Michael LoGrande, New L.A. Planning Director, Heads Out To The Valley

Michael LoGrande, the city's new planning director, has been met with significant skepticism, which is understandable given his background. He was the city's chief zoning administrator and doesn't have a traditional planning background. He's seen as close to an increasingly unpopular mayor, and he was installed relatively quickly in one of the most difficult and contentious jobs in the city even though the mayor didn't conduct a national search.

So when LoGrande went up to the monthly meeting of the Valley Alliance, count us among those who expected him to get a chilly and skeptical reception. For now, though, he's got a bit of a honeymoon going on.

We talked this morning to Jill Banks Barad, chair of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, and she gushed about LoGrande's appearance and called the reception warm.

"Everyone was very very impressed," she said. Barad noted that LoGrande doesn't come from a traditional planning background, but said that could be a good thing.

LoGrande majored in political science. Given the highly politicized nature of the job, maybe that's what's needed. He gave out his number and told the Valley denizens to call. He said he has instructed his staff to get out into the community rather than holing up downtown. He said he wants to do actual planning rather than project by project piecemeal decision-making, which is what leads to the kind of incoherence seen all over the city. He told them he wants to preserve the character of neighborhoods.

So, pretty much, he told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Remains to be seen whether he'll follow through, but it seems he got off on the right foot Thursday.

Count one Valley resident still skeptical -- Ron Kaye, former editor of the L.A. Daily News and now leader of L.A. Clean Sweep. He writes on his blog about Planning Department plans, still quite sketchy, to alter the Environmental Impact Review process -- an important tool for development foes -- by implementing Citywide Urban Design Guidelines.

Here's Planning:

The Design Guidelines will illustrate ways for individual projects to promote walkability, maintain neighborhood form and character, and promote creative infill development solutions. The Design Guidelines will apply to all new developments and substantial building alterations that require discretionary approvals...

Kaye suspects it's a way to wipe out neighborhood concerns and rails against what he sees as a lack of transparency as Planning moves forward.

And then, this, on LoGrande: This is exactly what so many planning experts feared when LoGrande was appointed to succeed Gail Goldberg because he lacked real qualifications for the job beyond an obedient nature to carry out orders methodically and expeditiously.

LoGrande will keynote a Valley planning symposium Oct. 14, tentatively scheduled to take place in Studio City.

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