L.A. Looks to Land Use to Improve Public Health

The newest craze for improving the health of Angelenos isn't an all-liquid diet or a Brazilian exercise regimen; it's a new approach to land use regulation being championed by the County and City of Los Angeles.
davidcstone / Flickr

"Land use rules implemented in the past to protect public health have today become health hazards," writes Occidental College Professor Mark Vallianatos. "As Emily Talen puts it in her book City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban Form, '[z]oning contributed to health problems by spreading people out, increasing their reliance on automobiles and a sedentary lifestyle.'”

Hence, says Vallianatos, by enacting new land use laws that address public health, "the County and City [of Los Angeles] have a chance to undo the damage of earlier rules while also addressing new challenges and opportunities."

With a number of innovative ordinances recently adopted or in development, Los Angeles is meeting this challenge head-on. Vallianatos examines what planners with the County and City have been up to.

"On February 5th, 2013, Los Angeles County adopted a Healthy Design Ordinance.  The ordinance amended the County’s planning and zoning code “to encourage a healthy lifestyle in the County by promoting walking, bicycling, and other exercise, and by creating better access to healthy foods.”

Meanwhile, "The City of Los Angeles is preparing to launch a five year process to revise its zoning code, which hasn’t been fully updated since 1946.  The City has also received funding from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to add a Health and Wellness Element to LA City’s General Plan. These are opportunities for the City of Los Angeles to move towards a framework of rules around the built environment that encourage a healthier city."

Full Story:  Zoning a Healthier Los Angeles?

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