L.A. may have multiple planning commissions An overhaul of the Los Angeles City Charter, which will go before voters June 13, calls for creation of at least five area planning commissions. But those area commissions would have limited powers, and the citywide Planning Commission would remain in place, under the proposal. "The citywide Planning Commission is seen as a body that's not very closely related to the people," Jackie DuPont-Walker, chairwoman of the Elected Charter Reform Commission said. "I think the area planning commissions provide an opportunity for decisions to be made closer to home by people who are stakeholders." DuPont-Walker made those comments to the Commission on Local Governance for the 21st Century during a recent hearing in Los Angeles. She and George Kieffer, chairman of the Appointed Charter Reform Commission, explained the proposed charter during the hearing. The two charter reform commissions, which were not always friendly, in February settled on one recommendation. Kieffer said multiple planning commissions make sense because of Los Angeles's size — nearly 4 million people spread over 465 square miles. No one from San Pedro can understand the community of Chatsworth, 50 miles north but still within the L.A. city limits, he said. However, the area planning commissions, which the City Council and mayor would appoint, have limited authority, under the proposed charter. Area commissions would have jurisdiction over conditional use permits, variances and zoning administrator appeals. The citywide Planning Commission would decide on projects that require both quasi-judicial and legislative actions. The proposed charter allows the City Council, planning director and citywide Planning Commission — but not area commissions — to initiate zoning changes and general plan amendments. Area commissions could comment on proposed zoning changes and general plan amendments only at the citywide Planning Commission's request. The charter does allow the citywide Planning Commission, with City Council approval, to delegate authority over "projects determined not to have citywide impact" to an area commission. The City Council would pick the number on area commissions, but there must be at least five. The council would draw area commission boundaries for the whole city, and members of the five-person panels must live within those boundaries. The proposed charter also creates a Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which ought to give residents and business owners more input regarding development and other neighborhood matters, Kieffer said. The proposed charter may be downloaded from www.lacharter.com.