Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

journal homepage:

F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

Table 1
Incorporation and secession in California
Who c...
F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

way construction programmes. However, L.A. emerged as a ‘city...

F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

Triggered by a change in state legislation easing seces...
F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

analysis. This enables us to add other dimensions to their

F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

stimulating growth, let alone sprawl. Transportation an...
F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

interests, with an important edge due to cheap generation. Th...

F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

In brief, the role of DWP bureaucrats was central in el...
F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

disasters as the City’s leadership gives higher priority and

F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842

bureaucracies and massive infrastructure investments) t...
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Water, power and urban politics in Los Angeles


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Research article on history of water and power networks in Los Angeles, California, USA, in relation to urban regime, planning policies and contemporary issues.

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Water, power and urban politics in Los Angeles

  1. 1. Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Geoforum journal homepage: Water and power networks and urban fragmentation in Los Angeles: Rethinking assumed mechanisms Fionn MacKillop a,*, Julie-Anne Boudreau b a b University of Durham, Department of Geography Science Site, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Montreal, Canada a r t i c l e i n f o Article history: Received 13 April 2007 Received in revised form 18 June 2008 Keywords: Splintering urbanism Sprawl Urban fragmentation Los Angeles Secession Incorporation Integration Urban networks Water and power networks a b s t r a c t Los Angeles is often described as the epitome of urban fragmentation, a notion which in this context is frequently connected to, or even conflated with urban sprawl. At the same time, the city features integrated water and power networks which have been under public ownership for over 70 years. We thus have an apparent paradox in the context of the debate on ‘splintering urbanism’, between socio-spatial fragmentation and the integration of networks. In discussing the idea that deregulation of infrastructural networks exacerbates urban fragmentation, the authors use the case of Los Angeles in order to highlight the central role of private interests in management decisions concerning infrastructure networks. The authors carry out their analysis in an historical perspective, revealing that network integration and universal access can often serve private interests more than the public good. Urban fragmentation in Los Angeles, they conclude, is the result of a complex process of instrumentalisation of network development and management. Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction In Splintering Urbanism (2001), Graham and Marvin offer an incisive critique of deregulation and the unequal development of network infrastructure. Their main thesis is that under the umbrella of a neoliberal ideology and with new mechanisms (deregulation, unbundeling, etc.), infrastructural networks can serve as powerful instruments of fragmentation, resulting in increasing inequalities. Our purpose in this paper is to demonstrate that indeed, infrastructural networks are important political instruments mobilised by elites and decision-makers to further their interests, often times with fragmenting consequences and increasing inequalities. This has always been the case, not merely under neoliberalism. However, the use of network management as an instrument of power does not necessarily lead to the expected fragmentation. In other words, it is not necessarily in the interest of the elites to deregulate or de-integrate infrastructural networks. Or, to put it in a more critical perspective, an integrated organisation of networks does not necessarily lead to more urban cohesion and fewer social inequalities. This is particularly visible in the case of Los Angeles, a city which has been described since the 1920s (Deverell and Sitton, * Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: (F. MacKillop), Julie-anne. (J.-A. Boudreau). 0016-7185/$ - see front matter Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2008.07.005 2001), as the cutting edge of the (Western) urban experience, with its massive conversion to the automobile and its sprawling pattern of growth that seemed to prefigure today’s urban dynamics. In the context of current debates over the fragmentary tendencies at work in (urban) societies, it comes as no surprise to see the City of Angels portrayed as the ‘fragmented metropolis’ par excellence, to paraphrase Fogelson (1967). More recent research (Davis, 1990) has tended to focus on L.A.’s ‘fragmentation’, linking it to a wide array of issues: segregation, sprawl, pollution, transportation. Despite this wide-ranging and long-lasting agreement on the matter, one feels slightly puzzled by this use of the notion of ‘fragmentation’ in this context. Indeed, it often seems to be used as a byword for a particular kind of sprawl. In effect, L.A. has long been labelled, not just in popular culture, but also in academic fields, as the epitome of the sprawling city (Bruegmann, 2006) with all the negative stereotypes attached to this. It seems to us that L.A.’s spatial shape is all too rapidly interpreted in social and political terms as meaning that it is a profoundly de-integrated city, i.e. a fragmented city. While sprawl as such is not directly our issue here, we discuss the links between networks, urban sprawl, and urban fragmentation. In relation to the ‘splintering urbanism’ debate, the case of Los Angeles represents an apparently paradoxical situation where a city widely characterised as ‘fragmented’ from a socio-political and spatial point of view, presents a high degree of network integration that even withstood the tide of liberalisation of the
  2. 2. 1834 F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 Table 1 Incorporation and secession in California Who can initiate it? Incorporation: Creation of a new municipality on land formally administered by the county Secession: Creation of a new municipality by separation from an existing municipality Is it viable? Who decides? – A political entity such as a district or county can vote a resolution in order to launch the incorporation procedure – Residents can initiate the process by gathering signatures on a petition from at least 25% of residents registered to vote in the sector concerned with incorporation Residents can initiate the process by gathering signatures on a petition from at least 25% of residents registered to vote in the sector concerned with secession Demands for incorporation are submitted to a California agency (LAFCO). They evaluate the feasibility and revenue-neutrality of the proposed municipality Incorporation has to be approved by the voters by a simple majority Demands for secession are submitted to a California agency (LAFCO). They evaluate the feasibility and revenue-neutrality of the proposed municipality Secession has to be approved by the voters by a double majority: (1) in the secessionist area; (2) in the city affected by secession 1990 s. One of the important and a priori surprising characteristics of Los Angeles is the fact that its water and power networks are integrated in one company (the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, LADWP) and under municipal management since the beginning of the 20th century. Of course, to put this in perspective, it is not uncommon for water to be managed by municipalities in the United States, but it is probably more so for power, and all the more uncommon for both services to be provided by the same municipal company, and over such a long period of time. We argue here that the development and preservation of integrated and municipal water and power networks supported tendencies towards a particular kind of segregated urban sprawl, which, in turn, laid