Los Angeles

Villaraigosa’s Housing Proposal: Billions of Dollars and Too Little Sense

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The matter of whether private companies should be required to include so-called affordable housing units in residential developments is worthy of debate. Perhaps any developer who takes public funding ought to be subject to such requirements. A developer who doesn’t take public money is a different story.  read more »

With Debate in Town, St. Louis is the Nation's Capital for a Day

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In 1869 L. U. Reavis spoke for many when he made the case for moving the nation’s capital from, as he put it, “the banks of the Potomac to the banks of the Mississippi.” Citing St. Louis’s location in the exact center of the nation, the growing population of the Mississippi Valley, the presumably temporary expediency that had led leaders to place the capital in Washington in the first place, and the commercial advantages of a capital city on the Mississippi River,  read more »

How Low Can House Prices Go?

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There is much speculation among economists and others about how close we are to the bottom of the collapse of housing prices. This is, of course, an important question, and goes to the heart of the wisdom or folly of the proposed $700 billion government bailout of financial markets, which is a consequence of their own profligate lending practices.  read more »

How to Protect Main Street While Saving Wall Street

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The current discussion in Washington can either lead to a rapid processing and recovery at the local level or a long drawn out destruction of local economies. This is particularly true of regions – Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Bernardino-Riverside, much of Florida – that have been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.  read more »

Rx for ‘Residential Renaissance:’ Take Two Years and Ease Up on the Hype

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A big going-out-of-business sign on the Rite-Aid store at 7th and Los Angeles streets tells a bigger tale—a story I’ll call “Hype Happens.”

The Rite-Aid opened a few years ago with fanfare, arriving at just about the high-point of the hype over the “Residential Renaissance” of Downtown. Rite-Aid set up shop in the Santee Village project, an ambitious effort that saw a developer get plenty of help from various government agencies in order to convert a collection of mid-rise buildings from garment shops to residential lofts.  read more »

Creating an Authentic Place: Tales from Two Southern California Cities

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What makes a place “authentic”? In places we cherish, we look for something unique and tangible. But personal experience of a place is not merely a product of the landscape and “built environment.” It is also shaped by myths and perceptions.

As City Manager of two California towns, I’ve grappled with the treacherous crosscurrents of reality and myth, of change and preservation.  read more »

Searching for Los Angeles by the Gateway Arch - a Reminiscence

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The obsession started before the earthquake.

I was driving on Manchester Road, and something about the slant of light off the car dealerships, the particular combination of Mexican-food diner/meat market/bank/shoe store/train-whistle-in-the-distance, and the unending nature of my errand was enough to take me back. I was on San Fernando Road, and for a just a split second, I was happy – happy to be in traffic, happy to have the glare of the sun in my eyes, happy, even, to be hopelessly late -- because I thought that I was back in Los Angeles.  read more »

The Kids are All Ride

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My eldest child tells me that when she arrived at an East Coast college her classmates—many of whom had never visited LA—would ask, “Does your family live in the city, or outside of it?” Her answer, she says, was always long — really long — and of eye-glazing complexity.

Anyone who has raised kids in the middle-class neighborhoods of multipolar LA might chuckle at the thought of trying to define urban or suburban.  read more »

Are Housing Declines Evenly Spread? - An Examination of California

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To read the popular press, one gets the impression that the collapse of the housing market is concentrated largely in the suburbs and exurbs, as people flock back to the cities in response to the mortgage crisis and high gas prices. A review of mortgage meltdown “ground zero” California indicates the picture is far more nuanced.  read more »

Wondering About Skid Row: Whatever Happened to Work?

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I found myself in separate, private discussions with a couple of high-ranking city officials recently. They were pleasantly challenging exchanges, especially because both of my conversation partners displayed intellectual curiosity and willingness to consider divergent viewpoints. Those are wonderful qualities in general, and encouraging when found in individuals who have some influence on public policy.  read more »