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"Hispanics with shaved heads"

The LA Times buys into the racial profiling ways of a spokesman yet again:

Investigators described the suspects as two male Hispanics with shaved heads.

Oooohhhh...Hispanics. With shaved heads.

Just like Latinos in chemo have.

Some who read this blog may relish the fact that the Times reported this salient detail about the shooting of an officer. But the fact that the perps are "Hispanic males with shaved heads" is not at all helpful to you, me, or any other reader sincerely interested in solving this crime.

We can't use this description to help solve this crime.

So leave it out of your story.


Let's look at this awful crime for what it is, and ponder the kinds of questions the three reporters at the Times forgot to ask when they so dutifully reported what race and hairstyle the perps were.

I saw four Latinos with shaved heads studying in the Los Feliz Library today, and two more walking home. Am I supposed to think that all these might be suspects?

And then there was this:
  • "'We will find you and bring you to justice,' said Paul M. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League."

I would submit that such rhetoric does not protect police as well as it could. Nevertheless, is it appropriate rhetoric for the Times to quote in these circumstances? Or is that a nostalgic war-on-terror impersonation from days gone by?

How about, "The police spokesmen promised the family and the public that special effort would be brought to bear, and the assailants would be found." Wouldn't that work just as well?

We have seen scribes resort to this kind of war-on-terror rhetoric about Hollenbeck before, even if denuded of racial profiling; in fact, CNN's Anderson Cooper published an Orange Alert's worth of it last November:

ANDERSON COOPER: "Think of it as domestic terrorism, armed gangs traumatizing entire communities and it is spreading in cities both large and small....With that, CNN PRESENTS "Homicide in Hollenbeck."


Of course, our finest men and women will bring the perps to justice. They should; they must; and we are as hopeful that they do so as we are for the health of the officer.

But what if the war-on-terror rhetoric and the racial profiling were ironically feeding the violence? As we have learned, so painfully, that it does on an international level?

Spokespeople should lose the racial profiling and the chest thumping and failed war-on-terror rhetoric when addressing the media. At this post-racial point, it's really gratiutous, even grating.

And so should the kids in the newsroom on Spring Street.

The Times reporters here have found a way to link Latinos with shaved heads to acts of domestic terror. That is wrong; the editors should not indulge any spokesperson who engages in racial profiling of suspects, especially when it's linked to terror-baiting rhetoric.

Stay with the real story. Report the facts, and lose the war-on-terror rhetoric, and lose the racial profiling. Our City doesn't need it.


If you can believe it, yesterday the jurassic Mercedes was subjected to this route: Los Feliz to Downtown. To Sunland Tujunga. To Calabasas. To Cedars. To Culver City. To Playa Del Rey. Back to Cedars. Back to Calabasas. Back to Sunland Tujunga. And finally home. 171 miles in all...

I took many photos of many curiosities along the way. But probably the best was in Playa Del Rey, including the street sign for my very favorite street name in Los Angeles: Argonaut. One short block of pure Street Bureau genius...

Below, at the Motion Picture and Television home in Calabasas, a one-sheet for The Stunt Man. In Spanish.

And what's up with Ventura Boulevard anyway? I just don't see these kinds of signs anywhere else...

Afternoon Stunt

JM, Bike Stunt, 1.29.09

What I like best: the rhythm of the palm trees.

Endorsing Nick left and right

Marc Cooper endorses Nick Patsaouras for City Controller.

Politics often flip at the local level. Who's for tax-cutting enterprise zones? It's usually inner city liberals. Who's for restricting free-market growth in a neighborhood? Often it's blue haired Republicans. Local politics make for strange bedfellows.

Cooper says Patsaouras isn't a politician at all. Wasn't that the early line on Obama?

Federal Attorney trades real investigation for iffy Catholic witchhunt

It shouldn't be a surprise to learn that LA's top US Attorney, Thomas O'Brien, is seeking new uses of laws to persecute old and even dead Catholics. This fact that doesn't seem to bother Times editors either, who treat a leaked "scoop" from the Attorney's office as Catholic-bashing business as usual this morning.

You often have to go out of town to find real journalism. The New York Times, and Senator Diane Feinstein, noted last year when O'Brien, a Bush appointee, suddenly rearranged the chairs in the US Attorney's Office when the Feds seemed to be closing in on Republican Rep Jerry Lewis, named by as one of the top twenty corrupt clowns in Congress by a Congressional watchdog group. Lewis has also been called one of the most corrupt in Congress by Rolling Stone.

But the LA Times and the Fed's local office have generally given Lewis a pass since O'Brien scrambled the investigation, and fixed their sights on a far more Democratic target (Mahony gave the invocation at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles). While media and judicial inquiry into Republican Jerry Lewis's conduct has all but dried up, the local former fishwrap of record has found yet more room and resources to devote to yet another front-page, above-the-fold Catholic basher this morning.

The Times has been passing off old-news Catholic abuse stories as fresh for six years now, during which its circulation has dropped steadily. Though there are two million Catholics in Los Angeles, it is thought that only a few dozen subscribe to the paper.

Not as lucky as Billy...

JM, Homeless, Second Street Tunnel, 12.18.07

JM, Homeless under Hyperion, 12.21.07

JM, Homeless, CSI Architects, Westwood, 1.25.08

Note: City votes to spend $42 million on environment for Billy, the Zoo's elephant, even though animal rights activists say they'll make better home for him.

The Lone Crowded Field

For this election, it's LA's Westside Council District 5--LA's richest, whitest, most congested, most Levantine, least Latino Council district. This is your slate:
  • Adeena Bleich
  • Paul Koretz
  • Ron Galperin
  • David Vahedi
  • Robert Schwartz
  • Robyn Ritter Simon
David Vahedi, who ran against Weiss in 2005, has been featured at WestLAOnline. Adeena Bleich did an interview for the Jewish Journal last summer. Ron Galperin's website is here. At his own website, Paul Koretz openly admits to a bit of carpetbagging to run for this seat. Robert Schwartz, an attorney unlikely to finish in the money, has lived in the District over twenty years. Robyn Ritter Simon has an interview up on YouTube, here it is:

LAist published piece by company spokesman without disclosure

Eric Richardson's blogdowntown on Monday noted that LAist published a promotional piece by Evo company spokesman Jack Skelley without any disclosure:

In a guest story on LAist today titled "Urban Design: A Tale of Two Downtowns," Jack Skelley paints a comparison between two Downtown development projects...The problem? Skelley's a spokesman for the Evo development, and the piece includes no mention of his conflict of interest.
In comments, LAist editor Zach Behrens takes "full responsibility" for the error.

