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the skunks of los feliz
Sorry about the irregular posting schedule this week. I'm prepping a short I'll be shooting this weekend, and it's eating up all my time (not to mention my money).

Here's hoping no big news breaks while I'm doing my part to combat runaway production. See you all on Tuesday.
Big news - the GGPNC will be tackling the draft Hollywood Community Plan in a March 29th meeting, in which they will give a general overview of the proposed zoning changes for the Los Feliz area (you can get a preview of the changes here, on this excellent page put together by the Council). This process should be interesting (read: contentious), as the plan contains some proposals that may prove controversial.

Among them:

- A planned Rapid Bus Line that would run through Los Feliz village via busy Vermont Avenue.
- Increase in height allowances along a U-shaped corrider south of Franklin, described by Vermont, Hillhurst, and Hollywood Blvd.
- The upzoning of Hillhurst north of Franklin. This change would increase height allowances and floor area ratios in order to "allow economic growth".

In other words, it looks like Los Feliz is directly in the cross-hairs of the city's policy of directing high-density development towards areas with "subway station proximity". That's not necessarily a bad thing - in fact, that's pretty good policy. However, the devil is in the details, and it remains to be seen whether that policy can be implemented in a way that protects quality of life, while simultaneously promoting higher densities.

We'll soon see.

Details: GGPNC Planning/Zoning and Historic Preservation Committee meeting. Wednesday, March 29th at 7:00 P.M. Citibank building on Hillhurst.
The Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council convenes it's monthly board meeting tomorrow night, and those interested in the controversial Griffith Park Master Plan may want to pencil the confab in (if indeed, you can "pencil in" appointments on your Blackberry), as the Parks, River and Open Space Committee will deliver an update on the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group's revisions to the plan.

Also on the very full agenda:

- a report on developments in the fight to save the Derby
- an update on the Ennis House restoration efforts
- a discussion of the L.A. River Master Plan
- an LAPD Northeast Division senior officer report on crime

Details: Tuesday, March 21 at 7:00 P.M, Citibank Building on Hillhurst.
The Griffith Observatory website has updated their photo section with some great views of the nearly complete renovation project.

The exterior work on the Observatory looks to be all but done, and I have to say that the stalwart old structure has never looked better.

Click on over for pics of the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, and of the greenest lawn the Observatory has ever had - and ever will have, as the coming visiting hordes (including yours truly) will surely trample it into a brown, muddy mess.

Photo credit: Anthony Cook, Griffithobs.org.
From the Los Feliz Village BID website:

Yuca's will be having a photo day tomorrow to commemorate their 30th year of serving excellent (and reasonably priced) carnitas to the masses.

If you want to brave the rain to join in the festivities, here are the details -

"Saturday March 18 at 3:00 P.M.
30th Anniversary • Yuca's!
Old Friends, New Friends, all our faithful customers
Feel free to Dress UP or down, bring signs, props, etc.
All for a FUN Day!
The Photo(s) will be a gift for "Mom" on April 1 - The Actual Anniversary Date!"

Again with the rain!

Ah, but thanks to the power of YouTube, we can head out to a perpetually sunny Malibu for a hike.

The Cultural Heritage Commission has recommended that the Derby be declared a Historic-Cultural Monument.

The war's not over yet, however: the motion nows heads to the L.A. City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee for their consideration.

To learn how you can help bring about total victory, visit Save the Derby for easy, effective ways to take action online.
Buried at the bottom of this Metro press release about the grand opening of Highland Park's new farmer's market is a handy index of L.A. markets reachable by Metro rail (would that there was a Ventura Boulevard line with a stop at the Studio City market). Don't know how easy it is for other areas, but I can vouch for the ease of taking the Red Line to the Hollywood market.

During these trips I've collected a great deal of anecdotal evidence (peeps with empty net bags getting on at Vermont, and women with handfuls of fresh flowers boarding at Vine) that suggests that I'm not the only one who likes to take the train down to Hollywood on Sundays.

Hell, even without the market it's a worthwhile trip: walk down the Boulevard to check out all the lofts under construction, grab a cup of coffee at Caffe Etc., then over to Amoeba, or down Vine to browse the freakiest Borders in L.A., or to the Arclight for a matinee (only $11!). Or, best yet, if you're rolling with fat pockets (and you're - ahem - a geek), head over to EB Games to drop some hard-earned cash on a game. Cap it off with a visit to Kabuki's sake bar, and you've had yourself a pretty full day in L.A.'s most urban environment - all without worrying about where to put your L.A. ball and chain (i.e., your car).
Frequent fliers, perk up your ears:

The city is launching FlyAway non-stop shuttle service from Union Station to LAX, with busses making the trip between L.A.'s past and current transportation hubs every 30 minutes. Fare is $3 each way for adults, and $2 for the kids.

