Saturday, October 6, 2007

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Leimert Park

Was in Leimert Park last week, a very interesting place. For those who don't know, Leimert Park is a predominately black neighborhood in South LA (MLK/Crenshawish) that was built as a planned community years ago... Today, the area serves as a center of black culture for Los Angeles.
The park itself is a masterfully simple but effective design, shielding pedestrians from the arterial roads to the south while connecting them to the pedestrian-oriented roads to the North. Meanwhile, a tremendous mix of incomes exists within a few blocks, with the Black Beverly Hills directly west while more stereotypical typical South Central neighborhoods begin to take form a block east. The area serves as a community center for a mixing of people from different incomes (if not race- while the area has a growing Latino contingent, evidenced anecdotally by the 50-50 Latino/Black mix at a bus stop down the street, Leimert Park appears to be frequented almost exclusively by blacks).

Main criticisms: the area is an island. Directly abutting the Southern end of the park are major arterial roads exceedingly hostile to pedestrians, bordered on both sides by unmemorable, sprawling crap (starting with an El Pollo Loco and going down from there). Sadly, city planners seem to have failed to understand why people like Leimert Park so much, because they didn't apply any of its obviously good traits beyond its immediate borders. A damn shame...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Buenos Aires & LA

The American built environment is so utterly depressing, and sometimes it takes a visit to some far off country to show you just how bad it really is...

In Buenos Aires last month, I realized that if I encountered a street in Los Angeles that looked like any random alley in buenos aires, I would die of happiness at how walkable and beautiful that street was... It's such a simple thing, just comparing any street in the US to any counterpart in Argentina, and yet it shows just how horrible the condition of our cities is...

This is, for example, a small side street in suburban Caballito, near where I lived. This area isn't found on any tourist itinerary, and is composed almost entirely of middle- and lower-middle class families. And yet, the street is utterly gorgeous! In the background, a local church towers over small homes & mixed-use buildings built in the first-half of the century (compare, for example, '40's stucco garden apartments)... Everything is oriented towards the pedestrian, and the cobblestone street ensures that cars respect the residential speed limit.

It's such a common street for Buenos Aires, and yet it seems so beautiful to me when taken in isolation like this, especially when I look around at my surroundings...
In West Adams, where I'm living part of the week these days for work, there are many streets with homes from a similar era, but they are poorly preserved, and cars rumble by over cement at 40 mph, a hazard to those crossing what should be a quiet, safe street... Meanwhile, the commercial strips at the edge of these residential zones are all depressingly gray, surrounding by parking lots and obviously built to be as cheap as possible... Where is the pride? If not in one's city, then at least in one's own home or business?

In Morrison Ranch over in Agoura Hills, where our streets were recently repaved, we have the same problems as in West Adams... speeding cars chase children from the streets, while commercial development is built to be as indifferent to human beings as possible, the developers having gone so far as to cement over and fence off the small creek that divides the Hillrise district from commercial development in City Center...

Where is our pride?

Friday, July 13, 2007

"The interiors of our houses have become like modernist art galleries, neutral surfaces upon which we hang our lives, flat screens upon which we project the melodramas of our families.


Builders of large subdivisions came to realize that they could personalize the impersonal with minor decorative flourishes at the late states of construction."

and apparently, we all fell for it...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Death By Urban Planning

Apparently, another jogger has been killed in Westlake Village by some speeding motorist. It still amuses me that people are shocked by this phenomenon.

When you build a lightly-used street with three, wide lanes (which can be driven comfortably and fairly easily at around 80 mph, I've tried) and then give it a speed-limit of 40, chances are people aren't gonna go 40. When a road is built to be driven at a certain speed, then it makes sense that people will go as close as they can to that speed, no matter what the posted signs say.

Westlake Boulevard was built so that you can talk on the phone, have a bite to eat, and still manage around 50 with relative ease, and no matter what the city tries to do to stop people from doing all of those things, it will fail. The fact is that the street was built so that even the most reckless motorist would be safe. By doing this, of course, the engineers decided to screw the pedestrian (who are generally housewives on morning jogs) and endanger anyone who walks on that street. The street was built for cars exclusively, and any pedestrian is breaking the street's inherent rules by attempting to use it.

Of course, people shouldn't drive recklessly, but the point is that shitty, automobile-oriented engineering enables people to engage in behaviors they wouldn't otherwise consider. Like going 80 on a city street just to write about it in some blog.

Update: Westlake Village has announced a campaign for pedestrian safety in the city. However, the campaign's tilt is towards trying to inform pedestrians in what areas they should walk when there are no sidewalks (i.e. in the direction of oncoming traffic), a completely absurd proposition in a city wealthy enough to just install the damn sidewalks that would solve the problem. The city, apparently, has enough money for gorgeous new signs proclaiming "Westlake Village" to visitors, but not enough money to make actual residents safe when they want to go for a walk. Gotta love those city council members...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Now that my summer plans for Lebanon have been all but destroyed, here's a dose of politics:

The Americans came into Iraq and destroyed a stable, moderate country. Now that the mess has been made, and the Iraqis are dying as a result, why do the Americans think they have a right to "get the hell out"?

It's amazing that Americans refuse to believe that they have only themselves to blame for events like 9/11, and the general hatred of much of the world. It's not rocket science that if you invade a country (or support a tinpot dictator), (help) murder it's people, and then ask why we can't all be friends, those people will spit on you. Ask the Iranians, the Pakistanis, the Lebanese, or basically any other people Americans are afraid will bomb them one of these days.

And you expect that the Iraqis will forget what America has done anytime soon?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Agoura Finds Love

For the longest time, everytime you went into Thousand Oaks, you would see these little white signs at the freeway offramps advertising internet love connections. Well now we've got our own source for commercial eyesore & hookups over here:

Sadly, the site doesn't appear to be very gay-friendly, even if the models look younger than those on the TO site. No matter how young or square either TO or Agoura are, though, at least we both beat out the Valley.