One of the Militant's biggest pet peeves in being active in the community is experiencing what the Militant called the GHP, or Grey-Haired Posse. "Say what," you ask? The Grey-Haired Posse - septo- and octo- genarian homeowners who really have no life, get overtly and freakishly obsessed with planning/land use management issues and especially like to plan our future...a future in which they most likely won't be alive to see.
Now, don't get the Militant wrong, the Militant was raised in the cultural traditions of his parents' unspecified third world country to respect the elderly, of which he does. The Militant respects the elderly for their wisdom and knowledge, especially their knowledge and depth of history -- but not the future! Also, there are many elderly folks out there who spend their time traveling, engaging their post-retirement time in their favorite hobby or activity, or even experiencing quality moments with their grand- or great-grand- children. Those kinds of old folks are awesome, and the Militant hopes to be just that kind of person when he becomes an elderly Militant. In fact, when the Militant turns old and grey, the last thing he wants to be doing is to become involved in his community (i.e. been there, done that). But the typical member of the GHP isn't like that.
No, they're bitter, maybe so bitter, they either never had the chance to get married or have children, much less grandchildren. They have nothing better to do with their time than to attend community meetings, even city council meetings, and beyotch and complain (99% of the time on planning and land use issues) in long-winded, bitterly-delivered oratorical dirges, 'til the cows come home.
When the Militant started organizing efforts to improve his Not-Really-Eastside community years ago, he had to endure lots and lots and lots of meetings with the GHP in attendance. Not only was he the only person under 30 or 40, but the only person under 50, and perhaps even 60.
On Monday afternoon, the Militant attended a community stakeholder working group meeting organized by the City of Los Angeles' Community Redevelopment Agency regarding the Hollywood Mobility Strategy Plan. The goal of the meeting, which would be the first in a series, is to update the 15-year-old draft transportation plan for Hollywood, as it's become a much, much different place as it was in '92 - the (M) Red Line subway, the increased nightlife and entertainment/retail centers, even the heightened level of walkability in the area, are just a few of the things that have changed in Hollywood over the past decade and a half.
The invited community people ranged from neighborhood council folk to property owners, developers, LAPD senior lead officers, as well as representatives from the local city council office, the city attorney's office, other city departments and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. The group was mostly white (big surprise) and most of the folks who contributed to the diversity were people who worked for the City. For a part of town that boasts a Latino demographic of roughly 50% of the entire population, perhaps the only/only other Latino in the group was one of the City representatives.
When it came time for Q and A, the GHP was in full effect. They complained about parking, parking and parking. One of them wanted more parking structures built in the neighborhood. Another was appalled by the City's recommended parking-space-per-square foot ratio, arguing that more parking is necessary. Yet another was afraid the dearth of parking lots means visitors/new residents will park in their streets. All of them scoffed at the notion of future Angelenos taking mass transit. "It's just not realistic!" said one GHP member, who apparently got over her menopause more than a generation ago.
Of course, members of the GHP have every right to voice their concerns. It's their First Amendment right, after all. But is their voice representative of the community? What about the ones that actually working, raising children? What about the youth themselves? What about the community that exists 10, 20 or even 30 years into the future?
Okay, we need more parking structures. At what cost? Do we build more parking structures at the expense of open space, parks and recreational areas? What about the children? A quarter of the Hollywood area's residents are under 18. Do we just let them languish in the educational system and hope they descend into the depths of the prison population somewhere down the line, just because they never had the opportunities to play and interact in recreational centers and open spaces that could have been built? The GHP should support parks, they get the kids off their lawns, after all. More parking structures? Won't that just invite more traffic anyway? More parking structures and wider streets as a traffic solution is kind of like solving a cocaine user's addiction by giving them a wider straw.
Don't get the Militant wrong, he isn't that radical in saying that cars must be abolished or anything. The CRA supports plans for shared parking - especially using existing parking facilities limited to daytime usage to accommodate the nighttime crowd. Yes, people will still drive. But does it have to be an absolute thing? The Militant owns (okay, technically, still paying off) and drives a car - but also rides the bus, train, bike and hoofs it when necessary. Mobility is having balance and choices. It doesn't have to be an absolute decision of "car vs. no car." Besides, only a Sith deals in absolutes.
What has to change are people's habits - people need to get over their narrow-mindedness and cease dismissing transit because it's not an "L.A. thing" (only the East Coast hegemony sells that concept to you). Even driving habits have to change -- combining trips (for example scheduling appointments or errands within a certain area, or along the route of the farthest driving destination, as opposed to driving to tangential destinations all over town) or even leaving the car in the parking lot or curb and walking or taking a short bus or train ride to the next destination should be the way to go. Forget the whole green/eco/global warming angle: By changing your habits, you're saving yourself cash, gas and the size of your ass.
As for the GHP, they're set in their ways, and won't be around much longer anyway. But it's not too late for the rest of you to change...unless you'd rather join the future ranks of the posse.