April 18, 2014

Of Moderate Interest

Some company that makes, I think, carbon fiber bicycles with electric motors, I think (I'm not going to even bother to search for any clarification) has provided this video shot from a UAV of a couple of their bicycles in the recent CicLAvia on Wilshire Boulevard. You will see that what could be a pretty cool 60-second video becomes little more than beautiful tedium as the cyclists and the UAV (with, probably, a GoPro) cover no more than 3 blocks of the 6-mile event which went from Grand Avenue on the east to LACMA at Fairfax on the west.

The three blocks videoed to death are centered on the Wilshire United Methodist Church and Scottish Rite Masonic Temple. Beautiful and impressive - once or twice. But after the 17th flyover of the church you begin to wonder if this isn't really a roof inspection service that's being promoted.

I do wish to point out that the first of the two cyclists that the camera focuses on right in front of the church doors is wearing way cool white Crocs because who knows? Because it's L.A. I guess. Maybe they are making the point that you pedal so little on these bikes you can even do it in Crocs.

permalink | April 18, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2014

Couple O' Boston Things

boston.curbed has put together a survey of hotel rates in Boston for this coming Patriot's Day weekend. Patriot's Day commemorates, as every schoolchild knows, the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Of course everyone piles into Boston for that! BTW, they also run a marathon on Patriot's Day.

Hotel room prices per night:

Overall Boston area: $350-$410.

Back Bay: $507-$598

Framingham (near the start of said marathon): $155-$176

Newton (for people who want to watch, but don't want to deal with the Back Bay crowds & prices, I guess): $322-$379

We don't have a real 26-mile, 385-yard marathon here in the Coachella Valley, do we? Or have I just somehow never heard of it? I'm not about to organize one, but a mid-winter marathon here could be very popular. Promote it as a way to prepare for global warming: "In The Future All Marathons Will Be In Deserts." If they wanted IAAF certification and a killer race, they should start and end it in Desert Hot Springs. But if they are willing to forego IAAF they could run it from DHS to Coachella. All downhill and ending below sea level.

The other Boston thing is this. The Downtown Boston Business Improvement District has erected two maps in a pilot program that will, if the headline is to be believed, "Mean Never Getting Lost in Downtown Boston Again." That headline is about as believable as "Hunger Ends, World Peace Declared."

Unfortunately the BDID has no information about this on their website, other than linking back to the same article I linked to. And that article has only a small picture of a map. It's not big enough to read the details, but I have already spotted a fatal error.

Check out the compass rose in the upper right of that map. You probably can't make out the N and S, but north is down and slightly to the right! Once as a tourist I encountered a map like this in the Houston airport. Inside the airport terminal building I was facing south and looking at a map with south up. If I had walked around to the other side of the column so that I was facing north I would have seen the same map flipped so that north was up. But I didn't walk around that column, I didn't know I was facing south, and I didn't notice the compass rose; so I went around Houston with an upside-down map visualization in my head. Putting the direction you are facing at the top of a map works on GPS devices where you need to know where you're going without having to do a lot of mental abstraction. But on a fixed, publicly displayed map where most people will not look for the compass rose, north should always be up. If you had just Blue Lined it from the airport to downtown Boston and saw this map while trying to get to your friend's place in the South End you might end up heading down Washington Street because it looks like it's south on the map. Ironically, going that direction would eventually take you to South Boston, which really is south of downtown, although this map shows that you start by going north.

I'm pretty sure that Einstein perfected his theories describing the curvature of space only after a visit to Boston.

permalink | April 10, 2014 at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

April 3, 2014

The Growth Of Los Angeles In 36 Seconds

1877 - 2000. There are some rather obvious surges. One starts in 1910 and continues until the late '20s. The next comes with World War II. The next begins about 1953. Next one starts in the early 1970s. There might be one in the 1990s too, but by then the city is so big any growth looks small.

Similar treatments of São Paulo (where it looks like a gigantic ripe tomato landed in the 1950s) and Paris (starts in 1800) can be seen here.

permalink | April 3, 2014 at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2014

Plastic Bag Ban Approved By DHS City Council

Plastic Bag Ban

With its second reading the City Council gave final approval to the plastic bag ban with a 5-0 vote. "'I would love us to have the distinction of being the first city in the Coachella Valley to have this ordinance,' Palm Springs Councilwoman Ginny Foat told Kate Castle, vice chair of the city's sustainability committee." Sorry, Ms. Foat.

