For 25 years, The Arroyo Arts Collective has been keeping the great flame of arts heritage alive in Highland Park. Besides their annual Discovery Tour, puppet productions, and temporary art installations, their great contribution to culture in Northeast Los Angeles has been the written word in the form of poetry. For the sixth time in 19 years, The Arroyo Arts Collective has mounted the wonderful public exhibition, Poetry In The Windows.
Poetry in The Windows is just that: Poetry in the windows! Poems placed in the business windows along Figueroa Street from Avenue 55 to Avenue 60. There were over two dozen Highland Park businesses participated in this edition of the PITW. Places as diverse as Chez Antonine, LAs Cazuelas, Twinkletoes Dance Studio, La Plalapa, Future Studio, Marcello’s Hair Salon, Bird Man Pet Shop, Slow Culture Gallery and Bearded Beagle Vintage put up the poems from contemporary poets in their windows.
On Saturday, the 19th Day of the National Poetry Month of April, Arroyo Arts Collective held a special Poetry Walk that set off from the Highland Park Ebell Club over to Figueroa Street to see the poems and hear the poets read their works. This was made extra-special by the presence of Poet and Highland Park daughter, Suzanne Lummis who made a special effort to have each business owner step outside and hear the poets read their poems to them. The poems are scheduled to be up until May 31, but this being Highland Park, you will likely see them well into the summer and beyond.
On Wednesday, April 16th, the 777-person capacity Tyler Auditorium at Luther Burbank Middle School hosted a two-hour Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council candidate forum for 18 candidates and 15 audience members. Not quite the crowd as organizers had hoped for. Maybe it was because last week was Spring Break for most Highland Park residents, maybe it was $4 movie night at the Highland Theatre, or maybe voters didn’t see the dozen or so banners all around Highland Park telling them about tonight’s event. Whatever the case, what is important here is that Eighteen candidates showed-up to enlighten us on why we should vote for them, and four others who couldn’t attend, took the time to submit statements for the forum.
Candidates not present but who submitted statements are: Boo Caban, who wants to fight to get the same level of service more affluent neighborhoods get. (That’s what I’m talking about!) Javier Cabral, a journalist who recently moved to Highland Park wants to keep the neighborhood in balance. Amirah Noaman, program director for Eagle Rock Yacht Club has the distinction of being the only candidate from Highland Park (New Jersey)! She wants to use her skills in fundraising and organizing to help the council. HHPNC member, Johanna Sanchez is a lawyer who wants to continue to focus on land use and outreach for the council. No statement was submitted by Gabriel Lozano, David Andrés Kietzman, Mauro A Garcia, and Steve Crouch who was absent due to a concert he wanted to take his 92-year-old mother to. Not pictured is current HHPNC Treasurer, and future HHPNC Treasure Joan Potter, who is running unopposed. She demonstrated her economy prowess by not bothering to make a statement. Because, why bother?
The empty auditorium inspired candidates to talk about how they would successfully outreach to Highland Park. Community events, consistency, promotions, networking, and partnerships were proposed in various forms as means to get people involved. The fact that so many candidates showed up to throw their hats into the ring is an encouraging sign. As the saying goes: Showing up is half the battle.
2014 Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council Election
Saturday, April 26, 2014. 9AM-3PM
Highland Park Senior Center
6152 N. Figueroa Street
Highland Park, CA 90042
Bring identification / documentation showing that you are a Resident, Homeowner, Property Owner, Business Owner, Horse Owner, etc. Details HERE. Voters must be at least age 16 to vote.
And the winners are…
DIEO R. SILVA
JOHANNA A SANCHEZ
MAURO A GARCIA
STANLEY W. MOORE
JOHANNA A SANCHEZ
DIEGO R. SILVA
See the Election Day tally here.
All challenges from sore losers aside, swearing-in should happen in June. Congratulations and Best of Luck to all the winners!
Oh the fun of Twitter! Oh the fun of April Fools’ Day!
