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Old Posted Feb 22, 2007, 6:16 AM
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Exclamation Greater Los Angeles Region: Projects and Developments

Project will let Pasadena venue shine
The city's convention center expansion includes a restored ballroom and designs that showcase the 1932 Civic Auditorium.
By Nancy Wride, Times Staff Writer
February 21, 2007

The $121-million expansion of the Pasadena Convention Center will include new buildings but will also showcase one of the city's treasured landmarks: the 1932 Civic Auditorium.

The ornate Italian Renaissance building, which opened 75 years ago this month, is the centerpiece of the current expansion project. It is expected to be completed in the spring of 2009.

The expansion will add 55,000 square feet of exhibit space and include new entrances on each side of the auditorium that will better frame the building.

"These new … flanking buildings will lead the eye and draw your attention toward the Civic Auditorium," said Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, which promotes historic preservation. "The current buildings are these bunker-like, very low-scale odd buildings. So getting rid of those is definitely a plus."

Some see another bonus in the plan.

The project calls for relocating the city's ice rink from the rear of the auditorium so the original ballroom that graced "the Civic" until 1976 can be restored, said Michael W. Ross, chief executive officer of the city organization that operates the site. During the big band era, dancers glided across the ballroom's wood floors.

"Saving it was a high priority for us and a low priority" for others at the start, Mossman said of the old ballroom, "but it has ended up being a high priority for everybody now, so that's cause for celebration."

Over the years, the Civic has served as the city's cultural anchor.

The 3,000-seat theater, whose walls and ceiling are adorned with hand-painted murals of mythological Greek figures, has played host to concerts, Broadway musicals and numerous Hollywood awards shows. Live radio broadcasts of ballroom dances in the 1940s made Pasadena a household name across the country.

On Tuesday, TV host Don Cornelius met with Richard Barr, general manager of the auditorium, about the March 10 taping of the "Soul Train" awards show.

From the beginning, the building has been a source of great pride.

On its grand opening on Feb. 15, 1932, The Times noted the devastating economic period in which the Civic was dedicated.

"This city scored a hit on old man depression's jaw tonight when more than 3,000 residents celebrated the formal opening of Pasadena's new $1.3 million Civic Auditorium," the newspaper story stated.

The article goes on to say that "the completion of the auditorium culminates a twenty-year fight on the part of local organizations to obtain an adequate convention headquarters."

The city's need for more convention space is what drove the current expansion project, Ross said.

As Pasadena competes with cities such as San Jose, Sacramento and Long Beach for more lucrative conventions, he said, it must have larger and more modern exhibition and meeting spaces. A Sheraton hotel is on the site.

In addition to two new exhibit halls, the expansion project will include a new 25,000-square-foot ballroom and the restored 17,000-square-foot ballroom. A new parking garage also is planned.

The city hopes the project will generate an additional $24 million annually for local merchants.

"It will allow Pasadena to grow stronger as a destination both for work and for tourism," Mayor Bill Bogaard said.

Preservationists are pleased with how things turned out. Early expansion plans were far too modern, Mossman said, and Pasadena Heritage strongly objected.

The current project will better spotlight the Civic, she said.

"There is very little Italian Renaissance architecture in Pasadena from that time, which is one of the reasons [the auditorium] is so exceptional," Mossman noted. "So keeping that a showcase is what makes sense for the whole project, makes it worthwhile."
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Old Posted Feb 22, 2007, 7:14 AM
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^ I love Pasadena! I'm also very excited about the new Pasadena Playhouse expansion that Frank Gehry is designing PRO BONO!
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 5:01 AM
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From chop suey to Chiu Chow
By Charles Perry, Times Staff Writer
February 21, 2007

AT Mission 261, in the century-old building that once served as San Gabriel's first city hall, waiters in suave gray suits are taking orders for steamed chicken breast rolled around bamboo pith and custard-filled dumplings shaped like tiny rabbits — a very au courant sort of dim sum in Hong Kong.

Now that a quarter of a million people of Chinese ancestry live in this area, our local Chinese food scene is buzzing with energy. From Monterey Park and the Alhambra-San Gabriel-Rosemead corridor to Rowland Heights and beyond, suburban Chinese neighborhoods are home to a lively, ever-changing crop of restaurants and talented chefs.

Restaurant history: An article in Wednesday's Food section on the history of Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles said that after the original Chinatown was torn down, the New Chinatown shopping district opened in 1939 in a formerly Mexican American neighborhood. In fact, it was built in Los Angeles' Little Italy. —

"Trends among Chinese restaurants often mirror with what is going on in Taipei, Hong Kong and, to a lesser extent, mainland Chinese cities," observes Carl Chu, author of "Chinese Food Finder: Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley." A recent wave of overseas-owned restaurants, including hand-pulled noodle shops, sweet shops and seafood houses, he says, "illustrates a focal shift from the mom-and-pop eateries of yesteryear."

To say the least, it wasn't always like this.

And so it begins

OUR first Chinese restaurants, probably opened in the 1860s, when L.A. was a cow town of about 5,000 inhabitants, didn't have all the rare ingredients available now. There were no trained chefs, either — the cooks were just men who had come here to be gold miners or railroad workers and decided to open chow-chows (cook shacks marked with a traditional yellow banner).

L.A.'s original Chinatown had been a single block of cheap lodgings just south of the Plaza. In the 1870s, it started growing and spread eastward but in 1882, anti-Chinese zealots managed to get a national Chinese Exclusion Act passed. As a result, Chinatown's population stagnated at around 2,000 from 1890 to 1920.

The earliest restaurant known by name is Man Jen Low, simply because it survived down to 1987 (by then known as General Lee's Man Jen Low). In the 1950s, its menu gave the restaurant's founding date as 1890.

What sort of restaurants were they? Many were humble noodle shops, but Yong Chen, co-curator of the exhibition "Have You Eaten Yet? The Chinese Restaurant in America," which has appeared around the country in recent years, says they weren't all holes in the wall: "Some 19th century restaurants were very grand inside, with carving and traditional furniture. Others were just a booth extending into the street from the shop front.

"Very early menus show shark's fin and bird's nest, important luxury items for the Chinese and the Cantonese in particular. But they quickly found that Americans weren't interested."

Early on, in order to please non-Chinese customers, restaurant owners developed bland, often sweet versions of Chinese dishes. Somewhere along the line, some cook introduced an inoffensive stir-fry he called chop suey (from Cantonese tsa sui, meaning various pieces): meat, celery, onions and bean sprouts, well doused with soy sauce.

"Chop suey is in a way American," says Chen, "but it is also Chinese peasant food — a very simple dish, like a way of using leftovers." He points out that you can still find it on Chinese menus, because many Cantonese restaurants have continued to serve cautiously Americanized food to non-Chinese.

In the early 20th century, Los Angeles started "discovering" Chinese food. Newspapers published chop suey recipes, over the years working in Chinese ingredients such as bean sprouts, "suey" sauce and "Chinese potatoes" (water chestnuts). But outside Chinatown, such ingredients were hard to get, and one newspaper article suggested that readers talk their Chinese laundryman into selling some of his personal stash.

By 1904, L.A. already had its first Chinese food snobs — eager, smug and tragically less sophisticated than they hoped. A non-Chinese society woman was said to visit a chop suey joint where many of the customers were hookers and opium smokers. She would sweep in wearing a white opera cloak and a corsage and imperiously proclaim, "Pigs! All of you, pigs!" apparently miffed that the diners did not appreciate the gastronomic masterpieces they were eating. She genuinely loved the cook's chop suey, putting away two or three bowls a night. But after all, it was just chop suey, not at all a dish for connoisseurs.

As another sign that Chinese food was joining the mainstream, Chinese American restaurants started opening in the downtown business district around 1905. The menus were literally Chinese American — you could get steak or roast chicken there as well as chop suey. But Chinese dishes must have been an attraction, because that year a downtown French restaurant started advertising that it had chop suey.

