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the skunks of los feliz
Reggie the Alligator update: Gator dumpers nabbed! Beast still eludes capture! Rita Crosby said to be rushing to Machado Lake to cover this breaking story!
If you haven't got your New Year's Eve plans nailed down yet (and you know who you are), you might want to consider joining Councilmember Tom LaBonge and a passel of your friends and neighbors on the annual end-of-year, sunset-viewing hike to the summit of Mt. Hollywood.

There, with the city grid laid out before you in all it's halogen-illuminated glory, you can bypass the dreary booziness of a traditional champagne-soaked New Year's in favor of a potluck dinner amongst the sage brush and horse puckey - just like the cowboys of yore (the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" kind of cowboys as opposed to the "Brokeback Mountain" kind; not there's anything wrong with that!).

If you're interested, the group will gather at the Griffith Observatory parking lot at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. If you can't make it up the mountain under your power, fear not: transportation will be provided. Also, if water makes you melt, you might want to skip this year - looks like a storm's a brewing.
Now that we are well and truly shut of Christmas, the streets and alleys of Los Angeles will soon begin to sprout strange flora that is peculiar to this time of year: the dessicated remains of Tanne Baume.

Their Yule duty discharged, these once proud totems of Christendom will find themselves stripped of their festive gewgaws, deprived of the small dish of foul water which has nourished them through the long days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and tossed into the gutter, there to sadly shed brittle, browning needles, slowly becoming nothing more than a shelter for vermin (and a potential fire hazard, to boot).

These tannenbaum tumbleweeds will fester on the sidewalk for months (literally: I've seen the things linger until late February, apparently ignored by city sanitation crews), noisily tossing in the wind, or sculling along on the current of a winter storm's runoff.

It's an ignominious end, to be sure.

The City of Los Angeles apparently agrees. The DWP has inserted Christmas Tree disposal instructions into their bills, in what I suspect is a vain attempt to reduce the amount of Noel detritus on city streets (dumping your Christmas Tree in the street is as much a holiday tradition in L.A. as firing automatic weapons into the air on New Year's).

And yet, they have made the effort, concocting a simple 3-step X-mas tree disposal plan for Angelenos to follow:

1) Remove ornaments.
2) Cut in pieces.
3) Place in green bin.

Simplicity itself, assuming you possess a saw, and a green bin. But fear not, apartment dwellers (and those too lazy to delimb your used tree) - you can load your expired evergreen into your Volvo station wagon and deliver it to one of 16 dump sites strategically located around the city.

The dump site serving the Los Feliz area is situated in Griffith Park, natch, near the Zoo. For other neighborhood locations, call 311 or 1-800-773-2489 for more information.

Or just throw the damn thing out on the street. Everybody else will.

Update: according to this Daily News article, the city is incentivizing participation in the tree recycling program by providing "a coupon for a free bag of mulch, an energy-efficient light bulb and a tree seedling for planting" to citizens who bring in their old Christmas trees.

Mulch, light bulbs, and seedlings? To quote Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove:
Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."
From the Skunks East Coast Bureau, deep in the heart of the ATL:

Happy Holidays, everyone!

(And Happy Birthday to me...)
The MTA has given final approval to the proposed Exposition Light Rail Line, clearing the way for construction on the Downtown-Culver City line to begin next year (read the press release here).

I wish I could get excited about the prospect of finally getting a east-west rail line built, but as I've said before, I don't think this thing is going to do a bit of good in terms of relieving gridlock in Los Angeles.

If anything, building an at-grade rail line through one of the most congested areas of the city may result in impeded traffic flow.

The better option for an east-west line is to extend the Red Line subway along Wilshire to Santa Monica, thereby blah-blah-blah, you've heard me harp on this a thousand times before...

Look, I understand that in many ways the MTA's hands are tied. Dealing with budget concerns, operating under an onerous consent decree, attempting to expand service while legally barred from subway construction, and tackling the thorny problem of keeping a sprawling megalopolis from descending into total gridlock: these are not insignificant issues.

But throwing money into ill-conceived transit projects in order to be able to be seen to be doing something, anything about L.A.'s horrendous traffic is not the way to go. The underperformance of poorly planned routes will eventually begin to sap public support for large mass transit expenditures. As taxpayers see project after project not deliver on the MTA's hyperbolic promises of traffic relief and fast, convenient mass transit they may well begin to ask themselves "Why bother?".

