Hollywood Journal – A Different Kind of Marathon


March, Nineteen Ninety Nine

A weird, ugly, fun day.

I woke up around ten. Played some music. Robert Goulet, Sid Ramin, June Christy.

Around noon I realized that the hangover I’d been hoping to avoid was kicking in. Lying on the living room floor, I could hear car horns honking outside. Had no idea what that was about. I dozed for a while.

Woke up around two and told myself I’d have to move if I was gonna make the three forty show of Fallen Angels at the Beverly.

I walked out onto the street and saw that Cahuenga was a parking lot. Massive traffic jam. Then it hit me. The marathon.

I was thinking I’d catch the two twelve on Hollywood Boulevard, but the marathon meant Hollywood Boulevard was closed. Should I go back home? Skip the movie?

Nah. I didn’t feel too hung over at that point, and I felt like walking a little might clear my head. I decided to go down to Sunset and catch the bus over to La Brea in the hope that the two twelve would be running that part of its route.

But Sunset was closed, too. So I figured, okay, I’ll go down to Santa Monica. Which I did. The only westbound bus that went by was so packed I couldn’t get on it.

So I walked down to Melrose. By this time I wasn’t feeling too good. I leaned against the pole at the bus stop, wishing the bus would come. Another guy who was waiting told me that it was gone arrive in about five minutes.

Ten minutes passed. Fifteen. I finally decided to just go on walking, and it’s a good thing cuz not a single bus passed me in the time it took me to reach La Brea.

From there it was a short walk down to the theatre. As much trouble as it was, the movies were worth the trip. Fallen Angels was wonderful. And I liked Chungking Express much better seeing it a second time.

FA 2

Boom Town

Dntn Fed 3 Skln

Downtown is exploding. There’s so much construction going on I can’t even keep track of it. Massive new office and residential buildings are springing up all over the place. There are also efforts underway to revitalize a number of older buildings. Some of this stuff is cool, some of it is dumb, but I’m less concerned about the quality of the individual projects than I am with the cumulative impact of all this construction. More on that later.

Let’s start by sampling a few of the projects currently under construction….

Dntn 00 ChTown

This is the Blossom Plaza, which combines retail and residential, including a fair number of affordable units. It took years for this to get off the ground, and there was a recent hitch when workers uncovered remnants of the original Zanja Madre, but things are moving forward. Curbed LA has been following the story for a while, and you can read more about it by clicking here.

Dntn 05 LT Site 2

I had a harder time finding current info about this project. The most recent report I read said this was a 240 unit complex being developed by the Irvine-based Sares-Regis Group. Whatever it is, it looks like it’s going to be huge. The site is located at Second and San Pedro, right next to….

Dntn 10 Ava Trees

….the recently completed AVA Little Tokyo, another massive mixed-use structure. Apparently young people are flocking to Downtown LA these days, and developers are doing everything they can to capture that crowd. Check out this ad, seen in one of the windows on the ground floor.

Dntn 15 Ava Ad

The way I read this is, “If your highest priority is mindless self-indulgence, this is the place for you.”

And since we don’t have enough luxury rental units in Downtown LA already, Carmel Partners has generously agreed to build 700 more. As you can see in the photo below, it’ll be a while before the project is complete.

Dntn 20 Bldg Frame

You may want to put a deposit down soon. Given the list of amenities, I don’t doubt that the Eighth & Grand complex will be popular. I was sold when I heard about the rooftop pool surrounded by cabanas. For more details, click here.

Dntn 30 Fed 4 Skln

But let’s talk about a project that might actually benefit the people of Los Angeles. Here’s the new federal courthouse, which is finally going up after being delayed for years. The courthouse is just one component in a larger scheme to revitalize this part of the civic center. Building Los Angeles offers a rundown on some of the related efforts.

Dntn 35 Broad 3

Honestly, of all the projects under construction in Downtown LA, the only one I can really get excited about is The Broad. It’s still a long way from completion, and the web site just says that it will open in 2015. But it’s something to look forward to. And they’re already doing some cool programming. Click here to find out what’s going on.

