California as a Trend-Setter and Opposition to Prop. 111

You’re wrong, Mr. Peirce (“California’s Tarnished Reputation as a National Trend-Setter,” by Neal R. Peirce, Opinion, May 20). You’re not listening, Mr. Peirce. What Angelenos are tired of supporting with their hard-earned tax money are growth-as-usual policies. And by withholding their all-out endorsement of Proposition 111, they are demanding a different path toward the future.

Transportation planners have, since the Owens Valley aqueduct of 1913, supported raw-land development. Their schemes have been aimed at moving people from ever-more far-flung areas in search of possibilities over an entire region. First there were the Red Cars. Then, after World War II, there were highways and freeways. Now there are subways being built and light rails being planned.

All schemes have aimed at supporting daily migrations of millions of people over enormous distances. And people are tired, not of taxes as such, but of spending two hours or more in the search for possibilities inside a regional monotone. They want a different proportion in their daily rituals.

What people are demanding are policies that build variety and choice at a much smaller scale. This requires zoning to allow richer mixes of housing, commerce, and even certain kinds of light industry rather than the endless sprawl of vast housing tracts with no way to earn a living nearby. It requires better planning of growth so that whole and healthy communities can have a chance of developing on a local scale. Finally, it requires tax incentives to enrich and diversify existing places, not to build outward with more roads, highways, freeways, tracks, etc.


The people of Los Angeles are setting a trend by not wholeheartedly supporting obsolete transportation policies. They have learned that more carrying capacity benefits expansionary growth but doesn’t necessarily make good communities. They are demanding--according to their own instinctive wisdom--better communities, not more suburban sprawl.


Professor of Architecture, USC