Despite upgrades and vast physical improvements in buses, trains and modes of public transport in Los Angeles, there are still glaring and inhumane gaps in the Metro System that seem to be devised to torture and humiliate the people who ride them.
One of them is this garbage-filled, plastic bench waiting area at Metro’s Rapid Line #734 stop in Van Nuys near Oxnard and Sepulveda. It is a direct connection for riders who come from across the street off the Orange Line and intend to travel north on Sepulveda. Sometimes as many as 30 people stand here and wait, baking in the noxious Valley heat, next to a bench that can accommodate only three.
Out in the sun, out in the rain, riders stand; without overhead shelter or trees, in front of the oil soaked parking lot of Pet Boys, where cars inside service areas are treated better than humans standing outside.
To add insult to injury, most of the riders are dressed in all black, a hue which absorbs the most sunlight.
The 10-mile long, $1 billion dollar widening of the San Diego Freeway is a monumental feat of engineering: demolition and reconstruction of bridges and roads, 27 on/off ramps, 13 underpasses and 18 miles of retaining and sound walls.
When the rebuilding stops, new car pool lanes will open.
Before that time, we, who travel or live in the Sepulveda Pass, go amidst temporary art installations. The partially built is perhaps more compelling than the finished product.
These functional components of road building are ingenious engineering and unaware artistry; choreographed, measured and precisely drawn elements of structure alive in rhythm, movement and shape.
Along the west side of Sepulveda at Wilshire (above and below), skeletal underpinnings, in wood and steel, for future on/off ramps, evoking the lean, linear infancy of modernism, form following function.
High pillars of steel hold up horizontal spans along Sepulveda, near the Veterans Cemetery and the Federal Building. Perhaps unintentional, the in-progress road suggests that this flat open expanse requires something triumphant and civic to pass through to salute government workers and honored soldiers.
Wood slats nearby evoke the organic asymmetry of Japan, while frail wood railings conjure up jungle bridges.
Near Montana, a tall hillside is clamped into place by ten-story tall concrete ziggurat criss-crossed by steel bars and round bolts onto which plates of facing will hang.
Here are dancing and unfurling materials, performing in shadow and sun, ribbons of road next to green mountains, tall walls of tapered concrete holding back tons of earth.
Serrated vertical lined concrete walls, go low and march along in rectangular pattern near the Getty. Parts of drain pipes sit alongside. A crane stands on the west side of the freeway near the Getty.
Near Mountaingate, the 405, seen from below along Sepulveda, sweeps up behind a tall wall, a freeway heard but not seen.
At Mulholland, the pass opens up to the Valley.
The mountains seem higher, the vistas taller and wider.
New steel spans are stacked under the old road, ready to perform their next feat of support to carry up a new bridge.
It is a penultimate, high altitude moment of reconstruction: intelligent, courageous and invigorating.
And up in Sherman Oaks, near Valley Vista, the sunny and self-satisfied homes of prosperity are caked in dust, caught in the bottom-end of the widening. The congestion is worse, the noise more constant, the torn-up streets taken over by bulldozers, trucks, fencing, excavation, speeding drivers, demolition and reconstruction.
A heroic human endeavor whose energies are producing, in our backyard, a fast changing and fascinating spectacle of clashing forms, tactile tons of man-made materials, anonymous art along the 405, silently begging us, as Los Angeles often does, to open our eyes and drop our assumptions.
Terry Guy has an excellent collection of photos on his Flickr page chronicling North Hollywood and the old Southern Pacific line which ran along today’s Metro Orange Line Busway.
Photo above (near Valley College) is the intersection now converted into a landscaped bike/bus transit line.
Life has improved (sporadically and unevenly) in parts of Los Angeles, due in large part to investment in public transportation, which has lead to greater vitality and revitalization in formerly neglected parts of the city. One can see evidence of that in Mr. Guy’s historic North Hollywood images.