The G Word

They toss it about freely, those still drawing salaries in print: the word "gadfly." Rick Orlov uses it. Patt Morrison uses it. Marc Cooper used it. Usually, they use it to describe Zuma Dogg. Or sometimes it's (ailing) Brady Westwater. And Walter Moore, who has only sidestepped it by raising $200,000, seems to duck the G-word these days, still doesn't earn anything beyond "Lyndon LaRouche" status from the Mayor's office.

But really, with Council voting 12-zip on nearly everything, and up to ninety percent of the electorate unable to name the date of the next city election, who isn't a political gadfly in Los Angeles?

A Councilmember's media deputy recently told me, "Sorry, the Councilmember doesn't read the Times op-ed page anymore." Does that mean the editor's a gadfly? Everywhere I go in LA, more people know the name Zuma Dogg than the name of any local editor.

I don't use this word to describe the prophets who are so unwelcome in our own chamber. I wish other local scribes would stop as well, and editors would begin to strike it from copy. Everyone seems to want an alternative to City Hall politics; those who do should also lend a little more dignity to those brave enough to stand before us and denounce what we all see.


JM, Winter, Atwater, 1.26.09

really, don't bother clicking to enlarge

U and I

Get awayyy...

The master of the suburban adultery set piece, noted psoriatic author John Updike, has passed on. Lots at the NYTimes artsbeat. The LA Times' David Ulin is quoted at jacket copy, as well as some very thinly disguised damnation with faint praise by Carolyn Kellogg. (I'm only aware of four Rabbit novels total, but the post says there are five; am I missing one?)

But Updike's best obituary will ever remain Nicholson Baker's U and I, a ceaselessly memorable personal account, low on scholarship and high on pith, of a then-fledgling author's awestruck interanimation with an "established" American author of a time when such monsters were possible.

Billboard advertiser blames politicians for billboards

JM, Street Level No. 19, 9.13.07

In yet another circus of situational ethics downtown, the Times also editorializes about billboard blight this morning, without really mentioning either billboard prohibitionist Dennis Hathaway or its own predisposition for advertising on big ol' signs. And again, after decades of billboard advertising, the former fishwrap of record points the finger at someone else.

A reader notes that "The LA Times is on a crusade to increase their advertising presence at the expense of the smaller outdoor advertising companies..."

You may recall that the Times itself began advertising on Clear Channel digital billboards in March of last year.

The Mayor tweets...

Noticed this tweet the other day from our abundantly anglophone Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa:

Looking forward to an Historic Inauguration Day...

Really? Our Mayor wrote that?

Here's a good discussion on that affected construction:

The stylebook of the London Times calls for an hotel, an historic and an heroic. But, remember, that's British English.

H.W. Fowler (writing in British English and, near as I can tell, about the same time as Baker) says an was "formerly usual before an accented syllable beginning with h," citing an historian, an hotel, an hysterical scene, an hereditary title and an habitual offender. He continues: "But now that the h in such words is pronounced the distinction has become anomalous and will no doubt disappear in time. Meantime speakers who like to say an should not try to have it both ways by aspirating the h."

Perish the thought that our Mayor might have it both ways.

Interviewing candidates "veers toward pointlessness," Times says

Get this: after squandering five years of newsroom resources on pointlessly retaliatory stories such as Doug Dowie and Anthony Pellicano, as well as alienating almost all of LA's Catholics (a formerly sizable subscriber population), the Times spends a lot of editorial space this morning washing its own hands of culpability in the fact that there aren't better choices for local civic offices.

In an editorial ironically entitled "Get Ready for March 3," the former fishwrap of record opines:

The Times' editorial board interviews and examines candidates and endorses those we believe are the best. But in local elections, the exercise veers toward pointlessness.
I know of one other downtown institution that is veering towards pointlessness.

Blue Skies Sunshine

JM, Blue Skies Sunshine: Atwater, 1.25.09

click image to enlarge


Measure B No effort sandbagged by protocol concerns


UPDATE: Daily News Sunday ed regarding Measure B says "[i]t's appalling that city leaders pushed to get a measure on the ballot without saying or knowing how much it's going to cost Angelenos."

Activist Saturday at LACC with the Alliance of Neighborhood Councils got off with a straight start out of the blocks. Though Delgadillo was a no-show, he wasn't needed after Eric Garcetti, fresh back from Washington (get used to that phrase) and billboard prohibitionist Dennis Hathaway told the Alliance of Neighborhood Councils to distinguish not so much between, say, supergraphics and signage, but between onsite and offsite billboards as the law now is obliged to. The City's reps guessed that the short billboard moratorium, in place since December 26, may be extended. By the time Rocky's surrogate showed, you almost believed the City Attorney's Office was working on behalf of the people. It would be easier to believe had not Rocky himself pocketed the billboard lobby when defeating Feuer in his first run for City Attorney.

But then, when the shifting DWP committees met, waters muddied. CityWatch exec ed Ken Draper, editor of the largest web local news digest in the City, had thrown a wrench into the DWP MOU committee machine with a CityWatch article that wondered aloud if Advocacy was an appropriate function of Understanding. The committee, after hemming and hawing, was obliged to formulate a DWP Advocacy Committee, which cost the No on B sympathizers on the MOU committee painful organizing time.

Thirty-nine days are left until the vote, and the folks against Measure B don't appear to have a Spanish-language strategy in place yet. You can bet Trujillo does.

An Activist Saturday

JM, Captivity, 1.21.08

Today is a good day on community activist fronts. The Alliance of Neighborhood Councils conducts a day devoted to billboards and city planning, and three key players will be there. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Faculty Lounge at LACC. The faculty lounge is near the south (Vermont) end of campus.

Immediately following will be Ron Kaye's SLAP group, devoting some special time to Prop B, the Solar Initiative. That group will meet immediately following the Alliance event, around noon.

