Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Community members gather at City Hall to demand their right to be heard regarding the Southwest Museum collection

Council Committee to Hear Autry/Southwest Issue

An Autry National Center request for permission to remodel its facility on city land in Griffith Park will be heard by the Los Angeles City Council’s Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee this Friday, June 3 at 8:45 a.m. at City Hall. One focus of the redesign effort is the creation of gallery space in which to showcase items from the Southwest Museum collection.
The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously this morning to assert council jurisdiction over a Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners decision that gave the Autry National Center the go-ahead on the remodel.
See below on this blog for the back-story leading to today’s vote: http://arroyosecojournal.blogspot.com/2011/05/autry-plans-for-southwest-collection.html
The motion to assert jurisdiction was brought by Councilmembers José Huizar and Ed Reyes, who represent the Southwest Museum’s Mount Washington campus and its surrounding neighborhood on the City Council.
Twenty-five members of the public, including representatives of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition and Friends of Griffith Park, plus residents of Highland Park, Mount Washington, Montecito Heights, Glassell Park and El Sereno, spoke before the council in favor of the motion. The opposition was represented by five speakers: the chair of the Autry Board, museum staff members and the museum’s attorneys.
Huizar began the proceedings by asking his colleagues to support his motion because many citizens believe that they were not given the opportunity to attend the Recreation and Parks hearing and voice their opinions and that “they weren’t even properly notified about the hearing.”
Councilmember Tom LaBonge, whose council district includes Griffith Park, was initially strident in his opposition to the motion.
Among LaBonge’s points were the fact that the portion of Griffith Park where the Autry is a lessee is the site of post World War II emergency housing, not part of the park’s original green space, and that the Autry has a $6+ million grant from the State “to enhance it’s mission.” Autry Chief Executive Officer Daniel Finley said that the awarding of the state grant to the Autry had been well publicized. Autry Board Chairperson Marshall McKay added that the Autry’s application for the grant was fairly considered, that the project will highlight important cultural contributions of Native People, and that 50,000 Los Angeles school children per year will benefit from visiting the remodeled museum.
“The Southwest is no longer in existence,” declared LaBonge.
“The Autry is committing a fraud,” replied Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance member Mark Kenyon during public comment. “The Southwest is only closed because the Autry did not live up to the terms of the merger agreement.”
However, while the closure of the Southwest Museum and the relocation of its collection to Griffith Park are at the heart of issues surrounding the Autry request, what was on the table today was actually very specific. Huizar asked his colleagues, whether they agreed or disagreed with the substance of the Autry request, to “give the many interested individuals the opportunity to be heard.”
“Yes is not a vote against renovation,” said community member Darryl Ramos-Young. “Just a vote for a proper, open hearing.”
City staff members were called forward by LaBonge to explain that the agenda for the Recreation and Parks special board meeting had been posted two days in advance. The Department of Recreation and Parks asserted that the conflict of interest that had previously prevented its board from ruling on Autry matters is now moot. Board President Barry Sanders is indeed a former partner in the Law Firm of Latham and Watkins, but that firm has not represented the Autry for over a year now.
Speaker after speaker spoke to the fact that there had been no public notification regarding the Recreation and Parks meeting.
Charlie Fisher of Highland Park said that he felt rather like Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Dent awakens one morning to find bulldozers about to demolish his house to make way for a highway. Notification had been given; the plans had been posted in an obscure location in a government building somewhere. Further, the earth is about to be wiped out to make way for a hyperspace bypass; the plans had been posted on another planet.
“[The Autry] set about to get these permits in an underhanded and stealth way,” said Mount Washington resident Daniel Wright of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition. “A fundamental government right is at stake here.”
Wright said that a no vote on the Huizar-Reyes motion would feed public cynicism and growing anger toward government. He added that allowing the Recreation and Parks decision to stand without public input could well lead to civil court action regarding denial of the public’s rights.
The motion looked to be in serious trouble for a while, as councilmembers, city staff and Autry officials grappled with whether delays could cause the Autry to lose its grant money. Grant reporting is due by July 1. Recreation and Parks, Finley and LaBonge all argued that the delay could doom the funding.
But Councilmember Reyes rose and said, “We can move diligently. We talk about good will and transparency, about fair access, fair hearing.”
At that point Reyes looked at LaBonge and asked, “Will you offer that good will?”
It wasn’t LaBonge’s turn to speak, but it was widely noted in the Council Chamber that Reyes did not exactly get eye contact in return.
Councilmember Richard Alarcón pursued the issue of Recreation and Parks agenda notification. Rec and Parks said it did what it always does with agendas and suggested checking with Info Tech. A representative of the City Attorney’s Office finally confirmed that the agenda had not been posted by the City Information Technology Agency, and that the agenda had not been mailed to subscribers through the City’s Early Notification System.
“The question is whether we want to fully inform people, even beyond the Brown Act,” replied Alarcón.
Councilmember Dennis Zine admitted that he had never been to the Southwest Museum and that he knew little about the controversies surrounding it, but he said that he was prepared to support the Huizar-Reyes motion because, “People are telling me that it’s an issue for them in their community, and that means something to me.”
“Congratulations,” Zine said to the Northeast Los Angeles community members in attendance. “You have had an impact on my vote.”
Huizar reported that, if the council were to pass the motion, that passage would open a 21 day period within which the council would be legally obligated to take action.
“This will not jeopardize the grant,” said Huizar. “Take that off the table.”
As the hearing wrapped up, it seemed clear the motion was on its way to passage. LaBonge held a quick side aisle conversation with Autry officials and then agreed to make the passage unanimous and to hear the matter of the Autry remodeling at a meeting of the council’s Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, which he chairs, this coming Friday morning.
Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee members, in addition to LaBonge, are Reyes and Councilmember Herb Wesson.
The conversation now shifts from public notification and government transparency to whether or not LaBonge’s contention that the Southwest Museum is no longer in existence is true.

