Sunday, February 11, 2007

California (urban) dreaming

It’s true what they say about LA – the poster child for sprawling, dispersed developed and an unrivaled car culture really is rediscovering its center and the functionality of transit. Beyond the Museum of Contemporary Art and Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall, downtown is thriving, with lots of downtown-living projects like the renovation of a building called The Roosevelt. It is a slow process, this New York-ification of LA. Over a mojito at Cuidad, I asked my friend, the producer/director Jim Burke (most recently, “Aurora Borealis”), if I could get from my hotel, the Westin Bonaventure downtown – site of this years New Partners for Smart Growth conference -- to visit my actress sister Julia Flint in Burbank by transit. He gave me a puzzled expression. Probably best to take a cab, he suggested. I’ve turned into a transit nerd, so I didn’t give up. The trip planner on the LA MTA site suggested taking the Sherman Oaks bus at an hour-plus. But taking the Red Line to North Hollywood looked like it would get me up to decent latitude with Burbank. Sure enough, not only was North Hollywood a promising transit-oriented development site and a jumping-off point for bus rapid transit to the west, it was a cinema and arts center, pretty rough around the edges, but full of urban potential and a true hub. Signs were unhelpful to get east to Burbank; I walked down the street and asked in a pizza place and was told the 183 bus ran straight down Magnolia into Burbank. Forced to estimate the location of my sister’s number address from a map in Where magazine, I alighted a bit prematurely at Buena Vista, but still made it to within a few blocks on foot before my sister rescued me in a Prius. I can’t help myself. But neither can LA.


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