Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pop-Up Satellite Museums? Why Not?

Le Voyage dans la Lune
Georges Méliès
Hello Everyone:

Pop-up places are here to stay.  Stores, showcasing established and unknown clothes designers, randomly appearing at your local mall.  Kriston Capps of CityLab has a great idea, why not pop-up satellite museums?  Why not indeed?  His recent article, "Why Every Art Museum Should Launch a Pop-Up Satellite," elaborates on a good way to bring the ivory tower museums to out-of-the-way places.

The Underground Museum in Los Angeles, California is an example of a museum, randomly appearing somewhere in the city. The museum, located on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles recently featured an animation installation by William Kentridge titled 7 Fragments for George Méliès.  However, as Mr. Capps writes, "...but that's not the reason people should be pumped-or not the only one.  No, what's so great about 7 Fragments is that it's a Museum of Contemporary Art-featuring an artwork from the Museum of Contemporary Art collection-that's not on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art."

Veils at the Underground Museum
Los Angeles, California
Let Carolina A. Miranda clarify.  Citing a Los Angeles Times, Mr. Capps writes, "she details the unlikely collaboration between the Underground Museum and MOCA that made 7 Fragments possible."  MOCA is one of the bold faced institutions in Los Angeles, by comparison, the Underground Museum is practically non-existent.  Ms. Miranda wrote,

For the next three years, the Underground will feature a series of exhibitions curated by [founder and painter, Noah] Davis, that will be drawn from MOCA's permanent collection-placing important works of art in a largely working-class black and Latino neighborhood at the heart of Los Angeles.

What city would not reap benefits from placing a non-museum space for showing off the collection(s) from its established museums?  Museums should be jumping at the chance to expand their reach and audience.  Pop-up museums would be an ideal place to show case work by unknown and emerging artists.

Expanding the cultural reach 1994-2008
Last year, Ms. Miranda was writing about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other civic leader's push to lure a museum that would hold George Lucas's art collection.  Several cities specifically: Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A. were locked in a heated light saber battle to see who would give away most for the great Jedi master's support.  Ms. Miranda was not among the padwans, mainly, according to Mr. Capps not so unbiased opinion, "...because Lucas' art collection sucks."  Like a true rebel, she launched the #WhyLucasNOTinLA campaign.

Alright, Los Angeles does have plenty of museums-as do a lot of other cities.  The above map shows that over the past two decades, the United States has undergone a record cultural building boom.  Citing Joanna Woronkowicz, D. Carroll Joynes, and Norman Bradburn in Building Better Arts Facilities, Mr. Capps explains,

...most metropolitan statistical areas have erected new facilities within recent years.  During one narrow window (2000-2002), 87 percent of MSAs with a population of 2 million or more launched new cultural buildings.  About one-third of small MSAs (population 500,000 or fewer) did the same...Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago

"Cost of Projects by Year (2005 USD)"
However, not every cultural institution projects have not always served their host cities well.  The big issue is the cost of building museums, theaters, and performing arts centers, which have increased in the years leading up to the dot-com bubble burst.  Since then, the costs have eased (Mr. Capps notes, no data was available), Mr. Capp writes, "...the costs for building museums outstrips almost any other kind of building project.  And in the wake of the recent recession, the construction industry as a whole is smaller, meaning construction cost in the U.S. are rising."

Rising construction costs aside, there is a case to be made for pop-up satellite museums, instead of adding expansions.  This particularly true for contemporary art museums.  Whatever museum you can think of has more artwork than they can possibly put on exhibit and the challenge is to reach various communities.  The answer is very simple: take the work out of storage and to the people.

Museum of Modern Art P.S. 1
Queens, New York
Photograph by Matthew Septimus
Pop-up satellite museums may be something that traditional brick-and-mortar museums need to embrace.  Restaurants have learned to compete with food trucks, in some cases launching their own fleet.  The venerable Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which boasts some 200,000 works of art in their collection, is an example of this need for new thinking.  In 2000, MOMA absorbed MOMA P.S. 1 in Queens but is hoping that its midtown location will attract an audience.  Other museums are not so fortunate.  Los Angeles can lead the way by putting together an eager curator, a disused space, an unserved community, and unrecognized artwork.  This can work in other cities.  Why not?

To Designate or Not To Designate?

Map of View Park-Windsor Hills
Los Angeles, California

Hello Everyone:

Today we are going stay on the subject of gentrification with a look at how one neighborhood in Los Angeles is dealing with the situation.  The neighborhood is the Southwest Los Angeles community of View Park-Windsor Hills, called the "Black Beverly HIlls."  It was here, that affluent African Americans, excluded from the city's tony neighborhoods of Hancock Park, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, and Brentwood, could buy a house.  Angel Jennings reports in her Los Angeles Times article, "'Black Beverly Hills' debates historic status vs. white gentrification," that long time residents are facing an influx of "joggers" and "dog walkers"-a community euphemism for Caucasians with their dogs and brightly colored track suits.  For one resident, Karen Martin who grew up in the community, It's like an alien sighting.  For other long time residents who treasure view Park as symbol of African American affluence and a stronghold of culture, it is a disturbing situation.

Scenic view from View Park-Windsor Hills
Los Angeles, California
The residents of this upscale community have fended off proposals they believed threatened the neighborhood's character defining features, notably it solid African American identity.
Currently, the effort to place View Park on the National Register of Historic has metastasized into a serious point of contention.  Some residents see designation as an honor for this community steeped with a sense of pride in the past which makes the place feel like home. Others see designation as a way to attract white buyers in search of affordable Westside housing.  Tammy Williams is one residents who beams with community pride but opposes designation.

