Monday, December 25, 2006

Maria's Italian Kitchen Robbed

MySpace blogs are always a good source of information. More than how some teenage girl is depressed over some teenage boy. Sometimes it turns out to be on-the-scene crime reporting:

So basically, last night I'm standing outside after work [MAX Restaurant] with Laura hanging out... smoking a cig, enjoying my mini wine buzz, when out of frickin NO WHERE this kid comes running out of the restaurant right next door, Maria's Italian Kitchen, with his wrists and ankles and HEAD ducktaped!!!!! We're obviously staring wondering whether this is some kind of weird Mexican joke or ritual that we just don't understand when he sees us and starts pointing frantically towards the kitchen door of Maria's while still running backwards. We stand there, I think a bit shocked, and watch him run down to the end of the alleyway and stand there for a few seconds looking down at us before he runs off down the street.

A few minutes later another young guy comes just strolling out of the same door like it's nobodies business... So I ask him "Hey... is everything alright? We just saw a guy coming running out all ducktaped. It was kinda weird." He says, "Yeah. Don't know nothing." walks a little ways and then bolts down the street.

Meanwhile, Laura's boyfriend Rich comes out of the restaurant, we tell him what happens, and he basically says, "Bollox." (He's welsh.)

Two minutes after that, the manager of Maria's busts out the backdoor breathless and shaking. "Did you see two guys come running out of here? They tried to break into the safe! They had guns!"

So we're like... what the fuck. We run inside OUR restaurant, get Jan the owner, and we're like,

"oh my god! what do we do?!!?"

"Obviously. Call the cops."


So I do, and all of a sudden I'm in 911 emergency mode.

"Yes. Ma'am? There been an attempted robbery. I'm at Maria's Italian Kitchen. Suspects are one hispanic male ducktaped by the hands, feet and mouth, headingnorth up the alley on foot. Suspect two is wearing a grey hoodie sweatshirt..."

At this point two cops are already walking up and I'm waving them over while still on the phone with the 911 dispatcher.

Me: "There's been a break in!"

Cops: "Hang up the phone."

Me: (into the phone) "Oh my god, two male police officers are walking towards me and told me to hang up the phone. DO I HANG UP THE PHONE?!"

911 dispatcher: "Yes. Hang up the phone."

In a matter of minutes there were about fifteen cops swarming the place, through the restaurant with the heavy aritillery (seriously... one had like a frickin rocket launcher) and finally all out back listening to all our statements for the next half hour.

The funny thing was... major holes in the manager's story. First one gun, then a shotgun, then a pistol. Didn't want to call the police right off the bat. Wasn't shaky until the cops showed up... I personally think it was an inside job and I tell my new friend Ray Guitierrez, the cop, this. He nods and says, "something's fishy."
The LAPD tells me that this is not connected to the Ski-Mask bandits and it was a dishwasher and a few friends who tied up the manager and the other dishwasher to rob them. They didn't get away with much and will not be reporting back to work ever again.

By the way, this happened on December 15th or so.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

California Pizza Kitchen arrives at Fashion Square

I never thought this was a big deal. So it was a surprise to me when a room full of residents got excited as it was announced last Spring. Interestingly enough, the General Manager of the mall was recently appointed to the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council.

By the way, this is a CPK ASAP:
The new CPK ASAP is designed for customers "on-the-go." The menu features a specialized selection of CPK's most popular menu items along with a "grab-n-go" case stocked with fresh salads, sandwiches and beverages.

While the CPK ASAP has ample seating inside for those looking to dine-in, the new restaurant also has a specific Take-Out counter intended to facilitate the process for guests wanting to take their food to go. A newly designed interior features soft tones
and warm yellows, with large flat screen televisions for those looking to grab a seat at the counter.

Its menu will not only include a variety of CPK's most popular hearth-baked pizzas, salads and appetizers, it will also feature nine sandwiches and two soups that are unique to CPK ASAP. The new French Dip Panini along with the Grilled Vegetable Panini, Turkey Club Panini and a variety of sandwiches including Roast Beef, Chicken Salad and Herb Chicken Focaccia are just a few of the innovative items that will be available. Also available at CPK ASAP are CPK's signature hearth-baked pizzas in a larger, 14-inch size, perfect for sharing with friends or family.

The 3,000 square foot CPK ASAP seats 95 people and is located at 14006 Riverside Drive on Level One near the Main Entrance of Fashion Square Mall. Hours of operation are Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Monday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Guests can dine-in or place a take-out order by calling (818) 783-5001. [Business Wire]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Represent East Valley!

LA Times dug deeper into last week's story of the Valley's new census report and came out with a nice article focusing on the differences between the East and West Valley, respectively divided by the 405 Freeway. But I don't like how they painted this picture:

On one end of the Valley [west], gated mansions and old ranch houses still preside over well-groomed neighborhoods; on the other [east], some residents still don't have sewer hookups or street lights.
Not too long ago (but like before I was born), the Valley was the "country." No sewer hookups and streets lights was life. It seems LA Times is trying to paint an overly dramatic picture here as I continue to walk and bike extremely dark and wealthy streets here in Sherman Oaks. A lot of this is choice and not poor people or city services.

Friday, November 24, 2006

DONE's PR Problem

Lisa Sarno is the interim General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) who oversees the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC) and all the other neighborhood councils.

Being involved with neighborhood councils (NCs) since the first week I moved into city limits of Los Angeles, I had never heard of her until an e-mail came asking my public opposition of an extension of her interim appointment at an Oct. 9th Education and Neighborhoods Committee from Doug Epperhart of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council:
Many of us have seen Ms. Sarno in action. We've observed her attitude toward neighborhood councils and the way she runs the department. I believe she is neither a good manager of people nor effective communicator and advocate for the NC system. On balance, her continued presence does more harm than good.

