Researchers at ULCA studied permitting and entitlement approval times in Los Angeles. They are pretty terrible compared to Chicago.
tl;dr: Los Angeles, 500 days; Chicago, 180 days. Read on for some low-level discussion of our methodologies.
I learned about this development-slowing phenomenon from episode 59 of the Housing Voices podcast (one of my favorites). The paper – download it – was written by Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen, Nolan Gray, and Shane Phillips.
They found that the median time to permit for discretionary (i.e. not permitted as of right) developments in Los Angeles “transit oriented communities” (which are not equivalent to Chicago’s transit-served locations) was 495 days; the timeline was 747 days for by-right developments outside of transit oriented communities.
While my study is less rigorous, I programmed Chicago Cityscape to constantly calculate the time between the day the zoning change application is submitted to City Council and the day a relevant building permit for that project is issued.
I believe that this is roughly the same metric that their study used; however, it doesn’t account for potential variations between the two cities’ staff review processes and how much time a project in Chicago may be entertained by planning staff prior to a zoning change application being submitted to City Council.
I find that the median time to permit for discretionary developments in Chicago is 180 days. That’s compared to 495 days in Los Angeles!
This metric includes projects that (a) were approved by Chicago City Council within the last two years (the calculation is updated daily), (b) received a new construction or renovation permit having an estimated construction cost of $100,000 or more, and (c) was issued after the zoning change application’s approval date.
Both of our studies do not have information about the length of time a project spends in a “pre-approval” or “ideation” stage. And their study does not account for the time that a permit application (prior to issuance) is spent outside of a plan examiner’s review time (what Los Angeles calls “hold days”). However, my study accounts for the total time from permit application start to permit issuance date (because that is the value that the Chicago Department of Buildings published), so if their study accounted for that time then the number of days between application start and issuance would be even longer in Los Angeles!