Sunday, August 28, 2011

Northeast Carnival

Today is the last day of the second annual Northeast Carnival. Eagle Rock Boulevard, all the way from Avenue 33 to Verdugo Road. 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Proceeds support the youth programs of the LAPD Northeast Division.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Traffic Collision
Southbound 110 Freeway at York Boulevard
Highland Park
Friday, August 26, 2011
TIME: 5:27 PM

HIGHLAND PARK - Despite the Friday evening, rush-hour traffic, LAFD resources swiftly responded to what was first termed a "traffic collision" on the freeway. After having received multiple calls, dispatchers quickly upgraded the incident to a "physical rescue." However, the first arriving units encountered something much worse.

After one car apparently stalled on the southbound side of the Pasadena Freeway near York Boulevard, a sport utility vehicle, having not enough time to react to the disabled vehicle, violently rammed into its rear-end, causing the stalled auto to burst into flames. There were two passengers on-board the fully engulfed vehicle and despite the extreme efforts by nearly 40 LAFD Firefighters and Paramedics on-scene, one of the passengers succumbed to injuries and sadly, was pronounced deceased.

Resources from the South Pasadena Fire Department joined with the LAFD on the freeway incident and helped treat and transport four other patients, including the driver of the burnt-out vehicle. All were taken via rescue-ambulance in fair condition to local hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. At least one patient sustained minor burns, in a clear attempt to assist the poor soul that perished in the vehicle fire.
This fatality collision is currently under active investigation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Re-thinking North Figueroa Street

About 30 residents of the neighborhoods along the North Figueroa corridor gathered at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop Friday evening to brainstorm ways to use the implementation of the Los Angeles Bicycle Plan to benefit the busy street.

The Los Angeles Bike Plan was passed by the City Council a few months ago after years of effort on the part of bike activists. But its implementation—and what it will mean for Northeast L.A. residents—is still rather up in the air.

The plan calls for a bikeway the length of the corridor, passing among the communities of Cypress Park, Mount Washington, Montecito Heights, Highland Park, Garvanza and Eagle Rock with connectivity to the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco.

Flying Pigeon proprietor Josef Bray-Ali encouraged participants to see the implementation of the plan in the coming months as a time to “re-think North Figueroa Street.”

“Is a stripe of paint for a bikeway enough for us, or would we like to see better crossing points for pedestrians, faster bus service, quiet streets with less crashes, and a healthier street for business?”, Bray-Ali wrote in his public invitation to the discussion.

City Transportation Department ideas for the 70-foot wide street are pretty basic. A lane of traffic can be removed to allow for a designated bike lane. Or parking can be removed on one side of the street.

The diverse crowd that gathered at the Flying Pigeon was looking to be a lot more creative, not only in regard to where bike traffic can go, but also in regard to how implementation of the plan can support the health of the business community, economic development, safe routes to schools, traffic slowing, noise reduction, public safety, bus access and bright and vibrant streets and sidewalks. The Figueroa corridor was seen, not as a high-speed way to get across and out of Northeast L.A., but rather as the spine of a butterfly, with day-to-day life in residential communities going on in the wings.

Bray-Ali pointed out that there is currently a lack of awareness on the part of local merchants and the public of the fact that a great many of the patrons of local businesses are arriving by foot, bicycle and public transportation. Meanwhile, the planning focus for many years now has been on fast movement of cars. In essence, the group is looking to return the historic street to local merchants and residents.

North Figueroa is high up on the list of corridors targeted for implementation of the bike plan. The local residents who gathered at the Flying Pigeon mean to be ready to bring creative solutions to local problems in Los Angeles’ historic suburbs.

