Will High Gas Prices Put A Stop to New L.A. Sprawl? Not Likely

los-angeles-sprawl.jpgYou may have missed it, but a recent study conducted by the University of Quebec in Montreal is attempting to put a positive spin on our current high gas prices. Expensive gasoline, they argue, is the antidote to urban sprawl.

On average, a 1% increase in gas prices has caused: i) a .32% increase in the population living in the inner city and ii) a 1.28% decrease in low-density housing units.

Looks like a bunch of cities in L.A. County haven't gotten the memo.

As the city of Los Angeles tries to undo nearly a century of bad planning and urban sprawl, our neighboring cities to north aren't making it any easier for us. Despite rampant foreclosures and a complete glut of housing, the city of Santa Clarita just approved the development of yet another massive mixed-use satellite community on the urban periphery--a 1,100 residential development, with hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space in the middle of nowhere.

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This newly approved project is only miles away from the planned development of a 70,000 person new city at Newhall Ranch. Overall in the past few years, 40,000 new units of development have been approved by the Santa Clarita City Council, in an area that local real estate developers have taken to calling "the foreclosure capital of the world."

Newhall is arguably the most egregious of these proposals, but this newly approved project, to be located in Sand Canyon, is no picnic. The site is so remote it doesn't even have freeway access. According to local columnist Lynne Plambeck, the developer of the project has promised that MetroLink will move its current station at Via Princessa to accommodate the new community. Plambeck thinks the assertion is a bold lie, as there is no formal documentation of such a plan. But even if the developer is telling the truth, why exactly should L.A. County taxpayers foot the bill to move an existing station miles away to help accommodate new sprawl?

Transportation issues aside, the new project would necessitate the paving and channelization a significant chuck of the largely untouched Santa Clara River. Again, as L.A. struggles to free its river from concrete, our neighbors to the north are apparently desperate to relive our mistakes.

A lot of you may not care what's happening with the community of tiny boxes on the hillside up north. But 40,000 units of housing, with little public transit options, could mean tens of thousands more cars on the road commuting with you to work. The city of Los Angeles can't fix its transportation nightmare without regional help from its neighbors. It might be time for some of us Angelenos to be a little more explicit in letting the folks in Santa Clarita know what we're trying to accomplish here.

The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the Cailfornia Endowment.

The photo on this post is by Flickr user styro. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

About the Author

I'm a veteran LA-based journalist and editor who has been a staff writer with the LA Weekly and senior editor of the LA City Beat. I'm currently a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, editor for Fishbowl LA, and ...
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"Middle of nowhere" is an odd choice of words. For all I know, this is an awful idea, but looking at the map, it's directly adjacent to a city of nearly 200,000 people, the fourth largest in LA county.