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the skunks of los feliz
Highlights from tonight's "Ask the Mayor" segment on KCAL9:

- A somber Mayor Villaraigosa reiterated L.A.'s support for hurricane victims, pointing to the LAFD's mobilization of elements of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, who will assist in rescue and recovery efforts in New Orleans.

- Host Kerry Kilbride touched on the danger that lies below our own feet: The Big One. Mayor Villaraigosa expressed his confidence in FEMA's ability to assist the city in the event of a seismic disaster. I'm not sure that, in light of the way the agency has handled the situation in the Gulf thus far, that many Angelenos would share that confidence.

- In response to a question regarding the effect of rising gas prices on Metro and other city services, the Mayor once again called on Angelenos to carpool or use mass transit whenever possible. When asked about possible tax hikes or Metro fare increases to offset fuel costs, Villaraigosa responded that those options were certainly on the table if prices continue to rise.

- On the question of whether the LAPD should relax hiring standards in order to fill it's thinning ranks, the Mayor indicated that he supports Chief Bratton, and his proposed changes, fully.

- Mr. Kilbride somewhat crassly asked the Mayor whether he would be open to the Saints playing in L.A. this season, since the NFL team will, barring some miracle, be unable to play in New Orleans this year. Villaraigosa cut him short, and reiterated both L.A.'s desire to land a team of it's own, and the city's unwillingness to build a stadium for said team. When pressed on the point by Mr. Kilbride, the Mayor allowed that he would be open to discussions on a temporary move. Why this question is something we should be talking before the dead in New Orleans are even buried is beyond me, and the Mayor seemed similarly discomfited by the unseemliness of it.
The battle is lost.

The Ambassador Hotel will now suffer the fate of so many L.A. landmarks: demolition in the name of "progress".

The L.A. Conservancy, trying to put a fancy dress on this ugly pig, has brokered a deal under which the LAUSD would enter into a "binding committment" to create an endowment to preserve historic school structures in the District.

No matter how you spin it, however, this is a resounding defeat for preservationists (though you can't say they didn't fight like hell). Superintendent Roy Romer's single-minded fixation on tearing down this historic landmark to build a school never wavered. He brushed aside all compromise plans, and ignored the concerns of elected officials and private citizens alike.

Does L.A. need this school? Undoubtedly, and, it must be said, due in no small part to the LAUSD's Belmont Learning Center fiasco. If they had got it right the first time, The Ambassador might have been saved for future generations.

As it is the hotel will soon go the way of it's neighbor across Wilshire, the Brown Derby (whose Los Feliz cousin is now, unsurprisingly, threatened with new "development"), leaving nothing behind but old photos, fading memories, and the restless spirits of the past.

For a last look inside the Ambassador/Cocoanut Grove complex click here. This site features pics from a tour of the hotel conducted in March of this year.
Mayor Villaraigosa will appear on KCAL tonight at 9 p.m. for another "Ask the Mayor" session.

Topics will probably include his trip north to put the screws to Der Governator, the 405 toll road trial balloon, and rumors (wishful thinking, really) of a Villaraigosa gubernatorial bid, rumors which the Mayor has been quick to refute.

To submit your own queries, click here.
The Bush administration's disastrous policies are beginning to bear terrible fruit:

- An over-reliance on National Guard troops in Iraq, which has led to shortage of personnel able to respond to the devastation wrought by Katrina.

- Budget busting tax-cuts for the wealthy which have led to the evisceration of the Army Corps of Engineeers, the entity responsible for the upkeep of the extensive levee system that has now failed, with terrible results.

- Those tax cuts, unprecedented in a time of war, have led to an ever-growing federal deficit. This debt-load will surely be negatively affected by the huge expenditures that will be necessary to recover from this cataclysm.

- An absolute failure, despite 4 years of purported planning for just such a Homeland Security incident, on the part of the Federal government to respond effectively to this disaster. If this is the kind of faltering performance we can expect from the Feds in the event of a major terrorist attack, it may behoove citizens to start breakin' out the duct tape.

- A wrong-headed energy policy which has done nothing to curb consumption, leaving the country acutely vulnerable to oil supply disruptions, such as the one that is now occurring.

On the other hand Bush had been monitoring the situation between bike rides and jam sessions, and he "rushed" back to Washington as soon of the political consequences of inaction became clear.
Got-damn summer cold...

Mayor V is so popular, he's got New York Mayoral candidates fawning all over him in hopes of catching a ride on his coat-tails.