City Council Asserts Authority over Rec & Parks Decision


The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously this morning to assert jurisdiction over the recent Recreation and Parks department decision which allowed the Autry National Museum to to display the Southwest Museum collection.

Such a move would have effectively shuttered the historic museum forever.The matter will now be heard by the City Council Arts , Parks, Health and Aging Committee Friday, June 3, at 8:45 a.m.

Full details available here later today at www.arroyosecojournal.blogspotcom.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Northeast L.A. Artists Support Incarcerated Chinese Artist With Makeshift Gallery

Today, everybody can become Ai Weiwei
--Writer, Filmmaker Ai Xiaoming

Northeast Los Angeles artists are organizing a show of support for imprisoned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. They are turning the vacant lot at the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 50 into a make-shift gallery featuring works inspired by Ai.
Local artist Brian Mallman put out the call via Facebook and email. The first few works quickly showed up. More are on the way.
Ai’s art has earned him an international following. The 54-year old artist is known for his work in sculpture; architecture; conceptual, experimental and performance arts; photography; film; architecture; book publishing; social media and curation and for his linkage of art and social criticism.
Among the artist’s most recent works are “Sunflower Seeds,” an installation at the Tate Modern in London, which uses millions of individually hand-crafted tiny porcelain sculptures to create a commentary on individualism versus enforced conformity, and “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,” which features a recreation of Chinese art ransacked by the British and French during the Second Opium War. “Circle of Animals” had its debut May 4 in New York City, without the incarcerated artist. A major survey show, currently at the Lisson Gallery in London, includes “Colored Vases,” for which Han Dynasty pots have been covered with industrial paint
“For the world, Ai continues to represent the promise of China,” former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman wrote in support of Time Magazine’s listing of Ai as one of 2011’s most influential people in the world. Given Ai’s international stature, many in the arts community would add that Ai “represents the promise of the world,” standing as an example of the artist in support of human dignity.
“It is very sad,” writes Huntsman, “that the Chinese government has seen a need to silence one of its most innovative and illustrious citizens.”
Ai comes from dissident stock. The arrest of his father, a highly respected poet, led to the family spending most of Ai’s youth in a work camp. But Ai’s current problems with Chinese authorities did not come to a head until 2008. Although he had served as an artistic consultant on the design of the stadium for that year’s Olympics in Beijing, Ai became a vocal critic of the “pretend smile” surrounding the games.
Ai ran further afoul of Chinese authorities when he exposed corruption that lead to the collapse of schools during the 2008 Szechuan earthquake. He assembled a huge team of volunteers, who collected the names of well over 5,000 young people killed in the quake, and then he began posting the names online and on the walls of his studio. He created a major installation in Munich called “So Sorry,” in which 9,000 custom-made school backpacks were displayed. The bags spelled out, in Chinese, “She lived happily on this earth for seven years,” quoting the mother of one of the students killed in the quake. He also began reporting on detentions of Chinese activists via Twitter.
In 2009, Ai was severely beaten by Chinese police. A month later, he almost died of the results. He underwent emergency brain surgery in Germany to stop massive internal bleeding.
Early this year, Ai’s studio was demolished by the Chinese government.
Ai was taken into custody April 3.
Weeks went by before any kind of information was released regarding Ai’s condition or charges against him. In mid-May, his wife was allowed a 20 minute supervised visit and reported him to be in apparent good health. On May 21, Ai was publicly accused via government aligned media of tax evasion and other financial improprieties. References were also made to possible charges of bigamy and dissemination of online pornography.
Ai’s is the most prominent name among those of many artists, writers, lawyers and other Chinese citizens who have been arrested in China in recent months.
"Other than a few small protests and an online petition, the art world has been largely silent publicly about Ai Weiwei’s imprisonment,” Mallman says of the York and Avenue 50 installation. “If artists don’t begin forming protests like this one, we need to start asking, ‘Why’?"
On the heels of a demonstration at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in support of the artist, a shipper has demanded the return of two Ai Weiwei designed chairs to China. The move, although nebulous, is being seen by the art world as ominous. Yet it does suggest that China is monitoring what is taking place on the international scene.
The intersection of York and Avenue 50, where the works are being posted, is a very active corner with heavy car and pedestrian traffic. It is an arts-rich corner with a number of arts venues within a block of the temporary outdoor gallery. There are also coffee and eating places and vintage and boutique stores that draw a diverse crowd to the boulevard.
Everyone—from “I’ve never done this before” to world-famous artist—is invited and encouraged to participate in the installation. Simply bring your Ai Weiwei-inspired art to the lot and put it on the fence.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Southwest Museum/Autry Update!

Update! The City Council will hear a motion asserting jurisdiction over a Recreation and Parks board action allowing the Autry National Center to remodel its facility in Griffith Park to house the Southwest Museum collection. Tuesday, May 31, 10 a.m., Los Angeles City Hall. Background article below.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Autry Plans for Southwest Collection Approved by Rec and Parks

