December 30, 1988 - From the December, 1988 issue

A Critic’s View: L.A. 2000

Leon Whiteson critiques the LA 2000 Report for lack of aspirational ideas. 


"The report’s regional vision is admirable as far as it goes; but its analysis of the physical, political and social nature of our vast and varied regional metropolis is much too shallow."—Leon Whiteson

The recently published LA 2000 Report is a remarkable document: remarkable for what it suggests for the future of Los Angeles; remarkable for its failure to grasp the true roots of the challenges facing the Southland. 

The report divides its areas of study into five sections titled: Livable Communities, Environmental Quality, Individual Fulfillment, Enriching Diversity and ‘A Crossroads City.’ At the heart of its recommendations is the establishment of a Regional Growth Management Agency, envisaged as a SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) with the teeth to implement policy. The agency would ‘prepare the regional plan and ensure it works effectively.’

The report’s regional vision is admirable as far as it goes; but its analysis of the physical, political and social nature of our vast and varied regional metropolis is much too shallow.

The kind of regional metropolis that greater Los Angeles has become is a world-wide phenomenon that has come to dominate the global economic and social scene since World War II. Such urban agglomerations bear little relation to the historic nature of the city as we have understood it so far. They are small nations in themselves - the Los Angeles region is the world's twelfth largest economy - trading with one another and supporting subsidized agricultural and small-town hinterlands.

The regional metropolis phenomenon has caught our out-of-date political structures off guard at every level, from the federal to the municipal. What this means for L.A. is that the region, while immensely productive, hasn't the tax base powers needed to finance its own infrastructures. And the quality of our leadership is so indifferent that even the most ambitious new agencies would be too timid in dealing with the challenges we face.

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On the physical level, the LA 2000 Report fails to come up with a forceful idea of how to organize the growth of our highly varied urban landscape, from the commercial center to the neighborhood core. It has not understood the clues offered by the organic growth of the metropolitan region, from the patterns of city usage Angelenos have evolved to the complexity of the urban mosaic we have inherited. Above all, the report fails to grasp the subtle interaction between rational - i.e. planned - processes and irrational - i.e. market-driven - actions and reactions that inform the energies of our public arena.

L.A. has an immense creative thrust and potential. What it lacks is powerful organizing ideas.

The LA 2000 Report, for all its worthy aspirations, offers us none of these. 

L.A. 2000 COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Establish a metropolitan area Growth Management Agency with the responsibility and authority to set overall policy and guidelines for development with area-wide impacts.
  • Prepare and adopt consistent growth management plans at every level of government, including: a Regional Growth Management Plan; a new City of Los Angeles Comprehensive Plan; and Neighborhood Planning.
  • Establish a regional Environmental Quality Agency, combining the present environmental agencies, which would be required to implement the Environmental Management Plan in accordance with a consistent set of regional growth management plans.
  • Increase the production of new affordable and market rate housing by establishing an Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  • Lessen traffic congestion by: constructing new roads, freeways and rail projects; using jobs/housing balance as a planning guideline at the community, City and regional levels; requiring employers to take more direct responsibility for the commute of their employees; and improving the efficiency of the existing system.
  • Revise the City of Los Angeles Zoning Ordinance.
  • Employ user fees to finance local government-run enterprise activities, such as water and sewer.
  • Impose development impact fees consistent with the Nolan decision, requiring developers to mitigate the impacts of their projects.
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