Wow. That's juice, son.
Interested in the trade deficit?

Sure you are, and Daniel Gross over at Slate has posted a piece to set your heart a-racing, you flip-flop wearing, dude-spewing West Coast Alan Greenspan, you. In his only slightly impenetrable post, he examines the Port of L.A.'s container counts for clues to the direction of our trade imbalance with Asia (hint: it ain't good).
Mayor Villaraigosa took the Gold Line to work yesterday, as part of his continued push to promote the use of public transit.

No mention of whether Hizzoner walked down from the Gold Line platform, crossed the busy Union Station terminal floor, and then took an escalator down to the Red Line platform to transfer to the subway for the short ride to the Civic Center station.

He probably didn't, and judging by the Gold Line's disappointing ridership numbers, a lot of other people have decided against facing that hassle as well. I don't know where the Downtown Circulator trolley plan stands, but that type of service would definitely make it easier to get around Downtown via public transit, simply by eliminating the need to transfer from one rail line to another.
Another tragic night in L.A. has, once again, revealed tensions between Angelenos in high-crime neighborhoods and city officials: a peace vigil for the victim of a fatal shooting in Hyde Park led to a scuffle with police when enraged residents allegedly began throwing bottles at officers.

I won't pretend to understand what it is like to live in a neighborhood where you cannot even walk down the street without worrying about being senselessly gunned down. It must be a profoundly dehumanizing experience. Frustration, anger, and fear must overshadow even the most banal daily activities. Every errand must involve a dispiriting existential calculus: "I need laundry detergent. If I walk to store to buy some Tide, will I make it? Or will I end up bleeding on the sidewalk, a bullet in my brain?"

You need the Tide, or milk for the baby, so you go. Sometimes you don't come back.

Of course, murder victims are not always innocent bystanders. They can be gang members, or crack dealers, or even murderers themselves, possessors of an insurmountable kharmic burden. But they still don't deserve to die in the street, like a dog.

So if you live in a neighborhood like that, you become angry. It's unjust that you can't live your life in peace. You are a victim, of that there is no doubt.

But a victim of who? Many of the people interviewed by the TV press expressed their anger that the paramedics who responded to the shooting ignored what they viewed as signs of life in the victim, Nahun Beiard. They expressed anger that the paramedics covered his head as his neurons randomly fired and his body twitched in it's death throes. They expressed anger at the situation itself, the senseless death that stalks their lives.

But the paramedics did not kill this man. And though some citizens may understandably feel persecuted by the LAPD, this time the police were completely uninvolved.

Perhaps their anger is, in this case, misdirected. The person who pulled the trigger on Nahun Beiard is the villain here. He is the one deserving of anger, and retribution. In this case, and so many others, the investigation is frustrated by a lack of witnesses willing to come forward and cooperate with police. The LAPD should work harder to assuage resident's very reasonable fear of retaliation, and these neighborhoods of victims should turn their anger on the killers who prey upon them.
They're pushing dirt around on the gas station site at Hillhurst and Franklin.

Lessee: do you thing we're about to get a Jiffy Lube or, alternately, an EZ Lube?
Check it out: ABC7 redesigned their website.

Yeah, I know, I know, but gimme a break - it's a slow news day. I couldn't bring myself to go back to the "L.A. Gator" well yet again, and the whole Google Talk thing was really kind of a non-event... I mean, the world didn't suddenly become an appreciably better place, or anything.

Still, the thing is on my desktop as we speak, just waiting for some hapless friend of mine to get Gmail so I can IM them (or for Google to build a cross-platform app).

In the meantime, I'll just keep on using Gaim.
Whaddya know? A useful Gmaps app.

It's a pedometer that's as addictive as it is intuitive. The only downside? I now know that the Vermont-Franklin-Hillhurst route I run when the Marshall High track is closed is much, much shorter than I had reckoned.

Note: Thanks for the heads up, Paul.
This footlose gator story just gets better and better.

After their gator wrassler's ignominious defeat at the hands (claws?) of the wily aquatic beast, city officials have called in the big guns from Gatorland, the Sunshine State's well-known (at least among Central Floridians) road-side gator farm/attraction (NBC4 slide show here).

To say it's been some time since I've thought about Gatorland, much less heard someone speak it's name, is to put it mildly. In fact, I guess I subconsciously assumed it had gone the way of other quaint Florida attractions, lost to history, the victim of, well, it's own unremitting corniness. It certainly harkens back to a Florida (and a nation) that had different standards of excellence for entertainment. People back then would actually drive long distances to see a mermaid show, or take a ride in a glass-bottomed boat in order to peer at the wondrous display of aquatic life inhabiting the bottom of a fresh water spring.

