Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Olympic fever... IV

So, the Olympics of 2006 are over. What will be the lasting impression on Turino, I wonder? In L.A. we have a few venues, to boast from 1932 and the graffiti-ed plaque in Exposition park pictured above.

And, since we already had an Olympics in 1932, what we got in 1984 was not that great. Today, the physical reminders of '84 in Los Angeles are mentioned in previous posts (though it's good to note that the Velodrome for '84 has been replaced by the Home Depot Center in Carson!). But that's not all...

We also have commemorative concrete benches throughout Exposition Park sporting the "star in motion" logo.

Some might be confused here: no, this is not the Sam the Eagle mascot found in merchandise all over in the mid-80s and (at the 99 Cents Only Stores today).

No, the lasting impression that is most evident to the public is that which cannot be seen, but heard. In my opinion, John Williams' 1984 Olympic Fanfare is one of the greatest legacies to the 1984 games that STILL impacts people today.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Glendon holes...

What's up with Westwood? Why are there two giant holes on both sides of Glendon between Expo Design and the Westwood Brewing Company? Inquiring minds want to know.

It's not about the development - we know it's coming.

But the question really is: how much more can be crammed into the overparked Westwood Village?

And why is it so cheap to park in a meter there? Meter rates should go up, increasing a higher turnover of cars, which in turn will increase business for the merchants.

More on meters later...

(Did you know all the fund collected in meters go to one giant fund called the Special Parking Revenue Fund which is then used for enhanced parking projects? None of the money goes to the general fund or to the community for enhancement projects. Maybe the rates would go up if the money was used to benefit the community in which that particular parking meter operated.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The City's only Motorcross - of course, in the Valley!

Apparently there is a movement to build a motorcross cross in Sun Valley. On Friday, February 24, there is a Zoning Administrator's hearing at the Marvin Braude Center in Van Nuys. Dirtrider.com has a press notice to its readers.

I only bring it up because it's the only such coarse (if it's approved) in the City. I have to wonder that if this were located in another part of the City, would it be getting such sparse attention? Remember when they wanted to build the Laker's Forum in the Sepulveda Basin in Encino? The people there banded together and fought it. Though it started with Mayor Yorty, the fight was so drawn out that then-Mayor Bradley even conceded to community activists personally when the project was finally defeated. (Then again, it was the community that found an alternate location... in Inglewood.) And even more recently, the proposal for the Oasis project in NoHo was rejected early on as the wrong location for such a venue (a few thousand seat multi-use arena).

Maybe the folks in Sun Valley want this use. I just have to wonder, though, how it's gotten such little attention in this age of scrutinized development.

Mayor Antonovich?

Los Angeles is a state of mind, but it is also a city and a county. Mayor Sam points out something that proves politicians are in it for the ego (or at least some are). The dead Mayor posts Supervisor Mike Antonovich's recent rotation into the Chairmanship of the 5 member Board of Supervisors. But Mike doesn't like to be called Chair, he likes to be called "Mayor." He has a press release that spells out his reasons, but to me, he sounds like a whiney kid who wants to be Mayor of our great City but only gets to represent part of it (along with Lancaster & Palmdale). He just seems bitter to me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Famous L.A. Food Places: how to order...

Los Angeles is famous for its food. Ask a native or long time resident, and they'll tell you the most "L.A." place to eat, from the Original Pantry to Tommy's to Tito's to Pink's to Philipe's to the Pacific Dining Car to El Cholo to Spago's to the Grill to Casa Vega to The Hat to Tam O'Shanter to Papa Cristo's to Musso & Frank's to Duke's to - I think you get it.

Well, knowing where to eat is great, but a true L.A. City Nerd - like yours truly - has to know how to order at these venues. Now, it's not how to order everything, but the little things that take the experience to the next level. It's almost impossible to describe why these extra steps should be taken, but when they are, you know it was a good move. So, I won't go into lengthy description of why - just try it. Take my word, the word of a City Nerd.

For now, I'll share two tips on ordering at two of the most famous in L.A....

