Thursday, June 22, 2006

As Expected... Hollywood Hills Mountain Lion Downgraded To... Bobcat Status....

About those lion sightings

Wednesday's Morning Buzz reprinted an email from the president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council warning residents that a dog had fallen prey to the mountain lion (or lions) that roams the canyons. Today Madame Prez sent a second email pooh-poohing the report:

I have just spoken to Rory Fitzpatrick (again) re the purported mountain lion sightings (and dog attacks/missing dogs). He has told me that he has spoken to the animal control folks as well as the Runyan [sic] rangers and that there have been NO mountain lion sightings.


Fitzpatrick is the chief field deputy for Councilman Tom LaBonge. The hillside correspondent who forward the email to me also sent along info circulating in the hills today about a family of bobcats spotted at Hollywood Reservoir—with photos:

Last year, I received multiple reports of bobcat sightings on both sides of Barham. Here are four photographs I took last December near the lake. They show three different bobcats (I observed them following each other near the water line from the right to the left).

Now that that's cleared up - what's happening on the status of the Richfield Building clone on Western? Extant... or... extinct?

First Grand Avenue Park Public Meeting!

Yesterday was the first of three meetings devoted only to a discussion of the planning of the 16 acre Grand Avenue Park. Just a brief note for right now as I have to trot over and present a horse to the LAPD's mounted division on behalf of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council at 10 AM on the steps of City Hall.

The biggest surprise for the Related and Grand Avenue teams was that developing bridges and plazas to connect the three parts of the park that are now seperated by streets was the easily the most popular of the real options (other than lawns, shady places and other non-controversial items).

More later.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Missing Building Alert!

Is the superb old black and gold art deco/moderne bank building (that closely resembled the old Richfield Building downtown) on Western still there? It was/is at Beverly or Third on the NW corner of Western. I had not heard that it was torn down, but the below LAOBSERVED post makes it sound as it if is no longer with us...

CityBeat and its parent company, Southland Publishing, are moving on up. Southland closed escrow on the gorgeous former Security-First National Bank of Los Angeles branch at 5209 Wilshire Boulevard, just east of the landmark Wilson tower at La Brea. The art deco bank recently joined the elite group of local buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1929, it was designed by the architecture firm of Morgan, Walls and Clements, which did the Wiltern Theatre tower, the El Capitan and a hundred or so other notable Los Angeles buildings. The old bank vault is still inside 5209 Wilshire, which is the last surviving example of Stiles O. Clements' black-and-gold terra cotta design that delighted downtown architecture buffs on the long-gone Atlantic Richfield building....

Mountain Lion - Or Just A Really Big Bob Cat?

From LAOBSERVED this morning:

Chaparral notes
Email going around the Hollywood Hills:
A neighbor on Upper Outpost had his small dog taken by a mountain lion yesterday morning - ran off to Runyon (which we border up here). Please make sure your stakeholders and neighbors up in the hills are aware that there is at least one mountain lion and several bob cats up here in addition to the coyotes.


Anastasia Mann

Now since no mountain lion has been spoted in the Hollywood Hills for many decades that I can recall... could this have been a large bob cat? An escaped 'pet'? Or did one make it there all the way from Malibu - which is the nearest location that I know any have been spotted.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Grand Avenue The New... Columbus Circle? Uh... I Don't Think So....

The Los Angeles Times article on how Grand Avenue will become LA's version of Columbus Circle is understandably skeptical, however there are points raised by both Related and the article that need to be discussed - and debated. The good news is that this project is NOT the suburban, mall like, enclosed space that is Time Warner Center. It is also not the sterile, ugly architecture that is Time Warner Center.

The other good news is that this does not need to be a stand alone, separated from the rest of downtown project that the article infers it is doomed to become due to its unique geographical - and topographic constraints.

First, the opening of the article:

Hello, Columbus: An L.A. Street Looks to a New York Circle

Developer sees the vibrant Manhattan hub as a model for Grand Avenue. Replicating its upscale atmosphere would be a challenge.

