In Cranes’ Shadow, Los Angeles Strains to See a Future With Less Sprawl

EDITOR’S PICK--The powerful economic resurgence that has swept Southern California is on display almost everywhere here, visible in the construction cranes towering on the skyline and the gush of applications to build luxury hotels, shopping centers, high-rise condominiums and acres of apartment complexes from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.

But it can also be seen in a battle that has broken out about the fundamental nature of this distinctively low-lying and spread-out city. The conflict has pitted developers and some government officials against neighborhood organizations and preservationists. It is a debate about height and neighborhood character; the influence of big-money developers on City Hall; and, most of all, what Los Angeles should look like a generation from now.

This is a city that has long defied easy definition — at once urban, suburban and even rural — filled with people who live in homes with year-round gardens and open skies dotted by swaying palm trees, often blocks away from gritty boulevards, highways and clusters of office buildings. And it is no stranger to battles between entrenched neighborhood groups and well-financed developers seeing opportunity in a wealthy market; the slow-growth movement thrived here during the 1990s.

But the debate this time has reached a particularly pitched level, fueled by a severe shortage of affordable housing, an influx of people moving back into the city center and the perception that a Southern California city that once seemed to have unlimited space for growth has run out of track. “What’s that old cliché?” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti said in an interview. “The sprawl has hit the wall in LA” (Read the rest.)