Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I'm sad to still be in Chicago and miss this meeting. But people who want to be clear on this and have their voice heard on this issue should attend tonight. Here is the latest from the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council:

To All Concerned,

The meeting tonight promises to be extremely informative. We will have representatives from the Mayor's office, our Councilperson Jack Weiss's office and the Fire Department to present the facts and answer questions. Here are a few salient facts:

1. Red Flag Days are defined as days when the humidity drops below 15% and the wind exceeds 25 mph. There are approximately 10 Red Flag Days a year, usually from October 31-December 31.

2. Despite the 5,200 signs that the city is posting throughout the hills of the city by the end of January, they will not be towing the first year. They will issue only warnings or tickets until the public has had a chance to become educated.

3. Parking is prohibited on Red Flag Days on any hillside street less than 28 feet wide, while parking will be restricted to one side on streets between 29 and 36 feet wide.

The law was passed after the devastation of the Oakland Hills fire when there was an enormous loss of life due to the fact that parked cars made roads impassable to emergency vehicles. There is no doubt that such regulations are necessary, the question is whether this one has incorporated all available creative solutions to mitigate the burdens to residents, protect the needs of the elderly and infirm and allow for orderly evacuation if needed. I encourage you to make the effort to come
tonight for the first in what will undoubtedly be several community meetings to iron out the kinks in this law.

Sherman Oaks Library (Beverly Glen and Moorpark), 6:30-8:00 P.M.(12/28).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Red Flag Parking & 405 Construction

Been and still out of town (Chicago), so sorry for no new posts lately. But here is some news:

Red Flag Day Parking

Last week, LA Times reports on the Red Flag Warnings in Los Angeles hillside communities. The article states that councilman Jack Weiss spoke with Homeowner groups, but it appears he did not consult the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC).

Members of SONC's Parking, Traffic and Transportation Ad Hoc Committee were extremely disappointed that Weiss did not see fit to consult with the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council. More to come on this as details get punched out, but if you have words to say on either side of it, go to the Committee's meeting on Wednesday.

Latest 405 News courtesy of SONC

Caltrans has announced the following closures nightly beginning Tuesday, December 27 through Thursday, December 29:
  • 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the northbound Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) connector to the northbound San Diego Freeway (I-405)

  • 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the northbound I-405 Burbank Boulevard off-ramp

  • 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., the southbound I-405 Ventura Boulevard on-ramp

  • 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., up to two lanes of southbound I-405 from U.S. 101 to Burbank Boulevard

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Valley, Music, & Google

Last thursday at 12:00 a.m., Google launched, with no big announcement, their new Google Music Search. reports that "the new feature works directly from any Google web search form, and results are returned as 'one box' results at the top of the search result page next to a musical notes icon." You can also search directly.

Giving "San Fernando Valley" a try led me all to close too home at America's within a few clicks. Gordon Jenkins, who wrote the song, San Fernando Valley, resided in Sherman Oaks:

It was Bing Crosby's rendition, however, that enticed war-weary GI's with the promise of a mythical place. "San Fernando Valley" hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart on April 29, 1944... Once the war ended, about a year after the song reached No. 1, plenty of Americans took Bing's advice and took a trip to California to make the Valley their home.

Full Article & Lyrics

Sunday, December 18, 2005

City Council Celebrity Countdown

This technology is going to soon have a Gladwell style tipping point, at least in social conversation that is: is one of the world's first applications to apply the scientifically advanced technologies of face detection and recognition to family history and to consumer photos... As part of its pioneering development on face recognition in genealogy and consumer photos, has created extensive face recognition technology for celebrities. It's free and fun to use.

So what would the Los Angeles City Council look like if they morphed into their celebrity counterpart? MyHeritage gives each picture you submit about 5-10 different celebrities you resemble. The following countdown reflects either the closest matches or just the funniest (numbers not related to Council District):

15. Janice Hahn & Sarah Michelle Gellar (Runners Up: Rita Hayworth, Isabella Rossellini, Monica Lewinsky)

14. Tom LaBonge & John Cleese (Runners Up: Gregory Peck, John Ashcroft, Kofi Annan, Sigourney Weaver)

13. Greig Smith & former Queen Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Runners Up: Gerard Depardieu, Michael Caine, David Howell Evans of U2. SPECIAL AWARD FOR: Being "Across the Pond.")

12. Herb J. Wesson, Jr. & Paul Newman (Runners Up: Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Gardner, Inventor of Linux - Linus Torvalds, José Saramago. SPECIAL AWARD FOR: Looking most like notable world changing leaders)

11. Wendy Greuel & Andie MacDowell (Runners Up: Helen Clark, Jerry Seinfeld, Clint Eastwood, Annette Bening)

10. Jan Perry & Hilary Swank (Runners Up: Jane Fonda, Tom Clancy, David Lynch, Zhang Ziyi )

9. Tony Cardenas & Dean Martin (Runners Up: Edward Norton, Gary Cooper, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Slyvester Stallone)

8. Eric Garcetti & Mel Gibson (Runners Up: Alec Baldwin, Hugh Grant, Jeff Buckley, Artie Shaw. SPECIAL AWARD FOR: Getting women naked by looking like a number of beefy hunks and singing Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah.")

