1. What makes you happy in this city?
The indie community. Los Angeles is dissected into various neighborhoods by its seemingly always-clogged freeways and with every neighborhood having its own identity. This city is different for everyone who chooses to live here, but you’ll find more of a thriving indie community in the east, where rents are still relatively cheap—depending on who you ask and where you live. The diverse offering of destination shops, restaurants, music venues and art galleries sits alongside the Korean, Mexican, El Salvadorian, and Japanese establishments that have been here for decades, making it an exciting area for discovery.
LA doesn’t always get the best rap when it comes to the eating out, so I really think it is more about eating in. People actually have homes here with spaces perfect for entertaining and bringing friends together. It gives you the opportunity to connect with people you wouldn’t normally meet and to create new communities. In addition, the produce and the accessibility to organic, healthy food is pretty amazing. There is a farmers market every single day of the week in neighborhoods from Atwater Village to Pacific Palisades. My absolute favorite place in the entire city is the farmers market at the Grove. There are stands with fresh and prepared foods from all over the world, as well as hearty beers and local wines. Sometimes I just get lost in there, wandering from counter to counter, eating cheese, cracking oysters and testing new dishes.
2. WHAT INSPIRES YOU IN THIS CITY?
The art community. Everyone who has watched The Cool School knows that a lot of great artists have come from Los Angeles; you just need to know where to look. From far out galleries that show street art to MOCA’s more recent announcement of adding director Jeffrey Deitch to the team, the arts community is alive, well and earning the well deserved respect of other cities worldwide. Steven Harrington, pictured here, is one of the quintessential Los Angeles artists. A lot of psychedelic elements are present in his paintings, and he will tell you that the neighboring desert and nature surrounding the city influence a lot of his work.
As someone heavily influenced by pattern and color, I feel like LA is a visual playground. Each neighborhood has its own energy, aesthetic features and styles of architecture. I really enjoy stumbling upon unexpected inspirations; for example, when the city buffs graffiti on the highway…they use really soft, almost feminine, hues of blush, sky blue and lilac to cover up the tags. It is so ironic to see these completely accidental harmonies, meant to camouflage another form of “art”, creating new textures throughout the city. I chose the photo below, because I think it represents an unplanned, naturally beautiful moment that I got to experience personally. Taken next to the LA River just as the sun was going down, I was able to capture that perfect shade of “sunset” pink Angelinos enjoy throughout the year.
3. WHAT WORKS FOR YOU VERY WELL IN THE CITY?
The city’s close proximity to nature. Los Angeles boasts the tenth largest municipal park in the nation, and Griffith Park is right in the middle of Hollywood, making it relatively easy to access for anyone within a file mile radius. In fact, Los Angeles is one of the only cities in the world that has access to the mountains, beach and desert within an hour-or-two drive.
This city has an amazing ability to bring the outside inside. In other cities I have lived in, you either had to rent a car, catch a train or jump on a flight to get outside the city limits.
But in LA you can go from one climate to another by just driving in a different direction. Beach, desert and mountain are all accessible at any time of the day. A large part of my time here is spent in complete solitude, tucked away in the serenity of nature, hiking and wandering. This photo was taken at the home of a close friend, where I am currently staying in Laurel Canyon, less than two miles from the heart of Hollywood. You actually almost forget that you are still living in the city when you are up here. It is like living in the mountains, complete with a warm sage breeze and a bevy of critters, from hummingbirds to coyotes.
4. WHAT WOULD YOU DO BETTER?
Massive improvements to public transportation. Los Angeles is famous for the General Motors streetcar conspiracy, in which the large auto manufacturer bought and subsequently dismantled the light rail system that connected the entire city. Unfortunately, decades of rising population with a poor transport system has made Los Angeles famous for its traffic insomuch that it may take you two hours to travel ten miles on the city’s congested freeways. Many neighborhoods around the Echo Park and Silver Lake area were built with connecting staircases so that citizens could walk from home down to Sunset Boulevard and board a train to just about anywhere in the city. It would be nice to see LA retrofit its infrastructure so we can make better use of our time, versus wasting it sitting in traffic.
The urban landscape in LA has evolved dramatically over the last decade as more and more people relocate to downtown LA and the Arts District. It is really amazing to see how the city has reclaimed this entire neighborhood that was once completely desolate and only associated with the unsavory cast of characters that Skid Row attracted. Now, there is a brimming art and food scene, and even some small boutiques opening. I think it could be interesting to follow in the footsteps of other major cities and consider utilizing some of the buildings and lofts for rooftops gardens. Not only would it improve the quality of air by offsetting carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, but it would also soften the landscape visually and provide opportunities for job training, community co-op and CSA programs.
5. HOW WOULD YOU DO IT BETTER?
There has been a lot of recent talk about schools in the Los Angeles area adopting more sustainable practices for food. A few of them have gardens on-site, giving the students the option to learn about growing fruits and vegetables and cultivating their own crops.
I’d like to see Los Angeles restaurants adopt similar practices and perhaps get a tax incentive or additional credit for their businesses in exchange for using locally sourced food.
Similar to what you see in New York, apartment and loft buildings could host common gardens for tenants along with providing fresh, organic produce to local eateries.
The traffic here is out of control. Public transit is totally dated and needs A LOT of work. It’s funny; when you mention trains to native Angelinos, they always bring up the “General Motors streetcar conspiracy” of the 40s—when GM and Ford allegedly purchased and dismantled all the streetcars and electric trains in the city so they could use their own buses and increase the sale of automobiles. It is as if the evolution of public transport in LA stopped at that moment, and we still haven’t recovered from it. I say forget about adding carpool lanes with “Fast Track” passes, as that just encourages more driving and more smog. Turn those additional lanes into cross-city train lines!
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