Monday, September 28, 2015

The Village, People: The Militant Takes On The Village at Westfield Topanga

Ah, the shopping mall. The grand cathedral of consumerism. Like the hamburger and surfing, it wasn’t invented in Los Angeles, but we created the archetype by which it is widely known, as well as an entire culture built around it.

The brand-spanking-new The Village at Westfield Topanga, which opened on September 17, is the latest rookie drafted onto the Southland shopping mall roster. Though technically, it’s an outdoor-centric extension of the existing Westifeld Topanga mall, which stands on the other side of Victory Boulevard.

It’s perhaps one of the few outdoor malls that are not a product of one Rick Caruso (shouting at the sky, shaking fist in the air: “CARUSOOOOOOOOO!!”), although Caruso deserves the credit and/or blame for making them the de facto standard for the modern So Cal shopping center. Instead, this one is owned by the great Australian shopping mall megaconglomerate, Westfield, which runs yet another shopping center directly to the south, the Westfield Promenade.

The Militant decided to take a nice long ride on the Metro Orange Line to Warner Center and check this mutha out.

Located in Woodland Hills' Warner Center district (a.k.a. "The Downtown of The Valley," although The Militant thinks the much-more centralized and pedestrian-oriented Van Nuys is more deserving of that title), named so due to the area (including the land The Village now sits on) once belonging to one of the Warner Brothers (no, it wasn't Wakko or Yakko) as a horse ranch from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The Village's design is very SFV: Low-rise (the tallest building is two stories, not including the parking structure, of course), sprawling, and the architecture harkens back to the agricultural and light industrial structures which where once common in the Valley landscape. The ivory-colored facades look a bit odd, though -- one would assume that every store was either a Banana Republic or Sees Candies.

The SFV backyard aesthetic of The Village at Westfield Topanga's street furniture.
But it's also a very 21st-century setup: Aside from the outdoorsy feel, the place is abound with native and drought-tolerant plants -- no expanses of manicured green grass anywhere in sight (save for  artificial turf). The folksy "street furniture" resembles the type of furniture one would find in a San Fernando Valley backyard. And there are elements of appropriated urban hipsteresque accoutrements: Randomly-placed "little library" book kiosks, bocce ball enclosure, doggie treat/dog waste bar receptacles, and yes, a designated space for food trucks. The drinking fountains even have water bottle dispensers (which have digital counters; The Militant's water bottle was the 970th and 974th bottle filled at this particular dispenser), and he's even heard of a large rainwater capture cistern on the property. Very cool. But The Village succeeds in integrating the outdoor food commons of the Costco (long the hallmark of big box shopping center suburbia) into its outdoor mall layout.

"Look honey, food trucks! I think we should try some of those exotic soft tacos!"
But here's what totally blew The Militant away, and made this otherwise average outdoor mall worthy of mention on This Here Blog: The public art incorporated into the shopping center is very...militant.

It kind of hit him as The Militant walked the long stretch of Owensmouth Avenue after alighting from his Orange Line bus, trying to find out where exactly this new-fangled "Village" place was. He was ready to ask the few people walking along the street where it was when he spotted a large parking structure in the distance and finally saw "The Village at Westfield Topanga" sign on the corner of Owensmouth and Victory (which was a long-ass walk, he'll get to that later).

A dirt hiking trail beckons the militant along the northern (Victory Blvd) side of The Village at Westfield Topanga!
Walking westward on Victory, he saw the dirt hiking path that ran parallel to the sidewalk. Almost luring The Militant in to chose the dirt path option than the sanitary concrete option. So hiking path it was. And then he saw it.

It was a large billboard-sized mural, depicting a very natural San Fernando Valley 300 years ago, with  labeled images of the native flora and fauna of the SFV done in great detail, centered around the he Los Angeles River, depicted in its once-naked glory.