the groundwork for other forms of urban fragmentation.1 The latter took the shape of unravelling social and political links. Networked services can thus be made to serve different goals, and understanding this entails analysing socio-political dynamics of power surrounding their management. Inspired by regime and growth-machine theories, we demonstrate that the case of Los Angeles, far from being a paradox, can be explained by analysing long-term links between the elite’s interests in the management of water and power networks and urban socio-spatial dimensions. In order to carry out this analysis, we opted for an historical perspective of the role of urban technical networks in the dynamics of fragmentation.2 We selected two key moments to help us understand how network-related sprawl can be connected to sprawl-related fragmentation: the municipalisation and subsequent universalisation of water and power in Los Angeles (1890s–1930s), and, more recently (1990s–2000s), the debate over network deregulation and privatisation in Los Angeles in the context of increasing fragmenting tendencies. This selection of two key moments is not intended as a comparison: we emphasise these moments because we have identified them as two periods when the links between urban networks, sprawl and fragmentation appear in a particularly strong and problematical manner and allow us to further the debate on ‘splintering urbanism’. The paper is organised in two main sections before a long conclusion. We begin with a review of existing work on fragmentation in Los Angeles (Section 2) in order to set the stage for our focus on the mechanisms linking fragmenting processes and network management. This enables us, in Section 3, to enter the debate on Graham and Marvin’s ‘splintering urbanism’ thesis through an empirical analysis of how water and power networks were integrated in Los Angeles (1890s–1930s) and how this network integration was maintained in a period of otherwise strong fragmenting tendencies such as deregulation and secession (1990s–2000s).3 In light of this empirical examination, we discuss in conclusion the importance of distinguishing between different types of fragmenting tendencies (urban form, social integration, and political organisation) and their changing relation with network management over time. That is, an integrated network can have positive effects on political cohesion at some point in time, but this can yield negative impacts on the continuity of urban form and on social inequalities at other times. 1 We use the typology of fragmentation established by Navez-Bouchanine (2002). She distinguishes between fragmentation of the urban form, socio-spatial fragmentation, and, political and organisational fragmentation. The fragmentation of the urban form (commonly identified with urban sprawl) corresponds to a growing heterogeneity between city spaces, the multiplication of intra-city boundaries, the privatisation of public space, as well as deconcentrated and polarised sprawl. Sociospatial fragmentation, on the other hand, refers to increasing inequalities between parts of the city, the gradual breaking down of social cohesion (or at least of the idea that the city was once more of a community). Finally, political and organisational fragmentation is also particularly relevant in the L.A. case. It corresponds to the multiplication of uncoordinated administrative organisms in the metropolis, such as the thousands of special-purpose districts in Southern California. Moreover, this category refers to the process whereby government gradually yields to a rising involvement of private actors, for instance in the field of networked service provision. 2 Archival work was conducted by the authors for their respective doctoral dissertations. For the 1990s–2000s period, 4 semi-structured interviews were added to the 17 interviews conducted by one of the authors for her dissertation on secessionist movements in Los Angeles. 2.1. Los Angeles and the fragmentation of urban form: precocious postsuburbanisation 2. Fragmenting tendencies in Los Angeles: Urban form, social ties, and political organisation Los Angeles, as already noted, has been at the centre of numerous studies of fragmentation, often coated with an alarmist overtone. Our purpose here is not to offer a complete review of this work. However, given that we aim to use the case of Los Angeles in order to nuance the causal relationship between deregulated and de-integrated infrastructural networks and urban fragmentation proposed by Graham and Marvin (2001), it is important to rapidly review some of the main diagnostics of fragmentation in L.A. Let us simply categorise this abundant work in three types of fragmenting tendencies (Navez-Bouchanine, 2002): urban form, social ties, and political organisation. When one thinks of fragmentation of the urban form, sprawl is the first idea that comes to mind. From a spatial point of view, sprawl is mostly described as the result of a massive suburbanisation (Bruegmann, 2006). The latter is often portrayed as a post-war phenomenon, with, for instance, in the case of California, the G.I. Bill and its subsidies for returning servicemen, and massive free3 In the 1990s, the City of L.A. had to face three important secessionist claims, whereby parts of the municipal territory would have been separated from the existing municipality and incorporated into a new autonomous city if the voters had approved the initiative (see Table 1 for an explanation of the legal nuances between secession and incorporation).
  3. 3. F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 way construction programmes. However, L.A. emerged as a ‘city of suburbs’ much earlier, in the 1920s, when White elites began to settle away from downtown with dreams of being closer to ‘nature’, in single-family housing, away from other ethnic groups. The post-war trend towards urban sprawl is therefore better characterised as a process of post-suburbanisation. Indeed, while the turn of the century suburb depended on the central city for work, cultural activities, and administrative services, post-war peripheral settlements were characterised by residential, industrial, commercial, cultural, and administrative decentralisation, thus ending the pattern of suburban dependency on the central city (Deverell and Sitton, 2001; Fishman, 1987; Jackson, 1985). The process of postsuburbanisation saw the gradual fall of downtown as a focal point for the metropolis, from an economic, cultural and symbolic point of view. Until then, for instance, transportation networks were centred around downtown (the Los Angeles tramway network, at its acme, illustrated this). With the advent of the automobile, transportation networks were intentionally decentralised. The historical downtown was thus increasingly bypassed, in favour of an everincreasing number of ‘mini-downtowns’ with their own cultural institutions and a thriving neighbourhood life that displaced central L.A. in material, but also symbolic terms. In L.A., as early as the 1930s, post-suburbanisation became the main defining process of urbanisation. In other words, urban sprawl in L.A. was caused by more than a ‘bourgeois utopia’ (Fishman, 1987); it was a planned process of deconcentration (Hise, 1997). This gradual and precocious deconcentration of housing, and then industry, followed by parts of the administration, are the characteristics of fragmentation in Los Angeles as defined by Robert Fogelson in his classical study (Fogelson, 1967). 2.2. Los Angeles and the fragmentation of social ties: racial tensions and the ‘fortress city’ Pulido (2000) explains that sprawl, or, rather, planned deconcentration, was based on a desire to escape downtown congestion and to provide a good quality of life to White workers, concerns which intensified after the 1965 Watts rebellion (Pulido, 2000). Los Angeles had been characterised by racial and class tensions from the beginning of its US history (i.e. from the 1850s), creating a segregated residential landscape. Developers were able to enforce residential segregation through strict deed restrictions (Abu-Lughod, 1999). The ‘redlining’ practices of the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), which ranked neighbourhoods along racial lines, had the effect of pushing economic development out of central city neighbourhoods (Pulido, 2000). While redlining was declared illegal as a result of the civil rights movement, segregation pursued its course with the appearance of gated communities in the Palos Verdes peninsula, west San Fernando Valley and adjacent Ventura County (Soja, 2000, p. 317). This kind of residential development is in fact a more extreme version of the widespread process of gentrification and the appearance of ‘premium networked spaces’ and other mechanisms of social control (Davis, 1990; Graham and Marvin, 2001). These dynamics have led many observers to speak of a ‘fortress city’ (Davis, 1990) and ‘defensive architecture’ (Graham and Marvin, 2001). These processes of deconcentration, both residential and industrial, and the dynamics of racial and class tensions, reached their acme in cyclical incorporation rushes, or, alternatively, in secessionist backlashes. 