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Shade
[via: https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/1122670547777871874

who concludes…
https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/1122685558688485376
"🌴Imagine what LA could do if it tied street enhancement to a comprehensive program of shade creation: widening the sidewalks, undergrounding powerlines, cutting bigger tree wells, planting leafy, drought-resistant trees, + making room for arcades, galleries, + bus shelters.🌳"]

"All you have to do is scoot across a satellite map of the Los Angeles Basin to see the tremendous shade disparity. Leafy neighborhoods are tucked in hillside canyons and built around golf courses. High modernist homes embrace the sun as it flickers through labor-intensive thickets of eucalyptus. Awnings, paseos, and mature ficus trees shade high-end shopping districts. In the oceanfront city of Santa Monica, which has a dedicated municipal tree plan and a staff of public foresters, all 302 bus stops have been outfitted with fixed steel parasols (“blue spots”) that block the sun. 9 Meanwhile, in the Los Angeles flats, there are vast gray expanses — playgrounds, parking lots, and wide roads — with almost no trees. Transit riders bake at unsheltered bus stops. The homeless take refuge in tunnels and under highway overpasses; some chain their tarps and tents to fences on Skid Row and wait out the day in the shadows of buildings across the street.

Shade is often understood as a luxury amenity, lending calm to courtyards and tree-lined boulevards, cooling and obscuring jewel boxes and glass cubes. But as deadly, hundred-degree heatwaves become commonplace, we have to learn to see shade as a civic resource that is shared by all. In the shade, overheated bodies return to equilibrium. Blood circulation improves. People think clearly. They see better. In a physiological sense, they are themselves again. For people vulnerable to heat stress and exhaustion — outdoor workers, the elderly, the homeless — that can be the difference between life and death. Shade is thus an index of inequality, a requirement for public health, and a mandate for urban planners and designers.

A few years back, Los Angeles passed sweeping revisions to the general plan meant to encourage residents to walk, bike, and take more buses and trains. But as Angelenos step out of their cars, they are discovering that many streets offer little relief from the oppressive sunshine. Not everyone has the stamina to wait out the heat at an unprotected bus stop, or the money to duck into an air-conditioned cafe. 11 When we understand shade as a public resource — a kind of infrastructure, even — we can have better discussions about how to create it and distribute it fairly.

Yet cultural values complicate the provision of shade. Los Angeles is a low-rise city whose residents prize open air and sunshine. 12 They show up at planning meetings to protest tall buildings that would block views or darken sunbathing decks, and police urge residents in high-crime neighborhoods to cut down trees that hide drug dealing and prostitution. Shade trees are designed out of parks to discourage loitering and turf wars, and designed off streets where traffic engineers demand wide lanes and high visibility. Diffuse sunlight is rare in many parts of Los Angeles. You might trace this back to a cultural obsession with shadows and spotlights, drawing a line from Hollywood noir — in which long shadows and unlit corners represent the criminal underworld — to the contemporary politics of surveillance. 13 The light reveals what hides in the dark.

When I think of Los Angeles, I picture Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village, a streetcar suburb converted into a ten-lane automobile moonscape. People say they like this street for its wall of low-slung, pre-war storefronts, home to record stores and restaurants. To me, it’s a never-ending, vertiginous tunnel of light. I squint to avoid the glare from the white stucco walls, bare pavement, and car windows. From a climate perspective, bright surfaces are good; they absorb fewer sun rays and lessen the urban heat-island effect. But on an unshaded street they can also concentrate and intensify local sunlight."



"At one time, they did. “Shade was integral, and incorporated into the urban design of southern California up until the 1930s,” Davis said. “If you go to most of the older agricultural towns … the downtown streets were arcaded. They had the equivalent of awnings over the sidewalk.” Rancho homes had sleeping porches and shade trees, and buildings were oriented to keep their occupants cool. The original settlement of Los Angeles conformed roughly to the Law of the Indies, a royal ordinance that required streets to be laid out at a 45-degree angle, ensuring access to sun in the winter and shade in the summer. Spanish adobes were built around a central courtyard cooled by awnings and plants. 15 As the city grew, the California bungalow — a low, rectangular house, with wide eaves, inspired by British Indian hill stations — became popular with the middle class. “During the 1920s, they were actually prefabricated in factories,” Davis said. “There are tens of thousands of bungalows, particularly along the Alameda corridor … that were manufactured by Pacific Ready-Cut Homes, which advertised itself as the Henry Ford of home construction.” 16

All that changed with the advent of cheap electricity. In 1936, the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light completed a 266-mile high-voltage transmission line from Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam), which could supply 70 percent of the city’s power at low cost. Southern Californians bought mass-produced housing with electric heating and air conditioning. By the end of World War II, there were nearly 4 million people living in Los Angeles County, and the new neighborhoods were organized around driveways and parking lots. Parts of the city, Davis said, became “virtually treeless deserts.”"



"It’s easy to see how this hostile design reflected the values of the peak automobile era, but there is more going on here. The destruction of urban refuge was part of a long-term strategy to discourage gay cruising, drug use, and other “shady” activities downtown. In 1964, business owners sponsored another redesign that was intended, in the hyperbolic words of the Los Angeles Times, to finally clear out the “deviates and criminals.” The city removed the perimeter benches and culled even more palms and shade trees, so that office workers and shoppers could move through the park without being “accosted by derelicts and ‘bums.’” Sunlight was weaponized. “Before long, pedestrians will be walking through, instead of avoiding, Pershing Square,” the Times declared. “And that is why parks are built.” 19"



"High-concept architecture is one way to transform the shadescape of Los Angeles. Street trees are another. Unfortunately, the city’s most ubiquitous tree — the iconic Washington robusta, or Mexican fan palm — is about as useful in that respect as a telephone pole.

Palm trees have been identified with southern California since 1893, when Canary Island date palms — the fatter, stouter cousin — were displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair. On the trunk of one of those palms, boosters posted the daily temperatures at a San Diego beach, and the tree itself came to stand for “sunshine and soft air.” In his indispensable history, Trees in Paradise, Jared Farmer traces the palm’s transformation from a symbol of a healthy climate to a symbol of glamour, via its association with Hollywood. 26

Despite that early fame, palm trees did not really take over Los Angeles until the 1930s, when a citywide program set tens of thousands of palms along new or recently expanded roads. They were the ideal tree for an automobile landscape. Hardy, cheap, and able to grow anywhere, palm trees are basically weeds. Their shallow roots curl up into a ball, so they can be plugged into small pavement cuts without entangling underground sewer and water mains or buckling sidewalks. As Farmer puts it, palms are “symbiotic infrastructure,” beautifying the city without making a mess. Plus, as Mary Pickford once pointed out, the slender trunks don’t block the view of storefronts, which makes them ideal for window-shopping from the driver’s seat. The city’s first forester, L. Glenn Hall, planted more than 25,000 palm trees in 1931 alone. 27

Hall’s vision, though, was more ambitious than that. He planned to landscape all of Los Angeles’s roads with 1.2 million street trees. Tall palms, like Washingtonia robusta, would go on major thoroughfares, and side streets would be lined with elm, pine, red maple, liquidambar, ash, and sycamore. A Depression-era stimulus package provided enough funds to employ 400 men for six months. But the forestry department put the burden of watering and maintenance on property owners, and soon it charged for cutting new tree wells, too. Owners weren’t interested. So Hall concentrated his efforts on the 28 major boulevards that would serve the 1932 Olympics — including the now-iconic Ventura, Wilshire, Figueroa, Vermont, Western, and Crenshaw — and committed the city to pay for five years of tree maintenance. That may well have bankrupted the tree planting program, and before long the city was urging property owners to take on all costs, including the trees themselves.

