Sunday, April 30, 2006

What you've missed...

So that you don't have to scroll through on Monday morning and try to see what you've missed this last week, here's a few links...

Graffiti seems to be an issue that elicits quite varied opinions (see the comments).

And dealing with graffiti needs a plan; here's my preliminary proposal .

The LAFD Call Center could use all our support.

Look out if you decide to use the parking meters southeast of City Hall.

Larchmont Boulevard turns 85 with a LaBonge celebration.

The Monopoly Man wants your opinion about L.A.

Fire Hydrants save money for LAFD in the City Budget (by not being theirs).

Jollibee, the Pilippine's #1 fast food chain, opens in L.A.!

And of course, we've posted the latest ways to Celebrate LA's 225th birthday (check back thursday for 36 through 45!).

Beware of Parking Meter Shenanigans...

Over at Atwater Village Nerd, our transplanted friend from Colorado found a little secret just southeast of City Hall.

LADOT knows about it, as A.V. Nerd points out, but there's more...

New "meter technology" is always tried out there first. At national parking meter conventions (yes, they exist as part of larger transportation conferences!), L.A. engineers seek out the newest technology to combat the tampering of meters that goes on in the Toy, Fashion, and adjacent districts.

Some of the recent technologies they're trying out is card-only meters so no coins are involved. Another approach would be a central pay station with marked spaces on the street, and the parker would pay for their spot. They are also working on tamper-proof meters.

What's next? Talk to the City's on-street parking expert, Senior Transportation Engineer Brian Gallagher. Go ahead, try him.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Adopt-a-Station... Citywide Style!

Mack Reed over at revealed a bit about the LAFD 911 call center in the 4th floor basement of City Hall East. It's a great picture of our friend and online epitome of a public servant, Brian Humphrey, the LAFD Nerd. But one of the facts that is missing, though hinted at, is that the LAFD Call Center is actually a fire station with a specialized function. It has guys that live there in 24-hour shifts: A, B, & C.

With that in mind, I'd like to point out the movement afoot to have communities adopt their local community Fire Station. From the Miracle Mile to the Valley to the Westside, communities are rallying around their local stations. Often, a community organization will adopt a station, or sometimes a large company will do projects to improve the fire fighters' environment. This subterranean specialized station doesn't really serve one community like those street-level stations that have kids come by on slow days to see the fire trucks. Out of sight, out of mind is at work here.

But, though this station does not serve just one community like the other 104 (Station 114 serves all of the City - and County at times - via the air!), it serves all communities in L.A. So, shouldn't all communities take pride and give this station the resources it needs.

Shouldn't we all adopt this station? Making a donation for the things on their wish list, the things that would make the jobs of these life-saving heroes just a little easier and more comfortable, is something we all could do. So, Brian, put out a list. (I'm asking for it so don't feel like your being selfish.) If it's a copy of Photoshop, I'm sure we could get one together for you. Or, perhaps we could let the Council know as they deliberate the budget, and they could add the few hundred bucks a version would cost for you. (Council President Garcetti should understand your needs as a fellow blogger.)

A pancake breakfast? A community BBQ for City Hall Staffers with funds going to the station? Why not?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Larchmont Boulevard Turns 85

This week, Councilman Tom LaBonge (largely known as L.A.'s cheerleader), joined locals to celebrate Larchmont Boulevard's 85th Anniversary. Often looked to as the desire of shopping districts from Brentwood to Toluca Lake, Larchmont's tree-lined, angle-parked street is a design that is often lauded as what our shopping districts should be.

This section has been subject to many improvements from an off-street parking structure developed as a public private partnership over 15 years ago to new stop signs for pedestrian safety. Q-conditions were adopted in November of 1992 by the City in this area as a planning tool to refine the uses allowed and restrict the number of restaurants and financial institutions. The property-owners even formed a BID in the mid-1990s to self-assess themselves to continue the improvement of the area.

It's appropriate that Tom LaBonge, who for over 20 years has aided the Boulevard (first as a field deputy for then-Councilman John Ferraro), oversaw the festivities this week. He helped initiate height limits in the mid-80s, worked to develop the public/private partnership parking structure, and recently, as Councilman, brought traffic control and beautification in the form of stop signs & medians to the Boulevard. The Councilman has a connection to Larchmont, too, in that his name is only one letter different than Larchmont's founder, Labonte!

The short section of city street, called "the city's quaintest boulevard" in 1999 by Los Angeles Magazine, was first paved in 1920. In 1993, the L.A. Times scantly recounts the founding of Larchmont 85 years ago:
"The emergence of Larchmont Boulevard as one of the city's few real neighborhood walking streets is a historical accident. Its original developer, Julius Labonte, laid it out in 1921 as part of one of the suburban subdivisions that slowly crept west from downtown during the 1920s and '30s. The Los Angeles Railway's Yellow Cars line ran up the middle of the street, and along the sides there were stores and some second-story offices. As the neighborhood grew more prosperous, so did the merchants. The streetcars and telephone poles were removed in the 1950s, making the street quieter, visually as well as in terms of decibels."

Here's a little photo from an old Times article from 1920 lauding the new area:

Was it really an accident that created this urban oasis?

Hitchhiker on the Freeway...

Who doesn't know that you don't hitch hike or pick up hitch hikers? Apparently these two:

I saw her hitchhiking on the freeway (already a violation of the law: no peds on the freeway) and then saw the van pull over. She then started hustling over to the van, as you can see here. Honestly, don't people know this is how they can get killed?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

225 Celebrations: 26 to 35

It's Thursday, so here is the next installment of 225 Ways to Celebrate LA's 225th Birthday:

26. Attend the Tofu Festival.

27. Visit the Los Angeles Japanese Garden in Van Nuys.

28. Walk the Historic Portola Trail in Elysian Park (The trail is marked by a historical landmark honoring explorer Don Gaspar de Portola at Broadway & Elysian.)

29. Catch a movie in a historic Movie Palace on Broadway via the LA Conservancy's Last Remaining Seats.

30. "Swim on the 101" at Echo Park's shallow pool, which is nestled between Bellevue at the 101 North onramp.