A major development has taken place in the long and always unfolding saga of the Southwest Museum-Autry National Center “merger.”
On Friday, May 20, The City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission voted to approve an Autry National Center request for approval to renovate its facility on its Griffith Park campus. (The Autry leases the Griffith Park site from the City for $1 per year, thereby necessitating Recreation and Parks approval for any significant physical changes.)
How the action on the part of the Recreation and Parks Commissioners could have come about is, at this point, mysterious for several reasons.
Local members of the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition, which has fought for the Southwest Museum’s retention as a fully-functioning museum on its Mount Washington campus since 2003, monitor Recreation and Parks agendas closely for any relevant activity. The coalition is made up of a great many Neighborhood Councils, resident organizations and preservation groups. However, no one was aware that the Autry item was agendized for May 20.
The item was, in fact on the commission’s agenda for the day. However, the agenda was filed as a “Special Agenda.” It was not posted on the City of Los Angeles web site under meetings and agendas. It was not sent to members of the public who subscribe under the City’s Early Notification System. It was not sent to the long list of city residents who have expressed serious interest in the case, including those who attended a packed 2009 hearing on Autry expansion, nor to those who have in the past sent mail or email communications on the matter.
The State’s Brown Act requires open, 72-hour advanced posting of agendas except in urgent situations. The agenda for the May 20 Recreation and Parks Commission meeting may have been posted at City Hall shortly before the meeting. It is several clicks into the Recreation and Parks Department web site. But there was no apparent outreach done to notify the public, despite a history of great community interest in the matter. Community activists, who certainly would have been at the meeting had they known about it, are left puzzled as to how an issue that has been on the table since 2003 could suddenly be declared worthy of a “Special Agenda” without public notification.
Further, the Los Angeles City Attorney ruled in 2009 that the Recreation and Parks Commission is not eligible to rule on Autry matters because the Commission President, Barry Sanders, is a retired partner in the Law Firm of Latham and Watkins, which represents the Autry. The City Attorney’s office has considered this to be a conflict of interest.
And there is precedent for the commissioners avoiding taking action in matters involving the Autry. In 2009. when the Autry brought a request for permission to expand to the City, the matter was referred to the City Council’s Board of Referred Powers, which acts when a city board or commission is deemed ineligible. (In the 2009 case, the Board of Referred Powers asked, at local City Council Member José Huizar ‘s request, that the Autry put its promises to preserve the Southwest Museum into the form of a signed document. Representatives of Latham and Watkins, acting on behalf of the Autry National Center, refused.)
"In my more than 25 years representing and advising public agencies, I have never seen such a sleazy and underhanded maneuver as what occurred on Friday, May 20th,” says attorney and Mount Washington resident Daniel Wright. “For a public agency to selectively remove from its meeting agenda email notification system persons it knows are opposed to a project is to maliciously trample the core principles of democracy and fair play.”
It is possible for the City Council to assume jurisdiction over the Recreation and Parks Commission ruling—if the Council acts quickly. Impetus most likely would come from Councilmember Huizar, who represents the portion of Mount Washington where the Southwest Museum building is located, and/or from Councilmember Ed Reyes, who represents the North Figueroa corridor, where the museum’s Casa de Adobe is located. They would have to work with City Council President Eric Garcetti (who also represents part of Northeast Los Angeles) to put an item regarding assuming jurisdiction on a City Council agenda. A two-thirds vote of the full council would then be necessary to proceed. This will have to happen very quickly if it is going to happen, as the Council has only five council meeting days (the Council meets three times a week) to assume jurisdiction over any commission’s decision. If jurisdiction is assumed, the Council will then have 21 days to consider whether to veto or uphold the commission action.
The Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition is asking the public to contact Councilmembers Huizar and Reyes immediately to ask for a motion asserting jurisdiction over the Recreation and Parks Commission ruling. (Addresses and phone numbers are at LACity.org.)
What the Autry brought to the commission is essentially a scaled down version of previous expansion plans. Community members near the Southwest site on Mount Washington and near the Autry site in Griffith Park were never made aware that a new plan was in the works nor that it was finalized.
