Skip to comments.Los Angeles Following in the Footsteps of Detroit. The slow, steady decline of a once great city.
Posted on 11/21/2012 10:19:04 AM PST by SeekAndFind
If a man sits on the bank of some great river and looks across to the other side, so tranquil does the current appear that it might seem to him as though the water isnt really moving at all. Only when he looks closely will he see that the river is running steadily, ever so steadily, to the sea.
And so it is with the course on which the city of Los Angeles finds itself. Visitors to the city will still find it to be a vibrant and interesting place to spend a week or two, with its pleasant climate and many tourist attractions, and there are still plenty of nice neighborhoods where home prices, despite the recent housing slump, are well beyond the reach of most Americans (most certainly this one). And there is a revitalized downtown, where you can grab a nice dinner and take in a movie, a concert, or a game of professional basketball or hockey. The entertainment industry, too, is still centered in and around Los Angeles, even as the actual production of many television shows and nearly all feature films is carried on elsewhere.
Yes, to the average tourist and even to most residents, Los Angeles would seem the very picture of civic vitality. But like that mighty river, powerful forces are now propelling it on a course that will take it, if you will, right out to sea.
Except for a few years after college, I lived my entire life in Los Angeles, and by that I mean within its actual boundaries. And even for those few years when I lived outside those boundaries, I was never more than a ten-minute drive from the city limits. But I dont live there anymore.
I take no joy in reporting this, for I always assumed I would live out my days in the city where I was born and where my roots are deep. My father was born in Los Angeles, which by L.A. standards is akin to tracing ones roots back to the Mayflower. But some time ago the Divine Mrs. Dunphy and I were faced with a decision: Where would it be best for us to plant our own roots and make the best possible life for our family. Having had the perspective offered by many years with the LAPD, I was armed with as much information on the city as anyone is likely to have. I was like that man on the riverbank watching all that water flow inexorably downstream. For us the choice was clear. We now live in a suburban community outside Los Angeles, close enough to enjoy L.A.s many charms, but far enough away to avoid its many flaws.
Seldom does a week go by that I am not presented with evidence that we made the right decision. Most recently I read this story  in the Los Angeles Times regarding the city councils desire for a half-cent sales tax increase to help plug the citys deficit. This comes on the heels of the passage of Californias Proposition 30, which raises the state sales tax, already among the highest in the country, by a quarter of a cent for four years. (And do you suppose that the tax will actually go away after four years?) Proposition 30 also raises state income taxes on individuals earning over $250,000 per year and couples earning over $500,000. (This second facet of Proposition 30 was sold as lasting for seven years, but again, anyone who thinks this tax will go away is probably mailing off his letter to Santa Claus right about now.)
In short, a majority of the Los Angeles city council has endorsed the proposition that L.A. should be one of the highest taxed cities in the one of the highest taxed states in the country. What could possibly go wrong?
But the L.A. city council has had too many great issues on its agenda to attend to something so trivial as closing the budget deficit without raising taxes. Last month, for example, it voted to prohibit pet stores  from selling dogs that come from breeders. I am the proud owner of a rescued mutt, so I have little interest in obtaining a purebred dog, either now or in the future. But I realize that others do not necessarily share my taste in pets, and as much as I might wish that everyone looking for a dog get one from their local animal shelter or rescue group, some people will only be satisfied with a pedigreed pooch. They should be free to buy one, and people in Los Angeles should be free to sell them one.
And back in May, the city council voted for another, even more annoying restriction on freedom when they banned the use of plastic grocery bags , forcing consumers to pay ten cents each for paper bags or else buy those reusable canvas germ traps. If some pandemic breaks out and claims thousands of lives in Los Angeles, it will probably be traced back to one of those bags that had for too long been rolling around in the back of someones Prius.
