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Walking Eagle Rock

March 26, 2014
1948: The last time Colorado was reconfigured. When the streetcar track was ripped-out and six multipurpose traffic lanes were installed.

1948: The last time Colorado Boulevard was reconfigured. The year that the 5 Line streetcar tracks were ripped-out and six multipurpose traffic lanes were installed.

 

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.

 

 

 

Community Service

March 19, 2014
The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council

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!

 

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Best of luck to whoever is chosen to tie the bell to the cat.

bellcat

A Grand Time

January 24, 2014

Over 300 cyclists gather outside Judson Studios in Garvanza and try to hear some history on the stained glass studio.

Over 300 cyclists gather outside Judson Studios in Garvanza and try to hear some history on the stained glass studio.

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!

Over 300 dapper cyclists roll up Monte Vista.

Hundreds of dapper cyclists roll up Monte Vista.

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.

For more coverage, see Milestone Rides , Flying Pigeon LA, or Metro’s post at The Source.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p45i2i_IVBI

Leaving Judson Studios on Avenue 67.

OMG The Greyhound Bar & Grill is Open!

January 17, 2014
Guests queued outside The Greyhound on opening night.

Guests queued outside The Greyhound on opening night.

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.

Order here.

Order here.

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!

The first order of Highland Park 18 Year Scotch Whisky.

The first order of Highland Park 18 Year Scotch Whisky.

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

cityhalllll

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.

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