Friday, July 18, 2008


I just read this article about a new Costco and Best Buy being planned for the Pacoima neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. Following that, I read this article about the Mayor's lust for Big Box retailers. Together, the articles made me kind of upset.

Do we really need more big box retailers in LA/The Valley/Pacoima? No! What? I've read local newspapers and magazines from San Diego to Chicago to Philadelphia and never have I heard of a city actively attempting to promote big boxes as a realistic form of economic and social development. That just isn't the case. Big Boxes bring jobs, yes, but they're low wage, concrete ceiling, going-nowhere-fast jobs that are not only low skill, but boring and intellectually unstimulating. Big Boxes also bring cars and asphalt. As if we needed any more of that anywhere in the world. Please.

Mayor needs to get his act together.

What We need is proactive, community-oriented, mass transit-dependent comericial and residential development; walkable communities. Driving a short distance to reach a Big Box is in no way better than driving a long distance to reach a Big Box. In the end, these business are merely sucking the life out of the smaller business in the area that are capable of fulfilling the community's needs, businesses that are more likely to stick around when tough times hit, not merely move out to the next suburban fringe when profitability takes a hit. Economic "redevelopment" is not merely about jobs in the qualitative sense. Personally, I dont care that Costco will produce X number of jobs in Pacoima. Whatever. Yes, those families will get paychecks that they can live month-to-month off of, but in the end, will their lives really be any better? will they be happier? or healthier? Probably not.

Instead, they'll be goaded into buying more stuff from their employers at a discounted rate. That's not really redeveloping anything except Costco's bottom line. We need jobs in the qualitative sense. That is, ones that indeed do make us happier, healthier, and provide us with the means to live better lives. I do not think that Costco/Best Buy/Big Boxes come close to offering that sort of redevelopment.
Upcycle, please.

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