How much more can be built in Los Angeles?

Now, a bill under consideration in Sacramento would upend that arrangement, allowing multistory apartments and condominiums in neighborhoods where city leaders have long prohibited them. Senate Bill 827, written by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would loosen or eliminate restrictions on height, density, parking and design for residential properties near major rail and bus stops.

The impact could be huge. A Times analysis found that about 190,000 parcels in L.A. neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes are located in the “transit rich” areas identified in SB 827. Residences in those neighborhoods could eventually be replaced with buildings ranging from 45 to 85 feet, city officials say.

“While we are still evaluating the full effects of the bill, close to 50% of the city’s single-family homes would be impacted under SB 827,” said Yeghig L. Keshishian, spokesman for the Department of City Planning.

That is from Zahniser, Dillon, and Schleuss at the LA Times.  Via Matt Yglesias, who adds:

Note that ecologically the big win isn’t even about transit-oriented development. California’s mild climate and low-carbon electricity mix make it one of the greenest places in America, so more houses in California is an environmental win.

It is time for this referendum to translate into larger excitement at the national level, as say Proposition 13 once did and some of the marijuana referenda have done as well.

Here is a thread on real estate in the Bay Area, worst is maybe Menlo Park.


Yes -- massive construction in wildly overcrowded places with already-overstrained infrastructure!!

Talk about an environmental WIN! Get excited, everybody!!

Rage, rage against the light

"rage against the light" - So you are in favor of Manila style high-rises (typically 50-to-60 stories high) in vertically-challenged Washington DC skylines? I'll vote for that.

Bonus trivia: they have well established caselaw in California, litigated over the decades, on the right to view the horizon from a neighboring property that has something unsightly being built next door. Also used to force neighbors to trim their trees that get too high and block the view in rich mountain developments.

We pay to trim the neighbor's trees, fwiw.

Checks out.

God forbid that we should let landowners and the free market decide how the land should be efficiently used.

I own a single-family home in SF and support SB827. If my neighbors want to densify, let them!

Traffic is a negative externality so it's not properly priced into cost of higher density development

Precedent and legislation allow the city to charge developers money for estimated traffic impacts. They already do all the time, and charge them for many other things as well.

The point of land-use regulation isn't to stop externalities as they are defined in econ textbooks, but to turn the world into your personal backyard...a whole society curated to the tastes of an obsessive minority of local homeowners who have found that shouting at meetings is their ticket to meaning in life. It is in many ways an increasingly totalitarian endeavor as far as land use goes, with constantly proliferating rules...often designed to solve the problem created by other rules...or designed to do nothing at all other than satisfy some meddlesome old spinster who won't stop pestering the council people.

Scott Weiner favors density, not the free market. The guy supports a plethora of economic (and environmental) regulations like rent control that are anti-free market.

So what?

Amen -- So what? -- so long as he does the right thing?

Because the narrative that this constitutes some conversion to free-market principles is utterly ridiculous. The private sector will be tolerated only to the extent it can be harnessed to build his green dystopia. TC and other supposed libertarians are suckers if they think otherwise.


What is the downside to pro-free market reforms being passed by anti-free market legislators? Other than exposing the hypocrisy of supposedly pro-free market individuals and legislators?

Because it's all tribes with these people. Dems BAD Reps GOOD.

It's not hypocritical to point out that that their motives are not free-market. So while a clean bill (without the proposed anti-market amendments) might deserve support, there should be no illusions about how it fits into the latest vile 5 year plan of people like Scott Weiner.


Right, so vote down the bad amendments and vote down the five year plan (?), but vote for the good bits.

Yes, I agree. Sure he might be a hypocrite, but that's common and irrelevant.

Free Hetch Hetchy! Tear down that dam!

"La La Land, with its jam-packed freeways and driving culture despite billions being poured into rail transit, emerged from the 1,360 other cities in 38 countries to claim the worst-congestion title for the sixth consecutive year in the 2017 traffic scorecard by INRIX, a leader in transportation analytics and connected car services."

So much for the "transit rich" corridors. And no, Gov. Brown's turtle train to nowhere won't do anything to alleviate traffic congestion.

"How much more can be built in Los Angeles?"

Judging by "Blade Runner," a lot.

Accept the inevitable comrade. Did you really think you have a voice in what the government does?

It is lovely to watch the Democrat Party feud with itself. One part of the party wants cheaper houses for its nannies and gardeners. So they have come up with a neat ruse to force poorer areas to build more slums for illegals. The other part of the party is not happy about cheaper houses, even for their nannies, and makes a lot of noise about the environment - but they may be bought off by the fact these houses will be in poorer neighborhoods so it won't bother them.

