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May 21, 2010

Dress banking

dress.jpg We like to be resourceful as well as stylin' in CD-13 (Council District 13), which stretches east from Hollywood and includes a large portion of Echo Park (CD-1 covers the rest). It's virtually a re-sale district from Silver Lake east, with vintage clothing shops, vintage furniture, vintage glassware. In Echo Park it looks to me as if a majority of the pets are rescues. There is a time-bank (I love that one of the Time Bank's recent monthly pot luck meetings was held at 826 LA's Time Travel Mart). And now the teachers/staff at the new Helen Bernstein High School, named for the UTA president, have a genius idea in kind: A prom dress bank.

Eric Garcetti's office posted the following in their weekly update:

Helen Bernstein High School is hosting its very first annual Senior Prom on June 4, 2010, and the teachers at HBHS have come together to start a "Prom Dress Loan System" to help girls who otherwise could not afford to attend.
Until Friday, May 21, the school is accepting formal dresses, jewelry, shoes and purses that students can use to dress up for the prom. Donations are tax deductible.
Items may be dropped-off at the school's main office at 1309 N. Wilton Pl. in Hollywood. For more information call (323) 817-6400.

There isn't much time left. Maybe they'll accept late-loaners.

May 16, 2010

UCLA does right by a neighborhood teacher and mom* (correction)


Saturday UCLA awarded 48 honorary degrees to Japanese Americans who had been forced to withdraw from school -- in order to be interned -- during WWII. One of the honorees was Masa Fujioka, a former teacher at Los Feliz Elementary School and mother of five kids, including Echo Park's Darrell Kunitomi. Masa died in the mid 1980s at the age of 64. Her husband, now 94, accepted the degree for her.

My friend Darrell, who is known as an actor as well as fly fisherman and L.A. Times employee, posted a brief but moving entry in advance of the ceremony on Flyfishermen's Forum, describing how his parents married hastily in order not to be separated in internment, were sent first to Santa Anita and then Wyoming. His mother was the daughter of a newspaper editor. She was also the mother a kid who fished Echo Park Lake with skill and passion.

I never got to meet Ms. Fujioka, but I feel a sense of relief on her behalf that the university stepped up to claim on of its own.

*Corrects Masa Fujioka's name

Here is what Darrell wrote:

She was one of five daughters of a family of ten. They lived on Gordon Street, a block east of the Gower Gulch. She was beautiful, cheerful and an athlete.
There was a small community of Japanese Americans in the Hollywood area, the Aiso family (Judge John Aiso) were neighbors. And Charlie Chaplin's chauffer, a man named Kono.
Dad was a tough kid out of Little Tokyo. They met at a dance, the kid from Downtown, tough and streetwise, and the daughter of a newspaper editor (Rafu Shimpo). Grandpa didn't like the match. Then history happened. Japan attacked.
The nightmare began that day. Grandpa returned from Little Tokyo where he and other community leaders pledged amongst themselves to help America best they could. They were waiting for him when he returned. He was hustled off, couldn't even take his medications.
Talk of imprisonment in the community. Terribly fearful time. Notices on telephone poles, in store windows, you are going, carry what you can. Dad said we must marry, we'll be separated. They marry, quickly. They went to a horse stall at the Santa Anita Racetrack.
They later transferred up to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, about an hour east of Yellowstone National Park. Dad got drafted and went into the service. A picture of mom and my older brother, Dale, in the internment camp appears in the camp newspaper, the Heart Mountain Sentinel, the t-shirt reads, My Dad's in the U.S. Army. Dad went to the Phillippines and the Occupation in Tokyo.
As a returning vet he went to school on the G.I. Bill. He worked in a produce stall at Grand Central Market. We parked the old Chevy amongst the Victorians on Bunker Hill and rode Angel's Flight down to pick him up. He carried bags of food for us, he smelled of celery when we hugged his legs.
They had five kids, and we were in a one-bedroom apartment on Bellevue near Hoover, in Los Angeles. Mom went to night school at LACC. We watched Davy Crockett, Engineer Bill, Sheriff John, went to Corriganville and Knott's Berry Farm. We pledged allegiance faithfully and didn't really learn Japanese. They bought a house on Commonwealth and Beverly in 1959. It was the reign of the middle class in America.
Mom came home feeling ill from a Heart Mountain reunion, around 1983. She went in to be checked. The tumor was lemon-sized. It took two years. She never smoked nor drank, she was till then strong and happy. I saw my father cry. I kissed her forehead when we left the room at Kaiser. It was already cool.
It is a typical story in our greatest generation. They came through the experience with strength, gaman. They endured. They sacrificed for us.
They re-built the community after the war. We enjoyed being Scouts, playing in sports leagues, going to the community carnivals. They bent their backs as gardeners and farmers so we wouldn't have to.
The span is amazing: from one generation villified and forcibly removed from the West Coast, the hated, backstabbing Japs, to college educations and white collar respectability, golf and surburban living.
Tomorrow [Saturday, May 15], dad dons a cap and gown and receives the honorary diploma. We'll all be there.
Thanks UCLA. Mom would stand so damn proud.

