Mayor Eric Garcetti has vowed to ban ex parte backroom meetings between developers and his planning commissioners, conceding to a demand by the Coalition to Preserve L.A. Described by the Los Angeles Times as a “burgeoning” movement, the citywide Coalition is fighting pay-to-play corruption at City Hall through the reform measure known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.
The L.A. Times reports that Garcetti’s plan to issue an executive directive to prohibit such private meetings is “part of a bigger attempt to fend off [the] hotly contested” Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which the Coalition aims to place on the March 2017 ballot.
In an August 17 letter to Garcetti, the Coalition and its supporters offered four reforms to improve L.A.’s broken planning and land-use system. For the first time in memory, City Council members and the mayor have agreed the system is broken. The Coalition demanded:
— Developers and their special interest lobbyists must no longer be permitted to choose the consultants who literally write Environmental Impact Reports for their own developments. This obvious conflict of interest must be banned.
— There must be a clear and transparent process, including fast-tracked deadlines, for crafting the new Los Angeles General Plan that empowers the people to chart the future of our own city, slashing the undue influence of developers and their lobbyists at City Hall.
— Spot-zoning exceptions to the General Plan, a practice which currently allows wildly inappropriate mega-developments in neighborhoods, must become the rare exception, rather than routine, as it is today.
— Ex parte communications between developers and city elected officials or members of the City Planning Commission — also known as backroom meetings — must be eliminated. Such communications give developers an all-access pass to our government officials while regular people with a much bigger stake in their communities wait in line at long meetings for one minute of public comment.
The Coalition and more than 20 neighborhood activists delivered the letter during an August 17 meeting with Garcetti at City Hall.
Yesterday, the L.A. Times revealed a leaked letter that Garcetti had sent to the Coalition pledging to “bar ex parte meetings with members of the City Planning Commission and the area planning commissions that vet development plans in different parts of the city.”
The L.A. Times notes: “Critics have grown increasingly vocal over the last year about private meetings conducted between real estate developers and planning commissioners appointed by Garcetti, arguing that such talks have skewed city planning decisions in favor of development interests.”
Bizarrely, David Ambroz, Garcetti’s appointed planning commission president, gave the L.A. Times a completely false statement saying that the powerful commission is somehow “at the tail end of the process.” In fact, the City Planning Commission is mired in backroom meetings with developers, and Ambroz is widely known for being arrogant and condescending to neighborhood residents who try to speak at his hearings.
Garcetti’s promised ban is a clear, first-step victory for neighborhood activists who have banded together to form a citywide, grassroots reform movement, the Coalition to Preserve L.A.
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