A section of the one of the very militant natural history murals at The Village by artist Elkpen
And then he saw another, which focused on the human history of the San Fernando Valley, depicting a cast of characters from Tongva medicine woman Toypurina (though she was actually a San Gabriel Valley gal), Father Juan Crespi, Isaac Van Nuys, William Mulholland to Amelia Earhart. There's even a little Red Car (labeled "Red Car") in the mural.  Yet another mural explains the importance and relationship of water, and even educates the public on what a watershed is.

"Our thinking about The River is evolving."
Like, whoa.

These murals, which were placed on the outside wall of the new Woodland Hills Costco (part of The Village shopping complex) were done by local muralist Elkpen (a.k.a. Christian Kasperkovitz), who is known for her nature-centric murals with a decidedly educational/awareness bent (see her "Birds of Hollywood" mural on Fountain Avenue). Elkpen's Los Angeles River/SFV History murals are part of a project called "Meet Connect Become" which explores the murals' subject matter in deeper perspective through the medium of the Internet (YOU NEED TO VISIT THIS WEBSITE! THIS IS AN ORDER!

In addition, Westfield partnered with UCLA's School of Arts and Architecture for some of The Village's other public arts pieces.

Nova Jiang's "Red Car" sculpture at The Village.

As if The Militant wasn't already blown away by those Elkpen murals, on the Topanga Canyon side, hanging above the 2nd floor rafters above the main plaza was a sculpture of a Pacific Electric Red Car, depicted as an oversized plastic model kit. Very clever. The sculpture was done by UCLA Art school alum Nova Jiang, and a stylized map of the Pacific Electric system (with the San Fernando Valley stops emphasized) dons the wall on the floor below (surrounding the beverage vending machines).

This is

The Militant didn't really buy anything at the stores but he was hankering for an ice cream on this 90-degree So Cal Early Autumn night. He found it at Sloan's, which looked exactly like a 6 year-old girl's candy store fantasyland, and a place The Militant would probably feel embarrassed to be in, but's ice cream, so he got himself a waffle cone full o' dat.

After consuming his cone, he wandered about the rest of The Village. There was a kids' play area, a KCSN-FM studio storefront (no one was inside, the station seemed to be on auto-pilot), and a "trolley" that transports shoppers to the larger Westfield mall on the other side of Victory.

While walking along the Topanga Canyon side of the complex, he spotted this:

From Crate & Barrel to the Los Angeles River.
It's a good mile hike to the Los Angeles River's headwaters on Owensmouth, but props to Westfield for taking this whole Los Angeles River thing seriously. This is amazing.

Now, since The Village has a hiking path along its western and northern perimeter, and they hope to have people hike in the oppressive heat of the San Fernando Valley, you'd think they'd want to make it more transit-friendly. The Village is equidistant from both the Metro Orange Line's Canoga and Warner Center stations (0.7 mile), but who wants to walk nearly a mile when it's 95 degrees outside? Perhaps it might be prudent to have an additional Orange Line station at Owensmouth and Victory, or at least get those cheesy Westfield trolley buses to serve the Orange Line terminus at Warner Center.

But the place is still new, and some of its businesses, most specifically its eateries, are still not yet ready for primetime at the time of this writing (they will be by this weekend). It's just another outdoor mall, really. But do check out those public art pieces. Hopefully people will pay attention and appreciate their Valley on a more deeper level.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ask The Militant: Alsace and Alla That

Whatup, readers! The Militant is proud to debut what may or may not be the first installment of a new feature of The Militant Angeleno blog called, "Ask The Militant," an interactive post where interested readers query The Militant himself on their questions about Los Angeles.

First off, The Militant thought he first did this a long time ago, but after searching the blog archives, he probably didn't after all. See, people ask him questions all the time and he keeps promising to reply to them via a blog post. Guess it never happened after all.

Anyways, no time like the present, right? This particular question was originally asked back in 2012, but it wasn't until doing research on an upcoming epic Pacific Electric project recently that this email popped back into The Militant's consciousness and he finally had a definitive answer. So without much ado, [drum roll] Tun-ta-ru-run! At long last, heere is "Ask The Militant!"

