An Open Letter to Our Mayoral Candidates
from Rick Corsini, AIA
Co-Vice-Chair, Government Outreach Committee (GO!)
Partner, Corsini Stark Architects
[To encourage civic discussion, AIA|LA invites members to share their own columns that include pro-active solutions which can make our city even better. All columns are the individual opinions of their writers and not the positions of the AIA|LA as a whole. If you are an AIA|LA member seeking to share a column, contact AIA|LA Public Affairs.]
Today, nationwide, we stand at the nexus of three existential and intertwined imperatives: a housing crisis, a climate crisis, and a race equity crisis. Great city-building will help us solve all three.
Our next mayor cannot be a middling seeker of the “win-win” nor a silver-tongued bard that tells us each a story we desperately want to hear.
The next mayor cannot be a mere harvester of low-hanging fruit. She must relentlessly shake the political tree hard for us to reap the bounty of our potential as a great world city.
Our next mayor must have great ambition: not to be governor, senator, or president, but with a fire in his belly to transform Los Angeles into the world city it has for decades promised to become.
Together, we must build a great city!
We have great people. We have a great climate. But make no mistake, today we are NOT a great city:
• 44,000 of us live in destitution and squalor on our streets.
• Our housing is unaffordable for over 71% of household renters, 77% of buyers, demand exceeds supply by over 57,000 units annually while most affordable units are inequitably concentrated in neighborhoods of color, which reinforces racial segregation.
• Our zoning code requires lengthy case-by-case entitlement negotiation for almost every project, which encourages bribery of our city officials to gain timely approvals and favorable land uses.
• Our city councilmembers prioritize local district fears over comprehensive urban policy, creating fragmented fiefdoms of local power, reduction of new housing units built, delays in their completion, and inability to solve major city-wide problems like homelessness and safe, multi-modal streets.
• Our transit system is planned independently of the city-wide land use policy that should, if conceived together, free us from the shackles of automobile dependence, guarantee dense, walkable, and vibrant neighborhoods, and make itself economically self-sustaining.
• Our automobile-dominated streets lead the nation in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, with crumbling sidewalks too narrow for passage by able-bodied and disabled citizens alike. Overbroad and desolate, most are unfit for human habitation, much less for an aspirational café society.
• Our parks are meager by national and global standards and too few to meaningfully provide social, environmental and health benefits to all our neighborhoods…while hundreds of millions of dollars in Quimby fees remain unspent or inequitably distributed.
• Our water supply dwindles as we face the prospect of permanent drought, while we rush millions of gallons of stormwater out to sea through antiquated, simplistically conceived infrastructure.
• Our police department arrogantly defies or passive-aggressively ignores our demands for radical reform and racial fairness.
• Our utility company bilks millions of dollars from ratepayers, its leaders are accused of criminal self-dealing, and its engineers needlessly delay completion of every single building project in the city, including desperately needed housing.
• Our school district’s one size fits all approach achieves educational excellence on a handful of campuses and leaves most of our children underprepared for 21st century life, while wealthier and whiter citizens opt-out in favor of socially insular private schools.
• Our fragmented bikeways and buckled sidewalks stand as an emblem of ruptured and piecemeal civic leadership.
Great cities serve all their people and require visionary institutions, beautiful streets and civic spaces, and robust political leadership.
In 2028 the eyes of the world will be on us. Between our sparkling beaches and bedazzling buildings, what will they see?
Will we be able to proudly display our city as deeper than its glitzy image: striving, forward thinking, a leader among world cities worthy of future investment in human and monetary capital?
Or will we be forced to sweep our civic shortcomings under the rug?
Los Angeles is a prodigy: an adolescent city, poised to mature to greatness only if it works hard and is guided by compelling leadership…now!
Vision without action is a daydream. The vision is clear.
Ms. Bass, Mr. Buscaino, Mr. Caruso, Mr. de León, Mr. Feuer, Ms. Viola, Mr. Wilson, the architects of this city invite you to tell us how your action will lead Los Angeles to greatness.
A note to readers of this AIA|LA member perspective: Join us at the AIA|LA Mayoral Candidate Forums, April 12 – May 26, click here.