This history partly explains the shade disparity in Los Angeles today. Consider the physical dimensions of a major city street in Hall’s time. Between the expanding road and narrowing sidewalks was an open strip of grass, three to ten feet wide, known as the parkway. Having rejected a comprehensive parks system, Los Angeles relied on these roadside strips to plant its urban forest, but over time the parkways were diminished by various agencies in the name of civic improvements — chiefly, road widening. 29 And the stewardship of these spaces was always ambiguous. The parkways are public land, owned and regulated by the … [more]
losangeles  trees  shade  history  palmtrees  urbanplanning  electricity  inequality  2019  sambloch  mikedavis  urban  urbanism  cars  transportation  disparity  streets  values  culture  pedestrians  walking  heat  light  socal  california  design  landscape  wealth  sidewalks  publictransit  transit  privacy  reynerbanham  surveillance  sun  sunshine  climatechange  sustainability  energy  ericgarcetti  antoniovillaraigosa  environment  realestate  law  legal  cities  civics 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind - The New York Times
"“I get where you’re coming from,” she said. “But how about this: Instead of asking whether anyone should be locked up or go free, why don’t we think about why we solve problems by repeating the kind of behavior that brought us the problem in the first place?” She was asking them to consider why, as a society, we would choose to model cruelty and vengeance.

As she spoke, she felt the kids icing her out, as if she were a new teacher who had come to proffer some bogus argument and tell them it was for their own good. But Gilmore pressed on, determined. She told them that in Spain, where it’s really quite rare for one person to kill another, the average time you might serve for murdering someone is seven years.

“What? Seven years!” The kids were in such disbelief about a seven-year sentence for murder that they relaxed a little bit. They could be outraged about that, instead of about Gilmore’s ideas.

Gilmore told them that in the unusual event that someone in Spain thinks he is going to solve a problem by killing another person, the response is that the person loses seven years of his life to think about what he has done, and to figure out how to live when released. “What this policy tells me,” she said, “is that where life is precious, life is precious.” Which is to say, she went on, in Spain people have decided that life has enough value that they are not going to behave in a punitive and violent and life-annihilating way toward people who hurt people. “And what this demonstrates is that for people trying to solve their everyday problems, behaving in a violent and life-annihilating way is not a solution.”

The children showed Gilmore no emotion except guarded doubt, expressed in side eye. She kept talking. She believed her own arguments and had given them many years of thought as an activist and a scholar, but the kids were a tough sell. They told Gilmore that they would think about what she said and dismissed her. As she left the room, she felt totally defeated.

At the end of the day, the kids made a presentation to the broader conference, announcing, to Gilmore’s surprise, that in their workshop they had come to the conclusion that there were three environmental hazards that affected their lives most pressingly as children growing up in the Central Valley. Those hazards were pesticides, the police and prisons.

“Sitting there listening to the kids stopped my heart,” Gilmore told me. “Why? Abolition is deliberately everything-ist; it’s about the entirety of human-environmental relations. So, when I gave the kids an example from a different place, I worried they might conclude that some people elsewhere were just better or kinder than people in the South San Joaquin Valley — in other words, they’d decide what happened elsewhere was irrelevant to their lives. But judging from their presentation, the kids lifted up the larger point of what I’d tried to share: Where life is precious, life is precious. They asked themselves, ‘Why do we feel every day that life here is not precious?’ In trying to answer, they identified what makes them vulnerable.”"



"The National Employment Law Project estimates that about 70 million people have a record of arrest or conviction, which often makes employment difficult. Many end up in the informal economy, which has been absorbing a huge share of labor over the last 20 years. “Gardener, home health care, sweatshops, you name it,” Gilmore told me. “These people have a place in the economy, but they have no control over that place.” She continued: “The key point here, about half of the work force, is to think not only about the enormity of the problem, but the enormity of the possibilities! That so many people could benefit from being organized into solid formations, could make certain kinds of demands, on the people who pay their wages, on the communities where they live. On the schools their children go to. This is part of what abolitionist thinking should lead us to.”

“Abolition,” as a word, is an intentional echo of the movement to abolish slavery. “This work will take generations, and I’m not going to be alive to see the changes,” the activist Mariame Kaba told me. “Similarly I know that our ancestors, who were slaves, could not have imagined my life.” And as Kaba and Davis and Richie and Gilmore all told me, unsolicited and in almost identical phrasing, it is not serendipity that the movement of prison abolition is being led by black women. Davis and Richie each used the term “abolition feminism.” “Historically, black feminists have had visions to change the structure of society in ways that would benefit not just black women but everyone,” Davis said. She also talked about Du Bois and the lessons drawn from his conception of what was needed: not merely a lack of slavery but a new society, utterly transformed. “I think the fact that so many people now do call themselves prison abolitionists,” Michelle Alexander told me, “is a testament to the fact that an enormous amount of work has been done, in academic circles and in grass-root circles. Still, if you just say ‘prison abolition’ on CNN, you’re going to have a lot of people shaking their heads. But Ruthie has always been very clear that prison abolition is not just about closing prisons. It’s a theory of change.”

When Gilmore encounters an audience that is hostile to prison abolition, an audience that supposes she’s naïvely suggesting that those in prison are there for smoking weed, and wants to tell her who’s really locked up, what terrible things they’ve done, she tells them she’s had a loved one murdered and isn’t there to talk about people who smoke weed. But as she acknowledged to me, “Part of the whole story that can’t be denied is that people are tired of harm, they are tired of grief and they are tired of anxiety.” She described to me conversations she’d had with people who are glad their abusive husband or father has been removed from their home, and would not want it any other way. Of her own encounter with murder, she’s more philosophical, even if the loss still seems raw.

“I had this heart-to-heart with my aunt, the mother of my murdered cousin, John. On the surface, we were talking about something else, but we were really talking about him. I said, ‘Forgive and forget.’ And she replied, ‘Forgive, but never forget.’ She was right: The conditions under which the atrocity occurred must change, so that they can’t occur again.”

For Gilmore, to “never forget” means you don’t solve a problem with state violence or with personal violence. Instead, you change the conditions under which violence prevailed. Among liberals, a kind of quasi-Christian idea about empathy circulates, the idea that we have to find a way to care about the people who’ve done bad. To Gilmore this is unconvincing. When she encountered the kids in Fresno who hassled her about prison abolition, she did not ask them to empathize with the people who might hurt them, or had. She instead asked them why, as individuals, and as a society, we believe that the way to solve a problem is by “killing it.” She was asking if punishment is logical, and if it works. She let the kids find their own way to answer."
prison  incarceration  prisons  2019  mariamekaba  ruthwilsongilmore  geography  policy  justice  prisonabolition  abolitionists  restorativejustice  socialjustice  transformativejustice  activism  punishment  vengeance  angeladavis  mikedavis  cedricobinson  barbarasmith  prisonindustrialcomplex  neilsmith  carceralgeography  bethrichie  society  rachelkushner 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Revisiting Mike Davis' case for letting Malibu burn - Los Angeles Times
"During fire season, I always think about Mike Davis, author of one of the most — pardon the pun — incendiary essays in the annals of SoCal letters: “The Case for Letting Malibu Burn.” I return to this chapter from his book “Ecology of Fear” any time that the Santa Ana winds howl and thousands flee raging infernos — a ritual that used to happen every couple of years but now seems to happen every couple of months.

“The Case for Letting Malibu Burn” is a powerhouse of history, science, Marxist analysis — and a certain amount of trolling. Its main point is that Southern Californians will never accept that fire is not only common here, but part of our ecology going back centuries. To spend millions saving homes in areas never meant for neighborhoods and power lines is not just folly, but a waste of public resources.