The road to a workable mass transit system is peppered with roadblocks: NIMBYism, anti-tax sentiment, and distrust of local government, amongst many others. And yet, Angelenos are so sick of traffic that for the moment these voices have been pushed to the side, as commuters clamor for relief from clogged streets and freeways. If the MTA produces another white elephant, however, that momentum could be lost. A historic opportunity would disappear, and L.A. could devolve into a hellish traffic nightmare in the vein of Bangkok or Mexico City.

L.A. is at a turning point in the city's evolution. We can launch a forward thinking subway construction project, as New York did in the early years of the last century, or we can continue to try to solve our traffic woes with a succession of $300 million dollar patchwork projects whose benefits are negligible, at best.
The Save the Derby coalition's newly redesigned website is up, though I'm not sure if it's been officially launched or if it's just in preview.

Some news contained therein:

As they prepare for the protracted battle ahead, the Coalition has scheduled a Save the Derby Planning Meeting for December 28, in Echo Park. On the agenda is sure to be the discussion of the much-rumored Derby benefit bash. If that's not enough to draw you out of your holiday-induced cocoon, I also hear tell that there will be home-made latkes on hand.

For more info, contact the Save the Derby Coalition here.
What surprises me most about the fact that the Bushies have been spying on Americans, is that anyone is surprised at all.

Apparently, the lessons of Watergate, which occurred barely a generation ago, were not learned, or were simply forgotten.

Simply put, unchecked executive power leads to abuses. Every time. Whether the approaching menace providing cover for the power grab is the Soviet Union, a militant anti-war movement, or global Jihadism, the result is the same:

An unfettered Presidency leads to the loss of our civil liberties.

Maybe, just maybe, with the Senate now rejecting renewal of key provisions of the Patriot Act, the Congress will begin to fulfill its constitutionally mandated duty of providing a check against executive power. As much as Dick Cheney would love to have an "Imperial Presidency", we are not Rome.

Here, absent the merest hint of editorial comment, is a link to the latest news on the L.A. Zoo elephant controversy. Seems the city report on the living conditions of said pachyderms is out, and the commission has found that the voluminous beasts need approximately 6 times as much living space as they are currently confined to.

See - no editorializing. No opinionating. No gum-flapping, whatsoever.

Ah, what the hell:

Free the elephants! Free the elephants!
The Skunks are off to New Mexico for the Santa Fe Film Festival.

They will return on Tuesday, December 13.
I found the Los Feliz BID's presser on their Holiday Festival (Saturday, December 10 from 6-10 p.m.) crammed into my mailbox last night (see it here), and, upon reading it, realized I need to retract my snarky prediction that the "Holiday Trolley" that will ferry weary revelers up and down Hillhurst during the festival would be a DASH bus - far from it!

It will be an antique trolley, provenance unknown, yet presumably possessed with rubber tires (as there have been no trolley tracks in the Los Feliz area since the Red Car folded in the middle of the last century). Not unlike, perhaps, this DASH bus painted to resemble a trolley...

Regardless, the presser rounds out the sketchy details that I laid out in my previous post:

- Hillhurst will be closed between Los Feliz and Franklin. Traffic will be hellish. If you're coming from elsewhere in the city, the Red Line's Sunset/Vermont station is a short walk from the Festival site, and might be a better bet.

- The Holiday tree lighting ceremony will take place at 6:45, in front of the Los Feliz Library. Carolers will be present, doubtless singing such non-denominational holiday favorites as "The Conspicuous Consumption Song" and "Target is my God".

- That same, sad collection of small animals as appears at the Los Feliz Street Fair will be on hand for the edification and tactile enjoyment of the children of Los Angeles. No word on whether this holiday version of the petting zoo will feature seasonal animals such as reindeers and drunken Santas.

- The LAFD's "Spark of Love" toy drive fire truck will be on hand, accepting toys for less fortunate children. Please help make this holiday a special time for these deserving youngsters. Remember that time you didn't get the G.I. Joe Mobile Battle Bunker for Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa and you were so bummed you kicked your sister's Barbie Dream House over, just out of spite? Well, think how bad it would suck to get nothing.
Tonight's meeting of the GGPNC Transportation Committee (7:00 at the Los Feliz Community Police Center) will tackle a couple of thorny parking and traffic issues, including congestion mitigation on congenitally clogged Los Feliz Boulevard (congestion being yet another excellent reason to oppose the Adler Realty Mega Project/Traffic Generator on the Derby site), and a proposed parking structure in Los Feliz Village, a notion with which I've a bone to pick.

"Why", you might ask,"would you oppose the addition of badly need parking spaces in and around Los Feliz Village?"

Because (and I may just be a paranoid anti-development moonbat), this parking structure would do nothing but create more trips by car into Los Feliz, generate more traffic, and gradually change the character of the Village by turning Vermont into a mini-Grove. The parking situation as-is must be sufficient to support the level of business we currently have on Vermont and Hillhurst: the thriving storefronts of the Village attest to that.

