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Review Essay: The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century

Peter Gordon

Published in Urban Studies, 1999 (Volume 36, Number 3, pages 575-591).

  • Michael Dear's chapter "In the City, Time Becomes Visible: Intentionality and Urbanism in Los Angeles, 1781-1991"
  • Jennifer Wolch "From Global to Local: The Rise of Homelessness in Los Angeles during the 1980s"
  • FitzSimmons and Gottlieb "Bounding and Binding Metropolitan Space"
  • Richard Weinstein's description of Los Angeles "The First American City"
  • Charles Jencks
  • Harvey Molotch "L.A. as Design Product"
  • Paul Ong and Evelyn Blumenberg's discussion of "Income and Racial Inequality in Los Angeles"
  • Susan Anderson "A City Called Heaven"
  • Raymond A. Rocco "Latino Los Angeles"
  • Co-editor Ed Soja's "Los Angeles, 1965-1992: From Crisis-Generated Restructuring to Restructuring-Generated Crisis"
  • References

    Top Introduction

    Fifteen million strong and often touted as the world's tenth-largest (?) economy, Greater Los Angeles includes an incredible diversity of talents, quirks, problems and opportunities. In spite of this complexity, it continues to beguile artists, analysts, academics and others into efforts to decode it in order to distill a manageable story. The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century, edited by Allen J. Scott and Edward W. Soja, brings togther a group of prominent thinkers who are the latest to try to tell us what America's most interesting city is all about. As the title suggests, the editors and many of the authors are concerned with "urban theory". Some readers might expect that there is more than one urban theory but that one of them would rise to the top, on the basis of the best available evidence. Unfortunately this does not occur. Theory as rendered by Scott, Soja and others is not supported by the evidence that they and their collaborators present.

    The economist Milton Friedman once remarked that he felt indebted to the sweatshops of turn-of-the-century lower Manhattan because they made it possible for his immigrant grandmother to find employment and start her family on the road to American success. Left unsaid was the understanding that the woman would surely have preferred a professional or executive position with corresponding perks and pay. The volume under review is also very much about immigrants. Southern California has often been cast as today's Ellis Island. It too provides the first rung on the ladder for many who make up the current wave of newcomers. The remarkable part of their story is that they too move up. Median income rises with time in the U.S. (for all immigrants, citizens and non-citizens). In 1995, the median incomes of naturalized foreign born citizens exceeded that of natives (Commerce, 1997).

    Yet, most of the contributors to the volume under review do not see it that way. Right from the dust jacket's rendering of an L.A. freeway interchange as viewed through the windshield of a police cruiser, most of the contributors describe class warfare and victimization. In the Preface, the editors write that, "... the social structure of Los Angeles is no longer characterizable in terms of (numerically) dominant and relatively affluent blue-collar working class but is deeply divided into two distinctive segments, as represented on the one side by an upper tier of highly paid managers, professionals, and technicians and on the other side by a lower tier composed of low-skill, low-wage workers, the vast majority of whom are immigrants, many of them undocumented." The problem with their "postmodern" view is that it dwells on oligarchs and victims. Lost is any perspective on the broad middle class, the emerging immigrant entrepreneurial class, its growth, its successes and even its failures.

    Modern Ellis Island? Perhaps. West Coast Manhattan? Not at all. Though once widely expected to become the new financial capital on the Pacific Rim, Los Angeles is no such thing. It has become, instead, a place where immigrant entrepreneurs make a start. Here, again, some of the authors of The City have a story to tell which does not pause for the facts.

    In Los Angeles and through most of the U.S., brains and skills matter more than ever; the returns to human capital keep growing (Murnane and Levy, 1996). But just when schooling matters most, the failure of the public schools monopoly hurts the poor the most. These two observations highlight what is probably the best and the worst of Los Angeles. Yet, they get very little acknowledgment in this book. Ong and Blumenberg write that, "Unfortunately, as studies have demonstrated, human capital investments are necessary but not sufficient in alleviating poverty" (p. 323). If only the accomplishments of the welfare state had as much documented success as human capital investments.

    Where do these authors go wrong? One answer is that Scott-Soja and many of their contributors commit the journalists' mistake when describing income distributions: they skip the dynamics. Just as there will always be some who are below average, there will always be the lowest income strata. The most important insight to be sought from income distribution data is: What are the odds that any individual will remain at the bottom (or at the top or anywhere in between) and for how long? Social mobility is the real news. For example, citing national longitudinal data, Gottschalk (1997) reports that, of those in the lowest earnings quintile in 1974, 42 percent were still in that quintile in 1991, but 58 percent were not; 23 percent had moved up one quintile; 14 percent had moved up by two; 13 percent by three and 8 percent had gone all the way to the top. This comparison understates mobility because those found to be in the same stratum in the first and last years were not necessarily there in every year. The odds are even better if we chose another time period. For example, comparing 1979 to 1988, 86 percent of those starting in the lowest bracket had moved up.

    What are the dynamics in a port of entry? They are more favorable. From an examination of L.A. county immigrants, Myers (1995) concludes that, "... what is especially noteworthy is the rapidity with which immigrants transform themselves and move up in the world." A more recent study based on Census PUMS data concludes that, "... the U.S.-born Latino middle class is rapidly achieving near parity with the overall Southern California population. They enjoy improving education levels and show definite signs of increasingly successful integration into Southern California's burgeoning white-collar economy. ... Comprising almost a third of foreign-born Latino households, the more nascent foreign-born Latino middle class has only recently begun to create a toehold in Southern California's economic landscape" (Rodriguez, 1996; p. 1). Another writer reported in 1994 that, "The ten most common names for recent home buyers in California include Lee, Martinez, Rodriguez, Garcia, Nguyen and Wong; among Orange County home buyers, Nguyens outnumber Smiths by 2 to 1" (Kotkin, 1994). The census bureau reports that minority-owned businesses in the U.S. grew by sixty percent between the 1987 and 1992 economic census (compared to 26 percent growth in total firms). The growth of minority firms was concentrated in the three western states ...

