It's Wintertime in Los Feliz

Dead Deodar on Los Feliz Blvd

Dead Deodar on Los Feliz Blvd

The rain has broken and all the trees are very happy. However, we are worried about at least 4 of the almost 100 year old grand deodars on Los Feliz Boulevard. They are in advanced stages of distress and these monsters have very shallow root bases. The 4 bad ones are starting to tilt perilously. We have put Urban Forestry and Street Services on notice that our arborist is recommending immediate removal...

There's rumor of a new Starbucks going into the ill fated space on upper Hillhurst where Tangiers is the most recent failure. Good news is there's plenty of off street parking. However, that makes 4 coffee shops within a block. The way people drive on LF Blvd, less caffeine, not more, is probably called for...

The densification development locomotive is at our borders. A large multistory apartment building at Western and Franklin, the gigantic City Lights project at the perilous 5 way traffic corner of Hillhurst/Sunset/Hollywood and OSH on Hollywood Boulevard are all wending their way through approval processes. And, now news that the Bob Barker Theatre on Hollywood has been acquired by a small lot subdivision developer --in addition to an adjacent lot. Plans there include 9 multistory live/work condos with rooftop entertainment space and 12 small lot single family homes. They need a height variance for some of that project and are already out pitching to the neighborhood councils. Then there's the large apartment complex on the north corner of Hollywood and Kenmore. Another project bunching in historic Barnsdale Park. Which, incidentally is up for UNESCO world heritage consideration. The Hollywood/Kenmore project will engender strong opposition from the Barnsdale folks, as it impairs view sheds to the west.  Appears that this area of Hollywood Boulevard is hellbent on densifying. Don't change your east-west commute yet, but in upcoming years, plan on gridlock....

Greek Theater

Greek Theater

The city Rec and Parks department has announced a $5m profit on its first season operating at the Greek. The proud theatre is undergoing a thoughtful restoration and the original facade and architectural Greek keys are back. On the upper hillside, the dead redwoods have removed-they should never have been planted there to begin with- and young sapling pines are enjoying the wet winter. 

The Rec and Parks department deserves praise for their first season, particularly from those of us that were highly skeptical and resistant. The season had but one terribly bad concert-Iggy Pop, replete with numerous f bombs echoing away through the canyons and numerous noise violations. The department has closed some of the loop holes on gaming the noise parameters and hopefully will be more deliberate in book more appropriate acts for an outdoor theatre surrounded by 1000 homes!..

Speaking of the department. Word from the golf division that the city will take over the concession at Wilson Harding golf course, the crown jewel in the city system. Word from members of the golf advisory board is that long time operators, the Barber family, have been given notice.  Here's hoping for a new driving range, similar to the world class one built last year at Rancho Park. Wilson's is an embarrassment. 

Enough for today. Enjoy the winter sunshine!  

A brief overview of Los Feliz…

Sitting just east of Hollywood, south of the valley, and north of Downtown, Los Feliz has about 2500 households.  Many decades ago, we were actually referred to as East Hollywood.  Some old timers still refer to us that way and indeed, we do have a good sampling of homes and locations with deep-rooted Hollywood histories. Not to mention a budding sampling of stars.

One of the draws is our central location; for those in the business easy commutes to Burbank and Hollywood are a plus.  For bankers, attorneys, business people and fashionistas, downtown is also close.  One of the great enjoyments I have is to go to Chinatown for Dim Sum Sunday brunch or to Pasadena’s Old Town for a shop/sidewalk dinner excursion – for Los Felistas, a 15 minute trip either way.

Los Feliz is known for its canopy of Deodar Trees on gracious Los Feliz Boulevard;  truly a boulevard in the classic sense, bordered with broad lawns and mansions with histories.  And those trees!  Did you know that they are Historic Cultural Monuments and thus are immune to any attempts to widen the street or other threats?  Yes, we like our neighborhood’s entrance, even if it means more congestion … at least there’s shade!

