ArticlePDF Available

Requiem for a Growth Machine: Homeowner Preeminence in 1980s Los Angeles


Abstract and Figures

In the last quarter century, the city of Los Angeles has suffered a chronic housing shortage due to exclusive zoning policies tied to the rise of antigrowth advocates over developers as the prime determinants of land use policy. This article considers the history of two major land use reforms affecting the city of Los Angeles in the 1980s: the General Plan Zoning Code Consistency Program (GPZCP) and Proposition U. These reforms represented the decline of the growth machine in 1980s Los Angeles and demonstrate the viability of an antigrowth regime in a large, non-suburban jurisdiction. This shift has not necessarily led to more democratic planning in Los Angeles. The GPZCP and Proposition U instead represented the empowerment of new antigrowth elites at the expense of old capital-driven elites. This has been to the detriment of hopeful homeowners and renters seeking economic and social opportunities in the city of Los Angeles.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Requiem for a Growth Machine:
Homeowner Preeminence in
1980s Los Angeles
Andrew H. Whittemore
In the last quarter century, the city of Los Angeles has suffered a chronic housing shortage due to
exclusive zoning policies tied to the rise of antigrowth advocates over developers as the prime
determinants of land use policy. This article considers the history of two major land use reforms
affecting the city of Los Angeles in the 1980s: the General Plan Zoning Code Consistency
Program (GPZCP) and Proposition U. These reforms represented the decline of the growth
machine in 1980s Los Angeles and demonstrate the viability of an antigrowth regime in a large,
non-suburban jurisdiction. This shift has not necessarily led to more democratic planning in Los
Angeles. The GPZCP and Proposition U instead represented the empowerment of new antigrowth
elites at the expense of old capital-driven elites. This has been to the detriment of hopeful home-
owners and renters seeking economic and social opportunities in the city of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, zoning, growth machine
The mission of this study is twofold. First, it will demonstrate the viability of an antigrowth regime
in a large central city by investigating the dismantling of the growth machine in 1980s Los Angeles.
Second, it will explore some of the impacts of this dismantling, and in effect, raise questions about
the virtues and pitfalls of the growth machine. The decline of the growth machine and its conse-
quences will be discussed in the context of two initiatives in particular: the General Plan Zoning
Consistency Program (GPZCP) and Proposition U.
In sociologist Harvey Molotch’s influential essay, The Growth Machine: Toward a Political
Economy of Place, he describes capitalist cities as ‘‘growth machines,’’ in which a land-based elite
persuades the government to implement permissive land use policies so that the bulk of profits return
to this elite.
The benefits espoused by proponents of the growth machine, such as lower unemploy-
ment and superior public services, typically prove to be negligible.
Molotch’s study was influential
School of Urban and Public Affairs, University of Texas, Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Andrew H. Whittemore, Regional Planning in the School of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Arlington. He
holds a PhD in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, Arlington, TX 76019, USA
Journal of Planning History
11(2) 124-140
ª2012 The Author(s)
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/1538513211417344
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
among many, reflecting a grassroots reaction against unquestioned growth in many of the nation’s
cities. The study reflected a trend in the 1970s and 1980s of planners turning against the developer-
driven mode of growth that had dominated in previous decades.
Clarence Stone noted this shift dif-
ferentiating between the emerging ‘‘middle-class progressive regimes,’’ focused on issues such as
environmental protection and historic preservation, and powerful ‘‘development regimes’’ focused
on unbridled growth.
Brindley, Rydin, and Stoker note that in the 1980s, when neoliberal policies
were so strongly guiding the governments of the United States and Britain, regimes less friendly
toward growth could certainly arise and gain traction at the local level.
In 1987, Molotch collaborated with John R. Logan to write Urban Fortunes: The Political Econ-
omy of Place. Here the growth machine was reexamined for its role of asserting ‘‘exchange value,’
the market value of land, over ‘‘use value,’’ or the social value of land. The authors wrote: ‘‘The
pursuit of exchange values in the city does not necessarily result in the maximization of use values
for others. Indeed, the simultaneous push for both goals is inherently contradictory ....’’
A signif-
icant body of literature has coalesced around Molotch’s views presenting empirical evaluations of
land use policies to further draw out the particulars of the challenges to the growth machine.
found that the more effective challenges to the growth machine were a suburban phenomenon. As
researchers Schneider and Teske noted, ‘‘it is easier to solve collective action problems in neighbor-
hoods than in larger spatial units, and it may be easier to solve these problems in suburbs than in large
central cities.’
Jurisdictions where growth machines were successfully challenged were in addition
characterized by a white-collar majority.
Successful antigrowth coalitions assert that ‘‘use value’’ is
not always or even often achieved through the expansion of the marketplace; alternatively, they ‘‘seek
to debunk the myth promulgated by the growth machine that the marketplace will provide economic
benefits to everyone while protecting the environment and contributing to stable neighborhoods.’
Antigrowth advocates have posited nongrowth or slow growth as alternatives to capitalist-driven
planning, framing growth, in the words of Finkler, Popper, and Toner as ‘‘a legitimate question for
public choice .....’
However, the public in the United States is problematically limited to that
narrowly defined by municipal or even submunicipal community boundaries because land use power
is exercised from city halls. Justice Hall of the New Jersey Supreme Court, in his 1975 opinion on
the first Mt. Laurel case, argued that market-serving development interests on the other hand recog-
nize the wider public demand, for housing especially, and their accommodation to some extent must
be necessary in order for land use regulation to serve, and not impede, the advancement of the gen-
eral welfare.
The Los Angeles Growth Machine and Early Challenges
The concept of the growth machine has been applied to Los Angeles by critics of the real estate
industry’s traditional influence on zoning policy there.
In the history of planning and zoning in
Los Angeles, the pre–World War II era of overzoning documented by Fogelson, and the postwar
failure to contain urbanization in the San Fernando Valley, documented by Case and Gilles, unmis-
takably bear some markings of the growth machine. In the first case, small-scale land holders per-
suaded members of City Council to grant zoning designations that maximized their profits.
Commercial designations were consequently granted nearly everywhere commercial development
may ever be imaginable, virtually all along the city’s numerous broad boulevards. This ‘‘overzon-
ing’’ for commercial use benefited the market, at least initially, but much to the detriment of the
quality of life.
This trend was criticized both by elite developers seeking stability in a more rig-
orously controlled environment, especially members of the Real Estate Board, and by the planning
In a second case, plans to pace urban growth with service provision and preserve agricultural uses
in the San Fernando Valley in the 1940s were thwarted by the close relationships of large-scale tract
Whittemore 125
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
developers with zoning board officials and City Council members.
By the mid-1950s, the goal of
urban containment in an agricultural setting had proven unachievable, and rezoning to urban uses
was occurring without any reference to plans.
Under the growth machine, when zoning could not
live up to the expectations of planners, plans were redefined to accommodate zoning trends. The
1955 Master Plan for the San Fernando Valley advocated halving the amount of land in agricultural
zones and increasing by nearly 50 percent the amount of land in manufacturing zones.
In the San
Fernando Valley, planners tended to tolerate a situation of zoning ‘‘wagging the planning dog,’’ as
Richard Babcock put it, in order to facilitate developer wishes.
What is unclear about the Los Angeles growth machine, at least in the second case, is whether the
developers gained an undue reward, given that significant communities of middle-class homeowners
coalesced within the residential communities produced by this elite. Molotch gives little attention to
any potential virtues of the growth machine.
The Los Angeles case presents the predicament that
the suppression of developers’ ability to enhance exchange values through development has pre-
served use value for current residents, but reduced potential use value to those excluded from the
city by stifled supply and rising costs. As Logan and Molotch observed, ‘‘An apartment building,
for example, provides a ‘home’ for residents (use value) while at the same time generating rent for
the owners (exchange value).’’
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), passed in 1970, represented a significant
step toward empowering homeowners against developer interests. In 1972, the California Supreme
Court ruled that CEQA applied to all projects permitted by any government agency in the state, in
the case Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors.
Consequently, CEQA resulted in the
requirement of performance-based evaluations for nearly all new development. These evaluations
were intended to identify existing natural and man-made resources at development sites, and man-
dated the mitigation of developments’ negative impacts on these resources. Each local government
was charged with assessing the environmental impacts of development in line with state guidelines.
This was not without its costs: one 1980 survey found that statewide, ‘‘over designing’’ by develo-
pers in order to avoid triggering Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) was contributing to the infla-
tion of housing costs.
The costs of mitigation could have the impact of deterring less financially
equipped developers altogether. Even when developers were not deterred, critics argued higher costs
were passed on to consumers in terms of costlier housing units.
A 2010 article by Paul Shigley of
the California Planning and Development Report in the American Planning Association’s magazine
Planning put it simply: ‘‘Go to almost any planning conference in California, and you are likely to
find sessions about how CEQA prevents good planning. Viewed exclusively through an EIR, a high-
density infill project often looks worse than a low-density greenfield subdivision.’’