Last year, Money Magazine, in its annual Best Places to Live issue, reported some interesting facts about Beverly Hills, CA, population 33,974.
The median (average) family income was $142,180 and the average home price was $1.5 million.
By reputation, many would imagine that there are far wealthier people living within Beverly Hills’ borders, people who earn in the tens of millions and live in houses worth $5 million or more.
Whatever the case, this wealthy town once allowed children to attend school here even when those children came from outside the town borders. Part of the costs were subsidized by the state of California.
In 2010, when California was in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression, and towns across the state were struggling to pay bills, and others were going bankrupt, Beverly Hills tax revenues surpassed state funding. So California no longer needed to send money to Beverly Hills.
Out of 4,600 students in Beverly Hills, 430 or less than 10% live outside of the city. And the school board is voting to expel the outsiders.
Some part-time city employees in Beverly Hills, people who clean the streets, collect garbage and polish parking meters, these people with children also benefited and sometimes enrolled their kids into Beverly Hills schools.
According to KPCC radio writer Tami Abdollah, Beverly Hills Board member Lisa Korbatov was incensed that as many as eight families of part-time workers were enrolled in the district. She said, “This is not charity. This is a school district. We are dealing with taxpayer money. I don’t feel sorry for you. This is not kids on chemotherapy.”
The MTA has been in a contentious battle with Beverly Hills as well, because a proposed subway tunnel would slice right under the vaunted halls of Beverly Hills High School. Signs all over Beverly Hills express opposition to digging under the school.
The idea that civil engineers, scientists, transportation planners and other experts see no danger in digging beneath the ground to build a subway (as has been done safely for over 150 years) is not satisfying to the protective parents of Beverly Hills. They are much more soothed by having their kids walk across the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard, which was named as one of the ten most dangerous intersections in the whole United States.
Subway and school sound ominous when paired. As do: pregnant woman/high voltage power lines or dog park/fresh water reservoir.
Imagination and irrationality, selfishness and self-centeredness, provincialism and pompousness, these dark behaviors are parading across the sunny landscape of Beverly Hills these days, a town of humungous vulgarity and high-class criminality, where fake faces and pretend psychoses afflict a large portion of the pharmasized population and danger lurks behind every hoodie.
In terms of a progressive agenda, one that includes educating the lesser privileged, and building infrastructure to move Angelenos across the Southland, Beverly Hills stands blindly and obstinately, blocking the rest of the region from reaching a brighter sunset.
‘After the Party….’ On Black
For a few months now, it had been broadcast, far and wide, over the airwaves and through airy heads, that Los Angeles would be vehicularly incapacitated by the partial destruction of a tall bridge over a wide freeway occurring on a long weekend.
For surely the closure of THE 405 was truly a great emergency, predicted as cataclysmic by experts who described it in cinematic destructiveness, coined with a biblical neologism, Carmaggedon.
So into action the officials sprang, as politicians, Caltrans, LAPD, LAFD and all the fat men who sit inside the city council chambers, urged the motoring public to forestall leaving home and let the great emergency Passover.
And Saturday, June 16, 2011 was a quiet day, a peaceful day. The deafening roar of 500,000 cars stopped. And one stepped out of the house and into the dry, hot, windy air of Van Nuys and beheld a gentler, kinder, slower, less crowded city.
The skies and sounds reminded me of the days after September 11, 2001. I had been working on Radford Street in Studio City, and came out of an office on Valleyheart Drive, and looked up into the sky and saw or heard not a single jet plane flying above. The serenity of Los Angeles, without aerial assault by plane, was mesmerizing ten years ago. And absent automobiles it mesmerized me yesterday.
Civic spirit, civic pride, civic engagement, Los Angeles has all the collective civic energy of a desert mausoleum. In this town, as some call it, the idea that the greater good matters, that people might come together for a single day, and make a success of it, seemed impossible.
