Church Clears Another Hurdle

Mosaic Front

A quick update on the status of the Mosaic Church at Hollywood and La Brea. Earlier this week, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the structure be designated a cultural-historic monument. Click on the link below to get all the details.

Hollywood Church Closer to Becoming Historical Monument from Park La Brea News

This is good news, but as Helen Berman of Save Residential Hollywood points out, the fight is far from over. Developers LeFrak and Kennedy Wilson want to demolish the church so they can build a large mixed-use complex. They claim the building isn’t worthy of historic status, and they have very deep pockets. No doubt, they’ll be pushing hard to scuttle the designation.

So even though the groups hoping to preserve the church have won an important victory, they still have a long way to go. The CHC’s recommendation will go to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee next, and eventually the City Council will vote on the issue.

Thanks to Save Residential Hollywood for all their efforts so far. Here’s a link, in case you’d like to get involved.

Save Residential Hollywood

Thanks also to Councilmember David Ryu, who has come down firmly in support of granting the church historic-cultural monument status. If you’d like to thank him yourself, here’s his e-mail address.

Outdoor Ad Onslaught

Billboards at Highland and Franklin

Billboards at Highland and Franklin

I’ve written before about how our elected officials often try to cut the public out of the decision-making process. It’s happening again. This Thursday the City Planning Commission will be considering a number of proposals backed by outdoor advertising companies to increase their presence in our communities. There is significant opposition to these proposals among LA’s neighborhood councils, but the CPC has scheduled their vote without giving the NCs and other neighborhood groups a chance to weigh in.

Mini billboard tacked on to a mini mall

Mini billboard tacked on to a mini mall

This is hardly surprising. These companies want to increase the number of billboards they can put up, get amnesty for illegal billboards and clear the way for more digital billboards. It probably won’t surprise you if I tell you that they’ve spent over a million dollars lobbying our elected officials. But what if I tell you that they spent that much in just the first half of this year? They’ve actually spent many millions over the years to press their case with City Hall. Here’s an article with more details.

LA Billboard Companies Spend Over $1 Million Lobbying from Ban Billboard Blight

I’ve been making an effort to follow this issue, but I hadn’t heard anything at all about a possible vote by the CPC until I took a look at CityWatch earlier this week. That’s where I found this article. It gives a detailed breakdown of what’s going down, and also gives a clear picture of how the City has tried to slide this past us.

Sign Companies Call the Shots at City Hall from CityWatch

As the author points out, the CPC will argue that they heard public comment on this issue when it was before the Commission back in 2009. But the Planning & Land Use Management Committee has made significant changes to the previous proposals. The City has not given anybody (except the outdoor ad industry) a chance to be heard on the changes.

Ads on busses

Ads on busses

Both of these articles originated on the web site Ban Billboard Blight. If you’re concerned about this issue, I urge you to take a look. The site contains a number of worthwhile resources.

Ban Billboard Blight

I know that billboards are a part of life in the big city, and I’m not out to ban them. But we shouldn’t be giving these outdoor advertising companies permission to go hog wild just because they’re spending millions to lobby our elected officials. If anything, we need to set stricter guidelines for advertising in public spaces.

Here’s a link to the agenda for the CPC meeting.

CPC Meeting, Thursday, September 24

If you care about this issue and can make it down there, great. If you can’t make the meeting, you can still e-mail your comments to the Commission at the address below. Please use the subject line “CPC-2015-3059-CA, Citywide Sign Ordinance Changes”.

Ads at bus stops

Ads at bus stops

High-Speed on the Horizon?

Lt Comp 1 Db

Could we see universal high-speed connectivity come to Los Angeles in the near future? Maybe. The CityLinkLA initiative, backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, aims to make internet access available to all. Here’s a brief outline from the CityLinkLA web site.

CityLinkLA is an initiative designed to address both the digital divide and our virtual competitiveness. Launched in 2014 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, CityLinkLA is an effort to encourage the private sector to deploy advanced wireline and Wi-Fi digital communications networks so that every residence and business in Los Angeles has access to world-class, high-speed Internet and at prices comparable to those in other innovative communities around the world. The goal is to provide basic access to all for free or at a very low cost and gigabit (1 Gbps) or higher speed access at competitive rates. CityLinkLA is envisioned to include wired gigabit access to every home and business and as close to ubiquitous wireless coverage for the entire City as possible.

First, let me say that I totally support the goal of giving everybody high-speed access to the internet. And I give Garcetti and Blumenfield credit for getting the ball rolling on this. High-speed connectivity will play a major role in making urban centers competitive in the future, and other other cities have already gotten the jump on us. Tech is something Garcetti understands, and he’s done a great job of luring tech companies to the LA area. Entertainment and media companies will also see the attraction of widely available broadband access. And I’m glad the CityLinkLA web site clearly states that one of the goals is to make the internet available to everybody, regardless of income or neighborhood.

But I do have a few reservations. There are different ways to wire a city for universal access. Take Chattanooga, Tennessee and Austin, Texas. Chattanooga’s network is owned by the city, and offers very high speeds to everyone for very low rates. Austin, on the other hand, is pursuing the same approach as LA. That is, inviting private industry the opportunity to do the job, in the hope that competition will keep rates low. And so far that doesn’t seem to be getting the job done. For details, check out the two articles below.

Chattanooga’s Super-Fast Publicly Owned Internet from CNN

Austin Shows Us What Broadband Competition Was Supposed to Look Like from TechDirt

Personally, I’d prefer to see LA offer broadband through a public utility, because I think it would lead to lower rates, more transparency and more control. Having said that, it’s important to note that Chattanooga is pretty small (population under 200,000) and LA is really big (population almost 4,000,000). There would certainly be huge hurdles to overcome in setting up a publicly owned network here. I’d like to know, though, if anybody really explored that possibility before opening this up to private companies.