1. Tommy's - when you order a regular chili burger, order with "double tomato." It cuts the strength of the chili (which officially contains no meat) just enough to make consumption unintimidating without compromising the best burger-eating experience in Los Angeles.

2. The Original Pantry - Former Mayor Riordan's 24-hour eatery is known for heavy food whenever you need it. As a bonus, they provide free cole slaw and bread when you're seated. Next time you go in for a bite, take the time to ask for the bread to be grilled (not toasted). No butter is needed when it gets to the table - it's great!

This is a good place to start; two quintessential L.A. eateries. Try these tips and let me know what you think.

Olympic fever... III

Why didn't Los Angeles have the lasting impressions that Atlanta had from hosting the Olympics?

Any ideas? this is not a City Nerd provided answer. What do you think?


What ever happened to KTTV and that zig zag art everyone could see from the 101?

Oh yeah... like the Ambassador Hotel, it was demolished to become a school...

What's next? What's the next landmark to go?

Monday, February 20, 2006

What Happened to the Rain?

A year ago, L.A. was drowning.

More rain had fallen since anyone could remember (though we do have short memories regarding weather). There was no extended media hype & prediction of the disastrous weather like in 1997 when the news predicted - and hyped -1998's El Nino conditions.

But last year, on February 21st, it was the sinkhole in Sun Valley that gripped our City. It was one year ago that Rory Shaw, a city engineer known for his dedication to his job and the City, was swept into the hole and died as he worked to secure it. (Later that week, two more Public Works employees died while at work, but this time it was at the hand of a co-worker who came to the maintenance yard with an AK-47.)

Weather and death - two topics the media in L.A. loves to cover. If this was a modern trend, I'd be concerned; but on February 21, 1941, nature showed its power. On that day 65 years ago, the L.A. Times heralded what would be a familiar headline: "Four dead as torrential rains cripple Southland traffic."

This weekend, we were told about a storm that was coming into the area. Like 1997, there was hype but, unlike 1998, no real effects.

It goes to show a truth about L.A.: the weather is news, even if it doesn't happen.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Moving Traffic

Did you know that synchronizing traffic lights on L.A. City streets really won't make much of a difference?

On Monday of this week, Mayor Villariagosa announced the completion of Signal synchronization project with the completion of an ATSAC project. According to the Daily News on Tuesday:
"NORTHRIDGE - Calling it an early Valentine's Day present, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday announced the completion of the last major traffic-light synchronization project in the San Fernando Valley, expected to shave 15 percent off commute times along certain routes."

Sadly this information may be misleading.

First, this is not the completion of ATSAC in the Valley; a major portion still remains to be synchronized. The signals west of the 405 between Sherman Way & Devonshire are not part of this system. So, a large portion of the West Valley (not to mention the parts in the far Northwest Valley) are not digitally linked or being monitored.

Second, this major plan to synchronize traffic lights is a good thing to say, but most signals in the City are already in sync with each other and automated by the City's innovative ATSAC system. The traffic there is still not good. The mayor's promise to synchronize the City's traffic signals sounds good, but the streets already in sync are at capacity. So though the signals may be tuned to traffic at 37 miles per hour, the streets can't handle the volume.

So, don't be misled. It's nice to talk about synchronization, but the real issue in moving traffic is volume and capacity.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Olympic fever... II

As the Olympic Flame burns bright in Torino, I can't help recall how it has often run through the streets of L.A.”: first, in 1932, then, in 1984, and most recently, in 2004 (Tom Cruise carried it at one point - go figure!).

As folks debate the height of Los Angeles as a city, they often point back to Peter Uberoff and his Olympics. From Traffic to civic pride to culture - the 1984 Olympic games gave Los Angeles its utopia - or as close to it as we've come. And maybe it was all a façade. (Sure, trucks were banned from freeways, but LAPD "moved" homeless folks from around Downtown to clean-up the place. Yes, the LAPD Mounted Unit did what they had to do to make this place look great.)

