|Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles|
Over the past two days, Christopher Hawthorne has taken taken on tour of the Mid-Wilshire area and the City of Arcadia, showing us how Korean and Chinese immigrants have altered the urban and suburban landscape. Our final stop today is Downtown Los Angeles, specifically Broadway. Today's article, "'Latino Urbanism' Influences A Los Angeles In Flux." comes courtesy of one of my Facebook friend and city planning consultant James Rojas. The article looks at what Latino Urbanism is about and how it is radically remaking one of DTLA's busiest thoroughfares. For several decades, Broadway has been one of the most vibrant pedestrian oriented streets in Southern California, usually crowded with Latino shopper, some recent arrivals from Mexico. This makeover comes at time when the discounts stores are being pushed in favor of "artisanal" food stores and upscale boutiques, who coincidentally, are taking their design cues from Latin American street life. Coincidence? Let us find out.
|The Orpheum Theater c.1931|
|CiCLAvia Los Angeles|
|Boyle Heights sign|
|"East LA Interchange"|
|East Los Angeles T-shirt vendors|
As Los Angeles County, about 50 percent Latino, transitions into a post-immigration phase, long-established immigrants are becoming more financially secure and gaining influence at the ballot-box. Also, their influence in residential design, entrepreneurship, public and private space is being felt in the realm of city planning. Mayor Eric Garcetti has been actively pushing his Great Streets Initiative that aims to increase the what he calls "the street-level health of city." The plan calls for improvements to selected boulevards across the city to make them more pedestrian, cyclist, and small business friendly. Mayor Garcetti has said the program is "a shift from the way our neighborhoods have been planned in Los Angeles," emphasizing "walkability and transit." To this end, the Mayor has instituted a program called People Street, intended to make it easier for residents to add plazas, pocket parks, and bike corrals to their communities.
|Ruben F. Salazar Park|
|Parlor Hair Design|
To wit, the city is simultaneously revising three key policies: zoning codes that were last updated in 1946; Los Angeles's mobility plan; and its strategies for health and wellness, which includes suggestions for parks and pedestrian activity. The draft version of each of these guidelines suggest a more concerted effort to re-imagine a post-war landscape of the city for a less privatized epoch. The proposed mobility guidelines point to L.A. streets being reconsidered as complex public spaces instead of traffic corridors. The proposed health and wellness guideline revisions argue that L.A. residents need more parks and better safer places to walk. It only took the City of Los Angeles about eighty or so years to figure this out.
It is also important to bear in mind that the Latino immigrant population in Southern California is extremely diverse. This diversity is also expressed among the immigrant communities from the same country-i.e. "...among Mexican immigrants, regional differences are significant. Families from Oaxcaca, many of who have settled in Koreatown, have different expectations about how the city should be designed than a childless twentysomething from Mexico City who lives downtown."
|7th and Broadway|
Downtown Los Angeles
For example, in Highland Park (Tim Logan's December 21, 2014 article at http://wwww.latimes.com), East Los Angeles, and elsewhere, immigrants are slowly being squeezed out of their neighborhoods that have been remade in their image or marketed specifically for their Latino Urbanist appeal. This past spring real estate agent Bana Haffar posted fliers around downtown urging apartment dwellers to consider purchasing property across the Los Angeles River in Boyle Heights. To blogger, Boyle Heights seems an unlikely place to attract more upscale residents but the flier described the community as a "charming, historic, walkable and bikeable neighborhood." All the key buzzwords designed to attract milliennial clientele. The flier invited prospective buyers to participate in a "free 60 minute bike tour of the neighborhood followed by a 30-minute discussion. Artisanal treats and refreshments provided." Insert eye roll, pleeeease.
|El Huarache Azteca|
York Boulevard, Highland Park
Christopher Hawthorne writes, "In some fundamental ways, though, the political establishment's growing embrace of Latino Urbanism is consistent with the cultural history of Southern California." Despite the stranglehold of car culture in Southern California, it is quite surprising how many of our most successful pedestrian oriented places are celebrated; offering some form of sidewalk commerce, authentic or faux. After decades of private pedestrian oriented places, popular escapes from the dominance of the car, Los Angeles is finally getting around to looking at the design of the streets and sidewalks. Los Angeles is a city with deep Latin roots that go as far back as its founding. The streets are laid out along a grid pattern established by the Spanish crown in the sixteenth century for its territorial possession. Streets remade following Latino Urbanism is both a look back and forward, a city on the cusp of reinvention. After all, this is what Los Angeles is about, a place to reinvent yourself.