Planning the next L.A.
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 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.”
Above: Amber Hawkes, left, and Georgia Sheridan. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times