Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Public Life in Los Angeles

lightpost and palm tree, Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, Los AngelesI have been in El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula for the past week. Although the pueblo had internet access, I used it rarely.

Instead I walked and drove around alot and read (not finished) Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She had something to say of Los Angeles in 1961:

Lowly, random and unpurposeful as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city's wealth of public life may grow.

Los Angeles is an extreme example of a metropolis with little public life, depending mainly instead on contacts of a more private social nature.

True perhaps in 1961, but a lot less true in 2008. From what I saw, the street life of Los Angeles has become very rich. (An exception: the urban renewed parts of downtown Los Angeles. They are clean, modern and neat, but have few pedestrians.)

I think Los Angeles is moving from suburban sprawl towards major clusters of density based on mass-transit and neighborhood attraction. And with it is coming the strong public street life that Jacobs championed.

Memphis has much to learn from Los Angeles' transformation.

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2 Comments:

Blogger PeskyFly said...

I've compared the two places often--- only in their sprawling, and their car-cultishness. Last time I was there (almost 2 years ago) I noticed the same thing.

The Valley is still pretty awful.

But, as always, a toast to The Pink Dot. Jim Beam and smokes delivered to your door.

9:36 AM  
Blogger fearlessvk said...

living in SF for seven years, i was "supposed" to hate L.A. SF was supposed to be the cool, progressive, hyper-urban, intellectual, edgy city and LA the flaky, superficial, image-obsessed, giant sprawling suburb.

but i never did hate LA. i think it's a fascinating place, and in some was more of a real metropolis than SF. you could explore LA endlessly and never exhaust it. sure, it's got the hollywood thing, but that means it's also got the seedy noir underbelly, which i kinda dig. i still think it's too car-dependent, and it still needs to improve its public transportation, but you're right: there are parts of town with incredible street life.

worth reading: the stuff on L.A. in mike davis' Magical Urbanism

10:38 AM  

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