Read the ordinance here.

This is the definition of the type of bag that is banned:

"Single-Use Carryout Plastic Bag" means a bag other than a Reusable Bag provided at the check stand, cash register, point of sale or other point of departure for the purpose of transporting food or merchandise out of the establishment. Single-Use Carryout Plastic Bags do not include bags without handles provided to the Customer (1) to transport produce, bulk food, or meat from a produce, bulk food, or meat department within a Store to the point of sale; (2) to hold prescription medication dispensed from a Pharmacy; or (3) to segregate food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other food or merchandise when placed together in a [bag].

Where they are banned:

  • Any store
  • "any City facility, City-managed concession, City-sponsored event, or City-permitted event" (Councilmember Pye pointed out that includes the Salsa Blast)

Plastic bags may be used for "the transportation of Prepared Foods, including take-out foods and liquids intended for consumption away from the food provider's premises."

Stores must make recycled paper bags available and charge the customer at least 10¢ each for them. These bags must be at least 40% post-consumer recycled content, must be 100% recyclable, and must have the word "Recyclable" printed on it in a "highly visible manner."

The stores have to keep track of how many paper bags are provided and how much money they get from selling them. That information has to be available for review by city staff along with information on what efforts the store has made to promote the use of reusable bags.

People who participate in the WIC program or the Supplemental Food Program (which I think is what a lot of people used to call the commodity food program - e.g., "government cheese") do not have to pay for their paper recyclable bags.

The ban becomes effective in six months for these kinds of stores:

  • $2 million or more in annual sales and "sells a line of dry grocery, canned goods, or nonfood items and some perishable items."
  • 10,000 square feet or more "that sells any perishable or non-perishable goods" and generates sales tax.

The ban becomes effective in one year for these kinds of stores:

  • "drug store, pharmacy, supermarket, grocery store, convenience food store, foodmart, or other entity engaged in the retail sale of a limited line of goods that includes milk, bread, soda, and snack foods."
  • Less than 10,000 square feet "that sells any perishable or non-perishable goods" and generates sales tax.

Are there any loopholes there for any kind of store? I can't see any. The ordinance exempts restaurants and "nonprofit charitable reusers." A "nonprofit charitable reuser" is a 501(c)3 organization "that reuses and recycles donated goods or materials and receives more than 50% of its revenues from the handling and sale of those donated goods or materials."

Stores can still give you plastic bags in the store that do not have handles and are meant to be used to carry your stuff to the checkout.

Enforcement will be through Code Compliance.

Pierson Professional Plaza

I'm sure you all remember the approval of Pierson Professional Plaza and wondered why they hadn't started work yet, considering the county building has to be ready for occupancy in something like September of 2014. This year! The short answer is financing.

A standard condition the city imposes on new commercial development is the undergrounding of utility lines, and that was one of the conditions Tahiti Partners agreed to and the City Council approved. But Pierson Professional Plaza by an amazing stroke of luck is going to be built on one of the three blocks where Edison will be undergrounding the utility lines, using money from their customers to pay for it.

City staff recommended that this condition be revised to require Tahiti Partners to pay their share of Edison's undergrounding to the city over a period of years. The city would use that money for some future undergrounding project. The amount was estimated at $300,000. Jeff Payne from Tahiti Partners said that would be an absolute deal breaker and explained how important this project would be to the city, as there will be more than 100 county employees there. Comments from Dave Nunn seemed to be infuential as he urged the council to approve the developer's request. He said the loss of $300,000 will quickly be made up by other income from the property.

The developer's request was that he not be required to underground and that he not be required to pay $300,000 in lieu of undergrounding. This was approved 5-0. The developer said financing was the only thing that needed to be finished up before shovels went into the ground. He promised work would begin in less than 60 days, but just in case the City Council imposed a 120 day deadline. If they haven't started work in 120 days, they've got to come up with that $300,000.