According the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition, what is at stake is a priceless collection of Native American artifacts, one of the two greatest such collections in the world; a 13-acre Mount Washington site that is listed on the National Register of Historic places and a $5 million endowment.
When the Southwest and Autry Museums merged in 2003, the move was presented to the public as a true merger involving two partners. The Southwest had a world class collection and Los Angeles’ oldest museum building, but was cash poor. The Autry had a much better endowment and a collection that was noteworthy, but not on a par with the Southwest. The public was told that two facilities would be maintained. That contention ended however, when the Autry closed the Southwest campus and sought to expand its Griffith Park facility to showcase the Southwest collection. Meanwhile, the Autry’s bank coffers have been exposed as not nearly as flush as originally suggested, with most of the needed money in the will of a very much alive Jackie Autry, widow of Gene Autry, and in expectations of a blue ribbon committee appointed to raise funds for the preservation of the Southwest Museum, something it never did.
Former Autry National Center Director John Grey commonly portrayed the Autry’s involvement as having saved the Southwest Museum. Coalition to Save the Southwest Museum members, as well as Councilmember Reyes, have, in the past, called it “cultural piracy.”
Proponents of keeping the Southwest Museum as a fully functioning museum, meeting minimum legal standards for museums, at the Mount Washington site, argue that anything less is a violation of the Northeast Los Angeles Community Plan, a planning document used by the City that carries the weight of law. Many residents of the Griffith Park area, meanwhile, have been vocal in opposition to an expansion of facilities in the park, demanding that is be preserved as it was originally intended—as undeveloped green space.
After the 2009 Board of Referred Powers meeting, the Autry withdrew its presented expansion plan. It has since purchased a building in Burbank, outside of Los Angeles’ jurisdiction, for storage. It has also refused serious financial opportunities engineered by Huizar for the rehabilitation and use of the Southwest Museum campus and has gone so far as to return grant money intended for waterproofing. Meanwhile, it has continued to seek and receive grant money for remodeling in Griffith Park.
The Autry’s recent request to the Recreation and Parks Commission was framed in terms of spending $6.6 million the institution has been awarded in state Proposition 84 funding. The funding is to be used toward the construction of two new galleries, an outdoor teaching garden and site improvements within the existing footprint of the museum. 18,000 square-feet of museum space are impacted.
According to materials submitted to Recreation and Parks by the Autry, “The two exhibit galleries and the outdoor teaching garden will be devoted to the native people of California, their relationship to the natural environment, and the key resource stewardship practices they have employed in sustaining their traditions and customary manner of living…visitors to the Autry will learn about historical and contemporary ecological issues that impact, and in some cases, may threaten the way Californians live.”
Proposition 84 provides bond funding to projects enabling safe drinking water, water quality and supply, flood control, waterway and natural resource protection, water pollution and contamination control, state and local park improvements, public access to natural resources and water conservation efforts.
One of the exhibit galleries is designed to house a long-term exhibit on “The First Californians,” showing “how nature is weaved into the customs and ceremonial traditions of Native Californians.” The second gallery is designed to house a long-term exhibit focusing on Pomo life and culture, focusing on two female Pomo “doctors” whose work sustained Pomo practices and culture. It is planned to include suggestions as to how contemporary Californians can benefit from this knowledge. A centerpiece of the teaching garden would be a water feature depicting the journey of a river through various riparian ecosystems.
The two proposed galleries would contain over 500 objects from 50 Native American cultures. The Autry proposal does not use the terms “Southwest Museum” or “Southwest Collection.”
If the City Council does assume jurisdiction over the Recreation and Parks action and the Council hears the matter within three weeks, there will not be, at that Council meeting, something so clear-cut as a thumbs up or thumbs down to the Autry’s latest remodeling plan. The Council could insist on an environmental review. It could tell the Autry to submit its plan to a public review process. It could also decide to investigate whether Sanders broke conflict of interest laws in his role as a commissioner.
Community members are not mincing words when it comes to their feelings on the matter.
"If the Council does not vote to take jurisdiction and veto this fraudulent transaction,” says Wright, “the community will finally do what it has tried to avoid: litigation and public boycott of the Autry Museum.”
"A boycott of the Autry is not in anyone's interest,” Wright adds, “and Councilmembers Huizar, Reyes and Garcetti need to lead the way to resolution."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Relighting the Highland

