Wednesday, April 28, 2010

AIA|LA Baseline Hillside Ordinance Working Group Recommendations

April 28, 2010

Honorable William Roschen
and Members of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission
Department of City Planning
City of Los Angeles
200 North Spring Street, Mail Stop 395
Los Angeles, California 90012-2601

Re: Baseline Hillside Ordinance (CPC-2010-581-CA)

Dear Commission President Roschen and Members of the Commission:

AIA|LA Baseline Hillside Ordinance Working Group Recommendations

An informal working group of AIA|LA has reviewed the proposed Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO). The working group substantially agrees with the goals and objectives of the proposed ordinance. In particular the working group supports the following provisions:

• Reducing allowed Residential Floor Areas in hillside areas by lowering Floor Area Ratios (FAR).
• Providing Residential Floor Area incentives reducing the visual impact of new development in hillside areas by encouraging step-backs at front and side yards, reduced building heights, multiple structures, or reduced grading.
• Establishing new hillside height regulations encouraging building heights to follow the existing hillside topography.
• Limiting excessive grading of hillsides.

In the opinion of the working group these tools can help establish better development standards for hillside development. At the same time the working group sees the sheer number of provisions, the complexity of individual provisions, and the extent of proposed Zoning Administrator actions as burdensome to the development of hillside homes.

Therefore, the AIA|LA working group proposes that the effects of this proposed Ordinance be studied and tested using specific, representative case sites.

Wherever feasible simplified approaches should be incorporated into the ordinance to improve the overall workability, including the following specific considerations:

Grading – Slope Band Analysis Method

The working group questions whether the proposed and highly complex Slope Band analysis method will lead to significantly better results than simpler methods of determining maximum Residential Floor Area would.

It is further the working group's opinion that there may be significant conflicts between the proposed method of determining maximum Residential Floor Area and proposed grading limitations, in particular soil import and soil export limitations. Especially on larger sites, proposed grading limits might override the elaborate Slope Band analysis method. In this case the Slope Band analysis method would be redundant. The working group believes the effects and the interaction of the proposed ordinance provisions have not adequately been demonstrated.

Residential Floor Area

The proposed Slope Band analysis method for determining maximum Residential Floor Areas utilizes a complex method of determining and categorizing site slopes, based on a highly detailed topographical survey and advanced computer-aided analysis techniques.

The working group recommends studying the following alternatives:

  1. As lot sizes in hillside areas vary considerably within zoning designations, base maximum FAR on the actual lot size rather than zoning designations. FARs should diminish for larger lots.

For instance, in lieu of the proposed Slope Band analysis method, maintain the existing method of determining lot slope per LAMC 12.21 A.17 (c). Establish more restrictive FAR for sites with "steep slopes," currently defined to be sloping at greater than 66%. For example a 5,000 square foot lot FAR = 0.50; a "steep slope" 5,000 square foot lot FAR = 0.40 (these figures equate to the proposed BMO's R1 FAR designations). Rationale: The additional value of the complex Slope Band analysis method has not been demonstrated. The average slope method is a simple and widely used tool. And, the reduction of slope types, from six to two, simplifies the process of determining site development potential.

  1. Requiring two-foot topographical surveys instead of one-foot surveys increases cost/complexity and does not add value. Rationale: A one-foot topographical survey is more costly than a two-foot survey. The additional topographical information is questionable and may result in overly complex surveys.
  2. Removing the proposed Floor Area Bonus for projects utilizing U.S. Green Building Council's LEED system (Green Building Option #1). Rationale: This incentive promotes the use of a proprietary rating system and is redundant with Green Building Option #2. The use of green building techniques does not address the issue of neighborhood character in hillside areas and should be more specifically addressed in other portions of the City of L.A. Municipal Code or Building Code.


The proposed Maximum Envelope Height method establishes height limits that follow the existing hillside topography. The working group welcomes this approach as this method will encourage buildings with reduced bulk and more in character with hillside topography.

