Suburban Metropolis Essay

Pages: 5 (1516 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Urban Studies

Los Angeles Area: Population Growth

Los Angeles consists of a five county region that has experienced incredible growth since the late nineteenth century. The population of this region has increased from just fewer than twenty thousand in 1870 to almost twenty million by 2010 population estimates. Los Angeles has become the second largest urban region in the United States and one of the ten largest urban regions in the entire world. The movement of people to Southern California during and since World War II ranks with the largest migrations in the history of the United States, and the majority of these citizens have settled in urban areas (Nelson, 1959, p. 80).

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The growth rate of the region has nearly reached fifty percent in eight-year stretches which had made its population develop rapidly. This has been driven by many different trends over the years; from colonizers, to agriculturalists, to those who followed the rail, and those who worked in manufacturing and located themselves near Los Angeles's industrial base. The development of Los Angeles includes many unique features that serve as examples for efficient land use and city planning. However, many of these features developed organically as opposed to the traditional development models that consist of concentric rings of different land uses. Instead, many areas of Los Angeles include a mixed-use format that makes them remarkably efficient while also fostering the development many beneficial social networks and local communities.

Urban Beginnings

TOPIC: Essay on Suburban Metropolis Assignment

The Spanish colonizers who began settling Southern California in the late eighteenth century were more concerned with acquiring territory and spreading their theology than building an urban center. However, at the same time, these colonizers did select various strategic locations to be the centers of activity. The establishment of various missions was constructed at locations that in which the Indians had already congregated and generally these congregations chose the locations for their geographic advantages (Nelson, 1959, p. 82). Most of these missions were spaced about a day's journey apart so that travel was easier and eight out of nine of the primary missions are either small towns or urban landscapes. One location in particular, Los Angeles, was chosen for its easy access to potable water by damming the Los Angeles River. As a result, the Los Angeles Civic Center remains close to the location in which it was originally built (Nelson, 1959, p. 84).

The next wave of population growth was centered on agriculture. In the mid-nineteenth century, agriculture in the region began to blossom. This was initially a result of the population boom in Northern California in which the southern regions supplied food for (Nelson, 1959, p. 84). When Southern California was incorporated into the United States, one of the implications was that the region adopted the U.S. legal system. This allowed to be parceled within a legal framework rather the informal that persisted beforehand.

The landownership also set the stage for the later industrialization of the region. Land was divided into five, ten, and twenty acre tracts (Nelson, 1959, p. 84). Droughts in the late nineteenth century worked to breakup many of the large ranchos and later the railroad spawned new towns that lay along the railway. These small towns also furthered the need to parcel land and this in turn represented the beginning of the growth of the subdivision form. However, despite the modest urban beginnings, agriculture was to be the basis of the Southern Californian economy for quite some time and the real estate boom driven by speculation had surprisingly little effect on industrialization in this period (Nelson, 1959, p. 86).

Origins of the Suburban Metropolis

Modern Los Angeles was originally formed out of the Pueblo de Los Angeles which was founded by Felipe Neve in 1781 where the Los Angeles River emerged from the foothills onto the plains where the settlers would raise cattle and practice some rudimentary farming technics (Fishman, 1987, p. 158). The railroad system favored the Los Angeles region as well as the harbor at Long Beach which gave the region a port. The streetcar suburb played an important role in the development of the area. However, it is interesting that the Los Angeles region developed in a different manner than similar systems that were in the East and Midwest. The typical suburb was generally connected to the streetcar with the wealthier regions on the very end of the branches. However, the Los Angeles system was different because it was more fragmented and had more space between the points on the network (Fishman, 1987, p. 160).

The transportation system, coupled with the agricultural base and the expanding industrialized sectors, drew in significant amount of real estate speculation and development. At the peak of the real estate boom, there were over seven hundred subdivision projects registered comprising over seventeen thousand acres and over eighty thousand different lots (Fishman, 1987, p. 162). Whereas the traditional city format was comprised of concentric rings of a financial center, industrial spaces, and suburbs as the outer rings, the Los Angeles region develop in an unique fashion. Instead of a traditional grid system, the Los Angeles region was spread out with a significant amount of decentralization. The traditional model generally placed the wealthier suburbs farther away from the center, while in the Los Angeles region the most desirable spots were those with the most altitude and the people who lived on the hills got to breathe the cleanest air and they had the best views (Fishman, 1987, p. 167).

Development Models

Many scholars look at the unique way that Los Angeles has developed as well as its current composition and find inspiration for future planning. One such feature that has developed in the Los Angeles region is the mixed-use land organization. In this model there may be a central business district, an industrial area, and residential housing all in one area. There are many types of advantages to such a model. For instance, in such an arrangement transportation is generally more efficient. People tend to live close to where they work and if the industrial areas and residential areas share space then this adds a significant proximity to people's lives. It is not only that people can work close to where they live, but they can also shop and find life's necessities generally close as well.

It will be our own fault if we do not direct our city into proper channels of growth. This means that industries must be scattered throughout the whole metropolitan district. It must be decentralized. Such decentralization will make for better living conditions and better citizenship, as well as for cheaper overhead costs (Hise, 2001, p. 78).

The planners in Los Angeles knew that their city would not reach the level of manufacturing prowess such as cities like New York or Pittsburg. They knew the area of factories and workshops, the East Side Industrial District, would be a linear, mixed-use zone that paralleled the trunk and spur lines of the national railroads and included foundries, boilerworks, patternmakers' shops, iron works, stores, restaurants, saloons, and residences which ranged from single-family dwellings to apartments and furnished rooms (Hise, 2001, pp. 78-79). The efficiency of this format has acted to drive up land prices that made the properties unfit for all but the most profitable uses of land. This also added to innovation in development since the land had to be put to the best use possible for it to be effective for investors.


Most cities were divided up by concentric rings of business, industry, and residential sectors. However, the model that developed in Los Angeles was starkly different in many areas. As opposed to the centralized and organized model, Los Angeles developed over time in a highly decentralized manner due to a number of factors. The way that the region development can be attributed to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Suburban Metropolis" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Suburban Metropolis.  (2013, June 29).  Retrieved August 5, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Suburban Metropolis."  29 June 2013.  Web.  5 August 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Suburban Metropolis."  June 29, 2013.  Accessed August 5, 2021.