Wednesday, January 30, 2008

San Zell Sells Tribune Studios To Locally Based PE Firm... Hudson Capital!!

This deal makes sense for both sides. It enables Sam Zell (and the employees of the Tribune empire) to pay down the debt on the recent acquisition and it transfers one of the oldest studio lots to private hands that are committed to running film and TV studios in Hollywood.

In the long run there undoubtedly will be some mixed, higher density uses on these old lots - but as long as the amount of square footage dedicated to actual production remains the same - or increases - everyone wins.

This example shows how preserving appropriately zoning industrial land can create jobs as opposed to the job destruction currently happening downtown by a misapplication of the same concept to no longer appropriately zoned land.

LA 01 29 08
Benjamin Mark Cole

Real estate titan Sam Zell will soon sell the storied 10.5-acre Tribune Studios in Hollywood for $130 million to Los Angeles-based Hudson Capital LLC, a private equity real estate house, according to sources familiar with the transaction.

The closely watched sale is the first disposition of real estate for Tribune Co. under its new owner, Sam Zell.

It is the second studio buy in five months for Victor Coleman, managing partner at Hudson, who was known for years as Chairman Richard Ziman's sidekick at the old Los Angeles-based Arden Realty Inc., the public REIT. Arden was acquired by Trizec and GE in 2005, and Trizec was then acquired by Brookfield Properties (nyse: BPO) in 2006.

Only last September, Coleman and Hudson Capital grabbed the 16-acre Sunset-Gower Studio lot (the old Columbia Pictures studio), in a $200 million transaction.

Coleman declined to comment yesterday, saying "in one or two days I can talk." Cushman & Wakefield was retained last year to shop the Tribune lot, also on Sunset Boulevard.

Some observers regarded Coleman's second act -- the buying of the Tribune studios, known locally for its KTLA-5 television broadcasts – as brilliantly written, both for short-term operational reasons, and as a long-term land banking play.

"The two lots are just a stone's throw apart," said a longtime market observer. "The movie business is like a lot of businesses, in that it is a matter of logistics. If you have that many more soundstages close by to offer a Disney, that many more alternatives to meet their just-in-time deadlines, then you are that much more competitive."

John Tronson, principal with the Ramsey-Shilling Co. brokerage, said the second studio buy reveals that "Coleman has become comfortable with the studio business, comfortable he can keep the stages rented at good prices."

Until the recent writer's strike, demand for stages was strong, and some fretted Hollywood didn't have enough to keep show business in town.

The wholesale conversion of the Tribune and Sunset-Gower lots to "higher and better uses" is not probable anytime soon, said Tronson. "The position of the (Los Angeles) City Council on this is pretty clear: they want the stages to stay, that they are irreplaceable assets."

But in order to entice Coleman to keep filming, the city would likely offer inducements, such as leniency in zonings for additional entertainment industry-related buildings on the lots, such as creative office space.

Others have speculated that outsized studio lots, in densifying urban locations, will eventually go the way of used car lots, or other land-hungry enterprises, such as the old Marineland theme park in Palos Verde, or Gilmore Field just south of Hollywood, where midget auto racers circled the oval track, back in the 1930s.

"Sooner or later, the pressures just eat up the land," said one broker.

The pressures seem to be mounting in Hollywood. For decades a backwater in Los Angeles, in the 1990s Tinseltown began to revive, boosted in part by the city-subsidized the Hollywood & Highland mall on Hollywood Boulevard. (built by Trizec, it failed and was acquired by CIM Group at a vast discount; CIM now owns many top sites along Hollywood Boulevard.) The mall was connected to a new subway stop, and there has been a residential and nightlife renaissance as well.

Indeed, more than $3 billion worth of development is slated within Hollywood's 1,107 acres, according to the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.

At Hollywood and Vine alone, the former crossroads of movie and radio businesses, at least $1.2 billion in developments with more than 2,000 housing units are underway or planned, including the huge Hollywood & Vine mixed-use project by Legacy Partners, which will house a W Hotel.

Ramsey-Shilling broker Tronson reports retail rents have risen steeply in recent years, while Hollywood office priced doubles to $400 a square footin

2007 from $200 a square foot in 2004 according to reports issued by brokerage Grubb & Ellis.

Coleman's latest acquisition, the Tribune lot , is steeped in Tinseltown lore, having been bought by Warner Bros. in 1920. "The Jazz Singer," the first talkie ever produced, was shot there, starring Al Jolson. Paramount Pictures bought the lot in 1954, and shot TV shows, including the long-running serial "Gunsmoke."

