Monday, February 26, 2007

Busy Cowboy Day Today!

First, meetings with denizens of the fashion world about Fashion Week, then a meeting about new LA Museum, then lunch with LAT publisher along with six other neighborhood council leaders and then the Mayor's press conference to announce the new general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

Postings on all to come....

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Real Estate Market Roaring Back To Life in Manhattan, Weschester And - Even New Jersey!


Luxury condos and co-ops are booming in Manhattan, New Jersey condos are selling again without enticements and the spring market has kicked in early in some of New York's close in suburbs.

And the high end market continues to...boom...

For the first time, the total prices of Manhattan co-ops selling for $5 million or more passed the $1 billion benchmark, with buyers spending nearly $1.4 billion, up from the $980 million tallied in 2005. There were 11 co-op sales at more than $20 million last year, up from four in 2005, the report said.

The reason is simple. Like Los Angeles - and unlike the booms of the 1980's and the early 1990's - construction of new housing in both Los Angeles and New York in the past few years has still been far below population growth in both cities.

Price increases will likely continue to slow down in Los Angeles compared to New York and average prices will likely even drop, particularly in more outlying areas - but the demand for housing can only increase in both cities.

Excellent LA Times Oscar Web Coverage!

For the first time on any breaking story I can recall... the LA Times posted the results faster than did the New York Times. Also posting the latest winner on any page you were on was cool as was the front page's graphics.

Will The Grave Dancer Dance On The LA Times' Grave?

The New York Times has more details about the rumored offer by Sam Zell. The good news is that Zell is not a crazy billionaire like David Geffen or Ron Burkle. The bad news he is not a person driven by civic pride like Eli Broad.

The good news is that the financing plan will not cripple the paper with debt. The bad news is that the paper will not be under local control. The good news is that the paper will be run as a business and not as a non-profit unaccountable to the market place. The bad news is that the new owner will expect a high rate of return on his investment

The good news is that the people running the paper will be newspaper professionals who understand that local is better when it comes to news. The bad news is that a non-newspaper man will control the paper and there is no guarantee that newspaper people will continue to run the paper.

February 26, 2007
Tribune Considers Offer From Real Estate Magnate

The Tribune Company, in discussions about its future, is weighing a proposal from Sam Zell, the Chicago real estate maverick and billionaire who sold his huge office development company this month for $39 billion in the biggest leveraged buyout ever.

A special committee of Tribune board members was close to settling on an internal overhaul when Mr. Zell made a last-minute entry into the discussions, people close to the situation said.

His bid for Tribune all but eliminates other offers — including one from the Los Angeles billionaires Ronald Burkle and Eli Broad — from consideration.

Mr. Zell, 66, has never owned a major media property, but gained the nickname the “Grave Dancer” for his ability to spot and exploit undervalued properties in the real estate business.

His proposal would involve buying the entire company with the participation of an employee stock ownership plan, these people said. Although the deal would be highly leveraged, the employee stock plans have many tax advantages, including the ability to write off interest on debt.

Tribune has received two other bids, but considered both inadequate and has been putting together what it called a self-help plan in which it would spin off its two dozen broadcast outlets, keep most if not all of its 11 newspapers, and borrow money to pay shareholders a large dividend.


The board committee is taking Mr. Zell seriously enough that it has slowed its deliberations, which continued over the weekend, to explore his proposals further. It intends to reach a decision no later than the end of March.

Tribune’s newspapers include The Los Angeles Times, which is the nation’s fourth-largest paper, as well as The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and Newsday.

It is not clear how the newspapers might change if Mr. Zell had a controlling stake in them. He told The Chicago Tribune last month that “there is no difference” between running a newspaper and managing any other for-profit business.

The Chicago Tribune first reported Mr. Zell’s interest this month. It also reported that the Tribune Company was exploring selling its newspapers in Stamford and Greenwich, Conn., to Gannett, the nation’s biggest newspaper company, and might consider selling the Chicago Cubs baseball team.


Of the two other bids, one came from the Chandlers, who proposed taking the company private in a deal that valued Tribune at $7.6 billion, or $31.70 a share. The second was from Mr. Broad and Mr. Burkle, valuing it at $34 a share. A third bid from the Carlyle Group, just for the broadcast stations, has been dismissed.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's Official! The Lights Are On At The LA Times - But No One Is Home!

Now I have done a lot of nagging about headline writers at the LA Times and the even worse ones on the website - who write headlines that contradict the content of stories. I have also mentioned the pissed off LA Times writers who regularly inform me of their unhappiness with headlines appended to their stories which distort what they have written.

So you would think that someone... anyone... would have started to check to see if there is any correlation between the stories and the headlines.

But no!

Earlier today, I felt an on-line headline had gotten the spirit of a story wrong, even before I saw the print headline today...

This time - not only is the on-line headline clearly at odds with the story - but it is also dramatically different from the PRINT edition's headline. Now to refresh your memory from my previous post:

Someone decides to risk their life to bring down a major drug cartel... so what do you call them?

Hero? Man of conscience and courage? Or informant, if you do not want to make a value judgement?

Cali drug cartel's betrayer tells his story

But here is the print edition headline says of him:


A member of the drug cartel's inner sanctum risked his life to lead U.S> agents to the kingpins. Today he's in hiding, a marked man.

A little different than calling him a man who 'betrayed' a drug cartel....

Most... Bizarre... LA Times Headline Yet!

Someone decides to risk their life to bring down a major drug cartel... so what do you call them?

Hero? Man of conscience and courage? Or informant, if you do not want to make a value judgement?

Cali drug cartel's betrayer tells his story

He used to be Jorge Salcedo, and he helped authorities bring down the cocaine kingpins of Colombia.

Now, granted, in the story it is said that the cartel rightly felt it was a personal betray of them.

"It was very risky, but I was trapped in a nightmare, in a totally corrupt environment. I had to escape," he explained.

Federal prosecutor Edward R. Ryan called the defection a shock and "a very personal betrayal" to the Cali bosses, leaving the man marked for death. He is still "No. 1 to be killed," Ryan said.

The man has lost much of what he once took for granted: his home, his country, his name, even his past.

But why would the Times headline writer label him as a 'betrayer - when the writer could have used so many other words with no pejorative connotations? Why label Salcedo as a 'betrayer' in the headline when the article makes it very obvious - he is a hero.

Ryan, the federal prosecutor, in a recent interview called Salcedo one of the country's "least-known heroes," one of the people most responsible "for bringing down the most powerful criminals in the world."

Clearly, the writer of this article would not feel the proper term to describe Salcedo was... betrayer.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lisa Sarno Gets Million Trees - So Who Does The Neighborhood Councils Get As New Head Of DONE?

Rumors that Lisa Sarno, temporary head of the city agency that is supposed to assist, but which has ended up over regulating, neighborhood councils, was not going to remain at DONE after a new General Manager is appointed, have turned out to be true.

Neighborhood Councils' interim head leaving post

RICK ORLOV, Staff Writer

LA Daily News

The embattled interim general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Councils is stepping down to take the job of managing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's ambitious effort to plant a million trees in Los Angeles.

Lisa Sarno has been at odds with several leaders in the neighborhood council movement, and the decision Tuesday was welcomed by the chairman of the Congress of Neighborhood Councils.

"It's nice to see the mayor has listened to us," said Brady Westwater, who also serves on the Downtown Neighborhood Council.

"This is a good move for him and for her. Lisa has tremendous organizational skills. That was never her problem. Her problem was her inability to work with us in the neighborhood councils."

Villaraigosa aides said he expects to nominate a successor within the next several weeks.

Ken Draper, editor of CityWatch, a newsletter about the neighborhood councils, said he believed it was a good move for Sarno and the department.

"Hopefully, it will pave the way for a new direction and new attitude from the department," Draper said. "Lisa was generating a lot of division within the neighborhood councils. I think, now, the city is capable of creating a new mood."

Criticism of Sarno began almost from the moment she was named as interim general manager to replace Greg Nelson, who retired.

Nelson worked on the original plans to develop neighborhood councils and was seen as a tireless advocate on their behalf.

In recent months, Sarno had been criticized for her administration of the department, including a new requirement on how the neighborhood councils handle their money and hold their elections...

City Hall rumor also says the new GM will be appointed early next week - possibly as early as Monday and that the final choice has come down between two candidates, one of whom has a long history of supporting and working with neighborhood councils and the other of whom is a newcomer to any involvement with NC's and who has voiced support of giving DONE more power over NC's.

The first candidate is also rumored to have been the clear winner at both interview panels, giving NC's hope the Mayor will appoint a person who will make it possible for the NC's to closely work with his office in tackling the city's many problems.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Continued Disconnect Between LA Times Headlines -- And Articles!


How chop suey took L.A.
A single shop in 1860 started the path to the serious food of today's Chinese restaurants. Even Cary Grant played a role.


OUR first Chinese restaurants, probably opened in the 1860s, when L.A. was a cow town of about 5,000 inhabitants, didn't have all the rare ingredients available now.

In the newspaper of record for LA, the website headline phrase "a single shop in 1860" - a very definitive statement is clearly contradicted by the article saying, "probably opened in the 1860s".

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

While Los Angeles Stops Progress To Save Low Paying Warehouse Jobs - New York Develops High Tech, High Paying Jobs!

The disastrous plan to turn Downtown's dying warehouse district into a aging theme park of low paying jobs is bad enough - but the the lack of any local leadership in attracting the high paying jobs of the future is this city's real crime... as is the LA Times increasingly anti-business business section's failure to examine why this city is turning into an economic backwater.

