Chapter 2
Growth and Capacity

The General Plan Framework Element establishes a vision for the long-term development and physical form and character of the City of Los Angeles. This vision is expressed through a land use diagram (refer to Chapter 3) that will be refined and implemented through amendments to the community plans. The evolution of the City will take time to achieve due to the City's size and rates of growth.

Realistically, the planning and funding of most infrastructure facilities and public services that support growth must be for levels of growth that can reasonably be expected to occur within a shorter time frame than could be accommodated by the long-term vision. Many of the City's short-term capital improvements are defined through a five-year plan that is updated annually (the Capital Improvements Plan). Major improvements that serve large areas of the City and/or are capital intensive, such as schools and fixed rail transit facilities, are planned and funded over an extended period (10 years or more). Some, such as wastewater treatment facilities, are planned to accommodate growth for periods in excess of 50 years.

Consequently, the General Plan Framework Element plans for a level of population and employment growth that may be reasonably anticipated in the near-term as the basis of its policies and programs and for environmental review in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The General Plan Framework Element is population growth neutral: it is not the intent of the Framework Element to cause any specific level of population growth to occur. It is a plan to accommodate whatever growth does occur in the future, which could include loss of population. The year 2010 is used as the planning "horizon" to facilitate comparability with the regional growth forecasts of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). The SCAG population and household forecasts for the City of Los Angeles for the year 2010 (as defined in June, 1993 - SCAG population forecasts for the City are currently being revised. ) are used in the Framework Element. Employment forecasts have been adjusted to maintain the City's existing jobs-housing ratio, which is considered important in maintaining the City's fiscal stability.

The estimates are not intended to represent maximum or minimum levels of development to be permitted. Rather, they will be monitored annually as a basis for the implementation of infrastructure and services to support growth (as subsequently described). Based on the monitoring, the "horizon" may be adjusted to reflect the actual levels of growth and their impacts and demands on infrastructure and public services. At a minimum, the "horizon" must be reviewed and updated as the population and employment forecasts and/or 2010 are approached. Adjustments of the population and employment "horizon" may necessitate additional environmental review.

The "horizon" will guide the revision of all components of the City's general plan (e.g., community plans and citywide elements) and guide planning policy by the City's departments and commissions.

Los Angeles' existing general plan is an end-state plan with no shorter term population, housing and employment policy goals established prior to the ultimate buildout of the Plan. The theoretical capacities of the existing general plan at buildout, as shown in the Framework Element technical reports and Environmental Impact Report, are adequate to accommodate growth to the year 2010. While its housing capacity is more constrained than commercial and industrial uses, the Plan's capacity for growth considerably exceeds any realistic market requirements for the future. For example, there is sufficient capacity for retail and office commercial uses for over 100 years even at optimistic, pre-recession, market growth rates. At the same time, the impact assessments of the current general plan indicate that if all lands were to be developed with the uses at the maximum densities permitted, an unrealistic jobs/housing relationship would result and supporting infrastructure and public services would be unable to support this level of growth.

SCAG has forecasted population, household, and employment levels for the year 2010 and provided this information to all jurisdictions in the region for transportation planning applications. State and Federal regulations require that local plans be consistent with the Regional Air Quality Plan and the Regional Mobility Plan. The Framework Element is required to utilize the population forecasts provided by SCAG. The Element reflects the SCAG population and household forecasts as its planning horizon. It sets a higher goal for employment -- to improve employment opportunities for City residents and to help maintain a stable fiscal base which in turn supports public services. Table 2-1 summarizes these numbers (estimates are rounded):

Table 2-1


SCAG 2010 Forecast
(June, 1993)

 Framework Plan













SCAG's population forecast assumes that about two thirds of the increase will be accounted for by natural increases from the population that already resides in the City and that there will be long-term continuing growth of the Southern California economy.

SCAG employment forecasts for the City are based on the continuation of historic and recent growth trends. It is recognized, that in order to achieve the higher employment levels adopted by the Framework Element the City cannot adopt a business-as-usual approach but must devise an aggressive business retention and outreach program to assure adequate job growth within the City to maintain fiscal stability (refer to Chapter 7). Such a program must be correlated with actions to mitigate the impacts of growth on the natural environment, public infrastructure and services, and quality of life of the City's residents. Without the mitigation of these impacts, businesses will choose to locate in communities exhibiting a higher quality environment.

