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Industrial Policy Round Two Kicks Off This Week

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, January 01, 2008, at 07:50PM
Arts District Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Public "preview" meetings on a plan for Downtown's industrial space kick off this week with a Thursday afternoon briefing at City Hall. The zoning plan would govern the development of a large swath of land southeast of Downtown. Last year the Planning Department created a controversy with Downtown stakeholders and elected officials when it issued draft zoning rules that would have prohibited any residential use over much of that area. The Downtown News reported last week that the current plan is much the same.

When the zoning plan came through last year, Council opposition from Jan Perry and Jose Huizar brought a halt to the process. This time around the cooperation between Planning and CRA seems intended to prevent the same plan from ending with the same fate. Neither agency will be briefing the Council before the items reach their respective boards. The current schedule has the item in front of the Central Planning Commission on January 10th and the CRA Board on January 17th.

In a letter sent last week to Planning GM Gail Goldberg, Perry expressed her concern. "It is inappropriate that this significant policy be issued as an administrative, interdepartmental action. The City Council is the policy-making body for the City and all policies need to come to Council for review and approval." Perry also criticized the timing of the public meetings and the haste of the presentation process, noting that those affected may still just be returning from holiday vacations.

Aside from the interesting timing and politics, if the plan being brought forth is indeed that which was proposed one year ago it is simply bad policy for Downtown. Outside of the trade-specific districts (fashion, produce, etc), the industrial land between Downtown and the freeway is ill-suited for modern industry. The space that would be preserved in the "Employment Protection District" is populated with warehousing operations that provide few jobs.

Downtown's grid was laid down in the early 1900s, when industry meant railroads. The road widths and angles are completely inappropriate for the semi-trucks that comprise the heart of current industrial distribution. To create any industrial investment would require that the existing grid be torn out and new wider roads be installed.

The only jobs such an area is likely to support are those in the high tech / very light industrial sectors. One could quite convincingly make the argument that these industries would be better served in an industrial zone mixed with sensible residential uses that reflect and embrace the areas industrial character.

Planning and CRA will be holding two joint "Preview" meetings for the Downtown area in the next week. The first is Thursday, January 3rd at 3:00pm — City Hall Room 1010. The second is Tuesday, January 8th at 5:30pm — 345 S. Spring, CRA Boardroom, 6th floor. The actual plan documents will not be made available until January 7th, just three days before they're presented to the Planning Commission.

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Topic:
Industrial Land Use Policy

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