Chinese immigrants and their descendants had dominated vegetable farming in Los Angeles since the 1870s. In 1909, because of ill treatment by the old produce market, Chinese growers transferred their business to the new City Market at 9th and San Pedro streets downtown. A neighborhood known as Market Chinatown grew up along San Pedro across from the market. Merlin Lo, whose family has run the Hong Kong Noodle Co. on 9th Place since 1913, believes there had previously been two Chinese restaurants at its address.

During the 1920s, there was a general craze for ethnic food, and more Chinese restaurants opened than any other kind. For the novice, their menus offered set dinners with, say, egg drop soup, chow mein, a meat dish such as pork stir-fried with snow peas, rounded out with fried shrimp, rice and egg foo yung.

If you felt adventurous, there would be grander dishes such as almond duck, sweet-sour pork and soy sauce chicken; fish was rarely served. Many places offered a mix-and-match scheme: Pick one item from column A, one from column B and one from column C, all for a single price. Though the food was still Americanized, the dining public was tolerating novel ingredients such as yard-long beans and "white mustard" (bok choy).

In the 1930s, Hollywood started patronizing the top Chinatown restaurants, and you might see Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Walt Disney or the Marx Brothers showing off their chopstick skills there. In gossip columns and movie magazines, Tuey Far Low was mentioned alongside showbiz hangouts such as the Brown Derby, Sardi's and the Coconut Grove. (One attraction was that it stayed open till 5 a.m.)

Celebrities also flocked to Man Jen Low and the Dragon's Den. Mae West's favorite was Man Fook Low in Market Chinatown, one of the first places to feature the dumplings we now know as dim sum.

These were all grand places — Tuey Far Low resembled a pagoda — but serious Chinese food lovers also sought out humbler eateries. A 1937 story about an unnamed restaurant (probably Yee Hung Guey) recorded that "day after day and night after night, people who could afford to eat in luxurious and lovely places drive down into one of the dingiest parts of town, stand in line in a queue which stretches around the corner, slowly shuffle their way in through the kitchen and finally, after half an hour of standing in line, rejoice at being allowed to take their places on stools at oilcloth covered tables."

These were the last years of L.A.'s original Chinatown, because the owner of the land had sold it to the railroads for building Union Station. Some Chinese merchants and residents relocated in Market Chinatown, but more moved into the formerly Mexican neighborhood on upper Broadway and Hill streets where the ethnic mall known as New Chinatown opened in 1939.

In the '50s and '60s, Cantonese food saw a revival under a new name — "Polynesian" cuisine. Top-rank Polynesian restaurants such as Trader Vic's and the Luau, both in Beverly Hills, sometimes offered Peking duck alongside the usual sweet-and-sour pork, lobster Cantonese, fried rice and pupu platter. (And the rum drinks and hula music, of course.)

Setting the standard

OTHER elegant presentations of Cantonese food were appearing outside China- town. In 1954, when Panorama City was a raw new suburb, Korean American actor Phil Ahn opened Moongate, serving upscale Cantonese food in a serene setting dominated by its circular entrance gate. Arthur Wong's Far East Terrace drew customers from nearby Universal Studio in North Hollywood.

But New Chinatown still flourished as a dining destination. "General Lee's was cutting-edge in those days," recalls Eugene Moy, vice president of programs for the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. "It had Rudi Gernreich design sharp waiters' jackets for it." Gernreich's fashions epitomized the jazzy, swinging California style of the '60s.

Around 1963, Angelenos started hearing rumors about something called Mandarin cuisine. The Shanghai Inn, a tiny place on Hollywood Boulevard around Western, made a big splash, starting your meal with sizzling rice soup and ending it with deep-fried snapper, and it was known for its Peking duck too. Hollywood flocked there. The next year, Peking Mandarin Cuisine opened in Inglewood, and we had a trend on our hands.

Food writers in L.A.'s newspapers and magazines of the era could tell Mandarin food was not Cantonese, but they couldn't put their fingers on the difference. It was said to involve more meat and spices and pay more attention to color, but it largely seemed to be about that sizzling rice. It was a category that glossed over the differences between all non-Cantonese styles of cooking, just as "Northern Italian" would later lump together a number of regional cuisines in the 1970s.

Some time in the mid-1960s, actor Cary Grant came into Madame Wu's Garden in Santa Monica, raving about a chicken salad he'd had at another restaurant. Sylvia Wu, the daughter of a wealthy and politically connected family in China who had opened a grand (and non-Americanized) Cantonese restaurant in 1961 and immediately become a favorite of Hollywood society, adapted a Cantonese banquet dish of shredded chicken with almonds, fried noodles and won ton chips as Chinese chicken salad, and her recipe soon conquered the world.

When President Nixon returned from his celebrated 1972 trip to China and remarked on how good the food was there, one result was the decade's explosion of interest in authentic Chinese cuisine. Another, due to his trade liberalization policy, was the availability of ingredients such as wood ear mushrooms and golden needles (day lily buds) — which, in themselves, made possible a craze for moo shu pork.

Foodies demanded to know what Chinese regional food was really like, and the "Mandarin" category was unpacked into the now familiar Sichuan (Szechwan), Shanghai, Beijing, Hunan and other schools. Sichuan, popularized in 1974 by Cathay de Grande in Hollywood, struck a particular chord around here; the word became a virtual synonym for "spicy." Kung pao chicken ruled the roost.

In the early '80s, taking advantage of liberalized immigration policies, a great influx of Taiwanese turned Monterey Park into the nation's first suburban Chinatown. Here were practically the first American Chinese restaurants that did not inherit the tradition of serving Americanized food. They served honest, savory Taiwanese cooking; the iconic dish was pan-fried clams in garlic black bean sauce.

Around the same time, several big seafood restaurants opened back in downtown's Chinatown, above all the famous Mon Kee, which drew the sort of adventurous diners who also ate at the period's French-influenced nouvelle cuisine restaurants such as Ma Maison. Overnight Angelenos became acquainted with shrimp in pepper salt. Menus went on with page after page of sea cucumber and crab dishes.

In the later '80s, prosperous Hong Kong immigrants created the explosion of Chinese restaurants along Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, San Gabriel and Rosemead. Here you could find Chinese Islamic cuisine and Shanghai restaurants and cookery of the Chiu Chow people, who had sojourned for centuries in Vietnam and Thailand. At one of the new restaurants, the former chef of Chinese premier Chou En-lai would cook you as fancy a dinner as you were willing to pay for (a high-end meal included a lot of vegetables marvelously carved into dragon and phoenix shapes). When the Empress Pavilion opened in downtown's New Chinatown, the victory of sophisticated Hong Kong-influenced cuisine seemed complete.

Buzzing with energy, that's our Chinese food scene today. When a new restaurant opens, flocks of people rush to check it out. Serious eaters follow chefs from restaurant to restaurant, the way foodies followed nouvelle cuisine chefs in the 1970s. There's an enthusiasm for all the ancient riches of Chinese cuisine — and the latest developments from Hong Kong.

"Sometimes, if you grew up here," says Moy, "you feel nostalgic for those old dishes like chop suey and egg foo yung.

"But then you order them, and you realize the food is so much better now."
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Old Posted Feb 28, 2007, 2:11 AM
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Proposed L.A. Coliseum Olympic Enhancements Combine Historic Integrity and Modern Offerings

Temporary Structure to Add Suites and Olympic Flair for 2016 Games;
Elements Preserve Landmark’s Historic Appeal

Los Angeles, Calif. – February 22, 2007 – As part of its bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games (SCCOG) today unveiled the architectural plan for a temporary addition including amenities such as luxury suites to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum without altering the structure of the venue listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. The Coliseum is among the most revered and recognized sports monuments in the world and is the only facility to host two Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, two Super Bowls (including the first) a World Series and a host of significant entertainment, political and religious events.

