How can we get LA’s economy moving again? LA 2020 just released a report summarizing the many challenges facing the city. The problems are of varying complexity, including some very intractable issues. I’m not sure anyone knows how to approach the troubles of LA’s schools; in my humble opinion, all of public education in California will continue to face problems as long as Prop 13 exists.
The silver lining of having a lot of challenges is that some of them are bound to be pretty easy to solve. For example, job growth in LA has lagged over the last 5 years. Part of this is due to difficult issues like the continued loss of manufacturing jobs to cheap labor overseas and states that whore out their treasuries to the likes of Boeing. Slashing wages and giving enormous tax breaks to corporations are probably not good strategies in the long run.
On the other hand, part of LA’s slow job growth is due to slow recovery of employment in construction. This is something we could address pretty easily, since the market is clearly demanding more residential construction in the city. We don’t have to figure anything out, other than how to get out of our own way. Allowing more residential construction would also help other parts of LA’s economy. For example, here’s the vacant office building at Venice & Clarington in Palms.
46,000 SF of available office space. Outside of a few hot markets, LA still has office vacancy rates of about 15%. If we allowed more residential construction, that would create work for architects, engineers, and contractors. If you’ve got a few apartment buildings under construction in Palms and Culver City, maybe you grab 1,000 SF of that space for a field office.
Now across the street, there’s my favorite “tour of the world” strip mall.
More residents in Palms means more customers for dinner, and filling that office space means more customers for lunch. The increase in business would hopefully allow these restaurants to expand. This would help the people who own strip malls, who currently face vacancy rates of about 10%.
This isn’t to minimize the bigger challenges facing LA or the need to address them. But many times, tackling easier problems first sets you on your way, and makes the big problems less daunting. Allowing more residential construction is easy, and it would boost employment and city finances, giving the community more resources to beat the big issues.