Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Motorist Intentionally Strikes Bicyclist In Burbank

An infuriating tale from the Burbank Leader police report:
300 block of Lutge Avenue: A 50-year-old Burbank man driving a 2005 Honda Odyssey was arrested Sunday for allegedly striking a 42-year-old Burbank man riding a bike. The driver reportedly honked at the bicyclist, then slowly struck the bike and his leg, pushing him a short distance. The bicyclist was not injured, and his bike was not damaged.
This kind of bullshit intimidation is fairly common. I've never had someone actually hit me, but I've been yelled at, honked at, and had drivers accelerate past me without an inch to spare--always in situations where the law was absolutely on my side.

For instance, a few weeks ago at the intersection of Chevy Chase/Central I was stopped at a red light and held the right lane--good policy to avoid being right-hooked. Additionally, I pay attention to drivers behind me who might want to make a right hand turn on the red, and I will usually signal for them to creep past me if its safe to do so. I was going to make a right into a driveway just after the intersection. Some jerk came up behind me and started honking at me. I'm traffic! We're both at a red light! Why the honking? You can't wait eight seconds until we're across the intersection and you can safely pass me? As soon as the light turned green, this jerk rocketed past me in the middle of the intersection and nearly grazed my arm. ZZ-top bearded older white guy in a older teal Japanese sedan, license plate 4RUBYDU. Something is seriously wrong with you if a minor inconvenience makes you feel justified in creating a situation that threatens the life of a human being.

A solution to these problems, beyond being a courteous and decent human being, would be to add a network of bike lanes throughout the region to minimize traffic conflicts. Burbank has a handful of fairly useful bike lanes, but Glendale's current bike lane, all three blocks of it, doesn't exactly get me where I need to go. So for now, I travel the streets festooned with blinking lights, camera and pepper spray at the ready.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brand Cemetery Has Been Tidied Up

Brand Cemetery this Saturday:

A month and a half ago:

I'm glad to see the cemetery receive some long overdue maintenance, but a little green would be nice. Perhaps everything went brown after the recent revelations regarding Mr. Brand's personal life.

Here is Mrs. Brand at the cemetery in the 1930s:

Here she is at the cemetery in 1945:

And here she is today:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Americana Round Up

Condos to start in the low $700,000s, and cap at over $2,000,000! From the Glendale News-Press:
While the same approximately $2-million investment could fetch some of the most luxurious single-family residences, equipped with pools, private yards and up to five bedrooms in the Glendale hills, Caruso says that built into the price tag of an Americana condo is a lifestyle and living experience that’s beyond comparison to other properties in the regional market.

“It’s a different world now out there because there is nothing like the Americana or the Excelsior to compare it against, not only the quality of the units and the way they’re fitted out, but also to be in the environment where you’ve got the restaurants, you’ve got a park to be at, and it’s all in this beautifully landscaped, safe environment,” Caruso said.
I'm sure the Americana is lovely, but it's utterly absurd to imply that the rest of Glendale is somehow lacking restaurants, parks, and a beautifully landscaped, safe environment. As if you couldn't possibly have access to these amenities without dropping over a million dollars.

Another pet peeve: why Americana AT Brand? Doesn't Americana ON Brand make more sense and sound less forced? In conversation, you'd say that it was on Brand Boulevard. It might as well be called the "Americana At Colorado", since it's on Colorado.

Developer Rick Caruso gives Steve Lopez a sneak preview in the Times:
"We worked our way up to an apartment with a bird's-eye view of Caruso World. From a broad balcony, we took in a perfectly manicured park -- children's play area included -- called the Green. A full-grown sycamore is one of more than 500 trees on the property. You shut down the freeways at night, Caruso explained, and truck in your ready-made forest."
The landscaping does look incredible.

The Americana now has an official blog with quite a few pictures. Here's a sample post, referring to an outdoor crystal chandelier:
In a word... stunning! Suspended in mid air, this gorgeous crystal chandelier takes The Americana at Brand from unique to chic. Handcrafted from 1,200 dazzling Czechoslovakian crystals, this one of a kind outdoor chandelier will set Caruso Avenue ablaze!!! Guaranteed to become a photo op fav!!!

The park at the center of the Americana, "The Green," is owned by the City's Redevelopment Agency. Because of this, the City Council is reviewing an urgency ordinance to make it abundantly clear that Glendale PD is able to take enforcement action against trespassers. Since the park is publicly owned, Constitutional rights to speech and assembly, which have often been swept aside as part of the trend towards privatizing public spaces, will remain intact. As an American, I sincerely look forward to the first anti-war protest and Scientology pamphleteers.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cecilia Rasmussen Event Rescheduled For May 14th

Cecilia Rasmussen's talk at Brand Library has been rescheduled for May 14th at 7pm. From the Glendale News-Press:
The Glendale Historical Society and Associates of Brand Library’s upcoming event featuring former L.A. Times columnist Cecilia Rasmussen has been rescheduled from May 7 to May 14.