The dreams of Amy Inouye and a host of Highland Park activists and preservationists came true May 17, as the community gathered to re-light the sign above the Highland Theatre on North Figueroa Street. Read the full story by Margaret Arnold at http://www.myebook.com/index.php?option=ebook&id=81430

Highland Theatre Sign Relighting 05/17/11

© Martha Benedict
Visit MarthaBenedict.com/relighting for photos of the relighting event.

20 Theatres of Northeast Los Angeles

The Highland Theatre is the only movie theatre in Northeast Los Angeles. But that wasn’t always the case. Movie houses dotted the Northeast map for decades. Some were demolished years ago. But most of the buildings are still standing on our main streets. Click here for a tour of 20 sites—from silent movie houses to grand movie palaces--where NELA residents of years past took their dates, attended free Saturday kids’ matinees, learned about adventure, mystery, horror and romance, ate popcorn and got their feet stuck to the floor.
We invite you to share with us your memories of these theatres (and any others we may have missed). Send us your thoughts in the comments section here or at ArroyoSJ@yahoo.com. We’ll share your comments in a future issue. (P.S. Check your photo albums. Any photos of local theatres?)

Highland Theatre Sign Lighting 05/17/11

"I'd like to thank everyone for coming to my party. This is my letter. A is for Anton, and that's me!"

A typical Tuesday evening on a typical street corner in Highland Park

Highland Theatre Sign Lighting 05/17/11

Highland Theatre Sign Lighting 05/17/11

Highland Theatre Sign Lighting 05/17/11

Highland Theatre Sign Lighting 05/17/11

Highland Theatre Sign Lighting 5/17/11

New Signs

As Highland Park celebrates one of the earliest examples of large electric signage this week with the lighting of the Highland Theatre sign, two new examples are to be found just up the street on Avenue 50. Stephanie Allespach’s “Sometimes” is in the window at Outpost for Contemporary Art just off of York Boulevard through the summer. Jason Manley’s “Believe” can be seen through the window at Public Fiction (the museum of) just off of Aldama. The signs, while modern, are crafted with a nod to historic neon and incandescent bulb styles.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brewery Spring ArtWalk

