The Los Angeles Charter, which defines the organization and functions of the City, provides specific powers and authorities to the Director of Planning. However, land use decisions are not reserved exclusively to elected officials or even the Director. The City’s Zoning Code outlines the broad authorities of each decision maker who reviews a specific subset of planning approvals.
Director of Planning
As the Los Angeles City Planning Department's chief administrative officer, the Director of Planning is responsible for preparing the City's General Plan and overseeing zoning and land use regulations. Additionally, the Director reviews specific project applications that require the Department to confirm their compliance with zoning standards.
Office of Zoning Administration
Zoning Administrators are like judges: they investigate, conduct hearings, and issue determinations on a number of land use considerations. They perform quasi-judicial functions pertaining to the administration, interpretation, and enforcement of the Zoning Code.
In the City of Los Angeles, there are nine citizen-led commissions that meet regularly to give advice and make recommendations on planning-related matters: the City Planning Commission, the Cultural Heritage Commission, and seven Area Planning Commissions.
City Planning Commission
The City Planning Commission reviews land use ordinances amendments to the General Plan, and some complex development projects.
Cultural Heritage Commission
The Cultural Heritage Commission offers guidance on issues related to historic preservation, overseeing both the designation and protection of local landmarks.
Area Planning Commission
Additionally, there are seven Area Planning Commissions that largely serve as appeals boards for project determinations issued by the Department or the Zoning Administrator. Area Planning Commissions represent the North Valley, South Valley, West Los Angeles, Central, East Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, and Harbor regions.
Deputy Advisory Agencies
Deputy Advisory Agencies act on a subset of cases involving the subdivision of land for ownership—typically, but not exclusively, for condominiums. These hearings are chaired by a representative of the City Planning Department in coordination with other city departments.