“The Coliseum has been the site of incredible events for more than 80 years, but it never shines brighter than during the Olympic Games,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “In 2016, the newly designed Coliseum will glow spectacularly.”

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Old Posted Feb 28, 2007, 2:12 AM
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February 28, 2007
A makeshift idea for the Olympics
Chicago and L.A. have the same notion for the 2016 Summer Games: temporary stadiums.

By Christopher Hawthorne, Times Staff Writer

For decades, cities have seen Olympic bids as among the most effective ways to jump-start civic ambition. Barcelona used the run-up to the 1992 Summer Games as an occasion to reinvent its waterfront, among other expensive improvements. And Beijing is remaking itself at a breakneck pace as it gets ready for the Olympics next year.

But as Chicago and Los Angeles jockey for the right to hold the 2016 Summer Games, a different vision of what the Olympics mean for cities is emerging. It is decidedly modest. This pair of American cities, so different in so many ways, seem to agree that the best way to win the Olympics — and to pay for them — is to design a sort of pack-and-go games. Put aside any notions of an Olympics that might spur interest, here or in Chicago, in new subway lines or massive architectural icons. A central goal in both bids is to avoid the white elephants that have plagued Sydney and other host cities.

Nowhere is the shift more obvious than in the stadium designs that lie at the heart of the Chicago and Los Angeles plans. Both cities have proposed an architectural big-top approach, with facilities that can be assembled and disassembled in a matter of months.

In Chicago, it's an attractive temporary stadium in Washington Park designed by the Shanghai-based American architect Ben Wood and the local firm Goettsch Partners; it would hold 80,000 for the Olympics and then be transformed into an open-air amphitheater seating just 5,000. Even that disappearing act isn't complete enough for some Chicagoans. They think even the amphitheater, which would carve a hole in the middle of a meadow designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, is too much to leave behind.

Decision due next month

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Olympic boosters last week unveiled their own spin on the temporary stadium idea: a proposal to add a superstructure to the Coliseum that could be removed after the athletes have left town. Designed by local architect David Jay Flood and budgeted at $112 million, the stadium addition would essentially float above the existing stadium's neoclassical bowl. A series of steel-frame towers would rise along its periphery and hold 204 luxury boxes; vinyl fabric stretched between the towers and decorated with the Olympic rings and other designs would provide shade.

The U.S. Olympic Committee members are visiting Southern California this week and will meet with Flood on Thursday. They will choose between L.A. and Chicago next month, and the U.S. nominee will then go up against a group of world cities that could include the global heavyweights Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Rome.

In part, the portable stadium designs can be explained by a funding loophole: According to International Olympic Committee guidelines, cities draw directly from Olympic operating funds to pay for temporary structures, while money for permanent buildings has to be raised separately. And in L.A. there is also the fact that the Coliseum, as a historic landmark, can't be permanently altered.

The preservation story line adds an intriguing twist to any architectural comparison of the stadium plans. Wood is best known in this country for his 2003 renovation to Soldier Field, longtime home of the Chicago Bears, which involved lowering a futuristic steel-and-glass addition right onto the classical seating bowl. The design has its champions — it is certainly among the boldest attempts in an American city to combine neoclassical and digitally derived architectural forms — but has proved deeply controversial in Chicago.

And apparently in Washington, D.C., as well: Just before leaving office last month, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton decided to strip Soldier Field of its status as a national historic landmark.

Wood is taking an altogether different tack this time, producing a stadium that might as well be stamped, like a carton of milk, with an expiration date.

Flood, for his part, made sure that the L.A. Conservancy, the leading preservation group in town, had signed off on his Coliseum proposal before it was released to the public. In both cases the idea is to produce a stadium that appears to hover weightlessly over the existing city rather than squashing it.

There is a lot to recommend this approach. It avoids the political and financial pitfalls that go along with building a new stadium from scratch — the very pitfalls that doomed San Francisco's 2016 bid when negotiations involving the city, the 49ers football team and Olympic planners fell apart last year. And temporary stadiums are certainly more environmentally friendly than permanent ones, particularly when the materials that make them up can be easily dismantled and reused.

Flood's proposal even includes a nod to the Coliseum's most important tenant, the USC football team. His design is so modest that work on the stadium wouldn't have to begin until January 2016, just six or seven months before the opening ceremonies and after USC's 2015 home football schedule is safely complete.

There is also a whole emerging category of temporary-chic architecture that the two cities might tap into. The Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has proved lately that reconfigurable structures built with cardboard tubes and plastic soda crates can be as beautiful as anything made of steel and glass. So-called pop-up stores by retailers including Camper, Commes des Garcons and Target have turned their short life spans into a marketing angle, making a virtue of the fact that they're fleeting.

Unfortunately, the slapdash Coliseum renderings Flood released last week had none of those temporary projects' charismatic appeal. After hosting the games in 1932 and 1984, we hardly seem desperate, as a city and a region, to win the same right again — and Flood's renderings have emerged as the perfect visual symbol of our general lack of interest. It didn't help that the scheme was unveiled during Oscar week, when all local eyes were trained on the intersection of Hollywood and Highland; there was more ink spilled on whether Ellen DeGeneres would wear sneakers onstage than whether we had a shot for 2016.

In Chicago, on the other hand, where winter has yet to break and dreams of any midsummer celebration have an intrinsic appeal, Olympic fever is rampant. Wood's sleek renderings of his temporary stadium scheme reflect the passionate hopes of a city that is sports-obsessed and has never played host to an Olympics. The elegant design begins with a steel frame covered with taut fabric roof. Slots in the exterior suggest an abstracted version of a classical colonnade. From above — as seen from, say, a blimp hovering in the sky to provide dramatic shots for broadcast — the asymmetrical stadium would suggest a giant letter C, for Chicago.

If Flood's design spells out anything it is e-n-n-u-i. It is baffling that in the middle of what is essentially a marketing battle between two cities we would send his renderings into the media maw. We live in an era when architectural image can be as important as the finished product. And even if the Olympics are no longer seen as a fail-safe way to catalyze large-scale civic projects, the games are at heart about publicizing a vision of one city to viewers around the world.

The view from above

That's why Athens, the 2004 summer host, spent a good chunk of its Olympic budget hiring the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to add a stunning, bone-white roof to an existing stadium: Its organizers understood, as Chicago clearly does, that the way the building looked from above, on worldwide television, was just as important as how it appeared to fans in the seats.

Of course, the wisdom of building icons that do little for a city once the Olympics are gone is debatable — and, in general, the pragmatism apparent in both American bids makes sense. But the process of selling a city to national and then international Olympic gatekeepers is almost by definition one ruled by visual conjecture: To succeed means creating an effective collage of how your city might look a decade or so in the future.

Perhaps the USOC committee that's in town this week will look past the renderings and recognize that in terms of infrastructure and existing facilities our bid has a number of advantages. But if they don't, and if they hand the 2016 nomination to Chicago on a silver platter, we can hardly claim to be surprised.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2007, 2:53 AM
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Watery Disputes

Controversy and Complaints Follow New L.A. River Plan

by Evan George

Last month, the City Council rolled out an ambitious plan to revitalize the Los Angeles River from Canoga Park to Downtown. The massive report capped an 18-month campaign of unprecedented community outreach.
An image from the recently released L.A. River plan. A coalition of Latino groups claims many of its suggestions have been ignored. Rendering by Bureau of Engineering

Now, less than two weeks before the draft plan enters its final stage, the most vocal and well-organized coalition involved in that process is up in arms, claiming its input has been marginalized.

Though city leaders and others strongly defend the document, some acknowledge that improvements to the final plan are necessary.

Leaders of the Alianza de los Pueblo del Rio, a loose coalition of Latino organizations, last week said the plan focuses too much on beautifying the concrete channel's riverside property and not enough on the mostly poor, park-starved communities that surround it.