31. Visit the site of the City's original zoos: Selig Zoo at Lincoln Park and the other, buried in the glen of Griffith Park, now aptly known as "The Old Zoo."

32. Visit the National Historic Landmark that is the Facades/Buildings on the north side of 1st Street in Little Tokyo.

33. Visit City Hall and watch the City Council live in person. Make sure you get up to the Tower Gallery to view the collection of Mayoral Portraits and to see great views of the City.

34. Ride the historic Red Cars recreated in San Pedro.

35. Visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Palms. (No, it's not Culver City.)

"225 Ways to Celebrate..." thus far:

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Graffiti Plan...

With all this talk about graffiti, this City needs a plan and priorities in dealing with graffiti. Whether you like it or not, graffiti on public or private property is illegal if for no other reason that all art visible from the public right of way is subject to the approval of the Cultural Affairs Commission. So, all street art lovers - even if a modern-day DaVinci painted (bear with me here) a portrait of a modern-day Mona Lisa on a public wall and everyone loved it, it would still need permission from the City or else it would be illegal.

So, how to handle graffiti...

First, on the freeways and offramps - Caltrans has limited resources for removal, which is why the area is so often graffitied. A good point was made, though: permitted (like it or not) murals should be protected. Additionally, safety-impairing creations (like those obscuring directional or other messages) should be addressed promptly, as well.

Now, as for private property in the City - each owner is responsible for graffiti removal on their property or may be subject to citation by the City's Department of Building & Safety. Information on how to combat it can be found on the LAPD website and the ordinance explaining the responsibility of the owner can be found here.

So, my suggested Graffiti/Street Art Strategy:

1. Protect and make "permitted" art a priority: All Graffiti from murals should be removed within 24 hours.

2. Target the most visible areas with rapid-response graffiti removal: this would include freeway under/over-crossings, off/on-ramps, freeway & City signs, public walls, and areas on major, heavily traveled corridors. The gateways to communities are also a high priority area to keep clean.

3. Hold private property owners accountable and to the same standard as the government. This would require the government to set the example.

4. Enact a coordinated effort with all government agencies to adopt the priorities for graffiti removal. One was once formed and acted as a unified front to the issue as a regional on via "The Multi-Agency Graffiti Intervention Committee" or MAGIC. It was comprised of Caltrans, L.A. County, the County Sheriff's Dept, the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, the Los Angeles Police Dept, and Operation Clean Sweep (now the Office of Community Beautification) out of Public Works among other agencies and jurisdictions in the county. The committee used to meet monthly to share information regarding graffiti vandalism and find ways to work cooperatively to address these issues. The committee has no record of meeting since November of 2005.(I've sent an email to the coordinator to see what's become of the program - I'll keep you posted.)

5. Create acceptable spaces for Street Art to be practiced, produced, & displayed. It doesn't have to be regulated; just allocate space that's OK to paint and repaint. If it was known that the art would be removed every Monday morning with a fresh slate, people could practice their craft (somewhat like knowing that flowers are removed every week from cemeteries, no matter when they were placed).

Without a plan of action, we could lose more permitted art, like the Freeway Lady, who was neglected & abandoned by the property owner. Setting Graffiti and Street Art priorities & strategy in reacting to it will enhance our community, but we can't just say no more expression - it's just a question of where such expression is appropriate.

See other City Nerd opinions on graffiti here, here, & here.

Monopoly in LA?

As Hasbro starts an online voting this week for Monopoly's Here & Now Edition, they ask online voters to select L.A.'s (among other cities) definitive landmark. As this comes to pass over the next few weeks (through May 12th), all Angelenos should look inward and see what they would think is the quintessential Los Angeles landmark.

The Monopoly folks provide three choices:
1. Rodeo Drive
2. Sunset Boulevard
3. Hollywood

Obviously, Hollywood is the best "Los Angeles" Landmark, as the other two are in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood (the most world-famous part, at least).

If I had to nominate the top three Los Angeles Landmarks to represent Los Angeles (the City!) to the world, I would choose:
1. The Hollywood Sign
2. The Rodia "Watts" Towers
3. Venice Beach

Which of these three would get the highest vote, I wonder?

In turn, what would your top three landmarks be to represent Los Angeles to the world?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Freeway Graffiti...

Honestly, this kills me. On the 101 southbound into Downtown - how does this happen? Come on, Street Art Nerd, explain why this has to happen? Alright, I know; but I still don't like it.

On a related graffiti note...
This truck is still parked near Vermont & the 101.

Fire Hydrants & the City Budget

I must commend my fellow city nerd, the "LAFD Nerd" (usually Brian Humphrey) for creating an explanatory City Budget post that is exactly how I would have done it. True, they focus on the budget for the Fire Department, but his information can be applied to any department in terms of brown book/blue book. Check it out here.

But, as for this city nerd, I want to let everyone know that all those fire hydrants out there on the streets, the ones knocked over occasionally to create a geyser in the City - you won't find those in LAFD's budget. Nope, all the fire hydrants in the City are owned and maintained by the Department of Water & Power. On top of that, usually developers are required to install new ones when their development creates a large enough impact. Additionally, there is a maintenance fund set up through the City Council specifically to maintain & replace existing hydrants.

Good to know that it doesn't impact the LAFD's Budget, especially since it seems that every department is under the watchful, auditing eye of Controller Chick.

I'm sure you've heard by now that Laura Chick wants to phase out the fire fighters working as the true first responders at the LAFD 911 call center. They handle over 1000 calls a day, many of which require the fire fighter to explain how to provide emergency care over the phone for the first few minutes. This instruction can save lives in the few minutes before help arrives on the scene. I want to make sure when I dial 911 for a medical emergency, I get the absolute best trained operator. It's worth it to have a Los Angeles Fire Fighter answering that phone because I know they are the best there is.

Monday, April 24, 2006

blogging trouble...

I'm having some trouble posting lately. Maybe it's my computer; maybe it's Anyway... i'm here... trying... in the City...


After a weekend of romping about the City, I have only one item that must be reported now...

Chano's is gone.

