January 31, 2007

Score One for the 76 Balls

Jacob Soboroff, LA Observed contributor and this generation's answer to run-and-gun Los Angeles photojournalist Huell Howser, captures that rare phenomenon of consumer activism: a victory. Says Jacob:
"In my video report, I take you inside the struggle to save the 76 ball - from Atwater Village to Ontario ... Take a look."

Thanks to Jacob for generously allowing me to post the five-minute video. See his original LA Observed post here.

Will the Real Red Line Please Map Up

Red Line According to Google Earth
LA City Nerd notes today that the official Los Angeles Metro rail map is "quite contrived: straight lines and perfect angles make up the maps of the winding tunnels and tracks." A Nerd reader wonders, "What's the real path of the Red Line?"

The Google Earth version seems closer to reality. Though it has yet to break off the Purple Line spur from its maiden Red Line roots, Google draws twists and turns where it should. Unlike MTA, for example, Google shows an east-west line as the train follows Hollywood Blvd.

Google Earth is free to download. Zoom in to Los Angeles. Turn on the "Transit" layer. Get real ambitious and turn on the roads layer. It'll blow your mind.

January 30, 2007

Americana at Brand Not Yet Looking Too Grove-y

Americana at Brand - a.k.a. The Grove East - Under Construction
The Americana at Brand shopping, living, life-changing, universe-altering center - also known as The Grove East - is trudging along toward its 2008 opening. No telling which of these dirt piles will house H&M.

UPDATE: Curbed LA graciously mentions my photo safari; I added five more images shot atop Glendale Galleria parking to my Americana Flickr set.

Canele Love Continues in 2007

Neighborhood bistro slash savior Canele (3219 Glendale Blvd.) is back open after a brief intermission and has the attention of Mike the Wine Guy:

"...My favorite by far was a Spanish wine called La Planella, a blend of Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, and Syrah.

"The latest release of La Planella is just as impressive as what I remember tasting that day in Paris.

"An excellent value at around $16, this was great with the Roast Pork Loin at the recently opened Canele (Atwater Village). Yum A-Go-Go!

"Available at: Topline Wine, Glendale."

Get To Know Your Atwater Village Gangs

Atwater Rascals Don't Mind a Little Purple
YOUTH TODAY enjoy a variety of options among multi-level outdoor neighborhood marketing leadership organizations. Here's an updated list for Atwater Village, courtesy of the MySpace page for LA County Gangs:
Yes, street gangs and MySpace. Seems equally humiliating for both parties.

January 29, 2007

Google Transit Adds Burbank, OC Before LA

Now you can Google a trip from Alameda to Lankershim on the Burbank Bus system.

And you can find the next departure from Orange to Disneyland on the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).

But you can't use Google Transit to plan a trip in Los Angeles on the number one public transportation system in America.

That's because Google's first foray into mapping California public transit does not yet include LA's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Heaven help us all for still being stuck with Metro.net.

January 28, 2007

The Primary Axioms of Hollywood Math

Beth Lapides holds these truths to be self-evident:

The Absence of Yes Over Time = No

The Absence of No Over Time = Yes

Neighborhood Skeez Rate Drops in First Month of 2007

One of Those Skeezy LA Buildings Gets a Paint Job
Statistics at the end of January show a major decline in skeez in the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Atwater Village.

A prominent landmark at Glendale Boulevard and Glenhurst Avenue - given worldwide notoriety last May when the Washington Post profiled it as "dilapidated," "drab" and "skeezy" - has completed a renovation. The formerly drab exterior is now a rich chocolate brown, with red-orange accents.

Invitations to revisit the infamous structure - and perhaps attend the grand opening of the adjacent Starbucks - are forthcoming to Post reporter J. Freedom du Lac.

UPDATE! Exclusive "after" photo:
After the Skeez

At Least I Wasn't On the Phone At the Same Time

Driving: 110 North Through Downtown LA
Shooting on the 110 north at 65 miles per hour, downtown Los Angeles.

"Makes downtown LA look small," notes Mrs. Newbie.

"Like downtown Kansas City."

