Los Angeles as the rare example of a Mayor hiring a Deputy Mayor (Rick Cole) as well qualified as the Mayor
The Planning Report, a subscription newsletter covering California land use and development issues, has a great piece ("Cole: Successful Placemaking Arises From Dynamic Pedestrian Environments, Not 'Starchitecture'") on Rick Cole, the Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles.
He has a very interesting background, starting off as a City Councilmember and then becoming Deputy Mayor in Pasadena, and then moving to the executive branch, as a city manager in Azusa and later in Ventura, before taking the position in Los Angeles. (Recently, Governing Magazine has a nice piece on his work in LA as well, "Does Eric Garcetti Have a Big Enough Vision for L.A.?.")
It takes a Mayor with a lot of confidence but also real concern about and commitment to dealing with the future of the city to hire as Deputy Mayor someone so well qualified. I wish we could get such competent and qualified agency hires in DC.
From the article:
My classroom was my hometown of Pasadena. It was a microcosm of the same megatrends that Jane Jacobs identified and dedicated herself to battling—so-called “urban renewal” that destroyed the human-scale fabric of city life; misguided plans to build cities around cars instead of people; abandonment of inner cities for outward suburban sprawl; and top-down master plans that overrode the interests and democratic rights of city residents.
I think Pasadena and other cities make a compelling case that enhancing community quality of life is not in opposition to economic success. Rather, it is the foundation for sustainable economic success. Growing up in Pasadena, I intuitively believed that healthy neighborhoods are the underpinning of a vibrant economy, not an obstacle to be demolished for speculative real-estate development.
How do you outpace affluent cities like Beverly Hills, or Santa Monica as well as cities that were growing rapidly in population like Lancaster and Palmdale? We did it by pursuing community-based development—through public-private partnerships to reinvest in older neighborhoods. And because of the sensitivity of doing infill development in established communities, we sweated the details of making great places, including insisting on the highest standards of design and materials. ...Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times: Pedestrians cross at Colorado Boulevard and Raymond Avenue in revitalized Old Pasadena. Thirty years ago it was seedy, but today restored buildings radiate charm.
Too many cities remain mesmerized by big plans and big projects—and neglect the elements that create a vibrant pedestrian environment. Rick Caruso* has never made that mistake. Cities need to learn from what he’s done inside his wildly successful developments and apply it to the everyday public realm. I used to say to planners that I worked with in Pasadena, Azusa, and Ventura, “Our purpose isn’t to make great plans. It’s to make great places.” ...
Are there other lessons that Old Pasadena’s success foretells for Los Angeles and other cities?
It’s not so much that Pasadena did everything right as that we learned some common lessons that apply broadly to cities throughout the heart of our region. I think the most important challenge we all face is the widespread narrative that urban revitalization is the same as “gentrification.” The media promotes a stale and one-dimensional portrait of urban life that goes like this: Neglected neighborhood draws artists and hipsters. They gather in trendy coffee shops. Eventually outsiders take over the neighborhood. Sometimes this is told as a fairy tale that ends with everyone sipping $7 lattes, oblivious to displaced businesses and residents. Sometimes this is told as a gothic horror story that results in the death of local character and exile of the poor. If we are going to truly fulfill the promise of urban life in Southern California, we need to write a better story about how to create widespread great places—in ways that benefit existing businesses and residents.
Pasadena is well respected in revitalization and transportation circles for their commercial district efforts in Old Pasadena and the implementation of pro-pedestrian infrastructure such as "Barnes Dance" crosswalks, its implementation of a wide variety of parking pricing initiatives, and directing the revenues from parking to neighborhood and business district improvement initiatives, as well as its embrace of connection to the expanding LA MTA fixed rail transit system. See "The New Old Pasadena May Just Bowl You Over."
* Rick Caruso is the creator of The Grove and other mixed use retail and commercial projects, comparable in some respects to the projects done by the DC region's Federal Realty like Bethesda Row here or Santana Row in San Jose, California. Although generally the developments don't have residential components, the Americana at Brand project does include residential, a first for the company.