"The plan as it stands now could be called the L.A. River Gentrification Master Plan," said Robert Garcia, executive director of the nonprofit City Project, which provides legal and research aid to the Alianza. "It's utterly incomprehensible why they would have ignored all of our input, not cited any of our work, not cited any of our maps and our statistics on children's health and the lack of parks."

Leaders of the Alianza scrambled last week to put together a rebuke of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan before public comment on the draft ends March 27.

The group finds itself in a strange position: once heralded by city leaders for generating excitement and feedback about the master plan and now on the offensive for more input.

The report, which Garcia said will be released this week and presented formally to the Council's Ad Hoc River Committee, assails city officials for paying lip service to issues like public health and gang prevention in urban communities without offering detailed solutions.

"One of our biggest concerns is that it utterly disregards human health and the need for places for physical activity in parks and schools to improve health," Garcia said.

The plan identifies 239 improvement projects along a 32-mile stretch of the river. They include everything from pocket parks to creating more than 4,600 housing units near Chinatown. Implementing all of them would cost more than $2 billion.

However, only two of the 87 proposed park projects include any sports fields or facilities.

Councilman Ed Reyes, who chairs the Ad Hoc River Committee, defended the plan even as he praised the Alianza's success in garnering feedback. He acknowledged the need for more active parks, but said those uses must be balanced with other concerns, like flood control.

"Where possible I will advocate for the active space," he said.

Additionally, Reyes said, two obvious sites for heavy recreation use - the new Los Angeles State Historic Park at the former Cornfield and the Rio de Los Angeles State Park at Taylor Yard - are overseen by the state Parks Department, not the city.

"What it speaks to is the need to have the state redefine its definition of parks," Reyes said, "especially in the urban centers, and that's a cultural shift for the state."

Making Waves

The complaints don't stop at more soccer fields.

Last week officials with the William C. Velasquez Institute, a nonprofit Latino policy center and member of the Alianza, criticized the plan's environmental impact report for using demographics that, they say, grossly underestimate the impact on Latinos.

The study looked only at neighborhoods within a half mile of the river, while Latino leaders say the city should consider the overwhelmingly Latino neighborhoods within one to three miles that would be affected.

City officials have said they will include broader statistics but not redo any of the analysis.

The master plan has also been attacked for failing to include specific measures to help spur local jobs and build more affordable housing.

Alianza leaders said they have been championing these issues to city officials for 18 months at more than 50 meetings. By organizing families to participate in the city-sponsored workshops, and even spearheading their own well-attended meetings, the Alianza became the overwhelming voice, said Reyes and others.

Reyes added that the Alianza's input will inform future details. "The implementation arms... the governing structure itself, I believe, is where you're going to see those details emerge," Reyes said.

Garcia is skeptical.

"If that's their approach than why are they so specific as to everything else, such as pocket parks, paseos, promenades, linear parks and ecological restoration?" he asked.

While Alianza chafes at the plan, other groups who participated - as well as some that didn't - applaud the initial results.

Russell Brown, president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, said his group is impressed by the overall concept, though they disagree with some of the details.

Brown called the plan "an interesting first step," and said many of the DLANC members were "surprised it was this far along," because they had been less involved in the process. The Friends of the Los Angeles River, a longtime activist group, has also signaled its approval.

James Rojas, a planner for MTA who runs Spring Street's Gallery 727 (where a current exhibit allows visitors to make their own models of the river plan) takes issue with the complaints of those who are upset with the master plan.

"Some of the funnier critiques I've heard is that it's not going to solve gang violence. That's not the river's problem, or a design problem, that's a much larger social problem," Rojas said. "It's not going to solve world hunger."
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2007, 4:12 AM
DJM19 DJM19 is offline
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^I dont really see what they are complaining about. The plan seems pretty solid to me. This is a park revitalization, its a shot in the arm, but a magic cure to everything they deem wrong with their neighborhood. Good parks generate activity, which generates buildings, which generate jobs and housing.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2007, 6:10 AM
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Commission Gives Westfield Go Ahead

By Traci Kratzer

Glazer said because the EIR previously completed by Westfield is seven years old they should be required to complete a new EIR.

“We all know what this is about,” Glazer said. “Westfield doesn’t want to spend the money or the time to provide details on how much they want to build.”

Stephanie Eyestone-Jones, a principle with PCR Corporation, said she completed the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review for the addendum of the expansion and assured the commissioners that the report was “reviewed twice under CEQA guidelines.”

One of the biggest concerns for residents with both the Westfield expansion and the Caruso/Santa Anita racetrack project is traffic. Pat Gibson, a traffic and parking analyst, said that the traffic mitigation measures related to the proposed expansion have been studied and no significant impacts were found.

The city staff report did include a list of mitigation measures that remain outstanding and stated that each of the measures are under the jurisdiction of either Caltrans or Los Angeles County.

Resident Mary Doughtery said she had hoped to be supportive of the project but urged the commission to reject the addendum until “Westfield makes a cooperative and collaborative effort to control traffic impacts.”

“Westfield has good traffic, everyone else has bad traffic,” Doughtery said. “I can’t subscribe to that.”

Discussion on the expansion will go before the city council for a public hearing on April 3.

The architectural design review for the 100,800 square foot second expansion of the Westfield Santa Anita Mall received unanimous approval from the Planning Commission Tuesday night.

The commissioners also accepted the addendum to Westfield’s certified Environmental Impact Report (EIR) from 2000.

“We are consistently improving and investing in the community,” said Ken Wong, President of U.S. Operations for Westfield. “Our plan for the future is to approach that in a phased and logical manner.”

Wong said the expansion, which has been named “The Promenade,” will consist of five blocks of retail buildings in the southwest quadrant of the property south of Nordstrom and west of Macy’s. Wong said “The Promenade” will generate $540,000 annually to the city.

In a ten page letter to the members of the planning commission, Patricia Glazer, lawyer for both The Turf Club and Santa Anita Companies Inc., said that the addendum to the project is “flawed” and “inconsistent” with the City’s General Plan for several reasons. Included in those reasons was what she called the “shifting and understated size of the project.” She said the project appears to have grown in scope by approximately 200,000 to 400,000 sq. ft. She added that the certified 2000 EIR looked at a project with a floor area ratio (FAR) of .44, and the expansion as it is today looks to be over the allowed .50 FAR.

However, according to city staff reports, Westfield’s original request for an additional 600,000 sq. ft. of Gross Leasable Area (GLA) as analyzed in the 2000 EIR, shows that the expansion is below the allowable FAR of .50.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2007, 6:11 AM
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Mall wars take aim at Arcadia City Hall
By Kenneth Todd Ruiz Staff Writer

ARCADIA - The latest salvo in this city's mall wars is aimed directly at City Hall.

Opponents of the proposed Caruso Affiliated development near the Santa Anita Park race track have filed a complaint accusing the City Council of breaking open-meeting laws.

An attorney for Arcadia First! asked the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office to investigate whether negotiations between the city and Caruso violated the Brown Act because they were held outside of public view.

Arcadia First! receives funding from Westfield, which aggressively opposes construction of the 800,000-square-foot shopping complex adjacent to the mall it owns.

City Attorney Stephen Deitsch said Wednesday the discussions were "lawful and appropriate."

The Brown Act provides limited reasons for public bodies to meet in private, so the public is privy to their decision-making process.

The specific matters discussed - which Deitsch said he could not elaborate upon - likely related to a long-negotiated development agreement between Caruso and the city.

Hypothetically, Deitsch said, if such deliberations included the purchase, lease or exchange of real estate, "then it would be lawful and appropriate to discuss the price and terms of payment in closed session."

Sung Tse, spokeswoman for Arcadia First!, challenged the council at a recent meeting to conduct its business in the open.

