Urban planners will ask San Fernando Valley residents tonight how they want their city to look and feel 50 years from now--from how long they want to spend on the freeway to where their children will play to where they want to work.
And they insist that residents’ responses will guide development well into the next century in what is being described as an unprecedented effort to unite the city’s diverse neighborhoods and forge a new image for Los Angeles.
The 6:30 p.m. meeting at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills is the third--and the first in the Valley--in a series intended to get residents involved in revising the General Plan.
“This will have very real consequences,” Senior City Planner Emily Gabel said. “This develops a new vision for Los Angeles. The real challenge is to get people to think about the city as a whole instead of just their neighborhoods.”
It is a daunting task. And some residents and planning experts doubted Tuesday that city officials will meet the goals of the Los Angeles General Plan Framework, which is intended to make the city more livable and economically strong.
The project aims to reconcile the obvious discrepancies between places like South-Central and Woodland Hills by spreading burdens and benefits of new development evenly throughout the city.
Specifically, the goals of the project range from reducing traffic congestion and air pollution by improving public transportation systems to revitalizing poor communities to encouraging cooperation between public agencies and private citizens.
Among the proposals now on the drawing table are plans to eliminate burdensome and costly environmental impact reports for some projects.
To muster public support, planners are taking maps and charts on the road to ask residents across the city for suggestions and ideas before they create a composite snapshot of where Los Angeles is and where it should be going.
At tonight’s meeting, residents will be given maps of the south Valley and asked what their neighborhoods need--perhaps more houses, more shops or another bus line--and what they don’t want--more apartment buildings or auto repair shops, for example.
Already, planners have held meetings in Harbor City and Hollywood. Five more are planned after tonight, including another in Panorama City on April 13. At previous meetings, many residents said they wanted more parks.
But because Los Angeles is heavily developed, little land remains available for new parks. So Ronald Maben, who runs the public sessions, suggested planting grass and trees along railroad rights of way that will be used as light-rail lines.
That’s the kind of give and take planners hope will characterize the process, which is intended to include residents, community leaders, developers and business people. By including different groups in the process, planners hope to avoid the kinds of clashes that now characterize most large development proposals.
When the workshops are finished, planners will present several scenarios based on what residents said they wanted. For instance, if a community said it did not want any commercial or industrial development in it, planners might explain how that sort of situation would cause residents to spend hours a day commuting to and from work.
Some planning experts and residents said the proposals sound good, but doubted whether they would ever be put into place.
For instance, the current General Plan was adopted in 1974 but not implemented for several years. And the Ventura Boulevard Specific Plan, which governs development along the Valley’s main commercial strip, took six years to finish.
“I think it’s a good idea, but I think it’s just bureaucratic paperwork,” said Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. “The city takes so long to do anything. It took six years just to do one street. So a new General Plan will probably take 20 years.”
Land-use attorney Benjamin Reznik added: “This document, any document is only good as long as there is the political will to implement it. Historically, I believe that we have not had a consensus in this city to what is in the best interest of the city.”
Gabel and others said that sort of skepticism is one of the reasons they are asking for public suggestions early on.
She said that if residents and developers can agree on a blueprint for the city, elected officials will find it more difficult to ignore the plan.