Read how it's done in a real city with real leadership:

February 21, 2007
Square Feet
Bringing Laboratory Space Back to New York

When Eric Kandel, a Nobel laureate at Columbia University, formed a life sciences company, Memory Pharmaceuticals, in 1998, a lack of lab space options in New York City eventually forced the business to Montvale, N.J.

In March, the same real estate developer that built those Montvale laboratories, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, will break ground on New York City’s first substantial campus for the life sciences, called the East River Science Park. The first tenants are expected in 2009.

Upon completion, the $400 million complex will have three buildings encompassing 1.1 million square feet of specialized laboratories and office space. It will occupy 3.5 acres in Manhattan between East 28th and 29th Streets and First Avenue and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.

Proponents of the East River Science Park said they hoped it would induce start-up life sciences companies like Memory Pharmaceuticals, which now has 65 employees, to set up operations in the city.

“There is huge investment in basic research in the life sciences through our medical research institutions, but we have failed to commercialize our science in New York City,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit group composed of 200 chief executives from companies in the city.

“There are about 30 bioscience companies a year coming out of New York institutions, and essentially, they’re all going elsewhere.”

To change that, the partnership’s economic arm contributed $10 million toward creating East River Science Park. The group also worked to enlist the cooperation of an array of top scientific institutions, including Columbia University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Rockefeller University, New York University School of Medicine, the Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Some of the institutions are within a 50-block corridor on the East Side of Manhattan, creating a natural cluster around the planned East River Science Park campus.

“The reason we think New York City is going to be particularly competitive is most other clusters have one or two institutions,” Ms. Wylde said. “Here, we have seven or eight major institutions, so the critical mass of science and of talent is greater here.”

In the life sciences, private businesses often collaborate with research institutes, medical centers and government agencies. The efforts tend to be clustered in a handful of cities, including Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and San Diego.

Notice Los Angeles... as usual... is not mentioned.

Line Of the Day From the New York Times!

Britney Spears enters rehab and more culture news.

Downtown Growing Far Faster Than Anyone Expected! And Why This is Good News For Everyone In Los Angeles!

Downtown gaining people, losing jobs, new report says
The population has jumped 20% in two years, although retail has been slow to follow.
By Cara Mia DiMassa
Times Staff Writer

9:22 PM PST, February 20, 2007

Downtown L.A. is beginning to look more like uptown — and it's happening much more quickly than even its biggest boosters could have imagined.

A new study of downtown population and job trends, announced Tuesday, reported a more than 20% jump over the last two years in residents, to 28,878.

And with 7,500 units under construction, that number could rise to more than 40,000 by the end of 2008 — rather than by 2015, the previous target for that population milestone.


The survey did not distinguish between market-rate units and those deemed affordable. And while it showed that the median income of households downtown was $99,600 — up from $96,300 two years before — only households with at least one income were examined, meaning it didn't count people living on public assistance.

And... even jobs may start to return to Downtown after years of losses...

The study found that the number of jobs downtown continues to lag — a holdover from an era when government jobs downsized and corporate headquarters left the city center. Downtown payroll numbers for 2005, the last year available, show a total of 418,000 — down from a high of 605,000 in 1995.

But Jack Kyser, chief economist and senior vice president of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., which prepared a portion of the report, said the trend may be reversing, as the number of jobs in downtown began to climb in the first quarter of 2006.

But the real BIG news is in the Downtown News story:

The study, prepared by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., found that:

# An estimated 28,878 people live Downtown, and that there are 9,431 market rate residences and 9,568 affordably priced units. A similar DCBID study released in early 2005 found that 23,894 residents lived in the area, marking a 21% population increase.

# The median income of households in the new buildings is $99,600, a 3% climb from the 2004 figure of $96,300.

# Downtown residents are investing in the community, with 30.2% of area inhabitants buying condominiums. Two years ago, 18% of the respondents had purchased units.

# More than three out of four Downtowners have at least an undergraduate degree, and 28% of the local populace has a graduate or professional degree.

# The median age of new Downtown residents is 31, and more than 60% of area inhabitants are single. Slightly more than half, 53.5%, are male, and 46.5% are female.

# Of the new area inhabitants, 24.3% left the Westside for Downtown. More than half of the residents, 55.1%, also work in Downtown.

And that's the big news.

For the first time a majority of the people who move Downtown - are also working Downtown... and many of them are leaving the most congested part of the city. Their numbers are also rapidly increasing; person after person I know who moves here - is also moving their business or job down here and person after person I know who is working down here - is now looking for a place to rent or buy down here.

And that's the future of LA - people living not just near, but within walking distance of where they work.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Reason Number One Why Los Angeles Needs A New Opera House!

1. The Dorothy Chandler Pavillion is just too damn big.

Sin City: Morally Bankrupt, but Musical

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 16 — “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,” first presented in Leipzig, Germany, in 1930, is the most ambitious product of the brief but dynamic collaboration between Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. It is also the hardest of their works to pull off in production.

The creators called this bitterly satirical indictment of capitalism an opera. Yet Weill’s complex score draws from jazz and cabaret even as it seethes with pungent contemporary harmony, intricate counterpoint and operatic intensity. So, do you present it as an opera, a musical-theater piece or some kind of hybrid?

In 1979 the Metropolitan Opera introduced a landmark production directed by John Dexter and conducted by James Levine that simply treated the work as a major opera. Teresa Stratas was haunting as the cagey prostitute Jenny, a role long identified with Lotte Lenya. Richard Cassilly, a powerhouse Tristan and Otello, gave what many considered the performance of his career as Jimmy Mahoney, the gullible lumberjack who falls for Jenny. With the robust Met chorus and the inspired orchestra, “Mahagonny” emerged as a work that held up, almost alone, the other pole of early-20th-century German opera, opposite Berg’s “Wozzeck” and “Lulu” and Schoenberg’s “Moses und Aron.”

For its new production of “Mahagonny,” which openedFeb. 10, the Los Angeles Opera has opted for the hybrid approach. There is risk in combining performers from different stylistic traditions, but the sheer talent assembled for this production should have overcome that risk.

The director, John Doyle, acclaimed for his daringly innovative productions of “Sweeney Todd” and “Company” on Broadway, has given operagoers here a grimly spare yet fanciful staging, with sets by Mark Bailey and costumes by Ann Hould-Ward. The production uses a very free English translation by Michael Feingold. In the opening scene Brecht and Weill’s three fugitives from justice — Trinity Moses, a boorish boxer; Fatty the Bookkeeper; and Leocadia Begbick, a widow and the ringleader of the group — arrive in a rattling, sputtering canvas-topped van.

They decide to remain in the no-man’s land they have chanced on and establish a city devoted to pleasure. There is more gold to be gotten from men than from rivers, Begbick says. Before long Mahagonny arises, a place of garish neon signs, cheap bars, fast-food joints and willing prostitutes.

Patti LuPone, fresh from her triumphant turn as Mrs. Lovett in Mr. Doyle’s “Sweeney Todd,” makes a jaded and bluntly direct Begbick and handles the high tessitura of the role with surprising agility. Audra McDonald, alluring in a beaded leotard and gaudy furs, is a rich-voiced and coolly manipulative Jenny. These musical-theater stars are joined by a roster of opera singers who hold their own dramatically, including the tenor Anthony Dean Griffey as Jimmy and the baritone Donnie Ray Albert as Trinity Moses.

Yet on Wednesday night, for all its rich elements and vitality, the production seemed curiously flat. For me the problem stemmed from the decision to use amplification, given the participation of musical-theater prima donnas who depend on it, and the size of the opera company’s home, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which seats 3,000.

The amplification by the sound designer Dan Moses Schreier is subtle and individualized. Each voice is boosted according to its needs. Mr. Albert, for example, who has performed the heavy-duty role of Wagner’s Wotan, needed little help. About half the 20 male choristers are amplified.

But what results is an overall sound that, though audible, seems flattened, creating a distancing effect that is not exactly what Brecht intended when he espoused the theater of alienation. If an opera company is going to overturn the genre’s historic commitment to natural sound to make words clear and give singers an electronic boost in a musical-theater production, then it should do a better job of it.

A revealing moment came in the scene in which Jimmy is put on trial for failing to pay his debts. Onlookers arrive with video cameras. Close-ups of the defendant and his accusers are projected in grainy images on a screen as they sing. Suddenly the flattened amplified voices match the flat images on the screen, and the sound design seems appropriate, as if we were at the movies.

The musical-theater world has had to make peace with amplification. But its questionable impact on traditional opera singers was clear from the way it inhibited Mr. Griffey, an impressive young artist with an unusual tenor voice that boasts heroic heft and lyrical sweetness. As Jimmy the husky Mr. Griffey was volatile, pitiable, awkwardly endearing in his love scenes with Ms. McDonald and painfully clueless as Jimmy was put to death.

Yet Mr. Griffey seemed to be holding back vocally, trying not to overwhelm his microphone. His singing had clarity and vigor, but it lacked visceral presence and danger, qualities Mr. Griffey easily conveys in an opera house with natural acoustics.

I will never forget the chilling power of the final scene in the Met production when the chorus delivered the bleak final sentiments of the work, that Jimmy is dead and nothing will help him or us or you now. But here the partially amplified choral singing was curiously weak.

Still, I was moved by many of the performances, especially those of Mel Ulrich as Bill, Steven Humes as Joe and John Easterlin as Jack, Jimmy’s three sidekicks from seven years of mining and struggle in Alaska; and Robert Wörle as Fatty. And Brecht’s prescient and gloomy take on capitalism, especially the American kind, came through with timeless impact.

