Mixed Use Housing

I’m back, not with a recipe as such, but occasional pieces on food, life, the future and even an occasional recipe. I may or may not change the name. I would love to hear from any of you still reading and I hope you enjoy some of my new pieces.

Every time I drive down Ventura Boulevard I am warmed by the new buildings in Sherman Oaks, Encino and on out. The new buildings are mostly mixed use: housing, offices, restaurants and retail. I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a residential neighborhood that had a little grocery within a short walk which was great, but my dad had to drive to work. This was the beginning of the suburban sprawl or “white flight” as it was so referred. The neighborhoods to the north of me had no markets on the corner let alone restaurants, offices or retail shops. These were all segregated or “zoned” into different areas only accessible by car, bus or the rare taxicab. I remember relishing our little market and wished that my “office” could be on our block. I was 6.

We have crossed over the peak of oil production on this planet, which means that we will have less and less oil at greater and greater prices until we reach a point that, even though there may be oil still in the ground, it will cost the same amount to remove it as it is worth. This means that our reliance on fossil fuels has got to shift. No longer is this just a talking point for politicians, or some far off problem being tackled at MIT. This problem is now on our shoulders. We have to use less and less liquid fuel as a society so the few uses that must burn those fuels (like airplanes) will have enough to continue.

Our food supply is directly effected by this same problem. The combination of mono crop growth (corn and soy beans) taking over our largest farm lands, relegating most produce to be grown in California or in other countries, creates the need for trucking most of the produce across the entire country. This, coupled with our growing demand for meat and meat products has left our food supply vulnerable to big business and the diminishing fuel supply, both factors contributing to rising prices at the supermarket. This means that we need to change the way we eat, we shop and we farm.

Mixed use buildings are one good measure toward a new paradigm that addresses some of these issues. The ability to walk to work, the grocery and restaurants drastically reduces fuel consumption. No, it is not THE answer. There is no one answer to such a complex challenge. This may be the reason that most people ignore what has now become an obvious problem. Without a bumper sticker slogan to drive the point, most will continue to ignore it. If you are one who doesn’t mind tackling complex problems and valuing a multitude of solutions as a means to an improved end then please join me in celebrating mixed use buildings.

How? There are many ways to support this effort. Urging city planning commissions and city councils to change zoning to allow for more mixed use. Suggesting to family and friends the option of living closer to work, school, shopping and entertaining. Leading by example and moving into one of these areas. Abandon suburbia. Grow a garden on your rooftop. Sell your car. Buy a bike. Take the bus.

I know you are saying to yourself, “Who is he to preach to me? What is he doing about it?” We have moved within walking distance of restaurants and markets. With the exception of the rare visit to our sushi bar, when we do eat at restaurants we only eat at ones within walking distance (which means we can also have a glass of wine without ending up in jail). We have a garden that is expanding this year to include another strip along the house and herbs in the front yard. We only use one car. We take the subway downtown and I take it to work when applicable. (LA is way behind in our subway system development). We make every attempt to eat locally grown produce and locally raised meats, cutting way back on meat consumption as well.

Once you start viewing the world through the lens of the realities of what is coming, the happier you will be. The world is not coming to an end, but the world as we once knew it is quickly fading.


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