Medical Marijuana

To my surprise two different people got up during public comments to urge the City Council to reconsider its ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. I didn't get the impression that the two had coordinated this, but maybe they're just good actors. The first one said he has long business experience and wants to open a dispensary. The second one said he had been operating a delivery service, but he decided to stop paying the $150/month fee to WeedMaps to be listed so his business has dwindled to nothing. He also wants to operate a storefront in Desert Hot Springs.

It could be that with the recent approval of the changes to Palm Springs' dispensary ordinance, these two saw there would be no room for them there, so they are trying to create greener pastures. The Palm Springs ordinance does not allow delivery services, but that's nearly unenforceable.

I should say that these two people came across as reasonable and responsible people...not like some of the flakes that showed up some years back when the city imposed the ban.

At the end of the meeting Councilmember Matas said he would be willing to discuss the issue and see what direction the city should take.

permalink | March 18, 2014 at 11:25 PM | Comments (3)

March 14, 2014

This Must Be Very Important To Some People

Behold. The new Marriott going up at Francisco & Olympic will feature "the largest, full-motion media facade in Los Angeles." Bring the whole family.

permalink | March 14, 2014 at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2014

From Atop The World Trade Center

Gigapan from WTC
A small portion of a 360° Gigapan image shot from atop the World Trade Center

There's a making-of video, too.

Of course, the most important thing is to notice that some of the crew are documenting the project with GoPro cameras.

permalink | March 11, 2014 at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

POV Los Angeles

Scott Uhlfelder used a GoPro Hero3 to shoot interesting video all around the city.

permalink | March 11, 2014 at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

March 5, 2014

Planning Commission Approves Oasis Plaza

This was a special meeting of the Planning Commission on Thursday, February 27. Commissioners Romero and Parker were absent.

Oasis Plaza

The Planning Commission had first considered this item about ten days earlier. They had some requests for changes and clarifications. The developers hurried to respond because they want this project to be open before October this year. The proposal is to erect two buildings for retail or offices in the vacant lot on the east side of Palm between 2nd and 3rd.

The dry well can handle 3.3 cu.ft./sec with a capacity of 250 cu.ft. Bomanite paving has been specified for the central driveway extending from Palm to the alley. ADA access has been double checked and it all meets code. Adjustments have been made in the parking lot that will eliminate some potential problems. Landscaping at the corners has been revised. Two Tipuana Tipu trees have been added to the street frontage. The earlier plans had shown vines growing against the building. Now the plan is to have the vines grown in a framework that will keep them about an inch away from the wall itself. This will reduce the likelihood of trash or mold collecting in the vines. The trash enclosure which is designed as in inset to the building to reduce the likelihood of blowing trash now has a gate and a hose bib. The details of the signage will be brought back for a final approval before a Certificate of Occupancy is issued.

The staff recommendation was to continue the item to the April meeting of the Planning Commission to allow the applicant time to provide more detail in response to the requests made earlier. Commissioner Gray asked Rich Malacoff why he recommended a continuance, since the things still undone are pretty minor. Mr. Malacoff said the recommendation for a continuance was made out of deference to the Commission's requests at the earlier meeting, but he said if the Commission decided to approve this project this night, staff was prepared for that too.

Chair Gerardi said he didn't want to negotiate with the applicant from the dais. He said he expects staff and the applicant to bring forward a proposal and the Commission would vote on that proposal.

Mr. Gerardi said he thought the Commission had asked for a more decorative fascia, and he thought the applicant should expand on that subject a bit, since it wasn't shown in the plans.

The project designer said that as signage was incorporated and lights were moved, those items begin to take up space on the fascia, so that when they tried to put a design there it was obliterated by them. Nevertheless, they trimmed the fascia all around and carried that detail around to the back of the building. The signs will be recessed about 1.5 to 2 inches.

Approved 3-0.

Administrative Calendar

Other discussion items on the agenda were postponed because Martín Magaña was indisposed and unable to attend this meeting. These items were to have been "General Plan/Coachella Valley Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Code Update" and "Vortex Specific Plan Review & Discussion." Mr. Gray pointed out that the Vortex Specific Plan was never officially adopted.

Remarks & Comments

Mr. Malacoff said planning staff has been very busy recently responding to requests for information, but there are not a lot of active applications in the pipeline right now. He said that 95% of the requests that come in by phone are responded to within 24 hours.

