Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Kevin over at LA OBSERVED blows the top off the latest Hollywood scandal.
To being with, Kevin starts with the news that 101 year old Charles Lane - one of the greatest Hollywood character actors of all time - whom I had assumed has been dead for 20 years at least - is still alive!
To give you an idea how old this man is, I was born in 1948 and even BEFORE I was born - he was already playing old men type parts.
He not only lived through the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake and the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, but also the sinking of the Titanic, the Lusitania and John Gilbert's career.
So go to Kevin's post, hit his links and then read more about this remarkable gentleman. And then Hollywood casting agents - for God's sake - give this man a job!
He hasn't worked for more years than some of TV's current stars have been alive! It's a sign of clear age discrimination when Hollywood hires 90 year old youngsters to play 100 year old men when there are clearly more age appropriate actors capable of playing those same roles.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Memoir Becomes Novel, Secret Remains Secret
By EDWARD WYATT
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 28 - Martha Sherrill was ready to write a memoir. She had the subject: her father, Peter, a well-known polling expert and software company founder; she had the book contract, with Random House, which paid her a healthy advance.
Then, the truth intervened.
"Within four or five months of getting the money and beginning to spend it, a massive skeleton popped right out of the closet," Ms. Sherrill said in an interview here. "It was not anything that reflected really badly on my father," she said of the secret, which she has steadfastly refused to reveal. "Actually it reflected really well on him. But it was something that just couldn't ever be put in a book. It colored everything. It just changed the way I saw him."
Ms. Sherrill has written a book about her father, "The Ruins of California," published this month by the Penguin Press. But it is not a memoir. It is a novel, a heavily researched but fictional portrait that has left many of her father's ex-girlfriends - eight of whom posed for a group portrait at his memorial service - as well as friends and family members wondering what exactly is true and what is fiction.
Ms. Sherrill is a daughter of Southern California. She grew up in Glendale, a working-class suburb here, and often visited her grandmother in San Marino. Those places appear in fictional form in "The Ruins of California," as Van Dale and San Benito.
The wonderful irony here, of course, is that in an article about the 'truth' - the New York Times ... can't get its facts correct. Now while there are a number of ways to separate the working class from the middle and lower middle class, no matter which one you choose - Glendale is at the very least - very solidly... middle class.
Which reminds me - did the New York Times even gets its facts right in that now infamous Watts article in which they got practically every 'fact' wrong?
Saturday, January 28, 2006
$400 Lap Dance Trips Up Counterfeiting Ring
By H.G. Reza Times Staff Writer 10:12 PM PST, January 28, 2006
It was a three-hour lap dance and a stripper with a nose for money that finally led to the counterfeiters' undoing. Fifteen people have been indicted in the ongoing investigation. And Secret Service agents have discovered that Southern California street gangs teamed with a Mexican counterfeit ring and a drug cartel to bring phony $100 bills into the United States - $7.5 million worth since last January alone...
While the ring was headquartered in Santa Ana, Mexican street gangs throughout Southern California were passing the counterfeit bills... and may have been doing this at one or more of the businesses and organizations located on or near the NE corner 5th and Main that are operated by gang members or who by those protect gang members.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Both tea leaves and entrails will likely be carefully read by local pundits.
But - first, our good news - then... other people's... bad news.
The good news is that the Las Vegas condo boom was... insane - just as the Miami condo boom is - still - insane. Both markets thrived on the selling and reselling of unbuilt units by speculators and far, far more units were built per capita than in Los Angeles (and also New York).
In LA we are still seriously under built compared to demand and sales downtown are still strong even with the comparative lack of nightlife - or even day life. However, as all the new amenities start to appear in the next few months, and once the hundreds - yes - hundreds - of new shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, theaters, art galleries, museums and many other amenities being built open, the demand for downtown will become far stronger than it is now.
Downtown is about to become a unique environment unlike any that has ever existed in this city.
Secondary good news is that with first the China, then Vegas - and soon Miami markets start to slow - materials and labor costs should - hopefully - peak and then start to decline, making it cheaper - again, hopefully - to build in the future than now.
Now as for the bad news... if you are a Las Vegas condo owner or builder....
The Disappearing Las Vegas Condos
By FRED A. BERNSTEIN
THREE weeks ago, Eli Verdnikov, an engineer in Los Gatos, Calif., received a letter saying that the apartment building he planned to retire to — Icon Las Vegas — would not be built. In the envelope was a check for $73,672.81, the 10 percent deposit Mr. Verdnikov had paid, plus interest.
The developer of the building, Related Las Vegas, a partnership between two large and well-known companies, expected Mr. Verdnikov to accept the refund as payment in full. (Its letter explained that, by depositing the check, Mr. Verdnikov would be waiving any further rights.)
But Mr. Verdnikov wants more than the $73,672.81. Since he agreed in May 2005 to buy the 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment near the Las Vegas Strip for $728,900, its value, he says, has increased. "To purchase something similar, we would need to pay $200,000 more," said Mr. Verdnikov, who has been looking for a new apartment with his girlfriend, Gitty Stone.
So Mr. Verdnikov is suing for the gain he would have realized if the apartment had been built. "He deserves to get the benefit of the bargain," said Will Kemp, a lawyer with Harrison, Kemp & Jones in Las Vegas, who is representing Mr. Verdnikov and a dozen other Icon buyers.
As the market for high-end condos levels off, more and more people may find themselves in Mr. Verdnikov's position: with contracts to buy condos that will never be built. And some hope to recover the profits they believe they would have made.
In Las Vegas alone, developers have canceled at least four other buildings in the last year, including one called Aqua Blue that was to contain a Michael Jordan health club. Dozens of other buildings, in which units have been sold, may never break ground, said Brian Gordon, a principal at Applied Analysis, a Las Vegas consulting firm. Mr. Gordon said there are 97 condo projects in the works in greater Las Vegas, representing more than 52,000 units.
"I don't think anyone would expect that all these projects will move forward," Mr. Gordon said. He predicted that fewer than half of them would be built in the next five years. Of course, if the market cools enough, some buyers may be happy to get their deposits back.
The pitfalls for condo buyers may be particularly deep in and around Las Vegas, where construction prices have been skyrocketing. Mr. Gordon says some of his clients who are developers have reported a 30 percent increase in the cost of labor and materials in the last year alone. That means that developers who pre-sell apartments may find construction costs wiping out profits even before they break ground.
In the letter to Mr. Variationsov and the other buyers, Related Las Vegas said that the rise in labor and material costs had affected the viability of the project.
Still, the Icon cancellation came as a surprise, in part because its developer is a partnership of two giants: the Related Group of Florida, which calls itself the nation's leading condo developer, headed by Jorge Perez, and the Related Companies, headed by Stephen M. Ross, the developer of the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. Icon's two 48-story towers were expected to be completed in 2007 and 2008.
Mr. Perez was out of the country and could not be reached for comment, a company spokesman said. Reached on his cellphone, Martin Burger, the president of Related Las Vegas, hung up.
In contrast to its current silence, "the company relied heavily on its own reputation in marketing the building," said David Ezra, owner of Ezra International Realty, which sold some 60 units in the building. He added that he thought the excuse of higher construction costs "might work for a first-time developer, but it doesn't work for Related."
Mr. Variationsov, who is 62 and plans to retire just around the time Icon would have been finished, said he walked away from another project to buy from Related. "We switched it because of their very heavy advertising," he said. "They convinced us they were better."
But whether Mr. Variationsov — or any buyer — can receive more than a refund of his deposit depends on a number of factors. Some contracts for unbuilt condos allow the seller to back out if it cannot obtain proper financing (a phrase sometimes so vague as to constitute a get-out-of-deal-free card, lawyers say).
The contracts for Icon Las Vegas contained no such financing contingency. Related did claim the right to back out if it failed to sell at least half of the units in the project. But observers say the company far exceeded the 50 percent goal, and statements made last year by Mr. Burger support that view.
After that... things go downhill... fast.
The rest of article should only be viewed by adults as it qualifies as litigation lawyer porn - of the Triple XXX variety.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
My condolences to the entire Penn family.
Now ALL reports say Chris Penn was 40 when he passed away. Last night many articles said he was 43 as opposed to the 40 I originally quoted and the LAT still had both ages at the same time at different places on its website.
