A friend who recently attended the American Planning Association national conference in Los Angeles came back with some interesting information. Before I explain what he saw, I must say that I owe an apology to another family friend.
Years ago my father and I were visiting Patrick Kane, a friend in Reston, Virginia and one of the founders of KRS Associates. He told us that L.A. was doing some interesting things and would help lead the way towards redevelopment of the suburban parts of the city. At the time, my sister lived in Los Angeles and I had just finished my undergraduate work in San Diego. I could not fathom what he was saying. When I thought about infill and smart growth, I always thought about Portland and Seattle, not L.A. with all of the sprawl, traffic, and pollution. I spent a lot of time in Southern California and imagined that development would continue sprawling out to Riverside, Irvine, and beyond.
It turns out that L.A. is doing some creative things. In addition to the renaissance of downtown L.A., with billions of dollars of private and public dollars spent on developments such as L.A. Live, other developments showcase how cities might be able to increase density in areas beyond traditional urban centers. While Portland’s Gerding Edlen has multiple projects in the downtown L.A. area, it is projects like the Frank in Venice that also catch my eye.
My friend who attended the conference gushed about what L.A. is doing with infill all over the various parts of the city. A company called Modative is pioneering development with L.A.’s small lot ordinance. The L.A. small lot ordinance is finding a way to establish condo or attached projects while maintaining separation between units so that the houses can be sold in fee simple, avoiding expensive homeowners’ association dues and costly insurance for the builder and buyer.
With all the recent construction defect litigation surrounding condominiums, reduced lot standards, such as three-foot setbacks between structures, are a way to achieve density without triggering the additional costs. The Portland/Vancouver urban area should take note.
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