7. Ed Reyes & Mubarak (Runners Up: Roger Moore, Matthew Perry, Jomo Kenyatta, David Lloyd George, Andre Malraux. SPECIAL AWARD FOR: Looking like the most International and political group.)

6. Alex Padilla & Audrey Tautou (Runners Up: Beyonce Knowles, Jacques Chirac, Madonna, Frida Kahlo, Leonardo DiCaprio. SPECIAL AWARD FOR: Looking like a random-ass bunch of folks.)

5. Jack Weiss & John Travolta (Runners Up: Nikita Khrushchev, Tom Cruise, Edward Said, Steve Martin, José Carreras.)

4. Dennis Zine & Gary Oldman (Runners Up: Ferdinand Porsche, Amitabh Bachchan, Kim Dae-jung, Yuri Andropov, Gabriel García Márquez. SPECIAL AWARD FOR: Not looking like many on-screen Celebrities.)

3. Bernard Parks & Lou Reed (Runners Up: John Carpenter, Uylsses S. Grant, Vladimir Lenin, Grace Jones, Jawaharlal Nehru, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. SPECIAL AWARD FOR: Looking like many dead and famous leaders.)

2. José Huizar & Yao Ming (Runners Up: Henry Fonda, Hilary Duff, Carl Sagan, John Belushi, Julia Roberts)

1. Bill Rosendahl & Jimi Hendrix (Runners Up: Pierre Boulez, Princess Diana, Steve Reich, Benicio del Toro, Cate Blanchett, Wesley Clark, Jacques Chirac. SPECIAL AWARD FOR: Oddly looking like two famous classical minimalist composers - Steve Reich and Pierre Boulez.)

And Just for fun....

Antonio Villaraigosa & Howard Dean

Laura Chick & Sharon Stone

Yvonne Burke & Shirley McClaine

Don Knabe & Richard Wagner

Gloria Molina & Annette Bening

Zev Yaroslavsky & Meatloaf

Michael Antonovich & Ozzy Osborne

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wearing Your Seat Belt - Not For Your Safety

Getting that seat belt ticket is not about the City collecting revenue either. It's about maintaining a budget.

Before I was all gung-ho for the seat belt law, I always told myself that only two things will convince me of it: a) the statistics of human projectiles from cars injuring others are incredibly high or b) economic reasons.

One day I caught up with Los Angeles County Sheriff, Tony Arnold, who heads the Santa Clarita Traffic Division. I presented my two options to him and he explained the latter was correct. And it only makes sense:

An injury from a seat belt-less driver without health insurance still has bills to pay. More often than not, our taxes pay that bill. So in closing, it's not about your safety, it's about our wallet. I rather see my money go towards a park or pothole than your negligent medical bills.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My true love sent to me, 7 buses a-crashin'

The 7th in a string of crashes occur on the Orange Line tonight at Kester Ave. Luckily, this red light runner was hit by a 10 mph cruising bus. When I was walking to a restaurant and later taking pictures for the 311 Project post, I was astonished to see a car run a red light each time at the same intersection. These were not even close calls to yellow lights. They were just saying "fuck it."

Watch It
Read It

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dec. SONC Meeting

Interesting notes from Monday night's Sherman Oaks Neighbourhood Council (SONC) Meeting:

  • The LAPD reported while Sherman Oaks is statistically lower than other neighbourhoods in the Van Nuys Station district, the nice houses in the hills are being hit because people feel safe to leave their garage doors open. Also, 24 Hour Fitness' locker room has been a repeat target.

  • Looks like a Renters Rights committee will be formed to help bridge the gap between tenants and their landlords. Sherman Oaks has a population of 58,000. Just about half of those are renters.

  • Other new committees for SONC are the Beautification Committee and an Education/School based one.

  • SONC will look more official on paper now with the by-laws changed to be consistent with the nomenclature of the L.A. City Council

  • The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment will be getting a few more Project Coordinators in order to lessen the amount of Neighbourhood Councils they represent.

  • Sherman Oaks Castle Park, a city run recreational facility, will be renewing the contracts and going out to bid for the various functions of the park. Supposedly, the current vendors (arcade, mini golf, etc) are getting a little "snotty."

Monday, December 12, 2005

405 Construction News

From the Parking, Traffic, and Transportation Committee of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council:

Caltrans has announced the following closures nightly beginning Sunday, December 11 through Thursday, December 15:
  • 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., the northbound Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101)connector to the northbound San Diego Freeway (I-405)

  • 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the northbound I-405 Burbank Boulevard off-ramp

  • 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., the southbound I-405 Ventura Boulevard on-ramp

  • 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., up to two lanes of southbound I-405 from U.S. 101
    to Sepulveda Boulevard
The $46 million project, started in April 2005, extends the auxiliary lane on northbound I-405, closes the loop on-ramp from eastbound Ventura Boulevard and reconfigures the Sepulveda Boulevard on-ramp to provide improved connections to U.S. 101 and I-405.

The next project milestone will be the re-opening of the
Sepulveda/Greenleaf on-ramp to the U.S. 101 connector, expected in summer 2006. The Sepulveda/Greenleaf on-ramp to northbound I-405 is estimated to open in spring 2007, with project completion anticipated for summer 2007. It may still be closed at night, from 9p to 6a, for at least a few more weeks.

