Last Friday I got lost in Griffith Park. It was great.
Today at City Hall people from communities all over LA spoke out against a bill that would extend hours of alcohol service in a number of California cities. The legislature is currently considering SB 58, authored by State Senator Scott Wiener, which would allow cities to push the closing time for bars and nightclubs to 4:00 am. A broad coalition of community and public health groups are pushing back, warning that passage of the bill would mean a significant increase in health and safety harms.
Councilmember Paul Koretz started the event off by listing the staggering cost that California already pays for problems related to alcohol consumption, including billions spent for medical and mental health care, as well as expenses related to law enforcement. He was followed by Miriam Castro, of Mujeres Transformando la Comunidad, who emphasized the negative impacts that alcohol has on communities. Pueblo y Salud Program Director Brenda Villanueva made the point that prices for Uber and Lyft rise steeply in the early morning hours and public transit mostly shuts down, meaning that people leaving bars after 4:00 am might well decide to drive home. This also means that cities not covered by the new law could end up dealing with late night drunk drivers from neighboring cities, i.e. someone getting out of a club in Hollywood and driving through Burbank on their way home.
Senator Wiener has framed the bill as a pilot program that could be ended if crime and DUIs rise, but the reality is that once cities extend hours of alcohol service it’s highly unlikely that closing times would be rolled back. The beverage and hospitality industries would be lobbying hard to stop cities from returning to a 2:00 am closing time. And it seems odd to call this a “pilot program” when the cities included account for well over ten percent of the State’s population. (The bill would cover Cathedral City, Coachella, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palm Springs, Sacramento, San Francisco, and
If you want to take a look at the bill yourself, here’s the link.
And if you want to talk to your State rep about this, you can follow this link for contact info.
On Tuesday the LA County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a massive make-over of the LACMA campus. This was a major mistake. There’s been a lot of debate about the aesthetic quality of architect Peter Zumthor’s latest design, but really that’s a secondary issue. LACMA is a public institution and its primary purpose is to serve the public. I’m not the only one who feels that the project as proposed fails to accomplish that goal.
I wrote about the drawbacks to the plan a couple days ago, so I won’t go through it all again, but one of the main concerns is that LACMA is getting ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create a new building with 10% less exhibition space. Does the LACMA Board really think that’s the best way to serve the public? Another serious problem with the new structure is that it doesn’t contain office space for most staff members, including curatorial staff. The museum will be renting space in a building across the street. Separating the staff from the exhibition space is a foolish and potentially costly move. How can anybody think this is a good idea?
To those who are angry about the loss of exhibition space, LACMA Director Michael Govan has said he wants to get away from the traditional idea of what a museum is. Rather than expecting people from all over LA County to come to the Wilshire District to look at art, Govan has proposed bringing the museum to the people by having LACMA open new spaces in various communities. Here are a couple paragraphs from the story in the LA Times….
Supervisor Kathryn Barger praised LACMA Director Michael Govan, who hopes to offset the loss of gallery space in the new building with future satellite locations in South Los Angeles and elsewhere.
“You really do have a vision, and it’s not just about four walls,” Barger said, later adding: “We believe it’s important to give exposure to people who wouldn’t otherwise have it.”
In theory this is a great idea. We shouldn’t keep clinging to old ideas about what a museum is, and the notion of creating different spaces in LA’s communities to engage the public directly makes perfect sense. But where’s the proposal for these satellite locations? What’s the budget? What’s the timetable? How is it going to happen?
Various sources reported that Govan pitched this idea in January 2018, and at the time he talked about the possibility of opening five different spaces anywhere between South LA and the Valley. What’s happened since then? Well, that same month the LA City Council approved an agreement which would allow the Department of Recreation & Parks to lease LACMA space at South Los Angeles Wetlands Park. The idea was that LACMA would gradually renovate an existing building at the same time it was providing programming in the park. Here’s an excerpt from the agreement.
LACMA proposes to begin providing museum programming services at designated recreation centers near the South LA Wetlands Park within six months of the execution of the Lease while the repair and retrofit work is being conducted in Building 71. Programming at the Park will be provided within eighteen (18) months of the execution of the Lease.
The LA City Council approved the lease in January 2018. The agreement says LACMA would start providing programming near the park within six months and that programming at the park would begin within 18 months. I looked all over the net. I looked at the Rec & Parks web site. I looked at the LACMA web site. I didn’t find anything about art-related activities provided by the museum anywhere near South LA Wetlands Park. The 18 month period will expire in July of this year. Will LACMA be providing programming at the park beginning in July?
