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How John Nese Broke My Heart

July 28, 2013
John Nese gives Josef Bray-Ali a talking-to during the NELA BUYcott Ride in May.

John Nese gives Josef Bray-Ali a talking-to during the NELA BUYcott Ride in May.

Today is the Third Annual Galco’s Summer Soda Tasting fundraiser for the Friends of The Southwest Museum. But I won’t be there this year because John Nese broke my heart.  You see, Mr. Nese does not like bikes. That in itself would not be so bad. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But Mr. Nese is actively working to prevent people from riding bikes on York Boulevard or to his store, just as I used to do all the time.

Erased sidewalk markings outside Galco's where a LADOT Bike Rack was prevented from being installed.

Erased sidewalk markings outside Galco’s where Nese prevented LADOT from installing a bike rack.

A year ago in May, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation attempted to install a much-needed city bike rack in front of his store. These bike racks can be requested from LADOT’s website. It was a big surprise to this blogger, as well as many other long-time Galco’s enthusiasts, to learn that Mr. Nese would actually work to prevent the installation of a free bike rack on the public right-of-way outside his store.

John Nese fighting against bike lanes on Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock.

John Nese fighting against bike lanes on Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock.

Mr. Nese likes to claim that he is not anti-bike, yet he has been working so hard over the past year to prevent the implementation of the 2010 Los Angeles Bike Plan in Northeast Los Angeles. Over the past year he has organized his fellow Friends of The Southwest Museum to turn-out at local Neighborhood Council meetings and oppose the installation of bike lanes as part of the already-approved bicycle lane network in Northeast Los Angeles. And while I can’t say I will never shop at Galco’s again, I can say as someone who would regularly bike over to his store for a six-pack, I no longer feel welcomed doing so. (It is sort of like a Person of Color in 1955′s Alabama being told they are welcomed on the bus, as long as they sit in the back.)

Mr. Nese made a name for himself championing small independent bottlers of soda pop. He rejected the large multi-national corporations that demanded shelf space in his store. A classic tale of the underdog triumphing against Goliath. A minority niche soda market given the space they deserve. Yet he intends to keep bicycles marginalized to side streets and parks. More ironically, Mr. Nese wants regular hours restored to the Southwest Museum, even though attendance numbers would not warrant it. Yet, he makes the same argument that bike racks and bike lanes should not be installed because not enough people will use them.

Support Friends of The Southwest Museum, support Galco’s too. But if you think bikes belong, be sure to let Mr. Nese know.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Hector permalink
    July 28, 2013 8:01 pm

    I think this article captures how many people feel about the situation. John is a long standing preservationist and champion for the cause of the Southwest Museum. I’ve heard him share his history as an Angeleno as far back as his family in Chavez Revine. For the people, like me who care about bringing bike lanes and complete streets to Figueroa I’d just say that there are no permanent allies and no permeant enemies when it comes to neighborhoods, only permenamt issues. I rode my bike to today’s tasting and I brought home some sodas. I hope that John will see that a real commitment to this community, for someone who’s been around as long as he, really means a commitment to change from the old ways that aren’t working on Figueroa to ways that make the streets enjoyable for all.

  2. July 29, 2013 6:32 am

    what is his reasoning? ive heard him refute the ideas of the bike lanes, but a bike rack on public property adjacent to his shop, whats the concern here ?

  3. July 29, 2013 8:18 am

    I wonder if the “locust” reputation is preceding what could be an otherwise happy and green thing with John and others in the community. FYI: many of us aren’t anti-bike, we are anti-bad manners.

  4. krom permalink
    July 29, 2013 12:40 pm

    How can you compare a lack of bike rack to segregation.

  5. FrameMonsterMike permalink
    July 29, 2013 5:13 pm

    This is sad. I LOVE Galcos because every week I go to get my BIG RED and Lagunitas IPA fix and I love supporting local business. But this whole Anti-Bike sentiment is hard to take. Very sad indeed.

  6. July 31, 2013 7:12 am

    It’s funny, because pandering to car culture has done more to gut neighborhoods of characteristic architecture and community spaces than anything else. Bike infrastructure is far more in the spirit of Highland Park than SUV’s speeding through, bringing noise frenzy, and pollution to the streets and spurring residents to stay home or get in their own cars and drive to a mall.

  7. Tip Tipping permalink
    July 31, 2013 8:56 am

    As someone deeply involved in the boring intricacies of the bike lane issue in NELA, I share your complicated feelings. Nese is allied with your old nemesis Tom Topping of the Boulevard Sentinel in his vehement, and seemingly self-defeating opposition to bikes and bike lanes in both HP and ER. In my view, it comes out of a fear of change and gentrification — even though Silver Lake-style gentrification will never happen in NELA, for many reasons. Personally, I won’t shop at Nese’s store anymore because of the tactics, rather than the substance of his and Topping et al’s opposition. Lying to old people, printing up bike-hating signs, and spreading conspiracy theories is garden-variety evil, no matter who’s doing it. When I have to explain to my kids why there’s a big red sign with a slash through a biker on it — while they’re straddling their trikes — then your business is dead to me. So I include Tritch Hardware and Commercial Printing in Eagle Rock on my no-go list, too.

    I feel sorry for old folks like Nese who are afraid of change, but I can’t forgive.

  8. themargins permalink
    July 31, 2013 10:01 am

    I used to bike (or drive) to tritch to support a local business but have stopped doing so after the anti-bike sign went up. Now I drive to hp or glendale for my hardware/gardening needs. Isn’t that ridiculous?