Inspired by a hashtag, and the annoyance of successive newcomers to Highland Park trying to be cool by abbreviating our name to “HP,” (Anyone who’s lived here long enough, knows we abbreviate it as “HLP.”) this blogger headed south via the Metro 251 Bus from Figueroa and Avenue 26 to the heart of the real HP: Huntington Park to fool around on April Fool’s Day. The entire day was spent tweeting as HP90255 instead of the usual HLP90042. It was fun. It was funny. But also an opportunity to compare and contrast our Highland Park with their Huntington Park.
Huntington Park is a nice place. Like Highland Park, it was developed as a Streetcar Suburb. (So much a streetcar suburb that the founding fathers named it after Pacific Electric streetcar magnate, Henry E. Huntington just to entice him into building a route to their town.) Like Highland Park, Huntington Park has many pre-1950 single-family homes (with more than one family) and many apartment buildings surrounding central commercial streets. Their Pacific Boulevard, is much like our Figueroa Street, with many of the same department stores and other commercial buildings built in the early 20th Century. 90255 is slightly smaller than 90042, and slightly denser in population with 58,000 residents. The median income for Huntington Park is $39,185, compared to Highland Park’s median income of $45,478. Education-wise, only 4.7% of the residents have 4-year degrees, compared to Highland Park’s 14.3%. Huntington Park is less ethnically diverse than Highland Park. With 95.1% of the population being Latino, it is the largest ethnically Latino city in Los Angeles County. (Latinos make up 72% of Highland Park’s population.)
The two things that are most striking about Huntington Park, compared to Highland Park is how flat the place is. That is, there are no hills! A type of terrain completely foreign to Highland Parkers. The other big difference is how surprisingly clean and well-maintained this city is. Even though Huntington Park is imbedded within an industrial area, it is by-and-large a well-kept town, lacking litter and the something-dumped-on-every-block mentality that plagues Highland Park. Also, where’s the graffiti? Sure, it exists, but unlike Highland Park where you can’t look at a pole, sign, broken sidewalk, garage, wall, street, curb, dumpster, abandoned couch, utility box, fence, tree, window, door, or mural without seeing someone’s name tagged on it, Huntington Park is practically blank. (True story: Saw a teenager in the park pick up a pen from the floor, walk over to a trash can, and instead of writing on it, he threw it away!) The city parks are all green and free of gophers. The playgrounds are un-vandalized. There are rose gardens all over the place. There aren’t shopping cart armies roaming the streets scavenging the trash cans, or stray dogs in the streets. Huntington Park is CLEAN.
Sure there were other differences, such as HP lacking the artistic influence that Highland Park has; didn’t see any murals, art galleries or art spaces. Historic Preservation is not much of a driving force as it is here in Highland Park. There are no bike lanes or bike routes, and the city has only one sidewalk-installed bike rack (recently placed at their first parklet on Pacific Blvd). Aside from being under the LAX flight path, there is a quietness to HP that escapes Highland Park with the sound of the frequent LAFD and LAPD sirens combined with airship manhunts that lock-down neighborhoods for hours on end. Also, Huntington Park is devoid of house flippers. Unlike Highland Park, the city is completely free of horizontal slat fences.
Quality-of-life wise, Huntington Parkers have it made. HP shows us that smaller is better and more effective. No, HP is probably not going to be mentioned in Condé Nast any time soon, but they should be proud, theirs is a fine working-class city without many of the problems that grip comparable City of Los Angeles’ neighborhoods such as our HLP.
On Sunday, March 22, pedestrian advocacy group, Los Angeles Walks hosted an ambassador-led walking tour of the newly traffic-calmed Colorado Boulevard from Swörk at Eagle Rock Boulevard, up to Eagle Rock’s Eagle Rock at Richard Alatorre Park. The walk was led by Glassell Parker and Occidental College’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute professor, Mark Vallianatos, and Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council member, Ashley Atkinson. The walk served as a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Walks organization and as way to highlight the pedestrian improvements to Colorado Boulevard in the past year.