The vast majority of the party's supporters are actually illegal immigrants or their descendents. They will split given that they will have to live near even more illegal immigrants which they may or may not like. Luckily they do not pay much attention to the news because they have jobs.

I especially like the way that State-level Democrats have stepped in to do what would be suicide for City-level Democrats. Clever.

I guess we found the internet crank mirror image of the Berkeley NIMBY who thinks all housing immediately acquires an Unjustly Rich Tech Bro: someone who thinks all this new housing is going to somehow be a favela in the primest real estate in the Bay Area and LA.

Too much traffic and too little water.

They give all the water to these parasite farmers to grow thirsty crops using techniques that would be considered laughably inefficient anywhere else with a similar water supply. The water should be expensive, and some of the farmers should go out of business or switch crops. America's agriculture is the best case of public choice theory.

"The vast majority of the party’s supporters are actually illegal immigrants or their descendents."

Congrats - you win the "dumbest comment on the Internet today" prize.

"The vast majority of the party’s supporters are actually illegal immigrants or their descendants."

Your point about their hypocrisy was spot on. Then you said this.

I think the meta is more important than the details - California is tipping pro growth.

If only

Well, which is signal and which is noise? The many pro-building changes in California, or the haters opposing the changes ?

"I think the meta is more important than the details – California is tipping pro growth."

It will be pro-growth if the bill passes and it's not tied up in law suits. But it's too early to be counting the chickens. However, this is a refreshing change of standards for California.

Just to be clear what reduced regulation of construction means, it means building in fire prone (and earthquake prone) areas with even greater density than before. I have no dog in that fight, so go ahead and build. But be prepared, because the libertarians who supported building in those areas will be the same (former) libertarians who will support bailouts of those areas.

Ain't no libertarians as far as the eye can see

Agreed, no Libertarian would have restricted this proposal to narrow corridors.

And that's why no Libertarians run anything. They had to restrict it to make it viable. Radical, ideological change just doesn't happen, that's not how government works.

"And that’s why no Libertarians run anything."

Yep. I agree.

And it is not just a question of what will be build there, but also about what will be left empty because of it. In Sweden there are already expressions such as “junk-land” “junk-space” “scrap-land” when referring to large areas being abandoned in the search of the city.

How much more can be built in Los Angeles?

Plenty of room in Santa Monica mountains. Rough terrain, fire country, bobcat country. MASH filming site, though. Otherwise, not much.

Bay Area:

Fill in the bay, plenty can then be built. Adjacent mountains also offer much land, but similar case to LA. Otherwise, again, not much.


Swamps south (Elk Grove/Galt/Walnut Grove) and north of sacto (Rush's fav place: Rio Linda): more mosquito laden land than you can shake a net at. Plenty of land.

You can build up, too.

Build those “delux apartments in the sky.”

'fire country'

Sounds exciting in October!

Living in the Bay Area, it is sad to see more and more of my friends move away in search of reasonable places to live. A 3 bedroom place in my neighborhood (Menlo Park) costs about $7,000 a month. Of course, if you bought a house a decade or two ago, you have made a killing off of the real estate market and for you this has been an amazing development.

It's California. Let the dead bury the dead.

For Tyler Cowen, urban mole, the news is great. Tyler can live anywhere he can find a place to plug in his headphones, because he is essentially homeless, if you look at his schedule. Hotels are his home.

For most human beings not on the spectrum,
who love air, space, nature, privacy and their own little acre of pasturage, it simply means LA will get closer to hell on Earth.

I live in Malibu and I don't have to commute into town any more, so I'm with Tyler. Let the only city in North America that has tried NOT to be the European model of 'dense' (and had cool architecture because of it) just completely become a clone of hideously inhumane NYC, where daily life is a wild scream of closed-packed, rat-cage, slow-crawling public agony.

The realtors and politicians will make a bundle, and the idiots who write about architecture will orgasm.

"For most human beings not on the spectrum, who love air, space, nature, privacy and their own little acre of pasturage, it simply means LA will get closer to hell on Earth."

Move thyself to Arizona, plenty of air, space, nature and privacy for you to enjoy. Let the rest of us build a functioning work/livespace to inhabit.

My wife and I spent more than a million dollars for a hous in Culver City near the new metro stop last year. Since hen We’ve had our mortgage interest tax deduction slashed and now our land potentially upzoned enough for us to lose guaranteed access to our local school ( ranked 9/10 ). I fully support both policy changes.