Cortines backs off of teacher layoffs

A week after Ray Cortines sent home with 685,000 students a letter in English and Spanish stating that "Your child may lose a favorite teacher," the supe of the District has backed off the threat, the Times reports.

EARLIER: Cortines flashes the knife (January 13)

LA, Real and Reliquary

It's a tale of two Cities.

In the City of the past, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles tries to put some ersatz political influence up for sale at USC Sunday.

The JFed's conference is hilariously entitled "Return to Passion: Strategies for a Better Tomorrow." And who better to populate such than the usual suspects who are trying so hard to hold onto the past and to make the future just like it only moreso?

Among the shopworn names: the Mayor, Cecelia Estolano of the developer-doormat CRA, Tom Hayden from two lifetimes ago, AJ Duffy of the cranky stegosaurus known as the UTLA, Marlene Canter who's retiring from the LAUSD Board, the Mayor's two best kleptocratic pointmen, Thomas Saenz his General Counsel and David Nahai, his fee-hiking DWP chief.

Yes, LA's JFed thinks that these cronic kleptocratic culprits are just the people to talk about "a better tomorrow." And just to prove that when they say they want to raise your fees they mean it, for a whole day of press-release-level infomercial, it will only cost you $75 to say you were there.

But in the other City--the real City where you and I live, there's a different kind of event.


If you would like to watch the real future of the City of Los Angeles unfold this weekend, ditch the reliquary parcel-tax pimps at USC and go the Alliance of Neighborhood Council meeting at LACC on Saturday, starting at 9:30. This unlikely pack of angry bluehairs, midlife spinsters, urbanist gadflies (that's how the USC panelists want to think of them, anyway), and, yes, community organizers have forced the power-elite's hands on LA's billboard policy recently. And none other than Council Prez Eric Garcetti and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo are obliged to be on hand to explain themselves---along with the City's top billboard prohibitionist, Dennis Hathaway.

Unlike the JFed's five-hour commercial for the Mayor's office, the Alliance's meetup is a Real Political Event.

I know which event I'm going to.

$5000 a unit

When the Mayor talks about housing the homeless, he talks about spending about $250,000 a unit, and as a consequence talks about housing a fraction of a fraction of them.

Here's microhousing for $5000 a unit.

I've written before about housing the homeless in yurts as soon as possible. The interest in microhousing such as yurts of a few years back has led to the $5,000 house of today.

But even back then, if you had framed the question like this:

"Would you rather sleep somewhere starting tonight, or wait five years out in the cold for a 1-in-1,000 shot at an affordable unit?"

...we would have seen the question of "dignity" soon forgotten.

The Mayor needs to get specific; the rivals need to work together

Patt Morrison said today in an op-ed at former fishwrap of record that the Mayor needs to debate his rival pack. I disagree, as almost all the candidates in the rival pack agree on at least a few top points: one, that they are running because print media cover local issues inadequately, and two, that the Mayor's affordable housing programs are a sham.

The Mayor has indulged too much development while devoting far too much of his time to various affordable housing schemes, and none of them have offered true social policy at all; in fact, they have all turned affordable housing into a lottery, as we saw again last week at a new complex in Hollywood. If the City is being asked to buy into four more years of such efforts, the City should hear from the Mayor on what he specifically wants to accomplish with affordable housing. Then, we can measure results.

The Mayor's opposition should celebrate the common ground that exists amongst themselves, and post questions to the Mayor's office as a group. They are already among the City's best watchdogs, and mostly driven to run because they have questions that the media answer inadequately. The pack of rivals would garner more media attention, and force the Mayor to answer questions that print media are reluctant to pose to him, if they worked a little better together.

Dead GOP Mayor shows what McCain/Palin might have been...

JM, Meter this, Chick, Rowena, 1.21.09

Judging from this graf, I think all that summer Palin-boosting has taken its toll over at MayorSam:

Following the drama and storming of the Bastille in San Fernando where voters recently outsted two longtime Council members Mayor and school board candidate Nury Perez was replaced in the Mayor's seat by Council Member Steven Veres. Martinez has asked for a two month leave of absence, presumedly for maternity leave, further adding additional distractions to her campaign to seek the School Board seat of Julie Korenstein, a part time position that pays nearly $200,000 per year.

No, it's not Perez, it's Martinez. And no, LAUSD board salary's aren't close to $200,000--in fact, they aren't really close to $100,000.

(And for the record, this is Nury Martinez's site, and this is Nury Perez's.)

Yes, yesterday, yet another tiresome anony-post appeared over there that did look suspiciously drawn from an idea I laid down at that site almost a year ago, when I was its liberal fig leaf. But no, such "borrowings" don't rankle; indeed, lots of people cop what they find here too, and some even draw salaries in so doing, and I'm only too glad to see ideas spread virally.

But when a purportedly political site starts mentioning Britney and Fed-Ex gratuitously, well, you can only make bad guesses about the direction of its traffic, and understand why they're trying to take a stab with another ranting, wannbe-rankling anonyblogger.

But I would like to see the site, Republican stronghold though it may be, buckle down for a few minutes, make a few real phone calls, and return to political relevance; LA still needs a tabloid, and that site---helas!---is still the closest thing.

UPDATE: the site gets far sturdier on the Chick vehicle audit.

Denève's big weekend

This weekend will be a much-anticipated one at the LA Phil starting tomorrow night, when Stéphane Denève conducts Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff. The French-born maestro, now at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, was young enough to be of appeal to many orchestras, including our own, when settling on the Scots.

The Dumbarton Oaks Concerto in E-flat has a special place in French repertoire. First conducted by Nadia Boulanger when Stravinsky himself fell too ill, it interanimates with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 significantly.

The Rachmaninoff, his last work, includes an alto sax in the orchestration. The Khachaturian might even inspire a few Saturday-night Soviets to put away their Blackberries for a while.

I'll have a review up at LA Opus, where Rodney Punt and I try vainly to keep up, sometime Friday.

"The lines of tribe shall soon dissolve"

MSM picked up the simple word "patchwork" and approved. I thought the inclusion of the word "nonbelievers" was more radical and promising. But after a day, in that densely packed portion of the Inauguration speech, I think RJ Eskow is right in sifting "the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve" as the key nugget.
He was offering e pluribus unum as it had originally been intended: not merely as a historical fact, but as a model for future human governance....

