📰 This Is My City

And there’s still more news chum to clear out. Here’s a collection of various articles about Los Angeles:


Shaping Factors

Over lunch, I was reviewing my accumulated potential news chum links. There had been some interesting articles over the last few days that had piqued my interest (got it right this time), but what would theme? Then it hit me — a connection between articles. All of these have to do with factors that shape our perception and our history, especially in California and Los Angeles in particular.

  • Drawing the Line. Curbed LA had a recent article of late on Los Angeles History 101, presenting 13 defining moments in Los Angeles history. Item #8 was redlining, which was the process of distinguishing particular neighborhoods for particular ethnic and economic groups. That article provided some interesting history, including the fact that many communities in Southern California were “sundown” towns, where blacks were not permitted after sundown (these include Hawthorne, Palos Verdes and South Pasadena). It also mentioned “redlining”: When the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation was established in the 1930s as part of the New Deal, it was meant to bolster the housing market. It also assessed and ranked the value of land and risks according to a neighborhood’s economic and racial makeup. Depending on the community, certain groups were barred, or loans were more risky. The redlining connected to their item #9, which is the dark history of how the Dodgers acquired the land for Dodger Stadium, as well as items #10 and #12, the Watts Riots and the Rodney King Riots. This dovetailed with an article in the Atlantic looking at the practice of redlining in more detail. That article went into the racist history of both the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, showing how the redlining shaped the racial tensions that impact the city to this very day. Look at the redlining maps, and then look at where the racial issues boiled over in Chavez Ravine, Watts, and South LA. Then think about other LA incidents such as the Zoot Suit Riots, and you’ll see the racist history of California in gory detail.
  • Water and Land. Another defining moment in the Curbed LA article is #3, Water and Mullholland. Water enabled the city to grow, but at a great cost. Water is also key to California’s growth, and there was a great article on that a few months ago talking about the central valley of California, water rights, and the small number of farmers that own vast acreage and shape politics and policy in the San Joaquin Valley.  The article talks about Stewart Resnick. . Last time Resnick checked, he owned 180,000 acres of California. That’s 281 square miles. He is irrigating 121,000 of those acres. This doesn’t count the 21,000 acres of grapefruits and limes he’s growing in Texas and Mexico. He uses more water than any other person in the West. His 15 million trees in the San Joaquin Valley consume more than 400,000 acre-feet of water a year. The city of Los Angeles, by comparison, consumes 587,000 acre-feet. It looks at the impact of Resnick’s companies, such as Pom Wonderful (of Cuties fame). He is one of the largest growers of pistacios. And, of course, he owns a mansion in Beverly Hills.
  • Perceptions. Our perceptions are shaped in various ways. The Washington Post had an interesting article (use incognito or private mode if blocked by their paywall) about how social media shaped and spread a historical lie. This is the lie that “The Democrats created KKK.”, and it involves a purported photo of a Klan march captioned: “This photo was taken at the 1924 Democratic Convention. It was known as the ‘Klanbake’ (just in case you want to Google it).” The problem? There was no Klan march at the 1924 Democratic convention — the photo was actually taken in Wisconsin — nor was the convention ever actually known as the “Klanbake.” Read the article for the full details and disputation. But we’re seeing other shaping perceptions, notably in the form of faked videos of celebrities. Often called “deepfakes”, these are used to create “celebrity porn” or fake news, with politicians saying things they never did. Of course, we see the video and believe our eyes — seeing is believing, right? Wrong. Now even what we see is faked.  So here’s a good guide on how to recognize “deepfake” videos.



News Chum: Of Local Interest

As I continue to clear out some news chum before starting work on the highway pages, here are some chum items of local-ish interest;