This time around, as California burned from the north to the south, I checked in via email with Davis, now professor emeritus at UC Riverside. He’s best known for his literary double whammy against Los Angeles exceptionalism: 1990’s “City of Quartz” and 1998’s “Ecology of Fear.” Those books made the Los Angeles of “Chinatown” seem as sinister as Mayberry. Davis’ tales of racism, poverty, corruption and other sins — backed by copious footnotes — inspired a generation of radical historians and writers, including yours truly. He also riled an army of detractors who so hated his apocalyptic warnings that they ridiculed everything from his scholarship to his marriages to the fact that he was born in Fontana.

But as the years go on, Davis’ bleak words read more like revelations than rants. Just as he argued, we build deeper into canyons and foothills, daring Mother Nature to give us her best shot — and then are shocked when she does.

The Woolsey fire has already scorched more than 96,000 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, destroying 435 structures in Malibu and other cities. It’s yet another “fire of the century” for the beach city.

“Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, you stayed in your homes when there was a fire and you were able to protect them,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said during a news conference this weekend. “We’re entering a new normal. Things are not the way they were 10 years ago.”

In other words, we now live in Mike Davis’ world. He has ascended to the pantheon of Golden State visionary authors like Helen Hunt Jackson, Upton Sinclair and Carey McWilliams who held up a mirror to us that we have ignored at our own peril.

“The Case for Letting Malibu Burn” depicted Malibu and other wealthy cities built in the boonies as created not for “love of the great outdoors or frontier rusticity,” but rather as “thickets of privacy” against L.A.’s working classes and people of color.

We enable this white flight into the mountains, he argued, by not just allowing development where there shouldn’t be any, but also subsidizing those affected by the inevitable wildfire in the form of cheap fire insurance and squadrons of first responders deployed around the clock at the hint of an ember.

He went through a litany of Malibu blazes over the last century, concluding with the Old Topanga blaze of 1993 — which consumed about 18,000 acres but destroyed 323 structures. Throw in climate change, Davis noted in a version of his essay that appeared in the L.A. Weekly, and the catastrophe “marked a qualitative escalation in fire danger, if not the actual emergence of a new, post-suburban fire regime.”

And, almost exactly 25 years later, here we are again.

Davis’ work on Malibu’s flames has aged far better than the criticism of it. Chapman University urban studies fellow Joel Kotkin, for instance, said of “Ecology of Fear” back in the 1990s that it “basically mugs Los Angeles” and is “truly nauseating stuff.” Yet by 2007, Kotkin told the Economist, in an article about the fires that fall that wreaked havoc from San Diego to Santa Barbara, that “nature still has a lot of power” in the once-unspoiled areas where we build homes — which is what Davis contended all along.

Then there’s former Malibu real estate agent Brady Westwater, who refashioned himself as a downtown L.A. booster. You couldn’t write about “Ecology of Fear” for years without mentioning Westwater, who hounded reporters with screeds and stats about Davis’ real and alleged errors until the press finally began to cite him as a legitimate critic.

In his own 1998 essay (whose titled described Davis as a “purposefully misleading liar”), Westwater predicted that “fire damage will decrease over the years” in Malibu because of better infrastructure and better-built homes. Of the Old Topanga disaster, he plainly declared: “That kind of fire can never happen again.”

And yet here we are again.

Davis remains persona non grata in Malibu, from Neptune’s Net to Pepperdine University. Malibuites took “The Case…” as a direct attack on their beliefs and ways of life.

Davis takes no satisfaction in seeing his analysis come true all over again. But the author, who’s recovering from cancer, stands by what he wrote.

“I’m infamous for suggesting that the broader public should not have to pay a cent to protect or rebuild mansions on sites that will inevitably burn every 20 or 25 years,” he told me. “My opinion hasn’t changed.”"
mikedavis  2018  malibu  losangeles  california  fires  whiteflight  suburbs  nature  wildfires  socal  class  race  racism  development  1990s  1993  1998  bradywestwater  helenhuntjackson  uptonsinclair  careymcwilliams  joelkotkin  inequality 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Lynell George Sings Los Angeles – Boom California
"Rooted in personal experience, George catalogs the changing landscape, delving deeply into the city’s shifting districts and ever-evolving zeitgeist coming to rise because of these shifts. A lifetime of covering her hometown is distilled into eleven meticulous essays complemented perfectly by her own poignant, original photography. One of the key themes of this collection, as she states in the text, is that there are “‘many’ Los Angeleses swarming, each with stories that [tend to]) remain in the margins, territories that could only be accessed by someone familiar with its history and layout.” Another key idea she hammers home is that the Los Angeles depicted “on television or in the movies didn’t jibe with what [she] encountered daily, no matter where [she] lived.”

Quite simply, George knows Los Angeles better than almost anyone. City of Quartz author Mike Davis stated to me in an email late April that “L.A.’s written image has always been a predictable mixture of hyperbole, cliché and outsider ignorance, with boosterism and fear as two sides of the same coin. Lynell George comes from a different place entirely. With subtle love she explores the everyday to discover the extraordinary: the creative and rebellious spirits of the neighborhoods, the schools, and the true (not fake) bohemias. She truly sings Los Angeles.”

Mike Sonksen

In the last few years, dozens of articles and think-pieces composed by cultural critics and urban pundits have discussed rising rents across Los Angeles accompanied by the transforming local landscape and built environment. Many of these pieces approach the city from a distant, more theoretical standpoint. The native Angeleno journalist Lynell George provides a much more personal and an even deeper perspective on shifts across Los Angeles because she’s been covering the terrain longer than just about anybody. Her new book of essays and photographs from Angel City Press, After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame,[1] examines and explicates Los Angeles in search of place and belonging with an uncanny verisimilitude.

Rooted in personal experience, George catalogs the changing landscape, delving deeply into the city’s shifting districts and ever-evolving zeitgeist coming to rise because of these shifts. A lifetime of covering her hometown is distilled into eleven meticulous essays complemented perfectly by her own poignant, original photography. One of the key themes of this collection, as she states in the text, is that there are “‘many’ Los Angeleses swarming, each with stories that [tend to]) remain in the margins, territories that could only be accessed by someone familiar with its history and layout.” Another key idea she hammers home is that the Los Angeles depicted “on television or in the movies didn’t jibe with what [she] encountered daily, no matter where [she] lived.”

Quite simply, George knows Los Angeles better than almost anyone. City of Quartz author Mike Davis stated to me in an email late April that “L.A.’s written image has always been a predictable mixture of hyperbole, cliché and outsider ignorance, with boosterism and fear as two sides of the same coin. Lynell George comes from a different place entirely. With subtle love she explores the everyday to discover the extraordinary: the creative and rebellious spirits of the neighborhoods, the schools, and the true (not fake) bohemias. She truly sings Los Angeles.”

IMG_1438


The Many Los Angeleses

As Davis notes, George’s forte is revealing the many Los Angeleses and she’s been doing this for over three decades. A former staff writer at both the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly, her writing has won many awards over the years, even a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes for writing the liner notes, “The Stomp Comes to the Strip,” for the six-CD set, Otis Redding Live at the Whisky A Go Go. In 2017, George also won the Alan Jutzi Fellowship from the Huntington Library for her work with the Octavia E. Butler archive.

Her first book, No Crystal Stair, published by Verso in 1992 peeled back the false facades of South Central Los Angeles to reveal the faces of the city: the mothers, fathers, extended families, the churches, the schools, and legions of teachers and social workers in the district that walked the walk. Her behind the scenes portraits of community pillars like community organizer and youth advocate Levi Kingston, jazz musician John Carter, filmmaker Charles Burnett, the Marcus Garvey School, and the Ward AME Church showed the real South Central Los Angeles, not the exaggerated misrepresentation that mass media promoted in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Her early essays are meticulously reported and stand the test of time. This new collection carries this spirit even further, matching her poetic prose with her equally skilled photography. There’s an organic unity in After/Image that radiates from every page.

