The Community Clusters of Urban L.A.

The start of the 2015 Los Angeles Geographical Society (LAGS) lectures examined Los Angeles itself.  “Delimiting the postmodern urban center: An analysis of urban amenity clusters in LA” is the title of Samuel Krueger’s lecture.  Krueger works for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and his lecture explored how the original definition of a city center is not always valid.

Downtown Los Angeles.  Image from www.nbclosangeles.com

Downtown Los Angeles. Image from http://www.nbclosangeles.com

He started off describing some drawbacks to these analyses, such as arbitrary thresholds and that analyses are often relative to an arbitrary ‘center’.  There are also problematic spatial units and a tendency to have tunnel vision when examining employment.  Employment is not only thing cities are for and this can dehumanize urban place into unnoticed space.

Krueger suggested new ways of seeing centrality, such as postmodern regions, which can be defined by attributes of the space.  Postmodern regions can also have fuzzy edges.  Modern urban development patterns include accretion outwards from an established center.

Krueger’s proposal then is a new city center concept that includes the concept that employment has dispersed and that suburban rings seem the same everywhere, creating a type of placelessness.  But metro regions retain distinct cultural identities.  Some examples he gave were Houston vs New Orleans and Los Angeles vs San Francisco.  There are then centers of consumer consumption and leisure time.

Krueger then discussed some indicators of centrality.  Rather than the end of centrality perhaps employment is no longer a reliable indicator of centrality.  His study presented a new city center delimitation method, which locates clusters of amenities.  He then went on to provide an application of the method to Los Angeles with a comparison to what he calls the central cities, Chicago and New York.

An urban land use model of Chicago, 1920s.  Image from people.hofstra.edu

An urban land use model of Chicago, 1920s. Image from people.hofstra.edu

His data consisted of amenity location points created by an information group, such as a directory of major amenities in the U.S.  This was accessed via ESRI Business Analyst.  The amenity categories included trendy hangouts (book and music stores, coffee shops, etc.) as well as high culture (performing arts).  Krueger’s methodology used Local Indicators of Spatial Association (LISA).

Three arrangement scales used were 2 km, 5 km and 13 km for clustering.  The clusters were also offset to avoid Modified Areal Unit Problem (MAUP).  In terms of where the center is located, Chicago and New York have a monocentric shape while Los Angeles has a polycentric one (though one center does dominate).  You can view a map comparing Los Angeles with New York at this link: Krueger_NY_LA_Density.pdf.  You can view more of Krueger’s work at this site: tinyurl.com/samuelkrueger.

Population density map for Los Angeles and New York.  Map by Samuel Krueger.

Population density map for Los Angeles and New York. Map by Samuel Krueger.

Krueger ended the lecture by saying that additional analysis is needed for detailed delimitation of actual areas.  This includes using smaller cells for greater precision and buffers around Chicago and New York that follow a binary (in/out) system.  In the end, Krueger found that Los Angeles is ambiguous with a possible center found along the Wilshire/Santa Monica Corridor.  He also mentioned how such ambiguity can be seen using the Los Angeles Times’ map of neighborhoods.

The Wilshire/Santa Monica Corridor.  Map by Samuel Krueger.

The Wilshire/Santa Monica Corridor. Map by Samuel Krueger.

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