For information on further meetings:

Jim Bowden, 1921-2011

Jim Bowden, who established Occidental Garage on York Boulevard and ran it from 1947 until 1994, has passed away.
Bowden was born in 1921. While a student at Franklin High School, he became fascinated with building and racing high-speed roadsters. After high school, he served in World War II, landing at Normandy the day after D-Day and spending nine months in a POW camp in Germany, before returning to Northeast Los Angeles and opening his popular business. He was profiled in “Rod & Custom” Magazine in its May issue.
Bowden died July 28 in Hesperia where he and his wife spent their retirement. In addition to his wife Florence, he is survived by two daughters and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Still Go-Go-ing After All These Years

The Go-Go's at the Greek Theatre,
Los Angeles, August 17, 2011

by Eddie Rivera

Was it really that long ago? Gina Schock telling me she's leaving our band to join the Go-Gos?

"Gina, The Go-Go's can't play," I said.

"I can," she answered. That she can.

And, oh so many years, and gold records, and magazine covers, and world tours and honors later, there they were on stage in their hometown. The Go-Go's at the Greek Theatre on a summer night in L.A. You wanna go, just hearing those words.

Morphed into a pop rock and roll band after emerging from the LA punk scene in 1978, the band has held up surprisingly well, as they aptly demonstrated to the sellout crowd. It was almost easy to forget just how many hits they had, sprinkling them through a happy, high-powered set that was as elegant in its simplicity, as it was rich in spirit. A simple rock band stage setup and some pretty cool songs make for a splendid evening.

Charlotte Caffey showed off her versatility on the piano throughout the show, adding a new level of sonic texture. As usual, Gina and her rock-solid drumming held things firmly in place, even as the band sputtered through one or two false starts.

Bassist Jane Weidlin was lively and perky, as though this was a brand new show and brand new band. Singer Belinda Carlisle was svelte and glamorous as she sang gleefully in her woefully thin and often flat voice (I could hear a flat note from out in the parking lot during "Vacation," the set's opener.) But it's rock and roll. No one goes to see the Go-Go's for their virtuosity. It's the joy and spirit of the music they've been making now into their fifth decade.

They've still got the beat.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Political Districts for Northeast LA

The California Redistricting Commission just voted to approve new maps for Congressional, State Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization districts.

What are the impacts on Northeast Los Angeles? Who will our representatives be? What forces will shape NELA’s political identity in the coming ten years?
See the Arroyo Seco Journal’s reports on redistricting from a NELA perspective:

The final vote on the Congressional maps was Democrats: 5 yes, Republicans: 3 yes and 2 no, Decline to State: 4 yes. The final vote on each of the State maps was Democrats: 5 yes, Republicans: 4 yes and 1 no, Decline to State: 4 yes. The maps are now being delivered to the Secretary of State.
The question now is how many law suits there will be and by whom. The most vocal dissatisfaction is coming from Republicans, and the State Republican Party has filed public records requests for items such as emails from commissioners and the firm hired to draw the maps based on commissioner direction.
The conservative dissatisfaction with the process represents quite a change from previous decades, when the primary litigants have sought greater enfranchisement of Latino voters.
MALDEF (The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund) has been evaluating the mapping, and should be making an announcement as to its response shortly.
The Redistricting Commission itself will continue to meet, partially to respond to any litigation and partially to evaluate the process of the past few months.
A particular item on the commissioners’ agenda for the coming months will be of interest to Northeast Los Angeles voters. Central Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains region are the only two geographic areas singled out for specific study. The commissioners will be discussing the impact of map configurations on and among minority groups in those areas. More broadly, the commissioners will be taking a state-wide look at applications of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on the multi-racial dynamics of California.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

NELAart Gallery Night Happenings

NELAart Second Saturday Gallery Night
The Second Saturday of every month, Northeast Los Angeles art galleries stay open late for NELAart Second Saturday Gallery Night. The event is a celebration of the thriving NELA contemporary arts community and of NELA’s history as L.A.’s original arts community. Visit to download a gallery map.