For those who think this kind of rhetoric is a platitude, a no-brainer, "Mom and apple pie," think again: The rhetoric of tribe is being used today in every corner of the planet to divide, conquer, and destroy. Tribalism is the curse that can destroy humanity. So far, the 21st Century has been no better than the century before it in terms of our ability to overcome our heritage of tribal division....
Good commentary from a guy I haven't seen in a while but hope to more this year.

Crowds and Power

More here.

Daily News to Sunland Tujunga: now finish it

This is a very good editorial in today's Daily News regarding post-orange Sunland Tujunga, very progressive in spirit:
Sunland-Tujunga community leaders have already begun the work. They surveyed their neighbors and hope to develop a kind of town center, with a national retailer, such as a Target or a Kohl's, alongside restaurants and smaller shops. They've consulted two architects to see whether this vision could become a reality, and the feedback so far is generally positive.

However, community activists will have to work fast and smart.

True on the whole. While developer-doormat Gail Goldberg shops around her various "community" plans in that fake Bush-era way, saying one thing but intending another, the community of Sunland Tujunga now stands poised with enough political power to issue its own de facto permits, and endorse the kind of development it wants at the site on Foothill north of Commerce.

Cortines video sends local No-Doz sales through roof

LAUSD Superintendent Ray Cortines has placed on the District's website a twenty-seven minute video of his plan for the District and the state of the District "today," in times he calls "interesting."

They sure are. To inspire educators everywhere, the bulk of the time goes to the District's CFO Megan Reilly, and District COO David Holmquist.

The school district is contemplating laying off 2,300 teachers. However, it easily can marshal the resources to produce a twenty-seven minute financial and organizational video discussion.


Breathing Room

JM, For spacious skies, 1.20.09

Does today look any different to you? Feel any different?

The era of irresponsibility was first glimpsed, I think, at the Clarence Thomas hearings. The payback came in the Lewinsky affair. The nonstop irresponsible fratboy prank that have been the Bush years gave license to be the worst that one could be, and it's not a wonder that everything is broken.

If there's an overriding feeling to today, it's one that the era of irresponsibility is over. Our binding documents will be binding again; our money worth something; our politics less tainted by vilification. There will be dead-enders, hangovers, Palinites, hypocrites, criminals still with us. But they won't be running Washington again for a while.

Inauguration Day

August 31, 2005---the day before a Category IV storm named Katrina hits New Orleans

September 27, 2001 At O’Hare International Airport, Bush advises Americans on what they can do to respond to the trauma of September 11: “Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”

I just ran away from home
Now I'm going to dizz knee land
I just crashed my car again
Now I'm going to dizz knee land
I just robbed a grocery store

I'm going to dizz knee land
I just flipped off President George
I'm going to dizz knee land
I'm going to dizz knee land

I just tossed a fifth of gin
Now I'm going to dizz knee land
I just got cuffed again
I'm going to dizz knee land yeah
Shot my gun into the night

I'm going to dizz knee land
I just saw a good man die

I'm going to dizz knee land
Come on...I'm going to dizz knee land

Kicked my ass out of school
Rolled me out into the streets
Hitched a ride on a monkey's back

Headed west into the black
I'm going to dizz knee land

--Dada, Dizz Knee Land

Today and tomorrow's best DC cocktail: the Capitol 75

A cocktail they're serving on this MLK Day at a Presidential Inauguration Gala is a Bombay Sapphire special concoction, the Capitol 75. This is a variant of one of our very favorite cocktails, the French 75.

Here's the recipe as the Sapphire people present it:
  • 3/4 oz Bombay Sapphire gin
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot of sugar syrup
  • top with Martini & Rossi Prosecco
  • Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into champagne glass, then top with champagne and lightly stir.
  • Garnish with a cherry.

If you want my opinion---and I've been flattered to find that some people actually do---this is a fairly sensible drink both for today and tomorrow alike. Bubbly is essential; you can stick to the Prosecco if you like, which is frizzante, that is to say, semi-sparkling, rather than spumante (fully bubbly), an admirable restraint for somber yet festive times. The Martini & Rossi Prosecco, in fact, doesn't pop off overly festively; it comes with a crown cork.

The legacy of the French 75 itself---a middle artillery piece from World War I---does indeed acknowledge the fact of war.

I rarely drink Sapphire straight up or even in a martini, because I'm not a sweet gin guy. But it does make sense in any French 75 drink, which always calls for some sugar anyway, and its fabled botanicals will ensure you taste the gin.

And sure, who doesn't associate the Capitol with cherries? The Capitol 75 is a nicely done by the Bombay gin family, and if it popularizes French 75s a little more, that's a double duty well served.

If you'd like to read more on the French 75, I've done that previously too---quite a bit in fact.

LAUSD: Increasing taxes, declining enrollments

The Daily News caught on immediately that the LAUSD wants to use the state budget crisis to make another play for a parcel tax, and editorialized about it last week.

LAUSD enrollments have declined by about 50,000 students in the past five years.

How'd they do that?

Wondering at McGroarty.

Well, it's Sunland Tujunga; you knew someone would think of something. A police chopper buzzed in the air all afternoon, looking for a bad man in the Tujunga Wash; LAPD shut down Foothill, which flow-wise is a lot like Big Sur park rangers shutting down PCH. It was as though the City itself were laying one final roadblock for the community to shrug off.

But three hundred people and maybe more made it through the maze of traffic to the McGroarty Arts Center anyway for a final bluegrass, hot dog, burger and country honk celebration today, to pay their tributes to...themselves, largely, for beating the siting of a big box Home Depot store in their community.

Themselves. On this celebratatory day, the No2HomeDepot campaign leaders and local leaders alike pointed to one fact in particular over and over: that what was possible was only possible because of the special nature of the Sunland Tujunga community.

Going forward, one senses that the story will be told again. Going forward, the narrative of how it was done will be of at least some and perhaps enormous value to many groups nationwide. But whether or not the story of how Sunland Tujunga beat Home Depot will be told for politics or art, there is now a very good story out there, ready for other activist groups who might be looking for a blueprint for beating a global beheamoth when it decides to bully your backyard.

