In the great battle between San Francisco and Los Angeles, LA is the butt of many jokes when it comes to urban planning. But they are more often than not ill comparisons.
On a sunny yet cool weekend in Berkeley, CA, my mother, friends and I began to pack up my long time college apartment at the corner of Blake St. and Ellsworth St. I had lived in this apartment for five years; from my sophomore year at UC Berkeley to my time working as a paralegal at a law firm in Emeryville. Sure, after a while, I got tired of my neighborhood. The constant trampling of drunken college students who were just one shot away from alcohol poisoning was beginning to become tiresome. But I loved my apartment itself and the great view of the Golden Gate bridge it offered from my floor to ceiling sliding glass window. But that was all over now.
After graduation, I found my true professional joy working in the field of urban planning. And come early summer, I accepted admission into UCLA’s masters of urban and regional planning program. This meant I was to move to Los Angeles, a city I have spent a great deal of time in and enjoyed but, nevertheless, often maligned and teased, if not lovingly.
We all know the stereotypes of Los Angeles: Its a culture-less wasteland yet the capitol of car-culture in America; representing everything that is wrong with urban sprawl. Not only can you NOT walk in Los Angeles but nobody does. Transit is incomplete and is only for poor people, anyway. The list goes on but you get the picture. Columnists like Steve Rubenstein at the San Francisco Chronicle, fully displaying the semi-serious battle between Northern and Southern California, gets his jollies from railing on America’s second largest city:
Contrary to popular notion, it’s legal to walk in Los Angeles. In fact, some people walk in L.A. by choice, it being the accepted means of getting to and from a parked car.
Is all this teasery true? Is Los Angeles the glowing city on a hill in the middle of a parking lot? My quick answer is… yes and no. But some qualifiers are definitely needed. But let’s get some things straight.