The General Plan System
Building and Safety
California Regional Water Control Board
Chief Legislative Analyst
City Administrative Officer
Community Redevelopment Agency
Councilman Hal Bernson's Office
Los Angeles Unified School District
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Recreation and Parks
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)
South Coast Air Quality Management
Water and Power
California State Government Code Section 65300 requires each county and city, including charter cities, to adopt a comprehensive general plan. The general plan may be adopted either as a single document or as a group of related documents organized either by subject matter or by geographic section within the planning area [Government Code Section 65301 (b)]. The general plan must be periodically updated to assure its relevance and usefulness.
Changes to the law over the past twenty years have vastly boosted the importance of the general plan to land use decision-making. A general plan may not be a "wish list" or a vague view of the future but rather must provide a concrete direction. In essence, the general plan is a "constitution for development," the foundation upon which all land use decisions in a city or county are to be based. It expresses community development goals and embodies public policy relative to the distribution of future land use, both public and private.
The general plan must include the following seven mandated elements (Government Code Section 65320):
1. Land Use
6. Open Space
In addition, State law permits the inclusion of optional elements which
address needs, objectives, or requirements particular to that city or county
(Government Code Section 65303).
Counties and cities have flexibility in organizing their general plans. This is permissible as long as all of the requirements specified for each of the seven mandated elements are addressed. For example, it is permissible to combine the Open Space and Conservation Elements into a single element (Government Code Section 65301 (a)).
The State law recognizes that the diversity of the State's communities and their residents and, thus, requires them to implement the general plan law in ways to accommodate local conditions while meeting its minimum requirements (Gov't Code § 65300.7). Further, State law recognizes that cities' and counties' capacity to respond to State planning law will vary due to the differences between them in size, characteristics, population, density, fiscal and administrative capabilities, land use and development issues and human needs (Gov't Code § 65300.9).
As a result, State law has given a city with the diversity and size of Los Angeles latitude in formatting, adopting and implementing its general plan, as long as it adheres to the minimum requirements of State law.
ORGANIZATION OF THE LOS ANGELES CITY GENERAL PLAN
The City of Los Angeles has reorganized the elements which comprise its general plan. Some mandatory elements have been combined. Others have been organized into separate elements. Optional elements have been added.
These changes are necessary to better address the particular issues facing the City of Los Angeles. The twelve elements which will comprise the Los Angeles City General Plan are listed below:
A. CITYWIDE GENERAL PLAN FRAMEWORK ELEMENT
B. LAND USE ELEMENT
The Land Use Element is divided into the following community plans:
Metropolitan Geographic Area
1. Boyle Heights
2. Central City
3. Central City North
5. Northeast Los Angeles
6. Silver Lake - Echo Park
South Geographic Area
9. South Central Los Angeles
10. Southeast Los Angeles
11. West Adams - Baldwin Hills - Leimert Park
San Fernando Valley Geographic Area
12. Arleta - Pacoima
13. Canoga Park - Winnetka - Woodland Hills
14. Chatsworth - Porter Ranch
15. Encino - Tarzana
16. Granada Hills - Knollwood
17. Mission Hills - Panorama City - North Hills
18. North Hollywood
20. Reseda - West Van Nuys
21. Sherman Oaks - Studio City - Toluca Lake
22. Sun Valley
23. Sunland / Tujunga - Shadow Hills - Lakeview Terrace 24. Sylmar
25. Van Nuys - North Sherman Oaks
West/Coastal Geographic Area
26. Bel Air
27. Brentwood - Pacific Palisades
28. Harbor Gateway
30. San Pedro
32. West Los Angeles
Click Here to View Figure 4-1 City Subregions
C.AIR QUALITY ELEMENT
D. TRANSPORTATION ELEMENT
E. HOUSING ELEMENT
F. INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS ELEMENT
G. OPEN SPACE AND CONSERVATION ELEMENT
H. NOISE ELEMENT
I. PUBLIC FACILITIES AND SERVICES ELEMENT
J. HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND CULTURAL RESOURCES ELEMENT
K. SAFETY ELEMENT
L. URBAN FORM AND NEIGHBORHOOD DESIGN ELEMENT
Mandatory Elements under State Law
*Revision required when 1994 South Coast Air Quality Management Plan adopted
Existing General Plan Structur New General Plan System CONCEPT LOS ANGELES
(long-range citywide policy)
To be superseded by the FRAMEWORK ELEMENT CITYWIDE ELEMENT To be superseded by the FRAMEWORK ELEMENT LAND USE ELEMENT
(Made up of 35 community plans)