As some partygoes wandered onto the terrace of the McGroarty Center to revisit some of the voluminous press clips, others stuck to the music and the food and their day in the sun, fully aware of the fact that the real story was not to be found in the clips, but in the community itself.

NFL for LA at last?

Tuesday may be an important day for a select few in Washington DC, but it is also a big day for the 84 registered voters of the City of Industry. They'll be encharged with a decision worth billions to the City and the County.

Can't find local media on it, so you have to go to the Detroit Lions' for deets:

On Tuesday, the 84 registered voters in the City of Industry, located 15 miles east of Los Angeles, will cast votes on a bonding bill that would provide $150 million of the $800 million that billionaire developer Ed Roski is seeking to build a pro football stadium.

The City of Industry is a bizarre community that has only 84 registered voters because more than a half-century ago the city was incorporated and all of the land was zoned entirely for business purposes. The only homeowners in the area were grandfathered in. City Manager Kevin Radecki expects the bonding bill to be approved, which would further pave the way for the NFL to make a return to Los Angeles.

Previous attempts to lure the NFL back to L.A. have failed, but Roski’s company – Majestic Realty Inc. – is based in the city and he is said to have significant sway with the few voters in that area. Roski has already spent more than $8 million on the project in hopes of returning the NFL to Los Angeles...

Smart money is on Roski to...succeed, both on Tuesday and down the line.

Just what LA doesn't need...again!

LA needs more rental units like it needs another earthquake, but that isn't stopping chronic Taco Bell Tuscan developer Geoff Palmer from bringing in a lot more.

The Downtown News reports:

Despite the slumping economy and falling rental rates, his Brentwood-based company, G.H. Palmer Associates, expects to break ground on Piero II, a 335-unit apartment building at Sixth and Bixel streets, at the end of the month. The project abuts the original 225-unit Piero, which was completed in 2004.

On Friday, Jan. 23, Palmer's latest proposed Downtown project, the 670-unit Da Vinci, will have its first hearing before the city Planning Department, initiating a process that, barring any major hiccups, would allow for a 2011 groundbreaking, Palmer said via email.

If you wonder why most movements in Los Angeles are unable to get any traction, as well as why homeowners don't have any say, as well as why only 15% of the City's voters will vote in the March 3 election, as well as why nobody ever runs meaningful City Council races anymore, as well as why there is no affordable housing except by lottery, as well as why the City can even consider parcel taxes as a potential source of revenue for various pet projects, it's all for one reason: the City's out of whack owner-occupied-to-renter residential ratio.

There should be a moratorium on new rental units---we had all we needed even thirty years ago---but instead we'll watch developer doormat Gail Goldberg rubber stamp another for the Mayor.

Bud and Bud Lite

Your, er, buds at LA Taco explain the diff between Diesel and Kush to the layperson.
Diesel has long been the favorite kind bud of New York City residents, while Southern California is gaga over Kush. Very fitting given the respective high energy and mellow qualities of both herbal medications. Both strains in these cities have experienced very trendy debuts, fetching at one time over $800 an oz. each. This herb is delicious, with the oily, strong lemon-tinged smell and taste of the diesel throughout its candy-sweet exhale. The taste is perfect, smooth, and dreamy.
I hope these are bouquet descriptions of wine varietals.

Huge urban project services noted eastside taqueria

Maravilla/King Taco station.~

  • Little Tokyo/Arts District
  • Pico/Aliso
  • Mariachi Plaza
  • Soto
  • Indiana
  • Maravilla/King Taco
  • East LA Civic Center
  • Atlantic
Just kidding about one. But do get to know them; those are the stops on the Metro Gold Line Eastside spur, opening by...October 2009?

In early 2006, the six-mile spur was targeting a late-2006 debut.

So where's the affordable housing?

After 18 years of affordable housing schemes, the City of Los Angeles has less affordable housing than ever, the City's own 600-employee Housing Department admits.

Max Taves in the Weekly has the numbers:

Minus 78 percent (yes, -78%): That’s the latest massive drop in the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, slashed from $45 million in last year’s city budget to just $10 million this year.

49: That’s L.A.’s bottom-of-the-barrel “housing affordability” rank out of 50 big American cities, with San Francisco ranked last, according to a 2008 survey by San Francisco nonprofit

$962: Last year’s average cost of renting in Los Angeles, 43 percent higher than in 2000.

10,000 to 14,000: The dwellings built in each year of L.A.’s just-ended boom, mostly in dense, multistory, “luxury” complexes.

330: The number of “affordable units” constructed each year, on average, during the same period, from 2003 to 2006.

7,369: The number of affordable units lost during the same period, mostly through conversions to luxury units but also demolitions related to new housing.

13,713: The net number of rent-controlled apartments and houses lost between 2001 and 2007 to demolition sparked by new construction and, even more often, to condo conversions sparked by the housing bubble’s rush to home ownership.

I'm not worried about the top figure, because the fund mostly goes to boondoggles anyway. But when you compare the pol's rhetoric to the social reality, you see that Los Angeles has simply squandered 18 years on affordable housing programs to no result whatsoever.

Taves also examines the vague and vaguely fraudulent Carol Schatz affordable housing plan I mentioned earlier.

The Housing Department will of course use its stats to try to validate more programs. The only question scribes need to ask anyone involved in an affordable housing plan is, "Will this plan truly have an across-the-board impact on the cost of housing in the City?" None ever do; affordable housing is largely larceny in the guise of social policy.

Solar Prop B cash backers are unions, not environmentalists

David Zahniser gave opponents of solar Prop B more credibility this morning, when he reported the stunning extent to which the City's electrical union has backed the plan.
The campaign for a new solar energy ballot measure in Los Angeles has raised more than $267,000, nearly two-thirds of it from groups affiliated with the union that represents Department of Water and Power employees, according to a report released Wednesday.
Not the kind of environmental backing you like to see at the top of such a fundraising list. Valley activist and Daily News editor emeritus Ron Kaye calls Prop B "a blank check for City Hall corruption that will send rates soaring, create more jobs in China than L.A. and lead to less solar energy than promised."

B will b on the March 3 City ballot.

Shrinking to greatness

No coincidence: the UC system wants to cut 2,300 frosh enrollments next year, and your local micromegalomanic school district, the LAUSD, wants to cut provisionally 2,300 teachers.

