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by frazgo

Preserving Los Angeles history one building at a time

January 9, 2015 in environment, History, LA, Law, News, People, San Gabriel Valley, Social issues, Vintage

Broadway Arcade in DTLA, click to embiggen

Broadway Arcade in DTLA, click to embiggen

The good folks at Esotouric Bus Tour Adventures, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave do a lot more than give really nifty tours of the city.  They are historians with a major heart on for the city.  In the best way of course.

This weeks newsletter outlined the winners and losers in their efforts to help preserve the cities architectural history.  It outlines 25 things this year, good bad and ugly, that happened in terms of historic preservation.

The most exciting bit was the passing of city ordinance 13-1104 requiring public notification when any building more than 45 years is to be demolished.   Why does this matter?  It will give preservation groups around the city the chance to speak up and stop the destruction of those building with a history or architectural significane from being trashed in the name of progress and a new high density mixed use project.  Not all buildings need to be preserved that are that old, but many should as it is part of the texture and character of the city that shouldn’t be trashed for a new parking lot or apartment jungle.

Pic by me of the Broadway Arcade while on an iphone safari.  Click to embiggen

Archival digging: Culver City houses in 1951

January 7, 2015 in History, LA

As has been reported, well, just about everywhere, housing prices in Los Angeles are at an all-time dismal high. As a chronically underemployed academic type, I’m pretty resigned to the fact that my cats and I will be renters as long as we deign to call this fair city home. I was curious, though, about what house prices would have been like in my neighborhood, when it was first established.

I live on the very western edge of Culver City, in a neighborhood practically underneath the 405, near the Ballona Creek. (The city recently put up some banners along Sepulveda proclaiming that the neighborhood’s name is “Culver Village,” but will always and forever refer to it fondly as “Tito’s Tacos-adjacent.”) Most of the homes here are bungalows, built in the 1940s and 1950s.

After a bit of digging in a historical newspaper database, I turned a little gem – a 1951 LA times article about then-new residential developments in Sunkist Park, which I just south of the Ballona Creek. Not quite my neighborhood, but pretty close by. According to the article, developers built about 315 homes in the area, about half of which were sold before construction began. You could pick a house in one of fifteen different styles (including the super cute storybook ranch-style house pictured below), and they came pre-decorated: “early buyers have a selection of tile, wallpaper, linoleum, and paint colors,” the Times reported.

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Prices ranged from $10,777 to $11,100. Adjusted for inflation, and that would be $97,884 to $100,818 in today’s dollars – which makes current house prices seem all the more depressing!

Sunkist Park, it turns out, used to be the location of the Culver City airport, which, according to Julie Lugo Cerra, Culver City’s city historian, began operations in 1927. It closed in 1951, and the Sunkist Park housing development was built on part of the airport’s former site. I’m curious to know more about the provenance of the neighborhood’s name – was it once the site of a Sunkist citrus orchard? Did the developers (Richard Diller and Irving Kalsman, according to the Times) have a connection to Sunkist? I’m going to do a bit more digging to see what I can find, but in the meantime, if anyone knows anything else about the origins of the neighborhood, comment away!

Lost Angeles: Tara Spotting

January 4, 2015 in culver city, Entertainment, Filmmaking/Filmmakers, History, LA, Movies

Oh no: not that Tara. I’m talking about the famed fictional plantation manse from a little film back in the day whose name coincidentally rhymes with the last name of the film’s central character — O’Hara, as in Scarlett. As in “Gone With The Wind,” or GWTW, if you will.

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Yeah, that Tara.

Let me back up. I ravenously follow the Photos of Los Angeles group on Facebook, gobbling up its never-ending parade of pictures of L.A.’s distant and not-so-distant past. A few days ago this photo (at right, click 10881489_814964795228276_3288342673478902642_nto enlargify), was posted of a still from an episode of the 1950s TV series “Superman,” showing its star, George Reeves (who coincidentally had a part in GWTW) in full Clark Kent mode, on a hill back-dropped by a broad swath of our smog-inundated city. The poster, Sally Deupree, asked, “Culver City. Recognize the building in the lower left with four columns?”

