Monday, February 07, 2005

and a little more bad news...

angelenos love to gripe about traffic and air quality, but typically consider it a fact of life here, to question it is folly, it's what makes LA, LA - right? The southern california association of governments, a regional planning agency, has recently released a report card on the urban health of the los angeles region in seven policy areas. how did LA score?
transportation: D-
employment: B
income: C-
housing: D+
air quality: C-
safety: B
education: D

traffic in the LA area is the nation's worse and continues to decline. yet, rather than an increase in usage of public transportation, ridership has instead declined by 2 percent from the year before. the report also states the "accumulated costs associated with congestion [reached] $12 billion." the report also addresses the issue of affordable housing, or rather the lack of it in the county. SCAG makes the connection between a lack of affordable housing and the rise in traffic congestion, as lower-income families are forced to move further and further away from the city. Its a phenomenon described far more eloquently by New (Sub)Urbanism in his post on the controversial "Marisol" doll from american girl:

Many accounts of the 2000 census figures show the increasing ethnic and cultural diversification of the suburbs. Much of this is due to gentrification schemes that price low income people out of their communities. Higher income--often white--residents are displacing low income renters.

while the connection between traffic, air quality and housing is acknowledged, little is said about addressing these issues. Some of the difficulty in addressing these problems is attributed to the region's population growth and demographic changes. additionally, both the state and federal government are operating at a deficit, which means it fall to local governments to deal with these problems. here is where my knowledge of southern california falls woefully short. (but that's what inspired this blog). I wish I could effectively analyze what that means for local governments and citizens. if there is anyone out there who can offer that, I'm ready to learn. how powerful are local municipalities in LA? how do municipalities such as beverly hills and santa monica negotiate policy with the greater city of LA? can LA annex these cities within the city? or overwrite policy? will a subway ever be built between the west side and east, over beverly hill's resistance and fear of "undesirable elements."

in new york, the concept of a city within a city is completely foreign. (altho staten island - feel free to secede. no one will notice you left). in london (the only other city I've lived in other than ny and LA) local government is bifurcated - a system of shared responsibilities between the individual boroughs and the city of london's government. its a system with many, many inherent flaws (again - transportation comes to mind) but rather than forming a city-within-the-city scenario, it has created many small, thriving communities within the overall city. so maybe I need to read more on the history of los angeles, its government and the ability of communities to remove themselves (economically and politically) from the overall fabric of the city, while benefitting from its location within the city.

I can't figure it all out tonight. instead, I will see what tivo has waiting for me as I battle chronic insomnia.


At 12:42 AM, Blogger The Planner said...

the only positive about these perpetual low marks is that it has given the city the recognition that it needs help. LA more than anywhere now is the focus of planners and architects trying to answer the question, "how do you fix a city that is this fucked up?" i have forgotten the name and thus the link (i would actually bet that you know both off the top of your head) but there is a gov't organization focusing on "downtowning" downtown Los Angeles. I just read the other day, again no link, that the entertainment/retail/important demographic sector of business had grown somethingfold in the last couple of years. that brings up several arguments about gentrification, but if there was ever a city (CBD, at least) that needs gentrifying, it is LA. I have actually subwayed to the central library twice in the last month, and as I was walking around I noticed a bit of a different "feeeling" down there.

or maybe it's just me.


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