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Old 02-19-2015, 05:21 PM
 
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Ran across this article today, thought I would share it here and get some more opinions on it. Seems like the kind of headline that would make heads explode in this forum, heh heh.

I don't have a dog in this fight, so please don't get pissed off at me if you don't like the article.


America's Least Sprawling City Is...Los Angeles?
Forget the clichés. L.A. isn't the capital of sprawl.

Quote:
"Although Los Angeles is often popularly associated with sprawl because of its pollution and traffic," Laidley writes, "its sheer lack of very low-density development places it atop all U.S. metro areas."
Quote:
This fits my anecdotal experience as a former Angeleno. Indeed, if you live near your workplace in Los Angeles, as I did from early 1999 through early 2002, even the city's fabled traffic isn't the problem you might expect.
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Of course I sometimes had to cross the city to cover a story, attend an event, or visit a friend, and that could mean congestion. But I lived in a compact and walkable neighborhood with all the basic urban amenities, precisely the sort of place that the anti-sprawl warriors ought to like.
*Emphasis added by me.
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Old 02-19-2015, 06:52 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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That's cool for LA. It is a pretty big metro that still covers a large amount of land. Though they have been working hard to try to get people out of their cars and improve transit options in the metro.
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Old 02-19-2015, 08:07 PM
 
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The thing about LA is that it fairly uniformly dense. It doesn't have the density in its most dense parts as other large urban metros in the country. In a way, this is its own form of sprawl. Because density is fairly uniform, things are more decentralized, which means more people are car dependent to get to employment.
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Old 02-19-2015, 08:49 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
45,983 posts, read 41,929,314 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago76 View Post
The thing about LA is that it fairly uniformly dense. It doesn't have the density in its most dense parts as other large urban metros in the country. In a way, this is its own form of sprawl. Because density is fairly uniform, things are more decentralized, which means more people are car dependent to get to employment.
Not really true.

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Old 02-19-2015, 10:20 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
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Before we all lose our heads over this topic, I think we should affirm that the claim of LA being the "least sprawled" city doesn't mean that the author of the article is trying to say that LA has the best mass transit system, or that LA is the most urban city, or that LA is the most walkable city.

LA is a hybrid city. Early developers experimented with LA, trying to combine both density and automobile-minded environments. You have urban nodes in DTLA, along Wilshire, Hollywood, etc., that are served by pretty great mass transit and are fairly walkable. Then you have the spaces in between those urban nodes that are more automobile-inclined. A track of land can be both dense (therefore not sprawled) and not entirely friendly to pedestrians at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive traits.

It's also important to remember that LA is NOT a suburban city in the sense that South Orange County or other Sunbelt cities are suburban. LA was built as a streetcar city, so naturally LA will be much more tightly packed in terms of developments. Just because LA's houses aren't attached like rowhouses doesn't mean the city isn't incredibly compact (which is strange to say given how large LA is in terms of land size).
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Old 02-19-2015, 10:37 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Not really true.

When people talk about sprawl and LA, I have always understood it to mean the LA Metro, not just the city itself.
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Old 02-19-2015, 11:06 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Not really true.

It is true, although I should have rephrased it that relative to its size, it lacks the density of other dense metros in its most dense parts. The misleading aspect of your graphic is that LA metro is many times larger than SF. If it is "just as dense" over the same area of core (which can be manipulated based upon creative use of endpoints/categories on a map), then it stands to reason, it isn't as dense. The 95th percentile resident ( in terms of pop density) in SF lives at 44,500 ppsm (this is on a block group basis based upon urbanized area). In LA, it's 35,100. At the 99th it's 91,000 vs. 60,400. I'm not cherry picking points here either. SF is more dense at the local level until you compare the bottom 20% of residents of both urban areas. That's where LA takes the lead.

The point I was trying to raise is that the density profile is flatter, which is why LA is the most/second most densely populated metro/urban area (depending upon how you want to define the boundaries a bit) but it slips on weighted density. The weighted/average density ratio is lower.

