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Lifestyle Change Might Save California (from the LA Times)

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  • Richard Risemberg
    http://www.latimes.com/news/columnists/la-me-lopez9jul09,1,5437423.column?coll=la-news-columns ... -- Richard Risemberg http://www.living-room.org
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9 8:37 PM
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      http://www.latimes.com/news/columnists/la-me-lopez9jul09,1,5437423.column?coll=la-news-columns
      > STEVE LOPEZ / POINTS WEST
      > Lifestyle Change Might Save the State
      > Steve Lopez
      >
      > July 9, 2004
      >
      > They showed me a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Long Beach that would change my life for $1,095 a month.
      >
      > If I lived in this little abode nestled atop the 16-screen multiplex on Pine Avenue, where "Spider-Man 2" and "King Arthur" are playing, I could go weeks without ever getting into the Nissan Sentra.
      >
      > The shopping and night life would be two floors down. The cafes, the bars, the cigar store.
      >
      > I'd take the Blue Line to work and read the paper, or maybe gaze out the window at all the yo-yos stuck in traffic.
      >
      > I asked to see a two-bedroom apartment that goes for $1,495 a month, but Maria Angulo, who manages the Pacific Court Apartments, said the 142-unit complex is full except for a single one-bedroom.
      >
      > Who lives here? I asked.
      >
      > "Everybody," she said. "I've got retirees, young professionals, some families, college students."
      >
      > I rode by train to Long Beach, catching my coach in downtown Los Angeles, to get a glimpse of what could be Southern California's future.
      >
      > Over the next 25 years, more than 6 million people will join the 17 million of us already living in the six-county region, and there's no doubt some of the newcomers will insist on living in three-bedroom ranchers halfway to the Mojave.
      >
      > But if we don't put more people in towns and city centers — close to jobs, shopping and public transit — we'll all die of smog, traffic and other wretched maladies. So say the leaders of the Southern California Assn. of Governments.
      >
      > Unfortunately, nobody ever listens to anything SCAG says. I couldn't even believe I went to one of their meetings.
      >
      > You see the acronym SCAG in a story and you slump forward.
      >
      > Are you still awake?
      >
      > SCAG needs a new name, new image, new leadership, I told Jeff Lustgarten, who does publicity for the agency. Before we're inundated with 6 million more people, maybe the agency should just hand out condoms.
      >
      > As it is, SCAG is trying to save Southern California from expanding the most horrific sprawl in the history of Western civilization, and nobody is listening.
      >
      > They'd better listen, Lustgarten said, because SCAG has a hand on $120 billion in federal transportation money between now and 2030. If towns and cities don't turn over at least a few precious acres to smarter planning, they could get stiffed.
      >
      > One reason for shortsighted local planning is that city tax revenues are being robbed by the state, which is why there's a budget standoff in Sacramento. Starved for cash, city officials love to rubber-stamp ugly retail stores the size of airplane hangars, so they can reap a bigger cut of the sales tax.
      >
      > That's why it's nothing but tract houses and discount stores, as far as the eye can see.
      >
      > But you don't have to live that way if you don't want to. As models for a better future, Lustgarten pointed to the Paseo Colorado and Old Town in Pasadena, the Staples Center neighborhood in downtown L.A., and Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach.
      >
      > When I got off the train in the revived port city, I heard construction noise from a high-rise condo project. On the Promenade, where hundreds of people roamed through a funky farmers market, I noticed a sign for another condo development.
      >
      > "I missed Lakewood the first month I lived here," said Angulo, 33, who left her life in suburbia when she became manager of the Pacific Court Apartments a couple years ago.
      >
      > But she got over Lakewood.
      >
      > "Living here, I walk to restaurants, boutiques, the post office, City Hall, the farmers market. I can walk to the harbor or take the free shuttle."
      >
      > Having lived in downtown New York and Philadelphia, I don't have to be sold on the lifestyle, even though you trade a yard and pool for a balcony and flower pot.
      >
      > It isn't for everyone, though, particularly in Southern California.
      >
      > A lot of people like to drive to the yoga center, the store, the restaurant. Walking is out, unless it's on a treadmill at the gym, looking out a window at the cars going by.
      >
      > Other people don't like the noise, grit, or street people who come with the package when you move downtown. And that may explain the occupancy problem at snazzy Camden Harbor View, a 538-unit apartment village in downtown Long Beach.
      >
      > The manager of this behemoth told me the place was only two-thirds full 16 months after opening. After seeing what's across the street, I think I might know why.
      >
      > Something called the Pike is a half-empty and sterile-looking retail/entertainment development that makes Universal CityWalk look like the Champs-Elysees. I would rather see winos curled up outside a greasy spoon, but that's just a quirk of mine.
      >
      > Back at Camden Harbor View, I saw a woman strolling through the apartment village and called to her, asking how she likes the living.
      >
      > Janet said she moved to Long Beach from Colorado when her husband took a new job, and he insisted they go urban.
      >
      > She was against it.
      >
      > "I didn't know if I'd like it or not."
      >
      > And?
      >
      > Janet smiled and looked skyward.
      >
      > "It is wonderful."
      >
      > She was walking to lunch. Maybe later, she would walk to the library.
      >
      > Unfortunately, she drives to her job teaching English at UC Irvine, but she's trying to transfer to Cal State Long Beach.
      >
      > "We're on a waiting list for the condos they're building over there," she said, pointing to the future, breaking over the horizon.

      --
      Richard Risemberg
      http://www.living-room.org
      http://www.newcolonist.com

      "Until you stop looking for simple answers, you will not be happy. You
      will not even be human."

      RR
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