Planners' Decision Stifles Creativity

As a Los Angeles land-use lawyer, I was appalled at the decision of the Los Angeles Planning Commission in the matter of the 10733 Wilshire Boulevard building (Times, Jan. 6).

That decision, which denied to landowners the right to construct a building solely because certain members of the commission did not like the building's appearance, is a hard blow to our city's struggle to rise above architectural mediocrity.

Early in the century the California Supreme Court held that a man may not be deprived of his property "because his tastes are not those of his neighbors." The high value of fostering creative expression in the use of one's own property prevailed over official attempts to make everything look like Levittown.

As better-looking neighborhoods attracted more investment, some officials required conformity to prevent a decline in community appearance which might discourage future buyers. These actions came under attack for violating the right to free expression. In compromises, the court authorized some control over design matters but limited such cases to those in which interference with aesthetic choice was necessary and objective standards of compliance could be established.

Instead of following these principles and putting the question of what values should govern Los Angeles' architectural future to all of the people who must live with it, three commissioners decided that the appearance of our city should be dictated by their private tastes. To make matters worse, their personal vision of our city will not permit any dramatic diversity of structures. What a sad day for a city so identified with artistic invention. As one commentator has written, "The stifling of artistic expression is a perverse result to claim as a victory for aesthetics."

I encourage the owners to appeal the commission's ruling.


Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

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