Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York gentrification
Hello Everyone:

If you have been following world news lately, you might have come across a rather strange (for blogger) story about Cereal Killer Café in London, England.  This past Saturday night , rioters, supposedly "organized" by an anarchist group, threw bottles, burned police in effigy, painted "scum" on the window, and broke the windows of neighboring real estate office. (http//  The British media called it an anti-gentrification protest or anti-hipster crusade. (Ibid)  The reason yours truly brought this up because it highlights the negative impacts of gentrification: they displace long-time residents and businesses; bringing in younger more affluent residents and upscale businesses, like a café that charges five dollars for a box of cereal, that cater to them.

Qunicy Avenue
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York
This brings us to today's discussion on gentrification. Specifically, the link between gentrification and displacement.  Our guide will be Richard Florida's CityLab article, "The Complicated Link Between Gentrification and Displacement."  Lets begin with one basic fact, gentrification is not the ultimate tool of Satan.  Gentrification can lead to improved facilities and services.  However, in 2014 director Spike Lee famously expressed the irony of gentrification in New York,

Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better?...What about the people who are renting?  They can't afford it anymore!

Mr. Lee's frustration reflects the all-to-familiar urban story, playing out across the United States: "As wealthier residents flow back into once low-income, often minority neighborhoods, long-time residents can be priced out.  However, Mr. Florida presents us with evidence that suggest that gentrification does not necessarily lead to displacement and can, in some cases, increase diversity.  It sounds counterintuitive but please read on.

A sign of gentrification
Whole Foods in Detroit, Michigan
Richard Florida wonders, "But exactly how does this dynamic play out, and is displacement inevitable?"  To find out the answer, Mr. Florida turned to a new working paper published by Federal Reserve of San Francisco titled Gentrification, Displacement and the Role of Public Investment: A Literature Review by Miriam Zuk, Ariel H. Bierbaum, and Karen Chapple of the University of California, Berkeley; Karolina Gorska, Anastasi Loukaitou-Sideris, Paul On, and Trevor Thomas of the University of California, Los Angeles.  (  The review carefully analyzes gentrification and displacement over the past several decades.  In an aside Mr. Florida writes, "I wrote the review's insights on how public investment shape gentrification..."  The literature review's conclusions allows the us to better understand some of the questions connected to gentrification and displacement: "Just how extensive is displacement, exactly what kinds of people are displaced, and how do people and groups fare after they leave gentrifying neighborhoods?"

Hipster  bar in Detroit
The earliest studies of displacement was conducted in the eighties and produced  wide ranging estimates of the number of people displaced by gentrification.  Mr. Florida cites a 1982 study, Residential Displacement: Extent, Nature, and Effects by Dr. Sandra J. Newman and Michael S. Owen, which "found that roughly 1 percent of all American, 5 percent of families, and 8.5 percent of urban families from their homes between 1970 and 1977 by either eviction, public action, sale or reoccupation, or changing state of their neighborhood.  ( In 1983, Publius published a study, Revitalizing America's Cities: Neighborhood Reinvestment and Displacement by Michael H. Schill and Richard P. Nathan.  The study look at five cities (Boston, Cincinnati, Richmond, Seattle, and Denver), concluding that 23 percent of residents in these urban neighborhoods were displaced due to eviction, higher rent, or sale of the building they were renting between 1978 and 1980. (  A similar study in 2001, Does Gentrification Harm the Poor by Jacob L. Vigdor, Douglas S. Massey and Alice M. Rivlin, focused on gentrification in in the Boston area.  The study authors found evidence of greater housing turnover in gentrifying neighborhoods. (Ibid)

Sign of future gentrification
Richard Florida writes, "Perhaps the foremost student of gentrification is Lance Freeman of Columbia University."  Mr. Freeman's 2004 with Frank Braconi concluded "...that poor households in gentrifying neighborhoods of New York City were likely to move than poor households in non-gentrifying neighborhoods." This phenomenon may be due to the fact that there are fewer poor households in gentrifying neighborhoods.  However, the study authors concluded that, a neighborhood could go from 30% poverty population to 12% in as few as to years without any displacement whatsoever.  Mr. Freeman also concluded that "the probability that a household would be displaced in a gentrifying neighborhood was a mere 1.3 percent.  His 2007 follow up study, again with Mr. Braconi, studied apartment turnover rates in New York City neighborhoods and revealed "...that the probability of displacement declined as the rate of rent inflation increased in the neighborhood. Disadvantaged households in gentrifying neighborhoods were actually 15 percent less likely to move than those in non-gentrifying households."

Mars Bar before and after
In his 2009 paper for Urban Studies, Neighborhood Diversity, Metropolitan Segregation and Gentrification: What Are the Links in the US?  Mr. Freeman "found that gentrifying neighborhoods are becoming more racially diverse by tracking neighborhood change from 1970-2000..."  Mr. Freeman also concluded "...that changes in educational diversity were the same for both gentrifying and non-gentrifying areas.  (  Be that as it may, while some of the residents were forced to move during the study period, gentrifying neighborhoods, overall, had more income, racial, and educational diversity than non-gentrifying neighborhoods.

Everything thus far seems to run counterintuitive to the idea that gentrification leads to displacement and loss of diversity.  Yet, there are studies that suggest that gentrification can  reduce displacement.  Richard Florida states that, "Neighborhood improves like bars, restaurants, waterfronts...can and sometimes do encourage less advantaged households to stay in the face of gentrification.  Citing the 2006 paper, The Right to Stay Put, Revisited: Gentrification and Resistance to Displacement in New York City, by Kathe Newman.  Ms. Newman found "...displacement accounted for only 6 to 10 percent of all moves in New York City due to housing expenses, landlord harassment, or displacement by private action (e.g condo conversion) between 1989 and 2002." (Ibid)  Further a 2011 study, How low income neighborhoods change: Entry, exit, and enhancement by Ingrid Gould Ellen and Katherine M. O'Regan demonstrated "...that neighborhood income gains did not significantly predict household exit rates.  What did predict outmigration was age, minority statue, selective entry and exit, and renting as opposed to buying." (

Photography by James and Karla Murray
New York City, New York
 In March 2010 Journal of Urban Economics, Terra McKinnish, Randall Walsh, and T. Kirk White published the study Who gentrifies low-income neighborhoods? (Ibid) The paper focused on the affect of gentrification on black residents-discovering that the impact varied based on level of education.  By analyzing about 15,000 census tract between 1990 and 2000, the researchers found that the higher level of education, the greater benefits from gentrification.  Specifically, "one-third of the increase in income among gentrifying neighborhoods during this period came from the progress of this specific demographic."  Naturally, this makes gentrification more attractive to African American middle class households.  In a statement of the obvious, gentrification can have a negative affect on less educated African American households through displacement.

