The Commissioner — Winter 2012

Commissioner's Voice

Open Letter: Welcome to LA and Thank You!

By Bill Roschen
President, Los Angeles City Planning Commission

Dear Planning Commissioners:

First, a warm welcome to Los Angeles. I will offer a few insights for your visit that are meant to be catalytic to our larger planning dialogues. Today in LA, we could frame five "game-changing" opportunities that provide planning and policy explorations of citywide benefit.

Transit Oriented Districts. LA has 74 newly completed rail stations with 70 more anticipated in the next 10 to 20 years. How to "craft" transit neighborhoods and transit corridor visions creates a new paradigm for our Car City. Key Concept: Value capture for existing communities from this public investment.

Complete Streets /Updated Mobility Element. Sixty percent of downtown land area is devoted to streets and parking. How to balance our LA streets to offer real alternatives to driving, and how to repurpose asphalt for improved health, safety, and a usable public realm? Key Concept: Balanced streets and a small reduction in car use makes for a livable city that restores the "workability" of car travel as well.

Planning with Health. LA planning is currently working on adding a Health Element to its General Plan Framework. This foundational change will support creation of policy and policy tools around nutrition, health facilities, parks, mental health, environmental justice zones, and "healthy" design for buildings. Key Concept: A century ago, city planning was born from health concerns. Now is the time to evolve health and land planning to the next level.

The LA River. The existing LA River is 51 miles of opportunity. As cities across the country turn their "backs" into "fronts" around industrialized river edges, LA can create a continuous linking of river-adjacent communities by natural environments, open spaces, recreation, and urban interventions of river placemaking.

Collaboration between Government Departments. Under Mayor Villaraigosa, focused interdepartmental collaboration has been a major theme. All of the above opportunities for LA depend entirely on our city and county departments innovatively working together. A few examples include development reform, the mayor's transit-oriented development cabinet, and the County Department of Public Health as a city champion.

To wrap up, I offer a genuine thank you for your leadership and civic participation. The role we play as planning commissioners may be more important than ever with the complexities of environment, health, transportation, and placemaking combining under the growing canvas of democratic land use and planning.

I am looking forward to our LA discussions and to creating networks that connect us as urban citizens building better communities.