Dear Angelenos:

Over the course of the last month, all of us have been impacted by COVID-19. Recent events have altered our day-to-day lives and cast a spotlight on the importance of maintaining a sense of community as a nation, first and foremost, but also as Angelenos.

The integrity, commitment, and professionalism of our staff have helped us maintain our normal operations and, in the process, prepare Los Angeles for the economic recovery ahead. Now more than ever, we at City Planning are hoping to demonstrate what it truly means to be public servants and local leaders for our community.

At the citywide level, we’ve taken measures to protect the health and safety of Angelenos—ranging from our residents and business owners who frequent our  public counters to our dedicated staff of over 400 employees. While many of the measures outlined below are intended to be temporary, they demonstrate our clear priorities: putting people first while continuing to provide important City services.
Ensuring Everyone’s Safety

Our first priority as a City and Department is to ensure the safety of our staff and the public that we serve. In order to practice social distancing, we’ve modified counter operations at the Development Services Centers(DSCs) to assist customers through email, phone, and videoconferencing. We’ve implemented a physical drop-off system to facilitate the exchange of documents and plans, as well as the filing of project applications, without requiring face-to-face meetings. We’ve made it easy to file appeals online. Additionally, we’ve shifted our Records Management to an appointment-only system to minimize group gatherings.

These are a few of the ways we’ve improved our operations by simplifying processes, modernizing procedures, and adapting quickly to the changing environment.
Supporting Our Economic Interests

At a time when one in ten Americans is out of a job, we recognize the importance of keeping critical City functions open—not only for business owners, but also for residents who visit the public counter in need of a project clearance or sign-off.

Recently, we held our first virtual commission meeting. In response to local stay-at-home orders, City Planning developed new protocols that made it possible to resume public hearings by teleconference. Holding these meetings means we can continue to offer our full suite of services, which rely on regular hearings with broad public participation.

Whether large or small, the work we perform is preparing us for the future recovery. By resuming public hearings, we are able to review project applications and advance new policies that support Los Angeles’s short- and long-term economic stability.
Embracing Technology

To keep Angelenos safe, we’ve limited our staff’s physical interaction with the public and with other City employees. In addition to holding virtual commission meetings, we’ve increased the number of services that are available online. Today, residents can file  project appeal applications electronically and conduct project clearances virtually without having to visit our Development Services Centers.

This shift to accepting certain application materials via email has made it possible for us to adjust our procedures during COVID-19 without sacrificing customer service.
Planning for the Future

City Planning affects the daily lives of Angelenos in many ways. We promote the well-being of our neighborhoods by implementing the policy goals of Los Angeles’s General Plan through specific land use regulations. We continue to work on the update to the City’s Housing Element by offering online workshops.

We have a number of land use initiatives underway that can put Angelenos back to work—initiatives that focus on job creation, housing production, and the environment. Recently, we unveiled a framework for a proposed new program that would simplify approvals for
local restaurants. This initiative builds on the efforts of our other work programs, such as our update to the Downtown Community Plan, where we’re looking to ease development regulations for market-rate and affordable housing projects.

Life beyond COVID-19 is why we remain focused on these programs, putting in the work today for when the Safer at Home order is lifted and a sense of normalcy returns.
Encouraging Open Communication

Building clear lines of communication with stakeholders has made it possible for us to report on key milestones, identify alternative outreach strategies, and establish measurable goals that track our progress and produce results-based outcomes. Our use of performance metrics has played an instrumental role in that process. Data collection has informed the allocation of our resources based on our casework and, in doing so, demonstrated our accountability in the workplace. 

Having these open lines of communication has contributed to greater trust at the community level and increased engagement with the public.
Doing Our Part

As government employees, we have a personal obligation to our residents as public servants. Especially during times of crisis, we recognize the importance of helping others through the City’s Disaster Service Worker Program. We thank everyone across the City who has responded to Mayor Garcetti’s call to action. All of us collectively have shown what it means to work together to help our neighbors.
As you may know, Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed furloughs for thousands of City employees starting on July 1. Most City employees will be required to take 26 furlough days during the next fiscal year, which equates to one day every two weeks. While this includes our dedicated City Planning staff, we will make sure this change does not keep us from continuing to do excellent work for the communities and the City we love.

As a General Manager, I take pride in sharing the significant efforts of our Planning staff. Their work and commitment to Los Angeles speak to our collective resolve to build a better tomorrow. In hard times, we must stay strong. Above all, we must let our resilience shine. All of us here at City Planning are approaching each day as an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to Los Angeles. 

I wish you all continued health. Together, we are Planning4LA.

Vince Bertoni
Director of Planning