What about the other locations? In July 2018 it was reported that LACMA had opened a small gallery at an elementary school near Westlake/MacArthur Park, but at that time it wasn’t yet open on weekends. Another site that’s been mentioned is Magic Johnson Park in South LA, but an article published in the LA Sentinel last month merely said that LACMA was “considering” a location there.
In other words, there is no plan in place. There are no details. Govan’s idea of bringing the museum to the people sounds good, but at this point it’s all up in the air. The locations haven’t been determined, there’s no timetable, and apparently no budget. This last part is especially concerning. Since fundraising for the new Wilshire campus has slowed, it’s hard to believe donors will be rushing forward with millions to fund this new idea of off-site locations. To say that the loss of exhibition space in the proposed building will be offset by new satellite locations without offering any concrete plan for how that’s going to happen is pathetic. Could some satellite spaces open in time? Possibly. But it’s also possible none of them will open.
I can’t believe anybody could buy this half-baked idea. But apparently the Board of Supervisors thought it all sounded great. You can read the write-up in the Times here.
A cold December night. Or cold for LA, anyway. Probably around sixty degrees. I got off the subway at Hollywood and Vine. When I reached the second level of the station I heard this delicate music somewhere nearby. As I got closer to the next escalator, I realized that someone behind me was playing an instrument that sounded like a harp. They seemed to be walking just a few feet behind me. I didn’t recognize a melody. Just these lovely, short, phrases that sounded something like snow falling.
As I got to the last escalator leading up to Hollywood Blvd., I caught the scent of the incense from the vendor who’s usually selling his wares there. It was so cool. This lovely music following me up to the street, and this sweet perfume hanging in the air. I decided I had to say something to whoever it was, so I turned around. It was a guy who might have been in his twenties holding a very small guitar. I said something like….,
“That’s very cool. Thanks.”
I think he said,
“Thanks. Have a good day.”
Then I was at street level, so I turned around and walked off into the December night.
Last week was a brutal one for California. Fires have been blazing up and down the State. In Southern California the Woolsey Fire hit Los Angeles and Ventura counties, forcing evacuations in Malibu, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks. Lives have been lost. Homes have been burned.
In recent years these blazes have become more frequent and more destructive. And while climate change is certainly a factor, there’s another issue that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves.
We keep building in fire-prone areas. On November 14 the LA Times ran a piece by Bettina Boxall highlighting the fact that cities continue to approve projects in places that are at high risk for fires. Boxall quotes Char Miller, Director of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College.
“Why is it that at the county, city, town level, we have repeatedly green-lit development in areas that we know are fire zones?”
Earlier this week, when everyone was wondering how long the fires would burn and what communities were at risk, I recalled a hearing I attended a couple years ago. In 2016 the City Planning Commission greenlighted a project called The Vineyards in Porter Ranch which was comprised of a shopping center, a hotel, office space and over 200 residential units. I wondered what had happened since, and did a search on the net. I found this story on Curbed saying that they’d broken ground in June 2017.
It seemed to me I’d heard about blazes threatening the Porter Ranch area. I wondered if the project site was at risk for fire, so I went to ZIMAS, the City’s zoning information site. Clicking on the parcel, I found that the City of LA recognizes it as a “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone”.
So what does this actually mean? Does it mean development is prohibited? No. When you click on the words “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone”, a text box pops up containing this paragraph.
Lands designated by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department pursuant to Government Code 51178 that were identified and recommended to local agencies by the Director of Forestry and Fire Protection based on criteria that includes fuel loading, slope, fire weather, and other relevant factors. These areas must comply with the Brush Clearance Requirements of the Fire Code. The Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (VHFHSZ) was first established in the City of Los Angeles in 1999 and replaced the older “Mountain Fire District” and “Buffer Zone.”
In other words, the only requirement is compliance with LAFC regulations regarding brush clearance. So is there really any danger from fires in Porter Ranch?
Actually, yeah, there is.
A search using the words “Porter Ranch Fire” turned up a lot of results. In August of this year there was a small fire that the LAFD quickly snuffed out.
Another small blaze broke out last December.
NBC reported that 15 acres burned in 2016.
And back in 2008 the Sesnon Fire, AKA the Porter Ranch Fire, burned over 22 square miles.
As the Woolsey Fire burned this last week, ABC reported that area residents were worried about their safety.
I’d be worried, too. In spite of the fact that the City of LA recognizes this as an area at high risk for fires, the Department of City Planning (DCP) doesn’t seem to have had any problem with approving new construction there. In addition to 266 apartments, The Vineyards includes a hotel with 100 rooms and a Kaiser medical office building. And this is one of the last open tracts in an area that has seen rapid growth since the 90s. In 2008 the DCP estimated the population was around 30,000. I wonder how quickly they’ll be able to evacuate all those people if the area is threatened by fire? Might be especially difficult at rush hour. I’ve heard traffic on Rinaldi gets pretty bad.
