No one walks in LA.
That image of Los Angeles has stuck since the new wave band Missing Persons proclaimed it in 1982.
It is hard to argue.
Perhaps no city on earth is as closely connected to the image of the automobile or car culture as Los Angeles. We even have a museum dedicated to cars.
It’s hard to believe that at one time, Los Angeles had a public transportation system that ranked among the best in the nation. Trolleys and bus lines connected hillside neighborhoods with downtown and the beach communities.
And yet, Los Angeles is not the least walkable city in America. It actually ranks somewhere in the middle according to a 2016 study published by the George Washington University School of Business(“Foot Traffic Ahead,” Christopher R. Leinberger and Michael Rodriguez, 2016).
But the daily experience for most of us here doesn’t often feel that way. We lope along helplessly along packed streets and boulevards, hoping for the break that never seems to come. I know that I’m not alone in planning much of my days around traffic and parking.
That’s one reason to could why so many Angelenos pursue hiking with such passion.
Although we’re not the least walkable city in America, most would likely agree we could do better.
Intuitively, we know that walking is good, both for us and the environment. But did you know that walkable neighborhoods is also good for home prices?
A “Sidewalk Ballet”
In 1961, journalist Jane Jacobs outlined her vision for more vibrant and livable cities in her landmark work, The Life and Death of Great American Cities, (Random House,1961).
In her book, Jacobs outlined a vision for more livable cities, which, not surprisingly, calls for more thoughtfully designed pedestrian walkways.
In post-war America, Jacobs saw a building boom that stripped away the corner market and created cultural dead ends with suburban cul de sacs. And with their loss, the social fabric of cities was fraying.
In response, she advocated the return mixed use developments, short blocks, and access to public transportation. Jacobs believed that a well functioning sidewalk helps to promote trust among people; social contact. She termed this a “sidewalk ballet.”
Long before Jane Jacobs came along, America’s first hippie and most famous walker Henry David Thoreau, was making the case forwalking.
Even in the 19th century, Thoreau was lamenting how shopkeepers spent most of their days sitting in their stores. He argued that what his fellow citizens really needed was a brisk walk in the woods.
What both Jacobs and Thoreau were getting at is that walking allows for the chance encounter and the unexpected experience. Walking is good for society and good for the soul.
Many people agree with that notion and that’s why they’re willing to pay for it.
Walking is the new luxury
Walkability in Los Angeles is improving. Along with the building boom rippling across the city, we also see more mixed use development, community spaces with better transportation and more access to trains and transit hubs.
The city has committed to creating bike lanes, traffic calming and safer pedestrian features such as “scramble crosswalks” like the one at Hollywood and Highland.
Even for those who don’t walk, proximity still means shorter trips.
Walking is getting better and easier in LA.
Homeowners are benefitting.
Economists have begun making clear connections between property values and walkability.
Another study, (Walking the Walk, 2009 by CEOs for Cities), found that there is a connection between walkability and property value. Their research shows that homes with higher walk scores sold for more.
Of course, walkability is largely subjective. But thanks to technologies such as google maps, it’s easy to rate locations relative to nearby shops, services, and public transportation. With these tools, it’s become possible to chart connections between home prices and walkability.
The conclusion is clear. Buyers, renters, and businesses are willing to pay a premium for properties with higher Walk Scores.
What is walkability?
The standard for measuring walkability comes from the web site Walk Score.
Just plug in your city, zip code, or neighborhood into the search bar on the site and you’ll get ratings for walking, biking, and public transportation.
Walk Score ™ measures the number of destinations within walking distance (typically between 1/4 and 1 mile from the property.
For the technically-minded, here’s their definition.
“Walk Score measures the walkability of any address using a patented system. For each address, Walk Score analyzes hundreds of walking routes to nearby amenities. Points are awarded based on the distance to amenities in each category. Amenities within a 5 minute walk (.25 miles) are given maximum points. A decay function is used to give points to more distant amenities, with no points given after a 30 minute walk.”
The Walk Score grading system breaks down like this.
A score of 90 – 100 is awarded the title of Walker’s Paradise. No car needed to get around here. Neighborhoods that score 70 -89 still merits Very Walkable, with most errands able to be accomplished on foot. Scoring 50 – 69 gets a title of Somewhat Walkable. After that, there’s little choice but to drive.
Most walkable neighborhoods around the Hollywood Hills
Central Hollywood– Walk Score: 93
West Hollywood– Walk Score: 91
Los Feliz– Walk Score: 90
Hollywood Hills West– Walk Score: 71