Are L.A.'s Transit Plans Too Big for Eric Garcetti?

November 4, 2013
A New Mayor Inherits the Ambitious Task of Kicking a City’s Car Habit

Here are a few things you probably think you know about Los Angeles: It is a freeway-riddled, car-dependent traffic jam where nobody walks past their driveway. This is the cartoon version of L.A., a cheap shorthand of stereotypes and decades-old perceptions that the city has struggled to shake.

The Convoluted Path to Ending Los Angeles's Mural Ban

March 22, 2012
How the city is working with artists to revise its rules about murals, art and advertising.

Once regarded as the mural capital of the world, Los Angeles in recent years has lost a good deal of its street art cred. Decades of loose regulation on signs and murals led to some creative law-skirting by outdoor advertising firms, bringing about a string of lawsuits and rule changes – and more lawsuits and more rule changes. The eventual result was an all-out moratorium on new murals.

City officials are now trying to welcome mural artists back with a proposed new ordinance. But this regulation battle still has to deal with the particularly pesky monkey on its back.

Frank Gehry on City Building

January 9, 2012
Excerpts from a Q&A with the architect.

Last summer, I was commissioned by Wallpaper magazine to interview architect Frank Gehry. The occasion was the magazine’s 15th anniversary, and part of the idea behind the interview was to look at how Gehry’s career has changed over the last 15 years. His most famous work, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, opened (that’s right!) 15 years ago.

Make No Small Plans

April 28, 2011
Grounding architecture within a larger building ecology.

Regional issues such as stormwater treatment and energy production have become major elements of the design of architectural projects, even at a very small scale. As demand for natural resources rises and the impact of pollution spreads, taking these issues into consideration is likely to become a more important part of urban planning and architecture. This year’s national AIA convention recognizes the shift with its theme “Regional Design Revolution: Ecology Matters.”

But many argue that the long-term thinking of regionalism is still a burgeoning concept.

John D'Amico

April 27, 2011
The project-manager-turned-public-servant discusses the ideas that helped him defeat an incumbent for a seat on West Hollywood’s city council.

John D’Amico, 47, is the newest member of the City Council of West Hollywood, Calif., which is a small, independent city of 34,000 people almost completely surrounded by the metropolis of Los Angeles. But unlike the typical cadre of attorneys and organizers who fill these sorts of seats in cities across the country, D’Amico comes to his new role with a master’s degree in architecture and urban design and a second in aesthetics and politics, plus more than 20 years of experience in the field.

Right Size Fits All

September 1, 2010
Detroit’s been in a tough spot for what seems like forever. But a fleet of progressive officials, led by Mayor Dave Bing, is working hard to reimagine the city as a less populous, but no less important, major American city. To help guide the transition, Bing has assembled a team of planners and thinkers who are tasked over the next 12 to 18 months with drafting a strategic framework plan for Detroit, intended to guide near-term investments that stabilize the city and its neighborhoods and position the city for larger economic opportunity in the long term.

At the head of this effort is Toni Griffin, a prominent urban planner best known for her work in Harlem and Washington, D.C. Lured to the city through a grant from the Kresge Foundation, Griffin works closely with Marja Winters, deputy director of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department and a member of the Next American Vanguard. Nate Berg spoke with Griffin and Winters about their efforts to reinvent the city.
This sounds like a pretty big challenge. Are you intimidated by the scope?

Specifically Speaking

March 30, 2010
California's general plans get more prescriptive

In California, general plans define where growth should happen and what types of land use should be permitted in cities. But despite the “general” in their name, the plans are assuming an increasing amount of prescriptive detail, especially in terms of urban design. Cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Sacramento are taking their general plans along a design-heavy path, well beyond the traditional zoning and land use–based requirements.

Planning for the Vancouver Olympics

February 10, 2010
The Winter Olympics will begin later this week in Vancouver, British Columbia. Like other hosts of such large-scale sporting events, the city has been getting ready for the international spotlight for many years. To hear more about what's been going on in the city in terms of urban planning, I interviewed Vancouver Planning Director Brent Toderian, and you can read a transcript of that Q&A on Places.

Toderian, as many Planetizen readers will already know, is also an active contributor to Interchange, where he writes about some of the city's most forward-thinking moves to help create the dense urban environment that has become the model for North American urbanism.

Our discussion focused mainly on the Olympics and how they will impact the city's urbanism. Toderian tells us about the years leading up to the Olympics, what it was like to take over as planning director halfway through the city's preparations for the event, and what sort of legacy the Games will leave on Vancouver.

The Olympics and the City

February 8, 2010
On Friday February 12 the 2010 Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver. Like all host cities, Vancouver had to plan for a sprint and a marathon — it had to develop, finance, design and build a range of sport and residential venues that would not only make the two-week event a big success but also, when the world had gone back home, become a vital and enduring part of the city fabric.

Vancouver planning director Brent Toderian spoke recently with journalist Nate Berg, of Planetizen, about how the city, known for progressive planning and green thinking, was meeting the Olympic challenge.

Nate Berg: Your city is just about to host the Olympics. What’s the mood like there?

Halloween Costumes for Urban Planners - 2nd Edition

October 26, 2009
It's almost Halloween, and that means it's time to celebrate America's most important holiday by dressing up in a silly costume. But what's that? Tired of culturally relevant costumes? Don't want the general public to have any idea what you are? Prefer a drawn-out, interest-losing explanation of an obscure and wonky costume concept? Then you're in luck, because I happily present the second edition list of the best urban planning costume ideas.

One way to celebrate Halloween is to dress up like a city. This costume could rely heavily on stereotypes, but can also be influenced by current affairs. For example, get yourself a black eye and put your arm in a sling, and bam, you're Detroit. Or block some traffic and set up lawn chairs on a local street and you're New York City. Or you could get Brad Pitt to follow you around and be New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.