Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Getting a bit tired...

... so blgo is oing to take a bit of a nap.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Unasked Questions About Downtown, Transportation, Housing and Grand Avenue!

Westwater’s Downtown - The Unasked Questions

By Brady Westwater

I have been asked – repeatedly - about recent LA Times and LA Weekly articles saying transit villages increase rather than reduce traffic, about increasing the housing density in Downtown, about the new Ralph's Downtown and one person asked what I thought about the LA Weekly piece on Grand Avenue.

What no one ever asks me, though: do these issues have a major impact on all other Los Angeles neighborhoods? Had they asked, my answer would have been yes. What happens in downtown does not stay in downtown.

The only way to reduce traffic in Los Angeles is to create a greater connection between work and housing and shopping and recreation. And the most effective way to do that is to create large communities where people can walk - or drive/take transit within a very short distance to their jobs – and to then link these housing/job rich neighborhoods with other housing/job rich communities by fixed rail transit.

Nothing else is going to get sizeable number of commuters out of their cars during rush hour.

And Downtown is not just willing, but eager to provide an urban environment that is already convincing people who work here to move here. And convincing people who live here – to move their jobs here. And no single event will help increase those numbers than the opening of downtown’s first real supermarket in over half-a-century.

I can easily imagine a quarter million people one day living within the larger downtown area – most of whom will never get on the freeway to get to work.

Every day, fewer people in Northridge or Mar Vista or San Pedro get on the freeway at rush hour because they are now living in lofts Downtown.

Soon other similar communities will develop along the fixed rail lines – including parts of Hollywood, North Hollywood and Koreatown – creating fewer car-dependent neighborhoods.

Since most people realize - and I certainly do – that the vast majority of residential neighborhoods in Los Angeles are either built-out – or close to it. New development needs to go in appropriate places.

Another answer is the current proposal to allow for, among other reforms, smaller condo units Downtown, making it possible for people with lower incomes to live near their jobs – and to allow people who commute from the suburbs to have a place to live and sleep during the week – and then use their suburban homes on weekends, as is the case in other cities.

These are a few of the changes happening that will have an increasingly favorable impact on the rest of the city. The press, alas, never seems to understand the larger real world issues, but remains fixated on sound bites and one-liners, which brings us to the LA Weekly Story on Grand Avenue.

It was a typical article in that a handful of the usual suspects were asked the same questions already asked a hundred times. They responded with their usual speeches.

Unfortunately, not a one of the many questions that still need to be asked – was ever asked. This was somewhat surprising since the story comes long after the project was approved, so one would have expected either a discussion about the process of all projects like this – or a look forward at the monitoring of what still needs to be done on this project, instead of just more of the same.

This, though, illustrates the problem all the press has in covering this story. When a reporter comes into a story without a long term understanding of the players or their relationships with each other - and no first hand knowledge of how the events have unfolded – they are at the mercy of their sources, and it becomes all too easy for them to be misled.

One example is the single biggest factual error in the article - that the park land aspect of the project is being leased by the developer.

That is totally false.

The developer does, though, have a 99 year lease on the land under the condos, apartments and the hotels. The article totally misses that point. And it never mentions that all the land under the buildings reverts back to the City and County of Los Angeles in 99 years.

Unfortunately, getting all this so wrong has made it impossible to understand what really happened. For if the CRA had just sold the land outright to a developer – with no restrictions tacked on to it – no subsidies would have been required. But that is not how the government operates.
The government has dozens of different – and often conflicting - agendas they want any developer to service in a project like this. That is how these types of projects become so complicated – and why so many subsidies end up being attached to them.

Ironically, now that the deal is done – now would have been the perfect time for an article examining how these special interest oriented agendas work – and how they shape deals like this. Then, the definition of what is the 'public good' could have been debated and challenged to see what works – and what does not work.

The article has Paul Johnson of the Sierra Club saying " it is still public land with restraints on it by a for-profit development' – even though the park will be operated by a non-profit that will control the park's operations and restraints, not the developer. Even more surprising, it has Paul Novack, Supervisor Antonovich's planning director, supposedly saying the "the developers…pay the city and county rent for the park space". Again, the developer, The Related Companies, does not in any way lease or pay rent for the park. They lease and pay rent for the land under their buildings, only.

Another point briefly mentioned, but not at all explained in the article, was the unprecedented way in which the developer listened to and responded to the public, not just in Downtown, but in public meetings throughout the city.

As an example, at the corner of 2nd and Olive, the original plan called for one of those megalomaniac gestures that only an architect can love – a steep staircase coming down from Grand to Olive, ending not at a huge public plaza - but at a crosswalk with a signal on a sidewalk, with no place to go after you got there

But when the public saw that, everyone made it clear they wanted shops and restaurants and places for people to do things – and not walls and massive staircases. People and not concrete.

And Related Companies listened . That is why in the redesign, that barren corner now has a bookstore at street level and a café with outdoor seating, making Olive a friendly, walkable street.

So how does the story treat this people's victory? Well, it quotes Nicolai Ouroussoff's statement in the New York Times that Related 'forced Mr. Gehry to remove the cascading staircase that was the project's main link to the life at the bottom ‘of isolated Bunker Hill'.

Of course, all the complex political reasons behind that story were not known by the writer, so he had no reason to question it – but if he had at least looked at the plans, he would have seen how bizarrely wrong that statement was.

The proposed staircase was nowhere near the bottom of Bunker Hill. It did not even reach the downhill side of Olive – which is in the middle, and not at the bottom of Bunker Hill.

The direct connection from the bottom of Bunker Hill is – and was - always going be on Hill Street, the (surprise, surprise) bottom of Bunker Hill, and it will be built in the third part of the project. And that's not been changed. Nicky just got used by Gehry who was upset that the developer gave the people of Los Angeles a pedestrian friendly, walkable sidewalk instead of a massive cascade of concrete.

Now there are a number other points that don't fully make sense in the way they presented – particularly when the article examines the taxes that are generated by the project in a rather contradictory fashion and gives examples that have zero relevance, but, again, this is a complex subject and it is hard to understand, much less, explain how it all works, which, again is worth an article in itself, if anyone ever wants to tell the real story of what happened.

Then there are a number of logical inconsistencies such apples and oranges types of comparisons that make no sense – such as comparing a privately financed and built project – with no public guarantees to it being finished – to public financed and built projects such as Belmont High and the Red Line, when the type of public liability has absolutely nothing in common.

And everyone Downtown got a serious laugh about the description of the much hated civic mall 'park' as some kind of wonderland that was going to be 'wiped out'. In the real world, it is shunned by everyone the second the adjoining offices are closed.

Every single speaker at the public meetings agreed on the need replace the oppressive, Pershing Square type concrete of the mall with greenery. The only thing even one person at any meeting ever asked to be saved, in the present mall, was the fountain. Someone at the Conservancy at some point raised some preservation issues – but no one who uses the park had any complaints about totally rebuilding the park. Of course, one would have had to attended one of many public meetings to have known this

The one really bizarre statement – and closing line - in the article, is the supposedly differing reasons given by Bill Witte of Related and Eli Broad – former Chair of the Grand Avenue Committee – on why this project is being built … since anyone who has watched this process knows no such difference exists between them.

The whole misunderstanding is created when the article quotes Broad on the importance of Grand Avenue, by which he means, MOCA, the five theaters of the Music Center, the Colburn School with its new concert spaces, the new park, the Cathedral and other projects still in the planning stage, including this project. And Bill Witte fully agrees with all of that – which is why Related is building on Bunker Hill.