As president of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council -- which has voted to seek Ms. Sarno's removal from her present position -- I'm asking that you attend the meeting if you can and join me in opposing any extension of her tenure.
To be fair, in my passive understanding of the upper levels of DONE, I had never heard the name of the former DONE GM, Greg Nelson, until I received an e-mail from him saying that Prop R has "something it it tha can repulse everyone." He wrote the e-mail after his tenure.

The second time I heard Ms. Sarno's name was when I met her at a Neighborhood Council Member training session at City Hall. She seemed pleasent and nice, but I definately had no chance to speak to her other than say hi and shake hands.

This week, she is under attack for a report she delivered "about violence at neighborhood councils [that have] sparked an outcry among some community activists, who say it smears the local boards and inflates claims of bad behavior."

SONC President, Jill Banks Barad told Daily News "we've talked about some actions that we felt were unethical, but I have not heard of physical incidents. If this is supposed to be a big problem, I think DONE should come to us and tell us that."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Steve's Question That I Missed

My first question for Zach: What are y'all doing with your $50,000 in city-issued mad money? And don't let any of those 200+ vote people push you around, know what I mean? Call on your inner Maxine Waters if needed. ~ Steven Rosenberg

With the new board slate, we haven't spent any money yet. Next week, I may bring a motion to the board to spend $20,000 on LAPD surveillance cameras for Ventura Blvd. and the Cedros Parking Lot (we would be purchasing 1 of 5 cameras in collaboration with a few other organizations). $20,000 is 40% of the annual budget, but SONC has a surplus of money, which I believe is over $100,000.

Some may say that there isn't much crime on Ventura Blvd. They are correct when you compare it to the reasoning to have cameras on Hollywood Blvd. and MacArthur Park. But what brought the whole camera issue to Sherman Oaks were the businesses and Council District 5 tired of spending money, daily, on removing graffiti.

Once again, one may say they don't see that much graffiti. That's because SOHA, the Bid, the Chamber and the residents have been extremely proactive by calling 311 to report graffiti and hiring their own graffiti team.

I took a trip down to the Hollywood PD on Wilcox to get a tour of the Hollywood Blvd. cameras on the street and from the video booth. A very powerful system it is. I took a video, but need to get it cleared by the LAPD before I post it on YouTube.

More to come on this later...

Friday, November 03, 2006

More on that Political Mailer*

Feinstein is pissed and ABC7 in San Francisco shows you how to find out who's behind these mailers (scroll to bottom of the page).

I find it interesting that the local papers really haven't spoken much about this except for LA Times Blog, Political Muscle. Funny thing is that they don't even mention that this is from a Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks more specifically) based company or that the man who put this out is Lloyd Levine's father. Levine is the Assemblyman for the 40th District which covers Van Nuys to West Hills and up to Northridge.

Here is the address of Levine & Associates are some related links:

Background info on the Mailer:

Levine & Associates
13701 Riverside Dr # 604
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(818) 906-8747

Previously: The Sketchy Political Mailer

Thursday, November 02, 2006

SOHA's Close: No on Prop H

"The organized opposition [to Prop H] is a smaller group that includes Jon Coupal, president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. They've raised concerns that another bureaucracy may not act efficiently to get the monies where they're needed. Opponents also claim that there are existing programs to help homebuyers and that Measure H is a payday for developers and builders."

- Yes on Measure H: a measure of humanity [The Jewish Journal of greater L.A]

The Sketchy Political Mailer

Father of Democratic state Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, Larry Levine of Sherman Oaks, a Democratic political consultant, published the Voter Information Guide for Democrats that supports a democratic slate, but says No on 87, the alternative energy bill, and no on 86.

$375,000 from oil and tobacco companies were given to Levine for inclusion in the mailer.

Is Political Campaign Flyer Misleading? [ABC7 - San Francisco]

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Riverside + Woodman = Mess

A water main broke. I would suggest avoiding it today.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Transients Along the Freeway

As Co-Chair of SONC Public Safety, I've been challenged with solving a tricky problem: government inter-agency duties and boundaries. There is an elderly woman who lives next to the 101 freeway. A CalTrans landscaping crew came to her cul-de-sac and opened up the gate to do some work. Mistakenly, they left it open. The elderly woman lived with her living room window facing the encampment 15 feet away. Not exactly a fun situation, especially when they entered her garage one night.

Within no time, transients moved in. Soon after, a policing (I still don't know who) agency came in and arrested them. Within 24 hours, they were back. That's where I stepped in.

You see, since the 101 is property of the state, that means the California Highway Patrol is in charge here, not the LAPD like everyone thinks (in relation to this, the LA River is policed by the LA Sheriff's Department, not the LAPD). And unlike the LAPD, the CHP doesn't have a working relationship with the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council.

That's going to change. I'm bringing out the CHP to the next Public Safety Committee Meeting to discuss the issue of transients and homeless along the freeways in Sherman Oaks. While the specific aforementioned situation has been taken care of (as of last Tuesday), the response time was just less than 2 months. This can be shortened and our relationship with the state can be strengthened.

Other reps from groups who I know are attending: Council District 5 and the San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center

Wednesday, November 1st at 6:30 PM

VIVA Gallery
3261 Moorpark St
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

There is free parking in front on Moorpark, a small parking lot behind the building (access from alley), and street parking on Longridge (to the east of Fulton).

Photo: ghb624

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Go to VIVA Gallery

I went to a Valley Institute of Visual Art (VIVA) gallery opening for the first time today. VIVA is not an art gallery where you just go and look around and maybe buy, maybe not. It is a community, it's more of a co-op.
It's a place for artists in The Valley and surrounding areas to "exhibit their work, enjoy the fellowship and support of other artists, augment their level of educational experience, and to promote interaction and outreach within the community through exhibitions, lectures, competitions and workshops."
Much of the art displayed in today's juried show was art I would like to buy. Freelancing is great, but it still doesn't afford me that much original art.

