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Dec 23, 2006, 12:20 AM
I don't get how the sofitel ever got associated with that building's architecture. It's horrid. It's as bad as 1100 wilshire. Nevermind the details, it's not even contextually correct. Modernist glass curtainwall meets ersatz mansard meets spanish revival. What the hell?

It reminds me of one of those cheap New Orleans style Vegas Casinos that you find off the strip. :haha:

Dec 23, 2006, 1:18 AM
It reminds me of one of those cheap New Orleans style Vegas Casinos that you find off the strip. :haha:

Like The Orleans?



I love the vomit themed color scheme.

Btw..the Softiel is horrible. I actually love 80's style architecture but I expect to see this guy (http://www.paulmorris.co.uk/73/biogs/harry.jpg) walk out and speed off in his Ferarri Testarossa.

Dec 23, 2006, 5:43 AM
Yeah that's it!

Link: ^Oh god! The layered look with the bunched-up sleeves.:haha: :haha:

Dec 28, 2006, 1:01 AM
The Sofitel's design doesn't really bother me that much - I think its one of the better looking structures in that area, especially when compared to the behemoth Beverly Center. I remember the old Beverly Connection not looking too great, but I can't say much about the new one since it appears to still be a work in progress.

I didn't realize how pedestrian unfriendly this area was until Halloween when I had to walk from the Beverly Center Parking lot to Santa Monica Blvd. The sidewalks are so narrow and cramped - people were spilling into the streets. Granted there were a lot of people, but in some areas you had to walk single file....

Beverly and La Cienega is one ulgy intersection. The Beverly Center, Beverly Connection and the Sofitel are all beastly and pedestrian unfriendly even with their recent facelifts. I wish someone would build a Macy's on Hollywood Blvd and I wouldn't ever have to go to the Beverly Center.

Dec 28, 2006, 5:20 AM
I don't get how the sofitel ever got associated with that building's architecture. It's horrid. It's as bad as 1100 wilshire. Nevermind the details, it's not even contextually correct. Modernist glass curtainwall meets ersatz mansard meets spanish revival. What the hell?

I don't know, from the photo, it doesn't look that bad to me. I mean, not good, but not as bad as some other buildings I've seen. Certainly not as bad as 1100 Wilshire. Although I can imagine it is pretty bad from the sidewalk.

Dec 28, 2006, 5:28 AM
It's not as bad as people are making it out to be. From street level, it's not that bad either. It's just the area and Beverly Blvd in general is ugly. It's very pedestrian unfriendly and the place is not pleasing.

Jan 4, 2007, 1:40 AM
I'm not the pickiest when it comes to the look of new devlpt, unless it's really flat out cheap, but the Sofitel hotel bldg, with its combination of reflective modern glass facade and more traditional stone exterior, seems very schizoid. It makes me think of the "Dallas" TV show that was popular back in the 1980s.

Jan 4, 2007, 1:59 AM
Citywatch.....I will wait in the tall grass for you. I will attack your posts at every turn. It is now my quest to end you on this board. You and your agenda will be ended.
After being rather (ahem) rudely interrupted a few wks ago, this debate now is stale, but I'll ask the question anyway: Um, why? You don't think the "agenda" of the city being improved & cleaned up is a good one?

Your saying you want to "end" me on this board suggests what? That you'd rather everyone in LA think, "our town is good enough, good enough....no more improvement is necessary because we're good enough".

Debate is the spice of life, & when dealing with a city like LA a lot more basic talk is needed, not just comments along the lines of "how tall will that be? when will they build it? Will it be 30 or 50 floors tall, Is the red line going to extend past Century city or Westwood too? I like that new highrise! I hate that bldg! What street is that on?" IOW, conversation about as involved & multi paragraphed (or sentenced) as on SSC.com.

Jan 4, 2007, 2:18 AM
Which is exactly why you need to stop obsessing about something as arbitrary, subjective and vague as personal tastes and preconceived notions of aesthetics.

For that matter, it can be said that any topic or issue shouldn't be discussed here because it's all "arbitrary, subjective & vague." After all, some ppl think the burbs----& burban type of devlpt----are way better than cities, & visa versa.

I can ask why should we in LA be "obsessing" about transit lines & transit friendly devlpt or ped friendly sidewalks? After all, most ppl----even in cities like SF or Chicago----still favor using cars & fwys, & instead of walking a bit out of their way will drive a mile around to find parking spaces closest to the front door of a store or house.

I mention this in particular because I have a friend who is a big fan of jazzercising & going to the gym, stopping global warming & the ideals of ppl pooling their resources, inc their using more transit instead of fwys. But when I suggested we car pool around 2 yrs ago, she came up with a million excuses as to why that would be too inconvenient. BTW, she owns a big gas guzzler, although she's now finally talking about switching to something more fuel efficient.

Jan 4, 2007, 9:09 AM
my biggest fear is to be like citywatch and not realize it.

Jan 4, 2007, 9:36 PM
He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Jan 5, 2007, 5:41 AM
my biggest fear is to be like citywatch and not realize it.
har de har har, edluva. That means you won't realize it when you're less gloomy than you seem to be, because, for example, I'd never write, as you did recently in the Hollywood thread, "boy, there (sure is) some shitty architecture in hollywood!". However, I'm assuming you were NOT referring to things in that hood very similar to the really baaad, old, rundown hovels along parts of the blvd, or the various fugly parking lots.

Jan 5, 2007, 7:00 AM
Citywatch, you were banned temporarily were you not?

Jan 5, 2007, 9:40 AM
har de har har, edluva. That means you won't realize it when you're less gloomy than you seem to be, because, for example, I'd never write, as you did recently in the Hollywood thread, "boy, there (sure is) some shitty architecture in hollywood!". However, I'm assuming you were NOT referring to things in that hood very similar to the really baaad, old, rundown hovels along parts of the blvd, or the various fugly parking lots.

no, it means I won't realize when I write idiotically.

Jan 5, 2007, 4:35 PM
Citywatch, you were banned temporarily were you not?Cookiejarvis, your question adds to, enhances or is relevant to the topic of "next LA" in what way?

no, it means I won't realize when I write idiotically.Edluva, would it be correct if I complained to SSP's administrator that your ongoing insults are a violation of TOS rules?


Industry Respects L.A. Planning Director's Directness

Gail Goldberg cutting through red tape and erasing backlog

CREJ Staff Writer

Like a missionary, Los Angeles Planning Director Gail Goldberg has taken her ideas for revamping the city's planning department on the road. "I'm out four nights a week and every weekend talking about the red tape and bureaucratic stupidity I've found," Goldberg told the audience in attendance at the economic summit held at the RAND Corp. headquarters.

As Goldberg attends meetings, comments like that have given her a reputation for being honest about the challenges she faces. She's also seen as having an appreciation for the city and for what it can become, according to many Los Angeles real estate executives.

"Los Angeles finally has a planning director with a vision as big as the city," said Mott Smith, a principal with Civic Enterprise Associates LLC, a strategic planning and development company, and outgoing president of the Westside Urban Forum. "A lot remains to be seen. She's laying the groundwork for a lot of changes that we won't see the results from for another three to five years." He adds that it's good that Goldberg is taking the long view rather than doing quick fixes that pander to people.

The planning department has been criticized for making decisions on a project-by-project basis without evaluating how those projects fit into a larger plan for the city. Goldberg hopes the urban design studio she has created with two existing staffers will help provide connections between projects. She describes Los Angeles as having great streets but not great neighborhoods.

Every Saturday, Goldberg has planners give her six-hour tours of the areas they work in. One of these tours took her through an industrial area in downtown. As she was walking down the street, she admired what she described as two beautiful buildings, but between the two buildings was another building set back 30 feet from the road.

The decision perplexed her, so she asked someone why the building had been built so far from the road. She was told it was to mitigate for possible street widening. "They knew that was never going to happen because the existing buildings were built out to the street," Goldberg said. "They have taken away a street wall that would have formed a potential pedestrian walkway."

She plans to create strategic case-management teams that will match the five areas represented by the planning commissioners, the idea being that better planning will occur if case officers are as familiar with their area as area planners are. As her department has plowed through the backlog of 1,000 cases that existed when she was appointed in late February, Goldberg has begun to formulate a vision for her department.

"I was told that I had a dysfunctional department and no planning occurred," Goldberg said. "Both things were true, but I also have wonderful planners."

She attributed part of the reason for the dysfunction caused by the lack of long-range planning to the hiring freeze that resulted in the backlog. "We had twice as many cases last year as we had five years ago and less people," Goldberg said......."We don't have real plans. The city needs real plans," Goldberg said. "People protest every project. If I were them and had the community plans that they do, I would protest every project too." Developers also would have a better idea of what the city's expectations are as they start the entitlement process.

"If developers know the guidelines there will be more certainty going in," said Renata Simril, a vice president of development with Forest City Residential West Inc. and former deputy mayor of economic development and housing for Mayor Jim Hahn. "If would be a great benefit if we knew how long the entitlement process would take and could plan for it," Simril said.

Consistency would take the fear out of the process, said Loren Bloch, president of Community Dynamics, a Santa Monica-based affordable housing developer. Like other developers, part of what impresses Bloch about Goldberg is her presence, which he sees as an asset in making community groups more comfortable with developments.

Bloch also attended the Westside Urban Forum meeting because he plans to re-enter Los Angeles after more than a decade's hiatus. "The changes she discussed make me eager to do business in Los Angeles," Bloch said.

Developers are already beginning to notice a difference in dealing with the planning department.

"The attitude of the planning staff seems much more collaborative, which is not to say it was awful during the prior administration," Simril said. "It's just there is a new sheriff in town. I think there is excitement in the planning department from eliminating the backlog and being able to focus more on planning."

Forest City hasn't had projects wending their way through the planning process since Goldberg was appointed but has had to get conditional-use permits on some projects. In one instance, the company's consultants projected it would take eight months to get permits, now they are projecting it will take four months, Simril said. "The changes are creating a better department that is more streamlined," she said.

Complete version found here (http://www.carealestatejournal.com/newswire/index.cfm?sid=&tkn=&eid=883245&evid=1)

Jan 5, 2007, 5:27 PM
Citywatch, your constant "I know you are but what am I" trollings and insistence on dredging up topics that have been sufficiently beaten into the ground have wasted plenty of space on this forum time and again. You have learned nothing from your last time out and have returned to your own petulant ways. Unless you show some humility and listen objectively to what others have to say, you'll just end up getting banned again.

Buckeye Native 001
Jan 5, 2007, 6:09 PM
Jesus, and I thought I was cynical about Southern California's urban development...

Jan 5, 2007, 6:25 PM
"Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?"

Jan 5, 2007, 9:44 PM
by all means citywatch. I stated that you made idiotic comments.

anyways, I think that as long as developers continue to build dense, butt-ugly infill, LA will have so much urban infill that we won't notice the individual butt-ugliness anymore. It'll all just be kitschy and gaudy.

Jan 5, 2007, 11:45 PM
Citywatch, cool article. thanks.

Jan 6, 2007, 12:11 AM
I'll say this regarding L.A.'s architecture: I think it RAWKS. I think so because it has something for everyone. I find that other large cities have a certain feel that is pervasive through their neighborhoods. L.A. on the other hand has something for everyone.

As per Palmer developments, I'm actually with CityWatch on this one, albeit not for all the same reasons. First, he/she? is right in regards to anything being better than a deadzone parking lot, especially downtown. Downtown needs all the residents it can get. Nothing makes more people move to a neighborhood like, well, more people. It's sort of a snowball effect, y'know. While many people moving downtown enjoy the kind of "urban" style of lofts found in the old bank district and elsewhere, many others simply don't like loft living and prefer the kind of resort apartment living one can find at Park La Brea and various other places on the West Side. They are definitely NOT my cup of tea, but seeing as how they are some of the most popular rentals (most you guys seem loath to aknowledge this fact) then they certainly must have a broad appeal. Also take not that (I think anyways, please correct me if I am mistaken) that Palmer includes retail in the base of all his developments. I also think people need to lay off of Savoy. Yes, it's a bit...eh...fugly (to me and apparently all of you btw), but it has proven successful. I also don't think it is a SIN to have no retail on the ground floor. It's not as if it's located in a retail wasteland, in fact it's adjacent to one of downtown's only real neighborhoods, and I for one would rather see the residents venture out and patronize the existing businesses in Little Tokyo rather than some Quizno's or H&R block that would surely occupy the space created by new retail.

Buckeye Native 001
Jan 6, 2007, 2:44 AM
We should all try to be annoying boosters who see everything through rose-colored glasses, just like the majority of forumers from a certain Texas city that starts with "S" and ends in "an Antonio"...

Jan 6, 2007, 7:51 AM
^like i said citywatch, you're always....

...Buckeye?....but I thought...nevermind.

Jan 7, 2007, 8:25 PM
We should all try to be annoying boosters who see everything through rose-colored glasses,

It's always said that on a 12 step recovery program, the first step is for a person to admit there's a problem (ex: anorexics or chain smokers & the ppl around them therefore can't afford to be looking at the world through "rose colored" glasses).

This makes me think of the blogger from India (http://desicritics.org/2006/10/14/095412.php) who I pointed out a few months ago. She certainly wasn't wearing those glasses when visiting CA last yr, or at least the southern part of it, & ended up dismissing LA. However, when I noted such criticism was being made by a traveler from a land full of poverty & slums----simply to indicate the idea of "you know things are bad when ppl dissing the city are visiting from...."-----she put on the thickest rose colored glasses imaginable & became very incensed. Her reaction made me think of someone fuming: "how dare you say the sun is hot & the South Pole is cold!!"

Beyond that, I notice such a tourist, when forming an opinion of the town, won't necessarily even mention problems with traffic. However, after seeing this article today, I'm sure crowded roads & limited transit options are making things even more compromised. And notice that all these problems are heightened when, for example, a major spokesperson for DTLA doesn't even live in the hood but several miles to the west!

Steve Lopez:
Points West
Going nowhere on the Westside

January 7 2007

There's been no meeting, no memo, no poll. But everyone who lives on the Westside of Los Angeles or does business there has independently arrived at the same conclusion: Traffic has gotten so predictably, maddeningly, curse-the-gods miserable that only a fool would attempt to head east after 3 p.m. on a weekday. Some war-weary traffic veterans say even that's too late.

"Three o'clock is not a sweet spot anymore," insists Kevin Sheehy, an attorney who lives in Santa Monica and has found that all the alternate routes he used to take as he zigzagged east are now bottled up. "It's closer to 2 o'clock."

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has told his secretary to schedule nothing for him west of the 405 unless he can wrap things up by 2:30 p.m. He'll schedule later events, but only if they end after 8 p.m., when traffic has lifted. And, of course, he avoids heading from east to west in the morning if he can help it because that can be just as bad, with thousands of people commuting to jobs in Santa Monica and thereabouts. "There is no part of Los Angeles County where it takes such a long time to go such a short distance," says Yaroslavsky, who's on the road more than most people. "I've several times been stuck in a traffic jam that is just total, absolute gridlock, where it doesn't move. You're in the same place for 10 minutes at a time."

The trip that sent Yaroslavsky over the edge was in October. After attending an event on Cloverfield Boulevard near Michigan Avenue in Santa Monica, he headed east at 6:30 p.m., expecting to be on time for a 7:30 Beverly Hills appointment. But by 7:20, he was just getting to the 405. "I never even made it to the Beverly Hills event, so I went home to Fairfax. It took one hour and 41 minutes from Cloverfield to Beverly and La Brea."

It was only about 11 miles, Yaroslavsky said. He could have jogged the distance in less time. Now Yaroslavsky has asked a traffic engineer to investigate the possibility of turning Olympic and Pico boulevards into one-way thoroughfares. In the meantime, Westside traffic has become the city's all-purpose excuse.

Late for work? Westside traffic. Marriage on the rocks? Westside traffic. Lost 10 years of your life? Westside traffic.

Yaroslavsky said it's a big topic at downtown cultural institutions, where they're wondering if traffic combat fatigue is keeping Westsiders from filling up seats at music, dance and theater events. Yaroslavsky recalled that in the late 1990s, Los Angeles philanthropist Richard Colburn declined a request for a donation to Disney Hall, arguing that a concert hall ought to be on the Westside. That's where the subscriber base would be, he reasoned, and why would beach dwellers want to fight the traffic to get downtown, of all places?

"We do now and again see some empty seats, but there isn't anything in terms of research that could tell you why," said Catherine Babcock of the Music Center, whose companies include the Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Master Chorale, L.A. Opera and Los Angeles Philharmonic. She said attendance held steady at about 1.2 million each of the last two seasons and figures aren't available yet for the current season. When seats are empty, she said, the reason could be illness, scheduling conflicts and many other things besides traffic.

No doubt. But Sheehy, the attorney with the never-after-2 p.m. rule on eastern commutes, told me he and his wife subscribed to the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood several years ago, in part because the trips to downtown arts and entertainment events had become such a nightmare. And patrons at Wednesday night's chamber music performance at Disney Hall — which had 160 no-shows (people who bought tickets but didn't attend) — told me Westside bottlenecks are making it harder to justify the trek. David Nimmer, who lives in Beverly Hills, said he recently picked up his mother in Westwood at 6 p.m. and they missed a 7:30 curtain for the L.A. Opera.

"It's definitely something I think about all the time," said his friend Robert Smith, who lives at Pico and Robertson boulevards and is reconsidering his commitment as a volunteer at a kosher food bank near downtown. "You have to be there at 6 o'clock, and you just can't go east after 4 in the afternoon."

Carol Schatz of the Central City Assn., which has helped lead the downtown renaissance, would like to see public officials get to work on the traffic problem. Especially since the Grand Avenue and L.A. Live projects will rely on lots more people making their way downtown. Schatz left her home in Benedict Canyon at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday for a Rolling Stones concert at Dodger Stadium. She and her husband, Fred, took Beverly to Silver Lake Boulevard to Sunset and got to their seats at 7 p.m.

"If I have a show to do at KCET at 6 p.m.," Brentwood resident and former Mayor Richard Riordan said of the public TV station in Los Feliz, "to get there from my house is probably an hour and a half. It should be a 30-minute drive."

As maddening as such tales are, none of this happened by accident. It was created by decades of horrendous planning, including a lack of mixed-income housing near job centers and transportation. As the number of Westside jobs exploded, the traditional traffic flow shifted, Yaroslavsky said. A lot of the new people working on the Westside couldn't afford to live there, and so you had more cars heading from east to west in the morning rather than from west to east.

There's also been a mind-boggling lack of interagency cooperation, under-investment in public transit, overpopulation and an unshakable preference for sitting alone in our cars and fuming at all the other drivers inconsiderate enough to be on the same road.

It didn't help that Westside congressman Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) put the kibosh on Red Line tunneling two decades ago, even as more people were commuting to jobs by the beach. Or that in 1998, Yaroslavsky pushed a ban on the use of sales tax money for more subway digging. But in Yaroslavsky's defense, the public was fed up with corruption, accidents and other disasters that came at a cost of roughly $300 million a mile.

Now Waxman has changed his mind, although he hasn't yet produced the money to get the Red Line back under construction. A light-rail line along Exposition Boulevard is also part of the long-term plan.

I called Jaime de la Vega, Los Angeles deputy mayor for transportation, to see what he says about it all and to ask if he's gotten rid of his Hummer yet. He didn't call back. I know it's a free country, but we have to hope the transit boss in a city with legendary smog and traffic is no longer tooling around town in a goofball buggy the size of a tank.

L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl tells me he's optimistic that with a Brentwood resident as governor, a bond measure that will funnel cash into Southern California transit and a mayor who was in Washington last week to start pumping the new Democratic power brokers in Congress, the big-ticket projects have a fighting chance. But like Yaroslavsky, he says we can't wait.

"I know that everybody on the Westside, from rich to poor and everything in between, is so fed up they're willing to think outside the box," said Rosendahl, who announced a plan last month to synchronize lights, add 32 left-turn signals, get the Green Line extension project moving and spend $200,000 on bicycle and pedestrian lanes.

But let's not forget that north-south arteries are no picnic either, Rosendahl said. He'd like to try a contra-flow system on Lincoln Boulevard, adding a third lane in the northerly direction from 6:30 to 9 a.m. and switching the lane to the southerly direction from 4 to 7 p.m.

Yaroslavsky returned from a trip to Brazil several years ago with a drawing of a busway system that inspired the hugely successful Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley. Last month, he went to Buenos Aires and came back talking about the contra-flow lanes in front of his hotel. Now he's pushing an even more radical approach.

"I'm now talking about taking Olympic Boulevard from downtown to the beach and making it one-way in one direction and taking Pico one-way in the other direction," he said.

