Los Angeles has changed but will it also embrace a new reality?
By James Preston Allen, Publisher
I remember traveling one hot July day in 1955 to the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim. For the “happiest place on earth,” that day was a disaster.
When Disneyland’s gates opened for the first time, the park unveiling was plagued with epic traffic jams, counterfeit tickets, broken rides, food shortages and a lack of water on a 100-degree day.
It was a bold move opening a theme park in the outer-reaches of Orange County—an event that heralded the urban sprawl that has now become epic in Southern California.
Gone now are the orange groves, vineyards and dairy pastures that once fanned out across the southland from places like Torrance, Lomita, Gardena and even San Pedro. San Pedro locals still remember Lochman Farms Dairy on Western Avenue.
Los Angeles County was once the largest agricultural region in the state. All of it has been divided and subdivided by freeways and thoroughfares, housing communities and shopping malls except for the last piece of vacant Lochman Farms land that’s to be developed known as Ponte Vista.
This was part of the “dream” of an ever-expanding future. Disneyland and Hollywood fueled those dreams until they hit the brick wall of the Watts Riots in the summer of 1965. The hard reality set in that some parts of sunny California weren’t a part of the “happiest place on earth.” I watched the fires burn on TV from the hills of Palos Verdes and wondered.
There is a lot more to this narrative that leads right up to Los Angeles today being the capital of homelessness that makes me believe that what we are witnessing is the demise of this dream. That all of the anger expressed by the Tea Party and the Donald Trump hostility on one side and the “enough is enough” campaign of Bernie Sanders are part of the same reaction to the squeeze.
More symbolic to this end were the recent deaths of both former First Lady Nancy Reagan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
With the first being a champion of the “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign and the latter a constitutional “originalist” appointee to the Supreme, both were extensions of President Ronald Reagan’s dubious legacy.
The worldview of this Reagan triad that started back when he was governor of California and continued with his now discredited “trickle down economics” in the 1980s. This has persisted as a legacy up until President Barack Obama got his signature Affordable Care Act passed.
The ACA continues to be a thorn in the side of conservative Republicans, Tea Partiers and neo-Trumpites even though it has survived three Supreme Court challenges, massively exceeded expectations, and has covered millions of Americans for whom the “dream” has slipped from their grasp along with their last middle-class job.
What we are clearly witnessing in this curious presidential campaign year is the end of the Reaganomics era and the beginning of something else. That’s what the real debate is about. What’s the alternative to trickle down economics, free trade and inequitable wage compensation?
Both Trump and Sanders criticize the free trade deals as a gambit that ships manufacturing jobs overseas, but clearly Sanders has the better grasp of the complexity of the issue and only recently has Hillary Clinton signed on to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
The TPP treaty is only understood by some 10 percent of the California electorate, but conservatives and liberals alike oppose it once it is explained. It is a curious phenomenon that in a time in which Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much of anything that voters both left and right oppose the TPP. This probably has something to do with the growing realization that “the dream” is slowing slipping from both hands.
Back here in the Los Angeles Harbor Area we also have these dreams of waterfront development and of saving San Pedro. Perhaps someone will make a hat that reads “make Pedro great again.” Yet, the issue of a few hundred homeless people camped out on our streets or the slow boating of waterfront development are only a veneer of the true problems that plague many parts of this great metropolis by the sea. Sustainable jobs, lack of faster public transportation to the rest of Los Angeles and better access to capital investment for small business is the cure.
The one key element that’s missing from the current plan to expand the MTA’s light rail system over the next 20 years is the connection from LAX to the Port of Los Angeles.
This one change in the transportation plan would solve two of the three causes listed here for poor economics and would improve the lives of millions of county residents who live south of the 405 Freeway, as reported on in the LA Weekly. Read the story at http://tinyurl.com/Suburbs-Fight-MTA-Transit-Plan. Supervisor Don Knabe and Mayor Eric Garcetti need to hear from you.
In the end, what’s needed for this new era is a different dream that is not predicated on more freeways, more cars or more urban sprawl as we ship jobs overseas. What is needed is for city governments to connect residents to themselves and to their city both physically and technologically. What is needed are cities committed to being both economically and environmentally sustainable while ensuring shelter for everyone, even those who have the least.