Below is the copy of the internal LAT memor about the hiring of Matt Welch, courtesy of Kevin over at LAOBSERVED:
Matt Welch today joined the editorial board as the assistant editorial page editor. Matt, a native of Long Beach, comes to us from Reason magazine, where he was an associate editor, and from his own 4-year-old blog.
Prior to that, Matt was a U.S.-based correspondent for Toronto's National Post, and he has also been a prolific freelance contributor to other publications, including our newspaper. Matt worked with former Mayor Richard Riordan on the prototype issue of the still-born L.A. Examiner.
In the early 1990s, Matt was the founder and editor of Prognosis, the first independent English-language newspaper in Prague. He then moved to Budapest, where he was the managing editor of the Budapest Business Journal.
What the memo does not address is that dark secret that Matt Welch has - until now - been able for so long to hide....
And that damning secret can be found in the very first line of the very first post clear back in 2004 on... LA COWBOY:
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
LA Cowboy - Politics, Culture and Art in LA
Accepting a dare from Matt Welch of the late, lamented (other than by the LA Times, of course), LA Examiner - I am going to take a stab (which may prove to be an all too relevant verb) at starting a debate about politics in in Los Angeles, along with all the other aspects of life in LA that make life here both exciting and despairing.
LA COWBOY exists only because of Matt Welch....
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Worse yet, on the LA Times website, there is not even a mention of his story on the opening page, despite this being the single most important story the paper could cover this year. And even when when you click on the California section, Lopez's story is buried as item number six and both the title and the lead do not give even the slightest hint about the true content of the story.
So I guess my misguided hopes that the Los Angeles Times might grow some balls and finally address this urgent issue in depth were... as usual... misguided.
See my previous post for my prior comments on the below story:
In today's Sunday Times, LA Times investigative reporter Steve Lopez takes a break from his regular column and tackles the two biggest issues facing California.
Runaway public pensions and health care costs.
Now there are those who may disagree about these being the biggest issues facing us. Some may claim that education or police or fire or.... whatever.... is more important.
The problem is that in a surprisingly few number of years we are going to be paying more money to people who are no longer working for government than we are paying those who are actually working for us. And in time - 100% of the budget of every level of government will be required to pay for just the pensions and health care costs of former public employees unless there is a drastic change in the rules.
The only other option is wait until the day comes we have to close all the schools, lay off all the police and the fire fighters and fire every government worker- other than those who collect the taxes to pay for those pensions, of course.
Now today's column raises this problem - but offers no solutions and not near enough raw data - or enough real world projections to see where will will be in 20 or 50 or 100 years from now so the public can have the information it needs to understand how serious the situation is.
So after spending a week on Skid Row - maybe Steve Lopez should spend much of the next month talking to and reporting on all sides of this issue.
It's about the only thing he can report on that's even more frightening that what he saw on Skid Row.
Below are only a handful of the horror stories Steve recounts:
In other words, a firefighter who averages $80,000 a year on active duty can retire at $100,000 or more by basing it on a year in which his salary was inflated by overtime, accrued vacation, shift differentials and other factors."
And then he gets cost-of-living adjustments on top of that," said Richman. "We are currently paying for two police departments or two fire departments" in many cities, Richman added, meaning that the total payout to retired public safety employees is as much as the pay for active employees."
And it's going to get worse, because the retirement age has been lowered to 50 over the past few years, and at the same time people are living longer."
Another problem is that it's the most experienced employees who leave. Why continue working if you can sit on a beach at 90% of your salary, or get a job somewhere else and double your money, as hundreds of cops have done?
John Welter was assistant police chief in San Diego when, at 55, he became chief of police in Anaheim. Now 56, he's got a $100,000 pension from San Diego and $175,000 salary in Anaheim.
There are a lot of hard questions that need to be asked - and a lot of far harder answers that need to be produced.
So let the debate begin. No politician with any future plans to run for office will ever dare tackle this subject - so it's all up to you Steve....
Friday, January 20, 2006
The problem is that the improvements - other than the occasional blockbuster expose - are too subtle for the average reader will observe and there are so many physical and structural barriers to reading the printed paper, that the paper's physical design drives away readers.
Unless dramatic change starts now, it is hard to imagine anything resembling the present paper being published five years from now.
From the Los Angeles Business Journal:
L.A. Times Drags on Tribune Revenue
Tribune Company's December newspaper ad revenue fell 4.5 percent to $333.2 million, the company reported Thursday, reflecting a 9.6 percent slump from national advertising that was blamed on weak ad sales at the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago-based company's largest paper.
Full-run ad volume at the Times plunged 13.9 percent from December of last year. In addition to the Times and Newsday, Tribune owns its namesake paper in Chicago.More details are in the Tribune's press release:
National advertising revenues declined 9.6 percent, due largely to declines at the Los Angeles Times. Movie, technology and wireless categories were down, partially offset by gains in the health care and package goods categories.
Classified advertising revenues rose 2.5 percent due to gains in help wanted and real estate, which rose 13 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Automotive classified advertising fell 16 percent. Interactive revenues, which are primarily included in classified, were $15 million, up 33 percent, due to strength in all categories.
Circulation revenues were down 3.5 percent primarily due to volume declines at most of the company’s newspapers and selectively higher discounting.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Below is from PreserveLA:
Los Angeles Railway Lecture
Interested in the history of Los Angeles' early railways and passenger stations? Josef Lesser will present a forty-minute powerpoint presentation tracing the history of Los Angeles passenger stations on January 19th, beginning with the city's first railroad station built in 1869 by the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad Company through the construction of the Los Angeles Union Passenger Depot in 1939.
Using original graphics and some extraordinary pictures from the Donald Duke Collection and the Archives of the State of California, Mr. Lesser will illustrate the progress of the mainline railroads' passenger service, including the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad Company, Southern Pacific, Santa Fe and Union Pacific leading up to the construction and occupancy of Union Station in 1939.
What: Gateway to Los Angeles: Early Passenger Terminals, 1869-1939
When: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: MTA Headquarters, 3rd FloorBoard RoomOne Gateway PlazaLos Angeles, CA
Cost: Admission is $5.00. No advance reservations or advance tickets are necessary.
The presentation is being sponsored by the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation. The Foundation maintains a world-class railroad archive in its offices in Alhambra and has changing satellite displays in Los Angeles and Fullerton restaurants. It is presently creating a series of permanent displays to be located in the South Arcade of the Los Angeles Union Station.
Mr. Lesser is a native of Los Angeles and president of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation.
The event will take place in the MTA Board Room in downtown Los Angeles with free parking in the MTA Headquarters garage on Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 7:00 PM sharp. Admission is $5.00. No advance reservations or advance tickets are necessary. For additional information call (626) 458-4449 or (323) 931-6757.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
I recently accepted a buyout offered by the Tribune company to its L.A. Times editorial staff. Yesterday was my last day at the Times.
Beginning next week, I’ll write a weekly theater column for Los Angeles CityBeat/ValleyBeat, the alternative newspaper and web site now in its third year, with a circulation of 100,000 throughout the L.A. area and in some adjacent counties. CityBeat currently has no regular theater coverage, so I’m excited to open a new weekly arena for discussion of Southern California theater. Besides the column, I’ll also contribute brief capsule reviews to the theater listings.
Seventies teen idol Leif Garrett was charged this morning with possession of heroin after his arrest in the Pershing Square subway station over the weekend.
Original story before Garrett's arraignment:
Forget Rodeo Drive if you want to watch the current - and former stars - of Hollywood spend their money. Instead, come to the 'Nickel' - Fifth Street East of Hill Street. Luckily, though, with all new police cameras being installed - soon we will all watch them as they make their drug purchases just by turning on the Eleven o'clock News.
Leif Garrett Is Jailed on Drug Charge
The 1970s teen idol is arrested after allegedly having no train ticket in an L.A. subway station.
Richard Winton Times Staff Writer January 18, 2006
Seventies teen idol Leif Garrett was being held in Men's Central Jail on Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of possessing narcotics and failing to have a ticket in the Pershing Square subway station over the weekend. Garrett, 44, was being held without bail because he was also detained on a bench warrant for allegedly violating the terms of his probation for a previous offense, Los Angeles County sheriff's and district attorney's officials said.
The musician-actor, who has a history of drug issues dating from the 1970s, pleaded guilty in March to attempted possession of cocaine-based narcotics and was placed on probation, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney's office. At a Dec. 20 hearing in that case, a judge issued a bench warrant for Garrett's arrest for an unspecified reason, Gibbons said.