2.3. Los Angeles and the fragmentation of political organisation: tax revolts and the lack of social solidarity Incorporation is when the majority of the population in an area votes to become a city, with the prerogatives enjoyed by city gov- 1835 ernments in California, such as home-rule and control over taxation rates and resources. This incorporation can occur from scratch, in the case of a previously unincorporated (county) territory, or as the result of secession from an established municipality (Table 1). A first cycle of incorporations began at the turn of the century and lasted until the 1930s. For many incorporationists, it was a means to exclude saloons and other ‘immoral’ venues or to improve municipal services. Real-estate developers and land-use concerns also played a central role in many incorporation movements. The apprehension of being annexed by the City of Los Angeles or other larger cities such as Long Beach or Pasadena, precipitated several other incorporation movements. From the onset, the dynamics of incorporations were connected to the provision of water. Indeed, many communities were annexed to larger cities, especially Los Angeles, to obtain water they had been unable or unwilling to procure. Incorporation activity dropped between 1930 and 1954, due to the Depression and the preference for special purpose districts for service provision. The postwar period was characterised by a spectacular boom in suburban real-estate development and large-scale tract subdivisions on which lower middle-class and middle-class homes mushroomed at an impressive pace (Hoch, 1984; Waldie, 1997). It is in this context that the Lakewood Plan was crafted in 1954, under the initiative of incorporationists in the newly-built subdivided tracts. The plan allowed the county to keep control over services while permitting the incorporation of smaller cities, a good way to stop the growth of the City of Los Angeles, because incorporated territories could resist absorption.4 As Miller demonstrates, 33 incorporations (1954–1980) in Los Angeles County were motivated first and foremost by a desire to avoid taxes: affluent areas, or those dominated by business or industry (the post-Lakewood cities of Commerce and Industry are a case in point) incorporated to avoid having to pay for less well-off citizens, or simply to not have to provide any services at all (the city of Vernon, for instance, has only a handful of residents). Control over land use, a primary motivation for earlier incorporations, came far behind (Miller, 1981). Incorporation slowed down a little in Los Angeles County in the 1980s, while it continued in Orange County following population growth and development of suburban communities there.5 More visible than incorporations though, the 1990s brought a resurgence of secessionist claims. ‘Secession’ is a different process than incorporation as it involves breaking apart from an established municipality and re-incorporating as a new one. It occurred only twice in California history, once in San Diego, with the detachment of Coronado in 1890, after the first beach resort was built. The second case was in Los Angeles County with the amicable detachment of Montebello from Monterey Park in 1920 (Bigger and Kitchen, 1952; Abu-Lughod, 1999). 4 Aside from those political aspects, it is important to note that annexations to the City of Los Angeles also stopped because the city no longer held such sway over regional water resources. Indeed, the completion, in 1940, of the Colorado River aqueduct (Mulholland, 2001) effectively created a ‘water wall’ (Erie, 2006) around Los Angeles municipal boundaries, because water management was mutualised through the creation of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD or Met), adding yet another layer to the already complex regional infrastructure of water supply. Likewise, the electricity sector in southern California was from the onset divided among several private companies (MacKillop, 2003) that supplied different communities, but the political drive for municipal power provision was much weaker, and therefore power provision was not related to the annexation (or resistance to annexation) of communities to the City of Los Angeles. 5 An exception to the relative incorporation quietness of the 1980s in Los Angeles County was the incorporation of West Hollywood in 1984.
  4. 4. 1836 F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 Triggered by a change in state legislation easing secession in 1997, secessionist movements surfaced in the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, the Harbor area, Eagle Rock, Venice, Mt. Washington, South Central. But the only two secessionist movements that were able to secure enough signatures and progress to the next stages of the new secession procedure established in 1997 were the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood, although the Harbor movement came very close as well. As we shall analyse later, water and power networks and their management played an important role in the dynamics of secession, as they did in that of annexation (see Fig. 1). Sprawl, racial tensions, and tax revolts are often what fragmentation means in Los Angeles. A quintessential image of fragmentation, we thus chose Los Angeles as our case study to engage in the ‘splintering urbanism’ debate. In their provoking and thoughtful argument, Graham and Marvin (2001) suggest one possible explanation of such fragmentation: deregulation and de-integration of infrastructural networks would either cause, or at least exacerbate, such spatial, social, and political processes of urban fragmentation. While they develop this argument based on numerous cases, we offer here a reflection on their proposal from a different approach based on an in-depth single case study and a historical CITY OF SAN FERNANDO Pacoima Chatsworth Northridge Sun Valley BURBANK Van Nuys UNIVERSAL C ITY Woodland Hills CALABASAS GLENDALE Griffith Park Sherman Oaks Mulholland Drive Franklin Ave WEST HOLLYWOOD BEVERLY HILLS SANTA MONICA Vermont Ave Melrose Ave Fairfax Ave MALIBU Downtown CULVER CITY Pacific Ocean LAX COMPTON CITY OF LOS ANGELES San Fernando Valley secessionist area C ARSON Hollywood secessionist area Harbor secessionist area Lomita Blvd. Municipal boundaries before secession N AVAL R ESERVATION Boundaries of proposed cities LONG BEACH LA R AMBLA N 0 10 km Sources: Clarke 2002, Calemine 2002, Los Angeles Times 2002, and LAFCO 2002 Conception and realization by JA. Boudreau Fig. 1. Secessionist movements. Tide and submerged lands