  • “This Land” Becomes Real – Gentrification in Watts. In the play “This Land” which we saw recently, a key aspect of the plot was the gentrification of the community of Watts. Turns out — they were right. As one real estate developer said, “There is cheap housing in L.A. … The American dream is still affordable in Watts, Compton and all the forgotten ghettos.” Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at the online real estate site Trulia, took a quick look at the numbers and said home values in Watts and Compton are at post-recession highs, indicating “increased demand to live or invest” in these areas. And who gets pushed out, and where do they go to live….
  • Get Your Tacos Now – Music Center Renovation. Well, there goes Tito’s Tacos as a reliable low-cost dinner option before the Ahmanson. The Music Center will be renovating their plaza creating a stronger outdoor performance venue and redoing the restaurants in the process.  Note to self: Remember to get dinner in NoHo before you get on the Red Line to go to the Ahmanson or Taper for a while. Still, they need to do this — in particular, the escalators up to the plaza, because finding the elevators from the street is always a pain.
  • As if By Magic – Proposed Hilton Universal Expansion. The Hilton Universal City has announced a proposal to expand the hotel. Thank you, Harry Potter. There are still many hurdles to overcome, including the site plan for the studio itself (the hotel is not on studio land). What I’m trying to figure out is precisely where they plan to build this addition, given the layout of the space and the hotel towers. I’m guessing it is going over the meeting space, but I’ve only seen a drawing, not a map. Not many more details here.
  • Cutting the Cord — AT&T Removing Undersea Cable. Moving a bit further northwest, AT&T is planning to remove an undersea cable that runs from San Luis Obispo to China. The cable, part of the China-U.S. Cable Network, was retired from service in December 2016. In total, the 18,600-mile, $1.1 billion cable paid for by an international coalition of telecom companies connects the United States with China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Guam in a loop and had a capacity of 80 Gigabits, or 100 million phone calls at a time, according to a website that tracks submarine cable networks. The cables connect into a greater system at an AT&T terminal building about 10 miles inland on Los Osos Valley Road. Now it’s obsolete, and as Yoda says, pulled up it will be.
  • Why Mother, You’re Growing – Mothers Market Expansion. Lastly, in the expansion of yet another natural food chain, Mother’s Markets are expanding into Los Angeles. Founded in Orange County in 1978 by a group of yoga enthusiasts, the pioneering organic grocery store said it is adding stores next year in Signal Hill and Manhattan Beach. The Signal Hill store, at 2475 Cherry Ave., is an anchor at a new development called Heritage Square. The store is slated to open in early 2018. The Manhattan Beach store, at 1700 Rosecrans Ave., is slated to open in the summer of 2018.



But What Do We Do With The Leftovers?

Observation StewTwo days after Thanksgiving. You’ve made your stock from the turkey carcass, and have just about finished the meat in the frig, but you’re still working on all the sides that were leftover. All. The. Sides. So many sides. Here on this blog, we face a similar problem: What to do with all the links accumulated that just stubbornly refuse to theme? The answer, of course, is to make stew:

Inequality and Battles

  • The Internet and Inequality. One of my major complaints is the assumption that everyone has fast internet (an assumption that will be even more challenged if we lose net neutrality). For example, we move the best quality TV to subscription channels and pay-pay internet, and we forget what the leaves the rest of the country with — the large portion that still doesn’t have internet or only has dialup or phone services. Wired has an interesting article on how the slow internet is fueling inequality. Now think about how this inequality will be further fueled when the telecom companies are the ones controlling the pipes, who can see what, and who can’t see what.  Control of the message can be for good (filter out the stupid) or for bad (filter out those who disagree).
  • Fonts and Culture Wars. Here’s another battle of interest: Fonts. Fonts can have a subtle but significant effect on culture and culture wars, according to Wired. For example, think how you perceive documents written in Blackletter or Comic Sans, or the fact that certain languages, by the nature of the writing, make it hard to text. Truly an interesting article on the impact of design.
  • Weaponizing Taxes. When people complain about taxes, they often talk about its use to support the defense establishment. But the tax code can be used as a weapon itself, and that is what this administration is doing. The “reform” bill shows that the right understands how the rules of the economic game are shifting — toward capital and away from labor (even away from the labor of the wealthy). Thus, they are adjusting it even further to reward business and investing, and to care even less about income earned from wages. They are adjusting the code to work against progressive measures like education and middle class wages, they are working against progressive states that used state tax codes to help their people.

Los Angeles

Honoring the Past

  • Getting Rid of Stuff. Here’s an interesting dilemma: How do you honor the past when cleaning out stuff? Specifically, how do you honor your parents when cleaning out their house? This is a growing question as the Millenials and Gen Y adopt the less is more attitude, and have to deal with the debris of the “accumulate” generation.  As the article notes: If we do it right, we preserve and transmit their memories and values to the next generation. If we do it wrong, we may open lasting wounds within our families and ourselves.
  • Reusing Sacred Spaces. During Thanksgiving, a popular song is Alice’s Restaurant, about a couple that bought a church and converted it to a house. The issue is a serious one: What do you do with sacred spaces when the community goes away? In Maine, the answer is to convert an old synagogue into high-end apartments.  The 15 members of the Auburn ME Beth Abraham Synagogue sold the building last week to a developer. On Sunday, the community will take a final tour of the building and then ceremonially move a Torah scroll to the nearby 100-family Temple Shalom Synagogue Center, an independent and egalitarian congregation (formerly Conservative) that Beth Abraham members will join. The building, after removing a few more liturgical pieces, will then become 10 apartments.
  • Repatriating Bones. One of the forgotten Native American tragedies has been the treatment of Southern California tribes and their relics. So it was quite a pleasant surprise to read about the repatriation of a large collection of Tongva/Gabrielano remains from Catalina Island. This is happening for many reasons, including increased awareness and casino proceeds.