Rasmussen will discuss her final L.A. Then and Now column, which documented evidence that Leslie Coombs Brand, the so-called Father of Glendale, had a second family, including two sons. Rasmussen will recount her journey through mounds of historic documentation and discussions with Brand’s relatives and other experts.

Admission is free to historical society members; Nonmembers are requested to make a contribution at the door.

The event starts at 7 p.m., May 14, in the recital hall at the Brand Library & Art Center, 1601 W. Mountain St. Call (818) 548-2050

More Downtown Condos

Work has begun on the adaptive reuse project at the corner of Broadway and Louise. The building was built in 1956 as Fidelity Federal Savings and Loan by architect W.A. Sarmiento, who studied under Oscar Niemayer and in 1959 built Glendale's first skyscraper, the 10-story Glendale Federal Savings building. In 2001 the Glendale Redevelopment Agency acquired the land from L.A. County, which had used the site as a Department of Public Services office.

This building has been empty since I started working in Glendale in early 2004. Around that time, a sign went up in the window saying that an animation museum would be opening in the space soon. I started looking for evidence of whatever happened to that idea, and the closest I could find was this blog post from December 2004:
Animation Museum Still Alive: According to The Los Angeles Daily News notes, “Some animation professionals trying to raise $18 million to open an animation museum [The Animation Bank] in a vacant social-services building [in Glendale, California] have been granted six months to firm up the project. The extension, granted by the city's Redevelopment Agency despite Mayor Bob Yousefian's skepticism, is the second given the group, whose members envision transforming a 225 E. Broadway building into a museum including a research library and archive, screening room and animation-school space.”
So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened there. But what's happening now?

The site is now being developed by the Amidi Group, who are also responsible for the forthcoming City Center II mixed use project at the corner of Brand and Wilson. After poking around the City website, I found the Environmental Impact Report.

Project Summary:
"The Project includes renovation of an existing office building and construction of a new residential condominium building. Exterior and interior improvements to the existing 3-story, 66,000-square-foot office building are proposed. A new building containing 63 residential condominium units is proposed on the other portion of the site. This building would be six stories containing 74,130 square feet above two levels of subterranean parking is also proposed. One parking level would be provided at grade. The proposed residential building would include a lobby, an outdoor courtyard with water amenities, storage rooms, service, trash and recycling rooms. The Project would also include vacation of the existing alley immediately north of the existing office building to create a landscaped public open space pedestrian passageway between North Louise Street and North Brand Boulevard."
I also waded through the ridiculously large 119mb PDF file pertaining to aesthetics. Here are some renderings of how the project will apparently look.

Not too different, except they've removed the louvers and added some windows to the brick section. As you can see in my first picture, the louvers have already been removed from the building. Here is a rendering of the condo building, on what is now a parking lot.

Here is a picture of the building (taken from the EIR) before construction began.

Local Rag Updates Website

The Glendale News-Press has a new website. There are still some kinks being worked out, but overall its a huge improvement over the previous site, which seemingly hadn't been revised since 1996. The new site contains more news from the paper, as well as a community calendar and comments sections for specific articles, although no one has actually commented on anything yet.

Super Convenience No More

Famima Glendale, 2007-2008. RIP.

I can tell you the REAL reason Famima Glendale closed. The animation studio where I work wrapped up the first season of the Mr. Men Show, which put about 40 Famima ultra-consumers on hiatus. Less than a month later, Famima announced it was closing. Coincidence? I did some back-of-the-napkin calculations and figured that our crew spent, conservatively, at least $3500 a month at Famima.

I wouldn't be surprised if another Famima opens up in the Americana in six months. I wonder what became of their amazingly competent automatic coffee machine?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Glendale News-Press Onto Angela's

I'm glad to see that the excellent Angela's Bistro just got a nice review in the Glendale News-Press. Link here. I've gone to Angela's three times in the last week and a half, and have come away satisfied every time. I recommend getting your sandwiches on the whole wheat baguette, which is really moist and slightly sweet -- it takes the sandwich to the next level. Of course the baguettes are good -- they're from Porto's.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cecilia Rasmussen To Speak on May 7th May 14th

Update: This event has been rescheduled for May 14th at 7pm at the Brand Library Recital Hall.