    The perennial "fairness" debate has recently been expanded by critics of the Consumer Price Index who suggest that real wages have been growing much faster than government statistics lead us to believe (Boskin, et al. 1997). On top of this, economists have found that income is an inadequate index of material welfare. Harvard's Dale Jorgenson has studied consumption data. He reports that, "The corrected statistics show that the standard of living is rising, inequality is falling and poverty is disappearing." The census data show that the poor spend $1.94 for every dollar of income that they report. The same points were documented by sociologists Susan E. Mayer and Christopher Jencks (1991) who pointed out that expenditure inequality fell even as income inequality appeared to grow. Consumption or expenditure data correct for underreporting, spending out of family assets, non-cash incomes, whether from the government (consider Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) or from the underground economy (Lebergott, 1993). None of these issues come up in the volume under review. The chapter devoted to income distributions (Ong and Blumenberg) admits in passing that many of the poor are recent immigrants (see below) but the authors never follow up.

    A second theme that connects many of the chapters is the concern with globalization and accompanying "restructuring" of the economy which many of the contributors see in mainly negative terms, even as some sort of capitalist plot that they try to link to increased income dispersion, homelessness and other problems. Yet, here again, the data do not support them (see below). Globalization is a minor factor in explanations of income inequality. Rather, new technologies greatly increased productivity contrasts between workers (within as well as between occupations). Brains over brawn may strike some as moving us in the direction of more "fairness". They key is human capital, barely mentioned in The City.

    In the modern economy job insecurity is up, even in places like in Germany and Japan. Increased trade and capital flows inevitably cause dislocations, but they increase rather than decrease job opportunities. On average, trade-related jobs pay better than others. What about the lower prices that trade brings? Surely these benefit rich and poor alike. Peter Lynch often points out that the country is better off with a smaller rather than with a larger AT&T.

    European welfare states persist because they service the middle class. Recent U.S. experience has shown that there is no political future in a welfare state for just the poor. For the poor, placing their fates in the hands of welfare bureaucracies has never been promising. There are no correlations between welfare state spending and poverty rates. U.S. poverty rates (proportions of persons below the poverty levels) began their long-term decline many years before the War on Poverty kicked in -- and began to rise when it did. More recently, the proportion of persons below the poverty level peaked in 1982, fell through the 1980s, rose with the most recent recession and is now falling (Report to the President on the Activities of the Council of Economic Advisors During 1996, Table B-31). In light of all this, the refrain about the dire consequences of a reduced welfare state completely misses the point. Glenn Loury has recently concluded that were the denizens of South Chicago to experience changed skin color, their life prospects would not change. Human capital is a much more powerful theory than class warfare and the size of the welfare state.

    As many of the contributors to The City are thoroughly pessimistic about the region, many of them are just as optimistic that the area's dangerous condition can be arrested by redistribution, industrial policy and similar public sector initiatives. While few policy details are offered, one author (Susan Anderson) laments that after the 1992 riots the Blood/Crips' "reasoned demands" to guide a $4 billion recovery effort received no support.

    We will show that the weak empirical underpinnings of most of this book's sweeping analyses undermine the arguments. Most of what is known about the region contradicts the class warfare analysis that is presented.

    Top The Introduction by Scott and Soja

    The Introduction by Scott and Soja outlines their view that in Los Angeles in the years between the 1965 and 1992 riots ("insurrections", "rebellions", "uprisings" and other interpretations are introduced throughout the book) there was an auspicious restructuring. "The major political question is, will this restructuring be the centerpiece of a new right-wing version of the post-Fordist/postmodern metropolis? Or will it be the foundation for the growth of new kinds of local social democracy, a new vision of citizenship (literally, the quality of being a denizen of a city) and the responsibilities it entails, and a concern for the quality of life rather than for a narrowly defined notion of the business climate?"(p. 17). Scott and Soja lean to an interpretation that looks like the former. To avoid it, they prescribe enhanced political representation of newcomers, including "citizens without U.S. nationality", affordable housing programs (to make up for an "unresponsive private housing market"), a "regional and multisectoral planning process that deals systematically with employment, mass transit and land use, and environmental issues." This is necessitated because "urban restructuring has had a turbulant effect on the jobs-housing balance, lengthening journeys to work in many outlying areas, clogging the freeways elsewhere, and increasing pollution". They cite the region's enormous public transit plan (then pegged at $180 billion but since reduced considerably) and suggest that ways be found to use the effort, "to stimulate local economic development, in particular by creating new kinds of advanced ground transportation equipment industries in the region ... Important to this multisectoral planning process is the development of regional industrial and employment planning ..."(p. 18).