And though some were dubious, they stayed home in Westwood and didn’t drive their SUV to Encino to meet for baklava. Survivors of the purges of the Shah, who know what sacrifice means, took a day off from shopping and driving. And those who didn’t surf on the beach Saturday, or drive to eat sushi in Studio City, those heroic citizens deserve our applause and appreciation.
Yesterday, many stayed home and many didn’t drive, and in those neighborhoods where discarded mattresses sit in front of buildings where homeless people push shopping carts, and earn money recycling plastic, and some defecate on the sidewalk in broad daylight; where millions are undocumented, and thousands are poorly educated, where health care is withheld and violence administered; along those broad, sun-baked, lifeless, treeless, billboard-infested blocks and garbage littered curbs, the people obeyed and the politicians praised, and something so very minor and so very unimportant stood in the historical record as a great culmination of achievement in the City of Angels.
West of the 405, the vista opens up.
The skies are big and the mountains vast.
This is the land of beer and jets, trucks and steel; gasoline, fire and the burning sun.
This is the Van Nuys Airport, the Flyaway, the Anheuser-Busch Plant, many warehouses, and an enormous sod farm.
Here men and women are working, a necessary condition.
And the horizon of the San Fernando Valley, the blue skies and the straight wide streets, the planes taking off, the delivery trucks speeding across Van Nuys, and a commuter train blowing its horn; this is work and we are in need of work and we live and work; and hope that work returns to our nation as it did in times past.
One of the most persistent and ugly trends of the past few years are the appearance of mobile advertising signs, usually attached as trailers, on the back of pick-up trucks, parked along streets in Los Angeles.
On Burbank Boulevard, near Van Nuys Boulevard, this sign jumps across each side of the street every few days. The parking signs clearly state “One Hour” but this truck and its attached sign spend days and nights here camping out. This sign blocks traffic, creates a roadside hazard, slows down drivers and demoralizes our aesthetics.
Back in January, the Daily News reported a “Crackdown on Mobile Signs” . But like healthcare reform, job creation, and real estate activity, the corpse of public policy does not move.
The City of Los Angeles – Department of Public Works – Bureau of Engineering, is now constructing a new crossing over the LA River.
Their website description:
“The scope of this project consists of replacing the existing Colfax Avenue steel-truss bridge, consisting of one traffic lane over the Los Angeles River, with a new concrete-arched box-girder bridge. The new arched box-girder bridgewill be approximately 28 feet wider than the existing bridge to accommodate one traffic lane, a 5-foot-wide bike lane, and a 7-foot-wide sidewalk on each side of the new bridge, as well as including a 10-foo-wide painted median.”
The estimated costs (paid for largely out of Federal money) is 5 million dollars. Completion will be sometime in 2011.
Photos show an old, steel pedestrian bridge adjacent to the site where the new concrete bridge will be located.
In David Yoon’s Narrow Streets, the wide boulevards of Los Angeles are sliced in half. The city of drivers and speed becomes a place of walking and meandering intimacy.
I will go out on a limb and state that single worst feature of Los Angeles is traffic. If we could find a way to get from one location to another, without our car, it would immensely increase the pleasure of life here.
Today is Friday. People will be making plans tonight to go out this evening. How many will choose to stay home instead? Because one person lives in Century City, and another in Santa Clarita, and they planned to attend a play in Hollywood…. and want to meet for dinner at 6pm… but know it’s logistically almost impossible. It takes almost an hour, sometimes, to travel from West Los Angeles to Hollywood, a distance of only about 8 miles!
In Lisbon, Portugal, as in other progressive cities around the world, streetcars travel narrow streets and allow residents to travel without a car.
In David Yoon’s Los Angeles, he has brilliantly photographed and retouched our environment and imagined how it might be transformed for pedestrians. We can also throw in public transportation and mix it with narrow streets. Just like poor Portugal has done.