January 26, 2007

Countdown to Tragiversary III

Metrolink Derailment Monument
Today, January 26, 2007, marks two years since the worst train disaster in the history of the Metrolink commuter railroad. This morning, Metrolink trains passed through Atwater Village with no incident.

Lingering Cough Explained

Study says living within 500 yards of a busy highway could cause "lifelong damage" to lungs. Distance, as the crow flies, from I-5 to our street in Atwater Village: 300 yards.

Missing From Memo About LA Times Web Site

Since the commentless Fishbowl LA was kind enough to publish the scathing internal memo about latimes.com, I, as someone who covers one of those "neighborhood zones" the LA Times likes to tout lately, will be kind enough to list four recommendations missing from the memo:

1. Get rid of registration. Who needs another username and password. Who wants dead links from popular sites like LAist and Curbed LA. Who wouldn't rather get circumvent this arcane process with Google News.

2. Ban ads that hide articles. Stop selling pop-ups, slide-overs and wriggle-arounds. Might as well throw fliers at my face when I'm reading the paper.

3. Umm, Spanish? Or let La Opinion continue to own it.

4. You may already own the answer. Give up on latimes.com. Replace it with the functionality and design of my.latimes.com. (But get rid of the circa 1999 "my" concept. And of course the registration. Etc.) Use it as a base to implement the other recommendations in the memo. See where it goes.

January 25, 2007

For the Love of All Things Democratic

Elections for Atwater Village Neighborhood Council
Let's not let another neighborhood election slip away. Again.

After two recruiting sessions, the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council has all of three candidate applications. Even adding them to the four incumbents planning to run again, AVNC still falls short of election requirements and may postpone voting for the third time in six months.

Apply here. Deadline is today, January 25, by 5:00pm. How hard could it be.

I Am So Money

A reporter from Money magazine is interviewing me, the Consumerist and others for an article about decoding price tags.

Retailers may not want to reveal their discounting schemes, but shoppers have been sharing lots of ways to reverse engineer prices since I posted about the 4 in the last digit of Target's tags indicating a final discount.

Know any other price hacks? Share them while the story is hot. Comment below or email me, atwatervillagenewbie at gmail.

January 24, 2007

Things That Make a Blogger Proud, Part 3

I cannot claim to know the magic formula behind Google search rankings. But this is the third time some random phrase made with common English words has put this blog at the top. Atwater Village Newbie is the number one result for these Google searches:

'Mega' Housing On Other Side of the Tracks

Metropolitan City Lights Workforce Housing Under Construction
While neighborhood worry-warts snivel and survey about a proposed 90-unit "mega" housing development in Atwater Village, a 44-unit "workforce" housing project - on the other side of the tracks in Glendale - is nearly complete.

The City of Glendale released a list (PDF) of 700 eligible renters - from more than 13,000 lottery applicants - for apartments in the Metropolitan City Lights project.

And a walk around the property this weekend shows it might be only a few more months before move-in.

Find these green, gray and yellow boxes on Gardena Ave., overlooking where Los Angeles and Glendale meet, where Glendale Blvd. becomes Brand Blvd., just east of the railroad tracks.

January 23, 2007

Countdown to Tragiversary II

Atwater Village MetroLink Memorial, originally uploaded by CD-13.

This Friday, January 26, 2007, marks two years since the worst train disaster in the history of the Metrolink commuter railroad. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti help the community remember 11 who died when passenger trains collided with a Jeep on tracks separating Atwater Village and Glendale. This new memorial stands at the southeast corner of Los Feliz Blvd. and Seneca Ave. More here.

Maybe Your Rent Isn't a Ripoff After All

Rentometer compares your rent to others nearby. Enter your current rent and address and get one of these fortune cookies:
  • Your unit seems to be a great deal.
  • Your unit seems to be a good deal.
  • Your rent is very close to the average.
  • Your unit should be in better condition.
  • Your unit should be in top condition.
The chart shows a range for Atwater Village in northeast LA, with $2,000 as median for a two-bedroom unit. (No, that's not my rent on the orange needle.)

Thanks to fellow Villager Ben High for the tip. Be Ben's neighbor: $2,500 for a three-bedroom cottage, please. Rentometer says, "Very close to the average."