This project is one of a series of improvements at the U.S. 101/I-405 Interchange. When completed in 2007, aside from the onramp/offramp improvements, it will provide a continuous HOV lane on southbound I-405 from the San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles International Airport.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

In Brief: DASH Gets New Benches

The City of L.A. has begun replacing the conventional hard plastic benches used for DASH stops with plush sofas. "We decided that we needed to 'up' the image of public transportation. And why not do it with some Hollywood flair?" said a DOT spokesman. The pilot program kicked off at the corner of Moorpark & Allott Ave. on the Van Nuys/Studio City Clockwise Route. Unfortunately, the program was cancelled a day later when vandals stole the couch and dumped it into the L.A. River.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The 311 Project: Pedestrian Patrol

Ever since I discovered the powerful use of dialing 311, I feel the City of Los Angeles has another thing to be championed about. There is one thing you cannot complain about in the City and that is 311 - One Call to City Hall. 24 hours a day, you can talk to operators with great names like Amelie, Korea, and my favourite, a cross-dresser named Ms. Sha-nay-nay (well, that's what it sounded like. It was a late night call.)

Tonight I was walking (yes, as in walk commuting) to Siam Cabin in Sherman Oaks for a dinner meeting. At Ventura Blvd. and Sunnyslope, the pedestrian crosswalk button device was hanging by its wires two feet off the ground. Since God knows when this might be noticed by the infamous City Pedestrian Device Patrol, I decided to call 311 and report this broken and possibly this newly invented technocratic cowboy toy (got lasso skills?).

Walking back a hour later, I was pleased to see the situation had been temporarily fixed with some quick wit from DOT (a huge zip tie). So if you see a broken traffic light, drive through an annoying pothole, or have a non-emergency police request, call 311. They are there to help you.

MTA Gets Smarter

Let's talk about target marketing! Way to go MTA! Today I received a localized Sherman Oaks Reference Guide to MTA. It has a map of Sherman Oaks with 10 routes, a destination guide (with what route number to take to get there), and important phone numbers (911 is for emergencies, good to know! But why isn't 311 listed?). It also has a form you can fill out and send in to get a free one-week pass. I can only hope and assume that many other neighbourhoods are receiving similar brochures to encourage the use of public transportation.

(Okay, I know. I have a crappy camera or I just don't know how to use it.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Valley Loses More Times Coverage?

Not that I felt there was much local coverage anyway. LA Observed reports that the Times is pulling out of the Valley. I am an online newspaper reader, so that means I even get less local coverage, Daily News included. How is it in this Information Age that we get less information?

Eugene Carr, the president of Patron Technology, an e-marketing firm, reported once that local information will be the next Internet tipping point (In addition to wireless. Wireless technology integrated with local info? Dig it?). Google Local and Yahoo! Local demonstrate this local information flow. L.A. Times seems to be the antithesis of these future trends.

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.
- John F. Kennedy -

20 Minute Eviction Notice

Evictions are not fun. Lincoln Place tenants know that. Last Wednesday, Assemblyman Paul Koretz (yes, he has a blog too) hosted an evening of Emergency Preparedness at the Stephen S. Wise Temple for District 42. Chock-full of informative speakers, here are some interesting facts with a theme:

  • There are 9000 LAPD/LAFD employees and 44,000 citizens have been trained in CERT since 1987. There are 3.9 million residents in Los Angeles. Do the math. You are on your own for a little while.

  • Within 6 minutes of the Northridge Quake, every working vehicle from all 104 LAFD stations were en route (2 stations suffered due to the quake). A neighbourhood in Chatsworth did not see any sign of government response for three days. It could happen to you.

  • 75% of male bodies can be identified easily while very few female bodies cannot be. Men and their back pockets; women with their purses.

  • L.A. is the 2nd largest Red Cross chapter in the U.S. The chapter responds to 500 Red Cross Disasters in the Los Angeles area a year. These range from apartment fires to a wildfire.

  • In an emergency, especially a quickly spreading fire, you may be given 20 minutes to go into your house, get what you can, and pray for the best.
Make a bad day a little easier on yourself. Get prepared.

New Train? - Pasadena to The Valley

  • Daily News reports the cities of Pasadena, Glendale, and Burbank have each contributed $30,000 to a feasibility study for the "Missing Link," completing the northern side of the triangle of the Red and Gold Lines. This route would follow the 134 Freeway.

  • Meanwhile, the Orange Line had its 5th crash this weekend (not the pickup truck one). Red light runner, no injuries.

  • Ever hear of the Silver Line? All aboard from Silver Lake to El Monte.

  • Via Curbed LA, City Council approves a pilot program providing shuttles from Hollywood clubs and restaurants to the Red Line Subway, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., Thursdays through Saturdays. Too bad the subway doesn't even run much past 1:00 a.m. But this could make the Hollywood & Highland parking garage the one-stop shop.

Friday, December 02, 2005

L.A.'s New Best Friend - Density

Last Tuesday, Eric Garcetti joined Warren Olney on Which Way L.A.? to talk about his newly elected position as City Council President, term limits, housing, and our city's future. Here are some memorable quotes:

"We are going to admit we are a city finally, not a sprawling suburb."

"...the Orange Line or the Expo Line rail becomes the expectation, not the exception."

