“Imperfect Paradise” is a long-form LAist podcast telling the stories that are quintessentially Californian and entirely universal. Each story, told over three episodes, takes on stories from the state that highlight its greatest triumphs and failures. From the homelessness epidemic that California can’t seem to solve to anti-immigrant politics, the state that’s often noted for its progressive policies and diverse communities is home to an abundance of heartbreak and inequality.
“Imperfect Paradise” follows a rather unique structure for releasing its episodes. Every season of this LAist podcast is just one story split into three, 20-40 minutes episodes. The first season was released in January and the second in May.
The first season of this podcast is hosted by senior reporter Jill Replogle. In it, she tells us the heartfelt, nuanced, and complicated story of the homelessness crisis in Orange County, California. She starts off by telling us the tragic story of murder of Kelly Thomas. It’s a harrowing story of immense police violence, one of the worst police beatings in recent history in the United States, but it’s also a story of homelessness and why Kelly Thomas was living on the streets of Orange County in the first place.
This first season of “Imperfect Paradise” is about the fight to build housing for those experiencing homelessness, specifically in the city where Kelly Thomas was killed. It’s a story about where to put people who have found themselves on the street and really whether we should do it at all. Because what people like David Gillanders have discovered is that it’s not finding the money or space that are the issues — Gillanders had plenty of each to build his apartment complex for the previously unhoused — but us. The housed. And the people of Orange County who refuse to let those kinds of apartments be built near them.
The second season is equally important, radical, and overlooked. This time, reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez investigates the death of college student and radio host Oscar Gomez. Gomez was a prominent voice in the California’s Chicano student rights movement that rose from the anti-immigrant political rhetoric of the 1990s. He was a rising revolutionary until he was found dead in Santa Barbara on November 17, 1994.
While each long-form story focuses on a quintessential aspect of California, these stories are not uniquely Californian. Both seasons of “Imperfect Paradise” are fascinating, nuanced, and compassionate. They bring us context and compassion we didn’t know we lacked and weave together beautiful, yet heartbreaking, stories. We can’t wait to see what their new seasons will bring.