Opinion: It’s 2050, and West Hollywood Is Green and Grown-Up
Part utopia, part reality, West Hollywood in 2050 is an example of the vitality and vision needed to go boldly into the next half of the 21st century.
Legal adaptations have been made to land use. So today we have Residential Improvement Districts (RIDs) that are made up of like-minded residents who have pooled their resources to rebuild certain areas of both the Westside and Eastside. On the smaller streets that contain the older, single-family houses those houses were removed and replaced by one- and two-story town houses, often with an additional house or two on each side of the block.
The houses have been constructed to Zero Net Energy standards and the latest green building requirements. All are connected to a grey water system and all have supplemental solar systems and are tied to a solar grid elsewhere, with battery or generator backups available.
Streets have been abolished. Today alleys at the rear of buildings are used for deliveries. Because the only vehicles now allowed in the city are small electric carts, often community-owned, the space once occupied by streets has been converted to gardens for fruit and vegetables or into open spaces for recreational use by a block’s residents. This is how homeowners live in 2050.
As was the case 30 years ago, the bulk of WeHo’s population is made up of renters. With the abolition of combustion engines in vehicles, and the requirement for community-owned electric carts, many parking lots and even a few parking garages now house affordable living places. Commercial streets sport four- and six-story mixed use buildings. The ground floors contain many of the small specialty shops that provide everyday items within walking distance. Upper floors of those buildings contain affordable apartments. The city has used its grant process to erect many of these buildings.
Some local hotels have banded together to build subsidized living spaces for their employees, who now live closer to where they work. Commercial entities need a stable workforce, so other businesses with large work forces have made similar arrangements. These changes have increased the city’s population – and made it into the “walkable city” we envisioned when cityhood was being touted in the early 1980s. Today, West Hollywood is a more cosmopolitan city where busboys rub shoulders on the streets with interior designers, artists, business execs and retired folks. A real city.
Thankfully, well before 2050 METRO had pulled its head out of the tunnels and finally wove a web of above-ground trolley and bus routes. Anyone now has access to reasonably price transit, which includes many more stops to connect all parts of Los Angeles county. Harking to the past, all but some long suburban l routes are the realm of electric vehicles. Noise and dirt have been greatly reduced, and people are healthier as a result.
Some of the routes are completely automatic. A user buys a ticket to a certain destination, and the ticket, with its coded information, informs the vehicle’s computer as to where the rider wants to get off. Doors open and close on demand only at those stops . Of course, a central computer -with operators attached – monitors the whole business. The city has maintained its own shuttles because, visitors to this resort destination want to decide their destinations. Free use bikes are also available. But caution: they become disabled if a user tries to roll over the city’s boundaries.
WeHo continues to be a high-end shoppers destination with all the well-known designer labels and shops along Melrose Avenue and Robertson, La Cienega and Santa Monica boulevards. There is no one “restaurant row” but several that add to the city’s attraction for tourists.
The owners of a fair number of the city’s commercial buildings have affixed signs to their building – city-approved signage, of course – that proudly calls them out. In other words, if the building is known as the Verizon Building, then Verizon built it and rents the space to other commercial units. Very old-fashioned, I know, but that has been another way to get good buildings onto the city’s commercial streets.
Someone from 2018 probably would scratch his head when he looks at the city’s demographics this year. In 2050, the large LGBTQ population has not diminished at all. Still about 35% of WeHo’ans enjoy the city for its inclusion of that group. However, with the greater choice of living places in West Hollywood, there is no one area that lays claim to the LGBTQ group. Boystown still exists in all its vibrancy and color, and the annual John Duran Prize for the best costume during the Pride Parade is much sought after.
There also are now several recognized forms of “family.” The once uncommon sight of two men or two women walking with an infant in a pram or corralling a rambunctious toddler is an everyday event. Family firms have brought a different flavor to the city and increased the number of children here. The city now has its own school system and, though small, it is a model for other cities. Two-year-old children now celebrate a rite of passage by successfully ascending the full length of the Heilman Steps in West Hollywood Park to the swimming pools above.
Because there still are so many single men and women, the median age remains about 36, and men still outnumber women in West Hollywood. The senior population has always been a mainstay of the city. Now there are senior living quarters for all — especially older gay men and women who tend to be alone in the world. They no longer have to move away to find a place they can afford.
To sum up: the city remains more vital and attractive because of its cultural diversity.
Crime is only a sometime thing now that neighbors know one another better and a strong Neighborhood Watch program exists. The desire to help one another in times of great stress has enabled the CERT program to expand into every block and every residential building. No longer will residents wonder what will happen to them if they find themselves in dire physical need because of a fire, an earthquake. Neighbors helping neighbors. The city still contracts with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, whose deputies now patrol on bikes and in foot patrols. Crime is still with us but far less than in 2018.
Change is inevitable, but it must be managed, and it is those now in city government who initiated the principal changes and have monitored them and responded to the residents. So much has been changed in the city and in the daily lives of its residents that city planners and code writers have been seen wearing sackcloth and ashes and entering convents and monasteries to atone for their past sins and pray for enlightenment.
And by the way, voters now engage in municipal elections — with more than 65% of those registered casting votes.
After decades of stumbling through its childhood and teenage years, the City of West Hollywood in 2050 is 66 years old. It has finally grown up.
About Carleton Cronin
Carleton Cronin and his wife, Toby Ann, have lived in West Hollywood since 1974. They have raised four sons here, and Cronin has long been an astute observer of civic life.
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Enjoyable fun read by a very special author! Hope to take the trolley to Manny’s Christmas party!
This reminds of the city of the future predictions from the two New York World’s Fairs. Very little of the utopian look at the decades ahead came true. I fear in West Hollywood if the trend continues of having a city council with a 3-2 majority that never sees a development proposal it doesn’t like, we will wind up with an overbuilt, overly congested city with nothing but shuttles to haul people to mass transit lines that won’t be extended to West Hollywood by 2050, the year I will turn 100. I wish I could predict that I’ll live to see what actually happens.
32 years from now I expect the City will look much as it does now. Certainly there will have been more development, both needed and unnecessary, but the basic bones of West Hollywood will likely be as they are now. Having lived in the City for 23 years, I’ve seen a lot of change but not nearly as dramatic as one might assume. Many of the ideas put forth here are highly idealistic and while it’s good to dream, it’s also good not to let your imagination run away with you. Private vehicles will never go away as a form of transportation. It’s in the American DNA. Before automobiles it was horse and buggy but the idea was the same. Freedom to travel without dependance on others and in your own time frame. Many of the rail projects now on the books won’t be finished until nearly 2050 anyway. Adding more light rail will cost many billions more. Only so much money is available for such things. It’s only 32 years from now after all and change moves at a slower pace than we might think…
I hope for a future without a Verizon building.
“Now (in 2050) there are senior living quarters for all — especially older gay men and women who tend to be alone in the world. They no longer have to move away to find a place they can afford”……….Wouldn’t that be nice.
Thanks for the interesting read Carl!
The idea is somewhat a future reality. New innovation, technology, transportation modes… It will be a new city driven by forces of the market and need of future population(s).
However, if your trying to place fear in the resident’s of West Hollywood today; the rendering is over-the-top and ugly.
Whatever is to be. Creative, progressive and innovative that is aesthetically pleasing through Land Use, Parks that are open and green, Affordable Housing for that is equivalent to todays approaches and new, yet to be envisioned affordable housing.
I hope people don’t assume the above rendering is the future. Creative and Progressive design in all area’s will prevail for West Hollywood. What that will look like is to be.
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