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Mayor Touts Green Corridor, but Can Downtown Support His New Industry?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2009, at 06:35PM
Arts District Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Looking southeast from City Hall over Downtown's Arts District and Industrial District.

In his State of the City speech this afternoon, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promoted the creation of a five-mile "CleanTech Corridor" that would stretch north through Downtown's Industrial District. The project would "transform our industrial core into ground zero for green jobs," Villaraigosa said.

Unsaid, though, is just how the city plans to turn antiquated industrial land with small plots into space that would support new green businesses.

The industrial land between the Downtown core and the Los Angeles River was laid out in the early 1900s. Lot sizes are small and the streets are even smaller. Railroads were the lifeblood of industry, and the grid of buildings and streets was built to support boxcars, not semi-trucks.

While the industrial district has a number of great old buildings, most of them are simply unsuitable for industry today. Low ceilings make manufacturing impossible, and lots lack the loading docks that business demands.

Villaraigosa said today that he wants to see a day when "clean technology is as synonymous with Los Angeles as motion pictures." He hopes to create a "business corridor bringing together researchers, designers and manufacturers from around the world dedicated to sustainable solutions and to creating green-collar jobs."

The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has been pushing the Mayor's agenda for industrial CleanTech, advertising the agency's twenty acre plot at Santa Fe and Washington as the CleanTech Manufacturing Center, the southern anchor of the proposed corridor.

Discussions that mix the 20-acre site, formerly the Crown Coach school bus factory, and the small plots scattered through the Industrial District do a disservice to the conversation.

The Crown Coach site is an empty parcel of land, able to be shaped into whatever use one might want to put on it. The rest of the land along the river is a maze of tiny parcels and tiny blocks. Assembling large chunks of land is lengthy at best, and often simply infeasible. Infrastructure such as power and communications is also outdated and would need to be updates for more current users.

One would be hard-pressed to find evidence that a cash-strapped city can offer the incentives necessary to get new industry interested in such complicated land. In the meantime, the single-focused push has put a stop to other creative uses that find the funky layouts appealing. While a push for green jobs is nice, stifling potential development isn't.


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