LA Permit Expeditor: What Makes LA Different (Part I)
Permit Advisors explains what makes an LA permit expeditor different.
As a Los Angeles permit expeditor (or LA permit expeditor, as we like to say) we see many retailers and developers attempt to break into the LA market without understanding it’s land use history, political climate, and development climate. These three factors influence present permitting and future LA commercial building permits. In this first article of a two-part series on permitting Los Angeles, I’ll discuss the first two influencers and how they affect present-day permits. As always I recommend contacting me before trying your hand at permitting in LA.
Most relevant to permits is the Center Concept of Los Angeles adopted in 1974, after 4 years of research and planning by the city. The concept was simple: “concentrate high density development in a few established activity centers, connect these areas with rapid transit, and leave low density areas alone (Planetizen. “Back to the Future: The 1970 Los Angeles ‘Centers’ Concept Plan.”). This same concept was adopted then ignored and, rumor has it, is still what planners use today. The truth is LA kind of sort of follows the concept in a messy kinda way. Fast forward to 1995 when the city planning commission met concerning the “General Plan Framework Element” which proudly states, “In many respects, The Framework Element is an evolution of the Centers Concept, adopted in 1974, that provides fundamental guidance regarding the City’s future” (City of Los Angeles. “The Framework Element of the Los Angeles General Plan”). This was adopted in 1996 then re-adopted in 2001.
This General Framework Element describes goals, objectives, and policies for housing, land use, neighborhood design, transportation, urban form, open space conservation, economic development, and transportation. Try saying that 5 times fast! In permitting terms this framework is why planners make you go through change of use permits, and any other kind of hearing for a project in city limits. Yep, that’s right, essentially the City of Angels is using an over 15 year old general plan to decide whether to approve your projects, and that’s being generous! One could make the argument they are using a concept from 1974.
Let’s move to the political climate that influences present-day LA permitting. For our purposes I’m going to single-out only one measure as anecdotal evidence to prove how LA is different than other major metropolitan cities. Measure S, formerly associated with the controversial Neighborhood Integrity Inititiative, has 6 basic items it’s trying to get voters to approve in March of 2017:
- Places a 2 year moratorium on projects seeking to change the general plan or zone or height-district changes that will intensify the space with the only exception being for low-income housing.
- Prohibits geographical amendments unless the area has significant social, economic, or physical identity.
- Requires public review of general plan every 5 years
- Prohibits project applicants from completing environmental impact reports for the city.
- Requires city make findings of general plan consistent for planning amendments, project approvals, and permit decisions.
- Prohibits certain parking variances
Whether this measure will be approved in March remains to be seen, however the city is behaving rather skittish about projects that could end up violating any of these stipulations. On the other side of the counter, many large-scale developers are using March as a deadline to submit plans to the city in an attempt to prevent rejection on the city’s part after any sort of adoption. In both cases this presents a complication to anyone developing commercially in LA at the moment.
I’m going to stop here and explain the development climate in the next article in this 2-part series. But, in closing I recommend professionals already developing in LA and those new to LA learn as much as they can about the city council members representing proposed sites. Look at the general plan and understand it’s importance to the Angeleno mindset. Additionally, give me a call so I can take care of this for you. I have a team dedicated to just City of LA specialized permitting process.
About us: Permit Advisors Inc is a nationwide permit expediting, entitlement, and consulting firm based out of Beverly HIlls, CA. We have established relationships with municipalities nation-wide and implement time as well as cost saving strategies to efficiently complete projects. We provide a project management team to ensure every aspect of the project is given specific attention while maintaining open communication between the jurisdiction, consultants, and our clients. We serve retailers, architects, landlords, tenant coordinators, contractors and franchisees nationwide in the hotel, retail, restaurant, mixed-use, multifamily, entertainment, grocery, and logistical plant development industries. Contact us today for a consultation at www.permitadvisors.com.