The citywide population, employment, and household forecasts described in the previous section have been distributed to City subregions and to community plan areas within these subregions (see Table 2-2). These distributions are the result of a methodology for disaggregating the citywide forecasts provided by SCAG. The methodology reflects the Framework Element Long-Range Land Use Diagram and an adjustment of historic growth trends and land values in each plan area to account for the attraction of development to transit stations and corridors and the districts, centers, and boulevards defined by the Framework Element.

The population, employment, and housing distribution should be used to guide future community plan amendments. It should be recognized, however, that these figures are "best estimates" of citywide distributions. They attempt to forecast how market trends will be impacted by the implementation of the Framework Element. In terms of economic and market forces, these City subregions function as realistic submarkets of the City, taking into account forces that transcend community plan boundaries.

The Framework Element utilizes the following 2010 estimates:

 Subregion Population Growth % of City Population
 1. Northeast L.A. 106,250  12.9 
 2. South L.A. 106.595  13.0 
 3. Metro Center 108,700  13.2 
 4. Southwest L.A. 67,320  8.2 
 5. Central L.A. 41,245  5.0 
 6. Southeast L.A. 80,495  9.8 
 7. Northeast L.A. 77,460  9.4 
 8. Northwest L.A. 78,175  9.5 
 9. Southwest L.A. 74,595  9.1 
 10. West L.A. 35,340  4.3 
 11. Harbor 44,990  5.5 
 Citywide 821,165 99.0 

As implementation proceeds, the community plan population forecasts may be revised based upon specific land use actions adopted through the community plan update process. If one area cannot accommodate the forecasted population, then other community plans within the same subregion should have sufficient capacity to accommodate the subregional forecasts above. Forecasts may change as SCAG updates its information or as new information is obtained from the Framework Element's monitoring system.

While the Framework Element has adopted a year 2010 planning horizon and provided estimated population forecasts and anticipated citywide distributions, it is not dependent upon these population levels or distributions for its implementation. It does not mandate specific levels of growth for any specific area (neither minimums nor caps). The population could grow more slowly than currently anticipated as a result of economic trends, or again expand rapidly as a result of changing immigration levels and birth rates. Population loss could also occur. The Framework Element policies will not directly prevent nor cause population growth to occur.

Population levels are dependent on a wide variety of factors, many of which are totally unrelated to land use planning. Such variables as birth and death rates, income, migration and immigration levels, Federal immigration policies, natural disaster, economic trends and employment levels, etc. all interact to determine whether population grows or declines.

Population levels, while partially related to building permit (development) activity, are also not directly tied to the number of housing units available. Population increases (or decreases) can occur during periods of slow or even no growth in the number of available residential units. Similarly it is possible, at least for short periods, to have stable or declining population levels during periods of rapid housing unit construction. Over shorter time periods, construction cycles and populations trends may not be consistent.

The Framework Element is designed to accommodate population growth largely within centers, districts, and mixed-use boulevards whenever it eventually occurs. Forecasted population levels may be reached by 2010 as forecasted, or within a totally different time horizon for reasons unrelated to the general plan.

After the Framework Element is adopted, the City will establish a growth monitoring program that will provide important information regarding the accuracy of future growth estimates and the distribution of that new development by community plan area. This monitoring program will annually document what has actually happened to the City's population levels, housing construction, employment levels, and the availability of public infrastructure and public services. Information on environmental conditions will also be monitored on a yearly basis to maintain and update an environmental database, which will be used to facilitate but not replace, environmental review for subsequent programs and projects in accordance with CEQA.

Information for the monitoring system will be taken from the best sources available to the City, such as building permit information and other readily available City data on business; Department of Water and Power and School District information; County Assessor's files; commercially available development data; State Employment Development Department statistics; Census Bureau; SCAG data; University of California Los Angeles Business Forecast; and other data as they may become available.

Infrastructure data will be developed from a cooperative effort among the City departments responsible for infrastructure and public services. State and regional agencies, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Metropolitian Transportation Authority are important to complete the annual review of the City's growth and infrastructure.

Although one of the Framework Element's primary goals is to encourage new development to locate in centers, districts and boulevards throughout the City, market forces will ultimately determine the distribution of future growth. Yearly monitoring will help evaluate whether the incentives that are linked to targeted growth areas are working effectively with market forces to attract new development.

The information from such a monitoring system will be presented to the City Council in the form of an Annual Report on Growth and Infrastructure, which can be used as the basis for revision of policies as needed to meet the goals of the Framework Element. The status of environmental mitigation requirements can also be determined and policies can be changed if desired results are not being obtained. Information on amounts and location of growth can be provided and policies influencing this growth can be revised if needed. In this fashion, the Framework Element can be continually updated to meet changing conditions, and the implementation mechanisms revised or altered to achieve the desired goals. SCAG will require monitoring in all its subregions in a similar manner.

