Observing Los Angeles

Learning to love Los Angeles, the essay

boom-dioramas-sipchen.jpgThe editors of Boom: A Journal of California asked writer Bob Sipchen and his son Rob, "both ardent Angelenos and environmentalists," to take on a challenge in the magazine's fall issue about water and Los Angeles' relationship with it. Their assignment: to "defend LA’s right to exist." Bob Sipchen is the editor of Sierra magazine and communications director for the Sierra Club in San Francisco, but for many years before that he was a reporter, columnist and editor at the Los Angeles Times, including of the late weekend Opinion section. He was a longtime resident of the Mount Washington neighborhood, as was his son, a recent graduate of Cornell University’s Regional and Urban Planning Department. Boom calls their response to the challenge "somewhat conflicted."

Sample of Learning to Love LA:

Water and people flow in interacting currents. It’s important that a father and son keep this in mind as we take on one of the most important tasks ever assigned. For, if we understand our responsibility correctly, Boom has given us the San Andreas–like power to determine whether Los Angeles shall continue to exist.

Some of you living in environmentally sinful Southern California probably got nervous reading that last sentence. Well, it gets worse. Six years ago Bob, the older and more despotic of your judges, moved to San Francisco, where it is simply a given that Los Angeles has no right to inhabit the same planet, let alone the same coast, as the pretty little city by the bay. Abandon not all hope, though, for the younger and more forgiving Rob still lives in the heart of the metastasized megalopolis to the south.

Given the magnitude of our mission, it seems fitting to wade in with the observation that many Southern Californians get their first taste of regional planning as omnipotent child-giants, toes squishing into cool mud on the banks of tiny lakes and streams....

The editor of Boom, Jon Christensen, is the newest columnist at LA Observed, with Mark Gold of UCLA.

Another weekend read: "The Story of Grand Central Station and the Taming of the Crowd," from a Scientific American blog.

“Left or right?” he asked me as we watched the commuter train approach. A group of people nearby moved into position to line up with the door, all likely thinking the same thing: How do I get a seat? “Left,” I said. “These people are going to go right.” He looked at me for a minute and then nodded. We followed the initial surge in and turned to the left where the smaller seating section of the train is located—sure enough, the bulk of the crowd flowed to the right.

“Nicely done,” he said as we settled into our seats. If only it were that easy—these calls aren’t guaranteed: they’re dependent on time of day, direction of commute, the type of commuter rail car, the length of the station platform, whether there are special events (that cause more people to take the trains), and of course, people themselves....

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