If it seems like the new residential developments in Downtown get all the attention, that might be because they make up a crazy disproportionate amount of all the new housing built in Los Angeles in the last 15 years. “Downtown makes up one percent of the land area in Los Angeles, but it’s accounted fortwenty percent of new residential construction since the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance in 1999,” writes Better Institutions. (The ARO is the city ordinance that made it easier for developers to convert historic buildings into housing and it’s usually credited with kicking off the Great Downtown Gentrification of the last decade.) As swell as that is for Downtown—more walkability! revitalization!—it also shows just how much most of LA is lagging when it comes to building new housing.
Since 1999, almost 20,000 new housing units have been built in Downtown, with 20,000 more set to be finished within the next 10 years. Meanwhile, only98,000 units have been built in the entire city in the last 15 years. A lot of that might have to do with how development is received in DTLA versus elsewhere in LA. Downtown is open to density (which makes sense, since it’s also a public transit hub) and is generally pro-high-rise. Meanwhile, in most of the rest of the city, proposals for new housing projects are regularly met with heavy oppositionfrom the neighbors, often driven by the flawed California Environmental Quality Act, which in extreme cases lets NIMBYs hold projects back until they get a pay out. And the resulting shortage is at least part of the reason why housing has become more and more unaffordable.