In Planning, Reality Can Be Worse Than Fiction

The Showtime Series Penny Dreadful portrays a bleak vision of 1940s Los Angeles. But, unencumbered by regulations and zoning laws, it also displays what great urban neighborhoods can look like.

May 18, 2020, 11:00 AM PDT

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310


"Belvedere Heights isn't near downtown Los Angeles. It isn’t antique, and most definitely is not mixed use. It’s at Melody Ranch studio, in the Santa Clarita Valley community of Newhall. It was built in the past few months. And it’s used for one thing: it's a set for a television show."

"Beyond its escapist frights, 'Penny Dreadful' is an allegory for race relations and sociopathy. It’s showing us what we ought not do. But it’s also showing us something we ought to do — something we ought to build. But, like the proverbial debonair vampire, the true horrors do not lie on the surface. It’s easy enough to see a high-rise or to speed down a freeway and think that things are OK. But the accretion of laws, regulations, and social conventions have made it all but impossible to revive our better angels. Belvedere Heights reminds us that, to create great places, we first have to envision them."

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 in California Planning & Development Report

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