Saturday, August 26, 2006

Is Los Angeles a Green City?

These are exciting days. Classes begin at Tufts next week. This week my new book titled "Green Cities" will be published by the Brookings Press. This weekend I was in Los Angeles studying its rental real estate market and observing its day to day quality of life.

A few observations.

1. Los Angeles certainly offers beauty

A. I loved watching the sunset while at the Santa Monica beach
B. The UCLA campus and the local community around UCLA is charming and quite pretty.
C. Homes in fancy places such as Brentwood feature beautiful flowers, plants and landscaping. Everything grows in the LA climate and sunshine.

2. The Market signals that LA is great. We saw many $1.7 million dollar homes that back in Boston might sell for $650,000. These were okay structures (some 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths) that are transformed into multi-million dollar homes because they are in the fancy parts of LA. As a Chicago economist, this says to me that there is a lot of love for LA among upper-middle class and wealthy folks in this nation.

3. Los Angeles also has its ugly parts --- here I don't mean poverty areas.

A. I like to walk. In many places in LA I didn't see sidewalks. For example in Bel Air up in the Northeast corner above UCLA as you go up the Canyon --- hard to walk there!
B. noise and traffic density on I-405 and Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles is certainly a car city. I found the air quality quite good when we were there but there are so many cars that Yahoo maps lie to you about travel times between any two locations. You must take the yahoo time and perhaps triple it to estimate the "true" travel time.

There also seem to be some strange land use patterns in Western Los Angeles. Enormous country clubs around UCLA and enormous graveyards and government buildings taking up land that might be more valued by home owners. I doubt that the country clubs represent "green space" that everyone can enjoy. I wasn't invited!

We also observed interesting spatial discontinuities and we drove through LA. Beverly Hills is adjacent to West Hollywood. The latter is funky and I were 25 years old again I would want to live and party there. Beverly Hills is not funky now that Eddie Murphy is no longer cool. The Los Angeles Times had an article that Beverly Hills is worried about losing its luster as a leading place to shop for the rich. To make itself more attractive for rich shoppers the Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive strip is thinking of placing in fancier granite for people to walk on!

Overall, we really like LA but we will need to rob a bank or two to live there!
My green cities book will yield me $1 per sale --- so if you feel altruistic, buy it!