No change CIRCULATION ELEMENT To be superseded by the TRANSPORTATION ELEMENT Bicycle Plan To be incorporated into the TRANSPORTATION ELEMENT Central City Elevated Pedway To be deleted as obsolete Highways and Freeways To be incorporated into the TRANSPORTATION (included in community plans) ELEMENT SERVICE SYSTEMS ELEMENT City-Owned Power Transmission Right-of-Way To be incorporated into the INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS ELEMENT Drainage To be incorporated into the SAFETY ELEMENT Major Equestrian and Hiking Trails To be incorporated into the PUBLIC FACILITIES AND SERVICES ELEMENT Power System To be incorporated into the INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS ELEMENT Public Libraries
To be incorporated into the PUBLIC FACILITIES AND SERVICES ELEMENT
Public Recreation To be incorporated into the PUBLIC FACILITIES AND SERVICES ELEMENT Public Schools To be incorporated into the PUBLIC FACILITIES AND SERVICES ELEMENT Sewerage To be incorporated into the INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS ELEMENT Water System To be incorporated into the INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS ELEMENT ENVIRONMENTAL ELEMENT *Air Quality Adopted as new AIR QUALITY ELEMENT in 1992 City-Collected Refuse Disposal To be incorporated into the INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS ELEMENT Conservation To be superseded by the OPEN SPACE AND CONSERVATION ELEMENT Noise To be updated as the NOISE ELEMENT Open Space To be updated as the OPEN SPACE AND CONSERVATION ELEMENT Scenic Highways To be incorporated into the TRANSPORTATION ELEMENT CULTURAL ELEMENT Cultural and Historic Monuments To be superseded by the HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND CULTURAL RESOURCES ELEMENT HOUSING ELEMENT Adopted as new HOUSING ELEMENT in 1993 Revision required by July, 1996 SAFETY ELEMENT Fire Protection To be included in the SAFETY ELEMENT Safety To be updated as the SAFETY ELEMENT Seismic Safety To be included in the SAFETY ELEMENT
PURPOSE OF THE CITYWIDE GENERAL PLAN FRAMEWORK ELEMENT
The Framework Element establishes the broad overall policy and direction for the entire general plan. It is a discretionary element of the general plan which looks to the future and replaces Concept Los Angeles and the Citywide Plan (adopted in 1974). It provides a citywide context and a comprehensive long-range strategy to guide the comprehensive update of the general plan's other elements -- including the community plans which collectively comprise the Land Use Element. The Framework Element also provides guidance for the preparation of related general plan implementation measures including Specific Plans, ordinances, or programs, including the Capital Improvements Program.
The Framework Element is not sufficiently detailed to impact requests for entitlements on individual parcels. Community plans will be more specific and will be the major documents to be looked to for consistency with the general plan for land use entitlements.
The Framework Element sets forth a conceptual relationship between land use and transportation on a citywide basis and defines new land use categories which better describe the character and function of the City as it has evolved over time. In addition, it sets forth an estimate of population and employment growth for a 15 to 20 year time period that can be used to guide the planning of infrastructure and public services. This, however, does not represent a limit on growth or a mandated level of growth in the City or its community plan areas. Traditionally, such "end-state" limits have proven ineffective in guiding growth and public infrastructure and service investments and in responding to the changing needs of a city's residents and its economy. In its place, the Framework Element establishes a program to annually monitor growth, its impacts, and infrastructure and service needs that will be documented in a report to the City Council and pertinent service departments and agencies. This will provide decision makers and planners with the information that is essential in shaping growth in a manner that can mitigate its impacts, minimize development costs, conserve natural resources, and enhance the quality of life in the City.
REGIONAL CONTEXT AND CONFORMITY WITH OTHER REGIONAL PLANS
The Framework Element serves as subregional input to the Southern California Association of Governments Regional Comprehensive Plan and Guide and provides a context for cooperative planning efforts between the City of Los Angeles, adjacent cities, and the County of Los Angeles. The Framework Element, along with the Air Quality Element and the Transportation Element, ensures conformity between the Los Angeles City General Plan and the Regional Comprehensive Plan and Guide and the Regional Air Quality Management Plan. The Regional Comprehensive Plan and Guide includes Growth Management and Mobility components.
MONITORING AND REPORTING
The Department of City Planning will develop and implement a growth Monitoring System and annually prepare a Report on Growth and Infrastructure to the Mayor, City Council, and the City Planning Commission. The Annual Report on Growth and Infrastructure will include policy and program recommendations and summary information generated by the Monitoring System on the City's changing circumstances, needs, and trends.
