Daily Archives: June 20, 2014

LA Needs A Housing Boom

Stephen J. Smith of Next City and Market Urbanism recently published some great visualizations of growth in American cities since 1940, using animated GIFs created by Ian Rees (@woolie).

These graphics make the need for a large increase in housing supply abundantly clear, and I want to look at the LA images in more detail.

1950s

Growth between 1940 and 1950 was somewhat muted by World War 2, but in the 1950s, the suburban boom really took off.

la.density_1950_1960-mod

There’s growth all over the Valley, South Bay, and the Gateway Cities. The initial wave of suburbanization takes off in Orange County, and advances into the San Gabriel Valley as well.

Counter to the “LA is sprawl” narrative, there’s also a considerable amount of growth in built-up areas like Santa Monica, Venice, Long Beach, Hollywood, and what’s now Koreatown.

1960s

Here’s the graphic for the 1960s.

la.density_1960_1970-mod

Suburbanization in the Valley advances to Santa Clarita and Simi Valley, while construction in the Valley falls off. However, there’s still a considerable amount of apartment growth in places like Reseda, Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Panorama City.

Construction in southeast LA County tails off, while suburbanization in Orange County pushes south.

Note that there’s still a ton of construction in Koreatown, Hollywood, Sunset Strip, Santa Monica, and Venice, and a continuing boom in Inglewood and Hawthorne.

1970s

The same trend continues into the 1970s.

la.density_1970_1980-mod

Notice that in the 1970s, there’s actually an intensification of growth in the Valley, especially in Warner Center and the previously mentioned areas. Growth in Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena also occurs.

Further east, the southern San Gabriel Valley and Pomona Valley start to grow.

Santa Monica and Venice continue to boom, and Palms is on an absolute tear, as are the beach cities of South Bay and Long Beach. Koreatown, Hollywood, and Sunset Strip all keep seeing a lot of construction.

In Orange County, suburbanization advances into Tustin and Irvine, but previously built-up areas continue to grow too.

1980s

In the 1980s, there’s still a lot of building going on, but you can start to see the wheels coming off, thanks to widespread downzonings.

la.density_1980_1990-mod

The Valley and Santa Clarita keep growing much as they did in the 1970s, as do Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena. In the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, Diamond Bar and Chino Hills start to grow.

Thing start to quiet off on the Westside, but Santa Monica, Venice, West LA, and Palms still see growth. Koreatown keeps growing, but Hollywood and Sunset Strip decline noticeably.

Similarly, Long Beach and the South Bay beach cities see some growth, but a noticeable drop off. Meanwhile Hawthorne keeps growing.

With the exception of Irvine, things get much quieter in Orange County.

1990s

The 1990s are sort of LA’s lost decade, thanks to a punishing recession from 1990-1994 associated with defense spending cutbacks. The lackluster growth is somewhat forgivable in that regard.

la.density_1990_2000-mod

Koreatown, Hollywood, and North Hollywood see growth, but at a much lower level, as does Panorama City. Irvine and Tustin are about the only thing going on in Orange County. In the San Gabriel Valley and South Bay, it’s crickets. On the Westside, only West LA, Palms, and downtown Santa Monica see noticeable growth.

2000s

In contrast to the 1990s, the 2000s were a time of prosperity and rising prices. There’s no excuse for construction to be this low.

la.density_2000_2010-mod

There’s a little pick up in Warner Center, Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, Burbank, and Pasadena. Koreatown and Downtown grow, but Hollywood construction falls off. On the Westside, there’s West LA, Palms, Marina del Rey, and Playa del Ray, but that’s it. There’s a suffocating lack of growth in southeastern LA County and the San Gabriel Valley, and except Irvine, Orange County isn’t much better.

Here’s the animated graphic with neighborhood overlays. (Update: to get the animated gif to display in the post, I had to rescale it to a smaller size. Drop me an email if you want the original size.)

la.densit.overlay-reduce2

LA Needs a Housing Boom Everywhere

This is why we’re in the hole we’re in on affordability. And when you’re in a hole, one of the first things you can do to help yourself is stop digging. We have a 20 year deficit of construction to try to make up. Increasing supply isn’t a cure for all our housing issues, but I don’t see how we have a chance of solving other issues without it.

This growth can’t be only in a few favored neighborhoods like Downtown and Hollywood. We need new housing everywhere – the Valley, the Westside, South Bay, southeastern LA County, Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley – everywhere.