I immediately recognized it as Tara — more specifically the exterior facade built for the movie, which meant Reeves was standing hat in hand on what is now a section of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park — which meant beyond him was Jefferson Boulevard, then the Ballona Creek channel and then the old Pathe Studio backlot, where so many of the exterior scenes of GWTW were realized.

In an attempt to get a past/present frame of reference (I last did that with the location of Wrigley Field’s homeplate in South Los Angeles), I went on a googlehunt for a layout of the old studio, and hit gold at the 40 Acres website with this 1940 map (click to enlargify) pinpointing the various GWTW sets on the Pathe Studio backlot, with Tara’s position indicated there on the left.

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Then, of course, for a present-day juxtaposition I google-mapped the location (click to enlargify):

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Which means basically that at the deadend of Hayden Place south of Higuera Street, somewhere around the current location of Woo Agency and Omelet you can stand on the paved-over land upon which Tara once stood, not to forget Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, and, yes, George Reeves. Cue the sweeping overture that is “Tara’s Theme”:

Hiking Fish Canyon

January 1, 2015 in environment, LA, San Gabriel Valley

2014dec05-9524The water flowing after the first rains of the season in Fish Canyon.Fish Canyon is open, and the waterfalls are flowing.
I want to write that first line in all BOLD CAPS.
Because that hasn’t been said in 30 years.

Fish Canyon, in the San Gabriel Mountains above Azusa and Duarte, used to be humming with people. Cabins were scattered along the trail and hikers posed next to the stunning triple waterfalls.

But the cabins were destroyed in one of the many fires that flash along the mountains, and then the mining company who owns the canyon, closed the entrance to the public.

But in a deal with the city of Duarte, in June of 2014 the Vulcan Materials Company opened access to the valley for the first time since it was closed in the mid-1980’s. I went on this hike in June when it first opened, and it was hot and dry, the only water standing lonely in sad dirty little pools. At the peak of the hike, where the waterfall should be, was just a towering cliff face standing bleak and empty of water in the summer sun.
But now the rains have come and the valley has come alive with the sounds and sights of tumbling, churning, splashing and falling water.

The trail up on the hillside of Fish Canyon in June of 2014.Remnants of the first rains of the season in Fish Canyon.In the summer, when everything was hot and dry, this canyon did not feel so special, but now with the falling water, it’s easy to see why it was once a haven.

It is a wonderful little river valley, with standing oaks, sticky cactus, a gurgling stream and the occasional birdcall.

But the real treat is the waterfall. It falls in three sections…. Read the rest of this entry →

See The Rose Parade Floats Up Close And Personal

December 31, 2014 in Entertainment, Holidays, LA, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal

Orange_Grove_before_Rose_Parade_2009_(3161432082)Do you watch the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day? (That’s tomorrow, FYI.) Have you wondered what those floats look like up close but have no desire to spend the night in freezing temperatures? (It’s going to get into the mid-30s tonight, that is close enough to freezing for me.) You can! It’s become a custom to view the parked floats for a few days after the parade. This year you can view them tomorrow (Jan. 1), Friday and Saturday (Jan. 2-3). It will cost you $10 per person and the money goes to the Tournament of Roses Foundation. For that entry fee, you can walk all along the floats (but no touching, please) and even talk with white jacketed volunteers who will tell you more about them.

The floats are viewable:
January 1: 1:00 – 5:00PM
January 2: 9:00 – 5:00PM
January 3: 9:00 – 5:00PM

Senior citizens and disabled persons are welcome from 7:00 – 9:00am both days for less crowded viewing.

