A proposal to weaken the city's public notice requirements for hearings on neighborhood land-use issues recently came under fire from homeowners. Under current requirements, property owners and residents within 500 feet of projects involving subdivision construction and liquor sales are notified. Planning officials suggested reducing the parameters to 300 feet and no longer require that hearings be advertised in local newspapers. The City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee referred the idea to a commission studying ways to streamline development procedures.
Should the city, in an attempt to save money, notify fewer residents of nearby land-use issues?
Vicki Snow, Burbank resident and former president of the Valley Horse Owners Assn.: The amount of money the city pays to put a notice in a newspaper in infinitesimal. I think it's tragic they want to do that. I think they don't want to be hassled by property owners, homeowners, anyone in contention. . . . The reasoning that they're going to save money, politely, is a bunch of bull. They are looking at saving themselves a lot of grief, not a lot of money. People have to have the right to defend themselves and their property.
Tony Lucente, Studio City Residents Assn. president: Reduced notification is not just a cost-cutting issue. Rather, it directly impacts L.A. residents' right to participate in the public process. If the city really wants to increase public participation, they need to address the real reasons why people don't attend hearings or respond to notices--timing (always during working hours), location (often in City Hall vs. Valley locations), difficult-to-understand hearing notices and too little distribution vs. too much.
Hal Bernson, city councilman and chairman of the Planning and Land Use Committee: The answer obviously is no. In an attempt to save money you should not notify fewer people. I asked staff to find a more efficient means of communicating. One of them is using Channel 35, which would be of no cost to the city. . . . I think approximately a third of the population subscribes to cable television. I asked (staff members) to take a look at the possibility of public posting (hearing notices) besides just at the property itself, at other places within a radius of 500 feet or more. My idea is to find the most efficient way to communicate. We're not looking to this for reasons of public economy. Let's get the maximum amount of coverage we can in the most cost-effective way.
Rob Glushon, former president, Encino Property Owners Assn.: I think the 500-foot notice requirement is not only reasonable, but it is based upon the fundamentals of democracy and due process. People have the absolute right to be notified of public hearings on zoning and development matters in their own neighborhood. The applicants currently bear the burden of the costs of notification, not city taxpayers.
Benjamin Reznik, land-use attorney who represents developers: The city is not going to save money by doing that. The cost of the notice is borne by the applicant who has to pay for postage and labels. Whether it's 300 or 500 feet is not going to save a nickel. That's just window dressing when there are much more serious problems to be addressed. The developer community has never complained about the notice. The complaint is, 'Why does it take a year or two years to get a housing project passed?' That's where the real costs are. Those are the city's problems, not the issue of notification.