The Los Angeles Planning Department rebuked the preference of antigrowth advocates for devel-
opment displacement even before CEQA: ‘‘By forcing people elsewhere,’’ the Department wrote in
its 1970 Annual Report, ‘‘we simply leave the problem for future generations to solve ... asking
everyone to take their cars and pollute some other region is not the answer.’’
The traffic displaced
from a congested area will go somewhere else where there simply may not be a problem yet, and
saving a rare old growth tree in a core location may be at the cost of sacrificing less unique but
assumedly purposeful vegetation at the urban periphery.
As effective as CEQA was in discouraging development in Los Angeles and other core munici-
palities, zoning remained permissive in Los Angeles, allowing in the 1970s for 9.9 million people.
In the 1980s, the state-mandated GPZCP greatly reduced this figure. In a separate move, antigrowth
advocates successfully passed the referendum entitled ‘‘Proposition U’’ in 1986 to halve allowable
FAR in the bulk of the city’s commercial zones, effectively cutting off the possibility of higher den-
sity commercial and residential development in those areas. These two actions, major hallmarks for
community empowerment against developer interests in Los Angeles, spelled the fall of the growth
machine in the city.
126 Journal of Planning History 11(2)
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Zoning’s consistency with planning is widely regarded by planners as a worthy pursuit; however, it
may not be when planning represents special interests. The sacrifice of Los Angeles’ Comprehensive
Plan to antigrowth interests began in the 1970s when Planning Director Calvin Hamilton sought to
bring the Planning Department in line with antigrowth community groups, endorsing a density roll-
back study. The City Planning Department initially sought a rollback from a citywide zoning capac-
ity of 7½ to 5 million.
The final 1972 study advocated a zoning capacity reduction of 35 percent,
with a one-third reduction in the development capacity of areas currently zoned for multifamily
‘R3’’ uses and a 50 percent reduction in the development capacity of land currently zoned for inten-
sive multifamily ‘‘R4’’ and ‘‘R5’’ uses.
The suggested 35 percent rollback would come close to
reaching a population capacity goal of 4.1 million, a number based on accommodating a range of
1990 population predictions.
What was to happen when the city reached its post-1990 saturation
point was not a subject of the study.
However, the figure of 4 million seemed far too permissive to critics, as it was still a great deal
larger than the current population of 2.8 million. This was a time when area planning workshops
were discussing no growth as a realistic alternative.
The logic of the antigrowth movement
explained that growth accommodation was really growth stimulation, that permissive zoning was
a self-fulfilling prophecy maintained by regulators at the behest of wealthy developers.
The City Planning Department did attempt to rebuke the logic of antigrowth activists, criticizing
the impression that housing construction generated demand. The Department of City Planning
argued that this ‘‘inhumane’’ position ‘‘ignored the nature of population increase,’’ and that overly
stringent zoning would not stop growth, but merely force it elsewhere.
Even the department’s com-
promise cap of around 4 million may have been irresponsible. While zoning for so much additional
population seemed to some to be a gracious accommodation of future growth, so high were land
prices and so dramatic the proposed reductions of allowable density that some critics feared the
exclusion of lower-income earners from the housing market in a city where the vacancy rate was
a mere 1 percent.
Even with the slow rate of population growth in the 1970s, smaller family sizes
necessitated more small units, and affordability required smaller units at higher densities.
For their
part, antigrowth advocates cited the economic reasoning of stabilized property values.
the City Planning Commission opined that economics was not the concern of antigrowth advocates.
If it was a concern, the Commission argued, the city should have incorporated an economic element
into its General Plan discussing the repercussions of no-growth scenarios. In fact, the Regional Plan-
ning Commission had just done this, bringing in the opinion of the City Planning Commission ‘‘a
sense of reality to the planning process that is too frequently lacking in general plans.’’
Unfortunately for antigrowth advocates, the Comprehensive Plan was at least for the time being a
toothless document, difficult to implement except on a parcel-by-parcel basis. The State of
California required in 1971 that cities’ and counties’ zoning enforce their respective general plans by
January 1, 1974.
However to avoid the task of challenging growth interests, housing interests, and
long-standing property rights, the city took the position in the 1970s that the state consistency require-
ment applied only to general law cities and counties, which excluded LosAngeles.
Los Angeles’ City
Council did approve a policy of down-zoningas a nod to antigrowthinterests but the process progressed
at a slow pace. Most down-zoning took the form of rezoning multiple-dwelling ‘‘R3’’ districts to one of
the less permissive multiple-dwelling ‘‘Restricted Density’’ districts, an action the Department of
City Planning argued satisfied the local Community Plans that composed the Land Use Element of the
General Plan and still promised to provide more affordable, multifamily options.
However, the state did not permit Los Angeles to respond to its mandate at such a slow pace. In
1978, the state legislature passed Assembly Bill 283, sponsored by local Assemblyman Vincent
Thomas who, according to the Times, ‘‘was feuding with the city over a zoning matter’’ in his native
Whittemore 127
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
San Pedro, a harbor-side enclave of Los Angeles 25 miles distant from City Hall.
A contemporary
analyst said ‘‘it was really one of those funny little political things that happen between politi-
From this ‘‘funny little thing’’ came perhaps the most daunting task in the history of the
Department of City Planning: the bill required that zoning conform to local General Plans by July
1, 1981, in charter cities of over 2 million, a clear singling out of Los Angeles since it was the only
city in this category.
The bill endorsed citizen lawsuits against the city if the deadline was not met.
Home rule was compromised and Los Angeles could no longer pay lip service to antigrowth advo-
cates by allowing a local hand in Community Planning and then ignoring the resulting plans.
The city was forced to implement widespread down-zoning, potentially challenging the long-
existing property rights of countless property owners. The State, County and Federal Affairs Com-
mittee feared being placed in a ‘‘difficult financial position’’ as claims would roll in.
Director Hamilton for one expressed confidence to City Council that zoning could be reformed with-
out threatening development rights.
City Council believed otherwise, and sued the state over AB
283 in 1979.
The city achieved an extension of the compliance deadline to July 1982. However,
efforts by the city remained piecemeal.
Notification procedures for pursuing what it called the
GPZCP did not come into being until March 1981.
Councilman Howard Finn took the initiative
to speed noncontroversial development conforming to the General Plan and prevent that which did
An ordinance followed requiring tract maps to conform to the General Plan.
This however
did not resolve the problem of nonconformance of existing parcels.
By the 1982 deadline, the city had only completed a quarter of the required workload.
Deukmejian vetoed a request to extend the deadline, and citizens began to turn to the courts for
The city issued a series of Interim Control Ordinances (ICOs) to avoid further lawsuits
in Community Plan Areas where new construction was exceeding community plan required densi-
As late as November 1984, 30 percent of permitted projects were exceeding densities called
for in the Community Plans.
In December 1984, a case filed by a coalition of forty-two Westside
and Valley homeowner organizations resulted in a ruling giving Los Angeles until March 1988, to
make its zoning consistent with its General Plan.
In March 1985, the Council passed 13-2 an ‘‘Interim Consistency Ordinance’’ prohibiting permits
for buildings not consistent with the General Plan.
Before 1984, the city went about establishing
zoning consistency in ten to twelve separate cases per community plan area, each concerning 5–600
Now the staff considered the entirety of each Community Plan Area at once; on average,
each rezoning concerned 7,000 parcels of land.
In the process of rezoning, each Community Plan
Area was divided into 2–300 subareas ranging in size from a portion of a block to several blocks,
each containing 1–4 zoning designations.
Height districts were almost universally reduced, signif-
icantly trimming buildable area across the city. In addition, each subarea was given numerous per-
manent so-called Qualified Conditions or Q conditions to assure usage of land most consistent with
General Plan goals: for example, barring the use of manufacturing-zoned land for residential uses or
barring specific commercial uses when the General Plan called for up-zonings.
Curiously, a majority of the 200,000 non-conforming parcels were not on the wealthy Westside or
in the Valley, the sources of most antigrowth sentiment, but in the central or southern portions of the
city, where anxieties concerning new development were least prevalent and where the need for rede-
velopment was most acute.
In low-income Southeast Los Angeles, citizens concerned about the
Zoning Consistency Program said the General Plan was out of date or irrelevant for addressing the
area’s problems, that the housing supply would only be further reduced by the Zoning Consistency
Program, and that ‘‘slow growth’’ was simply not a relevant issue there.
Property owners in various more urbanized districts protested that they had ‘‘little to say about
their investments’’ and accused the city government of ‘‘condemning our homes’’ through down-
Angered property owners criticized the absurdity of pursuing the ‘‘bucolic picture’’ advo-
cated by many antigrowth activists.