Tribune Co. acquired the property in 1986 from Gene Autry's Golden West Broadcasting, which had purchased the lot in 1963. Until his recent death, veteran newscaster Hal Fishman anchored the KTLA news from the studio almost every night for nearly 40 years.

Of course, the Chicago-based Tribune Co., a media conglomerate, was acquired last year by Zell, who is now selling off assets in part to pay down debt. Sound familiar?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Since No One Else Will Post On The New Holiday Inn Downtown - I guess I have to!

I usually leave new projects postings Downtown to several Downtown blogs that have the time and energy to post all the details and photos of new developments. But since the new Holiday Inn Downtown is about to pull its permit and start demo - plus it is scheduled, if my info is correct - to somewhat unrealistically expect to open later this year - I guess I should make the announcement before it actually opens:

A long term lease has recently been signed by Holiday Inn on the... drum roll... on the newer of the two old Title Insurance Buildings on the west side of Spring Street between 4th and 5th Streets - across the street from the new hotel being permitted by Tom Gilmore for his partners.

This blog shall now resume it's regularly highly irregular postings.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reason 4389 Why LA Needs A Museum About Itself!

It an article about preserving the historic concrete bridges crossing the the Los Angeles River in today's LA Times is the below quote:

The bridges in question, most of which were constructed between 1910 and 1930, were part of a campaign to deal with a river that was prone to flooding and had destroyed many of the metal truss bridges built in the 1840s.

The idea that the LA river had even one - much less ... many... metal truss bridges in the 1840's... is bizarre enough... but when it appears the article is suggesting the bridges built after 1910 were to replace some of those recently destroyed 1840's bridges, it verges into science-fiction.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mayor's Business Committe Snubs Neighborhood Councils!

Below is my story in today's CITYWATCH:

LA Biz Committee Bans NCs from 21st Century Los Angeles
Economy & Jobs
By Brady Westwater

(BACK STORY-Fifteen months ago, the Mayor appointed 26 community leaders to an Economy and Jobs Committee and charged them with developing specific action recommendations for economic development and the creation of jobs. The committee’s report … containing 100 recommendations … was released. What follows is Brady Westwater’s analysis of that report. To read that report and to follow along with the analysis, visit: )

When 26 people were appointed to master plan 21st Century Los Angeles's economy – not one member was chosen to represent Neighborhood Councils despite the fact we are the only group created to advise the city.

Those 26 people then asked 200 more people over a period of 15 months to participate in their discussions – and, again, not a single one of those people listed in the 141page report was chosen to represent neighborhood councils.

And in the entire 141 page report about the future of Los Angeles –there is exactly one mention of neighborhood councils. And that is their recommendation that we should be investigated.

The 141 (including the introduction) page report does not even once call for us to be talked to or worked with or consulted with – even though many other groups and organizations are being asked to participate. Instead, Russell Goldsmith and his 25 co-conspirators made it clear the only relevance of neighborhood councils in the future of this city is that we need to be investigated.

Now for the good news.

The report lists 100 action items - some which are actually realistic and specific enough to do some good, plus there are a handful of blatantly dishonest political cows of the type which drive jobs out of this city (and which need to be butchered), but, surprisingly, there are also some strikingly honest examples of just how badly business is treated in this city by every level of government – and why employers and jobs are fleeing Los Angeles.

Now due to the size of the report I'll just hit a few highlights that might be of interest to NC's and leave out the airport and the harbor sections since they can be addressed by NC's in those areas.
Page 18 – In the revitalization of South Los Angeles section, the report calls for rebuilding the housing projects of South Los Angeles with mixed income communities – but with at least a 1-for-1 replacement of subsidized housing and – miracle of miracles – it calls for a financially self-sustaining business model of having the market rate housing paying for the costs of building the subsidized housing. (Note: The first meeting this spring of LA NC Congress Economic Development Committee will be a forum on how to create sustainable affordable housing in Los Angeles.)
On Page 20, they go back to their old ways by trying to blackmail developers into subsidizing developments in less desirable areas, other than their own, before they can get a building permit, thus forcing their tenants to have to pay higher rents. Now granted, as proposed, this is only a program for city owned land – but as the CRA has shown – the law means little when it comes to individual board members expanding their powers of coercion when behind closed door.