You can buy tickets online here or you can buy tickets on-site until 3pm each day.
UPDATE: You can only buy tickets online if you plan to pick them up by 5pm TODAY at the ticketing office (See link). Otherwise, you must buy them on site.

Also, there is a Park and Ride Shuttle ($3 for those 6 years old and above) to ease in the parking situation as street parking nearby is limited.

I plan on getting there early on Saturday in warm cozy clothes.

Happy New Year!

12 Days Of Giving: spcaLA — The Results Show

December 28, 2014 in Holidays, LA, Seasonal

indexDuring the “12 Days of Giving” series here highlighting various awesome and local organizations that deserve your considerations and donations, I wrote about a 137-year-old institution near and dear to my heart (and my bank balance seeing as I work there): the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA).

FullSizeRenderIn that post, I talked about the ginormous difference between spcaLA and the ASPCA (whose heart-wrenching ads are all over the end-of-year airwaves), and at the end I threw in a twist by promising to donate to spcaLA the spare change my wife and I have collected in that half-gallon jug pictured at left (click to biggify) over the last five or so years, and also to donate it in honor of whoever came closest to the amount all that coinage added up to.

I was actually surprised I didn’t get a few more stabs at the amount, but I’m nevertheless thankful to have received the following guesses in the comments to that post:

  • Frazgo: $72.96
  • JozJozJoz: $89.27
  • LucindaMichele: $82.50
  • Jodi Kurland: $65.37
  • Alexandra Apollini: $89.23
  • BikingInLA: $97.13
  • DavidDavidDavidDavidDavid: $87.84

After the jump, find out what it took to get the coins counted, who the honoree is and how totally far off from the actual amount they all were…

Read the rest of this entry →

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Raymond Chandler did an operetta…make its production a reality

December 27, 2014 in Books, Entertainment, Events, Fictional LA, History, LA, News, People, Theatre/Stage, Vintage

ChandlerBy now most of you should know that I’m a complete and utter fool when it comes to Raymond Chandlers works. I’ve read so many of the books and loved how they incorporated Los Angeles history and places into their fictional story.

I caught wind of the operetta a few months ago at a LAVA meeting.  Its titled “The Princess and the Pedlar” and is co-authored with pianist Julian Pascal.  Sounds pretty cool and should be easy to bring to the stage, right?  Not so fast, the estate of Raymond Chandler say its insignificant and won’t grant release of the work.  It will have to wait until 2029 at the earliest when its released to the public domain.  Sad.

But all is not lost, Kim Cooper of Esotouric and author of the “The Kept Girl” isn’t taking that hard no as a final answer.  She has a petition on change.org asking the Estate to reconsider its position.  Please sign.  I have, its an important bit of the Los Angeles story by one of our own authors that deserves to be seen.

Feed The Pets!

December 27, 2014 in LA, Pets

FEED ME

FEED ME

<On the heels of Will’s spcaLA post, I wanted to give a heads-up that these locations are short on pet food this holiday season. Please consider dropping off kibble, or wet food, or dry food, to the following locations:

12910 Yukon Avenue, Hawthorne: (310) 676-1149

7700 East Spring Street, Long Beach: (562) 570-7722

5026 West Jefferson Boulevard, Los Angeles: (323) 730-5300

Because we all know that hungry pets will devour you alive in your home, if you’re elderly. That adorbs Shiba Inu you adopted for gramma? Watch. Out.

I’m just sayin’, if we feed them now, while they’re in the SPCA facilities, they’re that much less likely to eat you or someone you love.

Overexposed In Chinatown

December 24, 2014 in Downtown, Immigration, LA, Photography, Shopping

ctown5 ctown20It’s not what it sounds like, although what it sounds like sounds fun…

Nope, I was downtown the other day with a camera set to too high an exposure, on a mission to acquire a parasol.