Most importantly, I think it's important to do away with the notion that density is the beginning and end of the sprawl argument. A relativist argument is important. LA is comfortably the 2nd largest urban area in the country. It is surrounded by mountains and an ocean that naturally constrict development footprint (as does water issues). It should be more dense than it is. Chicago is flanked on one side by a large ocean-like body of water, but it is also flat as a pancake. Good luck controlling sprawl. Regressing weighted density vs. urban/metro area size, introducing other variables for things such as development impediments (bodies of water, mountains, swamps, and access to drinking water/climate dryness) does a pretty good job of explaining density with respect to the hands every city is dealt.


This ties into city orientation too. Sprawl's central argument is waste. An urban area that is extremely decentralized/polycentric will require more highways because people driving in every direction for work, which is why the metro contains more highway lane miles than Chicago or NYC. SF is a bit of a different story. The Bay in the middle of the metro leads to a less efficient expressway system ( in terms of lanes miles per person)...again it's a relative thing.
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Old 02-19-2015, 11:28 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Although I don't think LA has that many highway lane miles compared to many other cities does it? Decentralized is only bad in that regard in that it makes it more difficult to serve by transit. However it also means traffic is going to be more bidirectional on the highways, which makes them more efficient.

Anyways, the main thing is LA has this reputation of being the most sprawling city in the US while SF has the reputation of being one of the most compact ones. So maybe SF is still a bit denser... but the difference is not that big.

It used to be that the difference between LA and SF was bigger density-wise. And actually around the end of the streetcar era LA was one of the least dense cities at the time, because at that time, cities were mostly a mix of pre-streetcar and streetcar era development, with streetcar era development being less dense than pre-streetcar, and LA being almost entirely streetcar era.

LA still continued to expand outwards in the 50s and 60s, but after that it started to run into geographic boundaries and outwards expansion began to slow, and infill increased with any remaining outwards growth being pretty dense. Meanwhile other cities continued to sprawl at ever lower densities with little infill and often with population loss in the cores.

As a result, LA has moved up in the density rankings in the last few decades.

The real sprawlers today are in the southwest (excluding California) or southeast, depending on your definition. And to a lesser extent in the Midwest too.
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Old 02-19-2015, 11:51 PM
 
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Density without the benefits of better transit and walkability is, to me, pointless. I've visited LA a lot. I rented a car once, used zipcar a few other times, for the most part I use the flyaway bus to/from the airport (or use Bob Hope/the train) and the buses & trains. It would be easy to live a lifestyle in LA similar to what I'm used to without owning a car but that's not to say I would never need one because there are far too many places in the LA metro worth visiting that either lack good transit access or completely lack it.

As I've often criticized DC and SF for using the wrong mode for a regional rail system LA is doing more or less the same thing. Metrolink is great, I've used it to get down to Laguna, out to Pomona, and up to Burbank but I think they missed an opportunity with it. LA County is just way too big to traverse at light rail speeds. I just think about the time savings on the occasions that I've had to take the train to the old Shea Stadium or to JFK - taking LIRR from Penn Station vs. taking the subway. Or visiting Oak Park and going out on the Green Line and coming back on Metra.

LA in that sense is the worst of both worlds - it has all the inconveniences that go along with living in a really dense place but without most of the conveniences and ease of access that would normally go along with living in a really dense place. That's not to say that K-town, Hollywood, downtown, etc aren't urban and walkable but, at least for now, these are pockets connected by a growing rail system but still pockets that quickly fade into places where walking just isn't practical.
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Old 02-20-2015, 06:16 AM
 
Location: Charlotte, NC
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I think most are usually talking about the LA Metro when associating it with sprawl. Not just the city itself. Then when you factor in the sprawl of Orange County (which is in essence an extension of the greater LA area), plus the Inland Empire it is indeed extremely sprawled as a metro.
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