My other reservation has to do with the fact that the City is offering some of its assets to the private sector in order to make the deal attractive. To a degree, this is reasonable, but I think we have to analyze this carefully to make sure we’re not compromising the City’s infrastructure or giving sweetheart deals to companies that stand to make a pile of money. In other words, we have to control the process, and we need to make sure we’re not getting ripped off.

I want to thank Stephanie Magnien Rockwell, Policy Director at Bob Blumenfield’s office, for her quick response to my e-mail asking for more information. She sent me the link to the council file on this initiative, which you’ll find below.

Council File: 13-0953, CityLinkLA

If you’re interested in getting more details, there’s tons of info here. It’s worth highlighting the fact that a number of neighborhood councils have submitted statements in support of the intitiative, though the South Robertson Neighborhood Council “requests that the City
include provisions protecting and requiring net neutrality”. Not a bad idea. For a thorough breakdown of the intitiative, click on this link to read the CAO’s analysis.

CAO’s Report on CityLinkLA Inititative

And here’s the link to the CityLinkLA web site.


This could be a real breakthrough for Los Angeles. High-speed access for all would be a huge step forward, but there are also huge risks involved. We need to stay informed and engaged as this process unfolds.


T A Birds

I have to admit, I used to take trees for granted.

T A Branch

I was lucky. I grew up in a neighborhood filled with trees. As kids we used to play all day under a canopy of lush green.

T A Lvs Shad

And I’m still lucky. The street I live on now is lined with trees. On weekend mornings I go running, and it’s amazing how many different shades of green I see.

T B Surround

Parks are cool, too. When I was younger I thought going to a park was boring. Now I really enjoy just strecthing out on the grass in a shady spot.

T C Home

I’ve been reading lately how the drought, and our reaction to the drought, is affecting trees. Of course, we’ve all been in a panic to save water, and it’s probably no surprise we’ve made mistakes. The City of LA has been criticized for its decision to stop watering medians, which will have a negative impact on the trees planted there, and since everything is connected to everything, this will cause further negative impacts.

T B Bark X

I can’t blame the City Council, because I’m just as ignorant as they are when it comes to this stuff, but we all have to educate ourselves and think before we act. If not, our response to one crisis will just create another.

T D Glare X

The City of LA has had trouble with trees for years. One of the biggest problems is that trees have roots.

T C Sdwlk X

I’m sure everybody in LA knows of at least one place where the sidewalk is slowly busting upward. And not only is this a safety hazard, but it makes it really difficult for people with disabilities to get around. Years ago the City started cutting down ficus trees so they could repair the sidewalks, and in some neighborhoods the residents went wild. A lot of people love trees, and it is pretty traumatic to see one you care about being chopped down. After struggling with angry residents for a while, the City backed off. But that left them back at square one, and in some areas the sidewalks were really getting dangerous.

T C Sdwlk 2 X

I was at a meeting recently where a representative from the Bureau of Street Services talked about this issue. He said that after fighting for years with people who were ready to chain themselves to ficus trees, the Bureau has decided that it’s best to let the residents decide whether or not a tree should be removed.


But he did mention one site where the Bureau plans to pull out the chain saws. There’s a row of trees on Vine just below Sunset. They are large and dense, and I think beautiful, but that spot has become a magnet for the homeless. This stretch has also become a hot spot for crime, and so the City has decided the trees have to go.

T C Vn Man

I’ll miss them. These photos were taken after they’d been trimmed, and you don’t really get a sense of how dense and dark the canopy ordinarily was. In the middle of the city, with traffic all around, you could feel like you were standing in the forest.

T C Vn Bldg 2

Trees aren’t permanent, but they live so long it seems that way. Many of the species that we find in our neighborhoods have an average life span of a hundred years, and some will live for two or three hundred years. Though they change over time, they seem like a fixed part of the landscape.

T C Branch Twst X

My mother still lives in the house I grew up in. Not too long ago the house across the street from her was sold, and the new owner cut down a large tree that dominated the front yard. It took some getting used to. I had played under that tree when it was a kid. It was part of the landscape of my childhood.

T B Pods X

There’s a growing awareness of how important trees are to the ecology of the city. They take CO2 out of the atmosphere, protect the soil and cool our neighborhoods. I have to thank Councilmember Paul Koretz for introducing a motion on tree health (Council File: 15-0467). It’s still making its way through committees and city departments, but hopefully it will come up for a vote soon.

T D Fuzz Bl X

There’s a feeling I get when I’m walking through a quiet neighborhood at dusk. As the light fades, the trees lose their color. The shadows deepen. The branches and leaves rising up around you turn to silhouettes against the twilight sky.

T D Gath Dk X

It feels so peaceful.

T E Dark Mass X

More About Housing and Transit

Post Final

As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to share this article from LA StreetsBlog. It’s a summary of a panel discussion, Rescuing the California Dream: Policies for an Affordable Future, sponsored by KPCC and the Milken Institute. The participants talked about the challenges posed by LA’s affordable housing crisis, and offered some possible solutions.

Nobody was saying there’s an easy way out, but there are things we can be doing to address the situation. Two things I got from the article were that we need to do a better job of planning, and we need to create local funding sources to support affordable housing. But the panel offered lots of ideas, and the consensus seems to be that we can change things for the better.

Can High-Density Housing Solve Our Regional Housing Crisis? The Answer: It’s Complicated