Gentrification protest
Another truism is that displacement can and is a big issue in places where gentrification is occurring at a rapid pace.  Richard Florida's CityLab colleague, Tanvi Misra, reported on similar research by UC Berkeley's Urban Displacement Project.  The study, Regional Early Warning System for Displacement (, shows a strong connection between gentrification and displacement in a rapidly gentrifying city like San Francisco.  Specifically, over one-quarter of the city's neighborhoods (422 out of almost 1,600 surveyed) are at risk for displacement.  Lead author Karen Chapple wrote, by 2030, San Francisco, Oakland, and many other Bay Area communities may realize that their neighborhood has turned the corner from displacement risk to reality. (Ibid)

There is no doubt in blogger's mind that displacement is becoming a huge issue in "knowledge hubs and superstar cities' where the demand for urban living is growing in leaps and bounds.  It does not take an endless recitation of studies to understand that these places are attractive to new businesses, educated and skilled workers, developers, and large corporations who all combine to drive up demand and the cost of housing.  The end result is that long-time low- and middle-income residents feel pressured to find more affordable housing.  The larger issue are the neighborhoods that are untouched by gentrification; where concentrated poverty persists and grows.  Bottom line, gentrification and displacement are symptoms of "the scarcity of quality urbanism.  The driving force behind both is the far larger process of spiky reurbanization-itself propelled by large-scale public and private investment..."  The task ahead is creating more inclusive cities and neighborhoods that can accommodate all the city dwellers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Stadium Madness

Lucas Oil Stadium
Indianapolis, Indiana
Hello Everyone:

Let begin the week with an apology for the shortage of posts last week.  Blogger had to take off a chunk of time for personal reasons but it is a new week, which means fresh posts. Starting off the week is a look at how Black communities, wrecked by publicly funded stadiums scams are fighting back.

Sports stadiums are glamourous revenue generating assets to their host cities.  Anna Simonton writes in her article for Alternet, "Black Communities Destroyed By Publicly Funded Stadium Swindles Are Fighting Back In A New Era Of Development, "Since the early twentieth century taxpayers have footed the bill for private development in the form of sports stadiums, arena, and other mega-event facilities."  Specifically, according to the sports news website, 61 percent of the billions of dollars spent stadium construction between 1909 and 2012 came from public coffers.  That is is huge chunk of public money going towards facilities that largely remain empty throughout most of the year.

PPL Park
Chester, Pennsylvania
The consensus among economists is that the public rarely benefits from these enormous and enormously expensive investments, "...despite persistent claims by politicians and heads of chambers of commerce that stadiums and their ilk generate economic growth."  For example, $720 million Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The home of the National Football League's Indianapolis Colt was built in a city with mounting debt in the hundreds of millions-instead of created the hoped for $2.25 billion in economic growth and 4,200 jobs back in 2004.  Another example is PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.  Chester is a city "where 33 percent of the population is below the poverty level but public funds were used to finance 97 percent of $122 million soccer stadium that has yet to transform Chester..."  Detroit, whose civic government cannot afford to pay public employee pensions or maintain its infrastructure, yet can afford a sparkling brand new $261.5 million hockey arena.  The ironies abound.

Turner Field
Atlanta, Georgia
There are mountains of research and reporting that confirm the fact that these gleaming projects fail to deliver the promise of positive economic growth.  However, less attention is paid to the more far-reaching negative effects these white elephants.  The city of Atlanta, Georgia is the perfect case study.  Atlanta has four stadiums: two for baseball and two for football.  Neither stadium has actually generated economic development for their host neighborhoods.  In fact, they have significantly contributed to the "de-development of what was once thriving middle and working class Black communities."  Presently, Turner Field is scheduled for redevelopment and the resident are determined not let de-development repeat itself.

Toby Sexton Tires
Mechanicsville, Atlanta, Georgia
Mechanicsville was a flourishing Black neighborhood in Atlanta.  Long-time resident Doristine Samuels remembers has fond memories of the neighborhood, before it become a desolate food desert stuck between an interstate system and a baseball park.  Ms. Samuels told Ms. Simonton, We only had one house key and we would keep it under the living room rug.  We would come home and nothing was changed, nobody would steal anything.

The residents took care of each other in Mechanicsville, a community established by railroad workers, south of downtown Atlanta, following the Civil War.  One of the reasons they were tightly knit was they barely had a reason to leave.  Mechanicsville had numerous stores, libraries, schools, a hospital, a movie theater, and many other imaginable amenities.  However, When the Braves came, all that changed, according to Ms. Samuels.

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
Atlanta, Georgia
In 1965, then-Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allan Jr. brought the former Boston Braves to Atlanta, fulling a campaign promise to bring a baseball team to the city.  It was also the year that construction was completed on the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the home of the Braves.  The project cost $18 million, paid for with parks and recreation tax dollars; built on land seized from owners through a federal urban renewal program.  Construction of the stadium also destroyed an entire neighborhood adjacent to Mechanicsville and part of still-existing Summerhill neighborhood.  Coupled with the new stadium was the simultaneous construction of an interstate which displaced thousands families from these mostly Black communities south of downtown.

