"The long reign of the Community Redevelopment Agency ended this week--not with a bang, but with a brief reference on Page 4 of Mayor Richard Riordan's budget message," William Fulton wrote recently in this newspaper's Opinion pages.
The CRA reign may indeed wind up yielding to some kind of reorganizational interregnum, but if it does it at least will go with a small bang. "Urban Revisions, Current Projects for the Public Realm," the just-opened show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, includes Elizabeth Moule and Stefanos Polyzoides' CRA-sponsored "Strategic Plan" for Downtown Los Angeles among an assortment of redevelopment plans.
The show's catalogue says the plan "grew out of a five-year-long public process directed by a 65-member committee representing a wide range of interests." Clearly, imagination as well as money was spent freely, and no one who works Downtown can view the plan without a sigh for what might have been.
The dreamlike quality about the results may, of course, be a part of the problem. An elegant pen drawing shows "proposed housing cluster adjacent to St. Vibiana Cathedral," currently one of the squalid encampments of the Downtown homeless. "The Los Angeles Theater in the proposed Broadway Theater Entertainment District," with searchlights piercing the sky, will leave incredulous anyone who recalls the sad demise of the Los Angeles Theatre Center, just a block away on Spring Street.
In other moments, the MOCA show and its catalogue try to be tough-minded about what urban design can and cannot be expected to do. But a hope that people problems may take care of themselves seems to spring eternal in the architectural breast. If people were added to another project in the MOCA show--Johnson, Fain, Pereira Associates' otherwise appealing "Greenway Plan for Metropolitan Los Angeles"--they would surely be homeless. Doesn't that change rather a lot?
"Urban Revisions" is rich in inspiration, in short, but, particularly with the future of the CRA in mind, it stands also as a perhaps unintended warning.