View Park Home
Tammy Williams is typical View Park-Windsor Hill resident.  Ms. Williams bought her 4,000 square-foot Mid-twentieth century Modern home in 2003 in an area referred to by some the "Black Beverly Hills."  For Ms. Williams it was a feeling of You have arrived. Later, while standing out on a new neighbor's patio, with a friend, they inhaled the magnificent view of the downtown skyscrapers in the evening light, feeling We've made it!  This excitement was more of a general feeling, not just for herself.  View Park was not always a predominantly African American community.

Until the sixties, View Park was predominantly Caucasian.  The Supreme Court removed housing covenants which prevented non-white homeowners, and the first group of black families, mostly upper middle class, began to move in and integrate the neighborhood.  As the first wave of African American homeowners moved in, Caucasians fled, leaving spacious homes with pools and breath taking views of downtown.  At one point singers-musicians Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner called the community home.  It still has a celebrity cache.  Angel Jennings writes, "By the 1970s, blacks outnumbered whites nearly 3 to 1.  A decade later, the ratio was 9 to 1."

Not Beverly Hills, it's View Park-Windsor Hills

Currently, the unincorporated neighborhood is "84% African American, and combined with neighboring Windsor Hills, Baldwin Hills and Ladera Heights, constitutes the West Coast's highest concentration of black affluence." According to the 2010 census, "Half of View Park's residents have earned a bachelor's degree or higher...and the tract that contains most of the neighborhood had an average family income of $90,000-tens of thousands of dollars above the countrywide average for white families and 21/2 [?] the median income among Los Angeles County blacks."  Some residents attribute this statistic to the collective hard work, individually and collectively, "to win a place atop this hill that they fight so hard to maintain its character."

Tree lined street in View Park-Windsor Hills
When urban planners announced plans to build low-income housing at the bottom of the hill, residents banded together to defeat the plan.  Residents also prevented the Department of Recreation and Parks from installing restrooms at the local park because they feared it would attract problems.  Some have even voiced their resistance to the Crenshaw-LAX light rail because it could bring new people to the base of their quiet community.  All of this may sound strange to some of you but if this was an affluent white community, would still sound odd?  Thus, concerns over problems from outsiders moving in, changing the historic and cultural fabric have galvanized residents to form the View Park Conservancy ( and place their community in nomination for the National Register for Historic Places.

MacLean House c.1928
According to National Register historian Paul Lusignan,

That federal designation could come with property tax credits for new homeowners who maintain a property's historic characteristics and limited federal protection from developments...

Some residents welcome designation as a way to add value to their homes.  However, other residents point their fingers at outside developers and home flippers, accusing them of trying to snatch the home of people dealing with financial misfortune.  These residents see designation as potential marketing tool to attract new, mostly white, buyers to View Park's historic homes, some of which have been built by well known architects and sell for comparatively less than homes a few miles away.  Musician Reggie A. Carson told Ms. Jennings, Somebody found a gold mine and they are trying to milk it...Seniors happen to be the predominate demographic here and they are also the easiest to get rid of.

1928 home on Angeles Vista and Deane
Ben Kahle, a conservancy co-founder and licensed realtor posted the following comments on a 2013 online forum, quoted by Ms. Jennings,

My plan is to walk my dogs as many neighbors as I can , and to be seen as a friendly face...When the time comes, I'm thinking of having my wife bake some of her amazing cookies...and mention that I'd be interested in buying their homes.

Ben Kahle grew tense when he discussed his comments with Ms. Jennings, later expressing his regrets,

I definitely understand the concerns that people would feel after reading some those things.  He also stated that he would not intentionally do anything that would hurt the neighborhood.

Pictures of View Park Seville Homes c.1930
View Park is not the only predominately African American community suffering an identity crisis.  Darrick Hamilton, an associate professor of urban policy at the New School told Ms. Jennings,

From Washington D.C., to Oakland, working-class neighborhoods that have been stronghold for black are becoming increasingly diverse as people shun suburbs for the convenience of city living...So far, the trend has skipped many more prosperous African American neighborhoods, such as those in Prince George's County, Md., where buyers as well as sellers continue to be predominantly black.

Olympic Village under construction c. 1932
View Park-Windsor Hills
Unfortunately, the recession has had a lingering effect on African Americans and Los Angeles's red hot real estate market, which makes View Park an exception.  Ms. Jennings mentions that researchers have found "Some black homeowners grabbed the low, adjustable interest loans that subprime lenders dangled before them to refinance their homes..." A definite recipe for homeowner disaster.  Still others used their home equity as a down payment on business ventures, private education, and investment properties.  Lance Freeman, a professor of urban planning at Columbia University said,

Some fell behind on payments and their homes ended up in foreclosure.  This occurred much more frequently in black communities.  Prof. Freeman is the author of "There Goes the 'Hood: Views of Gentrification From the Ground Up."

To add further injury, a recent Zillow study found that African Americans are denied a home loan "at twice the rate of whites, and so it is more likely that banks, flippers, and non-African American buyers will grab those foreclosed properties."

Pictures of housing construction in View Park c.1928
Writer and analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a Windsor Hills resident, is empathetic to concerns regarding the incoming Caucasian residents-those joggers and dog walkers.  He told Ms. Jennings,

We have so few areas...So little turf we can call our own.  This is yet another invasion by another group coming in to destroy both the culture, the lifestyle and economic continuity of our areas.

Nevertheless, View Park Conservancy co-founder Andre Gaines notes that the organization's roster of 476-strong is an indicator of community support.  Angel Jennings writes, "It took the group less than a year to its fundraising goal $100,000..."  Mr. Gaines told Ms. Jennings, Some of that money,...will pay for the firm Architectural Resources Group to complete the documentation needed for National Register nomination, including maps, photos, and description of each property.  In the interest of full disclosure, ARG principal Katie Horak was one of bloggers professors at the University of Southern California.

