Family

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Finally emerging from the whole keeping-a-newborn-alive grace period and back in action, both behind the keyboard and on the sidewalks. More adventures soon, but couldn’t wait to share our latest work of art.

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Join me Thursday to welcome the Third Los Angeles

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I’m halfway through my time off to raise my new human, which is in many ways like a sabbatical… one where you end up working harder than you ever have on the most rewarding job of your life. But I will say it has been rather invigorating not doing any kind of writing or speaking, just lots of observing and absorbing. (And walking. Lots and lots of walking.) I’ve actually learned an entirely new way to participate in my city, and I’ll have many thoughts on the topic—as soon as I find a few hours to string them all together coherently.

This week, however, I’m making a single exception and coming out of post-baby temporary-retirement for one evening to speak at the first event of Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne’s newest project, The Third Los Angeles. From his description:

Most Angelenos have a sense that the city is in the midst of some marked changes, with a new emphasis on public space and civic architecture, such as building transit lines instead of freeways and apartment buildings instead of single-family houses with private gardens. But this is more than a mere shift in planning priorities or spending. In fundamental ways, the city is moving into a profoundly new phase in its civic development, one that brings encouraging change along with new political, architectural and environmental challenges.

How could I not participate in an event so aligned with my own interests? And seeing as one of my current interests is suddenly becoming an international fascination, I’ll be presenting a follow up to my Hollywood Sign saga, speaking about the the current issues around access and how it’s part of a larger story about the changing ideas of public space in the city.

Besides Christopher, I’ll be joined onstage by many of my other LA heroes, inducing Rick Cole, Bill Deverell, Dana Cuff, Ruth Estevez, Mark Vallianatos and Hadley Arnold. It’s sure to be a great evening for LA lovers and the kickoff to a fascinating series exploring the most exciting and swiftly changing city on the planet. The event is at 7:30 p.m. at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, all details here.

RSVP here (seating is limited) and follow the conversation at #3rdLA. I’ll see you Thursday evening at Oxy!

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Christmas came early this year

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Funnily enough, only a few days after I wrote that last post warning of my impending maternity leave, I found myself beginning my journey into motherhood just a bit earlier than I expected. Two weeks before her Christmas due date, we welcomed Avery Corita to our family.

Avery is derived from an Old English phrase meaning “elf ruler,” which seems particularly appropriate, at least for now. It’s a name that surfaces now and again in pop culture: It’s Fern’s brother in Charlotte’s Web, Jack Donaghy’s wife in 30 Rock and Murphy Brown’s once-controversial baby boy. There’s an Avery Brewing Company in Boulder (where I went to school) that makes an excellent IPA. And there’s Avery Peak, a 12,000-foot mountain near my parents’ house in Crested Butte, Colorado known for its distinctive red summit. It’s one of the mountains that we were facing when we got married there two years ago.

Corita is, of course, a nod to Sister Mary Corita Kent, the designer, artist, activist, and nun. From her legendary studio at the Immaculate Heart School, which was just a few blocks from the Hollywood street where we both lived when we first moved to LA, Sister Corita created a wondrously colorful graphic language that influenced generations of creatives in Los Angeles and beyond. Sister Corita taught us new ways to see the world and inspired us to discover the hidden beauty in Los Angeles, and she did it all with a powerful underlying message of love. I can’t wait to introduce Avery to her namesake’s legacy, starting with the piece that hangs above her as she naps in our living room. The timing couldn’t be better: There’s a huge Sister Corita retrospective opening at PMCA this summer.

As for becoming a mom, I think I was fully prepared for my life to change, but I really had no idea how dramatically my entire worldview would shift the moment I re-emerged from that hospital. I can’t wait to share the story of how she arrived. But for now, allow me to step away for just a moment to fall a little deeper in love.

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Bump ahead

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If you hadn’t already noticed, things are slowing down on this blog. I’m about to head off on maternity leave, and even though my writing output will be curbed somewhat, I’m looking at it as an important time to focus on the walking part of my mantle. I’ll be getting to know my neighborhood sidewalks intimately, negotiating hills with a stroller, and introducing my child to the best LA has to offer on foot. Don’t worry, I’ll be reporting back as much as a new mom feasibly can. I couldn’t be more excited, and I can’t wait to share all these new experiences with you.

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On the disappearing, reappearing Hollywood sign

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Who would have guessed that a little story I wrote on this here blog in 2011 would end up causing such a ruckus. All I wanted to do was help people to easily find the Hollywood Sign, a place that’s so special to me and many other Angelenos. But this month, years after my post was published, I was contacted by two different residents who wanted me to censor my original blog post.

Basically they wanted me to lie to people, take down my directions, and say that you can’t hike to the sign. Which, clearly, you can’t.

Because the struggle to make the location of the sign public is still such an issue, I chronicled the ongoing battle with some new developments in a piece for Gizmodo: “Why People Keep Trying to Erase the Hollywood Sign From Google Maps.”