David Yoon is a Los Angeles based writer, designer, photographer and blogger who has undertaken a unique and visionary idea: What would Los Angeles look like if its streets were narrowed?
For years I, like Mr. Yoon, have walked around LA and observed the quite destructive effect of too wide streets. Enormous lanes of asphalt discourage walking. It encourages speeding. The sense of enclosure, community and safety that is found along narrower roads is one reason why Los Angeles, with its gigantic streets, is so hated by so many who move here looking for some connection to this monstrously impersonal,ugly, and billboard-deformed city.
The legion of failed places and depressed areas in the San Fernando Valley is really a list of wide streets: Sherman Way, Van Nuys Blvd., Reseda Bl. Areas where the streets are narrower and planted with trees include the revitalized Studio City.
Mr. Yoon has come up to Van Nuys and given us his version of how Van Nuys Boulevard would look, from the vantage point of Oxnard and VNB, if its asphalt were torn up and the buildings on either side moved closer together.
It is still ugly, but it is an ugliness that can be improved upon with trees, cafes and pedestrians. Rip down the cobra lamps, install benches, plant trees and mandate architectural codes that regulate billboards and signs, and this street might become a reasonably cool area to hang out in.
We went downtown, yesterday, to see the new Gold Line light rail line extension and to ride it into east L.A.
I was with my mother, who walks with difficulty after her hip operation last year.
We parked somewhere east of Little Tokyo, where art and commerce are slowly converting old factories into sunny communes of post-industrialism.
Along Alameda, a band played and friendly crowds stood along the light rail track waiting to board trains that ran to Pasadena (Northbound) or Atlantic Avenue (Southbound). Many yellow shirted Metro employees handed out brochures, maps and smiles answering any questions from excited and bewildered riders.
This is still new for Los Angeles, the idea that human beings might ride on trains to travel around this city. In Prague, Paris, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Vancouver and Boston people crowd unselfconsciously into those steel boxes on steel tracks, but here in a city that was last progressive 60 years ago, the light rail was ripped out along with our civic engagement.
I had driven down the 405, yesterday, from Van Nuys to Marina Del Rey. The sun was brilliant, the air was cool, the wind was blowing, and I have lived here long enough to feel uneasy in these ideal conditions.
Somewhere in the left lane, near the Getty Center, I was traveling about 60 MPH in fairly heavy traffic, moving along. A BMW sped up behind me. I looked in the mirror and could see an impatient face on a young male driver. I pulled out of his lane and moved to the far right.
In the far right lane, I found space and accelerated. The BMW also pulled into my lane, behind me and began to tailgate me. I went into another lane, and he did too.
I was going 80 as I passed the 10 off-ramp, and he was right behind me. As I turned to go west on the Marina Freeway, he pulled up on my right, slamming his foot down on the accelerator and tore up the road to pass me fading fast into the 405 South.
Where did his aggression come from? I had moved out of his way. I gave him his road. I tried to escape.
But that was not enough. He was in the mood for a race, and overcome with the urge to beat me and to alpha guy fuck off another male driver.
On the train, my mom and I met a young woman who told us to disembark at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights where there was a street fair, with entertainment, food and other events.
One emerges from the underground into the unfiltered, concrete-baked sunlight of east LA.
A stained glass canopy covers the escalators. This is a cathedral of light, an ecclesiastical structure imbued with a Catholic message for this old Mexican-American neighborhood. Rays of gold, red, blue and green pour through the roof and illuminate riders as they pass through Mariachi Plaza. In an age where every new building in Los Angeles is stripped of meaning and constructed so obtusely and abstractly, this Metro station gently merges church and train.
We spent a little time walking around and ate some ceviche and stood next to the Lucha Reyes statue.
Then we got back in a long, outdoor line to wait for the train. As we waited there, an older woman walked up to us. She said she had lived in Boyle Heights her whole life, but was going to ride the train two stops to downtown. She was scared and wanted us to accompany her.