Pictures of View Park Seville Homes c.1930
Recently, ARG sent out a pair of white women toting laptops and cameras to survey the individual properties.  Unfortunately, they were greeted by a few expletive spewing residents.  Katie Horak, one of the firm's principals has this to say, There were definitely tense moments, but that's not uncommon...People get protective of their homes, as they should.  Historic preservation is not a profession for the overly sentimental or thin skinned.  Opponents of designation have passed out fliers, advertising their website According to the website:

We are long-time residents of View Park and Windsor Hills, who are diametrically opposed to any goals or plans to turn View Park in to a historic district and/or Historic Preservation Overlay Zone...Historic preservation has been transformed into a real estate gimmick to start the gentrification process...(Ibid)

On the social media pages, one opponent told the conservancy, in no uncertain terms, View Park will not be colonized...I'm coming at you with FULL FORCE.  Okaaay.  This white hot anger forced the conservancy to hire security for their next fundraiser.

Homes in View Park c.1927
 Meanwhile, we return to Tammy Williams who felt that "she arrived" when Ms. Williams moved to View Park.  She carries with her an over stuffed three-ring notebook chronicling the battles waged by the community residents over the decades.  Ms. Williams launched her own organization, View Park Arts & Cultural Foundation ( One of the pages features posters of movies shot in View Park such as: Ray, Love and Basketball, What's Love Got to Do With It, and Something New.  The films bring together the stories of African Americans.  Regardless of their position on designation, View Park residents all say that these stories give them a sense of pride and make them feel protective of their home.  According to Ms. Williams,

You make the black people disappear and its breaks the legacy for the next group who earned their way back to this community...Those pushing for historical designation...are only interested in the real estate.  They are not looking at the people.

However, View Park Conservancy member Cookie Parker has different point of view.  Ms. Peters told Ms. Jennings, The neighborhood's growing diversity, including an influx of young people, is healthy for everyone,...There's a vibrancy.  Every place needs life and new blood

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Three-Point Plan For Ending "Diversity Segregation"

True Reformer Building
U Street/ShawWashington D.C.
Hello Everyone:

Gentrification seems to be one of this blog's ongoing topics.  The good, the bad, and the in between.  Recently, Derek Hyra wrote an insightful opinion piece for Next City titled, "3 Things Cities and HUD Can Do to Stop Gentrification That Segregates."  HUD, in this case is the Housing and Urban Development department, led by Secretary Julian Castro.  The segregation in this case is "diversity segregation." It is not just Washington D.C., the focus of the op-ed article, that is feeling the effect of this type of segregation.  Racial and economic segregation, due to gentrification effects all major cities.  In his op-ed, Mr. Hyra addresses the lack of racial and economic diversity that seems come with gentrification, what cities and HUD can do to mitigate this type of segregation.

U Street/Shaw and Credenza Communities
Washington D.C.
Derek Hyra begins his op-ed article by summarizing his Washington D.C. fieldwork and what he identified as the problems,

For more than five years, I have conducted fieldwork in Washington D.C.'s redeveloping Shaw/U Street neighborhood.  In the last decade, the community has become incredibly diverse both racially and economically.  However, Shaw's subsidized housing residents rarely interact with the community's more affluent newcomers.  Moreover, longtime residents are seeing virtually all of their political power transferring to people who are new to the neighborhood.

Even though Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Secretary Castro recently highlighted this neighborhood as an example of a successful mixed-income community-partially credited to its viable affordable housing supply-Mr Hyra feels that the Mayor and Secretary overlooked the fact how this contributed to creating a fully inclusive community.  He writes, "The wheels of social integration must be more thoroughly greased to achieve better harmony and equity across and class divides."  How are the wheels greased? Let us forge ahead.

Mixed-use buildings
U Street/Shaw and Credenza Communities
Washington D.C,
Derek Hyra believes, what he calls, "diversity segregation" to be the primary challenge in flourishing mixed  income, mixed race neighborhoods.  Mr. Hyra defines this challenge,

In diversity segregation, racially and economically disparate people live next to each other, but not alongside each other.  So-called 'diverse' communities often remaining internally segregated because meaningful interactions across income and class have failed to materialize. As long as such divides exist, the benefits of mixed-incomes communities won't be equitably felt.

Derek Hyra does not make clear what he means by meaningful interactions.  Are we talking about something beyond interactions in public spaces?

Map of Greater Shaw-U Street
Washington D.C.
Political and economic exclusion within gentrifying (or already gentrified) neighborhoods is being deeply felt.  For example, long time residents of the Shaw community, who have remained during the gentrification process, have also experienced political and cultural displacement as newer, more affluent residents make their presence felt in civic and institutional organization leadership positions.  This gives the new residents a platform to pus through their specific community priorities, which sometimes differs from the priorities of existing residents.  This shift in the balance of power can lead to resentments.  As businesses catering to the more affluent come in and take over former mom-and-pop storefronts, the feeling of being unwelcome in their own community is accentuated among long term residents.  In essence, long term residents feel like strangers in their own community and are more likely to move elsewhere, regardless of housing pressure.