Who knew the Hollywood Sign had so many friends and fans? The response has been incredible.

The story has been covered in several different languages and I’ve gotten so many wonderful emails from people all over the city (and the world) supporting me in my quest for geographic transparency. I’m working on a follow up piece that will address some of the better proposals for access to the sign, which hopefully can help kick some of these ideas into motion. Until then, you can read the whole story over at Gizmodo.

Update: I also wrote a second story on the inherent bias of maps with a very intriguing Instagram cameo from our Mayor Eric Garcetti:

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Yep, he walked the same trail that Google Maps says isn’t there.

Update II: Steve Lopez interviewed me for his awesome story in the Los Angeles Times, and he’s looking for your ideas on how to make the trail more accessible to all.

Posted in creating, designing, Gizmodo, reading, walking | 4 Comments

Baby on board

It’s the question I’ve been asked far more than anything else since I got knocked up: “Are you still gonna, like, do the walking thing?”

A valid question, and one that I wanted to explore in more depth before our little one arrived. As much as I want to keep walking, biking and taking transit with a newborn, so many people have told me it’s impossible. Especially in LA.

Luckily, my good friend Sarah Rich tapped me to write a story exploring it on Re-Form, Medium’s brand-new design publication. Head of there, where you can read my story “Multimodal Mom.” I talk about the challenges, both societal and infrastructural, of living car-free with kids in the U.S. And I lay out a plan for how I hope we can be successful multimodal parents in LA. Of course I’ll be reporting back to see how well it works.

Posted in mothering, riding, walking | 1 Comment

Understanding “misunderstood LA”

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The ongoing transformation of LA is something I get pretty enthusiastic about, so I was very excited when I got interviewed by The Guardian to share some of my favorite LA topics including bikes, buses, bougainvillea, The Big Parade, and hot pink beauty salons. I hope I managed to bust a few stereotypes open, but if I changed even one person’s mind about something in LA then I achieved my goal.

Head over to The Guardian to read “An urbanist’s guide to Los Angeles“—and don’t forget the comments, which are always a treat to read. There are plenty of #LAHaters, but also some fantastic #LADefenders as well. We have fans everywhere, it seems.

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30 weeks

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For some reason, 30 weeks had always loomed like some kind of important milestone in my pregnancy. I have no idea why, maybe it’s just that 30 weeks seemed so. far. away. when I was in the single-digit weeks. Maybe because the weeks going forward become a kind of a countdown: 10… 9… 8… But it turns out that my 30th was one of the best weeks, as I spent it with family and friends in the golden autumn glow of Colorado. Maybe way back then, I knew this would be my very last wonderful trip on my own before the biggest adventure of my life.

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Join de LaB for Making LA!

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For almost seven years (!) I’ve been taking fellow design lovers along on walking tours, bike rides, and light-rail field trips to visit historical landmarks, unfinished buildings, new restaurants and bars, freshly planted parks, abandoned subway stations and many, many more places all throughout Los Angeles (but mostly on the east side of town). It’s all been part of the nonprofit I founded called design east of La Brea, or de LaB, where we highlight the work of designers living and working east of La Brea.

After hosting more than 100 events, we’ve got something really exciting coming up this fall. Last year we were awarded a $20,000 NEA grant for a new programming track called Making LA, where we toured 10 projects by architects, artists, and designers that are improving communities throughout the east side of Los Angeles. After hosting 10 incredible programs, the series will culminate in the Making LA conference, a one-day event on Friday, November 7 where we’re bringing together designers and city leaders to talk about the future of the city in four critical areas: Density, Transportation, Community, and Water.

I’m pulling together the Transportation track (as you might expect) and we have some pretty amazing speakers, including a keynote from new LADOT head Seleta Reynolds, car-free comedian Kristina Wong, South LA transportation advocate Tafarai Bayne, an incredible story about how hard it really is to improve bus shelters in LA, and my dream panel on the future of LA streets including representatives from the Mayor’s Great Streets Initiative, Los Angeles Walks, People St, and streetscape projects on Broadway and Figueroa.

To sweeten the deal, I have a super secret discount code just for my friends which includes free admission to the VIP party on the evening before the conference. If you’d like to take advantage of it, drop me a line. And if you’d like to spread the word, here’s a handy graphic for you to post or share with friends. I hope to see you at Making LA!

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How people from SF really feel about LA

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As part of a new mission the excellent SF-based publication The Bold Italic proposed a rather bold experiment earlier this year to also publish stories about Los Angeles. I could not be more excited about this proposal, as it allows what’s happening down here to be covered by the another great editorial voice.

But after a great piece by my friend Gregory Han on last week’s CityLab event, which focused on the future of LA, I’m not sure the Bold Italic readers (who, I would guess from these comments are mostly not from LA) are as excited as I am. Here are some of the most, um, passionate comments, from the Facebook post of the article:

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