How this works in practice remains to be seen, but I'm excited. A cab ride from Los Feliz to LAX can run to $60 before tip (yeah, it's usually on the company's dime, but still), and parking at the airport - well, we all know what a pleasant experience that can be.

And public transit? Heh! Currently, to get to LAX from Los Feliz using transit you walk (or take the DASH bus) to the Sunset/Vermont station, where you catch the Red Line to 7th/Metro, changing there to the Blue Line, riding to Imperial/Wilmington and transferring to the Green Line, disembarking at the Aviation/LAX station, and then, finally, catching a shuttle to LAX.

No thank you.

The FlyAway service (which also runs from Van Nuys to LAX) will offer travelers the best of both worlds: whisking along on the Red Line, below the clogged surface streets and freeways surrounding downtown, and then boarding a shuttle which can utilize the car-pool lanes on the 110 and 105 freeways.

On very humble suggestion: make permanent the promotional offer of free rides for patrons using Metro to get to Union Station. That could help Metro ridership, and keep more cars off the road.
Ladies and gentlemen, the MTA is proud to announce the official name of the "Subway to the Sea": the Purple Line!

Please, hold your applause until the end of the speech, or we'll never get through it. Thank you.

Now, we don't have any money for the Purple Line (yet, heh-heh), but we've got to start branding this thing as soon as possible. As you know, we believe that nine-tenths of the battle to get butts in the seats boils down to marketing. That may seem counterintuitive - there are those who say that better, more widespread service is the key to increased ridership - but look at the huge numbers our Gold Line push drummed up.

What an opening weekend, huh? Jam-packed trains! And that was for a poorly-planned line that has gone on to consistently underperform, quarter after quarter!

The Purple Line, on the other hand, is a line that Los Angeles actually needs. Half the battle is already won. To bring this thing all the way home, we need a cutesy handle for it, a marketing angle that we can work if - God forbid - the project starts hemorrhaging money like the unfortunately named Red Line (just for the record, we were opposed to that appellation).

That's where Purple comes in. It tests amazingly well amongst Angelenos - actually, fantastically well, for some reason. It will give the line a personality. It will create buzz.

And, it will look great on t-shirts.

Umm, you can applaud now.
The next battle in the war to save the Derby will occur this week, at a time and place of the Cultural Heritage Commission's choosing: March 16, 10 A.M., City Hall.

The Commission will be considering the Derby's application for City Landmark status, and Rebecca Goodman of the Save the Derby Coalition wants to turn out the troops for this critical public hearing. Packing the room with Derby supporters would send a clear message to the Commission: let the Derby stand.

All is not lost if you can't wiggle out of work on Thursday. You can still help by using Save the Derby's handy letter-generator to bombard key decision-makers with pro-Derby, anti-developer sentiments.

The Details:

What: Public Landmark Hearing

When: Thursday March 16, 2006 at 10:00 A.M.

Where: Cultural Heritage Commission
City Hall - Room 1010
200 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

It's cold. It's dreary. It's winter. How's about some 4th of July fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl to warm things up?
The Daily News reports today on the LAPD's new online Crime Map service, a searchable database of felonies and misdemeanors derived from Chief Bratton's COMPSTAT reporting system.

Simply plug in your address, kick back, and wait for the horrors of inner-city crime to pop up as color-coded dots on a map of your nabe. Of course, your zip code has something to do with the types of crimes prevalent in your neighborhood. A search of a one-mile radius around Skunks HQ turned up handful of property crimes (no surprise there), and two violent robberies - no rapes, no aggravated assaults, no homicides.

Other neighborhoods are not so lucky.
The Good News: Mayor Villaraigosa has found $33 million in change under the cushions of the municipal couch, which he plans to use to cut next year's projected budget shortfall.

The Bad News: He's still short by $238 million.
The Metro Exposition Light Rail line has received the final go-ahead from the Federal Transit Administration, with construction set to begin this Summer.

To mark the occasion, Metro has launched a snazzy new Expo Line web site which features maps, design renderings, and access to related documents.

Very nice, indeed. Still, all the palaver and hype won't put butts in the seat. Here's hoping that this at-grade line won't turn out like the last one.
Quick post on a busy Monday: I noticed that construction activity has begun on what is rumored to be a B of A branch at the corner of Franklin and Hillhurst (why we need yet another B of A is beyond me).