A real world solution to this problem would be for the builder to develop a business model – with the city's help – that would make the less desirable site financially self-sustainable – but of course that would require creativity and intelligence on the city's part.
Page 23 – Developing a better educated workforce. There are a lot of excellent ideas here, but the biggest needed change is ignored.

Besides there being inadequate vocational training in high school – the requirements for graduation from high school make absolutely no sense in some areas – particularly in mathematics.

While students going to college, or who will be in a field that requires algebra or geometry, should be taking those classes, 90% of students have no need for either. I myself took AP algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry and physics – but not once have I ever needed to use any of that other than the most elemental of algebraic equations which I could just as easily have learned in math classes. It was all a waste of my time.

But today we are destroying an entire generation of students who are being turned off from school – or forced to drop out because they cannot handle a subject they have no need to learn. And, this does not affect our need to have scientists or engineers. If anything, freeing up teachers to teach those who really want to learn those subjects will benefit everyone. We need to keep kids in high school long enough to graduate and then decide if they want to go to college or not.
Page 39 – Create Creative Community Zones with live/work spaces as job incubators. Great idea, except in the one area this was organically happening – the Downtown former industrial district – live work spaces have been made illegal by the CRA and the Planning Department in their never ending quest to drive jobs out of Los Angeles.
Page 47, 55, 115- and many other pages. Horror story after horror story about how City Hall today goes out of its way to destroy businesses in Los Angeles. After ten years of bringing jobs and businesses to Downtown I can say that 90% of my time is spent overcoming roadblocks the city has created. And in just the last six months – this nightmare has gotten so bad I wonder if it's even worth trying any more. But page 116 also identifies one of the few heroes of City Hall – Jorge Guzman - and from personal experience I can verify he's… Greeeat!

The one major obstacle that they fail to identify – though - is the fire department's building inspectors. They can take up to a year to approve a virtually finished building by having inspection after inspection – and asking for new changes on each inspection and then a new inspector will disapprove what another inspector had approved and ask for everything to be ripped out and redone and then another inspector with show up for one day, disapprove those 'approved' changes – and then vanish forever. And it never ends.

For month after month after month, they will never tell the builder what it is they want him to do. The only possible answer is that the LAFD is on the payroll of competing cities to bankrupt every business in Downtown Los Angeles.
Page 57- Just when you think that intelligent life might exist in this city – you run across something like recommendation number 80; the proposed "Economic Prosperity Element' for the General Plan – not to be confused with very similar prewar 'Japan Co-Prosperity Sphere' or 'Mao's Great Leap Forward'. This terrifying proposal would require anyone who builds anything in LA to be responsible for providing for the 'life goals' of everyone in the area they are building. Yes – 'life goals".

It is the kind of innocuous camel's nose in the tent proposal that is meant to seem harmless when you read it, but which is really meant to be a tool for special interest groups to cripple business in this city. So I'm curious as to which special interest group slipped this Trojan Horse into the plan. And if anything remotely like this passes, every shakedown artist in LA will be lined up whenever anyone wants to build anything, making LA the new Detroit.
Page 59-Preserving appropriate industrial zoned land is a good idea –but two horribly bad policy suggestions are made here which are then 'supported' by the report's dishonest manipulation of the facts.

The proposals are: freezing the amount of industrial land in Los Angeles –whether or not it is creating jobs – and permanently outlawing both parks and live/work housing starting at the end of the Arts District for the entire length of the LA River through Downtown Los Angeles.

Yes - not a single park will ever be allowed within Downtown proper along the river nor will any housing or jobs for the creative live/work communities, the report claims to be interested attracting to Los Angeles, ever be allowed. This will condemn the most densely populated part of the city, the most park poor part of the city on a per capita basis – to a parkless future and a river lined with concrete, railroad tracks and warehouses filled with a handful of low paying jobs.

The report begins by falsely stating there are only two reasons for the flight of manufacturing jobs from LA – the lack of properly zoned land and the lack empty industrial buildings.

Not mentioned is that the biggest demand in LA is for warehouses with very few and very low paying jobs.

Not mentioned is that the real reason factories are leaving LA is that it is no longer economically feasible to manufacture most items in any high cost city such as Los Angeles.

Not mentioned is that most of these jobs are going overseas since even low cost rural areas in the South and the Mid-West can no longer support those jobs.

Even more dishonest are the false comparisons between retail jobs and 'high paying industrial jobs' given for Downtown when the real choice is between much higher paying jobs created by live work creative and light industrial mixed use communities and the far lower paying jobs that are already leaving those areas.