By Cara Mia DiMassa Times Staff Writer June 19, 2006 NEW YORK

Wedged between Lincoln Center and the theater district, Columbus Circle had long been known as an urban landmark inexplicably lacking the hustle and bustle of the rest of Manhattan. But two years ago, developer Related Cos. opened the 55-story mega-complex known as Time Warner Center here - and, largely as a result, the area has been transformed. The "mini-city" boasts some of New York's most expensive restaurants as well as luxury condos, a five-star hotel, a Whole Foods Market and, soon, a museum - all within a few blocks.

Related is now preparing to break ground on another mega-complex: the $1.8-billion, Frank Gehry-designed Grand Avenue project in downtown Los Angeles. When people ask what Grand Avenue will look and feel like, the developers at Related often point to Columbus Circle.
But a visit to Manhattan makes it clear that despite some similarities, replicating the upscale atmosphere and vibrant pedestrian life of Columbus Circle is going to be a challenge. The circle, though once sleepy, had a large, well-heeled residential population living nearby and is located within a quick walk of Central Park, Fifth Avenue's shopping district and Broadway.

By contrast, Grand Avenue is on Bunker Hill, on the far north side of downtown. The area is home to Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but it is a long uphill walk from other local institutions, including the Central Library, Staples Center and the increasingly trendy South Park district.

Time Warner Center's shops feed off a much denser array of offices and residential buildings than Grand Avenue's shops would. In Columbus Circle, the upscale businesses are sustained both by residents who live nearby and workers at the center's namesake company, media titan Time Warner. Though Grand Avenue will have some office space in its third phase, most of the high-rise units are set aside for hotel rooms, condos and low-income affordable housing. Related has touted both developments for their village concept, including shopping, homes, businesses and even subway stops in one sprawling development.

To begin with, the shopping areas and restaurants of this project almost all open to the outdoors. Even the second and third story restaurants are planned to have outdoor dining terraces. Grand Avenue will also be designed by a world class architecture - and not a corporate drone. These two factors alone will make Grand Avenue a far different - and far better - project than the boring, suburban (though financially successful) project that is Time-Warner Center.

This will be an urban and not a suburban center.

As for the lack of office space in the project - Bunker Hill is already filled with high rise office buildings. It is also within a few blocks of the rest of the financial district. The lack of office space in this project does not in itself differentiate it from Columbus Circle.

This project is also closer to our Music Center than Time-Warner is to Lincoln Center - and it is far closer to our hopefully soon to re-open Broadway Theater District than Time-Warner is to their Broadway Theater District.

Additionally, new development is planned on all four sides of Bunker Hill- with a high rise just announced at Grand and Sunset Boulevard - and that will eventually make Grand Avenue and Bunker Hill more of a central location.

However, one major factor that is not being considered is that the two Red Line subway stations - once they are properly integrated into Bunker Hill - will make Grand Avenue a major transit hub. People will be able to get there - with no transfer needed - from the new urban centers of North Hollywood, CityWalk/Universal City, Korea Town, Hollywood Highland and Hollywood. Eventually even the Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Westwood and Santa Monica will have direct subway access to Bunker Hill and Grand Avenue.

By then, almost every major dense, multi-use urban center in Los Angeles will directly connect to Bunker Hill - without having to change trains

So while 'shopping centers' such as the Grove will not be directly connected - no one goes for the Grove for an urban experience. It is a well designed shopping center - period.

Additionally, if the Grand Avenue Park is correctly done - then it too will be a major regional destination. While it is much smaller than Central Park - hopefully it will be very densely used so that it will have comparable numbers of people who are within easy walking distance of Central Park from Time-Warner.

The biggest obstacle, though, that is addressed in the article - but not really discussed in depth is that Bunker Hill is on... a hill.

And that is the project's biggest drawback - at the moment. Even one of the leaders of the Grand Avenue Committee - Bill Thomas - once told me that no city center has ever been built on a hill-top.

