Los Angeles is changing its identity. It’s moving away from the car and the single-family house and toward transit and denser living. And now it’s even getting dramatically less sprawly. According to a study from Smart Growth America that factored in density, land use mix, robustness of “activity centers” like downtowns, and street accessibility (length of blocks, etc.), the LA metro area is now the twenty-first least sprawly place in the US, and the seventh least sprawly among metropolitan areas with more than one million residents. (The study also reminds us that LA is the second densest place in the US overall, after New York.)
Los Angeles’s staggering urban density, coupled with denser housing developments and the efforts to improve transit, all helped make LA the “biggest success story,” according to one researcher quoted in The Atlantic Cities. “Los Angeles has actually densified very substantially,” says that researcher, and the report specifically calls out the area for its anti-sprawl policies, including a push for light rail and transit-oriented development and giving out density bonuses, which let developers build more densely if they include affordable housing.
In the end, says one urban planner, the reduced sprawl is the result of the demands and tastes of the population, especially “young professionals and empty-nesters,” as the LA Times puts it, who value walkability and are willing to pay for it. So people like living in less sprawly places, it turs out, and that of course means they’re expensive: “the places that fared best on the sprawl index – which is topped by New York and San Francisco – also tend to have high housing costs.”