What will Los Angeles look like in 2050?

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What will Los Angeles look like in 2050?
A vision of an augmented Century City, transformed into a second downtown. (Shareefa Abdulsalam and Niketa Sondhi / Now Institute)

Adding 1 million people along the Wilshire corridor could help L.A. create a sustainable city.

Based on climate research conducted at UCLA, the answer to that question could potentially be very bleak. L.A. will be hotter, with more wildfires and less snow in the San Gabriels. As my colleague Mark Gold, UCLA’s vice chancellor for environment and sustainability, recently described it, the changing climate will make us “sort of like a ‘Phoenix by the sea.’”

Amidst these environmental challenges, L.A. County is forecast to grow by 1.5 million people – the equivalent of adding the population of Phoenix to our hotter, drier environs.

How can we absorb an additional 1.5 million people while accounting for the impacts of climate change, advancing environmental sustainability (100% local water, 100% renewable energy, and enhanced ecosystem and human health) and urban affordability without completely destroying the character that Angelenos love about their city?

There is no easy answer to this question. Backers of transit-oriented development, who have the ear of City Hall, favor expanding rail and rapid bus routes across the county and constructing dense, multiuse development alongside those corridors. That effort, however, has drawn pushback from Angelenos who don’t want to see the character of their communities change. This perfectly reasonable desire for preservation has, unfortunately, given birth to movements like Measure LV in Santa Monica and the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative — local ballot measures that are effectively trying to freeze the region in a time capsule by hampering efforts to build new dense development.

The realities of population growth and a warming climate, however, mean that preventing change is not an option. Instead, we need to learn how to adapt and thrive in its midst […]