They are working closely with code enforcement. Non-compliant facades will generate conversations between planning staff and the property owner which, Mr. Malacoff believes, is gradually improving the appearance of the city. He cited a recent case where a business owner simply did not want to replace a broken pane of glass on the front of his building, but after some discussion he has replaced the glass.

Mr. Malacoff said that the developers of Pierson Professional Plaza are preparing to request a one-year extension of their entitlements. They are supposed to have a September 2014 deadline for the county building that will go there. He said they have been working on engineering issues but they are moving forward.

permalink | March 5, 2014 at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2014

Steepest Street In California?

Is this L.A.'s steepest street? Eldred Street west of North Avenue 48. Continue uphill and it becomes a pedestrian stairway for the final block of the ascent. Fixr claims it has a grade of 33% making it also the steepest street in California. San Francisco's 22nd Street between Church and Vicksburg, the 6th steepest street in California, is reported to be an easy 31.5%.

Other L.A. candidates are listed here.

permalink | February 26, 2014 at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2014

Having Our Ups & Downs, This One Is An Up

2014 Award Winners Announcement
The California Association for Local Economic Development has announced awards in economic development partnerships, programs, promotions, and "Local Government in Innovation & Economic Development Initiatives." In the category of Economic Development Partnerships the City of Desert Hot Springs is sharing the Award of Excellence Winner (Grand Prize) with Borrego Community Health Foundation, Inc. and Development Management Group, Inc. for the Borrego Community Health Foundation: Desert Hot Springs Community Health Clinic. The award will be delivered at the "Celebrating Success Luncheon" on April 9, 2014, which I assume is in Sacramento.

We also picked up an Award of Merit ("also ran") along with Development Management Group for Local Community Economic Development Certification Training. Remember that?

The complete list of those who will be recognized by CALED:

Category: Economic Development Partnerships

Award of Excellence Winner (Grand Prize)

City of Desert Hot Springs, CA, Borrego Community Health Foundation, Inc., and Development Management Group, Inc.
Borrego Community Health Foundation: Desert Hot Springs Community Health Clinic

Award of Merit Winners

City of Bellflower Economic Development Department
Belmont Court

City of Fairfield and Buzz Oates Development
Solano Logistics Center

City of Orange
Volkswagen of Orange

Economic Vitality Corporation of San Luis Obispo County
Integrated Infrastructure Committee

Riverside County Economic Development Agency
Team Riverside County Retail Growth Program

Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corporation
Yuba-Sutter BEAR Essentials

Category: Economic Development Programs

Award of Excellence Winner (Grand Prize)

City of Chico

Award of Merit Winners

City of Dublin
Retention & Expansion Program – A Toolkit for Revitalization and Job Growth

City of Lake Forest
GROW (Growing and Retaining Our Workforce) in Lake Forest

City of Rancho Cordova
Rancho Cordova Citywide Survey Program

Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation
Imperial Valley Environmental Stewardship Fund

Orange County Business Council
Turning Red Tape Into Red Carpet Awards

Riverside Public Utilities
Riverside Public Utilities Temporary Economic Development Rate Program

Category: Economic Development Promotions

Award of Excellence Winner (Grand Prize)

City of Pittsburg Economic Development
Pittsburg Culinary Crawl

Award of Merit Winners

Bakersfield Convention and Visitors Bureau
2013 Official Bakersfield Visitors Guide

City of La Habra
Economic Development Brochure

City of Livermore
Livermore Getaway Sweepstakes

City of Novato
Shop Local Novato

Category: Local Government in Innovation & Economic Development Initiatives

Award of Excellence Winner (Grand Prize)

City of Hesperia
Opportunity High Desert Regional Collaboration

Award of Merit Winners

City of Desert Hot Springs, CA and Development Management Group, Inc.
Local Community Economic Development Certification Training

City of Selma
Selma Arts Center

City of Stanton
Business Appreciation, Expansion and Retention Program

City of Temecula
Temecula Valley Entrepreneurs Exchange

Gateway Cities Council of Governments
Gateway Cities Economic Development Website

Riverside County EDA – Office of Foreign Trade
Office of Foreign Trade

Tuolumne County
Business & Customer Oriented Tuolumne County

permalink | February 24, 2014 at 09:47 PM | Comments (1)