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Urban Planning a Messy City: Billboards, Blight, Parks and Traffic

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Continuing on our journey through 2009, we look at the complexities of big city life and how urban planning impacted our daily lives - from the roads and the rails to the billboards and trees.

Rendering A Better City: Many of the renderings we saw this year envisioned a better Los Angeles where cars and bicycles coexisted peacefully and mass transit flowed freely over the chaos above and below. These mini mind-fucks may actually occur in our children's lifetime, but in ours? Questionable. But let's look at the best of future LA:

1. The magic of the Community Redevelopment Agency: MacArthur Park and the Westlake Theater, now with 100% fewer drug dealers, green card sellers, and dirt patches.

2. Screw Vegas! Future Angelenos vacation at the El Monte transit depot; boat rides for the kiddies!

3. Hollywood NIMBYs are raptured off to heaven, leaving Thom Mayne's plan to drop the CCTV tower onto Sunset Boulevard completely doable.

4. With the arrival of the Expo Line we can kiss street congestion goodbye. In its place we'll have bicyclists, pedestrians and flowers. Oodles and oodles of flowers.

5. Downtowners continue the trend of strolling along downtown streets at night without panhandlers or bacon-hot dog vendors blocking their path as shown in Daniel Libeskind's proposed tower renderings.

6. And don't forget the adorable kids and dogs soon to be populating the Toy Arts District.. The neighborhood still has some (valid) issues about the design, but say goodbye to the heaps of trash, and hello to the MegaToys project.

And more reflections on the year:

Parks for the People: This year we finally saw the resurgence of the community park. No, it wasn't a big resurgence. It was probably a tiny, short-lived resurgence that will die off when the economy gets better. But in the interim, downtowners had reason to celebrate the planned pocket park at 4th and Spring; West Hollywood got a pocket park next to the LOHA designed Formosa 1140; Koreatown gets a new pocket park memorializing Robert Kennedy at the site of the new LAUSD school built atop the former Ambassador Hotel (who knows when it'll be finished); and numerous dark, stabby alleys, including one in Pasadena, are being reconfigured into pedestrian friendly promenades. It's enough to make our crooked legs straighten up and move forward.

The NIMBY Award: We're Anti!: A collective award goes to the entire city of Los Angeles for our unashamed disdain for the billboards, supergraphics and electronic billboards blighting (and lighting) our neighborhoods. Do we constantly need to be reminded how fat we are (thanks LapBand billboards!), how cruel we are to elephants (thanks Billy billboard), and how much we loved freedom in 1969 (thanks Lady Liberty supergraphics).

The roiling billboard battle caused sleepless nights, a fight between the new City Attorney and the City Council, and general unhappiness. It was the worst of times.

An Excruciating Wait: The year brought Los Angeles closer to having a world class mass transit system that could finally drag us out of our car. The Orange Line started its turn north from Warner Center to Chatsworth (taking out some billboards along the way. BONUS!). Planning for the Purple Line (to Westwood) progressed, with Hancock Park residents blanching at the thought of drunken subway riders infesting their neighborhood. West Hollywood planned to densify around future Pink Line stations, assuming such a thing is ever built. The Gold Line Eastside extension took its maiden voyage, whisking passengers to Boyle Heights and beyond, and opening up new opportunities for foodies and developers. The Crenshaw Line is now envisioned as an 8.5-mile long light-rail line connecting the Expo Line to LAX and the Green Line. Lastly, the beleaguered Expo Line is overbudget and behind schedule and we're still not sure if the thing is going to be at grade, below grade or above grade where the line passes by schools.

Adaptive Reuse for A New Generation: Kudos to the medical marijuana dispensary "Kind for Cures", a.k.a. KFC, that found an abandoned Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on Exposition Boulevard and with a few improvements to the interiors, a 2002 issue of Stuff Magazine, and some nifty window graphics turned a blighted lot into a ray of ganja sunshine on the westside.

· Urban Planning Archives [Curbed LA]