Sadly, the reminder to City leaders that the Olympic spirit in Los Angeles is something to strive towards is hidden in a dark corner of City Hall. The Olympic Torch of 1984 - the symbol for our city's greatness - is mounted on a wall in the southwest grotto of the City Hall Rotunda. On occasion, if anyone uses the main entrances, they can catch a glimpse as they head out to catch a DASH bus on Spring Street or try to make it to the Red Line Station before the next train arrives.

Perhaps the torch should be moved to the Council Chambers, prominently featured so new councilmembers that show up every 4 to 8 years will be forced to remember what was possible.

Yes, we have other reminders: the benches of Exposition Park with the mark of the 23rd Olympiad and the occasional expenditure of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles (the non-profit group that oversees and awards the surplus from the Games in support youth athletics in the Greater Los Angeles Area). But those can be forgotten easily.

I say, move the torch to the Ferraro Council Chambers.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Park Closure in Studio City?

According to the Studio City Neighborhood Council, one of the great pieces of open space in the Southeast Valley is being threatened:
WOODBRIDGE PARK AND IT'S POSSIBLE CLOSURE: Although Councilmember Greuel, the SCNC, the SCRA, and the Park Advisory Board have all gone on the record being against the use of Woodbridge Park for the proposed sewer project, the decision could still go either way. We would appreciate all constituents submitting their comments AGAINST THIS POSSIBILITY, urging that Woodbridge Park not be selected as a construction worksite.
The deadline for these letters is 02/27/06 Comments can be submitted electronically at http://www.lacity-irp.org

Letters should be mailed to:

Jawahar P. Shah
City of Los Angeles
Public Works, Bureau of Sanitation
Wastewater Engineering Services Division
2714 Media Center
Drive Los Angeles, Ca 90065

I saw this online a few weeks ago, but then tonight, a huge banner was strung across Tujunga Avenue south of Moorpark (about 3 blocks from the park) announcing a rally on February 20th (presumably at the park).

The banner is probably illegal; and the park is only threatened if the City adopts one of three plans to deal with the City's "waste water" (what we flush) for the next 20 years.

What's going to happen? Will the banner be removed by the city's Street Use Inspectors out of the Bureau of Street Services?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Street Art Nerd

I'd like to show you some of LA's finest creativity: Street Art Nerd. Now, the gorilla guerrilla art postings on public property are technically illegal, but they still look cool.

Check it out!

Cahuenga Cross

This week, crews -presumably on order by the Church on the Way in Van Nuys - were doing maintenance to the cross atop the Cahuenga Pass. (See the man on the ladder?)

Yes, this is the same cross that caused a controversy over the County Seal in 2004. In fact, in the 1980s, a Kiwanis Club bought the land under the cross from County to dismiss any church-state issues.

But why is it there? And why is the Church on the Way (presumably) doing maintenance?

In 1922, the cross was erected in memorial to Christine Wetherell Stevenson, the heiress to the Pittsburgh Paint fortune, who helped arrange the building of the Hollywood Bowl and was the author of the Pilgrim Play (a story of the life of Jesus). In 1941, the cross, along with the newly rebuilt mason "Pilgrimage Theater" (which would later be named the John Anson Ford Theater) was given to the County. Then in 1965, the cross was damaged by a fire, and the County soon replaced it with steel and Plexiglas structure that was routinely lit at Easter.

Government support was halted due to Church & State issues in the 1980s, so Marian N. Gibbons, president of Hollywood Heritage, bought the cross' site from the county. It went unused and unguarded, was damaged by vandals, and a windstorm knocked it over in 1984. Volunteers raised a 17-foot cross on the small plot in 1985, and 7 years later in 1993 High Adventure Ministries, a Christian radio station in Simi Valley, built the present 33-foot structure.

Fast forward a few years to 1997... the Church on the Way took over the maintenance and ownership of the truly landmark cross.

So, what are they doing? My guess: fixing the burnt out lights that have been forcing a half-lit cross since the holidays - oh, I mean Christmas.

