Letting Imaginations Run Wild About a Future L.A.

Times Staff Writer

Imagine a computer showing a “Sim City” image of Los Angeles. With a few keystrokes, the simulation game gives you the power to reshape the centerpiece of Southern California.

What would you change first?

We put that question to a collection of activists, artists, executives and other personalities, and reminded them of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s inaugural challenge to Angelenos to dream big.

Bury downtown train tracks beneath a greenbelt of parks, said poet Lewis MacAdams. Demolish the strip malls, offered architect Thom Mayne. Others were lighthearted: Screenwriter Paul Haggis (“Million Dollar Baby”) quipped, “Can we just buy Paris or New York City and have it shipped in brick by brick?”


Denise Hunter, president, FAME Corporations, the community development arm of First AME Church

I would like to see a system that would allow every child to fully develop their gifts and offer them to the world without regard to cost of education or training. Wow, what a city this would be!

Thom Mayne, Pritzker Prize-winning architect

Shrink the sprawl.... Demolish the strip centers (malls too) and focus on a more concentrated, intensified, diverse urbanistic model, with all the attributes of the cities we so admire -- not copied literally, not nostalgic -- but translated, reinterpreted to an L.A. mentality. Return the suburbs to lemons and avocados. Build up with confidence in the urban centers. Did I say demolish the malls?

T.C. Boyle, author, “The Tortilla Curtain”

I would resolve all our traffic issues without spending a nickel on freeway construction by decreeing that everyone, including old ladies (and old men), must ride a motorcycle at all times.

Robbie Conal, guerrilla poster artist

We should develop graffiti artist mentor workshops in targeted public high schools, bringing great L.A. graffiti O.G.s into art studio classrooms to legitimately share their knowledge with students who feel as unappreciated by the system as they are.

Kris Vosburgh, executive director, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

The city should take a break from enriching its employees and use the money to repair the sidewalks.

Marie Condron, founder,

The world’s largest collection of historic movie palaces, L.A.'s Broadway, features some truly breathtaking architecture, but nowadays it’s kind of a visual nightmare. Many of the facades, exquisite as wedding cakes, are damaged, boarded over and defiled.... Restore the architecture, light up the facades, turn the neon back on and bring a bustling mix of neighborhood restaurants, music venues, shops and gathering spaces.

Rusty Hammer, president, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

I imagine a Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex that is recognized as the world’s cleanest and most-efficient harbor. Ships would run on low-sulfur diesel and plug into zero-emission electric power supplies when they are docked. I imagine containers being loaded around the clock into clean-fuel trucks before being transferred onto clean-fuel trains.

Jim McConnell, chief facilities executive, Los Angeles Unified School District

As we confront the challenges of public school overcrowding through an ambitious $19.2-billion construction and repair program, I have the vision of every school in the district becoming the center of its community ... providing green space, meeting space and recreational facilities.

Sandra Tsing Loh, writer and radio personality

L.A.'s most sought-after private schools (ones that teach such estimable values as peaceful conflict resolution, global citizenship and honoring diversity) now cost $15,000 to $20,000 a year. If just 35 L.A. private school kindergarteners braved the wilds of public kindergarten for one year, the saved tuition money could be used to support Access Books, a nonprofit that provides books to underfunded L.A.-area schools. Because this outside-the-box approach provides such a fresh twist on the community service line in the Harvard application, I think this one-year “Outward Bound From Private School Kindergarten” program could be a win/win.

Ted Hayes, advocate for the homeless

Homeless people, amalgamated with non-homeless and professionals, should be transitionally emigrated to closed military bases, transforming them into government-chartered, 21st century industrialized towns.

Lewis MacAdams, poet; founder, Friends of the Los Angeles River

The railroad tracks that line both sides of the Los Angeles River through the central city should be put underground.... The voters of Los Angeles have passed a half-billion-dollar bond issue that will fund several large-scale river restoration efforts. But no matter how much the 4 1/2 miles of river through downtown Los Angeles is improved, it will be meaningless if the river remains completely inaccessible.

Mike Watt, bassist, The Minutemen, fIREHOSE

I’m in the L.A. harbor part of SoCal. One reason we don’t get much out to the other parts of the sprawl is all the nightmare plug on the not-so-freeways. How long has the monorail been at Disneyland? My dream would be to have monorails going down the middle of every freeway we got here. No. 1, you wouldn’t have to come up with the heavy coin to buy all the right-of-way. And No. 2, just think of the psychological impact on drivers as they’re sitting there sucking tailpipe and seeing those monorails zooming right by.

Andy Lipkis, president, TreePeople

Let’s strategically remove some of the concrete and install a mass of trees and forest-like technologies, such as rainwater tanks, green roofs, mulch, swales and French drains. L.A. could cut its water imports by half, solve the toxic storm water pollution and flooding problems, reduce energy use, air pollution and global warming gases, create neighborhood parks, reduce environmental health problems, save the city money and create thousands of jobs for urban youth.

James Rojas, chairman, Latino Urban Forum

If the city would legalize street vending, it would create thousands of jobs overnight without any major investment and provide economic opportunities for the working poor.

Jim Coughlin, comedian

In the 1960s, Amsterdam introduced the world to its “white bicycle” program. Throughout the city, people could borrow any white bicycle they found, ride it across town and leave it behind for the next person. I have no fantasy that bicycles would do the trick in such an expansive county as Los Angeles. That’s why I’m suggesting a “white helicopters” program.