The reporter then asked Witte about the limited number parking spaces in his project. Witte stated that his project’s condos, hotel and shops were not the tourist attraction in and of themselves. They are an amenity for those people coming to enjoy the cultural attractions of Grand Avenue. And, though he did not state this, that is also exactly why Eli Broad has pushed for this project, too. Bill Witte confirmed that with me when I spoke with him. Eli Broad has often publicly said the same thing.

People are already coming from all over the world to experience the art and the culture along Grand Avenue, but once they do that, there is almost no street life during the day – and even less life at night. Too often you see tour buses stop, people get out and take pictures, and then leave.

So after one leaves the concert hall or the art museum – there is little to do. That is the missing need of Grand Avenue, which needs to be filled for the street to be successful as both a neighborhood for residents and as a tourist attraction. And this project's restaurants, shops, cafes, art galleries and full time residents and hotel guests will both accomplish that and create the much needed pedestrian link with the historic parts of Downtown.

So if there had been a simple follow up question from the writer to Mr. Witte asking him if what he was saying differed in any way from what Mr. Broad was saying – the reporter would have quickly learned no such difference existed. But then, of course, he wouldn't have had a story.

Lastly, does this mean everything is perfect on Grand Avenue? That the press should go to sleep and wait for the ribbon cutting? Hell, no.

There are plenty of questions that need to be asked – and should be asked by the press. To give just one of many examples; a non-profit is to run the park and raise funds to build additional attractions for the park to make it the great public space it needs to be. Except – no one has yet bothered to set it up. And I have brought this up at least the last six Grand Avenue Committee Meetings.

But no one in the press ever reports that.
And who will be on the committee, what will its goals be, what kind of final plan is it going to develop? And how will the maintenance be funded? All of this is long overdue – but you would never know that from reading the press

And how will the park be able to accommodate demonstrations and civic events without shutting down the dozens of bus lines that pass through this area? And can this be done without having people missing bus connections all over the city? And can the proposed civic plaza from City Hall steps over Spring to the park be the answer to this problem? And what is happening with that proposal?

And what is happening with the plan to design and build the underground parking under the park west of City Hall to replace all the public parking that is being lost in the area?

And why are not a single one of these – or any of a dozen other questions about soon to be made decisions – ever asked by LA Weekly – or by any other member of the main-stream-media?

Right now, the Neighborhood Councils are the only ones asking these questions. The issues are too complex and multifaceted for a press that prefers the quick-bite shallow story with the glossy headline requiring limited background knowledge or prep time. Anyone can ask the gotcha questions. It takes an investment in a story to ask the right questions. (Brady Westwater is a long-time downtown community activist. He is also a writer and a regular contributor to CityWatch.) _

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Late Sunday Night Visit To Ralph's!

I know, I know. Life in the fast lane Downtown must sound so exciting and so... exotic... to those of you who do not live here.

I mean - going to a major supermarket at 9 o'clock on a Sunday night - it just can't get any more exciting, much less glamorous, than that, can it?

Well, give us another week and it will seem as normal to us as naked performances artists hanging upside down in our lofts or Universal Studio blowing up cars outside our windows at 2 AM.

But for now - the exciting news of the day (or night) is that even at 9 PM Sunday night when I enter the store, an incredible six out of the seven cashiers were open! However, in all honesty, the lines were somewhat shorter than last night when five were open. And the sidewalk in front had four different groups of urbanistas heading back to their lofts in four different directions with their plastic bags in hand.

I had also walked from the subway and had run into to a small family chattering away in French as they walked back to the subway and I had also seen other people headed in other directions with their Ralph's plastic bags.

As for shopping options, I am finding by going with store brands and specials, I can shop almost as cheaply as at the 99 cent store - and get a lot better quality. The Ralph's yogurt is a great value - and while I usually get the 99 cent cole slaw salad bags at the 99 cent store, here they are both lot fresher and bigger at only a buck sixty-nine! And no thirty minutes in a check-out line!

But this brings me to one glitch. There was only one person in three of the lines when I checked out, so I got in one of the express lines figuring that would be the quickest.


It turns out Ralph's allows 15 rather than 10 items in the Express line. They also accept credit cards that need to be signed and they even accept... coupons... in the Express line. And the person before me had fifteen items and thirteen coupons - and then used a credit card.

About five people then made it through the non-Express line next to me before all the coupons could get sorted out...

Now since Ralph's has already stated they assume people will buy fewer items here due to smaller families and fewer kids - so why not make the Express lines 10 or less, if that appears to work best after they observe the situation.

And how about making at least one line cash only. That would still leave six lines for coupons users - and it might help put the 'Express' back into... Express.

Am I Missing Somehing Here - Or Does This LA Times Headline Totally Contradict The Story? UPDATE!!

UPDATE at the bottom of this post! Now for the original post -

When I glanced at the below headline, I saw Castro and assumed it was something about Cuba. I then scanned the article and saw it was not. But in the seconds it took me to do that, I read the first paragraph - and then got down to update on the present the situation. First, the story's opening:

Outrage builds over attacks in Castro community
By John M. Glionna
Times Staff Writer

5:55 PM PDT, July 22, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Welsh chokes up as he describes his rape last fall and the word his two assailants kept repeating.

"They kept saying 'faggot' over and over again," whispers the 51-year-old owner of a video store in the Castro district. "It went on for what seemed like forever."

Welsh came forward about the attack to publicize sexual assaults against gay men in the Castro — which he says police have downplayed.

The article continues to say that two white men were raped by black men in 2006. Later, it details what happened this year, which is already now half-over:

So far this year, only two people have reported being sexually attacked in the Castro and none of the suspects appeared to be African American, police say.

OK - exactly two rapes all this year Castro - and zero of them by black men. And for this - there is 'growing outrage' about black rape in the Castro?"

Now I do not know much about San Francisco and even less about the gay community - much less the San Francisco gay community. But I have a hard time believing this is biggest story facing that community - much less that this is a front page worthy story in Los Angeles.

Particularly since the only outrage the article even seems to find is not about the rapes - as the headline says, but about the response to supposed over-response to the non-existent rapes.

So while there may be some kind of story in this article - some people being upset about other people being upset about nothing - it seems to have little to do with the headline.

UPDATE -- On today's website there is a new headline that actually describes what is in the story! Will wonders never cease...

Assault heightens tensions in S.F.
The rape of a man in the Castro district spotlights racial divisions in the area's gay community.
By John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer
July 23, 2007

Yes, what the story is really about is how a single rape last year spotlighted pre-existing racial divisions in the Castro gay community.

Joel Bloom Memorial Today. Be There!

subject Joel Bloom Memorial

Hey Friends and Neighbors,

Here's the updated agenda for Joel's Memorial on SUNDAY July 22nd,
2007. It is from 3-10pm on Traction between (3rd Street & Hewitt).

3:00 Cocktails

4:00 Eulogy/Speeches

5:00 Joel Impersonation Contest

6:00 More Speeches

6:30 -10:00 Music Lineup: The Devil Dogs, Tawny Ellis, and Lightning
Bill Woodcock

See you there

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Second Visit To Ralph's Market!

After a full day of waiting in various waiting rooms at various medical facilities, I checked out the Saturday night scene at the Ralph's market in Downtown Los Angeles. As soon as I got off the subway, I saw other people had taken the subway to get to the market from the Historic Core. Then we arrived here after short two block walk, well after10 PM, 9th Street was still lined with cars on both sides of the street. People were loading groceries into their cars and other people were walking from other directions to get to the market.