Painting in Picture: Tokyo in the Rain by John Paul Thornton

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Band-Aid to the Blight of Strip Malls

Driving down Fairfax the other day, I was stopped at the light outside Whole Foods at Santa Monica in West Hollywood. I noticed something exciting, in that nerdy city planning way I can only do: the landscaped wall surrounding the parking lot improved the urbanity of the street rather than the drab longed view of a parking lot leading up to a building.

It's all about the feel and this made the grade. Is this a good project for the Sherman Oaks Beautification Committee?

Stray Paranoia

There was something fishy about the death of James Woodson on October 3rd at his Kester St. apartment. Police said he was shot in the back by a stray bullet that apparently traveled up and over a whole building.

Ends up being
a paranoid schizophrenic neighbor, 76-year-old former police officer Daniel Lisuk, who committed suicide 6 days later.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Shoe Shopping in Sherman Oaks Just Got Better

Most of the boots, high heels and sandals you see in the store have the "look" of celebrity shoes - but without the price tag of Prada and Manolo Blahnik - the kind you see in People magazine on the feet of J.Lo, Shania or Jessica.

Hollywood stylist Art Conn agrees, which is one of the reasons he's putting clients from CBS' "Rock Star: Supernova" in Carmen Steffens and thinking of using the shoes on contestants of Fox Network's "American Idol" new season.

"What's the best about Carmen Steffens," says Conn, "is that they cover all aspects - dressy evening shoes, going out boots, everything you could want in one store - and that's not always the case."

Read the full Daily News Story

Westfield Fashion Square
14006 Riverside Drive,
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

(818) 784-8408

Sunday, October 15, 2006

SOHA October Newsletter: Talking SONC

The following italicized text is an excerpt from the latest Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association newsletter. My responses are in regular text. The following opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent the views of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council.

On September 11, 2006, a total of 429 voters elected new Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council Members. Considering there are literally thousands of people qualified to vote, the turnout was very low. Each of the four Areas contain an estimated 9,000 residents. The most votes received by a candidate (except for Area 7) was 40 votes!!! In a couple Areas there were no candidates!

True and there are some things to learn from SOHA:
  • Hold meetings in an easily accessible and comfortable environment
  • Consistent presense in the Sherman Oaks Sun
  • Consistent flyering of the monthly newsletter
  • Warm food at meetings always helps too
Of course, all that needs resources and work. I'm confident that as SONC matures as an organization, so will the presence. That growth will be exponential.

One District was quite different. In Area 7, almost 300 people voted (68% of the total vote). Why was the turnout so much higher in Area 7? What is so different about Area 7?

The Association has learned that most of these voters ere related to the Buckley School (parents, employees, etc). Most of the voters did not live in Sherman Oaks!!! Why the interest of the non-Sherman Oaks residents? The Buckley School has plans to enlarge its campus and enrollment, and they need City approval.

The definitions of a stakeholder are tricky: you can be a resident, a business owner or participate in something "at-large" (such as attending a church or in this case, a private school). In the end, the definition may need reworking, but for now, it is the law.

One of the common criticisms of the Neighborhood Councils is that they do not represent the community; therefore they are not taken seriously at City Hall. When non-residents can elect members to the Neighborhood council, the focus of the Council can become the approval of a specific development rather than the protection and enhancement of the community.

Firstly, in response to specific developments vs. protection and enhancement, SONC looks at each and every development as they come in the Land Use Committee. When all said in done, everything that passes through goes to the protection and enhancement of the community, but if it is really protecting and/or enhancing, that's an opinion everyone must make on their own.

The Neighborhood Council system is not exactly solid. All those involved, from politicians to community members and volunteers, are building the ship as they sail it. This concept, in the 2nd largest city in the nation, is not something standard. There is no book on this; we are creating it.

E! Visits the Senior Center at VNSO Park

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sherman Oaks In the News: Food Edition

Robinhood British Pub. No care's taken with the too pricey food — the reheated pasty is soggy, the ploughman's lunch has any old cheese. The dĂ©cor is Mum and Dad's house and it should be a good lunch spot at least, but it's not working lately. 13640 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 994-6045.

Thai cooking is no exception, and, while I delight in the powerfully spicy northern Issan dishes and the Indian-inspired southern curries, I�m always up for a Bangkok-style dinner. In Sherman Oaks, this means a visit to neighborhood landmark Anajak Thai; it's been open for 25 years and is still keeping locals happy.

We have devoured nearly a dozen natas while sitting at L.A.'s only Portuguese bakery, Natas Pastries (named for the confection), which opened about a year ago in Sherman Oaks. Owner Fatima Marques, a Portuguese native and longtime Los Angeles resident, probably could have taken shortcuts in developing the recipes for the pastries, desserts and savories that fill her cases. Instead, the former marketing director was meticulous in authentically reproducing the sweets she grew up loving — apprenticing in Portugal, retrofitting an oven to heat to the necessary 750 degrees, acquiring special pans and importing ingredients.

French-style bistros have come and gone over the years, but La Frite has not only survived on Ventura Boulevard's volatile restaurant row, it seems to be prospering with newfound popularity.

in Sherman Oaks, open for only a year and a half, already has a reputation for its mini cupcakes. "The flavors are amazing. There's passion fruit, dulce de leche. It's quite good, and also all of the cupcakes are made organically," explains Tara de Lis, Citysearch Editor.
Previously: Leda's Bake Shop
Noted: Ledette e-mailed me last week informing me that the vegan cupcakes are good to go in the following flavors: chocolate chocolate, chocolate espresso, chocolate raspberry, chocolate peanut butter, carrot and coconut.

For now, she plans on having at least one vegan flavor on saturdays and will build up from that as demand increases. But of course, they can be ordered any day with a 24 hour notice.

Photo: Carlos Chavez (LA Times)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's Official

With 32 votes and no competition, last night I was sworn in as a councilmember of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council.