When Jimmy is put on trial as an accessory to Joe’s death in a boxing match, the jury overlooks this charge. But being too broke to pay his debts, a capital offense in Mahagonny, he is sentenced to death. As Begbick explains, “In the whole human race there is no greater criminal than a man without money.”

Opera composers today of course have the right to use any sound technologies they choose in new works. But in mounting this 1930 classic I wish the Los Angeles Opera had been able to present a production in a smaller theater. Then, instead of asking the opera singers to accommodate to amplification, they could have asked Ms. LuPone and Ms. McDonald to do without it. Ms. McDonald has performed in concert without amplification, and both artists could probably have thrived without electronic help in the right space.

But that would have been financially prohibitive. And as “Mahagonny” makes clear, money rules.

Additional performances of “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Thursday and March 1 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday and March 4 at 2 p.m.; (213) 972-8001.

Housing Prices SOARING... In Manhattan!

While most of the country is seeing housing prices fall, Los Angeles continues to see prices very modestly increase, and at a much smaller rate than before. And New York City also saw a considerable drop in the rate of residential real estate appreciation last year, though prices still increased by 6%.

But this year.... now that's a co-op of a different color:

February 19, 2007
Housing Market Heats Up Again in New York City

Since the new year began, a burst of activity has broken out in Manhattan and several Brooklyn neighborhoods as New Yorkers frenetically hunt for co-ops, condominiums and town houses, sending prices higher despite sluggish sales in many other cities.

Preliminary indications from real estate firms showed that this increased activity, with open houses jammed and bidding wars taking place, has occurred in all price ranges — from tiny studios in the East Village to red-brick mansions on the Upper East Side — in counterpoint to the heavily weighted record sales of luxury properties that led the market in the late summer and fall.


A week ago, one open house attracted 100 people to an Upper West Side one-bedroom; a $2.475 million house in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn sold in a day.

Across the board, the prices of Manhattan apartments are rising. Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel, an appraisal firm, said the number of contracts signed this January was 19.4 percent higher than in January 2006. Prices were up 14.4 percent in the same time period. Inventory, which was mounting last summer, is shrinking fast.

Now, according to Mr. Miller, statistics showed that sales of studio and one-bedroom units, stagnant over the past year, were up 13.7 percent in January. “It’s not like a lot of huge sales at the high end skewed the average up.”

So what does this mean for Los Angeles - and Downtown in particular? It's hard to say. There is no direct correlation between prices in the two cities, though few major cities are more tied together in their economies and in their populations. But there is one major difference between LA and New York that is only getting greater and which none of our leaders are even interested in admitting exists, much less deal with:

Although no one can pinpoint the moment when New Yorkers started feverishly buying again, Kirk Henckels, the director of the private brokerage division of Stribling & Associates, said he thought the luxury market picked up after Labor Day.

He and others said the resurgence was partly fueled by the fall’s record-setting (and well-publicized) sales of a few multimillion-dollar apartments and town houses, like the Stanford White limestone palazzo at 25 East 78th Street bought by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for $45 million and the Harkness mansion at 4 East 75th Street sold in October for $53 million.

Then came this year’s stratospheric Wall Street bonuses, and the market exploded, real estate executives said.

“The plunger that freed up all the hesitation at all price levels was those bonuses,” said Diane Ramirez, the president of Halstead Property. “It cleaned the pipes and gave confidence to even small apartment buyers.”

So while LA has lost every major bank headquarters, lost its stock exchange to San Francisco, no longer has even a tiny futures exchange, has lost most of its major insurance companies, lost the headquarters of almost every major savings and loan (an industry that was one largely headquartered in LA) - and isn't in the running when it comes to being a center for hedge funds - no one at City Hall or at the Chamber of Commerce seems to have noticed, much less tried to rebuild LA's financial industries. Meanwhile, while LA's leadership has slept, even a town like Charlotte, North Carolina has become a major banking center.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Downtown Dive Makes New York Times!

Well, despite its current name - Bordello - this former 'dive' is a long ways from its Little Pedro's pre-gentrification days, much less its descent into ever increasingly respectability, long before its recent name/ownership change:

February 18, 2007
Louche Life

NOWADAYS in Hollywood, a whiff of scandal is more likely to boost a career than torpedo it. This phenomenon applies to nightclubs as well as starlets, if Bordello is any indication.

For over eight decades, the Little Tokyo haunt was a Mexican restaurant and bar called Little Pedro’s. But before that, according to neighborhood lore, it was a brothel. Little Pedro’s new owners, Tony Gower, Dana Hollister, Elizabeth Peterson and Jim Venetos, all nightlife veterans, have taken the legend to heart, appropriating it as inspiration for the club’s reinvention.

With its lacquered lipstick-red walls, black crystal chandeliers, loveseats covered with Chinese silk brocade, huge Venetian mirrors and vintage paintings of nudes, Bordello casts a Carnival-meets-Deadwood spell.

“It feels kind of lawless,” said Cole Wilson, a 28-year-old music publicist who was ensconced in the bar’s interior parlor on a recent Saturday night. “With all these curtains around, people think no one can see them, so they’re more willing to cut loose.”

Over by the bar, a scruffy young man in Buddy Holly glasses wore a mildly stunned expression. “What happened to the polar bear?” he asked the bartender, referring to the enormous stuffed beast that had been the mascot of the previous incarnation. The bear was nowhere in sight but there was plenty of eye candy, like the risqué photo gallery of burlesque dancers.

Bordello’s epicenter is its rococo stage, which features part of an elaborate altar from a 19th-century Catholic church in India framed by custom-made crimson satin curtains.

“The curtains have a very complicated mechanism system,” explained Ms. Hollister, who designed the interior. “It took three years to make, and there’s only one other like it in the world, so we can’t let any drunk musicians get anywhere near it.”

Most nights, the stage is occupied by a house band led by Joey Altruda, the club’s entertainment director, playing jazz, ska, Afro-Cuban or saucy accompaniment for striptease artists.

Following the band’s Saturday- night set, fops in narrow-cut suits and girls with bobbed hair in Op Art minidresses and go-go boots streamed onto the dance floor for Satisfaction, the ’60s-theme monthly dance party.

“See how people are dressing up?” Ms. Hollister asked. “If you want to capture a certain niche you really have to transport people with a beautiful atmosphere.”

So where does that leave the polar bear?

“At my house.

My one quibble is that while the Little Pedro's started out in Little Tokyo (and it is still directly across the street from the major temple in the area), for some decades now, that side of Vignes Street has been more a part of the Arts District both physically and socially.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cool New Feature Over At LA Times Website!

In a superb obit notice for an ex-La notable, songwriter Ray Evans, the LAT's website also has MP3's of three top songs Evan collaborated on. Go take a listen!

And from the very start of the very complete obituary:

Hit songwriter Ray Evans dies at 92
By Dennis McLellan
Times Staff Writer

1:27 PM PST, February 16, 2007

Ray Evans, whose long collaboration with songwriting partner Jay Livingston produced a string of hits that included the Oscar-winning "Buttons and Bows," "Mona Lisa" and "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," has died. He was 92.

Evans, who teamed up with Livingston in the late 1930s, died of an apparent heart attack at UCLA Medical Center on Thursday evening, Frederick Nicholas, Evans' lawyer and the trustee of his estate, said today.

Considered among Hollywood's greatest songwriters, Livingston and Evans wrote songs for dozens of movies, most of them at Paramount, where they were under contract from 1945 to 1955.

With Livingston providing the melodies and Evans writing the lyrics, the team wrote 26 songs that reportedly sold more than 1 million copies each.

"Ray Evans, along with his late partner Jay Livingston, gave us some of the most enduring songs in the great American songbook," lyricist Alan Bergman told The Times today. "We will miss him but know that his songs will live on."

In addition to their three Oscar-winning songs, Livingston and Evans earned four other Oscar nominations — for "The Cat and the Canary" from "Why Girls Leave Home" (1945); "Tammy," sung by Debbie Reynolds in "Tammy and the Bachelor" (1957); "Almost in Your Arms" from "Houseboat" (1958), and "Dear Heart" from the movie of the same name (1964)....

All Cowboy TV At 2 PM Today! NOT!!!


Since not just one, but both of the squirrels who power the computers over at the KNBC's website called in 'sick' today - giving them each a four day weekend - and since it takes two hours of editing and CGI special effects to get this cowboy remotely palatable for even semi-main stream media - today's show had to be canceled.

But it shall return... next Friday. Same Cowboy Time, same Cowboy Channel!

Assuming there are no guards posted to prevent me from entering KNBC's Burbank Studios today, a five minute video recap of my blog will be shown on KNBC's website today. If the above link does not work (and it doesn't on my crappy old Dell right now), just go to the KNBC News website.

Neighborhood Councils Under Attack - Again - By Renegade City Agency!

First, read the above link.


So you can see how DONE - the agency that is supposed to empower neighborhood councils - is trying to cripple neighborhood councils.

And the whole purpose of neighborhood councils is to advise the city on issues which is why the city is required to consult with NC's prior to taking actions.

But yet DONE - more than any other agency - which should be consulting with NC's on any policy changes about NC's - not only refuses to consult with NC's prior to taking actions - but they even hide those policies from NC's until they are made public.

In addition, DONE has a history of repeatedly trying to force neighborhood councils to commit illegal actions, and has a history of violating the law itself. And the the recent controversial budget directives are only the latest illegal actions of DONE.

So on February 14th we received the following email:

A review by our City Attorney has determined that a provision of City Council File 02-0699 will require alignment with the Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils. Due to this development, we have revised Information Bulletin Number 2007-05 Re: Standardized Budget Template and Minimum Funding Allocation Requirements. Please see the attached revised Information Bulletin and revised Sample Budget Template.

