Saturday, December 15, 2012

Brain Drain Boondoggle: LA Tech Corridor

I study ironic geography. I get a thrill when a map undermines a mesofact. The urban core of a center-less city:

Writer Dorothy Parker once haughtily dismissed Los Angeles as “72 suburbs in search of a city.” But the research of USC alumnus Samuel Krueger shows that the City of Angels actually does have a focal point.

Krueger set out to analyze how Los Angeles fares as a structurally cohesive city from a scientific point of view for his thesis in the Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) master’s program at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“On an emotional level, I get tired of people saying that LA is not a real city, so I wanted to show that it has a center just like any other city,” Krueger said.

Emphasis added. A real city is "New York or Chicago or Paris." The perception that LA doesn't belong in that urban peer group can negatively impact migration and economic development. It can also lead to bad policy decisions:

The Los Angeles Mayor's Council on Innovation and Industry (LAMCII) has been meeting since March, to help identify the top issues facing growth companies in the region, and to propose activity to spur additional entrepreneurial activity and innovation, according to the group. The group said that it is hoping to promote the path of the current Expo line as a new technology corridor, to create new "innovation hubs" along the corridor. The idea, according to the LACMII, is to use city-owned parcels to create community spaces and working environments to enable startups and businesses in those areas, using "tech-friendly amenties" to attract startups to those locations.

The group also said it plans to launch a new program called the Edge.LA Fellowship Program to connect the city's many new graduates with local businesses and entrepreneurs, and new efforts to help entrepreneurs find resources like accelerators, commercial real estate, and more. The group said it found that since 2008, 54% of UCLA's engineering graduates have chosen to relocate from the area, which the group called a "brain drain" to the region.

Los Angeles plans to build a city center. It already has one. (Actually, both LA and Pittsburgh are polycentric.) Worse, LACMII is selling this real estate boondoggle as a brain drain plug. That should be a red flag. This group is on a snipe hunt. The baseline urban economic geography is flawed.

1 comment:

Patrick Prescott said...

I live in that "urban core." It's frustrating from a land use and planning perspective. That hybrid between urban/suburban can be convenient or stroke-inducing depending on the traffic and where you need to be. Parts of the Westside are impassable by car at certain times of day.