Ok, not the Chano's near USC - that's safe and sound for now. But the Chano's on Beverly at Vermont has turned into a Fantasyland Fast Food place called Jollibee, which is billed as "the Pilippine's #1 fast food chain." It's nestled in Koreatown on what used to be great Mexican food place - this is truly L.A.!

I like to see new and bright development in older areas, but what scares me a bit is their menu and ads: Chickenjoy? Yum Burger? Mr. Lucky Doubles puts it well here.

I've not tried the food yet as I was dashing down Beverly when the bright McDonald's-like colors caught my eye, so I can't espouse its greatness or failure. But I must ask: what will this do to the Fast Food culture in L.A.? Will this be the next "big thing" or will it go the way of Pioneer Chicken? And really, will Sonic Burger ever break into the Los Angeles market or just keep advertising a place that doesn't exist in the City (county?) on local channels?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Mayor's Budget... Watching TV

It takes days to pour over the Mayor's budget. But in the last day, I have found one item that shows the new direction this Mayor has taken the City

Broadcast News Video Monitoring Service: $28,000
Add funding from the Telecommunications Development Account
for one full-time or two part-time Student Professional Workers to
implement a video monitoring service in the L.A. CityView Channel
35 Section to regularly monitor, record, and transfer to videotape
any news stories broadcast by local television stations pertaining to
the City for reference by the Mayor and Council.

So, though not costing much, the City will still be paying a full time student worker (or two part-timers) to watch TV. Is this necessary? The connection here to the Mayor's high profile works at so many levels...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

225 Ways to Celebrate: 16 to 25

So, after last week's response to the first 15 ways to Celebrate Los Angeles' 225 Birthday, here are a few more. I'll give more each week until we've hit the 225 needed to truly celebrate the City in 2006. (Thanks for the suggestions thus far. Remember, this is the City of Los Angeles' birthday, so activities in Pasadena, Malibu, or other municipalities don't make my list unless they are connected to L.A. City in some way [see #19].)

16. Participate in a Grunion Run at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro.

17. Tour the Public Art in MacArthur Park.

18. Hike to the top of the Eagle Rock

19. Ride public transit from Warner Center to Long Beach, stopping along the way at interesting looking stops.

20. Take the carpool lane transition from the 105 West to the 110 North on a clear day and hope for traffic so you can go slow and take in the view.

21. Get a double margarita on the rocks at El Coyote. (Thanks, FranklinAvenue Nerd!)

22. Tour the historic Alvarado Terrace, just south of Pico Boulevard in Pico-Union.

23. Visit your local Fire Station.

24. Take some time to not just visit, but explore Union Station and its grounds (check out the gardens and the Harvey House room).

25. Walk ALL around Westwood Village and imagine what it was like in its heyday (and what it could be like!). Pay attention to the directional signs in the sidewalk: "all roads lead to Westwood...."

225 Ways to Celebrate thus far:

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hazard & Shorb

Is it me, or is this map (found via the Atwater Village Nerd) listing fake places for no reason in Downtown and the east side: Shorb? Hazard? Dockweiler?

(check out a readable version at the Atwater site..)

How Safe is Your Valet-parked Car?

Ok. I'll tell you a secret: I started this blog to share the intricacies of all that is Los Angeles, especially that of the City government. I read MayorSam for months and then found LA Observed and others that I started to read. I said to myself, there is information that needs to "get out" that remains hidden, even with the emergence of an online media reporting real stories and news of Los Angeles. One of the things that I knew I needed to share was the truth about Valet Parking in the City of Los Angeles. I'm not talking West Hollywood, Pasadena, Culver City, or Santa Monica here - I'm only talking about the second largest municipality in the nation. Here goes...

On any given night in Studio City, Westwood, Los Feliz, and even Downtown, parking is at a premium. This actually could be applied to neighborhoods throughout the City, but specifically, parking for commercial activities is limited. Even sometimes during the day, you can't find a place to park because the establishment you're trying to patronize was either built before codes required enough parking, received a variance so as not to need the required parking to open, is just so busy there's no where to park, or in the case of Daily Grill Downtown or Cafe Bisou in Sherman Oaks: a combination of the three. So what can a business do?

A business can easily do nothing and leave the patron to fight for that last spot 4 blocks away or have them cram into a parking lot that breeds tight fits & door dings. Most often, though, the business will provide a service to the customer, usually for a fee: valet parking. Most often this service is available for restaurants, but it can also be used by an establishment or individual, for that matter. That's what's so disconcerting about valet parking in the City: anyone can operate a valet parking service.

It's true. Anyone can set up an umbrella on the curb and post a sign saying valet parking. In some cases, a company will approach a set of businesses offering the service for free with the patron paying for it when they pull to the curb.

There is no valet parking permit in the City; the only requirement is that the operator have a certificate that the business owner paid the City business tax (it is not a license). There is no requirement of insurance and no guarantee that the person taking your keys has a valid drivers license. These issues alone should make you think twice before giving your keys to the valet, but there's more...

When you pull to a curbside valet, you trustingly give the key to the man in the red vest or the woman in the pink shirt and go into your destination. Do you ever think of where your car goes? Does it go to a secure lot behind the business? Does it go across the street to the parking structure of that bank building? Or, does it go where most go: into a meter on the street or an adjacent neighborhood street?

There is nothing to say your car won't be parked illegally in an alley while you're dining. Well, you see it out the window in the Valet Zone, right? Sorry, but in the City of L.A., there is no such thing a as "valet zone." There are passenger loading zones, commercial loading zones, and 15 or 20 minute parking. If your car sits unoccupied in either of the second two, you're ok. But if it sits empty in a passenger loading zone, your car could get a ticket. Sometimes, the valet company will either pay for it or at least let you know. But sometimes, they just throw it away, and you don't know until you get that official notice in the mail that your ticket is past due. And if you don't get a ticket in that passenger loading zone, who's to say you didn't get one while the car was illegally parked in the alley or a red zone around the corner?

