Los Angeles County

 

A Forest of High Rises Grows in Los Angeles

Until the mid-2000s, the South Park neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles had exactly one high-rise tower: the looming, vaguely Stalinist Transamerica Building (now the AT&T Center). It most famously supplied the rooftop where Guns 'n Roses shot the video for "Don't Cry." The area—which occupies the southern portion of downtown Los Angeles, between the Financial District and Interstate 10—otherwise consisted of dilapidated retail, low-rent residential buildings and acres of surface parking lots. 

The area was avoided by businesses, developers, and rock stars alike. 

Today, the AT&T Center is but the tallest tree in a rapidly growing forest. No fewer than 20 high-rise and medium-rise projects are under construction or in development in the roughly 40 square-block area. At least that many projects are in earlier stages of development. 

It is, say planners, the next phase in the resurgence of downtown Los Angeles. 

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A Vivid Warning for Coastal Cities

Currently on display at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change is an arresting exhibition depicting consequences of, and solutions to, rising sea levels. It includes photographs by artists and journalists of disasters, like Hurricane Katrina and the Japanese tsunami, and responses, like floating schools in Bangladesh, sculpted sea walls in the Netherlands, and the restoration of the Malibu Lagoon, just a few miles away. Sink or Swim celebrates, and issues a charge to engineers, designers, and public officials to acknowledge rising seas and start embracing ways to build resiliency.

Sink or Swim was curated by Frances Anderton, known locally for hosting KCRW public radio’s DnA: Design & Architecture show. She spoke with CP&DR’s Josh Stephens.

Pasadena Ushers in Era of VMT Metrics

Perhaps fittingly, one of the state’s oldest, stateliest cities will be the first to institute one of the most sophisticated advances in planning tools since the slide rule. Not long ago, the City of Pasadena implemented metrics that measure projects’ impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act in terms of vehicle miles traveled rather than level of service. 

Pasadena is not only the first city in the state to adopt VMT metrics but may also be the first in the nation. 

Pasadena’s switch both responds to and precedes the adoption of Senate Bill 743. Passed in 2013 as an amendment to the California Environmental Quality Act, SB 743 will require cities to evaluate traffic impacts according to vehicle miles traveled, not to traditional level-of-service thresholds.

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Split Decision on Oil Measures, Redondo Beach Development Plan Loses

Local voters in California gave oil a split decision on Tuesday. Voters in La Habra Heights shot down an anti-fracking ballot measure, while voters in Hermosa Beach rejected a ballot measure that would have permitted E&B Natural Resources to construct 34 onshore wells in the city. Meanwhile, Redondo Beach voters rejected a development plan that would have included razing the power plant that has long occupied a critical spot near the beach.

Stadium Foe Takes Page from Paranoia Playbook

I don’t like the idea of building an NFL stadium, presumably for the relocated St. Louis Rams, in Inglewood. You know who really doesn’t like he idea? Anschutz Entertainment Group. But do you know who does like it? ISIS. Or al-Qaeda. Or the Taliban. I’m not really sure, but, apparently, one of those groups hates the stadium so much that they're going to want to blow it up. 

Sprawl Depends on More Than Just Density

In the ever-lasting debate over sprawl, the most enduring argument centers on the definition of sprawl itself. The latest entrant is, perhaps, the oldest entrant: density. 

As reported by Richard Florida in his CityLab column this week, NYU doctoral student Thomas Laidley has introduced a new method to measure sprawl. Laidley's "Sprawl Index" uses the following methodology: 

"Laidley uses these aerial images to estimate sprawl at the Census block level, the smallest level available, estimating the share of metro population in those blocks below three key thresholds: 3,500, 8,500, and 20,000 persons per square mile. His index is based on the average of these three values, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of sprawl."

An Underwhelming Attitude Towards Density

Consider this headline, which accompanied a recent Citylab article on a townhouse development in Echo Park: “In Los Angeles, Density That Doesn't Overwhelm.” It doesn’t take much to unpack that statement. It implies that density is inherently overwhelming.

Parallel Newhall Ranch Cases: the CA Supreme Court Won't Decide Them All

In addition to the state Supreme Court dispute on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's action, three other Newhall Ranch cases continue in litigation, all brought by plaintiffs and attorneys overlapping with the group before the high court. (See http://www.cp-dr.com/node/3461 for more links on these cases.)

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California's Supreme Court About to Consider One Strand of the Newhall Ranch Tangle

The Newhall Ranch environmental review litigation, itself a mighty matter of land use legend, has an important strand of its multiply braided conflicts awaiting an oral argument date before the state Supreme Court. 

The parties' briefing is complete. The court has accepted a deep layer of amicus briefs from state-level land use players. And with the confirmation of Justice Leondra Kruger, the court has finally returned to full membership. So the court has little reason to delay setting an argument date.

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Battle between Football, Brunch Rages in L.A.

I went to brunch a few Sunday mornings ago at Louie’s, a place that I will unironically describe as a gastropub. My Sunday rituals usually consist of visits to the farmers market and worrying about deadlines.