That'll tick off some people, he said, especially those who live on north-south streets that end up being used as crossover routes. But he said he was going to discuss it with officials in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Los Angeles and call on a traffic engineer to report on the feasibility of doing it full time, just on weekdays or only during peak commute hours.

"It's a relatively inexpensive way to move traffic over the short term while we work on the bigger things," said Yaroslavsky. "I think the public would embrace and welcome radical ideas. "Something has to be done when a mother tells me it takes her 40 minutes to take her son from Brentwood to Palisades Park for an afternoon soccer game and 40 minutes coming back. That's ridiculous."

Jan 7, 2007, 10:11 PM
This makes me think of the blogger from India (http://desicritics.org/2006/10/14/095412.php) who I pointed out a few months ago...

The blogger from India strikes again!!! :tup:

I wonder if the blogger from India has been down to the OBD lately. No? She hasn't eaten at Blossom, perused books at Metropolis, visited the new galleries? Well then, maybe her opinions are not so relevant anymore. (As if they were in the first place.)

BTW, the parking lot at Fourth and Main is anything but a deadzone these days: on weekends, it becomes quite alive with visitors from around the region, who have come to visit the new improved Historic Core.

Jan 7, 2007, 11:09 PM
Well then, maybe her opinions are not so relevant anymore. (As if they were in the first place.)I like to think that, as her comment that there's "nothing much" to a city as interesting as LA is ridiculous. BTW, I notice she not only didn't complain about there being too much traffic, she complained that the city's streets (other than Sunset Bl) were "empty & untouched".

However, there is the reality of strength in numbers, & when a lot of ppl express a similar opinion or have the same reaction, that's hard to ignore or write off. For example, I recall your saying last yr that the following TV program was really bad & unwatchable, which I fully agree with. I remember not being able to sit through it even when a child. But in a search of TV ratings (for my favorite new series, "Heroes" on NBC, which has included quite a few shots of DTLA), I found this:

An average of about 21 million people spent Thanksgiving morning watching helium-filled Snoopy, Pikachu, Big Bird, SpongeBob SquarePants and a helium-less Barry Manilow lumber down Manhattan's Central Park West on NBC. It was last week's second-most-watched program in the country, behind only Sunday's "Desperate Housewives" on ABC. The 80th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast outdistanced 89 of 90 prime-time telecasts last week. To put this in perspective, the four-hour, holiday kitschfest Thursday clocked about 4 million more viewers than the most recent Grammy Awards broadcast, 5 million more than the most recent Primetime Emmy Awards broadcast and nearly twice as many viewers as that other Christmas season orgy of commercialism, "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show," snared in its first and best year on broadcast TV.


Jan 8, 2007, 12:09 AM
LBU does have a point. Her opinions weren't ever really relevant as he pointed out in various ways. Plus, she referred to Hollywood Blvd as "Sunset Strip." Isn't that enough?

Jan 8, 2007, 1:11 AM
^ Until you mentioned it, I didn't even notice she used the wrong name of the street where she visited the Kodak theater.

I'm able to take opinions I'm not happy with in stride if I believe they're at least being stated honestly & sincerely, without an axe to grind. So I have no trouble wondering if her viewpoint would've been more positive if, along with the words "clean" & "well organized" (http://sakshijuneja.com/blog/2006/10/16/more-to-india-than-slums-and-poverty/), she also could have said "beautiful" (as she says about SF or Sydney).

For your information, I did enjoy your city of Los Angeles. It’s a pretty clean and well-organized city but from a tourist point of view it doesn’t have much to offer other than it’s basic tagline - Hollywood. One would expect more from such popular cities like LA but sadly it doesn’t live-up to those expectations. Maybe LA needs to learn some tricks-of-the-trade from its fellow cities like New York, Boston or San Francisco.OTOH, you can see she gave me no similar benefit of the doubt, & saw my basic description of India as being the ultimate putdown, or nastily incorrect.

As for ppl's resistance to visiting parts of the city, esp DT, because of increasingly crowded fwys & streets, I don't think that's helping some of the causes for this... (http://www.artsjournal.com/man/archives20070101.shtml#108220)

The loss of a trustee and the loss of a gift does not create a crisis for MOCA, but... for years it's needed a place to show its permanent collection and it hasn't built one. For years it's needed a solution to its attendance problem -- it's long been a doggone shame that the contemporary art museum with America's best exhibition/etc. programming (MOCA launched Smithson, Ecstasy, Rauschenberg combines, A Minimal Future, co-created Visual Music, etc.) has trouble attracting visitors to its downtown HQ. (MOCA earned just $330,000 in admissions in FY 2005.) This is an ongoing story...


Jan 8, 2007, 1:32 PM
I am glad to see that the media is now reporting frequently about the traffic nightmare that has become Los Angeles. I am ambivalent about the radical idea Zev has proposed with turning Olympic and Pico into one ways. Only because I am afraid that it might actually WORK! This could alleviate traffic enough where the real need for the subway will be lowered in priority and urgency once again. People might say, "Well, it's not too bad now with the one-ways, why do we need to spend so much money on a subway??" But of course, as time passes by, and population continues to grow, even the one way streets will become inadequate (just look at Downtown LA during rush hour, it's a mess even with all the one way streets).

The article also states that Zev gets many of his ideas from visiting other cities. Curitiba, Brazil spawned our semi-successful Orange Line and now Buenos Aires MAY contribute to one-way thoroughfares. Then, obviously the next few places to visit should include Taipei (with a brand new metro), Spain (with the ambitious subway plan), and Tokyo (just because he needs to see that the future density of LA will only be able to exist if Tokyo's transit becomes the model for LA).

I am hoping that Westside traffic continues to worsen. The Westside's stubborn preference for the automobile is like a child absolutely set on throwing a temper tantrum in a candy store. The mother tells the child to stop eating the candy even though it tastes soo good, and the child refuses to stop eating until all her poor little teeth rot out (until LA traffic comes to an absolute grinding halt waaay before 2PM - try 24 hours!). BUT, if the traffic continues to worsen, this will continue to pressure for politicians to think outside the box and possibly transfer all that into real solutions like the Purple Line subway to Santa Monica and the Green Line up north to Expo/Purple Line, etc.

Buckeye Native 001
Jan 8, 2007, 4:19 PM
^like i said citywatch, you're always....

...Buckeye?....but I thought...nevermind.


Jan 8, 2007, 9:48 PM
Not to mention its better if you can keep them two way and aleviate traffic with the subway. We dont want traffic to be bad, but we do want to keep it at a moderate speed.

Jan 8, 2007, 11:05 PM
I'm quite skeptical of one way streets along Pico and Olympic working. The main reason being the incresed stress on north/south streets which are already insane. You'd have to expect an increase in right and left turns onto streets like Fairfax, La Cienega, Robertson, etc. which lead people to the 10 and Wilshire. It's a piece meal, gimmicky non-solution that even if it worked as well as it possibly could, would reach critical mass soon enough to not be worth the effort.

Jan 10, 2007, 9:06 PM
In Hubculture.com (http://www.hubculture.com/) 's ranking of world cities of the moment, LA ranks #1. According to them:

A controversial choice? Sure it's big, but LA is finally hitting on all cylinders: fashion, tech, entertainment, and overall groove. American Apparel is changing fashion with vertically integrated manufacturing. LA's skull and bones indie rock fashion dominates globally. Myspace culture is taken for granted, everywhere. New walking areas and urban regeneration projects, from downtown to Malibu to Hollywood, make the city much more palatable than before, despite the endless crush of traffic. Entourage and other shows, from the OC to Laguna Beach, have moved the collective consciousness west. All in this and more help make LA the city of the moment: the energy is positive, its power is on the rise, and people everywhere have LA on their mind.

Of course, it's a completely unscientific and arbitrary ranking, but I think some of us are getting a little sick of hearing about a certain woman from India...

Jan 10, 2007, 10:39 PM
^ Yes, we definitely need more positive feedback from whatever source (whether it be from weird tourists from India or hip publications) to give us some validation - Sheesh!

Jan 10, 2007, 10:44 PM
Berlin at 2!

Of course it is a Zeitgeist ranking, so it seems theres some bias to that.

Jan 10, 2007, 11:23 PM
Poor Los Angeles.....always so concerned about image.

I could really care less. This is just an anecdotal observation, but I find that Chicago has a pretty terrible reputation outside the confines of Chicagoland. But the perception of it as a frigid, industrial, economically decrepit, too black, too crime ridden city in decline doesn't stop it from having a great economy, bustling arts and theatre scene, amazing cultural life, and better infrastructure than most cities.

So, I say to all of you: let's stop the worrying and be more like Chicago: focus on achieveable, pragmatic solutions that measureably make our citizens' (and thus tourists as well) lives better!!!!

Jan 11, 2007, 12:56 AM
^ Exactly. Well said, sir.

Jan 11, 2007, 1:06 AM
Funny, I hardly hear anything negative about Chicago...

I mean, there is definitely something ODD about LA, and we shouldn't ignore that. Something makes many people not like this place and we should figure out what they are and try to "fix it."

Jan 12, 2007, 12:43 AM

Sick of traffic? Sick of smog? Sick of urban sprawl?

Don't just complain about it. See what's being done to change it. On Jan. 11, KCET will air a Los Angeles-focused segment of its acclaimed series "Edens Lost & Found."

This one-hour installment of the multipart series titled, "Los Angeles: Dream a Different City," will focus on community leaders and groups in the greater L.A. area who are finding solutions to what a century of almost unchecked growth has wrought on our landscape and our lives.

The segment begins with host Jimmy Smits providing a quick overview of a familiar litany of problems besetting Los Angeles. There are traffic-choked interchanges, vast tracts of unchecked development, a trickle of water to slake a thirsty city and brownish air.

"If Southern California can solve these problems, there just might be hope for the rest of the world," Smits says.

Producer and director Harry Wiland and Dale Bell track down the people and groups who have found ways to confront these problems. To watch the documentary is to find much reason for hope:

TreePeople founder Andy Lipkis, who talks of discovering the importance of trees during summers at a Jewish camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, shows how urban forestry and water recovery projects throughout the city can provide shade, lower electricity usage and replenish groundwater.

The 35-year campaign has gained powerful allies. TreePeople's main on-screen advocate is L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose first act as mayor was to plant a tree. And County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says of the groundwater recovery efforts, "If it works it will revolutionize the way we do flood control."

Lewis MacAdams of Friends of the Los Angeles River and Melanie Winter of The River Project show how the battle to re-green the 58-mile cement ditch will reshape the city.

Darrell Clarke and Presley Burroughs of Friends 4 Expo Transit speaks of his 21-year struggle to get a light-rail line from downtown to the beach.
"It's a ladder for upward mobility," Burroughs says.

That last theme is crucial to the filmmakers. A good amount of the program looks at how economically depressed areas in Boyle Heights, the north San Fernando Valley and El Monte benefit from re-connecting and fighting for Los Angeles' environment. "Improving L.A.'s natural environment," says the mayor on screen, "will improve families and the economy."

"Eden's Lost and Found" is part of a series that also looks at innovative solutions in Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago and other American cities. A companion book and DVD provide ample information for would-be activists.

Wiland, a Venice resident and Jewish activist, sees the effort as part of a larger educational and social campaign. "We want everyone to be involved in dreaming a different city," he said.

Jan 12, 2007, 12:56 AM
^ Sweet. I'll have to check that out. Presley Burroughs kicks ass, had the pleasure of meeting him once.

Jan 12, 2007, 1:48 AM
I like to think the blogger from India http://sakshijuneja.com/blog/wp-content/themes/Pinku/i/sakshi-small.jpg says: :hi:


Jan 12, 2007, 6:20 AM

Jan 12, 2007, 6:57 AM
Poor Los Angeles.....always so concerned about image.

I could really care less. This is just an anecdotal observation, but I find that Chicago has a pretty terrible reputation outside the confines of Chicagoland. But the perception of it as a frigid, industrial, economically decrepit, too black, too crime ridden city in decline doesn't stop it from having a great economy, bustling arts and theatre scene, amazing cultural life, and better infrastructure than most cities.

So, I say to all of you: let's stop the worrying and be more like Chicago: focus on achieveable, pragmatic solutions that measureably make our citizens' (and thus tourists as well) lives better!!!!

Well my observation is that Chicago forumers are every bit as concerned about their image especially when it comes to hosting the olympics. In fact most forumers from any city are... LA just happens to be written about and commented on much more often.

Jan 20, 2007, 8:40 PM

The city rediscovers the street

No official place to rally? No problem. The protests for immigrant rights showed how L.A.'s public spaces are a product of their communities, not a planner's desk.

By Christopher Hawthorne
Times Staff Writer

December 31, 2006

ACCORDING to urban-planning legend, the University of California at Santa Cruz, which opened in 1965, was designed without a central plaza for one reason: to inoculate the campus against the large student protests that were by that point already beginning to overwhelm UC Berkeley. Instead, students were scattered among smaller residential colleges designed, on the cloistered Oxford-Cambridge model, by Charles Moore and other leading California architects.

In truth, it's unlikely that the layout of UC Santa Cruz flowed from any deliberate anti-protest strategy, since the campus master plan was largely fixed by the time the Free Speech Movement crowds filled Berkeley's Sproul Plaza in 1964. But UC Santa Cruz's multi-centered design, whatever its inspiration, did help keep the place relatively quiet even during the height of the Vietnam War. At least to a degree, planning was destiny for the political life of that campus.

Los Angeles often seems to have been designed on the same model. Its geographical spread and lack of a single center have long meant that there's no obvious place for citywide gatherings. (If you wanted to celebrate New Year's Eve tonight surrounded by a thronging cross-section of Angelenos, for example, what spot would you choose?) Except for flashes of outrage — the Watts and Rodney King riots and 1994 protests against Proposition 187, among others — the city continued during the second half of the 20th century to cement its reputation as a place without much of a political street life.

Then came this spring's massive immigration-rights protests, which drew more than half a million white-shirted, chanting marchers downtown March 25 and packed another several hundred thousand along Wilshire Boulevard on May 1. Organized in opposition to legislation sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) that would have ratcheted up penalties for entering the U.S. illegally and for assisting or hiring undocumented workers, the marches were the biggest political rallies that any American city outside of Washington has seen since the Vietnam era. Political pundits and scholars have analyzed them from seemingly every angle, concentrating mostly on whether the fervor shown by the marchers will make an impact at the ballot box. "I think it is the beginning of something," Louis DeSipio, a political science professor at UC Irvine, told The Times. "You have the foundation for a new kind of Hispanic politics."

The marches raise equally compelling and so far mostly overlooked questions about public space and the role the downtown core will play in a city that is increasingly dense and increasingly Latino. In that sense, they qualify as the biggest architecture and urban-planning story to hit Southern California this year. One way to understand them, in fact, is not as an anomalous outburst of civic anger or energy but as a particularly clear message about how the relationship between Angelenos and the physical spaces of their city is changing as L.A. evolves, however fitfully, from a private metropolis to a collective one.

It didn't take much more than a glance at the most dramatic photographs of the protest on March 25, the so-called Gran Marcha, to sense that. The photo of protesters massing at the feet of City Hall, taken from a terrace at The Times' building by photographer Bob Chamberlin, already ranks among the definitive images of Los Angeles. It is also a universe away from the iconic 20th century views of the city, most of which show serene private residences of steel and glass.

In fact, you could begin a lecture on a changing L.A. by showing Chamberlin's shot alongside Julius Shulman's famous 1958 photograph of Case Study House No. 22 in the Hollywood Hills. The image by Shulman reflects a city whose appeal had to do almost entirely with private aspiration. In Chamberlin's, the public is so determined to come together — and to make a political point, no less — that it simply ignores the fact that downtown Los Angeles could hardly be less hospitable to a large group of marchers. There is no plaza there to receive them, just some steps, sloping lawn and a clump of trees at the base of City Hall.

The most surprising fact about the marches is that while they seemed, from afar, to suggest a massive, unified will, they were actually more indicative of how the city is changing on a piecemeal, neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Gridlock and changing demographics are combining to make the sidewalk, the front yard and the local boulevard, rather than the onramp or the fast lane, the building blocks for 21st century L.A. If you have spent any time walking on Broadway downtown, for example, you understand that the marches were just an exaggerated display of the sidewalk vitality that can be seen there every day.

L.A.'s shift from an automotive paradise to a collection of circumscribed neighborhoods is not new, nor is it limited to the parts of the city where new arrivals to this country are drawn. It has been visible for years, at least in nascent form, all over the region, including in Larchmont, Abbot Kinney and other high-end, retail-driven enclaves.

But it would be dishonest not to state the obvious, which is that immigrant neighborhoods, and particularly Latino ones, are driving the change, and that it has accelerated noticeably as Angelenos who arrived here in the 1980s and 1990s put down deeper roots. Indeed, a whole category of urban-planning theory, known as Latino Urbanism, has grown up to explore the ways that arrivals from Latin America have changed L.A. and other major cities over the last several decades. With California expected to gain 21 million new residents by 2050 — more than 85% of them Latino, according to one estimate — the focus of the new research is anything but academic.

"Latinos, like any other immigrant group, re-create what they know," James Rojas, a planner at L.A. County's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and founder of the Latino Urban Forum, has written. "In many parts of L.A. streets no longer feel like suburban America but have a look, feel and use of Latin American streets. From the numerous street vendors selling on Pico Union's narrow sidewalks to the murals of East Los Angeles, L.A. is changing from auto-oriented to pedestrian-oriented."



ANOTHER example is MacArthur Park, staging ground for the Wilshire march May 1. In the last decade it has become the focal point for a host of community activities — paddle boats, art classes — serving the area's mostly Central American population. The move toward localism in that neighborhood is particularly dramatic given a key fact about the shape of the park itself. As Times reporter Christopher Reynolds has pointed out, it was sliced in two in the 1930s when Wilshire Boulevard was extended to reach downtown. Metaphorically, at least, foreign-born residents are now stitching the park back together. Because these changes have been driven from the bottom up, pushed more by individuals than large-scale planning initiatives or well-known architects, they haven't yet received the attention they deserve. There's also an obvious risk of treating a highly diverse collection of immigrant subcultures as a single group with monolithic desires, or forgetting that new immigrants inhabit the city quite differently from the way in which their children or grandchildren do. But after the marches, the idea of thinking of these various neighborhood shifts as part of a larger change in the way the city is organized — and how we experience it every day — began to make more sense.

The protests also happened to arrive during a year when the idea of actually building a large plaza downtown was finally killed for good. For a while, the block bounded by 1st, 2nd, Spring and Main streets was in contention to become a civic park; located across 1st Street from City Hall, and squeezed between the offices of this newspaper and Thom Mayne's new Caltrans building, the site would have been a natural for a public rallies of all kinds. But when the LAPD won the right to build a new headquarters building there, a hulking design by the local firm DMJM, this idea was sunk. (The Grand Avenue Project, if it ever gets built, does call for a 16-acre park space.)

The demise of the plaza proposal raises an intriguing question about how the city's planners and architects ought to respond to the marches. After all, the marchers communicated their message perfectly well without a large plaza to gather in, or even a network of sidewalks big enough to carry them from one end of downtown to the other. They simply filled the streets, most of which had been closed off in advance, and squeezed between trees and around corners — adapting amoeba-like to a car-centric city.

Since the real foundation of the marches was the local change reinvigorating neighborhoods all over L.A., it follows that the official reaction should happen in that spirit and at that scale. That would require something of a philosophical adjustment for a civic elite that has in recent years spent a good deal of its political and P.R. capital supporting large-scale destination projects such as L.A. Live and the Grand Avenue development.

It would mean sustained support for a diverse network of corner parks instead of grand civic ones — and making sure that the sidewalks and crosswalks leading to those new green spaces are designed with pedestrians in mind. It would mean formalizing the effort now underway in certain neighborhoods — Eagle Rock, for one — to lure local businesses instead of chain stores. It would mean considering zoning changes to allow in-law apartments as a way to boost density, which is what many neighborhoods need to create a critical mass of local shoppers capable of supporting businesses they can walk to.

It would mean acknowledging, in other words, that this year's marches were inspired by an interest in the kind of solidarity that is as much about shared space as shared politics.



Jan 20, 2007, 9:36 PM
Wires hang over South Mission Road in Fallbrook on Thursday. As road improvement projects and new de-
velopment takes place, county officials and the Fallbrook Planning Group are working to make sure utility
lines are buried underground. JAMIE SCOTT LYTLE Staff Photographer

Fallbrook pushes to bury power lines

By: TOM PFINGSTEN - Staff Writer
January 6, 2007

FALLBROOK---The wires that carry electricity and information around Fallbrook are disappearing from the skies, and local planners say they could not be more thrilled about it. Utility lines, such as the ones that used to litter the skyline along Mission Road south of Clemmens Lane, have gone underground at the request of county officials and the Fallbrook Planning Group, reflecting a regional trend to get rid of unsightly poles and wires.

