An drone shot that pictures the Los Angeles skyline in the distance with a number of houses in the foreground.
An image of the Los Angeles skyline. Photo credit AleMoraes244 on iStock.

Media Contact: Kaley Block,, or Carmen Ramos Chandler,, (818) 677-2130

Los Angeles County is home to 88 cities spanning over 50 miles, with each of those communities having their own identities and policies for what can and cannot be built in their neighborhoods.

At the foundation of those decisions, said California State University, Northridge urban studies and planning professor Henrik Minassians, is the interaction between city design and human behavior. 

“When you look at urban planning, it’s an interaction between how the cities are designed from the perspective of how far you walk, to where the parks, where the streets are, where the housing is, where the commercial buildings are, where the factories are etcetera,” Minassians said. “But it’s also an interaction with human beings. Cities are not just these concrete infrastructures, but it’s how we as human beings interact with that space.” 

Minassians, who teaches in CSUN’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and is program director for the university’s Masters of Public Administration, delved into the challenges of zoning regulations, affordable housing and the socio-economic impacts of development choices, particularly in Los Angeles.

The large number of cities in Los Angeles County has led to a system which allows the localities to self-govern, to a degree, he said. That system led to the creation of “Euclidean zoning,” a zoning system used in Los Angeles that restricts the ways in which land can be used within a specific zone.

Due to the extensive permitting process necessary to construct a home or business, he explained, most developers are deterred from building in places zoned for a different type of facility. It also makes it easier to come in and build in accordance with zoning restrictions,  Minassians said. 

“If the project is outside of a certain zoning type, it also has to go through an environmental impact analysis — what’s going to be the impact on the air quality, on traffic, on noise pollution, on light pollution, etc,” he said. “They would also have to go through what is called the discretionary process, which would require community input.” 

More affluent or upper middle class, using their zoning policies to avoid the construction of affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

 “For them affordable housing means low-income people, people they associate with crime, noise and with all kinds of things,” said Minassians, noting that developers want to build where they can “park their money” and either rent or sell.

“There is a lot of critical thinking wrapped up in this,” he added. “We require students to develop a better understanding of how to solve complex urban issues. We make a point to teach about the politics of it, to understand that solving these problems is not only technical.”

Trained urban planners can play a vital role in addressing pressing community issues by understanding the intricate dynamics between city design and the people living there.

To learn more about the CSUN Urban Studies and Planning department visit,


Media Contact: or Carmen Ramos Chandler (818) 677-2130

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