Disneyland Parkitecture

Disneyland Parkitecture

January 22, 2007

Get Thee to a Post Office

Postal Customer Parking Only!
Travel regulations change tomorrow, January 23. Americans will need passports to travel back from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. In Atwater Village, luckily, our post office is also a passport office. And, clearly, has parking.

Countdown to Tragiversary

Original | Gallery

January 26, 2007, marks two years since the worst train disaster in the history of the Metrolink commuter railroad.

This year, the community remembers 11 who died when passenger trains collided with a Jeep on tracks separating Atwater Village and Glendale.
Train crash memorial unveiled - LA Daily News - "About 100 residents and city officials gathered for Sunday's dedication ceremony, across the street from the Costco where employees, police and firefighters had tirelessly pulled people from the train wreckage and got them to help on the dark and drizzly day."

Victims of 2005 Metrolink Crash Honored - KFWB News 980 | MP3 audio file] - "Mayor Villaraigosa said the monument just might help victims' families move on."
Authorities attribute the accident to the Jeep driver, Juan Manuel Alvarez, who plead not guilty to 11 counts of capital murder. His next hearing is February 9.

The new memorial stands at the southeast corner of Los Feliz Blvd. and Seneca Ave. More here. Mock-up here:

January 21, 2007

We Interrupt This Blog for an Important Public Service Announcement

Those Rascals! Larga & Silver Lake
LOS ANGELES - January 21, 2007 - The multi-level youth-oriented outdoor marketing organization The Rascals (TRS) proudly announces the continued annexation of a portion of South Atwater Village, including but not limited to this structure at Larga Avenue and Silver Lake Boulevard and its immediate environs. Territory subject to further dispute by paint can.

Make Your Own LA Street Sign

A few things you'll need:

1. A clean photograph of an existing Los Angeles street sign. Helps if the sign is on a flat plane, and doesn't angle toward or away from the camera. Also helps if the sign has one consistent background color, and isn't shadowed, weathered or tagged.

2. An image editor. Smiley Cat reviews 10 online image editors here. You need one to erase the old street name, prepare the background, and insert your new street name.

3. Roadgeek fonts. Mike the Actuary offers a ZIP file with 27 Roadgeek fonts, including Roadgeek 2005 Series C Regular, which seems to be closest to some of the LA street signs around Atwater Village.

4. A Web site upon which to post your clever new LA street sign. Now get to it.

Save Our Balls

One of the Last Remaining 76 Balls
One of the last remaining iconic "76" gas station ball signs posts proudly at the corner of Glendale Blvd. and Glenhurst Ave. in Atwater Village. Little did I know the thing spins. From savethe76ball.com:
"Earlier today, Nathan and I were interviewed for a new automotive-themed television series called Black Top, with the 76 Ball on Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village as the backdrop. The number 76 was not quite in the shot, and Nathan suggested he might go ask the station manager to set the ball spinning. Much to our shock and delight, the manager agreed, and by throwing just one switch gave the sign a much needed jolt of kinetic energy."
UPDATE: They won! Read more at Score One for the 76 Balls.

January 19, 2007

Griffith Observatory on Zero Dollars a Day

Quick! To Telescope!

We parked, walked up and walked in.

We parked near the Greek Theater, just below the orange cones across the road to Griffith Observatory. We walked past the traffic guards at the top of Vermont Canyon Road. Then we walked around the bend, about half a mile, turning left at the fork in the road instead of going through the tunnel.

This Way, Cyclist & Hikers, to Griffith Observatory

At the fork there's another traffic guard. We asked if this was the way for hikers, intending only to find the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail. Yes, hikers this way, he said. So we continued up the hill, across the lawn and - seeing an opportunity - into the front door of Griffith Observatory.

Sun from West Shines Upon Griffith Observatory

No reservation. No ticket. No permission. No questions asked. We spent about an hour at the Observatory. Circled the building. Took lots of pictures. Went inside, wondered why a $93 million renovation would leave so many displays not working, so many laser-printed signs taped to the wall.

Above Los Angeles, from Griffith Observatory

We left without seeing everything. Didn't want to push it. This time.

