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Ron Kaye: What if L.A. made a rational decision?

September 15, 2012

Sometimes in endless reveries spent mulling the state of things, I hit a mind block where I can’t make heads or tails of what is going on, or where it leads.

That’s when I ask myself, “What if....”

What if there really was a man in the moon, or it were made of green cheese? What if everybody’s dreams could come true if only we believed enough?

What if we got down to work together and actually tried to identify our communal problems and to solve them, or at least make things better, with mutual respect and a genuine desire to balance the competing needs, values and interests that each of us brings to the table?

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I bring this up in the context of the rush by Los Angeles city officials to make a historic decision on the future of downtown and the whole Southern California region that will continue to impact us for decades to come.

Football — that’s all it’s about. How truly L.A. is that?

Anschutz Entertainment Group sees a chance to get rich by bringing professional football back to L.A. two decades after the National Football League abandoned us and pulled the Raiders and Rams out for the financial advantages of the teams’ owners in St. Louis and Oakland.

This double desertion of the nation’s second largest media market ought to have set in motion a lot of introspective navel-gazing among the rich and powerful. But it didn’t.

With the tearing down of a wing of that white elephant, the L.A. Convention Center, and rebuilding it, along with Farmers Field stadium for AEG to run for its own advantage as part of its Staples Center/LA Live/hotel-condo complex, Los Angeles is committing itself to transforming downtown into a Times Square-like entertainment zone. This zone will contain luxury hotels, restaurants and bars in an artificial environment lit 24/7 by dozens of digital billboards. And it will be graced by traffic that at times will convert what is so often merely a time-consuming effort to drive through downtown into an impossible journey.

In theory, the convention center will spawn new hotels with 5,000 more rooms. That would take L.A. from 15th place in the hierarchy of convention-friendly cities, competing against Sacramento, to the first rung of desirable cities like New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco — even San Diego.

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