In the Valley’s dense North Hollywood section, planners were
128 Journal of Planning History 11(2)
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
forced to shrug their shoulders and blame state law in defense of the Zoning Consistency Program.
Critics of the Zoning Consistency Program feared that citywide down-zoning would thwart revita-
lization efforts; paradoxically, revitalization efforts were needed most in the communities where
plans called for lower densities.
In at least two instances, the Zoning Consistency Program ham-
pered council-initiated efforts to rejuvenate deteriorated areas of South Central Los Angeles with
more permissive zoning: in one case, a request for zoning to allow a housing development was
shelved, and in another a proposed commercial up-zoning citing Community Plan business devel-
opment goals was shelved due to a Community Plan land use designation.
Overall, the Consistency Program limited the city’s population capacity to four million at a time
when it was already over three million.
The Zoning Consistency Program left slim margins for
growth in parts of the Valley. The Arleta-Pacoima rezoning left room for 15 percent growth on top
of 1990 projections, and in North Hollywood room for 19 percent growth on top of 1990 projects.
In low-income Southeast Los Angeles, the Zoning Consistency Program left room for less than 10
percent growth.
Developers, who might have pointed to a dire future scenario for homebuyers and renters, initially
seemed resigned to the new reality.
By the early 1990s however, at least one significant legal case
had arisen to challenge the Consistency Program. The city generally implemented densities equal to or
below the maximum threshold set by the Community Plans, and some developers held this concept of
‘lesser included zoning’’ to be excessive. When the court sided with developers in one 1992 case, the
city expressed its anxiety that some 8,000 parcels may in fact be zoned too low.
Proposition U
Meanwhile, separate action was taken against large-scale commercial and residential development
occurring in the commercial zones of the West Side and Valley. In the mid-1980s, Councilmen Mar-
vin Braude and Zev Yaroslavsky championed the antigrowth efforts in Los Angeles with a series of
proposals to cut down on residential development in commercial zones. Yaroslavsky and Braude fit
the mold of antigrowth entrepreneurs, as defined by Mark Schneider and Paul Teske, finding oppor-
tunity in ‘‘different values to mobilize opposition to ‘downtown,’ pro-business growth policies.’’
Their efforts however met with a cool reaction in a City Council keenly aware of a growing housing
shortage and the need to allow residential development in commercial zones.
If the antigrowth
effort was a movement for physical preservation, it was also a means to trigger social change in the
city as a whole: lower housing production meant higher costs and reduced affordability.
One of their proposals was to halve the allowable FAR for all uses in commercial and manufac-
turing zones in Height District ‘‘1’’ to 3:1. Height District ‘‘1’’ covered about 70 percent of the land
zoned for commercial and manufacturing uses, and 85 percent of commercially zoned area alone.
Laura Lake, a member of the antigrowth group ‘‘Not Yet New York’’ said of the initiative: ‘‘We are
saying if we grow the way [developers] want to grow communities will die.’’
The initiative failed
to get sufficient support in the council. However, owing to a 1980 California Supreme Court ruling
in Arnel Development Co. v. City of Costa Mesa that citizen referenda could be used to rezone par-
cels regardless of their size or number, antigrowth advocates and their representatives in City Hall
had an additional weapon to wield.
Convinced the voters would support a referendum on rezoning,
Yaroslavsky took his cause to the homeowners’ associations of the Valley and Westside.
nents used $200,000 dollars from the campaign coffers of Braude and Yaroslavsky to gather over
100,000 signatures, more than enough to place an initiative on the ballot for that year. The referen-
dum was titled ‘‘Reasonable Limits on Commercial Buildings and Traffic Growth,’’ but was more
commonly known as Proposition U.
Opponents of the referendum in City Council attempted to push through legislation rezoning
many of the city’s commercial areas to residential use, thus making Proposition U inapplicable.
Whittemore 129
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Allies of Braude and Yaroslavsky countered that instead of squandering voters’ rights, opponents
should realize that the proposition would only redirect development toward more concentrated cen-
ters according to planning goals, and that even with an allowable FAR of 1.5:1, the affected boule-
vards could still be developed on average to five times their current density.
Opponents charged
that this ignored economics as it did not take into account the extent of incentive necessary for devel-
opers to recover the cost of land in their developments (Figure 1). Yaroslavsky argued: ‘‘There is no
down-zoning in this city that ever negatively affected the economics of the city. ... We cut density
by one-third on Melrose Avenue. The only thing that happened is rents continued to skyrocket.’
Of course, this was exactly the problem according to those worried about costs.
Most troublingly for redevelopment advocates, Proposition U would stifle development where it
was most needed and had not been opposed. Councilman Pat Russell, representing an area of South
Los Angeles, stated, ‘‘By indiscriminately erasing established redevelopment and commercial areas,
the initiative would erode our ability to provide future economic opportunities.’
David Cunningham called it an elitist measure.
Braude accused Russell and developers of using
the city’s poor for their own interests, though certainly the most intensive lobbying in low-income
areas occurred on behalf of Proposition U proponents. One group, Citizens for a Livable Los Angeles,
put forward five thousand dollars to place an advertisement in support of Proposition U in
South-Central’s Community Democrat.
The proposition’s supporters were able to gain allies in
low-income minority areas by linking their cause with that of the Concerned Citizens of South Central
Los Angeles who were fighting a trash burning operation in their area.
Others in the city’s low-
income communities may have supported the initiative for a different reason: Community Democrat
publisher Willard Murray believed the proposition would not stop development but direct it out
of high-income areas and cause it to be more evenly spread.
The African American publication
The Los Angeles Sentinel opposed the proposition.
Ted Watson of the Watts Labor Community
Action Committee said it ‘‘doesn’t have any real relationship to what’s going on in South Central.’
Figure 1. Ventura Boulevard, 1987. (LAPL Photo Database, Order Number 00050200). With Proposition U,
Angelenos prevented the further infringement of high-rise development such as that in the background, if only
to assure the preservation of that in the foreground.
130 Journal of Planning History 11(2)
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Transportation specialists were divided on the issue. Professor Martin Wachs of the University of
California, Los Angeles, noted that it made sense to control traffic by pursuing lower densities.
Professor Peter Gordon of the University of Southern California argued that it would exacerbate
horizontal urban growth and dependence on automobile travel.
For planners, the prospect of a
voter initiative with so much power seemed a threat to the city’s planning traditions. The American
Planning Association’s 1986 Los Angeles Conference was welcomed by the Los Angeles Times with
the words: ‘‘Welcome to Los Angeles Planners: R.I.P.’’
Why did Proposition U pass? In ‘‘The Reluctant Metropolis,’’ urban analyst William Fulton noted
how similar countywide antigrowth initiatives in San Diego County, Orange County, and Riverside
County were soundly defeated. This showed in Fulton’s view that ‘‘the dynamics driving growth were
regional, but opposition to growth was local. People might vote against development in their neigh-
borhood or in their small municipality, but they probably wouldn’t vote for sweeping restrictions
all across the region—in part because they didn’t want to risk their jobs ... and in part because they
just didn’t care.’
What was unique about Proposition U then was the size of the jurisdiction in ques-
tion. Although the city of Los Angeles was larger than all the counties in Southern California except
its own, its voters tended to think in parochial terms even on citywide matters. For antigrowth advocates,
this was a supreme achievement. Proposition U had the most marked support on the Westside and in
the Valley, but also drew support from the southern portions of the city.
The curious alliance between
affluent Westside and Valley homeowners opposing development of all kinds and South Los Angeles
citizens opposing the operation of only the most offensive land uses won the day for antigrowth
advocates. The resulting ‘‘Neighborhood Protection Ordinance’’ reduced floor area ratio from 3:1 to
1.5:1 in all areas zoned for commercial and manufacturing uses within Height District ‘‘1’’ and created
special height district regulation for Enterprise Zones, Center Study Areas, and redevelopment areas.
The immediate impact of Prop U on land development was hard to gauge (Figure 2). It came
at the bottom of a development cycle during which the Department of Building and Safety noted
an overall drop in applications for construction permits.
In a depressed economic climate,
builders were less likely to object to the dominant ‘‘anti-building fervor,’’ preferring to downsize
plans as demand temporarily waned.
In fact, Proposition U was only one intitiative in anti-
growth activist Zev Yaroslavsky’s ‘‘10 point plan’’ for challenging what he understood as busi-
ness as usual in Los Angeles.
A second significant goal of Yaroslavsky’s agenda was to
introduce a conditional use process for all projects of over fifty-thousand square feet.
1987, a court decision was handed down in favor of the ‘‘Friends of Westwood’’ who had sued
the city to force the preparation of Environmental Impact Reports for large-scale projects.
Although state law was clear on the subject, city policy had remained somewhat ambiguous.