Where to see art Saturday, August 13
NELAart’s Second Saturday Galleries
Stores and Coffee Houses showing local artists
Special Events
And other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities
(7 to 10 p.m. unless otherwise indicated)

Avenue 50 Studio
131 North Avenue 50
“Ganas 2020,” an exhibition of stencil and collage on canvas and rubyliths by artist Ernesto Yerena. The exhibition is based on a story written by Yerena detailing a fictional revolutionary movement, GANAS, fighting for reform, empowerment and dignity.
“Fortress of Solitude/Flux Ultralux,” new work by Ismael de Anda III, fusing imagery from de Anda's journeys throughout the Southwestern United States, Northern Mexico, and his recent travels in Japan. De Anda draws on a re-constructed memory of visiting the "strategy room" from the Quinta Luz Museum, the former home and headquarters of Pancho Villa. His composite landscape of memories also re-mixes childhood experiences, Asian textile designs, and interpretive inspiration from Japanese Obon, a time when spirits of the past are supposed to revisit households.

Bike Oven
3706 North Figueroa
The Spoke(n) Art Ride is a once-a-month bicycle tour of art galleries, parks both public and private, and anywhere the creative human spirit expresses itself in North East Los Angeles. Meet at around 6pm. The ride leaves at 6:30 p.m.

Cactus Gallery
5434 Eagle Rock Boulevard
The Reel Rasquache Art & Film Festival's first independently produced art exhibition. The exhibit displays the work of eight prominent Angeleno artists. Featured artist is NELA muralist, teacher and mentor Margaret Garcia. Also: Abel Alejandre, Lili Bernard, Joe Bravo, Pablo Cristi, Yolanda Gonzalez, CiCi Segura Gonzalez and Patricia Krebs. The RRAFF was established in 2004 to provide a showcase for independent U.S.Latina/o filmmakers from across the country.
In the adjacent gallery space: Percussion Art.

Cafe de Leche
5000 York Boulevard
A coffee shop with monthly exhibits by local artists on the walls. This month: Rock Posters by NOVA. A DIY lo-fi legend and all-around decent human--if you're familiar with the Midwestern music scene, then you may already know his work. After printing stints in Lawrence Kansas, San Francisco and the bowels of downtown LA, he's printing in 90042 & sharing a handpicked collection from the last 15 years. Don't miss it!

4704 Eagle Rock Boulevard
We are celebrating Jim Morrison and his Poetry. Ricardo Acuna will read An American Prayer and David Strother will play Violin. Everybody is welcome, drinks and food offered, 10% off Cuculapraline-Frenchic goodies. 8 p.m.-12 a.m.

Curve Line Space
1577 Colorado Boulevard
Constructions in Time, Drawings by Philip Vaughan. “Although the drawings in this show are abstract in appearance, their provenance is complex. I see this work as a kind on ongoing research project. To me drawing has always been about looking and seeing and then recording. My work has over the years focused on a kind of search for a hidden harmony or pattern in things around me. Most of the time these are patterns that I will only glimpse tangentially. Often they only become apparent during the process of drawing itself. The action of drawing is the key that opens certain windows for me.”

Future Studio
5558 North Figueroa
Carolyn Potter: Nudibranchs and Other Creatures (Crochet, Polymer Clay & Gourd Sculptures... and more small and large art stuff) "Nudibranchs/sea slugs have taken over my life. These bizarre, colorful sea creatures that live on reefs in the ocean are my obsession. I have used sea slugs to inspire my students to make polymer clay sculptures. My sister brought back a book on the reefs of Indonesia after diving in Borneo. I was in love. Page after page of flatworms and nudibranchs. What color. What form. What fun."

The Glass Studio
5052 York Boulevard
New glass art will be debuted.

