Chat & Selfie

On big art, beards and the beauty of M-3 zoning

Weird little dogs on short leashes barked. Edgy rock blared. Bean bags slammed hard onto street-art-covered cornhole boards. And there, in the vast repurposed industrial space that is Angel City Brewery, Tyler Stonebreaker sipped a Gold Line pilsner and talked at a rat-a-tat pace about the role he and Creative Space co-founder Michael Smith have played in spurring the vitality of Los Angeles' Arts District — mainly by connecting businesses with buildings. The California section's Bob Sipchen listened, then emailed Stonebreaker questions. We crunched the conversation into this:

Part of Creative Space's "manifesto" is: "It takes a coffee shop to build a village." Huh?

Coffee shops, bars, restaurants, etc. are part of the "instant neighborhood" ingredient kit.

Here's another motto that was going to reshape downtown LA: "Foodski, Funski, Brewski." Where did Gorky's go wrong?

Your guess is as good as mine.

You've been interviewed in or profiled by sprudge.com, laimyours.com, foodgps.com, creativemornings.com, blogdowntown.com, apartmenttherapy.com, laeater.com, thegray-market.com, figureplant.com and grubstreet.com, and these Web entities have called you a "creative enabler," "civic puppet master," "gentle giant," "neighborhood sculptor" and "curator of neighborhoods." About the only label they say doesn't apply is "broker with the fat tie that nobody likes." So?

Labels are what they are. We're not doing any of these things intentionally — just working with our friends who are way more interesting than we are.

How cool is Rem Koolhaas?

Rem is the man! Using Rem's words, from his book "Mutations": Cities (especially global cities) are the "production sites for the leading information industries of our time."

Generally speaking, the more diverse an ecosystem is, the healthier it is. Non-native species can wreak havoc on an existing ecosystem. So when an area is invaded by something or someone that is not native to that area and/or respectful of what makes that particular place/community what it is, then things start getting out of whack.

You grew up in Corona del Mar. A hellhole?

Pretty on the outside, not much on the inside, at least anymore.

In the Southern California landscape of your mind, where do orange groves fit in?

Notwithstanding the current issues with the drought, I'd much rather see orange groves than ugly decaying tract homes sitting on top of some of the most nutrient-rich soil in the world.

You say that the Arts District's sculptors and painters are blessed by the area's industrial zoning, right?

Where there are buildings, there is zoning (short of places like Houston). Urban planning influences what activities happen where. The production of art, especially art that involves physical materials — which are often toxic and/or flammable — isn't allowed by a lot of zoning categories.

You think that the sprawling low-rise apartment buildings popping up on downtown's eastern edge are a sign that the city values housing over art?

If you put housing — housing that might as well be anywhere — above art in the district called the Arts District, then it's hard to believe otherwise. Housing is important, but there are better places for generic housing than an M-3 zoned area, with no direct public transportation and zero support for ground up housing. No one in the neighborhood wants housing except outside developers from the suburbs who have dreams of becoming the next "urban pioneer."

Aren't pretty suburbs gonna make a comeback when the first urban hipster's toddler gets hepatitis by stepping on a discarded heroin needle?

Who knows? I'm not sure what I'd do if that happened to me.

How much shame do you feel about the proliferation of hipster beards?

People can and should express themselves however they see fit.

The tattoos?

To each his own.

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