Nearby Transitions and Impacts

For those that don’t know, my real job has me working down in the real South Bay (i.e., El Segundo and the communities south of LAX — any other “South Bay” is just a figment of your imagination). I’ve run across a few articles of late about changes in the area I’d like to share; at least one took my by surprise:

  • Wiseburn High School. Over the last two years, we’ve watched what was a technical office of Northrop Grumman (between two of our facilities) transform into … something. We now know what: a high school. More precisely: Three high schools that are sometimes one, and school district administrative offices. They gutted the office building, reinforced it, and transformed it into a school with three separate subschools, giving the small Wiseburn district their own high school. The story of the transformation is fascinating. The traffic? Morning isn’t a problem, but the afternoon there’s a mess when the folks attempt to make a left out of the Air Force Base while parents pick up their kids. I predict a light in the future there.
  • Creative Office Space. Down the street from the Air Force Base (actually, between the Base and Imperial Highway) is a large sprawling Northrop Grumman Aircraft manufacturing plant (which used to just be Northrop). I had noticed the fences had changed to opaque over part of the parking lot, and suspected something was happening. Now I know. The facility, once NG moves out in a year or so, will be becoming creative office space. The article on the transformation is interesting: manufacturing characteristics and old buildings are now in style, so this an adaptive reuse that is sure to snarl traffic. However, if it brings vanpool riders from the valley, I’ll be happy. It also reflects a gigantic transformation for the area. Were you to look here 40 years ago, you would have seen all the big Aerospace companies: Hughes, TRW, Aerospace, Northrop, and later Boeing and Raytheon, plus the LAAFB and other aircraft companies, with folks like Douglas down in Long Beach. Today, that work is a fraction of what it once was with more thinking than actual building going on. The creative talent is now entertainment and studio based.
  • Toyota. Down the road a bit, the US HQ of Toyota is decamping to Texas (leaving a bunch of good people who can’t go behind — I know some). There was an interesting article in the papers about the impacts of this transition on the area — in particular the restaurants. This is not something you think about when you hear about businesses leaving, but there are large impacts on the community. Restaurants lose the lunch and party trade (which is substantial). Local shops lose people picking up stuff at lunch hours. Local exercise facilities and repair facilities are impacted. Moves can have large footprints.



A Different Way of Redlining

A week and a half ago, I wrote a review of an excellent play we saw about Los Angeles and gentrification (there are just a few performance left – you should go). This play looked at one plot of land in Watts, a community in South LA, as it transitioned from Gabrielano-Tongva ownership to Mexican to American (as a white suburb), and then transitioned with the 2nd wave of black westward migration into a black community, and then was transformed into a Hispanic community, and then — because houses were cheap — becoming a gentrified White community where the former owners were priced out. This is a pattern that has happened time and time again in Los Angeles: Look at how immigrants are being pushed out of Boyle and Lincoln Heights, and just ask my daughter about the changes occurring in West Adams, where she used to live.

So I was very interested when a friend posted an article titled: “Los Angeles is quickly becoming a place exclusively for the white and rich“, exploring how the black population of the city has been rapidly declining. The first two paragraphs are key:

L.A.’s Black population has declined by 100,000 since the 1980s, falling from 13% of the County population to 8% in just a few decades. Hollywood alone saw the displacement of 13,000 Latinos between 2000 and 2010, pushed out by rising rents to make way for upscale redevelopment. These are just two of the most eye-popping figures that illustrate a larger point: Los Angeles is increasingly becoming solely accessible to the rich, and the rich are disproportionately white. (“Black and Mexican households have one cent for every dollar of wealth held by the average white household,” according to The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles.)

We are witnessing the rapid creation of a new geography of segregation and exclusion in Los Angeles, as areas seen as desirable are being purged of those who cannot afford the sky-high rents that inevitably follow.

Los Angeles has a very segregated past that many people don’t know about. Minorities were kept in particular areas through the process of red-lining, which limited the ability to get loans and insurance. This led to many of LA’s problems with the East Side and South LA. There was White Flight that made the valley (there were only certain communities, such as Arleta, for minorities), and there was significant impact — present to this very day — on the LA Unified School District. Then again, there are all the racial tensions that exist with the LA Police Department and the LA Sheriff’s Department (who can forget Rodney King and other incidents).

