(The above photo is of L.A public infrastructure, not “Open Space,” but planners hope to create a degraded definition to count paved-over stairs and asphalted “complete” streets. Attend public hearings Oct. 2, 7, 21 and 25 and fight for true Open Space!)
Our open space in Los Angeles is in deep trouble and you can do something about it. A prominent vow by Mayor Eric Garcetti that “residents would write” the first re-envisioning of L.A.’s shared dreams since 1970 — known as the General Plan — was in tatters this month after officials offered a glimpse of the non-transparent, invitation-only process that has gone into the OurLA2040 update.
City Planners speaking at the Neighborhood Congress at City Hall announced that in October they will unveil to the public the results of seven months of private debates on Open Space — debates that were to be public. Instead, they were conducted behind closed doors, without public notice.
“L.A.’s General Plan effort is a Do-Over,” said Jill Stewart, executive director of the Coalition to Preserve LA. “City planners told the Neighborhood Congress they plan to unveil a draft of the General Plan in October for residents to react to. This is wildly inappropriate and wrong-headedly top-down.”
Mayor Garcetti said in his April 2017 State of the City Address: “These Updates won’t be written by anonymous bureaucrats in backrooms, they will be written by and with the residents of Los Angeles.”
In fact, the opposite is unfolding. The invitation-only debates have fueled controversy all year. The city excluded the Neighborhood Councils and other interested parties, but managed to invite in an “Open Space expert” who is a consultant to the Millennium Partners skyscraper mega-development.
Neighborhood Councils, the Los Angeles Tenants Union and Hillside Federation, all sent letters urging Garcetti, City Planner Vince Bertoni and City Council members to open the sessions, beginning with the Open Space Element — and all subsequent General Plan envisioning meetings.
Bertoni then reluctantly opened a single Open Space Work Group meeting, “then he shut the door again,” said Stewart. “That June meeting was standing-room only. But City Planning never engaged with those concerned residents again.”
California State Guidelines for 2017 say the General Plan “should start with a shared community vision that will help set priorities throughout the planning process.”
The city’s secrecy and doublespeak has created disarray and distrust. A rough draft Outline was recently leaked out to the Coalition to Preserve LA by concerned city officials. The Outline illegally counts paved areas and streets as “open space,” lumps L.A.’s decimated urban tree canopy into a catch-all category with toxic waste, and reduces the Public Safety Element, Public Parks Element and other crucial Elements to lesser “chapters.”
“In a diverse metropolis like Los Angeles, where sustainability and equity are the watchwords, all interested parties must be involved from Day One,” said Stewart.
The city justifies its misbehavior by claiming that “Crafting a new vision for a diverse city of over four million people – one that spans nearly 470 miles – is an enormously complex task.”
If OurLA2040 is truly to be OurLA, not TheirLA, Mayor Garcetti and Planner Bertoni need to reverse this order, with full participatory community envisioning as of now— and not make the community a footnote to this plan throughout the fall of 2017.