I also love air, space, nature and privacy and ama member of two teal running clubs that use the nearby mountains every week. These values are not antithetical. More housing down here in the city means fewer homeless starting fires up in my beloved mountains.

Bro, bless you but...

a. 'living in Culver City'
and b. 'loving air, space, nature and privacy?'

That's a very tough square to circle, my man.

Good luck to you.

Your mortgage deduction is grandfathered in, the new rule is only for new mortgages taken out in 2018 or later. You're welcome.

If density is so horrible to live in, why do millions of Americans pay high prices to live in areas like NYC instead of low priced low density micropolitan and rural America? Small metro areas are losing compared to larger denser ones.

People have generally favored suburbia (which the left despises) and the trend is moving back in that direction:

Generally speaking, urban living is for the wealthy and the poor, and people who don't have kids. Most bourgeois can't afford private school tuition. Homeschooling may mitigate this, but you still have to earn enough for your lifestyle preference to keep one spouse at home.


Plenty of water for the people. Alfalfa farms may have to go

Yeah, cause people grow alfalfa just to look at it, like there's no real market for it. People may have to go(somewhere else).

Let the market set prices for water. If farmers in the Central Valley aren’t more willing and able to pay for water than people on the coasts, than maybe it is a better use of scarce resources to let people in the cities use the water.

Yes, but you can drop the "maybe". Alfalfa is one of the most water-intense major crops in the US, and due to the screwed-up property rights and pricing in the southwest, water-scarce California grows megatons of it.

And exports a good chunk of a megaton to China. California is essentially exporting its scarce water to China. Under any sane water system, this would not be profitable for the farmers to do.

Put a market price on it and you'll solve 95% of your problems.

No, thanks.

In 1960, California pop was about 16 million. Today it’s 40 million. Projected 2060 pop is 52-60 million.

The semi-magical post WW2 middle class California that The Beach Boys sang about, and that was portrayed in other popular culture, is gone. Not clear that mid-rise tenaments are really a satisfactory replacement for that.

Infrastructure -water, highways, public universities, etc. - designed for 16 million is going to be stretched. But they may eventually have very expensive high speed rail, so they have that going for them.

Think water - LA is a desert.

Coastal chaparral is a couple stages wetter than desert. The slang "desert" holds on though. Maybe compared to wet places.

Usually a desert is 10" or less per year. Los Angeles averages around 15" per year. So, yes, it's not technically a desert.

"Think water – LA is a desert."

LA could easily afford water desalinization plants. Particularly if they used brackish water or relaxed their ocean inlet/outlet regulations

Fine, let them build desal plants. Right now they suck water from Northern CA and the Colorado River.

The semi-magical post WW2 middle class California that The Beach Boys sang about, and that was portrayed in other popular culture, is gone.

A while ago.

The crazy thing is that the beaches are empty and beautiful midweek. Maybe a much higher percentage of people are toiling and not surfing. Makes it very Beach Boys for those who do.

Hasn’t that middle class just moved to Texas and Arizona? House prices in NYC aren’t what they were in the 1960’s, yet somehow people seem better able to accept that things in NYC change as opposed to people on the West Coast. Hippies versus more pragmatic Easteners?

In 1960, the pop of Texas was a little under 10 million, today it’s 29 million. It’s not the same place it was, but it hasn’t suffered from systematic toxic-to-the-middle-class local and state government to the same extent as California.

The Texas legislature still only meets 90 days every other year :)

It's cars. They take up large amounts of space while parked and huge amounts of space while moving. Adding 5000 residents to an urban neighborhood is barely noticable, but when they all need cars, it's terrible for everyone.

California and the nation should end property zoning and then end rent control.

A lot of money will have to be spent on public transit and I would suggest much higher gasoline taxes to subsidize fares and keep raising the taxes until a nice equilibrium is reached.

But American libertarians and free-market tears usually have feet of clay. No one is a libertarian when neighborhood property zoning is under review.

I oppose making shanty towns out of good neighborhoods. One doesn't make life better by destroying what works.

+1 Thiago is smarter than anybody thinks.

He would kind of have to be, considering.

Considering what?

He seems to be implying that no one thinks you're smart

He is wrong. Lots of people think I am smart. So did my teachers and professors I studied under. I am a pillar of my community.

I hear he went to Ohio State.