    Many of the same themes emerge in Scott's chapter on "High-Technology Industrial Development in the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County". That discussion summarizes industrial development in the region since the 1920s and reports the results of a survey (35 usable responses) of high-technology manufacturers operating in a broad corridor that crosses the L.A.-Ventura county boundary. The history traces the outward migration of manufacturing firms and the important historic role of defense contracting. The survey data are used to estimate three equations. The first attempts to relate the proportion of the firm's Hispanic employment to distance from downtown Los Angeles. The relationship is inverse as might be expected from residential patterns. But, the fit is poor and one does not know what to make of a function that omits all other possible predictors or controls. Another equation attempts to explain the proportion of employment that is female, also as a function of distance as well as Hispanic employment. There is now a positive relationship with both predictors. Scott concludes that there is a substitution between non-Hispanic females and Hispanic females but also between non-Hispanic females and males! It is unclear what the point is. Do employers care about skills and productivity or do they simply trade off the genders and races? A third equation examines subcontracting behavior of the surveyed firms. There is less of it further from the downtown and less by older firms. Again, what is the point? Does location explain subcontracting or vice versa? How does any of this address Scott's major themes? He closes with industrial policy recommendations, specifically electric cars and "other advanced transportation technology industries".

    It is hard to take any of this seriously. The region's transit policy has been a disaster. Expensive rail transit proposals have been sold on the basis of "doomsday" traffic forecasts that the authors accept but for which there is no evidence. Rather, having added three-million population in the 1980s, the area's 1990 mean traffic speeds were still midway in the top ten metro areas; average commuting times were just over 26 minutes (one-way; Gordon and Richardson, 199x). Also, to date, after billions of dollars worth of new rail capacity have been added, Los Angeles county's transit ridership has fallen by 25-30 percent! The $180 billion (mostly rail) plan has been scaled back but remains a porkbarrel institution that reduces mobility. Indeed the NAACP and others representing bus riders have had to sue the MTA to get a court-approved agreement to improve bus service in poor neighborhoods. This was in response to the cost overruns associated with poor rail performance that disposed the MTA to cannibalize the bus system, making a bad situation worse for many of the poorest citizens.

    The big news in automobiles is the public's interest in high-performance sports-utility vehicles. This helps to explain why General Motors recently lowered prices of its EV-1 by 25 percent, having been able to lease, on average, just one a month by each of the 26 Saturn dealers that handle it. Low EV power and range are the exact opposite of what people want. Yet, it is subsidized and still expensive. California's EV mandate has resulted in an unintended self-parody of industrial policy, usually based on an embarrassing ignorance of the market but designed to impose that ignorance on everyone else. The consequences of this approach have been on display throughout the world's planned economies.

    Top Martin Wachs, "The Evolution of Transportation Policy in Los Angeles"

    Martin Wachs ("The Evolution of Transportation Policy in Los Angeles") presents a history of personal transportation in Los Angeles. What is widely thought to be the prototype of the auto-highway shaped metropolis actually owes much of its horizontal form to an extensive rail transit system that was developed as a way for entrepreneurs to develop real estate in outlying areas by linking numerous suburban and exurban villages to the center. Wachs makes the point that while similar transit systems were added to older U.S. cities that had already been formed at high densities because walking was the primary means of access, L.A. was actually shaped by its far-flung system of street railways.

    Yet, physically inflexible, heavily regulated, and politically weak, rail transit could not compete with the automobile. Patronage started falling in 1924. The good climate as well as low-density development favored early road expansion and the auto's quick spread to the middle class. Wachs adds the interesting point that, "Lower densities also made personal storage and handling of gasoline -- very important in the early days of autos -- just a little safer than it was in the crowded eastern cities" (p. 112). Low-densities were as much a cause as an effect of rapid auto acceptance. In fact, both interacted with rapid regional growth. Public policy quickly followed the public's shifting tastes. "... the private car was counterpoised to public transit as the epitome of modernity and stylishness. ... Using a private car, in addition to being modern and stylish, was also a way the working man could strike a blow against monopoly capitalism. ... While Henry Huntington was portrayed as a villain, Henry Ford was seen as a saviour ... The view of most citizens of the day was that the trains were late, the cars filthy and stifling in summer; the drivers were always insolent and sometimes drunk and the owners were tyrants and monopolists" (p. 118-9). Wachs shows how much reality contradicts the urban myth that General Motors destroyed an efficient public transit system. The mood of the times strengthened planners' efforts to help promote low-density living along with new roads and highways. Suggestions for grade-separated parkways appeared as early as 1924 in the City's "Major Traffic Street Plan for Los Angeles". A much more thoughtful and ambitious expressway plan that included transit rights-of-way and bus transfer stations was proposed in 1939. A less sophisticated freeway plan was eventually developed and implemented but after WW II had been won and federal resources through the Interstate Highway System were made available.

    While there were rail transit plans proposed ever since 1925, most of the early ones only had the support of railway and downtown interests. In any event, motor buses, cheaper to operate and much more flexible than rail, were seen as the real transit alternative to private autos. The freeways were not an unmixed blessing, bisecting many neighborhoods and promoting scales of traffic and development that surprised and shocked some. Many elaborate rail transit proposals were suggested but rejected by voters. It was not until public officials saw new offers of lavish federal funding (as high as 75 percent share in some years) that rail transit was seen as a real possibility. At the same time, construction unions were seeing their members engage in fewer road and highway projects and began, "looking for greener pastures" (p. 136). Wachs shows how eventually transit advocates took advantage of circumstances and finally became "sophisticated enough to win", meaning they achieved a winning coalition by promising the impossible. A sales tax to raise the local funding share was passed in 1980. The ballot measure included a map of possible rail lines. "The map featured extremely broad lines so that nearly every neighborhood in the city was shown as being served by or accessible to the rail service" (p. 138). Wachs does not mention that only a ten percent voter turnout helped achieve victory.

