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GENERAL PLANNING DEPARTMENT INFORMATION
 
HISTORY
   The City Council originally established the City Planning Department by ordinance, adopted on April 9, 1920. The Department included a Commission of 51 members, serving without salary, and one paid secretary. At that time, the City had an area of 364 square miles and a population of 576,000. In 1925, when the citizens adopted the original City Charter, the City Planning Commission, together with all other Commissions of City Government, was changed to five members. The new City Charter adopted in June of 1999, operative in July 2000, expanded the City Planning Commission to nine members. The new City Charter also created seven area planning commissions each covering different areas of the City.
   Over the years, the Department has grown to a total of over 260 staff members. During this same period, the City has grown to an area of 467 square miles with a population of about 3.9 million people.
FUNCTIONS
   The Department is charged with the responsibility of preparing, maintaining and implementing a General Plan for the development of the City. The General Plan consists of the Framework Element, which provides overall guidance for the future of the City, various other citywide elements including the state-mandated elements such as the Transportation, Open Space and the Land Use among others. The Land Use Element is largely made up of the community plans that fall for a range of allowable land uses and intensities of uses as well as other matters relating to the use of land unique to each of the City’s many communities. The Department periodically updates these plans as needed.
   The Planning Department implements the General Plan utilizing a variety of tools, mainly through the application of zoning regulations and the division of land into separate parcels. Traditional zones, specific plans, overlay districts, special use permits, such as conditional uses, and a variety of other instruments all regulate the use of land. The zoning portion of the Municipal Code, specific plans and other regulatory tools establish development standards applicable to matters such as heights of structures, setbacks, lot coverage, open space, parking, design and the like. Those seeking relief from the strict application of these regulations, apply to the Department, which can grant that relief, when justified, through use of variances or other similar tools tailored for specific purposes. The Department of City Planning in conjunction with other City Agencies regulates the division of land into separate lots in accordance with the State Subdivision Map Act. The Department also reports on the acquisition or development of land for public use.
ORGANIZATION
   The CITY PLANNING COMMISSION is composed of nine private citizens who serve without salary, except for a small attendance fee. The Planning Commission is responsible for giving advice and making recommendations to the Mayor, Council, Director of Planning, and other City departments and agencies with respect to zoning ordinances, amendments to the General Plan and related activities, including legislation. The Commission studies planning policy matter and makes reports and recommendations to other governmental officers or agencies as may be necessary to implement and secure compliance with the General Plan; and performs other functions prescribed by the Charter or ordinance. The Commission holds public hearings to hear evidence that forms the basis of its decisions.
   The AREA PLANNING COMMISSIONS each consist of five private citizens who serve without salary, except for a small attendance fee. These commissions largely serve as appeals boards for actions taken by the Department or the Zoning Administrator on such matters as, conditional uses and variances. When authorized to do so by ordinance, the Area Planning Commissions also act as original decision makers on some zoning matters and advise the City Planning Commission and the Department on changes to the General Plan affecting their geographical areas. The Commission holds public hearings to hear evidence that forms the basis of its decisions.
   The DIRECTOR OF PLANNING is the chief administrative officer of the Department and is responsible for the appointment and removal of all employees, annual departmental budget preparation and the expenditure of funds. The Director is responsible for preparing the General Plan of the City and amendments to the General Plan; all zoning and other land use regulations and requirements, including maps of all districts and zones; investigating and acting on the design and improvement of all subdivisions of land as the advisory agency under the State Subdivision Map Act; and having those additional powers and duties as provided by ordinance. The Director is assisted by three Deputy Directors who take responsibility for overseeing the various operations of the Planning Department. The professional staff is grouped functionally into the following divisions:
   a.   Three COMMUNITY PLANNING DIVISIONS; the Valley, West/Coastal and Metro community planning divisions; prepare and revise plans for various sections of the City and recommend changes in zoning, site plan review applications and other matters involving specific plans and other special zoning tools to the Area and City Planning Commissions and the City Council.
   b.   The DEPARTMENT SYSTEMS AND GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEM (GIS) DIVISION is responsible for the orderly development and coordination of automated equipment and systems applications. The division is responsible for developing and maintaining the City’s Zoning Map Automation System (ZMAS) and the Department’s case tracking system as well as providing systems and GIS support to the Department.
   c.   The CITYWIDE PLANNING DIVISION prepares and revises the citywide elements of the General Plan and is responsible for the Department’s Annual Report on growth and infrastructure.
   d.   The OFFICE OF ZONING ADMINISTRATION is responsible for investigating and making determinations on all applications for variances from zoning ordinances, many conditional uses and other special zoning permits. A determination made by a Zoning Administrator is final unless appealed. Another function of the Office of Zoning Administration is performed within the Code Studies Section which is responsible for conducting comprehensive studies resulting in amendments to the Planning and Zoning Code. The Office includes the Division of Land, which administers the State Subdivision Map Act including the processing of applications for tract and parcel maps as well as other related minor procedures. The Department’s environmental review function for private applications is also located in this division. The division also operates the public office located at 201 North Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles.
   e.   The ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES DIVISION is responsible for the administrative management of the Department – handling its accounting, personnel, and supply needs; providing its general graphics, drafting and clerical services; assisting the Director of Planning in preparing the Department’s annual budget requests and providing management information services.
PROCEDURES
   Requests for action by the Department of City Planning are made in the form of applications filed at the Department’s two public offices. At the time an application is filed and accepted, a fee must be paid by the applicant dependent on the type of action requested and in accordance with current fee schedules established by the City Council. Cases are usually set for hearing before a Zoning Administrator, hearing officer or one of the Planning Commissions. A recommendation to a Planning Commission or a decision is rendered and distributed.
APPEALS
   In many instances, applicants or persons aggrieved by a decision may appeal that action. On matters acted upon by the City Planning Commission, an appeal may be made to the City Council. On matters acted upon by a Zoning Administrator or the Director of Planning, an appeal may be made to Area Planning Commissions or City Planning Commission as prescribed by law and, thereafter, in certain cases, to the City Council. Details on these and other appealable decisions can be obtained from a Department office. For an appeal, the appellant must file an appeal, together with the appropriate fee imposed by ordinance, at the Department’s public counters.