Globally, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, and nationally, the challenge to ensure racial justice, are all challenges that present us with generation-defining choices.
Locally, our need to provide sufficient affordable housing without displacing current residents and to end homelessness also presents us with generation-defining choices. And, as noted on Metro’s The Source blog this week, mobility in LA County is “at an intersection” and the choices before us "could be generation-defining.”
Black Lives Matter and the rising up for racial justice has brought a “renewed focus on the failures of our public systems, the disparate outcomes they produce, and the power structures and privileges that entrench them,” Nolan Borgman wrote on The Source.
Transportation is at an intersection, he also noted, because four months after the coronavirus forced California and LA County to virtually close down our economy, traffic is greatly diminished and many more people are walking and biking.
In this context, we offer a proposal we call “Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity” to help address the challenges before us, especially the need for affordable housing and for ready mobility.
Please join us, an impressive roster of speakers, and 400 registrants next Thurs., July 16, at 3 p.m. for a Zoomposium to discuss creating Boulevards of Opportunity. You can see who will be speaking, find more info, and REGISTER HERE.
“Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity” is a public program. To succeed, it will require a commitment of public resources both to build the affordable housing our communities need and to build and operate a robust transit system to serve those communities. Happily, LA County voters have already provided sufficient resources for these transit improvements with Measure M (2016).
We believe we have very good ideas for how to fund the affordable housing development as well, and there is little doubt that Angeleno voters will have a role to play.
Our proposed Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity program seeks to address both our affordable housing and mobility challenges at the same time by providing communities not only with affordable housing, but also with local services that community members can get to safely on foot, by bike, or by local and regional transit service.
All these objectives can be joined in mixed-use, mixed-income communities in LA where we have only just begun to see that there are genuine opportunities for creating neighborhoods—in the increasingly underused commercially zoned land along our many boulevards and in downtowns. These locations could also provide opportunities to greatly improve bus service, and perhaps introduce bus rapid transit (BRT).
We see LA’s many boulevards as a real opportunity to create community, equity, opportunity and sustainability.
In Europe mixed-use, mixed-income communities along boulevards are common. Paris, one of the world’s most admired cities, abounds with such boulevards, including Boulevard St. Germain (below).
There are several reasons for this new and growing interest in building affordable housing and enhancing bus service along commercial streets where there’s very little housing now:
- There’s little land left to develop in LA County’s residential neighborhoods without displacing current residents, especially near transit. What land there is can be very expensive, making it difficult to build affordable housing there.
- Many of our commercial boulevards have been in decline for decades, having lost their place in the marketplace to shopping centers. The sudden popularity of online shopping and the coronavirus pandemic have worsened this condition.
- New housing—both market-rate and affordable—can be built on commercially zoned land without displacing current residents. Special provisions should be adopted to also avoid displacement of small local businesses and to create opportunities for new ones.
We think Angelenos will be eager to live in quality neighborhoods in close proximity to robust bus service and streets that have been improved for walking and biking.
Two of our Zoomposium speakers—Peter Calthorpe and Joe DiStefano—have used their urban planning software, UrbanFootprint, in many cities to determine the benefits and feasibility of various community development programs. Join us, them, and ten other panelists at our Zoomposium, to talk about what can be done in LA County. REGISTER here.