Urban planners and researchers have developed a wide array of metrics for studying the vitality of metropolitan areas, from walkability scores to median park size. Now, City Observatory has released a new report that analyzes the number of storefronts in 51 major US cities, and maybe surprisingly, Los Angeles doesn't rate too poorly in this category.
Using geographic information system software, the urban policy think tank mapped storefronts within 100 meters of another business in order to analyze how these businesses are dispersed throughout cities. To be clear, City Observatory's definition of a storefront includes both the expected flower shops and convenience stores, as well as other consumer-oriented establishments like restaurants, art galleries, and "bowling centers."
What is the point of all this? City Observatory argues that accessible storefronts are crucial to the ability of residents to take advantage of city life. "We each have our own special tastes and interests," the report notes. "And having a very diverse array of stores and merchants nearby helps us get just what we want, rather than having to settle for something less." An array of businesses also contributes to the "vibrancy and walkability of the streetscape," encouraging people to go out, meet people, and buy things.
For the purposes of the study, City Observatory focused on the parts of cities within three miles of the central business district. Looking at the map below, it's easy to see that Los Angeles has a pretty storefront-friendly Downtown. In fact, with 3,173 storefronts clustered in that three-mile radius, Los Angeles leads all cities other than New York and San Francisco. Last on the list is consumer dead zone Detroit.
Of course, Los Angeles is a massive, sprawling city, and looking only at the area around its central business district only reveals so much about its consumer environment. Still, even in an expanded view, LA measures up pretty well to other sprawly cities like Houston, San Diego, Atlanta, and very geometrically arranged Phoenix.
Zoom out to take in the whole metro area and Los Angeles appears as a massive red blob of consumerism—with Rolling Hills and Rancho Palos Verdes sticking out like a sore (and decidedly storefront-lacking) thumb. LA might not score well on measures of silly things like transit-friendliness or park space, but when it comes to places to spend money, the city doesn't fare too badly.
- The Storefront Index [City Observatory]
- The 10 Most Walkable Neighborhoods in Los Angeles [Curbed LA]
- LA's Median Park Size is 6.66 Acres and Other Facts About Our Crappy Park System [Curbed LA]