Observing Los Angeles

Cory Doctorow has his reasons to trade London for LA

boing-boing-grab.jpgCory Doctorow, the successful Canadian author and co-editor of LA-based website BoingBoing.net, has been living in London for several years. But now he's headed back to Los Angeles. The reasons seem to be more a reflection on his discontent with London's raging gentrification — but he also takes a rosy and optimistic view of Los Angeles that many here may not recognize. In London, he writes, "we're not poor. In any other city, and by national standards, we are the one percent. Low-income people we know and live near are in much worse shape. For one thing, they can't leave."

He continues. A sample:

We've seen the writing on the wall: this is not a city for families. It's not a city for people running small firms. It's not a city for people who earn their living in the arts. We've given it the best we have, and we're getting out because we can.

A generation ago, squatters might have sneered at me as "gentrifying scum." Now, the titans of finance and extraction sneer at me as someone who's occupying land that could be put to better use by being "redeveloped," left largely empty, then flipped a decade later to someone even richer.

Why Los Angeles? I've lived there twice before. Both times, I found my neighborhood to be walkable, full of independent companies, and packed with people making cool stuff without any of the much-vaunted Los Angeles phoniness.

The USA is putting curbs on surveillance, expanding its national healthcare, and there are mass parental boycotts of standardised testing in its public schools. The UK just elected a Tory majority government that's going to continue to slash and burn the welfare state, attack schools, health, legal aid and teachers, and impose mandatory cryptographic backdoors in the technology we use to talk to each other. They've even announced that merely not breaking the law is no reason to expect that you won't be arrested.

Los Angeles is building new subways!

We are? There's the extension of one subway line by a few miles, coming over the next decade. Plus two new light-rail lines and some lengthened runs, some with underground segments. When they are all built and working, LA will be starting to catch up to the need and have some great transpo alternatives — and will still be the car-centric center of a metro region where most people commute by driving and the freeways are as packed as ever with solo drivers, buses and trucks. Despite a small downtick in people who say they drive, a lot of new bike lanes and the rise of services such as Uber. On the rail transit scale, LA will never be London.

As a one-percenter I don't know that Cory will benefit from any "national healthcare." I hope he isn't too disappointed to get back here and find out, not only that there are no mass boycotts of anything going on, but the biggest neighborhood issue in LA is…gentrification and soaring rents. The most visual new thing about DTLA right now is all the construction cranes. And there's the homeless population growing to include camps under freeway bridges across the city. A drive through the blocks-long tent city of 5th Street will quickly remind him of the other LA.

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Observing Los Angeles stories on LA Observed:
Can talk therapy cure LA's civic malaise?
Why Jonathan Gold's body of work will be read by historians
Shadows on Cielo Drive
Drone view: US Bank tower yoga
Returning to LA in sticker shock
Jukebox repair man of West Pico Boulevard
Injured by sidewalk, Fox 11 reporter ready to quit Los Angeles
Another great old map from Glen Creason of LAPL