COVID’s Legacy on Long-Range Planning in Los Angeles

September 23, 2020

As economists assess the long-term financial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, planners, architects, and policymakers are assessing its long-term impact on cities -- all of which are uncertain, at best. 

A number of local and regional plans have either been recently adopted or are currently in the process of being updated, including Metro’s Next Gen bus study and long-range capital program, SCAG's Connect SoCal plan, and Los Angeles’ zoning code rewrite and Citywide Community Plan update. How do our region’s planners account for the pandemic -- from enormous financial impacts and uncertainty to changes in personal habits and modes of working together, from the gutting of brick and mortar retail to the surge of the delivery economy and the rethinking of office vs. work at home. How will these plans help sort out a chaotic situation and point a path forward? Will the pandemic upend the in-progress plans and make already adopted plans ineffectual? How do we plan for greater resiliency to future pandemics, and especially for communities of color and low income that have been hardest hit? What lessons are we learning? And what about the stresses on Planning Departments themselves? Funding for planning initiatives is now severely restricted, just when planning is getting exponentially tougher.

This month, WUF brings together panelists from the local, regional, and state levels to weigh in on how the pandemic will influence long-range plans either currently in progress or recently adopted, and the subsequent impact on future development, and how cities can approach long-range planning in a way that positions them to more effectively respond to and manage these crises for a more resilient future.

Erik de Kok, Governor’s Office of Planning & Research, State of California 
Nadine Lee, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Jason Greenspan, Manager of Sustainability, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) 
Arthi Varma, Deputy Director of Citywide Planning, Department of City Planning, City of Los Angeles 

Cecelia Estolano, CEO, Estolano Advisors; Former CEO, Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency