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Future Cities Now
Time Out

Future Los Angeles, now! The 20 people, places and things shaping a better city today

We love a lot about L.A. already, but these innovations and advancements are making it a better city for all Angelenos

By Michael Juliano and Stephanie Breijo
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We can’t even predict what the rest of the day has in store, so we surely can’t predict the future. But we can turn our attention to progress that’s being made as we speak and think about how that’s actively building toward a better Los Angeles. We’re highlighting the local designers, activists, museums, politicians, nonprofits, businesses and technologies that are clearing the path for an L.A. that’s kinder, more tolerant, better informed and maybe a little less automobile dependent. Whether they’re impacting the city’s policies, transit networks, parks, streets, support systems or beaches, these are the 20 people, places and things that are shaping a better future for Los Angeles now.

The 20 people, places and things shaping a better L.A. today

Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit
Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit
Photograph: Shimahara Visual, courtesy Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies LLC

The gondola plans floated for L.A.’s most famous hillsides

No single solution will “solve” L.A. traffic, but we can still look above the pavement for some creative alternatives. Yes, we’re talking about a gondola—two of them, actually. This fall, the Griffith Park Aerial Transit Study released the four potential routes that could shuttle tourists from a parking lot in the Valley to a perch near the Hollywood Sign in mere minutes. And around the same time, Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit and Metro unveiled two alignments for its plans for a gondola from Union Station to Dodger Stadium.

Project Room Superbloom
Project Room Superbloom
Courtesy Project Room

The streetlights that’ll charge your car and keep you cool

Quick, what do L.A.’s streetlights look like? No, not those ornate lanterns—the boring, utilitarian lamps that you’ve probably never even bothered to give a second look. Exactly. Local studio Project Room is about to make L.A.’s streetlights look more beautiful and make them a whole lot more useful. The winning design in a city-run challenge, Superbloom lights will start to blanket the city in the next few years with modular posts that make room for everything from shade structures to EV chargers to a little space for poems.
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The organization that’s feeding undocumented restaurant workers

In a year when millions of Americans became unemployed, the backbone of the restaurant industry couldn’t apply for federal aid; thankfully No Us Without You stepped up to feed L.A.’s undocumented kitchen staff, as well as their families, in the time they need it most. Nourishment and empathy go hand in hand for co-founders Othón Nolasco and Damian Diaz, whose new nonprofit now delivers groceries to more than 1,300 families every week. Every $33 raised feeds a family of four for the week, providing aid and returning the food favor for those who’ve always kept us fed.

Metro
Metro
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Metro Los Angeles

The proposal to make Metro service free for everyone

At $1.75 per trip regardless of the destination, L.A.’s Metro service is already relatively reasonable. But you know what price point would be even better? Free. At least that’s if L.A. moves forward with Metro CEO Phil Washington’s proposal for the Fareless System Initiative (which goes up for a vote in front of the board of the directors by the end of the year). If so, we could see free bus and rail service for all—with plans already in motion for a limited test of fareless service in 2021.

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LAFD robot
LAFD robot
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/LAFD/Gary Apodaca

The not-so-little yellow robot that’s fighting fires

Meet the Thermite RS3 (who we’re going to affectionately dub Thermie), the Los Angeles Fire Department’s 3,500-pound remote-controlled friend that’s the first robotic firefighting vehicle in the country. Thermie made its debut during a commercial blaze in October, and you can expect to see it scouting interiors and dousing up to 2,500 gallons per minute during fires in buildings, forests, at animal rescues and more.

Liberation Coffee House LGBT Center
Liberation Coffee House LGBT Center
Photograph: Courtesy Liberation Coffee House/Eric Staudenmaier

The coffee shop that’s bolstering the LGBTQ+ community

It feels like there’s a coffee shop on every corner, but coffee shops built as gathering spaces and fundraisers for the LGBTQ community are next to nonexistent. Enter the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new Liberation Coffee House, a 1,600-square-foot café that opened at the base of the Hollywood flagship this fall. The salads, burritos and other prepared foods are whipped up by members of the LGBT Center’s culinary job training courses, while revenue from the café gets routed right back into the program—as well as other programs at the Center, which further LGBTQ social services, housing, advocacy and leadership—so your morning coffee always goes to great causes.