In parts of the city such as Downtown – this plan will drive high paying jobs and creative industries out of Los Angeles and will kill countless future jobs. In fact, both the Planning Department and the CRA have refused to publicly debate charges their salary comparisons for Downtown are totally fraudulent when they announced that all public workshops on this subject were canceled. They cannot afford to allow the truth to get out.
Page 63 – Trying to get LA's proper share of State and Federal funds. Excellent stuff – except it misses that LA is also shortchanged when it comes to getting money from major private foundations. They need to go back and review how much cities such as San Francisco and New York get from the large foundations compared to Los Angeles.
Page 70 – The need for Los Angeles to have an actual city department for economic development. Now there's a no-brainer. We are likely the only major city without such a department and we have the lack of jobs and businesses to prove it.
Now even though I have largely covered items which I have questions about – that doesn't mean that 90% of the report isn't pretty good stuff; it's just that any item that needs to be publicly debated by the Neighborhood Councils needs to be identified ASAP. So let me know what ticking time bombs I may have missed – or other suggestions for improvements concerning the report's recommendations.

And since this committee appears to have gone out of its way to make certain no one they spoke with was asked as a spokesperson for the neighborhood council movement (even though they did speak with individuals who inadvertently had NC connections), we must be pro-active on this subject … particularly since the process for implementing these proposals appears even more top down driven than the process that developed the 100 recommendations.

Ironically, that could be the Committee's ultimate failure, if fail it does; their failure to engage the public in the process and their failure to allow for any public participation in the debate before determining their recommendations; and now their current failure to call for the NC's – or any community based groups – to help in evaluating and implementing these proposals.

So read the report and let me know if you think we should get involved in a citywide debate on this report and if we should ask to be formally represented on the implementation committees.

Or, if we should just 'receive and file'.

(Brady Westwater is a writer, a long-time downtown and neighborhood council activist and Chair of the LA NC Congress Economic Development Committee. He can be reached at:

Read the complete LAEJC report at: )

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

And Besides The New Map Book...

... the LA Times might want to invest in a new server.

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Forget The Style Book - What The LA Times Needs is a Map Book!

Every major magazine, publisher or newspaper has its own style book or uses a standardized style book to settle questions of punctuation and grammar. As for issues of civic geography, though - Los Angeles Times reporters are clearly on their own. Reading the names they 'creatively' append to the neighborhoods of this city, it is clear many of them need GPS to find their own homes.

Cluttered conditions hindered firefighters, L.A. authorities say.
By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 22, 2008
City firefighters discovered a man's body after extinguishing a fire early Monday morning at a Westlake home with "extreme pack-rat conditions," officials said.

The blaze in the 500 block of North Westmoreland Avenue was reported shortly after 1 a.m., said d'Lisa Davies, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman.

Now I grew up on Westmoreland - 312 S. Westmoreland - eight blocks south of that location - and at that time my neighborhood was called Mid-Wilshire. It was considered well west of the Westlake District which was largely east of the former Westlake, now McArthur Park. Today, the neighborhood seems to be increasingly part of the ever expanding Koreatown, though the new Thomes Guide now calls it Mid-Wilshire.

The subject property, though, is not only eight blocks further - it is even north of the Hollywood Freeway, an area no one living there back then, much less now would ever dream of calling being the Westlake District.

But just to make certain the city had not somehow designated that area as 'Westlake' - I checked out the fire station that serves that address on the city's website. It turns out to be just blocks from the fire (the Number 6 Station) and is called - Angeleno Heights - even though it is located at 326 N. Virgil which is not particularly near Angeleno Heights, though the old station might have been in that area. All other city agencies call the area either Hollywood/Wilshire or Rampart.

So even the City of LA knows better to call that area Westlake.

So here's my solution.

Granted what any one neighborhood is - or should - be called is a bit problematic (which is why CURBED LA sometimes runs 'name that nabe contests'). So this is even more reason why the LA Times - with community input - should put together a map with the most accepted name - or names - of each neighborhood so clueless reporters don't have to look at a Thomas Guide and make wild ass guesses.

Because this happens way too often and said reporters all too often end up looking like... assess.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

LA Times Scoops Drudge and New York Times On Actor Heath Ledger's Death In NYC!

The LA Times, citing the AP, says the NYPD reports actor Heath Ledger, was found dead.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What Really Happened At The LA Times! He Just Wasn't That Into You!

