The Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles

William Fulton, Author Solano Press Books $28.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-923956-22-6
Accessible and crammed with both juicy tidbits and intriguing insights, The Reluctant Metropolis examines what Los Angeles is, how it got that way and what's in its future. Using sociologist Harvey Molotch's term growth machine to describe the alliance of sectors with an interest in economic growth, Fulton follows L.A.'s growth machine from its beginnings in the late 19th century, when Midwesterners began arriving, attracted by the promise of a decentralized, anti-urban environment and, of course, great weather. Fulton argues that the automobile society began in response to the unceasing development when the middle class of the 1920s hopped into their cars as ""an act of rebellion"" against the increasing power of rail conglomerates. And so the city grew, a patchwork of small urban areas knowing little about each other and caring less. Now, more than 100 years after it began rolling, Fulton argues that the growth machine is finally grinding to a halt, leaving a huge, fragmented megalopolis of the very rich and pretty poor, with many middle-class people cast in the role of resentful renters, unable to afford the Southern California dream of home ownership or facing four- to five-hour commutes daily from remote desert developments where they can afford to buy. With L.A. built to the hilt, the machine has moved on to Las Vegas, the latest low-wage, low-cost boomtown, which is already showing signs of the urban disaffection and disarray that causes hundreds to flee Los Angeles every week. Fulton, author of one of the standard college urban planning texts (Guide to California Planning) and founding editor of California Planning & Development Report, has written a surprisingly lively case study of the battles and alliances of politics, business and people that formed--or deformed--a great American city. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/28/1997
Release date: 05/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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