Los Angeles

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 »

Questioning Conventional Wisdom: Should Poor Folks Stay Put?

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There is reason to think again about the now-current idea of dispersing the population of poor folks in the Skid Row district of downtown Los Angeles and similar precincts in other cities across the U.S.

There’s cause to pause over notions such as mixing “affordable housing” that’s priced in the range of working-class or poor folks alongside spiffy market-rate units.  read more »

In Praise of Manufacturing & Industrial Zones

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My father made the huge piece of art that sits proudly on display at the entrance of the Daley Center Plaza in Chicago. Pablo Picasso designed this particular sculpture—or conceived it…or bent it with artistic vision…or however you want to put it.

But my father made it.

I’ve believed that since I was a small child. It’s a belief based mostly in filial pride, but there is some truth to it. Picasso, as I understand it, ordered the material for his untitled sculpture from the steel mill where my father worked at the time.  read more »

Suburbs Will Adapt to High Gas Prices

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Will high gas prices doom the suburbs? The short answer is no. America’s investment in suburbia is too broad and deep and these will drive all kinds of technological and other adaptations. But the continued outward growth of new suburban housing tracts and power centers is unsustainable.  read more »

Suburbia's Not Dead Yet

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While millions of American families struggle with falling house prices, soaring gasoline costs and tightening credit, some environmentalists, urban planners and urban real estate speculators are welcoming the bad news as signaling what they have long dreamed of -- the demise of suburbia.  read more »

Commuting Patterns in Multi-Centered Urban Settings: The Case of Southern California

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American suburbs are gradually leaving behind their Ozzie and Harriet days and evolving in ways that might surprise even their critics. Today’s suburbs are more diverse, are populated with double income families and offer more job opportunities than were the old “bedroom” communities of the past. Many suburbs, particularly newer ones, are designed to be ‘greener’ and more sustainable, combining planned medium densities with functioning pedestrian-friendly town centers and other urban amenities.  read more »