Future/30"/mike1st/mark2nd

By ELIZABETH HAYES

Staff Reporter

The year is 2020, the place Los Angeles. Downtown is teeming with life, as more people choose to live right next to office towers. Workers report to satellite offices in their neighborhoods or just operate out of their homes. Older neighborhoods and commercial corridors have been rebuilt with newer, denser housing stock.

These are a few of the predictions or perhaps hopes of local real estate experts and observers.

With the new century less than 15 months away, important questions loom about the future of L.A. real estate, especially with global markets in turmoil, a swelling local population and technological changes shaking traditional notions of office space.

Will residents and governments finally embrace the mixed-use projects that characterize other world-class cities, such as New York and Paris? Will high-rise towers be a thing of the past as L.A.'s new entrepreneurs gravitate increasingly to low-rise, campus-like environments? Will governments make the necessary investments in infrastructure to support the wave of new residents?

Such issues are not just curiosities anymore they're critical policy questions for business leaders and elected officials alike. And as expected, opinions vary widely about what to expect and whether L.A. is ready.

The demographic and economic changes already afoot will impact all real estate sectors, from housing to retail to office to industrial.

Richard Lawrence, a Santa Monica attorney and chair of the Urban Land Institute's L.A. District Council, said he's concerned that not enough dialogue is taking place about these big-picture issues.

"You get a sense with many communties now, the response is, 'If we don't build it, they won't come.' In reality, that won't happen," Lawrence said. "We will turn around and have a significant influx, and if we haven't made plans, it will be more critical."

First and foremost will be a demand for housing in order to accommodate the 2.6 million additional L.A. County residents expected by the year 2020 (with much of that growth coming from an increase in births over deaths). Where that housing stock will come from is anyone's guess; the 1990s promises see the least homebuilding of any decade in Los Angeles this century.

"The county is in dire straits as far as housing is concerned," said G.U. Krueger, deputy chief economist for the California Association of Realtors. "Unless something is done, it'll be not a nice picture."

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