While the General Plan Framework Element is based on the forecasts defined in Tables 2-1 and 2-2, development in accordance with the uses and densities prescribed in the Long-Range Land Use Diagram could exceed them. This is based on the assumption that all lands in the City would convert to the maximum density allowed, referred to as the "Theoretical Buildout." "Theoretical Buildout" will not happen. Experience indicates that many properties would not be developed to their maximum permitted densities. For example, fewer than five percent of the commercial properties currently allowed to develop at a floor area ratio of 1.5:1 have been developed at this intensity.

Click Here to View Table 2-2
Forecast Growth by Subregions and Community Plan Areas

Should population and employment growth be greater than the levels anticipated by the Framework Element, policy stipulates that studies be undertaken to correlate with the necessary supporting capital, facility, or service improvements and/or demand reduction programs. At the same time, the impacts of the additional level of growth must be found to be consistent with the findings of the Environmental Impact Report regarding their level of significance. Should additional potential impacts be identified, these would be subject to further environmental review in accordance with the CEQA. This would be facilitated by the implementation of a program to monitor the characteristics and impacts of growth and availability of infrastructure and public services (the "Monitoring Program") and annual reporting of this information to the City Council (the "Annual Report on Growth and Infrastructure") as a basis for the planning and funding of necessary improvements.

The Housing Element is a portion of the general plan and as such, must be consistent with the Framework Element. Further, the most recently adopted Housing Element has identified the Framework Element as an implementation mechanism for several of the programs that it contains. While the Housing Element and the Framework Element are closely related, there are data references within each that appear to be inconsistent. Most of the apparent inconsistency is created by differing time horizons and methodological requirements within the two documents.

Calculation of the number of housing units that could be developed in the City as determined, separately, by the Housing Element and General Plan Land Use Element (community plans) seems to create the most confusion. Housing unit calculations from either the community plans or the Framework Element, using general plan designations per CEQA requirements, assume that all residential units are located on properties planned for residential or mixed-use developments that integrate housing with commercial uses and that these properties are built to their maximum capacity.

This is a theoretical "capacity" figure which overestimates the realistic number of dwelling units that would likely be constructed. All properties are assumed to be redeveloped to their maximum capacity despite their current use or the economic feasibility of this occurring. As calculated in the Framework Element, this estimate also does not consider limitations imposed by the existing number of parcels and their irregular configurations. Further, it assumes all residential uses on commercially zoned lands are redeveloped to their planned, non-residential use. The Framework Element housing capacity estimate is considered a "worst-case" impact assessment for the purposes of CEQA, which means that it assumes land is completely builtout to the fullest extent allowed by the zoning.

Within the Housing Element more precise calculations are required. The Housing Element is concerned with the availability of sufficient parcels of land (housing capacity) within the City with the appropriate current zoning to meet the City's housing needs, including its share of regional housing needs, over the next five years. Residential units currently on land not planned for residential use are not excluded. Because of Los Angeles' size and the lack of detailed land use and zoning information for every parcel, complex estimating methodologies must be devised and utilized to produce the required capacity estimates incorporating information on parcelization, zoning, and realistic (economically feasible) buildout.

The Housing Element estimates are produced for a specific purpose with detailed requirements and will not be comparable to Framework housing unit theoretical buildout calculations. However, they are not incompatible with these Framework calculations. Because of the additional restrictions on Housing Element housing capacity data (except for residential units on non-residential parcels), the "housing capacity" estimate in the Housing Element is lower than that found in the Framework Element. The housing capacity numbers will change as the Housing Element is updated.

The 1993 Housing Element distributed the Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocation, produced by SCAG for the City of Los Angeles, into income categories and divided these allocations further by subregions of the City based solely on the relative size of each subregion. The Framework Element produced employment and income forecasts for each community plan area for the year 2010 as well as housing unit forecasts by rent and price level, and from this derived housing affordability levels by community plan area. Comparison between market trend data for 2010 and Framework Element impacts for 2010 were also calculated. Impacts of other policy actions on housing affordability can be examined through varying inputs to the Framework Element economic impact and forecast model. In combination with the policies in the Housing Chapter of the Framework Element, these distributions implement the Fair Share Allocation program documented in the Housing Element.

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