The city immediately made it policy that staff should automatically conduct environmental
reviews for all projects of over forty-thousand square feet, generating five hundred or more car
trips per day, or having twenty-five or more residential units (Figure 2).
Three years later, a city ordinance mandated a ‘‘site-plan review’’ process for all projects meeting
these thresholds.
Site-plan review required the Planning Department to find a proposal’s consis-
tency with zoning, the General Plan, any redevelopment plan if applicable, and that the proposed
development would incorporate satisfactory mitigation procedures as may be required by CEQA.
It also required that proposed development be compatible with development on neighboring prop-
erties and that if a residential development it would incorporate the appropriate type and placement
of recreational facilities and amenities to improve habitability and minimize impacts on abutting
properties. Site-plan review in essence limited the circumstances under which a developer could
achieve by-right approvals for large projects and expanded the city’s ability to mitigate project
impacts even beyond what was required by CEQA.
After the Westwood case, empowered antigrowth neighborhood associations scrutinized the
development proposals with renewed gusto, using site-plan review as a mechanism to saddle
Whittemore 131
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
development with conditions rendering it satisfyingly innocuous or infeasible. Los Angeles was not
alone in this experience. The American Planning Association has expressed anxiety that nationwide,
site-plan review processes allowed citizens to object to ‘‘overall project uses and densities.’
impediment to new development in Los Angeles arguably came at the cost of further displacing
development and any negative impacts to fringe locations where they may be unaccounted for, and
discouraging local benefits that may come from development.
Developers and their allies derided
these new urban engineers as NIMBYs, sufferers of a ‘‘Not in My Back Yard’’ syndrome, cynical
homeowners who refused to measure potential negatives of development against potential benefits
to themselves and others. Interviewed by the Los Angeles Times on the meaning of NIMBY, Tina
Eick of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Association said she resented the label, favoring not
to see herself as a knee-jerk oppositionist. She was however in favor of hanging a ‘‘no vacancy’
sign on the city’s front door.
Los Angeles: Growth Machine No More
In The Politics of Land Use Reform, planning scholar Frank Popper theorized that supplementation
of local regulation with statewide policy making, CEQA and AB 283 being examples, gave voice to
the collective interests of communities traditionally left out of the capital-driven bargaining
Figure 2. Residential Units Permitted by Type, 1980–2009. (Construction Industry Research Board).
Despite economic recovery in the region by the end of the 1990s, there was only a shy recovery for housing
permits in the Post-AB 283, Post-Proposition U city. During the mid-2000s boom, even as permits for single-
family units in the land-starved city approached 70 percent of their 1984 peak, permits for multifamily units did
not reach 57 percent of their 1986 peak.
132 Journal of Planning History 11(2)
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Referenda proved to be another tool for empowering communities. However, if the
Zoning Consistency Program and Proposition U represented a realignment of power, it was only
to empower a new elite among affluent suburbanites. This new elite, unlike the developers, was
fervently opposed to expanding consumer options.
The end of the growth machine engendered negative consequences for those who did not get into
the market in time and were forced to deal with rising costs and fewer options in choosing where to
This in turn has threatened the environmentalist ambitions of many Angelenos: by excluding
further utilization of already developed areas, homeowner preeminence has promoted development
and population growth in areas otherwise profitable as agricultural land, distant from existing employ-
ment centers, possessive of their own fragile ecologies, or dependent on the costly expansion of infra-
This is arguably true of California as a whole, as Paul Shigley demonstrated. However,
criticism of antigrowth advocates is not limited to California; certainly members of the business com-
munity elsewhere have been willing to call antigrowth activists: ‘‘elitists, unconcerned about the need
for more jobs, opportunities for minorities, or the placement of an adequate infrastructure ....’’
This is why, perhaps, in the 1980s, antiregulation defenders of property rights and advocates for
the poor and minorities in urban California became occasionally aligned. In the context of the devel-
oping property rights movement of the 1980s, people quite outside of the deposed developer elite
gained a new platform for social justice. Nationally, the Mt. Laurel cases perhaps represented the
most significant forcing of ‘‘the builder’s remedy’’ at the behest of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Notable at this time in California was the alliance
between property-rights advocate, the Pacific Law Foundation, and the San Diego Urban League
in a fight against San Diego’s rezoning property for open space without what they considered just
compensation. The joint position of the two organizations was that damages had to be available to
prevent arbitrary land use decisions that inflated housing prices and excluded people from the mar-
ket and better living conditions.
Planning Director Hamilton meanwhile derided such efforts as
‘destroying the bulwark of property value protection.’’
One writer to the Times responded to
Hamilton that if the benefits of zoning actions were so clear, the benefiting public should be able
to pay for the losses of those sacrificing their rights.
It is arguably still the case today that antigrowth interests dominate land use policy in Los
Angeles. The single-family house, opined Robert Greene in the L.A. Weekly in 2003, has become
a revolutionary force in the past quarter century.
However, there has been growing conflict in the
past two decades between traditional antigrowth forces and various development-friendly interest
groups concerned with the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of an increasingly
exclusive city and region. Witness the city’s programs for mixed-use development in commercial
areas previously cutoff by Proposition U, adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings according
to more flexible building codes, and small-lot zoning to encourage a homeownership alternative to
the traditional detached single-family home.
In the last two decades, land use policy in Los Angeles may at last be achieving a balance between
local preservation concerns and regional growth needs, although convincing results remain to be
seen. Should the more virtuous outcomes of the growth machine revisit Los Angeles, the undoing
of a decade would be called for. One should not derive from the Los Angeles case an argument for
uncontrolled and unlimited growth, but rather an appreciation of how a growth machine was capable
of translating economic growth into social opportunity. Decades of antigrowth policy in built-up
areas of Los Angeles have merely mismanaged growth: channeling it to places where housing is
of lesser convenience and compromising the denser urban form often credited as being environmen-
tally sustainable. In this sense, a less constrained marketplace facilitating reinvestment in built-up
areas may dovetail better with the goals of social justice and smart growth pursued by planners than
does an environment of greater oversight and regulation. Undoing the damage of past policies is
undoubtedly a challenge, but recent pursuits in Los Angeles demonstrate that change is possible.
Whittemore 133
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article:
The research stemmed from the author’s dissertation research at UCLA, which was funded by a
Chancellor’s Fellowship from the University of California, Los Angeles.
1. Harvey Molotch, ‘‘The City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place,’’ The American
Journal of Sociology 82, no. 2 (1976): 309–32.
2. Ibid., 318–19.
3. See Earl Finkler, Frank Popper, and William Toner, Urban Nongrowth: City Planning for People. (New
York: Praeger, 1976), 213; Sidney Plotkin, Keep Out: the Struggle for Local Land Use Control (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1987); Frank Popper, Politics of Land Use Reform (Madison: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1981).
Figure 3. Development resulting from ‘‘Residential Accessory Services’’ zoning, a residential zoning designation
allowing commercial uses on the ground floors of buildings, frequently used to rezone commercial areas
impacted by Proposition U. Hollywood, 2010. (Photograph by Author).
134 Journal of Planning History 11(2)
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
4. See Clarence Stone, ‘‘Urban Regimes and the Capacity to Govern: A Political Economy Approach,’
Journal of Urban Affairs 15, no. 1 (1993): 1–28.
5. See Tim Brindley, Yvonne Rydin, and Gerry Stoker, Remaking Planning: The Politics of Urban Change
(New York: Routledge, 1996).
6. John R. Logan and Harvey Molotch, Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place (Berkeley: Univer-
sity of California Press, 1987), 3.
7. See Ronald K. Vogel and Bert E. Swanson, ‘‘The Growth Machine versus the Antigrowth Coalition: The
Battle for our Communities,’’ Urban Affairs Review 25, no. 1 (1989): 63–85; John R. Logan and Min Zhou,
‘Do Suburban Growth Controls Control Growth?’’ American Sociological Review 54, no. 3 (1989): 461–
71; Todd Donovan and Max Neiman, ‘‘Citizen Mobilization and the Adoption of Local Growth Control,’
The Western Political Quarterly 45, no. 3 (1992): 651–75; Mark Schneider and Paul Teske, ‘‘The Anti-
growth Entrepreneur: Challenging the ‘Equilibrium’ of the Growth Machine,’’ Journal of Politics 55,
no. 3 (1993): 720–36; T. N. Clark andE. G. Goetz, ‘‘The Antigrowth Machine: Can City Governments Control,
Limit, or Manage Growth?’’ in Urban Innovation, ed. T. N. Clark (Thousand Oaks,CA: SAGE, 1994), 105–45;
Jerrell Richer, ‘‘Explaining the Vote for Slow Growth,’Public Choice 82 (1995): 207–23.
8. Schneider and Teske (1993), 724.
9. Mark Baldassare and William Protash, ‘‘Growth Controls, Population Growth, and Community Satisfac-
tion,’’ American Sociological Review 47 (June 1982): 339–46.
