On an unusually hot February afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, I conducted a field walk assessment to help a client identify potential sites for a bikeshare “mobility hub.” Standing on a corner near the Convention Center, I noted that we were at the border between two Census tracts. Ordinarily, this border wouldn’t matter much—the neighborhood isn’t discernibly different on one side or the other—but in this case, I was helping the client apply for a state grant program that gives special consideration to projects located in “disadvantaged communities.”
If located on the south side of the street, the project would be located in a “disadvantaged” census tract, but not on the north side. “Well, let’s clearly locate the hub on the south side,” the client advised, with some incredulous laughter. Humorous as it may sound, this decision speaks to the serious policy weight—and dollars—the State of California has put behind the concept of “benefitting disadvantaged communities.”
Are there any two American cities more different from each other than Boston and Los Angeles? History vs. modernity, compactness vs. sprawl, chowder vs. kale, sun vs. snow, modesty vs. flash, intellect vs. entertainment.
Back in January, Boston beat out Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., to become the United States Olympic Committee’s official pick to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Since then, civic leaders in Los Angles have been nearly salivating with every hint of disaffection on the part of the Beantown faithful. Concerns were legion: Boston doesn’t have room; Boston’s transit system can’t handle the crowds; Boston doesn’t have the facilities; Boston doesn’t want to spend billions; Boston, to be characteristically blunt, has better things to do.
It turns out that two of the world's biggest proponents of smart growth are Catholic. One of them is California Governor Jerry Brown, who once studied to be a Jesuit priest and, more recently, has promoted earthly initiatives like high-speed rail, the adoption of vehicle miles traveled metrics, and the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals in the western hemisphere.
The other is the Pope.
Allow me to laud something about California’s state and local ballot initiative system. No, really.
Voting schemes for electing human beings to office are inevitably flawed. Whether a jurisdiction uses party primaries, open primaries, ranked choices, multiple votes, pluralities, majorities, voice votes, or anything else, no system can capture the true passions and preferences of all voters as they relate to all candidates.
When I consider Wendell Cox’s ideas, I remind myself that I am taking in not just a series of ideas but rather a whole worldview. It's kind of like reading Dune, the famously comprehensive desert world imagined by sci-fi novelist Frank Herbert.
Cox spoke the other day to ULI's Los Angeles chapter along with USC demographer Dowell Myers. The two weren't exactly adversaries, but they were a study in forms of reasoning. Cox is all induction, beginning with theory and explaining how the facts match it. Meyers is deductive, presenting the facts and going from there.
Cox’s a worldview that does not, I think, correspond well to reality -- certainly not the reality of California -- but it's a nonetheless a complete, mostly consistent view. An analysis of Cox, then, relies on finding those moments when his world matches up with the real world just closely enough to make a comparison.
This morning, Hector Tobar, a respected Los Angeles-area commentator, personally heaped all the ecological sins of humankind on to the current residents of Los Angeles in an editorial in the New York Times, a publication that has gotten increasingly feisty about its hatred for California of late. Tobar writes:
This week, Gov. Jerry Brown announced an executive order to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030. It’s being hailed as the most aggressive climate change policy pursued by any government in North America – but will it put the squeeze on California’s metropolitan planning organizations and their sustainable communities strategies?
Brown’s order has drawn attention for its combination of ambition and immediacy. But it does not come out of thin air. Brown’s 2030 targets fit, substantively and chronologically, between those of Fran Pavley’s 2006 law Assembly Bill 32, which mandates lowering GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s goals of 80 percent reduction by 2050, also established by executive order. Meeting them means that, in relatively short order, California will look, drive, and power itself far differently than it does today — especially as its population continues to rise.
The order requires all state agencies with jurisdiction over sources of greenhouse gas emissions to participate. Agencies must prepare implementation plans by September 2015, with guidance from a technical advisory group that will be set up by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.
BEVERLY HILLS —This week's Milken Institute Global Conference brought together more CEO’s, heads of state, hedge fund managers, and industrialists than, I reckon, any other annual gathering in the United States. It’s a strange event at which to be an urbanist – and not just because it takes place in one of our most unusual cities, Beverly Hills.
Planners, developers, and sundry folk love and believe in our cities. Many of us love our cities, and we are inspired daily by their dynamism and, in some case, their enormity. Los Angeles has 4 million people. And it functions (sort of). Amazing, right?! I think so.
But then you pass the Splenda to a CEO in the coffee line and realize that the annual revenue of his or her company might exceed that of a city’s budget, or even its gross metropolitan product. That’s humbling. It’s more humbling when you consider that some of these companies, from Twitter to Google to all the finance companies, hardly exist in physical space. They might employ a handful of people and deliver all of their products online.
Los Angeles’ housing crisis has been building for long enough that just about anyone who rents an apartment here could have told you about it years ago. But it wasn’t until last summer that UCLA released a report confirming what many of us already know: as a function of average rents (high) and average incomes (low, especially compared to those in San Francisco and New York) Los Angeles is the least-affordable rental market in the country.
Circulating around the blogosphere now is a single graph that illustrates why:
With their startling colors, jarring juxtaposition of architectural styles and emphasis on simple geometry, Michael Graves’ colored-pencil drawings fixed his reputation as the highbrow jokester who built a bridge between academic architecture and pop culture.
Bristling with energy and invention, those early drawings, from the 1970s and 1980s, were expertly tossed salads of different historical styles—bulgy pillars from Revolutionary France, round-headed castles from German Romanticism, the rigid axis of the 19th Century Beaux arts—all rendered in acid colors and pushed to comic extremes. The drawings were intentional, calculated slaps in the face: The message, that Modernism was wrong headed and played out, was the war cry of the period.
Graves passed away last week at age 80.
The Strategic Growth Council has given the green light to 54 potential projects to prepare full applications for funding under the newly created Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. The 54 projects are seeking $301 million in funding -- about 2 1/2 times as much as the $120 million program has to dole out.
Final applications must be completed by April 20 and SGC plans to select the winners by July. Only the 54 applicants on the finalists' list will be given access to the online application.
Of the 54 applications going forward, 44 (worth $235 million) have affordable housing setasides and 37 (worth $229 million) are located in disadvantaged Census tracts -- the definition of which was the subject of considerable debate last year.The finalists represent a diverse array of communities in 22 counties.
The California Supreme Court has accepted Cleveland National Forest Association v. SANDAG, the controversial case that raises the question of whether a governor's executive order must be taken into consideration in CEQA analysis.
Local voters in California gave oil a split decision on Tuesday. Voters in La Habra Heights shot down an anti-fracking ballot measure, while voters in Hermosa Beach rejected a ballot measure that would have permitted E&B Natural Resources to construct 34 onshore wells in the city. Meanwhile, Redondo Beach voters rejected a development plan that would have included razing the power plant that has long occupied a critical spot near the beach.