The Unknown Los Angeles

Amanda Erickson of The Atlantic Cities recently referenced Cord Jefferson in a defense of L.A. Jefferson praises L.A. for helping  him to realize a more casual way of life. In addition to what Erickson quotes, I’d like to point out another excerpt from Jefferson. “I am near obsessed with LA’s mild weather, great produce, abundant vegetarian restaurants, interesting music scene, and proximity to my hometown,” Jefferson writes.

But I don’t think this “defense of L.A.” does the city justice. At over 500 square miles, the city, and even more so the county and the metropolitan area, contains a great variety of places and people. Good luck to Jefferson finding many vegetarian restaurants in Koreatown (there’s exactly 1 according to Yelp) or in Watts (also 1). By citing Angelenos’ “reputation for being abnormally casual,” Jefferson only perpetuates the myopic stereotype of Los Angeles and its residents.

This particular view of the City of Angels may accurately describe certain parts, particularly those near the beach. But it’s not true of the entire city. Downtown Los Angeles, where many employees dressed in traditional business attire roam the streets during lunch time, is a treat for urbanists and is only becoming more so with recent and planned improvements in and additions to bike lanes, public transit, and museums, as just a few examples. Other parts of L.A. similarly differ from the flip flop vision, each with their own personality and atmosphere.

The city, suburbs, and mountains of Los Angeles. The city also has beaches, parks, forests, historic buildings, universities, a subway system, public art...

This diversity in the built environment and in those who live, work, and relax in it makes Los Angeles a welcome place for uneducated and unskilled immigrants and “creative class” transplants, for seniors and children, for urbanists and open space lovers. This largely unknown, or at least unrecognized element, is the real defense of L.A.


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