Garrett was detained about 6 p.m. Saturday on the platform of Pershing Square's Red Line station by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies assigned to the transit unit.According to deputies, Garrett was detained after he was found to be without a ticket to ride the rail system. A subsequent check turned up suspected narcotics and the warrant for his arrest, officials said...
..... Los Angeles police in 1999 arrested the bandanna-wearing musician in the MacArthur Park area after he allegedly tried to buy narcotics from undercover officers..... Pershing Square is just a few blocks west of where actor Brad Renfro was arrested last month in a drug sting by the LAPD. Renfro was charged with felony attempting to possess heroin.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
More cake typos *
A Times staffer emails that at yesterday's goodbye affair for features-floor editor John Scheibe, the golf-themed message on his cake referred to tea time instead of "tee time." Three's a trend:
Tour de France instead of "Tour de Force" for Kevin Thomas
Faithfull instead of "faithful" for Eric Malnic and other Metroids
Now even though LAT Editor Dean Baquet has not yet released any official word on this latest blunder - inside sources say this latest tier of events has left him pretty... frosted.
And below is my post on the first Frostingate story:
Monday, January 16, 2006
Jacques Faizant, 87; Editorial Cartoonist's Work Ran in Le Figaro January 16, 2006
Jacques Faizant, 87, a French editorial cartoonist whose work was a fixture in the newspaper Le Figaro for more than four decades, died Saturday in a Paris hospital....
Oops! Sorry! False Alarm!
Still no LA Times story (at least on-line) on famed Los Angeles cartoonist, Eldon Dedini, who died two days before this dead French guy and whose death the New York Times covered two days before this...
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 15th, 2 - 5 PM
Regular Hours: Saturday - Tuesday, 11 AM - 5 PM
INMO Gallery presents Hotel Blue Wave, an animation by Andreas Angelidakis that incorporates the notions of beach and squat into the concept and structure of a hotel. Also included in the exhibition are drawings and paper models from recent projects, Cloud House and Superneen.
Angelidakis is one of the first to treat the internet as a real place, a site where he designed and built online communities such as the Chelsea Project and Neen World. His involvement with the internet expanded to offline projects, such as Teleport Diner, where he used an online library of free objects to furnish a real space in Stockholm, in a process that could be described as a conceptual 3D print.
He also designed and built spaces that were intended to appear as computer renderings, sparking a discussion as to whether they were ever built (Pause pavilion, Stockholm 2002) and spaces that included a garden of mummified plants used as a virtual horizon for a laser beauty clinic (Forever Laser, Geneva 1998 and 2003).
Born in Athens, Greece, Angelidakis studied architecture at Sci-ARC and Columbia, where he began exploring the relationship of clandestine haphazard construction and ad-hoc computer network, drawing a parallel between hardware and life.I
NMO Gallery 114 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90013
Seriously cool art in a soon to be hot gallery at the former now long defunct Billy's Grill in the heart of the ever expanding Gallery Row at 5th and Main.
After the discovery of Neptune in 1846, astronomers believed that odd perturbations in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune could not be entirely explained except by the presence of yet another massive planet somewhere beyond Neptune. They named that body Planet X. The astronomical mystery became a cause celebre.
"I believe in the new planet," Mark Twain wrote. "I hope it is going to be named after me; I should just love it if I can't have a constellation."Twain was long dead by the time the answer came.
As it turned out, much of what astronomers thought they knew about Planet X was wrong. It wasn't big. In fact, there are seven moons in the solar system that would be larger than the planet.
And it didn't cause the perturbations in Uranus' and Neptune's orbits that were the primary reason for believing there was a ninth planet. Scientists eventually determined the perturbations were the result of inaccurate observations.
Among other interesting observations by John Johnson, Jr. in his article about an impending NASA Pluto probe, is that after taking until at least 2015 to get there, the piano-sized craft (an superb visual imental mage supplied by him) the craft will then have but one earth day to take close-up photos of the planet.
After traveling billions of miles, New Horizons must thread a needle 186 miles wide to approach Pluto. Swinging over the small planet at a distance of 6,200 miles, it would have just one Earth day to get the best pictures. The onboard cameras should be able to resolve features as small as 80 feet across.
One challenge facing NASA controllers is the time it would take to communicate with the spacecraft once it reaches Pluto — about four hours and 25 minutes, one way. At those distances, New Horizons would be well into its observations before controllers find out whether they are getting good data.
And yet it still takes two weeks for the US Post Office in LA to transfer a letter exactly twelve miles - and to then still deliver it to the wrong address...
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Any male who came of age in the 1960's will have fond memories of Dedini's nymph and satyr Playboy cartoons and many will likely remember when they first realized he was also doing cartoons for the New Yorker.
What I did not know was that he was essentially a local boy born and raised in California and that he was schooled and worked in Los Angeles for many years:
Eldon Dedini, 84, Magazine Gag Cartoonist, Dies
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Eldon Dedini, a cartoonist who concocted a mythical world of satyrs and nymphs for Playboy and another of quirky, sophisticated wit for The New Yorker, died Thursday at his home in Carmel, Calif. He was 84....
....Mr. Dedini did around 1,200 cartoons for Playboy and 630 for The New Yorker in a career that also included Disney cartoons...
.....Mr. Dedini's Playboy cartoons helped establish the magazine's image in the 1960's, from takeoffs on classic Japanese erotica to urban hipsters. His sexually brash satyrs in joyful pursuit of astoundingly proportioned, equally lusty nymphs became as much a Playboy trademark as lascivious advice columns.
Eldon Lawrence Dedini was born in King City, Calif., on June 29, 1921. His son said that at 5 he drew a strikingly realistic picture of a train from memory. He did cartoons for two local newspapers without pay to gain experience.
While at Salinas Junior College, now Hartnell College, he sold his first cartoon to Esquire. He graduated from the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, where he meet Virginia Conroy, whom he married in 1944.
Eldon Dedini's first job was as an artist at Universal Studios. He moved to Disney, where he worked with writers on films that included "Mickey and the Beanstalk."
He joined Esquire in 1946 and stayed with the magazine until 1950, when he moved to The New Yorker. He added Playboy to the New Yorker job in 1960...
....His distinctively wry approach was suggested in one of his hundreds of New Yorker cartoons: two mice are conversing as they enter a crowded room. "Oh, Lord, not another wine-and-cheese party," one groans.
Hopefully he left behind a cartoon of himself entering the pearly gates... in full pursuit of a angel winged full bodied nymph.
January 15, 2006
Gaming Belfast's Patriot Game
By FRANCIS X. CLINES - New York Times
The Irish have a word for it - gobsmacked - that properly describes the astonishment of Representative Peter King and other Irish-Americans at the news that Denis Donaldson, long a trusted leader in Ireland's rebel movement, has been spying for Britain for decades.
The IRISH have a word for it?
Well - hell no!
The English have that word. Yup. It's a True Brit word.
Gobsmacked gestated either in Scotland or the North Of England, was popularized in Liverpool, hit the big time in London and then - later - crossed over to Northern Ireland.
It is not and was not, however, ever an 'Irish' word....
Tsk.... tsk... and the New York Times was doing so well today with the LA Phil article....
File this one in the... too good to be true file....
January 15, 2006
Continental Shift New York Times By ALLAN KOZINN
LOS ANGELES — Predicting which American city might overtake New York as the center for the arts - any of the arts - has long been a parlor game in certain circles. If, 15 years ago, you had asked an informed fan where the excitement was in the symphonic world, you would have heard about the St. Louis Symphony, thriving under Leonard Slatkin's baton, or about the Cleveland Orchestra, which, under Christoph von Dohnanyi, was regaining the sheen it had lost since the 1960's height of George Szell's fabled tenure.
Surely no one would have mentioned this city, where the Philharmonic was respectable but on the downside of its up-and-down history. Yet in 2006, the Los Angeles Philharmonic tops the list of America's premier orchestras and serves as a lesson in how to update an august cultural institution without cheapening its work.
It has everything. Its new home, the $275 million Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry, became a national cultural landmark the instant it opened in 2003 and is as satisfying acoustically as it is visually. The orchestra's programming - modernist-leaning and often inventively theatrical - has won the envy of music lovers across the country and is playing to near-capacity houses.
The ensemble has burnished its reputation for energetic, streamlined playing, and this weekend it is making a recording for Deutsche Grammophon, ending a four-year recording drought. It has also leapt into 21st-century musical commerce, striking a deal to make some of its concerts available on iTunes.