After reading dozens of stories both on and off-line on the sudden mutual parting/firing/resignation of now former Los Angeles Times Editor James O'Shea due to proposed staff reductions/no staff reductions/refused staff reductions plus proposed budget cuts/budgets not being increased/budgets not really being cut, but still effectively reduced - it finally appears that each of the stories/spins/rationalizations have some degree of reality/non-reality.

But the bottom line appears to be pretty much what was first said by Publisher David Hiller:

While Mr. O'Shea insists that he was fired, Mr. Hiller said it was a mutual decision, but he said that "at some point it is more semantic. The fact is we didn't see eye-to-eye." Mr. Hiller said even before their disagreements he had expected Mr. O'Shea to be a transitional editor at the paper, serving only a year or two. "It was a question of whether we do it now or six months from now," he said, adding that he expects to soon make additional changes at the paper.

While I met Jim O'Shea a number of times, I never really got to know him as I've gotten to know other people at the Times. Nor did any of the people I talk to most at the Times ever really get to know him, which could have been part of his problem.

But, more likely - it was a generational barrier. Print is dying and the web is the future. Increasingly news aggregation is going to be as much of the future as news gathering and a somewhat new set of editorial skills will be needed to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the bloom from the bluster, to mix a metaphor.

Even more importantly, though, will be the necessary ability to customize what news each individual reader can receive, the ability to create a greater interactivity and integration of the Times into each reader's daily life - and the hunger to want to take advantage of all those new realities and challenges.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Artists Showing At Zero One Tonight!



746 S. Los Angeles Street
The Santee Village
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 984-4901



GALLERY HOURS: 12-6PM, Tuesday-Saturday, and by appointment

SHOW TITLE: “Dysmorphic Visualization Syndrome”

OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday January 19, 2008, 8PM - Midnight

SHOW LENGTH: January 19 through February 29, 2008

ARTISTS IN SHOW: Recent work by Mear One, Michael Knowlton, Retna, Sandow Birk, Saber, Anthony Ausgang, Yem, Dave Leamon, Raul Gonzalez, Mark Heresy, Axis, Daniel Johnston, Haze, Van Arno, Chaz Bojorquez, Gomez-Bueno, Nuke, Christof Kohlhofer, Mark Gash, Tomata du Plenty, Richard Duardo, Kalynn Campbell, Vyal, Steve Olson, Brian Smith, Rudy Calderon, Robert Williams, Bad Otis Link, Jerzy Skolimowski, Gary Baseman, Jim Ganzer, Robert Williams, Wahorn, Lisa Adams, Eloy Torrez, Eyeko, Jeffrey Valance, Greg Jezewski, Germs and Vyal.

MEDIUM: Paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculpture

DESCRIPTION: What these artists have in common, apart from their long association with the groundbreaking Zero One Gallery, is that they are pioneering members of the current D.V.S. movement that is rocking today’s art world. This exciting new movement that is influencing growing numbers of young artists around the world like a snowball inexorably rolling down the mountain-getting bigger, badder, and bolder-is, in effect, telling us that the effects of technology do not merely occur on the level of concepts and ideas, but, far beyond that, they alter your sense ratio and patterns of perception.

This is the inaugural show in the stunning new Zero One Gallery space in downtown L.A.’s“gallery row”.

Zero One Gallery Opens Downtown TONIGHT!

The Art Party of the Year happens tonight when over 25 year old Zero One Gallery reopens in Downtown Los Angeles. John Pochna has assembled a who's who of LA aritsts for his debut show - and many of them will be in attendance. More details later!


Opening Night: This Saturday -> January 19th. 8pm - Midnight
Showing: January 19th through February 29th

BTWN 7th and 8th Streets

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just Made Front Page Of LA Times Website!

Bit of a shock to pull up the Los Angeles Times website - and right in the middle of the page - is my name...

When it comes to proposed cuts - it's never the administrators sitting in offices in Sacramento - just the services taxpayers use.

-Brady Westwater, on Gov. Schwarzenegger's plan for state parks

I knew it was a money quote the second I wrote it... but not that money...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wilshire Books Remaindered! Book Store Closing Major Civic Loss!

Kevin over at LAO brings the sad news that Lee has shuttered Wilshire Books in Santa Monica - the finest bookstore - book for book - of any bookstore I have ever been anywhere in the world. It was the Norton Simon of bookstores.