    Transit advocates' win has been everyone else's loss. The region now has the worst of both worlds, rising transit costs and declining ridership. The Metropolitan Transit Authority's ambitions $180 billion plan is sinking under its own weight. Politicians are vying to have the last leg built on their turf. When the dust clears, a rump system will remain. But, this is typical for the region; Wachs observes that, "the Los Angeles transportation system actually consists of an accumulation of poorly integrated elements representing different concepts of political expediency ..." (p. 107). Although he is careful to contradict the hype and explain the rail plan's limited possibilities, even he did not foresee the considerable net losses of ridership that have taken place.

    Top Mike Davis "How Eden Lost Its Garden"

    Mike Davis ("How Eden Lost Its Garden") retraces the history of the region's development. Growth and freeways and cars usurped the promise of greenbelts and garden cities. Davis holds planners and politicians beholden to developers responsible. His table "Lost Landscapes" is revealing. It is a chronology of the region's development since 1900, in his words the story of "landscape loss and ecosystem decline". Davis likes Baldwin Hills Village and wishes more of the region looked like it. "After more than a half century, it remains one of Los Angeles's most vibrant, as well as integrated and ungated neighborhoods" (p. 167). But, what has stopped developers from putting up more such developments? If most newcomers wanted to live that way, some greedy developers surely would have some gotten some pliant planners to let them build many Baldwin Villages. Davis does not pose or answer questions like this.

    Top Michael Dear's chapter "In the City, Time Becomes Visible: Intentionality and Urbanism in Los Angeles, 1781-1991"

    Michael Dear's chapter ("In the City, Time Becomes Visible: Intentionality and Urbanism in Los Angeles, 1781-1991") takes up a much larger historical sweep than the other contributors. Nevertheless, his message is much the same: ".. L.A.'s peculiarities invite us to think differently about aspects of contemporary urbanism, both in Southern California and in the nation as a whole" (p. 76). He hypothesizes a historic public/private dialectic that now yields insights into a "postmodern urbanism" (his italics). This means, "... that land use planning, as it has been practiced for most of this century is defunct, irretrievable, and that new legitimacies and intentionalities must be sought if L.A.'s urban development is to be channeled away from a dystopian future" (p. 77). Babar the Elephant and Mickey Mouse are invoked: "... between the rigidities of modernist planning (in Babar's colonial guise) and the departicularized places of modernity (in Disney's theme parks), there is a world of difference" (p. 78). More specifically, "The particular genius of the modernist city plan lies in its 'empty vessel' quality; anyone can pour identity or signification into it. The abstract ahistoricism and aspatiality of modernist thought allowed a split to occur between the material side of modernism and its spiritual side. In this division that has given modernist thought its remarkable resilience -- a chameleonlike ability to satisfy all persuasions at once. At the same time, however, the qualities of ahistoricity and aspatiality betray modernity's greatest flaw, that is, its separation of the political economy of modernization from the culture and spirit of modernity. Thus the rationalities of production and reproduction in capitalist urbanization have been divorced from the utopian ideals of planning thought as well as from the minutiae of planning practice" (p. 81). These conclusion follow from a discussion of Brasilia's failures which others have described as a case of spectacular political and bureaucratic overreach. But, this is only a part of the problem, Dear's deeper concern is that the modern urban boulevard represents a "... perfect symbol of capitalism's inner contradictions: rationality exists in each individual unit, but an anarchic irrationality in the social system results when all these units are brought together" (p. 83). One can ask: were it not for the spontaneous ordering that markets manage to deliver, would we all be left with no choice but to inhabit various versions of Brasilia? This is not the way he sees it. "So what is Los Angeles, the postmodern archetype, trying to tell us? In social terms, postmodern L.A. is a city split between extremes of wealth and poverty, in which a glittering First World city sits atop a polyglot Third World substructure" (p. 98). There we have it. Class warfare and a world of extremes, "emergent privatism ... the reassertion of individual rights over community obligations resulted in an atrophy of community" (p 98). This brings on the rock cocaine epidemic and the collapse of the welfare state.

    Top Jennifer Wolch "From Global to Local: The Rise of Homelessness in Los Angeles during the 1980s"

    Jennifer Wolch ("From Global to Local: The Rise of Homelessness in Los Angeles during the 1980s") writes that, "Los Angeles became the homeless capital of the United States in the 1980s. In alarming numbers, Angelenos were cast away from traditional anchors of family, job, and community as waves of economic and social polarization resulted in spreading homelessness. In 1990-91 an estimated 125,600 to 204,000 people were homeless in Los Angeles County at some point during the year, and between 38,420 and 68,670 were homeless on any given night. Many thousand more were precariously housed, living in fear of eviction or foreclosure ... Combined, they created a swelling population of economically marginalized and precariously housed people ... outcasts from the city's riches and entitlements" (p. 390). Like many of the other contributors to The City, Wolch takes it for granted that there is a clear link between "globalization" and poverty. She also blames reductions in the construction of public housing in the 1980s. "As pressure on the housing stock mounted, its physical quality declined ..." (p. 401). This is not usually how it works. Quigley dismisses similar hypotheses, endorsing instead O'Flaherty's argument that what mattered most was the 1980s decline in housing demand by the middle class. This caused the prices of lower quality housing units to rise while the quality of units at the other end fell. "Inexorably, the incidence of homelessness has increased -- not because there are more poor, but rather because homelessness has extended -- by rational calculation -- further up into the income distribution" (1996, p. 1939). There is a difference between more poor vs. fewer middle class (in large cities). These would have opposite effects on the stock of low quality housing. O'Flaherty's analysis was for six cities. Unlike Wolch's approach, it has no obvious villains. Is Los Angeles, then, special in terms of its harsh treatment of the poor? Wolch appears to think so but is unpersuasive for all the reasons that Ong and Blumenberg do not make their case (below).