I consider there to be 5 distinctive neighborhoods in Los Feliz;  1)  north of Los Feliz Boulevard, 2)  Franklin Square-which I really look at as a long rectangle, from Western on the west to Hillhurst on the east; 3)   Atwater Village, which is a part of Los Feliz, although split from us by the LA River; 4)  then there is Franklin Hills, which winds through a hilltop area south of Los Feliz Blvd; 5)   the village (there are really two- the Hyperion/Griffith Park Drive village, with Say Cheese, Gelsons and Trader Joes and the Hillhurst/Vermont village, which consists of a burgeoning dining/hip shopping and movie house district).

This is where two of our centers of gravity are:  Yuca’s, which is arguably the best fast Yucatan food in LA, and Skylight Books, the community axis for intelligensia.  Both establishments are owned by important Los Felistas.  Important because they are involved in almost every substantive issue facing our community right now.

This is actually a good segue to Griffith Park.  I’m not going there in depth in this first post, but the Park is the focus of our great currentneighborhood cause:  To preserve the park as America’s largest urban park, and keep it a PARK.  Hopefully, now you know that I’m on track, if nothing else!  It’s shocking, but this currentbattle is over a land grab (again) of the park for a panoply of interests; all of which seem to feel that a park should have their attraction or signage or hotel or restaurant or this or that in it.  Haven’t we seen this bad B movie before in this town?!  The title could be THEM 2, how LA densified and all of a sudden, there was no green space left!!  But, I digress…as an update, in a collosal victory for the coalition of neighborhood groups and the Griffith Family Trust, Griffith Park is now a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument –all 4200 acres of it!

There are several wonderful neighborhood organizations if you want to tap into the community.  The Los Feliz Improvement Association, LA’s oldest Homeowners Association, has over 1000 members, is very active, has neighborhood cleanups, has recently published its second History of Los Feliz, an Illustrated Historyand is open to all Los Feliz homeowners.  The Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council represents the central part of Los Feliz, and the Oaks Homeowners Association represents the western-most part of Los Feliz.  There is also the Atwater Homeowner’s Association and they’ve done a marvelous job with the careful updating of Glendale Avenue (although they’re embroiled in a rather nasty internecine battle within the organization over the fast gentrification taking place in their little burg).

Another great group is Friends of the Observatory, a non- profit that collaborated with the City in the recently restored and expanded Griffith Observatory.  We in like to think of our Observatory as the hood ornament of Los Angeles.  But we Los Felistas don’t readily concede it to the entire city.  It’s really ours!  This is a fun group and hosts some very interesting civic and scientific events. The Observatory is a wonderful marriage of Beaux Arts and Art Deco architecture; however, its best treasure is Dr. Ed Krup, Observatory Director and passionate maestro for decades now.  This man possesses a keen wit, a wonderful mélange of accessible science and celebrit– a real shining star in our Los Feliz galaxy.  One only had to see him steal the show at the Observatory reopening to appreciate what a civic treasure he is to our village.  As Mayor Villaraigosa said from the dais to his note-taking staff person, “Don’t EVER put me on mic after Ed Krup again!!”  Dr. Krup stands for everything great about our village.  Going aggressively into the future with a willful reverence for history and persons past.

And then there is our omnipresent and ubiquitous Councilman, Tom La Bonge.  Have you ever seen anyone who gets on TV as much as Tom?!  Give his press person a raise!  Tom can be seen any morning at 5:30am hiking from Charley Turner Trailhead, with his football (this is a footnote:  He is prone to throwing it to you on these hikes; it’s under-inflated and he has a mean, fast spiral…be careful, it’s a crafty ploy of his when he really wants your attention and there are many treacherous cliffs on that trail…).  I venture to guess that there is no council district served as well as ours is by Tom’s activity.  He is completely accessible; if not on the trail, he also has a great staff.  His rep to our neighborhood is the wonderful Jullian Calvin Harris, who has a magnetic smile and attitude. Call his office and introduce yourself, or better, go hiking in the morning on Charley Turner…beware the under-inflated football…

Next time – real estate!


