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Op-Ed: Build a Dense Wilshire Corridor to Ease L.A.'s Housing Woes

Thom Mayne proposes a radical solution to Los Angeles' affordability/preservation problem: build up transit-friendly areas far beyond current densities, and leave the rest unchanged.
November 29, 2016, 7am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Long touted as a city of reinvention, Los Angeles faces some serious challenges putting that reputation to the test. Architect Thom Mayne asks, "How can we absorb an additional 1.5 million people while accounting for the impacts of climate change, advancing environmental sustainability (100% local water, 100% renewable energy, and enhanced ecosystem and human health) and urban affordability without completely destroying the character that Angelenos love about their city?"

His answer? "By adding 1 million more people along the Wilshire Boulevard corridor (which already has a half million people, for a total 1.5 million) and another half million in other transit-oriented areas." Meanwhile, anti-development Angelenos could continue their low-rise lifestyle everywhere else. 

In the near-term at least, this project sounds politically unfeasible. But Mayne is thinking big: "In fact, using Hong Kong's residential building types, [the Wilshire corridor] could accommodate another 8 million people. In our relatively conservative model, the density of the Wilshire corridor would be less than that of Manhattan." 

This vision is a tale of two cities: transit-oriented high-rise LA and auto-friendly suburban LA. In a more modest fashion, the city may already be heading in that direction. Mayne's plan fully embraces that future. From the article: "The strategy also diminishes water demand from single-family lawns, reduces vehicular emissions associated with sprawl, and protects an area 10 times its size —150,000 acres — that would have to be developed to meet housing demand at L.A.'s current densities. By building upward instead of outward, the corridor could easily create 70% more public open space for stormwater capture, habitat, and heat diffusion."

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, November 3, 2016 in LA Times
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