How We Roll, October 1: can we talk about cities?

Before we get to today’s main course:

The Metrolosangeles Twitter guy on why he likes starting Tweet-offs and GIF wars (LAWeekly)

Photo: New York MTA.

Well, at least he takes transit. Photo: New York MTA.

Twitter war, begun it has:

Metro Los Angeles might be a smaller, lesser known transit system than NYC’s but it’s great at a more important thing: trash talk. Metro started a playful Twitter fued with New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Mets Police and won.

Metro Los Angeles might be a smaller, lesser known transit system than NYC’s but it’s great at a more important thing: trash talk. Metro started a playful Twitter fued with New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Mets Police and won.

https://storify.com/SamanthaMVB/metro-los-angeles-owns

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“Bad people plot. Good people plan.” 

–Wendell Pierce, actor and writer

To paraphrase the Strong Towns website, transit and good transportation systems are symptoms of cities that work. With that in mind, I wanted to do something a little different today and focus a little more than usual on cities and some related issues.

Naked cities (The New Yorker)

A long-winded review of several books about different cities. The parts are greater than the whole of this article but the parts on gentrification and change are really good:

We mourn the small stores lost and the neighborhood neutered, even as we recognize that cities depend for their future on new ways of selling and buying and living. Cities often produce whatever the next wave of social change is going to be, and then violently reject it for altering the nature of the city. The tech kids clustering in San Francisco depend on the special virtues of the old San Francisco—contiguity, character, charm—which they cannot help but diminish. The old city recoils, even as it is, inevitably, remade. As city people, we are our own pathogens and our own patients.

I suppose another way of saying that is ‘if you aren’t growing, you’re shrinking.’ Or if you’re not ‘changing, you’re dying.’ My bigger point: Los Angeles can be whatever it wants to be. And maybe what many people want is this: a city where you don’t have to drive absolutely everywhere.

New parking lite ordinance will bring parking-lite development to more of Chicago (Streetsblog Chicago)

Chicago is pushing for more density near transit stops that are outside of downtown. Photo by vxla, via Flickr creative commons.

Chicago is pushing for more density near transit stops that are outside of downtown. Photo by vxla, via Flickr creative commons.

In Chicago, new or rehabbed buildings are usually required to build one parking space for each residential unit. The new rules allow new housing and businesses within one-quarter mile of a transit stop to not build any parking. On so-called “pedestrian streets,” no parking is required within a half-mile of a transit stop.

Very interesting considering Chicago is already pretty dense in many places. The parking requirements vary in the 88 cities in L.A. County and I’m not sure that any city has relaxed them quite to this level. If I’m mistaken, comment please.

Show Me a Hero (HBO)

Catherine Keener plays a Yonkers resident wrestling with the prospect of public housing in her neighborhood. Photo: HBO.

Catherine Keener plays a Yonkers resident wrestling with the prospect of public housing in her neighborhood. Photo: HBO.

Good people do good things, bad people do bad things, people do good things for bad reasons, people change their minds, some people can’t change at all. The story of this six-hour miniseries involves the controversy over building new public housing for African American tenants in white neighborhoods in Yonkers. But the show is really about the mess that can be local politics and how — against all odds sometimes — good can come of it.

The plot reminded me of some of the disputes I’ve seen over the years in our region to keep transit out of some neighborhoods. FWIW, HBO is offering a free 30-day trial of its online site, which also has every episode of two other awesome shows about the inner workings of cities: “The Wire” about Baltimore and “Treme” about New Orleans. Binge watch away and then decide if you wanna pay beyond 30 days.

My people, black and white (American Conservative) 

Wendell Pierce in "Treme." Photo: HBO.

Wendell Pierce in “Treme.” Photo: HBO.

The great, great actor Wendall Pierce played Detective Bunk Moreland in “The Wire” and Antoine Batiste in “Treme,” among many other roles. I had the good fortune to see him give a reading last night at transit-accessible Vromans in Pasadena from his new book about his family and their New Orleans’ heritage, “The Wind in the Reeds.”

The article was written by Rod Dreher, who Pierce recruited to help him write the book. This article is about Dreher’s reservations due to his political differences with Pierce. Excerpt:

We had been at the table for most of an hour, and not once had we talked about politics or anything divisive. We had spoken about a shared love of food and place. Without realizing what was happening, I forgot that I was talking to an African-American urban liberal and found that I was sharing stories with one of my countrymen who had gone through a similar experience of bittersweet exile from our homeland.

Quasi-related thought: transit is one place in a city — not the only place, mind you — that people of different stripes may actually encounter one another.

Haven’t been to Vromans? It’s about a 10- to 15-minute walk from the Gold Line’s Lake Avenue Station — walk south on Lake, then turn left on Colorado. The bookstore is also steps away from the Colorado/Oak Knoll stop for the Metro 180/181, 256 and 686 buses.

13 projects, 19 cranes, one massive photo (Urbanize LA)

LAskyline17Sept2015 (30 of 79)-Edit

Great panoramic photo by Hunter Kerhart of the changing DTLA skyline. Click the link above to see his photo — that’s my plain Jane image above. All these new buildings will be near either the Red/Purple Line subway or the Azusa-Long Beach and East L.A.-Santa Monica light rail lines (if you’re new to Metro, our Regional Connector project in DTLA will tie together the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines to create an east-west line and a north-south line).

Photos of Brooklyn before and after the hipsters (Wired) 

Hipsters in Bed-Stuy. Photo by Yun-Ying Wu, via Flickr creative commons.