Here in LA, density hawks like your Mayor, Gail Goldberg, and Eric Garcetti still want growth, even while the ability to educate whatever growth happens is shrinking---rapidly.

This is not a billboard

Parallelling the rise of digital billboards and supergraphics, Dennis Hathaway's, now about six months old, has wide recognition now and deserves wider still. It reminds me of the nascent website; wholesale agitprop, wearing a white hat.

Cortines flashes the knife

Duffy, fulminous; photo by moi.

Sacto going this long without a budget makes for great School Board theater. New LAUSD Supe Ramon Cortines came out smiling with a dagger behind his back. The smile was seen throughout his presentation of a hundred-day plan that he calls "practicality." It emphasized doing good and the American way.

Board prez Monica Garcia asked if his plan was "bold" enough and was quickly forgotten, as the district's chief financial officer Megan Reilley then drove the dagger into teachers and property owners alike, calling her fiscal plan for coping with Sacto "flexibility."

With Office of Government Affairs wonk Santiago Jackson in tow, Ms. Reilley especially vilified Sacto Republicans as she presented a one-and-a-half year plan that calls for assessing parcel taxes, getting the State Legislature to lower the bar for passing such taxes to 55%, and makes provisions for laying off hundreds and even thousands of non-tenured positions. Also on tap are raising classroom size from 20 to 25 on K-5 students.

Naturally UTLA union prez AJ Duffy blew a gasket to a dozen media outside, asking why it's always the teachers, the firemen, etc., rather than the administrators that are on the chopping block. Even while Jackson put the "flexibility" plan's chances for passing at 75%, it didn't seem like anyone in the room was happy with it; and wait until everyone hears about another parcel tax on another Angeleno pol's wish list.

UPDATE: George Sanchez of the Daily News stuck around long enough for the 4-2 board vote to authorize Cortines' 2,300 teacher layoffs if need arises. There's your "flexibility": the right of the district to lay off as many teachers as it needs to make budget by June 30.

Fourth and Beaudry

Two satellite trucks outside as management's negotiator Ramon Cortines prepares to double on sax as School Board Superintendent; although he's only scheduled to talk about his talks with various collective bargaining units.

Perverse confession

I can't wait for the LAUSD borad meeting today.

This too shall pass

JM, Jurassic, Parked, 1.12.09

For the ninth time in eighteen years, the jurassic beater formerly known as a German Luxury Automobile passed the tough-to-beat California smog test.

With 192,000 miles, I can't say I was expecting success at all---but she did it again.

In the words of the usual Russian smog tester on Brand, "This bitch gets two more years!"

It passed on the fourth try, but with seven straight tests at the same shop, they'll do that for you, gratis.

Photo setting is a naked attempt to make Rodger Jacobs homesick for LA. I tweeted "I just passed the C-A smog, I'm going to Diz Knee Land" behind a celebratory Jim Beam.

Please also note the parking meter all but draped by jurassic rotting palm fronds.

Seattle fishwrap on the chopping block

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is up for sale, and looking for a white knight within 60 days or the axe falls on the fishwrap side. Not likely: the paper lost $11 million last year.

Via comments at Carver's Dog. The paper partners on Sundays with the Seattle Times.

Morning Eye Opener

JM, Cash register, Kaldi, 1.12.09

Most scribes are really dumb asses when it comes to career management. They go off on former employers and ransack other scribes as though they mattered just as much as the politicians and robber barons on whom they should remain focused.

That said, Marc Cooper went off on Jill Stewart at his blog. There's a lot of negative chi all around.

Let's just say I too am very disappointed that the Weekly has held onto Jill while cutting all these writers who knew the Weekly as something other than a Republican lite throwaway with sticky ink. But my disappointment is more for its politics than it is for a particular personality. If I have to express some disappointment for personality, my disappointment here is mostly with Cooper, who has a tendency to whine like an old chola when things go awry, and really let loose here with things that he probably wouldn't say about a man.

UPDATE: For different kinds of swansongs involving civilized people, refer to the Village Voice's acknowledgment of the New Yorker article on the great run the Voice has had. Or read Nat Hentoff's last article for the Voice.

Big rumble in the 'burbs

My question isn't, "How did 500 people spontaneously start fighting at Del Amo Fashion Square in Torrance?"

My question is, "How is it that this kind of thing doesn't happen every day at Del Amo Fashion Square in Torrance?"

Ushering out an era

A Density Hawk's dream: Sao Paolo, Brazil.

This morning I have a piece in the Daily News about Jane Usher's resignation from the City's Planning Commission, and about the state of urban planning in Los Angeles in general.

The piece references Ms. Usher's noisy resignation letter, the text of which first appeared for public consumption, I believe, here at LA Observed. Kevin's own radio commentary is here.

Also cited is another noisy letter from March 2008, in which Ms. Usher invited neighborhood activists to sue the City when they saw malfeasance. That letter is here at Curbed LA.

The Weekly has also been following the fiasco that is LA planning under the troika of "density hawks"---Villaraigosa, Garcetti, and developer-doormat Gail Goldberg---and their piece on Usher's resignation is here.

Steven Leigh Morris's Weekly cover story from Feb. 2008 in which we learned that Gail Goldberg couldn't even plan a cup of coffee is here.

And you might like to revisit the time that LA's top planning chief announced to a stunned neighborhood crowd that she needed GPS to get from downtown to Los Feliz here.

Snap Crackle Talk

Stay sharp.

This (Catherine Blyth's The Art of Conversation) sounds like a fair-to-meddling book
, perhaps erring on the self-help side a little too much, though it's piqued my curiosity enough to try McLuhan's page 69 trick on it the next time I'm in a bookstore.

Top red flag: as I love major and minor arcana equally well, the dangerous and the gunshy alike, I really can't believe there's any value at all into breaking down challenging conversants into categories. The greatest bores are boring because we grudgingly concede that they present the most useful facts; otherwise, we wouldn't indulge them at all. And the brashest bullies are often the very best testers of our own character. It isn't that types don't exist; it's that we need to engage all of them as something...other than...a...type.

Conversation is, far more simply, swordsmanship but with sharper weapons, and if you want to play you should at least put in the air a weapon suited to your build and age and class. And if you feel you're getting nicked more often than nicking, it won't help at all to read a book; you really owe it to yourself to spar with someone in your weapon's class as often as possible, and most preferable is someone better at it than thou.

