Joel Kotkin offers some smart observations in The Planning Report about how the city's business leadership has really dropped the ball. Might be worth reading at the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce's annual gala tonight. Some snippets:
L.A. is in the midst of a secular decline, which can be reversed, but before we reverse a decline, we have to know what the problems are and where we stand. You can read accounts by organizations like the LAEDC--the last effective business group in town--and have no sense that time is running out. There is very little public discussion or recognition of what's going on. Not that we were unique in suffering from the recession, but we have actually underperformed compared with both our old rivals and some new ones over the past decade.
The idea of Los Angeles as a model, as a city of the future, as a city that people around the world are thinking and talking about--that's gone. L.A., as a great metropolis, which we all were hoping it would become, that concept has faded. When people look at American cities, they look at New York as the great global city, they look at Boston, the Bay Area, Austin and Seattle as cutting-edge technology cities, and they look at Dallas, Houston, and a whole bunch of cities in the middle of the country as robust, fast-growing cities on the upward trajectory. Los Angeles neither has the charm and sophistication of the great coastal metropolises of the Northwest or the Northeast nor the elemental, entrepreneurial sensibilities of places like Houston or Dallas. We're in nowhere land. We're back to being Tinsel Town but with a much larger and poorer population, and it's not going to lead to a very good scenario.
The cynic in me says the only thing that will get serious discussion is when we start to see the reduction in the quality of life and services. We've been, in a funny way, like our fellow Mediterranean metropolises, like Rome, Barcelona, and Athens--living way over our means and maybe some signs of that decline will start to make us act decisively. That may be the only hope. Governor Brown's decision to go after the CRA may be a sort of wake-up call to the L.A. business community and the real estate community: The gravy train's gone, and if you want to build in L.A., you have to figure out how you do it with real value, making products that people want and that can be afforded by a population that's actually engaged. I'm hoping that realism will be re-gained. Now that we're thankfully headed to the end of our Villaraigosa era, perhaps we've had our obligatory genuflection to symbolic multicultural politics. Maybe we may start to realize that the best multicultural politics are the politics of prosperity, and refocus on that. That would be my only hope.