According to published agendas, City Council members met privately with city staff, track owner Magna Entertainment Corp. and Caruso Affiliated to discuss "price and terms of payment" for the "southerly parking area" of the track.

"I understand they are allowed closed sessions," she said of the council, but questioned why the Caruso firm was allowed to participate when it doesn't own that land. "What does he have to do with these closed sessions?"

Councilman Bob Harbicht said Wednesday he could not go into the specifics of negotiations, but added that the reason for holding a closed session would be clear once a draft of the development agreement is made public.

"It's one of those things that's hard to defend yourself because the only way to defend yourself is to disclose what was said in closed session," he said. "And then it's no longer a closed session."

A draft of the agreement could be made public as early as next week, according to Assistant City Manager Don Penman.

Two weeks later, on March 19, Caruso's proposal goes before the Planning Commission. If the City Council subsequently approves the plan, Westfield is expected to initiate a ballot initiative to let voters second-guess the council's decision.

Meanwhile, the next phase of Westfield's expansion plans were approved by the Planning Commission on Tuesday night, despite urging by Caruso that a new environmental impact report be prepared.

City staff concluded that the Promenade expansion, which would add 100,000 square feet of open-air commercial space and a two-level parking structure, was covered by a previous impact study.

But a Tuesday report to the Planning Commission refuted the mall owner's published claims last fall that its ballot measure to limit signs would "apply to all of Arcadia's businesses - including Westfield Santa Anita."

"Despite what this campaign literature stated, the measure clearly applied only to the Racetrack property and not other properties," the report said.

Voters narrowly passed Measure N in November.

Last edited by dragonsky; Mar 3, 2007 at 6:18 AM.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2007, 6:12 AM
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City Council denies meeting allegations
By Kenneth Todd Ruiz Staff Writer

ARCADIA - Members of the City Council never met in private with a developer and property owner, city officials said Thursday.

Refuting allegations made by opponents of Caruso Affiliated's The Shops at Santa Anita, Councilman Bob Harbicht said the council did meet in closed sessions, but only with city staff to discuss land located in the parking lot of Santa Anita Park.

"The council has never met privately with Magna or Caruso," Harbicht said. "The only people in the closed sessions were council, city staff and the city attorney."

Council agendas published by the city list Caruso and racetrack owner Magna Entertainment Corp. among "Negotiating Parties" in regard to what is described as the "southerly parking area of Santa Anita Race Track."

The meetings, held in December and January, are believed to relate to a development agreement under negotiation between Caruso and the city in tandem with the

developer's proposal to build an 800,000-square-foot outdoor mall on property owned by Magna Entertainment Corp.

Westfield has been highly critical of - and has organized community resistance to - the project, which is proposed for a site adjacent to the Westfield mall on Baldwin Avenue.

The closed-session meetings prompted the spokeswoman of Arcadia First!, a Westfield- funded community group, to ask why Caruso and Magna representatives were involved.

Julie Wong, Caruso spokeswoman, said there's a simple explanation - they weren't.

"We never had anybody participate in these closed-session meetings," she said. "This is another example of Westfield misleading Arcadia residents with false accusations."

The council acted within the law by not including outsiders in the meetings, said Terry Francke, counsel for Californians Aware, an open-government advocacy group.

But the discussion could not have strayed from the specific price and terms of the land deal in question, Francke added, or extend to any other terms of the development agreement.

"When it says price or terms of payment, that's exactly what it means," he said, referring to the description published on the council agenda.

Douglas Carstens, a lawyer representing Arcadia First!, filed a complaint with the District Attorney's Office. The complaint is under review.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2007, 6:17 AM
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The Shops at Santa Anita
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2007, 6:28 AM
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Tuesday, February 20, 2007
California Horse Racing Board Chair also announces endorsement for outdoor retail center at Santa Anita Park

Arcadia – California’s three major horse racing organizations today announced their support for The Shops at Santa Anita, the outdoor, upscale shopping and dining center proposed by Caruso Affiliated. The Shops at Santa Anita is being proposed in partnership with the owners of Santa Anita Park and would be constructed on the parking lot south of the grandstand.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California, California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers say they are supporting The Shops at Santa Anita because they believe it will help ensure the long-term viability of Santa Anita Park and the sport of horse racing in California.

“In our view, this plan is precisely the type of project that can bring new energy to Santa Anita Park, and that can improve its long-term viability as one of California’s – if not the nation’s – premier racetracks,” wrote Thoroughbred Owners of California President Drew J. Couto, whose organization is certified by the California Horse Racing Board to represent Thoroughbred horse owners. “This is critical both to the industry and, we understand, to the City of Arcadia, which has always been very supportive of our industry.”

“We believe that this project, to be built adjacent to Santa Anita Park, would greatly enhance the race track as well as provide further economic benefit to the industry. We commend both you and the ownership of Santa Anita Park for undertaking such an important development, which would help ensure the long-term viability of live racing at the historic venue,” wrote California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Burge, whose organization has represented California breeders and thoroughbred farms for more than 60 years.

“Ensuring the long-term viability of Santa Anita Park is critical, and we believe your project will do that,” wrote California Thoroughbred Trainers Executive Director and General Counsel Edward I. Halpern, whose organization represents hundreds of thoroughbred trainers throughout the state. “The project, in our view, will architecturally complement the racetrack and has taken into account to the greatest extent possible the operational needs of the horsemen.”

California Horse Racing Board Chair Richard Shapiro also joined the organizations in supporting the project saying that he looks forward to its “swift approval and development.”

“I believe strongly that [The Shops at Santa Anita’s] development would be a great benefit to the long-term viability of Santa Anita Park and to California’s horse racing industry. I appreciate the steps you have taken to address all parties’ concerns including the design of the project, which will be a complement to the beauty and tradition of Santa Anita Park,” wrote Shapiro.

“Caruso Affiliated has been working closely with our partners at Santa Anita Park to ensure that The Shops at Santa Anita will enhance the viability of the track and horse racing by introducing new generations of families to the sport of kings,” said Rick Caruso, Founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated. “We are proud that California’s leaders in horse racing are supporting The Shops at Santa Anita.”

“Santa Anita Park is proud to be part of California’s horse racing heritage and we are grateful for the support we have received from horse racing organizations. We want to ensure that the racetrack is a strong business for many years. Our partnership with Caruso Affiliated is an important part of our long-term plans,” said George Haines, Vice President and General Manager of Santa Anita Park.

The Shops at Santa Anita is supported by Arcadia organizations including the Arcadia Firefighters Association, the Acadia Police Officers Association, the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, the Rancho Santa Anita Residents’ Association, and the Arcadia Unified School District.

The Shops at Santa Anita will provide new upscale shops, unique outdoor restaurants, lushly landscaped park-like settings and promenades where Arcadians can come to walk around, relax, and enjoy each other’s company. At the request of Arcadia residents, the project will include a community performing arts center where school and community organizations can hold performances. The center would be built and maintained at no cost to taxpayers. Also at the request of Arcadians, The Shops at Santa Anita no longer includes housing of any kind.
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Silver Streak transit service set to launch
By Nisha Gutierrez Staff Writer

. Video: 3/8: Silver Streak buses

EL MONTE - Foothill Transit is launching what officials are touting as a cutting-edge bus service expected to give commuters a quicker and smoother ride into downtown Los Angeles and other major station stops.

Transit officials unveiled the new Silver Streak Thursday at the El Monte Bus Station and said it will hit the streets March 18.

"This is a commuter's dream," said Wilfred Briesemeister, Foothill Transit executive board president. "These are not the buses of yesteryear."

The 60-foot tandem buses will be equipped with free Wi-Fi service to allow riders to do work, surf the Internet or check e-mails. The agency's Smart Bus Equipment, which includes an automatic vehicle location system, will provide automatic stop announcements, automatic passenger counters, on-board security cameras and station stop bus arrival displays.