Cecilia Rasmussen, who wrote about Leslie Brand's secret life last week in the L.A. Times (earlier post here), will be speaking at the Brand Library on May 7th May 14th. I don't know the time yet, but I will update the blog with that information as soon as I find out. I am volunteering at the Doctor's House tomorrow and can't wait to discuss new developments with other members of the Glendale Historical Society. If anyone would like a tour of the Doctor's House and a glimpse into Glendale history, stop by the Doctor's House in Brand Park tomorrow from 2-4. Last tour leaves at 3:45.

Glendale News-Press article on the Brand affair here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nature, Red In Tooth and Claw

On Sunday I returned from a wonderful trip to Yosemite National Park. Here is my most memorable experience from the trip.

My father and I were hiking the 5 mile Mirror Lake/Tenaya Creek loop. The trail to Mirror Lake is extremely busy, but the rest of the loop past the lake was much less crowded.

I had two cups of coffee in the morning and I had been hiking alongside a rushing river for about an hour, so I had to pee. The trail was fairly empty--we saw perhaps one hiker every fifteen minutes of so. I had been looking for a properly secluded spot to do my business for about ten minutes, and found the perfect location behind a large boulder and some dense vegetation along the side of the trail. I walked off the trail about 40 feet up a slight hill, past the boulder and a fallen tree, to make sure I couldn't be seen from the trail.

I looked uphill slightly to the right, and...

Fifteen feet away was a mountain lion -- looking directly at me.

I froze.

The mountain lion turned around, silently jumped over a fallen tree, and walked uphill away from me. It was slightly larger than a German shepherd. Its coat was medium brown, slightly shaggy and had a faint pattern which extended nearly to the long, thick tail.

It behaved...exactly like a shy stray cat.

The close encounter passed so quickly I thought it might have been a hallucination. I stayed frozen and watched the silhouette head slightly further uphill. I put my brain into instant replay mode just to make sure I had seen what I thought I had seen. Coyote? No, unmistakably feline. Bobcat? Too big. Massive tail. MOUNTAIN LION. Just as my brain sent me this information, I noticed another silhouette moving on the hillside through the dense canopy of tree branches above me.


The silhouettes were in profile and didn't appear to be specifically watching me, so I backed away down the hill to the trail. I yelled to my Dad, who was sitting with his back to me reviewing some photos on his digital camera, "Mum-mum-mountain lions!" and pointed at the silhouettes moving away from us on the hill 50 or 60 feet away. I urgently grabbed a walking stick that I had been using for a few miles which had a fairly sharp tip, and found another heavier log that would make a serviceable club. As I was doing this, I yelled at my Dad to grab a sharp stick...and try to get a photo. My father, a consummate photographer, crouched down to get the shot.

"Get the fuck up! Get the fuck up!"

The silhouettes were gone.

But he did get the photo. It's very "Where's Waldo?"

Can you find Waldo the mountain lion? You'll have to look at the full-size image, in the upper right hand corner. Here is a cropped version.

After our sighting, we still had a long, tense walk back to the trailhead through dense forest dotted with large boulders alongside the trail. I've never been so happy to see a throng of tourists as when we finally got back to the trailhead.

Some observations:
  • On the northern, more populated side of the river trail, we noticed dozens and dozens of ground squirrels. Looking back, I don't remember seeing a single squirrel on the south side of the river. Perhaps this is because the world's most effective rodent deterrent is cat urine?
  • The lions HAD to have known we were there on the trail. 200 people probably travel that exact trail every day and never see anything. We never, ever would have seen them had I not ventured off the trail for a moment. They only became visible when I briefly attempted to make myself invisible from the trail.
  • The lion that was 15 feet away from me must've been a curious adolescent, and the other cat had to be the mom. They appeared to be approximately the same size, but the patterned fuzzy coat is typical of a younger mountain lion. Mountain lions are usually solitary.
  • Despite receiving millions of visitors a year, Yosemite is most definitely NOT Disneyland. Although mountain lions have only verifiably killed 6 people in California since 1890, whereas 8 people have died at Disneyland since 1955.
Takeaway advice:
  • Take a sharp stick with you when you pee.
  • If you see a mountain lion DO NOT RUN. Maintain eye contact, speak aggressively, put your arms above your head to make yourself look bigger. Look and act threatening enough to make it look like eating you would be trouble than you're worth. Kids are more vulnerable as they are prey-sized, so if you are with a child, pick them up. Fortunately in my case and almost every other encounter, mountain lions don't typically see people as prey. I was aware of what to do, but the eye-to-eye part of my encounter was so brief that I never even had time to raise my arms. I'm 6'3", which was enough, apparently.
Is there still a mountain lion in Griffith Park? I remember hearing about one a few years ago, and a quick search only turns up articles from 2004. I would guess that there isn't one in the park any more, as I would've heard about sightings during one of the Sierra Club night hikes.