What this article pointed out was that a different, more insideous, type of redlining is now occurring. The high housing prices in Los Angeles are combining with the depressed wages that minorities often earn to price minorities out of area. Downtown, which was once affordably prices for poor artists and minorities, is becoming gentrified and pushing out those that could once afford the area. An article about these rising rents noted:

Parker isn’t the only artist who faces a tenuous future in the Arts District. Named for the artists who made the neighborhood a creative hub in the 1970s and ’80s, the Arts District could soon find itself with few actual artists living within its borders — no small irony given its name and the fact that Mayor Eric Garcetti likes to regularly tout Los Angeles as an “arts capital” in statements and speeches.

At 800 Traction Ave., a warehouse building that began life as a coffee and spice factory in 1918, residents have received a 60-day quit notice. Just beyond the southern fringes of the Arts District, the Santa Fe Art Colony is expected to start charging market rates after operating for 30 years under a contract with the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency as a low- and moderate-income housing site; that contract is now expiring.

Mind you, this is probably not isolated to Los Angeles. Think about what is happening at the National level with income inequality, and the segregation of the wealthy — the haves — from the have nots. What do most of the “haves” have in common, in addition to wealth. Now look, at the National level, at the groups many of these folks are aligning with. Who needs Jim Crow and segregation when you have money and power and advantage.

Perhaps now “taking a knee” becomes better understood. There is not equal opportunity. Here’s another quote from that first article:

And it must be made clear that this is not a neutral process of neighborhood change. The winners are the real estate investors and developers who make hefty profits, and the wealthier incomers who get to live out their idealized urban life. The losers are the poorer residents that already live there, especially the majority that rent. Those that are displaced become homeless or are forced to move far away from their jobs, families, and communities. Those who remain must deal with rising rents, increased racialized policing, and the trauma of watching their community change for the benefit of outsiders. The negative health effects from the displacement and financial strain that come with gentrification are well documented.

Now consider the impact of former downtown and south-central residents only finding affordable housing long commutes away, and the impact not only on family life and childrearing, but on the employers.

The problem is clear. What can we do about it? Simple: We must work to have affordable housing everyone, and strive for a truly integrated and diverse city. We must fight the us/them divide, and learn to see people as persons, not stereotypes.

In the play I saw — which I strongly recommend — we learned that our cultures are not so different. We care about family, we care about place, we have similar foods with different names. If we just get to know each other instead of using wealth and property to separate us, our city can be even greater.


This Is My City

As Jack Webb almost once said (yunguns, look him up), “This is my city, Los Angeles, California”. Here are a few stories I’ve accumulated over the weeks about my city, and places that I’ve actually been to or near:

  • Earl Carroll Theatre. I was at this theatre many years ago to see Ain’t Misbehavin‘. I didn’t know its historical significance then. It later became the Nickelodeon Studios, and will now be refurbished. Much of the glory is still there, as these photos show.
  • Daniel Freeman Hospital. The place where I entered the world many many (many) years ago. Later bought by Tenet Healthcare, and then closed. It is now being torn down, to become luxury homes.
  • Westside Pavilion.  Back when I was at UCLA in the late 1970s, this was a small surface shopping center with a market (Vons, IIRC), a good sushi place, a Sees Candy, and a large May Company (with a spiral driveway where I scraped a car once). Then it was “mallified”, taking all the character out of it and become an haven for the wannabe rich (the rich had Century City). It expanded, took out a perfectly good bowling alley. Today? Malls are out of favor, Nordstroms ran to Century City, and Macy*s (nee Robinsons May nee May Co) is closing. Anyone want to buy a mall? Rumor is that with retail out of favor, this will either become open-air shopping (like it was originally), or mixed use with housing and shopping near the Expo line.
  • The Panorama. When we went to go see Man Covets Bird, there was this odd little theatre across the street that we later learned was the Velaslavasay Panorama, an old fashioned type of entertainment from the time before movies. They’ve reopened, and there’s one last chance to view their installation of Effulgence of the North before they change it. It is described as  “a panoramic exploration of the limitless horizon which lies beyond a frigid terrain, illuminated by the ethereal Aurora Borealis.” Next to be installed: Shengjing Panorama. You have until Sunday to see it.

Of Historical Interest

Over the past few weeks, there have been quite a few articles I’ve uncovered related to California and Los Angeles history:

Speaking of going away….