Twice a year the occupants of the world’s largest arts colony, The Brewery, located in Lincoln Heights, open their doors to the public for an ArtWalk. For a three-minute recap of seven hours of the Brewery experience, click on the video below. The next Brewery ArtWalk will be in the October.
(Artists: Keith Collins, Tapestries/Chuck Hood, Sculpture & Chess Art/Holly V. Hood, Pastels & Paintings/Yoshi Hashimoto, Peace 22 Studio/Hipcooks/James Hill, Metal Sculptor/Flip Out Tire Gardens/Nicole Fournier, Encaustic Art/Debi Cable, Velvet Touch Painting/Kid Rainbow/Peddler of Dreams Art Space for Children/Chakacoco, Attire for Small Dogs/Church of Art: Llyn Foulkes, On the Machine; Norton Wisdom, Backlit Painting; Kasey McMahon, Dance/Dave Lefner, Reduction Linocuts/Kevin Rolly, Live Painting/Let’s Play Dead/Alyssa Ravenwood, Ravenwood Masks/Joyce Aysta, Live Your Dreams Origami Architecture/Martin Arriola, Live Painting of the Brewery/Sean Sobczak, Sandman Creations/Psycho Girlfriend: Kasey McMahon & Vanessa Bonet, Wearable Art; Mark Miller, Musician/Bruce Gray, Metal Sculpture/Kevin Flint, Dystopian Studio)

Confluence Plaza

One year ago, the Arroyo Seco Journal reported on major changes in the works for the junction of North Figueroa, San Fernando Road and Riverside Drive. Phase one is now complete. See images from the dedication above. See the story in this month's Arroyo Seco Journal. See the back story from last year rerun below. The Back Story on Confluence Plaza.

The Arroyo Seco Journal, April 2010
A major local intersection is about to be completely transformed. Right now, at the junction of San Fernando Road, North Figueroa Street and Riverside Drive, there is no real way to know that one has arrived at the edge of some of most historic communities of Los Angeles, namely Cypress Park, Lincoln Heights and Elysian Valley. To the immediate west, the Riverside Drive Bridge crosses the Los Angeles River. The lights of Dodger Stadium are visible on game night, atop a verdant hillside. But the intersection itself is dangerous and, well, just plain ugly. The only evidence of anything special is a small U.S. Route 66 sign—dwarfed by an ad-less, peeling billboard above it. But that’s temporary. Changes on the way include a traffic-calming roundabout, parkland and a major piece of public art reflective of the diverse residents of the area. The transformation has been long in coming. City Councilmember Ed Reyes says that he first began working on the corner in 1992 as a staff member to then Councilmember Mike Hernandez. In the beginning, according to Reyes, the project was about wishful thinking. Residents were asked what they wanted to see, and a strong sentiment that emerged was that they wanted to get away from the industrial feel of the neighborhood. Reyes told attendees at a recent gathering that a lot has already been accomplished. The bridge is about to be reconfigured to eliminate a dangerous pinching effect. There will be a designated bike road. Not far away, the Avenue 19 Bridge has been rebuilt, there is a Request for Proposals out for an adaptive reuse of a former jail, the Fuller Building is now providing housing in formerly abandoned structures, there are two State Parks on former railroad properties, and the Metro Gold Line provides clean, fast transportation. The most dramatic coming change is going to be the roundabout, and the biggest excitement generator is going to be what’s going to be in the middle of it. A roundabout is a circular intersection that drivers cross by traveling counterclockwise around a raised center island. A roundabout promotes safety by slowing traffic down and by greatly reducing the possibility of head-on collisions. It can also be a tool for making slowed motorists much more aware of the communities through which they are passing. Greenmeme, a locally based sustainable design firm run by artists Freya Bardell and Brian Howe, has been commissioned to create a very large public art installation for the roundabout’s central island. The artwork will: • Welcome people to the local communities of Northeast Los Angeles and let them know they have arrived somewhere special • Represent diverse generations of residents • Serve a safety function by masking traffic across the roundabout • And serve an environmental purpose related to water runoff and the river watershed. Design plans for the artwork will be released after they are approved by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission, probably in May. An early look revealed that it will serve as a major centerpiece for the entire Northeast Los Angeles area. Three corners of the intersection itself are being converted to park space. City maintenance yards are being moved elsewhere. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is already installing a fountain and small park on the corner closest to the Home Depot. Reyes says that the whole intersection will soon be reflective of a riverfront district located just steps from the birthplace of Los Angeles. The parkland will be known as Confluence Park. The State’s Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority made a first corner acquisition at the intersection in 2003, and there are plans for picnic facilities, native landscaping, the water feature, interpretive exhibits, walking paths and amenities (including restrooms) for bicyclers and pedestrians. In addition to serving immediate community members, Confluence Park will be a key piece in the connectivity of a much larger picture that includes: • A repaired riparian ecosystem • Recreational access to the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco • Realization of an emerald necklace of parkland connecting Griffith Park, Rio de Los Angeles State Park; Confluence Park, Los Angeles State Historic Park (Cornfield), Elysian Park and El Pueblo • And meeting day to day commuting needs via a variety of modes of transportation. The neighborhoods around the intersection are densely populated. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy estimates that as many as one million people could benefit from local parkland. Project partners in piecing the whole bridge-roundabout-parkland project together include the California Department of Transportation, the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles (Council District 1, the Bureau of Engineering, Cultural Affairs), the United States Geological Survey, Community Development by Design, The University of California Berkeley, The Los Angeles Conservation Corps, The California Trust for Public Schools, The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Greenmeme. Funding for the project is largely through Federal sources, but includes State sources as well. Expected duration of the whole bridge-roundabout-park project is through 2013. It will be a dramatic change for an intersection that was once part of the trail that in 1776 brought the Juan Bautista De Anza expedition to the river where it founded the pueblo that became Los Angeles, but has been treated more recently as a throughway and storage facility. Now, standing at San Fernando Road, North Figueroa and Riverside Drive, one gets more of a feeling of being outside a backdoor than of being at the City’s front door. “We are asking the City to change its culture,” Reyes says.