So, after understanding all of this, I propose we officially name it the "Cahuenga Cross." Otherwise, it will remain nameless and people will say, "What's that cross in the Cahuenga Pass?"

More interesting...

As a city nerd, I think all things about the city are interesting... even tree trimming. Someone told me, though, that no one else cares about that stuff. Well, I think someone else must want to know things like street numbers in L.A. get bigger by counting AWAY from First and Main Street (in any direction). Ok, maybe that's more of a niche audience, but some times it's interesting to remember these things.

How about this?

In 1981, the City raised the parking meter rates in Eagle Rock from 5 to 10 cents an hour. Then, in 1985, they were raised to 20 cents an hour. In 1988, they were raised to 25 cents an hour. Now, after 18 years, they are still some of the most affordable meters in the region.

Should this revenue source be revisited?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Avenue of the Athletes

Outside of its community, Echo Park is known for a few things, if anything at all: Aimee Semple McPherson, the Echo Park Lake, Taix, and Angelino Heights.

One attraction for which the area should take pride and promote but that is not that enchanting, really, is the street. Not just any street, but Sunset Boulevard between Elysian Park Boulevard and Alvarado Street. This stretch is officially known, as of 1974, as the Avenue of the Athletes. Formed in the mid-1970s at the urging of L. Andrew Castle, a local camera shop owner and former Dodgers photographer. He died two years later, and the project almost collapsed. The Echo Park Chamber of Commerce [where is it now, by the way?] revived the project in 1980, and as of 1986, there were 32 plaques in the sidewalk ranging from Babe Ruth to Joe Louis to Roy Campanella to Billie Jean King to Tommy Lasorda.

According to the L.A. Times on October 10, 1985, the enchantment then was as missing as it is now. On the day Lasorda was awarded a space on Sunset Boulevard, he was honest:

"Asked what he thought of the plaques, Lasorda said: "They don't have the same impact or notoriety as the ones in Hollywood, but they have a big effect on people like me. I'm in pretty good company here."

That day the loosely governed selection committee also installed a plaque to honor its founder, Castle, with an image of a camera.

Now, there is one sign that continues to herald something that is somewhat unknown to motorists who pass by. Will the Avenue of the Athletes ever compete with its cousins in Hollywood (the Walk of Fame and Rockwalk) or it's step-brother in San Pedro: the Sportswalk. There's also the "Promenade of Prominence" in Watts and the Walk of Hearts in Canoga Park that draw attention from the stagnant Avenue. Even the Avenue of the Stars in Century City, which is just a street name, draws more recognition than Echo Parks promenade.

So many walks exist in L.A. that pay tribute to our heroes from musicians to artists to actors to teachers to leaders; how can this one street in Echo Park compete? Well, it has survived longer than that Los Angeles Hispanic Starwalk in front of the Million Dollar Theatre on Broadway & 3rd or the "North Hollywood Country Music Walk of Fame" outside Palomino Club (6907 Lankershim Bl) which was founded in 1979 and had just one induction: singer Eddie Rabbitt (according to Steve Harvey of the LA times in 1987).

Echo Parks rich history is preserved in the HPOZ of Angelino Heights; perhaps someone will save the honored athletes.

Love is in the Air...

Today, love is in the air over LA... or is it just smog?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Whitley Heights

Hobart J. Whitley was a lesser famed booster of the San Fernando Valley, but he probably most responsible for its success and growth. He was engaged in the sales of the subdivided lots in the Valley as the original manager of Suburban Homes Company, of which he was one of the leading members with four others: General Harrison Gray Otis, Otto F. Brant, General Moses Hazeltine Sherman, and Harry Chandler.

His name, though, is rarely found in the Valley or its history, unlike his contemporaries: Mr. Whitsett or Mr. Lankershim or Mr. Van Nuys (each a major early Valley developer).

What Whitley is most known for is the development of the Hollywood Hills, specifically Whitley Heights. In the late 1880s, it was Senator Wilcox who founded, subdivided, and named the community turned city turned community called Hollywood. But Whitley got his name on a section of that community. And in turn for subdividing most of the southern portion of the Valley, the very freeway that traverses his subdivisions now literally cuts through his Hollywood gem.

