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Crashing the Party at Good’s LA 2.0 Event

December 7, 2009

The innovative LA-based Good Magazine bore host last weekend to a unique event, perhaps the most entertaining get together that has anything to do with civic planning: LA 2.0. As I didn’t hear about the event in time to apply, and I have absolutely no background in urban planning (except this blog!), I was not invited to the actual event. But since urban boosters and Curbed reading archi-nerds are generally pleasant company to keep, I decided to crash the afterparty with a bike-riding friend of mine.

The group was generally spirited, happy to have gotten a chance to do what they do best, and phrases like “multi-modal corridor adaptation” and “sustainable infill” were thrown around like dough at a pizza tossing contest. They were also a very scholarly bunch; I quickly discovered that I was one of the few people in attendance without a postgraduate degree. But they weren’t stuffy, one accomplished architect suggested that the iphone “bump” application is best practiced using a prophylactic.

I did a bit of sniffing around to find out what actually took place at the meeting. Apparently, the twenty five admitted participants had been grouped into five groups of five people, then each group was given a specific area of development to focus on for the city of LA and the surrounding region. As far as I could tell there were plenty of broad suggestions; one group suggested that the solution to LA’s problems would be for everyone to “love each other more” – while this is certainly a good start, I think it’s going to take more than that. There was less in the way of concrete planning, but then again, I don’t think that’s really what LA 2.0 was supposed to be about.

Photo: Ron Milam

I spoke with Ron Milam, who wrote in Streetsblog that many groups, working in different areas, settled on the idea of “Ciclavia”: a temporary shut-down of city streets to be used for bikes and park space. I’m fond of this idea, but i think it’s also going to take an addition of permanent parks and public spaces to improve the city. One of the “public space” team members told me that there were plenty of ideas for permanent parks as well, their ultimate suggestion was to build more activity-specific areas, such as Mariachi Plaza, that could also be adapted for general use as well. Unfortunately, there was no mention of freeway cover parks, an innovative idea which could create new park space while preserving existing freeways.

The transportation group came to the consensus that each of LA’s arterial streets should be tailored to a different transportation type; i.e. Olympic would be a bike street, Pico would be a bus street, etc. “What about the subway down Wilshire?”, I asked a member of the group. “Well, we all agreed that that should be built, this is more about what to do in the 10 years before it opens,” she told me.

I told people there about the blog, their reply was, “Hey, everyone at the conference was an LA Loyalist!” And somehow I think that’s what draws me to these urban planning soirees; though the field is somewhat obscure and at times difficult to understand, at the root of it lies an affection for the unique togetherness one finds in a city environment. In LA, that togetherness isn’t as apparent as in other cities, and who can blame these urban thinkers for trying to make it easier to find? Time will tell if any of these ideas come to pass, but whether or not they do, it’s good to know that so many people are interested in making the city a better place.

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