Translation - we got caught breaking the law - once again - and now we have to cover our asses. Then came the "changes":

A minimum of 25% of Neighborhood Council annual funding ($12,500 of each year's $50,000 allocation) must be spent on outreach efforts unless the Neighborhood Council elects to spend more than 75% of its year's allocation on neighborhood improvements projects.

OK - it is illegal for them to require that we spend 25% of our budget on Outreach - so DONE says we don't have to -- as long as we spend over 75% of our budget on improvement projects. This means DONE will not allow us to spend even one dollar on administrative costs. So if we buy even one ... paper clip... we would become criminals. Nothing like respecting the spirit of the law.

OK - 'change' number two:

It is strongly urged that a minimum of 25% of Neighborhood Council funds ($12,500 of each year’s $50,000 allocation) be spent on community improvement projects.

In other words, they admit they can't force us to spend 25% of our budget on improvement projects - but they are letting us know our lives will become a living hell if we don't. And if there is one thing Lisa Sarno and DONE are experts at - it is making the lives of Neighborhood Council members a living hell.

Lastly - the worst part - forcing us to decide a full year in advance how we are going to spend every single cent of our budgets - which makes it impossible for us to meet the changing needs of our neighborhoods, remains unchanged. Also unchanged is DONE's goal of making the accounting system a logistical nightmare that will make our lives... a living hell.

Your Neighborhood Council’s FY 07-08 budget will be your “roadmap” for the year ahead, so it must be detailed, thorough, and you need to adhere to it. The Controller’s audit noted that Neighborhood Council expenditures must directly correlate to budget line items. As demand warrants (city checks) are requested, the DW forms you submit will reference these budget line items.

There will be new accounting and budget codes established to track spending. During
the FY 2007-08 budget cycle, operational expenditures will be coded by “100 Series”
items, outreach expenditures by “200 Series” items, and community improvement
expenditures by “300 Series” items. This will simplify the tracking expenditures for all.

Neighborhood Councils, as well as expedite the quarterly audit process. By developing
your budget, you are clearly showing your stakeholders how the money will be spent.
Then, you follow through and spend the funds as described in your budget. Finally,
DONE staff will verify that you did spend the funds the way you voted to spend them...

And now comes the money shot.... the ultimate hypocrisy of DONE. DONE is demanding that we follow budgetary restrictions no other city agency follows while DONE itself not only refuses to follow its own budget, but even refuses to disclose how they are spending our money while their own projects - such as the April 21st Congress... are spiraling wild out of control.

And if that is not enough - they are now cooking the books to hide the truth.


Empowerment Report - DONE’s Creative Accounting

By Greg Nelson

Since 1776, governmental agencies have been producing reports for elected officials that didn’t quite contain all the important information, overlooked a few options, or fudged the facts just a tad.

In some respects, it’s an art form. But it can also take a nation into war.

As reported in CityWatch, the upcoming Congress of Neighborhoods was first estimated to cost three times that of past Congress events. That fact alone was alarming, but the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners rubber-stamped the contract with the hotel after limited discussion.

No one even thought it was important to ask from where the money was going to come.

The truth is that DONE didn’t have a clue how they will pay for the event. As tight as its budget is, the only choice seems to be that services to the Neighborhood Councils would have to be cut. One target that has been discussed at DONE is the money spent by DONE to notify stakeholders about each upcoming Neighborhood Council election.

In preparation for this issue being discussed by the City Council’s Education and Neighborhoods Committee, DONE revised the numbers that it gave to the commissioners in an attempt to compare the costs of past events to this year’s congress, whose price tag skyrocketed to $162,000, or five times the cost of recent events.

Amazingly, the new report showed that the costs of past Congresses were much higher than previously reported. It was designed to create the false impression that the new “Rolls Royce” version of the Congress wasn’t really all that more expensive.

But a simple glance at the chart provided to the City Council showed that what DONE had done was to include, as part of the total costs, the value of all the fees that had been waived. So that’s how an event at the Convention Center that had a reported cost of $31,000 on the first report became $51,000 on the second report.

If you wondered what happened to Enron “book cookers” who didn’t go to prison, I think we found that answer.

When this issue is finally heard by the Education and Neighborhoods Committee, it would be refreshing if DONE apologized for the botched deception, and produced a third report that simply reported the facts.

We should never fear the truth.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How To Fix LA Traffic! LA Transportation Officials Endorse LANCC Transportation Committee!

Three speakers addressed the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress’ fledgling Transportation Committee – but there was only message: Neighborhood Councils must work together to fix LA’s traffic problems

Committee co-chair, former Los Angeles Department of Transportation James Okazaki, President of the Los Angeles Commission of Transportation, Paul Kim, and Wendy Greuel, chair of the city council’s Committee on Transportation, challenged 35 council members last Saturday to collectively work with them and the City of Los Angeles to fix a broken system.

By the end of the meeting, twenty-four NC members signed up to participate in the committee.

Wendy Greuel discussed how individuals can make a difference such as using 311 to remove illegally parked trucks or reporting malfunctioning signals in their neighborhoods. She also described the dramatic affect she has personally experienced in how synchronization of traffic lights can reduce rush hour congestion.

Commissioner Kim next emphasized how NC’s can best understand their own neighborhoods and how the NC’s need to unite to create meaningful change in the city’s priorities when it comes to linking development and traffic. Commissioner Kim also handed out his card to anyone who needed help with specific problems.

And whenever Greuel or Kim needed a question answered – or a fact checked, Committee co-chair James Okazaki provided them the information from his over 35 years of transportation expertise. James then pledged to use that expertise to help NC’s navigate the many agencies that manage the transportation systems of Los Angeles.

The next meeting will be in March when the committee will discuss how individual NC’s can deal with specific local problems and how the committee can collectively work with transportation professionals on developing a new neighborhood oriented transit master plan for the greater Los Angeles area.

If you are interested in joining the committee or being notified of the next meeting, email Brady Westwater at

A Piece Of Downtown's Past In Echo Park!

I can ususally date most pre-WWII houses within ten - and often - five years of their construction dates. But I was puzzled when I showed a newly listed house on Echo Park's Scott Avenue to a client some 20 years ago. The house was surrounded by a perfect example of an early Craftsman-style porch - which I guessed to be about 1910, which I told my client while we waited for the listing agent. And I said the chimney was also clearly of that date.

But the rest of the house, to my surprise, was just as clearly Victorian and not late, 1890's Victorian either, but hard-core 1880's style Victorian. I mentioned this conundrum to the listing agent and suggested that the house might been moved to this site around 1910 and that a new porch and a new chimney was added at that time.

The reason I bring this up is because I happened across the Echo Park Historical Society website today...

Researching My Home
1450 Scott Avenue
By Matthew Dubois
Finding your home's past takes a lot of work and patience. Like a detective, you have follow up leads and have to let ideas germinate.
After buying the home, I listened to what the sellers and their real estate agent told me: the house had been moved in 1913 and built in downtown Los Angeles in 1886. But they had no proof.
The Paper Chase
I started at the City of Los Angeles Building & Safety Department but only got a few permits back to 1932, most of them listed under the name Chatard.
Then, I headed to the History section of the Los Angeles Central Library and looked up the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. The maps took me back more than a decade and proved the house had been in its location since around World War I . But the house was no where to be found in a 1912 map.
I then looked through the City Directories, which contain resident names, addresses and other information, in the Los Angeles Central Library’s History section. According to the directories, the Chatards had lived at 1450 Scott Ave. since 1913.
Hot on the Trail
A neighbor told me about a former Echo Park real estate agent, Steve Scott, who connected me with Millie Shaw, who owned my home in the 1980s. She described what the house looked like and the changes that she and her husband made.
Millie also sent me a picture of the house from 1980. She knew of the Chatards and providing me some interesting stories about the house and its setting, like tales of money being found behind wainscoting and of jewels being buried nearby.
I also searched the Chatard name on the Internet and, along with other information I had gathered, was able to put together a small family tree. A search in for a Chatard in the Los Angeles area found one and a phone number in Glendale.
I gave them a call. Joyce Chatard answered the phone. Yes, she knew of 1450 Scott Avenue. It was the home of her grandmother, Julia Chatard. Julia lived in the house from 1913 until she died in 1958. Joyce sent me pictures of the house, one from 1915!
This was great information. But I still needed to find evidence proving that the house was moved to it current location from downtown

House on the Move
Back at the Los Angeles Central Library, I searched for construction industry periodicals from 1913 and found Los Angeles Builder & Contractor in the Science and Technology Department This magazine had a summary of building moves. One building move dated October, 9 1913 showed a house was moved from 1112 Towne Avenue in downtown Los Angeles to 1450 Scot Avenue. The name Julia Chatard was included in the notice.
This bit of information helped proved that my housed had been moved to its current location from Towne Avenue. A check with the Sanborn maps showed a building footprint on Towne Avenue exactly like the current one on Scott Avenue.
Back at the Building & Safety department, I discovered that my house had actually been moved twice! I found a permit dated July, 7 1905 of a house being moved from 718 E. 5th Street to 1112 Towne Avenue. In the property records of the Los Angeles County Assessor, the first person listed living in the house when it was on 5th Street was an Esther Dye, a magnetic healer in 1900.
After taking another look in the City Directories, I was able to determine that the house had been in existence since the early 1890s, serving as a residence for Esther Clark on 5th Street.
Then, after being moved to Towne Street, it briefly served a restaurant operated by a John Karrle and then served as a residence for the Osgood family. It was converted into a duplex before being moved to Scott Avenue. The house stayed a duplex until 1978, when it reverted to a single family dwelling.
The most rewarding part of doing this research is that I am living in a piece of history. It is not just a building but a living reminder of the all the people who came before me and will come after me; this I call home.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Company Of Angels Comes Downtown! Big Party This Sunday Afternoon!

