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Discovering Northeast LA

November 21, 2013

discov

This Sunday is the 21st Annual Arroyo Arts Collective’s Discovery Tour!

For 24 years, Northeast Los Angeles community arts organization, the Arroyo Arts Collective has brought many original cultural events to our corner of Los Angeles. Some highlights are this summer’s Puppets Retake Northeast Los Angeles, last year’s Tossed Salad  at the Old L.A. Farmer’s Market, yarn bombing Figueroa with the Fig Knit-On, the site-specific art installation exhibition, For The Birds  at the Audubon Center, and the much-missed Figueroa Street window installation project, Poetry in Windows  that ran biennially from 1995 to 2005. All memorable, but the premier event for the collective has always been the Discovery Tour.

The Discovery Tour began in 1993 as a means to highlight the rich cultural heritage of our unique community that was all-too-often being overlooked and forgotten. As home to the city’s first museum (Southwest Museum), and the first art school (Los Angeles College of Fine Arts, later USC School of the Arts, now Judson Studios), NELA has long-been a place for arts and history. Today, just as it was when the tour began in 1993, NELA continues to be one of the most artistic communities in Los Angeles.

This tour is a great opportunity to see artist studios and homes, as well as do some early holiday shopping and buy art directly from the artists at a good discount. There will be music, there will be food, and there will be Batchelder tile. Actually, more Batchelder tile than you will ever see in one day thanks to the many Craftsman-style homes on the tour. There are over a hundred locations to visit, including the studio and historic Mt. Washington home of Gwen Freeman, as featured in the L.A. Times. There will be a shuttle bus available at Lummis Home to a few sites, other than that it is up to you to get to the locations. Billed as an “Auto Tour,” it is possible to do the tour car-free. I have walked and biked to many of the locations, although without the cable car, getting up Mt. Washington can be a challenge.

Before moving to Highland Park, I had flirted with this place many times, but it was the Discovery Tour that made me fall in love. If you have never been, go. If you haven’t been in a while, go again. Tickets are only $10 pre-sale, or $15 the day-of.

21st Annual Discovery Tour
Sunday, November 24th, 2013
9:30AM – 5PM
Tour begins at the Lummis Home
200 East Avenue 43 Los Angeles, 90031.

$10 Advance Tickets available by riding your bike to Galcos.
$11 Advance Tickets here.
$15 Tickets available Sunday at Lummis Home.

Playing In The Sandbox

October 30, 2013

Adults and kids alike get to play in the sandbox of park design.

Adults and kids alike get to play in the sandbox of park design.

Tonight was the third York Park Planning Workshop for the vacant gas station lot at Avenue 50 and York Blvd. About thirty Highland Parkers attended the two-hour event at Buchanan Elementary School, facilitated by the office of Council District 14 Council Member José Huizar. Design options that the City could implement were presented followed by the community getting to play in the design sandbox by drawing on copies of the general plan. Over the past two planning workshops, the main features and shape of the quarter-acre park have been narrowed down, tonight was about refining those decisions and coming up with the fine details like color schemes, landscaping, furniture, and equipment.

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Highland Parkers, ready to plan.

At this point, part of the City requirements is that the property be fenced. The size and style of that fencing has yet to be determined. The prevailing consensus among the evening’s participants is that they would prefer as low and as least obstructive fence as possible. An interesting component of this new park is that it will have a surveillance camera that is not monitored, but only used for recording.

The participants were very keen about making sure this park was an attractive park that fit well into the neighborhood. The use of native plants, arroyo stone, and earth tones were part of the key features being stressed by the community. Another important feature the community members are requesting is a mural wall, a curated public art gallery, and mosaic elements throughout the park that reflect the artistic heritage of the neighborhood. To that end, a petition is being circulated to name the park in honor of Arroyo Arts Collective co-founder, Hendrik Stooker who died last year. (Don’t get me wrong, Stooker was a significant community member, but do we ALWAYS have to name a park for someone???)

Design #13, The Best of Everything.

Design #13, the best of everything.

If all goes as theoretically planned, we will have the most pimped-out city pocket park in Los Angeles. Art, mini library, play equipment, chess tables, lawn area, an amphitheater, a stage, exercise equipment, water play area, picnic tables, benches, a public restroom, shade structure, native trees and plantings are all possible options on the table at this point. Not everything will fit, but most of it will be part of the final plan that will be voted on by the community when the final design presentation is held on Saturday, December 7th at 10AM in the park site at 4956 York Boulevard. The public will have the day to stop in and vote their choice for the winning design. The park is expected to be completed by this time next year.