Regardless, the Verdugo, Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains are verifiable mountain lion habitat, so keep your eyes open.

We reported the sighting to a ranger at the Visitor Center. He was excited and recommended a few mountain lion related articles. This one is especially gripping.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Live Nude Girls In The City of Los Angeles

An anonymous commenter has informed me that The Gentleman's Club, which I posted about previously as being inside Glendale, is actually just inside the City of Los Angeles. A peek at Glendale's zoning map shows that it is indeed about 40 feet inside Los Angeles. South of the 134, the L.A./Glendale border is the train tracks. North of the 134, the border moves eastward to the L.A. River.

This stretch of San Fernando Road is part of the long-delayed San Fernando Road Beautification project. Perhaps if The Gentleman's Club puts up a garish new sign, the City of Glendale could erect a strip club-free matte painting in front of the club as part of the beautification project. Disney Imagineering is in Glendale, they could certainly do it. Plus, there wouldn't be any pesky roots to interfere with underground fiber optic lines!

JPL Open House, May 3 & 4

Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is having their annual open house this year on May 3 and 4th. I went to the open house in 2006 and had a great time. If you have kids, bring them, they will be delighted. It's like a county fair for really smart people, with booths staffed by actual scientists and engineers detailing the various space and weather programs in progress at JPL. When I went I had fun listening to bright kids ask the JPL scientists intelligent questions and receiving detailed, informative answers.

I also enjoyed peeking at the ultra high-end machining processes and exotic materials used to build satellites, probes and rovers. Fun stuff.

Here is a set of photos I took that day.

For a really good time, read up on the life of JPL co-founder and noted occultist Jack Parsons before you go. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Secret Life and Cemetery of Leslie C. Brand

There is a fantastic article in the Sunday L.A. Times by Cecilia Rasmussen about the secret life of Leslie C. Brand, Glendale's most influential early booster. Sadly, the Brand article is the the last of the always interesting "L.A. Then and Now" column, as Ms. Rasmussen took the buyout during the Times' latest cutbacks.

Brand, who was married to Mary Louise Brand but officially childless, had a longtime affair with a much younger woman, Birdie Esther Carpenter Gordon, who he secretly married in Tijuana when she became pregnant, despite his already being married. The Times did DNA testing of descendants on both sides of the family and definitively proved that yes, Mr. Brand did indeed father two children by his mistress.

The article briefly mentions the Brand Family Cemetery, where Mr. Brand, his wife, pets, and several relatives are buried. The cemetery is in Brand Park, but there are no signs that tell you how to get there.

If you'd like to visit Brand Cemetery, start by walking up the road that goes past the Doctor's House, which will curve around the left side of the catch basin. Be careful of city trucks flying down this road. In less than half a mile, the road branches off in three directions. Take the path farthest to your left. Keep your eyes open for the green metal fence above the path on the right hand side. Go down the path a few hundred feet, and there will be a stairway on the right which leads to the cemetery. The cemetery is locked, but if you're feeling ambitious you can find your way around the fence.

Please treat the graves with the utmost respect--despite his personal issues, Mr. Brand helped bring Glendale commuter rail, electricity, and aviation, not to mention the fact that he kindly donated his estate to the city for public enjoyment as a park and library.

Mopping Up L.A.'s Murderers

Apparently Glendale is such a nice city that recent murderers from the city of Los Angeles come here to reflect on their actions. Last Monday, Glendale P.D. had a wild west style gunfight on Colorado Blvd. with a two-time murderer who had killed someone in Eagle Rock hours earlier. This Friday, Glendale P.D. was called to Forest Lawn to deal with a suicidal/homicidal man in a Denali who had killed his wife the day before, at the World On Wheels skating rink at Venice and San Vicente. The man fired a shotgun at the Glendale police officers, and they ended up shooting him as he rammed their patrol cars with his SUV.

From the Daily News:

The standoff at the cemetery began after Glendale and LAPD officers responded to multiple 911 calls, reporting shots fired near the mortuary.

A security guard told police about a suspicious vehicle that drove into the cemetery. Officers in patrol cars approached Munoz's SUV, Lorenz said.

"As they're driving towards him, they can see he's outside the vehicle and he's got a shotgun," Lorenz said. "He levels the shotgun and takes a shot at them."