  5. 5. F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 analysis. This enables us to add other dimensions to their argument. 3. ‘Splintering urbanism’ in Los Angeles: an historical analysis of the role of water and power networks In order to better understand fragmenting tendencies in Los Angeles and the specific role of water and power networks, we posit as a starting hypothesis that the creation and endurance of an integrated and public network is not the product of a universalist belief in the public interest, but rather of a state developmental strategy aiming to serve private interests. This use of public institutions to favour business efficiency, would in turn result from strong growth coalitions between locally-embedded business and municipal actors. Indeed, to understand how water and power networks (in this case, but the analysis can apply to other networks in other spatial and/or historical contexts) can mediate socio-political and spatial dimensions of urban life, it is fundamental to analyse the issue of power in relation to network management. Such a perspective, of course, has been thoroughly developed in the literature on urban regimes (Stone, 1989) and ‘growth machines’ (Molotch, 1976), which analyses how coalitions of urban elites (from the business and/or political spheres) muster public resources to achieve private goals. The literature also analyses how these coalitions succeed in obtaining wideranging public support in the community, and create a sense of purpose that cements the coalition over sometimes very long periods, such as in the classical case of Atlanta described by Stone (1989). Coalitions and their dynamics have an impact on the built environment of cities, through the policies that are enacted. In the case of Los Angeles, there was an oligarchy of businessmen that contributed to shaping water policy and, through it, land use at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the 20th century. Although this oligarchy subsequently declined and growth coalitions are much more fragmented in the city and region today, we will see that groups of actors pursuing private interests still shape public policy in significant ways, including network service provision and its socio-spatial impacts. 3.1. Understanding how water and power networks shape the urban form (1890s–1930s) Our primary focus in analysing this first historical period is to illustrate how the development of water and power networks was intimately linked to both fragmenting and integrating processes. Indeed, water and power networks enabled sprawl, while permitting organisational and political integration through annexations. We will see later how in the more recent period, these infrastructural networks contributed to political integration in the face of secessionist threats. L.A. illustrates how integrated infrastructure and service provision are no guaranty of urban cohesion, as often assumed in the ‘splintering urbanism’ debate. When and where integrated infrastructural networks contribute to preventing fragmentation, they rarely do so in the name of a universalistic belief in the public good and the reduction of social inequalities. 3.1.1. Sprawl, urban networks, and cultural factors We do not imply here that water and power networks were the only factor in urban sprawl, or indeed that they ‘caused’ sprawl, let alone fragmentation. Indeed, sprawl in the City of Angels is also linked to the history of transportation. First with the tram lines developed from the end of the 19th century with funding from real-estate and business magnates such as Moses Sherman or the pervasive Southern Pacific railway company, as part of a strategy of relentless land development. Then, from the 1920s, with the ra- 1837 pid rise of the automobile and public policies6 that deliberately sacrificed public transportation, sprawl emerged on a wider scale, in an even more uncoordinated and sometimes chaotic manner. But, behind this oft-stressed importance of transportation modes and infrastructure, lie deep-seated ideologies: that of the ‘garden city’ advocated by L.A.’s ‘founding fathers’ and embraced by the Midwesterners that peopled the city in waves from the 1880s. These relatively wealthy people came in search of the ‘good life’ (McWilliams, 1946): the best of city and country, without the density identified with ‘decaying’ East coast cities (Starr, 1990). L.A. was the first city to be sold to the country as a resort, by an enterprising oligarchy of businessmen7 who touted its climate, natural beauty and an ‘open shop’ approach to business.8 3.1.2. The pivotal role of water and power However, it is necessary to take into account the history of water provision, and to a lesser extent, power provision. Indeed, one must keep in mind that such a pattern of deconcentrated development would not have been possible in the semi-arid settings of Los Angeles without a good water supply and efficient water distribution system, covering the whole city and its everexpanding subdivisions. This suggests ties between the development-oriented oligarchy, and the planning of water supply and distribution (Kahrl, 1986; Mulholland, 2001; Erie, 2006), pointing once more to the local political context. The latter can be defined as a regime (Stone, 1989; Dowding, 2001) due to the process and characteristics of bargaining between public and private interests, the role of business, and the relatively long-lived consensus on growth, its tools, and its socio-political goals. What’s more, L.A. could not have become the industrial powerhouse, or, in other terms, a ‘mercantile’ regime (Kantor et al., 1997), without a good power supply too, which was instrumental in attracting industry. Moreover, industry siting and workforce housing played a key role in the acceleration of sprawl coupled with the deconcentration of activities in the city of Los Angeles(Deverell and Sitton, 2001). Industry was thus able to settle throughout Los Angeles and contribute, in a cumulative process (as described earlier), to a sprawling, and ultimately, fragmenting city, due to the development of water and power networks. The latter did not follow housing and industry, but preceded them and opened up the city’s territory to deconcentrated growth, whilst transportation, in a dialectic process, built upon the opportunities offered by increasingly widespread water availability. A closer look at the history of water and power network development in L.A. can help us analyse this point and emphasise the importance of the local context and its evolution. We distinguish between different periods, as water and power networks did not always play the same role in relation to sprawl. Between the annexation of California, in 1850, to the turn of the century (MacKillop, 2003; Mulholland, 2001), water was under private management in Los Angeles: private individuals first, and then the Los Angeles City Water Company (LACWC) incorporated in the 1860s, which represented an evolution towards more professional water management. But the narrow focus on financial returns precluded the necessary investments, thus impeding more than 6 Such as the Major Traffic Street Plan of 1925 which set forth an ambitious programme of urban freeways to adapt Los Angeles to the automobile. 7 This oligarchy was composed of figures such as Harrison Otis, editor of the Los Angeles Times, and his son-in-law Chandler; together with other developers, bankers and politicians, they formed a ‘power structure’ (Davis, 1998) that advocated neverending growth of Los Angeles; indeed, their personal fortune was linked to that of the city. 8 The promotion of Los Angeles was summed up in the slogan ‘Oranges for Health – Southern California for Wealth!’ coined by the Los Angles Chamber of Commerce, and carried by trains loaded with oranges which crossed the country (especially the Midwest) at the end of the 19th century.
  6. 6. 1838 F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 stimulating growth, let alone sprawl. Transportation and real estate moguls played a greater role at the time, often leaving developments without water to sustain them. This situation hit the worse-off harder, as many inhabitants had to resort to water carriers(Mulholland, 2001), although some wealthy neighbourhoods were also affected. In the case of power networks, which started to develop in the 1880s, and were quickly divided between Southern California Edison, Los Angeles Power and Electric and Pacific Gas and Electric, all private companies, the same pattern of insufficient coverage appeared. However development of the network proceeded rather fast, due to the fact that power networks are relatively easier and cheaper to set up than water networks, and played a less strategic role in the development of L.A. Investments tended to concentrate on profitable areas, such as the downtown business district, which benefited first from modern technologies. Thus, in the early days (1850–1900), water and power networks seem to have played a limited role in urban sprawl: although they tended to catch up on urban development, they were not ahead of it, especially during the several periods of population booms that characterised a speculative economy. The fact that networks were not up to the task was made manifest by reactions of the population in general, and of the business oligarchy, joined by the political world, in particular. Dissatisfaction focused on the costly and generally antiquated water