That is all. You may now return to waiting for the rain.
2006 Independent Spirit Awards swag:

- Souvenir 2006 ISA/IFC bag by Twelve.
- Complimentary issue of Entertainment Weekly
- Pair flip-flops by Bonjour Fleurette
- "I Love California" beanie baby
- Tourmaline ceramic brush
- Sarah Silverman "Jesus is Magic" DVD sampler
- $75 L.A. Eyeworks gift certificate
- Infinity Sun Spray Tan gift certificate
- $1000 Laser Eye Center gift certificate
- Gamefly.com 30-day free trial
- Complimentary acupuncture session from the Santa Monica Wellness Center
- Riptopia.com certificate for 50 free CD rips
- Copy of "Rebels on the Backlot" by Sharon Waxman
- Rhinestone TimeMug
- Martini shaker and coasters from WE
- Promotional size bottle of Grey Goose Le Citron
- Bar of Bochox from Bloomsberry & Co.
- Copy of the "Peanut Butter & Co. Cookbook"
- Sampler of Hydra-Power by L'oreal for Men
- 3 Colour Juice Sticks by L'oreal
- Kiehl's sample bag
- Box of Pop-Secret Homestyle popcorn
- Breath Palette "Zen Palette" toothpaste kit
- Double Extend mascara by L'oreal
- Wrinkle De-Crease Collagen Filler by L'oreal
- Tin of Altoids Mango Sours

I'm giving in to the siren call of Google Video and YouTube, and creating a weekly video post which will spotlight Los Angeles-related moving pictures.

In this inaugural week's video picks we mosey along the L.A. River with the Turn Here folks (yeah, I still don't get their business model, but they have nice videos), then travel back in time to the groovy, far-out Sunset Strip scene of the early 60's.
It didn't take long for the Los Feliz Ledger to reveal a pro-development slant: one of today's page 1 headlines reads "Derby Plans May Be Beneficial For Business". The piece itself tries to gin up support for the proposed mega-structure by interviewing nearby business owners who (surprise!) are in favor of it. No Los Feliz residents were interviewed, and dissenting opinions were decidedly absent.

Additionally, a smaller page 3 piece dealing with the fight to designate the Derby a historical monument gives developer Rick Gable a soap-box from which to denounce the the Cultural Heritage Commission's decision to reconsider the bid as "politically motivated".

Not especially surprising, I suppose, for a paper who's Founders Circle includes realtors such as Sotheby's, Prudential, and Coldwell Banker. Still, you'd think the reporter would have at least made some gesture towards presenting a balanced story.

In keeping with the high journalistic standards I'm trying to hold them to, I'll now attempt to balance this piece by saying that the Ledger does contain news of certifiable public interest. For instance, I learned that the city plans to install a "smart" crosswalk at Hillhurst and Finley.

Now that's good news.
As the Griffith Park Proposed Master Plan wends it's way through the city bureacracy, opposition to some key elements of the plan is stiffening.

These controversial proposed "improvements" (as listed on the Save Griffith Park website) include:
Save Griffith Park, an organization dedicated to blocking these "improvements", is mobilizing like-minded citizens in an effort to help shape the Master Plan into a framework that protects one of the largest urban parks in the country from excessive development.

To learn more about how to help, visit them on the web here, where you can find a list of actions that you can take from home. The group is also encouraging concerned residents to attend next Monday's meeting of the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group (6:30 PM in the Griffith Park Ranger Station at 4730 Crystal Springs Drive).
Mayor V. to Angelenos: "We're broke!"
What's that you say? Video evidence has arisen that proves Bush lied when he said he had no idea that Hurricane Katrina would be so devastating?

Shocked! Shocked, I am!
If you missed last week's in-depth discussion of the Metro Gold Line's woes on KPCC's AirTalk with Larry Mantle, the show has been archived and can be heard here. A must-listen for transit geeks.

For more on the Gold Line, this Wikipedia entry contains an excellent overview.
The much anticipated Vermont Triangle redesign proposal will be unveiled at the GGPNC's Neighborhood Improvement Committee meeting, where citizens will get their first look at CRA/LA's plans for this blighted corner of the neighborhood. As an added bonus for landscape-architecture geeks, the Vermont streetscape plan will also be discussed.

If you're interested in being the first person on your block to offer an informed opinion about this crucial project, you can saunter on down to the Citibank building tomorrow night at 6:30. There you will see what the CRA/LA hath wrought. Based on their history, you might want to prepare yourself for displays of bad street-furniture festooned with copious and gratuitous signage.


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