And while the Los Angeles city council has busied itself with these feel-good examples of utopian legislation, the long, steady decline in crime in the city appears to be coming to an end. Looking at the year-to-date figures as of Nov. 3, the city as a whole has seen crime decline by 0.9 percent from last year. Not the sharp drop-off seen in recent years past but not necessarily a call for alarm, either. But a closer look at the data reveals ominous signs. Part I crime has increased in seven of the LAPDs 21 patrol divisions, in one case by almost 20 percent. And homicides have increased in ten of those divisions, with three of them up 100 percent or more. The citys troubled finances have precluded the further expansion of the LAPD, and this, coupled with the early release from state prisons  of thousands of convicted felons, will all but guarantee a further rise in crime next year.
In July of last year, Joel Kotkin wrote of L.A.s decline in the Wall Street Journal. In the article, titled How L.A. Lost Its Mojo , Kotkin described the citys political transformation that has seen power shift from business and homeowner groups to those identified with labor and ethnic solidarity a shift the current civic leadership openly encourages. That way lies trouble, which is why the Dunphy family decamped for a neighborhood that is clean, safe, affordable, and blessed with good schools. Such neighborhoods, once common in the Los Angeles of my youth, no longer exist there.
So while things in Los Angeles may seem all palmy and nice for the moment, with the sun-drenched landscape unmarred by plastic bags or purebred dogs, it appears to me that Los Angeles is in the early stages of what will be a long, slow, Detroit-like death spiral an agony Ill be fortunate enough to witness from out in the suburbs.
We run into quite a few refugees from Los Angeles in our new neighborhood. We have yet to meet a single one who claims to miss it.
URLs in this post:
 this story: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1114-city-sales-tax-20121114,0,5000230.story
 prohibit pet stores: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/la-pet-store-sales-ban.html
 banned the use of plastic grocery bags: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/05/la-makes-history-with-ban-on-plastic-bags-at-stores.html
 early release from state prisons: http://pjmedia.com/blog/californias-broken-parole-and-probation-system/
 How L.A. Lost Its Mojo: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303365804576434391802284886.html
EVERY major urban area is following in the footsteps of Detroit, Detroit just got a head start.
Let the patient die...not on life support like Detroit.
People in urban centers overwhelmingly vote liberal. They deserve to live in crap holes.
On a good day.
Unfortunately the people who vote for the mayor and city council members think they don’t deserve to live better than this.
As so I have to conclude, who am I to disagree.
“The slow, steady decline of a once great city”
To be followed by The slow, steady decline of a once great COUNTRY.
Well the car was not mine, (screw any engine damage), so I floored it and drove pass the gang and continued into the downtown proper area with the high rises. So basically, it was more dangerous for my car to break down near downtown Los Angeles then it was if my car broke down out in the middle of the desert.
Picture reminds me of one of the side streets the last time we were in Mexico many years ago.
The picture missed the guy covered in black plastic bags asleep against the wall.
Is the author any relation the Jerry Dunphy, the LA Newscaster?
My understanding is that 400,000 people in California run out of unemployment money on January 1. That is the next big test. What will the Democrats and Republicans do?
I wish authors of these kind of what-ought-to-be-serious articles were less in love with getting in as much of their own story-telling and merely descriptive verbiage, and more in love with getting as seriously and straight-forward-like to the facts, amd more in love with replacing all that useless verbiage with more facts; which in the case of the decline of L.A. there are plenty more of - but the author ran out of space to include them - I guess.
Where was that taken?
If the writer’s new neighborhood is clean, safe, affordable, and blessed with good schools, I guarantee him it will not be that way for long. Illegals flood into the affordable areas, bringing with them crime, gangs, and blight. It’s happened to many another “nice, clean, safe, affordable” suburb in California, and it will happen to Mr. Dunphy’s as well. If it doesn’t happen fast enough, the government will bring in Section 8 housing to hurry things along. I take no pleasure in saying this, but it happens to be the truth. Enjoy your nice neighborhood while it lasts, Mr. Dunphy.
