Los Angeles has very few opportunities to reinvent itself. Change comes on a project to project basis, with most taking their cues from others. Never before has the city had such a canvas to paint as Playa Vista.
Located just below the ridge of Loyola Maramount University, Playa Vista is largely being developed on the former Howard Hughes airfield and Ballona wetlands. While planning begun in the mid-1990′s, occupation north of Jefferson didn’t occur until ten years later.
While the development will ultimately stretch over a mile, my focus is to look at the currently existing housing element that branches eastward from Lincoln Blvd.
There are many things to applaud on first look. First, each complex of buildings have their own architecture style. I can’t say any of them are memorable, but at least it’s easy to distinguish one from another.
The scale also suggests a lean towards city living. Most of the buildings are at least four floors in height.
Even townhouses and private residences are built in a congested amount of space. There are parks to walk to. A small core of business that bleed out to the sidewalk. Even every street seems to have its own bike lane. So what’s not to like(rhetorical question)?
On the surface, Playa Vista seems to have it all. All but really a soul. Is it all the corporateness that’s the problem? I would like to think not. I’ve seen this type of expansion work in Uptown Dallas far more successfully. So where does it miss?
My first note is the streets are too big. You still feel like cars were meant to rule the road. There are stoplights timed regardless of traffic and cars move at speeds that are fast enough to be deadly to pedestrians. One exception is a one pod on the westside where the narrow streets regulate your speed by the threat of cars pulling out or people crossing. Indirectly, that’s a good thing.
Also, while the buildings aren’t cookie cutter, they could exist anywhere. There’s hints of Art Deco and some adobe flavor is represented, but could this be in Tucson? Yeah, sure.
There are many other points I could make, but ultimately this is a suburban version of urban living. While it seems like a nice place to live, it feels very transitionary, as if people are looking for a more stable environment until they find their dream home.
Yes, there is very little permanence in renting. Sometimes you wonder if that was the intent all along.