LA’s Dystopian Future

BELL VIEW--The other day, driving West on Hollywood Boulevard, while stopped at the light at Hollywood and Western, I heard small, frantic voice to my left screaming “Wait! Wait! Wait!”  

I turned and saw an elderly woman dragging a heavy suitcase screaming at the 780 Rapid Bus pulling away from the curb. Dejected, she slumped her shoulders and turned her head Westward in search of the next bus. As I headed West, I watched the oncoming traffic to see if the old woman could expect relief any time soon.

No chance.

So, she waited – at least another 15 minutes – under the hot sun, with no bench for the next bus.

This is what qualifies as a transit hubin Los Angeles.

A friend of mine recently returned from a business trip in Bonn, Switzerland. She described a magical public transportation system, with bus stops on virtually every corner, and fleets of buses lining up to take passengers anywhere in the city. And … I think it was free! Not that I would expect any such commitment to public space in the greatest country in world or anything – but might we be able to expect buses to wait for little old ladies lugging suitcases? If we can’t expect buses every five minutes, might we at least get a bench, or maybe a shade tree?  

One night last week, I decided to play a game of catch with my two kids – who are just learning to play baseball. I did a mental scan of my neighborhood in search of a park, vacant lot, or stretch of gravel where I might be able to toss a baseball back and forth with a couple of kids.

Nothing.

Sure, I could get in the car and drive up to Griffith Park – but, somehow, getting in the car to drive to a game of catch just kills the whole vibe. So we tossed the ball around our postage-stamp-sized yard and made the best of it.

Not exactly a tragedy – I get it. But a lot of young kids in this town aren’t as lucky as us. A lot of kids in this town don’t have yards. And they don’t have parks. And they don’t have vacant lots. And they don’t play catch. Or ride bikes. Or have anywhere to go.

When people who have invested their life savings in a neighborhood complain about traffic or the lack of parking or the water pipesinstalled during the Wilson Administration or the lack of green space or the crumbling streets and sidewalks or the pathetic state of public transportation in this town – they’re told to shut up.

When our neighbors in rent-controlled apartments are evicted to make way for luxury condos, we’re told the law of supply and demand will save them from the streets. Turns out packing density along transit lines actually decreasestransit usage because the low-income residents who actually rely on public transportation are forced out.

Like I said before, I don’t pretend to have the answers to issues like homelessness or the lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles – but I can’t help but wonder whether looking to developers and their minions in City Hall to save us might just be short-sighted. If we really committed ourselves to coming up with solutions to these intractable problems – instead of calling each other names and lining up for the next opportunity to hand over our future to a billionaire – maybe we could actually build a better city.

 

(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.)

-cw