It was really surprising how many people were inside the market after 10 PM on a Saturday night - and what a wide variety of people they were. Even more surprising, though, were the check out lines. Of the sevens stations - five of them were open and with both cashiers and baggers working at full speed, there were still three or four people in each line.

Clearly, with all the new units being opened in so many neighborhoods, we are going need a lot more just one full service market.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rumor Has It... Some Kind Of Market Opened Downtown Today...

Below is the opening of the LA Times article, but first my comments.

It's bigger than I thought it'd be and there's a pretty good selection of everything. And many hours after the opening - it was still packed! But there were plenty of check out lines and things moved quickly.

Plus there were even enough two for one specials that I can make the odd purchase there.

The only serous glitch was the people I saw running screaming out of the coffee shop area, trying to rip their eyes from their sockets. So, forewarned, I went it and took a look. And there they were.

Hanging on the walls.

The ugliest thrift-school fake French paintings ever made. Too ugly to work as decoration, too boring to work as kitsch.

OK - it's clear they have to go.


After all this is... Downtown... and not some hick suburb. As for what to replace them with - easy. Photos of the historic locations of the Ralph's Market.

Throng greets downtown L.A.'s first supermarket
By Cara Mia DiMassa
Times Staff Writer

1:21 PM PDT, July 20, 2007

More than 1,000 people lined up around the block as downtown Los Angeles' first supermarket in half a century opened its doors.

The huge turnout at 9th and Flower streets surprised organizers and spoke to the symbolic value of the Ralphs opening at a time when downtown is seeing a rebirth as a loft and condo hub.

After decades of decline, downtown is in the middle of a revitalization and building boom thanks to an influx of more than 20,000 residents who live in new high-rise towers and restored historic buildings. The new residents have long complained that there is no supermarket in the city center, forcing them to drive miles to get groceries.

The crowd wrapped around the block this morning chanting, "Open! Open!"

Harry Potter Comes To Main Street - TONIGHT!

Please join us this Friday night July 20th. for our Harry Potter Party, from 10:00 pm until 2:00 am. The latest Harry Potter novel, "Deathly Hallows' is on sale at 12:01 am July 21st. Come join in the fun!

Also, Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm, join us as we welcome Dr. Michael J. Diamond as he reads from and discusses his book, "My Father Before Me: How Fathers and Sons Influence Each Other Throughout Their Lives"

Thanks, Julie Anne Swayze

Julie Anne Swayze
Owner of Metropolis Books
The Downtown Source for Books
440 S. Main St. L.A. 90013

Interesting Wilshire Center Decline, Koreatown Rebirth Thread At Curbed LA!

Several of us had a rational debate/discussion on possible reasons why the Wilshire District went into decline and how it was reborn as Koreatown over at Curbed LA after Curbed LA linked to an LAist.com feature on the neighborhood.

See the comments below the post at above link.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Downtown Writer's Group!

A small group of downtown writers have banded together to start the Downtown Writer's Group. We will meet regularly to network, discuss processes, and most importantly, to review each other's work. Most of us are screenwriters but our group can include playwrights, novelists, short story writers, poets, movie trailer copywriters, and other types of writers who are interested in working with us.

This is not a workshop for people who want to learn how to write. There are many other places that we can recommend, many online and in Southern California. This is a group for professional and aspiring writers with some level of experience and/or expertise. Several of us are in the final stages of projects, a few of us write professionally. However, our goal is to expand and develop forums and sub-groups so that everyone downtown who is interested in writing, no matter what level or genre, can learn and work with other fellow downtown writers.

If you're a writer, living and/or working in downtown Los Angeles and are interested in joining the Downtown Writer's Group, please check out our blog at


Who Should Be Stakeholders In Neighborhood Councils?

My CITYWATCHLA article today on the Neighborhood Council stakeholder debate:

A Way We Can All Win the Stakeholder Debate

By Brady Westwater

The debate about broadening the definition of what a stakeholder is in neighborhood councils is one of those rare times we might all win – but only after we finally agree upon what it is we are actually debating.

To begin, greater stakeholder involvement is a critical element in the success of neighborhood councils; particularly since the point of neighborhood councils was to broaden the definition of who sits at the table when a neighborhood’s future is debated.

But instead of starting this debate by looking for reasons why a broader definition of stakeholders might NOT work – let’s first consider how involving a broader group of stakeholders might make our individual NC’s stronger and more effective.

Then, after we examine these possible positive benefits, we need to look at the ways to ensure that the existing stakeholders will not become disenfranchised by these changes.

Also, we need to stop the obsession on the importance and composition of board members and to instead look at how we engage our stakeholders in actually getting things done in our neighborhoods. As one example of how this might work, I will use the example of the Downtown Los Angeles NC.

But first, I’d like to see a show of hands of all of you whose NC has too many people willing to get involved and do the hard work?

Hmmmm… not one hand.

And DLANC originally had the same problem.

People active enough to serve on boards tend to serve on lots of boards. They also tend to have active lives. That is why DLANC’s board is increasingly becoming an administrative body that reviews and debates the work done by our committees; committees that have a majority of the seats reserved for non-board members.

This way individual board members can join the committees of most interest to them and concentrate on working there, and not burn themselves out at six hour long board meetings.

In addition, our committees also have ad hoc and sub-committees to deal with specific issues and individual projects – and that gives even more opportunities for anyone in the community interested to participate – no matter what their stakeholdership is.

So at any time, DLANC might have 40 or 50 non-board stakeholders directly involved in a number of real world issues the neighborhood is grappling with; which is considerably more stakeholders directly involved than there are board members.

And these committees have members who may not live or work Downtown, but who have a considerable passion and expertise in the issues being examined. And some of our most effective members have been people who once lived or worked in our area, but who no longer do. Plus the more relaxed rules at our committees, makes it easer for non-committee members to freely involve themselves in the debate. This then encourages them to get involved first as the ad hoc and sub-committee participants, and then as voting members of full committee.

And at least 95% of the time, our board approves any policy the committees have brought to us. But by having the full elected board having to approve every committee’s policy actions (as opposed to implementations of approved polices), this final level of oversight prevents any small group at one committee from adopting polices that would conflict with larger DLANC policies. But in our over five years, we have yet to have a major policy dispute between the board and any committee.

Now this direct, hands on involvement by anyone who wishes to call themselves a stakeholder has worked well for us. It has also opened up our process far more than any broadening of the requirements of running for the board could, which is why stakeholder ship has never been a big issue with us.

OK – now we’ve looked at how opening up the process to non-traditional stakeholders can help NC’s.

So now let’s examine the big, bad, boogie man.

Non-traditional stakeholders running for board seats.

In other words, an army of outsiders storming the gates, pillaging, plundering and taking over NC boards if we dare loosen our definition of who can vote and run in our board elections.

Not gonna happen.

In fact, if we first make more specific which seats each different class of stakeholders can vote for, we will not only ensure that the widest number of stakeholders will have specific representatives to represent them, but we will also greatly reduce the present ability of any single group or organization or class of voters to achieve a majority of any NC board.

But then, our next step, once everything is done to ensure that each of our community’s separate voices will be individually heard, needs be to look at those who might not fit into the more traditionally defined stakeholder seats and see if we might find a way for them to at have a chance to sit at the table.