"Our best friend is really going to be density in this city."

The Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association (SOHA) might have perked their ears up to that last one. The savvy and articulate SOHA knows how to fight density projects and they do it with a passion. And as they should - it's their right and it's is their neighbourhood. The latest issues have been around high density, non mix-use residential projects which do not bring local amenities. I agree, these projects do need to have local amenities. But in regards to density, I say bring it on baby. Then the Ventura Blvd. Subway will be "the expectation."

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Gift that is most needed

When thinking what to give at the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association 2005 Holiday Toy Drive this Sunday, I noticed an asterisk denoting "most needed gifts" next to "Gift Certificates for Music/Video Stores and Hand Held Video Games" for Age 14 - 18 year olds. What, no tofu?

Sunday, December 4th
11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Ralphs - Sherman Oaks

Sunday, November 27, 2005

How Does it Right

CBS recently launched their new website that hosts some handsome features. Video archives are now flash, which means no downloading plug-ins, videos load fast, and it works on 99% of computers. With their traffic page, you can plug in your daily commute and get updated alerts e-mailed to you in real time.

The City of Los Angeles' network of web pages have unlimited amounts of useful information. Problem is, I find it easier to google my way into the City network than start at the City of L.A. homepage or any of it's various department homepages. Most major metropolis city websites are in a pretty sad state of affairs. They built them in a hurry to compete with the Silicon Valley boom. Problem was, we were all "building the ship as we sailed it" with a government budget.

Most smaller communities have gone down the road of rebuliding their website as a useful public information tool. So I decided to write the City of LA webmaster a few months ago to find out if there was a plan to redesign the information flow and graphics of their sites. Ironically enough, the e-mail got returned as a failure. I tried again this week with the same return. Of all e-mail addresses, how is it that the Webmaster's e-mail does not work?

Cheers to ITA for aggressively putting everything online. Jeers to ITA for not easily letting us find that information.

Kudos to the LAPD and the Los Angeles Public Libraries for excellent web services. Also, while their site can use some work, kudos to Brian Humphrey at the Fire Department for doing a blog. As someone who works in Government web services, I think that is cutting-edge for someone in public service (same for you Eric Garcetti!).

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Parking Ticket Update

Last week, I posted a lengthy story about getting a parking ticket at a broken meter.'s blog - LA.comfidential - discovered an excellent website of one mother's "crusade" to shed light on broken meter tickets. Her site had a good description of her research for Los Angeles:


After speaking with the Mayor's office, per the Department of Transportation in Los Angeles, you CANNOT be ticketed at a meter if it reads FAILED; or if it is malfunctioning. (The representative told me that often times notes blow away, thus tickets. Well, the meterbroken tape will not.) If you do receive a ticket, call 877 215 3958; give them the citation number and it will be voided. The Traffic Violation Bureau and any meter maid you might ask will tell you that it is ILLEGAL to park at a broken meter and that this law is stated in the LA Municipal Code Book. However, after reading everything there is to know about meters in the code book, there is simply no law stating this. In Los Angeles, you will get the most conflicting information depending on who you ask. Thus, I called the Mayor’s office. They proceeded to tell me that you may still run the risk of a ticket as often times the meters will "reset" all by themselves. (What?) But, it is not illegal to park at a broken meter in Los Angeles. There is even a broken meter hotline; if you call 311 within the state, you will be connected and they will repeat this information. No one would let me quote them however.

Please note, however, these items ARE in the code book: it is ILLEGAL to re-feed the meter, use someone else’s time and interestingly, ATTACH anything to the meter such as a bike or say, a dog. So here is your warning: if you find a parking ticket stuck to your pooch that you tied to the meter while you were enjoying your mocha, that is why!
Now it all makes sense. My meter got reset while in the restaurant. Yet, despite the Mayor's office knowing about this "reset" risk, my letter contesting the ticket, stating the situation in which two city employees told me I could park there. still failed. Does this become an issue of "vicarious liability" (that means if one supervisor for the City of L.A. knows, the City as an entity knows)?

By the way, this whole situation about my parking ticket is frustrating and sort of sad, yet really funny in another way. I truly believe Los Angeles can have a very solid parking enforcement policy that treats citizens fairly, yet does not let citizens abuse public parking privileges.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"My Secret Los Angeles"

Andy Bowers at wrote about his new way of life in L.A. The story gives a romantic and promising outlook on a different way of commuting in this city - by biking. A few months into his "absurd" experiment, he is still loving it. "I'll just enjoy my secret Los Angeles secretly, feeling my blood pressure fall as I sail past all the six-cylinder, leather-upholstered pressure cookers around me."

To add to his sentiments, biking, and walking for that matter, allows you to discover more about the city. Today, I decided to walk to dinner. I started my journey at Woodman and head west on Ventura to Beverly Glen. About a mile total. I did not make it to the gym today, so this was nice. On my walk, I discovered four new restaurants that I had never seen before. I also saw about twenty salon's. That's discovery at its best - The Valley Coiffure District.