ORGANIZATION OF THE FRAMEWORK ELEMENT
The Framework Element consists of ten chapters that provide guidance to the comprehensive update of general plan elements and related implementation measures, as follows:
Chapter 1: General Plan System
This chapter defines the elements of the City of Los Angeles General Plan, how the City of Los Angeles addresses the issues required by the seven elements mandated by the State of California, and the role of the General Plan Framework Element in the comprehensive update of the other elements that comprise the City of Los Angeles General Plan.
Chapter 2: Growth and Capacity
This chapter establishes a consistent set of baseline and forecasted growth levels for population, employment, and housing citywide and for each community planning area and City subregion. It defines the planning assumptions that shall be used to ensure consistency in the comprehensive update of the other elements that comprise the City of Los Angeles General Plan.
Chapter 3: Land Use
This chapter provides guidance for the comprehensive update of the community plans that collectively comprise the Land Use Element and related implementation measures.
Chapter 4: Housing
This chapter provides guidance for the comprehensive update of the Housing Element and related implementation measures.
Chapter 5: Urban Form and Neighborhood Design
This chapter provides guidance for the amendment of the Land Use Element and the preparation of an Urban Form and Neighborhood Design Element and related implementation measures.
Chapter 6: Open Space and Conservation
This chapter provides guidance for the comprehensive updates of the Land Use and the Open Space and Conservation Elements and related implementation measures.
Chapter 7: Economic Development
This chapter provides guidance for the preparation of an Economic Development strategy, and related implementation measures.
Chapter 8: Transportation
This chapter provides guidance for the comprehensive update of a Transportation Element and related implementation measures.
Chapter 9: Infrastructure and Public Facilities
This chapter provides guidance for the preparation of the Infrastructure Systems and the Public Facilities and Services Elements, and related implementation measures, including financing strategies.
Chapter 10: Implementation Programs
This chapter is a synopsis of measures that implement the General Plan Framework Element policies and standards, and makes clear how the plan policies are to be applied.
INTERNAL GENERAL PLAN CONSISTENCY
According to California State Government Code Section 65300.5, a general plan must be integrated and internally consistent, both among the elements and within each element. This requirement applies to any optional Elements adopted by the City as well as the mandatory elements.
The internal consistency requirement also applies to the community plans which collectively comprise the City's Land Use Element. All principles, goals, objectives, policies, and plan proposals set forth in the general plan must be internally consistent.
All adopted elements have equal status and no element may be made subordinate to another.
1. The General Plan Framework Element and Its Relationship to the General Plan
The Framework Element is a special purpose element of the City of Los Angeles General Plan that establishes the vision for the future of the City of Los Angeles and the direction by which the citywide elements and the community plans shall be comprehensively updated in harmony with that vision. The Framework Element establishes development policy at a citywide level and within a citywide context, so that both the benefits and challenges of growth are shared.
Given the size and complexity of the City, the process of updating the community plans and the citywide elements takes time. The Framework Element's Long-Range Land Use Diagram and associated land use policies take effect incrementally, as each comprehensive community plan update is adopted.
The Framework Element replaces Concept Los Angeles and the Citywide Plan. This element enables a citywide perspective, to determine the most effective distribution of growth in relationship to environmental and economic goals, to enhance the environment and protect the quality of life, and to determine citywide policies and standards that can be implemented at the local level through a community planning process.
The citywide elements address functional topics that cut across community boundaries, such as transportation or public services. The citywide elements address these topics in more detail than is appropriate in the Framework Element, which is the "umbrella document" that provides the direction and vision necessary to bring cohesion to the City's overall general plan.
The community plans are oriented towards specific geographic areas of the City, defining locally the more general citywide policies and programs set forth in the Framework Element and the citywide elements with more specificity than is appropriate at the citywide level. This differentiation is necessary because of Los Angeles' varied topography, development patterns, diverse cultural and ethnic communities, and other variations which require that policies, standards, and programs developed at the citywide level be tailored to meet community and neighborhood needs.
2. The General Plan Framework Element and Its Relationship to Other Elements
The Citywide General Plan Framework Element establishes the standards, goals, policies, objectives, programs, terms, definitions, and direction to guide the update of citywide elements and the community plans.
While the Long-Range Land Use Diagram in the Framework Element generally describes the centers, districts, and mixed-use boulevards to give a citywide perspective, the community plans will contain specific land use designations, intensities, and standards.
