2020 Year-in-Review

Josh’s Retrospective of The Year That Shall Not Be Named

At long last we writers have confirmed that 10 months of peace, quiet, and no social obligations is not necessarily the key to writing the Great American Novel. Instead, I spent a good deal of last year impersonating David Lynch’s Angriest Dog in the World.

Fortunately, I managed to spend enough time at the keyboard to keep myself sane and productive. I thank my friends, family, editors, and readers for their support along the way. Goodness knows, we all needed all the help we could get last year. 

Out of the wreckage of 2020, I have salvaged a few highlights. 

The Book — Please rate on Amazon & Goodreads
By now, you all know that The Urban Mystique hit the shelves in May. As far as I know, it has not yet led to a wholesale redesign of Los Angeles into a walking, biking, socializing paradise. Then again, I haven’t gotten out much lately, so I could be wrong. If nothing else, I hope it’s been a fun read. 

I thank those of you who bought it, read it, gifted it, and sent me notes and photos. If you enjoyed it, or are just willing to lend gratuitous support, please consider leaving a review or rating on Amazon and/or Goodreads. (Please purchase directly from Solimar Books so as not to line Jeff Bezos’s pockets.)

It has found good company on a few Goodreads lists, including Los Angeles Fiction & NonfictionAwesome L.A. BooksBest California BooksUrban Studies for Everyone, and, of course, Best Books About How Totally Screwed Up L.A. Is. Please consider voting it up! 

The Pandemic
In early April I rendered my authoritative verdict on the pandemic’s long-term impact on cities: I have no idea. And neither does anybody else. I stand by that assessment. We at the California Planning & Development Reportalso covered some of the immediate impacts of the pandemic, marking a rare occasion when urban planning news moves quickly. (Warning: Some articles are behind the paywall and/or are fairly nerdy.)

Equity & Race 
Equity has often factored into our reporting at CP&DR, especially on housing and the environment. We all need to do more, but I am heartened to know that a great many planners in California prioritize it. This year, as equity and inequity came to the fore, we did our best to contribute.

We invited Black planners and Black political leaders speak in their own words. I covered the implementation of Senate Bill 1000, a 2015 law requiring cities to consider environmental justice in their general plans. And I called out the many well-off Californians who, knowingly or unknowingly, are perpetuating cycles of exclusion and disadvantage. The drive for equity will continue for generations to come. I will keep writing about it, just as we will all keep living it. 

In Other News…
Here’s an assortment of my favorite news-ish stories of the year (some of these are behind the paywall; all are pretty nerdy): 

Commentary & Blogs
Sometimes I shared thoughts on worldly events. Other times, I escaped into fantasy and arcana. I recommend the latter as needed. 

Other People’s Books
I’m always excited about contributing to Planetizen’s top books of the year. This year’s list is, I think, particularly good — timely, diverse, and thoughtful. 

Adventures in Podcasting
I am not exactly an early adopter. I didn’t get a cell phone until 2003. I got Netflix two months ago. And, in early 2020, I started podcasting. But, Bill Fulton and I decided to give it a whirl this year, and we ended up with some great discussions (if rudimentary editing and sound effects). 

Finally: A Plea for Journalism
I hope 2021 is going well for everyone. I’m looking forward to reporting on some good news this year. 

As well, whatever periodicals you read, please consider subscribing and doing everything else you can to support journalists and their publications. This past year demonstrated the value of good journalism more so than ever, whether we were disappearing into an esoteric long-form piece in the New Yorker, contemplating yet another threat to democracy in The Atlantic, virtually tromping through the woods in Outside magazine, catching up on local news in the Bee, the Bugle, or the Breeze, or following the good, the bad, and the ugly of California planning in CP&DR