CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST GUIDELINES
Any person can request public records. It does not matter who you are, or why you want them. Similarly, the California Constitution guarantees that the "writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny" and requires that exemptions to access be "narrowly construed." As such, this office is cognizant of the City's responsibilities under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and that the statutory scheme was enacted to maximize citizen access to the workings of government.
Although you are not required to submit a request in writing under the law, written requests both streamline the response process and ensure that the correct records are provided. Accordingly, you should direct your request to the specific City department, office or agency you believe has the desired records (a list of all City departments and contact information can be found at www.lacity.org). Keep in mind that the City of Los Angeles has over 35,000 employees spread over dozens of departments, commissions and agencies. The CPRA recognizes that it would be impractical for one agency to be held responsible for controlling the records of any other agency, let alone the entire City.
Generally, the City has 10 calendar days to respond to a request for records. The response need only state which responsive documents will be made available, and which records, if any, will not be produced, citing specific exemptions. On certain occasions, departments may take an additional 14 calendar days to respond if "unusual circumstances" exist with respect to the request (the need to search for records from field facilities; the need to search for a voluminous amount of records; the need to consult with another agency; or the need to compile data, to write programming language or a computer program, or to construct a computer report to extract data). The requested documents can either be made available with this initial response or within a reasonable time thereafter.
The City is not required to respond to requests for information, nor is it required to create new documents that otherwise would not exist simply to respond to a request. In certain instances, documents that exist are nevertheless withheld because certain statutory exemptions apply. By providing specific exemptions to disclosure, the CPRA recognizes the public's right to access balances against such important considerations as the right of privacy and laws relating to legal privilege. Accordingly, personnel records, attorney work product, and certain law enforcement documents are just some of the records that are exempt from production under the CPRA.
If you make a request of a City department, you will be given the opportunity to inspect available non-exempt public records during normal business hours free of charge. To ensure that your requested documents are ready and available, it helps if you plan ahead by making an appointment. If you would like personal copies of any requested documents, those document copies will be provided at a cost of ten cents per page. The CPRA allows the City to request payment for copies in advance (checks should be made payable to the "City of Los Angeles").