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Perry talks city planning and architecture at mayoral candidates forum

By Andrew Lopez
Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012, at 10:53AM
Andrew Lopez

Jan Perry spoke with Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times and Bill Roschen (not pictured), President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission about architecture and its role in her bid to become mayor next year.

At the first of five forums hosted by The American Institute of Architects, Councilwoman Jan Perry spoke about her plans to use architecture to grow Los Angeles and unite the community, if she's voted mayor in 2013.

About one hundred people gathered in Downtown Friday night to hear Perry discuss how she would go about passing city planning initiatives that would span all 15 diverse council districts.

“I think as a mayor, (I) can be keenly aware of the broader economic issues and to develop and tailor a citywide agenda that will keep our neighborhoods growing,” Perry said.

A major issue for the entire city is public transit, she said, which could benefit from better design, public art and more retail destinations within walking distance.

“I think you have to have those sensitivities to the differences of people’s communities and understand the things that unite us, like transportation,” she said.

Perry looks to former mayor Tom Bradley as the “platinum standard” of what one could accomplish in office. She praised Bradley's methods in gaining votes to get his initiatives passed, which Perry admitted were based on collaboration that doesn't lend itself to politics today.

“I think sometimes a mayor will fall into a trap where they try to supplant the responsibilities of a councilperson,” Perry said. “A mayor has to stay on a different plain, which is, you look at things more systematically.”

Perry refuted the idea of a "weak mayor system," instead viewing it as an opportunity to be a focused on building the city in a way that’s both desirable to the community and affordable -- using her own work in Downtown as an example of her knowledge of urban planning.

“When the market crashed a few years ago I always felt that, especially here in Downtown, there was still an untapped, unexplored market for the construction and development of affordable housing, mixed income housing, specialized housing, permanent supportive housing,” Perry said. “We were able to keep going and continue to build by focusing on those markets.”

When moderator Bill Roschen of the L.A. City Planning Commission brought up the homeless problem in Downtown, Perry said housing for the homeless would be at the forefront of her agenda. She cited her previous work with helping in the renovation of the Downtown Women's Center on Skid Row.

“Every community needs some provision for housing for people who are in need,” Perry said. “I think that I could demonstrate that you can build housing that is well run, that is well designed.”

Perry was received well by both moderators, Roschen and Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who both agreed with almost every idea she offered, signaling a tough act to follow for the coming mayoral candidates.

The Mayoral Candidate Forums will resume this coming Friday at 7 p.m. in the Deaton Civic Auditorium at LAPD Headquarters Building in Downtown. Check out the The American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter's website for the complete list of candidates.

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