Summerhill Riots
Summerhill, Atlanta, Georgia
In total, these projects razed over 10,000 more homes than they replaced.  Geoff Heard, a long-time Summerhill resident told Ms. Simonton, With no housing the people went different places and businesses began to fail and move on out. To give you some sense of just how much of a negative impact the construction of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and the interstate had, Ms. Simonton writes, "In 1940 the area had a population of 32, 248.  By 2011 that number had shrunk to 5,409." (  Not only did businesses shutter their doors, schools lost students and closed, churches moved taking their social services with them, and transportation became a stumbling block for families trapped by the stadium and interstate.  All of these factors combined to send Mechanicsville and the other neighborhoods surrounding the stadium into an economic free fall.

Georgia World Congress Center
Atlanta, Georgia
The wholesale demolition of Black neighborhoods continued elsewhere in the Atlanta area.  The World Congress Center was built in 1976; expanded in 1992 to include a stadium for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.  The  $214 million complex, known as the Georgia Dome, was entirely publicly funded.  One of the host neighborhoods was Vine City, the former home of Alonzo Herndon, the first Black millionaire in the United States.  Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once lived in Vine City and frequently held held strategy meetings with other movement leaders at a local restaurant.  Anna Simonton writes, "Like the neighborhoods south of downtown, those on the west side were economically stable and culturally vibrant."

Martin Luther King and Coretta King walking through Vine City
However, between 1970 and 2000, the neighborhood lost two-thirds of its residents. The only thriving business remaining in the neighborhood is the illegal drug trade.  To give you some indication of how booming the drug trade is, a corner of Vine City-The Bluff-is the heroin capital of the world. Given this history of spending boondoggles, convincing the working class African-American communities the merits of a new stadium.  When Atlanta won the right to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the city proposed to build yet another stadium, next to the Brave's stadium south of downtown.

Centennial Olympic Stadium
Atlanta, Georgia
Anna Simonton writes, "The Centennial Olympic Stadium plan called for even more land to be cleared of homes and businesses.  When the games were over, the original stadium would be demolished and turned into a parking lot, while the Braves would move to the new stadium, rechristened Turner Field."  Columbus Ward, who was key in organizing Atlanta Neighborhoods United For Fairness (A'NUFF) told Ms. Simonton, The government has been a part of the destruction of these neighborhoods, and there they were with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games doing more of the same.  The group was was able to gain concession from the Olympic planners.

Like Ms. Samuels and Mr. Heard, Mr. Ward has lived most of his life in the neighborhoods around the stadium.  A'NUFF was able to save a school and a hospice from the wrecking ball and force the city into an agreement to repair the sewer systems and using local labor.  The new $207 million stadium was paid for entirely from private Olympic funds, however, an additional $30 million in capital improvements required for the projects were drawn from federal and city funds.  Further, the City of Atlanta agreed to pay for future construction and maintenance costs that could total $60 million.

Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Georgia
Despite some of the neighborhood success prior to the Olympics, Ms. Simonton writes, "Turner Field's legacy has been one of further economic devastation."  Once construction was completed, many of the residents were displaced by landlords who found it more profitable to evict the families, tear down the buildings, and convert the empty lots into makeshift parking lots.  Once the construction jobs dried up, the only sources of employment available were low-paying service jobs.

This is something that Doristine Samuels is all too familiar with having worked twenty years as a security guard at Turner Field.  For nearly twenty years she does not earn a living wage nor does she receive any benefits.  What does twenty years of being on the job get parking. Yours truly knows what you all are thinking: no living wage, no benefits, no retirement plan, and no paid vacation?!  Just free parking?!  Insane, right?  Of course, if Ms. Samuels earns a good review from a secret shopper, she have her picture taken with a baseball player.  Like Ms. Samuels, yours truly would rather have the bonuses.

Proposed new Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Georgia
 The new stadium construction madness continues.  Ms. Simonton reports, "A similar second coming of stadium development is playing out in Vine City.  In 2013 the Atlanta City Council approved $200 million in construction bonds for a new $1.2 billion football stadium with a retractable roof, situated directly next to the Falcons' original stadium..."  Neil deMause, the writer of the enlightening Field of Schemes, "...estimated that the total public expense would amout to $554 million."  (http://www/  Absurd, right?

Morris Brown College
Atlanta, Georgia
However, there is a sliver of a silver lining in all this stadia madness.  Ms. Simonton reports, "Neighborhood organizations won a $30 million Community Benefits Agreements, but rather than designating the money for a specific use, the deal set up two $15 million funds-one controlled by the city's development agency, the other by Home Depot founder and Falcons owner Arthur Blank."  The bottom line is that neighborhood organizations can apply for grants from the funds, but have no say over how the money is used.  A silver lining with a some tarnish.  One early casualty of the proposed stadium was a 108-year-old church ( established by former slaves.  Another local landmark facing an uncertain future is the Historically Black College Morris Brown, were W.E.B. DuBois taught.  The school already escaped bankruptcy earlier this year by selling most of the campus to the city, which has yet announce redevelopment plans.

Map of Georgia highlighting Cobb County

Anna Simonton spoke with Georgia Institute of Technology urban studies professor Larry Keating to get his thoughts on the insanely repetitious cycle of development by destruction. Prof. Keating credited it to , "...generations of elected officials submitting to corporate control, with little to no consideration for the lives of working and middle class people.  Specifically, In Prof. Keating's 2001 book Atlanta: Race, Class, and Urban Expansion, he writes,

Almost all the important policy decisions that have guided the city over the past several decades have been made not by government itself but by small groups of men-sometimes just two men-in private meetings...What planning the government elite has engaged in has been ad hoc and superficial.  City leaders have generally been reluctant to give careful consideration to the broader effects...

Columbus Ward adds, This stuff has been going on for fifty years and it's meant the destruction of low-income, African American neighborhoods in this city.  You'd think by now they would would want to do it right especially with all the Black we've had.