What is surprising to me, though - is not on one has ever publicly discussed this how this problem can be turned into... an advantage.

What no one seems to understand that with a few simple fixes, getting onto Bunker Hill will be faster and easier than walking a few blocks within the flat areas of downtown.

If once you get out of the subway at 1st and Hill or 4th and Hill - if you can automatically step onto an escalator or an elevator that will instantly take you to either Olive or Grand - it will become far easier and faster to get to Grand Avenue than to walk two blocks in any other direction.

And if when you walk to Hill Street from the Broadway Theater District or the new shopping districts developing in the Historic Core, district, you can also quickly ride to the top of the Hill - the so-called obstacle becomes... the path of least resistance.

Bunker Hill becomes the easiest neighborhood to access instead of the hardest.

Add to that the DASH bus system and the proposed Red Car line that will connect Staples/LA Live with the Historic Core/Broadway Theater District and Grand Avenue - and the hill-top obstacle... vanishes.

Plus the converse if true. When people who are on Bunker Hill want to go down to the Theater District or the new shopping districts in the Historic Core, they will just have to step on either a bus, tram, elevator or escalator - and they will be at the bottom of the hill.

There is only one caveat to all this. While I have heard a lot of talk about connecting Grand Avenue with the subway system - and the rest of downtown - I have yet to see the specifics of how this linkage is to happen. And that is something that the developers of Grand Avenue need to address - now.

Why Does The New York Times Endorse The Destruction Of This Country's Religious, Political And Civil Liberties?

Ok - so maybe the above headline is a bit... provocative... to get your attention.

But while it is something of an exaggeration - in reality - it is all too accurate.

In an article about two Muslim clerics in Houston, the New York Times claims in a highly inaccurate headline that these two individuals have created a moderate middle ground between materialism of America and Islamic extremism. And the original headline on the website which is no longer available - was even more blatantly false.

June 18, 2006

U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground


Every seat in the auditorium at the
University of Houston was taken, and the crowd was standing in the back and spilling out into the lobby, straining to hear. The two men onstage began to speak to the crowd in Arabic, with such flawless accents and rarefied Koranic grammar that some audience members gaped when they heard the Arabic equivalent of the king's English coming from the mouths of two Americans.

Sheik Hamza Yusuf, in a groomed goatee and sports jacket, looked more like a hip white college professor than a Middle Eastern sheik. Imam Zaid Shakir, a lanky African-American in a long brown tunic, looked as if he would fit in just fine on the streets of Damascus.

Both men are converts to Islam who spent years in the Middle East and North Africa being mentored by formidable Muslim scholars. They have since become leading intellectual lights for a new generation of American Muslims looking for homegrown leaders who can help them learn how to live their faith without succumbing to American materialism or Islamic extremism.

But with their words - and their actions - the two clerics clearly prove that this is a lie.

First, Mr. Yusuf:

Mr. Yusuf once was a source of the kind of zealous rhetoric he now denounces. He said in 1995 that Judaism was based on the belief that "God has this bias to this small little tribe in the middle of the desert," which makes it "a most racist religion." On Sept. 9, 2001, he said the United States "stands condemned" for invading Muslim lands.

He has since changed his tune - not for spin, he says, but on principle. "Our community has failed, and I include myself in that," he told an audience in a downtown theater in Elizabeth, N.J., this year.

"When I started speaking in the early 90's, our discourse was not balanced.

"We were focused so often on what was negative about this country," he said. "We ended up alienating some people. I've said some things about other religions that I regret now. I think they were incorrect."

So... he realizes that talking too much about what is negative about his country ended up alienating people - so he now he tries to 'balance' his discourse to better sell his message. And when he called Judaism 'the most racist religion' - he MAY have been incorrect.

Now for Mr. Shakir:

While leading a mosque in New Haven in 1992, Mr. Shakir wrote a pamphlet that cautioned Muslims not to be co-opted by American politics. He wrote, "Islam presents an absolutist political agenda, or one which doesn't lend itself to compromise, nor to coalition building."

