Jake's blog

Let's talk about why LA is so expensive.

Let's talk about why LA is so expensive.

A friend of a friend asked just why the hell housing in Los Angeles isn't getting any cheaper if condo towers seem to be going up everywhere. So, I've written an explainer. This is written about Los Angeles, but the same processes have made the San Francisco Bay Area a mess as well. There is no reason why Los Angeles needs to be as expensive as it is. LA isn't on a peninsula like San Francisco, bracketed by mountains like Seattle, or on an island like Manhattan. As Dorothy Parker joked, LA is 72 suburbs in search of a city....

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Let's talk about empty shopping center parking lots.

i have nothing to say about our current horrific national crisis that hasn't already been said. this post, about a dying shopping center, is my attempt to get my mind off it. There's actually two real estate crises going on at once in California. There's the housing shortage, which everyone's painfully aware of - with homeless on the streets, and million-dollar houses in East Los Angeles. But there's also a the parallel crisis that's been festering with commercial real estate. But first, let's talk about zoning law a little bit. Every last square inch of land in any California city...

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Let's talk about why LA doesn't have townhouses.

Let's talk about townhouses, and why LA doesn't have them, even though there's a housing shortage - and every other major city in the country has them. The quintessential LA house is a single-family detached home, whether it's a bungalow built after World War I or a ranch-style house built after World War II. LA generally doesn't have townhouses like the Victorians of San Francisco, the classic Chicago two-flat or the rowhouses of Philadelphia. Let's talk a little about why. Let's go back to the early 20th century, when LA was a boomtown of streetcar suburbs knit together by the...

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Let's talk about why Los Angeles's housing shortage will finally start improving in the near future.

Lots of what I've written about is about rezoning questions and how we really do need large-scale zoning reform to make it less goddamn expensive to live in California. (Bill SB50, which would have allowed apartments near train stations, fell short early this year.) But SB50 or no SB50, LA's zoning is going to have to change dramatically in the next few years because of reforms that have already gone through. How we got here First, a little background. For most of California history, the state usually kept its nose out of local housing decisions. But as part of the...

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Let's talk about the new MTA live subway map.

Let's talk about the new MTA live subway map.

So, the NYC MTA made a new live subway map, and I've had a lot of requests from people to comment on it. Personally, I think it's a solid idea, but the execution is lacking.  Some background: there's three schools of thought you could use to draw NYC's subway system.  First, you can draw a diagram, like Massimo Vignelli did in the 70s.  This does a great job of making sense out of the disorganized pre-industrial spaghetti of Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, and it shows all the subway services accurately, but you have to do violence...

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