In Fallbrook, new developments are required to be built with underground utility lines. In addition, energy, telephone and cable television companies are now required to place their lines underground when a road is being expanded.

Burying the lines beneath roads and sidewalks --- a process called "undergrounding" ---- is more costly than running them on poles and can make maintenance more difficult, but local officials say the benefits far outweigh the downsides.

De-wiring the town

Planning Group member Harry Christiansen says removing utility poles and wires can improve the appearance of any area. "In general, it's a wonderful thing to have happen," he said Friday.

The Planning Group enforces a county policy requiring most new developments to be outfitted with underground utility lines, said Eileen Delaney, another member of the advisory panel. "It's a county mandate," said Delaney. "Every so often, we allow exceptions, when the terrain is really steep, or it's not practical. But it really has to be compelling circumstances."

Christiansen said undergrounding makes sense only if the project's span is large enough, citing one instance where only two poles would have been removed if the wires had been run below the road. Christiansen's real estate office is located along a stretch of South Mission Road that was widened last year. During that project, the county required cable, telephone and power lines to be placed underground, which delayed the road work by several months.

The result was worth the wait, he said. "The change it made was unbelievable," Christiansen said. "All of a sudden, that road just opened up and the visibility opened up."

Delaney said she appreciates how the procedure improves the appearance of a corridor, but added that she is not as passionate about the idea as some are. "I have to be honest, I don't pay that much attention to it, at least in the business area," she said. "But in a rural area, it sure makes a difference. It definitely looks better.

"In the rural areas, it serves much more purpose than just aesthetics," she added, pointing out that underground wires eliminate the risk of a downed line sparking a fire.

Cost vs. appearance

Ed Van Herik, a spokesman for San Diego Gas & Electric, said Thursday that local government officials make an especially high priority of removing utility poles and putting the wires underground. About 60 percent of SDG&E's lines are underground ---- "nearly double the next closest utility in the state ---- it's a very high percentage," Van Herik said. "We've been doing this for approximately 35 years. It's been a very steady thing."

He said the cost of running electrical lines underground is about $1.25 million to $2.5 million per mile, depending on the conditions of the project, compared to about $300,000 to $750,000 per mile for overhead lines and poles. There are several reasons why underground lines are more expensive, he said, and most have to do with construction, repair and maintenance costs.

"It's easier to find an outage if your equipment is above ground," Van Herik said. "We have easements overhead, and it's relatively easy to string wire when it breaks. It's relatively easy to replace poles.

"When you go to put something underground, you have to get all your permits, you have to tear up the street, you have to do all your surveying and convert all the connections nearby," Van Herik said. "It's expensive and time consuming."

However, he said, it seems people here are willing to pay to not have poles and wires cluttering the view wherever they look. "The residents of San Diego County have made it very clear they prefer the aesthetics of having the lines underground," Van Herik said.

"Ultimately, customers pay for it, and the money is collected through rates," he said, adding that the annual cost of undergrounding passed on to rate payers is about $20 million, and translates into about 50 cents a month for the average customer.

Future projects

Christiansen said overhead wires probably will become less common in the future as road work and new developments present opportunities for undergrounding. He cited a county list of planned road improvements over the next five years as evidence that the trend will continue. "Certainly, some of the (county improvement plan) projects will have utility lines going underground along those roads, but it will take several years for it to happen," he said.

Jan 20, 2007, 10:14 PM
Ok, ok, ok Citywatch, WE GET IT.

Seriously though, I actually respect your unwavering commitment to a cause so few people seem to think about.

However, other than aesthetics, I honestly don't see why this would help Los Angeles. In an age where funds are so tight for so many very important things such as education, transportation, housing, redevelopment, etc. (things that have a tangible impact on people's daily lives) I just don't see where grounding wires fits in, at least not how it fits at the top of anyone's list of priorities.

Honestly, I just don't think a condo project has ever been stopped due to powerlines, or that powerlines somehow cause more crime or illiteracy. I'm just trying to gain an understanding of why this is so high on your list of priorities when there seem to be far more important things to be advocating.

Jan 20, 2007, 11:15 PM
NY Sun has a whole section about NY vs. LA. New articles have been coming out everyday since monday.


Jan 21, 2007, 12:27 AM
^ Kinda like this:

LA vs. SF now truly a battle of Olympic proportions

- By The Associated Press
Saturday, July 29, 2006

(07-29) 08:52 PDT , (AP) --

The rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles already runs deep. Add to that the tug-of-war for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and the claws come out. Here's how each city stacks up in 10 key categories.

Weather: San Francisco is foggy and rarely warm, jacket weather when the rest of the country is in shorts. In Los Angeles, people are always in shorts. The forecast is sunny and warm today, with more sun and warmth expected tomorrow. Advantage: L.A.

Scenery: San Francisco has the hills, the waterfront, breathtakingly beautiful bridges and guaranteed (but often unwelcome) nudity at the annual Bay to Breakers race. Los Angeles is almost all freeways, desert and flatness, and what scenery there is is often hidden by the smog. Advantage: San Francisco.

Landmarks: San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Los Angeles has the Hollywood sign and Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Advantage: San Francisco.

Attitude: San Francisco is laid-back but highly political; don't come without an opinion. Los Angeles is glamorous but superficial; your opinion is optional. Advantage: Tie.

Nightlife: San Francisco has hopping South of Market night clubs and hipster-packed Mission District dive bars, but downtown is dead at night. Los Angeles has Universal CityWalk, a hopping Thai Town nightlife and a slowly emerging downtown scene. Advantage: Tie.

Price: San Francisco is expensive. Really, really expensive. Los Angeles is expensive. Really expensive. But out-of-towners who visit San Francisco first will think Los Angeles is not so bad. Advantage: L.A.

Recreation: San Francisco has mountain biking opportunities everywhere, some of the country's toughest surf at Ocean Beach and art house movie theaters galore. Los Angeles has movie studio tours, the Universal Studios theme park, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Disneyland. (All right, technically, Disneyland isn't in L.A., but everyone who goes there visits it.) Advantage: San Francisco.

Beaches: The ocean water in San Francisco is frigid and dangerous. Los Angeles has an abundance of sandy, warm-water surfing and swimming beaches, Venice Pier and boardwalk. Advantage: L.A.

Air Quality: San Francisco's air is crisp and clean. Los Angeles has air you can sometimes cut with a knife. Advantage: San Francisco.

Celebrity-watching: Robin Williams and Sean Penn live in the San Francisco Bay area. Every other celebrity is in Los Angeles, including several who can be viewed getting into traffic accidents or being mobbed at shopping malls. Advantage: L.A.

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2006/07/29/state/n084656D04.DTL

Jan 21, 2007, 12:36 AM
I'd definitely argue over recreation. LA has the most diverse geographic landscape of any city in the US (mountains, beaches, deserts, palm trees, islands, forests, etc.). To me, LA has the clear advantage on this one.

Jan 21, 2007, 12:36 AM
^ That has got to be the most rediculous piece of garbage I've seen in awhile!!!

I don't know if you guys agree with me, but in the four and a half years I've lived here I have only had a problem with L.A. air when there is massive smoke from wildfires. Other than that, I just don't get the air quality issue. I think it has to do with how it was in the past (really bad) and the abundance of smog in L.A.'s outer burbs, the IE especially.

And City Walk and Thai Town being the examples of L.A. nightlife????????? WTF???? I thought City Walk closed at 10 and....Thai Town?????

Jan 21, 2007, 12:40 AM
And this is not scenic? Sorry, they need to get their eyes checked!

By Upward:




Jan 21, 2007, 1:55 AM
Yeah, that "article" is completely ridiculous on many fronts. They neglected to mention Hollywood or the Sunset Strip re: nightlife; they neglected Angeles National Forest, Griffith Park, Santa Monica Mountains, and the vast desert a couple hours' drive from here re: recreation; air quality isn't that bad (though coming down the 2 from La Canada toward DTLA you can see the smog... again, not as bad as a decade ago though); and I'd like to think LA has more landmarks than just Hollywood Sign and the Chinese Theatre....

Anyway, it doesn't matter now as they've dropped out. Maybe I'm getting too worked up over journalists/commentators that don't do their homework.

Wright Concept
Jan 22, 2007, 3:09 AM
That crappy article was written by a San Franciscan newpaper, do you expect them to skew things in their favor? I would hope so.

Jan 25, 2007, 3:23 AM
I just read this (http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2007/01/burning_out_on_van_nuys.php) & it made me think of the schizoid nature of ppl, of their immediate hoods & of LA in general. Of how ppl will say one thing, one moment, & then turn around & do something totally different. Or how they'll end up talking out of both sides of their mouth.

These large lots will no doubt be converted into cheap and dense Casa Garageas, with cul-de-sacs lined by treeless, ugly, two story high stucco slum houses. The front lawns will be smaller than the SUV's on the driveways. The neighborhood zoning laws allow this, and at some future, fluorescent lit community meeting, a paunchy, tired attorney will step in front of the local board, and propose a sub-division where one property will be sliced into six. The English spoken meeting will be attended by almost no locals, as the community involvement in this area is zilch.

The liberal in me cries out, "Why doesn't our city create a little environmentally sensitive little community of walking areas surrounded by smaller homes connected by paths? Like they would in Seattle, Pasadena, or Venice?"

Then the conservative in me observes, with cold empiricism, the police helicopters overhead, the garbage filled shopping carts, the vicious barking dogs behind steel gates, the illegal aliens on the corner. I can smell the Vietnamese and Chinese food in the air--industrial food production stink that wiped out the aroma of flowering orange blossoms and jasmine. A cop car cruises down here twice a year, but taggers visit weekly.

And then I think I know why people moved to the Simi Valley or Santa Clarita. Exhaustion sets in.

I know that I've long been a big fan of building transit, esp subways, in LA, & yet I have to admit that I probably wouldn't ride those systems much more frequently than those ppl who totally love their cars & fwys. :shrug:

Maybe that is why I was both surprised & yet also not too surprised to read a story a few yrs ago that indicated use of transit in the SF bay area isn't much greater than it is here in LA. Still, I've long admired the ppl of SF for building BART way before we here even knew what a subway looked like. But, again, a lot of schizophrenia here & elsewhere.

Jan 25, 2007, 4:11 AM
^ Really? Did that include Marin and San Jose? If so then I might believe it, but I find that highly dubious.

Jan 25, 2007, 4:40 AM
^ Yea, I should have actually said that the number of ppl who drive alone (http://www.lao.ca.gov/2002/cal_facts/trends_part_7_transportation.html) to work in the SF bay area, even with the BART system since the late 1960s, still is quite high:

In the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area and statewide, 72 percent of workers drove alone to work in 2000, while in the San Francisco Bay Area, 68 percent of workers drove alone to work. In comparison, nationwide 76 percent of workers drove alone to work in 2000.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, 9.5 percent of workers used transit to get to work in 2000, while only 5 percent did so in the Los Angeles area and statewide. Nationwide, 5 percent of workers relied on transit as their primary mode of transportation to work.

Carpooling is somewhat more common in the Los Angeles area where 15 percent of workers shared a ride to work compared to 13 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area, 14.5 percent statewide, and 12 percent nationwide.

Jan 25, 2007, 7:15 AM
^ Yeah, that's really not fair to either L.A. or SF. L.A. Metro Area is, I'm assuming, also including the IE and OC where transit is rediculously bad. SF would include Santa Clar and Marin Counties.

Jan 26, 2007, 9:10 AM
Redesigning Los Angeles

As L.A.’s mishmash of styles and thoroughfares clutters our lives, architects, planners, and activists are demanding a new future


There are parts of the city of Los Angeles that are so ugly they could kill you.

It’s 80 degrees on a mid-December day, and the bare concrete assault that is 6th Street at Alvarado, colloquially known as the Westlake district, offers its denizens no respite. Jennifer Allen, a coordinator for the Alliance for a Livable City, and I squint hard against the washed-out pavement, breathe the fumes, and watch people scurry around impatient traffic.

“Cars whiz by here, and it’s dangerous for pedestrians who have no buffer between them and this traffic,” Allen says. “We have to ask ourselves, is it OK for it to be unsafe for kids and adults to be walking along here so I can drive to work as fast as possible in the morning?”

Technically, Allen and I aren’t standing on a street at all. Since at least the 1950s, this fat slab of rumpled concrete just west of downtown has been classified as a “secondary highway” instead, re-baptized in the name of channeling a daily torrent of automobiles into and out of the 213. Some 10,000 cars move through this intersection every hour of rush hour, Allen says, and, true to form, sidewalks here have all the aesthetics of a freeway shoulder. Westlake is not a neighborhood; it’s a stretch of arid blocks and bald facades snapped together like Legos.

In reaction, Allen’s alliance, along with a growing number of planners, architects, activists, designers, M.D.s, policy makers, and fed-up residents, have begun vocally positing the radical notion that people live in Los Angeles – and it is people who actually own the streets of Los Angeles. The needs of people can compete with – and complicate – those of the cars as they circulate through our neighborhoods, and the city, these advocates say, has a responsibility to envision and design a metropolis that strikes a more liveable balance. That means a vision. A big vision.

As far as L.A.’s Department of City Planning is concerned, each section of Los Angeles is governed by a document called a Community Plan. Some of the city’s newer such plans incorporate design guidelines, but many are only rough sketches of regionally approved zoning codes, a general sense of whether it’s okay to build a strip mall, a strip club, or a middle school. As a consequence, Los Angeles has long left developers to their own devices, and never bothered to envision how all our pieces might fit together. The automobile’s long reach often takes the blame for Los Angeles’ fragmented nature, but this lack of an overarching aesthetic, this uneven approach to urban design, goes a long way toward explaining that disjointed feeling that comes with lurching from downtown Hollywood to Hollywood-adjacent.

“Does a fish know it’s in water?” Allen asks. “People aren’t aware of how much their built environment affects them, and how much better it could be. Street design is huge for where we go next.”

“We need to attend to the public realm,” says Robert Harris, an architecture professor at the University of Southern California. “We get a project and a project and a project along streets that are disheveled and [the pedestrian] doesn’t get any sense of continuity.”

As we speak, Allen notes, the city has begun taking a closer look at Westlake and 11 other neighborhoods, launching efforts to identify each one’s character in order to lock in specific zoning codes that will enshrine it. In the meantime, across the city, these efforts are being augmented by a newly inaugurated Urban Design Studio, the city’s first attempt to think of itself as a city.

“Urban design is about arrangements and relationships,” says John Chase, urban designer for the City of West Hollywood. He, for one, thinks that good design doesn’t necessarily pit people against cars. Where a planner approves an application to construct a supermarket, a designer decides what to do about the parking and whether the proposed structure is in keeping with surrounding architecture. Without the latter, over time the area ends up looking “like a teenager’s room that hasn’t been picked up.”

Developers, Chase notes, have long had a field day here. “There are places where planning was done, just not by the city,” he says. L.A. might have been one of the first cities in the country to get municipal zoning codes, but it was businessmen who laid out Leimert Park. When developers first arrived in nascent Los Angeles, they found a tabula rasa, a grassland basin easily shorn and built upon and sporting a climate for endless Sunday driving with the top down. Now land still lays at our edges, but the environmental toll of developing it for low density no longer pencils out. As people continue to pour into Los Angeles and because, as Chase notes, “people are allowed to have children,” the city must turn back and face itself.

Design is Health

Over the past few years, experts have come to understand that bad urban design can exacerbate obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, high dropout rates, domestic violence and gang activity, economic depression, and global warming. Not to mention that it hurts the intellectual growth of kids and makes their parents depressed. “We’re animals,” says Neal Kaufman, a physician and software developer who this past summer co-organized the urban planning symposium Unhealthy By Design. “A sterile environment with no grass, no trees … that’s not good for us. Turning asphalt into park space translates into a decrease in violence.”

The places we inhabit, inhabit us as well. Researchers have found a correlation between the built environment and intellectual activity: “A window opening out onto a tree whose branches move in the breeze – that stimulates a child’s brain development better than a static picture of nature against flat lighting,” Kaufman continues. And a population’s social development can suffer as well: “Public gathering places, such as farmers markets, are extremely important for adults’ mental health, because they dramatically increase opportunities to interact with a wide range of possible acquaintances.” Habitually shopping at the Beverly Center doesn’t suffice. The key is not so much people-watching of strangers by strangers, but frequently returning to neighborhood gathering hubs, where the same faces routinely pop up and relationships have the potential to form.

According to John Kamp, a planning assistant with the City of L.A., the popularity of farmers markets has intensified in Southern California as of late, a development he attributes to basic human instincts. “People are starving for the experience of walking down a street and feeling a part of something, even if it’s only for two hours on a Saturday,” he says. “People are starved for that atmosphere of liveliness and activity, that good old-fashioned civic experience.”

In fact, we crave congestion. We want to drive our cars unfettered, but when we have time off, we drive those cars to places where the car is unwelcome – to flea markets, to dense shopping districts like Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade or the pier, to the beachside booths of Venice. It’s congestion, many theorists point out, which makes cities.

Those places exist, but Los Angeles is not a particularly civic-minded city. Private backyards, private vehicles, and private estates all prime the Angeleno subconscious to feel comfortable when keeping other Angelenos at arm’s length. The city’s high percentage of detached single family homes can also magnify the impact of those homeowners who think first about personal property, then community character.

“People want to feel safe, so they build fences and walls, to feel safer inside buildings,” Allen says. “But it makes the streets more desolate.”

To understand why this is, it’s helpful to not think of streets as streets, per se. “Another way to think about this is: the facade of a building is the face of a building, but it’s also the inside wall of the street space,” Harris explains. Staring at block after block of blank walls can make you feel like you’ve been institutionalized. And urban planners have found that pedestrians often don’t forsake their automobiles based on rational time-based formulas – there’s no 5-, 10-, 15-minute threshold – rather, they gravitate toward eye-catching niceties that help pass the time. “The Los Angeles landscape is really designed for people who are moving at 30 miles per hour,” Kamp says. “The level of architectural detail isn’t as fine-grained here as it is in cities like New York or Chicago, where the sidewalks aren’t just concrete; they can be cobblestones. And there isn’t just a street tree, there’s a tree surrounded by plants, and there aren’t just brownstones, but steps leading up to them, and ironwork around those, and windows to look into. You could walk the same distance in Los Angeles and feel like you’re moving much slower.” It’s time, Kamp says, to rethink our streets as multifunctional experiences.

Rushing to Slow Down

Lois Arkin might look like a traditional grandmother, with her bouncy gray hair and twinkling eyes. But she has just marched a group of about 30 high school students out into the middle of Bimini Street on the northern edge of Koreatown, and, even with a white pickup truck staring them down, she won’t let anyone budge. Smile and wave, she instructs them. We’re retraining cars to share the street with pedestrians, she explains. “The suburbs have more car-related injuries than Los Angeles’ inner city has from crime,” she says.

Arkin serves as executive director of Eco-Village, a two-block radius in which residents are experimenting with various forms of sustainability and attempting to bring the city back down to human scale. Here, the potholes are patched with mosaics by local volunteers, the sidewalks are shaded by fruit trees, and the backyard is edible. Arkin’s group has secured $250,000 from the city for street redesign, and they are going to use it to make traffic go slower – an idea considered antithetical to the whole L.A. experience.

Tree canopies, milling crowds, and street furniture – like shaded bus stops – have been shown to slow down drivers more reliably than posted speed limits, and if Arkin has her way, Bimini Street will give over an entire traffic lane to a mini-orchard, while one of its alleyways will relinquish its pavement to a green paseo for pedestrians. Koreatown lies along the Red Line, and “every time a quality public transit facility comes online, a comparable auto use should be reduced,” she says. “This will be the first demonstration project of a shared street in the city.”

What Arkin ultimately visualizes are the promenades and open-air plazas of Barcelona, coupled with the bus rapid transit of Coretiba, Brazil, and the bio-active architecture concocted by Viennese designer Hundterwasser. So far, she’s managed to barricade a short section of 2nd Street, convincing the city to install an eco-park instead. It could take a while for many of Arkin’s other ideas to migrate beyond her borders.

“The city street-trees department has asked for as wide a spacing as possible, because they don’t have the funds to maintain the trees they have,” laments Harris.

One day, Angelica Rojas would like to get an internship with the city planning department, but right now, despite living 15 minutes from Staples Center, the soft-spoken South L.A. high school student who hides behind a long flip of dyed hair had no idea developers were constructing a $2 billion entertainment complex called L.A Live just to the north of her. Rojas listened to a few minutes’ description of the project before dismissing it out of hand. “It doesn’t sound like it’s for us,” she says.

