Fifteen Takes on California: The Evolution of Urban Areas in the US

The thought-provoking article by David Ulin titled “Fifteen Takes on California” promotes audiences, especially those who are familiar with California, to reflect on its evolution over the years. In the essay, the author uses a narrative tone to explain the changes in the flow and nature of the states throughout history. Ulin carefully highlights the major issues in the essay to help his audiences to keep track of the various themes he would like to bring to their attention. New residents of the city cannot relate to all of the changes that the author describes because some took place over centuries ago. However, Ulin shows how historical events determine the current structure and composition of California. The essay describes how past cultural and economic changes in California, like in many other urban areas in the US, have affected its reputation as a paradise and the living experiences of its citizens.

The Topic Explored in the Article

            One of the main topics explored in the essay is how the evolution of California has occurred almost obliviously to the humans who have lived there during the changes. The author notes that the main purpose of the residents in the state has been to induce and adapt to all changes, including those that occur naturally such as environmental changes. Specifically, Ulin (2015) explains how the geographical, climate, security, industry and culture have changed over the years. The changes in the state have had a profound impact on its citizens as well as its reputation. Previously, the state of California had the mythical reputation of a terrestrial “paradise.”


            However, the author denounces the reputation due to the considerable changes that have taken place over, the years. Ulin explains in detail that California does not merit the paradise title because of the negative changes that have occurred in the state over the years. According to Ulin (2015), the word paradise is no longer a source of pride for Californians because it is one of their main sources of frustration and their dreams. The author notes that the evolution of California has largely ignored the citizens who are the most important stakeholders in the state. However, the changes that have occurred in the state are not unique.

Critical response to the Issues Highlighted in the Essay

            Most of the urban areas in the US are in decline or have been in decline for a number of years. The issues affecting California are not endemic to the state because millions of Americans residing in large cities such as Birmingham and Chicago in Alabama and Boston respectively can relate to the changes. According to Fuller and Moore (2017), cities are an immense laboratory or experimentation sites filled with trial and error, decay, learning and growth. The most significant aspect of the transformation of urban areas is not the changes in their physical, economic, or historical landscape but rather how these changes affect the society, culture and people’s wellbeing in the urban areas. The changes in California follow a similar path trodden on by other declining urban areas.

Historical Decline or Urban Areas                                    

            In his essay, Ulin decried the historical decline of California from its once pristine condition that merited the paradise adjective to the current state. According to Ulin (2015), California has become a history-less area because of the failure to preserve both the positive aspects such as racial diversity in the state and negative aspects of the state such as the invasion of the ruthless Fortún Ximénez in 1533. Due to the lack of history, most of the leaders in the state have forgotten that the primary purpose of the area was to serve the interests of the citizens. According to Fuller and Moore (2017), a similar decline has occurred in cities such as Boston, San Francisco, which is also in California, and Philadelphia because of current residents understand very little of their history. Hence, it is almost impossible for the new generation to preserve or propagate a history they do not know.

            The residents of California are unaware of the rich and vibrant history of the state before it came under US rule. Current urban residents are unaware of the illustrious histories of their cities or states, which were people-centric. According to Ulin (2015), a vast majority of the residents in California do not know the history of the state prior to its 1848 annexation by the US through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The imposition of US rule on the territory changes the history and purpose of California to an economic center that serves the interests of the corporation as Ulin shows when he described driving down petroleum road. Cities such as Philadelphia and Texas have also changed because modernization has transformed city streets into areas unfit for humans to accommodate automobiles (Fuller & Moore, 2017), residents are unaware that the cities and roads use to serve both humans and transport means such as horse-driven carriages.

Sociocultural Changes and Decline in Urban Areas

            Historical changes in California have also transformed the socio-cultural landscape in the state. In the past, California had a rich cultural history characterized by a rich poetic culture that produced notable poems such as the 1510 classic The Adventures of Esplandián by Spanish poet Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (Ulin, 2015). However, the erosion of California’s history and the establishment of US rule changed that cultural landscape in the state completely. According to Ulin (2015), the loss of culture transformed the once vibrant Santa Ana, in California into an area characterized by “a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior” and despairing children partaking in crusades they do not understand. The loss of culture has gradually eroded the identity of the residents of the state, as it became a cosmopolitan area.

free essay typer



            The sociocultural shifts due to urbanization have reverberated across all major urban areas such as Boston and Philadelphia. Most of the cultural or social changes implemented throughout the history of these urban areas have been cosmetic because they have done little to improve the wellbeing of residents. According to Fuller and Moore (2017), most of the economic reforms instituted during urban reforms or rebuilding are a hoax while the cultural or art changes have been meaningless. Hence, the changes have not led to any positive cultural transformations although the economies of all urban areas have grown tremendously. Ulin (2015) stated that the emphasis of development and improvisation in Californian has shifted from a human-centered approach to a non-human approach. The change has reduced the quality of life of urban residents, which is the premise of Ulin’s essay.

Economic Changes in Urban Areas

            The shifting historical and cultural factors have also had an impact on the economic conditions of California and other urban areas. However, most of the economic changes, especially those that have had negative impacts on the experiences of California residents have posited for almost a century. In his essay, Ulin (2015) stated that a politician running for office in California in 1934 promised to address issues such as poverty, hunger, unused farms, shuttered factories and lack of necessities. Some urban areas and industries decline almost as fast as they rise or once their demand goes down. As Californian switched to an oil and technology-based economy, many people lost their source of livelihoods which decimated their economic wellbeing.

            A similar economic history exists in states such as Philadelphia, which had booming economies in the mid-20th century, but their status has declined in recent years. The decline of the economic base of industries such as those relying on human labor for mining and automobile industries has changed the economic landscape of most urban areas. According to Fuller and Moore (2017), run down and abandoned warehouses, factories and neighborhoods are a common feature in most urban areas. The capital resources signal changes not only in the economic condition of the urban areas but also in the sociocultural characteristics because they are all intertwined.

            In conclusion, the essay by Ulin addresses the socio-cultural, economic and historical decline of California over the years. The assertions made by the author in the article describe the rise and decline of their major urban areas in the US such as Boston and Philadelphia. One of the key issues in the evolution of these cities is the neglect of human factors or wellbeing.  It is almost as if humans are not the main focal point of the evolution of urban regions even though they are the main stakeholders.