Almost every store in Chinatown around the rectangle created by Broadway and Hill / Cottage Home and Cesar Chavez sells parasols. But there’s only one I’ve ever encountered with a wide selection of diverse and lovely paper–not polyester, same-painting-on-every-pink-and-blue-version, parasols. After three years away, I wasn’t sure the parasol store would still be in the square at the intersection on Gin Ling and Mei Lin Way (yep, all those little pedestrian streets have names…check out the map here…helps when you’re looking for a specific gallery).

ctown08To my relief, Andy’s Gift Shop was still there, across from the lucky coin-toss fountain (a miniature landscape with different mountain-hermit homes sculpted into the waterfall rock, a different pagoda or edifice you can toss a coin into for prosperity and good luck in any area of life). After meandering past the weirdly cordoned-off statue of Bruce Lee and the skatepunk dudes trying to nail the (presently turned-off) waterfall’s house of Good Luck in Love with pennies, I made it into the gift shop and accessioned what was needed. Thanks Chinatown! It’s nice to know a few things haven’t changed.

I have a really crappy phone with an even crappier camera in it. The settings on the phone randomly re-set them depending on the phone’s own perverse mood swings. That day, it had set the exposure to what us photography-illiterate folks call “way too damn bright.” Oddly, the photos came out pretty, with a washed-out sort of lighting that perfectly showcased the lurid colors of the neighborhood.

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by frazgo

Must see exhibits at CA Science Center…and lunch

December 23, 2014 in Art, Classic Eats, Downtown, Entertainment, Events, History, LA, Shopping, Vintage

Pompeii corpse cast - click to embiggen

Pompeii corpse cast – click to embiggen

I have to tell you, the Pompeii exhibit at the CA Science Center through January 11 is quite the show to take in. Amazing artifacts, jewelry and such. But what really got me was the casts of the bodies found in the city as they excavated it.

In short August 24, 79 The city of Pompeii was struck by an eruption of Mt Vesuvius.  The folks ran and hid, then were buried with ash.  Flash forward some 1600 years and archeologist figured out the ash covered corpses were hollow and proceeded to fill them with plasters capturing this folks in the final moments of their life.  Moving.  Morbid.  Incredible.  Much more telling than all the artifcats and murals.

An added bonus, and I don’t know how we got it, but since we bought our tickets for Pompeii online a nice California Science Center employee gave the lovely Mrs and I passes to see the space shuttle Endeavour.  Read the rest of this entry →

12 Days of Giving: Red Star Riders

December 22, 2014 in Biking in LA, Blogging (in) LA, LA, Seasonal

This is the one of several posts by us outlining charities and non-profit causes near to our heart.

Do you remember your first tricycle or bicycle? I remember several from my childhood and have fond memories of receiving one of them for Christmas one year. I was in my early teens and there was an elaborate scavenger hunt of clues that ultimately led to the new wheels in the garage. While I rarely ride now, as a child I loved having a bike. It was a means of some freedom and independence long before being able to drive a car.

I know I’m not alone in my nostalgia, which is why I wanted to bring some awareness to an awesome organization called Red Star Riders. Red Star Riders is a non-profit group started by Los Angeles area pediatric physical therapists. Their mission is to raise funds for families of children with special needs to purchase AmTryke®  therapeutic tricycles. Not only do these dedicated professionals hold fundraising events, but they also donate their time to assist the children in being properly fit for each customized bike*.

Photo used by permission from Red Star Riders

Photo used by permission from Red Star Riders

 

Through some targeted fundraising, Red Star Riders has been able to assist several families in getting bikes for their kids this holiday season. However, letters like the one below keep coming in. Jocelyn is a 6-year-old girl with Rett Syndrome. She cannot walk, cannot talk and has little function of her hands. Jocelyn’s mother sent the flollowing:

My typical daughter, Rylee, is 4 years old and Santa is bringing her a big girl bike for Christmas. I know I have to give her a typical childhood, but my heart is breaking with sympathetic envy for my 6-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, who has Rett Syndrome and cannot ride a typical bike. I have been searching for a modified bike for her to have under the tree Christmas morning right next to her sister’s. What a Christmas morning that would be for her! However, special bikes are over $1000 and, embarrassingly and regrettably, that is not something we can afford for Jocelyn. Christmas is always bitter sweet for us. She is a happy girl, regardless of her daily struggles and limitations. She loves being outside and a family bike ride seems like a fantasy, but I have hope that one day, we will be able to have one.

