The City of Los Angeles is known for its sprawling neighborhoods and horizontal layout, which is a stark contrast in comparison to the other two biggest cities in the United States, "the upzoned" New York and Chicago. When people think of LA, they think of ranch homes and Craftsman bungalows and we housesellers have unearthed some interesting facts about why that is still the case today, even as we suffer through an affordable housing crisis that is one of the worse in the nation. In fact, close to 50% of the land that can be developed here is set aside for single-family homes, not apartments or other forms of housing that could hold more people, and the abundance of single-family neighborhoods is the main factor that HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) blames on the  crisis.

It breaks down like this: Roughly two thirds of the land in Los Angeles City is zoned to allow residential construction and, of that total, more than 75% is reserved for either single-family homes or duplexes. The first zoning laws in LA were introduced in 1920 but they were fairly lax and by the 1930s, there was still less than 5% of the city’s zoned land restricted to single-family homes. The City's zoning rules became much more restrictive, however, through the coming decades. For example, in 1946, Los Angeles updated its zoning laws with nearly three pages of restrictions and regulations (a lot for that time period). These zoning rules (still in place today) helped to create the neatly arranged residential communities we see today, but they also severely limited available space for new or alternative multi-family development. By 1970, almost half the city was zoned for single-family use only.

Also in the 1970s, residents and local leaders sought to slow LA’s growth by limiting the amount of housing of any type that developers could build. Some other strange facts we found out were that in 1960, Los Angeles was zoned to house up to 10 million people. But in 1990, the city had the capacity to house just under 4 million. Twenty years later, in 2010, it was still zoned to just house around 4.3 million. As we wrote about this summer, officials in LA do seem willing to alter single-family zoning laws in areas near transit and in July, the LA City Council unanimously approved a plan to adjust the zoning of several single-family blocks near stops on Metro’s Expo Line.