June 16, 2013
Abandoned Puppy Mill In Jurupa Valley
The Press-Enterprise provides unedited video of about 30 dogs in a small house without commentary. It includes one mother who was in the process of giving birth in a closet.
News story here. The renter had been evicted after living there only 6 months. The previous tenant had also been evicted and the house was completely renovated then. I think someone needs to explain to this landlord the different ways he can screen potential renters.
June 12, 2013
Photos Of The L.A. World Naked Bike Ride
Photo by John00879, or someone holding John's camera, because that's John in the pumpkin suit. His high quality photos of the Los Angeles World Naked Bike Ride are available here. One is required to observe the usual Flickr procedures in order to see photos depicting nudity. Those are...
- Be registered at Flickr. It costs nothing in terms of dollars. They use your Yahoo ID for this. If you don't have one, you will create one for yourself as you register.
- Be actually signed in at Flickr. You know, log in.
- Have your Flickr SafeSearch set to "off." To do that, go to this page - http://www.flickr.com/account/prefs/safesearch/, click the "SafeSearch off" item and click "Save Changes." You should be all set.
- Sometimes a 4th step is necessary. If steps 1 through 3 didn't seem to work for you, here is Step 4: Repeat Steps 1 through 3.
I met John at the spot where we got onto the L.A. River bike path when he asked "Hey, aren't you Ron's Log?" I was in uniform, so how could he miss me.
UPDATE: The Huffington Post has an article and some photos, too. I don't seem to be in any of them. They've cropped and pixelated some of the images.
May 8, 2013
DHS City Council Decision (part the first) on CVHC Houses In Sunset Springs, May 7, 2013
At last night's 5h 5m (I've subtracted the breaks) City Council meeting (why yes, that IS longer than a performance of Götterdämmerung - and at the opera you get at least two long breaks with champagne and snacks) the big item was the controversy over building Coachella Valley Housing Coalition sweat equity homes on 32 lots in Sunset Springs. This was previously discussed by the Planning Commission on March 12 and March 21, 2013. CVHC had agreed to every modification requested by the ALRC, except it did not want to increase the plate height from 8 feet to 9 feet.
(Here is the February 10, 2009, Planning Commission hearing where the project was first approved, if you want a deeper history.)
Owners of the 15 existing homes in Sunset Springs wanted the CVHC homes to be bigger, to more closely match the size of their existing homes in order to preserve property values. CVHC said that increasing the size of the homes would make them cost prohibitive in this market for low income families - the same reason they opposed increasing ceiling height.
The Planning Commission approved the development adding "Condition 70."
70. Provide a diversity of floor plans based on approximately:
- 1/3 of the homes to be 1,600 sq. ft.
- 1/3 of the homes to be 1,750 sq. ft.
- 1/3 of the homes to be 1,900 sq. ft.
CVHC had designed homes ranging from 1,273 sq. ft. to 1,320 sq. ft.
CVHC did not agree to this condition and appealed it to the City Council. The hearing was last night. Both sides trotted out the same arguments. At each of these hearings at least one current owner in Sunset Springs would bend over backwards trying to make the point that they were not motivated by racism or prejudice with self-defeating arguments not much better than "Hey, some of my best friends speak Spanish." This never happened more than once per hearing and the speaker was immediately called on it and the speaker recanted, continuing on in a more rational vein to discuss property values.
But last night CVHC unveiled their surprise secret weapon (and I don't mean the sincere tears of prospective home owners): an attorney to quote California law. Oh no! We didn't see that coming! This was Barbara Kautz from Goldfarb Lipman.
California Government Code Section 65589.5(d) is what she read to us. Let me put it into my own English as far as possible (read the original for the full technical text):
(d) The city cannot disapprove a low income housing development or "condition approval in a manner that renders the project infeasible" unless one of the following is true:
- The city has met or exceeded its share of the "regional housing need allocation." You will recall this is the figure assigned to us by SCAG and it used to be outrageously gigantic. It has since been reduced to merely laughably gigantic: 3,000 or 4,000 low income housing units, something like that. Or,
- The project would have a specific, adverse impact on public health or safety which cannot be satisfactorily mitigated. Or,
- Denial is required in order to comply with federal or state law. Or,
- It's on land zoned for agriculture (or resource preservation) with land on at least two sides being used for agriculture (or resource preservation), or it does not have adequate water or wastewater facilities. Or,
- The development would be inconsistent with both the zoning and general plan AND the city "has adopted a revised housing element in accordance with Section 65588 that is in substantial compliance with this article."
If just one of those conditions were met, the city could disapprove or render the project infeasible. None apply. BTW, further down in that section "feasible" is defined, although Attorney Kautz did not read it to us: "'Feasible' means capable of being accomplished in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic, environmental, social, and technological factors."