If you're lucky, you'll pull into a parking lot, like that at El Coyote, and they park your car on their lot. Safely. Well, sort of. just askl that to the woman who's car was taken two years ago in Studio City while she dined. She brought her ticket out to the onsight valet, and they indicated they had already given her car to another ticket holder. A man had claimed stolen her car from the valet without damaging it or breaking in; he just presented himself as the owner to the valet. LAPD took the report and reported the car stolen, but the valet was not charged with any crime. You must read the "Conditions" on the back of the ticket or posted at their "valet podium" when you leave your car.

LAPD can't do much about illegal operators, either. There is nothing illegal about you putting an umbrella at the curb in front of a busy restaurant, wearing a red vest, and offering a parking service to someone willing to leave their car with you. And if you don't have that pesky certificate of payment of the City business tax (remember, there is no business license in L.A.), you just don't go back to that location again.

Know who you give your keys to and where they are going to park your car. This may be an issue frequent valet users may want to push before their elected officials. How difficult would it be to require each valet operator to register (no fee, so still fostering a business friendly City) and then also provide a parking plan for cars dropped off at each location they operate? Then, if they are using city streets as their main or overflow parking, they would (maybe) be assessed a fee per space used. They are making money off a public street and preventing regular citizens the option of parking two blocks away and walking. Additionally, collected monies for street-park valet cars could be used to enhance the impacted neighborhood, which often times adjacent to frustrated residential areas. This could be a win for the consumer, for the community, and for the business people of Los Angeles.

I wonder who on the City Council would be a leader enough to stand up and say this would be good for the City?

Monday, April 17, 2006

LAPD (sad) Facts

Over at LA Observed, K-Rod mentions some stunning facts from Chief Bratton from his "Ask the Chief" segment on Patt Morrison this afternoon. Sad that the department can't afford to pay for SLO's cell phones, but it's worse that some of the 6 Valley Divisions have sometimes only 2 cars on patrol. Or, that the SLOs in Harbor Division have to share one police car because there are not enough for them. Beyond shocking, it's sad, really.

Best Bread ever...

Sometimes, the favorite part of going out to eat is the pre-meal freebie. At a Mexican restaurants, it's chips (El Coyote serves warm salsa; Los Toros serves bean dip). At most non-Mexican restaurants, they serve bread.

Here are some great breads, some of which are free when you're seated, some are not (denoted with a $).

pizza dough balls:
Miceli's: as good as their pizza!

garlic cheese balls:
Zach's in Studio City: delicious little garlic cheese knots.
C & O in Venice: worth the wait.

garlic cheese bread:
Smoke House($) in Burbank: the best garlic cheese bread in the city, hands down.
Clearman's North Woods Inn($): delicious (and you can make it at home, if you want!).

Knott's Berry Farm Chicken Dinner Restaurant($): it's not just for tourists.
Quality($) on 3rd Street: the best biscuit I've ever eaten!

bread sticks:
Pat & Oscar's($) in Atwater Village (on Los Feliz in the Costco/Best Buy Shopping Center). With a website like there's (, you know the bread sticks must be good.

regular breads:
Beyond the old mainstays in Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen, there are a few spots that have notable bread:
Trader Vic's in Beverly Hills (an assortment served with a great peanut spread)
Morton's: great with a Mortini.
Engine Company 28: served upright.
The Original Pantry: I've given tips on how to order this free bread before.

I guess the Beach Boys had it right about L.A.: "I'm making real good bread!"

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Celebrate Good Times: 225 years worth

Mike & Maria over at FranklinAvenue bring up a good point: L.A. turns 225 years old on September 4, 2006.

They ask where the party is going to be. (They're waiting for a reply from Council President Eric Garcetti.)

I say, don't wait for the City to put a bash together. With as large as the City is and the many things that make this City great, the celebration is all year and starts now. So, over the next 21 weeks, I'll give you the "225 ways to Celebrate Los Angeles" in no particular order.

Let's start now:

1. Hike to the top of Mount Hollywood and view the City below.

2. Visit Olvera Street; go into each shop and building to understand how it all started.

3. Walk from Mission San Gabriel to Olvera Street to retrace the steps of the original 44 Los Pobladores. They stage this event every year on or around September 4th.

4. Have a Philipe's French Dip, a Tommy's Burger, a Pink's Hot Dog, an El Cholo Green Corn Tamale (May through October only), and a Diddy Reese Ice Cream Sandwich in that order and within 3 hours. (It's been done before, so I say: do it again!)

5. Put your feet in the footprints of Mayor Tom Bradley and 200 other Hollywood elites at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. (His is in the center of the courtyard near the front, #29 on the map)

6. Explore the Venice Canals.

7. Drive Mulholland Drive from the east side of the 101 Hollywood Freeway in the Cahuenga Pass until it becomes dirt. Make sure you stop at each turnout and view the City his water made happen.

8. Visit the Korean Friendship Bell in San Pedro.

9. Go into every store on Melrose and pretend your cool like it was in the 80s.

10. See the "Freeway in the Lake" at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights.

11. Pick oranges in West Hills at Orcutt Ranch, the last, largest citrus grove in the City.

12. Visit the Rodia Towers in Watts.

13. See the elephants at the LA Zoo before they're gone.

14. Eat a traditional Ethiopian meal in Little Ethiopia on Fairfax.

15. Visit the Mission San Fernando, the only mission in the City.

This should get you going for the week. Check back again next week for another installment. (These were the easy ones, the get better!)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Get Involved

I'm a huge advocate of community involvement in, well, community. I like it when a group of citizens comes together to improve their block, their neighborhood, or their greater community. Sitting around someone's living room or in the back of a coffee shop with others who also want to see good things happen is a sight I applaud.

Now, I was awed by the huge, community-placed billboard at Exposition offramp of the 110 South announcing Stop University Gateway. (I didn't have my camera at the time, but it was there.) It has this website listed and not much else: It worked, though, because I went home and checked it out. I got a little excited at the fact that a coalition of neighborhood people (who happen to include folks from the Shrine Auditorium to Pete's Burgers on Hoover) put this effort together. Here is a community really coming together as a coalition, and is often the case with unification, it took an issue that made them upset to do it.

