As a renter in Mid-Wilshire, I’ve certainly noticed the boom in multi-unit construction in the last several years. I agree with Steven Leigh Morris [“City Hall’s ‘Density Hawks’ Are Changing L.A.’s DNA,” Feb. 28-March 6] that everyone seems to be chasing the luxury buyer and renter, and pushing working people out of the central city. City Hall should remember that it’s the people on the street, not the 60-hour-week high-income professional or absent foreign owner, who create the ambiance that makes the city exciting to live in.
What I find peculiar is the lack of thought — by planners, and also by Morris — about how a denser city will survive under what is certainly a steadily decreasing availability of oil. Instead of permitting towers that are not viable without a reliable source of electricity (to run elevators and air conditioning), we should be building low-rise (five-stories or less) apartment buildings and condos. These remain habitable when the electricity goes out. I am not optimistic about taxpayers’ returns from high-rise projects underwritten by the city; I think these buildings, if they are even built, will be white elephants within 10 or 15 years and the taxpayers will be stuck paying off the construction bonds.
There is no hope of solving L.A.’s infamous transportation problems without better coordination of land use with a vision for transportation. The L.A. Department of City Planning and its new director, Gail Goldberg, embrace this strategy.
Density near transit stations is essential to the solution, and necessary to provide a transit system that Angelenos will want to ride. The best analogy I’ve heard is to compare the vision to a game of Jacks. The “ball” is the transit system and the “jacks” are the potential transit riders. If the jacks are organized in groups, it is much easier to pick them up with the ball. If the jacks are spread all over the table (like our current urban sprawl), you can only pick them up one at a time (not very efficient).
Finally, the kinds of rail systems that concerned citizens envision are too expensive to build without some sense that the density (groups) will be there when they are built. Thoughtful transportation planners acknowledge that we cannot solve the problem by providing more automobile capacity, and the alternatives need land-use coordination as well.
Allyn D. RifkinTransportation Planner/Engineer, Los Angeles
In your recent article on L.A.’s increasing density, you once again ignore the 800-pound gorilla: immigration, both legal and otherwise. If not for our post-1965 immigration disaster, we would have a stable population today and be living in a livable city.
Richard SolLos Angeles
Every night, thousands of low-income families sleep in illegal garage conversions and backyard dwelling units. Many of these units are substandard but play a critical role in supplying shelter to low-income families. This is L.A.’s unseen density. Unless Steven Leigh Morris thinks that these people will go away, they need decent housing near transit. Because of the high price of housing and transportation, many of these people can’t afford to buy a single-family home or even a car. Many low-income Latinos walk, bike and, yes, use transit. Adding density at transit stops can serve this group well.
James RojasLos Angeles
The region’s population is, on the one hand, growing and, on the other hand, finding that the outer suburbs are increasingly unviable. Regional subprime mapping shows that subdivisions at the extreme edge — far away from the region’s workplaces and making up the lion’s share of affordable housing for the entire basin — are collapsing. This puts enormous pressure on the city to accommodate those who can neither afford the high cost of gas to commute to work nor [their] mortgages.
At the same time, growth within the city limits needs to go somewhere. Single-family homeowners have made it very clear that they want to both preserve their neighborhoods and make them more amenable by locating a wide range of services (schools, retail, recreation, jobs) closer to home.
It is important to point out that there is a vital environmental dimension to all of this. Until a couple of months ago, we knew that buildings were the highest consumers of energy across the board. They still are, yet more so. Through recent studies, we now know that when the energy to commute to places is accounted for, the energy consumed is doubled. This staggering realization suggests that we need to locate households and jobs near transit or within easy walking distance. Priuses alone cannot do it.
All of this suggests the same solution: Our urban corridors need to accommodate considerable new growth. Yet it is equally important that in so doing, we make these arterials into beautiful boulevards that are some of the most pleasant places in the city to stroll. We must provide convenient, ample transit and protect and increase open spaces and parks. Finally, we must insist on shaping our buildings to create a positive and vibrant public realm that enhances our daily lives.
Los Angeles is growing up. This isn’t new. It has been growing since the transcontinental railroad came West 125 years ago.
Liz MouleMoule & Polyzoides, Pasadena
CorrectionIn our March 7-13 issue, an incorrect venue was listed for Monday Evening Concerts in the classical-music pick. The concert took place at Colburn School of Music’s Zipper Concert Hall.