Six story buildings are shanty towns apparently. Paris is a shanty town. being a shanty town has nothing to do with the quality of your structures, only their height. Sometimes people are fooled into paying great sums to live in mid size apartment buildings. The government should protect them from their foolishness.
The current situation in California works and we shouldn’t disrupt it. A working situation is whatever the status quo is. The status quo in California is working excellently: most people have no hope of their children living anywhere near them; people work long hours and pay all their money to their landlords; people oppose businesses because of the new employees they bring; u skilled workers are draining out en made. The situation is working and how dare anyone criticize it. The litmus rest of working is that rich old busibodies are happy making more and more money every year by doing nothing but sitting on assets they were lucky enough to buy decades ago. They are the real people and only their welfare counts.

Kind of like counter signalling?

California today is less dense than Ohio. Less dense than Pennsylvania. One-third as dense as Connecticut, which is basically pastoral! 1/3 the population density of hiker's paradise Germany. Not even 1/4 the density of England, dales included. Since the 1960s, it has grown much smaller than those unbearably dense hovels like Utah and Texas. California's population has gone up 27% in the past 27 years, less than 1% per year!

The claim that California is "full" is so ludicrous. , with the one story McDonald's, parking lot, and nothing above 2 stories for blocks, is the corner where the 24th St. Mission BART station lies, right in central SF and easy access to downtown and SFO. Across the bay, here's the North Berkeley BART station: , a giant parking lot and short detached housing! Here's the first random street I found in Menlo Park, dropping a Street View Pin: . Here's a random pin drop in Venice, CA, a couple blocks from ocean with easy access to downtown LA: . It is a total joke to consider these places "filled up". If San Jose were the density of Paris, California could have kept *every other city the same population since 1990* and still housed everyone new. Santa Clara County, home of San Jose, would have a population of 26,000,000 if built at San Francisco's (still low!) density!

The NIMBY mentality in California is utterly insane.

Dunning Kruger?

San Jose POP: 26,000,000

Who's insane?

What is insane about the most economically productive city in the nation (and perhaps the entire world) from the being the most populous city in the nation? Shouldn’t people be moving to where the jobs and money are?

It is too close to me and I don't like it.

Already some Silicon Valley employers are hiring remote workers. That is a GOOD THING for all involved!

California today is less dense than Ohio. Less dense than Pennsylvania. One-third as dense as Connecticut, which is basically pastoral!

Subtract out the federal lands and mountains and those calculations change dramatically. Subtract out areas more than two hours from a major airport and those calculations change dramatically. Based on the Census Bureau finally moving into the 21st century and making urbanized area calculations available, California is the densest state in the country. Six of the ten densest states based on urbanized area are in the West.

I don't understand this mentality. Look at the Street View pictures. This is what it looks like in core areas in very high-priced California locations. "Near a major airport" is a non-sequitur: build more cities, as we did in the past! If we want to keep California's wonderful open spaces, make townhouses and 4-6 story buildings legal in the center of existing cities. Can anyone believe it is the market that causes there to be a 1-story McDonald's next to an inner city BART station? Or a parking lot surrounded by bungalows at a subway stop in an expensive college town?

No one wants to tear down the Victorian painted ladies. The sensible people just want it to be possible to build literally the density of an old Boston commuter rail suburb, if the owners want to sell and someone wants to build. What is the alternative? Without it, the middle class move to Phoenix and Houston and Boise, to lower wages and more environmental harm. Literally who is helped aside from existing homeowners who get to keep their (unpaid-for, and from a libertarian standpoint stolen-from-their-neighbors-who-wish-to-sell) view?

This just in: major airport location is endogenous to urban areas.

If Stockton becomes a metro area of 2.5 million people (no less attractive a location than anywhere in the Midwest, climate wise) it will have a major airport. Ditto anywhere else in CA.

Looking at density just in metro areas is as absurd as looking at states minus certain geographic constraints.

'Looking at density'

Is complicated. Basically, all of northern California above the wine country is simply not available for development, being federal land (the same applies to many areas - a good stretch of Virginia is federal land, both national park and national forest). And mountains are not really suitable for development in the main, regardless of who owns them. Deserts are more complicated, with certain not trivial constraints.

So simply taking the complete land area of a state, then dividing it by its total population is really imprecise in many cases in the U.S. Especially with how many places in America have developed been over the past couple of generations (Fairfax using the Til Hazel model, for example), as forest and farmland have been replaced by large amounts of single family houses.

+1 says I, a Californian. The others are talking out of their arses.

Monumentally baseless and stupid comment on from you Michael.

Geography lesson to you: as important, if not more important than land area, topography matters.