Recent Bike Posts:

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Being Prepared: The Real Deal

The last post was a bit of a misnomer to the content of it. I was exaggerating the feeling of personal emergency when you are stuck in traffic. Nevertheless, it caught Brian Humphrey's eye of the Los Angeles Fire Department who left a comment regarding Emergency Preparedness. He runs the LAFD Blog which is quite a genius tool to use in public relations. As he said, the LAFD's page has a drop down box of popular Emergency Preparedness links. TAKE THE TIME THIS WEEKEND TO LOOK THESE OVER.

Before and after Hurricane Katrina, those of us who work in Government and Public Safety are trained (or should be, I don't know if City of L.A. civilian workers are) and are Disaster Service Workers (Government Code, Title I, Div 4, CH. 8, SEC 3100). But really, we can't wait for the government to be our Knight in Shining Armor. Southern California is pretty savvy when it comes to emergencies, but there are more variables in a major disaster than a Rubik's Cube. We all hope not, but it may be 10 days until things start up again in your area after a disaster happens.

The Sherman Oaks Neighbourhood Council has reinstated its Public Safety Committee, which I am involved with. Among working with the LAPD on crime prevention, another very important goal of the committee is to work on issues of Emergency Preparedness.

Those who are interested in working on Public Safety Issues in Sherman Oaks should contact me. Those who do not live in Sherman Oaks, should contact their local Neighbourhood Council (Don't know yours? Call 3-1-1)

Emergency Preparedness

Holiday traffic is the worst. Especially when you make the Top 10 for Worst Holiday Traffic (thanks Kevin):

Los Angeles -- Northbound Interstate 5 from Van Nuys through Castaic and Southbound through Orange County. Northbound gets highly congested with holiday travelers heading to San Francisco, Fresno, and other Northern California cities, while southbound attracts those travelers heading towards San Diego and Tijuana.
So, are you prepared? Here is a list of three items to help survive L.A. bumper-to-bumper traffic:
  • Audio. The most obvious, but the most essential. Have music for all moods and/or books on tape (try stand up comedy). Why not learn a new language? And the best radio you can get is This American Life or Car Talk (luckily you can buy archived episodes of each for your iPod).

  • Food. Don't forget it. Dried fruits and nuts stay best in your car. And for real emergencies, always have a case of water in your trunk.

  • Zen. Charlotte Joko Beck said it best in Nothing Special: Living Zen, "Enjoy Traffic."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bike Paths get a Wiki

Coincidentally, after my post very early this morning about L.A. Bike Paths, a yahoo group - Bikepaths: LA Bicyclists - posted an article on Wikipedia about L.A.'s very own paths. My favourite quote from the article is:

"It is legal to ride on sidewalks as long as you don't show 'wanton disregard' for the safety of those around you."

Very few in L.A. actually say "on your left" when approaching someone you are going to pass. In Sherman Oaks, I tend to get "thank you for letting us know," when I do it.


Last spring I was driving in Valencia behind a female bicyclist who ran a red light talking on her cell phone. Speaking of cell phones, while running the Run Hit Wonder 5K in September, I was passed by a runner gabbing on her cell phone about nothing-too-exciting. Sad thing is, she was the one passing me.

Use It or Lose It

Teleconferencing from Van Nuys City Hall to downtown City Hall for council meetings start today:

"Under a six-month pilot program, residents can go to Van Nuys City Hall, fill out a speaker card and address the council on any item on the council agenda, as well as during the public-comment period."

The Next Step? Webcasting and archiving via the City website.

Read Full Article

Return of the Ramp

"To relieve bottlenecks along the 405 Freeway during the holiday season, officials say they will reopen the northbound Ventura Boulevard offramp on Wednesday morning — almost a month ahead of schedule... The project includes extending the auxiliary lane on the northbound 405, closing the onramp loop from eastbound Ventura Boulevard and reconfiguring the Sepulveda Boulevard onramp."

Read Full Article

Monday, November 21, 2005

What about the bikes?!

Recently, LAist posted three blogs about traffic and the LA Times Magazine had an article about it. I don't want us to forget about a little lost document on the internet that states:

A transportation system which is accessible, safe, and convenient for bicycle travel, with an accompanying increase in bicycle mode split both in daily trips overall and home-to-work trips. The target level of bicycling shall be 5% of all daily trips and 5% of home-to-work trips by year 2015.
A mode split is defined as "the proportion of total person-trips using various specified modes of transportation."

The City of L.A. has 133.9 miles of Class I Bike paths (which hits a smidgen of Sherman Oaks). Geographically speaking, this is a big city. But a neighbouring city of less size - Santa Clarita - has about 55 miles of bike paths and paseos already (Side Story: The funny thing is that the guy in charge of planning their bicycle paths commutes from Long Beach to Santa Clarita daily). Do we dream a day with the L.A. River Plan finished, complete with beautified Class I Paths down the whole thing? We should.

L.A. Bicycle Resources:

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Broken Time (January 13th, 2005 - 12:39 PM)

I write this in hopes that the City of Los Angeles will reexamine their policy on reviewing letters contesting parking tickets. I wrote the below in my MySpace blog last January:
I knew was going to get a ticket. But I did it anyway. After searching and searching for parking, I found a spot with a meter. Grabbed 75 cents and noticed the meter was flashing "FAIL. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL." Well, that's not going to work and it is unlikely I'll be able to stay here safely. A number on the meter says to call LADOT and report it. As I do my civic duty, why not ask if I can still park there legally or not. Operator 006 - Helda - picks up as I see a parking enforcement officer drive by and get distracted to talk to her as she pulls over. I ask her if I can park at the failed meter. She says with a sneaky smile and half-laugh, "You've got two hours."