supply, as well as the fact that the LACWC had shown itself incapable of and/or or unwilling to, procure a new, larger water supply than that of the Los Angeles River and local aquifers. The business and political elites, and the population in general, agreed on the idea that Los Angeles was to become ‘the greatest city in the world’ (McWilliams, 1946) and therefore required a water supply adequate to this destiny. Thus, in reaction to the apparent inertia of the LACWC, the water service was municipalised at the turn of the century. Eventually, the power system would be too, albeit more slowly and with greater controversy (municipalisation of power was achieved in 1936). The fact that water and power were municipalised in the first place, in a city known for its socially conservative, pro-business mores, on the one hand, but also the discrepancy in the chronology between municipalisation of the two networks on the other hand, must be analysed with more detail to understand how a connection between networks and sprawl was historically forged in L.A. In 1902, by referendum,9 the population of Los Angeles massively accepted the municipalisation of the LACWC. Moreover, municipal control was actively supported by the Los Angeles Times, owned by Otis, a leading figure of the business oligarchy, always ready to violently denounce rampant ‘socialism’ in his leaders (McWilliams, 1946). Thus, the oligarchy found itself supporting municipal control together with the Progressive10 politicians of the city, some of which were also rather conservative businessmen, but others, such as John Randolph Haynes, were more left-leaning and would later face the wrath of Otis (Deverell, 1994). How can we explain this wide-ranging support, and what did the advent of municipal management change concerning the relationship between networks and processes of sprawl and fragmentation? On the part of the oligarchy, support for municipal management was clearly a very pragmatic move, based on the failure of the LACWC to ensure the growth of the city and its business. A municipal utility would benefit from community resources (bond issues to fund improvements) and would thus be able to invest more than the LACWC was willing to. Furthermore, 9 California law requires a 2/3 voter majority for any project implying city indebtedness, which was the case here, as L.A. issued bonds to pay for the purchase of the LACWC, its rights to water, and its infrastructure. 10 Progressivism was a very important movement in Californian politics from the 1880s to the 1920s; Progressives consisted mainly of Republicans who advocated a more professional politics, based on scientific knowledge, rationality and an apolitical approach to local affairs. The movement featured varying sensitivities from more conservative to more liberal. the oligarchy had certain provisions included in the management of the new Bureau of Water Works and Supply: a panel, selected by the mayor, would manage the utility, keeping it ‘out of politics’. Indeed, the first panel nominees were considered by Mulholland, the former superintendent of the LACWC freshly named to the position of Chief Engineer of the municipal utility,11 a body of ‘fine businessmen’, with figures such as Moses Sherman, head of a big streetcar company and involved in several real estate projects, together with other prominent bankers and real estate interests (Mulholland, 2001). The big change in policy brought by the municipal utility was in developing a new water supply which allowed the city to expand. Mulholland set himself to the task selecting the Owens River, several hundred miles away, as the best option. A gigantic aqueduct was built between 1906 and 1913. When it came online,12 the oligarchy, aware of municipal plans since they were on the board of the utility, started to purchase relatively cheap land in the then-arid San Fernando Valley north of the city, to speculate on its value. The vast valley is now the epitome of suburbia,13 with miles upon miles of commercial strips and mini-malls. Real estate moguls, with their control of the land as well as transportation networks, paved the way for this, and needed cheap and abundant water to do it. But this major new supply would not have played the same role without pipes to deliver it throughout the expanding city. Indeed, heated debates took place over the modalities of network planning and funding (MacKillop, 2003). Mulholland apparently advocated a more concentrated, compact design to fill in the holes in the cityscape, but a more spread-out pattern finally emerged to allow for wideranging development (ibid.). The oligarchy had clearly pursued its interests in advocating municipal control. But the Progressives were also quite content, as Owens Valley water had another effect: territories began to annex to the city, in order to benefit from the boom; in the 1910s, the city’s surface doubled. This satisfied the desire for an ‘imperial Los Angeles’ (Starr, 1990), and also shows that networks played a role in territorial integration, at that period, paving the way for a metropolitan Los Angeles. Thus, the municipalisation of water, and the network development policies pursued by the department, did not just open up new territories for development, and, ultimately, support sprawl: the annexations brought political integration of outlying communities into the city of Los Angeles. The new territories opened up by the aqueduct would not begin to really fill in before the boom of the 1940s, but settlements already emerged, around agricultural activities essentially, creating a pattern of low density, deconcentrated urbanisation. Indeed, throughout the city, heavy investments and personal dedication (embodied by Mulholland at the head of the water department) allowed for universal access to a dependable and cheaper water service, stimulating growth and also making more and more areas (such as hills and previously badly-supplied zones) available for development. This combined with a mindset favouring low density to produce an ever-deconcentrating city. The same goes for power under municipal control, although this was achieved with greater difficulty. Indeed, several private power companies, with ties to the local oligarchy, were operating in the city of Los Angeles when the aqueduct was being developed. At first, there was no question of the city going into the power business, although municipally-generated power was used in the building of the aqueduct. Yet, the immense potential of the aqueduct as a source of hydropower led the city to gradually enter the market in the 1910s, becoming a de facto competitor for private 11 This illustrates the very ‘incremental’ approach that characterised municipalisation: it was no ‘revolution’, and the structures of the private utility only underwent gradual change. 12 It was at the time the biggest public works project in the world. 13 This city is a focal point of the secessionist movement, as we shall see later.
  7. 7. F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 interests, with an important edge due to cheap generation. This led to a collision with the oligarchy, which consistently criticised municipal power, branded as dangerous ‘socialism’ by Otis in his Los Angeles Times. Nevertheless, private utilities were gradually taken over, as they could not face the competition nor manage to purchase the city’s generation capacities. In 1934, the last private utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, was taken over. Indeed, power, from a by-product of water management, had become a crucial business for the city. It generated cross-subsidies for the costly water network. Moreover, it was key to L.A. becoming an industrial metropolis in the ‘balanced growth’ perspective, helping to attract industries such as tyres, automobile, aeronautics or even military bases. Thus, the case for a unified utility controlling water and power in Los Angeles was strong, giving birth in 1936 to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, as it is still called today. The development of power production and distribution under municipal management mirrored the pattern followed by water: heavy investments, modernisation, innovative tariff structures, aggressive customer base building (MacKillop, 2003). The development of such an efficient power network was the next step in producing a deconcentrated city, as sprawl accelerated with the growth of industry, which scattered throughout the city, enjoying the abundance of available land, and its connection to good water and power networks. 