Last year, AEG Entertainment, the developers behind L.A. Live – a multi-block entertainment complex complete with nightclubs, theaters, thousands of hotel rooms, retail outlets, and restaurants designed to feed symbiotically off of a new convention center and the nearby Staples Center – broke ground in one of the poorest areas of the city. After complicated negotiations with neighborhood activists and social justice coalitions, residents walked away with a precedent-setting community benefits package incorporating local hiring agreements, affordable housing, and recreation facilities. But will this development and the Grand Avenue Project, its sister mega-development to the north, reinvigorate a blighted downtown, providing a catalyst for the Figueroa Corridor to at long last gel into a neighborhood? Or will it produce just another shopping destination, a high-end enclave of consumption blind to the distressed landscape which surrounds it? Or worse, another Universal CityWalk, with all the same shops and sense of total disconnection?

The question, really, is how a project like L.A. Live could create a space for a local resident like Rojas. Developers often argue that by incorporating a courtyard into projects they have provided a public space, when in fact, that’s more likely to build a self-contained shopping device.

“The Library Tower got it right,” Harris says. “Inside the building, there are almost no amenities for its thousands of employees. Every day at lunch time, it sends people teeming out onto the streets.” This kind of conscious interaction with the street can mutate a landscape of consumption into a landscape of experience. But developers recognize it’s not always in their best interests to do so.

“Developers understand that once they get you inside their wonderful new development, they want to keep you there,” Harris says.

Welcome to the Grove. Like CityWalk before it, the Grove employed well-tested theories of urban design to create ersatz streets in the midst of a real city. In one of L.A.’s more pathetic ironies, residents drive from all around to park their cars and walk around a pseudo-neighborhood, a compact, walkable promenade free of imposing power lines and kept lively with small streets and ground floor retail. Along its outer edge, however, the shopping center offers a blank face to 3rd Street. “The Grove turned itself in,” says Harris “They think they did a nice landscaping job, with some trees, some windows, but they turned their back on the street.”

“These mega-projects we’ve been seeing are extensions of destination-oriented thinking,” Kamp says. “They result in a fragmented landscape where your neighborhood isn’t so great, so you say, ‘I need to go to the Grove to experience something.’ Pedestrian connections between these developments and other parts of their neighborhood are the missing links in making Los Angeles less a collection of destinations that you drive to and more of a city.”

“Good design is not rocket science,” Allen says. “We have all the tools and knowledge, but getting it done is a whole other story.” Indeed, smart growth concepts have been written into the city’s general plan since at least the 1950s, not that any previous city hall administrations seem to have noticed.

What’s the holdup? Numerous complex reasons and at least one huge physical impediment: parking. “Parking is enormously expensive,” Harris says. At around $50,000 per parking space, this amenity siphons a substantial percentage of investment away from actual design, bequeathing boxy ugliness, and even when the city relaxes its requirements – for instance, for sites easily accessible by mass transit – developers themselves will often push for their maximum allotment so that a shortage of parking doesn’t interfere with a venue’s success. “And it gets much more expensive when it needs to be constructed underground, so often every effort is made to figure out how parking can be placed on street level,” Harris adds. According to an ongoing Community Redevelopment Agency study on parking in the downtown area, aboveground, frontal parking depresses pedestrian activity – after all, there’s nothing inviting about trekking across vast concrete wastelands. These dead spaces can plague even some of the city’s most innovative destinations. For instance, while San Francisco’s new concert hall elected to forego all parking spaces, Disney Hall saddled itself with some 2,400 of them.

If these trends hold, according to an environmental impact report recently issued on the Grand Avenue Project, despite conscientiously blending mixed-use facilities, housing, office spaces, and the area’s multiple public transportation options, downtown traffic is set to mushroom.

“Environmental impact reports are based on current habits, as they have to be,” Harris notes. “But Angelenos can change. Any generalizations about an area this diverse are automatically going to be wrong.” The solution to our traffic woes, Harris believes, could well be to just relax. “If we stop trying to build our way out of it, people will begin to rethink how they can use their own neighborhoods,” he says. Furthermore, the area’s staggering diversity has transplanted millions of new mentalities, a whole new class of people blissfully unaware that Los Angeles looks down on those who ride the bus.

In Westlake, MacArthur Park beckons, a worn but nevertheless green patch of relief. Younger, leafier trees are beginning to take hold here, but still, shade comes at a premium in its palm-tree dominated vista. In a tangible way, these palm trees have symbolized Los Angeles’ outdated thinking: they didn’t originate here, nor do they serve much of a function. But illusion is no longer Los Angeles’ major industry.

L.A. is now a global city, an international trendsetter poised to remake its name on ports and trade and as a flashpoint for cross-cultural inspirations. And just like the future itself, L.A. must adapt if it doesn’t want to implode.


Jan 29, 2007, 2:39 PM
More cooperation and unity could help LA rid itself of unnecessary internal conflicts and NIMBYism. This could be a brighter future for LA...

S.F. Valley gains clout in L.A.

Business leaders in area moving into citywide roles

LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:

UNIVERSAL CITY - From the top of his office skyscraper, David Fleming sees a downtown different from the one he once railed against.

For years, he was one of the city of Los Angeles' harshest critics, attacking a bureaucracy he saw as ineffective and out of step with the San Fernando Valley. The downtown power brokers, he and his band of cohorts charged, took the Valley's taxes and didn't return its fair share of service.

But things are very different these days.

Fleming speaks regularly with the mayor. Valley business leaders sit on prominent citywide commissions. Dollars flow forth north from downtown rather than disappearing over the hill, never to be seen again.

And today, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, once the symbol of the establishment that Valley radicals scorned, will install Fleming as its chairman, the first time in its 118-year history that a Valley resident will take the reins.

"The wake-up call, where we grabbed the shoulders of downtown and began to shake it, was secession," Fleming said. "But put it this way, we lost the battle and won the war. We got what we wanted - to finally be part of the city."

Refusing to go away

He was one of the effort's most vocal backers, donating $400,000 from his own pocket for the cause of splitting the Valley from downtown's clutches. But when the vote failed citywide - and garnered a scant majority Valleywide - in 2002, Fleming and his fellow critics did not retire embittered.

They shouted their way into politicians' consciences and refused to go away. City Council members came calling. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa noticed when he took office and cultivated a relationship.

"Today, the Valley is stronger than it's ever been," said Bill Allen, once an agitator with the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley and now president of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., another downtown stalwart.

"People noticed the leaders who'd accomplished that and sought them out to help the entire region. We succeeded through collaboration in the Valley, so we're now more than willing to work with other parts of the city and county."

He sees that success in a thriving Orange Line, improved Valley fire and police facilities and new plans for local schools. The massive redevelopment of North Hollywood - long stalled - now has serious private and public investment rolling in.

Trio of local leaders

With Fleming, who lives in Studio City, at the helm of the chamber, Allen of Encino atop the LAEDC and Brendan Huffman running the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, three of the city's top business advocacy groups are now headed by Valley residents. More importantly, local leaders have made their way onto prominent commissions.

"The biggest thing was Antonio coming in and saying, `The Valley elected me, I'm going to treat it right,"' said Bruce Ackerman, president of the Economic Alliance. "The physical moves he's made with appointments have been very, very positive, both for the Valley and the city."

Former Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg, an ally of Valley business leaders, has the ear of both the mayor and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fleming and former Assemblyman Richard Katz both sit on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, while Ackerman is a member of the Community Redevelopment Agency board and the Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board.

In addition to his LAEDC post, Allen works with both Villaraigosa's and City Councilman Bernard Parks' committees on jobs and the economy. The council, particularly members Greig Smith, Wendy Greuel and Alex Padilla, now a state senator, proved to be increasingly attentive after the secession vote.

"They deserve credit for not saying, `Ha ha! We won, we're not going to work with you,"' Allen said. "They realized that we had a good sense of people's concerns."

And those concerns, while rooted in the 818 area code, seem to resonate well on the south side of Mulholland Drive. Carol Schatz, president and chief executive officer of the Central City Association of Los Angeles, the fourth major business group, welcomed local leaders' participation in citywide affairs.

"For business, there might be little things different - a transit corridor here, an interchange there - but basically they're the same everywhere in L.A.," she said. "Once the secession movement was put to bed, which it appears has happened, thank God, it allowed for people to do what's best for the city overall."


(818) 713-3738

Jan 29, 2007, 6:48 PM
Things have changed a LOT since the secession issue, don't you think?

Jan 30, 2007, 2:22 AM
There are parts of the city of Los Angeles that are so ugly they could kill you.

In one of L.A.’s more pathetic ironies, residents drive from all around to park their cars and walk around a pseudo-neighborhood, a compact, walkable promenade free of imposing power lines
We could use alot more of that.








Jan 30, 2007, 2:49 AM

Jan 30, 2007, 4:04 AM
Things have changed a LOT since the secession issue, don't you think?

Yes, esp. after Villaraigosa got everyone involved politically.

But I still get a sense from my friends that live in the Valley that they have some kind of "resentment" or uncomfortable admiration toward "LA south of the hills." I'm hoping that one day people in the Valley will feel that Downtown LA is just as much their downtown as anyone else even down to Orange County.

Jan 30, 2007, 4:06 AM
HMM, I coulda sworn when I was reading this that WesTheAngelino wrote it. Are u sure that's not your pseudo-name there? :haha:

From Daily Trojan

In downtown, an unfortunate renaissance

Alexander Shams
Posted: 1/29/07

The regional press these days is alive with reports of a revitalized and reconstructed downtown Los Angeles being created right before our eyes, of a gleaming economic, social and entertainment capital being built upon the ruins of a barren, decaying core devoid of soul or purpose or any human life worth anything.

Every day, the news is rife with redevelopment plans, and ads invite you to live in a luxury loft in a postmodern apartment building on the site of a former parking lot! Go shopping in a newly built Ralphs supermarket, just like in the suburbs! Enjoy the eclectic mix of people milling about on the street, but ignore the homeless guy on your stoop and breathe a sigh of relief when you finally get back into your Upper East Side-inspired lobby to mingle with your upper-middle-class yuppie co-pioneers. It's just like the Valley, or any other sanitized patch of sprawl, but with big buildings and some poor people milling about. They'll be gone soon enough anyways, though. Sound good?

The redevelopment of downtown Los Angeles is a laudable idea gone horribly wrong, the hideous conception of some well-meaning businessman that today threatens to stain this generation just like so many cruel schemes have stained the generations before us. As we stroll the newly paved avenues of South Park and immerse ourselves in the manufactured urbanity of it all, the question that screams to be asked is: What kind of downtown are we developing? Why is this downtown being developed and for whom? The answers to these questions, I fear, are more sinister than most people initially imagine.

To get a clear idea of the downtown we are creating (euphemistically, "redeveloping"), the first step is to examine what currently exists. This is a problem for many people, especially USC students. People are too afraid of downtown ("the ghetto") to explore what is really there, to see what kind of world exists in the corners of this city's most damning example of the ills of suburbanization. But unless we understand downtown's past and its present, it is impossible to make any judgments on its future.

Until the 1950s, downtown was the economic and social heart of Los Angeles. But as the construction of freeways sped the development of suburbia (in particular on the westside), downtown was more or less abandoned as a place for residence and became a 9-to-5 business district, devoid of humanity the moment the workday let out.

Within a few decades, however, many mostly poor, Latino immigrants began to pick up the slack and open stores in the lobbies of what had once been magnificent movie palaces, creating a vast shopping and entertainment district along a few main arteries downtown. Most affluent whites, supported by the government money that went into demolishing many historic African-American districts in the push to build Los Angeles' freeways, had abandoned downtown and left the area to develop its own unique flare, a vibe completely independent from any other part of the city.

Today, if you walk north past the obnoxious banners announcing the development of new, decidedly postmodern loft towers and reach Los Angeles' elegant historic core, you will find a vibrant urban center that is filled beyond imagination with shoppers, diners and curious tourists. (Of course, this is not to say that the strip of activity encompassing a few streets is a real substitute for a city center such as Manhattan. Indeed, a drug problem as well as the lack of capital (or will) to sustain historic buildings - just look at Broadway around Third Street, a garish one-story El Pollo Loco erected amid elegant high-rises - has tarnished the area's reputation somewhat.) But for all its faults, the area is an example of what people (read: the poor) can do when the government and the rich all but abandon them.

Poverty is not quaint, and much of the area is in sore need of renewal, but the basis of any redevelopment plans in downtown Los Angeles must include those who have sustained the area for so long despite bureaucratic and popular indifference.

The evidence, however, suggests that the current stream of developments centered in South Park has no intention of preserving downtown's identity or respecting the rights of those who have adopted the area as their own. Instead, developers have sought to cater to young professionals by creating high-end luxury lofts and limiting affordable housing, threatening to price local residents out of their homes.

For example, the South Village development, celebrated for being home to a future Ralphs supermarket, recently slashed 23 percent of its affordable housing contingent with the Community Redevelopment Agency's approval. Similarly, the Grand Avenue Project is enjoying $37 million in taxpayer money to create a development whose housing is 80 percent directed at the upper-middle and upper classes, with 10 percent for the middle-class and a mere 10 percent for the lower class. Instead of using taxpayer money to heal some of the rest of Los Angeles' myriad of problems, the redevelopment of downtown is sucking away money to create luxury homes for the rich.

Much of the discussion, specifically in the case of the Grand Avenue Project, has been about creating an urban area similar to Manhattan, complete with a "Central Park" and a vibrant, diverse environment. But developers fail to recognize that one of the details that makes New York so diverse and vibrant is the widespread implementation of rent controls that allow all classes and all sorts of people to live on one tiny island. Manhattan has succeeded in creating an urban element that the rest of the world aspires to by including the poor in its development, by building a city accessible to all types of people.

Sadly, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the type of city center being built in Los Angeles is not meant to be accessed by all types of people; downtown Los Angeles is being demolished and a playground for the rich is being erected. If Los Angeles leaders really care for the people of Los Angeles, they will not allow a vibrant city center to be demolished in order to create another retreat for the rich. Los Angeles must not allow short-sighted and prejudiced planning decisions to once again remake our city in the interests of the few at the great expense of the many.

Today, the people of Los Angeles have an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild the heart of our disconnected city and create a center for all Angelenos to enjoy. But in every opportunity there lies a danger, and unless we remain vigilant in the face of this danger, we run the risk of marginalizing the poor and further aggravating the stark and bitter differences that today so fiercely divide this city.


Alexander Shams is an international relations freshman from Agoura Hills, Calif.

Jan 30, 2007, 4:17 AM

It may be time to hit the brakes

Putting homes, schools and parks by freeways was seen as a final frontier in L.A., but a USC study on pollution could force a rethinking.

By Christopher Hawthorne
Times Staff Writer

January 30, 2007

A new study from researchers at USC about the effects of local highway pollution on children's health would be alarming under any circumstances, especially for parents. But it happens to arrive just as Los Angeles is building or planning scores of projects — including housing, parks and schools — right on the edge of major freeways.

Seen in that light, the study carries significant implications not just for antipollution efforts but also for the future shape of the city. It should make us think not just about cleaning the air but about how and where we build.

In the last few years, we've come to view land near freeways as a last frontier in a Los Angeles that grows more crowded by the year. When developers and public agencies such as the Los Angeles Unified School District are searching for large, empty parcels of land, they often find that the only ones that they can afford are freeway-adjacent, in the unlovely jargon of the real estate business.

And when planners, architects or academics get together to talk about and sketch designs for the Los Angeles of the future, their proposals inevitably call for new buildings swarming like kudzu along and across freeways.

In the same way that the futuristic city plans of the last century looked to the air, calling for buildings on stilts or stacked like pancakes or connected by floating zeppelins, architects these days tend to see L.A.'s ribbon of highways as the unlikely foundation for a new kind of post-sprawl urbanism.

Last month, Eric Owen Moss won a competition sponsored by the History Channel that asked architects to imagine and help design the Los Angeles of 2106.

"We intend to build over, under, around and through the freeways" of the city, he declared in his winning entry.

Of course, it's hardly surprising to learn that pollution levels are higher near freeways than in other parts of the city. But the data from USC are compelling enough to suggest that when it comes to zoning, we should give up the idea of that land as a means for reshaping L.A. and increasing density and see it instead as territory to be avoided — at least when it comes to placing facilities where kids spend a good portion of the day.

Proposals such as Moss' may anticipate the day when we'll no longer use cars, at least in their current form, and the freeways that once carried them will be empty and ready for reinvention. But even in the most optimistic scenarios, we still face several decades of highway pollution.

The USC study, which tracked 3,600 children for 13 years, found that those living within 500 yards of a highway faced risk of permanent health damage, including stunted lung growth and respiratory problems.

"Someone suffering a pollution-related deficit in lung function as a child will probably have less than healthy lungs all of his or her life," the study's lead author, USC epidemiologist W. James Gauderman, told The Times last week.

Even within that fairly tight 500-yard radius, we are building a number of high-profile projects, quite a few of which are designed for children or would be used heavily by them.

Housing continues to sprout along the edges of the region's highways — including stucco boxes and high-end, themed apartment complexes such as the Medici, which practically leans out over the 110 as it cuts through downtown.

And the LAUSD's massive construction campaign includes a number of new schools next to some of our busiest roadways. Nearing completion is a new high school designed by Perkins + Will at the so-called Metromedia site. Commuters on the 101 have watched the school rise on North Wilton Place, no more than 100 feet from the freeway. The architectural flagship of the construction effort is a new high school for the arts, designed by the Austrian firm Coop Himmelblau. It will be built facing another stretch of the 101, across the freeway from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels downtown.

As architectural solutions to tricky, overlooked sites, the schools are impressive. But through the lens of public health, they look altogether different.

In Hollywood, meanwhile, planners are working to gain approval for a new park that would be built directly atop a curving portion of the 101, between Bronson Avenue and Wilton Place. Preliminary designs for the park have been greeted as an ingenious solution to the open-space crunch in Los Angeles — and, in many ways, a sign of things to come. Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents the neighborhood, said as much three weeks ago, after the City Council voted to spend $100,000 studying the feasibility of a park in that site.

"We've come to a place in Los Angeles [where], for better or for worse, it's actually cheaper to look at putting a cap over the Hollywood Freeway to build a park than buying land in the middle of Hollywood," he told a broadcast reporter.

It's a good thing the park is still being studied. Maybe the act of capping the freeway will reduce pollution levels inside the park enough to reduce the risk to the children who play there to an acceptable level. But if it won't, "buying land in the middle of Hollywood," no matter how expensive, will be a more responsible option, environmentally, morally and probably legally.

At the very least, local governments will have to dig deep into the results of the USC study and similar reports as they begin to decide how big a health risk is presented by putting kids in schools, apartments or parks adjacent to freeways. They will have to look not just at proximity to freeways but also at wind patterns and other factors that affect the quality of neighborhood air. And as they do that they will have to be ready to reassess their planning strategies, perhaps in dramatic ways.

But the mechanism for doing so is not as powerful or as centralized as it needs to be, according to Roger Sherman, an architect in Santa Monica and co-director, with Dana Cuff, of City Lab, a new urban planning think tank at UCLA. Cuff and Sherman teamed up in the History Channel competition.

"Caltrans has one approach to thinking about these pieces of land, LAUSD has another and various cities have still others," Sherman said. "There's really a need for a regional coordinating authority. Without one, I think we're going to see neighborhood councils take more active measures to deal with these issues."

The councils, whose clout has been growing in recent years, could push for exclusionary zoning, for example, to make development near freeways impossible or more difficult. But that approach raises its own risks.

"You may see a kind of Balkanization," Sherman said. "Some communities along the freeway will decide to deal with the problem by putting up barriers along the freeway or planting to affect their microclimates, and others won't."

Most controversial of all, the USC study may open a discussion on the possibility of local governments using eminent domain to carve out new space for housing or parks a safe distance from local freeways. To a limited degree, the LAUSD has already relied on eminent domain simply to find school parcels it considers appropriate to its needs.

Determining the fate of buildings already planned or under construction near freeways will be no less tricky. Given the statistics gathered in the USC study, it's hard to imagine the LAUSD cutting the ribbon on the Perkins + Will high school overlooking the 101 with much enthusiasm about its location. Still, it's equally hard to imagine the district shutting down the school altogether over traffic pollution fears.

Perhaps the district will be able to plausibly argue that it didn't understand the full range of risks that come with building so close to freeways. But it's getting more and more difficult for any of us in this city to make that claim.


Jan 30, 2007, 4:20 AM
Alexander Shams is an international relations freshman from Agoura Hills, Calif.Is she one of those type of ppl who talks out of both sides of her mouth? And it's easy to be an idealist when you eventually have the means & ability to end up far, far away from the gritty reality of the city, to a place like Agoura Hills.