Her name was Rosalie, and she asked us if we were Jewish. I said yes, and she said, “the activist traditions of Boyle Heights came from the Jewish people”. She was 75-years-old and remembered the community when there were Jews living in it.
As we went down into the station, she panicked. “Maybe I shouldn’t ride the train,” she said. Over and over she asked how she would find her way back to Mariachi Plaza. I told her that many employees were around and she would not get lost. She was afraid of disorientation, suffocation, crowds, and unfamiliar surroundings.
“Your son is so sweet,” she told my mom. What Rosalie didn’t know is that I have had panic attacks. And, like Rosalie, one of my fears is claustrophobia and the other is getting lost. Her irrational worries were perfectly sane to me.
On the station platform, more old people introduced themselves. A gregarious man from Panorama City said he was born and raised in Chicago, and had graduated from Von Steuben High School in 1955, a few years after my mother.
The train pulled up, we all stuffed ourselves in. Rosalie was smiling, happy, laughing. She had found friends in strangers just by talking, riding and moving on light rail.
We got off at Little Tokyo. Rosalie shook our hands and crossed to the other side of the platform where she met some other people who were going back to East LA.
One afternoon, in the new Los Angeles, where a normal urban venture suddenly opens up a new avenue of hope.
In 1947, Life Magazine published a photograph of Los Angeles trafffic, near Olive and 6th, downtown.
Conservative writer David Brooks now critiques Obama’s potential infrastructure investment plans for their lack of imagination:
“It would be great if Obama’s spending, instead of just dissolving into the maw of construction, would actually encourage the clustering and leave a legacy that would be visible and beloved 50 years from now.
To take advantage of the growing desire for community, the Obama plan would have to do two things. First, it would have to create new transportation patterns. The old metro design was based on a hub-and-spoke system — a series of highways that converged on an urban core. But in an age of multiple downtown nodes and complicated travel routes, it’s better to have a complex web of roads and rail systems.
Second, the Obama stimulus plan could help localities create suburban town squares. Many communities are trying to build focal points. The stimulus plan could build charter schools, pre-K centers, national service centers and other such programs around new civic hubs.
This kind of stimulus would be consistent with Obama’s campaign, which was all about bringing Americans together in new ways. It would help maintain the social capital that’s about to be decimated by the economic downturn.
But alas, there’s no evidence so far that the Obama infrastructure plan is attached to any larger social vision. In fact, there is a real danger that the plan will retard innovation and entrench the past.”
But alas, Mr. Brooks, what you don’t understand is that Mr. Obama was elected not on his specifics, but for his slogans, and any specificity regarding his new programs will be withheld for as long as possible.
In a sign that Los Angeles is becoming a more environmentally sensitive city, a new 44-acre park, to be built atop the Hollywood Freeway, may be started in 2012. The project, assuming funds are available, may cost $1 billion dollars and bring recreational space to a densely populated and park sparse region of the city.
The LA Times has an article explaining the details. What follows are my opinions:
The building of the Hollywood Freeway in the early 1950′s, sliced right through the residential and commercial heart of the district. It cut off the Franklin Avenue area from the business district along Hollywood Boulevard. It brought noise, pollution, traffic and congestion to one of the most formerly lovely sections of the city. It hastened the decline of Hollywood, by making the automobile the prime focus of city planning and ignoring pedestrians, public transportation and the pulmonary health of our citizens.
By bringing the freeway underground, Los Angeles will follow the example of other American cities like Boston, whose Big Dig is an attempt to connect the North End back to the rest of Boston and improve the traffic patterns of not only cars, but people on foot.
The Hollywood Freeway should never have been built so ruthlessly. A concrete knife plunged into the heart of a great city will now have some remedial arterial surgery to repair the damage.
Last night I attended a discussion about our city at the A + D Museum on Wilshire.
