11 July 2007

RE:RE:RE: Tighten Up

Loafing around the sun-bleached, pre-grad school wasteland of Summer 2006, with no TUR to turn to, I read an article in the LA Weekly on the specter of gentrification in Los Angeles and its distressing implications for the residents of the city's non-West Hollywood neighborhoods. Well-researched and comprehensive, the article succeeded in decoding the zeros and ones of "growth" and in breaking down the trends that distinguish gentrification in Los Angeles from that in other hot spots like Logan Circle, say, or Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was about to start planning school, mind you, and this was, like, my thing. If anybody could absorb this moon soup and intelligently scheme for a better future it was ME (or - at least - people kind of like me who had had more than negative two weeks of schooling). I had occasion to re-read the article yesterday while shaping my nails researching rent-control laws at work and alighted on the following forehead-slapping wisdom from a LA-based planner that felicitously escaped me last year:

"Patricia Diefenderfer [a planner for the city] said she knows what would happen if she got the businesses she craves. Her neighborhood would have become a different place, with fewer working-class families and more affluent ones. Diefenderfer speaks sadly as she acknowledges this, saying it’s almost as if Los Angeles is designed to deny lower-income families decent stores and anything approaching urban street life [my emphasis]. 'To have those things, in this city, you have to be privileged. That is how I feel. And that’s one of the very unfortunate things about this city,' Diefenderfer said. 'The other unfortunate thing is that neighborhoods like South L.A. have... all the right ingredients, and yet somehow, [the amenities] are just not there. And when they get there, the same people will not be there living in it and appreciating it. And I don’t know why that is.'"

Gee, Pats. All that critical thinking they're having you do over at LA City Planning must get pretty tiring. I'm kinda swinging blind here, but I think your shoulder-shrugging fatalism miiiiight have something to do with "why that is". You're a PLANNER. You can't say "I don't know". Knowing stuff is what planners excel at, even if they're often unable to do anything about anything except daydream about it. Are you too busy trying to remember how to spell your zany last name to do your job? Los Angeles was designed to deny lower-income families decent stores like I'm designed to go to bed without taking my eyeliner off and spend most weekends eating peanut butter from the jar with a spoon while watching The Real Housewives of Orange County. In other words, this is not a design problem we're talking about, it's an agency problem, i.e. lack of tightness on the part of urban policy makers. The article says you're involved in affordable housing development so I'm guessing you've been CC'd on memo about the city's housing crisis at some point in your mysteriously clueless career.

I am angry and bored with you, Patti. I hope you get priced out of your neighborhood and then MAYBE you'll tighten up and stop wishing for a Starbucks long enough to THINK really hard about why that is.


Jordan said...

L.A. is an unlivable hell hole, and I don't see what an army of planners could do to change that.

Minna said...

The dudes from Entourage and I manage to live it up just fine. Think of it as a Captain Planet mission where all those people put their rings together and shout? or...anyway, instead of fire and water and wind, you get public transportation, parks, affordable housing and more cowbell. Thirty years ago, while the Bronx was burning, 1 million people left the unlivable hell hole of New York City and I say good riddance.