May 13, 2010

Random argument prevails at PLUM

Unfortunate news in the Menlo development case: The city's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) office on Tuesday rejected an appeal launched by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to protect a trail that serves as a wildlife passage from Griffith Park to Elysian Park. The trail, which snakes around above Riverside Drive, is featured in the Community Plan for the area, but the developer who wants to build 120 condos successfully argued (apparently with any supporting evidence) that it was "random." Plenty of irony in this persuasive little word: for one that we could be seeing random wildlife running to their deaths on the 2 Freeway and other major thoroughfares next time there's a fire or any other reason for the animals to roam. The ruling also devalues Community Plans all over Los Angeles. What good is a Community Master Plan if its elements can randomly be called random? Diane Edwardson calls it the Chewbacca Defense.

In any case, the trail is anything but random: It's the only undeveloped place on the south side of the L.A. River and the 5 Freeway where animals can cross safely. Also, it may not look like much but, according to an L.A. Times article forwarded to me by Paul Edelman of SMMC, it is part of a planned trail that would run from Olvera Street to the ocean, which is one reason for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to be involved. Not to mention they care about bobcats, deer, even coyotes.

Next step is coming up quick: The full city council will consider the matter on May 19, taking PLUM's decision in favor of the developer under advisement.

Diane Edwardson gives a fuller description in Corralitas Red Car Project.

May 10, 2010

Seen any bobcats? Seen plans for a 120-condo development?

A few days ago, Diane Edwardson, who maintains the excellent Corralitas Red Car Property blog, wrote me an email asking if I had seen any bobcats recently.

And yesterday I did see a bobcat. It was in a cage -- a rescue of sorts, alive but cooped up and acting cagey -- at STAR Eco Station in Culver City. (According to our guide, the cat's mother had been killed by the owner of chickens when the cat raided the coop; then the dead mother's kitten was adopted by an animal wrangler for movies; but the wrangler was killed that same week in a car accident; the kitten was then off-loaded to someone who grew scared of him as he got bigger; so he ended up in an indoor cage at the "Station." In the movie version of this story, the bobcat breaks free and makes his way to L.A. City Hall, where he extraverbally convinces a panel of council members to legislate in favor of hiking/wildlife corridors in the extraordinary city of Los Angeles.)

But ... Edwardson was not asking about caged beasts. It's the wild ones she cares about. Many who were in Echo Park in 2007 after the Griffith Park fire will remember the refugees who came to Elysian Park -- a bobcat, for one, deer, coyotes, all kinds of birds. Except for the birds, perhaps, they got here via a thin but well-established wildlife corridor that uses paths and trails near the L.A. River and little strips of land near the 2 Freeway. Some of this corridor is supposed to be protected by law. But, Edwardson reports, the developer of the Menlo property, above Riverside Drive -- near the Red Car property -- has been taking steps to erase the inconvenient horse-and-hiking trails that wild animals also use. The public trail is mandated by Community Plan, but the city has allowed the developer to do away with it. (Edwardson is a volunteer community activist.)

According to Edwardson's blog, "The Griffith Park to El Pueblo Trail has been in the Silver Lake - Echo Park - Elysian Valley Community Plan since 1984."'s in the community plan, but the city is not requiring that it be accommodated in the 120-condo plan. Chicken Corner doesn't understand this part.

Neither does the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which is appealing the City's decision, in a hearing scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday (tomorrow -- details after the jump).

According to the SMMC's press release on the matter:

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (Conservancy) is appealing the City of Los Angeles's decision to permit a 120-unit condominium project on the former Pacific Electric Red Car right-of-way on Riverside Drive in Silver Lake. As designed, the project would eliminate a heavily-used wildlife movement corridor between the City's two flagship parks, genetically isolating mammal populations within Elysian Park. The project would also prevent the planned extension of a popular hiking and equestrian trail along the Red Car right-of-way properties connecting Griffith and Elysian Parks.
The Conservancy has requested minor changes to the building plans to accommodate the wildlife corridor and future trail; however, the City has refused to require the applicant to dedicate any land for the community trail. Instead, the developer has decided to give the property in the trail corridor to neighboring homeowners. Fourth District Councilmember Tom LaBonge faces strong resistance to the trail from these few vocal homeowners poised to benefit directly from the development. The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Committee both recommended to the City that the hiking and equestrian trail dedication be required.

A PLUM meeting (Planning and Land Use Management committee) will be held tomorrow in which the city will consider the appeal to this...sneaky, awful effort that would subvert the integrity of community plans and destroy a unique, natural wildlife corridor we ought to be protecting.

TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2010
Patrice Lattimore - Legislative Assistant - 213 978-1074/e-mail

May 7, 2010

Entrails and ick


Chicken Corner has received a response to "Pig heart," in which a neighbor describes coming across the pieces of a murdered pig. Benjamin Cole raises some good questions, such as:

Are not the coyotes supposed to clean such items as pigs heart up?
I gotta say, this one is icky, but does not bother me that much, as long as the animals are killed humanely.
After all, how many animals every day are killed in slaughterhouses? The orthodox also slaughter animals following rituals.
But people should not leave entrails in public parks.

