Who Can Fill L.A.'s Design Leadership Vacuum?

While New York has benefited over the past decade from the design leadership of Michael Bloomberg, Amanda Burden, and Janette Sadik-Khan, Los Angeles sorely lacks such powerful champions. Sam Lubell asks who will step up for L.A.

Lubell surveys the current leadership landscape in L.A. and finds it "sorely lacking" in the kind of "unifying galvanizers" that have helped transform New York through design.

"Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while a stunningly effective promoter of transit, and leader of a recent triumph (despite heavy lobbying) on the Sixth Street Bridge, is still often subservient by legislative design to warring city council members and various agency heads. The planning director, Michael LoGrande, appears to have a rather tepid vision for long term, proactive planning. And few in the community seem to have taken the lead to fill the created vacuum. Instead of true design champions we have Eli Broad, who builds with little regard for public input or (despite hiring the best) even the input of his architects. Another is Metro, which has been enriched through recent measure R. But despite the valiant work of planning director Martha Welborne, the agency has shown little design savvy in its recent transit projects and transit oriented developments."

Could the election of a new mayor this year provide the impetus for bringing design to the forefront of the city's land use agenda? Lubell urges the next mayor to take the necessary, but "unusual" steps, to transform the city.

"Design needs to be a priority from the top, despite the struggles that might entail. There should be architects and design professionals at all levels of the administration. That includes a deputy mayor for architecture to oversee all city design; a planning department that continues to improve efficiency and actually enact citywide planning; streets that are designed for much more than cars; and a procurement process that doesn’t just favor big, well-connected firms."

"The improvements will be hard fought, but they can, like they have in New York, lift the quality of life."



Brand new! Urban Grid City Collection

Each city has its own unique story. Commemorate where you came from or where you want to go.
Grids and Guide Red book cover

Grids & Guides

A notebook for visual thinkers. Available in red and black.
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95
Melissa and Doug Town Blocks Wooden Play Set

Block play meets role play

New! Town block set from Melissa and Doug Toys