Kristi Engle Gallery
5002 York Boulevard
Last chance to see: “Wicked Little Critters,” curated by Anne Hars, bringing together the work of 12 artists who address the human/animal relationship. Non-human critters in art, be they wild, house-pets, zoo residents, farm animals, or fable characters reflect ethical attitudes of privilege over our dominion. Stephanie Allespach, Krista Chael, Erin Cosgrove. Leeza Doreian, Chris Doyle, Matt Driggs, Dana Hoey, Mitsuko Ikeno, Ian Patrick, Hirsch Perlman, Christopher Reiger, Holly Topping. With special contributions by the Main Street Museum and the Seabiscuit Foundation Prints from the Endangered Species Print Project available for purchase with all profits donated to animal conservation organizations.

Leanna Lin’s Wonderland
5024 Eagle Rock Boulevard
Come & Celebrate as Leanna Lin's Wonderland turns 1 year old! Crowded Teeth + Friends present Wonderland ... a fun-filled land of happiness! Artists: Allison Revilla, Alyssa Nassner, Axel Honey, Bei Badgirl, Crowded Teeth, Deth P. Sun, Erica Sirotich, Erin Paisley, Fomato, Helena Garcia, J. Fuchs, Jessica Lopez, Julie West, Kali Meadows, Ming Ong, Miss Kika, Sachiho Hino Lee, Stevie Raya. DJ EV-1 from BWOMP. Also: Don Chow Tacos (Chinese Mexican fusion truck), Lake Street Creamery (gourmet ice cream truck), Lovely Jubilee (event stylist), Maile's Fine Pastries, Mugshots photo booth, Steven Lam photography, Crowded Teeth goodie bags to the first 25 people to arrive, Leanna Lin's Wonderland goodie bags to the first 25 people to spend $10 or more. 6-10 p.m.
M2 Gallery
4501 Eagle Rock Boulevard

Matters of Space
5005 York Boulevard
The paintings of Angela Deane. “Transitioning from being a walker in NY to being a cyclist in Gainesville, my understanding of space, scale, and speed has changed. I am now inspired by architecture, where my artwork drew previously from strangers and brief encounters, the tug of familiarity of the human form. In specific, my latest body of work draws from abandoned buildings that I see as I pass in a bicycle or car…The palate of neon and whitewash speaks of the imagined lives I bring to these now decrepit structures.”

Mi Vida Boutique
5159 York Boulevard
Guest Artist: Phyme. Live body painting.
Little Sweeties Mobile Sweet Cart Launch.

Monte Vista Projects
5442 Monte Vista Street
The Closing Reception for Heretics Television Workshop will be a lot of fun! There will be a screening of all the footage we've culled together so far that's fit to be seen---hopefully including some animation by Penelope Gazin and certainly including footage of the scene we shot at the Opening of the show. Live music from The Vatican Underground, performing songs from Heretics Lost. Check out the wall of drunken sailors, with puppet arms and mouths that move. Life-like! Bizarre! 6-10 p.m.
Check out the Heretics Television Workshop in the Arroyo Seco Journal’s current issue.

MorYork Gallery
4959 York Boulevard
Ted Meyer: “Scarred for Life.” Mono-prints and documentation of surgical scars. Ever since he was a small child with a serious illness, Ted Meyer has mixed art and medical images as a way to understand his experiences. Through his art he highlights the emotional impact of pain and healing on everyday people—patients, families and medical personnel. “Scarred for Life” is a multi-faceted project that includes printing on paper from the subject’s body, interviewing the participants about their experiences, and photographing the process.
"Free Spirit #8... the revolution will not be motorized!" photo collection by Langdon. A fixed gear bicycle photo exhibition.
Plant Food For People will be set up behind MorYork.

New Stone Age Mosaics
1754 Colorado Boulevard
Grand Re-opening at a new location! Mary Clark-Camargo started doing mosaics in 2000. She is known for her large-scale sculptural pieces. Using a vast assortment of exotic glass, tile, semi-precious stone and other "found" objects she intertwines intricate patterns that are at once abstract and organic in nature.

