Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Joel Kotkin's "The Decline of Los Angeles"

In "The Decline of Los Angeles," published on and originally in Forbes, author Joel Kotkin explores what he describes "one of the most rapid--and largely unnecessary--municipal reversals in fortune in American urban history."  Thanks to what Kotkin describes as a near-perfect triology--business, climate, and landscape--people from all over the country (and world) moved to Los Angeles over the last century to take part in the development of one of the world's then most innovative cities.  By the end of the 1990s, Kotkin writes, Los Angeles could claim the continent's largest port, the world's largest entertainment industry, and a seat amongst the biggest and best garment and industrial manufacturing centers in the country. 

Not so in 2010.  With unemployment close to 10% and a declining industrial base and infrastructure, Los Angeles has felt the economic downtown harder than many cities.  According to Kotkin, people now appear to be leaving the City of Angels in droves, whereas they used to seek it out as a place to visit, if not also to live, mirroring the outward migration patterns of Detroit, Chicago, and New York.  Attempts to create more "elegant density" in downtown areas has apparently failed.  To the extent Los Angeles recovers from its current malaise, peripheral cities promise to recover first.  Why?  As Kotkin reports, "'It's extremely difficult to do business in Los Angeles," observes Eastside developer Jose de Jesus Legaspi.  'The regulations are difficult to manage. . . .Everyone has to kiss the rings of [City Hall politicians.]'"

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

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