January 18, 2007

Walkable Street? Or Pedestrian Catastrophe

A blog-LA-sphere debate has sprung up over Atwater Village's stretch of Glendale Blvd., between the Los Angeles River and the train tracks.

It's one of LA's "most walkable" streets, says LA City Nerd:
"Recently improved Streetscape plan and a 6-year-old Pedestrian Oriented District designation gives this street the appearance and space to let a person walk with ease."

Not so fast, says Martini Republic:
"Atwater Village is in truth a pedestrian catastrophe, with Check Cashing signage on one end, a cantankerous crank of an Alfa repairman on the other, and two liquor stores, an Acapulco, and a casket store display window in between."

The truth is somewhere in between. We walked along the Glendale Blvd. shops yesterday, like we sometimes do.

During the day Glendale Blvd. is perfectly friendly - hopping, even - for pedestrians. But when the sun sets and shops close, that row gets a little eerie. It makes you feel a little exposed.

Check-cashing places are not the problem. Those are usually well-lit and well-staffed. Criminals rarely get checks. But there's an oddball little alley next to Tacos Villa Corona. Smokers lurking at the Arabesque building. Store windows that look more like storage windows. And curbside trash bins that seem abandoned, overflowing days too long.

That stretch of Glendale is better than it once was, oldbies tell me, Canele and all. But it still has a way to go.

'Least Changed' and Proud Of It

Top of the bubble, anyone? Realtor Eugene Ridenour summarizes the year that was in real estate, 2006 in Atwater Village, on his East Side Real Estate blog:

Atwater Village (90039):

  • Homes sold: 52 (-2% change from same period 2005)
  • Median home price: $662,500 (+6% from 2005)
  • Median home size: 2 bedrooms; 1 bath; 1,110 square feet on a 5,400 square foot lot; built in 1926.
  • High home sale: $789,000 (-27% change from same period 2005).
  • Condos sold: 1 (-50% change from same period 2005)
  • Median condo price: $375,000 (-6% change from same period 2005)
  • Median condo size: 2 bedrooms; 1 bath; 930 square feet.

"The market in Atwater Village seemed the least changed in the area. $600,000 will get you a nice 2 bedroom, 1 bath starter home here. Condos (there are 40 only) play a minuscule role here, but remain the best values around among 2 bedroom condos."

More on Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park here.

January 17, 2007

Would Rather Be At Curve of Salma & Hayek

For reasons too complicated to explain, we found ourselves passing through the intersection of Antonio & Banderas in Rancho Santa Margarita. We were 60 miles from Atwater Village and, as anyone who's ventured to this particular exurb knows, light years from LA.

We Got Out Just in Time

The last four weeks has produced more snow in Denver than any winter since 1913-14. We'll take a dusting in Santa Clarita, thanks, over another year of this:

Newbie Night at Chichen Itza

Mrs. Newbie wanted Mexican.

No, she said, Cuban.

Let's meet in the middle, I offered.

And thanks to reliable blog-LA-sphere foodie Eating LA, we discovered Chichen Itza, 2501 W. 6th St. - across from Wilshire Walk highlight Park Plaza Hotel.

Chichen Itza features Yucatan cuisine that "combines Mexican and Cuban flavors, with lots of meats marinated in orange juice and tropical twists on familiar Mexican dishes."

I had queso relleno, which featured a ball of Baby Edam cheese, carved out, filled with raisins, almonds and ground pork.

We got there about 6:00pm, parked up a steep steep hill, had the joint to ourselves, and had a great waiter/tourguide. We'll be back.

January 16, 2007

Reduce, Reuse, But Do Not Recycle

We've been throwing all sorts of recyclable things into our big blue bin. Milk cartons, soup boxes, pet food bags, butter wrappers, you name it. Since moving to Los Angeles we revel in the idea that someone comes by every week to do something good, for a change, with our garbage.

Not so fast, newbies, says the City of LA Bureau of Sanitation. "Although many materials are indeed recyclable," the Bureau explains on its Web site, "City recycling centers cannot accept some of these materials because they have no current market value."

