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Michael LoGrande, Planning Director — Hold Him to His Words or Pay the Price

Los Angeles — the city of sprawl and no planning or bad planning — long ago became a city of limits, a city that had filled its vast open spaces with homes, businesses and factories and wore out its infranstructure.

Smart growth became a necessity a quarter century ago, yet the city continued to regard every project on a case by case basis where political influence played a more important role than the value of projects to the quality of the city’s life and economy, much to the displeasure of many.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press conference Monday and spoke directly to these concerns, promising — as ke did five years ago — a new era in city planning that respected the neighborhoods while expediting developments that meet the highest standards.

The occasion then was the appointment Gail Goldberg as planning director, a position she surrendered weary from the endless battles with the mayor’s staff..

Monday’s news conference, heavily attended by pro-development interests and a handful of reporters, was to announce his appointment of Michael LoGrande as her successor as LA City Planning Director.

Many planning experts and current and former city planners question LoGrande’s qualifications since he is not a certified planner and has worked in various roles in city planning for barely a dozen years. They also questions his work ethic and his commitment to smart growth and full, open and inclusive processes in all aspects for city planning.

Here’s everything he had to say at today’s press conference:

Here’s the mayor’s announcement where he makes a commitment to smart growth:

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32 Responses to Michael LoGrande, Planning Director — Hold Him to His Words or Pay the Price

  1. Anonymous says:

    Michael Lo Grande is worse than Gail Goldberg. He was chosen for one reason, and one reason only: He will not assert himself with a vision for the City. Instead, he will be a Good Soldier for the same wealthy developers who have F***** the City over for years.
    God help us.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So after they have followed the mob, plowed the earth, built the rail (subway or light), and then the many towers to the sky, what will be left?
    Lucille Saunders
    “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,”
    lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney (1931)
    They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
    When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
    They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
    Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?
    Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
    Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
    Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
    Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

  3. lucille Saunders says:

    So after they have followed the mob, plowed the earth, built the rail (subway or light), and then the many towers to the sky, what will be left?
    Lucille Saunders
    “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,”
    lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney (1931)
    They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
    When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
    They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
    Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?
    Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
    Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
    Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
    Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is interesting to see the audience: Bill Roschen, the Chair of the City Planning Commission who has such huge conflicts of interest that the Ethics Commission has to be asleep at the wheel; Mike Woo, another City Planning Commissioner who lives in a nice single family dwelling up in the hills in Silver Lake, but wants all the peasants to live in high density cubby holes without any parking. This man is such a hypocrite that for the Commission retreat, he chose SCI-ARC, because it had ample parking. It is on a commission audio tape if anyone cares to hear. Cindy Starret of Latham and Watkins who put up signs at Dodger Stadium without proper permits which her buddy Michael approved, and let’s not forget the AEG signage where Michael gave the BS that they were allowed. So forth & so forth. It is a new era in LA. The Developer’s era.

  5. Lots of buzz words. But when the mayor mentioned revenue, that is the clue to watch out. City Hall is for sale.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone else noticed the city is going bankrupt but the only flourishing dept. is planning? There is so much development going on all over the city. Meaning more and more people are moving into Los Angeles but the city is near broke and no services. Everything going on inside city hall is about developers helping the politicians. They are in full force campaign mode now because of LA Clean Sweep. Ron got them up off their asses to start campaigning early because they know there is a movement to get rid of them and their corruption

  7. KS says:

    Sorry… laughing too much… now crying.
    We’re hosed, and I’m sick of this sh*t.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think it was Walter or someone who posted here about the failure of the Mayor’s gang programs. today Wendy will say “”Villaraigosa’s $26-million-a-year Gang Reduction and Youth Development office has, along with the nonprofit Urban Institute, spent more than a half million dollars to evaluate itself but so far has nothing to show for it.”"”"
    UNBELIEVABLE*)(*(&^^%%^%&^*. That much money going to help gangsters and they don’t have a piece of paper to show it has been working. We have said it all along gangsters never change their spots. City Hall is BROKEN, FAILED, STUPID, INCOMPETENT..WE need to do what the City of Bell has done.

  9. Kent Dorfman says:

    The fact of the matter is whoever the Director of Planning is not much will change. As long as the City Council and Mayor are in the pockets of developers like so many nickels and dimes, nothing will change, business as usual.
    Also, being a “Certified” planner really is a meaningless title. AICP is for butt kissers anyway not like a being a certified engineer or AIA.
    As The Who sung in Won’t Get Fooled Again” –Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Learn’t a new planning word from Ed Reyes “Business Friendly” Community Plans. In other words up zone the whole damn city. This is the High Priest who performs the weekly charade at PLUM. Citizens show up from all over the city to have their voice heard. Waste of time. PLUM is a meaningless committee that provides cover for the Councilperson in whose district the project is located.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Have to agree with 9:43, that AICP is a meaningless title. However, a Director is expected to be educated in the Planning field or at least be well educated with a Masters from a reputable university. LoGrande’s qualifications are best suited for a manager of a used car lot or a retail store, or a Councilman’s Planning Deputy.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well, it is a retail operation.
    You put your money in the machine at the top in slot marked “Campaign Contributions”, select the variances needed to create your fictional jobs, determine if your project is within a five mile walking distance to a rail or subway station, deduct two floors of parking spaces for Mike Woo (to create a parking crisis and force other people out of their cars), and Voila! Your overly dense piece of shit building will be constructed while pushing more middle class people out of the City.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Or the mixed-use building with 400 units minus parking and 2,000 sq.ft. of retail space, or “elegant” or “smart” growth, same thing. DENSITY with cute titles to fool the public they are getting some “special” growth vs just plain old density.