Briesemeister said the 30-bus fleet also features comfortable seating, capacity for up to 58 riders and provides people with an opportunity be more productive and relaxed on their commute.

Felicia Friesema, Foothill Transit spokeswoman, said the new service will cost $6.5 million per year to maintain operation and will be paid for through state and local funding sources.

"The idea was to create a high-capacity people mover to alleviate some of the crowding we were seeing on Line 480, which is our most popular line, and meet the greatest needs, which is why it is stopping at major station stops," Friesema said.

Friesema said the Silver Streak will give riders a quicker commute time by eliminating some local stops that Line 480 makes and by spending only about 5 percent of its total trip on surface streets. Instead, it will travel primarily on the San Bernardino (10) Freeway and HOV lanes.

In addition to Los Angeles, the Silver Streak also will take customers to major station stops in Montclair, Pomona, West Covina and El Monte.

When the Silver Streak begins service, Friesema said Line 480, which stretches from Montclair to Los Angeles, will no longer travel into downtown Los Angeles.

John Fasana, a board member and Duarte City Councilman, said the Silver Streak will help improve transportation in the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys.

"This is important for our valleys because it's going to get people out of their cars and onto public transit and give them a quick ride to work, which will help ease congestion on the freeways," Fasana said. "If you think about the cost of parking downtown and sitting in traffic, this is really a great savings."

Officials said the Silver Streak will provide daily service running every 10-12 minutes, 24 hours a day.

The Silver Streak bus fare will cost riders $2 each way and 31-day passes will be $80. Seniors, people with disabilities and Medicare cardholders can ride for $1.

To help promote the new service Foothill Transit is offering free rides on the Silver Streak from March 18 to April 1.

Foothill Transit now operates 35 fixed-route local, express and rail-feeder lines, covers 327 square miles, and serves 15 million customers each year.
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Old Posted Mar 13, 2007, 4:23 AM
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Hopes high for low-profile mall
A developer seeks to give Santa Monica Place an open-air redesign. It drops high-rise plans.
By Martha Groves, Times Staff Writer
March 5, 2007

A long-awaited remodeling of aging Santa Monica Place could begin as soon as a year from now if the city approves a design by Macerich Co., the mall's owner, to peel off the roof and open the center to ocean breezes and the Third Street Promenade.

Macerich executives say they expect to meet today with city officials, and then on Tuesday submit plans detailing how they would update the shopping center, which opened in 1980 and was an early project of architect Frank O. Gehry.

The "adaptive reuse" plan marks a significant scaling down of a 2004 proposal by Macerich that called for tearing down the flagging mall and replacing it with a 10-acre complex of high-rise condos, shops and offices.

Many community members protested the prospect of such a grandiose project, saying it would ruin the city's generally low-rise ambience and exacerbate traffic congestion. Chastened, Macerich last June scrapped those plans and began diligently seeking community input to ensure that its replacement design would meet with approval.

"What we're trying to accomplish is to convert this suburban shopping center … to fit more with the urban fabric of the city," said Robert D. Aptaker, vice president of real estate for Macerich, based in Santa Monica.

A city official said previews of the proposal indicated that Macerich had tried to satisfy community desires. "It looks like they spent a lot of time listening to the community," said Andy Agle, director of housing and economic development. "It looks to be more in line with some of the feedback we've heard."

Victor Fresco, co-chairman of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, agreed. He said he was pleased that the new plan would slightly decrease, rather than dramatically increase, the center's size.

"An addition would have had huge negative impacts on traffic and parking," Fresco said. Already, he added, "downtown has become almost impossible to navigate."

The remodeled center, only 47% of which is leased, now has 570,000 square feet.

Aptaker cautioned that the design for the center, which Macerich bought in 1999, was still evolving. But he listed a number of elements that he said were integral to the new concept. In addition to stripping away the roof, the company plans to create public walkways, large gathering places and a third-floor dining deck with ocean views. Other amenities would include a children's play area, a public art installation and a gallery for exhibiting artists' work.

Aptaker said Macerich expected the renovated mall to "be a partner with the Third Street Promenade" but with more distinctive, upscale retailers for a "more mature customer." He said many retailers had expressed enthusiasm about being in Santa Monica, but he said the company had not yet signed any new leases.

Once construction gets underway, Aptaker said, all shops except for Macy's department store would close. The two parking levels, with just under 2,000 spaces, would remain open. If construction begins in early 2008, as Macerich hopes, the mall would reopen in fall 2009.

"It won't feel like a mall anymore," Aptaker said. "We want it to feel like part of the community."

Agle said the city would analyze the project according to the guidelines of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Because the revamped mall would be smaller, he said he doubted that Macerich would have to complete an environmental report.

The approval process, he said, could be completed by late summer.
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Old Posted Mar 17, 2007, 3:02 AM
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March 9, 2007
Billionaire's buying has the town talking
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's purchases may help remake a piece of Malibu. So far he's submitted plans for two new restaurants.

By Martha Groves, Times Staff Writer

For years now, software magnate Larry Ellison has been on a spending spree in Malibu that has caused even his fellow billionaires' tongues to wag.

By some accounts, he has shelled out as much as $200 million for more than a dozen properties, including five adjacent residential parcels on Carbon Beach, two nearby restaurants, the Casa Malibu Inn and a vacant gas station or two that he apparently intends to use for customer parking.

Carbon Beach, which runs east from the Malibu Pier for about 1 1/2 miles, is also known as Billionaires Beach thanks to its lineup of denizens including philanthropist Eli Broad, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, television financier Haim Saban, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, the music magnate who famously battled the state over public beach access.

So far, Ellison, 62, has submitted plans to the city of Malibu for two new restaurants, including one expected to feature ultra-high-end Japanese cuisine. That would be in keeping with his affinity for the finer things in life and for all things Japanese.

The Oracle Corp. chief executive — who, according to Forbes magazine, is worth nearly $20 billion — spent 10 years and a reported $200 million re-creating a Japanese village on his 23-acre estate in Woodside, south of San Francisco. And Rising Sun was the name he chose for his 454-foot yacht, said to be the world's longest privately owned boat.

Jefferson Wagner, owner of Zuma Jay surf shop on Pacific Coast Highway, speculates that Ellison wants to "control this end of town" because of his restaurant plans.

"He's buying what he needs to create his little world," said Wagner, whose store is across the street from some of Ellison's commercial parcels. "I'm not knockin' it. It's an upgrade as far as local merchants are concerned."

Ellison's representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Geffen is renovating the nearby Malibu Beach Inn, which is taking online room reservations for June.

"Geffen will raise the bar on what has been a dated hotel but a great location," said Tony Dorn, a longtime Malibu resident and commercial real estate broker.

Geffen and Ellison are changing what has been, commercially speaking, a rather forlorn stretch of the highway, an odd state of affairs considering the immense collective wealth of the locals.

Dorn said Geffen and Ellison were drawn to the properties because there are so few commercial parcels on the beach side of PCH. "The Malibu commercial environment is so tight, and there are no [new] permits available right now," Dorn said. "That's what makes it attractive to these people."

Residents and real estate agents say houses on Carbon Beach, even the few remaining "shacks," would start at $20 million. Courteney Cox and David Arquette recently put their four-bedroom, five-bathroom showcase house, with 80 feet of frontage, on the market for $33.5 million.

Ellison's buying binge started in 2003, when he paid $65 million for five adjacent residential properties on Carbon Beach. Next, a couple of restaurants at the beach's western end near the pier caught his eye. According to local scuttlebutt, in early 2004 he paid nearly $30 million for the Pier View Cafe and Cantina and the Windsail. Both have been shuttered since. City officials say Ellison recently bought the Casa Malibu Inn, a beachfront getaway that opened in 1949 and is near the restaurants. In addition, he reportedly purchased a $20-million home in a gated hillside community just west of Malibu Pier.