  9. AllieIn90041 permalink
    July 31, 2013 12:08 pm

    I don’t understand why these business owners are taking such a militant anti-bike stance. They appear to be completely out of touch with the younger generations. It’s as though they don’t realize how easy it is to just avoid the shops with the anti-bike signage. I didn’t intend to boycott them, but the signs make it easy to just take my business elsewhere; there are so many other options for the limited dollars we have.

  10. Corvus permalink
    July 31, 2013 12:32 pm

    He has said his buisness is in decline because of the bike lanes. I think it is declining because I can get many of the sodas he sells at BevMo, for cheaper. I can buy a 4 pack of Izzi soda for what I can spend for 2 at Galco’s. While I support local buisness, many in our community will go to where it’s cheaper.

  11. Highland Park Hipster permalink
    July 31, 2013 12:57 pm

    Galco’s needs to close and be replaced by a Whole Foods, the hipster wave in the coming decade will demand it.

  12. marc permalink
    July 31, 2013 1:14 pm

    Haven’t been back to Galco’s since last year when I first heard about John Nese’s active campaigning against the bike lanes. I just can’t bring myself to go back. I’ve also stopped patronizing Casa Bianca and Tritch True Value Hardware who also seem to be opposed to the improvements. There are plenty alternatives that are just as good or better that aren’t actively campaigning for narrow and shortsighted policies. The dividing line on this whole issue by and large seems to fall along generational differences.

  13. Maxine permalink
    July 31, 2013 1:29 pm

    I think it is interesting that there has been a ramping up of crazy attacks on the Friends of the Southwest Museum. First by some people at the Mount Washington Association and now from bicycle activists, because John Nese has raised concerns about the bicycle implementation plan. Maybe time will show the bike plan brings the benefits that its activists claim, or maybe there will be a revolution of voters whose commutes are lengthened or made more difficult. I support the free speech rights of all to debate this topic. I will wait and see how it works out on the ground.

    But it sure looks like the Autry Museum is moving in the background in some kind of manipulative effort to undermine the accomplishments of the Friends of the Southwest Museum (and John Nese’s support of the museum). The recruitment of some community members to attack good people working for the Southwest Museum is repulsive.

    As usual, the Soda Tasting event was charming this year and I was glad to see plenty of fair minded bicyclists ride to the Soda Tasting, even if one bicycle activist is so petty as to sit it out.

    • Tip Tipping permalink
      July 31, 2013 9:34 pm

      Not to start this whole meshuggeneh again on this great blog, but Maxine: you used the term “bicycle activist” 3 times in your post. Why not try “commie” or “libtard” next time? This is exactly the same pathetic tactic that Nese and Topping are using to smear anyone who wants safer streets, rather than arguing the bike lane issue on its merits. It takes a big man (or woman) to admit he was wrong; I’d love to see Nese and the angry old men at Tritch and Casa Bianca suck it up and give the community a real mea culpa for all the insults and bullying, and disavow all the hate-fueled maniacs that have glommed onto the anti-bike train they’ve been driving. It would be a great thing for NELA.

  14. AllieIn90041 permalink
    July 31, 2013 8:10 pm

    “free speech rights” are laudable, of course. But freedom to speak does not equate freedom from consequences.

    I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed your venture down from the hill to “the plains” and were not offended by the “petty” concerns of any ill-mannered bicyclists during your expedition.

  15. August 1, 2013 12:31 am

    I don’t care if Nese opposes bike lanes. I am, however, disappointed by his decision to spray paint over the the LADOT markings on the PUBLIC SIDEWALK.

    Walk Eagle Rock published an article responding to Nese’s comments in opposition to bike lanes. He made his comments less than a week after the bike lanes were installed.

    http://walkeaglerock.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/galcos-and-bike-lanes/

    After this article Nese published his response,which you’ve linked to above, less than 24 hours after the article on Walk Eagle Rock.

    We at Walk Eagle Rock then published a two-part response refuting every single argument Nese put forward for opposing bike lanes

    Here’s part 1

    http://walkeaglerock.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/flawed-view-on-bicycling-part-1/

    And here’s part 2

    http://walkeaglerock.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/flawed-views-on-bicycling-part-2/

    On the issue of bike racks his main opposition seems to be the aesthetics of bike racks– he thinks they’re ugly.

    On Facebook, there’s more to the Nese V Bike story.

    In October 2012, a NELA resident asked Galco’s to let the LADOT install bike racks. The Galco’s facebook page responded with this:

    “We have considered bike racks, but worry about the conjestion. Also, we notice that there are bike racks right across the street for folks to use — there’s always spots there for bikers!”

    (See the full exchange here https://www.facebook.com/GalcosSodaPopStop/posts/430357433694873 )

    On April 4th, another person commented about bike parking when Galco’s announced their new patio. They commented “I would like to go but there is no bike parking available.”

    Galco’s responded with this “Bike racks being installed soon!”

    ( https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=511474975583118&set=a.127448567319096.20838.126767957387157&type=1&theater)

    April, May, June, and July all passed by without any bike racks being installed. What “soon” means isn’t clear…

  16. Joe B permalink
    August 2, 2013 9:11 am

    That’s too bad, I used to like going to Galco’s.

  17. juan permalink
    September 7, 2013 12:23 am

    I HAVE LIVED IN HIGHLAND PARK FOR 40 YEARS. I HAVE BEEN TO THIS SHOP JUST A FEW TIMES NEVER FELT WELCOMED. MORE LIKE HURRY UP AND BUY. PLUS WHO EVER THE CASHIER GIRL IS SHS IS A RUDE ASS. TO BAD NOT BIKE FRIENDLY. BECUSE HE JUST LOST ALL THE HIPSTERS THAT ARE WILLING TO PAY OUTRAGES PRICES FOR SODAS. I CAN GET A JONES SODA OR RAMUN ELSEWHERE FOR A DOLLAR.

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