Sprawl-Threatened Cities
Dishonorable Mention: Los Angeles

Los Angeles - The Granddaddy of Sprawl

It would be remiss to write about suburban sprawl without mentioning Los Angeles. Los Angeles' world famous sun-drenched, low-humidity climate and its promise of glamorous Hollywood fame have combined to make it one of America's most popular places to migrate. This growth has helped make Los Angeles the standard for the worst that sprawl has to offer: over-dependence on the automobile, gut-wrenching traffic congestion, unhealthy air pollution, and paved-over open space.

Much of what made Los Angeles the model of how not to develop occurred decades ago. Still, the Los Angeles metropolitan area continues to grow and sprawl today. In the larger metropolitan Los Angeles area, which includes the cities of Riverside and San Bernardino, as well as Orange and Ventura counties, 296,000 acres of open space were developed between 1982 and 1992, representing a nearly 20 percent increase.

With Los Angeles continuing to sprawl east and Riverside/San Bernardino sprawling west, the entire Los Angeles/Riverside/San Bernardino/ Orange County/Ventura County region has practically merged into a single mega-lopolis comparable in size to the state of Connecticut. From 1980 to 1990, Riverside/San Bernardino alone saw its central-city population fall more than 43 percent, while the population in the surrounding suburbs shot up 66 percent. The entire Los Angeles metropolitan area, from Ventura in the north to San Clemente in the south and San Bernardino in the east, has witnessed similar growth patterns that show little sign of significantly slowing.

If there is one thing Los Angeles is known for, it's the horrendous commuting times and clogged freeways. Los Angeles residents seem resigned to spend even more time in traffic as they expand the area's urban land boundary in all directions. In 1994, the Texas Transportation Institute rated Los Angeles the United States' worst city for traffic congestion.

With all that has gone wrong with Los Angeles development, it is no wonder that other cities facing sprawl problems are compared to Los Angeles. One of the goals of this report is to raise awareness and warn cities that sprawling development has serious costs. Los Angeles stands as a warning of why not to sprawl.

Close this window.