The officers backed off and an armored vehicle was brought in, as well as a hostage negotiator, who got Munoz's cell phone from an acquaintance of Mu oz. The acquaintance showed up saying Munoz was distraught and possibly suicidal.

About 12:40 a.m. Friday, after about two hours of negotiating, Munoz briefly stepped out of the black GMC Denali, before getting back in and driving at officers at a high rate of speed, striking the patrol car. Police then shot him, Lorenz said.

"If he shoots at us, he's going to shoot at anybody," Lorenz said. "Our primary concern was we cannot let him out into the streets of the city of Glendale."

Be extra nice to any Glendale P.D. officers you see this week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Gone Until Monday

I'm going to Yosemite for a few days with my Dad and will be back on Monday.

Top Story?

Presumably the Glendale News-Press was in such a rush to put up its "Officer Survives Deadly Shootout" story that it forgot to move its gripping "Agency Delays Rail-Crossing Vote" piece from the Top Story position on the home page...

Update On Colorado Blvd. Gunfight

More details have emerged about the gunfight on Colorado Blvd. yesterday night. It turns out that the suspect had killed someone a few hours earlier just a few miles away, on Avenue 51 near Occidental. Good work, Glendale PD.

From the Glendale News-Press:
GLENDALE — A Glendale police officer was released from the hospital Tuesday after he was shot in the chest during a gun battle the previous night that left the alleged shooter dead.

Los Angeles resident and known gang member David Gonzales, 28, died of multiple gunshot wounds after he opened fire on police, leading them on a foot chase near South Adams and East Colorado streets, Glendale Police Officer John Balian said.

The shootout started at about 9:30 p.m. when an officer tried to question Gonzales as he was walking in a commercial area, Balian said.

“He makes eye contact with the officer and starts to run. . . . The next thing [the officer] knows is that he’s being shot at,” Balian said.

That officer, who was not hit, called for backup as he chased Gonzales from Adams to Elk Avenue, Balian said. When two other officers arrived, Gonzales was hiding in some bushes and fired at the officers as they stepped out of their patrol cars, he said. One of the officers, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was hit in the chest. “If he didn’t have a vest on, he would have been killed,” Balian said.

Officers continued to chase Gonzales, who kept firing shots and took aim at a patrol car that was blocking his path, Balian said.

An officer got out of his car and fired at Gonzales, hitting him several times. Gonzales died on the 300 block of South Chevy Chase Drive, Balian said.

A .45-caliber handgun was recovered at the scene, Assistant Police Chief Ronald DePompa said.

After the shooting, the Glendale Police Department was contacted by officials at the Los Angeles Police Department with information that Gonzales was the prime suspect in a homicide that occurred in northeast Los Angeles, two to three hours before the incident in Glendale, Balian said.

Gonzales — who had been released two weeks ago from state prison on parole for second-degree murder — had apparently just been dropped off in Glendale before he was approached by police, who did not know he was a suspect in the Los Angeles homicide, Balian said.

“[Gonzales] was trying to do everything he could to get away from police,” he said.

Shell casings found at the Los Angeles crime scene matched the casings found in Glendale, he said.

“They feel very confidant that David Gonzales was their suspect in their murder investigation,” Balian said.
Updated L.A. Times article here.

Glendale remains a remarkably safe city, despite being very close to serious gang territory, as we saw during the recent shootings in Glassell Park. However, violent crime in our fair city is unfortunately up slightly from last year.

Keep your eyes open, and if you see anything dodgy call Glendale PD: 818-548-4911.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Gun Battle On Colorado Boulevard

Last night there was a running gun battle on Colorado Blvd between Adams and Chevy Chase. A Glendale PD officer was shot, but wasn't harmed thanks to his bulletproof vest. The suspect was killed.

Nothing in the Glendale News-Press yet. From the L.A. Times:
A Glendale police officer shot in the chest during a foot pursuit Monday night was released from the hospital this morning, officials said.

The officer, a 20-year veteran, was protected from serious injury by a bulletproof vest.


The incident began at around 9:30 p.m. Monday after another officer driving in the area stopped to question the man, who Balian said was acting "suspiciously." As that officer left his car, the man drew a handgun and fired over his shoulder as he fled, Balian said.

That officer did not initially return fire, Balian said. "He was taking cover and putting out a broadcast [for backup] at the same time that he was being shot [at]," Balian said.

As the gunman fled south on South Adams Street to East Elk Avenue a few minutes later, two more officers arrived, and the man traded gunfire with them from the bushes, hitting one.

Police then shot and wounded the man, who collapsed and died in the 300 block of South Chevy Chase Drive.