5 Major Changes Coming to L.A.

City planning director Vince Bertoni tells us what’s ahead

Transportation Comments

At 470 square miles, the City of Los Angeles is big enough to fit five Seattles within its borders. Tasked with helping to lend some shape and order to that vast tract of land as it grows ever more crowded is the planning department. Neighborhood density, transportation corridors, streetscapes, building height—it has a say in all of that, and at the top of its organizational tree is Vince Bertoni. A veteran of several planning departments in the region, Bertoni was appointed to the post last year. “L.A. is fundamentally rethinking what kind of city it’s going to be,” he says. “I find that amazingly exciting and challenging.” Naturally, a lot of the rethinking revolves around transportation. Below he lays out some of the changes he sees coming our way.


1. Rail is spurring development

“If you look five, ten years out, you’re going to be seeing more development throughout Los Angeles near our transit stations, our rail lines as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority expands the rail network as a result of Measure M being passed last year. Phil Washington, the CEO of Metro, as well as Therese McMillan, who is the head of planning, see themselves as not just planning a rail network; they see themselves as planning communities.”

2. Driverless cars are already changing the way we build

“In anticipation of the day when automated vehicles come and there’s less individual car ownership, we’re requiring that if a developer builds parking aboveground downtown, they make it so there is the ability to convert that space to residential or office or some other kind of use. So rather than continuous sloping ramps, the space looks like regular building stories that can be converted into floor space.”

Vince Bertoni

Photo by Bradley Meinz

3. Driverless cars will be reshaping our streets, too

“As automated vehicles become more common, we’ll get this opportunity to rethink the fundamental geometry of the street and think of it as a comprehensive habitat, if you will, that goes from the wall of the building on one side of the street to the wall of the building on the other side of the street and that doesn’t just revolve around the automobile. We’re looking at what it’s like to walk, bicycle, even skateboard down these streets and all the other ways we’ll get around. We’re going to be putting in wider sidewalks, trees, bicycle lanes that people feel protected in. We are looking at these corridors in a very different way than we have in the past.”

4. Why this isn’t a Manhattan project

“They don’t have single-family detached homes anymore in New York. We still do. A great challenge is going to be how to maintain the integrity of residential neighborhoods that largely consist of single-family detached homes and still allow for additional density in certain places. We’ve got to be really thoughtful about how we do it—around areas where we have really good transit connections—and make sure we have the right kind of transitions for that.”

5. Affordable housing means more development

“If you think about displacement, it’s occurring in areas that have no new development happening at all. This is something that impacts lots of parts of the city. We have to be looking at how we increase our housing supply to truly match the needs of the people in the city so there’s a better balance between what people are earning and what their housing costs.”

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  • SZwartz

    This guy is the head of Planning for the City of Los Angeles? He says there are no detached houses in New York. Nonsense! I lived in New York City and there are thousands of detached houses in New York City.

    When people complain about the Manhattanization of Los Angeles, they are referring to the fact that the Garcetti Administration is re-creating Manhattanism in LA — where there is an extremely dense area, Manhattan, while everything else is residential.

    Of course, he fails to address the huge difference between lining Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards with high rise and Manhattan. Manhattan which is only 2.5 miles wide is the same distance as Franklin Ave to Melrose, but Manhattan has a river on each side. Thus, it does not have tens of thousands of people trying to cross Manhattan, but Los Angeles has an unbearable load of traffic from the SF Valley into the Basin each morning. Judge Chalfant rejected the Millennium Towers on the grounds that that one Hollywood project by itself would not the Hollywood Freeway non-functional.

    Developers who own high rises on Bunker Hill should stop, think and come back to reality. What happens to their occupancy rates when people cannot drive from the SF Valley to DTLA because Hywd has rendered the 170 freeway useless? There is no other route from the SF Valley to DTLA.

    They can tell all the myopic lies they wish like they did up to and during the Crash of 2008, but the laws of economics will have the revenge.

  • Bill

    Wow…
    Displacement is happening everywhere there are new projects.. all over. Not only for mega luxury projects but for hotels. Hotels in residential zoned areas wiping out residential communities, affordable and rent stabilized housing. This lieing mayoral/developer puppet should be ashamed. I invite him to visit an LA Tenants Union meeting. Try the Hollywood division where most overdevelopment is happening and the template for the rest of the city and many residents fighting displacement to stay in their homes and neighborhoods.He and the lieing developer corrupted politicos use transit and affordable housing as justification for their sellout to developers funding their political careers while transit ridership is down, regular public transit takers they lie will all live in the new TOD projects can’t afford them, nobody can, and they’re destroying good affordable housing all over for developer bosses massive controversial community killing luxury projects.