10. Vogel and Swanson (1989), 72.
11. Finkler, Popper, and Toner (1976), 213.
12. This was the argument presented in the ruling on Southern Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. v. Mount Laurel
Township 67 N.J. 151 (1975). Justice Hall opined: ‘‘It is plain beyond dispute that proper provision for ade-
quate housing of all categories of people is certainly an absolute essential in promotion of the general wel-
fare required in all local land use regulation. Further the universal and constant need for such housing is so
important and of such broad public interest that the general welfare which developing municipalities like
Mount Laurel must consider extends beyond their boundaries and cannot be parochially confined to the
claimed good of the particular municipality.’’
13. William Fulton, The Reluctant Metropolis: the Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles, (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 2001).
14. The Planning Commission’s Annual Report of 1928 reported that 5.8 percent of the city’s land was used for
commercial purposes while 13.4 percent was zoned for commercial purposes, see Los Angeles (City),
Department of City Planning Annual Report 1927-1928, 6, in Los Angeles City Archives (LACA); the total
valuation of Los Angeles County matched Chicago’s Cook County by 1929, see ‘‘Record in Property Val-
ues’Southern California Business 8, no. 4 (1929): 30; in regard to the quality of life, the Los Angeles Times
opined that the prospect of so much eventual traffic generating commercial development was damaging to
abutting residential communities and driving homeowners to other jurisdictions, see ‘‘Too Much Business
Zoning,’’ Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1928.
15. The Los Angeles Realty Board concluded that the value of commercial land was not sustainable and based
on an artificial attraction, ‘‘A Strange Psychology not Founded Upon Reason,’’ see George H. Coffin Jr.,
‘Appraising Property Zoned for Business,’’ Journal of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers 3,
no.1 (1934): 29–33.
16. In the most notorious instance, a county grand jury in 1966 indicted developer Bryan Gibson on charges of
grand theft and conspiracy to pay 51,000 dollars in bribes over a conditional use permit for nine-hundred
units in a townhouse style Planned Development in the San Fernando Valley’s Chatsworth district, see Ein-
stoss, Ron. ‘‘Tighter Zoning Control Needed, Yorty tells Jury,’Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1966.
17. Fred E. Case and James Gilles, ‘‘Some Aspects of Land Planning: the San Fernando Valley Case,’The
Appraisal Journal 23, no. 1 (1955): 14–41.
18. Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning Annual Report (1954-1955), 20.
19. Richard F. Babcock, The Zoning Game (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966), 120.
Whittemore 135
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
20. Such virtues are implied by a corresponding literature, originating in the same period, on antigrowth
regimes and their impact on housing prices and urban form, see Franklin J. James Jr., and Oliver Duane
Windsor, ‘‘Fiscal Zoning, Fiscal Reform, and Exclusionary Land Use Controls,’Journal of the American
Planning Association 42, no. 2 (1976): 130–41; and Robert C. Ellickson, ‘‘Suburban Growth Controls: An
Economic and Legal Analysis,’’ Yale Law Review 86, no. 3 (1977): 385–511.
21. Logan and Molotch (1987), 3.
22. Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors 8 Cal. 3d 247 (1972).
23. Small and Knust, Inc. California Local Government and CEQA, 1979: A Report Submitted to the Assembly
Committee on Rules (San Diego: Small and Knust, 1980), 46.
24. Benjamin F. Bobo, ‘‘The Effects of Land Use Controls on Low Income and Minority Groups: Court
Actions and Economic Implications,’’ in No Land is an Island: Individual Rights and Government Control
of Land Use, 93-99 (San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1975), 99.
25. Paul Shigley, ‘‘California Struggles with its Legal Yoke,’’ in Planning 76, no. 4 (2010): 12–15.
26. Los Angeles (City) Department of City Planning, ‘‘Role of Planning,’’ in Annual Report (1969–1970), n.p.
27. Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning, Density Adjustment Study: An Examination of Multiple
Residential Zoning in the City of Los Angeles (May 1972), 55.
28. Estimates of the size of the zoning rollback varied based on estimates of the city’s zoning capacity. This
figure of 7.5 million was produced by Ray Hebert in ‘‘City Planners Seek Population Growth Control by
Zoning,’’ Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1970; John Pastier wrote in ‘‘‘Rollback’ of Zoning Capacity a Toe-
hold for Good Planning,’’ Los Angeles Times, December 20, 1970, that there was a capacity of 10 million;
the 1972 Department of City Planning estimated that the city was zoned for 9.9 million, see Los Angeles
(City) Department of City Planning, Density Adjustment Study (May 1972), i.
29. Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning Density Adjustment Study (May 1972), 31; ‘‘R3’’ allows
one dwelling unit per 800 square feet of lot area, ‘‘R4’’ one dwelling unit per 400 square feet of lot area, and
‘R5’’ one dwelling unit per 200 square feet of lot area.
30. Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning, Density Adjustment Study (May 1972), 55.
31. Regarding workshop ‘‘Crisis 1972,’’ see ‘‘Zoning is Subject of Two-Day Forum,’Los Angeles Times,
August 20, 1972.
32. ‘‘Role of Planning,’’ in Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning Annual Report 1969–1970, n.p.
33. Ray Hebert, ‘‘City Planners Seek Population Growth Control by Zoning,’’ Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1970.
34. Regional Planning Commission 1977, Alternative Directions for Los Angeles County:2.
35. Irv Burleigh, ‘‘Sherman Oaks-Studio City Plan Calls for Cutback in Apartment Zoning,’’ Los Angeles
Times, March 15, 1970.
36. See Los Angeles (City) Department of City Planning, ‘‘Staff Review of Los Angeles County Preliminary
General Plan’’ for April 6, 1978, Council File 76-4342 (Box B-753 LACA); the County devised its land use
strategy for a 2000 countywide population of 7.8 million. The actual 2000 population of the county was
over 9.5 million, see Los Angeles (County), Regional Planning Commission, Los Angeles County Proposed
General Plan: Summary General Plan and Environmental Impact Report (1979), I-14.
37. AB 1301 (McCarthy 1971).
38. See Los Angeles (City), Intergovernmental Relations Committee, ‘‘Report,’’ May 19, 1978, Council File
77-2800-S14 (Box B-826 LACA).
39. See Los Angeles (City) Department of City Planning ‘‘Staff Report’’ on Residential Density zones dated
August 8, 1974, in Council File 117977-S2 (Box A-1829 LACA).
40. Kevin Roderick, ‘‘L.A. Building Ban Weighed to Avert Zoning Law Suits,’Los Angeles Times, October
27, 1984.
41. Ibid.
42. AB 283 (Thomas 1978).
43. The City Planning Department made it customary to engage the local community in zoning affairs as early
as the 1920s. However, the modern custom of community engagement was not solidified until the 1969
136 Journal of Planning History 11(2)
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Charter Reforms, when the city was divided into thirty-five Community Planning Areas and Citizen Advi-
sory Committees became customary. See Los Angeles, (City) Department of City Planning Annual Report
(1971-1972), 3.
44. Los Angeles (City), City Council ‘‘Motion,’’ May 11, 1978 and Los Angeles (City), State County and
Federal Affairs Committee, ‘‘Report,’’ August 11, 1977, in Council File 77-2800-S14 (Box B-826 LACA).
45. See Calvin Hamilton to the Planning and Environment Committee of City Council, November 29, 1978, in
Council File 77-2800-S14 (Box B-826 LACA).
46. See Los Angeles (City), Planning and Environment Committee, ‘‘Recommendation,’’ February 7, 1979, in
Council File 77-2800-S14 (Box B-826 LACA); City of Los Angeles v. State of California 138 Cal.App.3d
526 (1979).
47. Mark A. Stein, ‘‘Residents Assail Zoning Proposal,’’ Los Angeles Times, May 21, 1981.
48. Los Angeles (City), Ordinance 155079 adopted March 31, 1981, Council File 77-2800-S14A (Box B-826
49. Los Angeles (City), City Council ‘‘Motion’’ November 17, 1981, Council File 81-5656 (Box C-119
50. See Los Angeles (City), Council Files 81-5656 and 81-5656-S3 (Box C-119 LACA); Ordinance 156960
July 13, 1982.
51. According to Kevin Roderick in ‘‘L. A. Building Ban Weighed to Avert Zoning Law Suits,’’ Los Angeles
Times, October 27, 1984, only 25 percent of the city’s inconsistently zoned parcels were addressed by the
1982 deadline.
52. Los Angeles (City), City Council, ‘‘Motion,’’ January 12, 1983, in Council File 83-0003-S19 (Box C-0667
LACA); Kevin Roderick ‘‘L. A. Building Ban Weighed to Avert Zoning Law Suits,’’ Los Angeles Times,
October 27, 1984; regarding lawsuits stemming from AB 283, see Council Files 82-0841 (Box C-0842
LACA) and 82-1871 (Box C-0519 LACA).