Inside the ground floor of a skyscraper across from LACMA they were serving up white wine, brown beer, little bites of cheese, crackers and lots of talk about where built Los Angeles is headed.
A very new and stylish architecture and urban issues magazine called Next American City had invited a panel which included NAC’s editor in chief Diana Lind, Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times and Sam Lubell, editor of The Architect’s Newspaper.
It’s always interesting to come to these events, where we “thinkers” and unemployed artists, writers, architects, urbanists and others bemoan how bad buildings are, and hope that the great black hope will usher in a new era of high speed rail, affordable housing, clean air, farmers markets and dense pockets of multi-family housing surrounding shaded parks where fit children can play under the watchful eyes of nutritionists.
But this is a glum, perhaps even catastrophic moment in our city. We have to again readapt to the fact that funds will be cut for everything both necessary and needed (police, hospitals, clinics, symphonies, parks, transportation). Every ballot initiative that promises to put into legislative law an inarguable funding forever….. will perhaps be defeated. We cannot count on anti-gang funding or public transportation money.
Chris Hawthorne of the LA Times spoke about his newspaper’s recent firings of so many smart and productive writers. He recounted his post-collegiate days of wanting to write about architecture, and how in the early 90s, they weren’t building as much, and editors didn’t care, and then all of a sudden there was a great late 90’s boom in design, and he had work.
But now we live in a time when Google threatens to destroy the freedom of press in the US by systematically depriving every single printed magazine and newspaper of advertising. It is possible that Los Angeles, a city so often derided as “lacking a center”, may become a metropolis of 10 million without a viable newspaper of record. Even the NY Times may go the way of the World Trade Center.
The fact is that Los Angeles will go on and develop in its own unique way. The big money, the kind of Eli Broad money which wants to create “greatness” by developing an institutional downtown, may not see the light of day. We have Disney Hall, but it is surrounded by fetid air, homeless shopping carts, empty sun baked sidewalks and that sound of air slipping out of the speculator’s cash balloon.
The things that make Los Angeles great were here before man arrived: the sunshine, the mountains, the oceans, the Oak trees. We created the freeway, the mini-mall, the bungalow, the drive-in, the studio back lot, and Scientology. And patted ourselves on the back for our great contributions to the betterment of mankind.
But we also filled the valley with brown and poisoned air, pockmarked the great boulevards with billboards and wooden power lines, tore down historic buildings and homes and replaced good solid garden apartments with dreadfully ornate junk.
What many “love” about LA is purely a natural accident of geography and topography.
One attendee last night was a woman who lives “near the Beverly Center” and stood up to tell the panel and the people in the audience that grotesquely ugly and badly designed buildings were disfiguring the lovely and old character of her area.
And once again, the same old story was told of how we cannot stop development, how this is the way it’s always been done in Los Angeles, and in the unspoken subtext that everybody thinks but cannot say, that the Armenian, Persian, Israeli, Russian go-getters who see opportunity and know how to maneuver in this city, will continue to tear down old and well proportioned things and erect gross edifices that will never find their way into the pages of Dwell Magazine.
We talk lovingly of Neutra, Schindler and the Case Study ranch homes of the post-war era, but the truth is we live mostly in a sea of vast ugliness that covers the land from Palm Springs to the Pacific. We take our little postage stamp house or about- to-be- foreclosed property and sometimes think about the larger city.
But nowadays, we are most focused on our own economic survival and are too busy to notice that a non-profit group is growing vegetables on land near downtown tended by former gang members.
So what? I need money to pay my god damned mortgage and my health insurance costs $400 a month!
The big money goes to Wall Street, and cities like Los Angeles must content themselves with visionary talk and discussions about “the future of the city”.
The barely two year-old, 14 mile-long Metro Busway that runs through the San Fernando Valley is being dug up again.
