Tuesday, April 15, 2008
“Density” captures the essence of most plans to foster “smarter” growth and change the American tradition of sprawling land use law. But the seemingly simple idea of allowing –- or maybe even encouraging –- denser development often runs into opposition in a nation that has been reared on thinking that low density is the ideal. This week, I write about a variety of stories that reveal the growing pains of density.
Los Angeles is of course the quintessential low-density metro area –- built in large part after the introduction of the automobile, and spread out by virtue of its revolutionary freeway system. But with more than 4 million people now in the city, more than 15 million within 50 miles of downtown, and new sprawl blocked by ocean mountain, and desert, Los Angeles is looking for ways to increase density.
But density naturally has its opponents in Los Angeles. One of the most vocal is Zev Yaroslavsky, a County Commissioner and former City Council member, who recently wrote an anti-density opinion column for the L.A. Times. His guiding principle? Density should not be allowed to interfere with the “character” of a residential community.