Monday, November 12, 2007

Dense Living vs. Sprawl & Recent Fires

Over the last few weeks many stories and opinions have been written on whether the recent firestorm conditions in regions of Southern California are the product of the sprawling types of housing developments that make up L.A.’s outlying areas. Since this blog considers the experience of living in a dense community (as opposed to living in a sprawling community), I’ve been thinking about the consequences of dense living vs. wide-open living. By now we all know that sprawl is inherently a flawed endeavor and is not sustainable. I could write a thesis on this, and in fact, I sort of did; but I’ll just make note of a couple statistics, and link some good stories.

In Park LaBrea 11,000 residents live within a one-quarter square mile area (176 acres).
In 4S Ranch near San Diego – where homes were evacuated last month, but none were lost thankfully – 12,259 residents (2.6 per household – same as PLB’s average) live in 4,715 single family homes within a four and a half square mile (2900 acre) subdivision.

In other words, 4S Ranch takes-up approximately 2,165 more acres of open land (3.4 square miles - the size of two and a half central parks*), than Park LaBrea does, to house the same amount of people. Is it time to rethink the American dream yet?

Sprawl and fires links:
For numbers on
acres-to-homes-to residents ratios --

Opinions on fires and sprawl

And more density is coming to the greater L.A. area if not the sprawling suburbs of Southern Cal:
LAWeekly story about how L.A. is going to get denser

And an LA city proposal to offer bonuses to developers for denser building find the link under "proposed ordinances."

*this is also the same amount of land needed to harvest solar energy for 100,000 people (since it takes a little under 4 square miles of solar panels to generate a gigawatt, the same amount of electricity provided by two power plants).
*this is also half of Griffith park
*this is also the size of the city of Concord, Alabama
*this is also the size of 7 Disneylands

Meetings in the elevator

Recently, I started asking my friends and co-workers, “who was the last stranger you spoke to?” A person selling you something doesn’t count, I add. They sometimes can’t think of one, some can usually think back to a bum they gave money to, or to a wrong number that called their cell phone.

I’m fascinated to find out about people’s interactions with strangers since I have them so much in my new home at Park LaBrea. There’s something fundamentally altruistic and civilized about two strangers wishing each other good night as they leave the elevator. It’s one of my favorite things about our new apartment. It almost keeps the city at bay for me.

I met a woman in the elevator on Halloween who was delivering candy throughout the tower because, as she said, “the kids don’t come to me, so I go out to them.”

I met a little girl in the elevator who called me the “second Mommy in the elevator.” We introduced ourselves and we all counted the number of the approaching floors out loud.

I met a security guard in the elevator who helped us with our elevator the morning we moved. He asked if we hade moved in alright.

I met an older lady in the elevator who told me she had lived in Park LaBrea for forty years.

I meet a girl twice a week in the elevator who tutors a kid on my floor mornings before she goes to work herself. I’m always so happy to see her, and we get to catch up on the little things we know about each other as we descend to the lobby.

Case in point, my stranger stories are so much better than those that others tell me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The View from the 12th floor

Absolutely amazing.

The Sofa and the Elevator

The movers came today to deliver our beautiful new sofa from Ikea. And it didn’t fit in the elevator. And we live on the 12th floor.

Needless to say, the movers said no thanks to the stairwell and its 12 flights of stairs. I find it very hard to believe that not one resident in 60 years of its existence, in any of the 18 towers has furnished their apartment with a 7-foot-long couch. No one? You’ve got to be kidding me. Chip says we will go back to Ikea and get a shorter one. I still think there’s a way we could’ve gotten it up to the 12th floor. The movers are on Chip’s side too.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Orientation and Moving In

It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for -- our first day in our new home and in our new Home-Sweet-Gated Community. The very college orientation-like day is the norm for every new resident; and of course for me and Chip. This is the time when you sign the lease, and in which you are given piles of helpful literature and then you are asked to sign your name on multiple contracts over and over again, with a smile by the helpful PLB staff.

Orientation comes off without a hitch. Much less stressful than college. After we’re done signing everything, we get the keys and check the place out. (I’ve already seen the unit, but Chip has not.) We have a nice Sunday afternoon walk through the towers.

Monday morning is our move in date. It’s a busy time inside the gates of the PLB. People rushing off to work, ladies in their exercise gear on walks, bikers whizzing by, fix-it men in golf carts and Chip and I in the middle of it all, attempting to get our bearings while trying to move our bed.

The requirement that PLB sets for reserving an elevator for moving is kind of a joke; there is no freight elevator – you’re moving in or out with the rest of the community on their daily, back-and-forth routes, so it gets frustrating. People want to get into the elevator with you and all your crap and your sweat and funk. When you’re not looking people steal your elevator. And you just want to move your stuff as quickly as possible.

All things said and done, moving into (or out of) a tower via an elevator versus moving into or out of a house or apartment with stairs or a long driveway are both, in their own special ways, tiring and difficult and take a long time. Today was just a different way of moving Chip and I hadn’t yet experienced. We have boxes everywhere and now we’re just waiting for our table and sofa.