My latest commentary for 97.5 KBU, heard everywhere on radiomalibu.net. and can be read on cityobseerved.com:
The L.A. River continues to roil, as it has since several months ago when it was revealed the irrepressible and much honored Frank Gehry had been surreptitiously anointed to master plan the entire 51 mile expanse of the mostly raw water way.
Seemingly ignored by the powers that be – namely the city’s star struck Mayor Eric Garcetti and the LA. River Restoration Corp. ‘s cipher Omar Brownstein –that the celebrity architect had not been even remotely involved in the last 40 years of dogged grassroots efforts to improve the river, and is known primarily for his singular structures and definitely not city planning nor landscaping.
That the mayor mistakenly identified Gehry the Olmsted of L.A. –he is a legendary landscaper –even embarrassed the usually imperious Gehry, who recently was feted by the equally imperious Getty that once rejected him. How the wheel turns in a capricious L.A. of short memories.
Even as a critic of Frank’s past failures of form over function –how buildings look rather than work – I warily welcomed him with the hope his involvement might bring needed attention, and funding, to the river.
And optimistically, perhaps he and his noteworthy team, including a famed Dutch hydrologist, might generate some interesting design iterations. Though instead of looking at computer models, I suggested maybe they should tour the river, that if it is to be revitalized, it will happen in a series of small, contextual site sensitive projects.
But Frank apparently just could not be content with the Getty honors, a cluttered of a warehouse of models exhibited at LACMA, a career-crowning, celebrity studded book by the critic now fawning biographer Paul Goldberger, and the constant veneration of peers and the public.
He succumbed to that constant equation that for me explains much about our celebrity obsession, that personalities in the public eye are the sum of an equation of megalomania, divided by paranoia.
Agreeing to an interview by my alma mater, the ever august New York Times, the paper of record, Gehry proceeded to dismiss criticism of his involvement, and further denigrated its his critics, telling them to “grow up.” He also suggested that if they wanted to help the revitalization they should become worker bees, with the assumption he would be the queen bee.
Meanwhile, Gehry might happily have had a filter put on his mouth, but the diatribe unfortunately keeps echoing.
The long time river advocates no doubt he was referring to include I assume Lew McAdams, who selfless efforts have been absolutely vital to raising the awareness of the river. He is definitely not a jerk; vain maybe. Neither is Mia Lehrer, the river’s principle professional designer to date. She may be covetous, given the convoluted city politics. But not a jerk.
If Gehry needed to identify the jerks to date, let me suggest the vain glorious Mayor and his sycophants, an ever development and headline hungry pack of river rats. As if the revitalization of L.A.River did not have enough challenges.