Councilmember Pye asked our Attorney Quintanilla to confirm the accuracy of what Attorney Kautz had said. He said yes, she is correct. She read the law verbatim and it is the law that applies. He has much experience in this and it has frustrated many cities, but there it is.
In my opinion at this point all we needed to know was "who determines feasibility?" But our City Council had to chew and rechew the fat from several directions before that answer came from Attorney Quintanilla. Basically, if the city denies CVHC's appeal and they take it to court, the judge will decide feasibility and if the city loses, the project gets built as CVHC wants it and the city pays all attorney fees.
More fat was chewed. And it was chewed with representatives of CVHC at the podium. It's expected that at least one person who is not a frequent attendee at public meetings will object to the fact that the developer gets huge amounts of time to talk to the City Council (or Planning Commission), while everyone else is restricted to a single 3-minute speech. But last night even Dean Gray pretended he didn't know about this or thought it so terribly, terribly unfair that he could just shove his way up to the podium uninvited. And here's what I have to say about that seeming inequity: it's California law.
In my own opinion, the justification for this law is that the developer is the single party with the greatest amount to lose. He has a constitutionally protected right to own and use his private property according to the regulations of the jurisdictions where the property sits. Just as anyone has the right to free speech, subject to some regulations. Same as the right to freedom of religion, subject to some regulations (no human sacrifices, for example). Same as the right to bear arms,
subject to some regulations willy-nilly as you please. An imperfect analogy is the defendant in court. Everybody involved in a court case may gain or lose something based on the outcome, but the defendant has the most to lose: his freedom, life or property. And so the defendant is guaranteed more rights by our Constitution than anybody else involved in the case. And so it is with a developer. He's got his rights to private property and he is guaranteed the right to defend them, while others are limited to just putting in their 2¢ worth.
Mayor Parks brought up what she called "the elephant in the room." How could CVHC in good conscience have gone and already sold lots to these low income families before they had all the necessary permits? CVHC had no good answer. But they have sold only 5 of the 32 lots.
Councilmember Pye made a motion to go ahead and approve the five lots that have been sold without "Condition 70." That is, CVHC can go ahead and build those 5 homes using the smaller floor plan they proposed. City staff would then evaluate the feasibility of the other 27 proposed homes if "Condition 70" were applied to them. Martín Magaña was asked if he was prepared to take on that task. He answered simply "Yes." I don't recall him ever saying no to an additional work assignment - at least not in public. I'm sure he can just sandwich this into his 120-hour work week somewhere. There's a cot at City Hall, isn't there?
Approved 4-0. Councilmember Betts had recused himself because he owns a home in Sunset Springs. And I learned an interesting nuance to the Brown Act that I had never heard of before. Since he was a directly involved property owner (and not just the owner of property within 500 feet) he could stay in the room, but couldn't sit at the dais. He could even make public comment! After the public comment period had ended and CVHC had been speaking for a long time, Mr. Betts and another property owner (who had spoken before) at Sunset Springs put in comment cards. Mayor Parks asked the attorney if she was obliged to let them speak and he said that it was a decision entirely up to the chair; i.e., the Mayor. She decided not to let them speak and set their cards aside.
End result (as of now) five homes can begin with the smaller floor plan. At the June 4 City Council meeting Martín Magaña (possibly bleary-eyed) will report his findings on the feasibility question and then the council will make a decision on the remaining 27 lots.
May 1, 2013
Boyle Heights Neighbors
A group of neighbors got together and painted an alley near 739 Matthews Street in Los Angeles in a way to suggest a beach (brown sand, blue ocean). They painted the walls along the alley and put in flower boxes. They did not, it almost goes without saying, have a permit to do this. Story here.
Now neighborhood events are being held there like birthday parties and neighborhood barbecues. Yes, also without permits. The city's reaction has been to send some LAPD cops who threaten to come back and shut it down if they don't voluntarily leave. The neighbors stay. The cops never return. Maybe this would be the ideal balance, if it stayed balanced, but all it takes is one hothead cop to tip it over.
Financial Assurance 101
At yesterday's City Council meeting one of the subjects was an upcoming ordinance that will revise, clarify, and generally improve the city's policy on the financial assurances that are obtained when a development is permitted. City Attorney Quintanilla gave a sort of brief (under 8 minutes) "financial assurance 101" lecture that was so good, clear and to the point (plus, he speaks so clearly) I'm pulling it out of my audio recording of the meeting and putting it right here. My only regret was that he didn't talk about the possibility of accepting a safe deposit box full of gold as assurance, which was something mentioned half jokingly the last time the city updated its policy on this matter. But I suppose it's entirely possible that the price of gold might crash just as the price of concrete skyrockets, and we'd be left holding nothing more than a bag of gold.