Herewith, the items your big blue bin does does not want - including fast-food packages and those squirrel-killing six-pack rings:
  • Contaminated Paper - soiled papers, bags with oils and food waste
  • Broken Glass - window glass, mirror glass, auto glass, light bulbs, fluorescent lights, ceramics
  • Other Plastic - plastic trays from frozen dinners, plastic six-pack rings, plastic hygienic items, plastic hangers, and plastic toys
  • Miscellaneous Materials - coated milk cartons, electrical cords, cloth/fabric, PVC, styrofoam polystyrene, products used for packing or from fast food restaurants, appliances, mini blinds, kitchen utensils, lawn furniture, garden hoses, rubber tires, construction materials, including asphalt or concrete, wood and wood products
  • Hazardous Materials - syringes, all partially filled aerosol cans and containers for cleaning fluids, automotive fluids, batteries, pesticides, oil based paint, garden chemicals, and pool cleaners

Scenes from Fire Along Ventura Blvd.

Smoke Rises Above Ventura Blvd.
Just happened to be driving east this afternoon toward the 14600 block of Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks when one, then two, then at least six fire engines burned down the center lane toward this building fire. Ventura was closed in both directions. I did my best to shoot while navigating the detours. More:

Line of Fire Engines Along Ventura Blvd.

Ventura Blvd. Closed in Both Directions for Store Fire

January 15, 2007

Wine for Watching the Golden Globes

Wine for Viewing the Golden Globes
And maybe the Oscars, too, when they come around. Nominee Chardonnay, from the 365 brand by Whole Foods.

Canele Update: Not Shut Down

Neighborhood bloggers and commenters have noticed - with some justified alarm - that Atwater Village media darling and bistro extraordinaire Canele seems to be shut down.

I have it on good authority that the Glendale Blvd. restaurant is closed temporarily for "improved sound proofing" and "other minor things." Subject to approvals and inspections, we should soon be back in couscous.

[Photo from LA Times; another here]

If '24' Nukes Los Angeles Tonight

Will they see the mushroom cloud at The Golden Globes?

See FOX's '24' trailer for tonight's two-hour episode here.

UPDATE: Eh, it was just Valencia.

January 14, 2007

Atwater Chatter - Long Weekend Edition

Wherein the Newbie attempts to keep up with various postings by other Internet folks in, around and about Atwater Village.

* Marking second anniversary of Metrolink derailment - with a memorial

* Winners of Atwater holiday decor contest - sans photographs

* I was just kidding about the Artwater moniker - but there it is

* One-man band, Peter and the Wolf, plays all 27 instruments on "first proper album" - in the hood at Moonshine Studios

* Chevy Chase Park gets cameras, new lights, and "bullet-proof light covers" - from Council District 13

* Here in Atwater, for "multi-culti cuties" - a Swirl Syndicate

* Three cats and two dogs in search of good home - from our directors of animal welfare

* And Miles has detailed updates on our many retail developments

January 13, 2007

Theme Song for Friday in LA

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the murder wind
So many lives on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is burnin'

(Bad Religion - Los Angeles is Burning)

MORE: 5-Acre Brush Fire Breaks Out In Griffith Park

Newbie Night at El Cid

Key learnings:

1. For a celebration dinner, Flamenco dinner theater does the trick.

2. Friend reaction to Flamenco dinner theater was, "Whoa. That exists?"

3. If something surprises people by its mere existence, I have to do it. Once.

4. Explains why so many people were having birthday parties there last night.

5. The place was built 106 years ago. Might still have same climate controls.

6. Dinner is only $10! Sort of. It's $34.95 for dinner plus show, but $25 for show only.

7. Understand the hand-wringing singer and the googly-eyed guitarist, and understand half of David Lynch's movies.

8. This is not Casa Bonita. Seriously. It's not. Stop it.

[Photo from Planet Dust]

January 12, 2007

Artwater Village Weekend

This weekend, call us ARTwater Village...