I am not judging the merits of the project. But if it is as big a deal as they say it is, this could codify a community that would lead to the furthering of the community. For instance, one of the strongest neighborhood groups in the City, the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, formed because of one large issue: the 405 coming through the Valley. That one issue was the impetus for over 40 years of community activism. (Again, I'm not saying that the positions they've taken over the years or their methods are the best, but they do still achieve their goals.)

Here is a community coming together against something; my hope is that, regardless of the outcome, they stay connected to do something for the University Park community.

What's the status on this issue, though? I can't seem to find information on it anywhere except the website and it's news links to The Daily Trojan.

What does this really mean for Los Angeles, though?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Fix My Street!"

With the latest proposal from the City Council to repair 4,000 City streets via an $1.5 billion bond over eight years, I thought I'd explain, as briefly as possible, what the current way a street is resurfaced. For this case study, let's pick a street in Mar Vista: Barry Drive between Venice Boulevard and Victoria. This is a fairly standard street (unlike one block north where there is a center median in the residential neighborhood).

So, the first thing to understand is that there are a few types of streets: Highways (Highland), Secondary Highways (Venice Boulevard), Collector Streets(Franklin Avenue east of Western), and Local Streets (Barry). Each type of street has different funding sources available to it - local streets having the least available outside the general fund. For instance, Secondary Highways, which are normally transportation corridors (buses run on them) are eligible for "Prop C" funds, whereas local streets are not.

Also, to understand the equation, know that streets, regardless of transportation designation, fall into three condition categories: those needing complete reconstruction (failed streets), those needing regular traditional resurfacing(removal of about 3 inches of roadway), and those that need a maintenance overlay (remove about an inch). Additionally, in order to extend the life of a street, streets that are about years old will get a slurry seal, which can extend the life of the street for decades if the seal is re-applied systematically. With each increasing level of street decay, the cost of fixing the street goes up. Also, extremely wide streets, hillside streets, and concrete streets have additional costs.

So, back to Barry Drive...
Let's say a resident calls in to request that their street be repaired. They could call the Department of Public Works, their Councilman's office, or take their concern to the Mar Vista Neighborhood Council. The Department will take the request and put them at the bottom of a very long list of requests that have come in over the years. Councilman Rosendahl may decide to bump you up on the list depending how many of your neighbors complain and how organized your campaign is to get your street repaired. (Often times in this situation, the squeaky wheel gets the oil more times than not!) The Neighborhood Council also has influence (if they choose to use it) as well as an allocation of $100K per year directly towards deciding what streets should be repaired. (for $100K, you can get about 4 blocks of regular resurfacing, depending how bad the street, maybe one block of reconstruction, and about 8 blocks of slurry seal). Again, organizing an effort and putting pressure on the Councilman, right now, is the best way to get your street repaired. And if the councilman decides Barry is on the plan for next year, it is contingent on the Mayor's budget funding enough repair to include Barry along with all the other important, committed projects.

NOTE: A councilman may direct it to be the next street on the list, but if their is a utility that says they will do work there in the next year, the City must defer the street. This is what's called a Utility Hold. Whenever a street is selected to be repaired, over 100 utilities that have easements under the City Streets are notified and can request a hold so that they can complete their work. This is done to prevent a freshly resurfaced street from being cut open. Even when repaired, cuts in the street surface are the largest contributor to the degradation of the street condition.

Sadly, the process right now is political. The Councilman has his allocation that he literally directs as to what streets should be included in the resurfacing program.

All this information (and more) can be found at the Bureau of Street Services website. I would take the time to look at this presentation to fully understand the trends and reasons we're in the situation where the council claims the City needs a bond.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Virtual Los Angeles

One of the new blogs in town, Atwater Village Newbie, (one of my new links) has a great link on its sidebar. It links to Virtual LA, which I think it awesome. It captures the cityscape virtually. I especially am intrigued by the freeways under the "Transportation Studies" section. I wonder if this was the basis for the virtual Los Angeles found in the video game True Crime: Streets of LA. I got excited when I could use the video game to travel in real time from Santa Monica to Downtown LA - I guess that's just further proof that I'm a City Nerd.

Welcome, Atwater Nerd!

Graffiti trucks

In Los Angeles, there is an ordinance that requires property owners to remove graffiti on their property. If cited, they have 3 days to take action (plus all the extensions they can finagle).

So, why is it that trucks can roll through town covered in graffiti without regulation? This one is parked near Vermont & the 101.

This has the same effect of projecting the City as a crime-ridden town as does Freeway Graffiti.

Monday, April 10, 2006

New "Top 10 movies set in L.A." list...

I saw this new list of the Top ten Movies Set in L.A. and thought it deserved sharing. Personally, I think that the 1997 Tommy Lee Jones film, Volcano, should be on every "top movies set in L.A." list.

Any others?

Palm Sunday in L.A.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday was celebrated by most Christians in the City. The Cathedral had their service where they pass out palms to all attendees (the leftovers, of course, are burned to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday next liturgical season). Some people weave the palm into a little cross and some make intricate art from the palm fronds.

But in L.A., Palm Sunday could mean more. Almost every corner of the City has treelined streets - and not just those from the opening scene of The Beverly Hillbillies, but from Watts to Sherman Oaks and Santa Monica to Boyle Heights.

Then, there is the community of Palms - they could make this a big annual event the week before Easter each year!

Finally, and I think most notable, Palm Sunday in L.A. could should be celebrated in and about Elysian Park. Back in 1893, the Los Angeles Horticultural Society started what is now known as the Chavez Ravine Arboretum. Declared a Historical Cultural Monument In 1967, the Arboretum has over 125 species of trees and is known as the largest palm grouping of known species. (This map indicates all the locations, and here are what trees (palms and all) are located in the park. Elysian Park, the City's 3rd largest, even has the aptly named Palm Hill as a destination in the Arboretum with rare palms planted in the early 1970s.

Additionally, Elysian park is home to one of the oldest palm tree-lined City streets: The Avenue of the Palms. According to, in 1895 rare specimens of wild date were planted on what is now Stadium Way north of Scott Avenue. This grand entrance to the park was lauded as the gateway to the San Fernando Valley via Griffith Park, and a road was build form this point to the Los Angeles River along which to Griffith Park and beyond in 1897 (Riverside Drive?).