From the Human Relations Commission
Looking at the numbers of votes that were cast in this election, the Human Relations Commission hopes that the Neighborhood Council and its Election Committee will not be satisfied with a voter turnout of 429 people for this election in a neighborhood council that represents 60,921 [note the difference]. Each election should be seen as an opportunity to improve the process, and thereby enhance all aspects of Sherman Oaks Neighborhood CouncilĂ‚’s way of doing things. If Neighborhood Councils are to succeed, each and every one of them must be diligent in reaching out to all of their possible constituencies and be accessible to the community they represent. We know that outreach is an arduous effort, but it must be done to ensure adequate representation from the many diverse communities of Sherman Oaks. To that end, we offer our assistance to this particular Neighborhood Council in the coming year.
I, like most on the Council, concur with the statements above. I am curious to the capacity of "assistance" the Commission can give to our Council. Whatever it is, I hope the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council acts upon it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sherman Oaks Population: 61, 698

By Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council District Counts:

Area 1: 10,664
Area 2: 9,400
Area 3: 8,143
Area 4: 7,562
Area 5: 9,276
Area 6: 9,730
Area 7: 6,923

TOTAL: 61,698

That Said...
(this is in response to a few Google searches that have led people to this blog)

Sherman Oaks is not a city. It does not have city limits. Nor a city hall or a mayor. It is a neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles. It has an official City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council with elected volunteer community members.

Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council:

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Best Buy Solution

If you haven't heard, most Tower Records stores area going away. It is still unknown if the one at Sherman Oaks Galleria will go away or not, but if it does, it leaves a huge gaping space at the mall.

What to do? What to do?

I've never agreed with the anti Best Buy movement, but here's a solution: kick it to the Galleria and use the Van Nuys Blvd. location for something that will make traffic even worse - IKEA.

Just kidding.

But what I would really like to see at the Van Nuys Blvd. location is another Whole Foods. We'll call it Whole Foods - Sherman Oaks Central.

Okay no.

If I really had my choice of what would go right there instead of Best Buy, it would probably be some kind of entertainment area. I'm thinking live theatre and/or a concert venue of some sort.

The Sherman Oaks Playhouse? Nothing like a little competition for the Whitefire Theater.

Monday, September 18, 2006

So that's what all those sirens were about.

(CBS) SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. A woman who barricaded herself in a Sherman Oaks home Monday afternoon and threatened to blow it up after robbing a woman at knifepoint nearby, surrendered without further incident.

After the robbery, which occurred about 2:15 p.m. in the 14800 block of Magnolia Boulevard, the suspect ran to a nearby home in the 14700 block of Otsego Street, said Officer Mike Lopez of the Los Angeles Police Department's
Media Relations Section.

Read full article

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Coyotes On The Run

The only time I've seen coyotes in city limits have been on Moorpark Street. I guess, they're back. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Photo taken at Moorpark & Dixie Canyon.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mr. Cecil's Ribs Robbed

But this time with a video capturing it all. Owner Jonathan Burrows was smart and installed panic buttons and cameras all over. Was there one out in the alley where the car may have been parked? No word on that yet.

About a week before Barone's got robbed, I was there and speaking to the owner after some gang tagging happened. He said he was going to install a camera on the back wall. Well, a week later, guess who came through that back door? Yups, Ski Mask Bandits. No camera's installed.

Mr. Cecil's Ribs is a pretty easy target. If anyone knows the alley behind it (Ventura Blvd. between Woodman and Ventura Cyn.), it is a fairly wide alley and easily sped through. Burrows said he saw some suspicious men doing what seemed like casing the place a month ago. He reported them and their license plate to the police. We'll see if it leads anywhere.

My theory: These robberies are not for the money, rather, the thrill.

Photo: NBC4

Friday, August 25, 2006

Public Art I want to see in s'oaks

The picture comes from a post today on Boing Boing. It got me thinking again about Public Art in Sherman Oaks, which there is not much of. Yet there is so much opportunity in terms of space.

VIVA Gallery has an initiative for a small urban park and the mural of the Freeway Lady at the corner of Moorpark & Fulton. The library has some interesting work in the community room.

But the picture here makes me excited as it would fit perfectly under a freeway pass. Big empty walls. What a great space for a bit of art. I'm not talking something extravagant. Just something fun, simple and spontaneous.

While I sort of enjoy the randomness of things like Project Rabbit (even if it is officially graffiti), the pictured work is much more thrilling.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Increased Crime in Sherman Oaks*

PCR Chriss (that's Police Community Representative) passed this information along to all the East Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Watch Block Captains:
There has been a significant increase in the last two weeks of stolen cars. Nate [Banry] says more in the last two weeks than in the last two years. A cluster is in the Ventura Blvd/Hazeltine area.

Also, there has been a sharp increase in home burglaries - especially houses that are for sale. Three of them have been in the Greenleaf Neb [sic] Watch area!
If you see anything in process, call 911. If you see anything suspicious, call dispatch at (818)734-2223.

And remember, if you can write down license plate numbers, that is gold!

*Update: In Sherman Oaks (1927 - ) has a great list of tips on how to make it harder to get your car stolen. I've gotten my window etched, I would recommend you get it done too.

A Different Labor Dispute

This photo was taken yesterday outside Westfield Fashion Square. I'm not exactly sure what this is about. Google and Google News searches are giving me nothing. When I passed by, it was only these two here on strike. And I thought the EAA strike was small.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Yes, it's true. I'm running for SONC

I sort of hid it in a post the other day, but I guess I can't hide anymore and it's time to get the word out and answer a few questions (including those from Daily News to me):
Zach -- if you're reading this, or if anybody else knows, is there an actual vote for these seats? When/where/how is it done? I've never seen or heard about such a vote taking place in Van Nuys, and we do have a neighborhood council. Something's either fishy or done in an incredibly ass-backward way -- and I'm hoping for ass-backward.
To use Steven Rosenberg's term, yes, it is ass-backward. The toughest challenge for many Neighborhood Councils (NC) is marketing to the community. So the fact that many people do not know about NC elections is not surprising. Each NC has their election at different times and must market it themselves. Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC) will hold theirs on Monday, September 11th at Sherman Oaks Elementary from 4 - 8 p.m.

