Is Thomas Jefferson to Blame for Los Angeles's Sprawl?

Jeremy Rosenberg examines why Thomas Jefferson may have had more of an impact on the development of Los Angeles than you might suspect. The city's street grid can be traced back to this American founding father.

As part of its ongoing series on the "Laws That Shaped Los Angeles," KCET's Rosenberg describes how Jefferson's 1785 Land Ordinance bill, "leads in a straight line to the creation of most of the street grids of modern Los Angeles."

"The grid in L.A. is part of a national survey instituted by Jefferson and amplified over time," says Rhett Beavers, a landscape architect, designer and planner and UCLA Extension instructor. "Jefferson was looking for a way to transfer federal lands into the hands of the people."

One of the most interesting areas of L.A.'s street grid is the point where it pivots -- a clash of founding cultures made manifest along Hoover Street just west of downtown -- where the Jeffersonian city grid abuts a pre-existing Spanish colonial grid." On the eastern side, streets align to about a 36 degree angle; streets to the west hit perpendicularly, at 45 degrees.

Yet, can we 'blame' Jefferson for L.A.'s sprawl and lack of public space? "No way, says [Rhett] Beavers (a UCLA Extension instructor). 'Blame Jefferson for setting up high ideals,' he says. "Blame us for not living up to them."

Full Story: Survey Says: How Thomas Jefferson Made L.A.

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