Zoning Code Evaluation Report

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Zoning Code Evaluation Report



re:code LA, a comprehensive revision of LA’s outdated zoning code, is one of most ambitious projects of its kind ever attempted.

In response, the City of Los Angeles is undertaking a 5-year, $5 million project to completely rewrite the zoning code. There are numerous goals for project, including improved clarity, procedural streamlining, alignment with the City’s plans, attracting investment and improving the quality of life for all Angelenos.

LA needs a new code approach. It has been over 50 years since the last comprehensive review and update of the regulations-far too long!

This time:

  • • Let’s zone like we mean it, in a transparent way. No more using industrial zones to build shopping centers, no more special zone change conditions on top of overlays on top of outdated base zones.

  • • Let’s broadcast our intention to get quality development for everyone. Improving the de- When the current zoning code for the City was written in 1946, Harry Truman was president, World War II had just ended, and the population of the City was just under 2 million (roughly half what it is today). The zoning code at that time was a manageable document of 84 pages, and was appropriate for the relative simplicity of the City it was responsible for regulating.

  • • Over the next 57 years, LA’s population more than doubled. During this period, entire neighborhoods have completely transformed both demographically and physically, the hubs of commerce and activity have shifted multiple times, and residents of Los Angeles of 1946 would scarcely recognize the current city.

In an attempt to manage this rapidly changing place, the City has tacked on layers of new plans, overlays, and property-specific development limitations to keep up with market trends and community needs. As a result, LA’s zoning code grew from 84 pages in 1946 to over 600 pages now. Today, over 60% of the City’s land is covered by special overlays and site-specific designations. These amendments to a particular parcel of land development standards citywide is sorely needed, and graphically illustrating those rules helps the world know what we’re looking for.

Let’s upgrade our neighborhood protection. Fixing the transition between zones of differing intensity, managing impacts created by specific uses, avoiding incompatible uses, protecting our elegant historic resources, and ensuring a quality lifestyle in many different flavors, from rural to urban.

Let’s streamline the review processes to achieve the outcomes we want with less hassle. mWe need to ensure that small projects take a modest amount of effort, and big projects that match our plans can be reviewed and built before the market for their product has changed.


In preparing this report, a variety of regulatory and planning policy documents and regulations were reviewed. While these documents provide a foundation for understanding LA’s planning and regulatory framework, it was the time spent touring LA and meeting with staff, stakeholders and the general public that provided the details of the problems and opportunities facing the City. An organized tour of the City was conducted that included key members of City staff. The tour covered San Pedro, South LA, West LA, Central LA and the Valley. The tour allowed the out-of town consultants to get a feel for the sheer size of the City. Tour participants were able to match the details of the current zoning code with real life examples and obtain a running commentary from City staff as they discussed recent planning initiatives and proposed or recently built projects. This diagnostic report provides recommendations to address inadequacies inherent in the current zoning code. These recommendations represent potential solutions that may or may not be necessarily acceptable in LA, but serve as the starting point for discussion, prior to code drafting. The input received from stakeholders, City staff and the general public offer an invaluable local perspective problems with current zoning code. Each perspective has insight into what is working and what is not working. By establishing an open dialogue, a more complete picture of what is happening and what LA wants to see happen has been pieced together.

This analysis requires the consultant team to read the existing provisions very literally. In other words, the review focuses on what the zoning code actually says and not on how it has been interpreted or administered over time. While this approach can result in occasional misinterpretations of intent or established local traditions, such miscues provide valuable insight into provisions in need of clarification. Finally, it is important to note that inconsistencies or weaknesses in the current zoning code are in no way intended to reflect poorly on the drafters or administrators. The existing zoning code has not been comprehensively updated for a long time, so it is to be expected that piecemeal amendments prepared by various authors have resulted in both substantive and stylistic inconsistencies.


General Plan Framework Element, Housing Element, Health Atlas, Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles (goals draft) Community Plans (30+) Specific Plans (15+) Coastal Zone Plan, Venice Local Coastal Plan (draft) Development Reform Strategic Plan Planning and Zoning Code Community Plan Implementation Overlay drafts (3) River Implementation Overlay draft Pedestrian Oriented Districts (4) Community Design Overlays (18) Sign Districts (2) Residential Floor Area Districts (2) Citywide Design Guidelines (Residential, Commercial, Industrial) Other Design Guidelines (Downtown, Small Lot Development)


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