Lynell George was born in Hollywood, raised in the Crenshaw District, and then moved to Culver City just before adolescence. Her parents were both teachers around inner-city Los Angeles and her father eventually became a principal. Both of her parents migrated to Los Angeles for opportunity during the early 1950s, the last wave of the Great Migration. Her father was from Pennsylvania and her mother, Louisiana.

After/Image revisits her formative years to paint an in-depth portrait of not only Black L.A.’s transformation, but the city at large. “The black L.A. where I grew up in the ’70s,” she writes, “was a territory built of dreams and defeats. A work-in-progress that was still being shaped by the unrest of the ’60s and the outsized dreams of our forebears.” After/Image maps these territories, “both physical and of the mind.”

After graduating from Culver City High School, she attended Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and studied with the great Los Angeles novelist Carolyn See. See praised her work right from the beginning. “Carolyn was a Mentor,” George tells me. “She was the first to suggest in college that I send one of the pieces I wrote for her class to either the Weekly or the L.A. Reader. Ten years later, that piece (or part of that piece), ended up being part of an essay in the Pantheon collection, Sex, Death and God in L.A.,[2] and entirely by chance, Carolyn had an essay in the same volume as well.”

After graduating from LMU, George went to graduate school for Creative Writing at San Francisco State. While in San Francisco, she met the novelist, essayist and professor Leonard Michaels. Michaels helped her sort out if she should continue in the Masters’ Creative Writing Program or take the leap of leaving grad school. “He gave me advice about what a writer should do: ‘Read. Write. Find someone who you trust to read and critique your work,’” she recalled. “He encouraged me to stay open to the world.” George ended up staying in San Francisco for only a year when a summer internship back home at the LA Weekly became a job opportunity. She listened to Michaels’ advice and sooner than later, she was doing cover stories for the Weekly.

A Pioneer of Los Angeles Journalism

For about seven years George was a staff writer at the Weekly and eventually went on to become a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times for fifteen years. George was one of the first writers in the city to cover the rise of Leimert Park as an artistic enclave in the late 1980s and the first writer to spotlight the district in the LA Weekly. She also pioneered coverage for important topics like the Black and Korean Alliances before the 1992 uprisings happened and dozens of other issues that are now more widely discussed like public versus private schools, Black filmmakers, and gentrification.

These were the glory days of the LA Weekly and George was printed along with important L.A. voices like Wanda Coleman, Ruben Martinez, and Mike Davis, all of whom she became close confidantes with. She met Coleman sometime in the late 1980s and they remained in touch all the way until 2013 when the legendary poet and writer passed. Coleman even introduced Lynell to her brother George Evans and the artist Michael Massenberg, both of whom George has had fruitful collaborations with in recent years. “Wanda was a special force in my life,” George confides. “She was a solid sounding board and sat down with me to make sure that I paid attention to whom and what was around me. She always alerted me to good stories, good people I needed to know or have around me.”

Though Coleman was nearly two decades older than George, they shared many commonalities like both being African American women writers from South Los Angeles with parents who came to Los Angeles during the Great Migration, though Coleman’s parents were in the first wave and George’s at the end. “[Wanda] was a letter writer,” George remembers, “and I still have those notes, postcards and double-spaced typewritten letters she’d drop in the mail.” Their last meeting, shortly before Coleman passed “was a ‘lunch’ that went for seven hours. It was more than a lunch, it was a seminar—in research, history, writing, life, and of course Los Angeles. I’ll never forget it.”

Like Wanda Coleman, George has lived almost her entire life in Los Angeles County. In her adulthood, George lived in Echo Park and Pasadena. Though some of After/Image is autobiographical, it is a larger meditation on the rapid changes sweeping Southern California in the last few decades.

Throughout the text, George converses with a variety of local experts like Lila Higgins from the Natural History Museum who muses on the once-ample green space across the city now developed. The chapter with Higgins, “Urban Wild,” explains how Southern California is “a hotspot of biodiversity,” and what we need to do to preserve local ecosystems and restore the Los Angeles River… [more]
lynellgeorge  losangeles  history  california  2018  mikedavis  race  racism  1970s  books  toread  photography  crenshaw  culvercity  jamesrojas  nancyuyemura  evelynyoshimura  wandacoleman  pasadena  echopark  socal  laweekly  leonardmichaels  leimertpark  rubenmartinez  greatmigration 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit on Skipping High School and California Culture | Literary Hub
"Paul Holdengraber: I had the pleasure, a bittersweet pleasure, of speaking with John Berger two years ago (about two months before he died) and I was so amazed by his extraordinary freedom of thinking. I was wondering, though I was never able to ask him, how much of it came to him from not having been forced into a certain school, or not having gone to all the schools people feel they need to go to in order to think.

It strikes me that you have that same appetite, that same appetite that comes from not having had to follow a certain regime, but rather following what really interests you, what really fills you with passion. I wonder how much of that is true, and how much of that is true to the place you’ve committed yourself to live in.

Rebecca Solnit: I didn’t go to high school and I feel that was one of the great strategic victories of my life. In the 1970s everything was very nebulous and wide open, and I just managed by going to an alternative junior high school through tenth grade, which was a very kind place compared to the place I went to for seventh and eighth grade. Then I took the GED test and started college at 16, to avoid high school altogether.

I remember thinking the GED—which is supposed to test you on everything you’re supposed to know when you graduate from high school—and thinking, “I’ve basically goofed off for two years. I’m 15 and I’m apparently able to acquire all the knowledge you need to get out of high school—what are you doing for those other three or four years?” I’ve always felt that a lot of what people are taught to do is conform and obey a set of instructions about hierarchy. It’s really destructive of the people who succeed in that system, as well as the ones who fail. I know you didn’t grow up in this country—

PH: I’m not sure I grew up. I’m still trying.

RS: Well that too. There’s the people who feel damaged by being unpopular in high school, but there’s a different kind of tragedy of people who were so popular in high school—the homecoming queens, the football captains—who feel as though they’ve arrived at the end of the journey without ever having set out for it, who feel like now they can rest on the laurels, which aren’t the laurels that will matter for the next 50 or 60 years.

It’s a very destructive system of values. You look at schools in other countries and they don’t have proms and homecoming queens and team spirit—this kind of elaborate sports culture that is very heteronormative as well as hierarchical. It also creates monsters out of the boys who are able to get away with bullying and sexual assault because they’re good at sports.

PH: You were mentioning my own upbringing. I grew up, in part, in many different countries in Europe, but one of the countries I lived was Belgium. In the mid-70s they introduced something they called Le Test Américain, “the American test.” You know what that was: multiple choice. I was terrible at it because I always felt ambivalent. I always felt, if you look at it from this perspective, that would be the answer; but if you look at it from that perspective, this would be the answer. And of course that didn’t bode well for school.

I know now that teaching has become so much that—so much about getting the supposed right answer to a question, which really means the right answer to a question if you look at it only from one vantage point. Which is exactly the contrary of what literature teaches, or for that matter, what life teaches us to think and do.

RS: When I was young, in the 80s, I read a wonderful report on why we should teach art in schools, and one of the arguments was that there is no right answer in art. There might be good ways to do things, but there’s no simple one right answer. Two plus two might be four, but the way a bird flies can be represented in innumerable ways.

PH: I wonder also, in your escape from high school, how much California and your interest in California has had to do with the way you think.

RS: One of the things about being deinstitutionalized—because not only did I not go to high school, I did sort of sprint through college and then get a journalism degree that was training to be a writer in a practical sense rather than becoming an academic—was the freedom to be synthetic, to move through what’s considered to be many fields. In fact in Wanderlust, early on, I said that if the fields of study could be considered real fields, then the the history of walking trespasses through many of them on its trajectory. And my life has been kind of like that. There’s a curious thing in academia in which authority is demonstrated by specialization and that you have to color within the lines and stick within the lines of your discipline, which I know a lot of people feel fretful about.

