Film and Urban Planning

Subject: Art
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1230
Topics: Film Analysis, Architecture, Design, Engineering, Film Review, Urbanization

The Chinatown movie narrates a story that revolves around the work of a professional divorce investigator who takes up a case of a woman who pretends to be the legal wife of the chief engineer of the Los Angeles Water and Power Company. The woman claims that she has information that the engineer has a relationship and therefore requests the marriage and relationship investigator to launch an investigation to establish the truth behind alleged infidelity. Jake starts by analyzing a statement made by Hollis, the engineer on a public meeting that was talking about a proposed dam in the area. Though the city is evidently facing increased water shortage and drought, Hollis takes a stand to oppose the project which makes the public to shout back at him in anger (Hall, 2012). The chief engineer seems not to be concerned about the lives and the living standards of the people that he serves. One man raises accusations that Hollis has been bribed to steal water at the expense of the general public. The movie represents a case of abuse of powers and public resources for personal interests. The engineer drowns in the water and dies which raises the concern of whether the water consumed by the residents is clean for consumption. This is after his body is found in an empty reservoir and other cases of people purported to have been drowned in water reservoirs emerge. This paper presents an extensive analysis of the Chinatown movie in relation to the issue of urban planning. Notably, the Chinatown film seems to present a malfunction in the urban planning system with regards to drainage and water supply which leads to the drowning of people in those water channels. 

The poor urban planning in the Chinatown film is evident from the fact that some senior officers in the urban planning board get involved in plans to sabotage the water supply systems for personal interests. This could not have happened if there was proper planning in the construction of the reservoirs and their management. Safety is one of the primary factors that planning emphasizes on. City planning, in particular, should ensure that the drainage and water supply systems are designed in a way that does not put the lives of the general public at a risk of drowning. The fact that the city engineer who should be conversant with the connections drowns is quite alarming (Southworth & Ben, 1995). Jake who is an investigator goes out investigating another drowning case meets a boy who informs him that he once reported to the deceased engineer of the periodic flooding of the waterway which is supposed to be always dry. This shows that the urban planning board, as well as the engineer, were not keen on the issues that were reported to them. The leadership of the planning board was involved in corruption and unfair deals that saw Hollis reject the proposed reservoir project.

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The movie shows cases the lack of information on proper planning and design in the city presented which leads to many problems. To begin with, the city is facing a major drought despite the fact that some reservoirs flood periodically. This is a contrast that should not happen where there is proper planning because if there is enough water to flood a reservoir, it means that if this water is conserved through proper planning, it can sustain the needs of the residents of the city (Southworth & Ben, 1995). Urban planning is comprised of all forms of infrastructural planning in urban areas which includes roads, water supply, drainage sewerage, power and even the use of resources. Besides that, urban planning includes the implementation of policies which are meant to regulate the use of public resources in an urban area. From the film, it is evident that Jake was threatened with a knife for trespassing on the premises of the water supply company. This shows that the company had no proper rules to restrict and control people from accessing the premises. This is a failure of the water planning board as it had not put necessary controls to ensure that no one gets into the premises unauthorized. 

One of the fundamental factors that urban design should focus on is safety and efficient use of resources in a community. Notably, the idea of building a large city and having to consume extra resources which will affect the environment is right, and also if there is no limit to how cities are growing, then there eventually be a crisis brought by poor planning (Southworth & Ben, 1995). Although, these big cities do have many advantages as well as opportunities and it is impossible to avoid them, therefore, we cannot run away from them due to the responsibilities in the provision of necessities with regards to planning. The city engineer who ends up getting drowned in one of the reservoirs that are managed by the water board had earlier been notified of flooding in some of the reservoirs and took no actions.

Jake, later on, discovers that the there was a farm in the drought area that was being sold abruptly. On interviewing the farmer, it emerges that despite the fact that the farmer has diverted water for irrigation on the farm, it was not productive as government officers came there periodically to poison the crops. It emerges that some of the influential and wealthy officers in the city planning board were out to coerce people to sell their land cheaply through the creation of an artificial drought. After the dam Hollis opposed is built, the area will become fertile again, and Cross and the other new landowners will be able to sell the land at an enormous profit. This was a violation of planning regulations as the infrastructural plans for any urban areas should not be made to favour the rich and oppress the poor people (Soen 2013). The planning board operates on a political basis whereby only a few people stand to benefit from its plans for the city. 

In conclusion, when it comes to the function of local urban organizers, they have an obligation to come up with plans meant to give long and short-term solutions to issues that are arising within the urban area. It later emerges that Hollis had not drowned but had been murdered after discovering that some of the water channels that supply water to the city had been channelled to a river so as to cause a drought in the region. This is a crime which is committed by a cartel made up of rich people who do this in attempt to take control of the city as well as support the motion for building the new reservoir. This is an illegal cartel that invades the city water planning systems and makes modifications that lead to wastage of water and creation of a drought which is not supposed to be there. Notably, the engineer is not aware of those plans until he gets drowned in one of the reservoirs which shows that he too was not keen on his job.

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  1. Hall, P. (2012). Urban and Regional Planning. Routledge.
  2. Southworth, M., & Ben-Joseph, E. (1995). Street standards and the shaping of suburbia. Journal of the American Planning Association, 61, 1.)
  3. Soen, D. (2013). New Trends in Urban Planning: Studies in Housing, Urban Design and Planning. Burlington: Elsevier Science.
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