Now that would not – and should not – have any affect on who can vote for the more traditionally defined seats such as residents or businesses or non-profits. The vast majority of the seats would still be held by those with the closest ties to the community; this proposed change would just create – or modify - one or two or three seats that a broader range stakeholders could then vote and run for to bring more people into the tent.

And, again, this is just an option that should be open for NC’s to consider; the specifics of how they accomplish this should be left up to the individual NC's.

The irony of this all is - I don’t think anyone is proposing anything much different than this. That is why I think our differences on this issue are – semantic.

There are many ways to bring more diverse kinds of stakeholders into the individual NC’s. But there is no reason this can not be done without disenfranchising anyone who is already at the table. Just as less can sometimes be more… more can also sometimes be… more. (Brady Westwater is a long-time downtown community activist. He is also a writer and a regular contributor to CityWatch.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Major... Scoop! Yogurt Wars Move To Skid Row!

Yes, it is true!

Denizens of the Nickel will soon be able to get their very own individualized scoops of both ice cream - and yogurt - along 5th Street just east of Main.

More details... as they develop!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

FishbowlLA - And All Of Mediabistro - Hooked By Juniper Media!

More details at New York Times:


July 18, 2007
Web Site for Job Seekers Is Sold

Laurel Touby turned her popular cocktail parties into a high-traffic Web site for job-seeking media and creative professionals. Yesterday, she sold Mediabistro.com, the company that sprang from those mixers, for $23 million.

The Jupitermedia Corporation, an Internet research company that also sells photos and art, agreed to pay $20 million in cash and an additional $3 million over two years for the company, which is based in New York City.

“This company is a true Internet success story,” Ms. Touby said. “This started as an offline community, a cocktail party, that turned into this Web site that actually makes money.”

Employers pay to post jobs on the site, which also offers premium content to users who pay subscription fees. Last year, the site had 600,000 unique visitors, and many signed up for offerings like seminars and courses in freelance writing.

“Mediabistro provides our Jupiter- Online Media division with another diversified and fast-growing revenue stream through its vertical online job board,” said Alan M. Meckler, chairman and chief executive of Jupitermedia.

In 1993, Ms. Touby started arranging after-work mixers for editors, writers, television producers and graphic designers, inviting professionals as well as job seekers.

Ms. Touby compiled a list of job postings and, in 1996, opened Mediabistro.com. Four years later, Ms. Touby received investor financing, and the Web site was incorporated.

Jupitermedia, based in Darien, Conn., approached Ms. Touby in March about acquiring the company. Jupitermedia owns Internet.com and Graphics.com, which provide services similar to those of Mediabistro.com.

Ms. Touby will remain with the company as a senior vice president.

Here's hoping our favorite gold fish won't be found floating belly up!

Blogger Tag Goes... Below The Belt!

It's July, it's getting hot and Downtown Blogger's thoughts are turning to... sex, among other things.

Received this email from Celia today:

hey everybody!

because ed fuentes' 20 questions/answers on fishbowl la were not enough for me, i posed five more questions for ed to answer on his blog (either of them) and hope that you will answer these same questions on your blog as well. your reading public wants to know!

1. Does the carpet match the drapes?

Um, no. While my face has done an all too good of a job of accurately capturing my years, from my neck down - nothing has changed since about age 27. Not a line or wrinkle and the lower... and lower... one looks - the blonder my hair gets. Kind of a reverse Dorian Gray...

2. What was the last thing you did that you previously told yourself you wouldn't do?

Besides answering stupid blogger questions? That's easy. Believing what a politician told me. Excuse me while I pull this knife out of my back...

Ah... that feels better.

3. Who was your childhood hero?

Besides my Dad - who is still my hero - Davy Crockett. Davy hit the TV waves when I was very, very young - and very, very impressionable. I got the coon skin cap, an entire arsenal of guns and everything else I could con my parents into buying. I also still remember when I looked him up in both our American Peoples & Americana Encyclopedias after second episode - and discovered he was going to die in the next episode at the Alamo.

I was... crushed.

4. Describe your first kiss.

Not an easy one. When I was really young I had not just blond - but really white blond hair and my eyes were an exceptionally bright, intense blue. Unfortunately, that contrast was irresistible to women whether they were five years old, ten years old, mothers - or grandmothers. So I got pawed and kissed - and not always appropriately - from a very early age and I had so many locks of my hair cut off, I rarely needed to get a hair cut.

Of course, by the time I desperately wanted attention from women and puberty was in full swing, my hair and my eyes had considerably dulled and even grandmothers no longer had any interest in kissing me any more.

5. What is the best superhero comic book movie ever made?

Howard The Duck! What else?

Bonus question:
Have you ever had a "blog crush" (i.e., a crush on someone, of whatever gender, that you haven't met in person but only know through their blog)? Who? Link please, if you dare.

In crush do you mean - want to rip off her clothes and do unspeakable things to her body? Moxie!


In crush - do you mean someone whom I have gotten to know over a long period on-line and wish I could know her in the real world? That would be the one and only Miss Snark now - alas! - has retired from blogging. But you can find all the gory details of our unconsummated relationship by using the search engine of her still on-line blog, though it only seems to access her posts and not the comments section.


Lastly - here is the link to My 20 Stupid Blogger Questions From FishBowlLA:



e: celia@5thandspring.com

My Memories of Joel Bloom

My remembrance of Joel Bloom in today's CITYWATCH.

Downtown - The Bloom is Gone-and, So is an Era

By Brady Westwater

On July Friday the 13th (of all days), Joel Bloom, one of Los Angeles’ most effective neighborhood activists - and the single biggest pain in the butt in the history of this city, passed away.

Within hours, an impromptu wake formed in front of the communal living room of the Arts District – Bloom’s General Store, a half-block from the recently named, Joel Bloom Square. A rapidly growing crowd soon over-flowed into the street and an outdoor party began that lasted long into the night.

Everyone who is anyone Downtown - and who was in town, showed up. Everyone, from Councilwoman Jan Perry to artists to residents to civic leaders. We all came to honor Joel’s memory – and to relate our endless stories that celebrated his unique streets-of-Chicago flavored personality.

Long before neighborhood councils were created, there were the individual neighborhood activists, and from those often lonely ranks came the first neighborhood based organizations. And within the Arts District, the person who did the most to establish those organizations was… Joel Bloom.

During the twenty years Joel lived in the Arts District, among his many contributions were getting the neighborhood first recognized as a residential neighborhood and then getting it named the Arts District. He then had to work to save it from destruction by the Los Angeles School District when the LAUSD tried to put a massive school book warehouse in the middle of the increasingly artist-filled community.

He was also involved in the creation of LARABA (the Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association), was a member of the Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC), and helped found every other community acronym group from DADA (Downtown Artist Development Association) to LADAD (Los Angeles Downtown Artists District).

He also helped found both the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC, where he served two terms on the board as a resident) and the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council (HCNC). And before his death he helped found and served on the board of the Artist District Business Improvement District (ADBID), was the Chair of the Central Industrial Community Advisory Committee (CICAC) for the CRA and had previously served on the RAC for the MTA, among other organizations.

Among his more direct personal achievements were the planting of street trees, acquiring much needed street lighting, working on both light-rail and bus routes in the community, pushing for affordable housing & parks, and keeping the LAPD headquarters out of a residential neighborhood.

More than a preeminent community activist, Joel was a community achiever. Look up ‘activist’ in your Merriam-Webster and you’ll find it along side of Joel Blooms picture.

