Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Downtown Ralph's Continues To Sell Substandard Yogurt!

A few weeks ago I started noticing that some of the Ralphs Brand Carb Master Yogurt had almost no peach flavor to it and that it had a sour taste to it rather than its normally sweet taste. It finally got to the point that my daily purchase was half normal and half a totally different product. I finally figured out it was the expiration dates of August 17th and August 18th that were 100% bad.

I have since reported this to the store on multiple occasions and they promised to fix this problem. But last night while in a hurry I bought ten more of the small cartons - and half of them were from the bad batch. What amazes me is that these two clearly substandard dates have been shipped all over the country and there has been no national recall issued. SO for weeks customers have been paying for a product that has not relation to the product they think they are buying - and Ralphs refuses to fix the problem on either a national or a local level. And even after I have left my name and phone number twice at the store - no one from Ralphs has bothered to call me back.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bricks Hit Broadway!

As I thought, the earthquake was quite a few miles away (in the Chino Hills) and there seems to be no real damage Downtown other than a few bricks coming off a building two doors south of the Bradbury Building. They appear to be bricks that were either disturbed or replaced after the top two floors of the building were demolished for seismic reasons, which is ironic; because no bricks would have likely fallen off the building if the upper floor hadn't been removed.

This particular building has some local historic significance since it was home of the dress shop of the mother of local real estate tycoon - Richard Muerelo - and it was the first building acquired by the family.

Decent-sized Earthquake In Downtown!

At Spring Arts Tower at 5th and Spring my bookcases were waving back and forth on the 10th floor - but nothing fell out of them. Started very gently - could barely feel the seat of my chair move for some seconds - then whole building slowly started to rock and roll. Quake center likely far away.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Extension Granted For Grand Avenue - The Fastest Moving Major Project In Downtown's History!

This morning the Grand Avenue Authority granted a series of extensions for the Related Group to finish their construction documents and get their financing in place. Construction is now scheduled to begin in February 2009. If financing can not be obtained by then, then monthly extensions will be granted for up to two years and monthly payments will be made by Related of $250,000.

A 30 million dollar completion bond is also going to be posted by Related, part in cash and part via letters of credit and language prioritizing the affordable component of the project proposed by Jan Perry is also being added to the extension document.

Finally, if no financing can be had by February 2011, then the Authority is under no legal obligation to give any further extensions. But if the Authority finds that other projects of a similar size are also unable to get financing, they will have the right but not the obligation, to enter into negotiations for another extension.

This way Related can deal with the lending market without having to constantly come back for extensions should the present dismal lending market get even worse in the short term. But it also sets guidelines on how long such extensions can be granted. This now resolved, the Authority can concentrate upon the development of the park (which will not be delayed by this extension) and the creation of a 501c3 to both fund raise, plan and run the park.

Lastly, in the public comment section of the agenda, I pointed out that in the history of public/private partnerships - and all major projects - in Downtown Los Angeles - dating back over a half-century - this project has moved faster and with fewer delays that any project it's size. It's also moved faster than most projects a fraction of its size. Added to that, virtually all of the delays are due to factors totally beyond the control of the developer.

First there was an extensive public outreach process, then a lengthy and much debated EIR review, then came a lawsuit over the hotel, then came the collapse of the credit markets which made it hard to get any finance, and lastly - then came the new lending requirements that 80% of the construction documents have to be completed prior to getting loan approval.

And any developer on any project this size would have needed to delay any project for these reasons just as any major project always has delays from the original deadlines no matter what the environment is.

But these facts makes the carping over the much touted delays even more perplexing, since virtually every major project that has been public/private to any extent has taken over ten years to get going and sometimes 20 years or longer! But no one seems to have the institutional memory to know this.

Staring with the overall Bunker Hill project - the initial planning for that started in the 1930's and 1940's, the serious planning began in the 1950's and the building didn't begin until the 1960's. The Music Center project started in the mid-1950s and didn't open until the the mid-late 1960's. The other big Grand Avenue Project, Cal Plaza, stated in the 1970's - and still isn't finished almost 30 years later.

Disney Hall started in the 1980's but didn't open until the following century. Even a project like a simple supermarket - Ralphs - took well over ten years. And the infamous new Convention Center hotel - well, that started in the 1970's, then fell apart, then picked up steam again in 1980's - then fell apart again, then started again in the 1990's, then fell apart, then in this century it went from private to public/private to private with public assistance - and with multiple partners in and out of the deal - and it is still not finished.