At the same time the working group finds that the proposed Maximum Envelope Height needs to be reconciled with existing City of Los Angeles Building Code height definitions ('grade plane' as defined in LABC 502.1) and recommends that:

  1. Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) study the City Planning proposed "Parallel Plane Method for Height Measurement", test the proposal relative to 'Grade Plane Method for Height Measurement" found in the L.A. Building Code and issue a preliminary interpretation "Information Bulletin" for review prior to the passage of the Baseline Hillside Ordinance.

Rationale: It is essential that there be agreement between LADBS and City Planning on the interpretation of height limits on hillsides to avoid public confusion and ensure that the goals and objectives of this ordinance are achieved in practice and this ordinance provision function as intended.


The proposed ordinance restricts grading quantities for cut and fill and for import and export of soil from the site. The amount of soil import is limited to 500 cubic yards and the amount of soil export is limited to 1,000 cubic yards regardless of lot size; for sites on Substandard Hillside Limited Streets soil import and export quantities are even more restrictive.

The working group recommends the following:

  1. Study whether the proposed grading limits conflict with the proposed Residential Floor Area method mentioned above. Rationale: The strict limitations of soil imports and exports may preclude the development of the maximum allowed Residential Floor Area on a given site. If this is the case, provisions of this ordinance would be in conflict, thereby further burdening the permitting process of hillside homes.

The working group would further like to reaffirm the recommendation to require the involvement of an architect in hillside development of new homes and additions exceeding 500 square feet in size. Given the sensitivity of development on hillside including considerations such as community character, complexity of hillside regulations, green building goals, code requirements, and the sensitively of siting buildings on slopes a licensed professional should be involved.

Other points:
• We believe a record search and assessment of recorded Phase I for all properties within 1,000 feet of the site is excessive and recommend that any Phase I requirement be related to size of development and/or scope of grading.
• The existing code limits on retaining walls should be analyzed as it relates to this ordinance (retaining wall limits may be incentivizing more bulky buildings and may be in conflict with the goals of this ordinance).
• We believe the current substandard street exemption for additions under 750 sf, should remain and these projects should not have to apply for a variance.
• We believe additions under 750 sf should be allowed (as under current code, 'grandfathered rights') without also requiring 2 covered parking spaces as this would defeat the purpose of the ordinance, which is to promote a better scale of buildings and limit grading.

The AIA/LA working group is committed to working with both the Planning Commission and the Department of City Planning to address these concerns and crafting a workable ordinance.

We're here to help provide leadership in improving the build environment.

For more information, please contact:
Will Wright
Director, Government & Public Affairs
AIA Los Angeles

Monday, April 26, 2010

You are invited: Measure R Full Council Meeting WEDNESDAY 10am, not Tuesday

Thank you for your support thus far!

Measure R local return will be discussed in full City Council on Wednesday, April 28th at 10am, NOT Tuesday.  We need to have cyclists, pedestrians and supporters out in full force to ensure that the full City Council passes the proposal.  Measure R will ensure that we have money for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure on our streets next year.   It's important that we (LOOK AT CONSTANT CONTACT)

The item is number 8 on the agenda, so don't worry too much if you're running late.

Here's your chance to be a major part of making safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians.

What: Measure R 10% Full Council Meeting
When: Wednesday, April 18th, 10am
Where: Council Chambers, 200 N. Spring St. LA 90012, Room 340

Talking Points for Wednesday:
  • There are numerous economic benefits to bicycling and walking. Biking and walking promote commerce and economic vitality of a city.
  • There are thousands of ready-to-go projects in Los Angeles.  LADOT has the list.
  • It is time to start giving cyclists and pedestrians their fair share of funding.
  • The future of sustainable transportation for our city relies on the implementation of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
  • There are more and more people bicycling and walking.  Thus we need more dedicated funding streams for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
  • There are thousands of shovel-ready projects that rely on this dedicated funding to implement much-needed bike lanes and bike-friendly streets as outlined in the current and proposed Bike Plan.
  • In the report, the language states that there is a 5% for bicyclists and 5% for pedestrians.  We would like it changed back to 10% to allow more flexibility based on need.
  • Cities across the United States are incorporating bicyclists and pedestrians as transportation and LA needs to catch up and include them in the budget.
  • The dedicated set-aside shows that you, our political leaders, are committed to creating a more healthy and livable Los Angeles.
For more background:

