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L.A. as a Collection of 'Edge Cities'

September 07, 1997

"Beyond the Edge," by Eric Monkkonen, and "Wright's Vision of 'Broadacre City' Emerges in Today's Los Angeles," by Richard Weinstein (Opinion, Aug. 31) ignore two factors making contemporary Los Angeles economically and socially possible: 1) the low cost of gasoline; 2) the cultural conditioning of many Angelenos to spending an hour or more of the day in their automobiles.

Factor one will fade away in the next 20-30 years; factor two can be said to be mild compared to what was suffered by 19th-century workers contributing to the Industrial Revolution. The fact is that each of the "edge" cities is not balanced, where people can find both places to live and places to work. Hence many have commuting distances that are appalling.




Monkkonen misses a comparison between "edge" cities of the sort he describes and London. Like L.A., and unlike Paris or Munich or Milan, London is a network of interconnected villages rather than a hub-and-spokes, center-and-suburbs place. The "City" stands to the rest of London much as downtown stands to the rest of L.A. The lord mayor of London is just a ceremonial figure.

There lies the rub. More than a decade ago, Margaret Thatcher used the power of Parliament to wipe out the Greater London Council, which had provided coherent government for the whole London area. She claimed it was for the sake of decentralization. It was really a matter of partisan pique against the GLC's Labor Party majority.

Since then, each separate London borough (as well as the small, formally chartered cities of London and Westminster) has tended to its own affairs. The result has been chaotic, especially on the all-important issue of transportation. Now Tony Blair's administration promises to restore an elected central structure that can give coherence to London life. Decentralization and local responsiveness are fine. But genuine common interests that transcend local communities also can exist and do need their own forum.


Professor of History

Southern Methodist University



How ironic that the many benefits of multiple cities extolled by Monkkonen are beyond the reach of nearly half of the people in the area. If those of us stuck in this oversized city could trade places with residents of the many smaller jurisdictions, we too might avoid the fiscal and aural costs of so many helicopters at all hours, big projects downtown, national and global trips by our officials, and even paying for their gasoline around town. Graffiti on Franklin Avenue might be removed and even the brush 30 feet from our bedroom, about which I have badgered fire and council persons since April.

Well might Bill Boyarsky (Sept. 1) worry about the failure of charter reform. But what other course is left? Best wishes to Valley, Venice and San Pedro secessions, maybe even Westside and Hollywood municipalities--smaller than the very nonlocal government of Los Angeles and larger than Hawaiian Gardens.


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