Home As Canvas

The first in a series of art houses has been completed along the Gold Line route. See the images above. Read the story in this month's Arroyo Seco Journal.

An Urban Forest in Highland Park

Volunteers line York Boulevard with shade trees. See the story in this month's Arroyo Seco Journal.

Eagle Rock Day at Los Angeles City Hall

Eagle Rock has passed the century mark, and community members celebrated their neighborhood’s three digit birthday with a party at Los Angeles City Hall March 4. Local Councilmember Jose Huizar and his colleagues officially proclaimed the day “Eagle Rock Day in Los Angeles.”
Children from Dahlia Heights Elementary School enlightened City Councilmembers on the history of their community. There were remarks by Bob Gotham, President of The Eagle Rock Association (TERA); by resident since 1939, John Miller; by city historian, Councilmember Tom LaBonge and by Council President Eric Garcetti whose grandfather was from Eagle Rock and who once taught at Occidental College. Candles were blown out on a birthday cake as Eagle Rock Elementary School Students sang “Happy Birthday to You—cha cha cha.”
Then everyone was ushered up to the City Hall’s 27th-floor Tom Bradley Room where they were serenaded by the Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School Latin Jazz Band and enjoyed cake amidst a 360-degree view of the City.
The Dahlia Heights students put on a play, “The Adventures of Eagle Rock, Then and Now,” taking the audience through the history of the community—the native Tongva, strawberry and dahlia farming, author John Steinbeck (who was informed that no one would ever buy a book about angry grapes), trolley cars, Occidental College, Barack Obama and the rock itself.
In addition to large contingents of Dahlia Heights and Eagle Rock students, TERA, the Latin Jazz Band and Huizar’s staff, representatives of The Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful (CERB), B.L.E.N.D., Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society, Women’s Twentieth Century Club and the Kiwanis and Lions were in attendance..
The community’s official birthday was March 1, marking the 1911 date when Eagle Rock was incorporated as a city.
“And since then it’s kept its small town feel in this large metropolitan area,” said Huizar, “where neighbors know neighbors, and you can find anything you need in our beautiful local community of Eagle Rock.”
A full year of centennial events is planned.

Art Among the Chard

Artists Linda Johnstone Allen and Kacy Treadway debut a series of totem poles at the Eagle Rockdale Community Garden and Art Park. The project organized by Treadway, will evolve, as artists--some local and some from as far away as Australia--add components.