Dntn 40 TB Backhoe

And let’s wrap it up with the New Wilshire Grand. It’s said that when the project is completed, this will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Who cares? I’m so tired of this kind of development. Does this really have anything to do with making the city a better place to live? Or is it just another monument to greed and vanity?

There’s a lot of talk right now about how LA has to embrace higher density development. Fine. There are good reasons to create a more compact city, and certainly sprawl has been a major problem throughout our history. But can anybody demonstrate a need for skyscrapers of this size? And looking at the bigger picture, do we really have the infrastructure to support development on this scale? I’m thinking especially of water, since we are in the middle of a drought. The projects I’ve highlighted here are just a few of the dozens that are either currently under construction or in the permitting process.

When I look at the avalanche of development that’s hitting Downtown LA, I have to ask if anybody at City Hall is thinking about the future, because I don’t see any evidence of rational planning. Instead, I see an onslaught of construction driven by developers who are falling all over themselves to get in on the gold rush. I really question whether the Mayor or the City Council have given any serious thought to how this massive growth spree is going to affect LA down the road. I wish I could believe they were really concerned about the well-being of the people of Los Angeles. It seems more likely that their chief concern is keeping their developer buddies happy.

Climate Change in LA


Now in the our third year of drought, it seems pretty clear to me that the climate in LA is changing. We’re getting far less rain than we used to, and the fire season is getting longer and longer. Of course, the same thing is happening all over California and throughout the Southwest. And from the reading I’ve done, it seems that the vast majority of scientists now agree that climate change is related to human activity.

Later this month in New York, the UN Climate Summit will take place. World leaders attending the summit will discuss what measures their countries can take to combat global warming. Honestly, I’m not optimistic. After years of debating this topic, we’ve made very little progress, and the consensus in the scientific community is that things are only going to get worse.

To put some pressure on the politicians, people are taking to the streets all over the globe to call attention to the very real dangers that climate change poses. Here in LA, there’s an event on Saturday, September 20. I’m going to be there. For more info, here’s the link….

Building Blocks Against Climate Change

If you’re not in the LA area, there are events happening around the globe. The link below will take you to a page that shows events all over the world.

People’s Climate Mobilisation

The UN has extensive information on climate change available on their web site.

UN Climate Summit 2014

I know there are people out there who are still skeptical about climate change. And if it turns out twenty years from now that the scientists were wrong, then you can all laugh at people like me and call us gullible fools.

On the other hand, if it turns out they were right, I don’t think anybody will be laughing.

Preserving a Palace

Hlwd Pac Wilc

The Warner Pacific Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. has been boarded up for a while now. The church that was using the auditorium is gone, and the small retail tenants have vanished, too. Apparently the owner, Pacific Theatres, has plans for the building, though no one is sure what they are. Rumors are circulating that the plans may involve structural changes, but at this point nothing specific has been announced.

The fear is that Pacific will make changes to the theatre that would compromise its historic status. The Warner Pacific Theatre is part of the Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District, No. 85000704 on the National Register of Historic Places. This stretch of the boulevard contains a number of movie palaces, and is an important cultural resource for the community. The Chinese, the El Capitan, the Egyptian and the Pantages are all found in this area.

I understand that Pacific needs to make a profit, but it would be a shame if their plans did not make the preservation of the theatre’s historic status a priority. There are numerous examples of classic theatres that have been restored over the years, and many have them are very profitable. The El Capitan has been spectacularly successful since its restoration, and still functions as a first-run theatre. The Pantages has been drawing crowds consistently since it was converted to host live stage shows. The Wiltern is an example of a classic theatre that has become a hot venue for concerts.

Pacific can even look to its own recent history to back up the argument for preservation. In the nineties they announced a plan for the Cinerama Dome that would have included gutting the theatre and putting a restaurant in the lobby. The preservation community was outraged, and to their credit, Pacific listened. They changed course, and built the Arclight, which has become a mecca for movie lovers in the Hollywood area.

For more information about the Warner Pacific Theatre, you can visit the Hollywood Heritage web site by clicking the link below. Choose Preservation Issues from the menu on the left, and then click on Endangered Buildings.

Hollywood Heritage