April 23, 2013
Tallest Bike At Ciclavia to Venice
14½ feet, seat to pavement. A GoPro camera was used for this:
Here he is passing under the 405, where he had to bend over to make it. He had two inches of clearance between his knuckles and the highway above. Story here with more pictures. It doesn't mention any encounters with power lines, so I guess he was okay there.
April 8, 2013
Bus Stop On Melrose
April 7, 2013
L.A. Beer Festival
Yesterday I went to the L.A. Beer Festival which was held on the grounds of Paramount Studios on Melrose. The beer wasn't to be available until 5 PM. Those who entered before 5 o'clock hung out in a parking lot with several food trucks where you could gird yourself for the coming onslaught. There were several hundred people there when they dropped the gate at 5:00. What you could see from the gate was this Sky Wall and many beer vendors in front of it. Those who didn't check their email thought that was it and flooded into that area, creating more congestion and not as much beer drinking as hoped. Those who had opened up the PDF mailed the day before knew that there were far more vendors behind the Sky Wall in a faux New York City.
Ones fear, observing the crowd and the congestion, was that it might be tough to get enough beers in the three hours of the event to make the cost and effort worthwhile. But about 20 beers later (they give you a little cup that can hold only 3 or 4 ounces), when one begins to relax and checks his watch to see how much time remains before last call one sees that it is only 5:30 and is satisfied that things are progressing very well in terms of beer consumption.
Stage 14 where Glee, Saturday Night Live, Top Gun and The Ten Commandments were filmed, along with many other big movies and TV shows.
The PBR was there for irony, I'm sure. They had the biggest truck - actually, the only truck - but business was very slow.
The Bun Truck where I got "Duck Fat Fries" with garlic. I asked if the duck fat was organic and the answer was "Who cares?"
A NYC Metro bus map at a bus stop. A New York friend of mine says that the bus stops in NYC do not have these maps.
As I stood in line for a beer I saw a lot of people coming and going through this alley, so I headed back in there to see what there was. It turns out it was just a place for the beer vendors to smoke their medical marijuana. It's sad that so many in the craft beer industry seem to be afflicted with arthritis, cancer, sleeplessness, AIDS, anxiety, chronic pain or any of the other maladies treated with marijuana - and at such a young age too!
- The little plastic cup they give you when you enter is in a plastic bag. Very nice, especially compared to the WBUR beer tastings I went to in Boston. There they handed you real glasses from a box and they were filthy, sometimes even bearing dead roaches. But back to the plastic bags. The nearest trash cans to the point where they handed you the plastic cup were several hundred feet away and not visible. The obvious result was that this rather careless crowd simply threw the plastic bags on the ground where they blew around Paramount property.
- Experienced beer festival attendees came with long necklaces of pretzels. Great idea.
- They let you bring in bottled water and I saw one man drinking from a gallon jug. I realized they didn't need to worry much about water spiked with booze at a beer festival.
- Some beer vendors had no sign or banner at all. Others had nothing more than the 8½x11 piece of paper with their name that identified their spot. If you walked around to where you could see the kegs, those were usually labeled. I don't understand why a brewer would go to the effort and expense to be at a beer festival and not at least make up a good sized sign with their name.
- I saw no vomiting and no public urination...until I left Paramount property. One of our festival participants only made it about a block before he gave the sidewalk a good hosing in daylight, unable to make any significant effort to hide himself.
- One guy had the balls to wear his GoPro Hero3 on his head while touring the festival.
April 1, 2013
Click If You Love San Francisco
This was shot not with a drone, but a stabilizer hung on a helicopter. Here you can see photos of the GSS C520 gyrostabilized camera platform that was used. And here you can see the kind of camera that was used.
February 18, 2013
Traffic Congestion, Who's To Blame?
In the Boston area some researchers think they are getting close to answering that question. Specifically, it's the drivers in 15 census tracts in Everett, Marlborough, Lawrence, Lowell, and Waltham. The sweet and innocent drivers of Boston and Cambridge proper are off the hook!
The study demonstrated that "canceling or delaying the trips of 1 percent of all drivers across a road network would reduce delays caused by congestion by only about 3 percent," MIT wrote. " But canceling the trips of 1 percent of drivers from carefully selected neighborhoods would reduce the extra travel time for all other drivers in a metropolitan area by as much as 18 percent."
I think that even though this is much, much better data than they've been able to get before using traditional traffic survey techniques, there may be some skewing by the fact that they could only look at phone calls. Better data would result if they could track all phones that were turned on. The data they have now includes only those people who used their phone shortly before, during, or shortly after a trip. We don't know if their travel patterns are typical of all travelers. For example, a busload of commuters might generate more phone calls than one car with just one passenger, thus overcounting mass transit vehicles.