Truly, the most stupid and baseless comment on your part, Michael, in the entire history of MR comment.

Truly, the most stupid and baseless comment on your part, Michael, in the entire history of MR comment.

Shame on you for your negligent ignorance!


Michael: I only read your italics

All your comments are fine.

The urban fella is totally wrong (your ilalics cite)

Bottom line, California is not a place to be uniformly considered like Connecticut. The coastal metros in California are now extraordinarily dense in their populations.

Other than a general assertion that California’s overall population density is lower than one might think, for every statement in the comment above, precisely the opposite observation or conclusion is true.

So what! When no one can afford to move here, they won't. The other side is the companies--did Apple have to build that "donut" in Cupertino instead of Wichita or Denver.
Yeah, it's cold in the winter, you can stay inside your $200,000 house.

Exactly--this is a problem only for strivers who think they have the right to live wherever they want.

Malibu has, what, 20 miles of coastline? Stanford University--5,000 acres? Mark Zuckerberg--5 houses around himself? If Californians like their real estate scarce and lots of federal and state parks, that's their option. Part of the real estate package is the ability to vote in the locality to enact your preferences.

Plenty of cheap land elsewhere in the US. It would also help not to be importing one million people a year.

You can also ski. Coloradoans are not known for hiding indoors.

Your worst is my best. Mom is in a nursing home after two serious fall accidents and two subsequent less serious falls. I hope she can come home after a few months, but we shall see. She fractured her humerus and femur in the second fall. When you're above 90 and rather underweight, you don't heal up quite so fast. Two acres in Saratoga about two miles south of Apple HQ, and I'll be executor of the estate.

Check and other donations to MR can be directed to...

So you're saying I need to get rid of the transit?


It's not an initiative. It's a bill in the legislature. If it were an initiative headed toward a popular vote on a specific day, it might very well get more national attention.

I wrote about it here:

Not sure how the green calculations work, but mild climate leading to lower heating and air conditioning energy costs will probably be more than offset by the energy requirements delivering and cleaning up the water that significant new development will use. In many areas of the state water supplies are becoming more saline as the resources are overused (think water conservation), typically to support more development. This can be mitigated, but requires lots of energy. To date mitigation has been almost non-existent. That can is being kicked down the road for the next generations to deal with.

LA is very hot and CA electricity expensive.

If they want to solve the housing problem, the bill won't work if they only limit it transit areas, but I guess it's better than nothing.

If it passes, my prediction is that people will build and move to these areas, but they won't take the transit it large numbers.

My family has been owning and operating small apartment buildings in the Los Angeles area continuously since the mid-sixties. I have been cleaning up after tenants since the Seventies. I am not complaining. Business is good. I have a few observations.

All the buildings built before the 1980s are under-parked, meaning fewer than one off-street spot per unit. That was fine then, because a lot of the tenants did not drive or own a car. Today every adult tenant owns at least one car, sometimes two. One couple had four. Some tenants fill their garages with junk and park on the street. I have trouble finding parking when I visit the buildings.

Tenants are much richer than they were. Every apartment has a big screen TV. Every person has a smartphone. Some drive new Mercedes and BMWs. Everyone pays their rent. Tenants used to work at Lockheed and have high school diplomas. Now they work for Disney or DreamWorks and have MFAs. Eviction for nonpayment almost never happens.

Vacancies rare. The last time that I showed an apartment, a young lady offered me more than I was asking.

We tore down a 800 square foot clapboard house and put up an eight unit 8,000 square foot apartment building in 1985. The whole project took one year. The City’s review of the plans took two weeks. The location is a half-block between two major boulevards with bus service. Due to down zoning, only duplexes are permitted there today. There are still many single family homes and duplexes on those streets.

“Activists” want rent control. Other, or maybe the same, activists oppose SB 827. Some people understand basic economics. Are there enough of the latter?

+1, good information.

Impact will be "huge" if (only if) enough people want to live at high densities near transit stations.

So far that has not been the case. Never dismiss demand.

Could we perhaps observe the sky-high rents of high-density units near transit stations to estimate demand? Nobody's ignoring this, it's just gone without saying because it's the entire obvious motivation for the bill.

- Booming economy
- Affordable housing
- Low rise city of single family homes

Pick any two.

Menlo Park is bad but have you studied Cupertino?

The city officials, consultants, lawyers, lobbyists, and politically connected developer that have been paying their dues to the political class are furious about the state shutting off their gravy train.

Sad, sad, sad. Bureaucrats and parasites losing and the people getting housing without the added cost of the parasites.

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