A Growing Body of Knowledge Examines Unauthorized Housing in Los Angeles

An academic look at unauthorized housing in the Los Angeles area: Interview of Jacob Wegmann by Los Angeles County Planner Jonathan Bell

Planning scholars are now focusing on an area of research that has long been neglected – garage apartments.

While working for Los Angeles County, Jonathan P. Bell has seen firsthand how common place conversions are in the area.

“From 2006 to 2014, I worked as a Los Angeles County Zoning Enforcement planner. During that time I inspected over one thousand informal units (and other zoning violations) across Los Angeles County’s diverse unincorporated communities. Here’s one thing I learned: the garage apartment, developed and occupied stealthily in violation of zoning, building, and health codes, is ubiquitous throughout the L.A. region.”

While the growing interest in research is a positive, one key problem that still remains is the lack of regulation and enforcement where these unauthorized structures are concerned, Bell writes.

“Reality check, fellow planners: while some informal units look nicely built, many others are objectionably substandard, and neither type has been inspected for code compliance. Safety is at the heart of regulation. Planning enforcement is ‘where the rubber meets the road.’”

Bell goes on to detail his interview with UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Jacob Wegmann, especially about what he learned while gathering information for his doctoral dissertation, entitled “We Just Built It: Code Enforcement, Local Politics, and the Extralegal Housing Market in Southeast Los Angeles County.”

“Due out later this year, the dissertation examines the role of unpermitted units in Los Angeles’ housing market and political economy. Enforcement is core to the study.”

In the article, Bell and Wegmann discuss the role of unpermitted housing units in Los Angeles’ housing market and economy.

Full Story: Converting Garages into a Dissertation: A Conversation with Jacob Wegmann


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