Outpost for Contemporary Art
1268 North Avenue 50
Public Conversation with political activist Carlos Montes & artist/activist Amitis Motevalli as they talk about being raided by the FBI, activism, art and how we can be activists as well. This event is in-conjunction with Andrea Bowers and Olga Koumoundouros' project "Transformer Display for Community Fundraising: Version 2." 4 p.m.
T-shirt Revival Night is a silk-screening event that features a new artist every month. Bring a favorite old T-Shirt that needs a little sprucing up or any other item you'd like to have the artist print on. Each print is only $6, or buy two for $10. This month: CamLab is a collaboration between Jemima Wyman and Anna Mayer begun at CalArts in 2005. All the graphics CamLab will screenprint for the T-Shirt Revival come from the duo's notes and drawings that they generate together as part of their working process. 7-10 p.m.
Ongoing is Stephanie Allespach's window piece, Sometimes, which will be presented in the window through September.

5027 York Boulevard
A multi-purpose concept space offering an art gallery, retail environment and trend library. Sophia Male's beautiful work. Sophia creates abstract worlds of colors and forms exploring the beauty and complexity of life.
Food from dosa truck.

Public Fiction
749 Avenue 50
Randy Randall, David Scott Stone, Bachsung, The Softest Handshake.

She Rides the Lion
133 North Avenue 50
The print-making studio of Sonia Romero.

5006_ York Boulevard
A vintage clothing store with works by young local artists on the walls.

La Vida Loca galeria
5050 York Boulevard

The York
5018 York Boulevard
After Party!
OLLIN will be playing The York in support of NELAart gallery night. No cover, 11pm-ish.