The situation is once again turning a spotlight on Malibu's rich and famous and their hunger for land. One resident who socializes with Carbon Beach's well-heeled residents and asked to remain anonymous said of them: "They're sort of in this club. They walk on the beach and schmooze. What they all talked about was how to get more property on Carbon Beach. They're asking each other if they'll sell their place for any amount of money."

Since Ellison began popping into town to conduct business and relax, Malibu residents have engaged in the game of Larry-spotting. Wagner ran into him at the local Ralphs and jokingly asked, "On that real estate thing, have you left anything for me?" He said Ellison replied, "I hear your building's for sale." Wagner promptly found a partner, who helped him buy the building that houses his surf shop for $4.2 million. "I could just see the glint in his eye," Wagner said of Ellison.

Last week, the City Council, on a first reading, narrowly approved a zoning change that would allow Ellison to proceed with plans for a commercial enterprise on one of his restaurant sites. That change, known as a local coastal program amendment, faces a second vote by the council and then would need to be approved by the California Coastal Commission. The other restaurant has already been approved by the city planning commission.

Mayor Ken Kearsley, who voted against the amendment, said he fears that the restaurants will cause a traffic backup on the highway. He also said Ellison should honor a development agreement between the city and the previous owner, who had promised to donate $400,000 to local schools and include a community room in his proposed beach club and spa.

"At this point, he hasn't brought anything to the table," Kearsley said of Ellison, adding that, for the billionaire, $400,000 would be "couch change."

For a time, rumor had it that Ellison would try to lure Nobu, a celebrity hangout in the Malibu Country Mart, to Carbon Beach. Whether it's that or another upscale eatery, some business owners are cheering him on.

"Put the restaurant back, whatever it is," Wagner said. "I'll never be able to afford to go there, but at least sushi will smell better than the septic."
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Silver Streak buses start Montclair-L.A. run
Foothill Transit wants Caltrans to restrict access to carpool lanes during peak hours so its new freeway flyers can make good time.
By Jean Guccione, Times Staff Writer
March 19, 2007

As traffic congestion through the Pomona and San Gabriel valleys worsens, the promise of a quicker commute — and amenities such as free wireless Internet service — should lure some solo motorists onto the new Silver Streak rapid buses.

But the success of the new service from Montclair to downtown Los Angeles, which started Sunday, rests on whether the 60-foot buses will be able to bypass traffic by racing down the San Bernardino Freeway carpool lanes.

Like the rest of the freeway, the high-occupancy vehicle lanes are getting crowded, whether from more carpools or solo drivers in hybrid vehicles using the dedicated lanes.

"There are just too many cars," said Doran Barnes, executive director of Foothill Transit, the public agency that runs the Silver Streak bus service.

So Barnes and other local transit officials are asking the California Department of Transportation to restrict access to the carpool lanes for at least two more hours each workday.

Vehicles — except hybrids — with fewer than three people are already banned during peak traffic hours, weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.

Even with those restrictions, it now takes a bus two hours at rush hour to travel the same Montclair-to-downtown route that took 94 minutes a decade ago. Travel times have increased seven to 10 minutes in the last 18 months, transit officials said.

The Silver Streak is expected to reduce travel times to as little as about 90 minutes by stopping only at major transit hubs.

Buses have barreled past cars on the 10 Freeway east of downtown Los Angeles in their own dedicated lanes, known as the El Monte Busway, for most of three decades. But although the lanes were built for buses only, political pressures soon converted them into carpool lanes as well. That change came with a hitch, however: Vehicles had to carry at least three people, rather than the two that is standard for other such lanes.

After a failed experiment to open the lanes to vehicles with two or more people, a compromise was struck a few years ago, allowing such vehicles back in but only during off-peak hours. The busway is still one of the state's few sets of carpool lanes requiring three or more people per vehicle, if only during peak hours.

But transit officials say that compromise is no longer working. Like the buildup of residential developments along the bus route, rush-hour traffic on the San Bernardino Freeway is sprawling.

"Even with three in the carpool lane, we are seeing challenges," said Barnes, whose agency moves 15,000 commuters a day along the busway.

To keep its buses running on time, Foothill Transit wants to extend the morning restrictions to 10 a.m. and begin the afternoon peak period an hour earlier at 3 p.m.

"We need to get aggressive about trying to protect the integrity of the busway," said John Fasana, a Duarte city councilman who sits on the boards of Foothill Transit and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Caltrans officials say they are studying the idea. They are also working to secure funds to complete the stretch of carpool lanes between the 605 Freeway and the San Bernardino County line.

Fasana knows that plush new buses and free Internet service won't persuade motorists to give up their car keys unless they can get to work a little faster and on time. And that's where the Silver Streak comes in: It should take as little as 91 minutes to travel the 40 miles from the Montclair TransCenter to its last stop at Grand Avenue and Olympic Boulevard in downtown L.A.

Buses will operate around the clock and are scheduled to run every 12 minutes in peak time. The other stops are in Pomona, West Covina and El Monte, and at Cal State L.A., County-USC Medical Center and Union Station.

Besides providing Internet connections, the new buses are equipped with GPS and security cameras. An automated system will announce station stops and display bus arrival times.

The fare is $2, with discounts for eligible seniors, people with disabilities and Medicare cardholders. But until April 1, passengers can ride free.
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Old Posted Mar 21, 2007, 3:48 AM
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Proposed Mall Near Santa Anita Racetrack Draws Fire
Created: Monday, 19 Mar 2007, 1:10 AM PDT

ARCADIA -- Those for and against a proposed high-end shopping center at a mostly unused parking lot at the Santa Anita racetrack in the San Gabriel Valley will be able to express their opinions at public hearings that begin Monday.

Developer Rick Caruso, who turned the parking lot at Farmers Market into The Grove, has set his sights on the unsightly asphalt next to the historic park. The planning commission in Arcadia will let residents comment on the plans tomorrow night at a public hearing that is expected to draw hundreds of people.

The adjacent cities of Pasadena and San Marino have weighed in with concerns about traffic, housing and other worries.

"Air pollution from additional traffic, the congestion from traffic, and blocking the view of our mountains and of the historical landmark (racetrack) would change forever the way of life in suburban Arcadia," said Jeff Schenkel, a spokesman for Arcadia First, a group opposing the plan.

As envisioned by Caruso, and his firm, Caruso Affiliated, The Shops at Santa Anita would be built next to the historic horse track, which was a major location for the hit movie "Seabiscuit." A letter from the firm to Arcadia residents promises to "build on the rich heritage of the track and provide upscale shops, unique outdoor restaurants, and lushly landscaped park-like settings and promenades."

The firm has sweetened the pot for Arcadia residents with promises of a community performing arts center and 25,000 square feet of office space for the Arcadia School District headquarters.

But opponents said they worry about a 98,000-square-foot off-track betting parlor that would be built in the mall, using the track's racing license. In addition, Schenkel said the center would snarl traffic at 20 nearby intersections, as the project would be 61 percent larger than The Grove in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles.

The Westfield Group, owner of a large shopping center next to the racetrack, has already said it opposes the project. Caruso spent millions in Glendale battling a different company over a Caruso project called The Americana that eventually was approved by Glendale voters.

San Marino city planners have told Arcadia they worry about mall-related traffic on already-congested Huntington Drive, and Pasadena officials said they are worried about snarls at Colorado Boulevard and Michillinda Avenue during peak hours.

Pasadena officials have also asked Arcadia to include affordable housing in the plan. The housing was part of the mall's original plans, but dropped after Arcadia residents objected.
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Old Posted Mar 24, 2007, 3:53 AM
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Arcadia planning panel approves proposed mall
The action is a setback for the Westfield Santa Anita shopping center, whose owner opposes the project by developer Rick Caruso.
By Tony Barboza, Times Staff Writer
March 23, 2007

Arcadia this week came one step closer to approving an 830,000-square-foot outdoor shopping center near the Santa Anita racetrack, the latest round in a bitter fight between two prominent mall companies.