And here, in contrast, we have one developer, one plan that is almost unchanged - and a few comparatively minor delays due - totally - to outside forces beyond the developer's control.

But you would never know that from reading the press.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Intelligent - And Accurate - Story In LA Times On Downtown Housing Market - And It's Not April Fool's Day!

Below is the opening for a well thought out and excellently researched story on the current condo market in Downtown:

With penthouses, downtown Los Angeles might be moving on up
The units meant to lure the wealthy could be the key to continued revitalization. There is competition with towers to the west, but lower prices in the city center might work to its advantage.
By Cara Mia DiMassa
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

July 26, 2008

They sit atop downtown buildings like beacons: Marble bathrooms glistening, glass wrap-around patios gazing out on the city and high-end ranges awaiting their first speck of gourmet food.

The penthouses that crown many of downtown's high-rise condos and lofts were conceived in a different era, during the last real estate boom when the sky seemed the limit, even on the gritty streets of the city center.

While most downtown dwellings are decidedly more modest, the penthouses have gotten the attention -- with magazine spreads and rumors of Hollywood stars moving in.

But with the real estate downturn, developers are figuring out how to market the gems -- and using them to bolster the perception that downtown is becoming a high-end residential destination.

Because some of the new developments on the horizon -- notably the Frank Gehry-designed Grand Avenue project and the Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live -- are aimed at wealthy buyers, with all or almost all of their units priced above $1 million, the fate of downtown's penthouses is of particular importance.

Downtown boosters have seen attracting more wealthy residents as a key next step in the area's revitalization, because they hope that would attract some of the high-end retail that up until now has largely been missing.

But downtown faces some hefty competition to the west.

Right now, the center of ultra-luxury high-rise living stretches from Beverly Hills and Century City through Westwood, where several opulent buildings are already rising or in the planning stages, including the Century tower in Century City, where Candy Spelling purchased a $47-million penthouse.

It remains unclear how much of that demographic the decidedly grittier downtown area can grab. While downtown is farther from Spago, Sunset Strip, Montana Avenue and Rodeo Drive, prices for penthouses are generally much lower than in the best Westside towers. And some say that is making a difference.

"The two really hot areas are Century City and downtown in terms of the ultra-luxury segment," said Jim Perabo of, a portal for condo sales and rentals.

The downtown penthouses also serve another important purpose: providing aspiration for entry-level downtown condo buyers.

"Ultimately, developers are trying to sell the rest of the units," said Gil Seraf of the 213 Loft Company, a real estate firm in downtown Los Angeles. The penthouses "are always good P.R."

Although it's impossible to guess exactly how many downtown penthouses there are, most new buildings are including between five and 10 of the luxe units, which typically start at about $1 million and boast more expansive space and upgraded amenities than their more modest cousins.

The rest of the story at the above link goes into more detail about how the strong market for the most expensive units in Downtown is an indicator of the future Downtown market.

The only thing the article misses are the staggering numbers being racked up by the best units at the Ritz-Carlton (which everyone who is anyone Downtown knows - unofficially - but which I guess are not considered newsworthy by the LAT until the building is completed and they close). But with the present rate of sales - even with increasing per square foot prices - it should be sold out by completion - which bodes very well for the Grand Avenue project's condos.

Pod People Walk Among Us In Downtown Los Angeles!

And also this link:,0,1379685.story

For some time alien life forms from a culture far different than our own have been walking - and living among us. Yes, two business section reporters from the Los Angeles Times, Julie Makinen and Patrick McMahon, have secretly taken up residence among us humans.

And the seriously scary part is that they are living lives exactly like the rest of us do. In fact, reading their two stories about their lives in our community sounds exactly like the lives all of us live!

Now I know this sounds amazing that two people from the alien planet known as Times-Mirror Square can report on life Downtown as it really is - but these two impostors have infiltrated us so well that they could be standing right next to you right now - and you wouldn't even know it!

They even manage to write stories based on real world, first hand experiences and they do so without a single quote from alien life forces such as the clueless UCLA's Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris or the equally clueless Fernando J. Guerra of Loyola - both of whom have never set foot east of La Cienega without ideological blinders very carefully self-affixed to their eyes to prevent any contamination from - gasp! - real world observations.