Despite seven years of countless, painful operations and endless chemo following his first bout with cancer, Joel never slowed down. In fact, after all the operations and hospitalizations – each of which Joel not only survived, but from which he came out looking better (and thinner) than ever, we all began to think of him as being immortal. That nothing could touch him.

Or at least I particularly hoped so, if only for selfish reasons. Since Joel was only months older than I am, I let him know his passing while I was still alive would be demographically unacceptable, plus I reminded him that if anything ever happened to him, I would be left with his title as the most stubborn person alive in downtown

His ability to thrive under adversity was why --even once it became clear he was in the hospital for the last time and that he would never be coming out again--it was still easy for us all to remain in a state of denial about the inevitable.

And that is why, even when I walked over to join everyone in front of all the wreaths placed by his store, it still hadn’t hit me that he was really gone and that I would never see him again, until I saw that one particular tree.

A tree in front of his store. A tree I had watched him help plant not just once, but twice--after the first one had died. And at that moment, I almost totally lost it and had to shut my eyes, hard.

Never again would any of us ever walk along Traction and see Joel standing in front of his store, surveying his domain. Nor would any of us ever again walk into Bloom’s General Store and be greeted by his heart-warmingly gruff, Chicago accented – Whaddya Want?

But even then I had still not yet realized the finality and completeness of our loss. That didn’t occur until I was talking with a friend about something that had happened 20 years before on that street and neither of us could remember the answer to the question I had just posed. So I turned my head towards the store and was about to say… let’s ask Joel… when I realized, that none of us could ever ask Joel anything again.

He was gone.

A wonderful, golden era has ended—despite the warnings—unexpectedly.

The Bloom is gone.

We shall never see his like again.

(Brady Westwater is a long-time downtown activist. He is also a writer and regular contributor to CityWatch.) _

Monday, July 16, 2007

Steve Hymon's Morning Column Discusses Oral Sex - And Dennis Zine!

Seriously - you've got to wonder if anyone's editing anything at the LA Times these days when stuff like this slips through....

In a discussion of 'activities' at the recent city council retreat this is where Steve's mind... stooped... to:

"The next great idea is coming from the person sitting next to you," Garcetti said as the retreat began….

And who was sitting next to Garcetti?

That would be Councilman Dennis Zine, who was playing around on his laptop computer while Garcetti spoke.

That, of course, means Zine is now on the clock for THE NEXT GREAT IDEA, and we kindly request that he submit it in writing for publication by 4 p.m. Thursday.

We also should add that... belt-buckle mistletoe... do(es) not qualify as the next great idea.

Between 'playing around on his laptop' and 'belt-buckle mistletoe' - I don't think I'll ever be able to look at Dennis Zine - or Steve Hymon - in the same way again.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cecilia Rasmussen Is... In Error!

The idea of Cecilia Rasmussen - the LA Times maven of all things old Los Angeles ever being wrong is, of course... unimaginable. So she is, of course, never wrong. But on this one... very rare... occasion - her source is in error when it comes to one minor point.

The above linked article is an otherwise wonderful accounting of the history of Bullock's Wilshire at Wilshire and Westmoreland, which is of interest to me as I grew up just north of there at 312 S. Westmoreland. But the article also contains the below statement:

When it opened, the store was one of only three commercial buildings in the mid-Wilshire area, along with the Brown Derby and the Ambassador Hotel.

Alas - that statement is not even close to being correct, even though - for the most part, Mid-Wilshire was then mostly lined with homes, vacant lots, churches and a few apartment buildings.

But it also had a number of commercial uses prior to the 1929 opening of Bullock's Wilshire, which is not surprising since most of the area was mass rezoned to commercial clear back in 1926.

Also, the first business association for the area was started in 1920 and Charles Dunn set up his real estate brokerage in 1921 (and one of his sons - Joseph Dunn, was my next store neighbor when I grew up in the area back in the 1950's, the man who lived across the street helped survey the area west of Western and another neighbor, as a young boy, met Wyatt Earp in Tombstone when the neighbor's father was a cavalry officer at the Fort Hauchuca and then later knew Wyatt Earp when they later both lived full time in LA).

To give just three examples of other commercial uses, directly across the street from the Ambassador Hotel was and is .. the Gaylord Hotel built just after the Ambassador was built in 1921 (it was later a failed co-op and then became the apartment house it is today). And near-by - at 3257 Wilshire - in 1928 was the Roland Coate designed programmatic 'Carpet Service Station' straight out of the Arabian Nights, complete with baggy pants and fezzes on the attendants.

Lastly, at Oxford and Wilshire, there was/is an entire multi-story office building - the McKinley Building - that was built clear back in... 1923, six years before Bullock's Wilshire opened.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Daily News Covers DLANC's Art Walk DASH Service!

Good story about the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council's DASH bus service during Art Walk Nights on Gallery Row, even though it runs with the no one walks in LA trope a little too hard.

The truth is, as usual, a little more complex. If you start the walk at 5th and Main, see everything there (which take some time) and then head down to 2nd Street - by the time you've done all that and you want to see the galleries near 8th - you don't have time to do so since it's six blocks away and closing time is coming up.

But the bus service will now make it possible for people to walk and still get to all the galleries.

No steppin' out for L.A. Art Walk
Drivers refuse to stroll; bus added
BY SUE DOYLE, Staff Writer
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:07/13/2007 09:51:55 PM PDT

So much for the "walking" part.

In yet another reflection of Southern California's car-crazed culture, the monthly Downtown Art Walk through Los Angeles' thriving art scene has added a bus - to chauffeur visitors around the two-mile circuit.

The free service began last month, with some quick to note that it provides a safe way around unfamiliar and dark downtown streets once known more for drug deals than art deals.

But today the area - where gleaming luxury loft apartments are emerging and crime is plummeting - has dramatically changed.

So the real question may be: Will Angelenos ever give up their cars and embrace the pedestrian lifestyle of city living?

"People in L.A. don't walk anywhere," said Jill Abrams, owner of Infusion Gallery. "So when you come to downtown, you kind of know that."

Sitting on the fringe of Gallery Row, Infusion Gallery and a handful of others in the 700 block of South Spring Street noticed that fewer visitors were venturing down that way for Downtown Art Walk.

The self-guided tour, held from noon to 9 p.m. the second Thursday of each month, attracts up to 2,500 people.

But many congregate only around the heart of the art scene - about four blocks away - at Fifth and Main streets.

Hipsters hop on

To encourage trips to the other galleries, the DASH bus was brought in to loop around Spring and Main streets and haul hipsters and art enthusiasts among the nearly 30 galleries that began cropping up about five years ago between Second and Ninth streets.

"We have had complaints from galleries on the far end that they weren't getting the same traffic as those in the middle of the walk," said Bert Green, who organizes the event that began in September 2004 and runs Bert Green Fine Art smack in the middle of the whole scene.

The $5,000 bus service - paid for by the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council - is on a one-year trial to see whether there's sufficient demand for it.

The special bus runs during Downtown Art Walk nights, starting at 7, after the daily DASH bus service ends.

Artists and gallery owners hope the bus is just the ticket to get people moving.

"Unfortunately in L.A., when you say a block, people think it's a mile," said Abrams. "So it's just a matter of education, really."

Standing before his display Thursday night at The Hive Gallery, artist Gregory Gould wondered whether L.A. residents are even capable of giving up their dependence on cars.

"It may be one of those things that you can't change," said Gould. "If you can't change the way they consider getting around, then this bus is a way to accommodate them."

