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Remembering the Big, Wonderful Life of Urbanist John Chase

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On Friday afternoon we received the shocking news that West Hollywood’s urban designer John Chase had passed away that morning. We were both left reeling from the news. How could John--a man so vibrant, so funny, so?alive--be gone?

Last week when Curbed posted the news, the item called John “a good friend to Curbed editors past and present.” We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be two of those editors. However, John wasn’t just a friend. He was a mentor and an inspiration. What is truly remarkable is that so many of us feel like we had John’s undivided attention. His unwavering support. His steadfast patronage.

While we have received hundreds of emails from John--some of them tips, some of them links to NSFW sites he thought we’d find funny (and always did) – it wasn’t until we heard him speak at de LaB’s first City Listening that we met face-to-face in December 2008. It was, as they say, the beginning of beautiful (and far too short) friendships.

We heard John speak many more times after that, and were always impressed by John’s passion for the prosaic. He was able to find beauty in the everyday. And he truly, unapologetically loved Los Angeles. His passion was infectious. He helped us appreciate LA’s vernacular--its stucco, its dingbats, its bungalows. To say that John loved camp is misleading. It implies a winking nod towards the vulgar and a certain distant irony. John’s love for the "vulgar" was far more sincere.

John was also a maximalist. Not just his design aesthetic. Or his sartorial taste (John was the quintessential dandy). He did everything maximally. His generosity was boundless. His intellectual curiosity vast. He wanted to know everything--what were we working on? Where were we going? Who were we seeing? John’s attention to our personal and professional lives was flattering and spoke to his genuine interest in the lives of others around him. He invited us into his home, out to lunch, to events he thought we’d enjoy. His openness and honesty was extraordinary (made even more so when you stop to consider his day job required him to be a bureaucrat).

Perhaps John’s greatest trait was his belief in others when they didn’t believe in themselves. We know we're not the only ones who made dismissive comments about something we were working on, and John would insist it was important, that what we were doing could make a difference. We know many other writers in LA who interacted with John the same way. His love and support felt unconditional. We know we're not the only people in LA who can say John, long after his passing, will continue to be an inspiration to us all. [Image via Gelato Baby]
--Former Curbed LA editor Marissa Gluck and editor emeritus Josh Williams