The LA Indentity Crisis

I’m going off the beaten path this morning. Since my move to LA I’ve been reading about new developments to spur growth in LA’s downtown district. The descriptions they use for the projects are “Manhattan like” or “the Loop like”. I’ve even heard comparisons to Berlin and Paris. The way I see it, you have a problem if you can’t look within your sphere or history to spur innovative development.

Los Angeles is essentially the results of a bunch of suburbs smashed together to create a metropolis. Most major cities were built with the concept of urbanization; mass transit systems, vertical residential development, centralized districts, shopping and entertainment. All of these things were an afterthought for the developers of Los Angeles. Clearly, they had no idea the city would get as large as it is.

Now, this city is trying to become something that’s not in its nature. LA is not New York and the mentality of SoCal residents is nothing like those of New Yorkers. The idea of creating a great center in Los Angeles is turning out to be more of social engineering experiment than urban development.

It may all boil down to having a middle child identity crisis. It’s looking at the characters of New York and Chicago and asking itself, why can’t we be like them. What they should do is look at the traits that make Los Angeles a great city and enhance them. It’s a vast city – they should try to make it easier getting around it. It’s a place where the weather makes being outdoors a year-round treat. It should develop more park spaces. It’s decentralized so rather than develop one centralized place. It should look to develop more “Main Street-like” locations around the city.

We’ll see what happens but I’m skeptical of Los Angeles trying to become the Manhattan of the West. This city is a melting pot of individuals that have no sense of community and neighborhoods. They spend more time looking in their rear view mirror than they spend talking with their next-door neighbor. The only collective energy is spent on the Clippers. Chicagoans love being Chicagoans. New Yorkers are passionate about everything New York. Angelenos, well, they love California but just happen to live in Los Angeles. This city doesn’t need a downtown – it needs a block party.

Discussion Starters:

1. What's the best city you've ever visited?
2. What characteristic from what city would you want to see in your city/town?
3. What's the biggest thing missing from your town/city?
4. What do you love best about where you live?


14 Responses to The LA Indentity Crisis

  1. Diane S. Says:
    1. What's the best city you've ever visited?

    Austin, Texas. With the exception of the traffic and the real estate prices, Austin is a paradise.

    2. What characteristic from what city would you want to see in your city/town?

    I'd love to see my town more open to off-beat community festivals (Eyeore's Birthday, etc.) as Austin is. I'd also love to see us have more parks, and a swimming hole devoted to skinny dipping (in Austin, this is "Hippie Hollow")

    3. What's the biggest thing missing from your town/city?

    Diversity. My town is almost blanketly white, Republican, and stodgy.

    4. What do you love best about where you live?

    That it's beautiful. It's reasonably inexpensive to live here. I can feel like I'm out in the woods at several of the parks, and run into deer just about anywhere. I also like that it's a small town, which leaves me stuck with alot of the problems in question 3.
  2. Bloviating Zeppelin Says:
    I've spent a bunch of time in SoCal recently; San Diego, Long Beach, Buena Park, LA. The freeways both suck and blow, man. The double diamond lanes blow. I was on the 210 going east and from there I couldn't even see the San Gabriel Mountains one day -- how scary is that? I guess you gotta be into the whole SoCal thing or have a job there.

    I still like the mountains or the ocean. I pretty much dislike people -- expecially LOTS of them.

    Best cities? Astoria, Oregon. The mouth of the Columbia River. Man, it gets chilly there. Oh, did I mention I can't stand heat? So much for Southern Fornicalia.

    Other cities? Damn near any place in BC, Canada. Yeah yeah yeah, socialist country, but at least BC's the furthest away from Quebec it can get. Anywhere in BC: abso-incredibly-friggin-beautiful.

    My own little poopy town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at 4,000 feet, about 400 people tops, ain't too Shab-o-mento either.

    I still hate masses of people and hot weather.

  3. James Manning Says:
    1. What's the best city you've ever visited?

    I would have to go with Seattle. It had a nice vibe to it and it wasn't too small and it wasn't too large. Not as much diversity as LA but it was cool.

    2. What characteristic from what city would you want to see in your city/town?

    I'd like to bring the elements of the loop, wrigleyville, hyde park from Chicago. I would love to see some brownstones in Los Angeles as well. Oh, and the subway system of New York.

    3. What's the biggest thing missing from your town/city?

    Neighbors. I live in a upper middle class black neighborhood and thre is no sense of community here.

    4. What do you love best about where you live?

    The weather.