As California’s changing climate leads to hotter temperatures and drier vegetation, experts predict fires will become more frequent and more destructive. Why do we keep building in areas that are at risk of burning? Why do we keep putting people in harm’s way?
After putting up this post, I ran across an excellent article by Emily Guerin on the same subject. She asks a lot of good questions, and gets some disturbing answers. Check it out.
The California Legislature has sunk to a new low. At the end of this year’s legislative session they voted to approve SB-1250, which removes the requirement that California legislators live in the district they represent. Basically the bill says that anyone could be elected to represent a district as long as they maintain a residence there. In other words, a politician could live in Beverly Hills, but run to represent San Joaquin County as long as they rented an apartment there. And according to the text of SB-1250, this applies for both “The domicile of a Member of the Legislature or a Representative in the Congress of the United States….”
The implications of this are staggering. This means that any corporate-backed flunky could represent a California district even if they only flew in to campaign there. This means that stooges with enough PAC money behind them could buy themselves a seat in the legislature. And what’s even more scary is the fact that only a handful of legislators voted against this sleazy scam.
The Governor has not signed this bill yet. We need to flood Brown’s office with calls telling him to veto this assault on democracy.
On Monday, September 10, first thing in the morning, please call Governor Brown and tell him to veto SB-1250.
Phone: (916) 445-2841
If you can’t call, be sure to send an e-mail.
And the second thing you should do is find out if your reps in the State Senate and Assembly voted for or against. Here’s the voting record.
If you don’t know who your reps are, use this link to find out.
If your reps voted to oppose this bill, call them and thank them. If they voted to approve it, don’t be shy about letting them know how you feel.
Here’s an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle that lays it all out.
LA’s sidewalks are in really bad shape, and this poses safety risks for anyone who uses them.
LA’s urban forest is shrinking rapidly, and this poses health risks for anyone who relies on air and water to survive.
We need to address both of these problems, but it’s going to be a real challenge.
The City’s sidewalks have been in such bad shape for so long that in 2010 a class action lawsuit was filed, Willits vs. City of Los Angeles. In 2016 the City finalized a settlement which will require it to spend about $1.37 billion over the next 30 years to remove barriers to access for pedestrians. One of the items high on the list is repairing sidewalks that have been ruptured by tree roots.
At the same time, LA’s urban forest has been declining for years, and unless things change, it will continue to decline for years to come. There are a number of reasons for this, including new residential development, a drier climate, and insect infestations.
The City could also potentially remove thousands of trees in its efforts to repair sidewalks, and this will only hasten the decline of our urban forest. This is a serious threat, because the tree canopy is crucial to the City’s ecosystems. Trees clean our air, help capture stormwater, and keep neighborhoods cool. If you think the heat is intense now, remember that climate scientists project that LA is only going to get hotter over the next few decades. Our tree canopy will play a major role in keeping the city cool.
As part of the Sidewalk Repair Program (SRP), the City is preparing to cut down 18 mature trees on the 1200 block of North Cherokee. It could happen any day. And the problem with this is that the City hasn’t completed the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the SRP. The EIR will outline alternatives to removal, impose standards for tree replacement if removal is necessary, and define the requirements for maintenance and watering to insure new trees survive.
The City acknowledges that they have to do an EIR, and they’ve already started to work on it. But now, without even having released a draft version, they’re going ahead and cutting down trees. In other words, they’re rushing forward with the removal of trees, even though they know full well the damage it will do to our environment.
Why is Eric Garcetti allowing this? How many times has the Mayor claimed that he’s championing sustainability? How many times has he talked about the importance of expanding our urban forest? Now the City is ready to start cutting down trees under the SRP, without even completing the EIR, and the Mayor’s Office is dead silent on the issue.
We can repair our sidewalks and we can grow our urban forest, but we need to plan to make sure we do the job right. We need to finish the EIR. We need to protect our tree canopy. The stakes are high. We can’t afford to blow it.
Does the Mayor really care about creating a sustainable LA? Or are his promises just more empty words? Maybe we should ask his Chief Sustainability Officer, Lauren Faber O’ Connor? Why not give Ms. Faber O’ Connor a call and ask why the City is cutting down trees for sidewalk repair without even completing the EIR.
Lauren Faber O’ Connor, Chief Sustainability Officer
And you can show your support for LA’s urban forest by attending a vigil/protest on Wednesday night. Here are the details….
1200 Block of North Cherokee, Hollywood
Three blocks east of Highland, between Fountain and Lexington
Wednesday, August 1 at 8:00 pm