Lee's selective buying - though curating is the more appropriate verb - of his collection - and it did feel more like a personal collection than a bookstore - made shopping there an education in itself, a voyeur's delight. A substantial part of my collection was purchased there over the years - and as my fortunes (and health) ebbed and waned - was also sold back to him - and then bought back from him.

And added to his unparalleled quality of stock - he also had the fairest prices in town - plus he paid the highest prices for his books. Now if that sounds contradictory - it isn't. By selling at a low price, he kept turning over his stock on a regular basis - and by buying back his own stock - he likely sold many books over and over through the years.

And whenever he found the odd treasure for a particular client - it would be waiting for us hidden away under his desk when we next came in - and always at a price right for our specific pocketbook.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons - I have not been there or seen Lee for a couple years and do not know how he is doing - so if anyone out there knows him - please let me know.

Here is part of Kevin's piece:

An LA Observed reader who works at Cal State Long Beach stopped by Wilshire Books in Santa Monica and found the store cleared out. "Quietly closed at the end of December," he writes. The store had been there since at least the 1970s, and I found one website that proclaimed, "The world's best bookstore is Wilshire Books, on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, California. It is small and perfect in every way in which a bookstore ought to be perfect. Prices are fair, never more than accurate reflections of the market; frequently bargains." The review is so enthusiastic, let's hear more:

"Its shelves are fastidiously maintained in strict alphabetical order (something ordinarily unheard-of among used bookstores, most of which are dusty if not actually dirty, and whose stocks are rarely in any order at all).

It's a small room. If you go there in search of a particular title, you may be disappointed; but if you go looking for interesting books, you'll find plenty. The proprietor, Mr Lee Peffer, exercises his taste and discernment in purchasing stock: it's varied and lively. I get the feeling that I'm in a private library, except that everything's for sale!"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Comedy Walk Turns Out To Be A Laughing Matter!

Yes, all thirty comics showed at all six venues and each time I poked my head in as I ran around taking care of last minute details - people were laughing. And many of these people had never been to our part of Downtown anytime - much less at night - and they were amazed by the packed sidewalks along Main Street during Art Walk night.

And considering this was an idea that we decided on... December 29th... that our first Comedy Walk would be on... January 10th.... and that were unable to lock down our venues until 36 hours before the event - leaving us for no time to really get any marketing out - the turnout was amazing on a cold January night.

See you all next month.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thursday FREE Comedy Walk Line-Up Posted!

The first monthly - ALL FREE - Downtown Comedy Walk just announced a stellar line up of 30 comedy acts running from 8 PM - 9:30 PM as part of the Downtown Art Walk. Visit over 30 art galleries from noon to 9 PM - and then enjoy 30 different comic experiences at SIX different venues - all free - this Thursday January 10th, 2008.

Also available will be restaurants, bars, live music, stores and an indy bookstore. And you will get a rare chance to see the historic Tiffancy-designed Palm Court Ballroom (home of the Downtown Comedy Club) at the Alexandria, the inside of the historic 1910 Palace Theatre and the historic lobby of new LATC - again - all for free!

Comedy Walk Comes To Art Walk - This Thursday!

Yes, more free - totally free - performances by more comedians than you can shake a rubber chicken at are headed to Downtown's Gallery Row Art Walk this Thursday; January 10th, from 8 - 9:30. Among the venues are the historic 1910 Palace Theatre on Broadway, the Los Angeles Theatre Center and the Tiffany designed Palm Court at the Alexandria Hotel. A total of SIX venues in a two block area - along with 30 art galleries open from 12 noon to 9 PM.

For details go to: and

And did I mention this is all - free! Now I know I am a little late in reporting this, but I've got an excuse. I've been kinda busy setting it up and haven't had the time to blog about it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

How Affordable Housing Can Triumph Over Unaffordable Government!

Can NC's Rescue Affordable Housing from City Hall? Or, It’s the Money Stupid!
By Brady Westwater

Everyone has a wish list for 2008 – but it's useless to speak of new projects for tomorrow when we can't pay today's – much less yesterday's -- bills. Add our city's declining revenue and escalating salary hikes – and we are suffocating with a permanent structural deficit. But there are two types of feasible real world solutions.

First, regarding expenditures: any new project, prior to approval, needs to have an identified revenue stream - as much as possible - along with a business plan which – again, as much as possible – will make the project financially sustainable from earned income, other sources of funding – or from direct or indirect long term benefits from the project. Almost everyone agrees on a need for environmentally self-sustainable projects; now NC's need to also ask for new city projects to have financially sustainable business plans.