So read their two stories and learn the good and the bad and the every day of life in Downtown. Because it may never happen again in the pages of the Los Angeles Times - and certainly never will if a certain notorious editor ever has his way with the rewrite pen.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

One Reason LA's Public Pools Are Contamined!

The recent story in the Times about the health department shutting down public pools due to pollution missed one particular part of the problem. While I was trying out new gyms when the pool at my regular gym was closed for a month, I was surprised by how many gyms have showers in the public areas and that swimmers are only required to shower in them.

So not only do these showers not have any soap to use to wash one's body with, since it is a mixed sex space, the swimmers also keep on their bathing suits and therefore do not wash and clear that parts of their body that are most likely to cause health problems in the pool.

My question is - is this legal? Can the health code not require that gyms require a full washing of the body with soap and water? Another problem with some of the gym's pools - particularly in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations - is that some of the patrons do not even shower period before entering the pool and a few do not even put on bathing suits - they just go into the water in their underwear. And on more than one occasion - some people just get into the poll wearing their shirts and their pants. Needless to say, I quickly stopped going to either of those gyms.

But while the later problems are more maintenance problems - and a lack of sufficient signage in appropriate languages telling people what is and is not acceptable - my big question is - why does the health department allow people to enter pools after just partially washing bodies with water - and after using no soap at all? And if they don't - shouldn't the pool side showers have signs that they are only to used after being in the pool - and not before entering the pool?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Freeway Park Presentation This Afternoon Downtown!

The HABEAS INDEX presents: PARK 101, Thursday, July 24

12:30 - 1:30 PM
Informal lunchtime discussion with Project Managers Gaurav Srivastava and Mike Williams, + Intern Program participants Gustavo Alejandro Garcia and Henrik Olsson.

5:00 - 7:30 PM
Reception and public forum, question and answer period with the EDAW Team + urban designer Simon Pastucha.

PARK 101, the focus of EDAW's 2008 Intern Program (, is a proposed visionary urban design solution to cap the half-mile length of the 101 Hollywood Freeway in downtown Los Angeles and reconnect the city's historic core, north of the freeway, with the civic, cultural, and financial cores of modern Los Angeles to the south. Strongly being considered by the Los Angeles Community Development Department and Caltrans for implementation, the project provides a unique opportunity to create an iconic urban park in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, focused on re-visioning the existing infrastructure that supports and encircles the core of the city —freeways, channelized rivers, streets, and public transit. The PARK 101 model will be on display.

The HABEAS INDEX is an evolving series of presentations, actions and discussions about urban issues and downtown life.
The HABEAS INDEX is located in the new artspace @ 7+FIG
735 S. Figueroa Street, middle level
Los Angeles, CA 90017
open weekdays, 12 - 4 PM, Thursdays 12- 6 PM, + during special events
Validated parking in the 7+FIG parking structure, accessible from 7th and 8th Street, west of Figueroa / Bike rack on street level next to Starbucks

Image: Linda Pollack

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Writing About Writing About Writing!

In "How Fiction Works", James Wood's newest collection of essays - 123 numbered mini-essays strong - Woods again tackles the question of what makes a novel a novel, along with the related question of what makes a great novel, great. After reading the review Saturday in the preview Sunday Times, I managed to acquire a copy today and have just finished consuming in it one guilty gulp.

Below is a quote from reviewer Gideon Lewis-Kraus about what James Wood has achieved.

His initial focus is on "free indirect style," whereby the narrator moves the story along through a character's voice such that "we see things through the character's eyes and language but also through the author's eyes and language. We inhabit omniscience and partiality at once." This is the essence of fiction-making: We readers know that an author has invented this character, but we also feel as though the character exists somewhere outside and beyond the author's invention. We are divided between what we know to be fake and what we nevertheless momentarily postulate as real. Good characters promise us that their invented freedom has meaning, and we react to them accordingly. (Wood, in this way, pretends to write about books while writing about life.)

The key point here is that Woods writes about books in order to write about life and that's why everyone should read him.

My review is simpler.

Read this book.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Paparazzi Attack LA Cowboy! Or - What Happens When Tom Cruise And Katie Holmes Are In The House!