As for the real world, this blogger (http://dwbraun.wordpress.com/2006/08/20/the-apartment/), also a student at USC, says it as it is:

The downsides to where I live? Well, there’s the whole not-safe-at-night thing. Now I know Case wasn’t in the best neighborhood either, but the difference here is that the dangerous and poor folks are mixed right in the neighborhoods where student housing is located. It seriously goes building-by-building. Multiple muggings literally happen nearly every week when school is in session. Things get progressively worse as you get further from campus and, well, I’m as far away as one can get in USC housing! So it’s necessary to either drive or take the escort service at night.

Jan 30, 2007, 4:26 AM
^ Exactly citywatch, and those wonderful Alexander types will lament when an area becomes more wealthy and clean (as if somehow places like Singapore are inherently detestable). But yet, love to "keep it real" by giving props to low-dumpy swap meet stores as being something admirable or something. Prada bad, swap meet good!

Honestly, the writer did touch on something that I agree with regarding Manhattan being "mixed." I only have to say two things from Manhattan and you'll know what I mean: 1) Soho 2) Canal St. in Chinatown.

It would be awesome if Downtown LA could be that way as well. The upscale and keeping the current Santee Alley the way it is. But most of the Alexander types seem to want to keep upscale out, which is VERY selfish IMO. If the article said, yes we need luxury as well as Santee Alley, that would be great, but it seems like just because some luxury lofts have been built in the past 6 years, Downtown LA is going to hell. Gimme a break.

Jan 30, 2007, 4:38 AM
As we stroll the newly paved avenues of South Park and immerse ourselves in the manufactured urbanity of it all, the question that screams to be asked is:
No, the question that "screams" to be asked is not the one posed by the internatl relations freshman from USC. Besides, why does she even give a damn about LA? She'll probably land a big corporate job somewhere, likely also get married, have kids & then move to the burbs, or SF/NoCA, or Seattle, or SaMo, or Boston, or DC or NYC. Maybe even London or Tokyo.

No, this is the question that needs to be asked:

Is LA so unlovable that even a person from Cleveland (http://dwbraun.wordpress.com/2007/01/04/la-love/) (iow, not just India :D-----& I won't even mention the SSPer from St Louis who visited CA last yr & said he liked SF & SD but not LA) has problems with it??

LA Love?
Anyone who has spoken with me about my feelings regarding LA, my home of less than five months, is well aware of my criticisms and dislikes of the area. Indeed I am hard-pressed to come up with any positive things to say about the region aside from its status as my ultimate case study in a city gone awry.

Jan 30, 2007, 4:46 AM
and those wonderful Alexander types will lament when an area becomes more wealthy and clean (as if somehow places like Singapore are inherently detestable).
The hypocrisy of some of these idealists is what irks me. OTOH, if she is able to hold her nose & put up with the dreck, grime & crime of urban living, I'll say, OK, she practices what she preaches. But when a lot of them try to sound like mother Theresa only until the hour of the day when they have to be at the gym, spa, beauty salon, meeting friends at Nordstroms, or boarding a flight to Europe or Hawaii, that's a big joke.

Jan 30, 2007, 4:46 AM
^ It's because there is a hypocritical side to many people. One side hates LA because it's dingy and dirty and isn't "nice" like SF or NY. Yet, when development starts to take place to try to address that problem, it is immediately red-flagged as gentrification and insidious.

Yet, the places that remain dingy because they are "untouchable" due to fears of being "racist" or "elitist," they remain shitholes and visitors and residents alike will not be so forgiving. The moment a Starbucks heads into a neighborhood, new-age urbanists hippies freak out.

Jan 30, 2007, 4:57 AM
^ We in LA can't afford to be guilt ridden idealists (or hippies or whatever) when too many ppl from far & wide (inc from SF or Boston, or any other city that's famous for idealists, hippies & new agers) (or a town like Tel Aviv) react like this (http://skyscrapercity.com/showpost.php?p=11520797&postcount=20).

Jan 30, 2007, 5:04 AM
^ His comment is somewhat accurate. I mean LA isn't exactly the prettiest city overall. But neither is Tokyo or Taipei. There is just something missing from LA that other "ugly cities" seem to have that impress visitors and keep residents proud and happy.

Perhaps a working transit system?

Jan 30, 2007, 6:22 AM

No, LAB, that is not my pen name! LOL.

After having many discussions about this issue I would hope that you are able to grasp that my arguments regarding downtown are far more nuanced than that piece of trash by Mr. Agoura Hills (LMAO).

1. The mere fact that the writer is from Agoura Hills and goes to USC tells me that they are nothing more than the kind of idiot I hate the most: some spoiled rich kid who feels so guilty about their white privelege that they feel a need to embrace all things poor and brown while somehow managing to, at the same time, never really communicate, befriend, or truly learn about such people or their poverty. Mr. Shams will likely one day be some DINK who commutes on Mulholland Hwy to Warner Center......so fuck em.

2. Downtown is not being demolished-----far from it. What is going on now downtown is a godsend for EVERYONE. The question remains will it be remain so? The way things are going, I worry. Now, notices Mr. Shams didn't propose how to fix any of these problems, he only whined about them.....perhaps he's Citywatch's alter ego eh? ;) YES, we do need more middle class and workforce housing downtown. A good way to start doing that is to cut a lot of red tape and USE LESS UNION LABOR. The city also needs to step in and help develop all the dead zone parking lots and hopefully include more affordable units in buuildings that recieve subsidies.

3. I'm actually going to take a step towards toning down my vitriol believe it or not. I'm actually less worried now than I have ever been about the future of the middle and working class vis a vis downtown. This is why: Within the next five years we will have completely tapped the market for upper income dwellers downtown. Some might laugh at this, but if projects like City House, Olympic, Zen, et al actually come to fruition and they very well might (I'd say it's more likely than not) then I seriously believe there will be a sharp cool down in building for the wealthy in downtown. There is a decent number of upper middle and upper class people who want to live downtown, but downtown is not going to become Brentwood or even Westwood. What will hopefully happen is that after that well runs dry developers, bolstered by banks who will see DT as a far more worthy investment than they did 10 yrs ago or even now, retailers who will be opening up all manner of stores (TJ's, Target anyone? ) in DT, will be able to shift their focus to middle class developments. As for the poor, I see great potential for districts such as the Fashion District, Industrial District, etc. to absorb more housing units through flatting and conversions (hopefully the city will help with this through zoning and subsidies).

4. TRANSIT will become even more necessary with a real urban core. Hopefully some more progress will be made in that regard. I sincerely wish Mr. Shams would have at least mentioned it once (though I doubt he has ever ridden on a bus or rail....except on vacation of course).

5. Mr. Shams did make ONE decent point in his piece: he mentioned the total disregard and even disdain for the very people who have saved some of the masteprieces of downtown from utter dereliction and possibly the wrecking ball. It never ceases to amaze me how brazen the white power elite are in their reclamation of areas they once left for dead.

Jan 30, 2007, 9:33 AM
Perhaps a working transit system?
In some ways turning around the city's image & ppl's impression of it would be alot easier if most of the problems centered around transit.

I think it's kind of like the question of what's more crucial? A person going to a big VIP event & wanting to leave guests with a positive impression by their seeing him or her pull up in a Lexus or Mercedes while, throughout the rest of the evening they also see that person dressed like a hobo on skid row? Or their seeing that person drive up in a beatup Chevy while, throughout the rest of the evening, they also see him or her dressed in the finest fashion?

I think transit is more like the first scenario than the second, & the problems I've pointed out previously (including deadzones) are more like the second. Both are important, but one has more staying power or a longer duration, with more ppl, than the other.

And my bad for referring to Alexander Shams as "her" or "she". For some reason I thought the author's name was "alexandria".

And SSP's server is the pits.....slooooow even at this time of the day :gaah:

Jan 30, 2007, 9:38 AM
^ So grounding powerlines is more important than improving public transit in Los Angeles?:koko:

Jan 30, 2007, 9:49 AM
^ uh, who said I said only ONE thing----among all the various elements in the general category I'm focusing on (deadzones, etc. hello!)----was important? You're putting words in my mouth.

Jan 30, 2007, 9:52 AM
HAHA. Well, sorry about that. Your own medicine doesn't taste good does it?

Seriously though, sorry for misinterpreting you.

Hopefully you realize that transit and getting rid of deadzones go hand in hand (Hollywood/Vine, Hollywood/Western per exemplum).

Jan 30, 2007, 10:19 AM
Do you find Tokyo and Taipei attractive citywatch? I think they're not exactly BEAUTIFUL, but there's something URBAN about them that millions of people seem to really enjoy. Plus, the transit in both cities are awesome. The convenience of getting around is wonderful.




http://www.mynetbizz.com/pages/taipei/taipei-city.jpg http://www.national.com/careers/images/taipei_taiwan.jpg



Jan 31, 2007, 5:47 AM
Hopefully you realize that transit and getting rid of deadzones go hand in hand (Hollywood/Vine, Hollywood/Western per exemplum).
Transit helps but, when it comes to making a hood nice or at least less of a dive, it's not essential. For example, the Blue line has been running between DTLB & DTLA for over 16 yrs. Has that helped make the hoods between those 2 points much better?

By comparison, there are several hoods miles to the west, inc SaMo, around UCLA, Brentwood, that still are totally cut off from transit lines. OK, they may be suffering from worse traffic congestion today, but has that isolation from subways or trains made them dives, full of deadzones? Even Pasadena started to turn around way before the Gold line was more than an idea on the MTA's drawing board.

Meanwhile, in the city famous for transit....

The City That Never Walks

Published: January 29, 2007

FOR the past two decades, New York has been an inspiration to other American cities looking to revive themselves. Yes, New York had a lot of crime, but somehow it also still had neighborhoods, and a core that had never been completely abandoned to the car. Lately, though, as far as pedestrian issues go, New York is acting more like the rest of America, and the rest of America is acting more like the once-inspiring New York.

As a New Yorker who has spent two years researching roads and transportation across the United States, I am saddened to see our city falling behind places like downtown Albuquerque, where one-way streets have become more pedestrian-friendly two-way streets, and car lanes are replaced by bike lanes, with bike racks everywhere.

Then there is Grand Rapids, Mich., which has a walkable downtown with purposely limited parking and is home to a new bus plaza that is part of a mass transit renaissance in Michigan. The state is investing in high-speed trains, and it is even talking about a mass transit system for the nation’s auto-capital, Detroit, where a new pedestrian plaza anchors downtown. In Indianapolis, an urban walking and biking trail will soon link inner-city neighborhoods — something New York certainly hasn’t tried.

We have lost our golden pedestrian touch in New York mostly because we still think about traffic as though it were 1950, and we needed Robert Moses to plow a few giant freeways through town to get the cars moving again. But the fact is that more roads equal more traffic.

London now charges drivers a fee to enter the core business area, but here such initiatives are branded as anti-car, and thus anti-personal freedom: a congestion fee, critics say, is a tax on the middle-class car commuter. But as matters now stand, the pedestrian is taxed every day: by delays and emissions, by asthma rates that are (in the Bronx) as much as four times the national average. Though we think of it as a luxury, the car taxes us, and with it we tax others.

And yet, here in New York, we even have the debate over bicycle traffic backwards. We focus on drivers’ complaints about the bicycle commuter who races through red lights, rather than on the concerns of the mother biking her child around organic-food delivery trucks that idle in bike-only lanes. In December, the police say, a bicyclist was killed on the Hudson River Greenway by a drunken driver speeding along a bike lane that was completely separated from the road. Asked what was being done to improve safety in light of the biker’s death, Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested that bikers “pay attention.” “Even if they’re in the right, they are the lightweights,” he told a reporter.

Contrast this response with that of Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago after a 4-year-old pedestrian was killed in a hit and run. Mayor Daley immediately set up a pedestrian awareness program, suggested that police sting operations arrest speeding drivers and proposed to add 500 miles of bike lanes, so that there would be one within a half-mile of every resident.

One reason New York is losing its New York edge may be that the city’s revival is partly based on a strange reversal: the city is the new suburb. Families have returned to the New York that was abandoned years ago for lawns and better public schools. They’ve brought with them a love of cars. A new study by Bruce Schaller, a local transportation consultant, shows that half the drivers in Manhattan are from the city — and that more city residents than suburbanites drive to work every day.

New Yorkers always find good reasons to drive. Public transportation is dirty, time-consuming, a hassle, unsafe. Walking takes too long. The children will be late for school. But choosing the car is no longer safe — for your children who already don’t get enough exercise, for anyone’s lungs or for the future of New York as a livable place. There are even such things as secondhand driving effects: studies show that people who live on high-traffic streets tend to stay inside.

The simple and elegant cure for the loss of New York’s inner pedestrian is to open up car-clogged streets and public spaces. Another of Mr. Schaller’s surveys, sponsored by the citizens’ group Transportation Alternatives, showed that 89 percent of people questioned on Prince Street in SoHo got there by subway, bus, foot or bicycle, and that the majority would gladly give up parking for more pedestrian space.

With a million more New Yorkers scheduled to arrive by 2030, true sustainability requires the city — or at least its residents — to make a bold move. Some neighborhoods are already working on it. The Ninth Avenue Renaissance Project, sponsored by a coalition of residents and businesses, has held community workshops on converting Ninth Avenue from Lincoln Tunnel access ramp to boulevard.

The now chic Meatpacking District plans to bring back a space that, since the area was a Native American village, has been a natural gathering place for people without combustion engines: wider sidewalks, public seating and a piazza in the restaurant-surrounded open field of paving stones could be more like Campo dei Fiori in Rome and less a spot for crazed U-turns. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the city’s Department of Transportation has replaced parking spaces near a subway station with rows of bike racks.

But these are tiny steps. Boston’s mayor has endorsed converting Hanover Street in the city’s North End into a car-free pedestrian mall. Why don’t we do the same in part or even all of SoHo? In Los Angeles, some traffic lights are programmed to change for approaching buses (a signal in the bus alerts the light). Why can’t the same happen on 14th Street?

And if Boulder, Baltimore, Sacramento, San Diego, Denver, Houston, Dallas, Portland, Ore., and Bergen County in New Jersey can build light rails, then why can’t New York finally put one on 42nd Street? Times Square could be the Crossroads of People instead of the Crossroads of Car Congestion.

These are relatively cheap changes — in some cases, they require just a couple of sawhorses. And New York’s walkability is crucial to its character, no small part of which is its relative freedom from America’s plague of strip malls. The great shame of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards mega-development in Brooklyn is that it seems like something out of Atlanta in the 1990s.

Not today’s Atlanta. Today’s Atlanta is building a circular hiking, recreation and even transit trail, a little like the still unfinished Manhattan greenway.

“Roads no longer merely lead to places; they are places,” wrote John Brinckerhoff Jackson, the landscape historian. We’ve already lost a lot of New York to traffic. If New Yorkers don’t get out of their cars soon, the city’s future residents won’t have a reason to.

Robert Sullivan, a contributing editor at Vogue, is the author, most recently, of “Cross Country.”

Jan 31, 2007, 6:11 AM
Do you find Tokyo and Taipei attractive citywatch? I think they're not exactly BEAUTIFUL, but there's something URBAN about them that millions of people seem to really enjoy.
First of all, I don't think LA deserves all the dissing it gets on too many occasions. However, through the yrs I've been forced into realizing something wasn't adding up right, because the city frequently triggers reactions like the ones from the ppl I've cited previously----inc, yea, the woman from India, or the USC student from cleveland, & what I remember you writing on your own blog a few yrs ago, about your sister & cousin hating LA.

And I think the city gets judged as uglier than Tokyo or Taipei because it has more areas that seem like too little money is chasing too much land. IOW, look at all the space in LA turned over to parking lots & desolate small warehouse bldgs & hovel type houses.

As I was driving south on the Hollywood fwy today towards DTLA, I noticed that it was not until I saw some of the big bldgs in DT, the new cathedral, & even the new apt bldgs owned by Palmer (right next to the fwy), that the sense of drving through an otherwise largely squat, beatup shantytown started to receed. A similar reaction from other ppl is what I suspect causes all the bad press or word of mouth towards the city.

Feb 1, 2007, 8:02 AM
I hate parking lots, but, yea, there's a good news, bad news aspect to them. Or a catch 22 dilemma, where you're damned if you, damned if you don't.

Nothing will better to me than when all the deadzone parking lots are wiped out for the new Hollywood/Vine devlpt. But will that change create more frustration for ppl visiting the hood, which in turn will cause the nightclub scene to stagnate?

And I hate all the parking lots around Pershing Sq & throughout the OBD. But will their removal make ppl like the owner of 3 old movie theaters on Broadway lose confidence in the hood's ability to lure in ppl?

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Take Valuables With You

You’ll need them to afford the skyrocketing parking rates around L.A.

By Roger Vincent, Times Staff Writer
January 31, 2007

Federal court clerk Chris Sawyer gave up parking in his favorite lot near Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles last summer when the monthly rate jumped from $55 to $100. "I couldn't afford it," he said, "so I had to go back to Chinatown." But that's where his Jeep had been broken into, and his walk to the courthouse takes twice as long from there. Soon the price at his Chinatown lot climbed from about $60 to $80 a month.

Cheap, convenient parking — as Southern Californians have long known and expected it — is getting harder to find, particularly in high-density places such as Hollywood, Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles.

Two hours in an office building garage in Century City can set you back $28, more than twice what it cost in the early 1990s. Club hopping in Hollywood? It could cost $60 before you even you tip the valet. Commuters who paid as little as $80 a month in downtown Los Angeles in the early 1990s are being hit up for as much as $300 for unreserved spaces. Prefer a prime slot with your name on it? Be prepared to write a check for more than $500 a month.

Basic economics — rising demand and declining supply — explain the parking price surge. With five years of economic growth adding a stream of new buildings and residents, many lots and garages are filling up or disappearing. Housing developers in particular have converted downtown and Hollywood lots into residential buildings. With downtown land prices now surpassing $300 a square foot, it doesn't make economic sense to buy land just to use it for parking, consultants say.

The rise in prices also underscores the region's transformation from an extended suburbia into a more densely occupied urban center with the kind of parking challenges more common in major metropolises such as New York or Chicago. Nowhere is the shift more evident than in downtown Los Angeles, where acres of asphalt are giving way to housing, stores and other attractions that people want to visit — by car, of course.

Downtown prices are not only rising on standard surface lots, they are also rocketing up in the garages of fancy high-rise office towers as they finally begin to fill with workers after many years of low occupancy. The expectation of cheap parking has been kicked to the curb in parts of Hollywood, especially during peak weekend hours for the district's popular nightspots. With 55 clubs in the area, parking lots intended to serve them are frequently overbooked.

"It costs $5 during the day, then $25, $40 or $50 after dark," said Tricia LaBelle, owner of Boardner's, a Cherokee Avenue watering hole since 1942. The scale often slides, she says, because some lot operators charge what they find the market will bear hour by hour.

Sometimes the price even hits $100 to secure prompt valet service, said club operator Elizabeth Peterson, "but $60 is usually about the most on a weekend."

There aren't nearly enough high rollers to go around, though, and business owners worry that high parking costs will drive away the average clubbers who have been flocking to Hollywood. "We have seen a dip in business at many clubs because people can't get in here," LaBelle said. "After years of dramatic increases, business is leveling off."

Hollywood nightclub owner and restaurateur David Gajda called the high parking prices "an absolute mess." "People are going to be so frustrated they are not going to come," he said.

Eagle Rock residents Jacob Calvache and Angie Garcia got off comparatively easy late last Friday night, paying $20 to park next to the club Avalon at Hollywood and Vine. "Everybody needs to make a profit, I guess," Calvache said sarcastically. "It's a little outrageous, but it's not unexpected."

Such price pressures could stunt Southern Californians' storied love affair with their cars, some experts suggest, though most evidence of changes in behavior is anecdotal. Public transportation advocates say that rising prices will push drivers into mass transit, especially if employers stop subsidizing their workers' parking habits. "People are shifting," said Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in Sylmar. "They don't like to pay for parking. If transit can replace that need, people will choose it."

Thousands of Los Angeles County commuters already ditch their cars at Metro Rail stations every weekday so they can hop a train to work. Though parking is free, some stops are so crowded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority offers reserved parking for a price.

Higher prices are translating into fatter profits for parking lot owners. Each stall on the average downtown lot grosses about $10,000 a year, said industry expert Bill Francis of Walker Parking Consultants. So a lot with 100 parking spots would bring in $1 million with very little operating costs. "Now is a good time to be a parking operator," Francis said.

Even with the increases, downtown Los Angeles parking prices are still low compared with other downtowns, said parking lot magnate Joe Lumer. His company, L&R, controls about 100 lots and garages downtown, with more than 10,000 spaces. "In cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York and Seattle it can cost as much as $40 or $50 to park," Lumer said. "The top [daytime] rate on a surface lot downtown is $10 or $12. There is no lack of parking."