Show Me The Money

October 23, 2013

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Today, City Controller Ron Galperin launched the city’s open data website, Control Panel L.A.  The Socrata Data Portal is a massive clearinghouse of data on municipal collections and expenditures. Access to how and where the City spends our tax dollars has never been this easy.

Facts and figures from the $4,042,179,848.17  used to pay the 45,979 city employees, to the $107,742.39 difference in salary expenditures between Council District 1 and Council District 14 (*cough, cough, Godoy… cough…*) to the $101,543,248.49 it will take to pay 261 of the lowest-paid Deputy Attorneys in the City Attorney’s office. See where City’s Revenue comes from and ponder whether or not, the $17,429,757.95 that the LA Zoo collected in FY2012 is worth the trouble keeping it as part of the Department of Recreation and Parks. The public can now look at the City’s checkbook and see every expenditure made. 99,264 expenditures totaling $1,343,538,931.39 for Fiscal Year 2013 are listed. Expenditures such as $300 to Highland Park artist, Sonia Romero, or $330 to pay the Highland Park Animal Hospital for spaying and neutering, or $6000 for parking at Joe’s Auto Park in DTLA, or $7,477,472.85 for postage, or $39.20 paid by the Controller’s office on December 20, 2012 for document shredding by American Shredding Inc.

Look at audits, payroll, expenditures, revenue and if that’s not enough, there is pie! Yes, yummy yummy pie charts!  Users have the ability to filter and tweak the data, code it, chart it, and download it. Creating a free Socrata account allows the user to save their assembled data, discuss, and share it.

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While the website illustrates a lot of things about what city government does, it raises a lot of questions as well. At this initial phase, the data, while voluminous, is not very elaborate, with just the most basic descriptions of the expenditures with the amounts and the departments that used them. Many things are marked as private. Many payees have vague and mysterious names that one fears typing into Google. (Forget it Jake…)

The lists show that the city relies on a plethora of non-profit organizations around the city. LP’s, LLC’s, and 501c’s of every type get money from the City. For reasons unknown, we write a lot of checks to other cities. Vernon, San Bernardino, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Glendale, Riverside, Pasadena, Bell, Pico Rivera, San Dimas, South Pasadena and many others received money from the City of Los Angeles in FY2013.

At $153 Million, the Mayor has the 5th largest share of the city’s budget to use at his discretion. The City spends $16,279,050.73 on maintenance and repair, and $153,745,717.56 on liability claims. Last year we (The Citizens of Los Angeles) spent $147,000 for firework shows, and $98,488.75 on clowns.  $2,240,458.35 was spent on graffiti abatement in Northeast Los Angeles alone.  Roman Catholic Archbishop, José Gomez was paid $159,000 by the City. A City of Los Angeles tugboat operator in LA Harbor makes $49,503.87 more than the Mayor’s $232,425.72 annual salary.

Like ingredients, the data is only as good as the cook that uses them. But in this case, it is like the city has opened a Whole Foods Market, whereas before we had just a 7 Eleven to work with. The website is great.  Ron Galperin, should be commended for getting this done just 115 days into his administration. A milestone for the city and Galperin, the first person from a neighborhood council to be elected to a city-wide office.

Say It Ain’t So Joe

October 18, 2013
14th District Coucilmember, José Huizar with his family in the background on York Blvd in February.

14th District Coucilmember, José Huizar with his family in the background on York Blvd in February.

 

Yesterday, our Council District 14 Councilmember, José Huizar admitted to having an affair with his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Francine Godoy. This after Godoy, 34, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him on Thursday morning. Huizar, 45, released a brief statement saying that he and Godoy had a “consensual relationship” and that her sexual harassment claim is “absolutely false and malicious.”  The statement further goes on to say “Ms. Godoy is someone seeking to damage the Councilmember’s reputation because he would not help advance her career as she expected.”