If you plan to attend, please e-mail

Dorothy Le | Planning and Policy Director

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

634 S. Spring St. Ste 821, LA, CA 90014

Tel O: 213-629-2142 | C: 424-212-9327

Fax 213-629-2259 |

**LACBC is busy these days, with Earth Month, Bike Month, and various projects.  If you don't hear from me within a week, please feel free to contact me again.***

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Baseline Hillside Ordinance continued to May 13, 2010 City Planning Commission Meeting

The City Planning Commission received a lot of useful comments yesterday and has decided to continue the discussion at their Thursday, May 13, 2010 meeting.  The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 AM and will be located at:


City Hall, 10th Floor
200 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012


They have asked Planning staff to return with more information on the comparison of regulations of the other jurisdictions, as well as suggestions for possible changes to the guaranteed minimums, language dealing with minor additions, and to look into the issue of flat roof a little more.  The Commission also requested a possible approach to addressing the issues of ridgeline protection and retaining walls as a separate action.  The Commission also requested staff to look into the possibility of developing a user-friendly Single-Family Zone Manual that simplifies the existing regulations (including those established by the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance) and the Baseline Hillside Ordinance as a follow-up project.


You can download the following documents by following the links:
The Commission has adopted rules regarding written submissions to ensure that it has reasonable and appropriate opportunity to review your materials. The mailing and email addresses, deadlines, page limits, and required numbers of copies for your advance submissions may be found at under "Forms and Instructions".  Day of hearing submissions (15 copies must be provided) are limited to 2 pages plus accompanying photographs, posters, and PowerPoint presentations of 5 minutes or less. Non-complying materials will NOT be distributed to the Commission.  [Direct Link:]
If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you should be able to listen to it over a touch-tone phone by calling CouncilPhone at (213) 621-CITY, (310) 547-CITY, (310) 471-CITY, or at (818) 904-9450.
Feel free to forward this information to anyone you feel might be interested.
If you received this email via forwarded message from someone other than myself, and you want to obtain updates directly from the Department, please email and ask to be added to the interest list.  Please type "Add Me To Hillside Notification List" in the subject line and provide your group/organization/company affiliations and contact information (please include at least your ZIP Code).
Facebook™ Users: Look for the Baseline Hillside Ordinance page; add the page and receive updates in your news feed.  You can also view our events calendar and participate in discussion boards.
As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact myself or Jennifer Driver at or at (818) 374-5034.
Thank you for your attention.
Erick Lopez
City Planner
Department of City Planning
Community Planning Bureau - West Coastal Division
200 N. Spring St., Room 621
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 978-1243
(213) 978-1226 - fax

ü Please consider the environment before printing this email.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The AIA|LA Emerging Urban Designers Forum - April 21 (7pm)

The AIA|LA Emerging Urban Designers Forum presents:

A Mini-Charette, Finding Public Open Space in Los Angeles
Creating Open Space In An Age of Austerity
April 21st @ Rios Clementi Hale Studios
Continuing this year's topic of Open Space, April's Forum will be a session to brainstorm working methods and tactics for creating open space in the context of vanishing public-sector funding.

7 pm: Mini- Charette at Rios Clementi Hale Studios
Michael Sweeney from Rios Clementi Hale will introduce the topic through a presentation about finding methods and strategies for open space. Discussion during the mini-charrette will be based on questions such as:
- In a built-out city, where can we find opportunities for public open space?
- What latent or underutilized open space resources are available?
- Do we need to make better use of Los Angeles' limited open space resources or do we need more open space?
- As a city, where can we find the money, the will, and the land for open space in Los Angeles?
- As professionals, what opportunities do we see?

Rios Clementi Hale Studios
639 N. Larchmont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

8.15 pm: The Social @ Pueblo Viejo
5722 Melrose Ave
Hollywood, CA 90038

Come join the discussion!

RSVP to , capacity is limited.

To access this listing on our website:  CLICK HERE.

Very truly yours,

Will Wright Director of Government & Public Affairs

AIA / los angeles
A Chapter of the American Institute of Architects

3780 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 800, Los Angeles, CA 90010
213.639.0777 phone | 213.639.0767 fax

Friday, April 9, 2010

NEW report: Measure R = 500,000 jobs and $69B in Econnomic Output for LA region!