At the center of this grand renovation is Esa-Pekka Salonen, the 47-year-old Finnish conductor who has been the Philharmonic's music director since 1992...
My God - I can't imagine what photos of Kozinn the LA Phil could have of him (a threesome with an underaged gerbil and an immature baby seal?) that could force him to write all that wonderfully purple prose in the New York Times - so he must actually believe what he wrote!
Now for Esa's big, big plans for our future....
.... he has explored the music of the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, and he started a "Filmharmonic" project to foster new collaborations between composers and filmmakers. Mr. Salonen envisioned a series of new 60-minute works with film components, which the orchestra could perform and release on DVD. But he was unable to raise the funds.
"I haven't given up hope that someday some executive at Disney comes and says, 'Well, look, do you want to do it?' " Mr. Salonen said. As for the criticism he has received for not championing enough Los Angeles composers, "It has been on my mind a lot," he said. "The problem is that L.A. is quite a transitory place.
There are young composers who come to study here, and then they're gone." But he has hopes on that front, too.
Yay! Now for more good stuff....
The orchestra is offering a Beethoven cycle this season, but also installments of a Shostakovich cycle, a festival built around the English composer Thomas Adès, and "Minimalist Jukebox," an expansive exploration of Minimalism overseen by Mr. Adams.
"Almost daily," he said, "I run into people who would come to a Kurtag concert" - Gyorgy Kurtag, a contemporary Hungarian composer - "and who would also go to hear U2 or a world-music presentation. And they will enjoy a symphony here and there. It's an iPod landscape."
All told, the orchestra's current season offers works by 42 composers from the 20th or 21st centuries, 9 from the 19th and 8 from the Baroque and Classical eras - a configuration unimaginable among the East Coast establishment.
Critics' pleas for more adventurous programming at the New York Philharmonic are usually dismissed with the assertion that new music doesn't sell tickets. But the Los Angeles Philharmonic expects to sell 93 percent of its tickets this year. The New York Philharmonic projects sales of 81 percent.
And now for the big close...
Rock stars, star architects, Finnish diffidence and intellectual experimentation: Can other cities learn from this strange amalgam? Mr. Salonen regards it as site-specific, and he isn't much interested in testing the theory.
He is happily ensconced in Los Angeles with his wife and three children, and if he gives up his Los Angeles directorship, it will most likely be to spend more time composing.
So New Yorkers with fantasies of Mr. Salonen moving east and breathing life into the New York Philharmonic when Lorin Maazel steps down in 2009 might as well give them up. But Mr. Salonen's success here provides a foolproof recipe for any orchestra.
All it needs is a charismatic conductor with fresh ideas and an openness to new musical currents; a concert hall that people want to go to and that musicians like to play in; programs that treat music not as a museum culture but as a lively continuum; and a management and board willing to support experimental urges.
It's pretty simple, really.
Ahhhh.... pig... wallow.... mud.....
CITY GOVERNMENT / URBAN PLANNING
By Jade Chang
Sometimes you need a politician
who is willing to look at the small
pic - instead of the big one.
'This city is a collection of little
neighborhoods, a blanket of network.
It's better to do things in
little steps.' says Los Angeles Councilwoman
Jan Percy, whose
district ranges from the rapidly gentrifying
historic downtown core.... to South Los Angeles.
..... The Councilwoman's Ninth
District contains two of the city's
most high-profile projects, both
with the potential to alter the way
downtown LA. is perceived: Grand
Avenue, a $1.8 billion mixed-use
retail, entertainment, residential,
and hotel development dominated
by Frank Gehry's Disney Concert
Hall: and the entertainment oriented 1.2 billion dollar LA Live project,
built around the Staples Center. And as Grand Avenue begins to consider
retailers, Perry insists on including
some independent local merchants
After graduating from the University of Southern
California, where she took urban-planning
classes and had to "identify social problems and
solve them with design," Perry took a job as
admissions officer at the Southern California
Institute of Architecture in 1979. There she got
to know the school's first director Ray Kappe,
and architects Michael Rotondi, Thom Mayne whose
Caltrans building went up in her district
in 2005 and current director Eric Owen Moss.
Blunt and plainspoken, Perry is at ease around
design in a way few politicians are; she doesn't
see it as a trophy or a lure-or just another iconic
building to put on a stamp. To her design is an
essential building block of a city.
When the Midnight Mission, one of L.A.'s oldest
housing shelters, was planning its renovation,
Perry advocated the creation of a courtyard with
toilets and safe sleeping areas for individuals
who couldn't or wouldn't sleep in shelters. Homeless
housing is one of downtown's biggest issues. Rather
than battle with developers and new residents
who didn't want SROs and shelters in their
adopted neighborhoods, Perry pushed for housing
that, at least on the outside, could pass for
market-rate condos. Good design became a way
to keep a community economically integrated something
that's becoming harder and harder to
do as loft prices soar.
On the opposite end of the Ninth District, in
an area recently renamed South Los Angeles
after "South Central" became too heavy a burden,
Perry's small changes move in an unexpected
Besides adding welcome elements like
a farmers market to the community, the councilwoman
has developed a half-acre of wetlands at
the intersection of Slauson and Compton in a
new park that was once a Department of Water
& Power pipe yard; now it contains a freshwater
marsh and surrounding riparian habitat with a
variety of trees that will attract everything from
egrets to herons. It's a tiny urban oasis - and a
very big step.
LA Times Sends City To Dog House For Dog Pound Shift - Yet LA Times SUPPORTED the Switch! Rabid Hypocrisy Runs Rampant On Spring Street!!
The complications of the condemnation process of a furniture factory for a police station that would later become a proposed site for a proposed dog pound that now appears to be turning into the expansion of a furniture design studio (not to mention the way police bond money was used to buy the furniture factory/police station/dog kennel/furniture design studio and how the eviction of the previous owner was handled) - hardly shows our city at its best. But at least there is a logic as to how it has all come down.
Still, no one at City Hall (prior to Parks becoming councilman) looks very good in this as Patrick McGreevy correctly points out.
But regarding the inference that anyone who accepted donations from the owners of the design studio has been swayed by those donations is clearly unfounded when one looks at that history of the transaction.
When former Chief soon to be Councilman Bernard Parks ran for office, he promised to bring better paying jobs to his district and to improve the quality of development in his district, both of which will happen with this new project.
He is only doing what he had promised to do. And encouraging him at the time was one other major political force that seemingly supported transferring this land to the design center; a political force that put Parks on the spot back in 2003 by all but asking that he stop the pound and allow the design center to expand.
And that major - albeit, fully unmentioned in the article - political force was... the LA Times!
City Putting a Pound in the Way of Progress
By Michael Hiltzik
Los Angeles Times Monday December 01, 2003
The question raised by Francisco Pinedo's plans to turn a few square
blocks of South-Central L.A. into the leading furniture design mart
on the West Coast is this: Can the city of Los Angeles get out of its
The very LA Times now condemning politicians for supporting this, clear back in 2003 practically DEMANDED that these same politicians support this! For more on this, go to the below link and scroll a very, very long way down to get the the story.
And now - two years later - the Times is attacking the politicians for doing what the Times had asked them to do! Now of course to actually know all this, there would have to be at least one editor at the LA Times would actually reads the LA Times... but well... you know.... just cause you make the sausages doesn't mean you really want to eat them.
Much more on this later....
Political Connections Mar Land Swap
By Paul Richter
Critics say selling land set aside for an animal shelter to a developer-donor is an 'abuse of eminent domain'.
Below is the headline and byline that story links to in the California section:
Land Seized for Animal Shelter May Be Sold to Developer-Donor
By Patrick McGreevy, Times Staff Write
A year after Los Angeles seized three acres from a private company to construct a public building, a city councilman wants to sell the land to another private firm for a commercial development.
And it's been like this since last night..
Almost 3 PM and link to 'Richter' story (if one even exists - and he is not credited on Patrick's story) still links to Patrick's story.
Saturday 3:15 PM - Patrick replaces Richter on front page of website....
Friday, January 13, 2006
Lots more details in today's LA Times story.