3.1.3. Water and power networks between fragmentation and integration Thus, we can see that the development of water and power networks in Los Angeles from the turn of the century to the 1930s, together with a mindset favourable to low density settlement, and in the specific political context of the time, combined to support sprawl. The groundwork was laid for even more sprawl after World War II, and a growing feeling of an unravelling city, not only in its shape, but also socially and politically, as the 1965 riots, for instance, would dramatically illustrate. However, networks played an important role in forging political integration with outlying territories and contributing to the emergence of a politically and fiscally unified city, in contrast to the multiplication of incorporations from the 1950s. Therefore, policies in the field of networks in Los Angeles saw the gradual political and territorial integration of the city, whilst also supporting tendencies towards social and symbolic fragmentation. Indeed, the universal availability of water and power at relatively cheap rates and with good quality of service provided the physical infrastructure for the advancement of an explicit project of physical deconcentration. After having analysed the historically crucial period of the municipalisation of water and power, we will now focus on the equally important decade of the 1990s. Indeed, whereas municipalisation saw the emergence of the mode of governance that would characterise the LADWP for several decades, the 1990s were a moment of turmoil, that threatened to unravel the organisation of the municipal department and its relationship with the city and its development patterns. 3.2. The sustained integration of network management in a period of turmoil (1990s–2000s) We now jump several decades, not so much because nothing happened between 1920 and 1990, but to focus on another intense and fundamental period of debates around water and power networks. Indeed, in the seventy years between our two historical periods, the management of water and power networks in L.A. was consolidated rather than challenged. Just as in the 1920s, the 1990s was a period of demographic growth. The city-region was also dealing with a series of socio-ecological disasters (the Malibu fires of 1993 and 1996, the Northridge 1839 earthquake of 1994). A climate of racial tensions culminated in the 1992 riots. Right-wing politicians and activists responded with anti-immigration measures (Propositions 187, 226, 209). Privatisation and neoliberalisation reigned. At first glance, it seems surprising that L.A. decided to maintain a municipalised water and power system in this context. However, as it will become clear, just as in the 1920s, municipal water and power services were not (mainly) a result of a belief in the inherent benefits of serving the public interest, but rather a means to serve private businesses efficiently. 3.2.1. The decision not to privatise the DWP In 1996, the California legislature unanimously voted to deregulate the electric power market (AB1890). Investor-owned utilities (IOU) such as Pacific Gas, Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric were forced to break their monopoly by opening their service area to competition and separating generation and transmission functions, a process known as unbundling. IOUs did not oppose the legislation given that they could recover losses in profits caused by the breakdown of their monopoly through a competitive transition charge (CTC). Publicly-owned utilities such as the DWP had the choice to follow or not.14 In 1997, the L.A. municipal council decided not to deregulate. AB1890 was based on the generally consensual idea that competition would lower rates. Despite the decision not to deregulate, the new legislation nevertheless prompted a debate on the governance of the DWP in order to prepare the municipal enterprise to face the pressures of a new competitive market. Indeed, DWP commercial and industrial rates were higher in order to subsidise residential rates, as is generally the case in the ‘‘modern infrastructural ideal” characterised by a belief in the virtues of public governance and universal access. Many were afraid that these higher rates would drive firms to move outside of the DWP’s service area in order to benefit from (expected) lower rates in deregulated areas.15 According to the DWP, difficulties in competing with private utilities were caused by: (1) its obligation to keep residential rates down (due to electoral pressure) and commercial and industrial rates high; (2) difficulties in financing its high stranded costs ($4 billion).16 In 1997, there was a generalised consensus on the benefits of deregulation. The DWP was following the mood, but L.A. Council refused to go as far as deregulation (while it did accept many DWP internal restructuring changes to ‘enhance competitiveness’). Council’s rationale was that it did not make sense to sell lucrative assets such as the DWP, particularly when there was no electoral pressure to do so. Nobody at the time was anticipating the 2000– 2001 fiasco. With the blackouts hitting deregulated sectors during those years, the DWP made $2 billion in profits by selling its surplus at the same advantageous rate L.A. residents were enjoying.17 The 2000–2001 DWP annual report explains this policy in terms of the need to be accountable to the people as a public agency.18 14 According to the home rule principle, the California legislature cannot interfere in municipal affairs and must respect city charters. Municipal services are thus accountable only to Council and the mayor. 15 The DWP estimated that its generation costs were twice as high as anticipated rates in a deregulated market (Department of Water and Power, 1997, p. 12). 16 Stranded costs refer to the difficulties utility companies have in reimbursing debts accumulated for their investment in plants and equipment because customers switch to other providers, thus leaving the company alone to pay back its debts for the plants that were built to serve them. 17 Starting in June 2000, intentionally-engineered power outage hit several thousand customers several times over a year-long period. This was a response to the inability to meet demand for electricity because of insufficient supply and price instability. 18 LADWP put people ahead of profits through its ‘Power California First!’ policy and always said yes in providing out extra energy when other generators turned their backs during California’s time of greatest needs’ (Department of Water and Power, 2002a, p. 2).
  8. 8. 1840 F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 In brief, the role of DWP bureaucrats was central in elaborating a universalist discourse on the public good in order to legitimate a decision that was essentially aimed at creating more revenue for the City of L.A. (at least from the point of view of the Council). Indeed, the decision not to deregulate was mostly motivated by the fear of losing an important revenue source for the City of L.A., as well as the power to control electricity rates (something that can come handy in electoral campaigns). Indeed, the City of L.A. has three financially independent proprietary departments: the DWP, LAX (the international airport), and the Harbor. These departments manage their own budget, assets and liabilities; and they transfer funds to the City budget. They have a combined annual budget of $4 billion ($2.95 billion for the DWP alone in 2001–2002), which is about the equivalent of the City of L.A.’s general funds budget. The DWP has about 7500 employees, more than the Los Angeles Police Department. These proprietary departments are thus very powerful and important. They are nevertheless not politically autonomous. A Board of Commissioners governs them, but daily management is ensured by the executive director (appointed by the mayor with the approval of Council). Rates and the amount of annual transfers to the City budget are controlled by Council.19 But debates around deregulation have given DWP bureaucrats, and executive director D. Freeman in particular, the opportunity to claim more autonomy from Council. He argued: We face a change of circumstances in our industry that is akin