Godoy’s claim states that she was “subjected to regular physical and verbal sexual harassment, including propositions for sexual favors” and “Huizar’s sexual harassment was severe and pervasive” and that Huizar “explicitly conditioned [her] employment benefits on sexual favors and when [she] refused Huizar’s sexual harassment, Huizar began a campaign of retaliation.”  The lawsuit claim centers around Huizar’s encouragement for Godoy to run for the Community College Board of Trustees. According to the claim, on Columbus Day last year, Huizar demanded Godoy come to his City Hall office that night. When she arrived after 8pm, Huizar allegedly demanded to have sex with Godoy or she would lose his support for her campaign.  When she refused, Huizar allegedly threw a fit. Later on November 1, after 10pm, Huizar allegedly went to Godoy’s home to give her one last ultimatum to be “closer” to him before his scheduled CCBT endorsement the next morning. According to Godoy, she refused him and was subsequently not endorsed the next day, and a month later banned from the office and told to “work from home”  with reduced assignments. Godoy then, after nearly seven years in the Huizar office, left her $132,000 salary position as Deputy Chief of Staff for a $118,000 position with LA City Sanitation in April of this year. (Yes, our civil servants are paid ridiculously for the amount of service they provide. Mayor Sam has a revealing list of CD14 staff salaries from 2011, including Francine Godoy’s.)

Last month, a Special Committee on Investigative Oversight formed by Council President, Herb Wesson began to investigate the sexual harassment claim that Francine Godoy filed against José Huizar state department of Fair Employment and Housing. Meanwhile, The City Maven reminds us that we, the lucky taxpayer, may be on the hook for paying for Huizar’s defense.

This is a sad day for CD14. As if this district doesn’t have enough problems already. And while the only corruption known at this point is matrimonially, it says a lot about someone’s character, especially when they regard themselves as a devoutly religious family man. Much like Villaraigosa, the rest of Huizar’s term will be tarnished, and his future plans to run for his third term will depend on his personal problems instead of his accomplishments as a City Councilmember.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that José is held in high esteem here. Professionally, he gets the job done. His side of 90042 is noticeably the better-maintained side. York Blvd as well as Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock are currently experiencing the most significant street design changes since the streetcars were removed decades ago. York Blvd will have a new park by this time next year. Thanks in large part to the leadership from Huizar’s office. He is well-regarded with his preservation efforts and is currently the only member of the City Council with a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. To lose him would be a setback for those of us that want to see Los Angeles protect its history and catch up with other world-class cities in urban infrastructure.

The rumors of Huizar’s infidellity and harsh management style have dogged him for years. Much like the kid asking Shoeless Joe Jackson if the rumors were true about being involved in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, “Yes, kid, I’m afraid it is.”

More from KPCC, LA Times, LA Weekly, and the always full-tilt Mayor Sam.

Highland Park’s New Friend

October 10, 2013
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What a friend we have in donuts…

Highland Park has long been considered a special place, but now it is a very special place because right now it is the only place in the world with a Donut Friend.

Northeast Los Angeles is no stranger to the Donut Arts. This after all, is where the most powerful donut empire in the Western United States began with Yum Yum Donuts in 1971 on the corner of Figueroa and Avenue 26. And while 90042 may still be home to the best glazed donut in Los Angeles at Monterey Donuts in Hermon, Donut Friend has upped the game considerably. Over in the East San Gabriel Valley,  Glendora’s Donut Man has been blowing people’s minds for decades by putting fresh fruit on their donuts. Which is awesome. But Donut Friend has electrified the acoustic guitar of pastries, their donuts goes to eleven.

Jam, cheese, bacon, bananas, basil, nutella, mint, fudge, olive oil, jalapenos, sriracha, ice cream, chocolate mousse, candied oranges, caramel, and sugar glaze are among just a few choices you can put on you’re basic $2 vegan traditional or cake donut.  (For $2.50, you can get a stupid-healthy vegan baked donut.) The D.I.Y. donut option is a fun way to show yourself and your friends (who are not donuts) what an awesome or awful pastry chef you could be. But don’t let that stress you out, there is a list of Donut Friend Compilations where you can show off your music prowess by getting the band and song references that the donuts are named after. (Fudgegazi = Fugazi, Lemon Weapon = Legal Weapon, GG Almond = GG Allin, Caramel on Parade = Christ on Parade, Dag Nutty = Dag Nasty, Jets to Basil = Jets to Brazil, Rights of Sprinkles = Rights of Spring, etc…) The donuts are good. Really good. I find myself avoiding York Blvd all together, just to keep from eating too many of their donuts. To go with these spectacular donuts, they have the usual milks and juices, but also serve a surprisingly good micro-roasted coffee from The 909, called Klatch. They also make pre-made donuts that you can pre-order by the dozen and be the most popular person in your office.

The backstory about Donut Friend is that when multi-platinum record producer, Mark Trombino (Jimmy Eat World, Blink 182, The Starting Line) had to “Go big, or go home,” he went donut. Inspired by Donut Man, he decided to open a kustom donut shop on York Blvd where previously there was a Chinese massage parlor. The happy ending for us is that while people from all over California will be driving here to try Donut Friend, we can simply walk over and indulge our fancy any time between 8AM and 7PM, seven days a week.