Arts District U Street-Shaw
Washington D.C.
Photograph by Kathryn Smith
Derek Hyra suggests, "City and federal official must go beyond affordable housing efforts and stimulate meaningful social interactions among new and long-terms residents to a weave a new social fabric of integration in these vibrant, transitioning neighborhoods."  While Mr. Hyra suggests implementing policies, intended to bring people across the racial and economic divide together, blogger is not entirely sure that legislating inclusiveness is the best approach. Yours truly prefers more natural encounters between individuals from diverse backgrounds. Recently yours truly blogged about public transit as the great equalizer as an example of how to bring diverse peoples together.  Another approach is a more aggressive strategy to keep established small businesses in the community.  The uniqueness of a commercial and retail experience is a definite appeal to more affluent newcomers seeking some sort of "experience."

Ben's Chili Bowl
U Street-Shaw
Washington D.C.
 Nevertheless, Mr. Hyra makes the following suggestions:

First, neutral "third spaces" such as libraries, community centers, schools, restaurants and other gathering places, that represent diverse neighborhood interests and preferences should be created with the goal of facilitating social interaction across race and class.

Second, although funding has been recently cut for HUD's Community Development Block Grant and Home Program, a proportion of the remaining funds should be earmarked for local bridging organizing with social programming that connects diverse populations.

Lastly, HUD and the Department of Treasury should mandate future mixed-income developments, such as ones support by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, have low-income representation on resident governing councils.

These are good suggestions for fostering more diverse political representation in gentrified neighborhoods.  However, as for creating neutral third spaces such libraries and community centers, blogger thinks that this point is based on the assumption that they do not already exist within the community.  Blogger believes that Derek Hyra has some good ideas for mitigating racial and economic segregation in gentrified communities which can be applied to other communities, across the United States.  Let us see what happens next.

Do Cities Need A Foreign Policy?

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Hello Everyone:

Recently blogger came across am interesting article by Kathy Bergen of the Chicago Tribune, titled "As borders blur, cities mull 'foreign policies."  We live in a world where national borders seem to be nothing more than lines on a map.  Increasingly, cities such as Sao Paulo, Brazil are looking at other cities such as: Paris, London, or Buenos Aires to find out how transit systems work in these cities before ramping up the number of bus lanes in the Brazilian city.  This was not the first time Sao Paulo conducted this type of international study.  Leonardo Barchini Rosa, the head of Sao Paulo's international affairs department told Ms. Bergen, For almost everything we are doing that is new, we try to look outside.  Sao Paulo's international affairs department, its operational scale and reach, has been "...cited by urban scholars as a model for any city aspiring to forge a bigger global profile."

Crowded Sao Paulo street
Sao Paulo's approach is one example of a "outward-looking strategy" called "foreign policy for cities," "city diplomacy," alternatively by some academics, "paradiplomacy."  However you choose to call this global approach to urban planning and design, one thing is certain, mega-cities such as London, Hong Kong, New York, et al. are sharing information and building stronger alliances with their counterparts across the globe. This goes beyond the traditional collaborative efforts in the arts, education, and urban challenges.  Ms. Bergen writes, "If done well, a city can gain a reputation as a hotbed of innovation, a team player on pressing urban problems and a prime location for foreign investment, business partnerships and tourism."

Hummingbird mural
Sao Paulo, Brazil
For example, Sao Paulo recently took the top spot in a "Latin American City of the Future" survey conducted by fDI Intelligence, the research wing of The Financial Times, LTD.  The survey observed that between 2010 and 2014 the city attracted over 500 projects.  Quoting former Toronto, Canada Mayor David Miller, Ms. Bergen writes,

In a world where national governments are negotiating more and more trade agreements that make national borders less relevant, it is essential for cities to have a strategy for international relations..Otherwise...they risk becoming insular and isolated.

The importance of cities establishing their own foreign policy was one of the central themes at the first Chicago Forum on Global Cities, a three-day conference hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and The Financial Times at the end of May.  The event was intended to attract nearly 600 participants such as: business leaders, civic officials, and urban strategies from 25 countries.  Although most of the events were private, the opening, closing, and ancillary sessions were open to the public, bringing the total attendance to 2,500.  Among the speakers was former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who joined the Mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen and urban affairs writer Benjamin Barber.  There were panels that focused on a variety of subjects from economics and the environment, innovation, infrastructure, poverty, health care, and security.  Mr. Barber firmly believes that cities are better positioned nations to deal with a myriad of global problems.

Old Town Chicago
Quoting Mr. Barber, the author of If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities, Ms. Bergen writes,

Independent nation-states don't play well in the sandbox-they have reacted to problems by waging war for a long time.

Mr. Barber's book makes a case for a global council of mayors to deal with urban problems. He argues that Cities are less hamstrung by global tensions as as by national-level partisan politics.

Chicago has frequently ranked among the top cities but in recent years, the city has experienced painfully slow growth in its exports and foreign investment in new projects.  Chicago, according to Mr. Barber, has been a little more insulated than costal cities from a sense of the larger world outside...Chicago is just a little behind the curve.

Madison Street
Photograph by J.R. Schmidt
Chicago, Illinois
After the forum concluded, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs began to develop a, according to Ivo Daalder, president of the council, ... a "more effective" international strategy for Chicago by year-end. The non-profit World Business Chicago, the city's business attraction arm, will work with council, according to Andrew Spinelli, the director of global strategic initiatives.

The ambitious Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has made efforts to raise the city's global profile by hosting events such as the NATO Summit and the World Summit of Nobel Laureates, in 2012, and last year, the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting.  Chicago has also signed cooperation agreements with Mexico City and eight cities in China.  City officials are highlighting the Beijing-based Wanda Group's recent announcement of a nearly $1 billion hotel and condominium tower-a sign that Chicago is gaining traction among foreign investors.  However, convincing Chicago and other American cities to develop and aggressively pursue a foreign policies can be a tough sell.