Dear BizFed members,


As we rev up our support for accelerating the use of Measure R funds before the Metro board's consideration April 22, I knew you would want to see this hot-off-the-presses report by LAEDC on the significant economic impact Measure R will have for the entire region.


Some key highlights for your quick review:


·          Total spending, budgeted to exceed $34.7 billion, will generate $68.8 billion in economic output (measured by business revenues) in the five-county Southern California region.


·          Average annual project spending is estimated at $1.157 billion, with an average annual economic impact of $2.292 billion and an annual average of 16,900 jobs with $746 million in annual earnings.


·          Over the entire time-span of Measure R, this will add 507,500 jobs with earnings of $22.4 billion.


·          The total economic output associated with highway and freeway projects is estimated at $46.3 billion, including new freeways or highways, expanding capacity on freeways and interchanges, and grade separations along major goods movement corridors and sound wall barriers.


·          Transit projects including construction of light and heavy rail lines, subway extensions, and bus rapid transit lines will generate $22.5 billion in total (direct, indirect and induced) output for the Southern California region.


·          Almost 40 percent of the total output earned by firms will be in the construction industry - and over 43 percent of the jobs generated. However, other industries are also significantly impacted including: manufacturing; real estate; retail trade; accommodation and food services; professional and scientific services; finance and insurance; and health care.


·          Total tax revenues collected will exceed $9.3 billion, or an annual average of $310 million. Approximately 70 percent, or $6.6 billion, will be earned at the federal level. More than $2.3 billion in state taxes will be paid over the life of Measure R.


The 19-page report is attached and has detailed year-by-year breakdowns in categories including fiscal impact, job creation and industry-specific impact.


I hope you find this as helpful as I did in reinforcing the very real impact Measure R projects will have on our economy – and am excited that we have a united voice of support for the "30/10" Initiative and accelerating this impact into the next decade!




Tracy Rafter, CEO

BizFed, Los Angeles County Business Federation 

818.429.0862 ~

Grassroots alliance of 70 top LA County business groups

Mobilizing over 100,000 business owners



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 19 - Helping Historic Preservation Projects Pencil Out

Incentives, Tax Credits & Financing for
Historic Preservation Projects
Helping Historic Preservation Projects Pencil Out

ONDAY, APRIL 19, 2010
2:00pm - 4:30pm
City Hall
Edward E. Roybal Hearing Room
200 N. Spring Street - 3rd Floor #350

As part of a National Register Historic District, the rehabilitation of Broadways buildings is an important effort. Whether you have a commercial building or a theatre, are ready to begin a project, or are dreaming of what might be possible, come and hear from experts about tax credits, programs and other incentives which can help your historic rehabilitation project pencil out.

Overview of Historic Preservation Guidelines
Historic & New Market Tax Credits
Façade & Preservation Easements & Grant Programs
Federal, State & Local Incentives, Credits & Discount Programs
Tax-Exempt Bond Programs
Case Studies of Completed Projects
Public-Private Partnerships - Packaging the Deal
Q&A Session


Mike Buhler, Los Angeles Conservancy
Chris Fedokowski, CFC Group
Tara Jones Hamacher, Historic Consultants
Ed Kelsey, League of Historic American Theatres

Lambert Giessinger, Office of Historic Resources
May Smith, Community Development Dept.
George Smallwood, Community Development Dept.
Jina Woon, L.A. Development Fund

Event is free.  All are welcome. No RSVP required for attendance. For parking arrangements, call 213-978-3020 before 5pm on April 16


Our web site is:
Twitter: DTLA_Broadway

If you are receiving this email in error, receiving it multiple times, or would like to be removed, just reply to let us know and we'll take care of it.  Thanks.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

LEED Ratings and Certified Wood and Paper Products

A petition has been started urging the U.S. Green Building Council to open the LEED rating system to wood and paper  products certified to independent, respected and credible standards, including the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).  Currently, the LEED standard only accepts forests certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).


More than three-quarters of North American certified forests are certified to SFI, ATFS or CSA, while Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forests account for less than one quarter.  


The petition has almost at 5,000 signitures.