When I turned the corner to go back to my office at the Spring Arts Tower, where the TV series ELI STONE has been shooting this afternoon, 30 or 40 paparazzi suddenly appeared and started shooting their cameras in front of me. And I assumed that were part of a scene that was being shot. But then they turned to shoot a van that was pulling away and I was told Katie Holmes has just walked in front of me.

And this really surprised me. After having watched half of the blockbuster films of the past ten years shot in my neighborhood - and regularly seeing many of the biggest stars in Hollywood - I could not recall even one paparazzi stalking anyone - much less a whole pack of them.

Then when I returned from the gym tonight, a half dozen of them were still waiting around when I stopped to gossip with a couple of the guys from Magic Elves - which produces most of the reality shows on TV. And I turned from them just as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and got out of a car and walked right in front of me and into the building followed by the flash of cameras.

Now after living in Malibu for 20 years and selling real estate, I saw film and TV stars every day and worked with many of them. But it was still weird to see these two walking into my building and even weirder to see packs of paparazzi roaming our sidewalks. The real problem, though, is with all the actors moving in our neighborhood, hopefully, this was only an aberration and not the start of our descent into paparazzi hell.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

LA Times Announces Hot Fashion Trend! Black Cowboy Hat And Amateur Wrestling T-shirts!

Last Sunday, I was recovering from an exhausting Saturday night when I got a frantic call from my long time fashion stylist, Miss Kitty. Her news flash was that the Times' fashion section - Image - in an article about the hottest international fashion boutiques flocking to Los Angeles - could find only one person - a certain local cowboy - fashionable enough to be featured.


Yes, the single person the fashion editors of the Los Angeles Times found in these exclusive shops with a fashion sense worthy of being photographed was this cowboy as I exited Comme de Garçons. But what upset Miss Kitty was that not only was not I - much less her properly credited - but that the Times also neglected to mention any of the designers of my elegant ensemble, which of course defeated the purpose of all those designers who so graciously give me their latest fashions to wear.

So to give credit where credit is due - my black cowboy hat is made by the Golden Gate Hat Company of Los Angeles and my au courant T-shirt - with it's muscular coiled cobra emblazened across it (which makes it the absolutely favorite shirt of Mr. Cowboy's female fans) is yet another stunning design by famed atelier of the Striker Wrestling Club.

Ironic Update...

Now that I think of it, my being photographed walking out of the shop is kind of fitting since the store would never have been there without me, and a number of other people.

Back in the Wild West Days of the 'hood, I did the original master lease (pro bono as usual) to Jose Caballer of GROOP SPACE and then they sub-leased part of their space to Tak Kato of BLENDS (and that concept was part of the original business plan) - and BLENDS was brought in by a friend of mine, Brigham Yen - and then Tak and Brett Westfall brought in the pop-up version of Comme des Garçons.

The moral is... it takes a village to build a neighborhood.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Comedy Walk Tonight With Art Walk! Six Free Comedy Shows From 8:30 - 10 PM!


COMEDY WALK is the biggest monthly comedy festival in the world. It's like speed-dating with comedians! 25 different comedy acts. 6 simultaneous 90-minute shows. As seen in The Onion. A Los Angeles Times "Best Bet". A Hollywood Today selection.

* Get your FREE TICKET at
* Thursday, July 10th, 2008, 8:30pm-10pm

COMEDY WALK #7 is at the New LATC Theatre, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, and nearby venues. Featured performers include Jason Dudey, Michael Goldstom, and Alysia Wood. Different acts and different venues each month. Another performer every 10 minutes. Performers are comedians who've appeared at comedy clubs or on television or in films.

Venue #1
Host: Jennifer Simms
Alexandria Room
200-seat club
501 S Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
8:25 Host Warm-Up
8:30 Alysia Wood
8:40 Tim Powers
8:50 Willis Turner
9:00 Brian Farrell
9:10 Courtney Ca
9:20 Josh Rencher
9:30 Erik Lundy
9:40 Bill Word
9:50 Rick Overton

Venue #2
Host: Kirk Bovill
Lobby Cabaret Theater
80-seat cabaret
The New LATC
514 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
8:25 Host Warm-Up
8:30 Michael Goldstrom
8:40 Joe Bartnick
8:50 Julia Louiza
9:00 Jason Dudey
9:10 Stevie Mack
9:20 Rick Overton
9:30 Celeste Davis
9:40 Jodi Miller
9:50 Roz Browne

