Observing Los Angeles

L.A.'s urban suburbs

Zina Klapper, a partner in Pop Twist Entertainment and a former editor of Mother Jones, writes at New Geography about some of the issues presented by family life in the parts of Los Angeles that are part city and part suburb. She's focused on the "'inner' San Fernando Valley Barbecue Belt communities like Encino, Sherman Oaks, and Studio City."

Your family can call for a Deli delivery at 2AM. You might run into entertainment industry executives or movie craft workers lunching at the local coffee shop; many of their offices and studios are right in the neighborhood, as are numerous other “knowledge worker” businesses. And you’re spitting distance (in LA terms, less than a half hour on the freeway) from downtown Hollywood the Getty, or UCLA. If you judge by the restaurant/ workplace/ club scene/ museum index alone, this part of town should qualify as “city,” not “suburb”.

But you’re also likely to enjoy an unattached home: ranch (modest or luxurious), bungalow (tiny and deteriorating or spiffy and renovated), or McMansion. If you’re in an apartment, it’s likely to be garden style, not a high rise.

The best of both worlds. Two geographies, joined at the hip? Not quite: it’s a marriage of convenience with a few downsides. First, you can’t talk about being an LA parent without talking transportation. Whether you are in the less dense communities of the valley, the hills, and the beach areas, or in the more urban-feeling neighborhoods like Hollywood, if you’re an LA parent you are tethered to your car.

When the suburban car-dependent culture melds with urban fear of crime and nightmarish traffic, the end game can be the worst of both worlds.

More over there. New Geography is the website and blog "devoted to commentary and discussion about the futures of places" edited by Joel Kotkin.

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