Pounder Kone Art Space
3407 Glendale Blvd.
Four Points: African Contemporary
Opening Reception
Jan. 12, 6:00pm

Black Maria Gallery
3137 Glendale Blvd.
11th Commandment
Opening Reception
Jan. 13, 7:00pm

jFerrari Gallery
3015 Glendale Blvd.
Art Through Sports
Artist's Reception
Jan. 13, 6:00pm

Getting Back Inside the Harvey House

Restaurant, Harvey House, Union Station

In 1939, the Fred Harvey Company opened the last of its Harvey House train station restaurants at LA's Union Station.

LA's Harvey House has been shuttered for years (decades, maybe?) and now serves as rental space for private events and film shoots and weddings.

Yesterday morning I got in during an event setup. It's quite a room. Back in the day, Harvey House would seat 300. But cleared of most tables and chairs, you can appreciate the grand architecture, tile floors and curved booths.

More Harvey House photos below and here.

Inside the old Harvey House restaurant in LA Union Station

Setting up for private event at former Harvey House restaurant, Union Station, LA

January 11, 2007

The Whitest Analysis of Beckham Move

Even though the 2006 World Cup soccer final out-drew the Super Bowl audience by four to one, LA Weekly's Joe Donnelly holds onto Pele's up-down stint with the New York Cosmos as a diss of David Beckham's deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Right, Joe. Nothing's changed since the 1970s.

January 10, 2007

Possible New Names for This Blog

I can't be a newbie forever. In fact, the LA Times says a Los Angeles veteran is anyone here "at least a year." For me, that's less than two months away. So how about:

  • Atwater Villager
  • Atwater Village Idiot
  • It Takes An Atwater Village
  • Three Glasses of Atwater a Day
  • Smoke on the Atwater
  • Where It's Atwater

Anyone Know About New Joint Called Strata?

Help out a Chowhound:

New Atwater Restaurant adjacent to Canele? Hounds: I've spotted what looks to be a new restaurant on Glendale Blvd in Atwater Village. The sign just came up and I believe it's called STRATA. Any word on this? Any new addition to my hood is exciting news to me! I've googled and searched to no avail...

Frogtown Update: They've Got Art

Missing from all this talk about whether or not Frogtown, a.k.a. Elysian Valley, just south of Atwater Village, might be the next up-and-coming hipster hood is mention of an apparently already-thriving art scene. As the Montecito Heights blog says covering last November's Frogtown Artwalk, it "felt like Downtown probably did several years ago."

MORE: FrogtownArts.com
MORE: Frogtown Artwalk Map
PHOTOS: Gallery 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

January 9, 2007

Funny Name for a Wine Bar

There's a new and seemingly decisive entry in the wine-bar, not-a-wine-bar debate over 3111 Glendale Blvd. in Atwater Village. Crispy Crust, known for its "really good" pizza by at least one guy I saw today who had ordered from the original store on Vine St., is opening a second location.

We'll see if Crispy Crust can pry Villagers' fingers from around their Giamela's slices - though this isn't exactly the same Goliath-and-David moment that awaits when Starbucks finally opens a block from hood fave Kaldi Coffee.

Wonder which place this commuter from around the corner will choose.

Big Winner in Schwarzenegger Health Plan

Insurance companies.

They can sit back and enjoy the prospect of 37 million guaranteed customers while the governor's plan throws in enough red herrings (the uninsured, the uninsurable, the immigrants, the poor, the small businesses) to keep the opposition and the media off their tails.

Now THAT'S lobbying.

Second big winner: Anyone who wanders around thinking, yeah, the one way my health care could be improved is to have greater involvement from my insurance company.

OK, we now return to our regularly scheduled neighborhood cheerleading.

January 8, 2007

Flickr Map Tour of Atwater Village

"The best chicken taco I have ever eaten. Period." Jess Sawrey posts 5 photos of a meal at El Buen Gusto, 3140 Glendale Blvd.

Rob posts 1 photo of a bird at a high point of the Los Angeles River near the Los Feliz bridge.

John Bollozos posts 5 photos of a group show at Black Maria Gallery, 3137 Glendale Blvd.

Ryan Jesena posts 37 photos exploring the decaying Van de Kamp Bakery - inside and out - on Fletcher Dr.

Aaron Stein posts 6 photos touring his new house - inside and out - on Hollydale Dr.

Explore your own neighborhood, type in any address, at the Flickr Map page.