This week I joined Youth Leaders Empowered Active & Diverse (YLEAD) at CDTech for a conversation on urban planning and gentrification in South Central LA. I shared my story of working on the ground supporting the community with tools and knowledge to preserve South Central history. We shed light on the importance of urban planning for a South Central future without displacement.
I wrote about the impact of Cypress Hill’s trailblazing self-titled debut album that dropped 31 years ago today, and explained why I represented them to the fullest in my 1992 yearbook photo at Montebello High School.
The #HipHopHistory microessay is on my Instagram (private but I add): https://www.instagram.com/c1typlann3r/
“We saw ourselves in Cypress. They talked like us. We looked like them. Or tried, if you could grow a goatee.
This foolio went all in. I wore out that cassette tape. I grew a whiskery #brocha. I joined the Cypress Hill fan club, scoring stickers, newsletters, and the OG Cypress Hill t-shirt with the skull, weed, & globe in compass album cover on the front, and on the back it read: “The Phuncky Cypress Hill Shit.” The iconic gear got me suspended from Montebello High and gaffeled up by Magic Mountain security —“harassed by a pig real fast,” to quote B-Real.
When it came time for my 1992 yearbook photo, I had to represent. Vatos don’t smile ey. But I was moody too. The night before I’d phucked up my mustache trim. I cut it all off rather than leave it #chueco in the yearbook. I told myself that I was still down for mine. That’s not Johnny, it’s SKUZ ONE.”
Edward Soja and me on graduation day 17 years ago today. Grad school was tough. I felt the weight of the neighborhood on my shoulders. I nearly dropped out 5 times, but Ed inspired me to stay and keep at it. My work with Soja would help me create Embedded Planning years later. The moral of the story: Find mentors who inspire you.
Congratulations to my fellow UCLA Bruin planners graduating today 👏🏽 You’re the next generation of planning. We’re in good hands.
Draw on our past to inform (y)our future. See the work of Edward W. Soja, Jackie Leavitt, Leo Estrada, VC Powe, Marty Wachs, John Friedmann and many others who rest in power.
Keep the flame lit.
The 1992 Los Angeles Uprising began thirty years ago today — April 29, 1992.
I was interviewed for “Reflections of the LA Uprising” 30 years later. This is a collaboration by JOVRNALISM, USC Annenberg, KCET, and LA Times.
I shared how the unrest led me on a path toward urban planning in/for South Central LA. And I testified this path would inspire me to create Embedded Planning as an LA County planner on the ground in Florence-Firestone.
Rightfully, this interview was done at the landmark Roosevelt Park pedestrian bridge over the Blue Line.
Many community voices are part of this project. Check out the immersive video “Echoes of the Uprising” where we share our memories and oral histories.
Three decades later, we still have work to do.
On March 5, 2022, Mike the PoeT Sonksen was the guest speaker in my Advocacy Planning course at Cal Poly Pomona. He taught us about geographic literacy and the power of place. Mike opened with poems, transitioned into a vivid slide deck lecture, then led our class through two writing exercises connecting personal memory and action to planning praxis. He stayed to co-facilitate our week’s discussion of Latin@ Urbanism.
Mike bleeds LA. If you’re looking for your next guest speaker, tour guide, essayist or poet, Mike is the one.
I’m interviewed in the New York Times about the human dimensions of informal housing enforcement in South Central Los Angeles. I’m grateful to the family in @FlorenceFirestone who trusted me to share their story.
Conor Dougherty’s December 18, 2021 article is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/18/business/economy/california-housing.html
Recorded January 18, 2019 at American Planning Association HQ amidst our work on the national Social Equity Task Force. Since then, #EmbeddedPlanning has exploded onto the scene. And as my mentees will attest, I continue to big up Mike Davis’s City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (1990). Start with the Fortress LA chapter. It’s a groundbreaking critique of #HostileArchitecture ⚔️
In November 2020, I was interviewed by grad students from the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative. Their research methods seminar examined LA urban theory + praxis through the lens of Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971).
I spoke at length about @EmbeddedPlanning praxis, west coast hip hop origins, and South Central LA.
The group distilled our conversation into a dope podcast called, “Flatlands: We Cannot Pod From Our Desks.”
Thank you to Samantha Solis, Miranda Hirujo-Rincon, Carrie Gammell, and Celia Sanchez Zelaya.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising.
The exhibits took me back to 1992, seeing the smoke plumes and ash from mom’s house in Montebello, thinking NWA had warned us this was coming again.
Today, some things are better in South Central L.A. Our SCLA unincorporated communities are rising through strong partnerships and civic engagement. But far too many structural inequalities throughout South Central remain.
Will history repeat a third time in L.A.?
You know the Dingbat apartment building even if you don’t know its history. Architecture historian Reyner Banham coined the Dingbat phrase in the 1970s. It’s that clunky stucco box with a quirky facade perched precariously above parking spaces. Maligned by some, revered by many, studied ad infinitum: the Dingbat is distinctively “L.A.”
The newest scholarship on this typology is the delightful Dingbat 2.0: The Iconic Los Angeles Apartment as Projection of a Metropolis. This book is a meticulous and exhaustive analysis of one of the most misunderstood building types in Los Angeles. I recommend it highly.
The book’s many essays illuminate the Dingbat’s origins, meaning(s), and (possible) future(s). Pictures are plentiful. Diagrams and photo simulations abound. A newly developed Dingbat taxonomy provides a handy guidebook for spotting them in the environment. And whereas prior studies focus almost exclusively on the Dingbat’s unmistakable facade, Dingbat 2.0 ventures to step inside. Residents share what it’s like to live in this particular form of multifamily housing. This new dimension brings us closer to a “complete comprehension” of the Dingbat.
Dingbat 2.0 is a must-read for urbanists, architects, historians, housing advocates, and everyday Angelenos.
Shout out to Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design and DoppelHouse Press for bringing this to life. The book is helping me finish my own ‘little polemic’ on a Dingbat near me.
By: Jonathan P. Bell, @c1typlann3r
Remember that this geography is still, and will always be, South Central Los Angeles. The “South LA” rebranding was City of LA’s attempt at revisionist history after the 1992 Uprising (much like the City’s embarrassing 2014 “SOLA” proposal that’s thankfully fizzled).
Invest in place erasure and hope the world forgets: that went nowhere. Stakeholders young and older still call it South Central LA. History matters.
And, for the record, none of the City’s revisionism ever applied in the unincorporated communities: Florence-Firestone, Willowbrook, East Rancho Dominguez, West Rancho Dominguez, West Athens, and Lennox.
💛✊🏽 [Location: Slauson Av @ Hooper Av]
Read the FACTS about the misguided proposal to move the L.A. County Dept of Regional Planning from #DTLA to Alhambra. Don’t believe the hype.