A recent article by Lili Singer gives a 2005 perspective of Elysian Park.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Politics of the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Besides egos and career promotion for living celebrities, politics enables the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (but maintained by the Hollywood Historic Trust) and led by emcee & Hollywood Honorary Mayor Johnny Grant, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is what truly makes Hollywood, well, Hollywood (along with Sid Grauman's concrete imprint collection!) since 1960/61 when the first 1,558 stars were placed. Since then, a five member committee selects about 20 stars to be installed each year based on the recipients contributions to the Hollywood community. One star is sometimes given each year posthumously. Terrazo & brass create the world-famous stars, and anyone can nominate anyone (with the nominees blessing) to be reviewed on the following criteria: professional achievement, longevity of five years in the field of entertainment, and contributions to the community.

But here's where the real politics come into play...

The Stars, after being selected by the 5 member panel of experts in their respective fields, must be approved by the Board of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Then, the City of Los Angeles's 5-member, full-time, paid-over-$140K-each-per-year Board of Public Works must approve the person and location. And finally, the 15 member City Council must give their approval. Lots to go through just to get a story on Entertainment Tonight and E!... or is it?

The City has approved every star recommendation put forth... except one.
In 1984, after the success of the Olympics in Los Angeles, ABC was proposed for a star. The City Council voted it down. According to Johnny Grant:
During the time of the 1984 Olympics, Los Angeles citizens were in a euphoric frame of mind over the games coming to their city. ABC made a request for a star denoting their coverage of the Olympic Games. I told the ABC representative (Paul Masterson) that I did not think it would be approved by the city, but would send the nomination to them "in the spirit of the Olympics."

It was not approved... and the ordinance against commercialism is still on the books.

Only once did the City Council voted against the recommendation by the Chamber of a star's installation, which is not bad considering there are over 2000 stars in place! And about that commercialism thing - the Chamber has just recently gotten away with it by placing major entities (businesses) with over a 50-year history related to Hollywood on private property near the Walk of Fame, the first being Disneyland. Since it's not in the public right-of-way, no City approval is needed. Although, there is a question whether the Cultural Affairs Commission must approve any public art visible from the street. But, if they claim it to be advertising & not art, then "signs must" be approved (with permits) by the Department of Building & Safety. But, who's going to push this issue, really?

So, politics be what they may in Los Angeles, who knows when some City Councilmember in the future will vote "no." But, if fans are willing to "support" their favorite star online, I'm sure they'll pressure the City Council to support whoever the next major star who needs a star!

LA Observed updates..

Thanks to the LA Observed Nerd, there has been a discussion on two recent posts. Here's some update & clarification...

Community Name Signs
Regarding the 178 community name signs. This list the most recent I've found: 178. The Byzantine-Latino Quarter (BLQ) & Hollywood Dell are not officially sanctioned neighborhoods, though, they may have the official blue signs (still awaiting confirmation). The BLQ may have custom signs or Cal-trans designation, but it stems from a Business Improvement District of the same name established in 1999. The City may have put up signs, but there was no official council action to do so. Hollywood Dell, similarly, has an active Neighborhood Assn., but no City action has taken place to install the signs. The most recent actions on record are the Toluca Terrace signs in the NoHo-Adjacent area of North Hollywood (wanting desperately to be Toluca Lake).

Now, just because they're not on the list, doesn't mean a neighborhood doesn't exist. Remember, there are all the custom signs that designate place like Wilshire Vista.

Steepest Hill
The information I received was from a City Engineer. He sent me that information without a source, and in no way did I intend to omit credit where credit is due: to Times writer Bob Pool. As a City Nerd, I claim not to know everything, but to share what I learn from others so it's out there. After a further online search, I found Pool's article here. I'm definitely going to watch out while using Google Image Search for the colorful additions to my posts.

Thanks for the interest in the City that has so much to talk about: Los Angeles.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tips for the Monthly City Council Meeting in the Valley

On Friday, April 7, 2006, the Los Angeles City Council will host it's first regularly scheduled council meeting in the San Fernando Valley. So, for those who will be attending the first of the monthly Los Angeles City Council Meetings in the Valley Municipal Building (VMB) in Van Nuys and are "other side of the hill"-ers or don't normally "do Van Nuys," here are a few City Nerd tips (and they maybe helpful to those who have to attend the meeting like the Councilmembers, Staff, and other City Staff)...

First, the City Council will meet every first Friday of the month in Van Nuys at 10am. The Valley Municipal Building (also known incorrectly as Van Nuys Cit Hall) is located one block east of Van Nuys Boulevard on Sylvan Street. Built in 1932, the building was rededicated last year after seismic retrofitting and restoration overseen by Project Restore, a unique department of the City of Los Angeles.

First, try to find a meter. You might have to walk a few blocks, but it's the cheapest thing close by. Unlike Downtown City Hall, all the streets adjacent to the VMB are metered. In fact, there are spaces right out front - the only meters in the City that have the historic meter pole design. You can also take the Orange Line to the station that is only 3 blocks south of the VMB. Also, if you want to park for free and you can't find a spot in the neighborhood, you can park at the never-full Orange Line parking lot on Van Nuys and Aetna and walk a few blocks north. The walk on Van Nuys Boulevard takes you past a car dealership, the State building, the Federal Building and then into the Bernardi Plaza via the Erwin Street Mall. Now, if you don't mind paying, just pull into the brand new underground parking structure (made possible by the short termed Valley Councilmember Ruth Galantar) to the east of the VMB where Sylmar Street meets Sylvan Street. It's easy, but not cheap if you're there a while. There are also less expensive City-owned pay-to-park lots in the surrounding blocks, but don't settle for that unless you're desperate and cheap!

