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I had the same problem, but when simulating a robot using Stage. In my case, the culprit turned out to be a mistake in my Stage world model, which made the height of the LiDAR sensor be 0.502 (twice what it should be, 0.251). In turn, this made the LiDAR measurements' height be outside the bounds of my obstacle layer's observation source:

min_obstacle_height: 0.0
max_obstacle_height: 0.5

Thus, the local costmap was all zeros because it was reflecting the wrong height. Once I "lowered" my LiDAR to the correct height, the local costmap worked as expected.