Left to market forces, though, parking prices will continue to rise, said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents much of downtown. "There won't be a lot of space left in the next five to seven years," Perry said. "I didn't expect this to happen so quickly."

The city's Community Redevelopment Agency is conducting a study that will consider abandoning a requirement, established in 1990, limiting how much parking could be included in new downtown office buildings. The intent was to compel office workers to park in structures on the edge of downtown and ride shuttle buses in. But most of them balked and signed up for cheap parking in nearby surface lots.

Other options include building the kind of massive public garages that have eased the parking burdens in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Pasadena. Santa Monica's success at creating a vibrant downtown, however, has taxed its parking resources and challenged its commitment to environment-friendly planning policies. With its public parking structures filling up, the city made some of its garages taller and plans to add another 1,700 spaces over the next decade, said Ellen Gelbard, deputy director of planning and community development.

In downtown Los Angeles, parking is at such a premium in the historic core that the city should enact a moratorium on further developments that take away existing lots, said Michael Delijani, whose company owns three classic but unused theaters on Broadway, including the Los Angeles Theater completed in 1931. "It might even be too late already," Delijani said, to secure enough parking sites to revive the Broadway theater district that was once the West Coast equivalent of New York's Great White Way. Twelve major historic theaters survive, but most have no parking.

Parking lot owners are ratcheting up their fees in the area around Staples Center as that district becomes more desirable. Maguire Properties Inc. has more than doubled monthly rates, to as much as $130, at its 2,260-space garage at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Venice Boulevard. The facility was once nearly empty, its gaping empty floors easily visible from the San Bernardino freeway making it one of city's most notorious white elephants. But the addition of Staples Center and new residential surrounding residences has made the garage desirable. "We would have liked to have seen it happen a little sooner," said Maguire senior vice president Bill Flaherty, "but now it's generating a tremendous amount of interest."

Student Michelle Carter walks for blocks around the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising looking for the cheapest parking, which has zrisen from $3 to $5 per day in the two years she has been studying product development at the campus near Staples Center. "The closer to school it is, the more expensive it is," she said. "It's crazy."

An office worker at the nearby Petroleum Building, Elizabeth Berger, said her nonprofit employer has moved staff parking four times in the last five years because prices keep going up. Now she has about a 10-minute hike through a neighborhood that still feels dicey sometimes.

Many lots near Staples have flexible pricing that rises with demand created by events at the arena and the Los Angeles Convention Center. Before a recent evening Tool concert, for example, the price at one Flower Street lot was tripled from $5 in the daytime to $15 before the show.

Feb 1, 2007, 8:22 AM
Michael Delijani obviously doesn't see how incredibly dense certain city cores can become (Shanghai anyone?). You would need a car garage 50 stories tall to keep up with demand in this crazy-car-culture. Anyone heard of subways? How about street cars? The amount of $$$ it would take the build enough parking structures should be put in a big pot and be used to build more subways.

Feb 1, 2007, 8:41 AM
Lol, I wonder if anyone could ever concider possibly not taking a car? I dont think Angelenos would know how to function. I guess they can just pay $50 a day to sit in traffic instead of walk a couple blocks.

Feb 1, 2007, 8:45 AM
Maybe the metro could possibly, I dunno, service hours that would work with the nightclub crowd? Last time I went to Hollywood, I took the red line, and at 10:30pm, the trains were full people going the same place I was. Unfortunately, taking a cab home is almost half the price of parking in Hollywood.

Feb 1, 2007, 9:48 AM
^ Well, you MIGHT AS WELL take the cab home even though it's only HALF the cost of parking in Hollywood AND you get to drink ALL YOU WANT (no worry of DUI) and liberate urself from the stress of not having to find parking.

Plus, if you have just another person in the cab, the price is split.

Wright Concept
Feb 1, 2007, 10:41 AM

Rousting of skid row homeless puts strain on surrounding areas
By Ashraf Khalil and Cara Mia DiMassa
Times Staff Writers

February 1, 2007

Moving with a shuffle, Jimmy turned up in late December near Alvarado Street and Glendale Boulevard — a new face among the established groups of Echo Park homeless and the latest in a series of migrants from downtown.

"Everyone's just kind of scattering in all directions," said Jimmy, who declined to give his last name. "Hollywood, Elysian Park, down to the beach."

The 62-year-old former construction worker used to camp downtown near 7th and Spring streets.

But last fall, Los Angeles launched a major crackdown on crime and blight around skid row, rousting homeless people who camped on streets during the day and deploying 50 additional officers to focus on crime.

The campaign has resulted in a distinct migration of homeless people out of downtown, significantly reducing skid row's transient population but also putting more strain on homeless service providers in Echo Park, South Los Angeles, Hollywood and Santa Monica. A head count last month by the Los Angeles Police Department found 875 people living on the streets, a 35% drop from the 1,345 counted about the same time last year. The drop is even more pronounced when compared with last September, when the count was nearly 1,900.

"Half the population that I'm used to seeing downtown is not there, so they're going somewhere," said Chris Van Winkle, director of the Dream Center's Under the Bridge program, which passes out food downtown daily.

While shelters and homeless service organizations in Pasadena, Glendale and the San Fernando Valley report no noticeable uptick in numbers, shelters to the south and west — the places skid row denizens can directly reach by bus and by foot — tell a different story.

"It's been a nightmare," said Brenda Wilson, president of New Image Shelter near the Los Angeles Coliseum. "We're beyond bulging. Food and supplies are way over budget."

Wilson, a 17-year veteran of local homeless services, said the situation at her shelter worsened soon after the LAPD crackdown began last fall. The 400-bed shelter was suddenly overflowing, and Wilson had to hire security guards to turn away people at the door.

"We were turning away 200 people a night," she said. "It's overwhelming — more than we can stand."

Most of Los Angeles County's homeless services organizations are in skid row — and it remains to be seen whether the homeless who have left will eventually come back.

Officials said they expected the police presence would lead to more arrests but not reduce the overall homeless population, which they said is benefiting from safer streets.

"There's a nomadic element," said Orlando Ward of skid row's Midnight Mission. "You have no home, no anchor. You will go where your needs can be met: food, shelter, drugs. Whatever the case may be."

Both Ward and Capt. Andy Smith of the LAPD's Central Division believe it's hard to separate facts from perceptions.

"What I think is happening is people are just noticing it more," Smith said. "I've been getting calls from as far away as San Diego, saying they've got our homeless…. Everybody can't be getting them."

But several area shelters and service providers see a direct link between the downtown police crackdown and their increased demand.

"We're putting down a solution in skid row that affects everyone else," Julie DeRose, director of homeless services for St. Joseph Center in Venice. "We're overwhelmed with the amount of outreach we're doing right now."

In Hollywood, the homeless outreach center run by the Church of the Blessed Sacrament normally deals with 30 to 50 people per day, offering food, clothing, showers and medical referrals. Now they're averaging 70 per day, and center Director Yolanda Lichtman has extended the hours to keep up with increased demand.

"I understand the reason they don't want them downtown," she said. "But where do they think these people are going to go?"

The influx has also created a competition in Hollywood for prime sleeping places on area streets.

"They're fighting for spots," said a Hollywood bicycle officer, who declined to give his name. "I don't know if it's because of what they're doing downtown, but there's a lot more coming up here."

Robert Nudelman, a community activist and past president of Hollywood Heritage, a preservation group, said he's seen a distinct increase in homeless camping in his neighborhood and worries that solving a problem in downtown is causing problems in other districts.

He believes the crackdown is being fueled by the boom in lofts and condos in downtown Los Angeles but says residents of Hollywood should not have to pay the price.

"This is a short-term solution because it doesn't solve the problem," Nudelman said. "It gets the problem out of the way [in downtown]. But it just jumps somewhere else."

The newcomers are a particular strain in Hollywood, which boasts several shelters and service providers for homeless and runaway youths but relatively few for adults.

David Wilson, 60, arrived in Hollywood about Jan. 25 after police and private guards rousted him from his usual spot on 5th Street and threw away whatever belongings he couldn't carry, he said. "I'm not gonna get arrested. I'll stay up here if they'll let me," said Wilson, who gets around in a wheelchair after being hit by a car.

Since leaving downtown, he's been back once to check on a friend. "It's like a ghost town now," he said.

One of Hollywood's only adult emergency shelters, a 65-bed facility run by People Assisting the Homeless, or PATH, is constantly full, said Joel Roberts, the organization's chief executive. But the real boost in Hollywood's homeless population is being felt by the center's outreach staff.

"On the street, we're definitely seeing an increase," Roberts said.

Shelters in Santa Monica and Venice say they have also noticed an uptick.

"We're the end of the line from downtown. When they get off the bus, they're right down the street," said Patricia Bauman, project director with OPCC, a network of services and shelters for homeless and low-income people based in Santa Monica. It was formerly known as Ocean Park Community Center.

But OPCC Executive Director John Maceri said he won't be sure whether the moves are permanent until the weather warms. Winter usually brings movements in the homeless population in part because the government opens seasonal shelters.

The arrival of those extra beds Dec. 1 helped relieve some of the new overcrowding at New Image and other shelters.

"But on March 16, when the winter shelters close, there's going to be a major, major crisis," Wilson said.

Several homeless providers said city leaders need to start thinking about how the police crackdown in skid row is affecting other neighborhoods.

"I call it the leaf-blower mentality," PATH's Roberts said. His organization runs shelters in Glendale and West Los Angeles as well as the one in Hollywood. "If you increase the law enforcement but don't increase the amount of housing and services, then you're just scattering the same population around the county."

Back at Echo Park, Jimmy said he likes his new environs. He said he left downtown because he felt harassed by the extra police officers and the newly enforced ban on sidewalk camping.

LAPD officials credit the crackdown with an 11% decline in crime, citing more than 1,000 drug arrests since September.

The effort had a ripple effect to the west.

Echo Park residents and rangers in nearby Elysian Park said they've noticed a significant increase since last fall in the number of homeless encampments. They said the city needs to figure out what to do.

"But we don't want to just run them out the way they're doing in downtown," said Christine Peters, a member of the Greater Echo Park-Elysian Neighborhood Council. "We really need increased services, we need more shelters and we need to come up with money."





Begin text of infobox

875 - LAPD's Jan. 15 count of people living on skid row streets.

1,876 - The count Sept. 18, 2006.

1,345 - The count Feb. 21, 2006.


Source: LAPD's Central Division

Feb 1, 2007, 11:25 AM
--This article makes me laugh! It's gotta be the funniest article ever because it's actually supposed to be serious. "Developers envision communities of the future that rely on public transportation more than cars." Just read that and if you don't laugh out loud, I don't know what else would!

Mini towns could dot MTA lines

Development along Orange route spurs vision of new lifestyle

BY SUE DOYLE, Staff Writer
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:

A multimillion-dollar construction boom is poised to transform the San Fernando Valley's Orange Line and other transit hubs in Los Angeles as developers envision communities of the future that rely on public transportation more than cars.

Office complexes, retail shops, entertainment and a mix of subsidized and traditional housing are in the works for MTA-owned land to redirect sprawling growth that has gridlocked traffic and fouled the air.

"The sprawl is to the wall. It's over the hill," Roger Snoble, chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Wednesday. "Sprawl doesn't work anymore."

Snoble said the Orange Line - nearing its 22,000-passenger capacity after less than two years - has become a catalyst for new development along its 14-mile route.

Long overlooked, land along the corridor - particularly at its connecting hub to the Red Line subway - is drawing interest from developers seeking areas where public transportation already is part of the landscape.

"It's almost a paradigm shift. In past years it would just lay there, but now it's amazing the kind of interest we're having," said Roger Moliere, head of real estate development for the MTA. "With development, transportation is the driver."

Fulfilling demand

Developing hubs of housing, work and entertainment along public transit routes fulfills a growing demand by commuters frustrated with traffic-choked freeways and surface streets, Moliere said.

Three companies are bidding for a contract to develop 17 acres of MTA-owned land around the transit hub at Lankershim and Chandler boulevards in North Hollywood, where the agency hopes to see 500 apartments, shops and offices, Moliere said.

Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said North Hollywood has tremendous potential because of its proximity to the busway and the Red Line.

"We are in a gridlock situation," Kyser said. "So access to some type of rapid transit, either rail or bus, is going to be more and more important to people."

Smaller developments on MTA-owned land along the Orange Line call for a 32,000-square-foot office building with parking on 1.7 acres at Victory and Balboa boulevards.

Across the street sits a four-acre Park and Ride lot on which MTA officials hope to see a retail-and-residential development.

Another residential complex with some shops could come to another Park and Ride lot on the Orange Line at Sepulveda Boulevard and Erwin Street.

MTA officials say that 12-acre lot is underused and seems suitable for housing with a small retail component. Parking would be retained and possibly expanded.

In each case, the MTA plans to lease the land to developers.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said developers get the benefit of having mass-transit systems in place rather than building on a promise that routes will eventually be created - a practice that led to much of the current congestion.

"We're paying the price for that everywhere," said Yaroslavsky, noting that commuters spend hours in their cars that they could be spending with their families. "We're now paying the price for sprawl."

Snoble compares the current boom along the Orange Line to how the 1800s construction of the railroads triggered the movement west.

"Regular development doesn't happen along bus routes," he said. "Developers are looking at (the busway) now and saying, `Hey, this is as good as light rail and we need to jump on this opportunity while it's here."'

Getting second look

At the same time, development around Los Angeles has spread about as far as it can, and now older areas - such as North Hollywood - are getting a second look, said Cliff Goldstein, senior partner at J.H. Snyder Co., an L.A. developer.

Launching its third major project for North Hollywood, the developer is building a Laemmle Theatre, a 100,000-square-foot office building and some housing on the southeast corner of Weddington Street and Lankershim about a half-block from the Orange Line.

"We need to come back to neighborhoods that have been too long neglected and revitalize these neighborhoods," Goldstein said. "Sometimes it takes new development to have the large amount of dollars come in and revitalize. The Orange Line will contribute to that."

Bruce Ackerman, president of the Economic Alliance, said developers can learn from mistakes made in other areas of L.A., where housing is miles away from stores and even farther from work. All three components should be planned together when envisioning communities, he said.

"If you blend the livability component and job component, all of a sudden you have a community that can sustain itself and grow itself into the future," Ackerman said.

Yaroslavsky urged caution in developing the Valley's open parcels because the results will be far-reaching.

"Whatever you do now will last for 50 years," he said. "So we have to do it right the first time."


(818) 713-3746

Wright Concept
Feb 2, 2007, 12:59 PM

Costly L.A. River plan contains a raft of new ideas
Proposed $2-billion makeover of the ugly concrete waterway calls for a string of parks, housing and offices.
By Steve Hymon
Times Staff Writer

February 2, 2007

After decades of enduring jokes about the city's concrete-lined waterway, officials today will release an ambitious master plan for restoring the Los Angeles River, a project that reflects lofty dreams and carries a big price tag.

If anything, the plan is significant not for its specifics but for its sweep and boldness in proposing to turn the industrial-strength storm drain running from the San Fernando Valley to the sea into "one of the city's most treasured landmarks."

The Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan proposes a $2-billion-plus makeover that would replace vast tracts of industrial land along the river with parks, clean up the river and make it appear more natural while retaining its important flood-control role.

The plan is intended to guide construction of a series of parks along 32 miles of the river from Canoga Park to downtown Los Angeles over 25 to 50 years.

Channeled decades ago to protect the city against periodic flooding, the river has provided an ugly contrast in a city known for the natural beauty of its setting. The waterway in recent years has attracted new interest from those who would like to blast away its walls and replace them with a semblance of a natural river.

Up to now, however, visions for doing so have been vague or piecemeal. The master plan offers the first comprehensive — and as yet unfunded — proposal for a restoration.

It consists of 239 projects, most of them small. Some, however, would be immense. In two places — Chinatown and Canoga Park — residential and office villages would rise along the river's newly greened banks, replacing factories and warehouses. The plan also envisions widening the river channel in some places to preserve its flood-control capacity while creating more riparian habitat.

Advocates say that the plan offers the possibility of constructing the kind of grand public gathering places that have been in short supply in Los Angeles. The restoration's new parks would appear in many parts of the city, rich and poor, including downtown, which is undergoing a revival.

"All of these statements about it being impossible have been made before, and I listen to it and understand it," said Councilman Ed Reyes, the head of the council's river restoration committee. "But impossible? I don't believe it is."

'Wildly ambitious'

Gail Goldberg, the city's planning chief, praised the plan for its scale. "These kind of plans are always long-term," she said. "And they need to be wildly ambitious to capture the public's attention and imagination. Urban design should be bold."

At this stage, the plan is largely hypothetical. Most of the money has not been secured. Beautifying the river could be a hard sell in a city that chronically struggles to hire more police, repair streets and sidewalks, and find funding for transportation improvements.

But the plan— drafted by the city, consultants and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the behest of city officials — has growing political momentum on its side. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said he is a supporter, and a majority of the City Council wants to see something happen.

Powerful and deadly floods in 1914, 1934 and 1938 prompted civic leaders to tame the river to protect the city growing on its floodplain. By the 1950s, most of the river had been encased in concrete, though some portions north of downtown and in the Sepulveda Basin still have a natural bed.

River restoration efforts have come into vogue for cities across United States in recent years as a way to bring parks into the urban core and reclaim nature. Los Angeles County has built several parks along the river's southern reaches over the last decade, and the nonprofit North East Trees and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority have constructed a series of pocket parks along the river between downtown and Glendale.

City Engineer Gary Lee Moore said he believes that the plan will begin with relatively small projects designed to bring people closer to the river. Among those are the completion of a bike path connecting Chinatown and Griffith Park via the river's banks and new pedestrian bridges over it.

"We're talking about signature bridges — a bridge that people really want to see and that will allow them to see the river," Moore said.

The next phase would be to construct parks along the river while softening its edges with greenery. If that goes well, the city would move on to the biggest project of all: widening and deepening the river channel.

The idea is to preserve the river's current flood-control capacity while slowing its peak flows. Accomplishing that would allow more vegetation and wetlands to be created in the channel because the tamer current wouldn't wash them away.

The Corps of Engineers — the same agency that channeled the river between the 1930s and '50s — is in the early stages of a three-year, $7.3-million study to determine what is technically possible.

"We're trying to find the best locations for potential ecosystem restoration, with an eye toward riparian habitat and aquatic species," said Col. Alex Dornstauder of the corps.

The city is contemplating tearing out concrete in a few places. Reyes and Moore said the site where the river most likely would be widened is next to the almost-finished Taylor Yard State Park next to Cypress Park.

There, a Union Pacific maintenance facility is between the river and the new park. The facility has seldom been used since 2003, and the city hopes to purchase it from the railroad. As for funding, the city is hoping that breaking the restoration effort into smaller pieces will enable it to tap into a variety of funding sources, including local, county and state water initiatives.

Others believe private funding will be essential, because federal and state money is in short supply. In Chicago, for example, residents and businesses contributed more than $200 million to build a downtown park that opened in 2004.

"I think it's going to have to be a public-private partnership," said Shelly Backlar, executive director of the advocacy group Friends of the Los Angeles River. "And I think to rely specifically on governmental funds is going to take a long, long time."

The plan also proposes new agencies to oversee the project and offers several suggestions for cleaning up the river's poor water quality.

An element likely to draw controversy is a proposal to rezone river-adjacent property to encourage residential development to replace factories and warehouses.

Housing and offices

The plan calls for nearly 6,200 residential units along the river in Canoga Park and 4,665 units near Chinatown. Both sites also would see new retail and office development.

It remains unclear how the plan will be received, although the good-sized crowds drawn to public meetings held across the city over the last two years indicated public interest.

Councilman Dennis Zine, who represents Canoga Park, is noncommittal at this point. Councilman Tom LaBonge said he is reluctant to lose industry — and jobs — in his district, close to downtown.

Council President Eric Garcetti said residents near the waterway want it restored.

"If you want to represent these areas near the river, you have to be for this," he said.

Driving through the warehouse and factory district along Main Street in Chinatown, Reyes motioned toward the buildings and predicted that one day many will be replaced with a more campus-like city near the river.

"You won't even recognize it," he said.




Key provisions

Some elements of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan

Governance: The plan calls for three new agencies to guide river restoration. One would be a joint powers authority of city and county officials to oversee construction while the other two would be nonprofits that focus on managing the land and fundraising.

Water quality: Several solutions are posed to help clean polluted water that spills into the river from 2,200 storm drains. Most proposals would rely on filtering the water through new vegetation before it reaches the river.

