Viewpoint: What’s in Our Town’s Future?

By Lou Kamer
Special to the Palisades News

In 1972, my father finally had it with the crowded commute from Long Island to New York City, put my family in a motor home, and drove around the country, state by state, in search of the perfect place to live. We ended up in front of his Air Force buddy’s house on a street in Castellammare, perched, at an angle, overlooking the beach. Eventually, we moved into a ranch house in Sherman Oaks with tall trees and orchards all around.

L.A. has changed a lot since then. The carefree, “laid-back” skateboard attitude has been replaced by power yoga, Uber and poverty. The city has grown considerably, ever pushing its limits and “sprawl.”

Throughout the years, traffic has remained the binding force that defines Angelenos. Various L.A. city administrations have tried to fix it with wider freeways, technology, carpooling and bicycles. Nothing works consistently. There are just too many cars.

The newest solutions appear innocuous, but I think they represent something much bigger. The passage of Measure M, which promises to expand our public transportation network, combined with the almost maniacal construction of huge mixed-use projects and McMansions, remind me of something Con Howe, the former head of the L.A. City Planning Department, said 10 years ago: “Of all these changes, the one that will have the most impact on the physical form of the city is infill development in the centers and commercial corridors of the city.”

Howe said that L.A., which was designed around the automobile and grew outward, should now be redeveloped as towering, densely populated island sub-cities dotted throughout the city and connected by public transportation.

Eleven years later, the ball that Howe rolled has been accelerating, with large, well-funded, multi-use mini-city centers rushing through city approval and appearing next to train lines, river ways and heavily populated areas. The city is no longer sprawling. It is leaping skyward.

What does this have to do with us? We live in a town with Specific Plan rules and a strong community voice. For the most part, we are mostly self-sufficient and don’t want big buildings—we think.

The ridiculous traffic we see today will continue to grow, exponentially, with the influx of people needing to come in and out of these densely populated areas (like Santa Monica).

As for the Palisades (our changing town on the edge of the city), we will need to decide if developing a viable, self-sufficient “center” here is worth the tradeoff of increased TIME with friends and family and a life with less traffic.

The other day, as I was driving from my house in the Alphabet Streets neighborhood to downtown L.A., stuck in traffic, just like my father had been, I wondered if there was a place anywhere that didn’t have unrelenting and permanent traffic or generic design.

There is. It is called Pacific Palisades.

The choice is coming soon—Los Angeles will never again be the place I remember from that first ocean view on the beach. The question is: If we know what the city will become, what will the Palisades look like?

(The author is the at-large representative on the Pacific Palisades Community Council.)

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