    I figured I answer my own questions.

    Diane, if you want to talk about expensive - try Los Angeles. Geesh.
  4. James Manning Says:
    BZ, I went to Vancouver once. It's a great place as well. I would love to visit Montreal.
  5. Johnnie Says:
    Best city visited? I'd have to say, Seattle? I'm the outdoors type, but I likes my modern amenities, too, and Seattle had both. I also love the rain. It slows life down a little, cleanses the air, hypnotizes, and is great for sex.

    In my town (D.C.), I'd love to see a more expansive metro subway system (a la NY, only clean), houses that actually come with some land and that are not just the minimum distance apart allowed by law, a lake, some eagles and otters (I love otters), much less division of the classes, and a whole lot lower cancer rates, especially for us folks. Do those qualify as "characteristics"?

    The biggest thing missing from here is a vote! Lame duck Eleanor Holmes Norton, Taxation Without Representation, and all that.

    What I love best about D.C. are the vast opportunities here.
  6. Bushwack Says:
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  7. Bushwack Says:
    1. What's the best city you've ever visited?
    I'd have to say New Orleans.
    Post Katrina, amid the devastation the people were upbeat and optimistic, friendly and all around southern hosptitality flourished when we were there. A beautiful city after the storm washed away the filth.

    2. What characteristic from what city would you want to see in your city/town?
    Friendliness, from places like Rocky Mount N.C. and the small town attitudes.

    3. What's the biggest thing missing from your town/city?
    Hospitality.Noone will say Hi just because its proper, When I first got here (And still do) I said Hi to folks walking by me, they kind of look at you like, Are you from another planet? I used to get angry now I do it for the fun factor.

    4. What do you love best about where you live?
    I guess its the weather and the fact that in an hour I can be at the beach or the top of a Mountain. It is a scenic area and I love the desert.
  8. nosthegametoo Says:
    Welcome back.

    I agree with you that there are a great many difficulties in trying to morph into another city.
  9. Cynthia Says:
    1. What's the best city you've ever visted?

    Sadona, AZ. I love the rustic rock formation...

    2. What characteristic from what city would you want to see in your city/town?

    We have everything except a warm lake...

    3. What's the biggest thing missing from your town/city?

    Chicago is nearly perfect except that the winters are just a little too long. Sometimes, I think about leaving, but I wouldn't want to live any where else permanently.

    4. What do you love best about where you live?

    I love the neighborhoods, the diversity, the museums, the lake, the entertainment, the food, the people, the libraries, etc.
  10. Bullfrog Says:
    San Diego is the best. Perfect weather, great attractions, access to any sport. The only thing we need is better public transportation and our leadership stinks.
  11. Johnnie Says:
    And speaking of towns, but sorta off topic: Why is anybody surprised that so many demolition guys and construction workers, firefighters, etc., are getting terrible lung--and other--ailments in the aftermath of 9/11? The hypocrisy of it is killing me! I mean, they--the workers themselves and the officials who allowed them to work in the space--knew this was coming. So they can't be whining and crying about wanting the government to pay extra benefits for healthcare now!!! And, on the other hand, the government SHOULD have simply dolled out the extra benefits without even blinking. How dare they--the government--try to mitigate the connection between the current rash of respiratory problems with working the WTC site! How dare they!!!! And why wasn’t every single person who came within five blocks of the site in an official capacity issued special breathing apparatus? Come on, man!
  12. James Manning Says:
    John, this is your government at work. While they're praising the American people with one hand, they're stabbing them in the back with the other.
  13. chele Says:
    The best city that I have ever visited was Montreal Canada. For a city this size it was amazing to me how clean it is.

    I love the weather where I live in Va Beach ... it's a tourist trap but I'm far enough from the strip so I'm not bothered by it, yet close enough that I can enjoy it whenever I want.
  14. Miss Ahmad Says:
    although originally from Northern California. I am a lover of LA for soo many reasons. I think it gets a bad rap but that's because if people knew how good it was we wouldn't have any more space for the new folks to live.

    Although contrary to most of the larger cities in this country LA was built to run on fuel I beleive that adds to its's a get in your car and go town.

    I love in Hollywood proper and I love that I can walk to the theater, or the movies, grab a bite at a side walk cafe, but health food at the local grocery store and walk the Boulevard all in the same morning.

    Having lived in NYC Hollywood feels closest to NYC or SF to me and I just love it!

    'bout to go grab a fast food veggie burger right now:-)