2 Tracks Art Studio
135 North Avenue 50
Nico Avina and Alfonso Aceves

Friday, August 12, 2011

Van de Kamps Controversy Spurs State Audit of College District

State Controller John Chiang has released an audit of the Los Angeles Community College District's (LACCD’s) bond construction program. The audit questions more than $140 million in district spending, which is part of $214 million in state bond money received by the district from three bond measures approved by voters between 2001 and 2008.
According to Chiang’s office, “LACCD could not produce complete and timely records, spent funds outside voter-approved guidelines, ignored its own procurement rules, failed to plan effectively, and provided poor oversight of bond funding.”
The Controller’s audit has its roots in an investigation of the controversial Van de Kamps project on the border of Glassell Park and Atwater Village.
Many Northeast Los Angeles residents voted for and campaigned for passage of state bonds based on the promise of a college campus at the former bakery site on Fletcher Drive just off of San Fernando Road.
After spending approximately $86 million in district bond, state and federal funds to develop a satellite campus at the Van de Kamps site, Los Angeles City College determined that it had insufficient operating funds for the site and returned it to LACCD. LACCD is leasing most of the site to a charter school under a five year contract.
The Van de Kamps campus ultimately was not included in the audit, because related documents are the subject of pending litigation brought by local activists who have fought since 1999 to save the 1930 Dutch Revival style bakery building from demolition and to see it returned to a productive use. However, the controversy spurred further investigation by the Controller.
“The [Controller’s Office] initially conducted a survey of LACCD’s use of State funding in its bond construction program that was prompted by concerns over the district’s use of $3 million in seed money to start a satellite campus at the former Van de Kamp bakery site,” according to the Executive Summary of the audit. “As a result of the survey, which revealed that approximately $214 million in State funds have been involved in the various bond construction program projects, the [Controller] decided to proceed with an audit to ensure proper accountability of project funds.”
Bond measures carry specific lists of projects on which the money may be spent. The funds are intended for construction, repair, improvements, expansion and upgrade of facilities.
Although the Van de Kamps campus is not included, many of the findings of Chiang’s audit echo contentions that the local “Van de Kamps Coalition” has been making for some time.
The auditors found many LACCD expenditures throughout the district outside of what bonds were designated for. These violations include the construction of buildings that are not on the approved projects lists, the diversion of bond-funded buildings to unapproved uses, completion of projects not completed under previous bond authorizations and construction of buildings without accounting for operating costs. $28.3 million was spent on projects that were canceled before completion, but LACCD could not readily provide Chiang’s office with a list or accounting of canceled projects, had to develop these records during the course of the audit and changed the definition of cancelled project mid-audit.
Further, Chiang’s office contends that the project list for Measure J, the third and largest bond authorization in the Los Angeles Community College District's $5.7-billion construction program, which was approved by voters in 2008, “was intentionally crafted in such as way that virtually any expenditures could be construed to be on the list.”
Measure J, although passed by voters, was a subject of ire among supporters of another Northeast Los Angeles iconic structure, the Southwest Museum, when the measure’s project list was found to include “upgrade the Southwest Museum facility” as part of its laundry list. The discovery was the first that local supporters of the Southwest Museum’s retention in the Northeast area as a fully functioning museum had heard anything about a potential college presence on the museum campus.
The project list also contained the nebulous phrase, “identify opportunities to work with public and private entities on common projects that serve students and generate revenues for the district.” The inclusion of that phrase at the end of a long list of potential projects is now being used by LACCD to support its contention that the leasing out of the Van de Kamps campus is legal under the bond measure.
“The intention seems to be a way to circumvent control and avoid accountability,” Jeffrey V. Brownfield, Chief of the Division of Audits for the Controller’s Office, said of the Measure J project list in a letter to LACCD Chancellor Daniel J. LaVista.
The audit also identified district-wide costs that were inappropriately charged to the bond funds, including $2 million for copying and binding; $1.5 million for public relations, tours and special events and $1.5 million for photography.
Meanwhile, the head bond oversight citizens committee, which is required to issue annual reports, failed to issue any report for seven years. The latest report was found to be virtually meaningless by Chiang’s office. It noted little more than the fact that the committee members had met.
An Inspector General position was filled by an outside consulting firm formed just before the district went out to bid on the contract. That firm, at the time of its interview, had no clients, no employees and no office space. The consulting firm was selected from among 11 applicants, at a cost of $250,000 more annually than what an experienced auditing firm proposed.
Nine months after the hiring of the outside firm, Policy Masters, Inc., founded by a former Director of Policies for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Controller’s office could find evidence of only one completed “financial review”—of the Van de Kamps project.
“The report bore little resemblance, if any,” wrote Brownfield in his letter to LaVista, “to an audit by an independent entity.”
“Please be advised,” wrote Brownfield, “that, under the .School Bond Waste Prevention Action section of the Strict Accountability in Local School Construction Bond Act of 2000, any citizen who has paid an ad valorem tax on real property within the community college district can pursue legal action against any officer of the district for failure to use bond proceeds in accordance with legal requirements…”
The audit covered the period of July, 2001 through December, 2010. It makes special note of the fact that, despite the Van de Kamps debacle, LACCD is continuing with an aggressive expansion program “without empirical data to demonstrate that LACCD has a viable source of revenues to operate the expanded facilities.”
LACCD says that it expects to return the Van de Kamps complex to Los Angeles City College in 2014.
The district also says, in its response to the audit, “…due to the current State-wide fiscal crisis, it is necessary for the District, in its budget planning processes, to reacess the building program and the resources available to cover the anticipated increases in M&O [maintenance and operation] costs.”
"Local voters raised their property taxes for a major investment in workforce development and higher education," said Chiang. "Shoddy fiscal management and sub-par oversight of a project of this magnitude will undermine the public's trust and threaten billions of public dollars."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

City Sued Over Autry-Southwest Merger

The City of Los Angeles is being sued over its willingness to allow the Autry National Center to absorb the Southwest Museum. A suit has been filed by the Highland Park Heritage Trust and by the Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance.

