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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER FOUR Coming Back Together in Los Angeles In 1989, UCLA regional scholar Ed Soja published his infl uential Post- modern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. This breakthrough book emphasized the evolution of polycentric Los Ange- les, and by doing so, it helped break through the traditional paradigm of the so-called Chicago school—the metropolitan confi guration in which a central city surrounded by its suburbs was considered the archetype for all of urban America. And among the text’s singular achievements was one of the boldest—perhaps most brazen—chapter titles in the urban studies literature: “It All Comes Together in Los Angeles.” It was a brave pronouncement, informed by a sense that Los Angeles represented the future of urban America. If L.A. was where it all came together, the years after the book’s publication also brought a sense that L.A. was where it all fell apart. As the 1990s began, Los Angeles, already famous for its sprawling development patterns and the poverty condi- tions of its urban neighborhoods, saw its economy wracked by waves of plant closures and manufacturing job loss due to both defense spending cutbacks and a broader pattern of deindustrialization. In 1992, the city and the region exploded into civil unrest. While the immediate trigger was the surprising verdict in the Rodney King police brutality trial, observers stressed that the pattern of property damage was caused more by poverty than by racial animus (Oliver et al. 1993; Pastor 1995). Further scrutiny, in turn, raised serious questions about local pro- gressive leadership: if there was this much raw emotion and this much resentment over disparities, why was it channeled into a riot rather than a social movement? _S _E _L 3050-305-004.indd 107 3050-305-004.indd 107 10/15/2008 12:34:16 AM 10/15/2008 12:34:16 AM 108 THIS COULD BE THE START OF SOMETHING BIG The years after 1992 brought a dramatic rethinking and reworking of organizing, coalition-building, and progressive policy. With L.A.’s middle class still shrinking and the number of working poor on the rise, a wide array of new efforts began to emerge. When regional business leaders clamored for an expansion of the trade-serving logistics industry, primarily through expansion of the ports and retrofi tting of rail lines in South L.A., a local coalition of faith-based organizations and community development groups called the Alameda Corridor Jobs Coalition rose up to demand local employment—and secured a local hiring program that soon became the largest one associated with any public works program in U.S. history. When regional decision-makers in the transit authority continued their push for the expansion of light rail, the Bus Riders Union was founded to steer resources back to the buses that served the working poor—and secured through organizing and legal action a consent decree that directed the transit authority to do just that. When management for that directed the transit authority to do just that....
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- South Los Angeles