California wasn’t inherently an interest in mine. It was just where my father was born and where I grew up and have lived most of my life. When I was young and working at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and going to the journalism school at UC Berkeley, I did my thesis on the artist Wallace Berman and I began the process of writing the history that wasn’t available to me to read. When I was growing up in California we were regarded, almost universally, as almost a barbarian hinterland that had gone, as I often say, from wilderness to shopping mall in a single bound. And there was a lot of sneering on the East Coast about us as a place without culture, as a place of yahoos and bimbos and babes and surfer dudes, as lacking the high seriousness.

I have a friend whose East Coast cousin once said to him, “people in California don’t read.” And it was just amazing having someone dismiss the state with the UC system and Stanford and some remarkable intellectuals, from Angela Davis to Garry Snyder.

So I really didn’t grow up here with it being treated as an interesting place, though I loved the landscape, wondered about the Native history, and actually went to Europe because of that yearning for a sense of deep past and time in history. And then came back and had to find a way to locate it in this landscape.

Of course a lot of things have changed. A lot of California history has been written by Mike Davis and many other people since then. But it really was treated as a blank and trivial place when I was younger. There were some California historians, but the public mainstream attitude was very dismissive.

PH: I remember a conversation I had with Werner Herzog who said that in New York they consume culture, and in Los Angeles they actually make it. And it struck me as very interesting because there is such an assumption in New York that everything emanates from here.

RS: I’ve noticed.

PH: That’s a fantastic response, Rebecca. We’ll leave it at that for now."
rebeccasolnit  unschooling  deschooling  2018  interviews  education  california  history  culture  nyc  johnberger  paulholdengraber  values  hierarchy  teaching  art  arteducation  pedagogy  mikedavis  journalism  wallaceberman  eastcoast  angeladavis  garysnyder  conformity 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Southern California’s Uncanny, Inevitable Yuletide Fires | The New Yorker
"Who or what is causing these outbreaks? There are two schools of thought. Those who study historical fire patterns argue that the sources of ignition are irrelevant. The fundamental fire equation in California has three variables: the fuel mass, including the age and dryness of brush; the extent of residential and other development into chaparral and forest ecologies; and the intensity of the wind. Wildfire, in other words, “happens” with or without human assistance, although traditional Smokey-the-Bear-type fire prevention, which reduced the frequency of fires and thus preserved unnaturally large areas of old brush, made great firestorms more likely. Today this irony is fully understood by fire professionals, but their efforts to reduce fuel accumulation through controlled burns comes up against the ever-increasing presence of residential development in foothills and mountains. For one thing, homeowners have hungry lawyers who love to sue public agencies after a burn goes wild or simply generates too much unhealthy smoke.

The other school of thought focusses on chronic sources of ignition. The Witch Creek fire, to take only one example, was caused by an arcing power line in the San Diego backcountry. San Diego Gas and Electric, while insisting that the blaze was an act of God, eventually paid out two billion dollars in damages to fire victims. (The utility’s attempt to shift part of that cost to ratepayers was recently defeated in court.) Poorly maintained power lines are prime suspects in some of this fall’s fire outbreaks as well. And there is the additional worry that terrorists, domestic or international, may someday become part of the fire cycle. A friend of mine, a world-renowned authority on wildfire, once told me about a nightmare he has during periods of high fire danger, in which a single, determined arsonist, with a map and a cigarette lighter, rides a motorcycle.

News coverage of great conflagrations runs in the well-worn grooves of cliché and sensationalism. Needless to say, the hoi polloi in incinerated trailer parks or tract homes get no more traction in headlines than the forgotten and uncounted victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The destruction of celebrity property, on the other hand, is always on the front page, and last week it looked like a few burning super-mansions in Bel Air and the phony fire threat to the Getty (one of the most fireproof structures on Earth) would dominate the news. Then came the tragic story of racehorses at the San Luis Rey Downs training facility, in San Diego County, and most people instantly forgot about the plight of Rupert Murdoch’s Bel Air vineyard.

At San Luis Rey, workers, together with the professional trainers, refused to flee the Lilac (or Bonsall) fire until the danger became acute and one trainer was set ablaze (he’s still in critical condition). Approximately fifty horses burned to death, but, thanks to the courage of their caretakers, many of them Mexican immigrants, hundreds more escaped. A photograph of these thoroughbreds desperately galloping to safety is currently among the most iconic of the myriad fire images on the Internet.

There’s an even more uncanny aspect to the Lilac fire, which is that it was described in detail in a forgotten 1956 novel by the science-fiction author Ward Moore. Moore lived in Bonsall at some point in the late nineteen-forties or early fifties, amid a hundred or so chicken ranchers, horse breeders, avocado growers, and their employees. His novel “Cloud by Day” portrayed an intolerant little community organized by a hierarchy of bigotry—against Jews, radicals, Mexicans, and blacks, in ascending order—that is reluctantly forced to unite to survive an apocalyptic Santa Ana fire approaching from the east. The geography of his fictional inferno (he provides a map), and his strikingly precise description of its dynamics, prefigure the current fire in amazing detail. When I first pondered this example of fiction prophesizing an actual event, I thought that the coincidence must be fantastically improbable. But, the truth is, if you write a story about a fire and set it anywhere in Southern California, someday it will come true."
mikedavis  socal  losangeles  2917  california  fires  wardmoore  1956  nature  urban  urbanism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
El Diablo in Wine Country « LRB blog
"The big picture, then, is the violent reorganisation of regional fire regimes across North America, and as pyrogeography changes, biogeography soon follows. Some forests and ‘sky island’ ecosystems will face extinction; most will see dramatic shifts in species composition. Changing land cover, together with shorter rainy seasons, will destabilise the snowpack-based water-storage systems that irrigate the West."



"This is the deadly conceit behind mainstream environmental politics in California: you say fire, I say climate change, and we both ignore the financial and real-estate juggernaut that drives the suburbanisation of our increasingly inflammable wildlands. Land use patterns in California have long been insane but, with negligible opposition, they reproduce themselves like a flesh-eating virus. After the Tunnel Fire in Oakland and the 2003 and 2007 firestorms in San Diego County, paradise was quickly restored; in fact, the replacement homes were larger and grander than the originals. The East Bay implemented some sensible reforms but in rural San Diego County, the Republican majority voted down a modest tax increase to hire more firefighters. The learning curve has a negative slope.

I’ve found that the easiest way to explain California fire politics to students or visitors from the other blue coast is to take them to see the small community of Carveacre in the rugged mountains east of San Diego. After less than a mile, a narrow paved road splays into rutted dirt tracks leading to thirty or forty impressive homes. The attractions are obvious: families with broods can afford large homes as well as dirt bikes, horses, dogs, and the occasional emu or llama. At night, stars twinkle that haven’t been visible in San Diego, 35 miles away, for almost a century. The vistas are magnificent and the mild winters usually mantle the mountain chaparral with a magical coating of light snow.

But Carveacre on a hot, high fire-danger day scares the shit out of me. A mountainside cul-de-sac at the end of a one-lane road with scattered houses surrounded by ripe-to-burn vegetation – the ‘fuel load’ of chaparral in California is calculated in equivalent barrels of crude oil – the place confounds human intelligence. It’s a rustic version of death row. Much as I would like for once to be a bearer of good news rather than an elderly prophet of doom, Carveacre demonstrates the hopelessness of rational planning in a society based on real-estate capitalism. Unnecessarily, our children, and theirs, will continue to face the flames."
mikedavis  2017  fire  fires  winds  diablowinds  santaanawinds  bayarea  napa  sonoma  sandiego  oaklandhills  santarosa  santacruz  stephenpyne  nature  urbanism  urban  capitalism  greenland  climatechange  lacienega  pacificnorthwest  cascadia  vanouve  britishcolumbia  phoenix  jerybrown  california  oakland  carveacre  mcmansions 
october 2017 by robertogreco
InternetBoard v1.0: "Solidarity" A UCSD Professor On Why He Will Strike 9/24 Source Mike Davis
""Solidarity" A UCSD Professor On Why He Will Strike On September 24

The UC strike com. asked me this morning to write a short piece on 'solidarity'*

Mike Davis
1331 33rd St
San Diego CA 92102
mdavis@ucr.edu

Many years ago in the faded Art Nouveaux splendor of a Gorbals (Glasgow) pub,
I met a man who told me an extraordinary story about his grandfather, a
coalminer who had been killed in a pit disaster before the First World War. A
methane explosion, followed by a roof collapse, had trapped his grandfather
and his mates deep in the mine, where they were eventually asphyxiated. When
rescuers reached their tomb days later, they found a final, defiant message
chiseled into the coalface: 'God save our union.'

