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Monday, Aug 8, 2022
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Ovrom: City Needs to Make Building Easier

Bud Ovrom, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, said the city needs to work on making it easier for developers to build new housing in the Valley if the vision of Los Angeles as a collection of urban villages is ever to materialize. Ovrom was the guest speaker as the Livable Communities Council of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley held the last of its three meetings on land use in the Valley. Bob Scott, co-chair of the council, suggested that since the slow-moving planning department is often criticized by builders, the city should consider “pre-entitling” certain sections of the city to allow building at almost any time. “That’s another example of Burbank versus LA,” said Ovrom. “Burbank for its Media District Specific Plan and other kinds of plans did basically, through the adoption of those plans, pre-entitle those projects. So if M. David Paul decides he wants to build another building at . . .Pinnacle, he comes in and gets a building permit.” Ovrom said Los Angeles’ bureaucracy has cost it new business as well as new housing. In 2004, the city could have competed with Burbank when Yahoo was deciding where to move one of its subsidiaries. “L.A. put up such a feeble fight to get Yahoo,” Ovrom said. “It was 1,400 jobs, and here all M. David Paul had to do was pull a building permit and start construction. The city of L.A. said ‘Well, we’d love to have you. Get in line, it will take about five years to process the plans.’ There was no hope, I mean L.A. was just screwed from the very beginning.” In order to support Villaraigosa’s vision, which he calls “elegant density,” Ovrom said Los Angeles is going to need some kind of free-market force that will ignite a firestorm of smart growth. For the past several months, the Livable Communities Council has been discussing the future of Valley housing. Villaraigosa has said that the city must embrace higher density projects in some parts of the city, including the greater Valley area, in order to support the growing population without putting too much pressure on the city’s transportation infrastructure. Development boom The growth of urban villages, areas that support higher density than single-family neighborhoods, is seen by many as the only way to support Los Angeles’ growing population without completely clogging the region’s transportation corridors. Downtown is currently in the midst of a development boom where the number of residences is likely to triple in the next five years. The hope is that more people will decide there’s a benefit to living close to their job as downtown becomes a more lively area. Ovrom said that parts of the Valley are ripe for similar, higher-density development. North Hollywood, Panorama City, Canoga Park and Reseda all have under-utilized commercial corridors that could support residential development, he said. The mayor has also said the Orange Line route is a perfect location for commercial and residential development. The proposed Las Lomas development, a project by Palmer Investments in Newhall Pass that has failed to receive support from Los Angeles city officials for close to three years, would see thousands of homes built on 555 acres northeast of the Interstate 5 and State Route 14 Interchange. Mitchell Englander, chief of staff for Councilman Greig Smith, reiterated the councilman’s opposition to the project, however. “We’re looking at upwards of nearly 6,000 homes, as much as we need the housing stock, the traffic (would be) horrendous,” Englander said. The city, he added, cannot extend the sewer system to that area and Englander reports that the development would attract enough private businesses to employ 9,000 people are probably incorrect, meaning that most would continue to drive into Los Angeles every day.

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