We also need to determine the long term financial impacts of all the city's actions and the city needs to find creative ways to provide services that do not involve the expenditure of city funds. We need to find ways to get other entities – public and private - to do their share and we have to stop duplicating services and facilities within the city family and with other governmental agencies.

The city as a whole also needs to examine every existing program (setting aside the sacred cows of political correctness) and honestly debate what services the city should provide and how the city can best accomplish these goals within its existing budget. Then a rigorous – and fully independent - cost benefit analysis also needs to be done for each of these programs.

If this restructuring of the city's budget should to be done through a Little Hoover style commission or through an independent of City Hall citizen's commission, is debatable. It is not debatable that our current system of budgetary priorities is broken.

Second, on the revenue side, politicians are finally realizing we cannot continually raise taxes to cover budget deficits. Businesses – and people – are already fleeing Los Angeles and California due to our unsustainably high tax structure. The only way we can increase tax revenues is by attracting taxpaying businesses, tourists and events. To do that, we need to have people with proven track records in the business world develop a realistic economic growth plan for LA. We also need to work together to change the city's current schizophrenic attitude ( i.e. saying one thing – but then doing the exact opposite) towards business.

But enough about theory; let's look at one set of specifics.

Traffic gridlock, housing the homeless and affordable housing for working class families are among the city's most intractable problems. Systemic solutions proposed for all these problems are always beyond the city's financial capacities and yet are also always totally inadequate to the problems.

So how do we develop a realistic business plan for creating affordable housing - and supportive housing for the homeless – plus also helping middle income and below families – while also addressing rush hour traffic congestion?

First, the city needs to stop spending city money on fully subsidizing a handful of units. The affect on the overall housing market is non-existent. Too few people are rewarded and it is done in such a way that it is inherently unfair. Second, we need to accept what study after study has told us – the more regulated and the harder it is for builders to develop market rate housing – the more expensive all housing becomes for all people.

Third, once we have community approved zoning plans for how much housing will be built in each neighborhood, we need to allow the market to build enough market rate housing to moderate everyone's housing costs.

Only by creating enough new market rate housing can we slow down the gentrification of the vast stock of affordable housing which can never be replaced once lost. Doing that alone will save far more lower cost housing than can ever be built though government action. In addition, we need to stop the inappropriate density bonuses that are destroying many of our already overbuilt neighborhoods.

Finally, we need a vastly larger program of subsidized housing for the homeless and for low and moderate income families. The city and the CRA need to only fund financially sustainable housing projects.

The hundred million dollar trust fund should be buying land from developers who have to sell in the current slump. That land should then be sold to non-profits – or profit-making entities- that will build and operate mixed use projects that combine market rate workforce market with lower income subsidized housing - plus retail and – possibly – some office space when appropriate. These transactions would be no money down with the city receiving a mortgage.

Now the key point is that the number apartments that will be subsidized in each complex will ONLY be determined once it is known exactly how many units need to be sold or rented at market rates to cover the subsidy for the low income units. That will guarantee that each project will be financially self-sustainable. And in supportive services buildings, enough retail or market rate units will be required to fund those services.

Once the construction loan is re-financed, the city gets paid back with interest.

This is what makes it a true revolving fund. Once the model is proven, a billion dollar bond issue can be passed to be paid off, not by taxes, but by the repayment of the mortgages.

There are many questions and seemingly logical objections to a program like this – and all of this needs to be publicly debated – as does how this type of program, when combined with an additional no cost to the city program now in the works - can reduce rush hour traffic.

And, each of these discussions – as well as discussions about how to bring more jobs to Los Angeles and how to deal with the coming budget crunch - will be addressed at a series of citywide meetings hosted by the Economic Development Committee of LA Neighborhood Council Congress, along a wide variety of other city wide and local organizations, starting this spring.

Neighborhood councils can rescue affordable housing from City Hall by providing a positive and workable plan and using their influence to get the plan into the light of day. What a year 2008 could be for NCs. What a perception-changing legacy for councils to achieve.

If you would like to work with the LANCC Economic Development Committee on these projects, please email Brady Westwater at

(Brady Westwater is a community activist and a writer. He chairs the LA Neighborhood Councils Congress Economic Development Committee and is a contributor to CityWatch.) _

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Peyton Manning Can Act?