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The book swap (and shop) that’s putting the focus on Black women

The Free Black Women’s Library, a traveling book swap and pop-up library that showcases works by Black women, went mostly quiet when our stay-at-home existences made physically passing books around an impossibility. But don’t mistake that for silence: Founder Asha Grant is currently hard at work on readying the Salt Eaters Bookshop, “a newly birthed bookstore in Inglewood that prioritizes books written by and about Black women, girls, femmes and non-binary people” she tells us. Grant plans to have an online shop ready in December, with an in-person soft launch in early 2021; that’s when the two projects will converge, as the shop will host TFBWL’s monthly book swap as well as a designated book donation space.

Exposition Park Master Plan
Exposition Park Master Plan
Courtesy Torti Gallas + Partners

The park that’s replacing its parking lots with more green space

It seems like a no-brainer that parks should have more grass than asphalt, but that’s not always the case in L.A. Thankfully, that will be true in Exposition Park, whose board of directors approved a master plan in October that’ll reshape its next 25 years. Most notably: The surface parking lots to the south of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and Banc of California Stadium will head underground and add 14 acres of new park space in the process. That’s more room to run or relax between trips to the Natural History Museum, California African American Museum, California Science Center and the upcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

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The surfer providing free lessons for BIPOC beginners

Suring is a pervasive part of L.A. culture. But it’s also unapproachable for many Angelenos, beset by gatekeeping and privilege—the privilege to have the free time and mobility to bring a board to the beach. After attending paddle outs in response to the killing of George Floyd, David Malana decided he was going to take personal responsibility to change the surf culture and its lack of diversity. So he and his friend Lizelle Jackson launched a movement to #ColorTheWater, in which Malana and a network of volunteers offer free surf lessons for Black, indigenous and people of color beginners, and provide footage of their session, as well. As the initiative grows, Malana says “We dream of days when Color the Water has coastal space for surfers of color to belong; a community that is both escape from and joyful resistance in the struggle; a pillar on the foundation laid by pioneers before us to build and spread, across all waters, a movement of institutionalized anti-racism.”

Los Angeles City Hall
Los Angeles City Hall
Photograph: Michael Juliano

The motion to send unarmed crisis responders out for nonviolent 911 calls

Angelenos pounded the pavement in June to speak out against racism and killings by police, and though change is neither immediate nor total, the local government was listening: The Los Angeles City Council has authorized the city to move forward with plans for unarmed crisis response teams. In a unanimous decision, the council gave the go-ahead to find a nonprofit partner that would implement a pilot program to send mental health and substance abuse specialists out to handle nonviolent 911 calls in place of LAPD officers.

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The Koreatown delivery service that’s wresting control back from the major apps

Angelenos were hooked on delivery apps even before this year of stay-at-home orders. But as we’ve become downright dependent on them, we’ve also become increasingly aware of the often overbearing fees they impose on restaurants. Enter Runningman, the bilingual company that’s connected over 100 mom-and-pop restaurants in a two-mile radius of Koreatown with a network of about 30 delivery drivers. According to the New York Times, the three-year-old Runningman has boosted its business 20 percent since March, all without burdening restaurants with service fees or commissions and instead sticking to a distance-based charge.

Walk of Fame master plan
Walk of Fame master plan
Rendering by Gensler

The plan to turn L.A.’s most maligned tourist attraction into a pedestrian paradise

Think about how many out-of-towners you’ve had to begrudgingly drag to the Walk of Fame. Now imagine if that experience was actually pleasant. This year, L.A. City Council member Mitch O’Farrell released a master plan for the famous street that would convert two lanes of traffic and the parking lanes on Hollywood Boulevard into wider sidewalks, tree-lined dining patios and alfresco event plazas. There’s no date yet for the plan, but you can expect some sort of fuzzy timeline by next year.

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The pilot program that’s guaranteeing Compton residents a universal basic income

“Like most Americans, we were one emergency away from having to move, which we did many times,” Compton mayor Aja Brown says about her family in a heartfelt statement tied to her landmark Compton Pledge. That shouldn’t have to happen anymore if the pledge goes according to plan: Starting later this year, 800 low-income Compton residents will receive at least several hundred dollars delivered at various frequencies over a two-year period as part of the largest city-based universal basic income pilot in the country. “Ensuring all people are able to live with dignity is something we should all strive for in America,” says Brown. And to bolster that goal, the pledge will also get unbanked Compton residents set up with no-cost online financial services.