Fear of walking

Walt Hall, another artist, wondered whether the perception of downtown's gritty past is preventing people from casually hitting the sidewalk.

"I think people are afraid," said Hall. "But people are getting used to walking downtown. The shuttle alleviates any fear."

These days, streets are tougher in some parts of the San Fernando Valley than they are downtown.

Los Angeles police report car theft, vandalism and similar crimes are highest today in the 77th Division - which encompasses Crenshaw, Hyde Park and Gramercy Park - followed by the West Valley and Van Nuys divisions.

The top three areas for violent crimes - such as homicide, rape and robbery - also are in the 77th, Southeast and Southwest divisions, according to LAPD records.

So what's the problem?

For Al Conteh, the maze of one-way streets downtown can be so daunting that when he gets lost, he just turns his car around and gets back on the freeway.

But the Reseda man managed to find his way Thursday to see the works of artist Karima Williams.

"We don't walk," said Conteh when asked about Los Angeles' car culture. "And we don't talk to anybody."

Still, being true artists at heart, some can't help but think of ways to incorporate the bus into the Art Walk experience.

"I think the next step is to have performance art and spoken word on the bus," said Adrian Rivas, co-founder of G727, a gallery on Spring Street. "That would attract more people."


Photos Of First People To Arrive At Joel Bloom's Wake

A certain cowboy can be spotted at the bottom of the first photo, along with a who's who of the Downtown Arts District who gathered to celebrate the life of Joel Bloom who died earlier that day. More later on the event...

Joel Bloom's LA Times Obituary

At tonight's impromptu wake for Joel in front of his store, the subject of the pending LA Times obituary came up when a early draft supposedly had him rooting for the WRONG Chicago baseball team.

That something that essential to the story of Joel Bloom could have happened did not seem to bode well (thought it later turned out the reporter was reading from an incorrect city council resolution) for the accuracy of the piece. But in the final draft, the writer... punted... and did no mention of which was his favorite team - and got most of the rest pretty right.

About the only other error of sorts was neglecting to mention his involvement with LARABA - the Los Angeles River Artist and Business Association - and the Little Tokyo Community Council, both of which predated the neighborhoods councils, and the somewhat ambiguous statement about his involvement in the two Downtown Neighborhood Council, DLANC and HCNC.

Other than that - not bad.

Joel Bloom, 59; L.A. arts district activist
By Valerie J. Nelson
Times Staff Writer

July 14, 2007

Joel Bloom, a pioneering community activist who helped shape the downtown Los Angeles arts district and was its unofficial mayor, with his shoebox-sized general store serving as the area's town hall, has died. He was 59.

Bloom, who also was a playwright and actor, died of soft-tissue sarcoma Friday at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, said his son, Randy. Bloom had fought cancer since 2000.

"He gave the arts district its personality, and he was unabashed in his great love for it," said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the area sandwiched between Little Tokyo and the banks of the Los Angeles River. "Joel was charismatic and ruled the roost over there for many, many years."

In late June, the city gave him an honor rarely accorded a living Angeleno — a sign was posted at East Third Street and Traction Avenue that declared the area "Joel Bloom Square."

The humble Bloom's General Store, founded in 1994 to give the growing community a place to pick up toothpaste or rent a video, stands nearby.

"There's a spark here — hopefully we can light it," Bloom told The Times in 1994 before opening the store in the industrial corridor.

The downtown arts district began in the late 1970s as a haven for artists who worked in the lofts and often illegally lived in them.

By the time Bloom moved there in 1986, the city had legalized the live-work spaces, and hundreds of artists had flocked to the area then known as the warehouse or lofts district.

"I get a feeling here I haven't gotten anywhere else. It may look desolate, but it's not. There's no place I'd rather be," Bloom said in the 1994 article.

A City Council resolution passed earlier this month recognized Bloom's community activism, which encompassed fighting to bring light-rail projects to downtown neighborhoods, advocating for affordable housing, organizing a well-regarded neighborhood watch program and leading downtown neighborhood councils.

The resolution also saluted him as a lifelong baseball fan and as a member of the Second City improv group "who raised the term 'grumpiness' to an art form."

Offstage, he was seen as equally cantankerous.

"He was a very gruff old man," said Edward Walker, a longtime friend who works at Bloom's store. "He could yell at you one moment, but the next he would be your friend. Still, if you needed something, he would be the first one there."

Bloom reveled in being a character, friends said, and in creating them.

In 1987, Bloom wrote and staged a production in a downtown parking lot that spoofed drive-in movies. Patrons were handed 2-D glasses — the wearer could see out of the left lens but not the right — and watched "Mayhem at the Mayfield Mall," a parody of sci-fi movies.

When the play was restaged in 1998, The Times reported, the Drive-In Drama lot on Imperial Street was thought to be the only venue where live theater could be enjoyed from the comfort of an automobile. Audience members honked to signal laughs or boos, and the national media tweaked L.A. for redefining "car culture."

A Bloom musical, "Showdown at Sonoratown: The Lady Who Stole Hollywood," satirized Los Angeles history when the play was performed in 1990 on Hewitt Street at Al's Bar, which turned into Al's National Theater on slow nights.

As an actor, Bloom appeared in plays such as "The Juke Box Never Plays the Songs You Want to Hear," a takeoff on "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in which the audience sat on stage and the action unfolded on the floor of Al's, said TK Nagano, Bloom's bookkeeper and friend.

Away from the stage, Bloom burnished his reputation as "the godfather" of the community of 1,500 by helping to spearhead a campaign that resulted in the city officially designating it in the 1990s as the arts district, Walker said.

Bloom also led the successful fight to keep the Los Angeles Unified School District from building a distribution warehouse in the neighborhood. In 2000, the Southern California Institute of Architecture moved into the area instead.

"Without Joel, we wouldn't have an arts district in its present form," Walker said. "It's kind of a Mayberry filled with bohemian artists. Everyone knows everybody, and everyone knows Joel."

The second of three children, Joel Alan Bloom was born May 30, 1948, in Chicago. His father worked for a paper company.

In 1969, he graduated from Pasadena Playhouse's school of theater arts.

During the Vietnam War, Bloom served in the Air Force, documenting the soldiers' daily life on film and from the air.

After leaving the service in 1974, he earned a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois, then joined Second City as a stage manager in Chicago.

In the late 1970s, he moved to Los Angeles along with Second City comedian George Wendt, with whom he roomed in Chicago.

Bloom bartended at Al's, joined Shakespeare Festival/LA as stage manager and put down roots in what would become the arts district.

"We've always been dismissed as that industrial area east of downtown," Bloom told The Times in 1997. "Well, we're more than that. There's a heart here. And a soul."

The corner of Traction Avenue and Hewitt Street came to be known as the heart of the community, the site of a scruffy general store where Bloom was known to greet customers by bellowing, "Whaddaya want?"

Bloom had been divorced since 1977. In addition to his son, Randy, of Azusa, he is survived by a brother, Michael; a sister, Lynn; and two grandchildren.

He will be buried in Chicago. Services in Los Angeles are pending.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Video Of Mayor Being Booed

I have to admit I am totally surprised by this and don't know quite what else to say.

Beckham Upstaged by Mayor! But Not In The Way You'd Think!

Today's unveiling of David and 'Posh' Beckham to Los Angeles may end up being a footnote in history compared to what happened when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was introduced to the crowd.