Location: Many projects are targeted for one of five areas determined last year: the river's headwaters in Canoga Park; the confluence of the river and the Verdugo Wash near Griffith Park; the new Taylor Yard State Park next to Cypress Park; Chinatown; and the river between the Santa Ana and Santa Monica freeways.

Source: Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan

Feb 2, 2007, 4:07 PM
On top of this article, it looks KTLA morning news is doing a piece on the River as well this morning. It's great to see the huge press these projects are getting. I'm really hoping that LA Live, Grand Ave, the Cornfield Park, and now the LA River restoration will create stronger sense of pride here in LA. It us unfortunate that so many people who live in this city take it for granted, but I think that will change as these projects prgress.

Feb 2, 2007, 4:34 PM
I think this will affect a lot of cities across the world. LA may lose many of its famous beaches and real estate in a few decades. Buy your real estate now near the beach and it may become beachfront property soon enough! Who am I kidding, the world is going to hell! :(


U.N. says there's no stopping global warming
Report also says climate change is 'very likely' the result of human activities.
By Thomas H. Maugh II
Times Staff Writer

February 2, 2007

In the strongest language it has ever used, a United Nations panel says global warming is "very likely" caused by human activities and has become a runaway train that cannot be stopped.

The warming of Earth and increases in sea levels "would continue for centuries … even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized," according to a 20-page summary of the report that was leaked to wire services.

The summary of the fourth report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, was scheduled for release this morning in Paris. But scientists involved in the final editing process have been leaking bits and pieces from it all week, culminating in the leaking of the full report eight hours before its release.

The phrase "very likely" indicates a 90% certainty. The last IPCC report, issued five years ago, said it was "likely" that human activity was at fault, indicating a certainty of 66%.

Many scientists had argued during the editing process that the report should say it is "virtually certain" that human activities are causing global warming. That would indicate a 99% certainty.

But the change was strongly resisted by China, among other nations, because of its reliance on fossil fuels to help build its economy.

The report also says scientists' "best estimate" is that temperatures will rise 3.2 to 7.8 degrees by 2100. In contrast, the increase from 1901 to 2005 was 1.2 degrees.

The report also projects that sea levels could rise by 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century, and perhaps an additional 4 to 8 inches if the recent melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the Larsen B ice shelf in western Antarctica continues at current rates.

That is a decrease from the maximum of 35 inches predicted in the earlier study.

Nonetheless, such an increase would inundate many low-lying areas around the world, including islands such as Kiribati in the western Pacific Ocean and marsh areas near New Orleans. Such flooding would affect more than 10 million people.

The report also predicts a melting of Arctic ice during summers and a slowing of the Gulf Stream.

In addition, the report says, for the first time, that it is "more likely than not" that the strong hurricanes and cyclones observed since 1970 have been produced by global warming. The 2002 report said scientists did not yet have enough evidence to make such a link.

The summary is a purely scientific document and does not offer any recommendations on ways to control the problem. Those are expected in a chapter to be released this year.

The obvious solution would be to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, by reducing the use of fossil fuels in automobiles, factories and power plants.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was designed to reduce such emissions, but some major countries, including the United States, China and India, have no defined targets. President Bush withdrew the U.S. from the protocol in 2001, arguing that it was an "economic straitjacket" and that it failed to set standards for developing nations.

The earlier IPCC report was heavily criticized by conservative critics and a variety of online bloggers who said it exaggerated the effects of global warming. But a new study reported Thursday in the online version of the journal Science said that the IPCC report actually significantly underestimated both the extent of warming and the extent of the rise in sea levels.

An international team of climate experts said in the Science report that data showed global temperatures had increased by 0.6 degree, at the upper limit of the U.N.'s predictions, and that sea levels had risen 0.13 inch per year, compared with the U.N. report's estimate of less than 0.08 inch per year.

The data show that "IPCC is presenting a consensus view that has been OKd by a very large number of interests, so it tends to err on the side of making cautious statements and not exaggerating," said geochemist Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, one of the authors of the Science study.

The Science study "looks quite solid to me, indicating … that the climate is changing in a very significant way — and model projections are not overestimates, as some charge," said atmospheric scientist Michael MacCracken of the Climate Institute, an independent think tank in Washington.

The unexpectedly large rise in sea levels may be at least partially due to the recently observed melting of the ice sheets, the authors of the Science study said.

The increase also may be due in part to a natural variability in sea levels superimposed onto rises produced by global warming, they said. It would be "premature," they concluded, to assume that sea levels will continue to increase at the current rate.

Feb 2, 2007, 4:53 PM
I love this project cause I think it will really help tie the city together. The river runs through a huge swath of the city and would be a great "connective fiber." The proposed villages for Canoga Park and Chinatown will also be wonderful anchors for this project. I am very excited and hope the city, state, and feds can actually fund it and get it off the ground.

Feb 6, 2007, 4:37 PM
A city grows in East L.A.?
Residents of the area, long known for its activism and culture, think incorporation could end neglect and solve some local problems.
By Jim Newton
Times Staff Writer

February 4, 2007

Drawing upon a rich history of activism and a nagging sense of neglect, residents and leaders of East Los Angeles have launched a campaign for incorporation, a move that would create a new city in a historic center of Mexican American culture.

The drive for East L.A. cityhood has grown from nascent to palpable in recent months, and advocates believe their goal, which many have nurtured for a generation, at last could be within reach.

Over the last few months, cityhood has been the subject of spirited community meetings — more than 300 people turned out for one session late last year — and increasingly active political talks. Just last week, leaders of the effort met with county officials to analyze the tax consequences of incorporation. Petitions could begin to circulate this spring, and it's possible that voters could consider the question later this year.

If they are successful, East L.A. would become a city of roughly 140,000 people, one of the 10 largest in Los Angeles County and one of the most overwhelmingly Mexican American cities in the United States. More important for many of those who believe in cityhood, its success would validate East L.A.'s long-standing place in the neighborhood culture of Los Angeles rather than continue its existence as a scrap of unincorporated land left behind as cities around it took shape.

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), a leading proponent of the idea, says she has been struck by the intensity of the emotional response to it.

"This has engaged the community," Romero said last week. "The demographics are there. The history is there. The reason is there."

For many in East L.A., the promise of cityhood is long overdue. Indeed, for such a small slice of Greater Los Angeles — the community covers less than 10 square miles bordered by Boyle Heights and Monterey Park, Commerce and Montebello — East L.A. has made a sizable name for itself.

It is a thriving source of cultural life, a community as identifiable and coherent as the many others that make up modern Los Angeles: Hollywood or Bel-Air, say, or Van Nuys, Watts, Boyle Heights, Leimert Park or Mount Washington.

Given its demographics, East L.A. is politically significant as a laboratory for the growing electoral clout of Latinos, particularly Mexican Americans.

As such, its halls and public spaces are mandatory stops for aspiring politicians eager to demonstrate their support among Latinos. Last fall, Democrat Phil Angelides, whose gubernatorial campaign by then already was sputtering, attended an East L.A. Chamber of Commerce luncheon and tried vainly to elicit enthusiasm for his cause from a plainly skeptical audience.

Culturally, it has a different cachet. It has produced muralists and musicians, writers and chroniclers of Mexican American life for generations. One enduring contributor has been the band Los Lobos, whose members come from East L.A. and whose original name was "Los Lobos del Este Los Angeles."

Louie Perez, a founding member of Los Lobos, vividly recalls growing up on the edge of East L.A. — the smell of his mother's coffee blending with the scents from the tortilleria next door in the morning, the sounds of radio personality Elenita Salinas rousing him from bed. At night, he and his sister and friends would hear the backyard parties with mariachi bands as they made their way to the parking lot of the Johnson Market, where Thee Midnighters would be mobbed by young fans.

In those days, he said, "East L.A. was our entire universe…. Leaving it was like leaving the edge of the Earth."

As he grew older, Perez was immersed in the ferment that overtook his neighborhood. One afternoon in August 1970 he was riding his blue Stingray bicycle near Whittier Boulevard when he spotted smoke. A peaceful demonstration had escalated into a clash with L.A. County sheriff's deputies, and riots tore through East L.A. that day.

A few blocks away, a man shooed Perez from the Silver Dollar cantina, warning him that a man was dead inside. That man, journalist Ruben Salazar, had been killed by a deputy; 27 years later, Salazar remains a political martyr in East L.A.

Los Lobos formed in 1973, and the band's absorption of Mexican music into its American idiom immediately placed it in the cultural and political turbulence of the community. As the band developed, its members captured and amplified East L.A. culture, supplying a soundtrack to Chicano activism not unlike what Jimi Hendrix gave the Black Panthers. Through the years, Los Lobos has helped to extend that East L.A. culture around the world.

"I'll be looking for my old neighborhood my whole life," Perez said last week. "It was an incredible place to grow up."


Among the hallmark moments of East L.A. activism were the student walkouts of 1968, and many who live in the area today participated. Indeed, one young protester was none other than Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who cites that episode as a formative one in his young life.

Sal Castro led the walkout movement that year and remains a beloved figure in East LA. Last week, he was among the hundreds of people who turned out for the dedication of a new East L.A. "City Hall," the work of County Supervisor Gloria Molina, another veteran of the area.

Now 73, Castro can recall the days before freeways carved up East L.A., an era when the community felt more tight-knit. And he remembers the previous attempts at cityhood, including the promise that East L.A. would become part of Commerce, an idea bandied about but withdrawn when, Castro believes, the leaders of Commerce shrank from the idea of taking on such a large population of Mexican Americans.

Today, Castro believes that the community is ready to become its own city, not merely a part of one of its neighbors.

"Hell, yes," he said one day last week, surveying the crowd at the new City Hall. "Let's go for it."


Albert Palacios teaches government at Garfield High School, East L.A.'s high school, where he tutors his students on the history and potential of East L.A.'s incorporation efforts. Palacios took to the idea of cityhood some time ago and has become one of its most ardent advocates.

Palacios has been in East L.A. for decades. He witnessed the emergence of the Brown Berets in the mid-1960s, when that organization formed to agitate for the rights of Mexican Americans. He was there for the student walkouts and the protests over abuse at the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department — and for the evolving atmosphere of demonstration that turned on the war in Vietnam.

Today, Palacios looks back on those years as a "very contentious time" but also one of solidifying community sentiment.

Molina agrees. East L.A., she notes with fondness, is an area forged in activism and protest, the same currents that have shaped her own life. As a young woman, she attended East Los Angeles College — which, curiously, is just outside East L.A. Molina is hardly blind to East L.A.'s difficulties: It has long suffered more than its share of gang violence and other crimes. As a young woman, she tutored gang youths nearby and witnessed the community's sense of neglect as well as its stubborn pride.

As a supervisor, Molina has taken special interest in the county's unincorporated areas, including East L.A. She presided over a long and concerted effort to bring a civic complex to the area, one for which ground was broken just last week. Among advocates of cityhood, many hasten to emphasize that they are happy with her representation of their area, though some worry about her ability to stay close to community issues when she represents roughly 2 million constituents across a wide swath of Los Angeles County.

Molina is uncommitted regarding cityhood for East L.A. She applauds the community spirit behind the idea but wonders whether the largely residential neighborhoods can supply enough tax revenue to support a city government, whether the retail areas clustered along Atlantic Boulevard can be beefed up enough to float a city where none has existed for so long.

"I'm not opposed to the community wanting to have its own mayor and city council members," Molina said last week. "I'm just concerned about the ability to pay for itself."

Where Molina has questions, however, Romero expresses confidence.

"I have no doubt that this is a self-sustaining community," she said. "This is prime property."

Whatever one thinks about East L.A.'s tax base, there is no denying the sense among its residents that a moment is at hand, that politics and population trends and culture have all coalesced in a surge of neighborhood pride.

When Molina opened the new government center last week, hundreds of residents turned out, many dressed up for the occasion. They cheered loudly as speakers hailed the coming of age of East L.A. and beamed with pride as speaker after speaker touted the facility as evidence of the community's growth and worth.

Standing off to the side, Palacios surveyed the crowd that cloudy morning and reflected on the decades of protest that had brought the community to where it is.

"People have mellowed," he said of East L.A. and its quest for cityhood. "People have matured. We're ready."


Wright Concept
Feb 8, 2007, 8:51 PM


L.A. council acts to save old neighborhood
Officials delay most construction in Windsor Square while they seek to reverse the nullification of a city preservation decision.
By Tony Barboza
Times Staff Writer

February 8, 2007

Hoping to protect one of its oldest, most historically significant neighborhoods, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday slapped a 45-day moratorium on most demolition and building activity in Windsor Square, a square-mile area of stately homes west of downtown.

The council acted to prevent a blitz of construction after an October ruling in Los Angeles Superior Court that overturned the neighborhood's historic designation and preservation ordinance. Judge Dzintra Janavs said the city had not properly studied the environmental effect of establishing the district and made errors in its official survey.

In a unanimous vote, the council repealed the disputed ordinance just before approving the moratorium, also unanimously.

Council members said the actions would give them time to come up with a measure that would satisfy the court.

A grid of tree-lined streets bordered by Beverly, Wilshire and Arden boulevards and Van Ness Avenue, Windsor Square is home to the mayoral residence and other mansions built in the 1910s and 1920s.

The neighborhood is one of the largest and most well-preserved historic areas of the city, said Ken Bernstein, historic resources manager for the city's Planning Department.

Nearly 90% of the more than 1,000 buildings in the district were deemed historically significant in a survey.

"This is one of the oldest of all the neighborhoods in Los Angeles," said Councilman Tom LaBonge, who sponsored the motions approved Wednesday. "Unless it's protected from development … we will see rapid change."

Windsor Square is treasured for its large frontyards and elegant houses with varied architectural styles, including Tudor, Colonial, Spanish and Mediterranean. The area is a favorite filming location, city officials said.

Historic preservation laws have been used for more than 20 years in Los Angeles in such neighborhoods as Angelino Heights, West Adams and Highland Park. The preservation districts limit the changes people can make to their homes' facades but do not bar all construction or interior remodeling.

Fred Gaines, an attorney representing a group of residents who opposed the historic designation and who filed the lawsuit that led to the court decision, said the zones are too restrictive.

He also questioned the long-term effects of preservation: "Will people be able to update their homes? Will buildings not be remodeled? Will the area be able to be built out to accommodate the population?"

He also suggested that the designation was motivated by a desire to keep "immigrants and Orthodox Jews and others who have different cultural styles and needs for their houses out of the neighborhood."

Members of the neighborhood association dispute that contention, saying their sole aim is to preserve the historic character of their community.

Historic districts usually have overwhelming community support, said Jay Platt, preservation advocate for the Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit preservation group. This is the first time that one of the city's 22 historic districts has been demoted to non-historic status, he said.

Mary Pickhardt, a member of the Windsor Square Assn., said residents have put in thousands of volunteer hours to bring about the designation and that she was disappointed to see it repealed.

Pickhardt attributed the change to "a handful of disgruntled neighbors that overturned the will of a majority of the neighborhood on a technicality."

The neighborhood's distinction as historic, she said, has helped maintain a uniform feel and scale, prevented further "mansionization" and even boosted property values.

Neighboring Hancock Park has been the scene of a similar dispute. Last year, competing neighborhood associations battled over plans to protect an equally large zone of 1920s and '30s-era homes.

It is unclear whether the court's decision — or the council's response — will affect the way historic districts are established in the future.

"This is a temporary stop-gap measure while the city studies any potential [environmental impact] measures," Councilman Ed Reyes said before voting.

Temporary moratoriums are common practice when a historic designation is in question and necessary to prevent opportunistic development, said LaBonge's chief of staff, Renee Weitzer.

"It's important that we don't trigger a rush to the permit counter," Weitzer said.

"The threat of tear-downs and ill-considered renovations is very real" if no protections are in place, said Pickhardt of the Windsor Square Assn., addressing the council.

Gaines, the attorney, said he would challenge the moratorium in court.

Feb 10, 2007, 9:36 AM
Rick Wartzman:
California & Co.
A grand vision for affordable housing
February 9, 2007

Eli Broad has suggested that once its big makeover is complete, Grand Avenue will be comparable to the Champs-Elysees. That's bunk. But it may look a little like Sesame Street, and that's terrific.

The children's public television program — which, in the words of a recent study by a University of New Hampshire scholar, has "strived to exemplify and create an egalitarian and more tolerant community" — has had a tough time being replicated in the real world. This is especially true in L.A., which is highly balkanized along racial and class lines.

The $2-billion Grand Avenue Project, though, may prove an important exception. Although it hasn't received as much attention as the plans for a five-star hotel, 16-acre park and retail and restaurant space, the downtown development is slated to include about 2,000 units of housing, with 20% of these designated "affordable" and subsidized for those who can't pay market rates.

The Grand Avenue development would hardly be alone in offering such dwellings. More than 20,000 affordable units have been created in L.A. since the late 1990s. But what makes this project extraordinary is the range of income earners it promises to attract: those buying seven-figure penthouse condominiums living alongside people who will be asked to shell out only $454 to $649 a month for a one-bedroom apartment or $630 to $900 for a three-bedroom unit.

To qualify, an individual must earn $16,975 to $24,250 a year, and a family of four must have income of $24,255 to $34,650. On the open market, rents for one-bedroom flats in the Frank Gehry-designed high-rise are likely to run at $2,500 or so, while the three-bedrooms should fetch $4,000 or more.

The first phase of the three-stage project — set to come before the Los Angeles City Council and county Board of Supervisors for approval next week — will feature 500 housing units, 100 of them subsidized.

Adding condos to the equation is particularly unusual. "I'm sure people in real estate are shaking their heads at this," says Bill Witte, president of the California arm of Related Cos., the developer on the project. In this way, Grand Avenue is poised to become an intriguing experiment — one that may well serve as a financial model for other developers and an inspiration for policymakers.

"I truly think the concept of mixed income is the wave of the future," says G. Allan Kingston, president and chief executive of Century Housing, a Culver City-based nonprofit housing lender that is not involved with Grand Avenue.

In his experience, Kingston notes, it's more common for a given building to be 100% affordable, with no tenants paying full freight. It's also not unheard of for the developers of a site, in return for certain public incentives, to meet their affordable-housing obligation at an entirely different location, or by sticking money into a central fund.

But those behind Grand Avenue were bent on making sure the project would have all sorts of people residing right there, with equal access to amenities.

Too often, "nobody wants to live with the janitor's family. That's very troubling to me," says Supervisor Gloria Molina, who chairs the joint city-county authority set up to implement the project. "We need to change that."

It is not as if no churning among classes occurs in L.A. Many of these experiences, however, are less than positive: young professionals stepping over the homeless on skid row as they stroll from loft to luxury car, or legions of Latino housekeepers reporting to work for wealthy whites in Pacific Palisades. "They're interacting — but as master and servant," says Phil Ethington, an urban historian at USC who has just finished drawing up a series of maps that examine segregation in L.A. by race and income.

What a high-profile project such as Grand Avenue reminds us, in a far more constructive way, is that "the whole society is inseparably integrated," as Ethington puts it. "Everybody's fate is linked to everybody else's."

This means learning to appreciate the struggle that a huge number of working people face in finding a home that won't bankrupt them. The term "crisis" gets tossed around so much that it's been rendered practically meaningless. But in the case of housing here, it's not hyperbole. Financial planners say people should spend no more than a third of what they make on where they live. By this measure, more than 50% of homes in Los Angeles were affordable in 1996 to those earning the area's median income; today, only about 5% are.

"I have said this time and time again to people 45 or 50 years old: 'Your children could not afford to buy the home you live in,' " says Councilwoman Jan Perry, vice chairwoman of the joint authority.

The Grand Avenue Project has attracted plenty of skeptics and naysayers. I, for one, don't accept the line trotted out by Broad, the billionaire philanthropist who conceived the undertaking, that the place is bound to become a "vibrant center" for all of Southern California. That's just not how the region functions. A more realistic goal is simply for Grand Avenue to become a destination (like the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica or Old Pasadena), rather than the destination.

Others, including my Times colleague Steve Lopez, have questioned the tax breaks being sought by Related, which could cost as much as $66 million. And some have carped that the project doesn't do enough for the poor.

But such criticism ignores the progressive wage standards and worker training programs tied to the construction and to permanent jobs there, along with the affordable housing that Grand Avenue would provide (in part through an initial $10-million public investment by the Community Redevelopment Agency).

These units will give hundreds of firefighters, teachers, secretaries, nurses and others a chance to live close to where they work as well as close to public transportation. And then there's the additional benefit: a rare opportunity for the well-heeled and those of less means to get to know one another as neighbors.

Witte points out that "you can't legislate social interaction. You can't make people go watch 'Monday Night Football' together." But when I dropped by the Paramount, a mixed-income high-rise in the heart of San Francisco built and managed by Related, I was struck by the camaraderie among the tenants — something encouraged by common areas such as a rooftop deck with views out to the bay.