The spirit of these doomed Scots miners isn't easily replicated in rational choice
models of social action. Nor can simple economic calculation explain the fervor
with which Lancashire cotton workers, whose wages depended upon Southern
cotton and the British domination of India, supported Lincoln and later Gandhi.
Likewise, from the 1934 San Francisco General Strike to Justice for Janitors in
the 1980s and 1990s, California working people have repeatedly translated their
passion for justice and dignity into the slogan 'an injury to one, is an injury to all.'

The labor and civil rights movements, to be sure, aren't fairy tales, and the
heroic moments are often counterbalanced by the petrification of militancy into
leaden bureaucracy and the selfish calibration of seniority. Solidarity is too
often an orphan. In our case, there are disheartening examples of the tenured
strata ignoring the recent picket-lines of catering workers, secretaries,
lecturers, and students.

UC faculty, indeed, are much like the residents of Jonathan Swift's city of Laputa:
distracted by their departmental micropolitics and the distribution of FTEs while
they float on a cloud above the existential distress of K-12 and community
education. The Senate faculty also must share responsibility with the Regents
for the system's transformation into a vast machine for the transformation of
public research into corporate profit. Most UC campuses now more resemble
gated communities than public temples of learning.

A lot of us have complained about this situation for years, but our discomfort
has seldom moved us to action. But the challenge is now epic-historic: equity
and justice are endangered at every level of the Master plan for Education.
Obscene wealth still sprawls across the coastal hills, but flat-land inner cities
and blue-collar interior valleys face the death of the California dream. Their
children - let's not beat around the bush - are being pushed out of higher
education. Their future is being cut off at its knees.

The September 24 strike movement, in my opinion, is most important because it
defends non-tenured employees and demands public disclosure of the Regents'
secret diplomacy. It is an elementary reflex of a progressive, humane
consciousness: an antidote to the staggering selfishness and elitism of Andrew
Scull and his Gang of 23.

A strike, by matching actions to words,, is also the highest form of teach-in.
This seed of resistance, of course, will only grow to maturity through cultivation
by unionized employees and students. They are the real constant gardeners,
and hopefully branches of a unified fight-back will quickly intertwine with the
parallel struggles of CSU, community college, K-12 and adult-education
workers.

The strike also provides a bully pulpit to counter the still widespread belief that
the UC system has a unique dispensation and can once again negotiate its own
special deal in Sacramento. Many of our colleagues are simply in denial. This
time around, the first-class passengers are in the same frigid water with the
kindergarten teachers and community college janitors.

The 24th is the beginning of learning how to shout in unison. And whatever the
outcome, it at allows us write our beliefs on the coalface.

* UPTE/CWA has voted to strike U.C. on September 24"
mikedavis  sandiego  ucsd  2010 
january 2017 by robertogreco
A Boom Interview: Mike Davis in conversation with Jennifer Wolch and Dana Cuff – Boom California
"Dana Cuff: You told us that you get asked about City of Quartz too often, so let’s take a different tack. As one of California’s great urban storytellers, what is missing from our understanding of Los Angeles?

Mike Davis: The economic logic of real estate and land development. This has always been the master key to understanding spatial and racial politics in Southern California. As the late-nineteenth century’s most influential radical thinker—I’m thinking of San Francisco’s Henry George not Karl Marx—explained rather magnificently, you cannot reform urban space without controlling land values. Zoning and city planning—the Progressive tools for creating the City Beautiful—either have been totally co-opted to serve the market or died the death of a thousand cuts, that is to say by variances. I was briefly an urban design commissioner in Pasadena in the mid-1990s and saw how easily state-of-the-art design standards and community plans were pushed aside by campaign contributors and big developers.

If you don’t intervene in the operation of land markets, you’ll usually end up producing the opposite result from what you intended. Over time, for instance, improvements in urban public space raise home values and tend to become amenity subsidies for wealthier people. In dynamic land markets and central locations, nonprofits can’t afford to buy land for low-income housing. Struggling artists and hipsters inadvertently become the shock troops of gentrification and soon can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods and warehouse districts they invigorated. Affordable housing and jobs move inexorably further apart and the inner-city crisis ends up in places like San Bernardino.

If you concede that the stabilization of land values is the precondition for long-term democratic planning, there are two major nonrevolutionary solutions. George’s was the most straightforward: execute land monopolists and profiteers with a single tax of 100 percent on increases in unimproved land values. The other alternative is not as radical but has been successfully implemented in other advanced capitalist countries: municipalize strategic parts of the land inventory for affordable housing, parks and form-giving greenbelts.

The use of eminent domain for redevelopment, we should recall, was originally intended to transform privately owned slums into publicly owned housing. At the end of the Second World War, when progressives were a majority in city government, Los Angeles adopted truly visionary plans for both public housing and rational suburban growth. What then happened is well known: a municipal counter-revolution engineered by the LA Times. As a result, local governments continued to use eminent domain but mainly to transfer land from small owners to corporations and banks.

Fast-forward to the 1980s. A new opportunity emerged. Downtown redevelopment was devouring hundreds of millions of dollars of diverted taxes, but its future was bleak. A few years before, Reyner Banham had proclaimed that Downtown was dead or at least irrelevant. If the Bradley administration had had the will, it could have municipalized the Spring-Main Street corridor at rock-bottom market prices. Perhaps ten million square feet would have become available for family apartments, immigrant small businesses, public markets, and the like, at permanently controlled affordable rents.

I once asked Kurt Meyer, a corporate architect who had been chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency, about this. He lived up Beachwood Canyon below the Hollywood Sign. We used to meet for breakfast because he enjoyed yarning about power and property in LA, and this made him a unique source for my research at the time. He told me that downtown elites were horrified by the unexpected revitalization of the Broadway corridor by Mexican businesses and shoppers, and the last thing they wanted was a populist downtown.

He also answered a question that long vexed me. “Kurt, why this desperate, all-consuming priority to have the middle class live downtown?” “Mike, do you know anything about leasing space in high-rise buildings?” “Not really.” “Well, the hardest part to rent is the ground floor: to extract the highest value, you need a resident population. You can’t just have office workers going for breakfast and lunch; you need night time, twenty-four hour traffic.” I don’t know whether this was really an adequate explanation but it certainly convinced me that planners and activists need a much deeper understanding of the game.

In the event, the middle class has finally come downtown but only to bring suburbia with them. The hipsters think they’re living in the real thing, but this is purely faux urbanism, a residential mall. Downtown is not the heart of the city, it’s a luxury lifestyle pod for the same people who claim Silverlake is the “Eastside” or that Venice is still bohemian.

Cuff: Why do you call it suburbia?

Davis: Because the return to the center expresses the desire for urban space and crowds without allowing democratic variety or equal access. It’s fool’s gold, and gentrification has taken the place of urban renewal in displacing the poor. Take Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris’s pioneering study of the privatization of space on the top of Bunker Hill. Of course, your museum patron or condo resident feels at home, but if you’re a Salvadorian skateboarder, man, you’re probably headed to Juvenile Hall."