"You're smiling, are you tricking me?"
"No Sir, you've got two hours."
"Okay, two hours. I will be out in a hour. Don't you ticket me."
"You've got two hours," as she kept on smiling and drove away.

Back on the phone, "Did you say she was smiling as she told you that?...I wouldn't trust her," Helda said with confidence.

PAUSE - Hold on, why is one City of Los Angeles employee telling me not to trust another City of Los Angeles Employee? - UNPAUSE

"But I just reported the meter broken in my records. You can contest it if you get a ticket, I'm operator 006."

"Thanks." Click. I walk into La Frite in Sherman Oaks to a meeting.


"I bet they ticketed me," I murmured to my boss as we walk out. "They did! They did!!!" A contractor doing work on the sidewalk who saw me earlier came to me as a witness and gave me his name and number... I am going to win this ticket.
I never ended up winning that ticket. My letter contesting the ticket stated DOT operator 006's reporting of the broken meter, my conversation with the Parking Enforcement Officer, and the contractor, who was a witness, with his private phone number. With two City of Los Angeles employees telling me I could park there and one witness, I was pretty confident I could win this case. That was until I was floored by this letter in response:
I never ended up going through the hearing process because I lived in Castaic at the time and I was busy with travel for work(even if I could have sent in a written declaration). And why go through the process again after having some pretty solid evidence? I was extremely disappointed with the City of Los Angeles in regards to parking enforcement (sometime I will talk about my other bogus parking ticket dealing with unreadable Preferential Parking District signs because of graffiti.)

I do admit that when I came out of the restaurant, the meter was magically working. Whether someone came out and fixed it or some glitch in the computer system made it work, the officer writing the ticket was not at fault (I did confirm with the eye witness contractor that the officer writing the ticket was a male, not the female who I had spoken to in person).

However, I am disappointed that whoever reviewed my letter contesting the ticket did not take the time to call a fellow city employee (in the same department) who allowed me to park there and/or call an eyewitness to a Parking Enforcement Officer allowing me to park there. I believe in parking enforcement and I believe in the process. But when there is this much blatant doubt and evidence, shouldn't the stakeholder be innocent here?

101 Exit re-opens

"Much to the relief of San Fernando Valley commuters, the Ventura Boulevard exit from the northbound 405 Freeway is scheduled to open this week, about a month ahead of schedule," reports the Daily News in Sunday's edition. "Craig Buck, chairman of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council's transportation committee, said e-mails have been pouring in from neighbors who got wind of the upcoming opening.

"'People were just totally delighted,' he said. 'It's just been a pain for the neighborhood - not just because we can't get off in the neighborhood, but because it's just made traffic so horrendous everywhere else as people try to find alternatives.'"

Read the article.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More unique green restaurants

This is an addendum to the last post about vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants that are near Ventura Blvd.

  • Hugo's Tacos: Catty-cornered to Hugo's Restaurant (mentioned in the last veggie post), this popular taco stand off the 101/Coldwater on-ramp serves up breakfast/lunch/dinner with excellent fillings. You can fill your tacos, burritos, tortas, and more with either zucchini, corn, string beans or soy chorizo, potato, zucchini. For carnivores, there is, of course, the choice of chicken, steak, or grilled fish. Breakfast items can include the soy chorizo as well. Another nice thing about this taco stand is the use of authentic Mexican cheeses like oaxaca and cotija.

  • Kung Pao Bistro: With all the meaty hallmarks of all Chinese restaurants, their vegetarian menu goes beyond soft or fried tofu. Check out their Veggie Tea Smoked Duck or Veggie Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. Not all items are vegan, so ask before. There are three locations: West Hollywood, Studio City, and Sherman Oaks (their website does not have this updated info yet, but here it is - 15025 Ventura Blvd./(818)788-1689)

  • Vegan Express: I haven't been to this one, but Zel and Rueben Allen of Vegetarians in Paradise give tidbits about this small cafe/restaurant: "It might have been someone's home sometime during the 30's, but now a bustling kitchen cooks up tasty meals... doesn't have the sort of atmosphere that invites one to bring special out-of-town guests, it does offer wholesome meals with that home-cooked flavor--the kind Mom would have served--if she were a Thai vegan."

  • Madeleine Bistro: First of all, thanks to Ilene for reminding me of the name of this restaurant. Secondly, kudos to Madeleine Bistro for having their website in a Blog Format. It's actually a really interesting and genius way to organize information flow on a website. Anyway, this vegan restaurant in Tarzana turns vegan food into an art form. I have yet to visit, but Daily News gave a good illustrative review from a non-vegan standpoint.

Apple Store now in town

It's nice not to have to travel to Santa Monica or Northridge every time I break my keyboard by spilling Rice Milk on it (okay, this only happened once). Today is the grand opening of the Sherman Oaks Apple Store from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (also the one at the Beverly Center). With Los Angeles being a creative class metropolis, having this amenity in the Sherman Oaks neighbourhood and Apple being such a creative-savvy tool, this will help build a stronger creative uber-local capital in the long-term.

