MEDC Urban Issues

With references to a city you have studied in class, outline the issues that it faces, and what the causes of these issues are.


An example of a city with lots of urban issues is Los Angeles. LA is a densely populated Mega City, stretching out for over 498 square miles with a growing population of over 13million. The city is located in the state of California on the west coast of America between San Francisco and the Mexican border.

LA has a high population density, partially due to its geography. LA is squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, so every available space is used. This limit of space has lead to overcrowding in many areas, especially poorer regions where poor immigrants move there, then can’t afford to move out. Also, because there is so little space for expansion, in many areas there are poor public services as the government hasn’t got the space or the money to build new train lines/stations or improve bus routes on congested roads by for example building another lane. Competition for land and other prime sites means property is expensive to buy or rent. As well as this, freeways built to give access everywhere to drivers, can no longer cope with the volume of traffic so suburbaners who work downtown face long and expensive journeys, as well as increasing the amount of air pollution.

All of this lead to the 1992 race riots, where the high number of immigrants fought back against their poor services in their area and the total lack of government spending. Urbanisation caused 85% of La’s immigrants to be from Mexico or the Asian Pacific Rim countries, and they were looking for a better quality of life in the “city of Dreams”. These people had to take low paid jobs and because they had little money they were forced to live in poorer districts such as Watts, where everything including things such as public services were not of a quality good enough compared to that of places such as Malibu. The riots caused 572 injuries, 25 deaths and over a thousand fires to blaze across the city. Unsurprisingly, the city has a high incidence of crime, including gang warfare where the mix of cultures in the city clash and drug problems, imported from other states or Mexico.

Due to this immigration, LA’s population density has increased rapidly. The amount of people in the area has amounted to high levels of air pollution. Around 13million people relying on cars means that a lot of pollution is produced. Between 60 and 80% of LA’s air pollution comes from Cars and other forms of public transport on the road. This problem is made worse by the fact that because of LA’s geography, the pollution gets trapped over the city as it cannot escape over the Rocky Mountains. This permanent smog over the city causes many problems, but the main ones are that the C02 causes global warming, it corroded and damages all sorts of materials, especially things which buildings there are made of e.g. metal so they need constant repairs, the fumes from diesel cars can cause cancer, crops and fish are killed by acid rain and the fumes from cars also causes photochemical smog to form which causes bronchitis, lung cancer or stops the proper development of the lungs in children.

This problem is not helped by Natural Hazards. The San Andres fault line runs right through the middle of the city. This causes frequent earthquakes which cannot be helped, and there is only so much architects can do in designing buildings so they withstand the earthquakes. So many people loose there lives, are injured or roads and buildings are destroyed amounting to a large re-building cost when an earthquake occurs. Another natural problem is that LA was built in a dessert-like land. This means there is very little water and LA has to rely on Arizona for its large supply. If this supply ever ran out or damaged many problems would occur. Finally, there are frequent landslides in the region caused by earthquakes, heavy rain, deforestation, fires or too much building on fragile land. This destroys homes and other buildings and endanger lives.

All of these problems have lead to a rapid increase in the growth of edge cities. This is where counter-urbanisation creates new smaller settlements where office buildings and houses are built on the edge of LA, over 50km from downtown area. They normally are made off of motorway junctions as this gives road access to the city. As well as the push factors named above, the pull factors for the edge cities are that there are better home and job prospects, less commuting, can escape pollution and congestion in a better environment and lower land and housing costs. These edge cities have all the facilities you would expect except they quite often lack entertainment such as sport centres or cinemas. It is only the richer proportion of the population that move as they are the only ones who can afford to.