From Eric Spillman's KTLA BLog:

(Home Depot Center, Carson) -- L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's self-redemption tour hit a pothole here today.

The mayor had hoped to get a warm reception from a crowd of fans welcoming soccer superstar David Beckham to the L.A. Galaxy. Villaraigosa has said he wants to 'focus on his job' after damaging revelations came out last week that he cheated on his wife of 20 years by having an affair with a local newscaster.

The reception he got here was chilly, to say the least.

When Villaraigosa was introduced to the crowd, they booed. Loudly. The catcalls could be heard on the podium mike. And so you could definitely hear it on the live TV feed that people were watching all over the world.

The mayor tried to connect with the fans, asking them: "Who says L.A. doesn't love soccer?!"

He was greeted with silence. Nobody shouted back.

He tried desperately to generate some enthusiasm, but the crowd would not play along.

All week long, Villaraigosa has tried to carry on with his work. He's made numerous public appearances. He and his handlers must hope the story of his divorce and affair will just go away if the mayor just ignores it.

It's not going away yet. His popularity has taken a hit. And he got a humiliating reminder of that from the crowd here today.

The question of the day is... will this internationally televised show of hostility of the audience towards the Mayor be seen one day as the start of the end of his career - or will it just a bump in the road?

The answer to that question will be far more important than the coming of the Beckhams to Los Angeles.

Joel Bloom, RIP

I just received a phone call that Arts District pioneer and Downtown activist Joel Bloom just died at the Veteran's Hospital. His death comes not long after the intersection in front of Bloom's General Store was named Joel Bloom Square in his honor at the request of a number of us. More details on that honor in the link above.

As for who Joel was for those who did not know him, I first met him some 20 years ago back when the Arts District was small enough that we all knew each other and Al's Bar was ground central for the scene - and yet I am still discovering things I never knew about him.

Besides all of his art world and civic activities, he was also a playwright, an actor - and he was one of the early members of the famed comedy troupe SECOND CITY in Chicago before he moved to LA, among many other hats he wore.

But once he relocated to LA - his biggest passion was in promoting his new neighborhood and nothing of note ever happened here without his participating in it. His second biggest passion, however, was - and he would proudly love to be remembered for this - becoming the world's biggest pain in the butt.

Incapable of political correctness or hypocrisy - if there was something - anything -that Joel did not like - he was not just unafraid, but incapable of not telling you about it.

But it was also clear that his complaints always had the ring of truth to them - and that it was his desire to make the world a better place for us all that was behind his all hectoring.

He was that true rara avis of our times; a genuine original. And we shall never see his like again.

The 24/7 Coverage of the Beckhams Has... Begun!

It you thought it was impossible to live in a Beckham free media world BEFORE they officially arrived - you ain't seen nothing yet.

KNBC Newsraw is now starting it's all Beckham all the time coverage with the news conference 'introducing' David Beckham newly of the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team to Los Angeles...

The Pitbull Is In The House! UPDATE!

Dazid Zahniser's first story appeared on the Los Angeles Times's website last night and his new LAT e-mail address is now working for all you tipsters out there.

The good news is that local political coverage is about to become a very entertaining blood sport at the LA Times; the bad news is if the Z-Man is doing a story on you - you better start updating your resume.


LAOBSERVED takes note of the official arrival of both David Zahniser - and David Beckham - on the same day.

But if you ask me which will turn out to be the important debut in say... five or ten years from now - never bet against the Z-Man.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Five Kings Crown A Sovereign!

The Five Kings Crown a Sovereign!

But is it good for Neighborhood Councils

By Brady Westwater

In two words - hell, yes. Champaign corks popped all over town when the puff of white smoke appeared at the top of the County Hall of Administration Building. For not only is William T. Fujioka, the newly anointed CEO of the County of Los Angeles, good for NCs – but the hiring of the former City of Los Angeles Administrative Officer (and a former LA County administrator, too) by the supervisors is great news for everyone – and particularly the supervisors themselves.

Bill Fujioka replaces the all but irreplaceable David E. Janssen who held the post until recently, Janssen lacked the powers of a real executive officer since the supervisors had the legal authority to act as his co-administrators. So each department head ended up reporting to David Janssen – and five other bosses.

So you wonder why things are so screwed up at the County?

Not many mammals have made it up the evolutionary food chain with six heads and six brains running a single body. So, in desperation, even the legendary five kings - or at least four of them as Antonovich opposed the change, agreed to give up some of their administrative authority to the new Chief Executive Officer.

Their reality check began when their first choice flatly turned down their advances. Then, even after number two accepted a ring, once he saw the marriage bed, he fled down the 405, leaving the supervisors at the altar to watch their run away bride vanish behind the Orange curtain.

The irony is – the five supervisors aren’t a bad group. They can play well together – even though they can have spirited debates. The problem was an archaic system that left both everyone – and no one - accountable. No system with a 21 billion dollar budget and 100,000 employees can work with six captains trying to steer the ship of state.

The good news is that they now have a consummate professional administrator – and not a politician. He knows how to make the trains run but he’s not interested in taking credit for keeping them on their tracks.

He is also not an ideologue looking to push a particular political or a social agenda, nor is he anyone who will be running for reelection and needs to pander to short term interests. He is also intensely loyal to the people and agencies he has served. In those ways, he is a better alternative than an elected county wide Mayor.

To give an idea of the respect the supes have for him – his interview chair wasn’t even cold before they unanimously hired him. I can even picture the Homer Simpson moment when they collectively smacked themselves on their foreheads and uttered – duh – why didn’t we think of him first.

As for NCs – Fujioka is someone many of us have long worked with and he has always been there to answer questions, give guidance and work with NCs. But he is also a person who respects professionalism and expects a level of professionalism from those he deals with, which on occasion may have ruffled the odd feather or two.

But he is also professional enough to look for long term solutions rather than getting hung up on personalities and past histories.

More importantly, he is uniquely qualified to help negotiate the many differences between the city and the county on endless contentious political issues. He can also help resolve stalemates between the City and the County such as the scandalous ten years that have lapsed since the Civic Center Authority last met.

He is also the perfect person to help solve many of the critical issues problems facing our communities, particularly regarding issues that fall primarily under the County’s purview. As a person with ten years of experience in the County health system and a strong commitment to keeping King Hospital open in South Los Angeles, he is both strong and knowledgeable enough to demand the necessary changes to rebuild the hospital while protecting the current patients from some of the people who now work in that hospital.

He also knows the problems of not only the homeless of Skid Row – but also homeless who inhabit every community in Los Angeles from San Pedro to Northridge. He also knows well the many other social problems that the County has jurisdiction over throughout the City of Los Angeles.

In other words, he is a person we not only can, but must do business with.

That only leaves one question - how do we retrofit David Janssen? If Bill goes over to the County – it is only fair that the city get David in trade.

(Brady Westwater is a downtown community activist. He is also a writer and frequent contributor to CityWatch.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cool Video Of Broadway In 1988!

It may be relatively recent history - but history it still is with all the rapid changes in Downtown. This was also before both the Northridge earthquake and the Rodney King Riots when theaters were still open and there was something resembling nightlife on Broadway.

Now the link to this video is being posted all over the web - but no one seems to know if it is either November 1988 or 1989 due to both dates being posted on YOUTUBE.

But it's likely 1988.

It's hard to make out - but the top of the bill at the Orpheum reads Steve Spielberg, then it reads 'An American Tale' and 'Land Before Time. Now American Tale had been released before either of those dates (1986), but 'Land Before Time' was premiered in... November 1988.

