A Tale of Two Towns, And What Makes Them 'Authentic'

Rick Cole, city manager of Azusa and now Ventura, reflects on what 'authenticity' really means for towns struggling to balance identity with new development.
September 26, 2008, 10am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"What makes a place "authentic"? In places we cherish, we look for something unique and tangible. But personal experience of a place is not merely a product of the landscape and "built environment." It is also shaped by myths and perceptions."

"To some, new development [in Azusa] seems to violate the city's 'unique natural, historic and cultural heritage.' There is considerable concern that new structures might be undermining the cherished small town character.

This has led to a continuing political struggle. Is the new development creating "a distinct identity and sense of place" or altering the community's existing character beyond recognition? This reflects a deep ambivalence of local residents about change. So much of current development is simply generic "product" that even the value of new investment (and more permanent benefits of expanded jobs, housing and tax base) may seem like a poor trade-off against the loss of the familiar."

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Published on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 in newgeography
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