A chart in a recent report from the LA Department of City Planning illustrated the almost five-year process to build 100% affordable housing developments, which includes more than two years just to get the permits and approvals they need from the bureaucracy:
Rome was not built in a day, but 58 months to build a simple apartment building for low-income families—including more than two years of paper-shuffling just to get permission to build—struck me as excessive, so I looked into construction timelines for some major world landmarks and found that every single one of these structures was built in less time than it takes to put up an affordable apartment building in Los Angeles:
The Golden Gate Bridge – 4 years, 3 months, 14 days
Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) – 4 years
Wilshire Grand Center (the curved, sail-shaped building with the spire) – 3 years, 4 months, 8 days
The St. Louis Gateway Arch – 2 years, 9 months, 16 days
The Transamerica Pyramid – 2 years, 3 months, 28 days
The Eiffel Tower – 2 years, 2 months, 3 days
Los Angeles City Hall – 2 years
The Empire State Building – 1 year, 25 days
Disneyland – 1 year, 1 day
Seattle Space Needle – 4 months, 13 days
Many of these structures were built extremely quickly, some in a matter of months, in large part because city leaders felt a profound sense of urgency to get them built in time for events like World’s Fairs and, as such, cleared away bureaucratic roadblocks to their swift construction and completion.
That sense of urgency is currently lacking in Los Angeles where, despite interlocking crises of affordable housing and homelessness and a broad public consensus that the process is broken, we still subject every proposed building to months of community input and our bureaucracy takes months to process applications. Here’s hoping our new mayor and council members are ready to tackle this issue.