I have an old photograph. In it is a four year old tow headed boy, me, in tiny cowboy boots and jeans, my blond mother wearing a skirt and blouse, my balding father in sport shirt and slacks. The photo is taken in front of a smallish single family house with a smallish front yard. Neat. Tidy. Well maintained. In the driveway is a one year old Murcury sedan. Nothing special. Just an ordinary young family, smiling, in front of their house...
...on 110th street just off Wilmington in Los Angeles.
LA was once a great city??? I must have missed that. It’s a city, but great? no way - meets none of the criteria. It is simply a large, rat infested, congested city - nothing great about it.
That must be a treasured photo.
I mapped out that location on yahoo maps. I guess you don’t visit the old home much anymore.
Just curious, when did your parents move from that house? Do you still live in Southern California?
LA has one of the worst mayors in the US and the city council rivals SF. It is actually bankrupt.
Former mayor Riorden is trying to put the employees on 401k type retirements instead of defined benefit pensions. The screaming is deafening and the LA Time provides the megaphone.
Heck, even Missing Persons back in the 80s sang that “Nobody Walks in LA.”
Well the good news is, that when the Big One hits, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
According to my father, Los Angeles was a great city when he moved there in the 1933. The word “smog” did not exist. There was great public transportation, good economy, jobs in the oil industry etc. The place went to hell after World War II. The war brought “diversity” to the city.
Up till about 1975, Los Angeles was the greatest city in the United States. By any measure — income, manufacturing, growth, public school system, rate of home ownership, medicine, science, and resident life satisfaction.
Those stats are indisputable.
We’ve been invaded and occupied by a foreign country, (thanks for nothing, the other 49 states), which destroyed us.
But it was great ride for a great — greatest — city.
I wonder how the bro got a brand new pair of Adidas tennis shoes.
Haven’t been anywhere in LA for several years. Took my grandson to Disney in 2004. First time I had been there in several years and told him to enjoy it because we wouldn’t be going back. Really gone downhill compared to what it was. Then took both the grandsons to Lego Land in 2008 but stayed in a great hotel adjoining the area. Drove in and drove out. We do love parts of San Diego though. Such a shame. They literally had it all and just blew it, not only for them but for all the people who really envied their lifestyle and used to love to visit. Thanks for sharing the pics. Makes me so sad.
When I drive into Houston from the suburbs I notice more and more areas are becoming a bit raggedy looking and the area where I feel safe grow smaller and smaller. Happening to all the major cities. Tremendous waste, mismanagement and corruption is catching up.
You just can’t hide civic pride like that.
RE: Took my grandson to Disney in 2004. First time I had been there in several years and told him to enjoy it because we wouldnt be going back.
If you just stayed near Disneyland you are OK. Disneyland in Anaheim is 30 miles away from downtown Los Angeles ( the armpit of the city ).
“If the writers new neighborhood is clean, safe, affordable, and blessed with good schools, I guarantee him it will not be that way for long.”
My aunt and uncle (now dead for probably 20 years) lived in Pomona and left for Bishop ( halfway up the backside of the Sierras toward Reno, NV) probably five years prior to their demise. They left Pomona because it was not a safe place to live in the mid-1980’s. Pomona is probably at least 40 miles from downtown LA. so I don’t know where this author is hanging his hat and feeling safe. San Bernardino is still further east, and it’s going bankrupt thanks to the illegals.
I recently spent a week in the LA metropolitan area, and as I traveled around the city, it occurred to me that I couldn’t see much of anything that amounted to any sort of enterprise that involved actually producing anything. Retail and residential, that’s about it.
I mentioned this to a friend I was talking to on the phone, and asked him what in the world this city was running on. His reply was memorable. “Debt.”
He was fundamentally right. And it can’t go on forever.
