Los Angeles hit peak swagger in the mid-1980s. After a decade of dwindling population, Los Angeles County was again gaining people. Hollywood had near-perfected the summer blockbuster. The city's downtown subway system was finally complete. And a Soviet-bloc boycott had left the L.A.-hosted 1984 summer Olympics to serve as an ostentatious demonstration of American exceptionalism.
But the romantic, popular conception of the city that solidified in those years bears increasingly little resemblance to Los Angeles today, Rob Montz writes. L.A. now suffers from a deluxe-size version of the vicious urban feedback loop that's already swallowed up several smaller cities in California: a shrinking job market, rapidly escalating public pension costs, and widespread deterioration in general infrastructure.
These trends are partially attributable to the lingering effects of the financial crisis and broader transformative forces affecting the entire national economy, writes Montz. But there is also ample bureaucratic incompetence behind the city's decline.