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the skunks of los feliz
Maybe in heaven Andy'll finally let you load your gun.

Sleep well...
Live in the Griffith Park Boulevard corridor? Police choppers keep you up last night?

Here's why: Martini Republic reports on a late night rumble at Marshall High that led to a substantial (and loud) police response.
The L.A. Times is reporting on the effort to save Cahuenga Peak from developers who want to shoehorn 5 luxury homes onto a small lot adjacent to the Hollywood sign.

City officials, led by CD4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge, are scrambling to find the funds necessary to purchase the lot from the Chicago-based real estate trust which currently holds the property.

If all goes well, the peak would be annexed to Griffith Park. Unfortunately, there's a snag - the Chicago gang is asking for $1.8 million dollars over the most recent appraisal of the property's value.

Update: Today's CD4 newsletter addresses the Cahuenga Peak situation, and includes details from Councilmember Tom LaBonge on how private citizens can donate to the Trust for Public Land's Cahuenga Peak fund. You can read it here, in the Skunks Document Dump.

In keeping with my promise not to clutter the site with video posts, I'm merely going to link to this aerial footage of the Hollywoodland sign. See it as it was in 1930, high atop a Mount Lee that had not yet been crowned with the bewildering array of antennae and cell towers that are now the highest points in Los Angeles. Notice also the unspoiled San Fernando Valley in the background.
A few transit notes to get you through the weekend:

The grumblings of a few recalcitrant foot-draggers notwithstanding, support continues to grow for the proposed "Subway to the Sea" Red Line extension. The MTA board is warming to the idea, despite the projected price tag of $4.8 billion - they're eyeing the low-hanging fruit of the state's proposed issuance of $12 billion in transportation bonds, as well as looking for some serious federal lobbying assistance in the person of Rep. Henry Waxman, who is now officially onboard. Still a long, long way to go, though.

In other transit news:

- Metro has begun a monthly series of special offers and discounts for transit patrons, which you can view here. It's your basic "bring your Metro stub to the box office and receive a discount"-type promotion, but if you love arena football (and who doesn't?), you can save $4 off your next trip to Staples to see the Avengers in action. Sweet, huh?

- Despite the lackluster performance of the first leg of the Gold Line, San Gabriel Valley transit boosters are forging ahead with plans for a Foothill Extension of the troubled line. Those with an interest in the project can track the progress of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority step by excruciatingly detailed step, here. Meeting times and locations, agendas, reports and other minutiae - they're all there, available for the most dedicated transit geek's perusal.

Okay. I promise I'm not gonna start posting tons of videos (see below), but this one is a must for L.A. history geeks. It's composed entirely of panoramic photographs of Los Angeles taken right around the turn of the 20th century. Check it out.

Behold, this apocalyptic vision of L.A. circa 1994, brought to you by the Animaniacs.
Though the newly implemented express service on the Metro Gold Line has not increased ridership on the benighted line, the angry reaction from the few commuters who do patronize the Pasadena-Downtown link has served to solidify conventional wisdom around one increasingly unavoidable fact: We've got a $900 million white elephant on our hands.

There are many reasons one could cite as contributing to the line's anemic daily ridership numbers (16,000 and falling), but one thing above all stands out to me. Simply put, it takes longer to get downtown on the train than it does to drive to work on the 110. People who have a choice will never abandon their cars in favor of mass transit, unless it saves them time. The Gold Line does not save them time.
Some time ago I engaged in feckless speculation about where the proposed Los Feliz Parking Structure might be placed. Little did I know the answer was there all along, hidden in the pages of the CRA/LA website.

The structure, as planned, would be built next to the Post Office at 1825 N. Vermont, and will include street level retail as well as parking. The details provided on the site do not include the number of spaces planned, nor any concrete construction schedule.

The good news is, of course, that it sounds as if the only thing lost to this project would be the surface parking lot adjacent to the Post Office: no buildings would be razed.

The bad news? If you think traffic is bad on Vermont now...

Also, I'm still not convinced that Los Feliz "needs" this structure. Listen to the CRA/LA's reasoning: "Redevelopment Goal - Maintain and promote private sector investment in the project area to restore commercial activity and prevent its loss."

"Restore commercial activity?" Wasn't aware there was a problem with that. I thought all the activity down there was a indicator of a healthy business environment. "Prevent its loss?" What loss? Is Fred 62 or Palermo or the Los Feliz 3 going under? Hardly.