While in the Valley's Civic Center, feel free to visit your Elected officials. The Mayor's & Councilman Cardenas's field offices are on the second floor of the VMB. If you get off the elevators on the second floor and turn left, you'll get to the new Council Chambers; if you turn right instead of left, you'll get to their offices. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky can be reached by crossing past the newly opened county childcare center to his field office in the former City Health Department building (from the days when LA City had its own Health department). The State building is just across Delano Street to the south; here you can visit State Senator Richard Alarcon or Assemblyman Lloyd Levine. Additionally, there is a library, police station, post office, courthouse, fire station, and other city and county departments located here - a true Civic Center.

Beyond the government services, the surrounding blocks have countless restaurants - some unique to the area worth trying: Le Fun Cafe, Dr. Deli & the Sandwich Queen, and Ranch House BBQ being popular with government workers. Others, like Subway are always good, too. Branch out; within a few blocks, you'll find Kabobs, great Chinese food, and Peruvian- all within walking distance!

Make a Day Out of It:
While in Van Nuys, don't feel like you're isolated in the Government Center. Within two blocks are some great restaurants as mentioned and other unique shops. Want a snack? Try Christopher Nuts Company retail outlet store which is next to their roasting plant (it smells REALLY good in there). From Gummies to nuts, this little shop on Calvert Street just west of Tyrone is a treasure of the community. Want to cool off? Next to Christopher Nuts is Van Nuys's Ice Skating Rink - all year round! There is a used book shop on the south side of Friar Street, one block north of the VMB. And you should stroll by the historical buildings (the original post office and library) west of Van Nuys Boulevard on Sylvan, just past Van Nuys's Little Italy of a barber and a tailor (south side of Sylvan, just passed the County wear shop). Don't miss the statue of Fernando in the Erwin Street Mall, either. This half-naked Native American is the symbol for service in the Valley. (See how many City commissioners or Valley street names you can find on the honorees listed on the statue's base!)

Other Amenities:
Don't forget that the VMB's courtyard, the Ernani Bernardi Plaza, has FREE Wi-Fi, as does the adjacent Braude Center.

Traveling Tip:
A short cut to & from Downtown: don't use the 101 to Van Nuys Boulevard - it's a mess. Use the 170 and the Victory Boulevard off/onramp. It's faster than fighting what might be the most congested on/offramp in the City: Van Nuys Boulevard & the 101.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Steepest Hill in LA: not Fargo Street!

Last week, there was a buzz over the Los Angeles Wheelmen's annual climb up Fargo Street in Echo Park. They claim it to be LA's steepest street. I had to check that fact...

For the record, there are neighboring streets like Baxter, Ewing, and Duane that have similar grades; Baxter is actually technically steeper than the rest by a few tenths of a percent. AND in Highland Park, Eldred Street has a 33% grade as well - same as Baxter. But technically, according to the City, the steepest stretch of street in Los Angeles is on 28th Street in San Pedro which, for about 50 feet between Gaffey Street and Peck Avenue, has a grade of 33.3%.

So, what this tells us is that though Fargo Street may not technically be the steepest, it may be the steepest street with a length daunting enough for the Wheelmen's annual event.

(Also, just so you know, since the 1950s, the grade of a street in the City of Los Angeles is not permitted to be greater than about 15%. Baxter was laid out in 1884 and Eldred was graded in 1912, which explains their steepness!)

Unique City Meetings in April

April 2006 has some interesting committees meeting that are open to the public. Besides the first regular "First Friday Council Meeting" in the Valley Municipal Building, there are two other meetings of interest I'd like to share:

1. On April 21, 2006, the Public Art Committee of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) will meet in the Cultural Affairs Commission Room at 12:30pm, as it does on the 3rd Friday of each month. Contact the City Art Collection Manager via the DCA webpage. This committee oversees donations and acquisitions to the City Public Art Collection. (For more information on the City's Public Art Collection, see this City Nerd Post.

2. The next Regular Meeting for the "Steering Committee for the 3-1-1/E-Government Project" is on April 13, 2006 at 1:30pm in the CAO Conference room on the 15th floor of City Hall East. This group was established almost SIX years ago (May 2000) and meets the second Tuesday of the month.

These are the type of meetings where, if a regular citizen attends and gets involved, they may actually have some influence on the decisions made. Attend if you can, and let me know how it goes!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Community Names - all 178!*

As of June 2005, there are 178 different community name signs (the official Blue Signs posted by the City). Many are derivatives of the original, though (check out the variations on Toluca Lake and Carthay Circle). There are community designations like Museum Row, Mariachi Plaza, and Tarzana Safari Walk aren’t really communities, but they still have the official blue community signs.

One I can't seem to figure out: Happy Valley. It's not in the San Fernando Valley, that's for sure. Where is it?

Angeles Mesa
Angelino Heights
Arlington Heights
Arlington Park
Arroyo View Estates*
Artist District
Arts District
Athens on the Hill
Atwater Village
Baldwin Hills
Baldwin Hills Estates
Baldwin Village
Baldwin Vista
Bel Air
Boyle Heights
Brentwood Glen
Brentwood Village
Broadway Square
Broadway Theater District
Cahuenga Pass
Cameo Plaza
Canoga Park
Canterbury Knolls
Carthay Circle
Carthay Square
Carthay Village
Central City
Century City
Century Cove
Century Palms
Chesterfield Square
Cheviot Hills
Civic Center
Country Club Park
Crenshaw District
Crenshaw Manor
Cypress Park
Del Rey
Downtown Industrial District
Eagle Rock
Echo Park
El Sereno
Elysian Valley
Fairfax Village
Fashion District
Franklin Hills
Furniture & Decorative Arts District
Gallery Row
Glassell Park
Granada Hills
Green Meadows
Griffith Park
Hancock Park
Happy Valley
Harbor City
Harbor Gateway
Highland Park
Historic Core District
Historic Filipinotown
Historic Downtown
Hollywood Heights
Hyde Park
Jefferson Park
Jewelry District
King Estates
La Cienega Ctr
La Fayette Park Square
La Tuna Canyon”
Lake Balboa
Lake View Terrace
Larchmont Village
Leimert Park
Lincoln Heights
Little Armenia
Little Ethiopia
Little Tokyo
Los Feliz
Los Feliz Village
Magnolia Square
Manchester Square
Mariachi Plaza
Marina Peninsula
Mar Vista
Melrose Hill
Mid - City
Miracle Mile
Miracle Mile District
Mission Hills
Montecito Heights
Monterey Hills
Morningside Circle
Mount Angelus
Mt. Washington
Museum Row on the Miracle Mile
Noho Arts District
North Hills
North Hollywood
North University Park
North Village Westwood
Old Bank District
Pacific Palisades
Panorama City
Park Mile
Parkside Manor
Pico – Union
Playa Del Rey
Rancho Park
Rose Hills
San Pedro
Shadow Hills
Sherman Oaks
Sherman Village
Silver Lake
Solano Canyon
South Carthay
South Los Angeles
South Park
Studio City
St. Andrews Square
Sun Valley
Tarzana Safari Walk
Thai Town
Toluca Lake
Toluca Terrace
Toluca Woods
Toy District
Twin Plaza District
University Expo Park West
University Hills
Valley Glen
Valley Village
Van Nuys
Vermont Knolls
Vermont Vista
Village Green
Virgil Village
West Adams
Western Heights
Westwood Village
West Hills
West Lake
West Los Angeles
West Park Terrace
West Toluca Lake
Westside Village
Wilshire Center
Wilshire District
Wilshire Park
Wilshire Park Mile
Windsor Square
Windsor Village
Woodland Hills