  • emma

    Mr. Bertoni is being disingenuous when he says ‘this isn’t a Manhattan project.’ Councilmember Garcetti wanted the Manhattanization of Hollywood all the years he was CD13 Hollywood councilman. Enough years for him to neglect it and allow it to rot so he could tear it down and replace with over scale no character obscene projects. Hollywood is coming down all around us. Good useable housing stock being destroyed for his massive luxury projects, and an over abundance of hotels, some even being converted from good affordable and rent stabilized buildings, evictions everywhere, displacing whole communities from their neighborhoods and homes. He wanted a Times Square in Hollywood. He got it. He wanted skyscrapers. He’s getting them. No matter traffic sits at a standstill on all the ‘F’ graded streets. Just keep building. They don’t care. Hollywood Blvd near Hollywood and Highland has become a bizarre faux freak show version of Times Square, bringing more crime to the area. He wanted Hollywood to be ‘reimagined’ into a higher density skyscraper area and pushed the higher density, developer accomodating Hollywood Community Plan through, knowing it would be sued, had a lot of problems, he refused to send it back, his last gift to all the developers and developer funded Hollywood Chamber PAC that keep getting him elected. A Judge threw it out saying it was ‘fatally flawed’ and ‘wishful thinking’ the fake population data was ‘population encouraging’ instead of ‘population accommodating’ .. the Judge also said Hollywood infrastructure cannot withstand the over densification Garcetti wants, three law suits against it all won. And the constant on going water main breaks proved him correct. The revised HCP has all the same over blown population numbers to justify his massive over densification and Manhattanization of Hollywood. Another recent water main break over July 4th holiday, causing street closures, causing even more gridlock on every street, streets backed up with gridlock for blocks and blocks in every street in the area, in addition during Hollywood Bowl nights, paralyzingly the whole area, seas of cars sitting going nowhere, while Garcetti was out of the country pitching he Olympics. Single family home communities are not protected, huge massive projects are being built all around them, the new HCP now has even more over development planned. Communities now being called Transit Oriented Communities, because of one train stop.. no matter, they will add bus stops and use that to continue destroying residential communities no one can get home to, and now have dangerous cars speeding through due to all the gridlock Garcetti’s new Hollywood has, with lies everyone will ride bikes and take public transit. And his Mobility Plan will shut down traffic lanes for bicycle lanes. This is insanity. Hollywood Heritage, LA Conservancy, Art Deco Society are working 24-7 trying to save historic resources the city does not value and has no problem destroying for developer bosses projects, all no character luxury oversized glass boxes and skyscrapers blocking out the beautiful Hollywood Hills, just what tourists come to Hollywood to see. The Hollywood Community Plan thrown out by a Judge did not stop Garcetti from tearing down historic Hollywood all around us and rebuild an overly dense chaotic no character Hollywood, being rebuilt on campaign contributions from the wealthiest developers in the country. Nothing will. If he could tear down all of Hollywood Blvd all that’s been landmarked on National Historic designated Hollywoid Blvd he would. Bertoni will approve every over sized massive luxury project on the Blvd. and behind, towering over the landmark buildings, out of scale and character for the area, threatening L.a.’S loss of that National historic designation. A whole section from Las Palmas to Highland, Selma to Sunset is being wiped out, including historic buildings Hollywood Heritage and Art Decco Society are trying to save and hundreds are being displaced, for three skyscrapers and nine buildings, the controversial Crossroads project, a mini city, the largest project in Hollywood history, and whole residential communities, a neighborhood, destroyed, for money and greed. The developer is the Diamond Level donor to the Hollywood Chamber ( Millennium previously was) another developer who got Garcetti and O’Farrell elected and the only thing that will stop it will be law suits, as shut down dangerous Millennium skyscraper towers O’Farrell claimed were safe but a Judge disagreed.
    Bertoni and the planning dept. are just yes men and women , who approve every obscene project, even those that have rendered tossed out residents homeless, enablers to Garcetti and his plans to destroy and recreate Hollywood into a bad version of Manhattan, while he will miss out on all the messes he creates, will not be riding his bike or sitting in the traffic, as he runs for higher office.

  • guest

    ‘Affordable housing means more development’ but they’re not building affordable housing. Development is all upscale projects that get get huge perks, more density, more height, more everything by offering a pittance of affordable housing. It’s laughable. It’s not really affordable at all. One proposed project, the Hollywood Wilcox LeFrak project arrogantly admits they have no plans for affordable, its all luxury housing, in an area suffering huge displacement of residents from neighborhoods for other luxury projects and hotels. Will the city require a big developer campaign contributor LeFrak, buddy of Trump to have affordable in their ugly oversized horrible project? Probably not. The city leaders have no interest in a law requiring a percentage in every new project being affordable. They don’t want to make demands on developers paying them to approve horrible projects. NYC law 30% is set aside for affordable in projects. Garcetti wants LA to be another Manhattan but not when it comes to creating a NY law here to require affordable housing in projects by campaign contributors to accommodate those he pretends to care about.

  • guest

    The planning dept. doesn’t do any real planning. They just green light projects city politicos are paid generously to approve. There’s no affordable being built. The density and height bonuses granted developers to make them set aside the pittance of affordable in their projects do not justify all the perks the city gives them. The city probably prefers this, getting overly dense oversized projects done with this affordable trade but it’s not enough and never truly affordable. They do want to recreate Manhattan, so they should have a law requiring a certain percentage of affordable in all new projects, as NYC has.
    Don’t hold your breath.

  • Greg Douglas

    Sounds good but mostly a pack of lies. “If a developer builds parking…” LA city code FORCES developers to build 1.8 parking spaces per unit, even if the prohwct is a block from Union Sration, WHICH, WITH THE NEW REQUIREMENTS, is costing developers tens of millions per project, and forcing them to ask for higher rents. In the meantime, you have 50,000+ homeless and huge need for affordable housing, because increasing rents keep displacing people, further away from work. AND don’t get me started with the city’s SICKENING hypocrisy about homelessness: Let’s invest $100mil of taxpayer’s money on homeless housing, for as long as it doesn’t involve using any of the tens of thousands of acres of vacant or underutilized property both LA city and LA county own!!!! “We’ve got to be really thoughtful about how we do it… ” just like buslines that only get used once every half hour, turning a 3-line street into a 2-line street + a bike line, which only gets used by 10 bikes a day, is the ultimate definition of stupidity and doubles traffic congestion. People will NOT bike 40 miles to work or use a transportation system which doesn’t connect them to anything and takes 3.5 hours each way.