    Top FitzSimmons and Gottlieb "Bounding and Binding Metropolitan Space"

    FitzSimmons and Gottlieb ("Bounding and Binding Metropolitan Space") note that, "Los Angeles forces us to notice both historical and geographical ironies: the ironies of history -- utopian Los Angeles become an environmental dystopia -- intersect the ironies of geography -- the oasis city in the desert, the city whose climate and clean air drew settlers from across the landscape become a world symbol of urban pollution" (pp. 186-7). They add, however, that, "This is not a story of environmental defeat. .... Though often presented as an example of the calamitous environmental consequences of modern urban growth, Los Angeles should also be seen as a locus of successful innovations in environmental management" (p. 187). The authors discuss concerns over the number of agencies with overlapping and competing responsibilities, citing a recent report by LA 2000 that itemized 72 local state and federal agencies responsible for 179 types of permits in the related areas of environment, water quality, hazardous waste, sold waste and air quality. Yet, they are suspicious of that group's recommendations for consolidation, "... it is power over land use, over the profits of land development and the exigencies of industrial siting, within the region that stands revealed as the central agenda for regional consolidation ..." (p. 202). Should we be surprised? Should not calls for public sector amelioration of "market failures" be tempered with concerns over possible "government failures"?

    The authors address this issue in their discussion of the possibility of environmental management via pollution permits. They certainly overplay the weight given to cost-benefit analysis by Washington policy makers. FitzSimmons and Gottlieb elaborate with an oddball contrast between microeconomics, macroeconomics and regional economics, suggesting that the latter two have been neglected in favor of the former. They suggest that microeconomic analysis restricts itself to the firm but misses the interfirm and interregional responses to environmental measures. While such analyses may have been practiced, the indictment would surprise many economists. In fact, the authors reveal their real concern in their discussion of markets for water rights, "The greater ability of urban users to pay for water should not in itself be used to justify large-scale reallocations of water from rural to urban uses" (p. 209). In other words, politicians and bureaucrats know better "what is important to the state's economy, to farm communities, and to those who consume California's myriad agricultural commodities" (p. 209). "What is needed, in both rural and urban areas, is a better sense of ... the community, not the commodity value of water" (p. 212). The authors' criticisms of markets for air pollution permits also rests on the idea that these cannot address, "the regional environmental effects of production in particular sectors" (p. 212). Their industrial policy vision (p. 217) would utilize regional employment multipliers in the evaluation of alternative plans. Of course, employment maximization is politics, not economics. In addition, it is hard to see how the authors can have it both ways, unhappy with past political allocations and suspicious of likely market allocations.

    Top Richard Weinstein's description of Los Angeles "The First American City"

    Richard Weinstein's description of Los Angeles ("The First American City") rings true. He sees it as the logical expression of mid-twentieth century American cultural norms, remarkably close to "Wright's vision of a decentralized extended and repetitive pattern based on the automobile and preserving contact with the earth ..." (p. 32). Yet, it is found lacking. Weinstein looks for a communitarian new public realm: "Neither governmental reform nor private initiative operating through the market alone can be relied on to restore a valid sense of community. Instead, we must look to an enhanced role for voluntary associations that Tocqueville identified ..." (p. 37). Weinstein is remarkably optimistic about these groups and leaves us to imagine how they will grow to fulfill their auspicious role. Yet, somehow they will foster new "urban villages and boulevards ... distinct from the prevailing interstitial tissue of the region .. places of enhanced activity supported by transit, the sense of security will be provided, in part, by 'eyes on the street' and by the influence of benign value-oriented institutions with a communal mission and communal experience. ... these voluntary institutions ... will increasingly mediate between ethnic subcultures and move between the political and private sectors to reduce social conflict, improve education, and articulate and promote the commonalities of interest that bind the citizenry to a sense of common purpose" (p. 42). Weinstein ends on the class warfare theme and suggests that the villages and boulevards that he proposes will be some sort of "... middle ground, a spatial zone protected from the fearful extremes or privileged isolation and squalid misery ... where common purposes may be pursued by a mixture of people with just tolerable levels of risk" (p. 43). So, it is class warfare but with a physical-spatial resolution garnered by the voluntary sector.

    Top Charles Jencks

    Charles Jencks calls Los Angeles, "a heteropolis, a new form of urban agglomeration that thrives on difference ... a global city of more than eight million with a high concentration of multinational corporations and having a variety of economic sectors, multiplying lifestyles, and a diversifying ethnic population heading toward full minoritization" (p. 47). Oddly, he lists other places headed in the same direction, including Tokyo! Nevertheless, he suggests that the "Los Angeles school of architecture" is best explained by its enjoyment and exploitation of variety, difference, plurality. Wide open descriptions like this will accommodate almost everything including Jencks' parade of recent Los Angeles projects (including even Jon Jerde's Horton Plaza which is in San Diego). Yet, Jencks reports that, "The mood conveyed by such buildings is an ambiguous mixture of aggression and hedonism, sadism and restraint, functionality and uselessness, self promotion and withdrawal ..." (p. ). Hetero, indeed.

