Thursday, August 26, 2004


The phone calls started coming in early today as the LA Weekly and its cover story on the Neighborhood Councils hit news racks around town. And all the callers had the same message. They each wanted me to sternly reprimand the writer of the article and to defend the tarnished honor of neighborhood councils with a strongly worded letter.

But upon reading the article - while I deplored the sub-title (What can save LA's broken neighborhood councils), which suggested that the NC's overall needed to be fixed - the article was actually quite accurate in the individual stories it told. And it was even understated when it came to describing the problem children of our NC's.

The mentally challenged lunatic fringe running the Venice Grassroots Council actually came out far better than any of the first hand reports I have heard of them, and the factionalism that has split the Van Nuys Council (and which is legendary in NC circles) was calmly dealt with. And the writer very accurately described the nursery school antics of the Lincoln Heights Council which equal if not surpass some of the early Malibu City Council meetings where I once opined that what Malibu's new city manager would need most was a degree in child psychology.

The only real problem I had with the article is that these councils are the exceptions rather than the rule, a fact that was not at all made clear. Now, granted, the article does cover the activities of some of the more typical councils and it does end on a very hopeful note, but I do feel the article really only tells one (albeit, important) side of the story. Still, as for being an examination of the problems that do face the handful of true problem NC's and the pitfalls that all NC's are and will be faced with - it is a very accurate article.

In the interest of full disclosure, I might add that I have run into the writer - Robert Greene - a number of times during his writing of the article and we have developed a kind of relationship that can best be described as follows; when a person once asked him if he wrote for a newspaper, I graciously answered for him that he did not - that he wrote for the LA Weekly.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


In Roger Vincent's excellent (as usual) article in today's LAT's Sunday business section, he mentions the until now only rumored details about the final selection of Related over Forest City in the Grand Avenue 'competition'.

While one member of the Forest City team told me their not trying to compete with the massive retail complex being built at Staples as the main reason they were not selected, Eli Broad instead posited in the article that the proposals were essentially tied with the deciding factor being Related's agreeing to pay more ground rent and to put forth more subsidies for low and moderate income housing on the site. However, of course, the building of far more high-end retail would enable them to pay higher rents and subsidies, so there could be some correlation there.

The one part of the article that should worry anyone concerned about the future of Los Angeles, though, was that statement that the head of Related - former tax attorney Steve Ross - is intensely involved in every detail of his projects - down to the art work and the lighting fixtures.

The only problem is that as one who has seen many of their projects, I have not seen any art or a lighting fixtures in their projects that would be particularly suitable for any place in Los Angeles (and this is - alas - especially true of theIr one built project in downtown LA), much less on Grand Avenue.

Now this is not to say that their projects are tacky or in bad taste, for they are not. They are generally quite tasteful - if your taste is 1960's corporate modernism (though their lead architecture David Childs prefers a very heavy handed 1930's Art Deco style 'updated' to the 1960's) - modernism after modernism has lost its edge and its nerve - or an inoffensive shopping center Taco Bell type of Spanish revival pastiche architecture such as their highly suburban Florida shopping mall with apartments on the roofs of the stores in West Palm Beach.

They are highly efficient machines with which to make money and have it shipped back to their corporate headquarters in New York. Nothing less and nothing more.

In short - it is the kind of taste that is antithetical to true urbanism, antithetical to quality design - and inappropriate for a great street even during the middle to late 20th Century, much less what is needed to redefine what is necessary to create a great urban center in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Mr. DeMille... I'm ready for my Close-Up.... (not)

I can count on one hand the number of times I have been photographed since age 17 other than by family or by female and other friends. I have also managed to avoid even once being captured by a TV camera. However, today, at the request of Greg Nelson of the Department of Neighborhoods Empowerment (DONE - the agency in charge of Neighborhood Council's), I just shot a half-hour TV show for the city cable channel on the economic development in the Old Bank District/Gallery Row area of downtown. I am beginning to realize that this sort of thing comes with the territory, but do not expect the time and date of its showing on this site.