There were kids in strollers, dogs on leashes, a family on razor scooters, neighborhood council members, urban planners, and walking enthusiasts from as far as Santa Monica. We walked up Colorado, stopping to note the history of the boulevard, the history of LA City planning and building codes, as well as the recent improvements like the new crosswalks, and the road diet that replaced one multimodal travel lane with a buffered bike lane.
As we walked one fact stood out more than any other: Colorado Boulevard is LOUD. Very loud. So much so, that even though the guides used a bullhorn, much of the tour guiding was unheard due to roar of auto traffic racing up and down the boulevard. This points to another issue that has become more apparent recently: The desirability of Colorado Boulevard to small businesses. More new businesses are choosing the narrow street of Highland Park’s York Boulevard over Eagle Rock’s broad and heavier auto trafficked streets. Because of the lack of galleries, the monthly 2nd Saturday NELA Art Night has almost completely abandoned Eagle Rock for Highland Park. Just this month, Chicago import, Permanent Records moved their store from Colorado Boulevard to York Boulevard, in large part because York Boulevard feels like a village, whereas Colorado Boulevard feels and looks like a highway.
The highway problem on Colorado Boulevard is exactly what residents and business owners have been trying to address for decades. Take Back The Boulevard, The Eagle Rock Association, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, and Council District 14 Council Member, Jose Huizar, as well as eight other local organizations are all united with the effort to revitalize Colorado Boulevard by implementing Complete Streets enhancements. The only real voice of dissent has been Tom Topping, publisher of the Boulevard Sentinel, who whipped locals into a frenzy last year by essentially proclaiming in his “Newspaper” that the sky was going to fall if bike lanes were installed on Colorado Boulevard. The sky is still there. (Fun Fact: Topping started his “Newspaper” 17 years ago as a means to protect Colorado Boulevard’s auto-centricity.)
And yet, this is as far as Colorado Blvd has come. The Colorado Vision Plan, speaks of a better future where there will be bulb-outs, sidewalk extensions, landscaping, shade trees, parklets, transit shelters, benches, and possible cycle tracks. But this is Los Angeles, where anything that doesn’t have well-monied lobbyist pushing for it, it doesn’t get done. To CM Huizar’s credit, his CD14 is by far, the most progressive when it comes to Complete Streets.
Meanwhile, just eight miles away in sleepy Temple City, they are completing a $20.7-million project that re-invents Rosemead Boulevard (Another street that was originally a streetcar line) as a pedestrian and bike-friendly boulevard instead of a minor highway cut-through between the 10 and 210 Freeways. The same thing can be seen throughout California. The military beach town of Oceanside is in middle of redeveloping their downtown with Complete Streets. The first in L.A. County to truly embrace Complete Streets was Long Beach back in 2011. The People’s Republic of Santa Monica continues to make strides, regardless of the pressure from Westside automobile commuters. The list continues to grow where cities are parking cars, and putting people first again. Eagle Rock and Highland Park both have these great pedestrian-centric walkable neighborhoods developed a hundred years ago as streetcar suburbs. We just have to build upon the bones that survived, and get out of our cars and back on our feet.
Neighborhood Empowerment. –That is how the Los Angeles City Charter, ratified in 1999 framed it. After 1999, neighborhood councils throughout Los Angeles soon formed, with the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council (HHPNC) becoming the 33rd council in 2002. Today there are 95 neighborhood empowerment groups throughout the city.
The all-volunteer neighborhood councils (or neighborhood congresses as some in South LA are called) are primarily designed as a local advisory committee to the Mayor and City Council. The councils are given $37,000 annually to be used as the neighborhood council sees fit. (Mostly Neighborhood Purpose Grants, and Outreach.) The Neighborhood Council’s best asset is being a place to find out what is going on in the community. Every meeting includes a report from LAPD, and in HHPNC’s case, reports from the office of our two City Council Members, Jose Huizar and Gil Cedillo. (Although, Cedillo’s office rarely attends.) Utility companies and various city entities tell the council about projects affecting the community. Businesses make introductions. Churches and social groups make event announcements. It is a smörgåsbord of local news.
