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.

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