Jim Blacksten, who lives in one of the subsidized apartments at the Paramount, says most people in the building have no idea who's in an affordable unit and who's not. But occasionally, it'll come up. "Some people are kind of standoffish at first," he says. But once they talk a bit, it's generally not an issue anymore. "It forces them to change their thinking a little."

It doesn't get any grander than that.

Feb 14, 2007, 9:36 AM
L.A. mayor wants citywide wireless access
Antonio Villaraigosa proposes a Wi-Fi plan that would provide free or low-cost Internet services over 498 square miles in 2009.
By James S. Granelli and Tony Barboza
Times Staff Writers

February 14, 2007

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa outlined plans Tuesday to blanket Los Angeles with wireless Internet access in 2009, in what would be one of the nation's largest urban Wi-Fi networks.

The L.A. Wi-Fi initiative would give Los Angeles residents, schools, businesses and visitors uninterrupted high-speed Internet connections — for work, research, Web browsing or even phone calls.

More than 300 municipalities nationwide already have launched plans for similar networks based on the Wi-Fi technology that has become popular at coffee shops, bookstores, public parks and countless other so-called hot spots.

Such networks are operating in parts of such cities as Anaheim, San Jose, Philadelphia and Portland, Ore.

"With L.A. Wi-Fi, we are dedicating ourselves to the idea that universal access to technology makes our entire economy stronger," Villaraigosa said.

Municipal Wi-Fi networks cost on average $125,000 per square mile to set up and maintain, depending on building heights and the city's terrain, according to city officials. At that cost, the price tag for covering Los Angeles' 498 square miles could reach more than $62 million.

Internet providers and equipment makers have estimated such costs at about $40 for every home covered by the network. That would work out to almost $54 million in Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa said he expected to create a public-private sector partnership and would seek bids as early as this fall. He is forming a working group and plans to hire an expert to iron out details of the ambitious project.

The winning bidder would probably pay for the installation, while the city would donate space for antennas on city buildings, light poles and other structures.

Wi-Fi network operators could try to make their money back in several ways, including showing ads on the free or low-cost service and promoting their higher-speed offers at market prices.

Some cities also pay to put municipal workers who are in the field, such as police and firefighters, on the system.

"This is pretty amazing," said Esme Vos, who founded MuniWireless.com, an authority on municipal projects nationwide. "It's a large area, yet an urban project. That's kind of new."

Councilman Tony Cardenas, who heads the city's information technology committee, said the council has supported past efforts that included Wi-Fi hot spots at Pershing Square downtown and the Marvin Braude Center in Van Nuys.

Cardenas expects the council to support the citywide plan, which has been discussed for several years.

"We need it," he said. "I would like to see all L.A. kids grow up advantaged, not disadvantaged."

The city's existing commercial broadband providers — AT&T Inc., Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications Inc. — aren't planning to oppose the city's efforts.

Verizon, which once joined cable giant Comcast Corp. to try to curtail Philadelphia's wireless project, no longer stands in the way of municipalities.

"We urge cities to be cautious investing taxpayer money in such a venture where technology is changing rapidly," said Verizon spokesman Jonathan Davies.

AT&T spokesman H. Gordon Diamond said the company is committed to making broadband affordable and has bid on municipal wireless projects "where it makes business sense to do so."

Time Warner, which has worked on city broadband task forces, doesn't see the Wi-Fi network as competition but rather an extension of its own services, said spokeswoman Patricia Rockenwagner.

The lack of competition among broadband providers has kept prices high and helped create a digital divide, separating those who can afford computers and Internet access from those who can't, Vos said.

That concern, along with help for small businesses and city services, has been driving the municipal wireless efforts nationwide.

But problems crop up. In San Francisco, a proposal by Google Inc. and EarthLink Inc. to set up and run a wireless system has raised a ruckus over whether such a network ought to be built, owned and run by the city.

Google is offering to operate a free, lower-speed broadband service supported by advertising that pops up on users' screens, while partner EarthLink proposes to operate the higher-speed services for which customers pay fees.

On Tuesday, San Francisco's board of supervisors started to look into creating the network as a public utility, potentially stalling approval of Mayor Gavin Newsom's contract with the two companies.

Also, as many cities around L.A. have learned, street light and power poles are essential locations for Wi-Fi antennas. And Southern California Edison isn't letting any city use their poles.

Los Angeles, however, owns the poles and the electric utility that serve the city.

Villaraigosa acknowledged skepticism surrounding a citywide system but said the L.A. Wi-Fi initiative was "not going to be a study to put on the shelf."



Feb 21, 2007, 1:29 PM

Feb 25, 2007, 2:48 PM
Radically rethinking L.A. County
The 10-million-strong county has outgrown its government.

February 25, 2007

THE NATION'S LARGEST local government is broken, but few Angelenos seem to have noticed. That's because the county's government is virtually invisible to most of its 10 million residents, providing services mostly to the unwanted or unseen members of society: jail inmates, abused children, welfare recipients.

Besides, not noticing government is the birthright of every Californian. We pay our taxes, if they're not unreasonably high, and serve on juries when summoned; sometimes even vote. But otherwise, we're not especially captivated by state and local politics.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that. Despite the occasional scolding by civic groups and even newspaper editorials, Californians' attitude toward government is neither a cultural failing nor a tragic flaw. It's simply the way the people of the Golden State approach the subject. Let government run quietly. When it fails, as it periodically does, voters take action with an initiative or a recall. Just don't expect to see any populist campaigns for more politicians or new layers of bureaucracy, even if they are needed.

Such benign neglect has its consequences. Few people notice when government begins to gum up. Only later, further down the line — when there is an acute budget crisis and services must be slashed, or when people die needlessly, as has been the case in recent years in Los Angeles County jails and hospitals — is there an outcry and reaction. But after years of inattention to government, voters sometimes misread the problem and end up exacerbating it.

The response to Los Angeles County's troubles over the last decade has been typical: Limit the supervisors' terms. Redraw district lines. Curb discretion over how taxpayer money is spent. But these reactions just nibble around the edges of the county's inherently daunting task.

A much more radical rethinking is in order.

The county, a subdivision of state government, is enormous. L.A. County arrests more suspects, jails more criminals, hospitalizes more patients, removes more children from their homes, reunites more children with their families, taxes more property and distributes more aid than any other county and most states. In the jails, the sheriff runs one of the largest food-service operations in the nation, and cares for more mentally ill people than most public agencies that are set up and funded for that purpose.

Virtually any county program is similar in scope: Beach patrol. Fire protection. Tax assessment. Criminal prosecution. Criminal defense.

It used to be that voters could change course with relative ease by putting in new people at the top. In 1950, when Los Angeles County had 4.1 million residents divided among five districts, a candidate waging a relatively inexpensive campaign with a message that resonated among the district's several hundred thousand voters could overthrow a sitting supervisor.

That's still the way it works in other California counties. In a place like, say, Tulare County, a candidate can still go door-to-door to reach voters.

But today, Los Angeles County, with its five supervisors each representing 2 million people, has become nearly ungovernable with its outdated structure. The one thing supervisors excel at is repelling challengers to their seats. The last time an incumbent was voted out of office, astonishingly, was in 1980, when Mike Antonovich defeated Baxter Ward. So whose fault is it today when patients are mistreated at the former King/Drew Medical Center and voters refuse to hold their supervisor accountable? Is it the voters' fault? Or is there something wrong with the structure?

Consider the dysfunctional relationship between the county and city of Los Angeles, whose budget is a third the size of the county's. A city program to crack down on gang crime means that the county supervisors and sheriff will have to find more room in the jails, more money for prosecutors, more funding for deputy public defenders, more space in the probation system. A ward of the county's juvenile hall system will run a gantlet of potentially worthy services: mental health, foster care, education — but all of it provided by different agencies, funded by different budgets, headed by leaders not answerable to the same single executive. The opportunities for waste, suspicion and failure are endless.

The county government — at least the design of its leadership structure — remains moored to the pretense that its mission is simply to act as an outpost of the state. Hence, there are only five supervisors exercising quasi-executive, quasi-legislative authority. There is no one really in charge, exercising full executive authority.

The county government can do better. But to do better, it needs to be reshaped. The supervisors are taking a necessary first step, preparing to ask voters to turn the chief administrator into an actual executive with the power to hire and fire department chiefs. It's a step short of a move that Supervisor Zev Yaroslavksy has pushed — creating an elected county executive — and a majority of Yaroslavsky's colleagues agreed to go forward only after realizing that no one, for any amount of money, had the qualifications and the desire to replace retiring Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen. But it's a move in the right direction.

For decades, committees of civic do-gooders and deep-thinking academic experts have drafted reports on how to fix things. Those reports have sat on shelves, gathering dust. Now that county supervisors have begun to grapple with their limitations and embrace plans for a more powerful executive, it's time to decide what might work better for the county's residents. Break the county into three? Merge it with the city? Demand more local control over tax revenue?

Democracy may be sacrosanct, but its current format in Los Angeles County isn't. Everything must be on the table.

Wright Concept
Mar 9, 2007, 1:29 PM
Audit finds planting program cost far more than value of flora alone
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:03/08/2007 10:33:11 PM PST

For nearly four years, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spent $101 each time it delivered a tree worth $12 to ratepayers under its Trees for a Green L.A. giveaway, according to a new internal audit.

Approved in 2001, the free-tree program offered ratepayers as many as seven shade trees delivered to their homes in an effort to reduce air-conditioning and energy demands. Trees also were distributed and planted near public buildings and on public land.

The goal was to root 100,000 trees a year - at a cost of roughly $40 a tree.

But the utility and its contractor, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, fell far short of that mandate - only distributing or planting 36,000 trees over 3 1/2 years - which boosted the per-tree cost to $101.

And the audit is drawing concern as the city is launching Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's sweeping initiative to plant 1 million trees in the city. The DWP provides most of the free trees being distributed at promotional events.

"I know trees are good and I'm all for trees," said Board of Water and Power Commissioner Nick Patsaouras. "What I'm focused on is, it's inefficient to spend $100 per tree.

"A million trees multiplied by $100: Where does the money come from? It's a waste; it's inefficiency."

Organizers of the Million Trees initiative, however, said they're hoping to avoid DWP's high costs, in part because the program requires residents to pick up their own trees.

"We use tree adoptions where the city pays for the tree stock and that brings the cost down to $15 per tree because, obviously, we're not paying for the labor," said Hutson Morris-Irvin, program manager for the Million Trees L.A. Foundation.

In the recent DWP audit, labor costs were estimated to add about $63 to the cost of each delivered tree.

Last year, the DWP rewrote the Conservation Corps contract, cutting the per-tree cost to $72. The utility currently is revising the contract again so the corps will receive $55 per tree delivered.

In addition, the Conservation Corps will receive $260 to plant each large tree, a sum similar to what the city's Urban Forestry Division spends to plant large trees.

Board President David Nahai said the audit and contract revisions are part of a department overhaul led by the new board, which was appointed by Villaraigosa in 2005.

Under the new direction, all DWP programs are scrutinized, and feel-good social projects are weighed against their effects on ratepayers.

Launched in 2002, Trees For a Green L.A. was promoted by the DWP and then-Mayor James Hahn as environmentally friendly and socially conscious. The L.A. Conservation Corps hires and trains teens at risk of sliding into gangs and other trouble, who were to do much of the tree maintenance and delivery.

"At the time the contract was entered, everybody thought they were doing the right thing," Nahai said. "In this case, initially the contract was too expensive by about 30 (percent) to 35 percent, but it was caught and revised and we've obtained a better deal for the people of Los Angeles."

L.A. Conservation Corps Division Manager Dan Knapp said the utility never paid $101 just for tree delivery.

"The program included a lot more than that. It's not a tree delivery program. It's a tree education and civic engagement program," said Knapp, who worked with the DWP to launch Trees for a Green L.A.

The $101 per tree also covered start-up costs including restoring a nursery in Griffith Park, buying equipment, developing a tree-tracking system using scanners and bar codes, and hosting weekly tree-planting workshops across the city.

To reach its goal of planting 100,000 trees per year, DWP officials had planned a major advertising and public relations campaign. But in 2002, city Controller Laura Chick audited the utility and found it had spent millions of dollars marketing its Green Power program with little environmental benefits to show for the money.

Feeling the heat, the DWP cut publicity plans for the tree giveaway. And without promotion, there wasn't a big demand for 100,000 trees per year, as the DWP had envisioned.

The corps scaled back its operation, reducing its workers on the project from 30 to five and getting rid of two of its three delivery trucks.

"We understand that with public funds, there are a lot of checks and balances. We have to make sure we're as cost-effective as possible," Knapp said.

The original 2001 contract was $8 million for two years; the corps ended up collecting a total of $3.9 million through 2005. A second contract of $3.9 million was approved last March.

In the long run, the tree giveaway is supposed to fund itself through energy savings. A U.S. Forest Service analysis for the DWP estimated that one tree could save $194 worth of electricity over 30 years.


(213) 978-0390

Wright Concept
Mar 10, 2007, 8:21 PM

Businesses pinched as commercial rents soar in Southland
By Roger Vincent
Times Staff Writer

March 10, 2007

Sizzling demand for offices, warehouses and retail space is hitting Southern California and other major urban centers. That is resulting in smaller cubicles and longer commutes for workers, higher prices for consumers and closure of businesses unable to meet landlords' demands for higher rent.

Office rents have climbed more than 25% on average in the last three years in much of Los Angeles County. In some of Orange County's thriving office parks, rents have risen by more than 50% in that period, with the Irvine Spectrum posting the region's biggest average jump, at nearly 57%, according to a recent report from real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield.

Rents on hot retail strips such as Melrose Avenue, Rodeo Drive and Robertson Boulevard have more than doubled in the last two years.

Vacancies have plunged to well below 10% in many areas, making it harder for businesses to find space. Only 3% of the region's industrial space — used for warehouses and factories — is available, a level that is considered drastically low.

Shoe store operator Young Moon shuttered the Santa Monica branch of his O' My Sole chain in December when his rent went up and said he planned to boost prices as much as 6% at his seven other Southern California stores this year to help meet higher rent charges.

"Rents are too high," he said.

While the residential real estate market has flattened, a strong global economy is boosting demand worldwide for space for offices, warehouses, retailers and other businesses. In Southern California the market is particularly tight, in part because of a lack of available land and regulations that have made it difficult for developers to construct office or industrial buildings.

Surging international trade through the region's ports is pushing up demand for warehouses to hold and distribute goods.

In the Inland Empire, where relatively more raw land is available for construction, hundreds of thousands of square feet of warehouse and distribution buildings are being built every year — and nearly all of them are leased or sold.

"There is no historical precedent for this," said broker Jim Center of commercial real estate firm Grubb & Ellis.

Faced with a rent increase of about 60% to keep his offices near Ontario Airport, Carlos Lacambra was prompted to search for new digs to house the 160 workers at his branch of A-Check America, a business that does background checks and drug tests for employers.

After a long search, he moved the office in January into a rented building in east Riverside that he expects to eventually buy.

The move came at a cost in personnel, however. As he had feared, almost a third of his employees quit because the additional 20-mile commute from Ontario to Riverside was too far for them. He paid bonuses to some workers to stay on longer while he hired replacement employees in Riverside.

"We lost some very good people we wanted to keep," Lacambra said. The move "was a calculated risk we had to take."

Higher rents also are the result of economic redevelopment that is transforming some neighborhoods into more upscale shopping and entertainment venues. The waves of change that swept through Santa Monica and Old Pasadena years ago are now being felt in other older districts such as Hollywood, Culver City, Alhambra and downtown Los Angeles.

Shopkeepers in many of these changing retail districts are feeling pinched.

Even though the family-style Italian fare at Jay Handal's San Gennaro Cafe made it one of the most popular restaurants in Culver City, Handal shut down the eatery a few months ago when his landlord nearly tripled the rent as his lease expired.

"I couldn't afford it," he said.

Moving into San Gennaro's space will be a more upscale, all-organic restaurant run by celebrity caterer Akasha Richmond.

"There is going to be an attrition factor," said Handal, who also operates a restaurant in Brentwood. "Small business today is being squeezed out of the market. You're not going to have many family-friendly community restaurants — only big guys with deep pockets."

In Hollywood, storefront food joints as well as longtime shopkeepers who sell knickknacks to tourists are giving way to high-end bars and boutiques. An outlet of Hamburger Hamlet, a Hollywood Boulevard mainstay, closed last month and will be replaced by trendy Swedish apparel retailer H&M.

Neighborhood activists will rally next week in Larchmont Village to try to prevent the loss of a popular restaurant and other local businesses threatened by rising rents.

In Culver City, the city spent more than $60 million over the last decade on public improvements largely intended to attract new restaurants and businesses, said Kellee Fritzal, economic development administrator.

The plan appears to have worked. Demand among merchants is high enough that average store rents have jumped from $1.85 per square foot per month to $4.50 in the last three years.

Rents across the region are going higher for other reasons too. Because property values have been rising with increased sales, property taxes have more than doubled on many buildings in recent years. Most leases allow landlords to pass those higher costs along to tenants.

Rents also are rising because investors with deep pockets have scooped up vast collections of buildings with the expectation that businesses will continue to expand and values will continue to rise. Just last month, for example, Los Angeles developer Maguire Properties Inc. announced it would pay almost $2.9 billion for 24 office buildings in Orange County and downtown Los Angeles. Maguire and other buyers are expected to raise rents to recoup some of their investments.

Maguire executive Bill Flaherty predicted that landlords in downtown L.A. office buildings would soon boost rents by double digits, following a pattern set in the last two years as available office space dwindled in Orange and San Diego counties.

"When rents increase, they increase in a spike," Flaherty said. "Absolutely, rents are going to go up."

Rents here are still lower than in such dense urban centers as New York, San Francisco, London and Tokyo. But that is no consolation for businesses such as Blue Shield of California. Facing a rent increase, the health insurer decided to leave its prominent tower along the San Diego Freeway in Westchester for less expensive offices nearby on Sepulveda Boulevard by June. The move will save 30% in real estate costs over the next seven years, Blue Shield spokeswoman Elise Anderson said.

"We are a not-for-profit industry, and with rising healthcare costs, every penny matters, even our real estate overhead," she said.

For landlords in the months ahead, the trick will be to figure out how high they can raise rents before tenants shun their buildings. Brokers said some landlords might have to lower their asking prices in a few months if they don't find enough tenants willing to pay the new rates.

"The market will take care of itself," said broker Rafael Padilla at Par Commercial. And some tenants are never going to be happy, he added. "I have yet to meet a tenant who is not complaining about what they are paying."




Lease hikes

Percentage change in office rents from 2003 and average monthly rates in 2006 Market/Pctg. Rate
change (Per Sq. ft.)
Irvine Spectrum 56.9% $3.17
Valencia/Newhall 41.7% $2.72
Costa Mesa 39.1% $2.99
Santa Monica 33.2% $4.09
Westwood 28.7% $3.77
Source: Cushman & Wakefield


Office rents

Average monthly rate in 2006 and percentage change from 2003 Rate (Per Pctg.
Market sq. foot) change
West Hollywood $3.33 28.6%
Sherman Oaks 2.65 27.4
South Santa Ana 2.75 24.4
Woodland Hills 2.40 19.4
Pasadena 2.78 18.8
Downtown L.A. 2.64 17.9
Downtn. Burbank 2.36 14.0
San Bernardino 1.91 12.4
Riverside 2.13 10.9
Ontario 2.11 8.8
Glendale 2.53 5.0
Long Beach 2.18 3.8
Century City 3.21 3.6
Beverly Hills 2.95 -3.3
Source: Cushman & Wakefield

Mar 18, 2007, 6:02 PM
Only in L.A.
More than one tough cookie born in L.A.
March 18, 2007

I f you're not already proud to live in (or near) L.A., the Otis College of Art and Design can give you plenty of reasons. To spotlight the "creative economy" of this area, the college came up with 50 "interesting" things born in the L.A. area.

They include the strapless bra, tooth-whitening toothpaste, the Hula Hoop, Bugs Bunny, the modern T-shirt (developed for USC's football players in 1932 to absorb their sweat), Barbie, the Frisbee, the Internet, valet parking, the skateboard and the fortune cookie.

Of course, some of the above items may also be claimed by others.

Otis, for instance, contends that the fortune cookie was invented by L.A. noodle company owner David Jung in 1918. But others maintain that Japanese immigrant Makota Hagiwara introduced the morsel in San Francisco in 1914.

Some years ago, San Francisco's unofficial Court of Historical Review held a mock trial to determine the creator. You didn't need to read a fortune cookie to guess that San Francisco would win.

No one can take Barbie from L.A., though.