53. See for example, Los Angeles (City) Ordinance 156337 adopted January 29, 1982, a development mora-
torium in the San Pedro Community Plan area pending Zoning Consistency; Los Angeles (City) Ordinance
158788 adopted March 14, 1984, a development moratorium in the Arleta-Pacoima Community Plan area
pending Zoning Consistency; Los Angeles (City), Ordinance 158506 adopted November 18, 1983, a devel-
opment moratorium in the West Los Angeles Community Plan area pending Zoning Consistency; Los
Angeles (City) Ordinance 159579 adopted December 14, 1984, a development moratorium in the Silver
Lake-Echo Park Community Plan area pending Zoning Consistency; Los Angeles (City), Ordinance
163420 April 13, 1988, a development moratorium in the Wilmington–Harbor City Community Plan area
pending Zoning Consistency.
54. ‘‘Hamilton Urges Cut in Building to Meet Zoning Law,’Los Angeles Times, November 14, 1984.
55. Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning Annual Report (1984-1985), 16.
56. Los Angeles (City), Ordinance 159748 adopted March 20, 1985; Frank Clifford, ‘‘L. A. Votes to Enact
Zoning General Plan,’’ Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1985.
57. Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning Annual Report (1983–1984), 10.
58. Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning Annual Report (1984–1985), 16.
59. Ibid., 16.
60. Regarding making Q Conditions permanent, see Los Angeles (City), Council File 83-0636 (Box C-683
LACA) and Los Angeles (City), Ordinance 158206, adopted August 3, 1983; for examples of area-wide
rezoning as part of the Zoning Consistency Program, see Los Angeles (City), Council File 86-2003 (Box
C-1382 LACA) and Los Angeles (City), Ordinance 163915 adopted July 26, 1988, on the rezoning of the
Northridge Community Plan area in the Valley pursuant to the General Plan Zoning Consistency Program;
see Los Angeles (City), Council File 88-1634 (Box C-2134 LACA) and Los Angeles (City), Ordinance
167449 adopted December 3, 1991, on the rezoning of the Southeast Los Angeles Community Plan area pur-
suant to the General Plan Zoning Consistency Program; see Los Angeles (City) Council File 88-0766 (Box C-
2107 LACA) and Los Angeles (City), Ordinance 165511, adopted February 9, 1990, on the rezoning of the
Whittemore 137
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Arleta-Pacoima Community Plan area pursuant to the General Plan Zoning Consistency Program; see Los
Angeles (City), Council File 88-0727 (Box C-2105 LACA) and Los Angeles (City), Ordinance 165108
adopted August 8, 1989, on the rezoning of the North Hollywood Community Plan area pursuant to the Gen-
eral Plan Zoning Consistency Program; see Los Angeles (City), Council File 87-0835 (Box C-1703 LACA)
and Los Angeles (City) Ordinance 164855 adopted May 10, 1989, on the rezoning of the Central City North
Community Plan area pursuant to the General Plan Zoning Consistency Program.
61. ‘‘Council Tentatively Adopts Plan to Slow Building,’’ Los Angeles Times, January 24, 1985. The size of
this majority was not mentioned in the article.
62. See Los Angeles (City) Department of City Planning, ‘‘Southeast Los Angeles Population Capacity Com-
parison,’’ 10, in Council File 88-1634 attachment II (Box C-2134 LACA).
63. Trudy Farr to Aram Elmassian received May 12, 1988, in Council File 88-0727 (Box C-2105 LACA).
64. Isadora D. Earl to Los Angeles (City), City Council Planning and Environment Committee, May 9, 1988, in
Council File 88-0727 (Box C-2105 LACA).
65. See Los Angeles (City) Planning and Environment Committee, ‘‘Report,’’ adopted June 15, 1988, in Coun-
cil File 88-0727, Part 2 of 2 (Box C-2105 LACA).
66. Josh Getlin, ‘‘City’s Zoning Survey to Begin in Van Nuys,’Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1980.
67. On the conflict between housing production and the Zoning Consistency Program, see Los Angeles (City)
Council File 87-0124 (Box C-1680 LACA); on the conflict between business development and the Zoning
Consistency Program, see Los Angeles (City) Council File 85-1647 (Box C-1149 LACA).
68. David Ferrell, ‘‘Planners OK Zoning Law Limiting City Population,’’ Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1985;
the General Plan Housing Element of 1994 estimated that the General Plan Zoning Consistency Program
reduced the city’s housing capacity by 28 percent, from 3,022,717 to 2,169,056 units, see Los Angeles
(City), Department of City Planning, Housing Element: An Element of the General Plan of the City of Los
Angeles (1993), 76.
69. See Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning ‘‘Proposed Final Environmental Impact Report’’
(September 1987), i, in Council File 88-0766, (Box C-2107 LACA) regarding General Plan Zoning Con-
sistency Program in Arleta-Pacoima; see Los Angeles (City), Department of City Planning, ‘‘Draft Envi-
ronmental Impact Report’’ (July 1987), i, in Council File 88-0727 (Box C-2105 LACA), regarding General
Plan Zoning Consistency Program in North Hollywood
70. See Los Angeles (City) Department of City Planning, ‘‘Southeast Los Angeles Population Capacity Com-
parison,’’ p. 9, in Council File 88-1634 attachment II (Box C-2134 LACA)
71. David Ferrell. ‘‘Planners OK Zoning Law Limiting City Population,’’ Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1985.
72. John Schwada, ‘‘Zoning Structure Is Under Attack,’’ Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1992.
73. Scneider and Teske (1993), 723.
74. For example, see Los Angeles (City), City Council ‘‘Motion’’ December 5, 1986, in Council File 86-2180
(Box C-1386 LACA), for discretionary approval of residential uses in commercially zoned districts.
75. Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers See It as start of Land-Use Revolt,’’ Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1986;
Sam Hall Kaplan, ‘‘Citizens Want a Hand in Zoning,’Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1986.
76. Laura Lake quoted in Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers See It as start of Land-Use Revolt,’Los Angeles
Times, October 12, 1986.
77. Arnel v. Costa Mesa, 28 Cal 3d 511 (1980)
78. Doug Dowie, ‘‘Two Councilmen Take Initiative on Zoning Law,’Los Angeles Daily News, March 23,
79. See Los Angeles (City) Council File 86-1090 on Los Angeles City Clerk Connect, http://cityclerk.lacity.
org/lacityclerkconnect/; Arnel v. Costa Mesa (1980) ruled that an initiative could be used to rezone any
property regardless of its size, paving the way for initiatives such as Proposition U.
80. Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers See It as start of Land-Use Revolt,’Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1986.
81. Ibid.
82. Ibid.
138 Journal of Planning History 11(2)
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
83. Ibid.; Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers Hit Mail Hard to Blunt Critics,’Los Angeles Times, October 31,
84. Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers See It as start of Land-Use Revolt,’Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1986.
85. Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers Hit Mail Hard to Blunt Critics,’Los Angeles Times, October 31, 1986.
86. Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers See It as start of Land-Use Revolt,’Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1986.
87. Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers Hit Mail Hard to Blunt Critics,’Los Angeles Times, October 31, 1986.
88. Ibid.
89. Ibid.
90. Rich Connell, ‘‘Prop U Backers See It as start of Land-Use Revolt,’Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1986.
91. Sam Hall Kaplan, ‘‘Citizens Want a Hand in Zoning,’’ Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1986.
92. Fulton (2001), 60.
93. Fulton (2001), 49.
94. Los Angeles (City) Ordinance 161684 adopted January 11, 1986.
95. Roger Vincent, ‘‘Prop U. passage ushers in era of anti-building fervor,’’ Los Angeles Business Journal,
January 26, 1987.
96. Ibid.
97. Marvin Braude and Zev Yaroslavsky, ‘Prop U: Debate Goes on,’’ Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1987.
98. Los Angeles (City), City Council ‘‘Motion,’’ December 5, 1986, in Council File 86-2183 (Box C-1387
99. Friends of Westwood v. Los Angeles 191 Cal. App. 3d 259 (1987); Dan Shapiro, ‘‘Citizen Review Now
Can Save Zoning Outrage Later,’’ Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1988.
100. Los Angeles (City), City Council ‘‘Motion,’’ June 10, 1987, and Communication of Mayor Tom Bradley,
July 27, 1987, in Council File 87-0986 (Box C-1707 LACA)
101. Los Angeles (City), Ordinance 165951 adopted May 29, 1990.
102. Christopher J. Duerksen, C. Gregory Dale, and Donald L. Elliott, The Citizen’s Guide to Planning, 4th ed.
(Chicago: American Planning Association, 2009), 156.
103. Council on Development Choices for the ‘80s, ‘‘Factors Shaping Growth in the ‘80s,’’ ed. James H. Carr
and Edward E. Duensing (New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1983), 17.
