The new Director of Planning for the City of Los Angeles, Gail Goldberg, AICP, gave a presentation at the recent International Making Cities Livable Conference that struck us. Now if you've ever been to Los Angeles, you might be struck too: struck by the fact that Los Angeles HAS a city planner. Despite the fact that "Los Angeles" and "urban planning" are rarely used in the same sentence, we are confident that Goldberg's philosophy has the potential to completely transform LA and the rest of the country if it catches on.
Goldberg was formerly the Planning Director for San Diego where she and her team focused on creating a series of interconnected "urban villages." This strategy focuses on:
-Targeting compact growth in existing centers and corridors
-Creating a network of walkable, mixed-use village centers connected by transit
-Providing vibrant, engaging, playful public spaces
-Providing a diversity of housing options (income-levels and sizes)
Goldberg stressed the importance of adopting a policy plan to help guide planning and development. The policy plan is basically just a set of values/rules that helps ensure development activity creates the types of communities the planning department envisioned. For example, the policy plan could include form-based zoning or street design standards. Form-based zoning simply specifies the form of things (sizes and shapes) and not necessarily the use--think of old towns that have corner stores and living space above every storefront. And street design standards specify how streets are built (with or without sidewalks, bike lanes, etc). Form-based zoning also helps ensure that development is consistent and creates a sense of place. Form-based zoning helps ensure you get this:
and NOT this:
Goldberg also stressed that the policy plan is useless without an action plan to go with it. Don't just outline the policy, but create and execute a plan to make it reality.
To this end, Los Angeles has adopted:
-Citywide urban design principles
-Neighborhood design principles (different from one neighborhood to the next to help keep the historic and distinct sense of place that exists)
-A walkability checklist (here is a different walkability checklist)
-New street design standards
-Streetscape requirements (create pleasant, human-scale streets)
-A focus on reducing parking and promoting alternatives transportation