"Jennifer Wolch: Absolutely. However it’s an important question particularly for the humanities students, the issue of subjectivity makes them reticent to make proposals.

Davis: But, they have skills. Narrative is an important part of creating communities. People’s stories are key, especially about their routines. It seems to me that there are important social science skills, but the humanities are important particularly because of stories. I also think a choreographer would be a great analyst of space and kind of an imagineer for using space.

I had a long talk with Richard Louv one day about his Last Child in the Woods, one of the most profound books of our time, a meditation on what it means for kids to lose contact with nature, with free nomadic unorganized play and adventure. A generation of mothers consigned to be fulltime chauffeurs, ferrying kids from one commercial distraction or over-organized play date to another. I grew up in eastern San Diego County, on the very edge of the back country, and once you did your chores (a serious business in those days), you could hop on your bike and set off like Huck Finn. There was a nudist colony in Harbison Canyon about twelve miles away, and we’d take our bikes, push them uphill for hours and hours in the hope of peeking through the fence. Like all my friends, I got a .22 (rifle) when I turned twelve. We did bad things to animals, I must confess, but we were free spirits, hated school, didn’t worry about grades, kept our parents off our backs with part-time jobs and yard work, and relished each crazy adventure and misdemeanor. Since I moved back to San Diego in 2002, I have annual reunions with the five or six guys I’ve known since second grade in 1953. Despite huge differences in political beliefs and religion, we’re still the same old gang.

And gangs were what kept you safe and why mothers didn’t have to worry about play dates or child molesters. I remember even in kindergarten—we lived in the City Heights area of San Diego at that time—we had a gang that walked to school together and played every afternoon. Just this wild group of little boys and girls, seven or eight of us, roaming around, begging pennies to buy gum at the corner store. Today the idea of unsupervised gangs of children or teenagers sounds like a law-and-order problem. But it’s how communities used to work and might still work. Aside from Louv, I warmly recommend The Child in the City by the English anarchist Colin Ward. A chief purpose of architecture, he argues, should be to design environments for unprogrammed fun and discovery."



"Wolch: We have one last question, about your young adult novels. Whenever we assign something from City of Quartz or another of your disheartening pieces about LA, it’s hard not to worry that the students will leave the class and jump off of a cliff! But your young adult novels seem to capture some amount of an alternative hopeful future.

Davis: Gee, you shouldn’t be disheartened by my books on LA. They’re just impassioned polemics on the necessity of the urban left. And my third LA book, Magical Urbanism, literally glows with optimism about the grassroots renaissance going on in our immigrant neighborhoods. But to return to the two adolescent “science adventure” novels I wrote for Viggo Mortensen’s wonderful Perceval Press. Above all they’re expressions of longing for my oldest son after his mother moved him back to her native Ireland. The heroes are three real kids: my son, his step-brother, and the daughter of our best friends when I taught at Stony Brook on Long Island. Her name is Julia Monk, and she’s now a wildlife biologist doing a Ph.D. at Yale on pumas in the Andes. I’m very proud that I made her the warrior-scientist heroine of the novels, because it was an intuition about her character that she’s made real in every way—just a remarkable young person."
mikedavis  2016  interviews  economics  california  sanfrancisco  losangeles  henrygeorge  urbanism  urban  suburbia  suburbs  jenniferolch  danacuff  fauxurbanism  hipsters  downtown  property  ownership  housing  populism  progressive  progressivism  reynerbanham  planning  urbanplanning  citybeautiful  gentrification  cities  homeless  homelessness  michaelrotundi  frankgehry  richardlouv  gangs  sandiego  friendship  colinward  thechildinthecity  architecture  fun  discovery  informal  unprogrammed  freedom  capitalism  china  india  england  ireland  famine  optimism  juliamonk  children  teens  youth  development  realestate  zoning  sanbernardino  sciarc 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The “Urbanologists” Who Want You to Think About Steve Jobs’ Garage Next Time You Say the Word “Slum” – Next City
"If the critics are any indication, MoMA’s architecture exhibition, “Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities,” won’t be missed when it closes next week on May 25.

New York’s Justin Davidson panned the show in November before it even opened , followed by Tactical Urbanism co-author Mike Lydon’s two-part critique disputing its entire premise, including the title. The final insult arrived in March when Harvard’s Neil Brenner demolished the show’s assumptions on MoMA’s own website. But if you need a reason to see “Uneven Growth” before it’s gone, perhaps the best is becoming better acquainted with the work of Brenner’s favorite team, the Mumbai-based “urbanologists” of URBZ.

Practically speaking, URBZ is a research, design, and activist group led by Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava, who have spent the last six years working in Dharavi, the world’s most infamous slum. They refuse to call it that, however, and so do its residents. The pair titled their 2014 e-book “The Slum Outside” as a nod to this disavowal — the Dharavi they know is a middle-class neighborhood. “The slum” is always outside, somewhere else.

The slum, of course, is the hottest button in urbanism. Beneath the cliché that half the world’s population lives in cities — and that urban populations will double by 2050 — is the fact that only bottom-up informal settlements, or slums, can absorb several billion new residents in the timeframe. The debate is whether these places are engines of hope and upward mobility (i.e. the prosperity gospel of Stewart Brand, Ed Glaeser, and, to a lesser extent, Robert Neuwirth) or places where relentless entrepreneurialism belies the hopelessness of ever escaping (a point made in various polemics by Mike Davis, George Packer, and Daniel Brook).

In Dharavi, this debate matters more than ever due to the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, a controversial government proposal to swap residency rights for apartments outside the slum as well so that developers can build new, high-rise apartment towers on the land once occupied by Dharavi’s single-family homes. This, depending on who you ask, is either vital to accommodating as many as a million incoming Mumbai residents, or a government plot to trap them in high rises, separated from their communities, while developers raze their former homes for luxury buildings.

URBZ is notable in that it offers a third way at looking at Dharavi — as both a failure and a better path to success than stillborn smart cities or other attempts at top-down instant urbanism. “We haven’t exhausted urban possibility,” says Srivastava. “But because we’ve taken a certain norm — the post-World War II city — and that norm has become so expensive to maintain, you have these spillovers of people who cannot fit into that very tight definition of the city. And so they become part of a dysfunctional narrative, ‘the slum.’” Dharavi as it exists is no triumph of the city — not with one toilet per thousand people, and water provisioned from private taps. But a large part of that failure stems from insisting the city is something that must be given to residents — e.g. the current plan for free apartments in exchange for wholesale demolition and redevelopment — rather than something they can build for themselves.

As an example of the latter, Echanove and Srivastava return again and again to the notion of the “tool-house,” which they consider the emblematic urban form of Dharavi and other Mumbai slums such as Shivaji Nagar. These homes doubling as workshops enable residents to make the most of scarce space. They’re also absent from the zoning codes of most cities. As Echanove points out, “we fetishize the fact that Steve Jobs started from his garage, but it was totally illegal.” (One could argue the entire “sharing economy” is a networked version of the tool-house, with bedrooms doubling as hotel rooms and private cars serving as cabs.)

URBZ understands tool-houses as small, flexible, and networked at both the level of the neighborhood and global supply chains, a definition that underscores the parallels between a slum economy and the model making Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky a very rich man. In his recent Baffler essay, Daniel Brook mocks the oft-quoted statistic that Dharavi’s GDP approaches $1 billion, noting this breaks down to less than $1,000 per person. But as Echanove and Srivastava note in their book and elsewhere, Japan’s post-war rise to industrial prowess was due largely to the networks of small-scale factories emerging from the fire-bombed slum that was Tokyo. Although culturally distinct from Dharavi for obvious reasons, Tokyo’s resurgence represents one path South Asia’s slums could take. So do Sao Paulo, Barcelona, and Perguia — all of which URBZ have mashed-up in Photoshop with Dharavi to illustrate various trajectories.