104. Mike Wyma, ‘‘The Nimby Factor,’Los Angeles Times, January 5, 1989.
105. Popper (1981).
106. The shortage of housing in the City of Los Angeles has been a concern of the Planning Department and
City Council since at least the 1960s, an Ad Hoc Committee on Housing was convened in 1980, a Housing
Production Task Force in 1982, and a Housing Crises Task Force in 1999.
107. Numerous authors have documented the relationship of zoning to sprawl, thereby suggesting the relation-
ship of zoning to sprawl’s many negative impacts: see for example, Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-
Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: the Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream
(New York: North Point Press, 2000); Oliver Gillham, The Limitless City: A Primer on the Urban Sprawl
Debate (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2002); Jonathan Levine, Zoned Out: Regulation, markets and
Choices in Transportation and Metropolitan Land-Use (Washington, DC: Resources for the Future,
2006); Christopher B. Leinberger, The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream
(Washington, DC: Island Press, 2008). Certainly the business community has been willing to blame anti-
growthers for sprawl, see Vogel and Swanson (1989).
108. Vogel and Swanson (1989), 70.
109. Southern Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. v. Mount Laurel Township 67 N.J. 151 (1975), Southern Burling-
ton County N.A.A.C.P. v. Mount Laurel Township 92 N.J. 158 (1983).
110. Barbara Taylor, ‘‘Property Rights and Freedom Linked,’’ Los Angeles Times, November 9, 1980.
111. Calvin S. Hamilton, ‘‘Compensation for Zoning Losses,’’ Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1982.
112. Lowell R. Wedemeyer, ‘‘Compensation for Zoning Losses,’’ Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1982.
113. Robert Greene, ‘‘Power to the Valley,’L. A. Weekly, December 12, 2003, 28.
Whittemore 139
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
114. In early 2010, the Department of City Planning estimated that the adaptive reuse ordinance had produced
9,156 units, and implementation of mixed-use Residential Accessory Services zones had resulted in the
provision of 10,900 units, Jane Blumenfeld, ‘‘L. A. Zoning Turns 100: Now What?’’ Lecture. The Hun-
tington, San Marino, CA, March 27, 2010; regarding small lot zoning see Los Angeles (City), City Plan-
ning Department ‘‘Staff Report’’ for July 22, 2004, in Council File 04-1546 (LA City Clerk Connect), Los
Angeles (City) Ordinance 176354 adopted December 14, 2004, and Christopher Hawthorne, ‘‘Fledgling
Home Projects Emerge from L. A.’s Small Lot Ordinance,’’ Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2008.
Andrew H. Whittemore is an assistant professor of City and Regional Planning in the School of Urban and
Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Arlington. He holds a PhD in Urban Planning from the University
of California, Los Angeles.
140 Journal of Planning History 11(2)
at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on May 12, 2016jph.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... And there may be other costs to developers in existing urban areas, including land costs, demolition, and site remediation (Elkind et al., 2017). Neighborhood opposition is often better organized in the already built areas, and lawsuits over many development aspects have long been common (Monkkonen & Livesley-O'Neill, 2019;Pendall, 1999;Whittemore, 2012). ...
Full-text available
California is widely seen as a climate and environmental policy leader in the U.S. and beyond. However, allowing local land use decisions to proceed as usual represents a major gap in the state’s climate policy framework. Climate mitigation rules and formulae are utilized to claim zero net emissions for large-scale land development at the urban fringe. Such developments continue to destroy habitats and radically transform landscapes. Newhall Ranch, a subdevelopment at the edge of urbanized Los Angeles County, has claimed emissions offsets such that the development of 60,000 homes will have less than zero greenhouse gas emissions. Offsets largely rely on using disadvantaged communities, and significant threats to endangered species on site are compensated by payments to the project's environmental opponents. The net result is land development as usual, with a veneer of solarization and investments in GHG mitigation projects with poor quantification and verification. This situation demonstrates the enduring structures of land use development that drive GHG emissions and environmental change, and calls for stronger requirements for local compliance with state emissions-reductions targets.
... Similarly, Morrow (2013) and Whittemore (2012) show that a small share of homeowners has wielded disproportionate power over zoning decisions in Los Angeles. Morrow, in documenting the influence of Los Angeles's neighborhood associations, notes that the typical association has only 100 members, even though it "represents" an area with 10,000 adults. ...
Full-text available
We examine pervasive opposition to building market-rate housing and relate it to localism: a perspective that grants moral authority to incumbent residents. We argue that localism has become prevalent in housing planning in the United States and that its seeming equality—allowing all communities the right to define themselves—conceals profound imbalances that favor the affluent. We use survey data from California to measure localism, using opposition to state land use preemption as a proxy. We find that localism is concentrated among white, affluent homeowners. This suggests that localist beliefs are less prevalent in the population than they are in planning practice.
... As the region grew denser, its zoning made only limited concessions to urbanity: instead, it struggled to remain suburban even as urbanization crept forward (Fulton, 1994). Despite its growth, the region remained predominantly zoned for detached single-family homes, and it became harder, not easier, to build multifamily housing without some sort of discretionary approval (Fulton, 1994;Morrow, 2013;Whittemore, 2011). Today, the region remains dominated by single-family homes, with even the center city defined by single-family zoning. ...
Car-centered policies and culture have long prevailed in São Paulo, critically impacting the urban space. While a third of daily trips are made by cars, more than half of usable floor area in real estate developments built since the mid-1980s was dedicated to parking. Contradicting historical priority given to cars, a number of recent policies centered in the city’s master plan, backed up by social trends, were put in place to address that problem. In this context, this chapter reviews the current status of parking in São Paulo in a comprehensive mobility perspective, recognizing achievements and setbacks in public policy and management. Google Books preview:
... However, despite the ongoing construction boom, neither city seems to fit the classical definition of a growth machine (Molotch 1976) or development regime (Stone 1989) as depicted in local political economy literature. Much like many American cities that cast off the yolk of place entrepreneurs in favour of middle-class led "progressive" movements (DeLeon 1992;Purcell 2000;Vogel and Swanson 1989;Whittemore 2011), residents in both Toronto and Vancouver have become major players in shaping the growth and development of their respective cities. However, given the rapid pace of development in both cities, neither can be categorised as "anti-growth." ...
This article compares the design and implementation of density for benefit agreements (DBAs), a form of density “bonusing” in Toronto and Vancouver. The cities identify many of the same priorities for benefits secured from developers, but in practice they prioritize widely different benefits. By comparing practice in Toronto and Vancouver, this article demonstrates how institutional differences and the decentralization of policy decision-making in major cities can affect urban planning decision-making. Cet article compare la mise en œuvre et l'utilisation d'ententes sur l'accroissement de la densité en échange d'avantages à Toronto et à Vancouver de 2007 à 2011. Ces deux villes mettent en œuvre de telles ententes d'une façon similaire et elles identifient essentiellement les mêmes priorités en ce qui concerne les avantages obtenus par des promoteurs. En pratique, cependant, les avantages auxquels elles donnent la priorité sont très différents. En faisant une comparaison entre Toronto et Vancouver, l'article montre comment les différences institutionnelles et la décentralisation de la prise de décisions de politiques dans une métropole peuvent avoir des répercussions sur la prise de décisions en matière de planification urbaine.
... This criticism extends to recent work on growth machines. For example, studies on "exceptions" to the growth machine, where developers encounter resistance (Kimelberg 2011) or defeat (Gendron and Domhoff 2009;Whittemore 2012) by anti-growth individuals or coalitions, make only some reference to class background, which could explain their success (Harding 2009), and no reference to the racial background of the anti-growth interests. We could rewrite these projects to show them as stories about Whiteness in opposition to growth, when growth has the secondary effect of increasing racial and economic diversity. ...
Full-text available
Urban regime analysis and growth machine theory offer critical tools to study power and inequality in cities. However, the field of urban politics has moved away from critically addressing race. I discuss these theories' potential contributions before suggesting scholars "bring race back" to urban politics in several key areas: studying "White urban regimes" in addition to Black urban regimes; examining how Whiteness factors into growth (and anti-growth) coalitions; exploring how racial discourse shapes urban regimes; and accounting for the relationship between suburbs and "fringe cities" and the city, including suburban regimes. Video Abstract
... This trend continues until the late 1980s, when Los Angeles was forced by the California state courts to comply with their general plan, forcing massive downzoning, and moving lots to lower density. This froze multifamily construction in many municipalities throughout the county, although, over time, small steps have been taken, such as creative side stepping of 1986's Proposition U, which limits commercial density, to open more areas to multifamily structure development (Whittemore 2011). ...
