Room to grow: LA has 40K acres of vacant land

New report finds plenty of space for development in country’s second-largest city

(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

L.A. has a well-documented building problem, with notoriously slow permitting and high costs that contribute to a region-wide housing shortage. 

A report published on Thursday helps put the issue into context: Los Angeles, a city with a strong economy and roughly 4 million people, still has more than 40,000 acres of undeveloped land. 

The analysis, from the real estate website CommercialCafe, measured undeveloped land across the country’s 20 most populous cities by analyzing data from PropertyShark and government records, coming up with a total figure of vacant land for each city. Under the methodology, land can still count as vacant if it’s undeveloped but plans have been filed and approved. 

The City of Los Angeles’ total, 42,228 acres ranked sixth highest in the country. The top five spots went to Texas cities — Dallas and Fort Worth were a clear one and two — and Phoenix, which came in third. 

In sprawling L.A., CommercialCafe found, the 42,000 acres were spread among nearly 34,000 parcels, at an average lot size of one and a quarter acres. The analysis also found that L.A. has roughly 11 million square feet of office space in the pipeline. 

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L.A. easily ranked as the California city with the most space to build. San Diego and San Jose came in at 12th and 13th on the list, both with around 11,500 available acres, and San Francisco came in at 20th — dead last among the nation’s 20 most populous cities, with under 500 acres vacant. 

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In recent years, as L.A.’s rents have kept soaring partly because of a large supply-demand imbalance, the city has pushed incentive programs designed to spur density, and in recent months, including last fall’s mayoral race, the city’s slow permitting process emerged as a top political issue. 

Earlier this month, a different analysis found that L.A. ranked near the bottom of the country’s metro areas in issuing new residential permits.