Chicago State Street
In terms of scarce financial resources, trips to foreign countries could be viewed as "wasteful junkets."  This is especially true in Chicago, which is looking at "overwhelming pension debt and severe budget deficits at City Hall and the public school system."  Mr. Daalder recommends bringing Chicago's internationally-centric institutions under one umbrella.  He adds,

The city could make better alumni networks, for instance to identify economic opportunities for companies and for the city, in a more coherent way.

Chicago, like other major American cities, is rich with nationally and internationally renown universities and colleges.  For example my alma mater, the University of Southern California, have made efforts to connect itself to Los Angeles's economic development are in full swing, drawing talent from around the world.  Another example cited by Kathy Bergen is the University of Toronto. She writes, "The University of Toronto..., has an ongoing partnership with the University of Sao Paulo, which has led to an influx of Brazilian students."  According to university president Meric Gertler, We have close to 1,000 Brazilian students...and we were delighted by such a large number...Many love it here and want to enriches the labor force because there are a lot of entrepreneurs, risk-takers.  Definitely a good argument for immigration reform.

Study London
Meric Gertler is also fascinated by the British program, "Study London," a database for overseas families with college-age students interested in studying in one of the city's 47 universities.  Mr. Gertler continues, I've said to fellow university presidents...We should take a leaf out of London's book and do something here.

Hong Kong is another city drawing kudos for for its foreign policy.  Hong Kong's trade development has 44 offices around the globe, including Chicago.  The trade development office sponsors international conferences to promote the city as a gateway to Asia and brought its meeting to Chicago for the first time.  Andrew Spinelli enthuses, It's a big deal, referencing the fact that the conference was expected to draw over a 1,000 top-tier corporate executives and government officials.  Mr. Spinelli adds, This will let us highlight the city and help our companies make more connections.

Russell Street, Hong Kong
Kathy Bergen writes, "Sao Paulo's international relations team is part of a department that also acts as a liaison with Brazil's state and national governments.  The department doesn't operate foreign offices, but it devotes about 20 staffers to foreign affairs." The Brazilian international relations team participates in 16 issues-dedicated networks of cities with a high profile in six of them and partners with 10 international organizations. Leonardo Barchini Rosa said,

The goals...are to brainstorm with others on environmentally sound development strategies, to draw lessons from other cities and to work with Sao Paulo's separate business attraction agency on ways to improve the city...We can create commercial flows, we can create new contracts, we can bring attention to the city from foreign people.

One other point, "...collaborating with cities abroad plays a critical role in a city's foreign policy strategy."

Rohit Aggarwals served as a special adviser to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg when Mayor Bloomberg served as chairperson of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group 2010-13.  Mr. Aggarwhal observed, Bloomberg clicked with former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the group's founder.  This collaboration bloomed into "an in-depth sharing of strategies on issues ranging from dealing with traffic gridlock to fighting terrorism."  He told Ms. Bergen, Sure, you can meet someone at an event and develop a relationship, but it can end up being superficial...When you work on content with somebody, that's when you develop a real relationship.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In The Common Good

Buses stuck in traffic
Baltimore, Maryland
Photograph by ArchPlan Inc
Hello Everyone:

Blogger needed to clean out the drop box folder again and came across a rather fascinating article by Klaus Philipsen on the state of transportation in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.  The title is in question form, "Transit-the New Urban Commons?" and asks as cities compete for the car and suburb adverse millennials with such inducements as bike lanes, walkability, and transportation options, how should Baltimore respond?  Mr. Philipsen quotes a stinging comment from the travel website Trip Advisor, Baltimore isn't a city known for its efficient public transportation system(  He then proceeds to answer the question, "In Baltimore, this verdict should actually set off a whole array of alarms.  How about the equity alarm? The opportunity alarm? The congestion alarm?  The economic competitiveness alarm?"  How should Baltimore, and cities with similar woeful transportation, respond?

Bus interior
Baltimore, Maryland
Photograph by ArchPlan Inc

Klaus Philipsen begins by writing, "The equity alarm should be especially shrill given that the concentration of poverty in inner city neighborhoods has been in news so much lately."  Income equity, a likely key point in the 2016 Presidential election cycle, is very broad subject that includes transportation.  The key factors for easing the inequities are access and mobility that stem from income disparities regularly seen in major American cities.  Seema Iyer, the Associate Director of the Jacob France Institute which runs the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance said, Transportation is the critical factor to get out of poverty (   More a statement of the obvious than a revelation, however, bad transportation enhances the disparities.  Again, not a grand conclusion, but inefficient transportation is not something that should be allowed to continue where, according to one federal judge, the inner city functions as "an island reservation for...all of the poor of a contiguous region

The response to this alarming situation should not come down to choice between catering to millennials or the poor.  Rather, transportation should serve the commons (, "...the place where all classes and races meet and be an active equalizer between the segregated and unequal communities of a metro region."  This happens in very few metropolitan regions, where rail transit serves as the equalizer.  Buses rarely meets this challenge.  Mr. Philipsen suggests that most of his hometown's buses underscore this point.  Therefore, he asks, "...does Baltimore's transit system mitigate or exacerbate inequality?  Is it as bad as Trip Advisor makes it seem?"

Baltimore light rail at BWI Airport
Once again quoting Seema Iyer, Mr. Philipsen share her findings about commute times in Baltimore, High commute times are key indicators of communities in stress.  Ms. Iyer defines high commutes times as over 45 minutes.  Specifically, the low-income communities has the longest commute times, this would seem to indicate discriminatory practices by the transit system.  Thus, the transit system would most likely be concentrated where riders live.  For example, Baltimore's inner city neighborhoods have a great number of bus lines, however, Mr. Philipsen asks, "Why is commute time especially high from those communities?

