- Written by Stephen Box
21 Feb 2012
AIA CANDIDATE FORUM - Christopher Hawthorne, Architectural Critic for the LA Times, is referred to as LA’s “design conscience,” an honor that must be a burden to him as he looks at the empty field to the SW of City Hall or the blighted building to the NW of City Hall or the homeless encampment to the NE of City Hall or the surface parking lots to the SE of City Hall.
LA’s Mayor holds court in a pillar of isolation that is surrounded by the work of agencies and authorities that have no respect for LA’s design aesthetic or LA’s architectural ambitions or LA’s land use standards.
The largest developers in Los Angeles operate independently and with complete disregard for LA’s standards because they have diplomatic immunity. They are the LAUSD, the Metro, the County, the State, and the Federal Government.
The AIA/LA is convinced that there is an opportunity on the horizon, one that requires a Mayor who can bring unity to the many agencies and authorities who have a piece of the city, uniting them in an urban design commitment so that LA’s architectural community can deliver on their mandate to make our city more beautiful, livable, and economically robust.
Bill Roschen, President of LA’s Planning Commission, joined Hawthorne in moderating the first of five Mayoral Candidate Forums this past Friday night, taking Councilwoman Jan Perry through a series of topics that included civic engagement, mobility, mega-projects, the demise of the CRA and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s legacy.
Perry artfully navigated the discussion that included third-rail topics such as parking maximums, density bonuses, High Speed Rail, and Streetcar assessments. In a room full of New Urbanists and Shoupistas, it would have been easy to play to the crowd but Perry stayed true to her playbook, holding up her record as evidence of her commitment to livable communities.
Perry was challenged to articulate her vision and her plan for making it happen and she didn’t skip a beat, stating confidently “I put people to work, I produce homes they can afford, I give them mobility options, I create neighborhoods where they can raise families, where their kids can attend good schools, and where they can enjoy the quality of life they deserve.”
In lieu of offering a plan for making it happen, Perry simply pointed at her track record, from her days as a Planning and Land Use Deputy early in her public service career to her recent accomplishments funding large projects and building parkletts.
The audience was equal parts professional architects, city staffers, and community activists. Roschen and Hawthorne spent the bulk of the time leading Perry through a series of architecture, urban design, and land use policy questions that allowed her to position her legacy as evidence of her architectural street cred.
In a clear demonstration that lofty architectural philosophy and vision get lost in the curbside details, the first “question” from the audience came from architectural icon Dion Neutra who simply couldn’t get over the fact that the LAPD’s Deaton Hall was built without any vehicle parking. He is a colorful character and his rant was entertaining, but it also seriously gave proof to the simple fact that lofty visions don’t resonate with the community when people live in neighborhoods that don’t work.
The next speaker also had a non-question related to a specific affordable housing project being developed with public funds in a community that didn’t want it on a street that couldn’t hold it and an economic environment that couldn’t sustain it. Another colorful character with an entertaining rant, offering more evidence that the people of LA can’t follow the vision if they feel they’re being misled.
In spite of the large number of credentialed professionals in the audience, the questions continued to nail the topics that prevent visions from soaring; “Dude, where’s my green space?” followed by “I see tons of dogs but no place to pee!” leading to “Seriously, what’s up with Pershing Square?”
From high altitude goals of architectural beauty to wonky land use policy to walkable streets that simply feel good, the AIA/LA Mayoral Candidate Forums promise to demonstrate that for all the talk, the walk starts with a simple conversation about LA and how it looks and how it feels!
There are four more AIA/LA Mayoral Candidate Forums taking place over the next four Friday evenings. Austin Beutner is scheduled for Friday, February 24, followed by Kevin James on March 2.
Watch the entire Jan Perry forum here. [part 1] [part 2] Or, check out highlights that feature Perry’s comments on the demise of the CRA [link] and the potential of Neighborhood Councils.
For more information on future AIA/LA Mayoral Candidate Forums, visit the AIA/LA website.
Tags: AIA Candidate Forum, mayor’s race, mayor’s election, Jan Perry.
Vol 10 Issue 14
Pub: Feb 18, 2012