I love cities. And I love Downtown LA. But the older I get, the more I think about the damage that cities do to the environment. At the beginning of the 20th century, Downtown was largely undeveloped. In a little over a hundred years, it’s become a dense urban landscape crowded with office buildings and residential towers, crisscrossed by roads and freeways. As a result, LA is hotter and drier, the air is dirtier, and like every other urban center, we’re contributing to climate change in a big way.
I was wandering around Cal Plaza a while ago, and ran across a piece of Downtown I’d forgotten about. As I looked out over the city in the direction of Hill Street, I saw that directly below me there was a small park. It took me a minute to realize it was the same park I’d seen many times at the intersection of Fourth and Hill. It’s been fenced off for years. Much of the greenery is dry, and the trees could certainly use some attention, but it was so cool to run across a patch of green space in the middle of all the steel and concrete.
Actually, it’s not technically a park. It’s a small patch of land called Angels Knoll that had been owned by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). (I assume it got the name because it’s right night next to Angels Flight.) When the CRA was dissolved in 2012, a petition was circulated asking the City to turn the land over to the Department of Parks & Recreation. But that didn’t happen. As one of the few remaining undeveloped parcels in the Downtown area, the property is worth a fortune. The decision was made to put it up for sale.
A June, 2021 memo from CRA/LA, the successor agency to the CRA, sets the price of the parcel at $50 million. The buyer, Angels Landing Partners, is actually a joint venture by the Peebles Corporation, MacFarland Partners and Claridge Partners. According to the LA Department of City Panning web site, the proposed Angels Landing project involves the construction of two skyscrapers, one rising 63 stories and the other rising 42 stories. In addition to two hotels and 72,000 square feet of commercial space, the project also includes 180 condos and 252 apartments. Apparently some affordable housing is supposed to be provided, but at this point it’s not clear how much.
Of course, the project will generate lots of jobs and economic activity. According to the Environmental Impact Report, it will also generate 10,179 metric tons of CO2 equivalent during the construction phase alone. Beyond that, it will contribute to the steadily increasing temperatures in the LA area, along with a number of other massive projects planned for Downtown, Hollywood, Warner Center and elsewhere.
And we’ll also be losing one of the few remaining patches of green in Downtown. City Hall has made its priorities clear. They want the skyscrapers. Of course, LA was built by developers and politicians who prioritized growth over everything else. That’s how LA got to be what it is today. But the older I get, the more I feel that this addiction to growth is incredibly destructive. Our warming climate and shrinking water resources are a direct result of unchecked development.
We really don’t need another skyscraper. We absolutely need more parks.