Construction rates in Los Angeles are reportedly taking a nosedive, with permit approvals for April, May, and June down 45 percent over last year’s figures.
UrbanizeLA reported that the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) documented a 15 percent decrease in inspections and a 31 percent decrease in plan checks.
Overall, it’s not a pretty picture for the industry. L.A.’s construction sector is estimated to have lost 2,670 jobs (25 percent) since March 2020. It is, of course, not the only industry to wither because of the COVID-19 pandemic. L.A.’s Controller’s Office reported that, although Los Angeles firms brought back 50,000 jobs in June 2020, the city has an estimated 200,000 fewer jobs than in pre-pandemic times.
The industry’s doom and gloom comes the same year as the defeat of Senate Bill 50 (SB-50), a controversial measure that would have allowed denser housing development around public transportation nodes in order to ameliorate the state’s housing crunch, sprawl, and greenhouse gas emissions. The bill, introduced by the San Francisco–area State Senator Scott Wiener, would have allowed multifamily buildings up to five stories tall to be constructed as-of-right in target areas. Stakeholders disagreed on whether SB-50 would have provided enough affordable housing, argued about the extent of gentrification new development could engender, and roused an army of residents opposed to neighborhood upzonings. This year marked the third time the bill has been defeated, although California State Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins said in a January tweet that she will work on another, SB-50–adjacent bill that could pass this year.
But there is a bright spot in the forecast: LADBS said that building permits worth $7.8 billion were issued over the past four quarters, which represent a one percent increase over the previous year’s figure. UrbanizeLA speculated that this modest increase was likely due to gigantic projects like the $5.5 billion Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP), a project that includes a multimodal transportation facility at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and a 2.25-mile people mover train to connect the airport to the city’s Metro Rail.