    Top Harvey Molotch "L.A. as Design Product"

    Harvey Molotch ("L.A. as Design Product") suggests that "Local art is a factor of production" (p. 225). He shows the extent to which this matters for the case of Los Angeles, in the process illustrating that it is a great place to use in making his important point. Molotch engagingly sets out his version of L.A. culture and then "finds it" in all sorts of goods. Not all of these are produced there (Japanese autos) but find their inspiration in local design shops.

    Discussing the history of the region, Molotch argues that besides the "pull" of job opportunities emphasized by demographers, there is also, "... a selective migration based on cultural leanings ..." (p. 232). Good weather, for example, breeds athleticism and attracts athletes. Molotch points to abundance of individualistic as opposed to team sports, including surfing and rollerblading, bicycling and swimming. These have lifestyle connotations that deliver all sorts of "collateral" vaguely related consumer goods.

    Entertainment ("The Movie-Industrial Complex") including tie-ins and licensed products gets special mention as it should. Molotch notes that in some, "Hollywood trades, fewer than 10 percent of those paying unions dues are at work at any time." But, rather than "moving on", they survive by taking on unrelated work while waiting for other opportunities. They stay and their influence grows. A two-hundred fold increase in real per capita consumption of video-audio products in this century (Lebergott, 1993) illustrates the growing importance of these occupations and helps to explain their expanded cultural influence.

    Top Paul Ong and Evelyn Blumenberg's discussion of "Income and Racial Inequality in Los Angeles"

    Entertainment, food, tourism, furniture, apparel all work to make the author's point. The immediate corollary is the importance of immigrants and especially immigrant entrepreneurs. Why is their success hardly touched upon in Paul Ong and Evelyn Blumenberg's discussion of "Income and Racial Inequality in Los Angeles"?

    Because so much of The City hinges on class warfare and inequality, it falls to Ong and Blumenberg to make the case. They fail to do so. "The City of Angels, the city of sunshine, palm trees, suburban living, and movies with happy endings, has an underside -- declining wages and rising poverty" (p. 311). The authors are certain that this caused the riots of 1992. In Buchanan-Perot fashion, they are equally certain that increasing inequality since the early 1970s is the consequence of the emerging global economy. This is not the conclusion reached by economists in a symposium on "Income, Inequality and Trade" in the Summer 1995 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives who show that, "trade matters, but it is neither all that matters nor the primary cause of observed changes" (Freeman, 1995, p. 30).

    Ong and Blumenberg are equally casual about what they chose to measure (changes in the distribution of family incomes without controlling for changing family sizes and more female-headed households, especially among blacks, p. 314), the adequacy of their variables (census data on reported dollar incomes) and how to interpret their own tables (see social mobility discussions above). The most serious problem is in their comparison of cross-sections that they admit contain different people in different years. Nowhere do they qualify their Gini coefficients with the observation that were the 1989 low-income group which they admit contains many recent arrivals ("Certainly, the entry of unskilled immigrants with little formal education contributed to rising poverty levels" p. 323) to be included in the Gini calculations of the previous decade with their then place-of-origin wages, we could as well document these people's immense welfare gains.

    The authors' most serious attempt to make their ethnic disparities case is via multiple regression estimations where annual earnings (and the natural log of annual earnings and the natural log of hourly wages) are explained by years of schooling, potential years of labor market experience and ethnicity (black, Chicano, Asian). The equations are estimated separately for males and females. In all three of the males equations, all three ethnicities have effects that are significantly negative. In all three females equations, two ethnicities (black and Chicano) are significantly negative; the coefficient for Asian women is significant and positive. Adjusted R-squared values are between 0.157 and 0.33.

    The Ong and Blumenberg view of the world is perhaps best revealed by the following quote: "Los Angeles' evolution into a multiethnic world city was built on ethnic and racial inequality. Minorities were consistently pulled into the region to fill the growing supply of low-wage jobs, jobs often dismissed by white workers ..." p. 325.

    Top Susan Anderson "A City Called Heaven"

    Susan Anderson ("A City Called Heaven") describes the history of blacks in Los Angeles. Once a desired alternative to the Deep South, Los Angeles became less hospitable after the massive post-WW II immigrations into Southern California. Anderson calls attention to the migration of large numbers of working class and middle-class blacks to the outlying suburbs in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, remarking that, "This flight from Los Angeles of working black families can be considered a long-term quiet revolt with consequences far outweighing the city's outbreak's of violence in 1965 and 1992. ... One consequence is that only 7 percent of black Angelenos live in 'all-black neighborhoods compared with 37 percent in other cities" (p. 346). Some people would call this progress. Anderson steers to the views of sociologist William Julius Wilson, emphasizing the negative consequences for those left behind.

    Anderson reports that L.A. was last of the major U.S. cities to elect blacks to mayor and other high offices, the victories of Tom Bradley and other African-American politicians. Much is made of the author's view that these leaders failed to deliver for South Central. Bradley, for example, never exercised control over the LAPD.

    Anderson goes overboard when she writes that, "Extremes of poverty in Los Angeles rival the Third World ..." (p. 358). She quotes a "UN analyst" cited in the LA Times, who said that the 1992 riots, "were part of 'an urban revolution taking place on all six inhabited continents, brought on by conditions very similar to those in Los Angeles'" (pp. 358-9). But, choosing to take the global view, she badly misses the point. What occurred on the world stage was an international rejection of policies she seems to advocate. To be sure, Anderson wants "programs" that are run at the level of the community rather than out of city hall. She believes that the program put forward by the Crips/Bloods, "... reveals a faith, amounting to an apotheosis, in the virtues of capitalism ..." Others may be less sanguine about demands for "' ... state work and product manufacturing plants...'" somehow to be administered by gang members.