After half-watching the recent history on Saturday Night life on NBC while computer multi-tasking, I though I'd check out the current crop of 'not ready for prime time players' since I had watched the show regularly since the Eddie Murphy days.

I soon noticed one fairly tall but very low key guy had a nice dead pan delivery. Two sketches later - I discovered the cast member was... Peyton Manning (and, yes, besides having facial recognition syndrome, I do live under a rock) and that he can actually act.

But then he did a sketch about a basketball player not wanting to return to the court after the first half and then doing a crazy ass dance to Herb Alpert's Casino Royale (and you had to have been there for that to make any sense). A Steve Martin type of goof ball zaniness that was - if anything - even looser than Martin.

I mean - who'd have thunk? Peyton Manning - physical comedian extraordinaire? So I decided to see if the clip was on YouTube, but it wasn't any more. But what I did find was an entire genre of Peyton Mannning dance imitator videos. And one of the better ones is linked to up top.

OK. Fun's over. Back to writing Op-Eds and heavily footnoted policy papers on... Downtown Industrial Planning Directives...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

It's... Curbed Gate! Curbed LA Has Contest With Non-Existent Prize!

Yes! The bitterly fought contest among various Los Angeles Neighborhoods for the title of the most improved neighborhood of 2007 - said by some to be the most horrendous carnage since the War of The Roses, the most blood letting since the final ninety days of the Thirty Years War and the least important war since.... like forever - was all for naught!

The once prized Curbed Cup turns out - not to exist!

Yes! The whole contest turned out to be a fraud!

Well, that cup may not not exist now, but by next Tuesday at 6:30, when the next board meeting of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council takes place - something resembling a cup with the names Curbed and Historic Core on it better be in the lobby of the Los Angeles Theatre.

Or else.

And as far as... what else.. can mean.... go over to Luke Ford's blog and type 'Brady Westwater' into his search engine.

Consider yourself warned!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Judge Crater, Loch Ness Monster And Big Foot Still Missing - But Methuselah Appears On CBS!

Or at least that was how old a newly bearded David Letterman appeared on his show tonight. Older yet, alas, were his jokes. Now for the reviews:

Round one - Surprising, Leno was a lot funnier (with 'no' writers) in his monologue than Letterman was with his monologue - and it was also two or three times longer. Leno by a landslide.

Round two was Leno with a Jib Jab tape and Letterman with some bantering with his crew. Clear edge Leno.

Round three was questions from the audience with scripted questions setting up skits for Letterman - and an open mike with real questions from the audience for Leno. Hard to call, but at least a tie; but with degree of difficulty added, slight edge to Leno.

Round four Letterman's top ten list delivered by striking writers, weak to decent material (but a lot weaker than what's on Nikki Finke) but with horrible delivery by writers. Leno brought out Huckabee. Winner Letterman, by default.
Round five - Leno still Huckabee, Letterman Robin Williams. Landslide for Letterman.

Final Results - who knows? But Leno showed that for at least one night - no one would know there was a strike from his material. But when it comes to his guests, well, that's another matter.

Unless You Want to Gamble with Your Life - Better Have a Heart Attack in a Casino - And Not a Hospital!

There are some interesting reasons why this is true in the above link, but as someone who barely survived a recent trip to Downtown's California Hospital emergency room where the attending doctor seemed intent on torturing me to maximize the hospital's profits (and then lying about it afterwards), the last place anyone should get sick at - is at a hospital....

Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 2, 2008

People who suffer a life-threatening alteration in heart rhythms are more likely to survive if they are in a casino or airport than if they are in a hospital, researchers said today.

Doctors already knew that more than half of those who suffer such attacks in airports and casinos survive. But a new study in hospitals shows that only a third of victims there survive -- primarily because patients do not receive life-saving defibrillation within the recommended two minutes.

Nearly 40% of hospitalized patients who received defibrillation within two minutes survived to leave the hospital, compared with 22% of those for whom the response took longer, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

LA Observed's 2007 LA Obits

Kevin has his usual year end list of prominent Angelenos (Kevin's spelling - not the one I prefer) who have passed in the last year and I was stunned by how many of them were friends of mine - and many of them, good friends.

Some like Steve Criqui were so young, I'm still shocked to see their name on an obit list, others like Cathy Seipp, despite how long they were ill, my brain still defaults to them still being here with us and with a few others like Carol Baker Tharp, their passings are so recent that the grief is still with me.

The one obvious missing obit, for me at least, was Downtown and Arts District activist and leader, Joel Bloom, but I am sure there are others.