When you dine with Don Shoup you can expect some great stories and our lunch this week was no exception. As you know, the Shoup Dogg is by profession an Urban Planner. His takedown of Los Angeles goes like this:
The city hired a world class Urban Planner to help guide it through its growth spurts and clean up some of the more dodgy areas in the “City of Angeles.” As you know, LA is surrounded (or completely surrounds) other cities like West Hollywood, Culver City, Santa Monica, Manhattan and Redondo Beach, Glendale, Burbank, Beverly Hills and many more. Often you can’t tell where one city stops and another begins.
The new planning boss asked to be given a tour of the city so she could get a feel for what was happening, design wise and planning wise in this world class metropolis. As the car turned a corner, she spotted a fine example of multiuse design. When she pointed out to her guide, she was told to disregard it because that area was Santa Monica, not LA.
They drove up Culver Boulevard having just turned off Sepulveda and she spotted another prime example of an urban area that had reinvented itself into a center for dining, clubs, and shopping. The design was perfect for people watching and walking. “Look the other way,” she was told. “That wasn’t LA, it was Culver City.”
As they drove down Santa Monica Boulevard her eye was caught by the beautiful designs in the median. “Forget it, We are in West Hollywood.”
Shoup thought the story was humorous but also sad. Why could smaller communities be able to attract seemingly excellence in design, but the City of LA could not. I noted that perhaps it was a matter of scale. Culver City or West Hollywood or Santa Monica could afford to focus on esoterics, while LA had bigger problems. Perhaps the city could be broken up into ‘urban planning’ areas of say less than 100,000 people, and then that ‘inner planner’ could come out.
He was doubtful. The valley tried to secede a few years ago and was soundly rebuked by the powers that be in downtown LA. They wanted control (and money).
Now I understood. It was politics. The bureaucracy needed to continue down a path that meant that 3000 miles of streets and 10,000 miles of pipes could not be repaired. Down a path that meant that neighborhoods could be ignored for years before any minor changes could be made.
Oh well, at least I’m getting my streets fixed. Oh yeah, not this year…