Rendering of proposed Turner Field development
Presently, Turner Field is in phase three of redevelopment, under the same conditions.  In 2013, the Major League Baseball team Atlanta Braves announced they would be moving to Cobb County, north of Atlanta, by the 2017 season.  To keep the Braves from fleeing the city, civic officials struck a back room deal with the team to build a new stadium using $450 million in public funds.  Never mind the fact that the county had just fired 182 teachers, citing budget reasons.  (  Anna Simonton writes, "The Braves' announcement threw the future of Turner Field and the surrounding neighborhoods into a limbo full of both possibility and uncertainty.  Neighbors began to mobilize, and so did the developers.  From the get-go, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has been two-timing between them."

Rendering of proposed Inglewood Stadium
Inglewood, California
By now, you might have concluded that new stadium construction is a mindlessly ridiculous proposition.  The evidence suggests that there are limited short-term positive economic benefits and almost no long-term positive benefits.  Yet cities, such as Inglewood, California, are still seduced by the promise of increased economic development these gleaming state-of-the-art stadia hold.  Perhaps, Mayor James T. Butts and his administration would be best advised to seriously consider all the factors of building a new football stadium before ground is broken.  As we have seen, development by demolition destroys historic neighborhoods and uproots long-term residents.  Inglewood is a historically working and middle class city that would be irrevocably altered-perhaps for the better or perhaps for the worse.  Either way, the City of Inglewood must carefully address its citizens's concerns over the proposed development and perhaps, try to enter into some public-private funding agreement with whichever NFL decides to call Los Angeles home rather than strictly rely on public funds.  Atlanta has not learned this lesson but Inglewood has the chance to do better.

Yours truly would highly recommend you click on the article link at the top of the post and check out the citations used by Anna Simonton's well done article.  This is a subject that has implications for other down-market cities looking to entice a sports franchise to come to their city or keep the one they have now.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Changing Suburban Population

"White Gains and Losses in Cities and Suburbs"
2000 and 2010 U.S. Census
Hello Everyone:

Yours truly needed to go through the Drop Box folder again and dig out an article or two. Today we are in suburbia.  In suburbia, the racial demographics are changing.  In his article for CityLab, "White People Aren't Driving Growth in the Suburbs," Kriston Capps reports, "The next two decades will see a profound shift in the racial of America's suburbs..."  More specifically, according Brookings Institute demographer William H. Frey in his book Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America, the shift in racial demographics will be profound.

In his study for the Brookings Institute, Mr. Frey explained that "...white populations accounted for just 9 percent of the population growth of the suburbs (in the 100 largest metro areas) between 2000 and 2010."  The Metropolitan Policy Program recently released an excellent map detailing which suburbs gained and lost Caucasian residents.  The map shows that some metropolitan areas are already setting themselves apart from the population trend that drove growth over the past fifty years: "white losses in cities, white gains in suburbs."

Table 1: "Changes in Population and Population Share"
Urban Institute
Be that as it may, the traditional 20th-century pattern is still valid in Dallas and San Antonio, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Detroit, Michigan.  Further, a number of large metropolitan areas posted gains in white populations in both urban and suburban areas: Seattle, Washington, Portland, Austin, Texas. Portland, Oregon; several cities in North and South Carolina.  However, this pattern is not going to last for a sustained period of time.

Kriston Capps writes, "One-third of large metro-areas suburbs witnessed declines in their white populations, with the largest losses in suburbs surrounding New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  More metro areas will follow in this coastal vein than in the one of recent white-suburban growth seen in the Sun Belt."

Looking into the not-to-distant future, the year 2030, the Urban Institute forecasts Caucasian losses almost everywhere.  Mr. Capps writes, "Earlier this year a number of researchers published a comprehensive report, Mapping America's Future, ( on growth projections between 2010 and 2030."   The authors of the study four commuting zones: Atlanta, Georgia; Washington DC; Las Vegas, Nevada; Youngstown, Ohio.  In an aside, Mr. Capps uses the Economic Research Service's definition of commuting zone:geographic zones that cross urban, suburban, and county boundaries to represent local economies. (

Youngstown, Ohio
The above table presents data that suggest that absolute growth is not going to happen in all the four study areas.  For example, in the Youngstown commuting zone, the Caucasian population is predicted to greatly shrink by 2030, at a more rapid pace that other demographic groups can replace it.  However in the nation's capital, Las Vegas, and Atlanta CZs, the white population is forecasted to grow but at a much lower rate than Latino or African-American populations.  Mr. Capps concludes, "So the share of the white population in the larger D.C. region (including its Maryland and Virginia suburbs) will shrink by maybe 6 percent.  The black population may shrink by 6 percent as well.  But the Hispanic population and non-Hispanic-other populations will enjoy some sweet growth: 6 and 7 percent respectively."

Glenwood Park
Atlanta, Georgia
Photograph by F. Kaid Benfield
The figures for the share of Caucasian populations in Atlanta and Las Vegas CZs are alarming.  The share of the white population in Atlanta and its surrounding areas is forecasted to drop by almost 17 percent.  The share of Caucasian population in Las Vegas is predicted to drop by 15 percent.  In an another aside, Mr. Capps writes, "Another way to put it: the share of minorities living in the Atlanta and Las Vegas areas may rise 16.5 and 15.2 percent respectively. The bottom line, American is becoming, for better or worse, is becoming a more diverse nation fueled by the population boom among young minority families.  These families are transplanting themselves to the suburbs, long the bastion of the white populations.  This means, the suburbs are becoming more diverse as cities deal with new political and economic challenges as the suburbs grow poorer, forcing long time residents to deal with the new neighbors.  Yours truly would like to add this one final thought, the changing suburban demographic will play a role in the 2016 Presidential election cycle as minority suburbanites look at candidates that reflect their values.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Public Transit Sprint

L.A. 2024
Hello Everyone:

Blogger has finally exorcised museums from the brain and is now ready to move on to another subject-The Summer Olympics.  The City of Los Angeles has officially become the American bidder to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.  For the lucky winner, hosting an Olympic Games is a symbol of prestige.  Los Angeles has hosted a Summer Olympics twice-in 1932 and 1984. Now, Los Angeles is in the running to host the 2024 Olympics.  One of the byproducts of getting an olympic games is that it forces a city to upgrade its transportation system.