Building stocks constitute enduring components of urban infrastructure systems, but little research exists on their residence time or changing environmental impacts. Using Los Angeles County, California, as a case study, a framework is developed for assessing the changes of building stocks in cities (i.e., a generalizable framework for estimating the construction and deconstruction rates), the residence time of buildings and their materials, and the associated embedded environmental impacts. In Los Angeles, previous land-use decisions prove not easily reversible, and past building stock investments may continue to constrain the energy performance of buildings. The average age of the building stock has increased steadily since 1920 and more rapidly after the post–World War II construction surge in the 1950s. Buildings will likely endure for 60 years or longer, making this infrastructure a quasi-permanent investment. The long residence time, combined with the physical limitations on outward growth, suggest that the Los Angeles building stock is unlikely to have substantial spatial expansion in the future. The construction of buildings requires a continuous investment in material, monetary, and energetic resources, resulting in environmental impacts. The long residence time of structures implies a commitment to use and maintain the infrastructure, potentially creating barriers to an urban area's ability to improve energy efficiency. The immotility of buildings, coupled with future environmental goals, indicates that urban areas will be best positioned by instituting strategies that ensure reductions in life cycle (construction, use, and demolition) environmental impacts.
This paper advances debates around the financialization of housing with a case study of Los Angeles’s yes-in-my-back-yard (YIMBY) groups. In response to the post-2008 affordable housing crisis, YIMBYs have emerged in support of orthodox economic policies that deregulate land use, expedite construction, and intensify financial accumulation in rental housing. Using detailed empirical analysis collected from YIMBY housing activists, this paper examines how the market-based logics they advance take root in local land use issues. It focuses specifically on the impact of YIMBYs on existing divisions within urban politics, including the scale at which housing is contested. By conceptualizing the YIMBY position as one that facilitates financialization, this paper reveals the ways financialization is more than a mode of accumulation: it is a political process embedded in the state from the bottom up and inside out.
In political economy, research on growth coalitions and regime theory concludes that progressive coalitions representing lower-income residents and effectively working for policy change at the local level involving development are unlikely since they lack the resources necessary to build and maintain strong coalitions with long-term influence with elected officials. In Los Angeles, a coalition representing the homeless filed a lawsuit in 2012, which involved one of the most powerful developers in the region, and reached a favorable settlement. Given the strength of growth interests and factors working against redistributive policies, I ask the question, how did the coalition muster the political influence and resources necessary to compel the developer to settle the lawsuit? I contend that the settlement is evidence of a progressive coalition in the region that is working to establish a growth with equity framework and that the coalition has established political influence with local officials.
Playa Vista is a massive mixed-use development built on coastal wetlands in west Los Angeles. Its land use story illustrates how strategically constructed discourses shape contested urban spaces. Through an analysis of newspaper reporting and government documents, this paper traces how pro-Playa Vista interests changed their growth discourses rationalizing the development between 1979 and 2015. Findings suggest that pro-growth coalitions are resilient when they modify their discourses to negotiate new regulatory and political contexts, specifically pursuing sustainability fixes. They are not dogmatic in their adherence to orthodoxies of private property rights and “highest and best use” of land but rather continually reconstruct growth discourses incorporating enough of the values of their opponents (i.e. “green” values such as growth management and smart growth) that some environmental and homeowner citizens’ groups join the growth coalition, forming a “green growth machine” that not only profitably builds on the land but finances ecological restoration.
The leading theory about urban land-use regulation argues that city zoning officials are full partners in the business and real estate elite's “growth machine.” Suburban land-use officials, in contrast, are thought to cater to the interests of the majority of their electorate—“homevoters.” A unique database regarding over 200,000 lots that the New York City Planning Commission considered for rezoning between 2002 and 2009 allows us to test various hypotheses suggested by these competing theories of land-use regulation. Our analysis reveals that homevoters are more powerful in urban politics than scholars, policymakers, and judges have assumed.
Full-text available
In 1987, in their book Urban Fortune: The Political Economy of Place, Logan and Molotch argued that growth is not usually in the community interest. They proposed a strategy to alter the ability of business to force cities to compete for capital. This strategy depends upon the antigrowth coalition winning its struggle against the growth machine in individual communities. But the issue of growth is more complex than suggested by a growth/no growth dichotomy. The real issue facing localities is how to attract, direct, or repel growth to serve the community interest. In this article, we consider (1) whether growth management can resolve the power struggle between pro- and antigrowth forces and (2) whether growth management can encourage communities to undertake a search for the public interest.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has emphasized on mitigating and reducing impacts instead of designing environmental benefits into projects from the outset. The law requires public agencies to disclose and, when possible, to mitigate the potential impacts of development project or plan. CEQA's reach has expanded exponentially with the California Supreme Court's 1972 decision in Friends of Mammoth v/s Board of Supervisors. Development and business interests have been chafing at CEQA almost since the minute Friends of Mammoth came down. The lawmakers from both parties followed up with the package of bills now making its way through the legislature. The Sacramento-based Planning and Conservation League has revealed that the bills introduced in the legislature would fundamentally undermine the ability of communities to participate in decisions that determine how their neighborhoods grow, and leave well-connected developers unaccountable for air pollution, traffic congestion, and other impacts of poorly planned projects.
Contents: Preface to the Paperback Edition Introduction: The Collapse of the Growth MachinePart 1: Power Chapter 1: The Beachhead Chapter 2: Perestroika Co-opted Chapter 3: Suburbs of ExtractionPart 2: Structure Chapter 4: Chinatown Redefined Chapter 5: The Money Train Chapter 6: The Reluctant MetropolisPart 3: Land Chapter 7: The Education of Maria VanderKolk Chapter 8: The Politics of ExtinctionPart 4: Money Chapter 9: The Taking of Parcel K Chapter 10: Welcome to Sales Tax CanyonPart 5: Consequences Chapter 11: Whose Riot Was This, Anyway? Chapter 12: Cloning Los Angeles Chapter 13: Cocoon Citizenship and the Toon Town UrbanismAcknowledgments Notes Bibliography Index Photography Credits
There is considerable conjecture but little evidence regarding the social contexts in which municipalities adopt growth controls. Likewise, the influence of planning interventions on growth rates and community satisfaction is not known. The best predictor of antigrowth policies among Northern California city planning agencies is the percentage white collar population and not, as recent urban literature predicts, relative community status or social homogeneity. The hypothesis that associations between city planning practices and community variables are mediated through local activism is given support. However, growth rates are not influenced by growth controls or the social variables associated with antigrowth policies. Further, a survey of Northern California residents suggests that those living in growth control communities report less community satisfaction.
Suburban governments are becoming ever more adventuresome in their efforts to control housing development. Some have imposed temporary moratoria on new growth. Others have adopted quotas on residential construction or subjected developers to exotic taxes or charges. Controversy over these devices has pushed a fistful of small towns into the national spotlight: Petaluma, California; Black Jack, Missouri; Ramapo, New York; Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Because state legislatures have placed few tethers on municipal efforts to limit growth, courts have felt compelled to shoulder the burden of guarding against suburban abuses. The thousands of lawsuits brought by land developers (and on occasion civil rights groups) to challenge growth controls, however, have yet to yield a coherent set of legal doctrines for limiting the range of municipal discretion. As an initial matter, there is no consensus on how courts should deal with challenges to specific suburban strategies like large-lot zoning, the exaction of park land from subdividers, and moratoria on sewer connections. Even the most thoughtful judicial opinions and academic commentaries on these issues have placed insufficient emphasis on their interconnectedness. As a result, a complicated and confusing case law has evolved into a series of irrational pigeonholes. Current ambiguities frustrate both land developers, who are uncertain what they may do, and suburban officials, who are uncertain what they may stop. This article seeks to help remedy the current confusion. Specifically, it employs economic and legal analysis in an attempt to establish a comprehensive set of legal doctrines defining the rights of suburbs, landowners, and housing consumers. It also sets out the remedies that should be available to each group when those rights are violated.
This paper examines how differences in the local policy process may affect local growth control policies across jurisdictions. The relationship between levels of citizen mobilization against growth and the content of local land use policy is evaluated. Using census data and the results of a detailed survey of city planning officials, we test hypotheses concerning the determinants of local mobilization against growth and local conflict over growth. We then examine the hypothesis that higher levels of local conflict and anti-growth mobilization lead to qualitative and quantitative differences in local growth control policy content. The findings indicate that local policy is conditioned by levels of citizen mobilization.
This study attempts to replicate results of previous research on the consequences of growth controls in suburban municipalities. It combines longitudinal data for 1970-1980 from census materials with a 1973 questionnaire survey of city planning officials concerning local growth-control policies. Growth controls have only modest effects on subsequent changes in local population, median family income, median rent, and black percentage. We argue that formal policy tools or legislation cannot be accepted as indicating that their stated objectives will be realized. Data on such tools are potentially misleading; research on local growth politics requires more fine-grained information on the balance of forces in the community.