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Home > Feature Articles > Sustainable Development Best Practices for Community Sustainability

The Vertical, Transit-Oriented Los Angeles

Financing the redevelopment of downtown Los Angeles involves vision, political will and a comprehensive plan for transit oriented urban planning.

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It's now possible to witness the evolution of the City of Los Angeles from a gargantuan suburb into a true "big city."

New mixed-use and adaptive reuse projects are often within easy walking distance of a Red Line or Gold Line subway station -- a bustling public transit system no matter the time of day.

The city’s adaptive reuse ordinance and related programs has ushered in the re-birth of downtown Los Angeles as a desirable place to live for more than 10,000 people.

Visionary Developer Reclaims the Old Bank District

Tom Gilmore is the developer credited with getting things turned around. In 1999 Gilmore, a New York transplant, started acquiring properties east of Pershing Square. Scores of buildings housed only pigeons, squatters and drug dealers. Tent encampments for homeless people lined the streets. Even most social service agencies had abandoned the neighborhood. But what Gilmore saw was first-rate Beaux Arts architecture, great location — and a world of potential.

Gilmore deemed the area the "Old Bank District," a name he made up out of thin air. The name stuck. The city started to cooperate, people started to believe, and now people who could live anywhere choose to reside in these old mid-rise office, retail and industrial buildings that Gilmore and others have converted to residential uses.

Urban Planning Conference 2008

All of the presenters at the 2008 urban planners conference in LA – Gilmore, downtown City Councilwoman Jan Perry, former city building official Hamid Behdad (who also worked in three mayoral administrations) and architect Wade Killefer — emphasized the need for vision and political willpower, because the usual processes and political inclinations are lined up against such ambitious projects. It’s almost always cheaper and easier to ignore slums or to demolish decrepit buildings, and the situation with Gilmore’s Old Bank District was no different.

Gilmore warned that downtown needs another 10 years of progress before it is sustainable economically and socially.

Gold Line Transit Line Forms Spine of Redevelopment in LA

Especially impressive are the Gold Line developments – many of them affordable – at virtually every the station in the City of Los Angeles. These include more than 500 units at the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park station on Avenue 26 and more than 100 units at the Highland Park station on Avenue 57. The Lincoln/Cypress station is three minutes from Union Station, while the Highland Park station is seven minutes from Union Station.

Affordable Housing Plan

The city is also developing more than 400 units at Taylor Yards, which – though a mile from the Gold Line – is located adjacent to the Metrolink line. No Metrolink station is currently open, however.

Marquez said the Housing Department has been working with CRA, the Department of Transportation, and other city agencies to acquire land for affordable housing “ahead of the curve,” before the presence of transit stations

Marquez said the Lincoln/Cypress project is "the fastest selling condo complex in all of Southern California because of the money we put in for soft seconds.” The Housing Department controls the largest housing trust fund in the country. Most of the units have deed covenants guaranteeing affordability.

Up to now, most TOD along the Gold Line has occurred in the more affluent communities of South Pasadena and Pasadena. Gold Line ridership has generally been below expectations because the light-rail line is slow and travels through relatively low-density neighborhoods. However, Gold Line ridership has increased 26% during the last year, to 24,000 riders per day. This compares to a 14% increase on all rail lines in L.A. and only a 5% increase on the Orange Line bus rapid transit in the San Fernando Valley. Overall, more than 300,000 people a day now ride rail and BRT lines in Los Angeles.

Resource, check out the blog: Paul Shigley and Bill Fulton


Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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