Thursday, July 21, 2016

New Yorker Makes (Up) History! Yes, New Yorker Magazine Prints Totally Made Up Fictional Story About Los Angeles History!

Here is a A Split-Screen Tour of Los Angeles, Seventy Years Ago and Today

Now, this a great piece of film showing the new and the old Bunker Hill on a split screen, but the text that comes with it - is a disaster.  

And I realize the writer just needed a short introduction with a little excitement in it and while rummaging through his or her mind - a number of possibilities came up.  Unfortunately, none of them had any relation to the truth. And these are the 'incorrect statements'.
Bunker Hill, an area of roughly five square blocks in downtown Los Angeles, holds a place in city lore similar to that of the water wars or the construction of Dodger Stadium: beginning in 1959, it was the subject of a massive urban-renewal project, in which “improvement” was generally defined by the people who stood to profit from it, as well as their backers at City Hall, at the expense of anyone standing in their way.
The Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project was adopted in 1959 and somehow lasted an astonishing fifty-three years. 

Now, the unnamed writer states that  Bunker Hill ' razing and redevelopment was a secret plot by evil developers - eager to get the city to condemn and bulldoze the hill so they could extract huge amounts money for themselves.  And that they were ruthlessly doing this at the expense of anyone who got in their way! 
Now in the over 50 years I've been personally involved with Bunker Hill as a private citizen (and I was opposed to the CRA project; my first years were spent trying to save its Victorian houses), I have never  - once  -  heard or read anyone suggest anything remotely like that conspiracy theory. 

The simple reason for that was – nothing resembling it happened.   And besides it never happening, there has also never been any urban legends about it happening. Which is surprising since Bunker Hill has had more lies  and tall tales told about it than any other project in DTLA’s history.
Now one way to disprove this claim - other than the fact it never happened – is that for over one hundred years - the City of Los Angeles, following the successful examples set by West Coast cities such as Seattle and Portland, tried to better connect Downtown with adjacent areas by tearing down Bunker Hill.  That project - from its inception over one hundred years ago - was what used to be called a civic improvement that would benefit the overall civic good
And back in 1916, even the owners of the buildings on Bunker Hill realized their disconnection from the rest of the city was hurting their properties and tried to tear down their own buildings and regrade the hill themselves.  But $16 million price tag was too much for them to afford.  
And every few years, a new version of the Bunker Hill project was proposed in the 1920’s, the 1930's, the 1940's and the early 1950's.  But the problems were always the same - the huge cost of the project - and the lack of any demand for the land.
And the 1959 plan was just another revision of what had been attempted for many decades; but this time it had federal money to get the project done. And by the early 1960’s new parcels were being created and they were slowly sold and equally slowly developed. 
And the reason the development went slowly was that the Bunker Hill project had always been a civic project designed to achieve certain civic goals.  It had never been a developer pushed project.
And not once in the project's one hundred year history had there had never anyone - much less a developer – eager to get their hands on that property. 
So the New Yorker should remove and retract that post before it adds one more lie to the history books.   Assuming, of course, as I do – the New Yorker is interested in the truth - and that is something I do believe is true.

2 comments:

Neil Bethke said...

Thanks for catching this good that we understand this... perhaps LA Times could create a tif within the J-school community and demand New Yorkera full literary apology tour and shame!

brady westwater said...

Well, Neil Bethke - feel free to try and get their attention. Everyone in the local media went crazy a few days ago then a writer for the York Times confused the Purple Line with the Subway to the Sea. But, then - that was something they actually know about! And soon I will be posting another mini-epic on Bunker Hill and the press. But first I edit it down from 15,000 words to 6,000 - 8,000 words. All inspired by a spectacularly moronic
300 word blog post...