KB Home, Anschutz to Take Over Planned Hotel, Condo Project Near Staples Center
Annette HaddadTimes Staff Writer January 13, 2006
KB Home and billionaire Philip Anschutz have agreed to take over development and ownership of a planned $600-million hotel and condominium project across from Staples Center, officials announced Thursday. The partnership all but ensures completion of what is seen as the linchpin in downtown Los Angeles' transformation into a viable entertainment and residential district.
The project's proximity to the Los Angeles Convention Center also could spark a rebound in the city's convention and tourism business, which has suffered because of a dearth of hotel rooms and attractions compared with Las Vegas and Anaheim.
The project, however, attracted controversy because nearly half its cost — $290 million — will be financed by city subsidies and loans. Anschutz's AEG Group and KB Home's newly formed KB Urban division replace developers Apollo Real Estate Advisors and Wolff Urban Management Inc., who were bought out of the project. "Our decision not to continue with the creation of this hotel will allow the project's development to go on in the most expeditious manner," said Richard Ackerman, an Apollo principal.
The 50-story structure will include two separate hotels with a combined 1,100 rooms, plus 250 luxury condo residences. It will be part of a $2.5-billion "sports-entertainment" hub, called L.A. Live, already under construction by Anschutz's AEG Group that also will feature restaurants, nightclubs and movie and performance theaters in addition to Staples Center.
The area also features new or proposed high-rise office and condo towers, as well as retail establishments. Demand for space seems healthy, as rents for downtown housing and commercial space have risen faster than in many other parts of the city in recent months.
"We will have a massive impact on the rest of the downtown hotels as we become one of the great points of destinations for conventions and events," said Tim Lieweke, president and chief executive of Los Angeles-based AEG.
At 50 stories, the new structure also would become one of the tallest buildings downtown. The tallest, at 73 stories, is the US Bank Tower, formerly called the Library Tower. Lieweke said Anschutz, a longtime Denver resident who made his fortune in oil and gas, railroads, telecommunications and real estate, put up $100 million in capital to ensure that the hotel project got built.
"We have to get this built so we can get the convention business turned around," Lieweke said, adding that AEG has no plans for other hotel projects. Lew Wolff, a nationally recognized expert in urban development and head of Wolff Urban Management, will be an advisor to the hotel project. The previous developers had been working with Hilton Hotels Corp. to operate the hotel.
AEG and KB Home said they were re-evaluating the Hilton deal and were also talking with other hotel operators to carry out their plan to have two hotel brands — offering mid-priced and luxury accommodations — within the same building.
Atop the structure will be 250 high-end condos with sweeping city views, to be built by Los Angeles-based KB Home. The nation's fifth-largest home builder, known for entry-level housing, has been slowly moving into the luxury market by building million-dollar single-family houses and townhomes. The condos will be the company's first high-end condo project and its first hotel-related venture.
KB Home and AEG "have the attitude of moving forward well and competently," said Bruce Karatz, chairman and chief executive of KB Home. "We've got all the elements to make this an extremely successful development — for us, for our partners, for the city and for all members of our city."
To form its partnership with AEG, KB Home withdrew from a previously announced proposal to build a twin-tower, 700-unit condo project two blocks away with rival Lennar Corp., said Jeffrey Gault, president of KB Urban. Miami-based Lennar declined to comment on Thursday's announcement. LNR Property Corp., a Lennar spinoff, has agreed to buy the parcel on which the project was to be built in a deal expected to close next month. But it was unclear whether the Lennar condo project would go forward in its originally proposed form.
Building a 1,000-plus-room hotel within walking distance of the convention center has been on the minds of city planners and developers for at least three decades. It was only after the development of Staples Center in 1999 that plans for a hotel started to crystallize. "This is another symbol of what the downtown renaissance is providing the city — millions in tax revenues and thousands of jobs," said Carol Schatz, president of the Central City Assn., a nonprofit business advocacy organization. . .
Thursday, January 12, 2006
While I liked a lot of the writing in the Old LA Times Magazine - with the exception of the still shamelessly uncorrected fabricated quotes in the spurious Wyatt Earp article, of course - the latest LA Times Magazine - called - West - comes with some great names attached to it:
Los Angeles Times to Launch 'West' Magazine Feb. 5
Amy Tan Joins West Magazine as Literary Editor
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 12, 2006 The Los Angeles Times on Feb. 5 will launch West, a new Sunday magazine offering readers an eclectic, insightful and entertaining view of the many faces of California. West magazine, which will replace the weekly Los Angeles Times Magazine, resurrects the title used by The Times for its Sunday magazine from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s.
The Times is one of the few U.S. newspapers continuing to publish a unique Sunday color magazine."We've found that Times readers clearly value a quality Sunday magazine," said Rick Wartzman, editor of West. "With compelling editorial content and innovative graphic design, West magazine fits that bill.""We're aiming to capture California in the grandest sense imaginable," said Wartzman.
Amy Tan Named Literary EditorAcclaimed author Amy Tan has joined West magazine as literary editor. She will be responsible for helping to solicit and select pieces for "California Story," an original work of short fiction set in the Golden State. Tan, a native Californian, is the author of the best-selling "Saving Fish from Drowning" and "The Joy Luck Club."
She also is the author of "The Hundred Secret Senses," "The Kitchen God's Wife," "The Bonesetter's Daughter," "The Opposite of Fate" and two children's books, one of which, "Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat," was developed into a popular PBS children's television series. Tan is a member of the literary garage band, the Rock Bottom Remainders.
(Cowboy note - they aren't half-bad! At least as literary garage bands go)
The full-color weekly will feature a new typography created exclusively for West and a bold, crisp and clean look - designed by Los Angeles Times Creative Director Joseph Hutchinson - that will significantly improve content flow and pacing. The magazine's distinctive page layout will dramatically showcase eye-catching photography by Los Angeles Times and freelance photographers and illustrations by some of the best artists in the industry.
For the cover of West magazine, artist Jim Parkinson, who designed the nameplates for Esquire and Rolling Stone magazines, has created a new, modern nameplate similar to one of the versions used for the original West magazine.
West will introduce six new weekly departments in the front of the book:
Fault Lines - The magazine's letters page will feature a one-panel cartoon by Los Angeles artist Donna Barstow, whose work has appeared in numerous magazines including Reader's Digest and the New Yorker.
From First & Spring: An Editor's Note Wartzman sets the tone for West with an informal piece, riffing off one of the features in that week's issue.
Rearview Mirror An elegant and intelligent spin on the old newspaper standby "Twenty-five years ago this week," this feature will play off a particular event to showcase classic California fiction and nonfiction writing.
Sunday Punches A fun page of lists, caricatures, two-word fiction, doggerel and an assortment of other light-hearted items.
Photo Synthesis Contributing writer Colin Westerbeck showcases California's rich photographic history and focuses on some of the state's leading and cutting-edge photographers.
The Rules of Hollywood Industry insiders - screenwriters, agents, actors, actresses lawyers, maybe even a key grip or two - will share their tales from the trenches.
The magazine will retain two of its most popular features in the back of the book:
Crossword - Merl Reagle's crossword puzzle will remain part of the weekly mix.
800 Words - The final words in the magazine will now belong to Dan Neil, Los Angeles Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. This feature on the arts and culture connects the dots as only Neil can: high and low, avant-garde and old guard, ancient and modern.
And much more at the above link.... and my only complaint would be that virtually every one of the staff writers listed elsewhere in the release ranges from left to far left. I doubt if even one of them could be described as having the beliefs of the average voter in LA, much less the state, and I seriously doubt that - even when one considers the contributing writers - that even a single one of them will be voting for Arnold next year.
They may be covering all of California, but it will only be from one exceptionally limited point of view and that - very clearly - is no accident.
True diversity - something to be avoided at all costs at the LA Times.
So with the home town team that is already building out the rest of the LA Live Project and a good chunk of South Park now at the helm - the long awaited convention headquarters hotel will shortly be a reality.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Another example of the type of story and the kind of writing that is too often lacking in the Times. Christy Hobart not only gives a sense of the people and the Getty over the past thirty odd years - but she also gives a sense of Los Angeles as a whole over the same thirty years. A few snips below - but just go read the whole article:
It was 1973, and eccentric billionaire Jean Paul Getty was planning an ambitious folly for his property in the Palisades: a precise replica of Villa dei Papiri, a grand home destroyed in Herculaneum in AD 79, that would house his collection of Greek and Roman antiquities.
He hired the architectural firm of Langdon Wilson to create the villa, and noted landscape architects Emmet Wemple and Denis Kurutz to design the 64 acres around it. The landscaping firm Moulder Brothers was to execute the installation, and 27-year-old foreman Richard Naranjo was to supervise.
