On August 26th we hosted a special screening of the award-winning films of the 2013 New Urbanism Film Festival. We screened films from all over the country. (Buffalo, Fresno, New York City, Salt Lake City, Tampa, Vancouver, as well as the fictional, cartoon town of Colvert) You can see most of these films on our awards page.
We were honored to have Rick Cole and Daniel Tamm join us after the screening for conversation about Urbanism in Los Angeles. Cole is the Deputy Mayor for Budget & Innovation. He has previously served as the Mayor of Pasadena and the City Manager of Ventura. Daniel Tamm is currently the Interfaith Liaison for Eric Garcetti.
Most of the films focused on issues and plans in smaller towns, so the questions all centered around the theme of “Can this work in Los Angeles?” And for every form of that question, Cole had an enthusiastic “Absolutely it can!” Cole was delightful to have as a guest speaker. He was engaging, charming, at times funny, but mostly inspiring.
Top Ten Rick Cole Quotes
from the Best of New Urbanism Film Festival Screening
- I think we’ve been buffaloed into believing that the city is too big, too out of control. I think the combination we saw, at the smaller scales admittedly, of actual individual or neighborhood initiative: just out and do things, build a parklet in the street, plant an urban garden, or build a ping pong table in a park, at that scale that is possible to do anywhere, even here in LA.
- There’s the other, equally important dimension, that’s a little more challenging at this scale. Which is political action and activism and events like this. Right? There’s a thousand events happening tonight: 99% of them commercial, entertainment and sports. That’s the culture we live in, and the culture we consume. But it’s not the culture we necessarily have to have. This is the kind of thing, if this grows, this is the kind of thing that can actually transform a metropolis.
- The scale is extraordinary. Four million people is a lot of folks, but if it’s impossible in Los Angeles, then what happens to Kinshasa, or Jakarta, or Shenzhen or Johannesburg? If we can’t make the transition that we saw in cartoon fashion in Colvert, if we can’t do that here, then what hope is there for the species?
- It’s a big challenge. But it was a big challenge putting a person on the moon. Big challenges aren’t necessarily bad challenges, sometimes they can bring out the best in people.
- There’s dramatic change in Los Angeles as a result of CicLAvia. There are many more people bicycling, many more bike amenities, many more bike lanes, and the mayor has selected someone to be the head of the in Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the mother of all sprawl, and she is a pedestrian and bicycle advocate who came to us from San Francisco MTA.
- The ship is hard to turn, but it is turning. Events like CicLAvia prove how much even a single individual can have an impact on this big city.
- In Azusa we decided in the year 2000 to plant 2000 trees, which was an ambitious goal at the time. When people saw a tree in front of their house, it was the first thing the city had done that people had paid attention to in 20 years. And they came out, and they volunteered, and more people volunteered, and in the end we planted 3,200 trees.
- Great Streets is the idea that the things that have happened in Echo Park, in silver lake, in Hollywood, which some people love because now there’s lots of caffeine there. And some people detest because it’s “gentrification.” Why does that have to be in just a handful of neighborhoods? Why shouldn’t that be accessible to everyone who lives in Los Angeles? Why can’t that be in Boyle Heights? Why can’t that be in South Los Angeles? Why can’t that be in Reseda? It Can! It absolutely can! Great Streets is about taking to the areas of the city that haven’t had the benefit of that kind of revitalization and beginning to plant that. So that Gentrification no longer becomes this buzz word. Because there just aren’t enough hipsters to drive the rents up in all of Los Angeles. The reality is that the reason gentrification has generated such extraordinary land values, is because… we love it! So we need more of it—we need to increase the supply.
- That’s what happened with CicLAvia! People said “You shut down the streets and thousands of people will come out of the woodwork? They’re not there now.” Well, they did! They came out of the woodwork! That’s what happened in Old Pasadena. You go there now and there’s thousands of people there on the weekend. When we started there you could roll a bowling ball down the sidewalk and not hit anybody. People said “Why work there? It’s skid row! How are you going to make this happen? Tear it down. Put up office towers. Put up apartment buildings, parking structures: that’s the only hope.” We said “No. We can turn this around.” There were some private investors who were willing to put their life-blood and their life savings into it, and there were people willing to make that commitment. And they literally came out of the woodwork.
- One person puts a bike rack out in front of his office, that one story might not end well, but if it inspires others to put a ping pong table in a park, or run for the neighborhood council, or start a blog, or start tweeting about it, or start the “new urbanism film festival,” or run for city council. If one person does it, they’ll think you’re crazy… if three people do it, then it’s a movement. It transforms the city. We have a revitalized river. We have Great Streets. We have an opportunity for every child growing up here to go to college. These things are not achievable over night. They’re not achievable by snapping your finger or voting for the right politician. They are achievable if people take action. Starting, as Booker T. Washington said, you pick up your buckets where they are and move forward.