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Rethinking the Outmoded Industrial City: Inferences From Los Angeles’ Policy Documents and Practical Application

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library.
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  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Law
  • Political Science


Drawing on the experience of Los Angeles, Ca, this paper develops a framework for evaluating citywide industrial redevelopment policies and reviews the effectiveness of such policies. This research culminates with recommendations for additional government action needed to turn underutilized industrial property into productive uses. The paper begins by identifying the current industrial space market in the U.S., given shifting economic trends and a recent economic downturn, and then narrows to a discussion of the Los Angeles market. This section is followed by an analytical review of local legislation and initiatives designed to 1) facilitate the conversion of obsolete industrial space to meet the area’s growing housing needs and 2) organize under-producing industrial land in a way that attracts employment and revenue generating businesses. The future success of Los Angeles’ two-pronged approach to industrial redevelopment depends upon the City’s ability to address the need for environmental cleanup assistance, the lack of contiguous tracks of industrial-suited land, and the inclusion of practices that support infill development. Such obstacles are not unique to the Los Angeles region, thus the programs and policies ultimately recommended in this paper extend beyond the Southern California economy. These recommendations are based, in part, on the net positive results demonstrated by other metropolitan areas and include: 1) the addition of infill incentives that remove barriers to development and improve the financial viability of infill projects; 2) the creation of a database that identifies vacant and underutilized parcels of land and classifies them as good, fair or poorly suited for development; 3) the use of revenue generating municipal bonds and loan programs to finance environmental cleanup; and, 4) the lobbying for state legislation that limits purchaser’s liability for contaminated sites. Given the wide-scale applicability of such tactics, the lessons learned from the Los Angeles experience are relevant to any city dealing with a surplus of obsolete industrial space and outmoded industrial land use patterns.

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