Zoning and urban energy systems in Los Angeles are irrevocably and critically bound. Early water, power, and land use practices, each highly informed by the other, produced demand for critical resources in excess of the natural and technological capacity of their time. This, in turn, produced a fundamentally unstable civic energy position heavily reliant on toxic local hydrocarbon production and out-of-state import from such high-risk source as coal fire. This reliance on fossil fuels and energy import disenfranchises both city and citizenry, producing vulnerability, expense, dependence, and high environmental and public health burdens. The condition of hydrocarbon dependence acquires additional negative social and physical consequences through hazardous industrial land use proximities permitted by zoning.
While it is operationally impossible to separate water and power production from their reciprocating demand, it is at times theoretically productive. In Los Angeles, demand was, to an extent, the product of zoning, which favored suburban expansion and large-scale real estate development above all other spatial logics. This land use logic was itself the product of land speculation spurred by the development of energetic and hydraulic resources. At the heart of each of these ventures is the pursuit of capital gain, yet mitigating strong market forces working against the spatial welfare of the public is at the base of zoning’s directive. This is not to imply that zoning should act as an adversary to private profit, rather that zoning should be conceived and applied so as to assure that the needs of city, citizenry, and marketplace are well aligned and in a common state of healthy growth.