Hello Militant Angeleno,

Relatively short time reader of your blog - only been following for the past [couple years] or so. I know you're interested in finding hidden/lost things in Los Angeles, and there are a few little L.A. mysteries in my area myself that I've been trying to figure out, but without much success. I thought you might enjoy trying to figure them out since you seem to be pretty good at it.

The first are mystery towns of "Alla" and "Alsace" that appear on Google Maps:

These also have corresponding entries in Wikipeadia, but with no information:

Pretty boring, but then you get into abandoned rails in LA and you start seeing these names as stations on routes.

Here is mention of Alla and Alasce on the Inglewood Line:
Here is mention of Alla on the Culver to Alla line:
And here they are both mentioned again on the inglewood line:

Additionally, there is a park called Glen Alla Park right in the area:

So the questions are, were these simply just stations? Were they small towns that didn't end up making it that were annexed by LA or other cities? Who was Glen Alla and why are there things named after him? And where does the name Alasce come from?

Anyways, I hope you find this interesting enough to look into, and even more hopefully you can find out some information about it. I think it would be a great post for your blog.

Joe Nascenzi
Playa Vista

Whatup Joe!

Thanks for emailing The Militant. First off, he apologizes for taking so long to respond. But hey, it's new to the readers of this blog!

The reason why you find these obscure names in Google Maps is because Google initially populated the maps using multiple map data sources, including historical and old railroad survey maps. As Google Maps became more commonly used, certain places got updated due to user feedback. So for "Alla" and "Alsace," they likely used this historical data to put in names of areas, that have been unknowingly long been out of use.

Anyways, "Alla," as you may or may not have found out already, is short for "Glen Alla." The name "Glen Alla" is not of a person, but a valley in County Donegal, in north Ireland.

Back then, that part of the Westside was basically nothing but marshes and wetlands (the Marina didn't even exist until the 1950s), but if there was something, like the few scattered houses and farms, there was a need to give the surrounding vicinity a name. Naming places after where the property owner came from was popular, like Los Angeles Harbor founder Phineas Banning naming Wilmington after his Delaware hometown. Don't know who exactly named it "Glen Alla," but it most likely was an Irishman (nope, not William Mulholland; he was an Eastside vato) who owned some land out there.

Alla Road street sign (Hey look, it's a 1985 Trapezoid Style!) in Del Rey.

The Pacific Electric Railway made an "Alla" a passenger stop and a junction, right where their Inglewood and Redondo-Del Rey lines met, approximately where Alla Road and Culver Boulevard intersect today. When the old PE right-of-way in the middle of Culver Boulevard was converted into a bicycle path in the late 1990s, the old rail property, which was sold by the Southern Pacific Railroad to the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (now part of Metro), was referred to as the PE "Alla Branch."

Glen Alla Park, with the Del Rey Farmers' Market on Friday afternoons.
Today, "Alla" is now considered part of the Los Angeles city neighborhood of Del Rey, home of Glen Alla Park and its Del Rey Certified Farmers' Market on Friday afternoons from 2 to 7 p.m.

"Alsace" is also a European location, named after a region in northeastern FranceLouis Mesmer (1829-1900), an early American-era Los Angeles land pioneer was a man who came from the Alsace region of France and first worked here as a baker, later making money in real estate, most notably owning the old U. S. Hotel which once stood on 170 N. Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles (It's now the area between City Hall East and the old Parker Center), and playing a key role in the construction of the St. Vibiana Cathedral (now the Vibiana event center). He also bought land in what is now around the West Los Angeles/Culver City/Del Rey area. He was one of the people who first envisioned building a port near the Playa Del Rey/Ballona delta area, which eventually became realized as Marina Del Rey, nearly a century later.

Mesmer City, the town that never was.

In the 1920s, a developer had large plans for a failed project called "Mesmer City" in that area, and a street named "Mesmer Avenue" remains there, west of the 405.

