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Reinventing Los Angeles: It Might Be Possible

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Curbed was in attendance at last night's Hammer Forum event "Reinventing Los Angeles: Easing Sprawl, Growth, and Gridlock." The event was moderated by journalist Ian Masters, and the panelists, Stefanos Polyzoides (pictured left) of architecture firm Moule-Polyzoides and Kenneth Small (right) of the UCI Economics department, were both relatively optimistic that we might have a chance, maybe, to solve the myriad problems afflicting this great city. But it sure won't be easy. In Professor Small's presentation, he outlined how our unbearable traffic congestion is a product of us driving more than we need to. His suggestion: Our only hope is to make driving more expensive through congestion pricing, higher parking rates, and reducing the number of parking spots. If that doesn't sound fun, too bad.

According to Mr. Polyzoides, who was a co-founder of The Congress for New Urbanism, we need to start living locally, walking to neighborhood establishments and taking short trips to work. (So if we live in Torrance but work and play in Santa Monica, we're supposed to move to Santa Monica?) Polyzoides' ideas could happen, if affordable housing magically becomes a major priority of the Federal government and special loans are made available to developers.

And what about public transportation? Both Small and Polyzoides were clear that transit won't come close to matching the convenience and mobility of our personal automobiles, at least not for another 100 years. In regard to our traffic congestion, Small said: "Better transit will have a minimal affect on road traffic except in the long term."

Added Polyzoides, speaking on the decision to rip out the Red Car system in Los Angeles: “Worst decision in the history of California?maybe we will have a [replacement, ie, a rail or transportation system] in 100 years, but it will us cost $1 trillion."

Other ideas discussed at the forum included bike sharing, adaptive re-use of buildings, water recycling, densifying downtown, bus rapid transit, urban agriculture, and defeating those nefarious NIMBYs. And LEED certification? Don't get Polyzoides started. He even called out his friend Thom Mayne over the architect's recent Gold LEED building. Said Polyzoides: "I think the LEED System is a sham. When someone tells you they are going to do a Silver LEED system, you have to laugh at them and you have to say 'What else are you going to do?" --Dan Caroselli
· Reinventing Los Angeles: Easing Sprawl, Growth, and Gridlock [Hammer]