This is more about providing spaces so that bigger retailers can move on in. I'm also suspicious of the "street level retail". How many square feet are we talking, here? After all, the lot has an awfully big footprint (big enough for a Gap, for example, or a Borders).

Bottom line: Do you like the Broadway corridor in Chelsea? Then you're gonna love Los Feliz in 5 years or so.
The GGPNC fires up it's monthly board meeting tonight, in the LAPD Los Feliz Community Center on Hillhurst (otherwise known as the Citibank building). Be there at 7:00 and you can enjoy the delightful smorgasbord of agenda items they have on offer for tonight, not to mention the delicious cop coffee that's always on percolating standby.

Highlights include a discussion of the L.A. River master plan, an update on the Derby situation, and a consideration of plans for a new restaurant in the old Cap'n Cork building. As a bonus, they'll also kick around everyone's favorite thought experiment: What's to be done about traffic on Franklin?!?*

If you can't make tonight's meeting, there are some interesting non-GGPNC events in the offing tomorrow night:

- The City is in the midst of a complete overhaul of the Hollywood Community Plan, and as part of the process they are holding community workshops to introduce proposed zoning changes and plan amendments. Tomorrow's workshop will be held at the Hollywood Presbyterian Church from 5-8 P.M., and will provide citizenry the opportunity to mix and mingle with city planning wonks. You might want to sidle up to one of 'em and ask: "What's to be done about traffic on Franklin?!?"

- Our friends in Silverlake are mulling their options in the face of plans to build a 64-unit residential structure on Rowena between Hyperion and Glendale. Rowena Community Vision has launched a blog advocating "safe, sensible development of the Rowena Corridor", and are holding a meeting tomorrow night (7 P.M. at Ivanhoe Middle School) to discuss the plan and possible actions to be taken against it.

*My answer? Forbid street parking between Normandie and Hillhurst during rush hour in order to open up an additional lane of traffic in each direction. It would work perfectly, at least in Thought Experiment Land, where there are no angry neighbors decrying the loss of their parking spaces...
Just a shameless plug that I'm trying to sneak in on a rainy Saturday when no one's looking:

The Official Skunks Document Dump is up and running over at gBase. Please feel free to browse on over and check out CD4 newsletters, Save the Derby alerts, and other Los Feliz-oriented documents that find their way into my mailbox.

Feedback is welcome, both positive and negative. Is it a useful service? Or am I so blinded by my technophilia that I'm unable to see that the damn thing is just another way for Google to get their mitts on every free-floating piece of data under the sun?
Good news on the Derby front: the GGPNC site and newsletter are reporting that the overwhelming community response to the news of the Cultural Heritage Commission's initial reluctance to consider the Derby for Historic Cultural Monument status has led to a change of heart amongst the Commission's members.

Following impassioned pleas from Councilmember Tom LaBonge, Save the Derby's own Rebecca Goodman, Marcello Vavala and Jay Platt of the L.A. Conservancy, and GGPNC Board Member Bruce Carroll, amongst others, the Commission relented and passed by a 4-0 vote a motion to consider the case for the Derby.

It's just another step on a long, long road, but it does bring the Derby measurably closer to gaining at least temporary protection from Adler Realty's bulldozers.

To learn how to contact Councilmember Tom LaBonge on behalf of the Derby click here. For more on the Historic Cultural Monument nomination process click here.
Bazooka Joe parlez Francais!!

The Department of Homeland Security has just admitted that there is "no specific federal strategy for responding to a catastrophic earthquake in California". This in spite of the fact that we've known for, oh, about 100 years, that California faults can produce some very nasty shakers.

Of course, we knew that New Orleans was vulnerable to hurricanes, as well, and we all saw how that turned out.

Anyway, my hat is off to Michael Chertoff and everyone else at DHS, where the flag of incompetence still proudly flies.
Google Reader is kinda nice, no? Especially for wrangling flickr feeds...
A new MTA report has put a price tag on the proposed "Subway to the Sea" Red Line extension, and a pittance it ain't: we're talking $4.8 billion, here.


That's a pile of money, of that there is no doubt. We may not be able to finish an extension all at once. However, a phased plan can be used to spread the financial burden over a number of years, and a unified lobbying effort by L.A., Santa Monica, and Bevely Hills should be able to effectively shake the Federal money tree in order to reduce the local burden.