Moving visitors from one event venue to another, quickly and efficiently, is absolutely crucial to a successful Winter or Summer Olympics.  The tantalizing possibility of hosting a third olympic games has motivated Los Angeles County transportation official to try to fast-track two of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority highly anticipated projects.  Laura J. Nelson writes in a shot piece in the Los Angeles Times, "Eyeing L.A.'s Olympic bid, Metro seeks to accelerate two rail projects," about efforts to accelerate the Purple Line subway extension and the LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) train station and people mover.

Purple Line extension map
Ms. Nelson writes, "in letters sent Tuesday and obtained by The Times, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority formally asked to join a Federal Transit Administration pilot program that could accelerate construction on a subway to the Westside and a rail connection to Los Angeles."  Both are necessary projects, not just to make the city more attractive to those whole will be deciding which city hosts the 2024 Games.  A city the size of Los Angeles is sorely lacking in non-automobile transit options.

With federal approval, Metro would pursue an extremely aggressive timeline to complete the Purple Line subway extension and LAX train station and people-mover by 2024, according to Metro Chief Executive Phillip Washington.  Ms. Johnson writes, "The $2.3-billion will connect downtown with West Los Angeles."  Construction on the subway extension is planned in phases: "...first, from its current terminus in Koreatown to Mid-Wilshire, slated for 2024; then, to Century City in 2025; and finally to the Department of Veterans Affairs' campus in West L.A. in 2036."

Rendering of the LAX Train Station and People-Mover
The accelerated plan would feature concurrent construction on all three phases.  As a native Los Angeleno, the prospect of concurrent construction on a three-part public transport conjures up nightmares of endless gridlock.  Mr. Washington assured The Times that completing the project a decade ahead of schedule would reduce construction costs, reduce construction impacts to dense urban centers, and expedite transportation benefits to the region.  The Purple Line is extremely vital to the success of the Olympics, given that event venues would be spread out all over the city and getting visitors from the aquatic events at USC to events at UCLA quickly, efficiently, and ON TIME is paramount.

Boston 2024 logo
Los Angeles became the U.S. candidate to win the Olympic bid when Boston, original American candidate, dropped out because of cost concerns.  The name of the host city will be revealed in 2017.  Paris and Rome are considered Los Angeles's main competition for the final selection. Winning the right to host an Olympic game is often the engine for new infrastructure projects.  The most recent American city to win the right to host an Olympic Games-Salt Lake City won the right to host the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995-the city fast-tracked tow light rail projects which began operation in 1999 and 2001.

Passenger service for the Purple Line is scheduled to begin on May 31, 2024, according to the draft schedule accompanying the letter from the Metro to the Times.  Laura Nelson writes,  "The Los Angeles bid proposes an Olympic start date six weeks later."  Metro is anticipating funding for the third phase of the Purple Line from a $1-billion federal grant and $525 million from local taxpayer revenue, according to the letter from Metro.

The Opening Ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics
Los Angeles, California
In the meantime, the $333-million rail service between Downtown and LAX is currently slated to open in 2028.  However, blogger speculates that if Los Angeles does win the right to host the 2024 Games, this date might be moved up four years in order to accommodate visitors.  Ms. Nelson writes, "The 'people mover' will probably resemble the terminal trains in use at other major U.S. airports..."  Blogger imagined something more along the lines of the People Mover ride at Disneyland.  As it stands now, "...the train will run from the LAX terminal area to a consolidated car-rental facility, ground transportation hub and a station on the Crenshaw Line at 96the Street and Aviation Boulevard."  This north-south train, intended to connect the Mid-City Expo Line to the South Bay Green Line, is schedule to debut in 2019.

Fireworks from the Closing Ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics
Los Angeles, California
All of this sounds exciting and certainly (slight bias here) Los Angeles has the ability to pull off an infrastructure project of this scale.  Construction is already in progress, so it would not be like starting from scratch.  Whether or not Los Angeles wins the right to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, the fact that Metro is trying accelerate the pace of new public transit construction is encouraging for a city in bad need of more efficient, reliable, and affordable options.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Studio Museum Video

Hello Everyone:

Monday's post on the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City left an impression on yours truly. In particular, blogger was fascinated by the architecture, David Adjaye and his use of the Black vernacular. Therefore, blogger went searching through YouTube and came up with a short video interview of Mr. Adjaye. It is not a long video but long enough for you to get a sense of who he is and what inspires him. I hope you enjoy it.

Meet The Broad

Broad Museum
Diller, Scofidio and Renfro
Los Angeles, California
Hello Everyone:

The City of Los Angeles is getting ready to celebrate the opening of a new museum on September 20, 2015, in Downtown Los Angeles. The sparkling new museum is the latest endeavor of philanthropists and art collectors Eli and Edythe Broad.  It joins the Walt Disney Concert Hall and REDCAT, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Colburn School to form an arts hub along Grand Avenue.  Lead  Los Angeles Times art critic, Christopher Knight's review "An early look in the Broad museum reveals a show that doesn't quite gel," discusses the debut exhibition.  Blogger read this review and thought that it presented an interesting question, with MOCA, the Geffen Contemporary, the Resnick Contemporary Art Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the UCLA Hammer Museum of Art, does Los Angeles need another contemporary art museum.  Let us start with collection itself before we answer the question.

Sample of the Broad Collection
Photograph by Iwan Baan
The Broad Museum opens its debut weekend with a 50,000-square-foot exhibition exclusively culled from its deep permanent collection.  Mr. Knight's initial reaction to the premier show is short and sweet, "Unfortunately the show doesn't gel, although many works are superlative.  Roughly 250 pieces by about  60 artists have been chosen from around 2,000 possibilities by nearly 200 artists."  Blogger would like to point out that with that wide-ranging a collection what criteria do you use to decide what pieces to use in the exhibition.