But the bread and butter for the Neighborhood Council is their letters and grants. Letters of Support, on HHPNC letterhead are some of the most-sought-after pieces of paper in 90042. Developers come before the NC to make presentations of what they want to build in our neighborhood, seeking the influential letters of support to give City Council and the Planning Department in hopes to get approval. In its 12 year existence, nearly every school in 90042 has come before HHPNC at one time or another to ask for funding. It is actually a highlight of most meetings to see young hopeful faces come before HHPNC, asking to help fund their extracurricular activities that will help them grow and develop into creative and responsible citizens. Few are ever turned away. And that is why this past year, HHPNC endeavored to stop acting like the Auxiliary PTA of Highland Park, and more like a neighborhood council.
This job is not for the weak. It is not something to just show up and do when you have the time. It is a job that takes a significant amount of commitment. And that has been the problem over the years. Members, as well-intentioned as they may be, just get burned-out and resign. It is a lot of work, without any pay, and little glory; just the satisfaction that you are forwarding the cause of Democracy, and creating positive change in our community.
There is so much talent in 90042. We have a love of politics, of arts, of education, of entrepreneurship, and yet our neighborhood council fails to truly reflect such talents and passions.
A visit to our Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council one can witness a bi-monthly General Council Meeting that is hardly ever efficient. Quorum is a challenge, members are often late, agendas seem to be merely suggestions, and more agenda items get tabled than get done. Most of this council in its current membership has been doing this for two years now, a couple of the members have been there for many years, and meetings feel like this is their first day of school. There is a desperate need for some leadership and candidates with the skillset to keep the council focused and moving forward.
The good news is that on Saturday, April 26, 2014 we have an opportunity to change that with the 2014 Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council Election. As of this post, there are 27 candidates filled for 19 positions on HHPNC. That is encouraging, given just a week before the original filing deadline of March 12, there were only four. On the list of candidates there are a several current members, a couple former members and many newcomers. There’s a candidate who likes to attend meetings just to rant, and another regular who is obsessed with earthquake faults. But hopes are high for a new era in Highland Park governance. And there is still time to throw your own hat into the ring. TODAY, after all, is the deadline to file as a candidate!
Best of luck to whoever is chosen to tie the bell to the cat.
C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change thru LIVE Exchange) teamed-up with the Metro Bike Program last Saturday to bring their annual Tweed, Moxie, & Mustaches Ride to Highland Park. This year’s ride highlighted some of the historic and natural treasures along the Arroyo Seco. The ride was followed by an after-party at York Boulevard’s Hermosillo Bar, where there was a grooming acumen contest and some lucky bloke won a brand new New Belgium Brewery Fat Tire beach cruiser.
Around 350 tweed-wearing, mustached-donning and moxie making cyclists met outside Highland Park Station on Marmion Way. The weather, while gorgeous, was more fit for a Grass Skirt, Hawaiian Shirt, and Lei Ride than a ride where wearing wool clothing is the theme. 85º Heat or not, the sharply dressed would not be discouraged! Onward!
The first stop along the Arroyo Seco was the historic 103-year-old Judson Studios in Garvanza where stained-glass continues to be produced and restored for some of the most outstanding historic buildings in the region. Next was the 115-year-old Lummis Home (El Alisal) where the great writer, historian, and preservationist, Charles Lummis built his home from Arroyo stone. The last stop was on the tour was the just turned 10-year-old Audubon Center at Debs Park, home to the best environmental education and conservation center in Los Angeles.
Tweed rides are a bike culture tradition around the world. With rides in obvious places like London. But also in not-so-obvious places like San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Dallas, and even Fresno. Because what is better than prancing around your city in vintage clothing on vintage bicycles?
The weather could have been more Londonesque, but ultimately fun was had by all and no one died from dehydration and heat exhaustion. As a Highland Parker, my favorite part was seeing so many first-timers to Highland Park being wowed by the treasures of our community. (And we didn’t even see the Southwest Museum, Heritage Square, Galco’s, or any of the our many art spaces.) It was great seeing York Boulevard filled with hundreds of hungry and thirsty cyclists enjoying what that strip has to offer. This was a good day to take pride in our unique place along the Arroyo Seco and be grateful for how far it has come.
