Mapping L.A.’s Not-So-Vacant Lots

L.A. isn’t known for being empty, but that’s what a new digital map seems to point out about the city

The Community Health Councils wanted to find a way to highlight the roughly 3,000 empty land parcels in Los Angeles County—parcels the non-profit organization felt could be used to make the city greener. So they created LA Open Acres, an interactive map project that pinpoints all of the county’s vacant lots. Searchable by council district, neighborhood council, community plan area, size, zoning code, and more, the map provides details—including the owner’s name and whether the land is currently undergoing development—for each site it plots. Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are noticeably free of vacancies, while other areas, like downtown, look to be crowded with empty lots full of potential.

We poured over the map looking for the most interesting spaces hidden in plain sight. What we found is that many of the lots, while seemingly empty, serve important purposes. Here are three examples:

Valley Farms
The northern area of the map is flooded with purple dots indicating the existence of empty spots, but those dots actually represent nearly 700 farms in the San Fernando Valley. The farms, which are zoned mostly as combination residential/agricultural areas, grow much of California’s famous produce.

Hollywood Hills
This vacant lot caught our eye because of its prime location. But it’s not exactly vacant—or a lot. At a whopping 21 acres, Cahuenga Peak is counted among the empty land parcels but includes a popular hiking trail that rises above Griffith Park. It’s one of the few publicly owned “open spaces” included on the map.

Parking lots
The map indicates that 600 vacant points are currently zoned as parking lots or parking facilities. Those aren’t the only parking spots up for grabs, though. Many other building zone types, like commercial structures, allow for parking, too. Although it may seem like wasted space, areas allotted for parking remain essential to life in traffic-filled L.A.