Opinion

Say the magic word (jobs), and local leaders will approve any zoning exemption

To the editor: The situation is too familiar to those who monitor planning decisions by local agencies across the state, from coastal cities to desert towns. Developers need only mouth the “J” word (jobs) to hypnotize local officials into backing their projects. (“When developers want to build more than zoning laws allow, L.A. planners almost always say yes, Times analysis finds,” Feb. 10)

Planning departments work with developers throughout the approval process, whereas residents get limited opportunities for input. The developer and planner often are seen even at meetings greeting and chatting with each other. 

Opponents are then decried for taking legal action on decisions, but the courts are often the only neutral arbiter available. Even with the California Environmental Quality Act, the deck is stacked in favor of the developer. 

We need a more neutral decision process for planning, one that justly weighs the concerns of residents against wealthy developers waving dollars in front of local officials.

Bryan Baker, Apple Valley

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To the editor: Please tone down the hysteria about variances and zoning changes. 

Zoning will never be an exact science. Community plans cover thousands of properties. Planners don’t have the resources to consider how the new rules apply to every unusual site, much less keep the rules constantly up to date. The economy changes, public preferences on housing and transportation change. Dense development along the Expo Line sounds like a smart idea, not a horrifying abuse. 

Allowing someone to ask for an exception to the rules is not only fair but also wise. Most variances get approved (in every city, not just Los Angeles) because the crazy ideas get weeded out before they go to a hearing. 

Don’t squash innovation. Let’s hear out the new ideas. 

Timothy Foy, Los Angeles

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To the editor: I applaud the Los Angeles City Council for wanting to update community plans every six years, but I am not sure it will follow through given the size of the commitment. (“With the election looming, L.A. moves to speed up review of neighborhood development plans,” Feb. 8)

There are 35 community plans within the city of Los Angeles. Given the legal requirements for environmental review, traffic studies, public hearings and more, many community plans take three years to complete. 

Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of dollars are necessary for each traffic study and the environmental consultants needed to complete legal requirements. Additional planners would need to be hired, or there would need to be a major shift of planners from current assignments in case processing, causing backlogs elsewhere. 

Let’s hope this results in more than just headlines.

David Gay, Santa Barbara

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