As for the coyote, there is one that lives in some undeveloped lots behind my house. He/she has almost no fur and seems in need of a good meal. I have to admit I would be biased toward people who went out to feed her pork, but not as biased as I am against killing pigs for "spiritual" purposes that don't involve eating.

My opinion on the slaughterhouses: I think we kill too many animals for food. And I think we should eat meat only occasionally, or only when we're sick. No one needs to eat meat all the time, but the meat we do eat should be raised humanely. The existence of slaughterhouses does not justify animal sacrifice. This is my religion.

Cole had more on his mind than just pig flesh.

On the matter of bikes and walking, he wrote:

The city is building a fence on the LA River bike path, which now extends south of Fletcher. For generations, we have been able to walk along the river without a fence between us an the river. Now, a fence.
The bike oath is newly resurfaced, meaning 10-speeders can whoosh past, and act like you are in their way. I was even yelled at by one, for not having eyes in the back of my head and knowing he was coming on my left. Others will bark at you "on your right, on your right," in a tone suggesting you are interloping on a bike path.
Before, the 10-speeders did not come down south of Fletcher, as there was no underpass at Fletecher, and the path was so crummy.

More information is needed here. A fence? Why in heaven? And, as regards bikes, regular users of Elysian Park, just across the Riverside Drive from the river near Fletcher, have fought consistently to keep mountain bikers off the trails and paths. I think the river path has a long history of bike use. But wouldn't it be great to see bikers and pedestrians use the the river for recreation?

Pig heart

A lot has been said in recent days about the pig's heart and other organs that were found in Elysian Park. There have been posts on a neighborhood list serv, and The Eastsider reported. Many who use Elysian Park regularly know that animal remains periodically are discovered, and Santeria practices are usually cited, or blamed. A couple of big issues arise: the issue of religious and cultural tolerance, and the question of whether animal cruelty should be tolerated ever. Like most progressives in Echo Park, Chicken Corner supports both: zero tolerance for animal cruelty, and open-minded tolerance for religious customs that I don't like. (We won't even consider the perennial debate over appropriate uses of public parks.)

Then there's the actual experience of finding a heart on the ground. This morning, I received the following description from a neighbor. She wrote:

It was very close, about 30 feet from the gate to the parking area on the paved trail below Sargent. If you are standing in the parking area below Sargent off of Academy facing South it was on the left hand side. The heart was laying in the hardpack maybe 8 - 10 inches from the pavement, the bag was deeper inside the bush. From the gate that blocks the road, the bag was under the last bush on the left. It was so close to where people park and walk.
While I was waiting for the police and ranger I watched a bunch of dogs try to pull their owners towards the bush, but the owners all pulled their dogs away not seeing the heart. When [my dog] stopped at the bush I thought he needed to pee, so I let him stick his head in the bush, that's when I saw the heart. I thought it was a deflated pink balloon, then I thought it was a whoopee cushion as it was exactly that color. I took my sunglasses off and walked over to it and I could see ventricle, etc. and knew it was no whoopee cushion.
The heart itself wasn't bloody, nor was there any blood around it. It was still very pink, so I am guessing it hadn't been there very long. The park ranger who was looking at the bag in the bushes said the bag was bloody. I didn't see it, didn't want to and left before they pulled it out.
I told the officers that the smell of decay is also at the end of the path, at Scott and the same trail. I'd noticed it on Tuesday and thought someone had thrown a dead squirrel or something like in that trash can. The can is totally full, so I thought maybe it had been sitting there for a while, but when I went over to throw Carl's poop out in it I could tell the trash can just smelled like trash. The smell of decay is coming from the hillside across the pavement from the trash can. I don't know if they went over there to investigate. Someone posted a comment in the Eastsider LA that they'd found a pig's head on the trail above the paved Sargent trail, I'm wondering if that head is still up there and that's what is causing the smell.
I just read [a neighbor's] post that there was a decapitated dog found near the entrance to the park opposite of where I found the heart. What is going on around here?

So, let's assume there was some religious purpose in this horror, a primitive and degraded upwelling that bullied its way into view. It's pretty easy to judge, not so easy to live with. And there is no excuse.

May 1, 2010

Free rocking in small places

Some people pay handy sums for dandy home acoustic systems that may even approximate the experience of live music. The Pacific Palisades neighbor of some friends made a posh living by designing those systems. That's the westside; here in the middle lands east of Western and west of the L.A. River we enjoy our sound systems in odd places. Take my friend Andrea Hutchman, for instance. Andrea reported on Facebook a few days ago that she could hear Neil Young "very well" in her bathroom. And why not the living room? Well, the bathroom probably was the best place to hear it, because this was a live session as Mr. Young was next door in Silver Lake recording new music at the home of a distinctive record producer/musician. Maybe it was the tiles. Lucky tiles! Tin foil hats, who needs 'em?

It makes me think of a different friend who used to record her NPR radio segments in her bathroom. Nice little sound booths they is.

*Edited post.

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