LASA Kicks Off Year Four in Summer Institute

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We just finished a great week of our new LASA year.  On Monday, August 3rd, we welcomed our new class to The Huntington Library, where we got to know one another a bit and talked of the year ahead.  Our annual “make a map of Los Angeles” exercise was fun for all (with the usual creative cartography at work!).  Don’t worry: we’ll pull those out again in the spring to see what you’ve all learned over the year.

Later that first morning, we were joined by LASA friend, Christopher Hawthorne, the architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times. Chris spoke to us about his own career path and trajectory, and he gave us all a broad and thoughtful overview of the region’s growth, challenges, opportunities, and obstacles.  It was a terrific introduction to the sheer scales of metropolitan Los Angeles, particularly apt for our high school students as they begin to learn more about the entire region.  After lunch and some time to stroll the Huntington’s grounds, we welcomed Jeffrey Kightlinger, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), one of the most important water delivery agencies in the nation.  Jeff reminded us that MWD delivers water to one-half (!) of California’s population, mostly through its system of Colorado River water delivery.  Drought, climate change, big infrastructure: all were topics of discussion, and Jeff’s frank and knowledgeable insights made for a fascinating discussion.

On Tuesday, we met at the LA Public Library, where Ken Brecher, head of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, greeted us and took us all through the wonderful “To Live and Dine in L.A.” exhibit of menus and restaurant history.  Great fun!  Ken told us fabulous stories, talked to us about food and food insecurities across the region, and congratulated LASA-ites on their place in the program.  Raphe Sonenshein, expert on LA politics, spoke next, drawing us into the intricate political landscapes of greater LA and talking with us about votes, voting, and political allegiances.  From there, we divided up into five groups and went out into the city to find lunch and find our way, eventually, to the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration, where we watched a Board of Supervisors meeting, met briefly with Supervisor Hilda Solis (thank you!), and were hosted generously by her deputy, Javier, who spoke with us about transit and transportation issues – and the politics therein – across the county.

On Wednesday, we came back to the Huntington in the a.m. and went straight away to the MWD water treatment facility in LaVerne, where we split into two groups for tours of the chemistry/water cleanliness facility and the big 1941 Art Deco plant itself, where, from the roof, we could see the holding pens where the Colorado River water is “flocculated” and otherwise cleaned before being sent on its way to downriver users.  It’s always a treat to see this place and the work it does, and our thanks to MWD for allowing us to come.

Back at the Huntington, Bill spoke briefly about race and demography, and we talked with one another about family histories and migrations.  Bob DeGroot, our friend from the Southern California Earthquake Center, gave his usual “half fascinating, half scary” talk about seismology and plate tectonics.  Much to ponder about our region’s “terra un-firma.” Alan Jutzi, the Huntington’s chief rare books curator, took us through a magnificent show and tell of Huntington treasures (including the first – first!—image of the New World), which is always compelling and amazing.

Thursday was a day off.  Friday was …. Kayaking the LA River!

See you in September.