I'm heartened to know that I was wrong, that Gatorland thrives still. And I will say this now before God and Man: if the Gatorland people can't catch this gator, no one can.

Except, possibly, the gator tamer at Cypress Gardens.
Seismic news: scientists have determined that 5 Los Angeles Basin faults are potentially more dangerous than previously thought.

Maybe it's time I buy one of those Emergency Preparedness Kits that Maria Shriver was hawking at Vons.

Hey, Pat Robertson said something dumb!

Hmmm. I wonder if he's ever made similarly stupid remarks on the record....
If you live in the Valley, you may want to stay out of the Orange Line right of way from here on out.

As of yesterday, Metro has begun conducting test runs on the new busway, sending huge Metro Liner busses (pictured above) up and down the converted rail corridor to make sure the behemoths actually work, and that the Line itself functions as designed.

Assuming all goes well in the shake-out phase, the Orange Line is on target for launch in the fall of this year. Whether anyone will actually ride it remains to be seen, but transit geeks everywhere have their fingers crossed.

In other transit news:

- Amongst the winners in the Transportation Bill porkfest were some real, live, worthy transit projects. One of those, the proposed Pasadena-Montclair Gold Line extension, has moved to the forefront of Metro's expansion plans, thanks to an infusion of millions of federal tax dollars.

- Almost ten years later, the fallout continues from the Red Line's troubled construction process. Metro is now set to pay between $40 and $60 million dollars to settle a dispute with their primary insurer over claims generated by the agency's tunneling efforts.

- Surprise! Transit agencies are looking to increase advertising on their trains, busses, and stations. Seems that they're strapped for cash, or something...
  Griffith Park Plan Vetted
Friday's edition of Councilmember Tom LaBonge's newsletter outlines his views on the draft Griffith Park Master Plan, and advocates of a vision of the park that incorporates a protected urban wilderness as it's core are bound to be pleased.

Of course, LaBonge is just one vote, and the draft Plan is still very much a work in progress, but by listening to neighborhood advocates and staking out his positions now, perhaps the Councilmember can keep the discussion focused on preserving, rather than developing, Griffth Park.

The Councilmember's positions:

- Preserve interior of park
- Preserve wildlife habitats
- Expand park boundaries
- Public transit access to park
- Improved park management
- Educational opportunities for youth
- reforest Toyon Canyon and Toyon Vista
- Passive recreation and picnic space at Toyon Canyon
- Preserve Dante's View, Captain's Roost, Amir's Garden
- Revitalization of Bird Sanctuary and Fern Dell
- Maintain Martinez Arena for public equestrian use
- Audubon certification for all five golf courses
- Connect Griffith Park to Los Angeles River and River Bikeway
- Preserve and enhance equestrian trails
- Additional children's play arenas
- Complete modernization of park water system

- Commercialization of Griffith Park
- Off-road mountain biking
- Pleasure Pier over Los Angeles River
- Hotels
- Destination restaurant at Griffith Observatory
- Culinary School
- New roads
- Tram to Toyon Canyon
- Overhead power lines

To express your support for (or opposition to) elements of the draft Master Plan, visit the feedback page here, or email Councilmember LaBonge here.
The wheels of redevelopment grind slowly but, once in motion, inexorably.

Sometimes redevelopment is a good thing, as in the plan to finally do something about the eyesore that is the Vermont Triangle.

This patch o' blight (pictured at left) lying at the confluence of Vermont, Hollywood, and Prospect is overdue for something, anything to be done to alleviate the pure, unadulterated ugliness of the place.

Alledgedly dedicated to the memory of that all-American mensch Will Rogers, the "park" is instead a haven for pigeons, taxi drivers, and one of those obnoxious pieces of "street furniture", courtesy of City Hall's buddies at JC DeCaux.

It's a beautiful thing, this "street furniture", no?


But I digress. Back to redevelopment: CRA/LA and the GGPNC are holding a meeting on Thursday, August 25 to discuss plans to either beautify, nuke, or cover with "street furniture" this small, but vital plot.

Hopefully, they will choose to beautify. Alas, however, redevelopment does not always bode well for the property to be "repurposed". Take, for example, the Louise's/Derby complex on the corner of Hillhurst and Los Feliz. This historic property is the subject of a plan to redevelop it (after bulldozing it, of course) into a high-density mixed used residential/retail complex, a edifice whose perimeter will, I am sure, be peppered with plenty of "street furniture".

