Before becoming general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) in 2014, Seleta Reynolds was a manager in in the livable streets sub-division at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Before participating in a panel on whether L.A. is mobile enough to be a global city, she sat down in the Zócalo green room to talk about her favorite secret space in L.A., why the rabbit is her spirit animal, and what she sounds like when she sings karaoke while stuck in traffic.
What does L.A. do better than San Francisco?
[Laughs.] I think L.A. does civic philanthropy better than San Francisco. I think that L.A. does secret hidden spaces better than San Francisco. And I think that L.A. does neighborhoods better than San Francisco.
So what’s your favorite secret hidden space in L.A.?
I live in Silver Lake, and walking down a set of stairs in the Silver Lake hills, there is a dirt road that’s part of the Red Car right-of-way that has never been turned into a street. You go down the steps, and from there you come across this little dark forest and these huge, replicated Easter Island statues that you’d never see unless you were on foot.
When did you last get a traffic ticket?
I don’t know. It’s probably been 13 years, something like that—I got a speeding ticket. I’ve gotten two parking tickets since I moved here.
What’s the best pair of shoes you own?
Oh my gosh, that’s such a hard question! I have a lot of shoes. Probably my favorite pair I got on my honeymoon in Argentina in 2006. They are this amazing pair of shoes with black-and-white stripes across the toe and an ankle strap.
If you could be any animal, which would you choose?
Rabbit. I was born in the year of the rabbit, and that’s my Chinese zodiac sign. And I’ve always been drawn to rabbits. I have a rabbit collection done by different potters. There’s something about them that’s so mysterious. And to me they signify kind of magic and wildness. When you catch sight of a white rabbit, it feels like a lucky day. And there used to be this funny little black-and-white rabbit that lived in this urban park next to my house in Berkeley. Occasionally I’d see it on my way to the train in the morning, and if I saw the rabbit, I knew it was going to be a good day.
Are you good at keeping secrets?
I’m medium at keeping secrets.
What’s your favorite day of the week?
Thursday. Just the sense of anticipation that comes with Thursdays because you know the weekend is close, but you haven’t had a chance to be let down by it yet.
How do you pass the time when you’re stuck in traffic?
Well I hardly ever drive, for that very reason. I listen to a lot of sports talk radio and public radio, and I am kind of a daydreamer. I like to play out conversations, so I’ll talk to myself in the car—play out some of those conversations. I’m a huge karaoke nerd, so sometimes I’ll burst into song.
Describe your singing in one sentence or one word.
Loud. And what’s the right way to put this? I know a lot of songs.
What comforts you?
What do you wake up to?
I’m a morning person, so I never set an alarm, and my normal clock wakes me up around 5 or 5:30 every morning. I try to have no devices for about half an hour at least. I like to start the day sort of thinking, meditating, and having a cup of hot water with lemon.