I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles – and have been for many years. It is a city I dearly love – it is truly a world city, a city of endless complexity, a wonderfully messy city, and a city of free spirit. But it was also a place of endless frustration – where a culture of sustainable, livable, and joyful urbanism struggles to take hold. That is changing. LA is a city ascendent. A place where the optimism and excitement of a different kind of city seems to be everywhere.
LA has a long way to go to catch up to the kind of fundamentally sound urban planning, design, and development practices that have taken root in Vancouver, but its starting to pick up its pace. The wonderful architecture critic for the LA Times (every great urban culture needs a great urban critic), Christopher Hawthorne, has termed this new LA a ‘Third LA’ (The first LA, from 1880s to WWII was the streetcar city, fast growing but with a dense walkable centre. The second LA was the era of the suburbs and the freeway city. The third LA is a city ‘doubling back on itself’).
Nowhere is this shift more dramatic than in downtown LA (DTLA). A few tweaks to the zoning code (a much needed ‘adaptive reuse ordinance’ that dropped parking requirements and allowed historic loft buildings to be repurposed for residential) and a lot of entrepreneurship has led the way to the emergence of a livable centre city. And in the heart of it all is a re-imagined street life and attitude to the public realm. CicLAvia, the frequent (I believe four times a year, mostly) opening of city streets to non-motorized movement, is an amazing part of this transition (CicLAvia is amazing – and worth a trip to LA to experience). But more is happening as well.
This new street culture is wonderfully captured in this short video that caught my eye recently (and includes some recent impressive UCLA planning grads!). I thought that I would share it here as a taste of what’s happening in our sister city to the south.