You are on page 1of 1


m ayor - Antonio Villaraigosa - w ith a surnam e that resounds w ith the same accent as the majority of the population. The election of Villaraigosa - once a fiery trade-union and civil-liberties activist - should have been Los Angeles's 'La Guardia m om ent,' an opportunity to sweep City Hall clean of its old scheming cabals w ith their m onom aniac obsession w ith gentrifying D ow ntow n at the expense of the city's blue-collar neighborhoods. Instead Villaraigosa, like Tom Bradley in 1973-4, has become a non-threatening paragon of liberal accom m odation to an unchanging elite agenda of pharaonic redevelopm ent projects. The former rebel from east of the River is now the jaded booster of a 'D ow n­ tow n renaissance' th at prom otes super-cathedrals, billionaire sports fran­ chises, m ega-m useum s, Yuppie lofts, and drunken Frank Gehry skyscrapers at the expense of social justice and affordable housing. He endorses an evil plan to expel the majority of the homeless from D ow n­ tow n in order to satisfy the greed of its landow ners and gentrifiers. Villaraigosa, to be sure, ow ed his victory to the renascent pow er of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and, like his imm ediate p re­ decessors, Richard Riordan and James Hahn, he is an earnest advocate of negotiation and increm ental social progress: always w ithin the p ara­ meters, of course, of w hat billionaire patrons like Eli Broad and Ron Burkle will allow. Westsiders, struggling to reconcile their obscene realestate equities w ith their residual social consciences, m ay find reassurance in the fact that Los Angeles continues to be governed by a smug coalition of corporate philanthropy and em asculated liberalism - w ith Villaraigosa as a Latin Bradley - but the blunted thrust of regime change has different, lesshappy implications for the rest of the city. If there was ever a time for fire in the belly and a radical politics of hope, it is now. Despite the m ountain of gold that has been built dow ntow n, Los Angeles remains vulnerable to the same explosive convergence of street anger, poverty, environm ental crisis, and capital flight th at m ade the early 1990s its worst crisis period since the early Depression. Los Angeles, of course, will not fall into the ocean, but it could resum e the arc of decline that began in the early 1990s: slowly bleeding high-wage jobs, skilled workers, and fiscal resources. No great American city - the recent case of New Orleans aside - is so susceptible to dow nw ard mobility over the next generation. W hy do I continue to be so pessimistic? Taking 1990 as a baseline, consider some of the m ost im portant structural trends and social changes of the generation that has followed the original 'conjuncture' of City of Quartz. 1. REGIONAL (IM)MOBILITY In 1990 the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission's ambitious program of subway and light-rail construction held the promise of in ­