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Planning the next L.A.

December 2, 2009 |  2:30 pm

Hawkessheridan The late urban planning legend Jane Jacobs was skeptical of Los Angeles because it violated one of her central tenets: that a city be made of vibrant neighborhoods linked by public transportation.

Our lovely sprawl is stocked with colorful neighborhoods, from the glamorous Strip to quotidian Rosemead, but public transportation is another story: Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Subway to the Sea.

That is, until more innovative solutions are found for making it happen. Which is the point of this weekend’s conference, "L.A. 2.0." Urban planners Amber Hawkes and Georgia Sheridan kept noticing the theme of transportation woes while combing through more than 150 applications to their inaugural conference. A collaboration between the global citizen’s initiative known simply as GOOD, do-gooder media group the Public Studio and Sheridan/Hawkes, the afternoon think-tank on Saturday, Dec. 5, will call for urban practitioners to outline strategies to improve the physical environment of L.A.

It’s one way to shake up the sometimes-stilted dialogue between the parties with a stake in L.A.’s future. “There’s an idea that planners are stuffy bureaucrats,” Sheridan said, “and that designers have all these ideas but don’t know how to implement them.”

“The idea,” Hawkes added, “is to bring everyone together from a variety of disciplines for an open brainstorm that ends with some concrete plans… the future is not silo thinking but collaborative in nature.”

The idea first came to Hawkes and Sheridan, two recent graduates of UCLA’s Urban Planning graduate program who collaborate on articles and lectures, after attending GOOD December, a roster of community-building happenings that ranged from readings to discussions on sustainability. Their idea gained further momentum after they read Obama’s speech at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June, where he asked for regional leaders to think of new approaches to inner-city problems.

Looping in Kyla Fullenwider of the Public Studio and GOOD co-founder and community director Max Schorr, the group was determined not to let L.A. 2.0 lapse into an aimless discussion with no attempts at hard results.

They also limited it to 30 practitioners, all under 40 years old.

“It wasn’t about who had the biggest, deepest resume,” Fullenwider said, “but more about emerging thinkers, fresh ideas and solutions that were unique.”

The participants were drawn from a cross-section of professions, including architects, real estate developers, writers and artists. L.A. 2.0 will also feature an accomplished panel, including James Rojas, transportation planner for L.A. Metro; John Chase, urban designer for the City of West Hollywood, and renowned landscape architect Mia Lehrer.

After the participants brainstorm ideas in small teams, the organizers hope to have identified five top urban strategies. From there, they will send a detailed report to Obama’s Office of Urban Affairs and the City of Los Angeles.

If the afternoon is a hit, the team foresees regular meetings in L.A. or perhaps helping the idea catch fire in other cities.

They’d do it themselves in New York or Seattle but it takes an intimate knowledge of a place to attack the problems. The organizers note that L.A. could prepare them for anywhere: “In some ways,” Fullenwider said, “it’s the ultimate challenge.”

--Margaret Wappler

Above: Amber Hawkes, left, and Georgia Sheridan. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (7)

Los Angeles has steadily disintegrated over the last thirty years because of urban planners. They contribute nothing except re-hashed, discredited leftwing social engineering. Revitalizing the city is easy. Here are three starting points:

1. Eliminate all city business taxes.
2. Sell off all city owned housing and eliminate all affordable housing subsidies and mandates. Eliminate all fees attached to tearing down slums and the rebuilding of market rate housing.
3. Privatize every aspect of the city's business that can be privatized. Putting the unions out of work would do more to revitalize Los Angeles than any other single initiative.

As proven by decades of malignant progressive governance, progressive policies are uniformly bankrupt and it's long past time for our civic leaders to repudiate them.

Bruno: You sound like an idiot.

Can people like Bruno please go away! I've used LA's public transportation for the past 2 years in LA. I got rid of my car for the environment. Please make the public transportation system better. It works, but not very well. Thank you!

Don't forget to trash the public transport Bruno.
Trains are for communists.

Clearly Bruno favors a market-based form of city planning. Ostensibly by peeling off business taxes, eliminating housing subsidies and privatizing all possible city functions, LA would be better. Unfortunately their are real limitations to all of his right wing freemarketeering. 1) The location of businesses has much less to do with city tax rates than it does a potential market for its product and access to labor and capital for investment. I'm sure cities like Bakersfield and Detroit have lower taxes than LA, but are far less economically resilient. There are many (usually very poor) parts of the world were business taxes are nonexistent. 2) The simple logic behind Bruno's point here is that: a free housing market will provide enough units for low income people to live in. Presumably because there is an inherent profit motive to build decent quality housing and sell/rent it more cheaply than some other housing product. 'Slums' or poor quality housing are caused by restrained markets or government intervention, not the deterioration of bad housing stock with little or no exchange value. Low income people who live in these units should get a job (because they must not work at all) or should leave LA because they shouldn't be able to live here. 3) Many services a city provides have limited incentives for private markets to gain a foothold. The infrastructure for the delivery of goods like water or electricity is fixed. What would privatization of city services look like? Encourage me to switch electricity 'brands'? Try to encourage Angelenos to consume more water or power (or to encourage more people to live in LA and consume these) in order to recoup costs? What about police and fire? How would a market incentivize officers to 'police' or put out more fires than they do now at a lower cost? If we're going to get the city government out of markets all together, lets roll back a lot of the public protections and subsidies already given to those who'd benefit from Bruno's ideas. The city of LA spends millions in business subsidies, tax cuts, and redevelopment to attract and retain businesses. The mayor goals all over the place promoting LA to tourists and potential employers. Why should they do that? The market would sort it out just fine if we leave it alone. Let's get rid of pesky zoning regulations too. Nevermind that they were originally initiated at the behest of business interests in order to protect property values (in addition to helping to easily determine insurance and exchange values of property) from the smattering of conflicting land uses that a completely unfettered land market wrought on home values, public health, safety and business profits.

wow...and no one over 40 with porkfat resumes can participate. very good idea. new blood, new perspectives. applause.

Limited to only people under 40? I just re-read the post on their forum - and the entry form - and neither of them mentions any age limit. I wonder why they would change the rules after the submission deadline and waste the time of everyone over that age in filling out a rather long form. Unfortunately, this type of conduct is all too typical of GOOD Magazine.


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