So how do they get there? Unfortunately, you won’t find many answers at the MoMA show. By their own admission, the pair had a falling-out with their nominal teammates, MIT-POP Lab, in what even the exhibition catalogue described as a “creative and sometimes troubled collaboration.” You can find their unfiltered recommendations in “Reclaim Growth,” URBZ’ submission to the Urban Design Research Institute’s “Reinventing Dharavi” competition. Their plans call for granting residents occupancy rights rather than property rights (to discourage speculation), more carefully adding infrastructure, preserving pedestrian paths, and dignifying residents’ efforts to improve, expand, and use their homes.

“We’re not saying things should stay the way they are,” says Srivastava, “only that residents are highly involved in the changes.” The biggest difference between Dharavi as it is and the government’s plans, adds Echanove, is that the former retains the ability to evolve, sprouting new forms and functions, “unlike housing blocks that never improve over time.”

In their focus on process — Dharavi is always becoming — URBZ also describes the impulse behind such bottom-up movements and projects as Build a Better Block, Renew Newcastle , and yes, tactical urbanism, all of which aim to harness the energies of residents to improve their neighborhoods. That someone as smart as Glaeser could look at Dharavi and write, “there’s a lot to like about urban poverty,” speaks to just how much work there is left to do."
2015  greglindsay  slums  cities  urbanism  urban  justindavidson  tacticalurbanism  mikelydon  neilbrenner  mumbai  matiasechanove  rahulsrivastava  stewartbrand  edglaeser  mikedavis  georgepacker  danielbrook  robertneuwirth  informalsettlements  informal  dharavi  urbz 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Allan Sekula: Facing the Music | Available now from East of Borneo Books
"This is a book that those of us who are still proud to call ourselves documentary makers need, and it is a book that we will cherish." —Thom Andersen

"Allan Sekula was the son of the San Pedro docks and gantry cranes; the Walter Benjamin of a Los Angeles forever suspended between sweat and make-belief, riot and boosterism. His sensibility was so powerful because it was completely native and yet as internationalist as the IWW maritime workers whose heroic lore he celebrated. Above all, he had a unique eye: who else recognized that Frank Gehry is actually a shipbuilder and that his Disney Hall and the Bilbao Museum are corsairs with billowing concrete sails?"  —Mike Davis

“Facing the Music has its own way of keeping time. Read it aloud and you will hear Allan Sekula’s voice. He is still on the march, raising questions, wanting human kindness to prevail, demanding social justice for all, writing like all get-out.” —Molly Nesbit

[Also here: http://www.eastofborneo.org/books/sekula ]
via:javierarbona  allansekula  mikedavis  frankgehry  shipbuilding  losangeles  books  walterbenjamin  thomandersen 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Why does Hollywood like dystopian LAs and utopian SFs? - Boing Boing
"Jon sez, "When conjuring up the future, why do writers and filmmakers so often imagine Northern California as an edenic utopia, while Southern California gets turned into a dystopian hellscape? While Hollywood, counterculture, and Mike Davis have each helped to shape and propagate this idea, Kristin Miller traces its roots back to the 1949 George R. Stewart novel Earth Abides. Her essay follows the north/south divide in science fiction films and literature through the decades, and explores how it's continued to evolve. In the accompanying slideshow, Miller photographs stills from sci fi movies filmed in California, held up against their filming locations, from 1970's Forbin Project to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It shows not just the geographic divide in SF, but also how our futures have evolved, and how movies have the ability to change how we see our surroundings in the present."
Northern California-as-utopia, on the other hand, is strongly linked to the countercultural movement of the sixties, with its guides for technologically advanced back-to-the-land living. One can read Ernest Callenbach’s influential novel Ecotopia (1975) as the possible future seeded by Whole Earth Catalog. Ecotopia is a fictional “field study” of a future Pacific Northwest society that has split from an apocalyptic United States and is governed according to ecological principles. While much technology has been abandoned, the Ecotopians have selectively retained public transit, electric cars, networked computers, and improved recycling (Callenbach was a longtime resident of Berkeley). Ecotopia‘s themes were later picked up and elaborated in the eco-feminist tales of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home (1985), a cultural anthropology of latter-day Napa Valley-ites who have returned to indigenous ways; Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993) about a pagan, nonviolent San Francisco threatened by southern biological warfare; and Octavia Butler’s Parable books (1993, 1998) where refugees from the LA wasteland grow a new eco-religion, Earthseed, in the forests of Mendocino.
"

[See also: http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2014/02/postcards-from-the-future/ ]
hollywood  mikedavis  california  dystopia  utopia  sciencefiction  scifi  sanfrancisco  losangeles  2015  kristinmiller  ecotopia  ursulaleguin  cascasia  pacificnorthwest  wholeearthcatalog  counterculture  erneestcallenbach  starhawk  octaviabutler  earthseed  georgerstewart 
march 2015 by robertogreco
B-52 Bomber Radicalism | Jacobin
"The discursive world of urban design and planning will always be dominated by masturbatory fantasy until its inhabitants acknowledge that the real target of change must be the commodity form of land itself. Greater equity in urban space, including the basic right to remain in the city of one’s birth or choice, requires radical interference with rights of private property. Reforms — large-scale affordable housing, for example — that once seemed realistically achievable within electoral politics now demand an essentially revolutionary upheaval. Such has been the logic of Reaganite post-liberalism: to convert basic demands into what Trotsky called “transitional demands.”

Certainly, it was inspiring to see Occupiers reading the like of Slavoj Žižek and David Harvey inside their tents in Zuccotti Park, but the cause might have been better served if Progress and Poverty (1879) had been on the reading list as well. In 1890, Henry George, not Karl Marx, was far and away the most popular radical thinker in the English-speaking countries. His concept of a confiscatory tax on unearned increments of income from land ownership was as enthusiastically embraced by urban workers (he almost won the mayoralty of New York in 1886) as by Highland crofters and Irish tenants. Although Engels and Daniel De Leon rightly scourged the “Single Tax” as a universal panacea, George was no crank, especially in the application of his ideas about land reform to urban areas.

The great accomplishment of the Occupy movement — forcing national attention on economic inequality — became its ideological cul-de-sac to the extent that the movement was silent about economic power and the ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. Anyone can enlist in the vague cause of reducing income inequality, but actually attacking (or even acknowledging) the pyramid of economic power required a clarity that Occupy groups largely failed to achieve.

And yet, the historical moment offered the opportunity. After 2008, the American financial and residential real-estate industries were wards of the state, entirely dependent on public investment and government action. It was a prime moment for progressives to demand their conversion into de jure public utilities — nationalized and democratically managed.

An emphasis on public ownership would also have illuminated solutions immediately at hand, such as using the huge housing stock that defaulted to federal ownership to address the lack of shelter and affordable rents. Instead, the Obama administration followed the same path as Bush senior in the savings and loan crisis a generation ago: organizing a fire sale of homes and apartments to speculators.

Let’s be blunt: unregulated real-estate speculation and land inflation and deflation undermine any hope of a democratic urbanism. Land-use reforms in themselves are powerless to stop gentrification without more municipal ownership or at least “demarketization” of urban land.

The public city is engaged in a life-and-death struggle against the private city, and it’s time to identify large-scale private property as the disease. Bombs away."

[via: https://twitter.com/AlJavieera/status/570857618912059392 ]
2015  mikedavis  losangeles  urban  urbanism  urbandesign  architecture  property  capitalism  housing  cities  ownership  land  transitionaldemands  government  trotsky  zizek  davidharvey  occupywallstreet  ows  karlmarx  henrygeorge  danieldeleon  speculation  landinflation  democracy  demarketization 
february 2015 by robertogreco

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