With ancient Roman gardens as their guide, designers envisioned a Getty Villa that looked like it came from the Italian coast 2,000 years ago: an intimate inner courtyard with a reflecting pool; a formal outer peristyle garden with covered walkways, hedged paths and a long, rectangular pool; a walled garden; and an herb garden.
Every plant on the plan was chosen to be as faithful as possible to the Villa dei Papiri's. It was the job of Naranjo and his crew to track down and plant the flora, from the common (oleander, bay laurel and boxwood) to the unusual (Serbian bellflower, butcher's broom and medlar trees) — all under intense scrutiny.
J. Paul Getty wanted every detail executed precisely, says Stephen Garrett, a London architect at the time and Getty's liaison during the construction. "Not just the building, but the surroundings and the feeling," says Garrett, who went on to become J. Paul Getty Museum's first director. "Getty was extremely interested in the gardens."
Because the building already had been erected, Naranjo had to devise a way to get massive amounts of soil into the enclosed courtyards. The solution? A conveyor belt set up through a window. Grown trees were brought in that way too, as were about 3,500 boxwood plants. "I planted quite a few of those," Naranjo says with understatement.
Decades later, and after a nine-year closure for renovation, the villa is set to reopen Jan. 28. And the man who has overseen the planting, the pruning, the watering and the raking of J. Paul Getty's folly near Malibu is preparing for the next stage of his own life: retirement....
Troy Anderson, Staff WriterLA Daily News
Los Angeles County supervisors took the second step Tuesday to repair or relocate the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration building by approving a $200,000 contract to study the space needs among seven proposals.
Although the original plan indicated the preferred site for a new county hall would be a parking lot slated for construction as part of the $1.8 billion Grand Avenue project, Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen instead asked for more study.
The proposal is part of the renewed interest in establishing Grand Avenue as a world-class focal point for the city. The project calls for redeveloping 25 acres around the Walt Disney Concert Hall featuring high-rises, shops, restaurants, a hotel, condos and a large park between the county Music Center and City Hall. Officials are considering demolishing the county hall and nearby courthouse to provide even more space for the park.
At the request of Stanley Mosk Courthouse officials, the county is now reviewing options to relocate the courthouse to a site at Grand and First Street. Although there are no funds budgeted for the project, an estimated cost for a new courthouse is $513 million.
"It's certainly better to plan a park knowing what the size of its footprint is than not knowing," said Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. "Up until now, that has been one of the greatest challenges, the future of those buildings."
Still, there are preservation issues posed by the demolition of those buildings, Kaplan said.
"Some people are fond of the facades and think there are architectural elements worth keeping for Los Angeles heritage," he said. "But without those buildings there, there are all kinds of sight lines opened up from within the park, and you have lots more opportunities to be bold about how you use the space."
The county hall project is expected to be financed with a combination of surplus county funds, insurance settlements and long-term financing bonds.
The building has become an "outmoded, inefficient" structure since its opening in 1960, and its operational expenses far exceed the costs of newer, more efficient buildings, Janssen said.
A series of earthquakes, especially the 1994 Northridge quake, significantly damaged the building, which architects have described as having a "reticent" feel to it.
And while the building is expected to withstand another sizable earthquake, the facility's 2,481 employees would need to be evacuated while repairs are made at an estimated cost of $35 million. Janssen said it would be cheaper to build a smaller, more efficient county hall than to relocate staff and repair the existing facility.
"The end I'm on, I understand, is the worst part," Janssen said. "(Supervisor) Don (Knabe) and I are going to go down the hill in the next earthquake."
Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985
Here are the seven options that supervisors are considering for the county Hall of Administration:
A hall at the state building site, plus a separate, lower-cost building for tax and finance departments in Chinatown, $187 million.
A hall at the parking lot site plus a separate finance building in Chinatown, $187 million.
Retrofit of the historic Hall of Justice building, $215 million.
A hall at a county parking lot that's part of the Grand project, $221 million.
Construction of new hall on site of former state building, $223 million.
A hall at the Los Angeles County Law Library site and a separate finance building, $271 million.
Seismic and interior retrofit of existing hall, $274 million.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
San Diego is easily the best planned city in California and while much of that happened before her tenure, she has admirably built upon the successes of her predecessors.
I have also heard her speak at several planning conferences and seminars over the years and have always been impressed by her combination of infectious idealism and real world pragmatism. And that pragmatism will be needed as many insiders feel there are two jobs facing our new planning director, first rebuilding the department and then planning Los Angeles.
So having an experienced planner with her ability to work with people is a perfect fit for the first part of the job and having someone with a clear vision of what is needed and her ability to work with the community will help her build the planning foundation for the future.
She also seems to understand that new residential development needs to be concentrated along rail lines - rather than bus lines, with some exceptions, of course - and that new residential construction must also be connected by rail to jobs; and how that needs to be the future of this city if it is to remain livable.
She also said both publicly and to several of us privately that she intends to work closely with the Neighborhood Councils and that we are going to be a major part of the new process, and she was strongly supported in this by the Mayor.
Hopefully, she will also soon understand that the vast majority of Los Angeles is already dense enough and that most of our older, more historic neighborhoods and all existing single family neighborhoods and even the majority of all our lower density multiple units neighborhoods already have far more density than they can manage.
The era of new single family homes being built in LA is nearing an end, but the destruction of existing single family homes and low density neighborhoods not served by rail transit must also stop if this city is to retain its quality of life.
Don LeeTimes Staff Writer January 8, 2006 SHANGHAI
American homeowners wondering what follows a housing bubble can look to China's largest city. Once one of the hottest markets in the world, sales of homes have virtually halted in some areas of Shanghai, prompting developers to slash prices and real estate brokerages to shutter thousands of offices....
"The entire industry is scaling back," said Mu Wijie, a regional manager at Century 21 China, who estimated that 3,000 brokerage offices had closed since spring.....
Although the city's 20 million residents represent less than 2% of China's population of 1.3 billion, Xie says, Shanghai accounts for an astounding 20% of the country's property value. About 1 million homes in Shanghai alone - about half the number of housing starts for the entire United States in 2004 - are under construction.
That demonstrates how little relationship there is between the housing markets of the United States and Shanghai.
Now here's an illustration of how little relationship there is between the housing markets of California and China; in Shanghai, a city of 20 million, about a 1,000,000 homes are built per year while in California, with over 37 million people, we are only building little more than 200,000 homes a year.
That means in Shanghai, they are building one house for every 20 people and in California we are building one house for every.... 185 people, and that does not even cover population growth.
Two dramatically different markets.
Other than that, though - it's a great article!
Monday, January 09, 2006
There's A New Cowboy, I Mean - Cowgirl - In Town! New LA Planning Director Gail Goldberg Corrects LA Times Before LA Cowboy Can!
In his Sunday piece on the Mayor's choice of San Diego Planning Director, Gail Goldberg, as his proposed new LA City Planning Director - usually reliable boy wonder - Steve Hymon has the following to say:
San Diego covers about 73 square miles, compared with 465 in Los Angeles.
And this poor cowboy had (alas!) missed that error - due doubless to his tears of joy at seeing whom the Mayor had selected - when reading the article on-line. But Gail Goldberg promptly cowgirl'ed up and this morning brought the error to Mr. Hymon's very personal attention before a quite amused crowd at the Mayor's press conferrrence in his jam packed press room.
My first thought was that Steve needs to have the prescription of his glasses updated due to his clearly rapidly failing eyesight since the City of San Diego is clearly much, much larger than... 73 square miles. However, when I went online to the City of San Diego's website and after considerable surfing.... I could find nothing. So I then checked on the next highest rated GOOGLE link and got the below official sounding web site:
And this is what that website had to say:
The city of San Diego encompasses 72.7 square miles
So that (possibly) explains the error; there appears to exist an alternative universe in which the City of San Diego has another size than it has in the universe the rest of us live in.
And this very official looking website, BTW, turns out to be the home of... San Diego Magazine which - evidently - doesn't know diddly squat about... San Diego. Or at least, about as much as the LA Times all too often knows about... LA.
Lastly, no matter what key words I used - Hymon's Sunday story can NOT be found using the LAT's website search engine - an increasingly frequent problem on the LAT's website.