  14. KS says:

    12:35 – brilliant.

  15. Anonymous says:

    They are just so full of it. The only thing that has changed is that Antonio now has one more flunky in place to do his bidding. No matter what they both say about “planning” it will continue to be the same practices as before. The community wastes its time in fighting a project, and the project still gets built the way the developer wants it. The Council Member gives lip service to the community, and the project still gets built the way the developer wants it.
    This doesn’t mean we give up – it just means we gotta sweep them away one at a time with that broom.

  16. Anonymous says:

    “A smattering of reaction to the mayor’s selection of zoning administrator Michael LoGrande as city planning director. DN, CityWatch”, so said Kevin Roderick with no mention of “Ron Kaye”, where the real stories are being told. No one wants to hear them, cause truth is too stark for them to handle, and it would upset the political establishment. By the way, Google does a better job than that site.
    It lead me to an article by Stephen Box on Planning —-”City Planning will simply become a higher volume “Department of Yes! The ability to say “No!” is as important as the ability to say “Yes!” and the community must fight for a City Planning Director who gets the title and the authority that must come with it or we are simply engaged in the process of selecting a spokesmodel for City Planning”.
    Either Box is planning on becoming a lecturer in Urban Studies with an utopion vision of planning or he is serious about running for CD4. If the latter, the man had better do a quick study in realpolitik, and quit writing these gratiuous nerve grating articles. Does it occur to him that Labonge was the first Councilman to jump on LaGrande’s bandwagon. Why? Does he even understand that planners who say “no” are hauled in by the Mayor’s office to change their recommendations and their careers ruined. Does he even understand what is going on here. That pro-development players have been placed in key roles: Chris Essel at the CRA; Bud Ovram, head of Bluiding & Safety; LoGrande, head of Planning; Ed Reyes, head of PLUM, and ofcourse the Mayor. It is a closely knit community with a single goal; to repay the moneys collected from developers and screw the communities.
    Already Neighborhood Councils are inviting the new Director to speak to their congregations, like it makes a damn difference. He will read from a prepared script with the right buzz words, after all, he learned from the master of BS, Gail Goldberg, and they will be content. Noone has the time to actually follow the real planning BS that goes on.
    However, we expect more astuteness and political savvy from our prospective candidates supported by Clean Sweep LA. I think Box is a great candidate, but he needs to get his head out of the clouds and into the muck at City Hall. Otherwise, he can keep fighting for his “sharrows” or “sparrows”.

  17. Art Vindelay says:

    Like 9:43 said all AICP is only for cocktail parties and networkers. G. Goldberg? She had no business in LA the 2nd largest city in the US. Where was she from?, a sleepy little border and Navy Town and should not have been here from the get go. She had 4 ½ yrs and not one community plan was updated, I heard the draft Hollywood plan update is like 200 pages, she ignored the case processing section of the department the fee and revenue generating part so bad the nothing could ever get done and the case back log she claimed to fix got worse.
    Heck Goldberg ran the planning department in the ground like the Mayor V. is doing the City.
    Lo Grande is no worst the the previous. As long as real estate and development interest give big $$$ to the Council and Mayor, the planning department will always be an extension of the development community.
    Who are we trying to kid?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Add the City Planning Commission under Bill Roschen to the pro-development players that have been placed in key roles.

  19. Anonymous says:

    LoGrand denies more projects and negotiates for more community benefits than most people I have seen. but then again I am blogging so lets keep making false statements not based in any facts.

  20. Anonymous says:

    10:40 must be LoGrand.

