Last November I attended my first Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) Conference, and I walked away with one conclusion: everybody loves L.A.
Now, I already knew how great Los Angeles is, but it was both refreshing and exciting to hear that sentiment over and over from visitors.
The conference featured numerous panels that discussed LA’s long and complex history of urban planning, housing, social justice, and the built environment, among other things. My friend and historian extraordinaire Becky Nicolaides appeared on one of the most well-attended panels, Complicating Suburbia, and you can learn more about her views on her excellent blog. I also got to share my experiences on blogging about Los Angeles on the panel LA HISTORY 2.0: PLACE BASED STORIES IN THE DIGITAL AGE, which also featured some of my favorite writers and bloggers: Meredith Drake Reitan, Nathan Masters, Victoria Bernal (founder of the LAhistory twitter handle), and Stacey Allan (Executive Editor of East of Borneo). Our roundtable generated a vibrant discussion about digital media, history, and the challenges and benefits of navigating local history in the cyber world.
As much as I enjoyed the panels I attended, what I enjoyed most were the conversations and connections made outside the conference hotel walls–during walking tours, and off-site panels and receptions. These opportunities showcased the vibrant and varied citizenry, beautiful historic buildings, sunny skies, and rich history of a city too often seen as lacking any planning, any history, or any civic engagement. I also met so many fabulous scholars and practitioners. I got to have thoughtful discussions with them about planning, urban history, and the future of the built environment. I think my favorite moment was during Meredith’s walking tour, when a well-established historian, whose books I read in grad school, turned to me for answers about the some of the downtown buildings and neighborhoods. Yes, I was a little starstruck, but I was also thrilled to share my knowledge, and seize this moment to change the way a fellow historian viewed this magnificent city. What could be better?