Decrying L.A.'s plan for 'elegant density'

hollywood3.jpgThe folks in Hollywood who oppose putting up high rises and adding to the already-snarled traffic face an uphill battle at City Hall. But at least they're raising important issues about the type of city L.A. is designed to be. Joel Kotkin picks up on the theme in City Journal:

Despite public outcry, Los Angeles's political, labor, and real-estate elites almost unanimously support what Villaraigosa calls "elegant density," pushing for the transformation of the city's low-rise, multipolar, and moderate urban form into something more like vertical, transit-oriented New York. Dissenters from this view are often called "antiurban." But to activists like Susan Swan, who leads the Hollywood Neighborhood Council, it's really about letting L.A. remain L.A. As she notes, New York and Los Angeles have evolved in radically different ways. New York, particularly its urban core, was built largely before the automobile age. Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs are transit-dependent: 56 percent of commuters take public transportation. By contrast, L.A. remains overwhelmingly car-oriented, with only 11 percent of commuters using public transit, despite the $8 billion invested in rail lines over the past two decades. Los Angeles's downtown is nowhere near as important as New York's; just over 2 percent of L.A. metropolitan-area employment is downtown, compared with about 20 percent in greater New York. Instead of revolving around one mega-center, L.A. boasts commercial centers in each of its major neighborhoods, many of which are close to single-family homes and low-rise apartments.

Kotkin also points out many parts of Los Angeles have either stagnated or lost population over the last 20 years - including Hollywood. "Yet [Councilman Eric] Garcetti, [Mayor Antonio] Villaraigosa, and their allies continue to base their grands projets, as the French would call them, on outmoded assumptions of exploding economic and population growth," he writes.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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