"Comprehensive Opportunity Map"
Baltimore area
Klaus Philipsen writes, "The answer lies with transit operations themselves but also with land use and how commute times are determined."  For example, the low skill jobs, warehouses and distribution centers, are located out in the suburbs, where land is cheaper instead of closer to the inner city where the low income residents live.  This puts these opportunities out of reach of low-income residents who need them.  Mr. Philipsen cites a Brookings Institute finding for employment access in the DC area:

Transit does a better job providing high-skill residents access to high-skill jobs than it does to mid-skill residents to mid-skill job and low-skill residents to low-skill jobs. (

At the core of the long commute is a "...spatial/demographic mismatch" which can leave so many low income residents literally stranded in their communities.  Klaus Philipsen suggests three alternative ways the problem can be remedied:

  • improve transit
  • relocate people or
  • relocate jobs.
Shall we have a look at each one?

"U.S. Travel Modes to Work"
Improved Transit: This seems like the obvious solution, door-to-door service. However, "...the further out one needs to go, the more likely a transfer will be required to service that is not likely to be robust."  While frequent bus service traveling through the denser inner cities, it does not mitigate the problem of overcrowding, unreliability, and cringe inducing slowness, when compared to the more efficient and speedy commuter lines from the suburbs to the financial districts.  This does read as discriminatory practices against the poorer communities. Mr. Philipsen writes, "Attempts to have a version of express buses in poorer communities as well have been started in Baltimore under the name Quickbus, essentially a bus that stops less often and duplicates a local service in the same corridor."  Other cities have successfully implemented two-tiered bus service (local/express).  The takeaway, bus service does not have be the equivalent of getting one's teeth pulled, slowly, without an anesthetic.  There are a myriad of ways to successfully implement improves to disenfranchised communities in Baltimore and elsewhere.

"Transit Commute Mode Share"
Moving to Opportunity: another deceptively simple solution-move where the jobs are.  This might be feasible for mid-skill and high-skill workers but for low-skill workers in the inner cities, packing up the house and children and moving to where the jobs are is not feasible. The eponymous federal program (, "...the practice of relocating people to neighborhoods with better access has lately languished and never reached its full potential."  This program has been placed under the microscope by those who wish to make the move less attractive and by those who live in the opportunity areas.  Relocating low income people also brings with it other sets of problems.  The need for top drawer transportation in the outlying would still be there but it would create a more diverse ridership however, there are limits to transit's reach.  Mr. Philipsen writes, "A recent study shows that many newer are built like suburbs, not to mention the actual outside of cities."

"Top 25 Urbanized Areas by Total Transit Trip
 Job relocation: moving the jobs to where the people are-a reverse of the postwar trend of moving to where the jobs are.  Klaus Philipsen writes, "Low skill distribution or service jobs inside the core cities along with some type of renaissance of manufacturing may not be as far-fetched as it sounds."  This is particularly in the "legacy cities" (Detroit and Buffalo for example), which have ample surplus land.  One solution is that distribution centers could be relocated to or near population centers, a prerequisite for companies offering same day delivery.  Urban manufacturing could also experience a renaissance thanks to 3-D printing.  From a sustainability perspective, far-flung, low-slung communities are not completely tenable for a number reasons.  From a transportation perspective, " of the effects of this type of land use is that it leaves the poor hiking along arteries without sidewalks or decent transit, effectively disconnected from a large potential workforce." Merely expressing interest in job access equity and shorter commutes is not enough, this has to be coupled with environmental and economic reasons.

Baltimore light rail
   Whatever options cities pursue, one thing is certain, transit is the great equalizer in reducing the socio-economic disparities and heal the scars of decades of discrimination, segregation, and bad feelings. Diverse and integrated transit equals a successful city.  Let Mr. Philipsen explain, "Successful cities have better transit and a broader constituency across all races and income levels reaching from student to senior. By contrast, cities with poor transit are places where transit in general, and bus in particular, are treated as a mobility option of last resort which is used only by the poor and to be avoided by everyone else."

"Everyone else" does not have the luxury of a car as transportation option.  The irony of the situation is that cities with poor public transit options routinely brag fleets of corporate, residential, and student shuttles which creates a "...redundant, inefficient and costly solution."  Mr. Philipsen also observes that these private transit services are a thinly disguised form of racism which clog the streets; "depriving public transit of ridership needed to flourish."  The bottom line is crystal clear, efficient, reliable, and safe public transit is in the common good.

Baltimore Red Line Station
baltimoreheritage .org
The absolute necessity of good transit for the well being of a city is continuously emphasized by civic leaders across the spectrum.  A multitude of studies have demonstrated that transit is the one of the best medicines for what ails a city, including Baltimore. (  It is not just about pleasing the millennial crowd or providing equity to those in poverty, safe, reliable, efficient transit is crucial to the viability of dense job centers clustered in small parts of many states.  Case in point, Maryland, where the job centers are focused on 1.2% of the land area but hold 43% of all jobs. (Satori, "Transportation, Opportunity and Equity," 2013)  Baltimore's spectacular downtown is one of those job centers and the biggest one.

East Baltimore
Thus, "opportunity mapping" ( asserts that opportunity can swing both ways.  Opportunity was originally defined as, "the metrics that characterize an area in regards to opportunities an individual has for a quality life with access to education, jobs, retail and entertainment, opportunity can also be defined as the metrics that indicate whether or not economic centers or job hubs are able to flourish."  To put it one way, opportunity can be seen as the means to acquiring a certain social capital that can lead to a better life.

