La design guidelines ppd 619 team 6 paper with appendix


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This paper proposes revisions to the Los Angeles Citywide Commercial Design Guidelines. It was developed for USC Course 619, Smart Growth and Urban Sprawl

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La design guidelines ppd 619 team 6 paper with appendix

  1. 1. Citywide Commercial Design GuidelinesPPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlUSC Spring Semester 2012Project Group #6: Sandy Mendler Ruby Chong Muriel Skaf Jay LeeIntroductionThe Citywide Design Guidelines for Pedestrian Oriented / Commercial & Mixed Use Projects is adocument that was developed to support the implementation of the Los Angeles General PlanFramework Element. The Commercial Guidelines, together with similar documents to addressmulti-family residential and industrial uses, will establish and communicate design expectationsfor new development based on citywide goals and urban design best practices as representedby the “Ten Principles of Urban Design.” The guidelines expand on the issues presented inchapter 5 (Urban Form) of the Framework Plan, with a particular focus on improvingstreetscapes and walkability. The staff report notes that the guidelines “will illustrate ways forindividual projects to promote walkability, maintain neighborhood form and character, andpromote creative development solutions that balance existing neighborhood character andimprove the streetscape experiencei.”This paper provides a high level overview of the Citywide Commercial Design Guidelines, thebackground issues that led to their creation, and the method of implementation that is currentlyemployed. This introduction will be followed by brief discussion of other design guidancedocuments that relate to the issues of pedestrian-oriented development and sustainable design,and a series of recommendations including the following: • Recommendation #1: A Refined Review Process and the Technical Advisory Committee • Recommendation #2: Develop mandatory pedestrian-oriented street standards to complement and support design guidelines • Recommendation #3: Incentives linking Transit and Good Design Goals • Recommendation #4: Expedite Implementation of Form Based Codes as a Tool for Simplifying Code and Design Review Compliance • Recommendation #5: Incorporate Design Guidelines for Photovoltaics
  2. 2. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, LeeBackgroundIn 1974, the city adopted a general planning, called Concept Los Angeles, to provide a long termplan to manage growth. The central theme of Concept Los Angeles was to preserve single-family neighborhoods by directing growth into a series of more dense “centers.” In the late1980s, the city imposed development standards on commercial corner developments and mini-shopping centers that were intended to improve the quality of commercial development and toprotect adjacent residential uses. The General Plan Framework that was approved in 1996 andagain in 2001 provided general design guidance but did not replace the earlier design standardson commercial corner developments and mini-shopping centers, which are outlined in the LosAngeles Municipal Code Sections 12.22-A, 23 and 12.24-W, 27.The Framework Element approved in 1996 and again in 2001, refines previously adopted Citypolicy and provides a much needed update to Concept Los Angeles. While the currentFramework Plan is similar, in that it is based on “conservancy areas” that are protected fromdevelopment and “targeted growth” areas for development, the process is different. TheFramework Plan very intentionally puts detailed decision making in the hands of theneighborhood groups, defining citywide policies that will be implemented through subsequentamendments of the Citys community plans, zoning ordinances, and other pertinent programsii. In 2008, in an effort to simplify its zoning ordinance, the Los Angeles Department of CityPlanning (LADCP) launched an initiative to rewrite selected portions of the code. Part of thiseffort was to conduct nine code studies, one of which identified a number of issues regardingthe City’s existing commercial development standards. The following concerns were raised: 1. Inefficiency: all projects that deviate from the ordinance’s basic development standards must file for a conditional use permit, with a mandatory public hearing 2. Limited scope: development standards only apply to a “commercial corner development” or a “mini-shopping center” 3. Lack of neighborhood protection: residential neighborhoods that aren’t located next to a commercial corner development or a mini-shopping center have no protection from commercial usesIn response to these findings, LADCP authorized development of commercial citywide designguidelines that are “broadly applicable, broadly enforceable, and more detailediii.” LADCP hasalso decided to “recommend a streamlined procedure to review requests that deviate fromthese guidelines… and study approaches to better protect residential neighborhoods fromincompatible usesiv. Both the staff recommended alternative land use plan and CEQA documentwere certified and adopted in July 2009. Page 2 of 10
