“L.A. Has No Taste” and Other Things Said to the Delight of the Audience at Atlantic Cities’ “Making L.A.” Event

Zingers, off-the-cuff remarks, and inspiring thoughts shared at the Ace theater downtown

CityLab, a days-long summit on urban ideas presented by The Atlantic, The Aspen Institute, and Bloomberg Philanthropies that brought mayors and the people who love them from around the world to downtown Los Angeles this week zeroed in on our city with an evening program of conversations at The Theater at the Ace Hotel last night. The multi-panel event, which was sponsored in part by Los Angeles magazine, welcomed mayor Eric Garcetti, chef-restaurateur-activist Roy Choi, LACMA director Michael Govan, Grove developer Rick Caruso, and other local influencers to the stage for a series of talks that touched on everything from the teachers union to challah. The particular remarks listed here got the audience going:

“L.A. has no taste and good space.”
-Michael Govan
Asked why so many artists have migrated to Los Angeles from other places including New York, Govan cited our city’s beautiful light and also it’s lack of taste, a backhanded compliment that elicited cheers and laughter. He went on to explain how liberating it is for artists not to have to consider a certain cultural preference when creating. He also noted how inspiring it is to see billboards in different languages on his way to work on the Miracle Mile. We’ll take it.

“When we get fake people we will put in fake grass.”
-Rick Caruso
While making a point about the importance for both business owners and city planners to invest in small details that don’t drive revenue, Caruso said he’s frequently asked why they don’t install fake grass in the small park at the Grove, which undergoes costly maintenance every month. His rebuttal: “A great place is a place people feel they can connect.” Read: On real turf.

“They’re not getting challah anymore, they’re getting shoes.”
-Mary Melton
Melton, Los Angeles magazine’s editor-in-chief, hosted a Q&A with Evan Shapiro, the president of Pivot, and Gavin “Mizzle” McNeill, the owner of YOUth gallery on Fairfax Avenue and one of the stars of Pivot’s upcoming show Welcome to Fairfax. The discussion focused on the evolution of the stretch of Fairfax between Third Street and Beverly Blvd., which has roots in the Orthodox Jewish community and has become an unlikely hotbed of hip hop and skate culture (not to mention where you’ll find Cofax and Animal, some of the city’s most loved restaurants from Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo). As Melton observed, the lines you see on Fairfax now are for new kicks more often than fresh loaves from Diamond Bakery.

“From the bay to the bars… from the hills to the hockey—I gotta work on something.”
-Eric Garcetti
In one of the best Eric Garcetti interviews we’ve witnessed yet, the mayor of Los Angeles assessed where the city is in terms of education, jobs, the entertainment industry, wages, and public transportation. Speaking about the progress and plans of our Metro system, he realized yet another new opportunity: to come up with a catchy tagline that telegrams his vision while sneaking in a promo for our Stanley Cup-winning Kings.

“My cooking is what America is becoming… I must have been on some shit.”
-Roy Choi
In an introduction, Choi was quoted as having once said “My cooking is what America is becoming.” But when asked about that sentiment, Choi admitted he couldn’t recall when he said it. He repeated the quote aloud, then took a guess why his memory was so fuzzy.

“I’m getting spiritual residuals. It’s working out good. For real, it’s very rewarding.”
-Roy Choi
Choi said the above in response to a remark about how his Kogi BBQ Taco truck has changed the landscape of dining options across the U.S. We hope Choi’s able to say the same thing about his next project, Loco’l, which has the small goal of replacing fast food joints in under-served places around the world with a healthier option—and soon.

A backstage view of Eric Garcetti in conversation with The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein
A backstage view of Eric Garcetti in conversation with The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein

Photograph courtesy Instagram/MaryMeltonLA