The apple doesn't fall far...

I suppose the good news is that 92.8% of you are still employed. But 7.2% are not.

Noted: highest unemployment level in 16 years. Further noted: that would be 1992, aka the end of another Bush term of office.


One of the unemployed is Weekly theater critic Steven Leigh Morris. Some may worry about Morris; I am not, I worry more about small theater, which has, for better or worse, been Weekly-beholden for years. Morris's legions of critics often disappointed, especially when they cut out early, and also when their expectations were set against Gordon Davidson standards, but the important thing was that they tried to cover as much as possible in a city where small theater is as vital to overall cultural life as either church or state, and probably moreso in the case of church.

Small theater in LA is in fact a kind of denomination all its own: a fair number of limited equity houses easily draw more a week than their nearby Lutheran or Methodist counterparts do, and they draw audiences of considerably more fervor. The theaters on Theater Row have even found a way to pack seats on Mondays in recent years, and day-a-week hits like All About Walken have become the Rocky Horror of the zeroes. Watch the Weekly without Morris, and hope and pray; we really need it to say just as much as it ever said about this vastly underestimated cultural component of LA life: small theater.

UPDATE: another afflicted by le chômage is the redoubtable Ella Taylor. Jesus, how can you cut Morris and Taylor the same day?

Density Hawks consider using City services as blackmail for higher density

Here comes another affordable housing scheme. This one is being fronted by Carol Schatz, as Henry Cisneros and even the Mayor himself are now damaged goods.

The idea is to introduce "enterprise zones" for developers, the way the City tried (and failed) to do twenty years ago for would-be inner city enterpreneurs. Businesses now would like to blackmail neighborhoods into increasing their own density by withholding ordinary city services unless the neighborhoods play ball with them let more units in.

That may cause even more congestion than already exists, but it would also give existing viable commericial businesses a veritable license to print money.

The Times scribe manages to find...wait for it...Peter Dreier to comment.

The Devil made them do it?

Shepherd of the Hills Church, Porter Ranch

By far one of the largest attended churches here in the West Valley is Shepherd of the Hills in Porter Ranch. With a congregation numbered in the thousands, the youth population of those thousands is considerably large. Which makes it all the more surprising to read in the Daily News that four youth members of the church were busted for allegedly ripping off the Best Buy (directly across the street from the church ) of more than $6,000 worth of electronic goodies just in time for the holidays!

The icing on this Juvenile Delinquent Cake (being over 18, they will be tried as adults) is that all four suspects arrested were all intimately associated not only with the church, but with the CSUN basketball team as well.

From the Moldy Old Green Sheet (the Daily News):
Now free until their Jan. 26 arraignment, the four were identified as: Dallas Rutherford, 19, the son of pastor Dudley Rutherford and a substitute on the CSUN team; Jeffrey Braswell, son of coach Bobby Braswell; Deon Tresvant, the team's leading scorer - who is also second in steals; and Phannuel "Nana" Gbewonyo, a former high school and college basketball star who has acted in several films including Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino."
So, we have the Pastor's Kid, the Coach's Son, the Team's Golden Scorer and the Basketball Star-turned-Actor -- stone cold busted for allegedly stealing from a store ACROSS THE STREET from where their church is.

Sin vergüenza!

Arraignment for the four young men is scheduled for Jan. 26.

Home Depot faced twin pinchers: community and economy

The most remarkable thing to me about Home Depot's sudden pull-out from its Sunland Tujunga site is that the activists accomplished it without suing the City. The threat of debilitating lawsuit has long been the great Damoclean sword hanging over developer's heads, so effective at potentially tying developer's hands that even former Planning Commission President Jane Addison Usher suggested to neighborhood groups last spring that they might consider the path when observing developers skirting CEQA-triggered Environmental Impact Reports.

The fact is, however, the lively Sunland Tujunga community group was able to trigger an EIR, corporate tie-ups, and media glare even without an attorney or a lawsuit. That may be an indication to future slow-growth proponents that City Council's history over the past six months of classifying controversial developments as "ministerial" to skirt appropriate environmental review is on shaky ground.

One Councilman told me yesterday, however, that the developers he talks to are simply finding the current economic climate too tough to get enthused about pushing any hard-to-win development battles.

Whether the economic climate or community activism is more responsible for Home Depot's retreat from Sunland Tujunga is disputable; certainly the project would have gone forward without the community activism at earlier times, when the economy was better. But the fact that the community is very pleased to have fought City Hall and won is not disputable, and nor is the fact that this kind of setback for a big-box developer represents a new kind of moment for community activists, one likely to reverberate far beyond Sunland Tujunga.

Out of Town

So, you were expecting a shot of Joe Barrett?

Prop B: Kaye v. the Mayor's Goon Squad

Prop B, the usual kind of dull, mercurial ballot measure that pols slip onto ballots in hard times to snake a few dollars for the treasury and a needy partner, has taken a surprising course: is shaping up as a celebrity grudge match between Mike Trujillo and Ron Kaye. In a previous incarnation, it was Stephen Kaufman v. Ron Kaye. And nobody even knows what the measure is about yet!

What's significant about Kaye's approach is that he's able to put faces on the mayor's team; it's a different kind of strategy in local ballot measure politics.

Whatever the consequences and whatever the carnage, it's about time the City's voters, though they may not even number ten percent of the possible electorate, have faces emblazoned on meaningful ballot measures, because the Mayor's team has been using far sweeter public-service faces to promote their measures for years.

This campaign is different than previous Mayoral efforts; indeed, this time, thanks mostly to Kaye, people watching the election will become acquainted with the factions behind the measure before they become acquainted with the measure itself.

Mike Trujillo, a savvy political operative with good enough Latino connections to win him a spot on Hillary's campaign, is as the measure's campaign manager caught in the crosshairs. That's both unfortunate and hilarious. But it's important to remember that the Mayor, not Kaye, greenlighted this kind of a fight a few weeks ago, in declaring the sample ballot argument against B, which Kaye co-wrote, to be unfair. I really doubt Trujillo wanted what counsel Stephen Kaufman bargained for.