I drove through LA for a wedding about four years ago and hadn’t been there in probably 15 years—I was shocked at the state of the infrastructure and just how bad the place looked. Sad, for such a beautiful locale and so much money there. There is really no excuse for it.
You can’t see him in the photo but there is a dead guy behind the telephone pole.
I never thought of LA as a city, it’s more of an urban sprawl area with no real defined center.
“The place went to hell after World War II. The war brought diversity to the city.”
Ditto for the Bay Area. Grew up in Contra Costa in the ‘50’s. Even then, no one went to Richmond. Kaiser Shipbuilding and Ford supported the War and the labor came from principally the South. When the war ended, the “immigrants” stayed on even though there wasn’t much for them to do except build a ghetto, knock out illegitimate kids, and take welfare. I remember when they sued the welfare agencies to stop the “unannounced” visits, because it screwed up their ability to move the kids around so they could get more money. Still pretty much the same today, except that they have an “indian casino.”
I lived in Moreno Valley when I was stationed at March AFB. There were parts of that town I would avoid and it was a relatively new city in 1991.
Doesn’t take long for the undesireables to find new preying ground.
If you include the surrounding areas of Los Angeles, then you have a diverse economy with lots of industries.
Hollywood is just 8 miles from downtown LA and is of course the film, entertainment and arts capital of the world (television, motion pictures, video games, recorded music).
The contiguous ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together comprise the fifth-busiest port in the world
The city is home to six Fortune 500 companies. They are energy company Occidental Petroleum, healthcare provider Health Net, metals distributor Reliance Steel & Aluminum, engineering firm AECOM, real estate group CBRE Group and builder Tutor Perini.
Other companies headquartered in Los Angeles include California Pizza Kitchen, Capital Group, Capstone Turbine, The Cheesecake Factory, Cathay Bank, City National Bank, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, DeviantArt, Far East National Bank, Farmers Insurance Group, Fox Entertainment Group, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Guess?, Hanmi Bank, Herbalife, J2 Global Communications, The Jim Henson Company, KB Home, Korn/Ferry, Latham & Watkins, Mercury Insurance Group, Oaktree Capital Management, OMelveny & Myers, Pabst Brewing Company, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, Premier America, Premiere Radio Networks, Rentech, Sunkist, The TCW Group, Tokyopop, Triton Media Group, United Online, and VCA Antech.
The metropolitan area is home to the headquarters of many companies who moved outside of the city of Los Angeles to escape its high taxes and high crime rate while keeping the benefits of remaining in close proximity. For example, Los Angeles charges a gross receipts tax based on a percentage of business revenue, while many neighboring cities charge only small flat fees.
The University of Southern California (USC) is the city’s largest private sector employer and contributes $4 billion annually to the local economy
According to the city’s 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top ten employers in the city as of 2009 are, in descending order, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Fox Entertainment Group, Farmers Insurance Group, TeamOne,and Aerospace and Defense Company, Northrop Grumman
Just imagine how well all these companies would do without the massive weight of the People’s Republic of Kaliforia’s taxation and regulation!
Top ten employers you had to get to #5 before you run into a privately owned entity. That’s just sad.
If you watch some of those early 1970s TV shows based in LA like Adam-12 and Emergency!, you can see the mostly clean streets and nice tree-lined neighborhoods. Most of LA actually looked like that at one time.
He's still there.
This is LA too.
Would have been in '54 I think. We moved around a bit. I played Little League baseball in Compton, went to High School in Baldwin Park, joined the Army in '66 and have not really been back since. Those are not safe neighborhoods today. In fact, if I never see California again it will be too soon.
Ha! I took one look at that second pic and said Manhattan Beach. I think I ate at a restaurant just around the corner from there.
A statement designed to elicit outraged cries of "RACISM!" from our liberal friends.
I think the term for all of this is *vibrant*. If this is vibrant, I’ll take dull anyday.
I think the term for all of this is *vibrant*. If this is vibrant, I’ll take dull anyday.