Still, no one said that engineering ourselves out of the traffic mess we've created was going to come cheap. We've got to look at this project for what it is: an essential step towards modernizing the L.A. transit system, not just for us, but for the millions of Angelenos that will follow us in the decades (centuries!) to come.

Like London, like New York, like Chicago did in the 19th century, we've reached the point in our city's development where we must think long-term, and make the investments necessary to ensure L.A.'s mobility and future economic health.

That doesn't mean we should just rubber-stamp this thing. A public works project of this magnitude will require broad consensus, and that can only be built by transparent, inclusive debate.

Let the debate begin.
This just in from Rebecca Goodman of the Save the Derby coalition:

The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission's Staff Report has recommended against considering the Derby for City Landmark status!

Now, I won't even go into the fact that this is a city which has OK'd the designation of a parking lot as a Historic-Cultural Landmark. Or that, even more inexplicably, some city apparatchiks apparently feel that the Derby does not approach the cultural significance of that patch of pot-holed asphalt.

In stark contrast to the city's indefensible position, Ms. Goodman feels the Derby is worth preserving, and she is inviting those who share her opinion to join her at tomorrow's Cultural Heritage Commission meeting.

If you'd like to give the commission a (polite, I'm sure) earful on behalf of the Derby, here are the meeting details:

Cultural Heritage Commission Meeting
February 16th, 10:00 a.m.
Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1010 (10th floor)
200 N. Spring Street - use Main Street entrance and bring ID to pass through security
For map click here

To read the text of the Save the Derby alert click here. To visit the L.A. City Planning Department on the web click here.
BeyondChron, a SF (San Francisco, not sci-fi) paper, has posted a piece that may send a shiver down the spines of apartment-dwelling Angelenos. Seems that real estate speculators in the Bay Area have pioneered a method to evict renters from small (generally 4 unit) apartment buildings, so that they may go condo. Basically, the landlord declares his intention to leave the business, tenants are evicted, and the building is converted to a Tenancy in Common.

These so-called Ellis Act evictions (click here for an explanation of the law) have swept and saturated the Bay's rental market, and now the muscle behind this movement have turned their avaricious gaze towards LA.

Whether the method will catch on here remains to be seen. As the piece points out, there are many differences in the SF and LA housing markets. Still, renters should probably keep one eye cocked northward, scanning the horizon for the coming of the Northern hordes.
I made a pledge, a solemn oath, even, to never again post on the L.A. Zoo's elephant controversy. I swore (swore!) to Will Campbell that my pachydermic perorations were done for good. I put all thoughts of the titanic trio aside, to go blissfully about my life.

But then, striding out of the mists like a barbarian king of old, his mighty axe in hand and a murderous gleam in his eye, came Bob Barker, ready to go to war for the elephants of Los Angeles.

How could I, in good conscience, ignore this act of bravery? How could I turn away whilst this brave game show host strode heedlessly into the midst of the L.A. City Council and let lose a mighty "No! This shall not stand!" on behalf of Ruby, Gita, and the other, lesser-known elephant?

I couldn't. I can't. I won't.

And so, the link.
Bush proclaims "I saved Los Angeles!"

Mayor V. sez "Huh?"

Okay. A few things about this flyer.

Number one thing: don't touch my car.

Number two: don't touch my car in order to slide something like this under my windshield wiper.

Number three: run spell check. It really irriates me when people overlook misspellings.

Number four: "Rectum Pad!"??

Number five: this is a joke, right?
The pointy-headed geeks at the LAPD's top-secret R&D lab (motto: "To Research and Nerd") have emerged from their super-secure underground redoubt to unveil the latest weapon in the war on crime in the City of Angels: the GPS dart.

Well, not so much a "dart" as a "gumball", but "gumball" doesn't necessarily bespeak the kind of hard-charging, macho style of policing that the LAPD is famous for. "Dart", on the other hand, is both monosyllabic and phallic, which is much more in keeping with big-city, two-fisted crime fighting.

Which is all well and good, you might say, but how does the damn thing work?