According to the Daily News:
” Metro and its contractor, Shimmick-Obayashi Joint Venture, ended a more than yearlong dispute and agreed to split the $1.5 million costs of the repaving. The dispute arose when the transitway’s pavement began rutting shortly after the Orange Line opened for operation in Oct. 2005. Metro claimed that the pavement had been improperly laid, while SOJV claimed that Metro was running more buses with more passengers than expected.”
Metro is spending an additional half million dollars on “super paving” asphalt that may improve the durability and longevity of the roadway.
This screw-up seems to not only be an inconvenience for riders of this system, but a scandalous waste of tax money.
Imagine that a road which only hosts buses (no trucks, cars or other vehicles) is somehow so badly built that it must be repaired after only months of operation.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Busway and ride it regularly, but this is just bureaucratic and institutional stupidity.
We are all driving less. It cost me about $15 to fill up my Honda in 2001. Today, my Mazda CX-7 takes about $50-60 to top off the tank. I know, I shouldn’t drive an SUV. But it was cheaper to lease a gas guzzler.
Sharply falling demand has caused gas prices to fall. There are more fuel efficient cars on the road and people are driving less.
But I wouldn’t count on this situation lasting. America is not the only nation on Earth lusting after the automobile. China and India are fast catching up.
We are going to pay more for gas in the coming years, even if we get a temporary price break.
Images: Chatsworth, CA 2008;NY 1909.
An excerpt from a 1951 article on the New York City Subway system:
“Few other railroads are equipped with so many safety devices. Rapid transit trains have four separate automatic stopping devices: a dead-man’s button, which brings the train to a halt if the motorman takes his hand off the power-control handle; an emergency device that shuts off the power if two cars come apart; another that stops the train if it passes a danger [red] signal, and an engineer’s brake valve constantly under the motorman’s hand. Signaling lights on the lines are virtually foolproof. To ensure passenger safety still further, there is an interlock between the car doors and the motor of the train, so that power will not go on while the doors are open.”
-“Nether World” by Richard Gehman
Copyright 1951 by Park Magazine, Inc.
LA Weekly has an article which discusses how a half cent sales tax increase, to support public transportation projects, which may be built in sections of Los Angeles, other than the San Fernando Valley, is angering the San Fernando Valley.
If the sales tax is approved this month for placement on the November ballot by the state Legislature and Arnold Schwarzenegger — and that question is up in the air as chaos unfolds over the budget in Sacramento — and if voters approve it this fall, the new sales tax would raise $40 billion over 30 years.
Most of the grandest projects would serve the Westside and South Los Angeles: $1 billion to build the Expo light-rail line from downtown to Santa Monica; $235 million for the vaguely defined Crenshaw Transit Corridor; nearly $1 billion to partially build a Subway to the Sea.
Opposition comes from such SFV power brokers as the DAILY NEWS and the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association.
The Valley’s history of getting shortchanged is also coloring its leaders’ suspicions — again. Until this spring, Ron Kaye was editor of the Valley-based Daily News, who often focused his editorials on a downtown-centric City Hall that chronically drains the outlying areas to spend the money elsewhere.
The last time Valley residents backed a similar sales-tax increase, in fact, City Hall politicians promised sweeping transit fixes for the Valley. Instead, Kaye says, “At the Daily News, there was a tabulation that the Valley had paid $2 billion to $3 billion [toward local transit projects] and had gotten a $300 million busway” for its troubles. That busway, the Orange Line, is already groaning at full capacity.
What is all the “anger” really about? Power. Small fry papers and homeowners associations need a rallying point to bring people together and “defeat” projects that would ultimately benefit all of greater Los Angeles. These local entities survive and thrive on NIMBY political provincialism which pits one section of the city against another.
The garishly prosperous neighborhood of Sherman Oaks is one of the least suffering areas of Los Angeles in terms of health care, housing, education and conveniences. Yes, it sits under the same blanket of smog that chokes East Los Angeles, but imagine that there is actually resentment here that a crummy half cent tax might allow Los Angeles to finally build a real train from downtown to the ocean.
