Urban Planning Management System in Los Angeles: An Overview

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

As the core of Los Angeles County ("the County"), Los Angeles City ("the City") is located along the southern coast of the State of California, United States (U.S.). The City is nearly 470 square miles in land area, and has an irregular shape with the most expansive areas being in the northern portion of the City and tapering down to a strip in the southern portion.

Some of the other cities in the County, such as Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, San Fernando, and Culver City, are surrounded, for the most part, by the City, yet remain as separate and distinct municipalities. Other cities surrounding Los Angeles City include Pasadena, Burbank, Malibu, Torrance, and Long Beach. Figure 1 shows the geographic setting of Los Angeles City (white shaded area) and County.

Los Angeles City is the second largest city in the U.S., only second to New York City, whereas Los Angeles County is the nation's most populous county with a population exceeding 10 million. With total of 88 incorporated cities (the largest one is Los Angeles City) plus the unincorporated areas, Los Angeles County is also known for its urban sprawl, traffic congestion, air pollution, and, of course, highly fragmented political and economic structure (Hubler and Meek, 2005). Table 1 shows the profiles of Los Angeles City and County.

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According to the figures compiled by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, if Los Angeles County, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $389.72 billion in 2001, were a separate nation, it would rank the 14th in the world, larger than that of either the Netherlands, Australia, Russia, Taiwan, or Argentina, and Switzerland.

As a cosmopolitan city in America, Los Angeles has a very complicated urban planning management system definitely worth further researching. The need for planning becomes obvious due to the City's interconnectedness and complexity (Levy, 2003). This urban planning management system has been playing an important role in charting the City's development course and shaping its future growth. To learn more about American cities, it is necessary to start with Los Angeles first. This paper intends to give an overview of this great city's urban planning management system, on which a thorough yet concise evaluation will be conducted. Through empirical research, a summary of key findings will be provided in the concluding section.

2. Definition of Urban Planning Management System

In this research, the so-called urban planning management system is defined as a system encompassing all means, methods, and tools to realize goals set by city general plans (Hu, 2000). As shown in Figure 2, this system includes the following four subsystems:

* Planning Management Institutional Subsystem: planning departments, city governments, which carry out urban planning duties and provide institutional protection;

* Planning Management Legal Subsystem: planning laws, regulations, and ordinances, which provide legal support to urban planning process;

* Planning Management Operational Subsystem: urban planning process itself, which is the core of the entire urban planning management system; and

* Planning Management Technical Subsystem: planning outcome, including plans, zoning ordinances, and subdivision maps, which provide technical support to future plan preparation and amendment.

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For any particular city, its urban planning management system is constrained by its unique political, socio-economic, and other factors.

3. Urban Planning Management System in Los Angeles

This section introduces the four planning-related subsystems in Los Angeles.

3.1 Planning Management Institutional Subsystem

The City of Los Angeles has a typical "strong mayor" governing structure, namely mayor-council structure, as illustrated in Figure 3. Subject to the concurrence from the city council, mayor can appoint any government chiefs, including the Director of Planning, who heads the City Planning Department. …