Other questions...

Q: What are your qualifications?

A: Despite my age (25), I've been working in local government since June of 2002. I received an internship through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission to work a summer at the City of Santa Clarita Cultural Affairs Office (note: my boss back then was Rosalind Stewart, who headed up the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) before Santa Clarita. She currently works with Councilwoman Wendy Greuel). After my internship ended, I was asked to stay and work part-time through my last year of college at CalArts. Nearing my graduation, my hours got bumped up to 30 hours a week where I continued with Santa Clarita until last Spring where I decided to go freelance/contractor with the city and other clients doing web design and online marketing.

Q: How does Cultural Affairs and Web relate to local government in other capacities?
A: Working at a place such as the City of Santa Clarita gave me a full breadth of experience. The Santa Clarita family is very close, and being that the city is relatively small, you get your hands wet on everything. Personally knowing the city manager is part of the everyday life at a small city. Being on the same committee as the city manager and other city leaders was quite normal for me and others. I got to work in many capacities ranging from traffic to communications to planning/redevelopment.

More Q & A to come later. Feel free to e-mail me any questions you have as well!

Leda's Bake Shop

I have a friend who is obsessed with cupcakes. Her motto: Cupcake + Multivitamin: Super Breakfast! She has a plan for when her friend comes to town: visit the best bakeries around, which included Leda's Bake Shop. I was surprised I had never seen Leda's, being that is located between Senor Fred and the pet store next to the old Orange Delight stand (basically Woodman and Ventura).

So I checked it out and I think I had one of the best chocolate chip cookies ever. And the mini cupcakes are whimsically delish. I met Ledette, the owner, who I thought to be very hip to it, and she mentioned that they are working on some vegan recipes which is good news for all ya vegans out there. A Sherman Oaks/Ventura Blvd. classic not to be missed.

Leda's Bake Shop
13722 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pissing Off The Neighbors

I posted about this on LAist, but I found a new one about 200 ft away.

Pizza Rustica Opens

And it's pretty damn good.

What's Memorable: The buttery like crust
The Atmosphere: Boardwalk like walk-in and order type of place. But there's no boardwalk, it's in Sherman Oaks.
Savor Over: Chocolate Pizza

Pizza Rustica
15030 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, California 91403

Founding SONC Chair Resigns

Today, Ken Gerston resigned from the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC). In the e-mail letter to the council and city officials, Gerston signs off saying:

I take great exception with many of the decisions that have been made by the leadership and executive board of the Council and find the Council has become an ineffective voice at this time.

The very premise of Neighborhood Councils were to put the community first and not to be self serving or self aggrandizing. Sadly, the original vision has been lost.

It has been an honor to serve our community and I thank you and my neighbors for the opportunity.
I never knew Ken as the President of SONC since I moved to Sherman Oaks when Jill Banks Barad became the new president. While Ken was still on the board, he often appeared quiet and reserved, occasionally speaking with direct to the point comments. His attendance at meetings seemed to be dwindling lately.

To Ken's point, SONC occasionally does take the time to take positions on City council motions and other forms of support for bills and organizations. It makes sense when it deals with Neighborhood Council (NC) issues such as motions moving from NCs to City Council, but sometimes when SONC takes the time to take a positions on issues that effect something city or countywide, it feels like it dominates the meeting and sidelines the truly local issues like traffic at a certain intersection or beautification. Ideally, that's committee work, but still, the meetings sometimes don't feel like Sherman Oaks, rather City Council. And that's when I see city officials in the audience start rolling their eyes.

On a side note: Pending verification of my business status, I am running for SONC Area 5 as a Business Representative. If my paperwork goes through, I'm running unopposed.

Council Deputy Begins Blogging

I was catching up on From Sherman Oaks (1927 - ) and noticed Councilwoman Wendy Greuel's Sherman Oaks deputy, Patricia Davenport, has joined the blogging ranks. Commonly known as Pat, she is listed as a contributor and as of this writing, has not written anything. Pat works endlessly for Sherman Oaks floating from community meeting to meeting, solving problems and mediating tense situations. She deserves a gold star and a lot more!

Photo: Pat Davenport & LAPD Senior Lead Officer (SLO) for North Sherman Oaks

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Getting Shot: A Cost of Doing Business

Maxson's Pharmacy at 14070 Ventura Blvd (cross street Hazeltine) was robbed at gunpoint on Friday.
The robbery of a Sherman Oaks pharmacy was foiled Friday afternoon by a store employee who confronted the would-be robber and shot him, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Initial reports indicated that the employee had taken the intruder's gun and turned it on him, but police later retracted that account and said they still were investigating how the shooting occurred. (L.A. Times)
The leadful robber escaped wearing a bullet proof vest, yet needed medical attention and was dropped off at Tarzana Hospital where he was arrested. The getaway car, described as a "black or dark-colored Volkswagen Golf," is still at large.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Playfood: Vegan Food That Taunts Me

Back in June, I posted a little Playfood update. LACityNerd thought the store front had dissipated and today, Kay commented this:
A real Update on PlayFood. The Ventura restaurant location is slow going. The main focus is opening a manufacturing plant for this wonderful product in the state of Missouri. We are about 2 - 3 weeks away from production of our cheeses. Be sure to ask for us in your locate grocery and health food stores as we will be contacting them soon for distribution.
Last I heard, the operation was in Kansas. Maybe that was Kansas City, MO. Anyway, while we wait for Vegan cheese made from cashews and spices, you should check out this Venice based company, Miso Mayo. The Spicy Red Pepper is way too good. I recommend putting it on saltine crackers as a snack.