And both films were executive produced by Spielberg.

Surfing Dolphins!

Way too cool for words!

I once body surfed in the waves with a pair of dolphins in the Sea of Cotez many, many years ago and the first time I thought they had just gotten caught up in the wave with me; but then they did it a second and a third time. Then when the rest of the guys got in the water with Tom and myself, soon a half-dozen dolphins were taking turns escorting us to shore, sometimes with one of them on each side of us.

Now the Sea of Cotez normally has pretty damn poor surf, but a tropical depression was stirring up the waves big time - so I assumed this change from normal surf conditions is what intrigued the dolphins into joining us; that and the fact we were on a deserted, roadless part of the coast miles from any human habitation so they would have had limited - if any contact with humans - ergo, we ourselves were an oddity worth exploring.

This went on for about 15 minutes when - suddenly - the water was filled with dozens of dolphins jumping and diving all around us and we had to scramble for shore to before they accidentally landed on us. And once we got ashore, there were fins as far as the eye could see as a massive pod of at least 100 dolphins cruised by us and then - they were all gone.

I had totally forgotten about this and I don't think I have ever read or heard of such a thing since - but the linked picture shows ten dolphins - side by side - riding a single wave, so I guess it is not that uncommon.

(ALSO - at the bottom is a link to thirty-six clips of surfing dolphins!)

If there are two 'must do' items on the top of any tourist's agenda for West Australia they are to 'catch a wave' and swim with the dolphins.

There are numerous beaches to enjoy a spot of surfing and few visitors leave without calling in at Monkey Mia, a famous spot north of Perth where the dolphins come close to the shore and rub their noses against humans.

But sometimes the bottle-nosed dolphins that live along the 1500-mile long west Australian coastline like to enjoy time off on their own - and do what humans do.

As these pictures clearly reveal, dolphins enjoy nothing more than catching a wave of their own.

The jolly frolick by no less than 10 dolphins - the 10th can just be seen to the right of the main picture - was captured at a famous dolphin-watching location, Eagle Gorge, in the Kalbarri National Park, 350 miles north of Perth.

There are many other attractions for the tourist, such as watching the whales that occasionally swim by or photographing the multi-coloured parrots that can be seen in bushland a few miles in from the coast.

And there are, of course, the more lazy members of the dolphin family who hang around Monkey Mia, 200 miles to the north, so they can get a pat from tourists who wade into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean to greet them.

But for more adventurous dolphins, there are those magnificent waves to catch, as our pictures reveal.

It is not the first time a whole group of dolphins have been caught leaping over a wave in such a seemingly choreographed fasion, but wildlife experts say the phenomenon is extremely rare - and a sight to behold.

Sometimes, even the less tame dolphins can be enjoying themselves so much that they don't worry how close they come to humans on their surfboards.

On the other side of the Australian continent last week a young woman taking part in the NSW Young Surfer Event lost a number of points when she missed a wave because she was interrupted by two dolphins that took over the water she hoped to grab.

Kirby Wright, aged 16, said: 'It was so freaky out there! Dolphins were everywhere, all around us.

'I paddled for a good wave and there were two big dolphins surfing the wave as well, right beside me almost. I was scared and stopped paddling and missed the wave!'


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ron Deaton And The Neighborhood Councils

My piece on Ron Deaton in CITYWATCH -

Few people have been as important to the credibility of neighborhood councils at City Hall than Ron Deaton. After the original group of NC activists was finishing the final touches on the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the DWP and the neighborhood councils, Jerry Gewe retired and Ron Deaton was chosen to replace him. The NC contingent soon discovered, Ron Deaton never signs anything that commits the city to anything without carefully reading it and understanding it; particularly when it binds the city – for the very first time in the city's history - to very specific obligations such as keeping the NCs informed of the actions of a city agency. Then a medical emergency further delayed his participation in final negotiations.

But, in the end, Deaton after a few very minor changes (some of which were in our favor, at his suggestion), signed the agreement and he has since made certain the NCs are kept informed and that they have access to anyone in the department they need to communicate with.

That includes making himself available to meet with councils when the need arose. Deaton, and his management at his direction, have spent endless hours rolling out the DWP budgets to neighborhoods across the city. His attempt to fulfill the MOU and to make sure that neighborhood councils were a part of the budget process.

He has always been blunt, honest and… funny on occasion. Deaton style. He has long been known as the type of man who never takes himself seriously – but who always takes his obligation to protect the interests of the citizens of Los Angeles very seriously. And he has now proven to us that he also takes his obligations to Neighborhood Councils just as seriously. –Brady Westwater

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ron Deaton Suffers Serious Heart Malfunction

I just got the below email. I will comment on Ron later tonight when I return, but all I can say now is that all of his friends have out thoughts with both him and his family.


LADWP Chief Administrative Officer Robert K. Rozanski released the following statement on July 9 regarding the condition of General Manager Ronald F. Deaton:

The following information is being provided to all LADWP employees, members of the larger City family and media regarding LADWP General Manager Ronald F. Deaton. The information was issued in coordination with the Deaton Family.

Last Friday night, while on vacation in Costa Rica with his family, LADWP General Manager Ronald F. Deaton suffered what doctors have described as a serious cardiac arrhythmia. Mr. Deaton is currently in an intensive care unit in a Costa Rica Hospital with his family by his side. He is receiving excellent care.

His family is encouraged by his progress and, though his condition is quite serious, they are hopeful that he will make a full recovery. The Deaton family is currently making plans to return Mr. Deaton to Los Angeles as his condition permits.

As a 42-year veteran executive at the City, Mr. Deaton has not only been an inspiring leader, but also a friend and mentor to so many of us, not only here at the DWP, but throughout City government and across Southern California. We remain in close contact with his family and are praying for his recovery.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Can Someone PLEASE Buy The Newsroom Of The LA Times A ... Map Of California! Update!

For at least 12 hours - and likely close to 15 - the below headline story has been sitting on the front page of the Times website:

Blaze burns in Los Padres
By Julie Cart, Rong-Gong Lin II, Tami Abdollah
Fires destroy 34,000 acres, close down a stretch of U.S. 395 and force evacuations.

Now as anyone who knows anything about California knows, the Los Padres National Forrest stretches all the way from the edge of Los Angeles County along the coast up to Big Sur. Highway 395, however, runs along the far eastern side of California - east the Sierras - and that is where a fire is currently burning in the Inyo National Forrest.

So how come of all the editors of LAT or anyone from the LAT who reads the website - none of them has noticed this error which has been up since Saturday?


LA Times - finally - discovers location of Inyo National Forest! It's in - Inyo County!

Inyo wildfires out of control
By Julie Cart and Jeffrey L. Rabin | 11:45 a.m.
Authorities are able to reopen U.S. Highway 395, but warn they may shut it down again.

Monday, July 02, 2007

LA Cowboy - Now Rated NC-17! Not Suitable For Anyone Below 17!

FishbowlLA links to a rating blogs. Fishbowl gets a PG, the LA Times gets a G and
LA Cowboy is ... unsuitable... for impressionable minds due to the following:

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

death (10x) sex (8x) dead (4x) crack (3x) heroin (2x) steal (1x)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

LA Cowboy Misses Another Cowboy Christmas!

The link above goes to last year's post on Cowboy Christmas and for yet another year this cowboy is city bound, on foot without a horse and lives with the knowledge that with so much left to do, there is no end in sight to his exile.

But one day...