Jocelyn’s bike will cost $815. Jocelyn’s story is similar to many of the families waiting for bikes for their kids. Your donation can help joy, self confidence, independence, improved quality of life, physical activity, and so much to the children on the waiting list. Please click HERE to make your tax deductible donation.

Used by permission from Red Star Riders

Used by permission from Red Star Riders

 

*Yes, the term “bike” is used loosely here. Kids “ride bikes.” So what if they have three wheels, a seat belt, trunk supports, or other adaptations. It’s a bike.

All photos and the contents of the letter used with permission by Red Star Riders. 

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Even the L.A. Auto Show is in the Happy Holidays mode

December 22, 2014 in Driving, Entertainment, LA, Seasonal

Fun little video recapping some of the more spectacluar reveals at this years L.A. Auto Show.  I can tell you from experience we’re getting better stuff shown here than Detroit for the most part.

In just 3 weeks I’ll be at NAIAS in Detroit. Its a fun show, but ours is way bigger physically and has the best reveals.  They still get North American Truck and Car of the year, so we need to figure out how to wrangle that out of their meat hooks.

On rainy afternoons in Los Angeles

December 21, 2014 in LA, Weather

The forecast looks pretty rain-free for the next little while, at least, but our recent rainy days have had me navel-gazing.

I used to like it when it rained in LA because it reminded me of home.

I grew up somewhere significantly cooler and damper than Southern California. It was a world of sharply differentiated seasons: hot muggy summers gave way to brisk, breezy autumns; the winters could be punishing and dangerous, and springs were when the snow and sky turned gray and everything melted away. While the rumors that we don’t have weather and seasons here in LA are completely untrue, when I first moved here, I missed the gradual shifts and changes. I had to figure out a different way of marking time. And sometimes, still, I still feel a little disoriented when I look out the window in November and see what would have passed for summer sun back home. But on one of those rare, rainy LA days, I could pretend that it was fall or spring near the Great Lakes. I clung to LA’s rainy days, I relished them, because they reminded me of where I had come from. But because of that, they also reminded me that I wasn’t from here, and that home was really and truly some place else.

I used to like it when it rained in LA because it reminded me of London.

I got to spend an autumn doing research there while I was in grad school. That fall, when it wasn’t raining, there was a constant mist in the air, and everything felt damp and gray. It was perfect weather for wandering. The hours that I didn’t spend in the British Library’s reading room I spent bundled into my scarf and coat, roaming around the city. I walked so much that my boots had holes in the soles by the time I left. The gray sky and the chill in the air were so much more inviting on long walks than the summer sun. And when I got back to LA, rainy days reminded me of that sense of freedom and adventure. I could pull my coat out of the back of my closet, and go for a walk in the rain, and suddenly the vast expanses of this city felt smaller, like I could own them as I navigated them on foot.

Now I’m learning to love it when it rains in LA because it is raining in LA.

For a long time, being in Los Angeles was a weird, temporary, in-between state for me. I came here to go to school, I thought I would leave when I was done, but I ended up sticking around a while longer. For the past few years, I thought for sure I’d be leaving: I was chasing an academic career, a path with notoriously dismal prospects, and I was interviewing for jobs all over the place. But I’m changing my mind about what I want to do and be. More and more, being in Los Angeles doesn’t feel like a liminal state anymore, and more and more I’m realizing that I don’t want it to be a temporary condition. So I’ve spent the past few months adjusting and shifting, changing the way that I see this city. LA has stopped being a place that happens to be where I am for now, at the moment, and has started being the place where I am. As I figure out what I’m doing next, I need to feel like I am actually present here, and not just in an in-between state.