PS - For those who care - the City of San Diego has 342.4 square miles as of 2002.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Who The Hell Is Miriam Pawel And Why Should We Care That Dean Baquet And The LA Times Are Trying To Get Rid Of Her?
When I read the first part of Pawel's expose of corruption at the United Farm Workers's Union, I could not understand why her name would be so unfamiliar to me. But then came Kevin's post at LA OBSERVED, and it turns out she has been hidden away as an editor during her brief tenure out here - after she came from... New York City... and from... New York's Newsday.
She had been the assistant managing editor in charge of Metro until June 2004, then became a roving projects reporter. She filed some pieces on farmworkers that year, but had no projects in the paper (or any page one bylines) in 2005, according to the LATimes.com archives. Word around the newsroom is that Pawel, hired by previous editor John Carroll, was encouraged to look for another job after Dean Baquet became editor last summer.
But hopefully, after this series, the Times will instead add her to their increasingly first rate team of investigative reporters. I mean - if this keeps up - My God! - the Times might (almost) become an interesting paper to read!
And hopefully, Pawel will keep connecting the dots in Sacramento and show to us all how the CCHE and so many other state agencies give away tens of millions of dollars in grants on the basis of political connections and no meaningful review of the merits of the projects.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Another superb editorial from the pen of Andres Martimez. No further comment needed:
EDITORIALS: THE SATURDAY PAGE / ARNOLD'S WORLD
The road to gridlock
January 7, 2006
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER'S plan to spend $222 billion over a decade to pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements is a visionary idea. But when it comes to the transit portion of the governor's plan, he apparently envisions a future of gridlock and cloying air pollution. Schwarzenegger proposes $107 billion for transportation, which includes projects to clean up the ports and speed the movement of cargo as well as things such as new bike paths.
More than $80 billion would go to improve state highways and other routes, with less than $5 billion for transit and rail services. And all of the latter total would go for trains between cities, such as Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner. Not one thin dime goes for mass transit within cities.
That means Los Angeles can forget about an extension of the Red Line subway down Wilshire Boulevard. The desperately needed Green Line light-rail connection to LAX? Not going to happen, at least not within a couple of decades.
More busways? Only if the county can fund them itself.The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is struggling to find the money to meet its current commitments, such as construction of the Expo Line from downtown to Culver City. Local transit planners had been relying on the governor to include money in his bond proposal to help fund some of L.A.'s other critical needs. Sadly, they were ignored.
State transportation officials feel that local governments should handle such urban mass-transit projects. That's nonsense. For any sizable transit project, the state usually kicks in a quarter of the cost, the locals take care of another quarter and the federal government covers the rest.
The proposed bonds would put the state so deeply in debt that cities such as Los Angeles would get a pittance from the state to cover new projects well into the future.There's plenty more reason to question the governor's ideas on transportation. He envisions toll roads and lanes on certain key routes — not a bad concept in principle, but again, the devil is in the details.
One project discussed by state planners is a dedicated toll lane for trucks on the 710 Freeway to carry goods from the ports of L.A. and Long Beach to downtown-area rail yardsThis does little or nothing to reduce diesel emissions.
A better way to reduce pollution and truck traffic is to build more on-dock or near-dock rail yards and send cargo by rail along the underused Alameda Corridor; Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has proposed building just such a yard.
Fortunately, the governor's spending priorities are not set in stone. His proposal will now go to the Legislature, which has only a short time to draft a bill if a ballot measure is to be ready in time for the June elections. The Legislature should shift money from road improvements and into urban mass transit instead.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former Assembly speaker who also chairs the MTA board, should make it a priority to ensure that happens....
Friday, January 06, 2006
Rather than link to a story about his death, above are stories about his life. Besides all the music he brought to the world and his acting gifts, he also leaves behind an equally important legacy of his work with the United Negro College Fund.
His yearly telethons raised over two hundred million dollars for that worthy organization and impacted countless lives. For that too, he should be mourned and remembered.
Curbed LA "Housing Market Guru - Gets Everything Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! Is This Another Wooly 'Wolf' Story?
In what I can only fervently pray was merely a partially successful attempt at humor - normally reliable LA Curbed recently printed the LA equivalent of announcing they had just bought the Brooklyn Bridge by quoting someone called their 'housing guru'.
And I assume this was meant to be a humorous hoax since if there is anything that wasn't pretty much dead wrong in this report - I have yet to figure it out:
"Lofts, lofts, lofts... Starting downtown, but sort of always happening in Venice, this trend exploded and expanded to Hollywood/West Hollywood which leads to some crucial questions and concerns.
Well, if by "always" in "lofts" he means artist's studios in storefronts and some warehouses and factory buildings, well, yeah - they were in Venice since the 1950's but downtown also had them since at least the 1950's. And almost of the first real artists lofts - AIR's - Artists-In-Residence buildings - were primarily downtown. And they were/are quite different than the lofts that are now being built downtown.
And as for the number major loft/condo conversions that have so far "exploded" or opened in Hollywood or West Hollywood - the number that comes to mind to me is - zero. Just a few new apartment buildings called lofts have so far opened in this 'explosion'.
It FELT (to me and my group of peers at least) that the downtown loft boom was driven more by - its the last place I can afford to buy since I missed out on getting a house and lofts are cooler than condos - than a real desire to LIVE downtown. Thus, money/economic reality, not the intrinsic quality of life of downtown drove sales.
Uh, totally dead, 100% - wrong.
I mean totally, completely... 0% true.
The downtown loft boom was 100% fueled by the desire to live downtown since 100% of all lofts in the first few years were rentals - and not condos. And since there was nothing for sale for the first few years, people then came and continue to come downtown because they want to live downtown.
In fact, not long ago one-half of ALL new residential units being permitted in the entire City of Los Angeles were in Downtown LA - and every one single of those units leased simply because they were downtown before the first condo even opened. I might add that since I moved here before the first loft opened (PTG, i.e. - Pre-Tom Gilmore) and met many of the people in each of the buildings as they moved, I know this from first hand knowledge.
Now as for moving here because prices were cheaper once the condos started opening - when the first buildings opened the fastest selling units were those at the top of the market the more expensive the unit, the faster it sold. In fact, I can not recall even one person saying they bought here in the early days of the conversions because it was cheaper than they could buy elsewhere. Some undoubtedly felt that way - but it was never a driving force in the market which this source would know if they had actually lived here during that time.
Many did additionally buy because they felt it was a good investment, however, which is different than they buying because it was the only place they could afford to buy.
Which means, now that lofts can cost $700,000 downtown, do I still want to go? Downtown does not have an Abbott Kinney (established) or a Hollywood Blvd/Sunset (getting established) as a draw. Four businessman places to eat, two hipster bars and the Standard do not a draw make. Now that I can buy lofts in Hollywood for the same price (and there were not even any to buy at any price, really before) do I want to go downtown?
First, there are downtown lofts in the $300,000's, $400,000's, $500,000's and the $600,000's. Sure they can cost 700,000 or two million, but most are priced well below $700,000. And while I still hear from people all over the city saying they want to move Downtown because of what is happening here, I have never heard anyone say they want to move to Hollywood because of its unique lifestyle. Some may, of course, but I have never heard anyone say that.
Now I have heard people say they are looking at condos are looking at condos in Hollywood for a variety of reasons - like because it is close to work and other practical reasons - but the idea of Hollywood as a major destination for buyers because of the unique cultural qualities of the neighborhood simply does not exist anywhere near degree that feeling exists about Downtown.
Now as for the Abbott Kinney and the 'Four businessman places to eat, two hipster bars and the Standard do not a draw make' remark, I used to live in Venice and I would walk to Abbott Kinney - and it has shots and restaurants - and that is pretty much what you can walk to. And Hollywood also has shops and restaurants and films theaters, scattered over many miles.