to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Fierce competitors are preparing to lure away commercial and industrial customers who represent 2/3 of our $2.4 billion annual electric sales. We must have a governance structure that will make sure that we can compete, and preserve the benefits to the City that flow from those sales (Freeman, 1998, p. 5). Similarly, Water and Power Associates, a non-profit formed out of former DWP bureaucrats in order to defend public utilities, explained: The Department of Water and Power (DWP) needs to be able to respond like a business. The DWP also needs to reach decisions within the purifying light of public scrutiny. A public forum is important to give people the advantage of access. As the DWP enters the uncharted waters of deregulation, it should function more like a business, with decisions that are free from daily politics (deposition by Ken Downey, President of Water and Power Associates, quoted in City of Los Angeles Charter Reform Commission, 1998, p. 19). While these tensions between City Hall and the DWP remained downtown-centred, discontent against this concentrated power had been growing in the 1990s, culminating in secessionist referenda in November 2002. Indeed, the roots of the secessionist movement is resentment against the old downtown oligarchy (or growth machine). 3.2.2. Secessionist movements Secessionism arose in various parts of the city, but appeared on the ballot only in the San Fernando Valley (36% of the City of L.A. population, 45% of its land area) and in Hollywood (183,000 residents, 4% of the City of L.A.’s land area and about 4% of the city’s population). In both cases, it was defeated.20 Water and power net19 In 2000–2001, profits from the sale of surplus electricity to areas affected by blackouts increased transfers to the City of L.A. to $206 million. Projections for 2002– 2003 were $185 million (Department of Water and Power, 2002b, pp. 25–26). 20 In order to pass, secession had to be approved by a double majority: (1) in the area claiming secession (support ranged from 51% in the San Fernando Valley to 31% in Hollywood); (2) in the City as a whole (74% opposed secession). This very narrow majority in the San Fernando Valley was heavily concentrated in the western, wealthier parts. works are significantly intertwined with the dynamics of the secessionist process: LAFCO (the California state agency charged with reviewing the feasibility of secession) decided that if secession was to occur, the DWP would not be divided between the remaining City of L.A. and the new cities. This would have led to a publicly-owned, integrated utility, servicing a fragmented political and fiscal territory. Private utilities often deal with more than one municipal jurisdiction within their service area; but in this case, it would have occurred for a public agency, which is generally based on the principle of political and fiscal solidarity. According to Larry Calemine, executive officer of LAFCO, it did not have the authority to change the laws regulating the DWP because the City of L.A. had received exclusive water rights on the L.A. River basin dating back to the Spanish colonisation. The complexity of the legal apparatus concerning water was too great to attempt to break up the supplier (interview with Larry Calemine, June 12, 2003). Other interviews nevertheless revealed that LAFCO were initially open to secessionist claims over DWP assets and infrastructure located within secessionist areas and their demands for joint authority over the DWP (interview with Xandra Kayden, UCLA professor and policy analyst, June 11, 2003). In the end, LAFCO’s decision was the following: in the advent of secession: (1) the DWP would keep all its assets and remain accountable to the City of L.A. Council and Mayor; (2) new cities would compensate the DWP for past debts; (3) new cities would be required to contract with the DWP for water in order to ensure a stable customer base; (4) the DWP would be required to offer water at the same rate as for L.A. residents. This last element launched a public debate that eventually played against secessionists. Indeed, L.A. Council resented the idea of not being able to control rates offered to a future new city. They first contested LAFCO’s power to impose the same rate structure; then they argued that even if it was decided that LAFCO had that authority, there were many ways to go around this. For example, given that residents of a new city would not receive their water from the L.A. River (given that L.A. residents have exclusive rights over the river), the DWP would be forced to impose higher rates in a new city in proportion to the higher costs of these alternative sources.21 Moreover, should property tax exemptions not be provided for DWP facilities in new cities, then residents from these new cities would need to cover these extra costs in their rates (interview with Richard Helgeson, general counsel for the DWP, June 16, 2003). Finally, costs from used water treatment would increase in a new San Fernando Valley city given that L.A. Council could easily decide to base its rate structure on summer usage. Indeed, residents in a new city would be subject to L.A. Council decisions without being able to respond given that they would not have electoral power in L.A. anymore. The San Fernando Valley is much more sprawling than the rest of the City of L.A., lots are bigger, summer temperatures are higher. All these factors contribute to a much heavier water consumption, which is currently subsidised by areas of L.A. where consumption is lower (all L.A. esidents enjoy the same rates, irrespective of volume and costs).22 As Water and Power Associates argue: Elected officials will recognise they can shift costs from the voters that elect them to those that have no vote and they will act in their own political interest and take care of their voting constituents. For similar reasons the Valley and Hollywood should expect deteriorating reliability and slower restoration of service during storms and natural 21 Approximately 13% of the water distributed by the DWP comes from the L.A. River, 48% is bought by the DWP from the Metropolitan Water District. The latter is about a quarter more expensive, in operating costs, than the former. 22 The San Fernando Valley represents about 40% of DWP’s water sales, and $200 million of revenue annually (League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, 2002).
  9. 9. F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 disasters as the City’s leadership gives higher priority and more resources to Los Angeles voters (Water and Power Associates, 2002, pp. 18–19). In addition to these arguments against secession in terms of political access to decisions about water rates, anti-secessionists further argued that dividing the DWP would be impossible given the technical complexity of the system. Moreover, many commentators predicted endless legal battles (One Los Angeles, 2002; League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, 2002). In brief, the water question played against secessionists. Voters were afraid of jeopardising quality, reliability, political access to decision making, and higher rates. 