  3. 3. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, LeeImplementation ProcessThe proposed design guidelines have no affect on “by-right” projects; they apply only to newdevelopments and significant building alterations that require discretionary approval. Even inthe case of discretionary review, the guidelines are merely performance goals and not zoningregulations or development standards. Therefore, the applicability of the guidelines is flexible.Projects that deviate from the guidelines do not need to file for a conditional use permit.Instead, applications that deviate must justify the proposed design by explaining how it complieswith the guidelines, General Plan, and Municipal Code. Recommendation #1: A Refined Review Process and the Technical Advisory Committee It is extremely difficult to implement design guidelines because they are suggestions, not requirements. Design guidelines must be implemented on a case-by-case basis and project compliance is determined by the discretion of LADCP staff. One set of projects is not being influenced at all, and the other set of projects must submit to an unpredictable and subjective review process. Instead, the guidelines should outline a specific methodology for all projects that will bring a consistent, yet efficient consideration of site conditions and circumstances to the design review process. Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh and Associates, a planning consultant firm based in Atlanta, Georgia, has outlines a streamlined administrative process to accomplish this goal. The proposed “Administrative Process” creates a new type of permit that allows variations that are consistent with the code’s intent, and includes review by a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) comprised of architects, developers, business owners, landscape architects, planners, and residents. It would provide much-needed technical assistance to planners that may not have professional training in design principles and tools, and make recommendations to the permitting authority to help determine whether projects are in compliance. The City of Los Angeles is already attempting to develop a similar process with The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Another important function of the TAC would be to review the design guidelines on an annual or biannual basis to provide for continuous improvement through a formalized process. Furthermore, this would allow for the guidelines to be refined over time as they are implemented and field-tested. Therefore, the guidelines would be a living, not static document and adapt to changing circumstances and community desires. This approach could be justified under P67, in the implementation portion of the Framework Plan, which calls for creation of an “expedited development processes and permitting assistance measuresv.” Page 3 of 10
  4. 4. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, LeeRelationship to Other Ordinances and GuidelinesWhile the Commercial Design Guidelines are not mandatory but rather serve as guidance orrecommendations, it is particularly interesting to study the relationship they have with otheroverlapping adopted and/or proposed ordinances in the Los Angeles Municipal Code.The Importance of Pedestrian-Oriented SpaceThe General Plan Framework Element is a strategy for long-term growth that responds to Stateand Federal mandates to plan for the future. In planning for the future, the city used populationforecasts provided by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), whichprojected over 20% growth between 1990 and 2010vi. Should the City continue to grow, theElement provides a means for accommodating new population and employment in a mannerwhich enhances rather than degrades the environment.The challenge is that the City of Los Angeles has insufficient vacant land to accommodate theforecast population increases, which means that reuse and intensification of existing developedproperties is required. Unless carefully planned, future growth could significantly alter thecharacter of many neighborhoods and districts. The growth strategy underscores theimportance of developing successful urban neighborhoods that can attract the demographicseeking an urban lifestyle, and also support the growing transportation network with sufficientdensity.With a diverse population and pervasive suburban sprawl, there are differences of opinionwithin the city on the benefits of more “urban” pedestrian-oriented strategies, versus more“suburban” auto-oriented strategies. The staff report for the Commercial Guidelines spoke tothis. For example, the Studio City Neighborhood Council indicated a preference for parking lotsfronting major streets, and felt that designs favoring consistent street walls were characteristicof older, and less desirable urban neighborhoodsvii. The locally driven process behind theFramework Element is intended to give voice to this diversity of opinion by offeringneighborhood control. Planner Michelle Levy offered that the city is planning to encouragepedestrian-oriented design on all projects with the understanding that some parts of the citythat are more auto-oriented will only implement a portion of the recommendations. Ratherthan forcing compliance, the city prefers to allow neighborhood flexibility.Walkability Checklist and Living Street PlanThe Los Angeles Walkability Checklist served as a primary resource and point of departure forthe Commercial Pedestrian-Oriented Design Guidelinesviii. It provides a check list ofrecommended strategies to improve the pedestrian environment in public right-of-ways and onprivate property. The implementation strategies represent best practices for: sidewalks,crosswalks and street crossings, on-street parking, utilities, building orientation, off-street Page 4 of 10
