Los Angeles' New Tower and the Silly Rules That Govern Building Height

Los Angeles' new Wilshire Grand tower is tall and impressive. But, in reality, it's about 100 feet shorter and perhaps less impressive than the arbiters of skyscrapers say it is. Whatever the definition, it might be time to quit venerating height.

June 28, 2017, 1:00 PM PDT

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310


Wilshire Grand

vewfinder / Shutterstock

"The Wilshire Grand received its share of fanfare at its grand opening on Friday, as well it should. It’s a major addition to downtown Los Angeles’ stock. Architecturally, it’s handsome enough and it is a landmark by any measure. In a city that remains famously horizontal, it’s fun to get excited about something vertical." 

"I’m not an engineer or an architect, but I know the difference between a spire and a story. Any layperson can appreciate that the true height of a building depends on its highest operable floor. If I’m feeling charitable, I’d throw in service floors or accessible rooftop. What I’m not willing to concede is that the 73-story Wilshire Grand, whose roof tops out at 934 feet, is "taller" than the 73-story, 1,018-foot US Bank Building — which has a flat roof and no protuberance to distort its height."

"Gleaming skylines often belie banal or even inhumane conditions at street level. So many skylines, be they as impressive as Dubai or as banal as Fresno, come down to earth in entirely unimpressive ways. They rise above empty sidewalks, expansive parking lots, overly wide boulevards, and nothing resembling local culture or style. Places like New York, Hong Kong, and San Francisco are the exceptions. Downtown Los Angeles…. it falls somewhere in between."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in California Planning & Development Report

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