The oldest non-profit, professional theater company in Los Angeles (founded in 1959!) recently joined the increasing ranks of homeless theater companies after losing their long time Silver Lake home.

But thanks to Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council member, Gary Warfel of Titan Development, Company of Angels now has a temporary home in the old Grand Avenue Club, Downtown Los Angeles. But I still need to find them a permanent home so if anyone has any suggestions for a 99 seat theater in Downtown - let me know!

Grand Avenue Club
1026 Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
1pm - 5pm
(donations always welcome)

Company of Angels has taken residence at the Grand Avenue Club in
downtown L.A. and you're invited to hang out in our new digs.
Anytime between one and five, come on by, check out CoA's future
plans and partake of free food, wine and live music by some of the
best musicians L.A. has to offer.

Did we mention door prizes? ;o)



2PM: FISH CIRCUS (led by the stellar Anais Thomassian)


(courtesy of Rock Rose Gallery)


For more information, please visit our website at

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Why Can't The MTA Get It's Act Together?

Yesterday - Friday - I made two longer than normal trips via the MTA. A bus ride to the Valley and a subway/bus ride to Beverly Hills. And each trip showed the MTA at it weakest when it comes to its employees.

Worst was my trip on the subway. When I got off the North Hollywood train at Western to transfer to the 720 bus line, I found a large key ring on a Disneyland key chain with the name... Veronica... I think... complete with car keys and a clicker - lying on one of the seating areas. I tried to call security on the phone but it did not work. I then tried a second phone and I finally reached a polite, helpful person who suggested I give it to the next westbound train.

So I waited for the Wilshire Western train, ran up to the driver and just as I reached him - he slammed shut his window. And when I knocked on his window and held up the keys to show them to him, he refused to look at me and looked straight ahead for a considerable amount of time before he pulled out.

Then I tried a second train heading to Union Station and that driver finally took the keys, but only after giving me a lot of attitude for bothering him.

And earlier in the day, I was on a bus where the driver could not even tell his passengers which streets he stopped on on the way out and on the way back another driver slammed on the brakes every time he stopped, almost throwing us out of the seats more than once, and missed stops even after people had rung for the stops and then when he stopped, he often couldn't get the bus more than six feet from the curb.

And the MTA wonders why people would rather drive in Los Angeles...

Friday, February 09, 2007

LA Cowboy Gets Own TV Show... Sort Of!

Starting today, I will be on KNBC's on-line news feed every Friday at 2 PM for a five minute recap of my blog postings of the week.

Consider yourself warned.

Wendy Greuel To Addess LANCC Traffic Committee Satrurday!

The organizing meeting of the Transportation and Mobility Committee of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress will take place this Saturday, February 10th from 11 AM – 1 PM at Los Angeles City College on Vermont Avenue in East Hollywood. The meeting will be in Room AD311 on the third floor of the administration building.

Our special guests will be Miss Transportation, Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, and Dr. Paul Kim, President of the City of Los Angeles Board of Transportation.

Running the meeting will our Committee co-chairs James Okazaki, former Assistant General Manager of LADOT and Allyn Rifkin, former Principal Transportation Engineer of LADOT.

The purpose of the meeting is to determine how LANCC can help neighborhood councils individually deal with their local transportation needs and to discuss how NC’s can work together to tackle the regional problems facing the city.

A new program that might permanently alter traffic in this city by changing the commuting patterns will also be previewed.

LACC is located on the west side of Vermont Avenue at 855 N. Vermont, one block north of Melrose and one block south of the Red Line Station at Vermont and Santa Monica.

The meeting will be at Los Angeles City College in the Cesar Chavez Administration Building, (AD). The front of the campus is at 855 N. Vermont, just north of Melrose, however, the Ad Bldg. is at the back of the campus, essentially on Heliotrope. (See attached campus map.)There is parking under construction, so you should park in either the Snyder field lot on Vermont or Lot # 5, on Heliotrope. It may be crowded as school is in session now.

Parking is also available on the off-campus lot across Vermont from the meeting location at Marathon Street. Turn east on Marathon from Vermont to enter the lot.

Lastly... I will be appearing on KNBC's web newscast starting today every Friday at 2 PM for a 5 minute recap of my weekly blog postings:

Thursday, February 08, 2007

New Skid Row Dumping Scandal!

After all the media attention about hospitals dumping sick and helpless patients on the sidewalks of Skid Row, you'd think if they were to continue such activity - they would at least be discrete about it.

But, no. A van used by Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital dumped a paraplegic - apparently after taking his wheel chair from him - on the streets of Skid Row - in broad day light.

Paraplegic allegedly 'dumped' on skid row
L.A. police say man was dropped off in front of dozens of witnesses by van linked to Hollywood Presbyterian hospital.
By Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
Times Staff Writers

10:14 PM PST, February 8, 2007

A paraplegic man wearing a soiled hospital gown and a broken colostomy bag was found crawling in a gutter in skid row in Los Angeles on Thursday after allegedly being dumped in the street by a Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center van, police said.

The incident, witnessed by more than two dozen people, was described by police as a particularly outrageous case of "homeless dumping" that has plagued the downtown area.

"I can't think of anything colder than that," said LAPD Det. Russ Long, who called the case the most egregious of its kind that he has seen in his career. "There was no mission around, no services. It's the worst area of skid row."

Los Angeles Police Department detectives said they connected the van to Hollywood Presbyterian after witnesses wrote down a phone number on the van and took down its license-plate number.

They are questioning officials from the hospital, which the LAPD had accused in an earlier dumping case that is now under investigation.

Witnesses shouted at the female driver of the van, "Where's his wheelchair, where's his walker?"

Gary Lett, an employee at Gladys Park, near where the incident occurred, said the woman driving the van didn't reply, but proceeded to apply makeup and perfume before driving off...

Now if this can still happen in the middle of the day in front of witnesses, guess what still happens under the cover of night on deserted streets of Skid Row.

Business Plan For LA Museums!

Whether it's the LA River, affordable housing - or new museums, the one thing no one in LA seems to get is that the way to get non-profit projects built in this city is to develop business plans that will - largely - self-finance these types of projects.

February 9, 2007
Museum for African Art Finds Its Place

The Museum for African Art, which has had a nomadic existence since it opened in 1984, will finally gain a permanent home in a soaring new building designed by Robert A. M. Stern, on Fifth Avenue between 109th and 110th Streets, officials announced yesterday.

Models and renderings of the new structure, which will face the northeast corner of Central Park, were unveiled at a news conference at the Guggenheim Museum, some 20 blocks south of the site.

Presiding over the event, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hailed the project as “the first new construction of a museum on Museum Mile since the great Guggenheim opened in 1959.”

With 90,000 square feet, including 16,000 square feet of exhibition space, the building will give the Museum for African Art a long-coveted base, said Elsie McCabe, the institution’s president. Officials hope to break ground in the spring of 2008 and complete construction by the end of 2009.

The estimated cost is $80 million, of which $49 million has been raised, including $12 million from the city.

A tower of 115 luxury condominiums will be built above the museum, under a partnership between the museum and two developers, Brickman and Sidney Fetner Associates. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the structure will be a shimmering glass wall made up of what Mr. Stern’s firm calls “dancing mullions,” after the slender vertical members that form the division between window units.


It occupied two adjacent town houses on East 68th Street before moving to rented quarters in SoHo in 1993. Around 2000, Ms. McCabe arranged a partnership with Edison Schools, the for-profit education company, to buy a parcel on Fifth Avenue from a housing developer. (She said the site had once housed a low-rise commercial building.)

Plans called for Edison to build a school and a corporate headquarters on the site while providing space for the museum to build a structure for itself. In 2001 the company’s stock price nose-dived, and it abandoned the project in 2002, shortly after the museum had moved to a temporary location in Long Island City, Queens.

With a loan from the Community Preservation Corporation, the museum secured the land from Edison by 2003. Then, with help from two of its trustees — John L. Tishman of the Tishman Realty and Construction Corporation and Jonathan D. Green of the Rockefeller Group Development Corporation — the museum arranged a partnership with the two developers, Brickman and Sidney Fetner.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation recently arranged the sale of four other parcels to the partnership, clearing the way for the work to begin.

Mr. Stern said the challenge was to design a museum with “a strong civic public identity within the larger framework of a commercial apartment house — and at the same time, to make a building that is glassy and open, but not a knee-jerk glass block.”

Ms. McCabe said: “We knew if anybody could marry us distinctively with a residential building, he could. And God bless him, he did.”

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

LA Traffic Committee Has Formation Meeting This Saturday!

The organizing meeting of the just formed Transportation and Mobility Committee of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress will take place this Saturday, February 10th from 11 AM – 1 PM at Los Angeles City College. The meeting will be on the third floor of the administration building.

Our special guests will be Miss Transportation, Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, and Dr. Paul Kim, President of the City of Los Angeles Board of Transportation.

Running the meeting will our Committee co-chairs James Okazaki, former Assistant General Manager of LADOT and Allyn Rifkin, former Principal Transportation Engineer of LADOT.

The meeting will be at Los Angeles City College in the Cesar Chavez Administration Building, (AD). The front of the campus is at 855 N. Vermont, just north of Melrose, however, the Ad Bldg. is at the back of the campus, essentially on Heliotrope. (See attached campus map.)There is parking under construction, so you should park in either the Snyder field lot on Vermont or Lot # 5, on Heliotrope. It may be crowded as school is in session now.

