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The Hammer In The Night

September 11, 2013



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:

The Next Twelve Years?

July 27, 2013
The post-election pile.

The post-election pile.

The results have been certified. The people have spoken. Another member from the California Legislature has been sworn into the Los Angeles City Council. 10,152 residents of Council District 1 voted for Gil Cedillo and 9,389 voted for Jose Gardea, giving Cedillo a victory by 763 votes. For all intents and purposes this could mean the next twelve years will likely be spent with Gil Cedillo as Councilmember for CD1 until he is forced-out by law after three terms.

Now our City Council with the most lucrative salary of any municipality in the United States ($178,790 annually) is nearly half-filled with professional politicians who were forced-out of the state legislature by term limits, with more certainly on their way in the coming years. This unintended consequence of term limits is explored by David Zahniser in a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. The fear is that a council filled with old-pros instead a diverse pool of local faces could hinder the democratic process. That a Council obedient to the charming yet iron fist of former Assembly speaker, now Council President, Herb Wesson will not serve the people who elected them. This growing lack of diversity in City Council could be found on July 3rd when a council comprised ENTIRELY of men came to order in Council Chambers. (First time since 1969.)

Gil Cedillo at the City Inauguration.

Gil Cedillo at the City Inauguration.

The good news is that Gil Cedillo is a capable leader with many political friends in labor and in the California Democratic Party. How will that will be applied to Council District 1 is unknown. What is known is that Highland Park will be getting more attention by mere proximity with the addition of his district office on the corner of Figueroa and Avenue 56. So that’s a plus. Maybe he will be successful in fulfilling Reyes’ promise to make the long-vacant Security Pacific Building across the avenue into a Northeast Los Angeles City Hall. There is a lot for Cedillo to learn about local issues, luckily for him, an opportunity to educate our new councilman will take place this Tuesday, July 30th from 7pm to 8pm at Ramona Hall (4580 N. Figueroa St) Mt. Washington Elementary School (3981 San Rafael Ave). We will have just an hour to express our concerns for CD 1 at what he is calling “Mt. Washington Town Hall.” See Patch for more.

Now if we can just get Gil to understand and respect what Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZ) and Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument (LAHCM) status means…

The 1923 Highland Hall with historic windows.

The Highland Park Masonic Temple Building  with historic windows from 1923.

The Highland Hall with historic 1923 widows removed for Cedillo's new district office.

The Highland Park Masonic Temple Building with historic 1923 widows removed for Cedillo’s new district field office.

The Government You Deserve

May 21, 2013

“In a democracy, people get the kind of government they deserve.”

Turf War

Turf War

Election Day for Highland Park’s District 1 is today, May 21. The choice is between termed-out state legislator, Gilberto Cedillo and Jose Gardea, Chief of Staff to our retiring CD 1 councilmember, Ed Reyes.


Gil Cedillo needs a job.

Council District 1 is the most densely-populated district that occupies the central and most historic core of the city. The district covers the diverse neighborhoods of Highland Park, Mount Washington, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Solano Canyon, Dodgertown 90090, Chinatown, Elysian Park, Echo Park, Angelino Heights, Westlake, Pico Union, and portions of West Adams and Koreatown.

On one side of the ballot, you have Jose Gardea who has spent nearly all his life in Council District 1 and worked as the Chief of Staff for Ed Reyes for the last 10 years. (To say he is familiar with CD1 is quite the understatement.) Gardea is endorsed by the LA Times, Eric Garcetti, Ed Reyes, Jimmy Gomez, and Highland Park’s other councilmember, Jose Huizar among others. On the other side is Gil Cedillo, who has represented the heavily Latino 46th California Assembly District, later the 45th Assembly District, and the 22nd California Senate District for a combined total of 14 years before being forced out by term limits. Cedillo is endorsed by Governor Brown, Mayor Villaraigosa, and essentially every Who’s-who of the California Democratic Party. (Interesting to note he also claims to be endorsed by Eric Garcetti, but is not.)

Cedillo Campaign Headquarters reflected against the No on I-710 sign in Folliaro's window.

The Pro-710 Expansion Cedillio campaign headquarters reflected against the Anti-710 Expansion sign in the window of Folliero’s on Figueroa Street.