Back at it….

Los Feliz revisited, several years later… so, I just reread my original blog and it is astounding how much hasn’t changed in Los Feliz. I think that is why those of us that have nested here love it. In this crazy, fast moving city and time, its comforting to know that something stays familiar and predictable. There are threats though…

The city financial calamity is resulting is some CRAZY money making schemes. For example, we (the broader neighborhood, Friends of Griffith Park, the Hillside Coalition, the Los Feliz Improvement Association-I am First VP now) are fighting a scary attempt by the city council to put a sign district right in the middle of Griffith Park!! Think Staples Center, Hollywood/Highland. Written by the city planning department, but highly influenced by the billboard industry, there are proposed sign ordinance revisions-several of which have been grand-fathered in ex post facto (a really repugnant act defiant of over 40 protesting neighborhood councils and homeowners groups all over the city) that allow new billboard districts in our residential neighborhoods. Even in the face of a judicial ruling that illegal billboards- there are over 100 around the city put up without permits-have to be taken down, the City Councils PLUM (planning and land use management) committee is trying to sneek in new sign districts under the radar screen. The LA Zoo is one of them. Facing an inability to spin the zoo off to a private partner, the city is intoxicated with the revenues digital billboards bring–hundreds of thousands.

And the management of the city parks department states that they support it, as they need to put some naming rights (brass plaques?) on corporate sponsored donations. Does anyone believe that the LA Zoo will behave….certainly the ordinance that is being grandfathered in and has the support of the billboard companies does not put a size limit or ‘garrishment’ cap on the permitted signage. Remember, it was the zoo that infamously put up the big jumbotron sign in the middle of the night, without any community input or permits!! Colonel Griffith would be spinning.

Which brings us to his family’s intention when they gifted the park to the city. “A place where urban man can fill their lungs with fresh air” and “escape the pressures (and commercialization) of urban living”. Certainly, none of us who escape to our urban wilderness would approve of a neon, digital billboard advertising beer or cigarettes amongst the pine trees, coyotes and pastoral vistas we enjoy during our run, hike or picnic. In fact, there are significant studies about the impact of light pollution on wild animals, their migration and feeding patterns..

Alas, the Historic Cultural Monumenting of our Griffith Park was not the silver bullet we hoped. We remain vigilant. We fight for fresh air and our sylvan 4600 acre neighbor to the north. We dont want to be Hollywood and Highland. Or Staples. We can drive there if we need a neon or densification fix.

Densification at the Western Border

…there are some new developments in the neighborhood, and the focus here will be on the onslaught of high density developments to the west.  Good news:  Target has broken ground (demo of existing strip mall) at Sunset and Western.  Yeah.  We don’t have to drive -correction, idle and stop, all the way to La Brea and Santa Monica.  The long planned mixed use development at Hollywood and Western is unveiled.  Over 200 living units above retail space and a pocket transit center.  This is a SNAP corridor development and it is diagonally opposite the Western metro station.  Long range plans call for an underground pedestrian tunnel to connect the metro passengers to the pocket bus station at ground level.  The smart aspect of this pocket transit concept is that it gets the Western south and west bound busses off Western and Hollywood and relieves back up at the intersection. There is a further west but MASSIVE dual 535+ foot dual tower project, named Millenium around the Capitol Records building; this site is causing great consternation from adjacent resident associations over view-line infringement and traffic.

Bottom line:  We may all love a Target but (with the exception of bus pocket pull out at Western/Hollywood), there is no real traffic mitigation planned in for any of these projects.  And, of course, this is just the 2013 schedule.  Why most of us dread the arduously slow east/west commute to the west side already, these mega projects = increased traffic on already overburdened Franklin, Sunset and Hollywood.  As one clever bumper sticker now appearing states ‘235 units x 2cars each=470 more cars with no relief’!  It appears that the city is hell bent to generate new taxes at the expense of current taxpayer quality of life.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to put ‘real urban’ rapid transit in first?  Just saying….