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Jack Weiss

Fmr. Councilman Weiss: We Need the NFL to Increase Our Public Space

1_27_10_weiss.jpgCandidate Weiss and his union supporters last March. Photo: Jack Weiss/Flickr

Former City Councilman Jack Weiss has not been what one would call progressive on most transportation issues.  While he backed the Mayor on transit issues, he also was his largest backer for the massively unpopular Pico-Olympic Plan which would have sped up rush hour automobile traffic at the expense of parking for businesses, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.  Weiss sounded a progressive tone on his candidate's survey for Streetsblog, but also backed an LADOT plan to remove traffic calming in Holmby-Westwood.

None of this history explains his bizarre editorial in today's Jewish Journal where Weiss makes the case that Los Angeles desperately needs an National Football League team because of the city's lack of public spaces.

Instead, I want to discuss the more subtle, community-buildingimpact of a stadium and a team. I didn’t understand this issue in 2002,but I know more now about the city than I did then.

Los Angeles is an anomaly. We may have beaches and mountains, but wehave very little in the way of shared civic space. The “Civic Center”itself is a fib of a name. We lack grand walking avenues, a truecentral park and pedestrian plazas. We drive from home to work onelevated freeways, park underground and then drive home again, rarelyinteracting with one another in the way common daily in New York,Chicago, Washington or San Francisco.

When we feel a need for communal spaces, we turn to developed space,not public space. The Grove, Century City, L.A. Live, UniversalCityWalk and Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade are popularprecisely because city planners permitted the city to grow wide and notdeep. They fill a gap that our city’s infrastructure cannot —pedestrian-friendly space for thousands of people at a time...

...And that’s what intrigues me from an urban policy standpoint aboutan NFL stadium — it addresses what Bret Easton Ellis’ narrator wastalking about in “Less Than Zero” when he said, “People are afraid tomerge in Los Angeles.” It fills the void in Paul Haggis’ opening linesfrom “Crash” — “It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk,you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobodytouches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we missthat touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feelsomething.”

I just got dizzy reading these last few sentences.  Is Weiss talking about the City of Los Angeles actually building and NFL Stadium, or is he somehow equating the environmental-disaster-in-waiting in the City of Industry?  Either way there are some major issues here.

First, I can't argue that Los Angeles needs more real public spaces so people congregate in corporate ones; but the answer to fixing that is not to create more "fake" ones.   Second, is a place that one has to pay hundreds of dollars just to attend really a "public space?"  For too many Angelenos, an NFL Stadium is a "public" space that they won't be able to afford to be in.

Weiss was often criticized for being out-of-touch with regular people, so the story of how he and his buddies fly to Green Bay for some public interaction every year seems beyond tone-deaf and is a major reason that the promising career of Weiss is stalled while the people with whom he shared a ticket, Comptroller Wendy Greuel and Mayor Vilalraigosa cruised to victory.  If you want to make more public spaces for Los Angeles, that is a noble cause and one that there are many people willing to support.  However, an example of fulfilling Weiss' vision for everyone, not just he and his football buddies, would be to widen our sidewalks, create more public plazas, and increase our park space.  Also, anytime Weiss is feeling isolated in this city, I can help him find some bike rides that the recreational cyclist in him would more than appreciate.

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