While he did not denounce Muslims who take part in politics, he pointed out the effectiveness of "extrasystemic political action" - like the "armed struggle" that brought about the rule of the
Taliban in Afghanistan.


Asked now about his past, he said, "To be perfectly honest, I don't regret anything I've done or said."

But it is at the end of the article where he makes it very clear what their vision of this country's future is:

He said he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law, "not by violent means, but by persuasion."

"Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country," he said. "I think it would help people, and if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be a Muslim.

So this modern, middle ground - which is what the New York Times terms their views - calls for mullahs and ayatollahs to run this country under the full control of Islamic law; a modern middle ground that would destroy every political, religious and civil right we have in this country.

I can only wonder what Ms. Goldstein would have had to say about Adolph Hitler when he presented his 'moderate' face to the equally gullible press back in the 1920's.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Convention Center Hotel Design Unveiled! South Park Remains Architecture Free Zone!

The good news is that Downtown Los Angeles gets both a convention center hotel and its first 5 star hotel.

The bad news is that the project is yet another bland, corporate architectural firm designed box. While London and New York - not to mention most US cities - are hiring world class architects for many of the projects, other than Frank Gehry on Grand Avenue and a handful of other projects, downtown - and South Park and LA Live in particular - are becoming architectural black holes.

L.A. Convention Center to Get Major Hotel Tower

The complex would give downtown the magnet for business conferences it has lacked for years.

By Annette Haddad and Kimi Yoshino Times Staff Writers June 13, 2006

The remaking of downtown Los Angeles will gain a crucial missing piece today when developers unveil plans for a 1,000-room hotel complex — including a five-star Ritz-Carlton and a four-star Marriott Marquis — for the Convention Center.

Rising 54 stories, the $750-million project would be one of the largest buildings in Los Angeles at 2 million square feet. The proposed 124-room Ritz-Carlton would be the first five-star hotel downtown and, with the largest ballroom in the city, the planned 876-room Marriott Marquis would fill a void as a business meeting hub at the Convention Center.

The hotels are to be topped by 216 luxury condominiums. The project, scheduled to open in 2010, would anchor L.A. Live, the 27-acre sports-entertainment complex considered the linchpin of downtown's redevelopment.

It has taken two decades to land a major convention hotel, but the agreement by Marriott International Inc. with local developers to operate two luxury inns in the same glitzy Las Vegas-style high-rise raises hopes for reestablishing the city center as a top tourist and convention magnet.

"All of this is really a wonderful story about the emergence — and reemergence — of downtown Los Angeles as a strong economic center and a strong weight to the region's economy," said Stuart Gabriel, a USC professor and director of its Lusk Center for Real Estate.

The complex — with its upper stories to be sheathed in glass — is being jointly developed by KB Home, which is building the condos, and AEG, which is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, the developer of Staples Center.

It is being designed by San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Los Angeles Times Innocent Of Ignoring Los Angeles... For Once...

In an on-line exclusive, LAOBSERVED quotes Cal State Fullerton professor Jeffrey Brody on why the LAT's expose of bad judges in Vegas is a bad thing for Los Angeles and the LAT.

Last week's Los Angeles Times investigative series on judges in Las Vegas was impressive as a piece of reporting, but a bad sign for the paper, writes Jeffrey Brody, professor of communications at California State Fullerton. He is also co-author of The Newspaper Publishing Industry, a book that examined economic trends affecting papers. Here's his commentary, only at LA Observed:

The investigative reports about Nevada judges illustrate the strength of a great paper like the LA Times. It also illustrates the shortsightedness of the paper's editors at a time when the newspaper has been bleeding circulation. Rather than devote resources to investigating the California judiciary, a local story, the Times puts its energy in an out-of-state effort that will certainly win prizes but do little to boost readership in Southern California.

While I do agree that some of the LAT's national stories are somewhat besides the point, in this case I disagree. First, Las Vegas is in the LAT's market. Second, Las Vegas is to a certain extent a suburb of Los Angeles since LA supplies the largest number of its visitors, many of its second home buyers and a lot of now full time residents who are still interested in Los Angeles.