Parking is also available on the off-campus lot across Vermont from the meeting location at Marathon Street. Turn east on Marathon from Vermont to enter the lot.

Another guest speaker may be announced later this week. For further information check this Friday or email Brady Westwater at

The purpose of the meeting is to determine how LANCC can help neighborhood councils individually deal with their local transportation needs and to discuss how NC’s can work together to tackle the regional problems facing the city.

A new program that might alter traffic in this city by changing the commuting patterns will also be previewed.

LACC is located on the west side of Vermont Avenue at 855 N. Vermont, one block north of Melrose and one block south of the Red Line Station at Vermont and Santa Monica.

Free parking is in the off-campus lot across Vermont from the meeting location at Marathon Street. Turn east on Marathon from Vermont to enter the lot.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Just How Corrupt Is The Los Angeles Country Health Department?

Plenty corrupt as has been shown by Joel Grover of KNBC with his on-going expose of the conditions at the 7th Street Produce Market in Downtown Los Angeles.

But that is only the beginning of what has been going on in that department.

During my battles to evict drug dealers who ran restaurants on Main Street, after years of work, I finally got the worst of them (where crack was openly sold through a window 24 hours a day for years) temporarily shut down for health code violations, and even that took direct intervention from Gloria Molina’s office. But while they were closed during the day, when the sun went down - they reopened and sold drugs until dawn.

After weeks of this, I finally got an honest inspector to come at night to catch them open, which would permanently revoke their permit. But then someone reported to me a county car was parked by the restaurant when it opened that night. Hours later my inspector came out - and they were... closed.

And the next night they were open again. This went on for weeks until theyir suspension was over, and they could ‘legally’ reopen again. It finally took round the clock surveillance and a police battering ram to shut down the place.

Later, another evicted restaurant owner who catered to the drug dealer clientele reopened in a long closed restaurant without applying for a permit. And that was grounds for shutting them down. I reported it - repeatedly - but suddenly an ‘A’ appeared in the window showing it had been inspected – and yet it had not been shut down for being open illegally.

I called to see what happened and someone made the mistake of telling me what had really happened. When my complaint was finally about to be acted upon, a health inspector called the restaurant owner to WARN them of the raid, and the illegal restaurant owner then came in and they gave him a license as if he was just opened – without even inspecting the restaurant – which was illegal. He then was inspected the and they gave him 'A', ignoring the fact he had been illegally open for months

And he is still open today, though luckily the increased police presence has driven off most of his drug dealer clients.

Around that same time, a legit restaurant opened a closed restaurant – but it got shut down for two months, which resulted in the restaurant eventually closing.

After that, I no longer bothered to try and use the County Health Department to close down drug dealers since they were so clearly working in tandem with them.

Is New York 'Over' And LA Now It? That's What Paper Magazine Says In New York Times!

In a New York Times article chronicling the excesses of New York's Fashion Week - the following paragraphs make for provocative reading:

It may seem odd to say so, but as much as the hundreds of shows and presentations that will take place over the next week are officially about the trade in garments, something more important is being tested during these twice-yearly cycles. That is the belief, perhaps a fantasy at this point, that New York is still a culturally necessary place.

It is not just Mr. Hammerstein and a few aging downtown types who have been scratching their heads lately about what became of the yeasty city whose great historical virtue was its surprisingly relaxed relationship to the boundaries between high and low. Paper magazine dedicated its latest issue to the thriving art and fashion scenes in Los Angeles.

“The energy in L.A. feels so amazing right now,” said Kim Hastreiter, an editor of Paper. “New York feels like a stagnant city that doesn’t have artists in it anymore, because the artists have to have trust funds to live here.” Not that a person with a trust fund, she added, can’t be good.

Now with the yet to be officially announced 'new' Los Angeles Fashion Week Downtown debuting next month - it will be curious to how the press will respond to that event.

More On Historic Buildings That Burned On Broadway!

Other people are noticing the historic facades revealed by the fire on Broadway... and as I suggested in the previous post - the owner of the two buildings - plus the one that did not burn on 4th Street - intends on demolishing both structures. So to have any chance of saving at least the most architecturally distinguished structure - the city needs to start the negotiations immediately.

Fire reveals a last look at historic L.A.
A blaze burns away facades, revealing early details of two century- old buildings that housed small shops. Now they will be razed.
By Valerie Reitman
Times Staff Writer

February 6, 2007

Los Angeles Fire Battalion Chief Ray Gomez could tell instantly that the two downtown buildings ablaze early Monday were old — at least by Los Angeles standards. The mortar between bricks was soft, made before the 1933 introduction of reinforced concrete, making the buildings more vulnerable to heat and water — and to collapsing on firefighters.

Most others, however, would have a hard time recognizing from appearances any historical value from the buildings at 4th Street and South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. A mix of bridal and quinceañera dress shops, shoe stores, fortune tellers and money repatriation services lined the first floor. Tattered brown shingles sheathed the upper floors, interspersed with placards that said "Watches" and "14 KT $10."

Until the fire, that is.

It took about 160 firefighters roughly 90 minutes to largely extinguish the blaze that lighted the downtown sky at 5 a.m. Monday. By late morning, as they tended to the smoldering remains and secured the site, they began to strip off the shingles. And like some architectural Cinderella turning into a beautiful princess, long-hidden details emerged, revealing the once-dignified buildings beneath.

Not only were there windows on the upper floors, but they were huge and arched. Fluted columns etched the facade.

A check with historical groups revealed that the adjacent buildings were probably built around the turn of the century. The one at 350-354 S. Broadway was designed by architect R.B. Young in about 1895, according to Mike Buhler, director of advocacy at the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Its neighbor at 356-364 S. Broadway had once been known as the O.T. Johnson Building, named after its financier-philanthropist owner. It was designed by well-known architect John Parkinson about 1900. Somewhere along the way, it lost five of its seven stories.

The building had once been sheathed in glazed brick, its ground floor made of iron and glass, with paired columns flanking its main entrance, according to an internal report by the Los Angeles Conservancy. It was one of dozens of buildings Parkinson's firm designed or co-designed in Los Angeles through the 1950s, including City Hall, Union Station, Bullocks Wilshire, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and several buildings on Broadway and Spring Street. About 60 survive in L.A., most of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"This may be one of the most significant losses to that district in recent memory," said Ken Bernstein, manager of the city's Office of Historic Resources. "While its historic detail was covered up in recent years, it still contributed significantly to the unique historic fabric of Broadway."

That fabric includes more than a dozen old theaters and dozens of century-old office buildings on Broadway and Spring Street — "One of the most intact historic districts in the country," Bernstein said.

It isn't clear whether the two buildings gutted by Monday's fire were designated as historic properties. Bernstein said they were originally included in the 1978 designation of the Broadway Theater and Commercial District, but the next update 20 years later excluded them. The L.A. Conservancy's Buhler said they weren't included because the buildings had been significantly altered.

While watching firefighters douse flames, Eli Sasson, president of Sassony Commercial Real Estate Development in Beverly Hills, said he had owned the buildings for about 30 years. The floors above the stores had been vacant most of that time, he said. He said business had been good, despite numerous "for lease" signs with his phone number that hung above the occupied first-floor storefronts.

Sasson said the fire had rendered the buildings unsafe and that they will have to be demolished. He hasn't decided whether to rebuild. "I'm still in shock," said Sasson, who said he had driven into the city at 7 a.m. as soon as he heard about the fire.

The cause of the blaze hadn't been determined by late Monday. Meanwhile, the displaced store owners confronted a very uncertain future. Some suffered only smoke damage to merchandise. In La Franja Sports, a soccer-paraphernalia and memorabilia store next to the burned buildings, owner Guillermo Cordero, his mother and son rushed to pack soccer jerseys and shorts into gym bags to keep the smell of smoke from penetrating the clothes.

Bridal Moments, however, was just about gutted, its interior largely black shards.

Marta Rayas, who has owned the shop for 11 years, said she probably lost $100,000 worth of dresses, sewing machines and fabric — including about 10 fancy dresses she and her sister had finished for customers who ordered them for carnivals in the next two weeks. She has no insurance.

Outside the darkened windows, a headless mannequin clad in a strapless purple lace gown, its puffy gauze skirt blackened with soot, lay in the gutter.

Monday, February 05, 2007

LA Cowboy Last Person On Planet To Know About Downtown Fire!

Since I left my office very, very late Sunday night and slept in the third furthest of my nightly nests from my office - which is less than a block than the fire at 4th and Broadway - I not only did not smell or see the flames - or even hear the fire engines - but I also ended up sleeping in very, very late. So by the time I finally got to the office, even my friends in New York and London had seen the fire on their computer screens.

So I do not have a lot of say in the way of 'breaking' news.

But I do have one observation; as all the ugly improvements were stripped from the buildings, two lovely facades were revealed - with the larger building just off the corner revealing some great curved windows in the quite late Victorian/medium late Richardsonian/early classical mode.

Now that building is also the structure that had the worst damage and it is the mostly likely of the two to be torn down - immediately.

But what if this was a city that actually worked and the city and the owner could work out a plan that would allow the building to be preserved while also allowing additional stories to be added. And then to make the restoration economically (and physically) feasible by waiving the parking requirement (since one of the largest parking garages in the city is directly behind it).

And - possibly - something could be worked out in the replacement of the building at the corner with the lesser amount of damage - that would further encourage the saving of the more architecturally distinguished building.

Well, one can hope... can't one?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Elizabeth MClellan - Hometown Hero!

