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Opinion: The overlooked history of high-density housing in Los Angeles

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Los Angeles has a forgotten history of dense housing that is often overshadowed by the city’s sprawling suburban neighborhoods. This history is evident in the eclectic mix of multifamily housing along Parkman Avenue in Silver Lake, where bungalow courts, duplexes, and apartment buildings coexist with single-family homes. While the city is known for its individual houses with yards, multifamily housing has a deep-rooted legacy that dates back to the early 20th century.

Despite the city’s current emphasis on single-family homes, the demand for density is growing as the housing crisis worsens. The state has mandated that Los Angeles rezone for more than 450,000 units by the end of the decade, prompting major construction efforts. However, neighborhood groups are pushing back against these changes, fearing that new development will lead to high-rise buildings that clash with the city’s character.

From the garden apartments in Crenshaw to the fourplexes in the Fairfax district, Los Angeles has a rich history of multifamily housing that has been overshadowed by the dominance of single-family homes. The city’s early apartment buildings were celebrated for their open, light-filled design, often resembling single-family homes in scale and appearance.

However, by the mid-20th century, zoning restrictions and design regulations had homogenized Los Angeles’ housing stock, leading to the proliferation of dingbat apartments – cheaply built, stucco-clad structures that dotted the cityscape. These dingbats became synonymous with the city’s post-war growth but were eventually phased out due to concerns about density and design quality.

Today, new construction in Los Angeles often takes the form of six to seven-story buildings on commercial boulevards, a stark departure from the city’s traditional development pattern. However, initiatives in other cities, such as Portland and Minneapolis, have shown that there are alternative ways to add density without sacrificing the character of residential neighborhoods.

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Portland’s Residential Infill Project, for example, has encouraged the construction of townhomes and fourplexes in place of larger single-family homes, resulting in a more diverse and affordable housing stock. Similar efforts in Minneapolis have eliminated single-family zoning altogether, allowing for a mix of housing types in residential areas.

In California and Los Angeles, policies such as accessory dwelling units and split lots have been implemented to allow for greater density, but these efforts are often complex and lack the simplicity and elegance of older multifamily housing designs. Streets like Parkman Avenue serve as a reminder that the city already has a blueprint for building diverse, context-sensitive housing that respects the character of existing neighborhoods.

As the city grapples with a growing housing crisis, it is essential to look to the past for inspiration on how to build a more sustainable and equitable future. By embracing the forgotten history of dense housing in Los Angeles, we can create a city that is both vibrant and inclusive, preserving the unique character of its neighborhoods while addressing the pressing need for affordable housing.

Max Podemski is an urban planner in Los Angeles and author of the forthcoming “A Paradise of Small Houses: The Evolution, Devolution, and Potential Rebirth of Urban Housing.”

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Can Martian atmospheric samples provide greater insights into the Red Planet compared to surface samples?

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Could Martian atmospheric samples teach us more about the Red Planet than surface samples? This is a question that has intrigued scientists and researchers for years, and a recent study presented at the 55th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference delves into this intriguing topic. The study, conducted by a team of international researchers, aimed to explore the significance of returning atmospheric samples from Mars and how they could provide valuable insights into the formation and evolution of the Red Planet.

NASA is currently focused on returning surface samples from Mars in the hopes of uncovering clues about the ancient history of the planet and the possibility of past life. However, the researchers behind this study argue that atmospheric samples could offer a unique perspective on Mars’ history that surface samples may not be able to provide. To shed light on this fascinating subject, lead author Dr. Edward Young, a professor at UCLA, and co-author Dr. Timothy Swindle, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona, shared their insights with Universe Today.

Dr. Young explains, “We learn a lot about the origin of a planet from its atmosphere as well as its rocks. In particular, isotope ratios of certain elements can constrain the processes leading to the formation of the planet.” This highlights the importance of studying both atmospheric and surface samples to gain a comprehensive understanding of Mars’ geological and evolutionary history.

One of the key motivations behind obtaining atmospheric samples from Mars is to complement the data collected from surface samples. Dr. Swindle elaborates on this, stating, “We need an atmospheric sample to know what the rocks might have been exchanging elements and isotopes with. But we’d also like to have a sample of the Martian atmosphere to answer some basic questions about processes that have occurred, or are occurring, on Mars.” This dual approach could provide scientists with a more holistic view of the complex processes that have shaped the Red Planet over billions of years.

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The study outlines several potential benefits of obtaining atmospheric samples, including gaining insights into the Martian interior, evolutionary trends in atmospheric compositions, nitrogen cycling, and sources of methane on Mars. The recent incident with the NASA Perseverance rover, where it inadvertently collected atmospheric gases instead of a rock core sample, underscores the importance of studying atmospheric samples alongside surface samples.

While the idea of returning atmospheric samples from Mars is still in the development stage, the researchers discuss potential methods for collecting these samples. Dr. Swindle mentions two proposed approaches, including flying a spacecraft through the Martian atmosphere to collect samples or using a sample return cannister on the surface of Mars equipped with an air compressor. Although there are currently no concrete plans for dedicated atmospheric sample missions, initiatives like the Sample Collection for Investigation of Mars (SCIM) have previously been proposed.

Looking ahead, the researchers emphasize the value of atmospheric samples in unraveling the mysteries of Mars’ past, including its potential for supporting life. Despite Mars’ current harsh conditions, evidence from past missions suggests a more hospitable environment billions of years ago, with flowing water and active volcanism. The quest to uncover whether ancient life existed on Mars remains a tantalizing prospect, and atmospheric samples could hold vital clues.

In conclusion, the study presents a compelling case for the importance of Martian atmospheric samples in advancing our understanding of the Red Planet’s history and evolution. As Dr. Young aptly puts it, “Only time will tell, and this is why we science!” The ongoing pursuit of scientific exploration and discovery continues to fuel our curiosity about Mars and the broader cosmos, inspiring us to keep looking up and delving deeper into the mysteries of the universe.

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