• Construction with cars and traffic

      Construction of Colorado 77 is underway on Los Robles and Colorado Boulevard (Photo- ColoradoBlvd.net)

      This began as an article about the necessity of “green” design—the importance of efficient appliances, solar panels, tankless water heaters and the other wonderful accoutrements of addressing climate change. By now, we know that all of those things are necessary but not sufficient.

      By Kate Bartlett

      The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has recently proposed a plan that would dramatically shift the growth of Southern California cities over the next decade. The plan would concentrate the most housing growth in Los Angeles and Orange counties instead of inland counties in the Inland Empire. Opponents of the plan say the coastal cities are already too dense and expensive, so it is better to push outward. Proponents have a different take: pushing out only amplifies the climate change effects of more commuters and transit challenges to get people to jobs in coastal counties.

      Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells sees the coastal plan as an emergency response to climate change. Increased housing density and a more developed transit system are increasingly seen as responsible responses to climate change, as opposed to more highways and outward development pushing the lines of defensibility.

      Reimagining is important

      The SCAG plan calls for 124,000 additional housing units in Los Angeles and Orange counties rather than shifting those units to Riverside and San Bernardino counties. How does this happen in coastal counties that many feel are already too dense? That is why reimagining is important– not only to make the necessary changes in zoning laws (less single family, more housing near transit lines), but also to help the residents of coastal counties view the future differently.

      A search of the Los Angeles Times for “reimaging buildings” brings up many articles going back decades. Obviously, this is not a new idea, but the challenges of climate change have created momentum as evidenced by the SCAG proposed plan. It is not only architects, developers and government planners who need to reimagine walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods with access to stores, jobs and services. It is also, and more importantly, the people who live in these cities and hold on to the notion of single-family homes (and mansions) with Biblical intensity.

      rendering of a well lit building

      A rendering of Colorado 77 on Los Robles and Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena (Photo -.adepturban.com)

      The Paseo in Pasadena

      A local example of reimagining is The Paseo in Pasadena. Reimagining has resulted in new spaces where an enclosed mall–and later an open-air mall and event center–anchored by a department store (Macy’s) once stood. The revitalized Garfield Promenade connects The Paseo with the iconic City Hall and the Pasadena Convention Center. A myriad of shops and restaurants, a cinema and a fitness center flank the Promenade. This reimagining includes high density housing with Metro Gold Line access. Hyatt Place Pasadena and Terraces at Paseo (a 391-unit apartment development) occupy the southeast portion of the site. Under construction on the northeast portion of the site (corner of East Colorado Boulevard and Los Robles) is a seven-story mixed-use building consisting of a two-story retail core, five stories of residential condominiums (77 units) and a green roof.

      What about affordable housing

      Of course, the Holy Grail is that more high-density housing in the coastal counties will also result in more affordable housing. That result will require continual concerted effort as the new zoning and development rules are being established in response to the SCAG coastal counties plan, but the opportunity is clear.

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      1. Ellen L. La Scola says:

        Let’s imagine affordable housing instead of more luxury apartments. Imagine families being able to afford a place to live. Imagine lower wage workers able to live near to their workplace. Imagine not concentrating on shopping.

      2. Sean McMorris says:

        Timely article. Thanks for addressing the elephant in the room that no one wants to say out loud, which is, like it or not, that SoCal cities are going to have to start building up because building out is not longer an option. The housing crisis requires that single family neighborhoods accept the need for high density housing in their cities and that they constructively participate in the process rather than trying to thwart it. Their constructive participation will better ensure the type of reimaged development talked about in this article, which is not only needed, but less threatening to NIMBYs.

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