Technical specifications of the "dart" are shrouded in mystery, but my sources in the Linux coding/crime fighting community have provided the following overview:

The GPS dart is an adhesive coated spheroid which contains a miniscule GPS transmitter. In the event of a high speed police pursuit, specially equipped LAPD officers will fire (via a compressed-air projectile launcher) a dart at the fleeing vehicle. Once the dart is securely attached to the vehicle's chassis, it will begin to transmit the wrong-doer's location to the LAPD command center deep in the bowels of the Parker Center. From there, police officials will monitor the would-be getaway car until it runs out of gas, or crosses safely into another jurisdiction.

Fascinating, no? Yes! But will it end the Southland's plague of high-speed chases? And if it does, what will KCAL9 air in primetime?
New travel/short film website TurnHere has posted a short film on Los Feliz, hosted by Jahmin Assa of PUTA magazine. In between jump cuts and swish pans, Mr. Assa takes the viewer on a walking tour of the nabe, which he proclaims to be "THE hot spot in Los Angeles". Featured locales include Yuca's, Skylight Books, a quick glimpse of Ye Rustic's parking lot, the Vista: hell, most of Los Feliz is in this thing.

The film's not bad, and Mr. Assa certainly knows his subject. But after looking at the site ("Short films. Cool places."), I'm left wondering what it's business model (if any) is. Anyway, check it out before it joins Webvan in the The Museum of eFailure.
Skeptics (like myself) of the Orange Line's ability to pull the non-transit dependent out of their cars and onto busses might want to clear room at the table for a steaming helping of crow: surveys indicate that 17% of the new line's riders had never utilized Metro until now.

Of course, we've seen new transit lines start strong and then fade once the novelty wears off (Gold Line, anyone? Anyone?), but the survey also indicates that 85% of Orange Line riders say their commute takes less time than before.

That bodes well for future ridership, as long as the 15% whose ride is not shorter does not significantly overlap with the 17% of riders newly divorced from their cars. If it does, it won't be long before those folks return to their cars, expensive gas and atrocious traffic notwithstanding.

It might also be worth noting (as the Daily News piece does) that the cohort of new Orange Line riders represents a very modest reduction in traffic on the overloaded 101: 1000 to 1500 of the 300,000 cars that traverse the Valley floor each day. According to my abacus, that's a mere .5% fewer cars on the road. Still, it's a start.
Today's transit notes:

- Responding to complaints that taking the train takes longer than braving traffic on the 110, Metro has announced plans to implement a modified express service on the Gold Line. During weekday peak-hour periods, trains will be limited to stops at 5 of the line's 13 stations. Metro claims the move will shave 5 minutes off of Pasadena-Downtown commutes.

- Looking for the perfect gift for the transit geek in your life? Metro's online store is now offering a wide of variety of transit-related gewgaws and gimcracks that would bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded Transit Coalition activist. My favorite? The commuter mug which, while stylish and ergonomic, is verboten on Metro busses and trains. It's great for the car, though!

- The schedule for February's Community-Based Transit Service Sector Governance Council meetings has been announced. On the agenda: receiving community input on bus service improvements. Also: coming up with a catchier acronym than CBTSSGC.

- Just wondering... has the traffic officer at busy intersections program gone away? Haven't seen any instances of this in quite some time.
Like a crack dealer who sidles up to you and whispers sweetly in your ear that he wants to help you kick your cocaine habit, President Bush strained credulity last night when he declaimed America's addiction to oil, and announced a plan to help us petroleum junkies go cold turkey.

Some pundits are praising him for having the guts to buck his big oil friends in order to point out the light sweet crude-covered elephant in the room, but this act of political "courage" is actually a dodge for what amounts to more of the same tired energy policy the Bushies have pursued since day one: drilling in Alaska, huge subsidies to the coal and ethanol industries, pie in the sky talk about hydrogen-powered cars, and a glaring lack of any substantive move towards energy conservation, either through reducing consumption or improving efficiency (read it for yourself here).

Most telling of all, this morning has brought a notable absence of angry protests from big oil over Bush's energy policy. One would expect that, in the face of a policy shift that would truly move America away from a dependence on petroleum, the oil companies would squeal like swine who have been snatched away from the trough. Instead, the plan is greeted by deafening silence from the boardrooms of Houston, as the energy conglomerates lay low while Bush shifts public attention away from their record profits and corporate scandals.

After all, these self-same companies helped craft Bush's policy in the first place, and certainly see his headline-making "addiction" comment for the poll-driven kabuki dance that it is.


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