The most rewarding aspect of neighborhood council work on a citywide basis are the people you get to meet. One of those I feel honored to have as a friend is Elizabeth McClellan, was just recognized for her work within her own community.

But I know her from our year long effort to get the neighborhood council Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Water and Power signed and her efforts to help us get the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress established.

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

Activists hailed for improving neighborhoods
The L.A. advisory group Empowerment Congress honors seven residents and organizations. One woman worked to end a glut of liquor stores.
By Robert J. Lopez
Times Staff Writer

February 4, 2007

Elizabeth McClellan remembers walking past the liquor stores that dotted her South Los Angeles neighborhood, where addicts smoked crack cocaine and drank alcoholic beverages wrapped in brown paper bags.

She and her neighbors began organizing with the help of a then-newly formed advisory group called the Empowerment Congress. Eventually, they were able to reduce the number of area liquor stores and crimes.

On Saturday night, 15 years after McClellan began working with the congress, she and six other activists and organizations were honored at a dinner at USC celebrating the group and the people who helped turn a lofty experiment in micro-governance into the prototype for L.A.'s neighborhood councils.

Among those recognized were a Cal State L.A. educator who began a certificate program to train gang-intervention workers and a Jefferson Park couple who rallied residents against dozens of sex offenders living in a halfway house near an elementary school and church.

"It's very, very exciting and deeply encouraging that these people and others continue to commit themselves to making the space they occupy better," said state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles).

He started the Empowerment Congress in 1992, when he was a Los Angeles councilman representing parts of South Los Angeles. The group, formed after the rioting over the Rodney G. King police beating verdict, was seen as a way to spark activism by electing people to local councils and hosting workshops on such topics as community organizing and leadership training.

The group has spread to parts of Ridley-Thomas' Senate district in Hancock Park and Culver City and seeks nonprofit status, said Chairwoman Kara Carlisle, vice president of the city Human Relations Commission.

The congress has no formal authority, but it has become a potent organizing tool for activists such as McClellan, who worked with other members to stop the proliferation of liquor stores around her neighborhood at 91st and San Pedro streets.

Many of the stores had been damaged or burned down during the riots and were seeking to reopen. McClellan, 73, said residents were able to get the attention of city officials and stop owners who had allowed their businesses to become crime magnets from reopening. "We awakened City Hall to the fact that they had a responsibility over land-use authority," she said. "Prior to that, everybody closed their eyes."

Another activist honored Saturday, Bill Martinez, began working with Ridley-Thomas' council office in the early 1990s after becoming the director of a city-sponsored gang-intervention program. Six years ago, Martinez helped start a 15-week course at Cal State L.A. that has trained more than 350 gang-intervention workers. The workers, many of them former gang members, learn to teach gang leaders conflict-resolution skills.

The workers are also taught about community organizing based on the model developed by the Empowerment Congress, Martinez said. "These guys can take that to the neighborhoods they're working with and do the same thing," he said.

Two other honorees, Michael and Dollinda Sampson, became involved with the congress five years ago when they discovered that an adjacent property was a halfway house where 31 registered sex offenders lived.

The men often peered over a waist-high fence into his yard, frightening his then-12-year-old daughter, Sampson said. The house, near Arlington Avenue and Exposition Boulevard, was about three blocks from a church and elementary school. "We had kids going back and forth to school," Sampson said. "It was not a comfortable feeling."

He said he and his wife met with congress members, who helped residents hold meetings and stage a protest march and sit-in at the house, where they met with the owner. He ultimately moved the men out, but recently started a sober-living residence for half a dozen drug offenders, Sampson said. "We're still fighting," he said.

Other honorees were Lark Galloway-Gilliam, who has worked to provide healthcare for low-income families, and the Korean American Coalition and City Watch, which have organized neighborhoods across L.A.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

LACMA To Get Big Cho Cho Train!

One of Los Angeles' biggest cultural lacks is great public art. Hell, LA pretty much lacks serious public art - period. And what public art we do have is generally made by politically connected - and politically correct - second and third rate artists as opposed to artists of the first rank.

That may be out to change though...

LACMA considers train sculpture
Museum studies possibility of a 161-foot Jeff Koons work that would hang from a crane.
By Diane Haithman
Times Staff Writer

February 3, 2007

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is studying the feasibility of erecting a huge sculpture by Jeff Koons that would dangle a 70-foot fabricated train from the top of a 161-foot-tall crane on its Wilshire Boulevard campus.

The yet-to-be-created work, which would be visible for miles, would turn its wheels, whistle and belch steam three times a day.

Director Michael Govan, in conversation with Koons at a Thursday evening museum event, said LACMA had received a grant from the Annenberg Foundation to explore placing the work, to be called "Train," on its grounds after the museum's current remodel is finished.

In an interview afterward, Govan said the grant, awarded in summer 2006, was for more than $1 million.

Should the project go forward, he noted, it would take years and wouldn't be ready at the opening of LACMA's $60-million Broad Contemporary Art Museum, tentatively scheduled for February 2008.

A museum spokeswoman said the sculpture would be paid for by LACMA fundraising.

Koons said that placing the artwork at the center of the LACMA campus would create a sort of "town square for L.A.," with the train essentially serving the purpose of a small-town clock tower. He envisions the train going through its "performance" at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Govan said he hoped the piece would become a new icon for the city, much like the Hollywood sign: "I have a fantasy that when kids see it they will drag their parents to the museum — not just literally but that it inspires that kind of curiosity."

Simply too cool for words... and more on this at LA WEEKLY:

This Is Not a Very Large Train Engine Hanging From a Crane at LACMA

Michael Govan and Jeff Koons make a major announcement
Friday, February 2, 2007 - 3:00 pm

.....Koons has another train piece in mind, and Govan has it in mind for LACMA. If it happens — and it will take considerable effort and funding — it will be big, very big. Govan showed a slide of a toy-train steam engine hanging nose-down from a crane. He followed that with a short film of the piece in action: the engine cranking up, its wheels slowly beginning to spin, faster and faster until it’s going full bore, with steam puffing from its chimney, its whistle blowing; after a minute or so it slows and stops. It may be difficult to imagine this, but watching the engine do this hanging in midair is very cool.

And that was just the model. Govan wants the full-scale, 161-foot-tall piece at the museum, and LACMA has begun feasibility studies. To be located at a redesigned entrance on Wilshire Boulevard, between the Ahmanson Building and the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum (which will be home to the Broad collection’s many Koons), the finished sculpture would be visible, Govan said, from downtown to the east, Sunset Boulevard to the north, the 10 freeway to the south and Canter’s Deli to the west. (Actually, he didn’t say that last bit, but it’s true nevertheless.) The engine would start up three times a day, at noon, 3 and 6. It wouldn’t be a real train engine, Koons said (this is not a train), but it would be “an absolutely authentic visceral experience...."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Are The Last Real Men... Women?

Well... no.

But a recent book on the subject of 'manliness' - from a most unlikely source - a college professor who teaches at... Harvard... does an excellent job of defining what makes men... manly. The writer also observes that quality of manliness is not restricted to men.

And I wholeheartedly agree.

As someone who attends countless meetings seven days - and nights - a week - and who works with endless government, tranditional non-profits, non-traditional NGO's and business organizations - as often as not - I find it is the women who are willing to take the bull by the horns and not the men.

Circumstances have forced me - alas - to live in a cowboy-free world.

Harvard professor examines the concept of 'manliness'
Andrew Buttaro
Posted: 2/1/07
During a debate over California's budget in 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) famously derided his opponents as "girlie-men." Harvey Mansfield would have approved.

Indeed, Mansfield would be deeply impressed with a body-builder-turned-politician using such gendered language, the decline of which is but one of many laments in his new book titled, you guessed it, Manliness.

So, what is manliness? Mansfield, a professor of government at Harvard University and a translator of many works of political theory, gives plenty of examples. President Harry Truman, with his maxim "the buck stops here," earned himself a place in the club; so did Humphrey Bogart, who, as Rick in Casablanca, "was confident and cynical - cool before 'cool' was invented." The actions of the courageous police and firefighters in New York City on Sept. 11 were manly; and Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, was undoubtedly manly in Mansfield's estimation.

"Manliness seeks and welcomes drama and prefers times of war, conflict, and risk," he writes in definition. "Manliness brings change or restores order at moments when routine is not enough, when the plan fails, when the whole idea of rational control by modern science develops leaks." In short, manliness is "the next to last resort, before resignation and prayer."

Mansfield is clear about why he wrote such a deliberately controversial book. His target is the emerging ethos advocating a gender-neutral society in which one's sex matters as a little as possible.

Mansfield believes that as a consequence, this society will not adequately provide citizens their rights, their duties, and their place. Since manliness is anathema to a gender-neutral society, those advocating the latter must try to eliminate it.

Not so fast, says manliness. Manliness, though predominately found in males, is not a gender-specific virtue. And regardless of the sex in which it resides, Mansfield asserts this virtue as essential to a healthy society, for it offers "confidence in the face of risk and trouble from those who love risk too much."

Throughout the book, Mansfield serves up examples of those who are manly and those who don't make the cut. Actors John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are manly, but Alan Alda and "pretty boys like Leonardo DiCaprio" are not. Oval Office manliness was found in Theodore Roosevelt, but not in Jimmy Carter.

Despite the frequent mention of manly personages, Mansfield contends that his claim is not to provide criteria for judging who is manly, since "most people know that already."

But "they don't know how to judge what is manly. What do manly men do for us? Are they more trouble then they are worth?"
Given the title, Mansfield's answers to these questions are unsurprising.

Manly men promote virtue and daring in society, and while he will concede that excesses can occur, on balance they are not more trouble than they are worth.