In the meantime, concerned citizens can try to fight the power by visiting "Save the Derby" here.
Hot on the heels of it's stellar "Vaginas R Us" coverage, NBC4 offers the following headline to a grateful public:

"Gator Wrestler To Remove Reptile From Lake"

Please, please, please click on the link, if only to see the grainy analog pic of said wrestler in action.

Update: the pic in question, in which the disturbingly gleeful gator rassler takes on an enraged reptile with his bare hands, has been shunted into a slideshow. To view it from a direct link, click here.
I'm starting to think that it's going to take a mid-air or runway collision for critical upgrades to be made to LAX runways and Southern California's overburdened air traffic control system.

The string of near misses grew longer this week, with an air traffic controller error that brought two planes dangerously close together (love how the National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative shrugged the incident off with a dismissive "Hey, everybody makes mistakes!"), all at or near an airport which "enjoyed" a 4-year streak as the near-miss capital of the world.

Now, of course, the incident has become fodder for a dispute between the air traffic controllers and the FAA over staffing levels. Finger pointing, however, will not solve the problem, and I certainly hope air traffic controllers realize that sympathy for them in the event of a fatal accident will be minimal, at best.

Regardless, we can't continue to rely on luck to prevent loss of life. Let's not forget, a runway collision has happened at LAX once before.

For a grim reminder of the stakes involved click here.
Want to give L.A. the Wiki treatment?

LABlogs has set up a Wiki guide to Los Angeles, and it's almost all virgin territory thus far. Hollywood, the Valley, and (ahem) Los Feliz all have some material up, but the Westside, Downtown, South Bay, and East Los Angeles have no entries thus far. Wiki geeks in those nabes, you may want to get in there and make your mark.

At least, that is, until someone edits you...
Fans of the gritty, real-life, noir underbelly of the City of Angels (and we all are, aren't we?) take note:

The Kunsthaus Zurich has mounted an exhibition of LAPD photos, culled from thousands of archival stills, some dating back to 1930's. Browse over to the museum's website for a preview of the exhibition, which features a nice sampling of crime scene photos, publicity stills, and training aids. Und, naturlich, you can purchase the official catalogue and poster, here.

Of course, if you're in Zurich you can see the show firsthand. Just don't forget your fedora and a hip-flask of rye.
Google news alerts dutifully troll the Internets for me, bringing both the germane and the inane to my mailbox.

This piece on parishioners at Our Mother of Good Counsel, for example, may not be news, but it sure contains the phrase "Los Feliz".
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Watts Riots, prompting a raft of stories reflecting on the deadly events of that long, hot summer, as well as the lingering effects on the community of Watts.

All this reflection and remembrance comes, of course, in the wake of a disheartening move by Black Panther Huey P. Newton's heirs to copyright the angry "Burn, baby burn!" mantra of Watts rioters in order to sell hot sauce.

Mayor Villaraigosa took his "Ask the Mayor" roadshow to KCAL9 last night, taking time out from attending the Chivas de Guadalajara/Club America death match to answer traffic-related questions crafted by viewers, and read by Kerry Kilbride and Co.

No real news made, but Hizzoner did tout his victorious trip to Washington, which resulted in a modest uptick in L.A.'s return on it's Federal tax contributions, from 90% to 92%. The upshot of that 2% bump is $130 million for extending the 405 HOV lane (segments of which are now under construction) through the Sepulveda Pass, an influx of cash for various Metro projects, and, unfortunately, $5 million in life support funds for the dreaded Long Beach Freeway extension scheme (which has now morphed into plans for a Pharaonic tunnel beneath South Pasadena).

The Mayor also urged Angelenos to take public transit once a week, restated his belief that expanding light-rail and subway service is essential to tackling traffic, and once again promised to synchronize every traffic signal in the city of Los Angeles (a promise that Mr. Kilbride gleefully reminded the Mayor had bedeviled his predecessor, who had repeatedly proclaimed his intention to synchronize the lights).

Despite his relatively forthright answers to viewer's questions (not sure if he ever really addressed accusations that Metro bus service is quietly being cut), Villaraigosa flashed a Sphinx-like smile and deftly dodged the toughest query of the night: just who, exactly, was he pulling for - Chivas or Club America?
Buried at the bottom of this otherwise jejune Daily News piece (seems traffic, not taxes, is the biggest impediment to doing business is the Valley, but don't tell the Howard Jarvis people), is this little nugget:

Councilmember Wendy Gruel, clearly recognizing the lamentable dearth of billboards in L.A., has introduced legislation that would allow advertising on DOT and Department of Sanitation vehicles.