Though it's a City-designated historic district, Whitley Heights is appropriately sliced in two by the Hollywood freeway, the southern offshoot of the Ventura Freeway.

The original palm trees of Whitley Heights were recently trimmed. Now the question is: will the original concrete streets ever be repaired and not paved over with asphalt?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympic fever...

The winter Olympic Games have begun in Torino, and I can't help but think back to the role Los Angeles has played in Olympic history. Everyone knows of the work the City did in 1984 - the most success (financially) Olympics ever. But 1932 is when it all started. Baldwin Hills was the site of the first ever Olympic Village. That was for the men, but the woman stayed in the more luxurious downtown Chapman Park Hotel, which was razed in the late 1960s for the Equitable Building.

The Library has some great photos with detailed captions here.

One thing was for sure: in 1932, girls loved to spell things out with oversized letters...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Trim & Tidy

So, true to form, I have some City information to share.

One of the greatest complaints that citizens in Los Angeles have is that their Parkway trees are trimmed on a 12 to 15 year cycle (though they claim 7). Definitely not frequently enough. Lack of funds and an expanse of past neglected urban forest, this is the awful truth. So, people often call and hope that by indicating an unsafe condition or low hanging branch will bring out a city crew for a "spot trim."

Here's the interesting factiod:

Per L.A. City Code, street trees must be pruned to "raise the crown" to allow for an 11' clearance in the street. Trucks with a higher than 11' clearance may be out of luck if they're parking on Barrington to move out a student from all that housing north of Wilshire.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Simplifying L.A. Streets

There are 3 Cahuenga Boulevards in this City.

First, there is North Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood made famous most recently by Paris Hilton and the clubs there.

Then, there is Cahuenga Boulevard in Toluca Lake/North Hollywood, which starts at the L.A. River (Lankershim Boulevard) and ends at Valhalla Cemetery.

These two are the same street, but they're not connected. To get from one to the other, you have to go either on the 101 or through the other Cahuenga Boulevard: Cahuenga Boulevard West.

Cahuenga Boulevard West has one end that morphs into Highland Ave. (Rte 170) and the other morphs into Ventura Boulevard. Oftentimes confusing this stretch of Cahuenga is neither Hollywood nor Studio City - it's Cahuenga Pass.

So, on January 17, of this month, 12 years after the Northridge earthquake, Councilman Tom LaBonge, at the request of the frustrated businesses along this stretch (who have to give the most detailed directions in order to find their locations), directed the City to officially change the name from "Cahuenga Boulevard West" to "Cahuenga Pass." His text is simply as follows:

Motion - Community and business representatives along Cahuenga Boulevard West from Lankershim Boulevard to the Hollywood Bowl (Pat Moore Way) have indicated a desire to initiate a name change of that street from "Cahuenga Boulevard West" to "Cahuenga Pass."
Inasmuch as this portion of Cahuenga Boulevard West truly corresponds to the historic and geographic Cahuenga Pass, it is appropriate that the City initiate the proceedings to implement this name change.
THEREFORE MOVE that, pursuant to Administrative Code Section 19.1 et seq. the City Engineer be instructed to perform the necessary steps to implement the proposed name change of a portion of Cahuenga Boulevard West from Lankershim Boulevard to the Hollywood Bowl (Pat Moore Way) fountain as "Cahuenga Pass."

Simple enough, right?

Then, just this week, Councilman Wesson introduced a motion to rename 17th Street, not for clarification, but for social significance. He wished to honor the life and contributions of the late Johnnie Cochran. He, too, wrote a simple reason for it:

File Number
Initiated by
Wesson, Jr. Mover 2006 / Parks
Motion - The late Johnnie Cochran was not only a world famous lawyer but a great community leader who served Los Angeles in many capacities. As such he was, and continues to be, a great role model for all children and youth. In recognition of his achievements and contributions, it is appropriate that the City rename a portion of the street terminating at the newly renamed Johnnie Cochran Middle School as "Johnnie Cochran Drive."
THEREFORE MOVE that, pursuant to Administrative Code Section 19.1 et seq. the City Engineer be instructed to perform the necessary steps to change the name of a portion of 17th Street, from Bronson A venue easterly to its terminus just east of Norton Avenue, to "Johnnie Cochran Drive."

