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Splitting Up L.A. Threatens Its Future

Eli Broad is founder of the Broad Foundation and chairman ofSunAmerica

If Los Angeles is to succeed, we must pull together our many good but disparate communities to develop a core, accessible to all. Every great city has a heart--a vibrant center for all citizens. We need to concentrate on making that core more attractive and accessible instead of entertaining the idea of breaking this city apart, as Valley secessionists want to do.

Like many Angelenos, I am not a native of this city. Born in New York, raised in Michigan, I settled here almost 40 years ago. Since then, I have been fortunate in creating two successful businesses. I want to ensure that future generations of men and women find in Los Angeles the opportunities for success that I found.

I fear that if the city is divided by secession, that may not happen. We must put aside such divisiveness and instead concentrate on developing our core.

No city has ever become a truly great city without a heart. San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Paris, London--all have an identifiable and attractive centers with cultural, sports and entertainment activities and with holiday celebrations and big parades.

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Los Angeles needs a central place where our efforts are showcased, where the bountiful strength and diversity of our city comes alive. The place is downtown.

Downtown has begun a renaissance. Five years ago, 3 million people a year came downtown; today, about 11 million do. Downtown is anchored at its south end by a thriving USC campus and Exposition Park, along with the sports, entertainment and convention district around the convention center and Staples Center. At the north end, we have the cultural and civic district, with the Riordan Central Library; the Colburn School of Music; the Museum of Contemporary Art; the new 63,000-square-foot Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and its adjoining complex; three existing venues of the Music Center; and Disney Concert Hall, which is under construction. Also in the offing is a new Caltrans building.

In the last three years, more than $2 billion has been spent on nonresidential construction in downtown. These venues benefit our citizens while also attracting new business to build our local economy.

Three other projects that will revitalize our downtown are also in the works: turning Grand Avenue between Temple and Fifth into a truly grand avenue, with reduced vehicular traffic and places for pedestrians to stroll to cinemas, restaurants and shops; creating a public commons on the 16 acres running from the Department of Water and Power to City Hall; and expanding the convention, sports and entertainment district.

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When these plans are realized, people will be able to take full advantage of the several billion dollars spent on subways.

About 300,000 people work downtown every day. I envision people staying downtown after work instead of immediately getting on the freeway. I envision many more families downtown on the weekend visiting museums, shopping and having brunch, lunch or dinner and then seeing a Lakers, Kings or Clippers game or going to a concert or play.

Other areas of the city already complement this city core, including the Wilshire Corridor with its soon-to-be expanded Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Los Angeles attracts new citizens daily because of its boundless opportunities. All of us come here to succeed. We must embrace the idea that success comes from a healthy and strong center.

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Other great cities of the world would never consider breaking apart because they have vibrant centers that pull together diverse communities. We must reject the idea that secession will strengthen Los Angeles. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln--who knew a bit about secession--united we succeed, divided we fail.


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