Perhaps one way to approach the goal of better transit is to understand how a specific system or geographic location rates using various metrics used by the transportation industry, planners and urban analysts. Klaus Philipsen has assembled some comparison results for Baltimore.  He notes, "Depending on what gets measured and who the competition is, the following studies and charts show, that Baltimore's transit is far being the one of the worst in the country."  Cheerfully he continues, "In some measures, the Baltimore metro area actually scores pretty well:"

"MTA: Percent of Service Provided On Time"
 Job access: the University of Minnesota conducted a survey of large American cities based on job access, measured by the jobs with a transit time of thirty minutes.  (  Baltimore ranked fourteen behind Minneapolis, Denver, and the "usual suspects" (i.e. New York, Boston, et cetera) but ahead of Miami, Phoenix, Houston, and San Diego.  A 2011 Brookings Institute study on job access place Baltimore above Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis but very distant from Denver and Portland, Oregon with more aggressive light rail plans. (

Mode share: the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute found that for 2001 Baltimore ranked among the top seven American cities for mode share of transit, and right behind Philadelphia, ahead of Pittsburgh and Seattle.  However, ten years later, the city slipped in the rankings because the rail lines in the above three cities surpassed Baltimore.  Despite this, a 2010 National Transit Database placed Baltimore in the number thirteen slot in terms of annual transit trips.

Agency evaluation: how did Baltimore's Metropolitan Transit Authority do against its peers?  The National Center for Transit Research evaluated the city's transit agency using such metrics as: "Service Supply/Availability, Service Consumption, Quality of Service, Cost Efficiency, Operating Rations and Vehicle Utilization."  How did the Baltimore MTA do against its peers?  Dead last among eight large agencies in the Northeast but near the bottom compared to the WMATA in Washington D.C.  Klaus Philipsen notes, "The study uses 2004 data."

MARC Train
Light Rail: in 2011 the Transportation Research Board analyzed eight light rail transit in eight metropolitan areas: Phoenix, Sacramento and San Diego, Portland, Oregon, Dallas, Denver, Saint Louis. and Salt Lake City-each carrying 20 percent or more of the the area's total fixed-route passengers.  Baltimore was not part of the survey. (

"MTA Customer Satisfaction Rating"
Metro Rail: Mr. Philipsen writes, "In terms of heavy rail (Metro) Baltimore ranks #11 of 15 systems in the country, behind Miami Dade's Metrorail and ahead of the Tren Urbino of San Juan.

Transit Score: the Transit Score index ( is the best helpful measure for quality of transit systems but as Mr. Philipsen notes, " wasn't put together by a transit agency and applies the user and not the provider perspective."  On a scale of 23 (the lowest) to 80 (the highest) Baltimore came in at number nine with 57 points.  New York was the number one city with 80 points, my hometown of Los Angeles ranked 11 with 49 points, while Raleigh, North Carolina scraped the bottom, ranking 25 with a paltry 23 points.

Final thoughts: the negative perceptions of Baltimore's mass transit system may not adequately illustrate its actual task or performance.  In this respect, like the much maligned Los Angeles MTA, the Baltimore MTA shares the bad reputation. What both cities, as well as sister cities, need to pay attention to is how the perception of a bad reputation can translate into falling ridership numbers.  What will be the future direction of transit systems with perceived negative reputations?  Do they cater solely to the millennial crowd, excluding those in under served neighborhoods who depend on mass transit to get to work?  Will municipalities, state, and federal agencies find a cost effective way to expand transit lines or just give up?  As opportunities for work and school expand, it will become absolutely incumbent on civic officials and planners to find a way to bring the people to the opportunities or vice verse.  Thus, a well planned and executed transit plan can ease the effects of socio-economic inequality.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Update On The Factory

Studio One-The Factory
West Hollywood, California
Hello Everyone:

Before I get going on an update on one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Endangered Historic Sites list, I just want to say how grateful and excited I am to share that we reached 40,000 page views.  Woo Hoo. Thank you so very much for your continued support of this blog.  It tells yours truly that there is an audience and real interest for architecture, historic preservation, urban planning and design.  Thank you again.

About a month ago, June 24 to be precise, yours truly presented the NTHP's annual list of Endangered Historic Sites.  Among those listed was The Factory in West Hollywood.  The National Trust cited The Factory for two reasons: first, it was a contributor to industry (film) in California. Second, in the seventies the building was the site of Studio One was one of the first gay discos.  It was a place where gay men could openly express their sexuality.  The Factory is currently threatened by demolition.  Katie Shepard reports in her article, "Proposal would raze West Hollywood's iconic Factory" in this past Sunday's Los Angeles Times, reports that many West Hollywood residents "see the Factory as a cultural landmark that helped shape the city's reputation as a gay mecca should be preserved."  Chris Morris, the Los Angeles field director for The Trust seconds this point, Recent history, sometimes, isn't given its due... It's hard to recognize as 'History' with a capital H.

Sarah Dash at Studio One
Faring Capital has proposed razing The Factory; replacing it with a large-scale hotel with a walkway that the developers hope will connect Doheny Drive, La Peer Drive, Robertson Boulevard, and San Vicente.  According to The Conservancy website, "Developer Faring Capital has proposed redeveloping a nearly two-acre site between Robertson Boulevard and La Peer Drive with a 252,700 square foot mixed-use project..." (  On January 23, 2015, the L.A. Conservancy submitted comments on the Notice Preparation Of A Draft Environmental Impact Report and Scoping Meeting. (Ibid)  In the introduction to their response The Conservancy wrote,

The Conservancy believes that the building qualifies as an historical resource for its associations with the motion picture industry and West Hollywood's pioneering gay community, and should be treated as such throughout the environmental review process.

