I haven’t kept precise count, but 2015 may have been my most prolific year yet in over 10 years as a journalist. I’m back at the California Planning & Development Report and have been delighted to contribute to other excellent publications, including a few that were new to me this year. I’m grateful to my editors, readers, sources, and critics. I’d like to extend special recognition to the City of Los Angeles and the State of California for their limitless supply of stories.
I probably don’t remember all the stories I’ve written this year. I’ve collected a few highlights that may yet have some shelf life. For the whole bibliography, I’ve tried to keep my website up-to-date.
Los Angeles & Environs
Where to begin?
L.A. is trying to wake up from its traffic nightmare, figure out a kinder, gentler way to get people to take the bus, and maintain its quiet beach city image. I went back to where it all started with a review of Water to the Angels, about William Mulholland and his aqueduct.
Los Angeles often baffles folks who don’t have the pleasure of living here. Next City afforded me the chance to offer the world some glimpses into our fair city. L.A. is trying to host a World’s Fair, fill a freeway gap, unload an airport, build high rises, and fix sidewalks. They’re also trying to upgrade LAX. Trying.
I even appeared on TV: KOCE’s “Studio SoCal,” discussing L.A.’s anxieties about development.
No, really. Where to begin?
Arcata embraces marijuana as an industry, San Francisco tries to keep its venerable businesses, Anaheim gets in on artisanal food, megaprojects find a new way around the California Environmental Quality Act, a forced marriage of Bay Area planning agencies, Pasadena is the first to embrace a new way of measuring traffic impacts, the parking question continues to baffle, and the drought put everyone on edge (and gave me my favorite headline: “Beyond Almonds”).
Sometimes, you need a change of scenery.
Reno, Nevada, is one of the most fascinating cities in the country and the subject of the most fun feature story I’ve yet written. Meanwhile, Houston re-did its bus system. Nationwide, cities are figuring out how to live with Uber and Lyft.
Around this time last year I pitched Planetizen a harebrained idea: an occasional series of Q&A’s with the planning directors of the 50 largest cities in the country. I’m nowhere near that goal yet, but the first installments of Planners Across America have been fun and enlightening. I started with Indianapolis and most recently covered Atlanta. Columbus is up next.
I was please to again join James Brasuell and the Planetizen team for their Top Ten Planning Books of 2015. My favorites among them were Culture Crash, Tactical Urbanism, and Zoned in the USA. I enjoyed going deep into California history with the Rush. City by City seemed like a promising collection of essays about American cities but the Los Angeles chapter turned out to be snide and inaccurate.
I got back to my English-major roots with an essay about the novel California — in my first piece for the fantastic quarterly Boom: A Journal of California — and what will possibly be the only theater review of my career, about the L.A. production of the Broadway musical If/Then, in which Adina Mezel sings about, of all things, urban planning.
I had a ton of fun moderating a panel on planning books at the conference of the Americana Planning Association’s California chapter in October. Thanks to Island Press’ Heather Boyer, Planetizen’s James Brasuell, CP&DR Publisher Bill Fulton, and author Mike Lydon for joining me.
Opinions, Blogs, and Notions
It’s impossible to cover all this stuff without forming a few opinions. I liked what the Pope said about climate change. I question some accusations against CEQA. I am despondent about L.A.’s housing crisis and wish that the kids in Silicon Beach were too. I’m mostly OK with AirBnb (many thanks to Nancy Miller for assigning me my first-ever piece for Los Angeles Magazine), and I really wish L.A. had better nightlife (likewise, thanks to Juliet Lapidos, via Bob Sipchen, for accepting my first-ever piece in the Los Angeles Times).