  21. Anonymous says:

    —-”Now is the time to position a Director who will protect the future of Angelenos by developing a shared vision, by updating the General Plan and the Community Plans, and by partnering with the community to protect the quality of life in the neighborhood”, in an article by Stephen Box in Citywatch.
    Sorry to be the second person to pick on you, but we want you to win, and hopefully through you well written articles, we can educate the rest of the community. So the first question is what is wrong with the existing Community Plans? They include the community’s vision for their communities, and if that vision has changed, it needs to be articulated. I think we are all suffering the aftermath of Gail Goldberg’s BS who broadcast to the whole city that the community plans were not predictable and were confusing to the developer and that her new community plans would put an end to discretionary actions.
    The communities were thrilled. To them, it meant that the Planning department would start saying “no” to discretionary actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. The intent then, and now clarified by the Mayor and Ed Reyes for “Business Friendly” Community Plans is to upzone properties to the maximum, so there is no need for discretionary action and no opportunity for communities to provide their input at the hearings. The projects will be by-right.
    To give a good example of the reality, get a copy of the staff report ZA 2009-0534 ZV-SPR, for a property located at 2600 Riverside Drive in CD4 (your area). Space does not permit an in-depth analysis other than the highlights. This site was restricted by the Silver Lake-Echo Park-Elysian Valley Community Plan, adopted as recently as 2004, to a total of 210 dwelling units. There is nothing unpredicatable or confusing here, other than that the developer wants more units than allowed. Typical scenario in LA. The only way this can be done is to get a Plan Amendment and a concurrent Zone Change. This legislative process, however, is costly and time consuming.
    It instead is accomplished through a Zoning Administrator Variance, a quasi-judicial action, an illegal tool to amend a Community Plan, and the developer gets the requested 277 units or 67 units more than allowed. Meanwhile, the horse trails depicted on the Community Plan that should have been required in a discretionary action, were ignored. La Bonge is on record, as quoted in LA Times, that a “Community Plan” is not an ordinance, and as such they were not required. It should be easy to beat this fool, who does not understand the ABCs of planning. To cut a long story short, the way the variance was done was illegal, and if the Santa Monica Conservancy that appealed it on non-provision of the trails and lost, or the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council that opposed the project were to take legal action, this entitlement would be tossed out.
    The public who keep wasting their time and energy fighting such cases usually lose, cause they never seem to understand the intricacies. The developer hires the best land use consultants and the communities have none. Guess on whose side the Councilperson is.
    Anyway, the purpose of this story was that please don’t keep repeating the shit from City Hall. The communities need to be aware of the Community Plan updates, and what they entail. More so now, with the developer’s man at the helm. By the time that 2-story building turns into a 10-story, it will be too late.
    What the communities should be demanding is an Infrastructure Plan that would justify the densities based on it. We do it backwards. Increase the densities and hope the infrastructure supports it.

  22. Anonymous says:

    @3:27. These are on-point comments about the abuse of the existing community plans; there is no provision to amend a community plan through a variance. Especially a zoning variance. Elsewhere I have commented that what drove the 2600 Riverside Drive ill-advised decision was that fact that the property owner lost control of the property when a bunch of folks who live up slope from it purloined pieces of the upper reaches of 2600 Riverside and extended their backyards. Enter the city to help the developer cure his own negligence.
    A plan amendment should have been required.

  23. Anonymous says:

    What made this case even more egregious was the underhanded way it was presented to the community. An existing building was subject to the variance and the new building was by-right. As though, on a tied lot, one portion can be grandfathered in and the other not. It was approved with bogus variance findings for a self-imposed hardship. It was appealed on non-provision of equestrian trails rather than the wrong entitlements. How could the community possible understand these complexities. Instead of being a fair arbiter, the Planning Department showed its bias and disregard for its own Community Plans.

  24. anonymous says:

    Yes, the opposition could have pursued both: failure to follow proper procedure; and failure to comply with the Plan requirements for an equestrian trail. As it was, NO public benefits arose out of this case — not even a nice wide natural path along the full frontage which could have been used by walkers and riders alike. The building would have to be set back more into the hill, hardly an impossible design task.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Moral of this story: The problem is not the Community Plans, but the failure of the Planning Department to follow them, in most instances, from pressure by the Mayor and Council Offices who get fat from developer monies. New “Business Friendly” Community Plans will only worsen the problem and should be rejected outright by the communities.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Moral of this story: The problem is not the Community Plans, but the failure of the Planning Department to follow them, in most instances, from pressure by the Mayor and Council Offices who get fat from developer monies.
    Meanwhile, the new “Business Friendly” Community Plans should be rejected outright by the communities.

  27. MK says:

    3;27 are you Platkin?

  28. Anonymous says:

    Gail Goldberg, now that I no longer work in that shit department.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The above case seems to be about complicity between the developer and the Planning Department, specifically, Zoning Administration under the Chief ZA, LoGrande. Is the City Attorney going to investigate this?

  30. Anonymous says:

    @4:58 The City Attorney will not investigate this nor should he. These kinds of cases are litigated: the opposition files a lawsuit, using improper procedure as the grounds (for example). The City Attorney DEFENDS the city in such a lawsuit. It may sound odd, but it is so.

  31. Anonymous says:

    @4:58 The City Attorney will not investigate this nor should he. These kinds of cases are litigated: the opposition files a lawsuit, using improper procedure as the grounds (for example). The City Attorney DEFENDS the city in such a lawsuit. It may sound odd, but it is so.

  32. Anonymous says:

    The City Attorney, then, is part of the problem and not the solution for malfeasance in City Hall.

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