Gil Cedillo has done a lot for California. He is among the top five Latino politicians in the state. No legislator has fought more for immigrant rights in this state than him. His greatest achievement is authoring the California DREAM Act for undocumented students of California. He has stood with union workers and championed the core Democratic causes. And yet, in this race, in this district, he represents the Right Wing of the two candidates. He is actually the most conservative candidate this area has seen since Sam Yorty prodigy, Art Synder ran the adjacent District 14. He is for Big Business, heavily supported by Chevron and the billboard industry (as if you haven’t noticed). He wants to build a Walmart in Chinatown. He is also THAT GUY, who for reasons most of Northeast Los Angeles, Pasadena, and South Pasadena can’t understand, keeps voting to spend millions and millions of dollars on trying to extend the failed Interstate 710 Freeway by any means necessary.

Nap time outside the Cedillo Campaign Headquarters.

Nap time outside the Cedillo Campaign Headquarters.

Cedillo likes to ask people when he meets them if they need a job. Which is a pretty clever way of getting people’s attention. That has been his focus for his CD1 Campaign: Jobs. How the Reyes administration hasn’t created jobs, how he will create jobs, how it is all about jobs. Because we all want a job, don’t we? The problem is, his approach to job creation is about empowering his corporate donors, rather than empowering the people of Council District 1. When I think about what the a city councilmember can do for their district, I think about how they can make our city safer, how they can improve transportation, how they can enhance our neighborhoods, how they can effectively provide a high standard of city services.

The Cedillo Campaign refuses to support safer streets and bike lanes on Figueroa Street outside their office.

When asked by Josef Bray-Ali to support safer streets with bike lanes on Figueroa outside their office just like the Gardea Campaign did, The Cedillo Campaign refused.

If you want to understand what a candidate’s campaign is really about, all you have to do is follow the money. When looking at who is contributing to who, one soon realizes this election is being bought by outsiders. Simply look at the zip codes and amounts being contributed to the different candidates: 38 people in 90042 contributed to Gardea, compared to Cedillo who received funding from only seven. (And that is with his campaign headquarters being located here.) On Cedillo’s donor list, you are more likely to find contributors outside Los Angeles (Beverly Hills, Sacramento, New York, etc…) while Gardea’s contributor list is made up almost entirely by individual donors who reside in the district he serves. This election comes down to promoting the man who has done the day-to-day administration for this district for over ten years to the elected position of City Council; verses electing a seasoned Sacramento politician who needs the job with its $178,789 annual salary. (Highest city council salary in the nation.)


As Chief of Staff for CD1, Gardea helped improve pedestrian safety with crosswalks and signage like this one outside my daughter’s preschool on Figueroa.

The City Council is all about the myriad of day-to-day little things that make a big difference. It is about administrating the city resources effectively and providing the services constituents need. It is about adding value to the quality of life in our fair city. Our city is about abandoned couches, dead opossums, graffiti, housing, health services, dogs and cats, sanitation, utilities, small business development, parks and recreation, public transportation, public safety, police and fire service, building codes, historic preservation, community redevelopment, neighborhood empowerment, urban planning, roads, sidewalks, street trees, arts and culture, libraries, museums, street lights and parking. There is only one candidate that is well-versed in all those departments, one candidate who has made his career to serve the city, and has worked with all of these Los Angeles interests to make our city a better place.

Today there is only one good choice for Council District 1: Jose Gardea.



Jose Gardea at Vista Hermosa Park, a park he helped to create in CD1. (Photo courtesy of Gardea Campaign 2013)

The Trolley Took Us There 12.31.10

December 31, 2010


The Big Red Car turns down Fair Oaks Avenue from Colorado Blvd., Pasadena after the Rose Parade in 1950. Photo via The Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

The Rose Parade and Rose Bowl have long been a major production for the transit operators of Los Angeles. It was really the abundance of mass transit rail lines going to Pasadena that made the Tournament of Roses Parade possible, beginning in 1890. About a million spectators are expected to line the route in the morning, and while intercontinental trains, or Pacific Electric’s Big Red Cars no longer go there, the Gold Line from Highland Park does! And better yet, it runs 24 hours with extra trains to accommodate this special event. Happy New Year!