  5. 5. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, Leeparking and driveways, landscaping, and building facades. Compliance with the checklist isvoluntary as it is neither a requirement, nor part of the zoning code, however it has served as aresource for projects that require design review. By incorporating the pedestrian designconcepts in the Commercial Guidelines the City has created a mechanism for elevating theissues in the design review process. City planners are also hopeful that the communities thathave not yet adopted a community specific plan will use the Commercial Guidelines as atemplate that can be used to begin the process of specific planning.Another tool the County has invested in is the Living Street Plan, a model street design manualwhich focuses on strategies to safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and othervehicles. Along with basic principles, the manual incorporates strategies to create beautiful,active, economically vibrant, and sustainable streets to enhance the community aestheticallyand environmentally.ix The Manual for Living Streets specifies detailed design standardsincluding road patterns and sidewalk widths. While the “Commercial Citywide DesignGuidelines” addresses similar strategies, it differs by encouraging building related issues thattrigger concerns about density in addition to issues related to the public realm. Recommendation #2: Develop mandatory pedestrian-oriented street standards to complement and support design guidelines The San Francisco Better Streets Plan is a good example of a pedestrian-oriented street design standard that has been adopted by the city as a mandatory requirement. The San Francisco Plan addresses all street types with standards that are pedestrian- and transit- oriented, ecologically high-performance and balance the needs of all of the City’s users. The highly detailed plan was developed with extensive research into best practices in street and streetscape design management from peer cities, prior to developing a street typology matrix to categorize 12 primary street typess based on factors that affect the pedestrian realm, including adjacent land use character and scale, transportation context, and existing and recommended geometries, amenities, and ecological characteristics and opportunities. Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced legislation in September 2010 to adopt the Better Streets Plan into the Municipal Code and General Plan. In 2011, the Better Streets Plan received a CNU Charter Award and an APA California Northern Chapter Best Practices Award.TOD overlays – Project RENEWAs part of the project RENEW endeavors, The Department of City Planning (DCP) in the City ofLos Angeles is partnering with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to exploreways that Transit Oriented Development (TOD) overlays can provide positive health outcomes,and reduce obesity by improving walkability around transit stops in South Los Angelesx. Many ofthis initiative’s proposals overlap with those of the citywide commercial design guidelines. TODoverlays would “complement the existing character of neighborhoods while maximizing the Page 5 of 10
  6. 6. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, Leehousing and retail potential of nearby transit stationsxi.” They also include sustainability andarchitecture standards, with a form-based approach to the building envelope. The TOD planswill trigger the use of the commercial design guidelines, because use of density bonuses and useof structured incentives (density bonuses and parking reductions). The use of the guidelines iswell aligned with the goals of TOD, as the commercial design guidelines aim at nurturingneighborhood characters while developing inviting and accessible areas. That said, theguidelines could benefit from additional implementation tools that would provide greatersupport project for RENEW’s regulatory schemes. Recommendation #3: Incentives linking Transit and Good Design Goals The second recommendation centers on encouraging more “by-right” development projects to engage in the discretionary review process that triggers incorporation of the design guidelines into their projects. The City of Los Angeles could provide greater incentives for applicants to propose projects with higher density at current and future transit sites with tax breaks, density and FAR allowances, transfer of density and FAR, increased use of maximum parking ratios, commercial allowances, and other tools commonly used in incentive zoning and historic preservation. This would meet both goals of supporting use of the design guidelines and making transit more viable with increased densities.Code Simplification and Form based codesThe Department of City Planning is currently undergoing efforts at code simplification.According to Eric Lopez, planner at the Department of City planning (DCP) in Los Angeles, 40% ofthe city is under governed by stringent specific plans. The remaining 60% are distributedbetween specific use districts, Community Plan Implementation Overlays (CPIOs), RiverImprovement Overlay, etc. Project RENEW would add TOD overlays to that conundrum.According to Michelle Levy, another planner at DCP, the design guidelines would be used inthose ‘unincorporated’ territories not covered by overlays, CPIOs and specific plans.In addition, there has been mention of moving the Zoning Code to a more hybrid, if not form-based model. If this happens, what would the future of the design guidelines be? In apresentation he gave for an urban planning seminar course on smart growth, Eric Lopezdiscussed the possibility of a “modular” code for the city of Los Angeles, where the city would besplit in Uses, Functions and Orientations (what he calls UFO). Such an approach could be used tofully embed all of the design guidelines into an integrated tool, eliminating the need for aseparate design guidance document. Planner Michelle Levy sees the guidelines as a usefultransition tool. According to her, moving to form-based codes will happen, at best, in 5 years. Inthe mean time, the citywide design guidelines may be the most convenient measure to use inpreparation of such a move in the planning department. Page 6 of 10
