December 28, 2021

LA Revelations 4 -Vancouverism in Los Angeles

This I did not expect.  Driving down La Cienega Boulevard at night, a block of lights in the distance rose above the treeline.  Way above, like nothing else in this part of the city.   It turned out to be a newly opened 30-storey residential apartment building – Cumulus.

How did this get here!?


I saw the tower complex the next day from the platform of the Expo (E) Line, waiting for the trip downtown:


Vancouverism had apparently come to Los Angeles.  Cumulus checked off the boxes:  Highrise tower with six-storey podium.  Glassy facade in pastel blue.  Mixed-use residential with street retail.  Built on an underused commercial site at a major intersection.  Next to a rapid-transit station.

And it wasn’t the only new development I’d find as I travelled along Metro Rail.  TOD – transit-oriented development – had returned to LA.

You probably know the story of early Los Angeles as one of the first streetcar cities: LARY for the Yellow Cars on the local tram routes; Pacific Electric for the Red Cars on the interurban lines – both fabled in silent films and motordom conspiracies (see Roger Rabbit et al.)


Then came the freeways.  And finally a century later, those rights-of-way had light-rail lines squeezed in – but by now on some of the less attractive options for transit-oriented development and still set in auto-dependent motordom without much change on anything adjacent except commuter parking lots.

The Blue Line to Long Beach was the first light-rail line in 1990.  Three decades later, the dismal suburban/industrial fabric remains largely unchanged.


But in 2016, something did change.  As we’ll see in the next post on LA Revelations.


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