The only reason to create more parking is to squeeze in more people. And with people come Gaps, Barnes and Noble bookstores, and chain restaurants, the very things that folks who live in Los Feliz are fleeing in the first place.

And what to make of the term "structure"? That implies a multi-story concrete bunker, a grey, featureless eyesore plopped down in the middle of our pedestrian oriented neighborhood. Where will it go? What buildings will be lost to make room for it? Who will pay for it? And why not instead leverage our proximity to the Red Line, encouraging visitors to take the train by providing a free shuttle from the Sunset/Vermont station to the Village? Aren't we supposed to be in the midst of a paradigm shift in L.A., away from the car and towards mass transit? Or is that all just a bunch of baloney that does little more than provide city officials an excuse to give developers who build near transit stations huge tax breaks?

Just asking!

This parking structure scheme seems to me to be another indication of the intention of real estate and business interests to intensify land-use in Los Feliz. The first rumblings of this came in the form of the Adler plan to raze the Derby and replace it with a huge mixed-use development. As the Adler folks said themselves "There are a lot of people who would like the opportunity to live in Los Feliz, and we want to provide that for them."

I'm not against newcomers moving to Los Feliz. I'm not necessarily opposed to allowing some medium density projects within Los Feliz. I am against turning real estate developers loose on our neighborhood to build at will, until we are indistinguishable from Westwood or Century City.
The L.A. Zoo elephant controversy continued to build this weekend, as a pro-Zoo throng led by octogenarian actress Betty White converged on the zoo to protest calls to close the municipal menagerie's troubled elephant exhibit.

Bowing to pressure from animal-rights activists who say the health of the elephants is endangered (a charge that Zoo officials and their allies hotly dispute), Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has commissioned a study to determine whether the living conditions for the Zoo's pachyderms are acceptably humane.

The three elephants, who share cramped accommodations desperately in need of renovation (not unlike many Angelenos), could conceivably be moved fom the Zoo to an animal sanctuary if the commission finds that the exhibit should be closed, something that White, et al, believe would not be in the best interest of the animals.

City officials will issue their report "soon", and you can be sure that whatever the findings, the elephant dung will continue to hit the fan.
Before you sink your teeth into that rockfish you caught off the Santa Monica Pier, you might want to read this report about the ill effects DDT and other pollutants in the Bay are having on the local fish population.

Seems the chemical soup that upstanding corporate citizens like the Montrose Chemical Corp. and Chris-Craft Industries, Inc. dumped into the ocean over preceding decades has led to male fish developing female reproductive tissue.

Of course, sexual "flexibility" is nothing new in L.A., but there's something creepy about the weird science, better-living-through-chemicals-gone-horribly-awry aspect of this story.
Update on the Orange Line safety controversy:

United Riders of Los Angeles, an organization of public transit users, is calling for a 72-hour cessation of Orange Line operations in order for a safety audit of the line to be performed.

This comes in the wake of the fourth crash on the line since it began routine operations just over a month ago - a miserable safety record by any standard.

Vidcap from KNBC.
Hey, the L.A. Times linked to me (and a zillion other L.A. blogs)!

Does this mean I have to stop hanging up on their subscription sales telemarketers?
The Los Feliz Village BID website has received a Flash-intensive makeover, including an intro page that's all scrolling logos and bad electronica. However, once you get past that and into the site there is some actual usable information: most notable is word that the BID has heard that the Griffith Observatory Grand Re-Opening, currently set for May 14 of next year, may be postponed.

Also available is a clunky online version of the BID newsletter (looks like somebody scanned a hard copy of the thing, then posted each page as a separate PDF file - it's extremely lo-fi), in which it is announced that "Los Feliz Village has 30 new cement trash containers that have been distributed throughout the Village", an achievement in which I think we can all take pride.

And finally, the LFVBID will be throwing the first Los Feliz Village Holiday Festival on December 10 from 6 to 9 p.m., on Hillhurst Avenue. The festivities will include "Santa, professional carolers strolling up and down, and a 'trolley' to provide free rides to guests who wish to visit local businesses".

Hmmm. Santa? Carolers? Sounds like they should just ditch the "Holiday Festival" euphemisms and call a spade a spade: Christmas.

And why is the word trolley bracketed by quotes? That never bodes well for anything. I'm picturing a DASH bus gussied up in "holiday" lights and driven by a grumpy municipal "elf".
Did I say the Orange Line seemed to have overcome it's safety issues?

I was wrong!


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