USC Price panel examines cities of the future
With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy believed it was time to address the challenges of urbanization. To that end, USC Price dean Jack H. Knott moderated the discussion “Cities of the Future: Community, Creativity, Culture and Technology” on April 23.
The panel featured Michael Antonovich, Los Angeles County supervisor; Hilda Blanco, USC Price research professor and interim director of the Center for Sustainable Cities; Hsi-Wei Chou, former governor of Taipei County, Taiwan; and Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, USC Price associate professor.
“We want to look at the future of cities and how to develop sustainable cities,” Knott said in his introduction.
One of the important issues is transportation, the focus of remarks by Antonovich, who gave an update on several Los Angeles County transit projects, including the extension of the Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa; high-speed rails connecting Palmdale, Los Angeles and San Diego; the DesertXpress train linking Victorville to Las Vegas; and the High Desert Corridor highway between Palmdale and Apple Valley.
Public-private partnerships provide financing for some of the projects, while others potentially will rely on a combination of state and federal dollars.
“This is one way that we can help alleviate the congestion that we have and increase the flow of people being able to move from one place to another in a convenient way,” Antonovich said.
Public transportation projects like these also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a key to combating climate change. Blanco shared her expertise on the topic, beginning her remarks with the statement that “climate change is real.” She cited a recent poll conducted by Knowledge Networks and reported in The New York Times. In the poll, a majority of respondents agreed that “global warming is affecting the weather in the U.S.”
Blanco explained that cities of the future will need to become more compact, transit reliant and fuel- and energy-efficient. Metropolises will have to plant more trees and paint buildings lighter colors to reduce solar absorption, she added.
In response to increasingly extreme weather, building codes may require structures to withstand stronger storms, and to be elevated and water resistant in coastal areas. California already is at the forefront of sustainability efforts, including the development of mixed-use communities, promotion of renewable energy and decrease of water consumption.
Taipei County also has made impressive inroads in sustainability. Eight years ago, Chou decided to run for governor of Taipei County because he said he “wanted to build a sustainable city for the citizens, birds, fish, flowers and all other kinds of species.”
When Chou won the election, he outlined two ambitious goals: to clean the main river in Taiwan and to create a sustainable city. Under his watch, Taipei County shut down factories that polluted the river water, cleaned up the garbage that littered the banks, created man-made wetlands, and built nearby bicycle paths, sports fields and playgrounds.
The county also introduced a green transit system through a network of high-speed rails, subways and electric buses. Throughout his term, Chou invited the public to actively participate in all of these sustainability efforts.
“Government doesn’t have to lead the way,” he said. “People can lead the way, once they learn. Once they change their stereotypical thinking, then everything can happen. Participation is so important.”
Currid-Halkett expanded the conversational palette from green to multicolor by discussing the importance of arts and culture in cities. She explained that there no longer is a division between bourgeois and bohemia or between high art and low art. For cities to thrive socially, culturally and economically, they must cultivate all of the arts.
“It’s not necessarily about writing a check,” Currid-Halkett said. “It may in fact be about supporting art districts. It may be about the way in which we zone such that artists can coexist in certain areas and not be pushed out. It may be about preventing gentrification which forces artists, who don’t generally make a lot of money, to go elsewhere. And these are the ways in which we as planners and policymakers need to think about supporting the arts in the 21st century.”
During the question-and-answer session that followed, audience members asked questions about the logistics of cleaning up Taiwan’s river, the feasibility of Los Angeles County’s transit plans and the future of arts advocacy. One person asked the panelists how artists can inspire people to be more green.
Chou, a renowned artist, gave a simple and inspiring example.
“I myself designed a big mug,” he said. “The mug is so big you can actually pour beer or noodle soup or cereal inside, so you only need one cup for everything. And the cup is designed in a very beautiful way. Introducing these beautiful artworks into our sustainable living can be very exciting and challenging.”
The same can be said for the future of cities.