Eder on Sándor Márai

Now LAT book reviewer emeritus, Richard Eder reads and writes about what he wants. He has most recently reviewed Esther's Inheiritance, by the Hungarian expat Sándor Márai, who committed suicide in San Diego in 1989.

The English translation is another Knopf rescue; Marai is not only part of the European 20th century canon, but he is credited as being among the first to review Kafka. Unlike Kafka, however, Márai wrote in his native central European tongue, and not German.

I don't believe this book has been reviewed much in print elsewhere, though you can get a flavor for it here at the blog brain drain.

Crisp Morning

JM, Marshall High, 1.4.09

Mayor dabbles in geopolitics again

Ahead of most in his own Democratic party, the Mayor of Los Angeles will demonstrate his unflinching support for Israel's bombing and ground invasion of the Gaza strip today.

Marc Cooper, who has spent far more time abroad analyzing international issues than the Mayor, has another kind of opinion on the sustained military action: "As authentic experts in region argue (as opposed to cable TV chowder heads), the only long-time winner in this action can be the most extreme elements in the region: Syria, Hizbollah, Iran and on the Israeli side the unseemly likes of BeBe Netinyahu. How about, then, another 10-15 years of bloody brinksmanship in the region? That's the best case scenario. The worst is an Israeli follow-up attack on Iran as the possible starting gun for WWIII."

Book Review Mysteries at the Former Fishwrap of Record

David Ulin, I hear, does not like the crime and mystery fiction genre. So natch, today the local book review features the recently departed Donald Westlake as though they really cared. Of course, it's nicer to be featured whilst quick; of course, it's better to write a swansong before the bird flies south.

The continent's four or five top mystery scribes all live in LA. As Kevin notes, the NYT even located a live and kicking one today in Echo Park. With this glorious environment for mayhem, wherefore the dearth of living and breathing crime and mystery reviews at the Times? Some scribes I know are asking.

Frissons in a blitz

Bit of a toper, are we?

Graham Greene
: three homes, well protected, frissons, affairs with American wives of parliamentarians, all according to Graham Greene: A Life in Letters as reviewed in the NYT.

Just like Central Park...

JM, ESLR, 1.3.09

Ah, the urbanity! Not everything nuestra cuidad does es malo. Here's the new ped path on the east side of Silver Lake Reservoir.

The ped path on the north and west sides of the lago has been up and running for two years, and the south side has long been sidewalk.

Now you can walk or jog all the way around the reservoir and keep safe without crossing a busy street. The loop is 2 1/3 miles.

Those dog parks tucked into the southeast corner, however, still look unfit for all but the most base-born bitches. They were Jackie Goldberg's dream turned canine-nightmare. Eric's tenure has treated the Reservoir better, even if it has been chock-ful'-0'-carcinogens on occasion.

The Valley is minus a Moose Bar

"Sportsmen's Lodge is now closed." As of New Years Eve. Former LAUSD Prez Roberta Weintraub's son, Richard, a Malibu developer, acquired the 11 acre site in 2007 for $51 million. To me it's no great tragedy, although the Muddy Moose Bar will be much missed.

The enormous site is a good spot for one of those region-destroying transit-hub developments targeted to people who don't even live here that our Planning Department does so very well.

Empty Congestion

JM, Empty Pinkberry, Hyperion, 1.2.09

I was at a dinner on the westside New Year's Day, thrown by a realtor. Also present were an EIR researcher and two comedy club owners. Left early because it was the westside; we needed to return to sanity. But while I was there, I caught the drift: the westside is so purposelessly congested, and the Mayor so magnificently indifferent to this problem, that people are even ripe for listening to---Republicans.

Yes, it's come to that; even though spouting slow-growth was once a Democratic precept, the Mayor has botched LA so badly with so many awful developments that now either party could claim slow-growth as theirs. Maybe Ron Kaye should start straying further west; maybe Walter Moore should start being nice to the producers at KCRW.

New Year's Eve was spent with some postcolonial Anglo-Americans in the Barham hills. Again I caught the political drift, but this time it came in the form of a song-parody: "Old Man Bundy," sung with feeling to the tune of "Old Man River." The parodist was stuck on Bundy for an hour and a half; he composed the song in his head while trying to reach the Santa Monica Airport.

The now-contracting, once-pricey Pinkberry fad is to me expressive of the kind of city planning that the Mayor's office brought us and Council shamelessly rubber stamped over the past three years. Once elected, the Mayor's people immediately set to work developing things that only pleased the recently arrived, and that nobody who had lived here for over a decade wanted. The Mayor and his developer-doormat, Gail Goldberg, grafted much onto Los Angeles it neither wanted nor needed; but we're all stuck with the consequences now, and the westside is the most stuck part of town of all.

Pond across the pond

I'm very pleased to commence the new year with a couple of poems and a little essay at Yareah, a very provocative zine, based in Madrid, that examines classic literary currents in a postmillennial context.

My poem "Pond"--which I wrote in 1980 (!)--appears in Yareah for the first time in print anywhere, and "Adagio in F Major in a B-flat Major Opus, 67", which I wrote last year, is also there, as well as some thoughts on Ecclesiastes 3:4. It's all on p. 23 if you click the pdf page or here if you happen upon the straight html.

Yareah publishes both English and Spanish language material. They remind me a little of the Paris-based 3 a.m. magazine in its own nascent days, and I was very glad to get in there early too.

Who were you in 1980? Who were you last year? Are you someone else this year?


So you and I have our new year at last.

Only 1968 could rival this past year for awfulness. The two assassinations, the Chicago convention, the student protests, and the election of Nixon made that year nearly psychically unendurable for America, a place then, as now, seemingly beyond repair.

And yet the very next year, 1969, was the year of the moon landing, Wooodstock, the Miracle Mets, Joe Namath's Super Bowl, John and Yoko's Bed-In, the 747...

Whereas 1968 presented a political dystopia, 1969 became a cultural watershed. The next year will present one too. Especially after the Inauguration, expect: a dramatic shift from political to cultural, owing to political and economic life being so unable to satisfy the thirst for good times.

The book to read is Stephen Duncombe's Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy. And a lot of other good books, arts and culture, as the public re-acquaints itself with the idea that text and events should not merely be anterior to life, but transformational to it.