Is Los Angeles Too Big?

Tim Halbur's picture
New Urbanism Film Festival

That's the question Colin Marshall, host of the Notebook on Cities & Culture Podcast, lobbed my way in a live recording this weekend at the New Urbanism Film Festival. At the risk of getting too simplistic, I think the answer is yes. As various observers have noted, Los Angeles is a vast territory criss-crossed by freeways and difficult to penetrate. 

The secret is that if you spend time and get to know L.A. there are a number of truly livable communities down at ground level. Getting off of and away from the freeways you'll find that there is a lot of historic fabric still intact. There are a number of problems of course, not the least of which was the short-sighted zoning that encouraged minimall development with small parking lots in front on almost every corner. L.A. is fascinating for how dynamic it is - the constant influx of immigrants from around the world, and the trends that spread like a virus across the city (Pinkberry ripoffs, food trucks, cronuts). Outsiders don't know about the enormous Persian community out on Westwood Blvd that someone clever at Google Maps dubbed "Tehrangeles". Larchmont Village is as identifiable in character as Noe Valley is in San Francisco, but most Los Angeleans probably don't ever think twice about it. It seems to me that trying to manage Los Angeles is a Herculean task, but bringing out the qualities that make the neighborhoods special and enhancing the walkability of those nodes would go a long way to improving the legibility, and eventually the particular needs and challenges, of those communities.

Colin will be releasing the podcast version of our talk soon, but meanwhile here's a video version that has poor sound quality:


Thanks to Joel Karahadian and Josh Paget for the opportunity, and congratulations to the winners of the New Urbanism Film Festival that walked away with CNU memberships. After the podcast, I watched the full version of American Makeover, produced by CNU board member Chris Elisara. The film is a very effective look at the problems facing Buffalo, NY; Fresno, CA; and Atlanta, GA, and how new urbanism is helping to bring those cities back. Stephanos Polyzoides, one of the founders of CNU, was there and was inspiring in his vision and practicality. Catch American Makeover when you have a chance, and look for the return of the New Urbanism Film Festival in 2014!



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