    Top Raymond A. Rocco "Latino Los Angeles"

    Raymond A. Rocco ("Latino Los Angeles") begins with the important point that L.A. hispanics can now be found throughout the region clustered in a variety of distinct Latino communities, many of them linked on the basis of common overseas origin. But, "Our ethnographic research also revealed that the dispersion and residential mobility of Latinos throughout Los Angeles is so great that many of their social networks overlap in spatial terms ... Thus it is clear that the tendency to identify communities primarily or only in terms of physical space boundaries is of limited value" (p. 369). Rocco's story loses some force when he reverts to the big-think themes of the book, "The restructuring process has been driven by policies adopted by capital since the late 1960s to change its relationship to labor" (p. 371).

    Rocco's attention to four households is revealing. He highlights dislocations and hardships associated with restructuring. One wishes that he would have included at least one Latino entrepreneur. "A majority of the households we interviewed had an annual income of less than $20,000 ... " (p. 386). One consequence is that Rocco's political analysis fails to mention that Latinos' political views cover a much wider range than most other immigrant and minority groups. Rocco argues for reconsiderations of the idea of citizenship. He seems to feel that this would provide an antidote to political tensions over immigration.

    Top Co-editor Ed Soja's "Los Angeles, 1965-1992: From Crisis-Generated Restructuring to Restructuring-Generated Crisis"

    Co-editor Ed Soja's "Los Angeles, 1965-1992: From Crisis-Generated Restructuring to Restructuring-Generated Crisis" is the volume's final chapter. This is not a small-think chapter. "Compressed within the spatiotemporal brackets of this period and place is a remarkable story, one that has implications far beyond the local context. Through its telling can be seen a symptomatic history and geography of the contemporary world, a revealing glimpse of what it has meant to be alive over the past three decades not only in Los Angeles but nearly everywhere on earth" (p. 426).

    According to Soja the 1965 Watts riots dramatically revealed the contrived nature of conventional L.A. images (see Kevin Starr's Inventing the Dream, 1993) and exposed weaknesses in, "one of the crown jewels of the Fordist-Keynsian 'social contract' that allowed Big business, Big labor, and Big government to lead the great American postwar boom. ... Perhaps nowhere else were conditions more ripe for rebellion" (p. 430). The author makes much of the region's industrial boom of the 1970s while much of the rest of the nation was de-industrializing. "How could this extraordinary countercurrent be explained? Why had it been invisible for so long?" (p. 423). Of course, the post-WW II southern California aerospace boom as well as the frostbelt-sunbelt shift are staples of even the popular press. Yet, Soja suggests that a deeper understanding of these and subsequent events is gained from his "six geographies". This where readers should ready their dictionaries.

    The first of these ("Exopolis. The Restructuring of Urban Form") retells the fairly well known story of the region's dispersion and decentralization of jobs and residences which is now being repeated in many U.S. metropolitan regions. Soja prefers of divide the L.A. area into four major "Outer Cities" (Orange County, Greater Valley, Pacific Shores and the Inland Empire). He is especially critical of the latter. "It's rapid population growth, fed by the sprawling development of relatively cheap housing, has created some of the cruelest repercussions of the restructuring of urban form, especially in terms of what policy makers call the 'jobs-housing balance.' Lured by the success stories of other Outer Cities, hundreds of thousands of people moved to planned new communities in anticipation of soon finding local employment opportunities. All too often, however, the promised jobs do not arrive, leaving a huge population stranded up to sixty miles from their places of employment" (p. 437). In fact, in 1990, 70 percent of Riverside county residents and 68 percent of San Bernardino county residents had jobs in their county of residence. Seventy-eight percent of workers residing in these counties had one-way commutes less than 45 minutes. (Census data are only available for time distributions). At the region's average speed of 35 MPH that suggests the overwhelming number commuted less than 26 miles. Not nearly as "cruelly stranded" as Soja asserts. Both counties continue to rank highest in the region in housing affordability. Many young families trade off commuting for the chance to own a home. The available trade-offs would surprise Soja if he would bother to look.

    "Flexcities: The Changing Geography of Production" analyzes "deindustrailization" and "reindustrialization". There is as yet no standard nomenclature for the computerized economy. Accelerating change hurts some but boosts others, accentuating the penalty for being unskilled and unschooled. Yet, "indirect genocide" and similar epithets (p. 440) are pure overreach. Similarly, "Growth in the FIRE sector has fueled the emergence of Los Angeles as a major challenger to the triumvirate of Tokyo, London and New York atop the global hierarchy of 'capitals of capital'" (p. 441) sounds good but is wrong. The major banks have been leaving Los Angeles. But, that does not fit the script. Helping to sustain the oligarchs "... is a teeming underground economy and an immigrant-fed pool of low-wage labor ..." (p. 441). The teeming underground economy generates incomes that are invisible to the authors of The City.