3. The General Plan Framework Element and its Relationship to Community Plans
Community plans apply the growth and development policies defined in the Framework Element and the other citywide elements as they relate to a smaller geographic area. Community plans are more detailed and specific than citywide elements and are necessary due to the size, complexity, and diversity of the City of Los Angeles. The community plans are tailored to local conditions and needs. Adoption of the Framework Element neither overrides nor mandates changes to the community plans. The community plans reflect appropriate levels of development at the time of the General Plan Framework Element's adoption. As community plans are updated utilizing future population forecasts and employment goals, the Framework Element is to be used as a guide -- its generalized recommendations to be more precisely determined for the individual needs and opportunities of each community plan area. Nothing in the Framework Element suggests that during the Community Plan Update process, the areas depicted as districts, centers, or mixed-use boulevards in the community plan must be amended to the higher intensities or heights within the ranges described in the Framework Element. The final determination about what is appropriate locally will be made through the community plans -- and that determination may fall anywhere within the ranges described.
As the City evolves over time, it is expected that areas not now recommended as neighborhood districts, community and regional centers, and mixed-use boulevards may be in the future appropriately so designated; and areas now so designated may not be appropriate. Therefore, the Framework Element long-range diagram may be amended to reflect the final determination made through the Community Plan Update process should those determinations be different from the adopted Framework Element.
4. The General Plan Framework Element and Its Relationship to Specific Plans
The City has a number of adopted specific plans which set detailed development regulations for local areas and include various types of regulatory limitations. Examples of these limitations include "trip caps," design review boards, density/intensity limits, maximum heights, landscape, lot coverage, etc. The General Plan Framework Element is consistent with and does not supersede nor override these local requirements.
5. Zoning Approvals and ZoningConsistency
The community plans and their implementing zoning set forth how property may be used and form the basis for decisions on discretionary permits. The community plans are the primary point of reference for determining compliance with Government Code Section 65860 (d).
Zoning, specific plans and other discretionary approvals and designations are implementing tools of the general plan as reflected in the community plans. The City Charter and the Los Angeles Municipal Code provide for variances, specific plan exceptions, exceptions and other tools to provide a means for relieving hardships from strict adherence to the zoning regulations or dealing with special situations.
6. Highways and Freeways
The Transportation Element contain general policies and definitions concerning highways and freeways. Community plans shall identify highway and freeway designations consistent with the policies and standards provided by the Transportation Element.
7. Comprehensive Community Plan Updates
The Framework Element provides the citywide perspective often lacking from locally produced land use planning efforts to establish overall guidelines for the community planning process. Individual community plans establish the specific guidelines within each community to implement the citywide Framework Element. The community plans comprise the Land Use Element of the City's general plan and are, therefore, the final determination of land use categories, zoning, development requirements, and consistency findings. Like all general plan elements, community plans are comprehensively updated on a periodic basis through a city-initiated process. However, given the size and complexity of the City, the process of updating all of them takes time.
The Framework Element itself may be amended to reflect changes and address issues which arise through the public participation and detailed parcel-by-parcel analysis that occurs when the community plans are updated. Care must be taken in revising the Framework Element to assure that citywide issues are not compromised in the process.
8. Annual Review
The Department of City Planning shall annually review the need to comprehensively update the citywide elements, including the Framework Element and the community plans. The results of this annual review shall be reported to the City Planning Commission, the City Council, and the Mayor through the Annual Report on Growth and Infrastructure. This report shall recommend which citywide element or community plan should be updated and why. These recommendations shall be based on an evaluation of changing circumstances, trends, and other information provided by the Monitoring System.
9. General Plan Preparation, Revision,and Update Program
The Department of City Planning has established a program to comprehensively update general plan elements and community plans to implement the goals, policies, and objectives established in the Citywide General Plan Framework Element. Subject to availability of funding, all comprehensive updates of the citywide elements and the community plans for the purpose of implementing the Framework Element shall be initiated within five years of adoption of the Framework Element. Phasing of such updates may be made in accordance with Objective 3.3. and Policies 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 based on the monitoring of population, development, and infrastructure and service capacities as recommended through the Annual Report on Growth and Infrastructure.
10. Periodic Plan Review
Periodic Plan Review is an on-going procedure of the Department of City Planning which permits private applicants to request plan amendments and associated zone changes. Requests are subject to an established public review and approval process.
11. Pending Development Projects
Development projects pending in the City review process which had already completed circulation of a Notice of Preparation (under CEQA) at the time of adoption of the Framework Element, shall not be required to demonstrate consistency with the Framework Element for a period of two years (24 months) after that Element's adoption.
12. Redevelopment Plans
The community plans are the point of reference for determining compliance of Redevelopment Plans with State of California State Government Code Section 65860 (d).
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