Lawyer Monthly - September 2023

obtaining permits and approvals. The challenge is to make the land use and environmental processes faster, less costly and more predictable without compromising the public’s health, safety and welfare. The initiative plans to make the city’s land use review process more predictable and efficient. In your view, what legal obstacles might emerge when trying to implement these changes, and how could they be overcome? Changes to the internal review procedures of the Department of Buildings, which issues permits and approvals for developments, and the Department of City Planning, which is the gatekeeper to the Zoning Resolution and public review process, are not subject to public review or approval. These changes can be implemented The ‘City of Yes’ initiative is an ambitious plan aiming to streamline the city’s land use and zoning process. From your experience, what are the key challenges that such an initiative would likely face? The City of Yes is a remarkable and long-overdue development. Unlike prior initiatives, it seeks to amend the Zoning Resolution to address critical needs while streamlining the review and approval process. This is an unprecedented combination. The critical needs are to achieve carbon neutrality, increase affordable housing and spur economic growth. The streamlining aspect involves changes to how agencies process applications to produce faster and more predictable results. Implementation of the initiative requires amendments to the Zoning Resolution and changes in agency procedures. Zoning amendments are subject to a public review and approval process mandated by the City Charter, involving referral to the affected community board(s) and borough president(s) and approval by the City Planning Commission and City Council, with public hearings held at each stage. Changes in agency procedures, primarily at the Department of Buildings and the Department of City Planning, may be made by the heads of these agencies without public review. The challenges faced by the proposed zoning amendments include the actual drafting of the amendments, which are complex and affect many different sections of the Zoning Resolution, and the public review process, including presentations, responses to comments and revisions. The amendments for affordable housing and economic growth are still being drafted while the amendments for carbon neutrality are in the public review process. The basic challenge faced by changes in agency review procedures is overcoming decades of constructing elaborate processes that increase the time, costs and unpredictability associated with THOUGHT LEADER 67

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