For more than two years the normally sleepy San Gabriel Valley city has been embroiled in a battle between developer Rick Caruso, who is known for his signature open-air shopping villages such as The Grove, and the existing Westfield Santa Anita Mall, a traditional indoor mall that opposes a new neighbor.

The Arcadia Planning Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to recommend approval of The Shops at Santa Anita, the new mall, to the City Council.

The proposal is expected to be approved by the council next month, city staff said.

But the proposal probably will hit some bumps after that: Opponents plan a ballot referendum against the mall later this year.

They say that not enough demand exists for new commercial space and cite concerns about traffic, pollution and crime.

"It just doesn't make sense to have another mall next to an existing mall in a community of 25,000 homes," said Sung Tse, a member of the executive board of Arcadia First!, a group funded by Westfield that opposes the development.

The 4,000-member nonprofit has inundated residents with full-page ads in local newspapers and has mailed letters, postcards and DVDs to residents several times a week as the City Council moves closer to reaching a decision, Tse said.

Caruso Affiliated has countered with its own newspaper ads.

Rick Caruso said the new development would boost business at the existing mall and racetrack.

He said Westfield's opposition to his development was anti-competitive, based on fear of lower leases.

"Westfield is scared of it because they're living in a past world where all these indoor malls had these little fiefdoms," he said.

Westfield officials could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting was the second of the week on the issue.

After 750 residents showed up to raise impassioned pleas on both sides at a city Planning Commission meeting Monday — prompting supervision by police and the fire marshal, Assistant City Manager Don Penman said — a second meeting was convened Wednesday.

The conflict echoes Caruso's fight to build the Americana at Brand project in Glendale.

That project is under construction next to the Glendale Galleria.
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Old Posted Mar 24, 2007, 3:58 AM
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History, density are uneasy neighbors in Pasadena
Residents say a pair of developments planned near Old Town threaten the district's character. City officials say they favor smart growth.
By Tony Barboza, Times Staff Writer
March 23, 2007

Before Disney Hall and Segerstrom Hall, Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena was renowned as one of the premier concert halls in Southern California.

Now it is at the center of tensions over the development of one of Old Town Pasadena's last relatively open spaces.

The 1,262-seat glass-and-concrete structure, surrounded by an elegant reflecting pool, opened in 1974 and is now owned by Harvest Rock Church, a nondenominational Christian congregation that draws about 1,000 worshipers each Sunday.

The auditorium is the cultural heart of the former Ambassador College campus, a 48-acre parcel that was owned by the Worldwide Church of God until 2004, when it began selling off the land in chunks to Harvest Rock, a school and two developers.

One of those developers, Pasadena-based Dorn Platz, plans to build more than 300 condos and apartments on 20 acres of the property. The bulk of Ambassador West, as the project is called, would be a six-story senior housing complex next to the auditorium. The plan has church officials feeling boxed in. Although they do not oppose the project, they say it will dwarf their worship space, which doubles as a concert venue for the California Philharmonic and other area orchestras.

"Why does it have to be so big?" asked Doug Huse, director of operations for the church. "It's too huge. It's too massive. It overpowers the neighborhood."

The project is one of two major housing complexes slated for the campus, where lush gardens with fountains and manicured lawns are dotted with well-kept period-revival mansions that used to be part of "Millionaires' Row" along Orange Grove Boulevard. Together, they will bring more than 1,000 new dwellings to Pasadena, a city of 141,000 that for decades has been described as built out.

"There are certainly no other 20-acre parcels sitting around," Mayor Bill Bogaard said.

The Pasadena City Council is expected to approve the new project, which has the support of historic preservationists and the West Pasadena Residents' Assn., on April 2.

In September, the City Council approved the development of an "urban village" of 820 residences and 22,000 square feet of commercial space, called Westgate, at the eastern end of the campus. It will be the largest housing development in the city's history and is expected to break ground this fall.

Those projects will complement Old Town's commercial space, placing consumers within walking distance of Colorado Boulevard's shops and restaurants, and giving them less reason to drive, said Mike Winter, a senior vice president of Sares-Regis, the developer of Westgate.

But some are concerned that the housing will further increase the density of the already traffic-congested downtown and change the character of a historic area. Pasadena has in recent years embraced smart growth — building high-density condos and apartments near commercial areas and transit lines. The city's downtown development boom has taken place alongside criticism that its growth model is unrealistic and that the new condos and lofts detract from the city's stately past.

Chris Sutton, a land-use attorney who grew up in the neighborhood and has represented anti-development residents, called the promises of high-density growth "inconsistent" and "hypocritical."

"Wealthier people see their city becoming more congested and overbuilt, and poorer people see the city becoming too expensive to live in," he said.

Sutton also doubts that new residents will abandon their cars in favor of the nearby Gold Line. "The people who can afford that level of payment and rent are going to buy two Mercedes-Benz and drive to downtown L.A.," he said.

"The community has known for years that the property was going to be developed," said Greg Galletly, president of Dorn Platz. "The plan that we've brought forward fit within the community's expectations."

A General Plan allowing higher-density, mixed-use development, adopted in the mid-1990s, was the harbinger of the move toward smart growth in Pasadena, Bogaard said. The intention, he said, was "to reduce dependence on the automobile. The hope is that our downtown will be vital and exciting."

Since then, there has been a surge of mixed-use, high-density development centered around the city's Old Town district along Colorado Boulevard. Among the projects is Del Mar Transit Village, a now-completed housing complex built around a Gold Line station a few blocks east of Ambassador West.

Critics say the city has gone overboard.

Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, a historical preservation group, said she supports the Ambassador West plan because no historic buildings will be demolished but remains concerned about the effect it will have on the city's character.

"The lesson is that we are victims of our own success," she said. "Forty years ago, you couldn't get people to build new housing in Pasadena. Now that the community is recognized as a beautiful, economically vibrant and historic place to live, suddenly its popularity has risen astronomically. The development pressure here is tremendous."

Galletly defended Ambassador West as a modest development. Seniors, who will occupy most of the new condos, drive less and have less of an impact on traffic and noise, he said.

He also said the plan leaves 72% of the open space on the former campus intact and preserves historic mansions built near the turn of the 20th century that sit on the property.

Preservationists and neighborhood groups were satisfied with the latest development plans, which are far less ambitious than previous proposals that called for as many as 2,000 units.

Fred Zepeda, president of the West Pasadena Residents' Assn., said the effect will be minimal. "I don't know how it gets much better than this while still having development."
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Old Posted Mar 28, 2007, 1:43 AM
dragonsky dragonsky is offline
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L.A.'s Olympic bid gets AEG aid
March 27, 2007

The people who brought Staples Center and the Home Depot Center to Southern California, Anschutz Entertainment Group, gave the people who are trying to get the Olympic Games back in Los Angeles in 2016 some extra ammunition Monday.

Rod O'Connor, general manager of the Home Depot Center, announced at a news conference that, were Los Angeles to get the bid for the 2016 Games, his company would expand his facility with a 125-acre project that would include a training facility and hotel/conference center.

The price on that project was put at $50 million to $60 million and the combination training center and hotel was seen as an enhanced attraction to athletes from afar with an on-site place to stay.

The Home Depot Center in Carson is a hotbed of Olympic-sport training, with facilities for soccer, tennis, track and field and velodrome cycling.

The timing of the announcement appeared to be for maximum impact on United States Olympic Committee decision-makers, who will decide April 14 on whether Los Angeles or Chicago is put forth as the U.S. candidate city in the international race for the 2016 Olympic bid.

If the 2016 bid doesn't go to Los Angeles, O'Connor said AEG would "revisit our options."
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