Caught: Purse Snatchers & A Tagger

Part of that recent upswing in Valley crime have been purse snatchers. A couple of them have been caught now. The statistics should now go down.

Also, a 15 year old who has been tagging all over Sherman Oaks has been caught and charged with felony vandalism. This is his second arrest and supposedly his parents knew of his activities. The man who reported him got the $1000 reward.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Another Sherman Oaks Blog

In addition to the new Stuck in the Valley by Max, Sherman Oaks has yet another new blog with a very similar url: (you'll notice mine is From Sherman Oaks (1927 - ) started last Tuesday by a group of community members involved on the Sherman Oaks Beautification Committee, a group made of of Neighborhood Council Reps (SONC), The HOA (SOHA), and the Chamber. In a letter, blog admin, David wrote to me:
This past week I started a blog for Sherman Oaks (initially it was meant to be just for the Sherman Oaks Beautification Committee), but I’m thinking it could be a sort of on-line bulletin board for all the people who are involved in trying to make a difference in our neighborhood. In any case, I was looking to see what else there was on Sherman Oaks, and I chanced on your blog, which almost made me want to hit the “delete blog” button and go eat a pretzel.
Sherman Oaks is going blog and that is excellent news. For my neighborhood watch (NW), I started a blog and am offering blog setup to any of the other NWs. The group of NWs in Sherman Oaks East (9A89 LAPD Basic Car) have an e-mail discussion list already and I'm hoping there will be some more blogs to come (hopefully a SONC blog).

Bringing Midnight Ridazz to the Valley

Midnight Ridazz announced they wanted to get some smaller chapters and after speaking to Monica over there, she seemed zealous through e-mail about it.

So, as I said last month, I checked out Midnight Ridazz on Friday night and it was a blast. I'll write more on LAist on Monday, but here's a video for now:

Friday, August 11, 2006

Taking A Stab at prelaunches and there has been much buzz about it lately. I went and gave it a trial.

  • The good: pretty easy to use, cool picture function, extreme local news, event calendar.
  • The bad: design is blah, few bugs to fix, homepage is confusing, news stories that really should be blogs.
  • My prediction: If the features keep rolling out and if it is easy to use for everyone, this site will be huge.
  • My recommendation: Hire community managers for each community to keep the energy going (I'll take Sherman Oaks!).

My News Briefs:
Latest 405 Closures
Does 8% Mean Anything?

Photo: Leia

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Crime Map: Aug 1 - Aug 7

The most interesting thing about this map is that the August 6th Homicide is not recorded here.
  • Otherwise, the purple denotes thefts from vehicles which end up mostly to be CDs and Laptops.
  • The light orange are violent robberies. You'll notice that the light orange near the 101/405 junction is the Valley Inn robbery.
  • Navy Blue means Grand Theft Auto. One on Riverside and one on Costello (just south of Ventura Blvd.)
  • Turquoise is Personal Theft (think taking your purse or wallet of you)
There is a criss-cross in the public information updating here by the LAPD. While the August 6th homicide is posted on the LAPD blog, it is not on the map. The Valley Inn robbery is absent from the blog while it is on the map.

Information Gathered from

Add Dickens & Sepulveda

Now Sherman Oaks has 4 intersections with traffic officers assigned during rush hour:
  • Ventura Blvd. and Van Nuys Blvd.
  • Ventura Blvd. and Beverly Glen Blvd.
  • Ventura Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd.
  • Dickens St. and Sepulveda Blvd.
4 of the 51 intersections make almost 8% (2 tenths short) of all intersections with traffic officers in Los Angeles. Chew on that. (List via LAObserved)

Photo: Drunken Monkey Photography

What's With All The Valley Crime This Month?

It's not even the 10th and this is what we have:
  • Wednesday, August 2, 9:20 p.m.: The Valley Inn Restaurant gets robbed (Sherman Oaks)
  • Thursday, August 3, time unknown : Father, Mother and Sister become victim to son/brother - Brandon Menard. (Northridge)
  • Friday, August 4, 8:00 p.m.: A man abducts his three children and gets caught in Utah. (Panorama City)
  • Saturday, August 5, 10:30 a.m.: 4 teenage friends go to a store, get in a verbal argument with the suspect and walk away into the store. Upon coming out, the argument continues and one of the four gets shot. (North Hollywood)
  • Sunday, August 6, 2:15 a.m.: Boyfriend and Girlfriend fight. Boyfriend shoots Girlfriend. (Sherman Oaks)
  • Monday, August 7, 10:00 p.m.: Two men are in an alley and two others walk up to them, ask them, "Where you from?" and shoot them both. One Died. (Winnetka)
  • Monday, August 7, 10:15 p.m.: A 20-year old is shot and killed while parked in his car, listening to music. (Van Nuys)
It's hard to do anything to prevent the Sherman Oaks murder when it is a crime of passion. However, he did have a violent history. The Winnetka and Van Nuys shootings seem to be more gang related while the NoHo one's motive is unknown. The Menard Family incident is just plain troubling (and why is there nothing on the LAPD blog?)

The child abductions seem to be common and unfortunate, especially since it ends up being one of the parents.

And the restaurant robberies will be continue until they are caught. The good thing is, they have not been violent (except one at a Thai restaurant a year or so ago). I would hate to be a customer at one of the restaurant robberies when police arrive and there is a shoot out. There will be nothing pretty about that one. (Once again, why nothing on the LAPD blog?)

Photo: Anastasia Povolotska

Sherman Oaks is not near Los Angeles

It is Los Angeles. TJ Sullivan in LA wants you know that. I want you to know that too. I heard that Chatsworth is its own city from someone who lived there. I am constantly asked by FOB (that's Fresh of the Bus) actors, who move to the Valley, where Studio City's city hall is. And all I can do is smile and go, "let's get nerdy and do some local geography" (but really, I want to smack them on the side of the head for being that blind sometimes).