Most importantly, though, many of the people most affected by the crooked judges in Nevada are Los Angeles business people and visitors to Vegas.

And that's three good reasons why the Los Angeles Times should have covered this story.


About half-way down the first page of the first of the LA Times's three part series, the LAT presents their case why this expose is important to the people of Los Angeles...,0,5737582,print.story?coll=la-home-headlines

.... Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. Since 1960, census figures show, its population has exploded by 1,246%. But many of its courts have not grown with it, much less grown up.

At the heart of the Las Vegas court system are 21 state judges who hear civil and criminal cases, and who can be assigned anywhere in Nevada, but who are called district judges because they work out of courthouses in the judicial districts where they are elected.

These state judges often dispense a style of wide-open, frontier justice that veers out of control across ethical, if not legal, boundaries. The consequences reach beyond Nevada, affecting people in other states, especially California.

Some of the effect falls upon visitors from Los Angeles who come here to gamble, flirt with sin and have a good time. More than a quarter — about 29% — of the 38.5 million visits to Las Vegas in 2005 were made by Southern Californians, including many who came here more than once.

By that estimate, published by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Southern Californians make more than 11 million visits to Las Vegas every year. But the effect falls, as well, upon Californians in business. Like Michael Farney of Ojai, who owned Elite Marine, a boat company that served southern Nevada and Lake Mead, an uncounted number of people from Southern California hold financial interests in Las Vegas and its surrounding metropolitan area.

Of all businesses that relocate to Nevada, according to the state Commission on Economic Development, at least 36% come from California.

Whether they want to play or do business, all who come to Las Vegas, from Southern California or elsewhere across the nation, expect a fair shake, especially from its courts. Las Vegas is a town, however, where some judges, operating in a new $185-million Clark County courthouse two blocks from casinos, wedding chapels and strip clubs, routinely rule in cases involving friends, former clients and business associates, even in cases touching people to whom they owe money.

Case closed! Verdict for... the Los Angeles Times!

Excellent Los Angeles Times Article On Transplants... As Far As It Goes...

The many investigative articles by the Los Angeles Times over the past two years have been superb. And the recent articles about the problems with the heart, liver and kidney transplant program both locally and nationally are no exception... as far as they go.

The problem I have, though, is that the real problem is NOT how the few organs which are harvested each year are distributed - but the shame that far more organs go unharvested each year.

If the media would instead look into how sufficient organs could be harvested each year to render waiting lists and tough allocation decisions unnecessary - then the problems addressed in this articles would vanish.

So why doesn't the Los Angeles Times and the rest of the MSM use its bully pulpit to research what needs to be done and then advocate making those changes? Thousands of lives could be saved each year if this problem was adequately addressed and solved.

More on this latter - but below is the opening of Sunday's article:


Death by Geography

Patients' chances of getting new organs in time to save their lives vary vastly based on where they live. The situation is most dire for people needing livers.

By Alan Zarembo Times Staff Writer June 11, 2006

In the world of organ transplantation, location is everything. After waiting more than a decade for a liver, Jonathan Van Vlack was deteriorating. His gut swelled with fluid, and toxins accumulating in his blood made him forget his own name. Still, he wasn't sick enough — not in New York, where about 2,000 people statewide were vying for the same scarce livers."

He's having a very difficult time right now," his wife, Laura, nervously e-mailed a friend in March 2005. "We really need that liver to come." It never did. Van Vlack died in December, on his 53rd birthday.

Frank Evanac was stalled in the same line. By age 53, he had been waiting four years for a liver, and he needed a kidney as well. After getting a tip at a Fourth of July party, however, he gave up on New York. Without telling his doctors, he moved in with his sister outside Jacksonville, Fla., and joined a new waiting list.

Fourteen days later, a surgeon sewed in his new liver and kidney. Two very sick men. Two locations. Two fates.