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How to make the city shine / What would finally civilize
L.A.?

Meet the new neighbors

December 26, 2007|ERIN AUBRY KAPLAN | Erin Aubry Kaplan is a contributing editor to Opinion.

It's almost a cliche that L.A.'s diversity is its strength. But another cliche (one, like most, grounded in a certain truth) is that L.A. lives like a small town, or a bunch of small towns, divvied up by color and class. Fact is, we've always preferred our diversity geographically contained and climate-controlled; a white friend of mine once confessed that to most of her friends, "Diversity means having good restaurants."

So let's mix it up. Let's play big developer in the sky, take the great urban chessboard and move all the pieces around so that the kings and queens sit alongside the knights and rooks.

My picks? Move Inglewood next to Beverly Hills, drop Cheviot Hills somewhere around Paramount, stick Watts in the West Valley, merge the Eastside with the West.

Even if we can't really do it, imagining the juxtapositions begins to define what real diversity would look like. It also brings into focus some historical and economic justice that's long overdue. For example: Couple El Segundo with South L.A., each wrought by the same phenomenon of racial isolation, though one was the cause, the other its effect. Or wed Compton to Ladera Heights, which might actually heal the rift between the black middle class and poor that we've all been fretting about for years. Those are my choices, but the possibilities are endless.

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