NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Los Angeles is many years, and in some cases decades, behind the key U.S. Western Cities in planning for its future, but as a result of the pressure placed on the City Council and Mayor during the Measure S campaign, city officials promised to dust off plans that last took a serious look at LA's Infrastructure Element in 1968 and last took a serious look at LA's Public Parks Element in the 1970s.
We who worked on Measure S commend the City Council and Mayor for finally moving forward, but we also recognize that Los Angeles City Hall and City Planning has not exercised this muscle in decades. The public needs to be the driving force here, through a ground-up, not a top-down process.
Many who worked on Measure S, or who were sympathetic to its call for a far more transparent government -- one where mega-projects don't get hammered out behind closed doors -- have been dismayed to learn that since February, City Planning has held closed-door meetings with a small and select number of residents to work out the basic ideas for the crucial Open Space Element of the new General Plan.
Similar closed-door meetings for the Conservation Element of the General Plan are set to begin soon.
This is City Hall getting off on exactly the wrong foot.
Moreover, the Planning Department decided to lump several Community Plans in the Southwest Valley together in a giant uber-Community Plan area centered around Metro's desire to turn the popular Orange Line busway into a rail line. But Planning did not ask the communities of Van Nuys, Encino, Tarzana, Woodland Hills or Canoga Park if they wanted to be lumped together in this way.
This is Los Angeles City Hall's old way, which it promised during the Measure S campaign it would change.
The General Plan is about the aspirations of all of us, not a select few. The Community Plans are vital to what our neighborhoods become over the next several years, and neighborhoods must be consulted before such planning gets locked in and they are left only the opportunity to protest.
Key meetings to shape the Open Space and the Conservation Elements of the General Plan are the public's business. So is which neighborhoods get lumped together, and whether they see a transit line as the most important aspect of their futures.
So several of us from the Coalition to Preserve LA have visited Neighborhood Councils around the city in recent weeks, warning them of the closed-door meetings that are now playing a major and inappropriate role in LA's future.
We urged the Neighborhood Councils we visited to approve motions and send letters to the City Council, Mayor and Planning Director insisting that all such meetings be public, and inclusive and we will continue to visit more Neighborhood Councils and more Neighborhood Council Alliances to involve them in this effort to open up the doors to our too-closed City Hall.
What a difference a few letters from Neighborhood Councils can make.
Some Neighborhood Councils in the San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council quickly agreed that all Work Group meetings being held at City Hall to hammer out the General Plan Open Space and Conservation Elements, and meetings being held to decide which Community Plans are lumped together, must be public not private efforts.
The Westside Regional Alliance of Councils asked all 11 neighborhood councils on the Westside to join them in backing a fully open and inclusive General Plan effort.
Just two weeks ago, City Planning officials were telling the PlanCheck Neighborhood Council Alliance that city officials could not disclose the names of the select residents invited to the closed-door "Work Group" meetings on Open Space and on Conservation.
But this week, the very same City Planning officials who would not identify those attending the Work Group meetings now say that the Work Group meetings on Open Space and on Conservation are public. That happened only because the people very reasonably and firmly pushed back.
Los Angeles is in a dramatic period in its existence, the first real chance in decades for the people themselves to dream of what they want to happen here, and what "livability" means to them, during the next several years.
Just as with the fully public — and undeniably sometimes messy — meetings at which citizens and officials together have recently hammered out how to spend Measure HHH and Measure H homeless funds, the shaping of our shared General Plan and our more detailed Community Plans must be inclusive and open. And come from the people themselves.
Want to do something to help?
Call or email your elected official and the Mayor and insist that:
The General Plan Work Group meetings on Open Space and on Conservation being held by City Planning be fully opened (advertised) to the public, and be expanded to far more meetings so as to include residents, NC members and a more inclusive mix of environmental groups.
● Contact info for your Council Member
● Mayor Garcetti
((Jill Stewart is a journalist, is a contributor to CityWatch and was campaign director for the Coalition to Preserve LA. The article was posted originally at the popular monthly The Neighborhood News.)