Now in 1982, Santa Barbara Avenue from Alameda on the east to Rodeo Road on west was renamed after the Dr. Martin Luther King. It took 9 months, from January to September for the action to be approved. The controversial Councilman Robert Farell(subject of TWO recalls) of council district 8 sought to rename this street after for some time fighting the grassroots effort. This decision was controversial as well, with concerns over financial impacts and politics. This change in 1982, two years before there was even a nation holiday, was not a slam dunk.

(Interesting connection: In 1987 during his second recall, Farrell was defended and represented by Cochran!)

Now, in 1993 it took 5 months for the City to approve the name change of 7 miles of Brooklyn Avenue, as well as portions of Macy Street and Sunset Boulevard to Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard. Controversial as well, this change brought concern that the Jewish history of Boyle Heights would be lost with the elimination of Brooklyn Avenue. The solution here: a historical designation of the public right-of-way. Signs now herald the Cultural past of the now Latino community.

Similarly, Tom Bradley Boulevard on First Street is honorary. Blue custom signs announce the 20-year-mayor’s impact in the Civic Center. But when outgoing Councilmember Nate Holden thought that was not enough, he attempted to rename Crenshaw Boulevard after the great Mayor in 2003 just two months before being termed out of office. Even greater controversy surrounded this attempt, and the change was ultimately denied leaving Crenshaw Blvd. - for all its good and bad parts – intact.

So, what we learn here is simple: name change for honoring is good and important, though not without controversy. Name change for clarification makes more sense.

So, hopefully, after the Cahuenga Pass street, well, passes, the city will deal with that other confusing street: National (especially where National intersects with National in Palms!)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Yo, Smell Ya Later...

Many communities in L.A. have distinctive visuals; many have identifiable sounds. But only one that I know of has a distinctive smell - actually, TWO smells.

When most people think of a community that smells, they think of New Jersey. Ok, that's a state, but when I say "New Jersey," don't you think of a funky smell? (Most folks do!)

For me though, I'm not thinking of a bad smell, just one that is distinctive in the region. That community: Van Nuys. What Van Nuys smells like is, well, hops. Anheuser-Busch Brewery on Roscoe gives a strong aroma that is the most distinctive in the region.

(Did you also know that the largest buyer of water from the L.A. Department of Water & Power is Anheuser-Busch?)

And since I brought up water, the other smell that defines Van Nuys is the water that comes out of the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. All that the Valley flushes gets treated and released to Lake Balboa, the Los Angeles Japanese Garden, & L.A. River. So, if you're down stream - say near Burbank/Griffith Park - you can smell Van Nuys.

That's something to which other communities may turn up their nose, but Van Nuys can be proud of its distinctive scent. I mean, what does Brentwood really smell like...? (Mountaingate?)

Monday, February 06, 2006

No Answer: Call for Projects

Recently, there has been some streetscape improvements throughout the City that enhance the roadway and sidewalk (hence: Streetscape improvements!). Most of these have been funded by BIDs, though, and not the City. From Highland north of La Brea to Studio City's Ventura Boulevard, BIDs are doing the improvements that the City once did.

See, there is this thing called the Call for Projects which is a way that all public grant money is filtered into Los Angeles via the MTA. So, state funds and federal grants from Propositions and other programs are allocated to the MTA, and then they accept proposals. Projects like the Pasadena Civic Center improvement received $2.8 million & the Valley's Orange Line bikepath received $5.2 million in the last round of funding - back in 2001. This means they were applied for in 2000. It's been 6 years since the "call" was issued. The "call" in 2003 was deferred - and cities are still waiting.

