Yesterday I was on the phone with Dwight Bassett, economic development director of Chapel Hill, who had just come back from Boulder. Dwight and I have been working together the last year, trying to figure out how to bring more jobs to build on the the phenomenal, world-class research in his town. (A professor at UNC won the Nobel last fall.) Dwight had just come back from a site visit to Boulder and he was overwhelmed by number and diversity of good jobs there. We talked briefly about “catalytic” actions, but soon enough gave up this line of reasoning, deciding that you cannot turn things around so easily, with just one or two actions. Instead we latched onto the analogy of lighting up a dark room with candles. Light one and the room is no longer in darkness. Light two, and now the pool of light extends beyond the table. Light three and now you can see the details of your surroundings. And so on until the room is bright. The same is true with economic development: there is no switch on the wall: It takes simply takes a lot of candles and more than one person to light them.
Profound Urbanism in LA
I took this photo in L.A. last week from the Fourth St. viaduct, one of a number of bridges built in the 1920s. You can't see it in this photo, but there was a single duck paddling around and taking a bath. The concrete is oversized to handle the flash floods that sometimes occur; otherwise there is just a trickle running down the center channel. On the immediate right side is the main rail line, and on the left side the repair and sorting yards for the Metro, LA's light rail system. There are now plans to re-green the river, starting all the way up in the San Fernando Valley, dozens of miles away, and running down to its mouth on the ocean. (an outfall?). These huge concrete pieces of "infrastructure" were once neglected single-purpose places, but with younger people taking back the city and living in places like the Arts District, a warehouse district to the left, they are gradually retaking these places, turning them back, over time, into places for people and nature. For now, though, one duck will have to suffice.