The two Northeast Los Angeles organizations allege that the Los Angeles City Council, in allowing a Recreation and Parks Board decision permitting the Autry to remodel in Griffith Park, ignored city zoning law and state environmental law.

The absorption of the Southwest by the Autry was presented to area residents in 2003 as a merger that would result in both the Autry Museum in Griffith Park and the Southwest Museum in Mount Washington continuing to exist under one umbrella. However, the Autry closed the Southwest and is planning on remodeling in Griffith Park to present part of the Southwest collection there.

The community groups bringing the suit contend that city zoning law, specifically the Northeast Los Angeles Community Plan, in essence, enshrines the Southwest, the City’s oldest museum, as a central cultural and geographic component of Northeast L.A. and requires the City to take impacts on the 104-year old Southwest Museum and its 97-year old Mount Washington campus into account in any land use decision.

However, at a City Council meeting on the subject of the Autry remodel, Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents the Griffith Park area on the council, declared that the Southwest Museum no longer exists.

The lawsuit takes the Autry to task for burying the Southwest Museum name and for moving a land use from Mount Washington to Griffith Park--where new Autry gallery and garden components will bear names and descriptions strikingly similar to those of the Southwest Museum. The contention is that the move is a violation of the City Plan and a violation of the 2003 merger agreement. The lawsuit blames the City of Los Angeles for approving the actions.

The Highland Park Heritage Trust and the Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance also contend that State environmental law needs to be taken into account.

The California Environmental Quality Act mandates that all negative impacts of any significant action must be fully explored and disclosed before the action is taken--a step the organizations believe the City skipped over in granting the Autry permission to remodel on the land it leases from the City in Griffith Park.

On the table before the City is the issue of conversion of space within the existing footprint of the Griffith Park structure into gallery space and an educational garden area. The Autry contends that this is the sum total of what it has planned for the site.

The lawsuit points out, however, that “Autry’s construction drawings submitted to the Recreation and Parks Department staff in May 2010 showed Autry’s total construction project will convert tens of thousands of square feet of non-public space (collections storage and back office space in the Autry Museum’s Griffith Park basement) into expanded new public use spaces (exhibition galleries, special event areas for rental income, new restrooms, etc.).”

The bringers of the suit say that proposed new uses would bring corresponding increases in visitors, traffic and parking needs, all of which mandate a thorough review of impacts on Griffith Park and on its surrounding communities.

The case is being handled for the local organizations by the law firm of Otten & Joyce. This is the firm that won a court decision in the well-known Lopez Canyon Landfill case that found the City of Los Angeles to be in violation of its own laws in authorizing a truck driving school on land that had been dedicated as passive open space.

“Autry broke into pieces its proposal to expand the Southwest Museum land use in its Griffith Park building,” said Brigid Joyce of Otten & Joyce. “Then Autry claimed the City had ‘no discretion’ but to approve the move and no requirement to review environmental impacts.”

When the matter of the Autry remodel went before the City Council in June, only Councilmembers Ed Reyes and José Huizar, who represent the neighborhoods around the Southwest Museum, supported the contention that environmental review was required.

“This is a classic real estate developer ploy to piecemeal a project to evade environmental review,” said Joyce, “and the City went along with a wink.”

The Highland Park Heritage Trust is a nonprofit organization with a 29-year history of advocating for the heritage and historic preservation of communities along the Arroyo Seco in Northeast Los Angeles. The Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance is a nonprofit residents’ association with a membership of nearly 700 residents of Mount Washington.

Three City Council Members--Reyes, Huizar and Paul Koretz--voted to send the Autry remodel back to the Recreation and Parks Board as opposed to giving it the okay.

“Mr. Huizar, Mr. Reyes and Mr. Koretz at least took the vote for integrity,” said Nicole Possert of the Highland Park Heritage Trust at the time.

But the three councilmembers were outnumbered by their colleagues who voted to let the Autry move ahead.

The suit will take an estimated nine months to reach a hearing in the local Superior Court.