As a decade long New York transplant, there’s nothing more galvanizing than witnessing downtown Los Angeles come to life– explode, might be a better adjective– with nationally recognized restaurants, brand new museums, indy boutiques and art galleries.
It feels a little like Tribeca did in the 1980’s, when daring entrepreneurs ventured south from the Village and Soho in an effort to expand the city’s options for dining and imbibing and discovery. Remember when the Odeon was the only place down there to eat? Within a few years , there were fifty other spots to hit. All you needed was the will to adventure and a good pair of walking shoes and your options were unlimited.
So when the New York Times writes a piece on the spike in jaywalking tickets being slapped on pedestrians in downtown L.A., one can’t help but cringe at all the remaining dissimilarities between the two great cities. In short, how can you take a place seriously when it doesn’t trust its residents to cross the street on their own?
“We’re heavily enforcing pedestrian violations because they’re impeding traffic and causing too many accidents and deaths,” proclaims Lt. Lydia Leos.
I can just hear Ratso Rizzo complaining to Joe Buck: “Yeah, yeah, I’m s-s-sure, uh, traffic accidents will clear r-r-right up with more jaywalkin’ tickets!”
I can report first hand and without exaggeration that the traffic downtown is rarely impeded by anything. The streets are w-i-d-e and relatively abandoned most of the time. Maybe after a Lakers game, or an event at the Disney Concert Hall, you get a back-up at the entrance to the 110 freeway, but there aren ‘t any pedestrians crossing there.
As for accidents, what can be said? Drivers are as careless as pedestrians. The LAPD claims that 172 pedestrian were hit by cars last year, but they fail to mention how many drivers were fingering google maps on their phones when they ran over something that felt like a human body, which was probably also texting as the car plowed over it. 172 is an unfortunate number, but not terrible for a county of 13 million plus people.
The truth about jaywalking tickets is far more pathetic. The city can taste a new source of revenue now that downtown’s starting to hop. Too bad the folks in charge are so short sighted. Why punish the people responsible for the boom? They’re the ones populating the concert halls, helping new restaurants thrive after a show, bringing more and more of their friends downtown, and raising property values across the board. Not to mention the cultural capital of having people gather in what was a former dead-zone to exchange ideas over drinks or a game or a concert.
The most embarrassing aspect of all is the Draconian enthusiasm the police have in writing you up. You think they’d just nailed Scarface. For real now, if you’re on a curb when the countdown starts and you take a step into the crosswalk, you’ve broken the law and can face up to a $250 fine. One kid got a ticket for $197. It’s outrageous.
The bigger question this begs is that if it’s illegal to step into the walkway why has they city has installed countdown timers at every light, telling us there’s 30 or 19 or 9 seconds left to cross? What are we counting down to, if not our remaining time to cross? It’s like a shot clock in basketball– The rule is not, “the shot doesn’t count once the clock starts,” is it? And why did God put shiny apples on the Tree if he didn’t want Eve to pull it off and take a bite? A smart lawyer should argue entrapment. Because that’s what it is.
Maybe we can suggest that the LAPD google LOS ANGELES GANG VIOLENCE and read up on some issues to clamp down on other than fining people for crossing an empty street, like the shooting that left two people dead at the end of August, or the stabbings on Hollywood boulevard.
So many people still tease LA for cliches that are no longer relevant, and we let it slide cause we know the truth. No one is, like, totally talking like a Valley Girl, like, anymore. Our food scene now rivals any city in the world. And for as much as the movie industry still dominates, myriad other businesses are thriving, from clothing, to photography, to architecture.
We have an extensive subway, in case you missed it. You walk to it. The red line at Hollywood and Vine gets you downtown in 22 minutes. Enough time to read a section of something called a newspaper. You get off and walk a few blocks to a bar like Caña, sip a handcrafted cocktail at around 6:30, then hoof it a few more blocks to the Staples center to see the LA King’s dominate another opponent.
After the game, mosey to one of the multiple eateries proudly still serving at 10:30 pm, (Ledlow, Red Bird, Baco Mercat, Terroni, Faith & Flower, Factory Kitchen, Alma, Bestia). Then catch the train back to Hollywood all without worrying about parking or gridlock on the 101 or a DUI checkpoint.
But now it’s WALKER BEWARE. And this at a time when Manhattan is giving its residents 6000 Citi-Bikes to ride at will. But we can’t cross the street on our own. Can LA ever be a great city treating its residents like children, or worse fining them like criminals? It’s highly unlikely… Even Ratso Rizzo knows that.