  7. 7. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, Lee Recommendation #4: Expedite Implementation of Form Based Codes as a Tool for Simplifying Code and Design Review Compliance The numerous planning regulatory regimes in Los Angeles – Green Building Ordinance, TOD Overlays, CPIOs, design guidelines, etc. – all pertain to the same objectives. Each of them works to create sustainable, healthy and vibrant communities; however, the multiplicity of regimes is detrimental in terms of financing and bureaucracy for developers, residents, planners and officials. The use of a form-based zoning code for streamlined review and approval under multiple ordinances is rapidly gaining popularity, as it promises to remove lengthy bureaucratic procedures and redundancy in the planning realm. This approach should be supported and fast tracked.Green Building OrdinanceOn earth day 2008, Mayor Villaraigosa signed the Green Building Ordinance, an ordinance thatwould create series of aggressive requirements and incentives for developers to meet the USGreen Building Council’s Energy and Design (LEED) standardsxii. Later on in December 2010, theordinance was modified to realign itself with CalGreen requirements rather than LEEDstandardsxiii. Included in the incentives the developers receive is expedited processing ofdiscretionary entitlements, provided the project abides by the full requirements mandated bythe ordinance.While the ordinance tackles the overall performance of the building(s), the design guidelinesgovern sustainability measures that relate to building form and site design. For example, theguidelines encourage installing bicycle racks and lockers within existing and planned bike routes,installing overhangs to reduce daytime heat gain, using white or reflective paint on rooftops andlight porous paving materials, planting street trees, limiting irrigation needs by selecting nativeplants, orienting open spaces to the sun and views, etc.Both the design guidelines and the green building ordinance work well hand-in-hand to ensure amore sustainable built environment. While the Green Building Ordinance has more legislativeweight, ensuring that sustainable technology standards are met, the passive measures that thedesign guidelines suggest remain basic suggestions. Recommendation #5: Incorporate Design Guidelines for Photovoltaics Active sustainable technologies could be integrated into the design framework for commercial buildings, to complement the passive sustainable building strategies currently in the Guidelines. Active technologies can include the design of photovoltaics on the building’s roof to genearate renewable energy while also reducing the urban heat island effect. According to the Solar Energy System Guidelines of Santa Barbara, there are various design Page 7 of 10
  8. 8. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, Lee guidelines focused on the different features of photovoltaic systems including the size, location, and arrangementxiv. Incorporating the following strategies into the existing Guidelines can further encourage a sustainable built environment while also educating the community and creating environmental, economic, and social benefits. 1. System Size: a. The system should not be overly publicly visible or larger than necessary to fulfill the building’s electricity needs. 2. Location: a. System should be located on the south side of the site for maximum benefits of solar gain. However if this results in a visible disturbance in the building’s design, then benefits can still be achieved by placing the system on the west or east side of the site. b. System should be placed at the rear façade of a building and only mounted on the roof. 3. Arrangement and Design: a. Solar panels should complement the overall design of the building. The shape and proportions of the panel system should match the shape and proportions of the roof. b. Cover the entire surface of the roof with an array of panels or create a rectangle shape system rather than an irregular shape that is less attractive. c. Avoid creating an interrupted array of panels or breaking it into multiple patches throughout the roof. d. Coordinate or at least compliment the panel color with the roof and building color.ConclusionThrough the design of buildings, the “Commercial Citywide Design Guidelines” provides detailedprinciples and strategies to enhance the urban environment. Addressing architectural elementsfrom façade design and signage to landscape, the Guidelines support the General PlanFramework’s focus on creating a unified sense of community for the City of Los Angeles.Incorporating the theories of Smart Growth, these guidelines emphasize the opportunities foropen public spaces, pedestrian activity, and mass transit. The guidelines also include strategiesto improve safety and design approaches to serve as marketing tactics to enhance the overallbuilt environment as well as the economy of a city like Los Angeles. However this Plan, whichwas established in May 2011, can be improved. Questions also remain about the structure ofthe guidelines. Is it good policy for the city to encourage neighborhoods to createalternate design guidelines? Is this needed given how the guidelines focus on issues ofbasic quality and public safety? Page 8 of 10
