Redeveloping Failing Malls: Opportunities for Reducing VMT and GHG Emissions and Increasing the Housing Supply through Urban Villages

California’s housing shortage is large. The State’s Department of Housing and Community Development in its recent Housing Plan estimates that the State needs to build 2.4 million housing units by 2028 to meet the housing needs of its population. Since the late 1990s, and more so during COVID, industry research experts (Credit Suisse 2018; Green Street Advisors 2021) have warned of the impending failure of lower quality major shopping malls in the United States. In California, there are approximately 136 major malls with footprints from 40-120 acres, with approximately ½ or more of the acreage dedicated to surface parking. A major finding is that more than half of such malls are low-rated and are potential candidates for redevelopment (Chapter 1). The redevelopment of economically distressed major malls into mixed-use centers can contribute to addressing the State’s housing need (Chapter 2). The chapter reviews California’s Department of Housing and Community Development’s programs and recent regulations that could assist in the redevelopment of major malls into mixed-use centers, e.g., S. B. 6 (Caballero) that permits the conversion of failing malls into mixed use centers, and A. B. 2097 (Friedman), which reduces the parking requirements for residential developments in areas that are transit rich. The study also provides literature reviews of trends that provide support for the policy of redeveloping failing shopping malls into mixed use centers, including the review of COVID effects on working from home (WFH) (Chapter 3), and the move to the suburbs (Chapter 4), Chapters 5-8 provide brief profiles of malls in two major metropolitan areas in the state, San Diego, and the Bay Area. The case studies illustrate different conditions and opportunities for redevelopment. Chapter 9 provides a simple method for calculating the mixed-use redevelopment potential of failing malls and applies it to the four cases. The results, at 59 dwelling units per net acre, yield 1,000 or more units for the cases in townhomes, and 3-4 story apartments over retail, illustrating the potential of failing malls to address the State’s housing shortage in a significant way.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This document was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, University Transportation Centers Program.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center

    University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, CA  United States  90089

    METRANS Transportation Center

    University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, CA  United States  90089-0626

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    California Department of Transportation

    Sacramento, CA  United States  95819

    University of Southern California, Los Angeles

    Sol Price School of Public Policy
    Los Angeles, CA  United States 
  • Authors:
  • Publication Date: 2022-11-30


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 107p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01887507
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: PSR-21-26
  • Contract Numbers: USDOT Grant 69A3551747109; Caltrans Contract 65A06
  • Created Date: Jul 17 2023 9:13AM