Donut Friend
5107 York Blvd
Highland Park, CA 90042
(213) 995-6191

The Hammer In The Night

September 11, 2013

5150

 

Street Art is somewhat rare in these parts. Sure we have many murals, thanks in large part to the Los Angeles Mural Moritorium rarely being enforced around here. Yes, there is lots and lots of graffiti on every reachable surface in our corner of Los Angeles. Tags, toys, stickers, stencils, sometimes a random hanging bear or knitted installation, and there are plenty of impressive pieces along our alleyways. But Street Art, its not what we see much of around here. That is why about a year ago something beyond the daily stapled flyer, nailed yard sale sign or graffiti tag on the telephone pole caught my eye.

Corner of Ave 52.

Banded around a 1945 inspection stamp on the corner of Figueroa and Ave 52.

 

At first, I thought the nailed metal was just hardware placed by a utility company. But then, upon closer inspection, I realized it was something more, something artistic.

 

Metal medallion around a 1960 inspection stamp at Cypress Park Village on Figueora, in front of Nightingale Middle School.

Metal medallion around a 1960 inspection stamp in front of Nightingale Middle School at Cypress Park Village on Figueroa.

 

It was then that I started to notice the nailed metal pieces seemingly EVERYWHERE around Northeast Los Angeles.

 

On Colorado Blvd at Townsend in Eagle Rock.

On Colorado Blvd at Townsend in Eagle Rock.

 

Highland Park, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Eagle Rock, all have them. The wooden telephone poles of Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock Boulevard, York Boulevard, and Figueroa Street are all potential pop-up galleries for the artist who calls himself “5150.”

 

Nail flower on Eagle Rock Blvd.

Nail flower on Eagle Rock Blvd.

 

Crazy or not, the artist 5150 (Or as Amy Inouye reports in September’s NELA Art News, his name is either Blake, Blaine or Brent) has made traveling about Northeast Los Angeles a lot more interesting. Finding the art about town is a lot like coming across geocaches, often hidden in plain sight, they add value to the day’s monotony.

 

 

The pieces are usually just abstract scrap metal repurposed from Lockheed Martin aerospace parts or metal container lids nailed to telephone poles with an abundance of nails. Sometimes 5150 creates a star or flower pattern with his nails, but for the most part the shapes are non-representative. So far, I have come across 32 of the art pieces, and surely expect to find more. Especially when I hear that hammer in the night.

 

The artist, 5150 hammering though the night.

The artist, “5150” hammering through the night.

Not A June Bug

August 12, 2013
Not a June Bug, but a Figeater beetle

Not a June Bug, but a Figeater beetle feasting on corn pollen at Milagro Allegro Community Garden.

It is August in Highland Park. Which means that it is time for FIGEATER BEETLES!

Iridescent green and gold, your flight ever so bold.

Iridescent green and gold, your flight ever so bold.

Cotinis mutabilis, the Figeater beetle is not a June Bug. And yet, that is exactly what many of us (myself included) have called this beetle all their lives. (Blame the yoke of the East Coast transplants to Los Angeles.) But then again, we should know better: June Bugs emerge from the soil in June. Whereas the overshadowed Figeater beetle emerge and take their sloppy flight in August.

Figeater beetles are common to the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Like their eastern cousins, the June Bug, they are notoriously poor flyers that have the capability of achieving a 100% Success Rate at flying into your hair, regardless of where they are actually trying to go. But while they are quite annoying when airborne, they unlike their eastern cousins, are not brownish green, but a gorgeous iridescent green and gold. The Figeater spends most of its two-year life living in soft soil and compost piles as larvae, eating the same things that pill bugs, and earwigs like to eat. In August, the Figeater takes flights, feasts on Figs, nectarines, peaches, plums, sunflowers, and pollen-plenty flowers. It mates, lays tiny yellow eggs in the soil, and drops dead to the ground to menace us no more.

The beetle as a grub. Not so pretty now are they? (Photo by Rob Swatski via flickr)

The beetle as a grub. Not so pretty now are they? (Photo by Rob Swatski via flickr)

Supposedly the larvae is edible, very rich in protein and a favorite treat for the packs of raccoons that frequent the urban setting of Highland Park. But rather than eating them, I remember them best as those little creatures we liked to enslave for our amusement as kids:

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