The deferring (skipping) of 2 (almost 3) cycles of their "every other year" policy has prevented additional bikeways along the LA River, pedestrian enhancements in commercial cores like Los Feliz Village, and street safety improvements like the widening of Moorpark Street where it jags in & out in Sherman Oaks by Woodman.

Where's the money going? What's happening at MTA so they're not " sharing the wealth?"

Sunday, February 05, 2006

"Reseda to the Sea"

The Daily News wrote a mish-mosh about Reseda today. The article illuminates some good things and some interesting history. They interview some locals & electeds, but I still wonder...

What about the fact that Canby Street and Sherman Way flood every time it rains? That's right next to the Reseda Theater.

What about the fact that the other major landmark in Reseda, on the northwest corner of Sherman Way & Reseda Blvd. just across from the illustrious theater is "Traders" - a two story, fifty-year-old pawn shop?

What about the fact that Reseda has only recently jump-started community participation with the election of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, nimbly led in its first years by John Fitzpatrick. The Chamber, led by he venerable Ann Kinzle, is the only other "Reseda-serving" community organization in the area - and it does what it can -as it's done for the last few decades. (There was a BID, but it couldn't keep it together because it was merchant based, and not property owner based. They had LANI monies, but that too fizzled without any real dramatic impact.)

Reseda has great potential being in close proximity to the 33,000 students of CSUN just few miles north; what is being done to capture their interest (& money)?

The West Valley Project area of CRA has done a lot in Canoga Park - if anyone can jumpstart Reseda, it's them. Not Dennis or Brad, but the Community Redevelopment Agency will do it under Ms. Lambert's proven leadership.

Now, if only the Tarzanians didn't stop Reseda Boulevard from connecting to PCH, there would have been an influx of Westside money into Reseda years ago... Or would there?

Oh... and what ever happened to the giant Donut there that is visible in the postcard above, next door to the theater that will be redone? Maybe they can bring it back?!

Santa Monica Boulevard: We love it! (even if it's overbudget, behind schedule, & not forward-thinking!)

Why is the Santa Monica Boulevard Project through West L.A. $10 million over budget? That's above the budgeted $68 million. At the very least, they could have planned to have future mass transit/light rail down the center or the side. That is why there were two Santa Monica Boulevards to begin with - remember the Pacific Electric Railway?

This project had been discussed officially since the early nineties, and as of June 1998, it was scheduled to start in 2000 and be completed in 2002. Here we are in 2006, and the project is a year behind the official schedule that came out when the project commenced in 2003.

When construction is complete in 4 to 6 months, there's still a year of landscaping to be done. What I know is that the center median still hasn't been installed. Who's monitoring this project?

At least the "Smoking deaths this year & counting" sign will be there for eastbound drivers. Maybe during the construction, it should have been changed to "dollars overbudget & counting" or "days behind schedule & counting"?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

There's Nothing Mini in L.A....

Los Angeles is known for its park system. From Griffith Park to Debs to Venice Beach (yes, it's a City park) to Cabrillo Aquarium (again, a City park), this City has some real treasures for recreation. There may not be enough open space in all parts of the city, but at least L.A. can claim that they own a mini golf course.

No wonder the Valley wanted to secede: they wanted control over the Sherman Oaks Castle Park! In 2002, the secessionists claimed that smaller was better - maybe they were inspired by the move of the City in 1993 when they acquired the parcel, which had been operating as a mini golf entertainment center since 1975.

According to the City's Department of Recreation and Parks' latest RFP described the venue as such:
"The [Sherman Oaks Castle Park] is a five-acre family entertainment center in Sherman Oaks featuring three landscaped 18-hole miniature golf courses, an arcade, a food service concession, and batting cages. In the center of the property is a 7,500 square-foot medieval castle-themed building which houses the arcade, food concession, and miniature golf administration. Each year approximately 300,000 guests visit the facility, which opens every day of the year. Parking for approximately 125 vehicles
is available at the facility, with an additional 93 spaces leased by the City from an adjacent property to accommodate peak hours. The miniature golf portion is operated by the Department; the batting cage, arcade, and food service are each operated by independent, private business entities under concession agreements with the Department..."

