of the City of Los Angeles' Process for Planning Conditions for Development".

The report was recently released and the review and advisement is due back to the Controller's Office by April 23.

The 105-page report has key findings listed below:

The City of Los Angeles’ community plans, which represent the Land Use Element
of the General Plan, are outdated and not specific enough to consistently and
predictably direct the development project approval process.

The Department of City Planning recommends conditions of approval that are not
clear or specific.

The Department of City Planning does not actively manage other City departments.
Department of Building and Safety’s modifications can materially alter the project
from the initial project plans that were submitted to and approved by the decision

The Department of City Planning lacks department-wide documentation standards
for clearing conditions on development project plans and maintaining records.

The Department of City Planning does not actively monitor project compliance with
the determination letter’s conditions of approval once the building permits have
been issued.

None of the City departments directly involved in the development process have
adequate controls to ensure that the project complies with the conditions of

The Department of City Planning’s new data management system (Condition
Development and Management System, or CDMS) automates many of the
Department’s manual processes but the system alone does not fully address
processes for managing development project conditions of approval in an adequate

City departments do not consistently track, plan or budget for maintenance of
public improvements installed as a result of conditions of approval for development
projects. In addition, Some City departments do not collect sufficient fee revenues
to cover the costs of maintaining public improvements.

The report produced by Henry M. Rose Associates, LLC can be viewed here:

There are actually a total of 19 findings in the Summary of the Report.

Whether this report will have any impact on the lawsuit pending against the city of Los Angeles by the La Brea Coalition in not known.

Whether this report will have any impact on the approval processes for Ponte Vista as San Pedro is also not known.

Anything that can help fix existing problems with rampant overdevelopment, during better economic times and even today, is welcome.

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