Venue #3
Host: Ashley McCarthy
"The Velvet Room
By the Bert Green Art Gallery
114 W. 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
1,500-sq.ft SRO
8:25 Host Warm-Up
8:30 Bruno Lucia
8:40 Stevie Mack
8:50 Erik Lundy
9:00 Pat Branch
9:10 Larry Vazeos
9:20 Grace Fraga
9:30 Alysia Wood
9:40 Jackie Fabulous
9:50 Brian Farrell

Venue #4
Host: Katia Louise
"The Onion Room
Spring Arts Tower
205 W. 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
1,400 sq. ft. SRO
8:25 Host Warm-Up
8:30 Jodi Miller
8:40 Bill Word
8:50 Grace Fraga
9:00 Celeste Davis
9:10 Sasha Faynor
9:20 Michael Goldstrom
9:30 Pat Branch
9:40 Willis Turner
9:50 Courtney Ca

Venue #5
Host: Corey Blake
The Chicken Room
Spring Arts Tower
211 W. 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
1,000-sq.ft SRO
8:25 Host Warm-Up
8:30 Jason Dudey
8:40 Josh Rencher
8:50 Jackie Fabulous
9:00 Roz Browne
9:10 Bruno Lucia
9:20 Tim Powers
9:30 Julia Louiza
9:40 Joe Bartnick
9:50 Larry Vazeos

Venue #6
Host: Gabrielle Pantera
The Pump Room
Alexandria Building
214 W. 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
1,000 sq. ft. SRO
Gosh! TV Talk Show
Three-minute interviews with the comedians and hosts in a talk show format.

Supporters: Digital Express Printing, The Onion, Hollywood Today, British Weekly, StubDog, Thrillist, Couch Surfers, The New LATC, Rooftop Comedy, ScreenPlayLab. For the City of Los Angeles: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, District 9 Councilwoman Jan Perry. For the Cultural Affairs Department: Executive Director Olga Garay, Assistant General Manager Saul Romo.

Executive Producer Robin Rowe, Casting Director Gabrielle Pantera, Associate Producer Hillary Layman, Associate Producer Brian Fredericks. A production of


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Downtown Parks & Civic Center Plans Meeting - TONIGHT!

Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council- DLANC &
Historic Downtown LA Business Improvement District- HDLA BID

Sponsors Re-imagining Downtown
Creating a Master Plan for the Civic Center and its

Tuesday July 8th 6:45 pm Historic Los Angeles Theatre Lobby
615 S. Broadway - parking at Pershing Square or Red Line Subway Stop One Block away at 5th and Hill
Refreshments provided

• The Grand & Civic Center Grand Avenue Park- Bill Witte of The
Related Group will give an update on these two projects.
A joint powers project including the Community Redevelopment
Agency/City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles and The
Related Group. This $3 billion project will include Frank Gehry
designed buildings which include 2600 housing units of condominiums,
apartments, affordable housing, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a grocery
store, bookstore, fitness club, restaurants and entertainment venues
and numerous retail outlets. 3.6 million square feet of development

• The Civic Center 16 acre park- Bill Witte- The Related Group
LA's new version of Central Park will be a $100 million plus project
will be a grand commons connecting The Music Center Plaza to the
steps of City Hall for city-wide celebrations and international

• Park 101- EDAW Design Group-
An International design forum with 24 participants has created a
master plan that caps the 101 Hollywood Freeway from Alameda to
Grand Avenue, from Temple to Cesar Chavez. This proposed project
would unite Chinatown, El Pueblo, Union Station, the Civic Center,
Bunker Hill and the Arts District with 100 acres of green space and
development opportunities.

• LA Police Department Headquarters-
This 2 acre site is opposite the LA Times Building from First to
Second Street along Spring and from Main to Spring Street along 2nd
Street opposite Higgins Building all activated by a restaurant,
auditorium and plaza fronting First Street.

• Vista Hermosa- Park at Belmont Learning Center
This $14 million open space consists of 10 acres adjacent to the
Edward R. Roybald Learning Center (Belmont Learning Center) in the
City West neighborhood at 1st and Beaudry. The complex will serve
2,800 students and cost $350 million. Walking and hiking trails,
water features, a playground, soccer field shared by LAUSD and the
Dept. of Recreation & Parks are part of the complex. The Mountains
Recreation and Conservation Authority have operational authority.