Sullivan says to call the various neighborhoods districts "if you have to call them something." I wouldn't call them that, nor borough (NYC) or ward (Imagine having 50 councilmen [called alderman] like in Chicago!). I refer to them as neighborhoods or communities of the city.

Chicago doesn't have this problem. No one thinks Rogers Park is its own city. Everyone in New York knows that if you are in Queens, you are still in the City of New York City. And better yet, you refer to Queens as Queens and Manhattan as New York and no one is confused. Here in L.A., we refer to the Valley as the Valley and the basin as Los Angeles and everyone is confused as hell.

One can blame the geography, but Manhattan is an island, so I'm not buying that one right now. They look and feel different? There are parts of Sherman Oaks that look like parts of West L.A.

Nothing is going to be solved here, but I say we sack all reporters who are flummoxed by local geography.

Photo: Nagle & Riverside in Sherman Oaks

Monday, August 07, 2006


I missed this article from the New York Times Travel Section a few weeks ago:
THE San Fernando Valley has always gotten a bad rap. For years, it has been associated with two dubious cultural phenomena: Valley Girls and pornography. But just as the city of Los Angeles has undergone a process of rediscovery in long-neglected regions like the downtown area, so this suburban outpost across the Santa Monica mountains has also experienced an image makeover...

The velvet rope has come to the Valley in a big way, especially on Ventura Boulevard, around the Studio City-Sherman Oaks corridor, where bar-hopping on foot is possible.
It goes on to mention a number of restaurants and bars, mostly about Studio City destinations, but Sherman Oaks got one shout out:
For heartier fare, there’s the Boneyard Bistro (13539 Ventura Boulevard, 818-906-7427), a barbecue joint that doesn’t scrimp on big slabs of red meat, but also throws in a few curve balls, such as deep-fried macaroni and cheese ($6 for a large portion) and smoked-duck spring rolls ($11).
Within a few hundred feet, there is another Meaty Rib place, Mr. Cecil's California Ribs. I'm a vegetarian who tries not to eat too much cheese. But I am curious about this deep-fried mac & cheese.

Read Full Article

Photo: J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

Pizza Rustica Coming Soon

The sign hanging over their soon to be storefront says "South Beach's Famous Rustica coming soon!" This has nothing to do with the South Beach Diet. This has to do with Tuscan Pizza, or really, gourmet pizza.

There is one already open in West Hollywood, but the Sherman Oaks one will be their 2nd in Los Angeles. The company has a few in Florida and wins a lot of rewards (Zagat, Digital City, Citysearch) and gets a lot of reviews (Frommer's, local papers, and even a book about pizza in the U.S.).

I know nothing more other than I want a taste.
And yes, that is Anna Kournikova in the above photo.

2nd Degree Murder in Sherman Oaks

I believe this is the first murder of the year in Sherman Oaks. I remember an incident at a gas station earlier this year, but I think that involved a man from Sherman Oaks in an incident in Van Nuys. Nevertheless, CBS2 reports:
(CBS) SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. A 22-year-old woman was shot to death in Sherman Oaks and her live-in boyfriend was suspected in her death.

Victoria Ramirez was found shot in the head about 2:15 a.m. following a domestic dispute at her home in the 13000 block of Chandler Boulevard near Los Angeles Valley College.

David Allan Weir, 24, a career criminal residing with Ramirez, left the home in a dark gray 2003 Ford Mustang, California license plate number 5AXE735, according to Los Angeles Police Officer Martha Garcia.
Read the rest of the article...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Air Raid Siren: Chandler Elementary School

Number 2 Sherman Oaks Air Raid Siren: Hazeltine & Weddington.
Previously: Ventura & Stansbury

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Apartment Therapy, I mean Typography

What really bugs me with the majority of developments these days is the lack uniqueness. In the end, it's all money and how to conservatively save it and how to make a lot of it. The above apartments have some pizazz to them, as evident by the way they are titled and the typography choices. How cool would it be to say, "Hi, I live in the Lamartinique," or "Yeah, I live in the Halli House." (okay, I can't really read what the first letter is). And look at the Fulton Terrace, you can't miss that one driving on the street. "Just look for the apartment with huge ass numbers."

This is character. Character does not exist in places called The Plaza or Woodglen. Generic names and generic design are covering this city. Central air would be nice at times, but I love the fact that my apartment has a different floor plan for just about each apartment. My door to door neighbour's apartment is world's away from mine. Catty-corner to her is something utterly different than both of ours. And this is what I love about the older 1950s/60s apartment buildings in Sherman Oaks and all over the city.

Developers who are comfortable designing homes suitable for Huntington Beach, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Pomona, etc, come to Land Use meetings in L.A. with these tacky designs for apartments that look like Hampton Inns. They may fit the character of those cities, but in LA... get a little more creative.

I'm not saying we have to save these places. I'm just saying that the new ones should have a little more character before 50 years from now.

Do You Know Where Your Closest Air Raid Siren Is?

LACityNerd challenged me to find my closest air raid siren in the comment section of a post I did on LAist. Maybe CityNerd did not intend it to be a challenge, but I took it as one because I can get nerdy too. I quickly obtained a complete list of all sirens in Los Angeles and hunted down the one at Stansbury and Ventura across the street from Jinky's.

Over time, I will visit each of the sirens in Sherman Oaks and surrounding areas and photograph them. I liked how the above one turned out.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Restaurant Robbery Update & Tips

The LA Daily News has an article this morning about the Valley Inn Restaurant being robbed by two masked robbers. Kevin at LA Observed notes that the robbery was "more aggressive than first described."

I am a big fan of hardening the target. When we talk about cars, we talk about not leaving your laptop in the front seat. When you get robbed at a restaurant, there is not much you can do because they know you were planning on paying for that dinner. So there goes your wallet.