“They promise the Valley great transit lines, and then they build them in other areas,” says Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association and a former leader of the Valley secession movement. “Unless you have a Valley government, we get nothing. We get crumbs. This is just another indication of it.”
Oh, the horror of it! Yes, we need to take the Valley out of Los Angeles and pull away further from the rest of the city and stop robbing the good folks of Encino, Sherman Oaks and Studio City by funding projects that might reduce the number of cars sitting on the 101 and 405. Stop that sales tax because the wheels of my car never travel south of Mullholland…..
Mr. Koo works near Olympic and Bundy and lives in Van Nuys. A distance of 14 miles.It took him 90 minutes to get home last night. That means he was traveling at an average rate of 6 miles an hour.
There is a critical need to expand the feeble range of the LA Metro Subway system.
It seems that there is now at least an understanding that Angelenos need a CHOICE, whether or not to ride a train from downtown to Beverly Hills and then to Santa Monica.
We live in 2008. This is not 1985, 1965 or 1945. The old mentality of “Everyone loves their cars” combined with “Only maids rides buses” is fast giving way to the reality that many maids drive cars, and many physicians would like to get to work faster by riding a train.
I don’t love my car. I love my life, and I love being able to get somewhere fast without sitting in traffic and contributing to the meltdown of our planet with fossil fuels.
Ms. Garbagean has taken a totemic symbol of consumerism, the shopping cart, and arranged a textural symphony of steel at this bus stop on Sepulveda.
“When people are waiting for the bus, they often bring their shopping baskets from Costco and then when the bus comes, they just leave the baskets behind and get on the bus. So that’s where the idea came from,” said Ms. Garbageyan.
Garbageyan and her crew of students from Van Nuys High School, have taken up to two dozen shopping carts and turned them sideways along the sidewalk and on the grass, sprinkling trash and litter in an artful arrangement that emulates the work of sculptor Richard Serra.
Costco public relations spokesman Joseph Gubrettil said his company was “only too happy to cooperate” by providing the shopping carts and boxes.
The MTA is trying to lure drivers out of their cars by using art and design. This latest project is a fantastic step forward for those who believe that LA must improve and expand public transportation in the region.
Photos: USC Digital Archives
“Los Angeles, the first great modern metropolis with multiple urban cores, seems determined to remake its urban DNA — and fashion itself, to one degree or another, in the image of New York City. Bruce B. Brugmann, the populist publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, coined the term “Manhattanization” in the 1970s to describe just what we’re seeing. Broadly speaking, it refers to a vertical urbanism in which the entire city serves as a bedroom for a dominant urban core that is chock-full of cultural attractions. Density is a premium value in a successfully Manhattanized city, producing economies of scale, extraordinary concentrations of skills and an entertaining street scene. Human activities are more important than sunlight, nature or individual privacy.”
Joel Kotkin has argued before that Los Angeles is unique in its car-centered, single family home, sunshine and backyard design. He decries those who would turn us towards a denser city, with pedestrian friendly shops, walking and public transit.
His recent L.A. Times article conjures up a city enthralled to big money developers who, in alliance with a sympathetic mayor, are planning and building a downtown that will resemble Manhattan.
But look at these 1930s images from the USC Digital Archives! They truly show a city that aspired, in its art deco buildings, to emulate Gotham. There are 10-story apartment houses that most likely housed middle class people, who enjoyed a clean, urbane and civilized city with parks, shops and restaurants within walking distance. Anyone who desired to go to the beach, could hop a Red Car and ride out to Venice!
1930’s Los Angeles was all about development and making money, just like today. But the city also encouraged, not only single family housing, but a variety of forms that allowed people to both own a car and walk to work. We are too crowded today, to imagine that a city of all cars and houses, where everyone drives, could possibly function well.
We will never be Manhattan. But we can be a little less LA as we try and build a better city.