I guess the question is: with this kind of facility provided to folks of the Valley (and the region), how could they claim to not get their fair share?!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Who you gonna call?

So, as I drove north on the 101 today, I saw that the Hollywood Boulevard exit sign was half covered in graffiti. It made me mad because it wasn't the first day it was there, and I knew it would be there for a while before Caltrans cleaned it up. Yes, Caltrans.

Most people - residents and visitors alike - see our City as one... which is a good thing. But when it comes to responsibility, the common perception is that whatever's wrong in the region is "L.A.'s fault."

In this case, though, it's not L.A.'s fault. The City is quite good at removing graffiti from City and private property (with permission) when reported to 3-1-1, the city's all-purpose hotline (usually within 24 to 48 hours). But, Caltrans is the worst when it comes to maintenance. Freeway sound walls (or park walls if you're adjacent to open space like South Weddington Park or North Hollywood Park) are often covered in graffiti that gives the perception that L.A. is a mess. Bad P.R. for us all. The freeway is the truest gateway/ portal to the City, and someone in the City should tell Caltrans to get it together and remove graffiti faster. (And while they're at it, stop clearing away the vines on the walls along the 101 and 110 freeways which creates a palette – there would be less to paint over if there was less available surface.

Now, maybe Caltrans has a plan. Maybe they’re trying to give graffiti artists other locations besides the signature freeway murals to show their skills by leaving blank walls that are highly visible and easily accessible to the graffiti-ists. To see these murals restored and relocated only to be vandalized and left for months without maintenance is a shame and reflects poorly on the City. What would The Freeway Lady think if she were still around?

Caltrans needs to clean up its act and all of our L.A. freeways. They can't continue neglect one of our greatest assets and trademarks: our 101, 110, 105, 405, 10, 5, 2, 60, 710, 605, 118, etc. Good thing they never built that Laurel Canyon Freeway – who knows what it would look like now!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What's in a Name? or Blame Beverlywood

So, yesterday, the LA City Council approved an ordinance that allows communities in the city to change their name through a petition process. This issue is really most prevalent in the Valley where communities are always trying to set themselves apart. Almost nowhere else in the City do communities NOT use Los Angeles as their City (Brentwood, Los Feliz, and even Hollywood have "Los Angeles, CA" as their address). So, prestige isn’t the issue because, only by a few blue city signs are these new communities known - no one else recognizes them. Valley Glen has been fighting for freeway recognition for years to no avail. Caltrans even put up a sign for west/northbound 101 before the Coldwater Canyon exit saying "North Hollywood next exit" when that exit leads to Sherman Oaks, Valley Glen, Studio City, and Valley Village. Old maps, anyone? Even the MTA/Metro still list Sepulveda as a location to buy Metro Passes: old maps - for sure! And in some cases, the blue city signs conflict: northbound Fairfax is posted "Little Ethiopia" whereas the same strip southbound is posted "South Carthay." So, here, one street constitutes a City-sanctioned community. Go figure.

Now, nothing stops a community from installing custom signs like the areas around Olympic and Pico west of La Cienega like Picfair Village or Wilshire Vista? But, I guess it all starts with Beverlywood. They started it all. They have had community signs as part of their distinct neighborhood, which have fended off imposters (or, rather, abutting communities) since the 1950s.

Since 2002 when the Van Nuys community pushed for this community re-naming policy (since theoretically all parts of the City are currently named) after Lake Balboa emerged from one of the Valley's first communities, only 2 new "Blue-signed" communities have been authorize... without a true policy in place. Both are in Tom LaBonge's District: the made up communities of North Hollywood that are now Toluca Woods and Toluca Terrace. Why?

Van Nuys Nerd shares his general opinion on the topic here:

My question: did the LA City Council know what they were doing when they approved this? I'm all for Community Pride, but was Sepulveda that bad that it has been eliminated by the encouragement of community name changes? (Well, at least Metro didn't forget... or are they MTA?)