Think of the synergy! Glad bags ads on garbage trucks. Quaker State ads on DOT trucks. Glade air freshener ads on the overalls of sanitation workers.

But why stop there? How about Blue Shield ads on ambulances? Viagra ads on LAPD cruisers? We can even sell space on public sidewalks to advertisers! Oh, wait, we already did that.
Good news for the endangered Ennis House:

FEMA has okayed the release of $2.1 million in earthquake relief money for critical repairs to the historic Frank Lloyd Wright structure. According to a presser from Councilmember LaBonge's office, stabilization efforts will begin within the next 60 days.

However, this cash infusion is barely enough to keep the home from further damage, much less a sufficient sum to pay for a full renovation of the property. As this NY Times piece points out, that would cost between $12 and $15 million dollars.

To address this shortfall, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the LA Conservancy and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy have joined together to raise funds to (according the their new website) "restore the house and operate it as a museum to be enjoyed by the public".

Hopefully, they will be able to meet their fund-raising goals, and finally make safe this priceless piece of L.A. architecture.

To learn more about the Ennis House, or to make a donation to the restoration efforts, click here.
KNBC has posted this priceless report on a strip club sign that reads "Vaginas R' Us".

Geoffrey the Giraffe is sure to sue.
Behold, the combination of API's and plenty of unstructured free time: gaze now upon the urinals of Los Angeles, courtesy of Google maps and Urinal Dot Net.

The sad state of preservation efforts in L.A., from Councilmember Tom LaBonge's weekly newsletter:

"Historic-Cultural Monument No. 163, better known as the 'Disney Animation School Site' in Silver Lake, was expanded this week by the Los Angeles City Council to include some additional parcels of land on Hyperion Avenue, Griffith Park Boulevard and Angus Street.

This property was the site of the animation school for the Walt Disney Studios from 1935 until the studio was moved to its present location in Burbank in 1940. The school was where founder Walt Disney trained cartoonists in the art of film animation."

Excellent. An much-needed expansion of a historic designation, which will help to preserve an important cultural landmark, right? Not quite.

The newsletter continues:

"None of the original Disney buildings remain. Today, the various parcels include several commercial buildings along Griffith Park Boulevard and a number of dwelling units accessible from Angus Street."

In other words, the Gelson's parking lot is all there is to be seen at Historical-Cultural Landmark No. 163.

Pic from Silverlake.org's excellent historic photo gallery. For a pic of Walt and staff at the studios click here. Google maps satellite view of the site here.
Today's N.Y. Times has a great piece on the battle for clean air in Los Angeles. It's worth checking out this accompanying graphic just to see if the location of your neighborhood puts you at an elevated risk of developing pollution-related cancers (if you live in Los Feliz, it does).
The Griffith Observatory site has updated with new pics of the renovation project.

This batch includes first looks at the fully enclosed interior of the Gunther Depths of Space exhibit hall, as well as the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater.
Public Service Announcement update: Koreatown Rapist busted.

How do you win a Mayoral election in the City of Angels?

The same way you win any election: by convincing the electorate that you are the best candidate for the job, and that, coincidentally, your opponent is a weak-kneed sob-sister who enjoys long walks on the beach with Islamo-fascist extremists.

Of course, outspending the other guy by a 2-1 margin doesn't hurt, either.

Not that the money changed the outcome of this election (Mayor McBland was toast from the get go).

Instead, the rush to throw heaps o' cheese at the Villaraigosa campaign reflects the time-honored desire of monied interests to come out on the winning side. What contractor wants to approach the city, hat in hand, to beg for a sip from the public trough from a pol who was on the receiving end of negative ads financed by that contractor?

This kind of piling on is not illegal, or even unethical. Hell, end of campaign bandwagon-jumping is as American as PAC's and 501(c)(4)'s.

On the other hand, if we had stiff campaign spending limits we... well, we wouldn't be able to apportion access to public officials! We'd have to shift our whole election paradigm! That can't happen!

Change, bad!

Inertia, good!
More family fun in the lawless confines of the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

Is a little police presence to much to ask for? Or are the Dodgers too cheap to spring for security beyond the straw-hatted, beach ball-poppin' ushers?


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