February, 1981 Home   Newsletters

March, 1981

April, 1981

League Is at City Hall
President's Message (Barbara Farwell)
Garbage Power (Anna Hoover)
What Makes the City Run? (Astrid Monson)
Mayor's Views on Density
League's Views
Bills! Bills! Bills! (Arlene Woo)
Money for League!
Housing Location Study
Whither Federal Dollars? (Arlene Woo)
Is this You?
What's Up in League?
New Names in a New Administration

What Makes the City Run?


Broad social, economic and environmental considerations shape the General Plan's policies and objectives; Development Plans apply these to specific areas; Functional Plans spell out how public facilities -- streets, water, sewerage, etc. -- coordinate with the Development Plans. But after all the plans are adopted, the Comprehensive Zoning Code (CZC) still has to make them enforceable.

Like the old story about who makes the big and little decisions, the Department of Land Utilization (DLU) is where the planning buck stops. The DLU is empowered by the 1973 City Charter to:

  1. Prepare the zoning ordinance -- both the maps and text -- and revisions or amendments thereto

  2. Prepare subdivision regulations,

  3. Establish procedures for review of land use applications,

  4. Administer the zoning and subdivision ordinances and, to the extent practicable, any other ordinances regulating land use.

The Zoning Board of Appeals, described in the Voter (Aug.-Sept. '80) is also a part of DLU.

Zoning and subdivision regulations are laws and have to be adopted by the City Council with appropriate public hearings and approved by the Mayor. Before submitting a proposed ordinance, regulation, or amendment to the Council for adoption, the DLU director is required by Charter to consult with the Chief Planning Officer of the Department of General Planning (DGP). (See Voter, Nov. '80)

The functions carried on by the DLU and the DGP used to be combined in a single Planning Department, but under the 1973 Charter they were separated. The Charter Commission's reason for the separation was given to be that "the present combination of both staff and line planning duties in one department was prejudicial to effective long-range planning and tended to emphasize the physical orientation." Since there are also arguments in favor of combining these functions, the new Charter Commission that will be appointed this year may re-evaluate the separation.

During the 1970s a number of new land use control techniques were adopted by the Council -- Planned Development Units (PDUs), cluster developments, Special Design Districts (SDDs), Historic, Cultural and Scenic Districts (HCSD), Conditional Use Permits, special permits, and the like. Coastal Zone Management approvals also came into the picture. For a time, the Council held public hearings on all these and had to approve or disapprove each individual application.

When it became apparent that this took too much of the Council's time, and since its functions are supposed to be limited to policy matters and legislative enactments rather than administrative determinations on a case-by-case basis, many of these procedures were transferred to DLU. DLU holds public hearings on many or these types of applications and approves or disapproves them without Council action being required.

The establishment of SDDs and HCSDs, and of Flood Hazard Districts, however, as well as changes in zoning or amendments to the CZC, are still considered legislative acts and remain in the Council's hands.

The DLU is already working on the zoning revision program which will be needed after the Development Plans are adopted. This will involve 1) the CZC text which sets standards of land use, density, design, parking requirements, etc. for each "zone" or district, and 2) the maps which outline the boundaries within which each set of zone regulations apply.

The Development Plans in their present draft form, include a considerable amount of down-zoning. The present CZC has a zoned capacity of about 21/2 million, whereas the 1977 General Plan uses the State DPEDs year 2000 projection of 917,000. It can be anticipated that the DLU will be in the middle of some heated controversies between neighborhood and public interest groups, on the one hand, and land developers and property owners on the other. (See Mayor Anderson's views on the draft DPs)

Astrid Monson

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