What Will It Become

December 20, 2010

Frank’s Highland Park Camera has been for sale since 2005. Last week a new “Available” sign appeared on top of the old Kress Department Store Building (built 1928). Previously the asking price had been $5 million. The 7500 square foot building has been Frank’s for nearly 50 years now. The not really functioning store itself is like stepping into a time capsule that predates the digital era of photography. But with the new broker, a new effort to sell the property and an opportunity to create something different. So what will it become?

Remembering The Great California Cycleway

December 14, 2010

Photo of The Great California Cycleway in 1900. (Photo via Pasadena Museum of History)

All the excitement over a few lines painted on York Boulevard for bicycles last week, and Mark Vallianatos’ article on Eagle Rock Patch yesterday, reminded me of a time over a hundred years ago when bicycles ruled the day, and highways were being built just for them.

The California Cycleway passes over the Los Angeles Terminal Railroad near Glenarm Street in Pasadena. Circa 1900. (Photo via Pasadena Museum of History)

The Great California Cycleway opened in Pasadena around July of 1900. (Some sources say 1890, but its creator, Mr. Horace Dobbins didn’t start the Cycleway Company until 1897, and the only photos available of the cycleway date to 1900, likely when it was being shown.)

The California Cycleway was an elevated wooden bicycle highway that was designed to go from Hotel Green in Pasadena down the Arroyo, past Highland Park and into Downtown Los Angeles, ending at the Plaza on Olvera Street. Part of the design was to be a completely uninterrupted path by bridging over obstacles like creeks, roads, train tracks, and maintain only the slightest of grades (no more than 3%) over the 9 miles of smooth wooden track over an elevation of 600 feet. The entire project would have cost an estimated $187,500 at the time, and included a casino called, “Merlemount” to be placed midway in Arroyo Seco Park. (On top of where Debs Park is today??)

The Cycleway passes behind the Pasadena Grand Opera House on Bellevue at Raymond in 1900. Note the Pacific Electric trolley tracks, there was a special “Opera Car” that went just to the opera house from the line on Fair Oaks. (Photo via the Los Angeles Public Library.)

At the time of its opening there were an estimated 30,00o cyclists in the region. Which is quite impressive, considering the total population at that time was less than 500,000. The toll to use the bicycle super highway was 10¢ each way or 15¢ for a round trip. Part of the plan was to have bicycle rental available so that users could leave their bikes at either end of the cycleway. If Cycleway users wanted to forgo the climb back to Pasadena, they could take one of the 4 trains and trolleys adjacent to the cycleway.

Remnants of the Cycleway path in South Pasadena.

While many portions of right-of-way were secured for the Cycleway along the Los Angeles Terminal Railroad and Arroyo Seco, the grand plan was never completed. The only section of the Great California Cycleway to be built was the 1.25 mile section that went to South Pasadena from the Hotel Green. “Progress” stepped in. (Or should I say drove in.)

Photo taken from the 1906 Oaklawn Bridge built by architects Greene & Greene to accommodate the railroad and Cycleway. What looks like a dirt road left of the Gold Line is actually part of the Cycleway right-of-way from 1900. (Photo by Salaam Allah via Flickr)

By the late 19th century, the bicycle craze met the driving craze of the 20th century, and the cycleway was abandoned to become forgotten paths, alleyways, and roadways. (A popular belief is that the Cycleway became the Arroyo Seco Parkway / Pasadena Freeway. However, most of its path was east of the Arroyo Seco, whereas the parkway was built on the west bank and on area that was reclaimed by WPA flood control projects of the 1930s.)

The cycleway isn’t completely forgotten. In the years before his death, bicycle activist, Dennis Crowley, had tried to revive this dream of connecting Pasadena and Los Angeles with a New California Cycleway. Here in 90042, the sorely missed Cycleway Cafe honored the historical connection by naming their cafe after the utopian concept.

I’ve created a Google Map that shows part of path of the California Cycleway as best as I could guess it. (There must be a better map from 1900 out there somewhere.)

In the meantime, continue to enjoy the ever-increasing new bicycle lines in the pavement and please share the road.

Horace Dobbins, creator of the California Cycleway in 1900 showing off what would be the Cycleway’s downfall, an automobile. (Photo via Pasadena Museum of History.)