As the proposed project would cause significant impact to a cultural resource, the Conservancy, urges the City to mandate consideration of a range of preservation alternatives to demolition in the Draft Environmental Impact Report...(Ibid)

Cissy's Camera Bag
Jason Illouian, the managing partner of Faring Capital, hopes the new development will lure shoppers and diners into the neighborhood. There are also plans for a hotel and meeting facilities for people visiting West Hollywood. Mr. Illouian's plans for for the have a number of preservation organizations, such as the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (, concerned that a another local landmark would vanish.

Studio One entrance
The City of West Hollywood has yet to weigh in on the possible landmark status of The Factory.  Katie Shepard interviewed WeHo City Councilman John Duran, who has not decided whether or not support the Faring Capital proposal because it has not been presented to the City Council.  Ms. Shepard writes, "Duran said he remembered going to Studio One when he was a young man in the 1970s."  Mr. Duran said,

It was a fantastic world so beyond the dreariness of Los Angeles County...When I walked through the double doors to Studio One, it was a dream come true.

Studio One closed in the nineties as crowds migrated to newer clubs along Santa Monica Boulevard.

Circus Disco poster
Katie Shepard writes,

The Factory is the latest in a string of landmarks in Los Angeles and West Hollywood to face demolition because of development pressures.  The Palms, the city's last lesbian bar, was razed in 2013. Jewel's Catch One closed in March after years of serving a meeting place for black gay men.  Circus Disco, a gay club in Hollywood that catered to the Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, is also threatened.

West Hollywood is an attractive city with many amenities.  Thus, it is not surprising that a plethora of developers are competing for approval to put up new commercial and retail developments in the city, according to Councilman John D'Amico.  Mayor Pro Tempore Lauren Meister wrote in an email, My feeling is that development should enhance, not destroy, what we love about our city.

Mayor Pro Tempore Meister added,

West Hollywood needs to follow policies set by the General Plan and Climate Action Plan which shape city officials' decisions in considering new development, while also making an effort to encourage the preservation and reuse of existing buildings.

Jason Illouian and his company are aware of the concerns for the building and Faring Capital are searching for a way to honor the history of Studio One while holding to their vision of a walkable retail development.

This is a developing story.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What Now Los Angeles?

Los Angeles City Hall
Hello Everyone:

Los Angeles is at a cross roads.  The city was born on September 4, 1781, a veritable youngster among cities such as New York, Boston, and Chicago.  At the tender age of 234 years-old, change is afoot, according Donna Bojarsky a former aide to the late Mayor Tom Bradley.  Recently, this blog's favorite architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne attended a gathering of 150 civic leaders including: Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; California Endowment President Bob Ross; Moby, musician and architecture aficionado; presenter Madeleine Brand of KCRW (89.9); and newly installed council member David Ryu (in the interest of full disclosure Mr. Ryu is blogger's council member). Ms. Bojarsky convened the group in early June to discuss the what she called "the pitiful state of civic engagement in Los Angeles." Mr. Hawthorne chronicled the evening in "Critic's Notebook Visionaries search for key to civic engagement in L.A."  It was an enlightening event but lacking in average Los Angeles residents.

Grand Park at night
Rio, Clementi, Hale Studios
 Donna Bojarsky began her presentation by stating while change is in the air for L.A. " strategies to marshal that change were required if the city had any hope of reaching 'world-class status.'"  To harness new strategies, Ms. Bojarsky started a group, Future of Cities: Leading in L.A., which will make its public debut at LACMA in October.  Ms. Bojarsky's admitted longing for the efficiency and effectiveness of the Committee of 25, which ran post-war Los Angeles, according to Mr. Hawthorne, "...should be how white that group was."  Ms. Bojarsky went on to introduce presenters such as Messrs Govan and Ross.  Los Angeles Magazine, and historian William Deverall, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (full disclosure, blogger has met Prof. Deverall).

Santa Monica State Beach
William Deverall spoke about the long-term perspective on the cyclical changes in Southern California.  Gregory Rodriguez, founder of Zocalo Public Square, was ready to dampened any notion that meaningful changes were in store.  Mr. Rodriguez was particularly keen to share his thoughts on bike lanes, and how they will turn L.A. into a great Danish village.  Mr. Hawthorne concedes, "Bojarsky is right, of course, that L.A.'s civic fabric has long been flimsy and prone to fray, for decades, the city has been far better at promoting and enabling, individual than collective."

Christopher Hawthorne observed, "Yet the precise outlines of her fledgling group's agenda remained fuzzy."  The imprecision of the parameters of the Ms. Bojarsky's outline was insufficient to hold the group's attention the whole evening.  Also unclear to Mr. Hawthorne was the extent of whether or not the evening was meant to be a critique of Mayor Eric Garcetti and his young administration.  One of the subjects left unexplored was the successful or unsuccessful efforts, notably the Broad Foundation et al., to mentor a new generation of leaders.

Urban Lights
Chris Burden
Christopher Hawthorne noted that while Ms. Bojarsky supported Mayor Garcetti's opponent, Wendy Greuel, in the general election she had some complimentary comments about the administration.  Also in attendance were a few members of City Hall including chief data officer Abhi Nemani.  However, it was Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, the incoming Santa Monica city manager, who was the most intriguing presence.  Mr. Hawthorne writes, "A popular parlor game among city-watchers has been to divine the true reasons for Cole's move.  Should we see his departure as a sign that it's time to lower our expectations for the Garcetti administration and the future of our great Danish village?"  In an email to Mr. Hawthorne, Mr. Cole wrote:

I'm leaving because I got a cool job in a cool city that has money...I wish I could stay to keep my shoulder to a very, very, very big wheel.  But I'm going where the wheel is smaller and it is already greased.  Then he added, L.A. is not designed to work.