*approved by City Council in February, 2007, making the number acutally 180 community names.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Los Angeles Municipal Art Spaces

In 1924, the Los Angeles Times printed that "Los Angeles will have one of the finest art galleries in the world in the near future..."” Here we are in 2006, and the hubbub surrounding the 40th anniversary of LACMA this weekend proves that. 82 years later, that statement is true... right?

And with all the commotion about the 40th Anniversary of the County'’s independent art museum, it makes sense to take a look at the way we got here.

In 1913, the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art opened in Exposition Park after a 14-year effort by W.M. Rowen against Agriculture Park, which was a gathering place for drinking, gambling and other disgraceful activities of 100 years ago. (The Exposition Park Rose Garden was once a racetrack; notice its shape the next time you're there!) This museum housed it all until the new facility was built in 1965, which is why we celebrate this weekend!

Additionally, at the dawn of the 20th century, other public galleries were discussed, and some even built. In 1916, a site had been selected on Normal Hill (about Fifth and Grand where the State Normal School once stood at the last knoll of Bunker Hill before it leveled out) for an art gallery and concert hall. Perhaps that is why we have the Central Library there now?

In 1916, General Harrison Gray Otis deeded the property (which included his family residence) at Wilshire and Westlake to the County with the provision that it be used in the furtherance of education in the arts. It was official in January 1917 and was originally part of the County Museum, known as the The Otis Art Institute of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science & Art (1918). It had six more name changes, and then moved in 1997 to Westchester. In recent years, LAUSD converted the orginal site of Genreal Otis's home and the Institute into an elementary school: Charles White Elementary.

In 1927, Aline Barnsdall donated the park bearing her family name and the structures to the City, with similar intentions to those of General Otis: to provide an accessible arts center. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Ms. Barnsdall tried to take back the property, claiming the city didn'’t keep its side of the bargain - a bargain only she was privy to. The City denied her claims & efforts to physically block entrance to the park, and she died a recluse in 1946, leaving $5,000 for her 22 cocker spaniels.

In 1957, 26,000 people attended the celebrated "The Family of Man" photography show organized by New York's Museum of Modern Art, in Barnsdall's original municipal gallery, a temporary structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Later that year, the park hosted a Vincent van Gogh show and then, Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish retrospectives in the mid-'60s.

The City'’s Municipal Gallery was established in the hallways of City Hall on the 3rd (& then the 6th) floor in 1928. As early as 1941, the gallery was housed in Room 351.

In 1941, the City decided to start securing the oil paintings of all former Mayors into the Municipal Art Gallery. Apparently, at that time, only half were in the collection and then locked in a separate room from the main gallery, often referred to as the morgue. Then, in April 1955, the first showing of mayoral portraits (22 of 36) was unveiled for just over 2 weeks in the Tower Gallery. The City's "Tower Gallery," the first true municipal art gallery, opened in 1951 on the top floor of Los Angeles'’ tallest building: City Hall. They claimed it to the be on the 25th Floor and attract over 27,000 people the first year. The Tower Gallery seems to have closed after 1968 (still trying to find confirmation on this one!), and it'’s permanent replacement opened in 1971 as the Municipal Art Gallery built in Barnsdell Art Park. It wouldn'’t be until 2002 that the Tower Gallery opened again as the Mayoral Gallery in the newly restored City Hall.

Praising a City exhibit in 1950, Art Critic Arthur Miller of the LA Times wrote, "“A great city like Los Angeles, if it is to sponsor art at all, should feature the best art owned or produced in its region."

So, the City has the Municipal Gallery in Barnsdell Art Park and a The County Museum on Wilshire in the Miracle Mile. City Hall has the Tower Gallery with its permanent exhibit and the rotating Bridge Gallery between City Hall & City Hall East. The City also has the Craft & Folk Art museum and over 2300 pieces (including the Mayor Portraits, furniture, and artifacts) in the City Art Collection.

In 1991, the City instituted a Percent for the Arts or Arts Development Fee, after discussions stemming from Councilman Joel Wachs in 1985. This fee would be levied to construction for commercial properties over a certain value, and then 1% would be paid for some sort of art or arts program. The intent was to beef up the CityƂ’s Art Collection, which it did. Works are also displayed throughout the City offices and Buildings of the City without a true gallery, only to improve the working environment of the employees (one of the missions of the City Art Collection).

The mission of the City Art Collection is actually three-fold:
1) to promote understanding, awareness and enrichment of the visual arts for City officials, employees, residents and visitors through public access to works of art
(2) to improve the effectiveness of government by creating a high-quality work environment
for employees and
(3) to document and preserve the artistic heritage of the City of Los Angeles.

The Art Collection acquisitions are governed by a a policy from 1989, and it continues to review works to be accepted.

Does are city really do enough for the Arts and the public display of it? It depends how the taxpayers are impacted by the Galleries and public displays of art in the City.