Westfield Fashion Square
14006 Riverside Dr., Space # 242B
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Basic Cars

Every month, the Sherman Oaks Community Neghbourhood Watch "Block" Captains meet with the three Senior Lead Officers (SLOs) assigned to Sherman Oaks. Twice a year, they hold longer meeting called the Basic Car Meeting, which is open to the public, with special guest speakers, crime prevention information, and crime updates. Here are some interesting items discussed tonight:

  • Captain Miller of the Van Nuys Community Police Station started off the night with basic statistics within the station's jurisdiction (so that includes Van Nuys and other areas of the Valley). Violent Crime is down 50% from two years ago. Property crimes (residential robberies, stolen cars, etc) top off the list for problems in this area.

  • Four years ago, the City began the Neighbourhood Prosecutor Program to address a wide range of Quality of Life issues such as transients, misuse of vacant buildings, and parking issues with on location filming.

  • Once a month, the LAPD works with the Southern California Shopping Cart Retrieval (don't know if that's really the company's name) to do a Sherman Oaks "sweep." Starting next month, they are being efficient by doing their monthly sweep on Wednesdays. What is Wednesday? Trash Day! So while patrolling for shopping carts, they will also be patrolling for people digging through your trash.

  • An officer from the Community Tagger Taskforce presented useful information on tagging and graffiti. Interestingly, the conversation led to a good many of the local taggers are youth from south of the boulevard (Ventura). One young South Boulevardian was caught and fined $85,000 in the damages he caused. It was paid in cash.

  • When it comes to gangs and tagging, look out for the number 13 or XIII. Supposedly the 13 identifies the tag as a bona fide Southern Californian gang. 14 or XIV can mean a gang from Northern California.

  • Since power tools can make you a few bucks on the black market, construction site burglaries have been on the rise. A good way to identify a construction site bandit is if it is Sunday. No construction is allowed on Sundays, therefore, no one should be there.

  • Supposedly, a few years ago, a good deal of classic and/or unique cars were being stolen in Sherman Oaks. It ended up being "some guy" in Beverly Hills adding to his collection.

  • Quote of the Night: "If they are in Sherman Oaks, they are not homeless." While tempted to leave that one to your imaginations, I should explain. There is a difference between Transients and Homeless. As explained, transients will not accept social services available to them that would help them get off the streets.

Valley getting a little more Green

This past week a new restaurant opened in Sherman Oaks adding to the Sherman Oaks/Studio City vegetarian/vegan staple. Leaf Cuisine opened it's second storefront (original in Culver City) giving locals raw, vegan, kosher, and organic food. The prices are excellent for raw food and the smoothies are delicious.

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Some other nearby Veggie/Vegan friendly restaurants are (not a complete list):

  • Four & Twenty Blackbirds: Black Bean Burgers, Flame Burgers, Vegetarian Chile, and veggie sausage and soyrizo for breakfast.

  • Mexicali: The Tortilla Soup is vegan and there are many verdura entrees listed.

  • Hugo's: Beautiful design with beautiful food. This place is a delight and one of those places you just feel very L.A. in.

  • Leonor's Mexican & Vegetarian Restaurant: Excellent food here. There was some controversy in the past whether or not the "vegan" cheese was actually vegan or not. Leonor keeps her recipes close to heart. Sort of how my now deceased grandmother from Mexico laughed at me when I asked her if I could have her traditional Mole recipe before she passed away.

  • QT Chicago Dogs: Get your Chicago style veggie dog here (EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm from Chicago and am very pleased with my hometown representation. But they cannot do Chicago style cheese fries. I once met the owner and tried to rally him to do it, but no luck so far).

  • Good Earth Cafe: Impressive homemade veggie burgers and tofu curries for breakfast..

  • PlayFood: Owned by Home Improvement's Taran Noah Smith, it should open within the next year. Smith and his group of Merry Pranksters (come on, they own an old MTA bus) will be serving a Vegan-only menu including cheese nachos, tacos, and ice cream late into the night.

  • There is a vegan French restaurant in Encino that I have heard of, but do not know the name of at this time.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Nov. SONC Meeting

Interesting notes from Monday night's Sherman Oaks Neighbourhood Council (SONC) Meeting.

  • Mail theft is becoming a recurring problem on Ventura Cyn. Rd. Also, someone in a red car of some sort is going around and going through people's trash. I cannot repeat this often enough (though a first on this blog), buy a paper shredder with cross shredding action.

  • Speaking of scams, I've heard more than once that the "Cat in the Yard" scam is occuring with frequency in Sherman Oaks. Someone will knock on the door, usually very pleasent looking, sometimes with a child, saying that their cat ran away into your backyard. As you bring them back to your yard, someone else robs you.

  • David Rahimin(sp?), of the Office of the Mayor, presented the Council with a recognition for helping out on October 1st's Mayor's Day of Service

  • Jack Weiss' field deputy announced the re-opening of the Ventura Blvd. on-ramp to the 405/101. Although I think this will just be a 101 opening (can't get that pen writing fast enough)

  • Wendy Gruel's field deputy announced that preferential parking rules are going to be rewritten. The 6-block minimum to establish a district will go away with a smaller minimum to replace it. This is good news.