The curator who gave Mr. Knight a tour of the museum, cheerfully noted takes time to learn a new building's personality quirks-to figure out how best to configure temporary walls, take advantage of sight lines that let the art pull a visitor through the galleries and calibrate an installation so that objects visually speak to one another. The Broad collection inaugural exhibit began in June.  Mr. Knight made three visits over a short period of time and and noted that the installation "...revealed a work in evolutionary progress, with many changes along the way..."  While the museum advertises the installation as "a sweeping, chronological journey" of the collection.

Broad Museum Interior
However Mr. Knight observes, "But, in addition to feeling random (why this artist and not that one?), much of the best has been seen before..."  A reference to two large Broad exhibits at LACMA in 2001 and 2008.  Understandably Mr. Knight might feel a sense of déjà vu.  Despite the feeling of repetition, Mr. Knight notes, "The strongest feature is the collection's depth in the representation of individual artists, especially Pop-related."  The depth of representation of individual artists is the product of Eli and Edythe Broad's approach to collecting-when they commit to acquiring an artist's work, they collect in depth-inspired by Guiseppe and Giovanna Panza de Biuma whose massive postwar American art collection is housed at MOCA.

Eli and Edythe Broad
Not many museum have the resources to acquire work in bulk quantities such as two dozen Jeff Koons sculptures.  The tantalizing thought of several rooms, devoted to a single artist, is an attractive enough of a proposition to make the visitor linger longer.  Among the featured works is Andy Warhol's 1962 Dance Diagram series of 11 paintings properly displayed on the floor, not on the wall.  There are the requisite Roy Lichenstein prints (10) which offer an excellent survey of his sixties breakthrough-mass-media interpretation of historic styles.  Yet, only four Ellsworth Kelly paintings occupy another room.  Those of you who are Ellsworth Kelly fans may blanch at the thought of only a measly four paintings but as Christopher Knight writes, "...their seamless fusion of bold geometric shapes, crisp composition and saturated colors grabs you by the lapels...A vivid green rectangle and a bright blue oval are surrounded by a crimson field.  All calmly share the same flat plane, perfectly balanced  in scale and chromatic intensity, yet straining to burst their optical bonds..."

Eli Broad with a Jeff Koons sculpture
  The exhibit features five paintings and sculptures by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami bring the collection into the present. The cartoon cheerfulness, albeit, slightly disturbing look at post-atomic Japanese society take on monumental proportions in a new 82-foot mural.  For example, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, "...conjures a mythic narrative inspired by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that tore open the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant."  The mural features massive waves of "storm-tossed sea monsters cavort around a grim mountain of skull-a landscape of elegant, stylishly sophisticated awfulness." Mr. Knight cites writer Pico Iyer's observation on the mural, published in the collection catalog to coincide with the show:

...wartime emperor Hirohito was buried with the Mickey Mouse wristwatch he snagged on a 1977 trip to Disneyland.  Murakami's art unpeels the perpetual violation of innocence that characterizes modern Japan.

In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow
Takashi Murakmi
Photograph by Ellen Burke
Christopher Knight appears to be quite enchanted by "...the most viscerally gorgeous room is Cy Twombly's, with seven lush paintings and three sculptures."  Cy Twombly is difficult artist to present to non-art audience who tend to filter postwar painting through the "My Child Could Do That" art criticism because his paintings combine drawing and writing.  The point is to liberate them from the established boundaries of presentation.  Cy Twombly's work is, by no means, an array of random scribbles.  They are "...tightly crabbed scratches, abstract penmanship and luxurious, billowing slathers.  Marks lodge inside or sometimes bleed through translucent layers of paint, bursting through the pentimento into enormous floral thunderclouds.  Definitely not art your child can do.  Mr. Knight wistfully hoped the rest of the exhibition would of continued with monograph rooms.

Untitled 1964/84
Cy Twombly
However, instead of the hoped for monograph room, with the exception of rooms dedicated to John Currin and Glenn Ligon, the show lapses into conventional mode. Mr. Knight observes, "Packaged art movements popular in New York in the late 1970s and after are chronicled. Blandness settles in."  For example, a Richard Prince painting and Sherrie Levine's cast-bronze interpretation of Marcel Duchamp's urinal are placed in the same room as Neo-Expressionist work by Julian Schnabel and Eric Fischl.  Graffiti art is represented by the ubiquitous Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.  Yours truly says ubiquitous because it does seem that every museum or gallery dedicated to art from the eighties to the present seems to be required to feature a work by Basquiat and Haring very much in same way work by Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol are a necessity.  Christopher Knight sums this up as "A choppy, incomplete history...told with too many works juxtaposed in spaces too confined.  Many individual works are fine but together feel jumbled and thin."

Thou Shalt Be a Bit Rude
Keith Haring
The proper conservation of the art work is a major concern of Mr. Knight.  Rightly, he is worried about the effect of sun exposure on works on paper, photographs, and painted, which should not be kept in sunlight.  These fragile works are spread out between a first-floor suite of rooms, designed to hold temporary and traveling shows, and an open third-floor space with a dramatic ceiling.  This concern is further enhanced by a 35,000-square-foot web of fixed skylights facing north, flooding the space with flat, cool, filtered light.  A collection of Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills face the skylights.  Mike Kelly's monumental acrylic on paper of nested picture frames, surrounding an idyllic mountain cabin vista.  Barbara Kruger's co-option of graphic design, turning it a into subversive threat.  Jasper John's exquisite White Flag (1960) worries Mr. Knight the most-this ironic symbol of surrender is an oil on newspaper on paper over lithograph.  Museum director Joanne Heyler, who organized the show along with Mr. Broad, assured Mr. Knight that  conservation precautions are being taken and the work will be rotated.  Rightly, Mr. Knight asks, "But why take the risk?  I'd feel better if the paper works were all downstairs shielded from the mischievous sun."