Supreme Court
Supreme Court
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Claire Anderson

The art museum that’s helping us brush up on civics lessons

How do you create a better future? Better understand the past. And laws. And yourself. Westwood’s Hammer Museum regularly does all of this with its free meditation classes and a happy hour that toasts to the Constitution. 2020 couldn’t stop either of those; the Hammer’s in-person programming headed online and added in streaming forums about the Supreme Court and state ballot propositions, molding better-informed Angelenos in the process.

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community fridge
community fridge
Photograph: Time Out/Stephanie Breijo

The community fridges allowing Angelenos to leave or take free food

The concept of mutual aid isn’t new but the fridges sprouting up around the city certainly are, and they’re giving us hope for a more caring and neighborly Los Angeles. Offering free food for all who need it, LA Community Fridges provide care for the community, by the community, stocking hand-painted fridges with fresh produce, dairy, water and beyond, plus pantry staples, all donated by Angelenos who might have packaged goods to share. The guerrilla aid group launched in July and, along with help from other community-minded orgs like the People’s Bodega, now keeps nearly 20 fridges running between Hawthorne and North Hills.

White Bark Workwear
White Bark Workwear
Photograph: Courtesy White Bark Workwear

The garment brand that’s keeping artists afloat and the rest of us safe

Literally overnight this past spring, local garment factories started sewing cloth face coverings at warp speed. Count apron company White Bark Workwear among them, but their cotton-hemp masks also become a lifeline for L.A.’s creative community. With limited runs that have regularly sold out, the company’s local artist-designed face coverings have put any proceeds over the cost of the mask back into its creators’ pockets. And with masks seemingly here to stay for a while, that makes these more than just a temporary canvas.

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LAX concept
LAX concept
Photograph: Courtesy LAWA

The trio of transit lines that’s linking planes, trains and automobiles

Thinking about a football stadium sans fans—even a real pretty one with a public park attached—as the future of the South Bay may seem like a stretch, but the opening of SoFi Stadium marks a very real milestone in a series of developments that’ll reshape how we get around the region. It all hinges on the Crenshaw Line, the latest Metro expansion that was due to open this year but is now slated for next. Thwn by 2023, you’ll be able to board an automated people mover at LAX that’ll shuttle you above the traffic at the terminals to a Metro stop at Aviation and 96th. And two stations over—and a few years later in 2026—you’ll be able to disembark at Downtown Inglewood and board a similar system to the Forum and SoFi Stadium.

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The truck that’s hydrating unhoused Angelenos

No one should be without clean drinking water—especially during L.A.’s heat waves and especially if you’re unhoused, without a way to cool down. Water Drop LA, founded over the summer, gives Angelenos a few ways to help: Each Sunday Water Drop trucks over 1,000 gallons of water to Skid Row, using volunteers to hand out the free, sealed water to those in need (signup links get posted every Monday and often fill up by Wednesday). Can’t make it on Sundays? You can donate through Gofundme or send money via Venmo to @waterdrop-LA, and every $7 provides two weeks’ worth of water.

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The street-sized mural that won’t let us forget that All Black Lives Matter

As many as 100,000 Angelenos marched along Hollywood Boulevard in June to take a stand against racism as part of a Black and trans-inclusive LGBTQ+ demonstration. While the sight of Angelenos making their voices heard was the most powerful image from that afternoon, an “All Black Lives Matter” mural that spanned an entire block of the Walk of Fame was easily right behind it. Now, a smaller version of that mural, designed by trans rights advocate Luckie Alexander, has become a permanent fixture on Hollywood Boulevard, between Orange Drive and Highland Avenue—forever reminding the locals and tourists who cross paths with the high-trafficked locale about what Angelenos fought for that day, and are still fighting for.

Los Angeles Central Library, art deco buildings
Los Angeles Central Library, art deco buildings
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

The time capsule that’s making sure future generations know all about your pursuit of toilet paper

We don’t have many fond memories of 2020, but we’re doomed to repeat the past if we let it slip by us and into obscurity. No matter how meaningful or minute, the Los Angeles Public Library wants us to be able to remember all of it, so they’re in the process of crowdsourcing a digital collection of life under lockdown. They’re inviting all Angelenos to submit photos, letters and diary entries that’ll be added to the library’s online special collections portal, so future generations can know exactly what it was like to chase down bioluminscent waves and wait in line for toilet paper. What a year.

Wondering how else you can support L.A.’s future?

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