Third Los Angeles discussion series returns

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The Third Los Angeles Project, anticipated by the Occidental community to be one of the most attended events ever hosted at the institution, has returned for a second round, following the spring 2015 series on Occidental’s campus.

This year’s Third LA is a series of six public conversations about the past, present and future of Los Angeles, taking place on Occidental’s campus and elsewhere, chaired by Christopher Hawthorne, professor of Urban and Environmental Policy at Occidental and architecture critic for the LA Times.

Occidental and Eagle Rock community members sat down in Choi Auditorium April 6 for a panel discussion on homelessness in Los Angeles. The fourth conversation this spring, “Homelessness and the Right to the City,” was organized by the 11 students from Hawthorne’s corresponding academic course: “The Third Los Angeles project.”

Lily Goldfarb (sophomore), one of Hawthorne’s students, said she and her classmates were eager to create a platform for discussing the crisis of homelessness in the city.

“All of us were really passionate about the topic,” Goldfarb said. “Being able to spark dialogue was a great opportunity.”

Wooyoung Lim (senior), another of Hawthorne’s students, enjoyed venturing from the classroom and seeking out LA-based activists working within the homeless community and affordable housing.

Panelists included Alisa Orduna, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s new policy advisor on homelessness; Peter Drier, Occidental politics professor; Jose Ramirez, executive director of the St. Francis Center; Peter Jamison, LA Times reporter; Elvis Summer of Tiny House, Huge Purpose; and Charles Porter of the United Coalition East Prevention Project.

LA is currently emerging as a new city where the demographics and use of public space are dramatically changing, according to Hawthorne. The old cliches of LA are finally crumbling, allowing the city a chance to redefine itself and its place in the world.

For Hawthorne, this dilemma was put into perspective when he watched La Gran Marcha in 2006, an organized mass public demonstration aimed to promote immigration and human rights that filled both Broadway and Wilshire Boulevards in downtown LA.

He admired how those involved then used the spaces of the city.

“A deeply private, quickly growing, car-dominated and largely horizontal city was becoming more public, seeing both immigration and overall population growth slow dramatically, investing heavily in mass transit and experimenting with a more vertical architecture,” Hawthorne said via email.

The Third LA prevails as an accessible platform for discussing and analyzing this shift toward a new city.

“If we’re no longer a city defined simply by car culture and single-family houses and a concrete, inaccessible river — what will replace them?” Hawthorne said via email.

The Third LA events have been extremely fruitful in exploring what this new city will look like and how equitable it will be.

Third LA hosted the kickoff event of the series, “Turf Battles: The Lawn in Los Angeles,” in Choi Auditorium Feb. 17. This conversation addressed the suburban lawn in an age of drought and climate change. Panelists included New York architect Elizabeth Diller, Occidental Biology Professor Gretchen North, landscape architect Jim Burnett and Huntington Library Curator of Photography Jennifer Watts.

Hawthorne also organized as part of the Third LA programming a conversation with former New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan ’82 at the Hammer Museum March 17 to mark the publication of her new book, “Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution.” Khan spoke with Hawthorne about street design, the public realm and mobility in LA.

 

Upcoming events include a two-part, two-city conversation on the relationship between emerging technology, such as Uber, and how these companies are shaping the contemporary city. These conversations will take place in San Francisco — at planning non-profit San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association — April 21, and at Occidental April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Choi Auditorium, to conclude this year’s Third LA series.

Hawthorne said he believes Occidental prevails as an important place to have these conversations about where LA is headed. The cultural frontier of the city is moving back in the direction of Occidental and Northeast LA. Occidental’s campus currently feels much more central to the conversations and topics addressed in the Third LA than it might have been for an earlier generation of students.

“Young writers and artists and musicians are much more likely to be living and working in Echo Park, Koreatown, Silver Lake, downtown, Chinatown, East LA, South LA or in Highland Park or Eagle Rock,” Hawthorne said via email.

But Hawthorne also said the concept of the Third LA remains easily misread as inherently optimistic.

“This new city presents as many challenges as opportunities, if not more,” Hawthorne said via email. “The Third LA is a city facing very slow growth, where manufacturing and other industry has been hollowed out, where inequality is widening, where the homelessness crisis is deepening.”

Although these conversations allow the emergence of a new city, a third LA, to be known and discussed, Hawthorne said, much hard work remains.