Your Body is a Battleground
Barbara Kruger
This brings us to the question posed at the top of the post, does Los Angeles need another museum dedicated to contemporary art?  The Broad Museum is no ordinary contemporary art museum, it is a museum dedicated to the private collection of Eli and Edythe Broad. This is something not unique in the history of art patronage.  Historically, painters, sculptors, and architects have relied on their patrons to subsidize their work and lifestyles in exchange for creating work that aggrandize their benefactors.  However, the Broads are more like David Geffen or Bill Gates, contemporary collectors who have the resources to acquire quantities of art.  However, unlike Messrs. Gates and Geffen, the Broads commissioned the New York firm of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro to build a museum for their collection and open it to the public.  Given the Broads's dedication to educational causes, would not endowing the public school arts programs be a better use of the money spent on a monument to the self?

Untitled Film Still #21 (1977)
Cindy Sherman
Throughout Christopher Knight's review of the premier Broad Museum exhibition drives home the point that works on display seem like déjà vu.  This may be due, in part, to the fact that artists such as Andy Warhol often made multiples of their work.  This made it possible for different museums to acquire a Warhol, a Lichtenstein, a Haring, so forth and so on.  However, you sometimes get the feeling that if you have seen one, you have seem them all.  Why bother going to a shiny new downtown museum to see the same thing in three neighboring museums? Yours truly understands that Los Angeles civic officials are keen to make Grand Avenue a cultural destination but another museum, dedicated to contemporary art seems superfluous.  Right now it is still too soon to tell if the Broad Museum was a great idea or not.  Be that as it may, the Broad Museum has the potential to showcase some fine examples of contemporary art and perhaps, change the minds of the general public who subscribe to "My kindergartener can do that" school of art criticism.

P.S. Please check out the short video yours truly posted on Sunday September 13 on the Broad Museum.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Black Vernacular

Studio Museum
David Adjaye
Harlem, New York City, New York
Hello Everyone:

Museums are on blogger's radar today because of two upcoming events in Los Angeles: the opening of the Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles on September 20 and the Frank Gehry retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Your truly posted a short video clip on the Broad Museum, please check it out when you have a minute.

Today, we are going to talk about the way British architect David Adjaye incorporate Black vernacular architecture into the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, New York. Kriston Capps's CityLab article, "How Black Vernacular Architecture is Changing Museums," describes how the architect incorporate design elements of the historic African-American community into the museum's first expansion in its almost 50 year history.  David Adjaye is to be commended for wanting to incorporate elements of local design into the $122 million building.  The significance of Mr. Adjaye's inclusion of the Black vernacular into The Studio museum is the subject for today's post.

The most prominent feature of the proposed expansion is the
Studio Museum Entrance Plaza
Photograph by Adjaye Associate/Cooper, Robertson & Partners
building's entrance, which Mr. Adjaye describes as a reverse stoop.  The reverse stoop is "...a wide staircase that leads from the front area down to the lower level, and will serve as a public gathering space."  The New York Times article on how Harlem inspired the architect's concept for the new museum focused on specific design elements incorporated into the new building.  Robin Pogrebin of the Times writes,

In creating his design, Mr. Adjaye said he was inspired by the surrounding Harlem vernacular: the detailed window framing of the brownstone homes couple with the airy volume of the neighborhood's churches.  "I wanted to honor this idea of public rooms, which are soaring, celebratory and edifying-uplifting," he said.  "Between the residential and civic, we learned the lessons of public realms and tried to bring those elements together."  (, July 5, 2015)

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture
Entry plaza, Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group
Washington D.C,
Kriston Capps commends Mr. Adjaye's efforts albeit, somewhat backhandedly, "Without passing any judgement on the design one way or another, it's commendable that a major black architect is drawing on African-American vernacular architecture for a significant museum commission.  And New York isn't the only place where this is happening."

Mr. Capps points to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, presently under construction in Washington D.C., which features a sprawling entrance plaza dubbed by the designers as the "porch. Mr. Adjaye is one of the designers of this museum, together with  one the most significant African-American architect, Phil Freelon and the firms Davis Brody Bond and SmithGroup.

Lafayette Theater Townhouses, examples of stoops
Photography by Jeff Reuben
Harlem, New York City, New York
Kriston Capps cites both the Studio Museum and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture as two examples that Mr. Adjaye either designed or contributed to both of them.  Mr. Capps laments, "While it's dispiriting that so few people of color are present in the design field, it's nevertheless encouraging to see the vernacular architecture of black communities reflected in prominent design for forward-facing, architecturally significant buildings."  Blogger concurs with this thought and can extend it out to include all people of color.  Perhaps what is particularly interesting is David Adjaye's decision to reference the African-American vernacular as a way of physically connecting a rarefied space like a museum to the community.

The concept of the "stoop" or the "porch" is design element found in Mid-Atlantic cities such as: Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.  The stoops were, partly, a product of powerful ( and prolific) developers such as Harry Wardman.  Be that as it may, Harry Wardman was one person; it was the African-American families, who lived in these cities, that turned the stoops and porches into a vital public space.  Blogger is going to go out on a limb here and say that this sounds like James Roja's work on Latino Urbanism, where the front garden becomes a public space.  In an amusing aside, Mr. Capps writes, "And no, the porch isn't a Southern thing; homes in the South were design for rocking chair and drinking iced teas, sure, but detached single-family homes never made for the same public social spaces as rowhouse stoops in the Northeast.