But you can strip down your wallet. When I have late nights at Jerry's or Solley's Deli, I tend take excess credit cards and IDs out. It's a pain, but it will be much less of one when trying to cancel or recover stolen items.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Valley Inn Restaurant Robbed

Barone's got robbed
. Mel's Diner got robbed. Many in The Valley have been.

A Sherman Oaks restaurant was robbed at gunpoint in what has become a familiar story in the San Fernando Valley.

Two men armed with handguns entered the Valley Inn Restaurant at 4557 Sherman Oaks Ave. near Ventura Boulevard at 9:20 Wednesday, according to Lt. Patricia Blake of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Station.
Watch the video at CBS2 (via LAO)

Photo: Vidalia

Your favorite, secret treasure of Los Angeles...

LA City Beat asked ‘What is your favorite, secret treasure of Los Angeles?’ and Ilana Weiner answered the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Pool:

“It is open year-round and used to cost $1.50 to swim there, although now if you show your L.A. Library card you can get in for free! There are typically plenty of lap lanes to swim in, although you do have to split the lanes. The staff is really nice and friendly. Most people in L.A. would rather belong to expensive gyms or have pools already in their houses, or they have a fear of public pools. I grew up in the Midwest where most people don’t have pools and aren’t afraid of public pools, so I think the VNSO pool is awesome. It’s heated and it’s just a great experience. The one thing I find funny is the snobbery I get when I tell people I go to a public pool. It’s a very ‘community’ place to be. I’ve started to recognize people when I go to the pool. It’s a different crowd of people versus the people who go to a fitness club – and I like that.” (14201 Huston St., Sherman Oaks; 818-783-6721)
Photo: Mareen Fischinger

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Latest in Crime

If you are a neighborhood watch block captain, you already know this. But most likely, you're not. If you are interested in becoming a block captain, e-mail me, I'll hook you up with the right people. Anyway, here is some info:

Burglary From Motor Vehicle (BFMV) crimes remain the biggest problem in the East Sherman Oaks area. These crimes are easily prevented. Most BMFVs are crimes of opportunity. The bad guy's walking down the street, sees something he wants in your car, smashes the window, and takes it. Don't leave anything in your car someone would want to take. Don't leave your laptop in the backseat. Don't leave cell phones, wallets, CD's or even clothes. Don't leave them in your car and I can pretty well guarantee no one will break in. Oh, and always, always lock your cars. ~ Senior Lead Officer (SLO) Nate Banry
George Aguilar, SLO for West Sherman Oaks, warns of BFMV, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and ATMs at night in addition to his problem child - the Cedros/Dickens parking garage where graffiti covers that garage from head to toe (though now improving with the nightly locking of the gate).

SLO for North Sherman Oaks (anything north of the 101), Justin Bergmann, deals with all the above plus the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Park: "Multiple citizens in the area are complaining of shopping carts, drinking alcohol in the park and sleeping in the park after it's closed. I, along with the bicycle unit will be working this area diligently during the upcoming month."

The next Sherman Oaks Community Neighborhood Watch Leaders Meeting will be on Thursday August 31st, 7:00 p.m. at the Sunkist Building (Southwest corner of Riverside & Hazeltine)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

National Night Out Pictures

Hana Grill @ The Galleria

Funny, I always passed this place and rubbed it off as a bad mall Asian diner. Then I was in a hurry and I braved it. For what it is, it's damn good. The free fire cucumbers are worth it alone (and better than PF Chang's cucumber dish). miso soup, edaname and veggie sushi rolls are more than just decent (nothing beats Bizen though).

Though, they really need to train the young girl at the front counter what soup base/broth is. I kept on asking if the udon soup was made with a chicken, beef or veggie broth and she was extremely confused. I settled safely with miso.

Of Couches & Ponies

A couch for the fall. A pony for the summer.

Photo: Allott & Moorpark

Monday, July 31, 2006

National Night Out

Tomorrow night is National Night Out. As far as I know, there are about four block parties happening around Sherman Oaks, but I won't list them since they are really for the neighbors on those specific street.

But the one public one is open at the Sherman Oaks Galleria which begins at 7 p.m. Park and go to the front of the mall where the fountains are. If you want free validated parking, LAPD Senior Lead Office, Geroge Aguilar, will have 100 or so passes. But you're going to eat dinner there anyway, right?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Our Tree Fell Today

An olive tree got top heavy and fell from LA River property into our garden apartment's parking lot. The backlot was blocked, my car in the frontside was not. Too bad I rode my bike around anyway today.

Upon calling 311 a few times, we found out that this was happening all over the city today. But I realized I should probably call the county since it is really their deal. Being jaded about the county, I thought no one would pick up and this issue would not be resolved anytime soon.

But the county slowly is turning my head around. With around 90,000 employees, today was quite an efficient and satisfying experience. I called, they called back, they came, it was done. All within a hour.

"We do more by 9 a.m. than the city does the whole week."
~ Anonymous County Employee

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Brogin v. Kovacevich: The Basketball Hoop Story

Sherman Oaks in the spotlight over an old and obscure 1936 ordinance of no fun in the streets or parks. I'm looking more into this, but in the meantime, I wrote about this on LAist.

Photo of the actual basketball hoop taken be me

Monday, July 24, 2006

I Bought A Bike Rack For My Car Today

And it's thrilling. And it's no offense to Sherman Oaks, but sometimes I just want to ride on the beach and I rather not bike the Sepulveda Pass or deal with it on a long bus ride. One of the other main reasons I wanted to get it now was that I am itching to join the Midnight Ridazz on their next ride over the hill.

But really, shouldn't the Valley get a Midnight Ridazz event? I'll slowly start to rally for it and probably get banned in the process, hehe.

Speaking of biking, when this heat gets a little less insane, I need to check out the Orange Line Bike Trail.

Photo: "Midnight Ridazz" by PangPang