A planning drought
Should city of L.A. impose a moratorium on growth?
L.A. Daily Breeze and Daily News, July 9, 2008
We hear all the time about Los Angeles' water shortage.
The county Board of Supervisors has issued a water-supply and conservation alert, urging residents to cut water usage by 15 percent to 20percent. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared the first statewide drought in 16 years. And county officials warn that water rationing could become a reality as soon as next year.
All of which makes one wonder why Los Angeles city officials continue to push for densification - seemingly oblivious to the fact that we scarcely have sufficient water to accommodate L.A.'s existing population.
For years, city officials have rubber-stamped developments without so much as a thought to the impact on long-term water supply. Indeed, last week Angelenos learned that a Hollywood-area community group has taken on the job that city officials have manifestly failed to do - demanding that the city halt all growth until officials have first conducted a sufficient analysis of L.A.'s infrastructure needs.
The group, the La Brea-Willoughby Coalition, contends that City Hall is supposed to produce an annual report that analyzes the city's infrastructure needs. Those needs include transportation, sanitation, schools and police service - the necessities that ought to figure into any reasonable assessment of city growth.
But L.A., which has long lacked any sort of a coherent, well-defined growth plan, has, according to the lawsuit, failed to update the Annual Growth and Infrastructure Review since 1998. Worse yet, La Brea-Willoughby reports that the city has approved nearly 2million construction permits during that time.
So the growth has continued, unabated, but without the sound planning and assessment that logically should precede it. Coming from a city that is in the business of awarding density bonuses - allowing developers to build more than an area is otherwise zoned for, without providing sufficient parking - this should come as little surprise.
No wonder the coalition is seeking a moratorium on future development until the city determines just how much expansion and densification its infrastructure and services can support.
And given the state of the local real estate market, if ever L.A. could accommodate a moratorium on development, this would be it. Better to plan carefully and wisely for future needs than to be reckless and create a future in which water rationing isn't merely an occasional threat, but a constant certainty.