Historic picture of a family on a stoop
Photograph by Berenice Abbot
Museum of the City of New York

The relationship between black communities (and by extension, all communities of color), urban design, and public architecture continues to be the subject of a great deal of academic research but not public analysis.  As Mr. Capps's colleague, Brentin Mock, observed one of the key problems is that there are no urban design courses that teach about race and social justice.  Mr. Capps notes that Mr. Mock went as far as to create his own syllabus in response to students at Harvard Graduate School of Design's complaints.  That being said, while it is all well and fine to generate academic research on the relationship between communities of color, urban design, and public architecture, there is a real need for more architects and designers of color to bring their world views into the public and civic realms.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Museum Video

Hello Everyone:

On Sunday September 20, 2015, the Broad Museum of Contemporary will open its doors to the public for the first time. The museum is a monument to developer and philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe. The building, located in Downtown Los Angeles, was designed by the well-known architecture firm Diller, Scofidio, and Renfro. Civic officials and art patrons are hoping the Broad Museum, along with the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Music Center, will make Grand Avenue a cultural destination. In advance of an upcoming post on the collection, here is a short video on the museum for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Walkie-Talkie Building
London, England
Hello Everyone:

Some buildings get no love whatsoever.  Sometimes it is a matter of taking the time to appreciate a building for its hidden charms.  Other times, it is just a pure visceral reaction.  The Walkie-Talkie building (officially called 20 Fenchurch Street) in London, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, is one of those buildings that people take an instant dislike.  Feargus O'Sullivan reports in his recent CityLab article "London's Worst Building," that the building named "the ugliest British structure completed in the last 12 months" is not loved for a wide variety of reasons that go way beyond aesthetics.

Yours truly would like to say one thing straight away.  The Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Walkie-Talkie building have one thing in common, the ability to melt cars.  Whereas, the Disney Concert Hall's car melting ability comes from its metal cladding; the Walkie-Talkie building's "death ray" (blogger loves this phrase) is the product of its reflective glass.  The Walkie-Talkie building successfully tested out its "death ray" before it was even finished.  Even the sky garden came under critical fire "for falling short of promises to be a truly public space, and for feeling like 'an airport terminal.'"  Some buildings get no love.

How the Walkie-Talkie building is supposed work
 If its "death ray" capabilities earned the Walkie-Talkie building the wrath of car owners, the building's concave design also earned the enmity of the public.  Feargus O'Sullivan writes, "...the building's overall concave design has been charged with created a down draft powerful enough to knock people over."  How this building received "a grant of planning permission" (a building permit) was a scandal in of itself, considering "the planner's report warned that it would cause significant visual harm."  One thing yours truly loves the about the British is they are the masters of understatement.  Be that as it many, the Walkie-Talkie building did earn an award-it won the United Kingdom's annual Carbuncle Cup named the ugliest building completed in the last twelve months.  Can things get any worse?

The Walkie-Talkie building's car melting skills
Apparently, yes.  The Carbuncle Cup Awards, given by Building Design magazine, may sound like a bit of attention grabbing fluff but it has its roots in one of the central tenets of British design discourse-aesthetics.  Mr. O'Sullivan writes, "The term carbuncle, after all, refers back to a 1980 speech criticizing contemporary architecture by none other than Prince Charles, one that, remarkably succeeded in substantially reshaping British planning priorities in the following decades."  This year, in particular, there is a great deal of weight behind the "winner."  While it maybe, in the words of the planner's report, cause significant visual harm, there is actually more to dislike about the building than just its looks.

The Walkie-Talkie Sky Garden
Honestly, the building's bulbous, top-heavy mass make it loom heavily over the surrounding neighborhood and river.  It does not even look like its eponymous communication device.  In a stinging critique, Mr. O'Sullivan writes, "Its silhouette has perhaps been more accurately described as like a 'sanitary towel'" (think feminine hygiene product) bulging at the top providing better views to the high-rent tenants.  While this building may appear to feel intrusive, public opinion of structures immediately recognized as eyesores does tend to soften over time. Mr. O'Sullivan wistfully opines, "One day, Londoners might feasibly get to like this clunky stud of a building, though that in itself may not be proof of quality."  What is even more mind numbing is the way it usurped itself onto London's skyline.  Had Londoners known what was really in store, there would have no way, in this life time or any other, that the Walkie-Talkie building would have gone up.

The strange neighbor
Believe it or not, it was the airport terminal-like sky garden that swung the approval process in the Walkie-Talkie's favor.  This nod to green washing was the building's ace up its sleeve-"a lush new public space that would supposedly compensate for the tower's visual intrusion."  The sky garden was advertised as a vertical park with pastoral landscaping and stunning views of London's bustling skyline. The sky garden was intended to add to the city's collection of public spaces with a place that was both stunning and accessible.  Stunning as in it stunned the imagination and accessible to mostly those who could afford to partake in the pricey restaurants and bars with a wee bit of public space.  Accessible?  Sure, if you are a non-diner, advanced entry reservations are required.

You can fry an egg on the sidewalk
In front of the Walkie-Talkie building
Feargus O'Sullivan reflects (no pun intended),

In some ways, the garden is a perfect reflection of the direction Britain's capital is taking, in contemporary London, a 'public' garden can now mean a tiny embattled private space squeezed between luxury businesses, to which access is controlled by a phalanx of security.

Still reeling from the sharp sting of public criticism, London city planner may actually take action on the sky garden.  The City of London Corporation is already considering a major overhaul of the sky garden to bring closer to what they originally approved.  However, this may be a case of too little, too late when it comes to salvaging the building's tattered reputation.  Even architect Rafael Viñoly has suffered from the howling criticism, although not quite as badly as the planners who let go through. Planners are not perfect, they need some love too.

The Walkie-Talkie with the Gherkin Building

While the phallic looking Gherkin building may engendered quite as many howling critics as the Walkie-Talkie building, no one is throwing in the towel on London architecture just yet.  London is a treasure trove of stunning new and older buildings.  The winners of this year's Royal Institute of British Architects best London buildings are evidence of this.  Yet, for all its architectural glory, London is gaining a reputation for questionable architecture that seems more driven by private greed.  Follies like the Walkie-Talkie speak volumes about developers who seem to prefer catering to the posh classes than creating something in the public good.  Yet, this is frequently the story of architecture.  However, for a city such as London, these monuments to ego and greed do more to damage the London brand than enhance it.