Hipsters in Bed-Stuy. Photo by Yun-Ying Wu, via Flickr creative commons.

On the subject of gentrification…

Chatelain captured locations again whenever she noticed they had changed. Some were utterly remade within months; others transformed over years. In a few cases, Chatelain couldn’t recognize locations she’d already photographed. She’d been visiting Brooklyn Winery—which offers “gourmet nibbles”—for months before realizing she’d photographed it before the renovation. Her excitement about the neighborhood fell in direct proportion to rents rising.

But overall, she isn’t bitter. “I see it as all part of the cycle of change that is New York City,” she says. “It’s just sad that long time residents might be forced out in the process of gentrification, or basically have to watch their neighborhood become unrecognizable.”

House calls to the homeless; a doctor treats Boston’s most isolated patients (Fresh Air) 

Something to listen to whilst aboard transit. Attentive readers may recall that the city of L.A. recently declared a “state of emergency” concerning the city’s homeless problem, shortly after announcing it was pursuing the 2024 Summer Olympics. I suppose you can quibble with the sequencing of those two things, although I think both are important and potentially good for the city and region.

The interview by Terri Gross is a reminder of the public health issues involved with homelessness and that most of the issues involve the health of the people who are living on the streets. In this case of this radio program, the streets are in Boston — one of many American cities wrestling with an issue intertwined with all sorts of other issues: public safety, housing, local business, gentrification and the state of our sidewalks and streets.

Proposed Expo/Crenshaw shopping center going mixed-use (Urbanize LA)

A developer is proposing 200 or so residences for the southeast corner of Crenshaw and Rodeo Road. Photo: Google Maps.

A developer is proposing 200 or so residences for the southeast corner of Crenshaw and Rodeo Road. Photo: Google Maps.

A 6.5-acre parcel of land remains empty near the intersection of the Expo Line and future Crenshaw/LAX Line. The successor agency to the former Community Redevelopment Agency has been trying to develop and partnered with a developer. A retail-heavy plan fell through and now they’re trying again with a plan that will build 200 or so residences.

This, my friends, is what you call a litmus test. This is about as transit-friendly a site as you’ll find in our changing city and will offer easy transit access to DTLA, the Westside, the Crenshaw Corridor, the LAX area and the business parks in El Segundo and Redondo Beach near the Green Line. If the land sits empty for much longer, something is definitely not working.

Sept. 30: Can Uber and Lyft solve our first-mile-last-mile problems?, trains and cleanliness, the blessing of the infrastructure.

Sept. 29: Richard Katz weighs in on the San Fernando Valley’s transit needs, bill signed for hit-and-run alerts on electronic freeway signs, Shell exits the arctic, the N.Y. Islanders new goal horn brought to you by the NYMTA

Sept. 28: Lunar eclipse over Metro, the San Fernando Valley wish list of transit projects, things to read on transit (profile of Grimes in the New Yorker) and an update on the five electric buses delivered to Metro earlier this year.

Sept. 25: Regional Connector 1st/Central Station update, Gold Line beyond Azusa, mega-rents in L.A. and mega-drought impacting our native chaparral in the mountains.

Sept. 24: Metro considers bus stop ‘thinning,’ personal pod transit nonsense, things to read on transit, baseball stats and the Dodger Stadium Express.

Sept. 22: New York subway’s ‘pizza rat,’ more on China’s bid to build high-speed rail to Vegas, a motion that seeks to make college/vocational TAP cards easier and cheaper to obtain and books versus tablets on transit.

I’m also on Twitter, Instagram and have a photo blog where I share my non-transportationy stuff. Don’t want to comment but want to reach me? Email me!

6 replies

  1. > .@metrolosangeles Happy to wager on who wins the series. Care to wager on who gets more fans to the ballpark?

    Don’t count on the gold line (which seems to be more down then up this week) to get fans anywhere.

  2. RE: Proposed Expo/Crenshaw shopping center going mixed-use

    Good. We don’t need more single story commercial buildings that is as wasteful use of land space as parking lots, what LA needs today are more taller, mixed development residential units built above with commercial spaces on the floor level.

    • The proposed residences should mesh with the existing community, which is predominantly working class and African-American. I don’t want that area to have the feel of University Park or Spring Street in 10 years. If that occurs, a number of local residents and businesses will have been displaced. With that said, I agree LA needs to embrace denser land use, starting near existing transit.

  3. “Los Angeles can be whatever it wants to be. And maybe what many people want is this: a city where you don’t have to drive absolutely everywhere.”

    Ironically, the same agency that is supposed to promote that advocates building more (free) parking spaces near stations instead of high density mixed use transit oriented developments and is also involved in freeway widening projects.

  4. The City of Los Angeles’ 1999 Adaptive Reuse Ordinance allows historic buildings Downtown (many of which were built with zero or minimal off-street parking) to be converted to new uses without having to provide any off-street parking. If this weren’t the case, converting the buildings would be prohibitively expensive and/or many older historic buildings would have to be demolished to make room for parking lots. This, along with the growth of the Metro system and shifting attitudes towards urban life are probably the three key factors in the renaissance of Downtown LA over the past twenty or so years.

    Chicago is absolutely right to relax its off-street parking requirements. Really any area that wants to be urban and have a well-used transit system should stop requiring minimum amounts of off-street parking, charge a price for curb parking that keeps a few spaces open on every block and spend on-street parking money improving the neighborhood where it is generated. Of course those are ideas from Professor Don Shoup, FAICP, who is awesome.