  • The antiquated Oak Tree ordinance will be redone adding Sycamores and other native trees. Size of property and definitions of "experts" will also be redone within the ordinance.

  • A representative of the Valley Village Neighbourhood Council presented to the council about their initiative to fix the problem of no sidewalks along Chandler and the Orange Line. It seems MTA built a few sidewalks that lead to no-where. He urged SONC to participate on this issue in its jurisdiction.

  • Looks like Neighbourhood Councils might only have to post agendas in one place publicly vs. the current five locations. With so many various committees, posting agendas around town has become a part-time job.

  • The big "Car Meeting" with LAPD will be on Thursday, November 17th at 7:00 p.m. in the Sunkist building. Usually these meetings are for Block Captains for local Neighbourhood Watches, but it is highly encouraged that everyone attends this. You get a chance to meet all the LAPD assigned to your neighbourhood in Sherman Oaks. And no, your local parking enforcement officer will not be present.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Reminiscing The Valley

With all talk of the Orange Line and Transit Oriented Development (TOD), The Valley might just be embarking on some major changes over the years. Concurrently, my friend Katy, who has lived in The Valley her whole life, just moved to Silverlake to live with her boyfriend last month. Today, she posted this "life update in the basin" on her MySpace blog (which is posted below). Will TOD and other factors change the sense of community in The Valley?

One major distinction between greater Los Angeles and the valley is that people just seem to be friendlier and more willing to open up to their neighbors in the valley. Whenever I need to fill up the tank I make it a point to visit the Mobil on San Fernando Mission and Balboa where my cute little Asian gas station attendent works. He's worked there ever since I can remember and he always tells me never to fall in love with boys because they're scum bags. "Let them fall in love with you!" he says. "Make them pay for everything too!"

I also miss my auto shop in Chatsworth. Sometimes I'll go out of my way just to get my oil changed there even if it's a little bit more expensive. It's the only shop I've ever been to where I'm absolutely positive they have no intention to rip me off. They're the sort of people who will let you know if they're going to exceed the estimate they gave you and will show you exactly what's been done so that you know they didn't just replace your alternator with a cheese grater or something.

Sure, the hostile Korean mechanic down the street gets the job down but not without berating me for being an insane female driver. The people in Silverlake all work by the holier than thou attitude and never seem to get anything done in a timely or efficient manner. The only person I've encountered thus far that seems to appeal to my "down home sensibilities" is this woman who just opened a boutique near Sunset Junction. Anyone who can stick a sale in the midst of a dog vomiting on the welcome mat is alright by me. As for the rest of these chickenheaded clowns, they can all go back from whence they came.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Ghost of Sherman Oaks: Public Art

I've noticed that there is not much Public Art in Sherman Oaks. There is Sheila Pinkel's two murals in the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Library ("Journey to Green Meadows Park Gate Commission" and "Journey to Tovangar, The World of the Tongva") and that's all I know off-hand at the moment. I'll make it a point to search out more later.

In the meantime, there are definitely opportunities for Public Art in Sherman Oaks. What about the triangle piece of concrete that is an island at Dixie Cyn/Valleyheart/Moorpark? The Ventura Corridor has a myriad of medians. City of Palm Desert has displayed a nice way to integrate landscaped medians and sculpture. With the 101, there could be freeway murals. And what could be of the Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park?

At some point I will go around and take pictures of possible locations and current art. In the meantime, I have to go buy a digital camera. Maybe I'll go to our local and "community supported" Best Buy.

Enforcement Cameras

It's one of those hot topics in the media now with Zine letting the goose loose on the red-light enforcement cameras not working anymore. To be honest, I am not even sure if there are any in Sherman Oaks. Nevertheless, those cameras get people quite passionate when they hear about them. I think they can be pretty solid if you get a good company like the City of Santa Clarita does with Redflex. Here's why they work on a technical level and a government customer service level:

1. The sensors that activate the cameras do not begin "sensing" until a red light happens (no yellow light tickets).
2. Those same sensors only will understand 8 mph or more.
3. If the above two things happen, the enforcement begins with photos, but more importantly, a video feed.
4. Photos and videos are then reviewed for accuracy by Redflex employees.
5. Redflex then sends the violations to the Sheriff's who review and cite.
6. If anyone contests the ticket, they can visit the Sheriff's station and view the video themselves.

Photos can be debateable, but a video of you running a red light with the camera capturing the light, you, and the limit line, that is pretty solid evidence. And for the record, I just want to say I am not endorsing Redflex here, I Just happen to know how they operate so I described what I know. I just think the system they use is pretty foolproof and has checks-and-balances built in that would not allow any abuse of powers by any city.

I'm leaving comments open on this one. I would like to hear what people think about this in general, but also on this issue in regards to Sherman Oaks. Should there be some? Where and why?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

And there it began...

I thought I was going to go to bed early tonight. But I felt compelled to join the ranks of Los Angeles bloggers to make one specifically about Sherman Oaks. Why not? It has such a community drive behind it with the "strongest Homeowner's association in the State of California" and one of the "better City of LA Neighbourhood Councils." It even has it's own local newspaper - The Sun. Now that's all fine and dandy, but there's one element missing. A younger generation that is just not hooked into these organizations or those who just do not know (hehehe, evil plans, evil plans!).

And here we are at the beginning. We'll see how this ride goes...