Construction continues as coronavirus grinds economy to a halt

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2900 Wilshire under construction. Photo credit: Hunter Kerhart.

While bars, restaurants, malls, gyms and other non-essential businesses sit empty throughout LA and much of the U.S., construction sites are still a hotbed of activity.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Safe at Home” order labeled construction as an essential service that could continue.

But could building sites become hotbeds for coronavirus?

The LA Times reports a worker at the SoFi Stadium, the $5-billion future home of the NFL’s Rams and Chargers, tested positive for COVID-19 and another was said to be “presumed positive.”


The SoFi stadium in Inglewood. Photo: Frances Anderton.

Mayor Eric Garcetti says sites can continue construction as long as they take necessary precautions against COVID-19, including ensuring six feet of physical distance between people and providing personal protective equipment like gloves, goggles, face shields and face masks “as appropriate for the activity being performed.”

“We will not be shy about shutting down construction sites that don’t comply,” Garcetti said at a recent press conference.


The
Ivy Station development in Culver City. Photo: Frances Anderton.

Contractors have major reasons to comply.

“There are huge amounts of money at stake in these projects,” says Frances Anderton, who covers design and architecture at KCRW. “And let’s not forget the city’s involvement in these projects. Inglewood, LA, Culver City, Santa Monica – these developments are a vital source of revenue to sustain all their other commitments.”

Some of these big money projects include the SoFi Stadium, the pending demolition of four buildings at the LA County Museum of Art‎ (LACMA), the 35-story Shoreline Gateway development in Long Beach, and the 2900 Wilshire apartment tower in the Koreatown-MacArthur Park area, designed by LARGE Architecture.


Rendering of the 25-story 2900 Wilshire apartment tower. Courtesy of LARGE Architects.

“Housing was deemed very critical, but other projects continue as well,” says Steven Sharp, editor at Urbanize LA. “I mean, these guys are so far into it. The materials are already there. And they have milestones they have to hit in terms of their financing. So it's hard for them to stop, even though most of Los Angeles has ground to a halt.”

Then there’s the construction workforce itself, which numbers about 450,000 people statewide.

“If they all file for unemployment, that will send shockwaves through the economy,” says Anderton.

San Francisco and New York have taken more severe measures than LA, 

shutting down most construction projects apart from housing, hospitals and infrastructure.

LA could follow suit if more COVID-19 cases arise on building sites, which could lead to the slowdown of current construction projects as well as projects in the pipeline.

“Everything’s very unstable,” says Anderton.

Credits

Guest:
Frances Anderton - Host, 'DnA: Design & Architecture' - @FrancesAnderton

Host:
Jonathan Bastian

Producer:
Kathryn Barnes