Reason TV: Author D.J. Waldie on Being a 'Partisan of Suburban Places'

"Lakewood is not really a suburb anymore, it's a particular kind of urban place that looks suburban superficially but which is netted fully in an urban fabric," says author D.J. Waldie who is most famous for writing Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir, set in 1950s Lakewood, California.

Waldie sat down with Reason Magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch, who also grew up in Lakewood, to talk about city planning and the unique issues affecting suburbia in 2011. For 34 years, Waldie served as the Public Information Officer for the city of Lakewood and still lives in the house he grew up in.

The film rights to Holy Land were bought in late 2010 by actor James Franco for a possible movie.

Waldie is also the author of the book Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles, blogs at and is a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times.

Topics include: Why contract cities pinch every penny; the effects of a recession on suburbia; and why residents are leaving California.

Aproximately 10 minutes.

Camera by Paul Detrick, Alex Manning and Tracy Oppenheimer. Edited by Detrick

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  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Thank you for this great interview Matt! Mr. Waldie's knowledge of, and enthusiasm for Southern California is inspiring. Most telling was Mr. Waldie describing himself not as nostalgiac, but as a realist. Long Beach and it's civic leaders could learn something from him. As I'm driving into Lakewood this afternoon for lunch, I'll look more closely for the "urban fabric".

    More coverage from Reason concerning urban economics/planning/development issues would be much appreciated. I would like to build a solid libertarian viewpoint on these issues.

  • A Serious Man||

    Good interview. I was born in and still live in La Palma, which is a bedroom community nearby Lakewood, Cerritos, and Long Beach. My dad works at the Long Beach Boeing plant.

    I find it interesting that he describes Lakwood and communities modeled like it as being "superficially" suburban when to me I can't think of it as being anything other than suburban. Guess there's that generational shift in perception.

  • Matt Welch||

    Part of it, as I understand his body of work, is that what originally began as (or looked like) suburbia was actually complicated immediately by the individuals who re-shaped it to reflect their own values. Also, Lakewood has mixed in higher density apartments along its fat boulevards, and was ethnically diverse even back when I went to high school.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Guess there's that generational shift in perception.

    Yeah. I view everything from Mission Viejo to Thousand Oaks to San Bernardino as just one big city. Some parts are just more densely populated, have different purposes, and different cultures. If you grew up out here in the late 1940's through the 1970's you would definitely have a different view. South Coast Plaza was a lima bean field before 1967. Most of Palos Verdes wasn't developed until after 1967, into the late '80's. La Palma was dairyland in the 1940's-50's. It's hard to see those dairies and bean fields between the houses, strip malls, and car washes.

  • Tman||

    I always loved the way PJ O'Rourke described how the automobile finally gave Americans the freedom they needed to get away from the cities and settle down in a part of the state that wasn't overrun (yet) with Government intrusion and control through Unions and crony corporations.

    Basically suburbs exist today mainly because people stared realizing how terrible cities were and they wanted to raise their kids away from the madness.

  • AlmightyJb||

    It was desegragation.

  • o3||

    "Basically suburbs exist today mainly because people stared realizing how terrible cities were..."

    but most WORK in cities making the suburbs parasitic.

  • Tman||

    "Most work in cities"?


    I don't. And from what I remember in Boston, most of the tech groups and medical tech companies (the ones that helped produce the most jobs in the area over the last 30 years) were located around the city, not in it.

  • ||

    Not since 1997 here.

    But even suburbanites who work in cities, exactly how are they being parasitic? When they park in the city, they're paying parking fees and taxes; when they buy lunch out, or shop on their lunch hours, they're supporting the city economy; when they stay in the city after work and enjoy sports or performance, they're not parasites at all.

    Do you mean that they're taking jobs that should be reserved only for city dwellers? LOL, yeah, let's just force employers to limit their hiring to only those people from the same city.

  • o3||

    i wrote the suburbs were parasitic, not the people.

  • Britt||

    How the fuck can buildings and lawns be parasitic?

    God you're so dumb I wonder how you manage to breath whilst you sleep.

  • AlmightyJb||

  • Colin||

    And this has to do with Lakewood how?

  • AlmightyJb||

    I wasn't talking to you.

  • Colin||

    "Lakewood is not really a suburb anymore, it's a particular kind of urban place that looks suburban superficially but which is netted fully in an urban fabric,"

    This can be said of just about every place surrounding Lakewood, including large parts of Long Beach.

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  • Apatheist||

    A blond Portuguese?

  • AlmightyJb||

    Why question it?

  • Apatheist||

    Named Erica?

  • Britt||

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