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Council OKs Controls on Development : ‘No More Office Buildings in Residential Areas,’ Supporter Says

Times Staff Writer

In an action that one supporter said will eventually mean “no more office buildings popping up in the middle of residential areas,” the Los Angeles City Council and homeowner groups have agreed to limit the type and quantity of developments built in the future.

The settlement, hailed by homeowners groups as a victory for neighborhoods struggling to control commercial development, resolves a lawsuit over conflicts between the city’s zoning laws and its General Plan. It was approved Friday on an 11-1 council vote.

The General Plan limits the size and location of commercial buildings, but those limits have been widely ignored by the city, which has used the more liberal zoning laws to govern new construction.

Under the settlement, the city has three years to bring its zoning laws and the General Plan into agreement. At present, the zoning laws and the plan conflict in about a quarter of the city’s land area.

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To Reflect Local Views

The General Plan consists of community plans, which are supposed to reflect local views on building densities, parking and other factors that determine what type of construction will be allowed, said Carlyle Hall, attorney for the Center for Law in the Public Interest and representative for various homeowner groups which sued the city.

The groups charged that the city was ignoring a 1979 state law requiring that zoning and general plans be in agreement.

The settlement means that “at the end of the process, there will be no more office buildings popping up in the middle of residential areas,” Hall said. “The zoning had called for a city of 10 million people, while the general plan had called for a city of 3 million people. It’ll make a huge difference.”

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In April the council, under pressure from homeowners groups’ lawsuits and Superior Court Judge John L. Cole to bring zoning into conformity with the plan, approved an interim ordinance to address the controversy. But a permanent solution was needed for about 200,000 parcels, or about one-fourth of the city’s land area which did not conform with the plan.

CRA Downtown Exempted

The interim plan does not halt already-planned developments and exempts proposed buildings in certain circumstances. Property in the downtown central business district that comes under the jurisdiction of the Community Redevelopment Agency was exempted, for example.

But Friday’s settlement placed an additional requirement on certain major CRA projects. The City Planning Commission must now determine that those CRA projects conform with the general plan before they are approved for building permits, Murray Kane, CRA counsel, said.

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The settlement also provides for a one-month study to consider the effect of the 385 building applications that the city has received while the zoning controversy was being settled, and for a court-appointed specialist to monitor the zoning changeovers.

Mayor Tom Bradley is expected to approve the settlement, said Deputy Mayor Tom Houston. “It’s what we were striving for all along, now it’s just an accelerated process,” he said.


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