Fixing City Hall survey: Who supports reducing council members’ power over land-use decisions?

Protester holds a sign reading, "Gentrification = corruption"
A protester stands outside then-Councilman Jose Huizar’s home in Boyle Heights on June 23, 2020. Federal agents brought long-awaited corruption charges against Huizar.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Do you support changes that remove City Council members’ discretionary power over land-use decisions?

Mayor Eric Garcetti: Yes

There shouldn’t be too much power in one person’s hands as a gatekeeper to land-use projects throughout the city. Rotating elected officials in and out of these positions gives the public more confidence around issues of corruption and makes it much more difficult for one council member to break the law and for any developer to corrupt the process.

Karen Bass, candidate for mayor: Yes
Land use must be rationally guided by clear standards and rules, not the political whims of politicians. The current system invites corruption like the payoffs from developers that have plagued City Hall. I will reform land use, root out corruption and make land use part of the top-to-bottom review of City Hall that my ethics czar will conduct.


Rick Caruso, candidate for mayor: Yes
This is the foundation of my ethics reform package. Elected officials should not unilaterally make land-use decisions. It creates graft, corruption — none of which is in the interest of the people. This is one reason why we can’t solve homelessness.

City Atty. Mike Feuer: Yes
Now, council members wield undue power over land use in their districts — resulting in inconsistent land-use decisions across the city, uncertainty for builders of affordable and homeless housing, and more opportunities for corruption.

Faisal Gill, candidate for city attorney: Yes
Instead of leaving these decisions to the whims of politicians, we should revise and modernize the rules that govern development. Our approach to reforming land-use policies should be guided by the need to address the ongoing housing crisis.

Hydee Feldstein Soto, candidate for city attorney: Yes
Planning and land-use decisions should not be treated differently especially when the individual council member’s discretion provided in the current City Charter could be an avenue for corruption.

Paul Koretz, candidate for controller and outgoing councilmember for District 5: Yes
I lean towards this because land use is where the opportunities for corruption occur. However, it will make it more difficult for council members to effectively advocate on behalf of their constituents’ positions on land use.

Kenneth Mejia, candidate for controller: Yes
For years, members of the City Council have used their power under Section 245 of the City Charter to unilaterally overrule land-use decisions in their districts. As a result, well-connected developers have been able to profit while renters and working Angelenos keep getting squeezed.


Eunisses Hernandez, councilmember-elect for District 1: No
Until housing is declared a human right in Los Angeles, council offices play an important role in pushing for amenities and affordable housing, especially in District 1 where communities need deeply affordable housing, and gentrification and displacement are rampant. We should create guardrails that prevent the rampant abuse and corruption in our city.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian: Yes
Too much discretion invites inequities, inefficiencies and potential corruption. We need to build more housing and reduce costs, while protecting communities and the environment. That calls for a clearer and more predictable entitlement process.

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield: No
No — pending details. What’s the alternative? I don’t believe that land-use authority should go to an unelected body or in concentrating authority with one person, i.e., the mayor who appoints all commissioners.

Councilmember Nithya Raman: Yes
It will reduce opportunities for corruption. Community plans haven’t been updated. Many developments require exemptions and variances, which is an opportunity for council members to explicitly or implicitly extract campaign cash from developers. Discretion also prevents the construction of housing, including affordable housing and homeless housing.

Sam Yebri, candidate for Council District 5: Yes
Discretion invites corruption. It’s time to root out corruption and restore trust in City Hall.

Katy Young Yaroslavsky, candidate for Council District 5: Yes
Through a public stakeholder process, we should update our community plans and then stick to those plans. By removing council members’ discretion over spot zoning and variances, we will eliminate the main cause of City Hall corruption.

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson: No
The real estate and building industry are just as plagued by racism and inequity as any other. One of the only ways for residents to fight back is through their elected officials. Stripping the City Council of land-use oversight opens up low-income and Black communities to even further ghettoization, blight and inequity.

Councilmember Heather Hutt: No
The City Council’s discretion in the land-use process is in itself a checks and balances for the planning department and its commissions. Without the oversight, inferior projects could come to our communities without adequate representation for the community that may be adversely impacted.

Councilmember Mike Bonin: Yes
I support changes to reduce council members’ discretionary authority over land-use decisions. Several ways — update community plans and make zone changes rare, end the practice of deferring to a local council member and limit criteria for overturning commission decisions.

Erin Darling, candidate for Council District 11: Yes
Council districts operate as 15 fiefdoms that govern independently, instead of as a council, with regional coordination on local issues. We must dramatically restructure how much control an individual council member has because our city must coordinate around land-use policy.

Traci Park, candidate for Council District 11: No
It is important that council members have the ability to work with communities to ensure that development minimally impacts neighborhoods and stays in character with existing communities. Council members need to have the ability to ensure that our urban forest and strains on infrastructure and resources are part of our land-use decisions.

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell: Yes
I want more frequent updating of the city’s 35 community plans, which would remove a great deal of the council’s discretionary power over land-use decisions. We would also get more transparency as well as more predictable and equitable outcomes overall.

Hugo Soto-Martínez, candidate for Council District 13: Yes
The building process in our city breeds corruption. Too much power is concentrated in the hands of the few, which gives them an incentive to cozy up to the real estate industry instead of the public. The system also incentivizes developers to pay lobbyists to influence politicians like my opponent, which ultimately leads to less affordable housing.

Councilmember Kevin de León: No
Developers have an inherent upper hand with expert development teams and immense resources. Without a councilmember as a counterbalance, City Hall bureaucrats would be left negotiating on behalf of communities against deep-pocketed developers.

Councilmember Joe Buscaino: Yes
I support limiting the council’s power over land use to the policy level, where it belongs, and reducing the council’s influence over individual projects by strengthening the responsibilities of the mayor’s office and professionals within the planning department. Los Angeles needs streamlined rules that are clear, with accelerated timelines and predictability.

Tim McOsker, candidate for Council District 15: No
With added checks and balances such as public application tracking, guarantees for advance public notice and review windows, I believe that city council members — who are directly accountable to voters — should retain authority over land-use decisions.

Danielle Sandoval, candidate for Council District 15: Yes
Elected officials are compromised by developers, real estate and corporate special interest donors. Their decision-making is flawed and tainted, with a bias towards those entities, due to not having the best interest of the public.

Declined to complete the survey
Councilmember John Lee
Councilmember Gil Cedillo
Councilmember Curren Price
Councilmember Monica Rodriguez
City Controller Ron Galperin