Re-Zoning For Walkability

It often seems that streetscapes' appearances and forms are immutable, but Los Angeles is trying something new. Through a herculean effort called Recode: LA, Los Angeles is rewriting its codes and, consequently, may change how its streets look.
February 23, 2015, 8am PST | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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James Brasuell

Zoning is often thought of—if it is thought of at all—as a way of regulating the uses and forms of buildings in certain parts of cities. But that’s not all, writes Mark Vallianatos, professor of urban and environmental policy at Occidental College. Zoning can also dictate the fine-grain look and functioning of a city's streets.

For Vallianatos, therefore, some of the shortcomings of Los Angeles' streets are no accident. L.A.'s car-centric, pedestrian-unfriendly streets result from zoning codes implemented in 1946. This means that L.A. has seven decades' worth of outdated streetscape. Fortunately, what was created by code may be redesigned by code. "Revised zoning rules can hopefully strengthen the ways that a 21st century Los Angeles is transforming and help residents build a city where walking is a convenient and safe way to travel," writes Vallianatos. "Zoning is potentially our most powerful tool to create a more walkable Los Angeles."

As the city works on an update to its zoning code through an effort branded as Recode: LA, Vallianatos offers recommendations for reforming the code and creating friendlier streets. They include increases in mixed-use zoning, lowering of minimum parking requirements, and encouraging pedestrian-friendly design.

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Published on Friday, February 6, 2015 in Public CEO
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