Wednesday, September 13, 2017

focal

One of the things that I've come to observe in LA both as a visitor and as a resident is its lack of a focal point. Most cities, for better or worse, have some physical, visual center that define their center.

In Toronto, it's the CN Tower. In New York, it's One World Trade Center. In Tokyo, it's the Skytree. In Chicago, it's the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. In Seattle, it's the Space Needle. In DC, it's the Washington Monument. And on and on.


Image result for toronto skyline
This skyline is instantly recognizable, yes?
Image result for chicago skyline
How about this one?

Los Angeles used to have a striking, visual focal point in its City Hall. And, in order to ensure that building's primacy, for years the City's zoning disallowed any structures to be built in excess of City Hall's height. Once that rule was relaxed, however, the skyscrapers that quickly sprung up in downtown hid the City's striking seat of government from view. LA's further construction of freeways throughout the region's core splintered City Hall from neighborhoods to its north and east and placed more emphasis on getting through downtown than on getting to downtown.

We face a unique opportunity that arrived officially today, as the International Olympics Committee selected LA as the host of the 2028 Summer Olympic Games. Almost a decade away, these games provide an opportunity right now to take more creative approaches and to galvanize our region around a shared purpose.

Part of the LA Olympic bid was an expectation that downtown's core would be reunited with its older neighborhoods to the north by capping the 101 freeway trench, creating new open space and reclaiming land from several on- and off-ramps in the process and providing new opportunities for more housing and commercial space where now is just pavement.

Image result for la olympic bid park 101
This is a freeway trench today.

This is where a lack of a focal point comes back. LA has a transportation focal point: Union Station. It has a historic center: Olvera Street. And these two places are directly across the street from each other. Just to their south is several parcels of City-owned land splintered by freeway on- and off-ramps that would disappear under a proposed freeway cap park plan and be replaced by a small office building.

Image result for union station olvera street overhead
The parcels in question are where you see the U-shaped trees in the lower center portion of this picture
(currently freeway ramps and a couple small surface parking lots).

Does LA really need a 3-story office building in such a prominent location? Next door to a transit facility forecast to handle 100,000+ passengers/day within a few years? Across the street from our region's historic and cultural center? Just a couple blocks from our civic center, which will be easily accessible on foot once the cap park is completed? And directly adjacent to what will be our newest and most striking city park?

This city block is over 3 acres in size.

The block bounded by Alameda to the east, Los Angeles to the west, and the 101 to the south is a prime opportunity to think outside the box, to be creative, and to offer LA a new focal point, one that embraces LA's growing transit infrastructure while mixing the new with the old at the city's historic heart. Once the current on- and off-ramps at that block have been removed, this property will be a completely City and State-owned block that could be a unique opportunity to engage the community, create a design competition, excite kids and families and even the jaded older folks across the region around a new idea, and ultimately give our region something unique and special in the process that will serve as a focal point for generations to come.

Let's do this, LA.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

pollution

Pollution on our streets and highways is all the rage to talk about these days. Over the weekend, the LA Times came out with a story about the installation of air filters (or lack thereof) on new housing construction abutting our area freeways. City Watch LA had a blog post yesterday that declared LA's bike lanes as criminally toxic as the water in Flint. And anyone paying attention to community discussions at neighborhood meetings and on sites like NextDoor will hear often about how anything slowing down traffic increases pollution.

Here's what I don't get: WHY DO WE THINK THAT THE STATUS QUO IS OK?


Sunday, July 9, 2017

misanthrope


Mis-an-thro-py (noun): A dislike of mankind  
Mis-an-thrope (noun): A person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society
Mis-an-thro-pic (adjective): Disliking humankind and avoiding human society
“Why is everyone else traffic?”

It’s a simple question, really, but it belies a much bigger challenge in a culture that relies so heavily on the most inefficient means of transportation: cars. Go to any community meeting discussing a possible new park or creative space or commercial venture or new housing, and the chief concern will be traffic and parking. Watch the local news about a big event coming to town, and the primary areas of focus will be traffic and parking. Traffic reports are as frequently provided on every radio station and every television station as reports of the weather, and more frequently than anything else.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

personal

There's a part of Measure S that is personal for me. No, not because of its impact on land use and planning in LA - although that definitely hits home on a number of levels. And not even because it feels like the older generation telling the younger generation to bug off - although that also hits home for many reasons.

Measure S is personal because of how it is being financed. Officially, the campaign in favor of Measure S has received contributions of about $2.5 million in one year. What's noteworthy about that is that almost all of that $2.5M (well, about 98%) has come from one source: the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Whenever this financing has been raised by members of the community wanting to understand AHF's involvement, the measure's proponents have typically pointed to AHF's advocacy for hospice care in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

This answer leaves me wanting, for a few reasons. And, ultimately, it leaves me upset and, personally, offended.

Monday, February 6, 2017

revolution

We are just two weeks into the new President's administration, and already there have been myriad protests. Most prominently, fewer than 24 hours after the inauguration, millions of women and men participated in Women's Marches the world over. One week later, tens of thousands of people of all stripes showed up at airports across the nation (with nearly no advanced coordination) in protest of a cruel and punitive Executive Order.

The United States of America was founded on the back of a rebellion against the overreach and heavy-handed rule of a British King and his empire that imposed rules and expectations with few checks on the King's power. Our nation's history is rooted in mistrust of power, coupled with a general trust in the will of the people (allowing for checks on that as well through legislative and judicial levers of power).

What we're seeing in these dark times has the feel of a revolution. But we mustn't forget that revolutions are about much more than marches and rallies. They're about organizing, legwork, and lots and lots of mind-numbing time and effort.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

California

November 8, 2016 was a devastating, demoralizing day for many of us. We learned that many white Americans are either supportive of or indifferent to racist, mysogynist, homophobic rhetoric and actions. We also learned that the GOP's ongoing efforts to destroy voting protections across the majority of states has successfully enshrined that party's power, even as, despite all that, the GOP *still* lost the national popular votes for President, the US Senate, and the House.

For those of us in California, we also learned something else. Here, we voted 2-to-1 for Clinton over her opponent, handing her a 4 million-plus vote margin of victory; our US Senate race came down to two Democrats; we legalized recreational marijuana; we gave overwhelming approval to taxes for progressive causes; and we provided Democrats with a two-thirds super majority in both state legislative chambers to go along with the all-Democratic statewide elected offices. Here, even in notoriously-GOP Orange County, Clinton won the majority of the vote.

For many people across the country, California is going to be the proverbial "shining city upon the hill." We have already been that for many years now for a large portion of the nation's economic engine, most recently in tech, but now we'll have even more attention shed on us, as millions of our progressively-minded brethren, particularly those in the deepest red of states, look to us and see opportunity and, frankly, refuge.

In other words, California could be poised to grow even faster as the nation lurches beyond this destructive election and numerous states regress even further, leaving more and more of their residents in the impossible position of having to choose between their homes and their livelihoods.

California could be that welcoming place for many of our nation's future political refugees. However, if we are to do so, we have two enormous challenges that we must confront, with as much clarity and vision as possible. Those challenges are, in no particular order:
- Housing, and
- The Environment

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

opposition

Can someone please tell me what new housing the Coalition to Preserve LA supports? I mean it.

They oppose tall buildings. They oppose short buildings. They oppose homes that would be built near highways. They oppose homes that would be built in neighborhoods and away from highways. They oppose homes that would replace surface parking lots. They oppose homes that would replace strip malls. They oppose homes that would replace auto dealerships. I mean, they even oppose homes that would replace completely empty, vacant land!

What do they support?