    "Cosmpolis: Globalization and World City Formation" magnifies the error. "... downtown development in Los Angeles more directly reflected the effects of economic and clutural glocalization (sic). Its specific geography was split in two, with a half-city of First World skyscrapers and financial power standing starkly above a half-city of Third World cultures and street scenes. Capping this divisive moiety and holding it together is the governing doemstic 'Citadel-L.A.' a band of social control and surveillance ..." Actually, the decline of L.A.'s downtown is clear from the 1987 and 1992 economic census small-area employment data: the CBD incurred net losses of both retail and services jobs in the five-year interval. This was on the heels of a 25-year $2.5 billion downtown renewal effort. The sum does not count the mega-dollar downtown focused rail transit system or the $500 million convention center expansion. Yet, those skyscrapers now have some of the nation's highest vacancy rates. The Economist (1997) reports "... today not a single major bank, department-store chain or telecoms company calls the nations' second largest city its home" (p. 25). This is why the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency is, "facing what may be the worst financial crisis in its 49-year history ..." (L.A. Times, 1997a). There is even talk of converting empty downtown offices to lofts (L.A. Times, 1997b).

    "Splintered Labyrinth: The Repolarized Metropolis" repeats concerns over a "missing middle" (p. 446) and the plight of immigrants who surely should have figured it all out and sent word back home that their followers should blaze a new path. "Unending Eyes: Revamping the Carceral City" scoffs at "security-obsessed urbanism" in Los Angeles. Soja may not have heard that "4 of 10 in L.A. Know a Victim of Violence" (L.A. Times, Feb. 10, 1997c). These tragedies fall heaviest on Blacks and Latinos who are clearly not imagining the whole thing. But, "The policed metropolis is augmented by the quieter presence of what may be the most extensive network of military installations around any major city, a global strike force allegedly prepared to take on any challenge anywhere in the universe" (p. 450). When Soja sees class warfare he apparently is not kidding. "Simcities: Restructuring the Urban Imaginary" takes on the "theme parking" of urban life, "... a duplicitous spatial terrain in which fraud is practiced with the ultimate hypersimulated honesty" (p. 453). It is then a hop-skip-and-jump to junk bonds ("invented in Beverly Hills") , the "..hyperreality that was practiced in the Reagan-Bush years ..." (p. 455), S&L fraud and other plutocractic excesses, all culminating in the 1992 riots. Soja verbally strings all of these together, apparently expecting that the standard Pavlovian response to each item is enhanced by bundling them. Yet, a case cannot be built on arm-waving. He ends the book by repeating its greatest weaknesses.

    Morrison and Lowry (1993) document the growing ethnic tensions between blacks and the rapidly growing Latino and Asian populations in L.A. They also call attention to the violent acts of "young males with time on their hands ... 60 percent had criminal records and only a third were employed. Three-fifths were high school dropouts." They conclude that families and schools had both failed these young men. They also note that all this had little to do with the political protest that started in front of the downtown police headquarters. Details and data like these are not as interesting as class warfare.

    Many new arrivals to Southern California do get an education and move up. Some manage to overcome the obstacles created by bad schools. Others are casualties of failed schools. Still others engage in behavior that contributes to their own problems. The power of human capital is profound, documented in a huge empirical literature. There, in contrast, is little serious support for the Class Warfare view of the world. Moreover, immigrants do not endure the risks of migration casually. Most know the score. There are no examples of enduring migrations where the migrants are perennially fooled into making the wrong move. An analysis that does not bother with the facts is bound to miss the most important conclusions and to mislead.

    Top References

    Boskin, Michael J. and Ellen R. Dulberger, Robert J. Gordon, Zvi Grilliches, Dale W. Jorgenson (1997) "The CPI Commission: Findings and Recommendations" Papers and Proceedings of the 109th Annual Meetings of the American Economic Association. Vol 87, No. 2, pp. 78-83.

    Council of Economics Advisors (1996)

    Freeman, Richards B. (1995) "Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 15-32.

    Gordon, Peter and Harry W. Richardson (1995) "Sustainable Congestion" in J. Brotchie et al (eds.) Cities in Competition: Productive and Sustainable Cities for the 21st Century. Melbourne: Longman Australia

    Gottschalk, Peter (1997) "Inequality, Income Growth, and Mobility: The Basic Facts" Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol 11, No. 2, pp. 21-40.

    Kotkin, Joel (1994) "Immigrants Lead a Recovery" Wall Street Journal (April 22).

    L.A. Times (1997a) "Lagging Property Values Put CRA in Financial Pinch" (p A1, May 21).

    L.A. Times (1997b) "Downtown L.A. Looks to lofts for Possible Revival" (p A1, June 9).

    L.A. Times (1997c) "The Times Poll: 4 of 10 in L.A. Know a Victim of Violence" (p A1. Feb. 10).

    Lebergott, Stanley (1993) Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Mayer, Susan E. and Christopher Jencks (1991)."Recent Trends in Economic Inequality in the U.S.: Income vs. Material Well-Being"

    Meyers, Dowell (1995) The Changing Immigrants of Southern California. University of Southern California: Lusk Center Research Institute Research Report No. LCRI-95-04R.

    Morrison, Peter A. ands Ira S. Lowry (1993) A Riot of Color: The Demographic Setting of Civil Disturbance in Los Angeles. Santa Monica: RAND (P-7819).

    Quigley, John M. (1996) "The Homeless" Journal of Economic Literature. Vol. 34, No. 4. pp. 1935-1941.

    Rodriguez, Gregory (1996) The Emerging Latino Middle Class. Malibu: Pepperdine University Institute for Public Policy.

    Starr, Kevin (19xx) Inventing the Dream: California Through the Progressive Era. New York: Oxford University Press.

    The Economist (1997) "How to remake a city" (p. 25, May 31).

    U.S. Department of Commerce (1997) Census and You, June, 1997, Vol 32. No. 6, p. 6.

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