Joel Kotkin is the Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, is executive editor of the website newgeography.com, and writes the weekly “New Geographer” column for Forbes.com as well as a weekly column for the Orange County Register. Before participating in a panel on the future of post-immigrant L.A., he talked in the green room about his favorite plants in L.A.—and about how to choose the city’s next great neighborhood.
What’s the ugliest piece of furniture you own?
That’s a hard question. We’ve got several couches that are pretty funky and badly stained between the cats, dogs, and kids.
What’s the last great dessert you ate?
I generally don’t eat desserts, so not a good question.
What word or phrase do you use most often?
Is this a family publication? [Yes.] OK. Probably, having a teenage daughter, “Enough already.”
What city are you least likely to ever return to?
There are a lot of them. I would say I would probably avoid Chongqing, China, because the air is foul, and the place is—I don’t like it very much. It’s a kind of Chicago without the architecture. It sort of jumps out. New Delhi is not a favorite of mine either, and if I were a woman it would definitely not be my favorite. You also think, what places would I not take my kids? That would be at the top of the list since I have girls.
What’s your favorite plant or flower?
I like bougainvillea, but I really love, which is a big thing in my neighborhood, big sycamore trees. We have a very big one in the backyard. Los Angeles flora is quite amazing, and we’re now at that time of the year—that wonderful early spring.
What’s going to be the best neighborhood in L.A. to live in in 2050?
Wherever the planners haven’t shown up is probably the best place to be, and wherever the politicians haven’t sold the neighborhood down the road to some developer.
Are you good at keeping secrets?
Yes, actually. I was an investment reporter for many years, and so I learned how to keep secrets.
What was your first car?
I had a real jalopy when I was in school in St. Louis, I don’t even remember what it was because it broke down so quickly. Then I got my father’s old Buick and drove it out to California. I consider that my first car—and by the way, my last American car.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who talk really loudly on their cell phones no matter where they are. And who drive while texting. That kind of scares me.
What was your worst subject in school?
I would imagine chemistry. But I think I have lots of company. Which is funny, because my father had a masters in chemistry. He was very good at it, and I wasn’t.