The Back 9:
Golf and Zoning policy in Los Angeles

June 10 – October 31, 2017
Designed by Rosten Woo, in collaboration with Anna Kobara, John Malpede and Henriette Brouwers.
At the Skid Row History Museum & Archive

June 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 2017
Directed by John Malpede, in collaboration with LAPD

Our Skid Row Community designed map
ZINE of the Back 9 project

Skid Row Zoning | Policy Briefing Paper | Inner City Law Center
Stop-Gentrification-of-Skid-Row graphic
Skid Row Now & 2040 community plan
Skid Row Now & 2040 updated plan/petition
Skid Row Now & 2040 Vision Paper

L.A. Department of City Planning documents
2019 – Updated Draft zones and plan

Project activities: workshops, installation, performance, city planning, presentations, meetings.

About the Project

The Back 9: Golf and Zoning Policy in Los Angeles is a multidisciplinary art project interrogating the power structures that have literally built Los Angeles. Ever since the city of Los Angeles created the first set of urban zoning codes in the nation, the city has been particularly effective at wielding these codes as a means for disenfranchising communities, historically handing over an extraordinary amount of control to the city’s developers. City zoning codes are now in process of being re-written as part of the Re:Code LA initiative and the new codes will first be applied in downtown. Seemingly innocent changes will effectively endanger the integrity of the Skid Row neighborhood, as current zoning mandates that all housing construction within Skid Row’s 50 square blocks be affordable to the extreme poor. Shifting zoning criteria away from “use” specifically opens the area to market rate development and facilitates the displacement of the thousands of formerly homeless hotel residents now living permanently in Skid Row.

The Back 9 includes a visual arts exhibition at LAPD’s Skid Row History Museum & Archive and a thematically related performance work as well as additional contextualizing programming (talks, films, workshops) to take place during the 4-month run of the exhibition.

The Back 9  – LAPD’s performance looks at the assumptions behind public policy that get decided in private by the rich and politically connected. LAPD’ers democratize the process by playing miniature golf that imagines and critiques the decisions made on The Back 9. The performance takes place on a zoning themed miniature golf course designed by Rosten Woo.

As with many of LAPD’s works, this is a multidisciplinary, multifaceted project. The visual art component of this exhibition takes the form of a miniature golf course to be activated by visitors to the Skid Row History Museum and Archive, which is located on the front lines of gentrification in the historic core in downtown Los Angeles. Golf courses, with all their attendant connotations of behind-the-scenes-power-plays, and—particularly in California—controversial land use, is an ideal playing field. By designing our exhibition as a miniature golf course, we are also drawing on a playful means of concretizing obstacles, in this case, calculated insider forces that thwart community autonomy.

conversations / workshops / presentations / events

The Back 9: Golf and Zoning Policy in Los Angeles is a playable educational golf course about zoning and redevelopment politics in Downtown LA. Each hole of the course explores a different aspect of zoning and its political implications. Specifically the course connects with the planned DTLA2040 rezoning plan which will have dramatic effects on Skid Row.

Interested people and organizations “sponsored” additional evening hours. They committed to bring a group of people to the golf course. Some connected the visit with a meeting or a discussion. The space was used as a reading room/meeting room for groups engaged in land use struggles downtown and across LA.  “The Back 9” kicked off with a series of free conversations and workshops, organized by Rosten Woo, Los Angeles Poverty Department and Materials and Applications.

Jan. 7: Rosten Woo – workshop ‘What is Affordable Housing?’
The workshop is designed to help us understand the relevance of zoning and land use law to our lives and the future of Skid Row.
Rosten makes things that help people understand complex systems, re-orient themselves to places, and participate in group decision-making.

Feb. 21: Eric Lyle – What does Community Control Look like in the New Trump Era?
Join author, Erick Lyle, for an overview of recent radical municipalization and mutual aid projects from around the world that offer inspiration and concrete tactics that might be of use in the new anti-Trump resistance.  Hosted by Los Angeles Community Action Network.

March 4: Jonathan Crisman – workshop ‘Know Your Property Rights!’
In this workshop, we’ll go over some of the fundamental elements, which make up our culturally and socially enforced understanding of property rights in America: property rights as ownership, the mortgage, and property taxation. Hosted by Los Angeles Community Action Network.

March 11: Rosten Woo – workshop ‘What is Zoning?’
Who does it serve and why should you care? This hands-on workshop will use games and activities that Rosten Woo has developed with The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and Dr. Pop to teach zoning fundamentals and explore the technical and ethical questions behind the laws of the land.

March 18: Bryan Eck, Patricia Diefenderfe and Tal Harari present ‘Rezoning Skid Row’.
The L.A. Department of City Planning’s vision document and plans-in-progress for rezoning downtown with an emphasis on Skid Row. A special opportunity to give input to the process.

Building the Project

Artist Rosten Woo worked with us in translating the political obstacles into a miniature golf course. Woo created the exhibition and facilitates community/artists workshops, with the possibility that workshop creations be utilized in the exhibition. Likewise, LAPD company members, artists who work and live on Skid Row, devised a theatrical performance based on themes that emerge from this process.

The course’s design is based on 3-D models, each representing one “motivating idea” behind urban development—for instance, a hole illustrating The Costa-Hawkins Act and its effect on rent control or a hole illustrating general principles of “highest and best use”—the way that a building’s form is generated to maximize profit within the law. The structures will be organized chronologically from the origins of the SRO housing model that underpins Skid Row, through the development of zoning for use, and culminating in a three way junction illustrating three possible futures that the re:code project could lead to. Together, these models will form a truly playable golf course, so as to give visitors time to meditate on the didactics, as well as a reason to engage with the entire course. Texts describing each model will be incorporated into a “scorecard,” which visitors would take up upon entering the gallery.

Rosten Woo is a designer, writer, and educator who produces civic-scale artworks and works as a collaborator and consultant to a variety of grassroots and non-profit organizations including the Advancement Project, the American Human Development Project, and the Black Workers Center, as well as the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. His work is designed to help people understand complex systems, re-orient themselves to places, and participate in group decision-making. He is the co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy, an New York City non-profit organization that illuminates the built environment to help everyday people engage politics.  His work has been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, Netherlands Architectural Institute, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and various public housing developments, tugboats, shopping malls, and parks in New York and Los Angeles.

Materials & Applications (M&A) is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a public culture of experimental architecture in Los Angeles. Our mission is to advance innovative and critical ideas about architectural design through public projects and programs. We produce outdoor installations, workshops, and dialogues in collaboration with architects, artists, and communities.

The Cast

Los Angeles Poverty Department cast:
Henriëtte Brouwers, Christina Collier, Walter Fears, Tom Grode, Chas Jackson, Jamaya Kapri, KevinMichael Key, John Malpede, Lee Maupin, RCB, Larry Swanson, Damitri Taylor, Sherri Walker, Jen Willson.

LA Times Insider Interview

Project Funders

This program has been made possible by a grant from the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts with additional support from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.