LA rain is undeniable in its presence: when it rains, it rains unrelentingly, like it’s making up for lost time. I love the sound of it on the roof of my tiny house, the sound of an endless percussive refrain. I love the sight of the clouds rolling in over the hills and ocean. I love how many rainbows I see here, as the sun and the rain duke it out. And love the day after it rains, when the sky seems even bluer by comparison; when everything seems washed clean, and I can see the mountains crystal clear as we drive up the 405 to work in the morning.

I used to like it when it rained in LA because it reminded me of places that felt like home. Now I love it when it rains in LA because LA is finally feeling like home.

12 Days of Giving: Donate Blood

December 20, 2014 in FEATURED, Holidays, LA

This is the one of several posts by us outlining charities and non-profit causes near to our heart. It isn’t always about monetary donations for these groups. Tight on funds? They welcome your time and talents to help them as a volunteer as well. When it’s all said and done you feel closer and connected to your community when you help it out. And isn’t giving of yourself all that matters this time of year regardless if its Christmas, Hanukkah, or Pagan rituals?

Hot Blooded!

Hot Blooded!

Speaking of “giving of yourself” why not literally give of yourself? Blood banks always need blood, not just in times of crisis. If you meet the requirements, you can donate a pint of your blood in about an hour. Easey peasey, stress-ball squeezey! No matter your blood type, blood banks need it. Are you Type O, the Universal Donor? Great, that means more people in the city need your blood. Are you a rare type – AB? Great, they need you too.

l_gotbloodMy favorite donation place is the UCLA Blood and Platelets Center. The staff is friendly, the place is clean and bright and they do all they can to make it easy and fun to donate. They have assigned parking spots just for donors right by their door in Westwood. And even if those spots are taken, they give you free parking in the nearby lot. They always have raffles and free gifts. I got a beach towel and a UCLA T-shirt from my last two visits. And those bonus gifts were on top of the free movie tickets you get for donating. Oh and the great selection of juice and cookies after! From start to finish (checking in, paperwork, getting your vitals checked, donating blood, juice/cookies) it takes about an hour. The actual donation part? about 10 minutes.

There are many places to donate in LA, just google it. Children’s Hospital LA has a donation center. The Red Cross has many donation centers in SoCal and hey! They are giving away red, long sleeved t-shirts if you donate between 12/24 and January 4.

It is true what they say, the more you give, the more you get. Please donate blood. It might cost an hour of your time every three months and the benefits to your community and your heart are huge.

 

12 Days of Giving: Back on My Feet

December 18, 2014 in LA

This is the one of several posts by us outlining charities and non-profit causes near to our heart. It isn’t always about monetary donations for these groups. Tight on funds? They welcome your time and talents to help them as a volunteer as well. When it’s all said and done you feel closer and connected to your community when you help it out. And isn’t giving of yourself all that matters this time of year regardless if its Christmas, Hanukkah, or Pagan rituals?

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As someone whose life has been transformed through running – becoming active and participating in races and so on – I feel a special sense of kinship with others who have used fitness as a way to break out of a rut. Back on My Feet is a program aimed at helping homeless people overcome their circumstances, using running as a catalyst.

Back on My Feet uses running to empower individuals experiencing homelessness and guide them on the path to self-sufficiency. Members and volunteers gather together as a community for early morning runs, and side by side take steps towards restoring value.
Through dedication to our program, members begin to feel appreciated, valued, and develop an enhanced sense of self-worth. The positive changes enable them to make strides towards leading healthier, more successful lives and earning their way to independent housing and employment.
Please take a moment to view the story below which confirms how the simple act of running can fuel self-worth.

Find out more about how to donate, volunteer, or “fundrace” by visiting Back on My Feet LA’s website.