Los Angeles' Brawl With Sprawl

<p>Officials in Los Angeles were successful in implementing high-density growth policies to curb sprawl. However, a disconnect between culture, transportation policy, and the real estate market may have disastrous consequences.</p>
March 31, 2008, 10am PDT | mhandelman
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Los Angeles real estate developers are pursuing high-density transit-oriented developments, similar to efforts in urban areas across the United States. However, the widespread availability of free parking, and lack of political momentum or support of public transportation, may cause these well-intentioned developments to create a city-wide traffic meltdown, instead of easing the region's long standing transportation woes.

"Six miles (10km) west of North Hollywood, a four-storey building is rising next to a car-wash on Ventura Boulevard. When finished, it will contain about 130 apartments and an underground car park. To an outsider it seems innocuous. To local residents, schooled by almost a century of strict zoning to believe that bedrooms must be separated from shops, it is anathema."

"Urban planners intone phrases like "transport-oriented development" and "elegant density". Yet nowhere has the dream of a house and a sun-drenched garden been so central to a city's identity for so long as in Los Angeles. So nowhere does the change come as such a shock."

"A big reason Angelenos drive everywhere is that they can park everywhere, generally free. Businesses must provide parking spaces according to a strict schedule. This raises the cost of doing business and hugely lowers the cost of driving."

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Published on Thursday, March 27, 2008 in The Economist
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