Los Angeles 2020

cityKCRW’s Marc Porter Zasada has a Huffington Post wish for the 10’s. In the next decade, he would like to see Los Angeles become more of a city. A real city. To…

try to cease being a collection of freeways and malls, a sprawl of half-imagined neighborhoods, or a loosely-shuffled deck of cluttered boulevards and cultural icons.

I want to find it harder and harder to get around in a car, and easier and easier to get around on foot.

Give it a read. It is not by any means a slam on our city. Nor is it the cliché “we should be more like New York” nonsense. It is a wish that many of us have expressed to one another at a bar or restaurant, just minutes before getting back into our metal cocoons on the 405.

Just yesterday, Blogdowntown reflected on a bygone tradition of half a million people crowding Broadway to ring in the New Year. What happened to that? What happened to the thousands of Angelenos that descended on Pershing Square for the lighting of a singular Christmas tree? Or the crowds of proud citizens who would take a streetcar to witness the groundbreaking of… anything?

Zasada issues a challenge to L.A.’s wealthiest citizens to help this city “evolve into a coherent metropolis.”

Perhaps they could start with finding a Mayor who will stay in town long enough to do the job.

Los Angeles can be better. It should be better. And we should get to work immediately.

Photo by Renee Rendler-Kaplan from Metblogs Photo Pool

4 thoughts on “Los Angeles 2020”

  1. Yeah, but the he goes on to write “You’ve made progress, but I’m sorry: I want Rome, or at least Chicago.”

    I just am tired of people exhorting LA to be “more _[insert ambiguous adjective here]__” without giving clear examples of what it is they really WANT.

    At least he does touch on a couple concrete items: improving public transport, and gangs (which I think I’d read as “crime” or “public safety”). I think working on those two issues, plus creating more affordable housing in these fancy-pants & gentrifying neighborhoods he name-checks, plus streamlining the process for getting food & liquor licenses, would go a long way toward making the city more hospitable to what it sounds like Zasada actually wants: People walking around, both day & night, doing their business & recreating.

  2. C’mon, we are what we are. Rather than expanding into vacant land, as most eastern cities did, Los Angeles grew by sucking up (annexing) suburbs and other small cities. Living in the Valley, I have no real feeling of belonging to “Los Angeles.” When I go south of Mulholland Drive, I refer to it as “going to the city.”

    As a people, we’ve killed our downtowns in several ways. We allowed them to become magnets for the indigent, we’ve destroyed our public transit — and then refuse to pay for parking, we’ve favored malls and chains over independent business-persons, and then we wonder why all we have are malls and chains.

  3. Wishing for more congestion to get more public transportation is like hoping for a heart attack because of the benefits of the exercise program that comes later. Marc’s column was curiously trite and tailored to the Westside, which has all the retail culture and none of the urbanity that the east side has. KCRW in fact has been a great facilitator of this over the years with To the Point and Which Way, LA, two de facto mouthpieces for the people who brought the westside its congestion, like Riordan, Broad, the LA Times, etc.

  4. He suffers from the same problem as all the other “LA’s not a real city” complainers: What he doesn’t understand is that what he’s calling a ‘real city’ is a historic urban core that predates mechanized transportation, built to the dimensions and needs of foot traffic and horse carts – with mechanized transport added after the fact by tunneling under that dense, pre-existing core.

    LA didn’t really become a city until the late 1880s, in the heyday of street railways and electric interurban trains. As such, it never really developed much of a pedestrian-and-horsecart urban core.

    Contrary to popular belief, LA wasn’t really “built around the automobile”: it was built around the Pacific Electric Red Cars – which were eventually supplanted by automobiles and freeways – by which time LA’s ‘sprawl’ was already well-established.

    That doesn’t mean LA isn’t a ‘real city’; it just means it’s a different kind of city. It’s a low rise, linear, distributed city, not a high-rise, vertical, centralized city – because that’s the sort of urban fabric that grows up around mechanized transport.

    It happens all over the world. His impression of Chicago and Paris and other ‘real cities’ is skewed by his tourist-eye view of those places. The tourist attractions tend to be in the historical core.

    But get outside of the historical cores of Paris or Chicago (or any large Eastern Seaboard or European metropolis), and you’ll find the same sort of sprawling, low-rise urban fabric that we have in LA, ringed by the same sort of sprawling suburbs.

    His problem is that he’s decided that the pre-mechanized-transport core is a ‘real city’, and nothing else counts.

    With 12 million people inhabiting about 1200 square miles of land surface, Los Angeles most certainly is a real city.

    It’s just not the sort of city he fantasizes about.

    The sort of city he fantasizes about is one that has a built history that predates mechanized transport by a century or more.

    But that’s not what LA is, and no amount of faux-nostalgic longing will change that.

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