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Los Angeles Planning Dept.

February 23, 1992

In response to "Donor's Plan Was Speeded After Calls From Bradley," Feb. 8:

Normally I expect The Times to be the first to complain about a slow-moving bureaucracy. Imagine my surprise, then, when I read your article that minimized the significant problems within the Planning Department that I have tried to correct in favor of an attention-grabbing and misleading headline and story.

Before leaders can objectively evaluate a proposed development project, an environment impact report (EIR) is completed. The report simply provides facts about the environmental consequences of a project. For years, community leaders have objected to the long delays--often reaching up to two, three or four years--before environmental reports are completed. Long delays dramatically increase the cost of doing business--and providing jobs--within the city. State and federal laws require the city to complete such reviews within one year.

The findings of the Zucker Audit, an in-depth review of the Planning Department completed last year that detailed the low morale of staff and poor performance of this city agency, showed that our EIR process is a disaster. My outrage at the department's poor record regarding environmental reviews is the sole reason my office will contact the Planning Department to object to unreasonable delays.

Several years ago, I received yet another in a long series of complaints about the excruciatingly slow environmental reviews. In the case of Cosmo World, a proposal still in its infancy to build a championship golf course in the Sunland-Tujunga area of the city, I received complaints that the bureaucracy had come to a screeching halt. I contacted the department solely to express my outrage at the EIR system. I asked the department to get them off the dime. I did not ask them to take a position on the project. To this day, I have not taken a position on this project, and I will not until I have had a chance to analyze its environmental impacts.

Recently, I appointed Con Howe, a respected planner from New York City who was responsible for protecting the historic character of many buildings while promoting reasonable economic development, to serve as the new Los Angeles planning director. One of Howe's accomplishments on the East Coast was to restructure and speed up New York's completion of EIRs. As this case demonstrates, Los Angeles can surely use his leadership, and I am pleased he is joining the city's team. Howe will arrive in Los Angeles with a mandate for change and a briefcase full of reforms to implement.


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