4. Conclusion: the political role of network governance In the context of Los Angeles, universal access to networks and public management are quite compatible with fragmentary tendencies, albeit through a complex process: in the short term, water and power networks in Los Angeles were a factor of integration, but gradually the network’s accessibility and quality supported the emergence on an unprecedented scale of a low-density, polycentric and fragmented metropolis. In the long run, the fear of losing the suburban dream made possible on a grand scale by the development of water and power networks led to fragmentary tendencies, of which secessionist movements are the most acute example, but not the only one. All considered it is not that surprising that in the case of Los Angeles integrated networks should be linked to such fragmentary tendencies, as the emergence and preservation of integrated municipal network provision must be seen in relation to a particular local context which called for the emergence of such a city. This can be connected to differing conceptions of the idea of urban cohesion: whereas in Western Europe, it refers to the notion of an urban society and is intimately connected to efforts directed at ensuring a modicum of equality between city dwellers, in the context of Los Angeles, we see that the integration achieved and sustained through network policies inter alia is of a different nature. Indeed, it was long part of an ‘imperial’ approach, the desire to build an economic and political powerhouse in California, which required the accumulation of resources, especially water, to ensure sustained growth in an unlikely physical setting. Moreover, the integration of various territories achieved through water and power networks was also part of the accumulation of power and wealth by the city’s business elite: the availability of water played a crucial role in the development of the San Fernando Valley, as well as countless subdivisions that brought wealth to developers, bankers and transportation interests. When the threat of secession grew louder and louder, maintaining the integrated form of Los Angeles, and thus of its water and power networks, was intimately connected to issues of revenue protection for the city, as water and power are also a lucrative business for the city’s government. Thus, integrated water and power provision, as well as a nominally integrated metropolis, in part achieved thanks to the former, are compatible with growing social, cultural, racial, and other forms of fragmentation. 4.1. The role of water and power networks in urban sprawl Technical developments (such as the construction of water and power networks) are obviously not the only factor explaining sprawl in L.A. Yet, they can be viewed as powerful ‘technologies of deconcentration’ (Fishman, 1987) used in support of a social ideal: the American Dream of suburban life. The story of L.A. demonstrates how public power was used to further this ideal and support private accumulation by the same token. The municipalisation 1841 of water and electricity can be seen as a public subsidy (in the form of low rates, the extension of quality services, massive transfers of water, etc.) to private welfare. In a word, the planning, funding and management of water and electricity networks in L.A., as soon as they were identified as efficient tools for deconcentration, supported urban sprawl, seen as a socio-political project. As private entities, water and power companies did not play such a role, given that private companies made profit-maximising decisions rather than attempting to support suburbanisation and sprawl as such. 4.2. The role of water and power networks in socio-spatial segregation In the case of L.A., the integrated organisation of water and power networks seems to have played against solidarity and favoured segregation because municipalisation was meant to reinforce individual profit-making interests more than the public good. Moreover, while the DWP serves all sectors of the City of L.A. at the same rate (despite differences in costs), inequalities persist in terms of the quality of water offered, of the location of facilities and the potential nuisances they create (tanks, water filtering plants, and so on), and of political access to decision-making. We did not gather sufficient empirical material on socio-spatial segregation to make solid conclusions here. However, a brief look at differentiated consumption practices and environmental justice claims raises some doubts over the ability of the DWP to provide safeguards against fragmentation, despite the fact that it remains a public, integrated, agency. Controversies surrounding tap water quality (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2002) have encouraged differentiated consumption practices. While the richest turn more and more to bottled water, the poorest develop their own strategies as well, such as buying water within ethnically-based social networks based on trust, the waterias. Some activists are also pushing for a subsidised distribution of bottled water in order to equalise water quality across the city (personal conversation with an activist, June 8, 2003). We are thus facing a paradox: the DWP’s decision not to deregulate has not prevented the individualisation of consumption practices. Another indicator of differentiated practices is the level of consumption. In the San Fernando Valley, as mentioned above, low density, larger lots, and higher temperatures tend to translate into higher consumption (particularly during the summer). In order to prevent other areas from having to subsidise this heavy use, the city council attempted in 1992 to impose a surcharge based on the level of consumption in order to encourage conservation efforts. San Fernando Valley residents pressured the council not to pursue that avenue, and finally won. The threat of secession has also given these residents means to influence the council more than marginalised populations.23 4.3. The role of water and power networks in political and administrative fragmentation The creation, at the turn of the 20th century, of an integrated and municipalised water and power system reinforced the power of a downtown-centred elite. The City of L.A. has relied on its three proprietary departments (DWP, LAX, Harbor) in order to foster economic development. As Erie writes: Until the multiple crises of the early 1990s (recession, riots, and earthquake) shook civic confidence, the City of the Angels never behaved as a city with limits. Instead, Los Angeles acted as a sovereign city-state, using the extensive powers of local government (particularly development 23 In Ecology of Fear (1998), Mike Davis provides many other examples of inequalities in political access.
  10. 10. 1842 F. MacKillop, J.-A. Boudreau / Geoforum 39 (2008) 1833–1842 bureaucracies and massive infrastructure investments) to create, in an unlikely setting, one of the world’s great cities, regions, and hubs of global commerce (Erie, 2004, p. 20). But this downtown-centred power based on close ties between bureaucrats, experts, and business, continues to anger secessionists. Municipalisation was decided on technical and profit-making considerations, just as the decision not to deregulate or dismantle the DWP was based on efficiency and profit-making. This is not surprising in the United States, where fear of ‘big government’ and ‘big business’ has long been part of the political culture, from the beginning of the anti-trust and Progressive movements at the turn of the 20th century, to the fall of Enron and the dismantling of the Welfare state at the turn of the 21st century. Belief in competition, expertise, and efficiency as a means to fight corruption is widespread. Water and power are not considered a citizen right (as in Europe), but vectors of economic development. In brief, ideals of profit-making and efficiency (where the public sector helps private accumulation), of local control, and the American Dream were central in creating what might be seen as the L.A. paradox: the creation of a public and integrated water and power network which has fostered and exacerbated fragmenting processes. In brief, Graham and Marvin’s (2001) suggestion that network de-integration and deregulation exacerbate urban fragmentation does not hold in the case of Los Angeles. However, the ‘splintering urbanism’ thesis has stimulated more empirical research that has yielded reflections on the importance of local contexts, political cultures, and configurations of actors in the analysis of urban and infrastructural governance. While indeed, neoliberal influences have been extremely important in L.A., the long-standing culture of using public institutions to serve business interests in the United States has meant that neoliberal policies of deregulation and deintegration have been avoided in some local contexts, not because they encountered resistance from forces that wished to maintain the welfare state intact (as it was often the case in Europe), but because they did not serve the business interests well. References Abu-Lughod, J.L., 1999. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles: America’s Global Cities. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Bigger, R., Kitchen, J.D., 1952. How the Cities Grew. The Haynes Foundation, Los Angeles. Bruegmann, R., 2006. Sprawl, A Compact History. University of Chicago Press. City of Los Angeles Charter Reform Commission, 1998. Issue ten: How should the proprietary departments be governed and managed? Discussion Materials. 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