Mansfield's slim but substantial volume makes for an interesting read, but is probably not for the easily offended.

He is deliberately trying to provoke controversy, and some of his barbs seem gratuitously offensive. Some readers may be tempted to throw the book down at times.
But if they stick with it, they may find themselves nodding in agreement.

Who knows - maybe by the time you put the book down, you'll be inspired to be "manly." Use power tools.

Crack open a beer and watch a football game. And whatever you do, don't ask for directions.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Get In The Water Again - Cue Jaw's Shark Music - DONE Attacks Neighborhood Councils Again!

I was about to post that the on-going war between the Neighborhood Councils of Los Angeles and Lisa Sarno and DONE - the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment - was slowly coming to an end.

We have recently had two civil and professional meetings to plan the DONE NC Congress that will be hold in April. And last Saturday's Mayor's Budget Workshop was also exceptionally well run.

More importantly, we were actually listened to - as opposed to being told what to do - and the actions taken reflected our requests. The Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress, of which I am the chair, was also promised at least one room the entire day to hold our sessions in and it is likely we will have a second room.

The war seemed to be over.

And then... loud shark music.... arrived the now infamous neighborhood council budget email yesterday afternoon.

Actually, it was 8 - EIGHT - emailed attachments in one email sent to us without any warning.

And with zero consultation.

And with zero input on how we wanted to design our own budgets.

Below are the worst of the commands we are expected to blindly follow.

We have been told how we have to spend a minimum of one-half of our own budget and and we have been ordered to fill out a detailed budget a full year in advance. Then we would have to spend ever cent exactly how we budgeted the money a year in advance of our spending it.

This is clearly a move to cripple the independence of the neighborhood councils and it will not be accepted.

Neighborhood Councils should soon begin public discussions about spending priorities
for the fiscal year 2007-08 budget, which needs to be submitted to the Department of
Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) no later than June 15, 2007. In response to the
findings of the recent City Controller’s audit, and in order to better serve stakeholders,
Neighborhood Councils must formulate budgets that allocate funds as follows:

minimum of 25% of Neighborhood Council annual funding ($12,500 of each
year’s $50,000 allocation) must be spent on outreach efforts.

minimum of 25% of Neighborhood Council funds ($12,500 of each year’s
$50,000 allocation) must be spent on community improvement projects.
In response to numerous requests from Neighborhood Council members for the
development of a standardized budget template, a template will be made available on
the DONE website in the funding section. A sample standardized budget is attached for
your reference. Included in the standardized budget template will be a narrative section
in which the Neighborhood Council must explain its budget priorities, including detailed
plans for expanded outreach efforts and community improvement projects that benefit
the entire neighborhood.
Page 2
Your Neighborhood Council’s FY 07-08 budget will be your “roadmap” for the year
ahead, so it must be detailed, thorough, and you need to adhere to it. The Controller’s
audit noted that Neighborhood Council expenditures must directly correlate to budget
line items. As demand warrants (city checks) are requested, the DW forms you submit
will reference these budget line items.
There will be new accounting and budget codes established to track spending. During
the FY 2007-08 budget cycle, operational expenditures will be coded by “100 Series”
items, outreach expenditures by “200 Series” items, and community improvement
expenditures by “300 Series” items. This will simplify the tracking expenditures for all
Neighborhood Councils, as well as expedite the quarterly audit process. By developing
your budget, you are clearly showing your stakeholders how the money will be spent.
Then, you follow through and spend the funds as described in your budget. Finally,
DONE staff will verify that you did spend the funds the way you voted to spend them.

Downtown Dissed By LA River Project?

The most logical place for dense new residential development along the Los Angeles River is by Union Station where all the major transportation systems converge. In addition, building over the rail yards south of Union Station might help generate money towards the billions needed to reclaim the river.

But that doesn't seem to be in this plan. And it is no surprise. Because despite all the statements about pubic input - it was clear that decisions had been made at a very early part of the process.

Now I don't know if this all is... spillover... from the now discredited industrial plan for Downtown, but it is just one more wrong headed idea out of City Hall that is going to have to be fought against.

Costly L.A. River plan carries a flood of new ideas
By Steve Hymon
Times Staff Writer

8:50 PM PST, February 1, 2007

After decades of enduring jokes about the city's concrete-lined waterway, officials today will release an ambitious master plan for restoring the Los Angeles River, a project that reflects lofty dreams and carries a big price tag.

If anything, the plan is significant not for its specifics but for its sweep and boldness in proposing to turn the industrial-strength storm drain running from the San Fernando Valley to the sea into "one of the city's most treasured landmarks."

The Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan proposes a $2-billion-plus makeover that would replace vast tracts of industrial land along the river with parks, clean up the river and make it appear more natural while retaining its important flood-control role.

The plan is intended to guide construction of a series of parks along 32 miles of the river from Canoga Park to downtown Los Angeles over 25 to 50 years.

Channeled decades ago to protect the city against periodic flooding, the river has provided an ugly contrast in a city known for the natural beauty of its setting. The waterway in recent years has attracted new interest from those who would like to blast away its walls and replace them with a semblance of a natural river.

Up to now, however, visions for doing so have been vague or piecemeal. The master plan offers the first comprehensive — and as yet unfunded — proposal for a restoration.

It consists of 239 mostly small projects. Some, however, would be immense. In two places — Chinatown and Canoga Park — residential and office villages would rise along the river's newly greened banks, replacing factories and warehouses. The plan also envisions widening the river channel in some places to preserve its flood-control capacity while creating more riparian habitat.

Advocates say that the plan offers the possibility of constructing the kind of grand public gathering places that have been in short supply in Los Angeles. The restoration's new parks would appear in many parts of the city, rich and poor, including downtown, which is undergoing a revival.

"All of these statements about it being impossible have been made before, and I listen to it and understand it," said Councilman Ed Reyes, the head of the council's river restoration committee. "But impossible? I don't believe it is."

Gail Goldberg, the city's planning chief, praised the plan for its scale. "These kind of plans are always long-term," she said. "And they need to be wildly ambitious to capture the public's attention and imagination. Urban design should be bold."

At this stage, the plan is largely hypothetical. Most of the money has not been secured. Beautifying the river could be a hard sell in a city that chronically struggles to hire more police, repair streets and sidewalks, and find money for transportation improvements.

But the plan— drafted by the city, consultants and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the behest of city officials — has growing political momentum on its side. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said he is a supporter and a majority of the City Council wants to see something happen.

Powerful and deadly floods in 1914, 1934 and 1938 prompted civic leaders to tame the river to protect the city growing on its floodplain. By the 1950s, most of the river had been encased in concrete, though some portions north of downtown and in the Sepulveda Basin still have a natural bed.

River restoration efforts have come into vogue for cities across United States in recent years as a way to bring parks into the urban core and reclaim nature. Los Angeles County has built several parks along the river's southern reaches over the last decade and the nonprofit North East Trees and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority have constructed a series of pocket parks along the river between downtown and Glendale.

City Engineer Gary Lee Moore said he believes that the plan will begin with relatively small projects designed to bring people closer to the river. Among those are the completion of a bike path connecting Chinatown and Griffith Park via the river's banks and new pedestrian bridges over it.

"We're talking about signature bridges — a bridge that people really want to see and that will allow them to see the river," Moore said.

The next phase would be to construct parks along the river while softening its edges with greenery. If that goes well, the city would move on to the biggest project of all: widening and deepening the river channel.

The idea is to preserve the river's current flood-control capacity while slowing its peak flows. Accomplishing that would allow more vegetation and wetlands to be created in the channel because the tamer current wouldn't wash them away.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — the same agency that channeled the river between the 1930s and '50s — is in the early stages of a three-year, $7.3-million study to determine what is technically possible.

"We're trying to find the best locations for potential ecosystem restoration with an eye toward riparian habitat and aquatic species," said Col. Alex Dornstauder of the corps.

The city is contemplating tearing out concrete in a few places. Reyes and Moore said the place where the river most likely would be widened is next to the almost-finished Taylor Yard State Park next to Cypress Park.

There, a Union Pacific maintenance facility is between the river and the new park. The facility has been seldom used since 2003 and the city hopes to purchase it from the railroad. As for funding, the city is hoping that by breaking the restoration effort into smaller pieces will enable it to tap into a variety of funding sources, including local, county and state water initiatives.

Others believe private funding will be essential because federal and state money is in short supply. In Chicago, for example, residents and businesses contributed more than $200 million to build a downtown park that opened in 2004.

"I think it's going to have to be a public-private partnership," said Shelly Backlar, executive director of the advocacy group Friends of the Los Angeles River. "And I think to rely specifically on governmental funds is going to take a long, long time."

The plan also proposes new agencies to oversee the project and offers several suggestions for cleaning up the river's poor water quality. An element likely to draw controversy is a proposal to rezone river-adjacent property to encourage residential development to replace factories and warehouses.

The plan calls for nearly 6,194 residential units along the river in Canoga Park and 4,665 units near Chinatown. Both sites also would see new retail and office development.

It remains unclear how the plan will be received, although the good-sized crowds drawn to public meetings held across the city over the last two years indicated public interest.

Councilman Dennis Zine, who represents Canoga Park, is noncommittal at this point. Councilman Tom LaBonge said he is reluctant to lose industry — and jobs — in his district, close to downtown.

Council President Eric Garcetti said residents near the waterway want it restored.

"If you want to represent these areas near the river, you have to be for this," he said.

Driving through the warehouse and factory district along Main Street in Chinatown recently, Reyes motioned toward the buildings around him and predicted that one day many will be replaced with a more campus-like city near the river.

"You won't even recognize it," he said.