  9. 9. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, LeeAppendix:PROPOSED REVISIONS TO STAFF REPORT FROM TEAM 6, USC SMART GROWTH AND URBANSPRAWL CLASS 619PROJECT LOCATION: CitywidePROPOSED PROJECT: NO DEVELOPMENT PROJECT IS PROPOSED; REVISIONS TO CITYWIDEDESIGN GUIDELINES PROPOSEDThe adoption of Citywide Design Guidelines by the City Planning Commission is proposed forMultifamily Residential, Mixed-Use, Commercial, and Industrial projects, as an Appendix to theGeneral Plan Framework Element. The purpose of the Design Guidelines is twofoldthreefold:1.)to implement the health and safety related design values in the Ten Principles of UrbanDesign, a part of the Framework Element, on individualbroadly on all projects; and to2.) toconsolidate basic design guidelines that are qualitative in nature, in a format that will becommon throughout most Community Plans in one document, allowing individual NewCommunity Plans to address issues of building density and form in tailored, neighborhood-specific design guidelines; and 3.) to pilot new implementation strategies that enhance andstreamline the review process, engage expertise from the professional design community in anadvisory capacity, and provide additional incentives that support Smart Growth. The EnhancedDesign Guidelines will establish design expectations for new development based on Citywidegoals, policies and objectives while aligning with other approved city plans focused on TOD andSustainable Design. . The Both the Design Guidelines and the Design Standards will illustrateways for individual projects to promote walkability, maintain neighborhood form and character,and promote creative development solutions that balance existing neighborhood character andimprove the streetscape experience. The Enhanced Design Guidelines will apply to all newdevelopment proposals and substantial building alterations requiring discretionary approvalsfrom the Department of City Planning. As well, they may also be used by staff in otherDepartments or community members for advisory review of new development applications. Theproposed Pedestrian-Oriented Streetscape Standards will elevate the streetscape designconcepts previously included in the design guidelines to a mandatory design standard,enhancing health and safety in all new construction and significant renovation projects.REQUESTED ACTION: Adoption of the Enhanced Citywide Design Guidelines, and newStreetscape Design Standards by the City Planning Commission as an Appendix to the GeneralPlan Framework Element to implement the Ten Principles of Urban Design, under the authoritypursuant to LAMC Section 11.5.4. The Enhanced Citywide Guidelines and Standards are animplementation tool as allowed and derived from the General Plan Framework. They are toenforce health and safety in urbanized commercial districts, while assisting in developingcontext-sensitive guidelines as part of the locally prepared plans that align with city plansfocused on TOD and Sustainable Design. Page 9 of 10
  10. 10. PPD 619: Smart Growth and Urban SprawlGroup #6: Mendler, Chong, Skaf, LeeRECOMMENDED ACTIONS:1. Approve the Negative Declaration as the environmental clearance on the subject.2. Adopt the attached Findings as part of this project.3. Adopt Citywide Pedestrian-Oriented Streetscape Standards as an Appendix to the FrameworkElement of the General Plan4. Adopt the Enhanced Adopt the Citywide Design Guidelines as an Appendix to the FrameworkElement of the General PlanEndnotes:i From the executive summary of the LA Citywide General Plan Framework, LA Department of Planning,for more info see: Ibidiii See Directors Report on Code Simplification dated September 11, 2008.iv Ibidv See for more information onFramework Implementation. P67: Create expedited development processes and permitting assistancemeasures that: • Are consistent with the policies and standards of the General Plan Framework Element; • Assign a planning staff person to take projects through the City approval process for development projects located in a centers, district, or mixed-use boulevard or on a transit corridor; • Streamline the impact analysis requirements for new development applications; • Create public service centers which cluster departments that provide public services (i.e. water/power, planning, zoning, building and safety, etc.). Locate service centers throughout the City; and • Improve the permitting center to facilitate the application process for and the issuance of all City-required development It is interesting to note that the projected population increases to 2010 did not materialize, with actualgrowth less than 10%. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places Over100,000, Ranked by July 1, 2009 Population: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009"vii th From the Department of City Planning, Recommendation Report, dated June 9 , 2011.viii Based on interview with planner, Michelle Levy, April 11, 2012.ix "Model Design Manual for Living Streets." Los Angeles County, May 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2012.<htt>x For more information on project RENEW, refer to: LA DCP/LA County Health Project RENEW Team Staff Report (March 2012)xii City of Los Angeles, Ordinance No. 179820 “Green Building Program”, Effective November 1, 2008(Council File # 07-0705)xiii Refer to the new ordinance: City of Los Angeles, Ordinance No. 181479, Effective January 1, 2011(Council File # 10-0735)xiv "Solar Energy System Design Guidelines & Solar Recognition Program." Community DevelopmentDepartment and the City of Santa Barbara, Dec. 2006. Web. 17 Apr. 2012.<>. Page 10 of 10