But Downtown I can - or soon will - walk to the Central Library, Little Tokyo and its theaters and museums, Chinatown and its new Arts District, the Original Arts District with its galleries and theaters, the galleries at SCI-Arc, the six - yes, SIX - new theaters that will be opening just on Main Street (St. Vibiana's Cathedral, the Linda Lea, the free standing theater that will be part of the new Police Headquarters, the Historic Merced Theater, the new Theater at County's new Mexican-American Cultural Center and the Regent Theater), the four theaters that will be re-open just on Broadway by the end of this year (the Orpheum, the Los Angeles, the Palace and the Million Dollar - with many more to come), the Fashion District, Disney Hall, the Music Center, Staples Center, the RedCat Theater and Gallery, the Wells Fargo Museum of the West, concerts at the Colburn School's Zipper Auditorium, free outdoor concerts and film screenings at California Plaza, the free Zocalo lectures, free outdoor concerts and film screenings in Pershing Square, countless shows and expositions of every kind at the Convention Center, Santee Alley, winter ice skating at Pershing Square, parties by the outdoor pool of Hotel Figueroa and the rooftop pool of the Standard, free outdoor Shakespeare at the Cathedral every summer, St. Vincent's Court, the Bradbury Building, the four theaters of the Los Angeles Theater Center on Spring Street, MOCA - both buildings of the Museum of Contemporary Art and the events at its theater, the Japanese American Cultural Center, the Chinese Museum, the new Democracy Center and Museum, Exposition Park and its many museums, the re-opened theater at the Embassy Auditorium, the eventually to re-open theaters at the old Variety Arts Building, the multiple farmer's markets, The Mayan theater/club, the Japanese American Museum, the soon to be relocated into 20,000 feet space Neon Museum, the hopefully about to be announced move back downtown Architecture and Design Museum, the upcoming Grammy's Theater and museum, USC (and its libraries, museums and concert halls), Gallery Row and its non-profit arts spaces, the Smell all ages night club, the multiple museums around the historic Plaza, the new Mexican-American Museum and Cultural Center across from the Plaza, the new Transportation Museum, private screening rooms and arts spaces, the Flower District, the Fashion School and its museum, and hundreds other unique attractions that can only be found in the heart of a major international city - plus new attractions that are being every single week.
Four businessman places to eat, two hipster bars and the Standard do not a draw make?
I don't think so.
And, the biggest risk of all, there is no shortage of space downtown to convert, so they have to be VERY careful with the supply/demand mix. Unlike Malibu or the Hollywood Hills where they simply - just really can't make much more housing, there are millions of feet of rental/commercial/residential rentals to turn into condos.
OK - this is where it clear that besides knowing zero about downtown - this expert knows even less about real estate. First he says says that Downtown can't compete with Hollywood because it lacks Hollywood's urban attractions - and then he says Downtown has a problem because it can build more condos than Malibu or the Hollywood Hills - which are essentially single family neighborhoods .
First, as far as the idea there are unlimited millions of feet to turn into housing downtown and that that is a problem - again, whoever this person is clearly has no knowledge about LA, real estate - or, more far importantly - urbanism.
To begin with, the supply of pre-war office buildings that can be bought and converted to condos is already close to zero.
Almost all of them have been already converted, are in processes of being converted or are owned by people who are going to convert them. Only handful of pre-war buildings are left for anyone new to the party to buy and convert.
This is why so many new condos are under construction; the supply of existing buildings is simply not able to supply the demand. Plus so many of the post-War II buildings are now being converted, that office rents are starting to rise and many Class A buildings are nearly 100%occupied.
Even the old Transamerica 32 story Tower which was going to convert - is now 100% leased as offices and is going to remain an office building and its shorter neighbor has been sold to the city also for office space. And several other office buildings that had been proposed to be converted - are now signing long term leases as office buildings.
The market has already taken care of the mix; the conversion cycle is rapidly coming to an end and by the end of the decade, it will be over.
And again, it is clear this is a person with no real world experience in how a major city operates. Only in a place where there is the kind of population concentration that exists in Paris, New York or London can a great international level urban center develop. And only Downtown has the building opportunities and the transportation infrastructure to create that kind of unique, world class urban center with hundreds of unique attractions within easy walking distance of each other.
And that is why I left Malibu and came here and why most of us came here, and not Hollywood or any other part of the city.
Downtown is where the 21st Century is going to happen and we want to be apart of it.
The above New Years Day Chicago Tribune article actually talks with many of the right players and - mostly - gets its fact correct.
But... what it gets wrong is that of the thirteen theaters on Broadway at least four of them are still theaters and have not been converted to other uses. The Orpheum is up and running as was stated, but both the Palace and the Los Angeles are still theaters and will be used as live theaters more and more this year - and not just as theaters where movies are shot and the Million Dollar is re-opening as a theater primarily with concerts.
And while the inestimable Trudi Sandmeir was the Los Angeles Conservancy's Director of the Broadway Initiative when the article was written, she is now head of the county wide educational programming for the Conservancy.
Also, 1920's bungalows in Los Angeles do NOT sell for an average price of $800,000 and the average income of new loft dwellers is NOT $150,000. That may be the average income of those buying the ground-up new condos from that developer, but most of the new residents still rent in older converted buildings.
Lastly, a number of downtown neighborhoods are near (i.e., directly impacted by) Skid Row - however, South Park - is not one of them. In fact it is the residential district that is the furtherest from Skid Row and is less directly impacted by Skid Row than any other major downtown residential neighborhood.
But enough of the bad news. Here're some excerpts from the article:
Condo boom rejuvenates downtown Los Angeles
John Handley Chicago TribuneJan. 1, 2006 12:00 AM
LOS ANGELES - Opulent movie palaces once starred on this city's Broadway, California's version of the Great White Way.Built between 1910 and 1931, these ornate theaters were venues for vaudeville and premieres of Hollywood films. That glitz and glamour are long gone. Broadway and the surrounding streets gradually sank into decay.
But now the core of the city is the stage for a rebirth. Long called a cluster of suburbs in search of a city, LA Los Angeles boasts an impressive downtown with contrasting neighborhoods such as South Park, Bunker Hill, the Historic Core and the Jewelry, Fashion and Financial districts.
About 4,000 housing units have been created downtown since 1999, and 6,000 more should be completed in two years, said Carol Schatz, president and chief executive officer of the Central City Association and the Downtown Center Business Improvement District in Los Angeles.
"The future of downtown is looking fantastic. At 1.5 people per unit, that means 15,000 new downtown residents," Schatz said. "This used to be a 9-to-5 downtown. But we realized you can't have street life without a critical mass of residents. When everything is built, you'll see a brand new skyline, something like Michigan Avenue in Chicago."
One of the old movie palaces, the 1926 Orpheum Theatre, is topped with 37 rental units, said Trudi Sandmeir, Broadway Initiative coordinator for the Los Angeles Conservancy. The Orpheum, which showcased vaudeville performers Judy Garland, George Burns and Jack Benny, has been restored. ..
...Schatz credits an adaptive reuse ordinance passed by the city in 1999 as one of the catalysts of redevelopment. "It helped to encourage developers to invest in empty buildings. The ordinance reduced the parking requirement for older buildings and made changes in fire and life safety codes, which were more stringent than those in New York and Chicago," partly because of the threat of earthquakes, she said.
Another event in 1999 brought new life downtown."Los Angeles was jump-started by the construction of the Staples Center," said basketball legend Magic Johnson at the fall meeting of Urban Land Institute. Johnson said that the new arena attracted people downtown and opened the door to more real estate investment.
A 24-hour location Blocks of street-level parking lots surrounding the Staples Center will sprout a crop of new condo towers, and developers are predicting this will transform downtown into a 24-hour location.
"Finally, LA will have a center that's worthy of the city," said Tom Cody, principal in the South Group, based in Portland, Ore., which plans to build 2,000 condo units downtown."LA still is in its infancy. . . . Downtown LA will explode," he said.Demand is being fueled by people who "are young, fairly affluent, hip and creative," Cody said...
... North of Los Angeles Convention Center is the future site of LA Live, a 5 million-square-foot entertainment complex that will have a 7,100-seat theater for live entertainment, 14-screen movie theater, 50-story hotel, restaurants and shopping.
"It will be a regional draw as well as a convenient attraction for all the new downtown residents," Schatz said. Across from the arena is a parking lot that has been proposed as the site of two residential towers with 650 units to be built by KB Home and Lennar Corp.
We know from KB Home's extensive market research that downtown Los Angeles is where many people want to reside," said Jeffrey Gault, president of KB Urban, a division of the builder.
Marshall Ames, vice president of investor relations for Miami-based Lennar, said it is "too premature to comment" on the details of the project. Burcher added that downtown is hot because of the availability of land and the convenience of the nearby freeways. The area is bounded roughly by the Hollywood, Harbor and Santa Monica freeways and the Los Angeles River.
Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said the outlook is favorable for residential development of downtown. "We've rolled out to the edge and run out of developable land. Now we're coming back in. . . .
And there is more at the top link...