Leaving Judson Studios on Avenue 67.
Yesterday, nightlife on Figueroa in Highland Park changed drastically. It was the much-anticipated Grand Opening of The Greyhound Bar and Grill in the 1922 Commercial National Bank Building at Figueroa and Avenue 56. The space that was previously occupied by the long-suffering Salvadoran restaurant, La Arca Pupuseria. This marks a milestone for the Figueroa section of Highland Park. Whereas Highland Park’s York Blvd has been booming with new businesses for the past six years, and Eagle Rock before that, Figueroa’s business district on Historic Route 66 has languished. As far as nightlife goes, the options on Figueroa were limited. We could see a movie at the Highland Theatres, walk by Mr.T’s Bowl and curse Joseph Teresa’s son, John for running it into the ground, get a drink and listen to a DJ at 1933 Group’s La Cuevita Bar (née The Little Cave), check out an occasional Friday night art opening at Slow Culture (formerly, THIS Gallery), have some Pho at Goodgirl Dinette, or maybe catch a live show and drink with old men at the American Legion Hall on Avenue 55. It was often more convenient or desirable to take the Gold Line to Pasadena or DTLA, rather than make a night within the 90042 bio-dome.
But now, we have a genuine watering hole. A place to eat, drink, socialize, and watch sports until 2AM. All in the very walkable and transit-friendly heart of Highland Park.
The Greyhound Bar & Grill is quite a surprise for our humble neighborhood. It makes sense here, but it at the same time, it feels too good to really be here. I will let the foodies and the terminal complainers on Yelp do the restaurant critiquing. What I will say from this quick visit, is the professionalism and helpfulness of the staff here left quite an impression; a level of service we Highland Parkers are not accustomed to in our hometown. The place looks great. It is dimly lit, with 1922 tile flooring, the original picture windows, and finished wood throughout. Food and drinks are ordered at the bar and brought to unreserved booths and tables that fill the remainder of the room. The walls are adorned with framed photos showing historic Highland Park with the Franklin High School band in front of the Highland Theatre, and the original Boy’s Market that stood on Monte Vista and Avenue 55. The wallpaper is a mix of Scottish tartans and historic Highland Park photos from the Los Angeles Public Library photo archive. There are two TV’s showing sports, which is usually annoying, but for Highland Park this is perfect. Until last night, there was really only one place in 90042 where you could go watch sports with a crowd. (El Pescador at Fig and 52. And that is only if you if you enjoy watching international futbol matches.) The place is loud. real loud. Kids are OK here, but for kids it is not as great as one would hope in such a family-centric community. One particular impressive contemporary feature of The Greyhound is that they have twice as many lavatories for women as they do for men. Which any lady will certainly appreciate.
The bar looks really good. Stacked with quality spirits and lots of room for more. They have 20 beers on draft. Unfortunately, the tap handles are a bit hard to read in the dim light, and the beer menu had a few mistakes as well as lacked the ABV percentages. But gratefully there is NO HIPSTER Pabst Blue Ribbon. (Although, if you’re so inclined, there is Old Milwaukee 12oz cans for $4, and Schlitz tall boys for $5) Like any decent bar in Highland Park, they actually serve THEE BEST (IMHO) Scotch Whisky money can buy: Highland Park. (Obviously.)
Another great benefit to this new establishment is the spill-over effect such places bring to the neighborhood. Last night I witnessed foodie tourists checking out the Highland Theatre, people in line bailing for Good Girl Dinette, Follieros, and Chez Antoine, and kids-in-tow leaving The Greyhound to get smoothies at La Palapa. But the best part of The Greyhound Bar & Grill opening on Figueroa and Avenue 56, is that at last, local neighbors will now have a place to wait-out late night neighborhood lock-downs! Next time there is a manhunt in the neighborhood, this is where you will find me. Cheers!