The area you found as "Alsace" is directly adjacent (west) of this "Mesmer City" development. In fact, on the Pacific Electric's Inglewood Line, heading east, it was the stop after Alla and before Mesmer. So it's safe to assume "Alsace" was named by Louis Mesmer, perhaps because the broad plain surrounding Ballona Creek might have resembled the Rhine River plain of his homeland.

Alsace in 1972, when Hughes Airport stood there.

In 1940, 20th century tycoon Howard Hughes purchased 380 acres of the wetland area known as Alsace to build the privately-owned Hughes Airport for his Hughes Aircraft company. Famous former Long Beach resident, the Spruce Goose airplane, was built on those grounds.

Alsace in 2015 (Jefferson Blvd, looking east). Louis Mesmer would like totally trip.

Today. historic Alsace is now Playa Vista (where you live now!), the planned residential and commercial community that was developed in 2002 along the westernmost stretch of Jefferson Boulevard.

So now you know! You can now say that you're a proud resident of Alsace!

Stay Militant!

If you have a historical, cultural, current curiosity or any sort of question regarding Los Angeles people, places or things, shoot The Militant Angeleno an email at militantangeleno [at] gmail [dot] com (make sure you put "Ask The Militant" in the Subject: line) and he may or may not answer you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Happy 20th Birthday, (M) Green Line!

That's A Wrap: The Green Line, wearing a promotional wrap reading, "Metro Green Line Open Summer '95." was the first line to feature wrapped rail cars.
Twenty years ago today, Bill Clinton was president, Richard Riordan was mayor, most of us kind of started recovering from the Northridge Earthquake, Michelle Pfeiffer's Dangerous Minds was the #1 box office hit, and TLC warned everyone to not go chasing Waterfalls.

And the Metro Green Line opened on a warm, sunny Summer Saturday.

Truth be told, The Green Line is probably the overlooked middle child of the entire Metro Rail system (which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, BTW...). It lacks the edginess and maturity of the Blue Line, lacks the heavy crowds and underground nature of the Red Line, and unlike the Purple, Expo and Gold lines, doesn't take people to interesting places like K-Town, the Westside or Pasadena and the Eastside, respectively.

The line was given the designated color of green to reflect the green freeway signage along the 105 Freeway, which it runs down the center of, and to represent the "green" environmental concession that created the rail line to the communities impacted by the construction of the freeway during the early 1980s to early 1990s.

The Green Line also never lived up to its planned expectations: Inspired by Vancouver, Canada's SkyTrain, it was supposed to be the first fully-automated driverless rail transit line in the United States. But the transit workers' unions cried foul, and the driverless plan was eventually dropped.

It was also supposed to serve the suburban gateway communities of southeastern Los Angeles County with the aerospace industry jobs of El Segundo...only to see the Cold War end just as the concrete was starting to get poured, which is the main reason why it's been dissed as "The line to nowhere." And we all know it was supposed to serve LAX at some point, what with the large concrete structure next to the Aviation Station veering northward (which will finally see use once the Crenshaw/LAX Line opens in 2019).

So, sympathizing with overlooked middle children everywhere (Or maybe The Militant is just saying that to hide the fact that he wasn't a middle child), The Militant is dedicating today's blog post to the Metro Green Line's grand opening 20 years ago today!

It was the first Metro Rail grand opening The Militant attended via Metro Rail; he may have driven to  an unspecified free parking spot in DTLA (it no longer exists, sorry), and taken the Red and Blue lines to the Imperial Station (now called the Willowbrook or Rosa Parks station), where the Blue and Green lines met.
MTA CEO Franklin White speaks at the dedication ceremony. And there were balloons.
There they had a dedication ceremony at the park & ride underneath the 105 Freeway with all of them dignitaries, and they had these large colored balloons strewn above the podium area.

The Militant distinctly remembers there was a small Bus Riders Union protest there and he even got into a little debate with a privileged wannabe-Marxist white guy BRU lackey who was trying to proselytize to The Militant -- a person of color of unspecified ethnicity -- that Metro Rail was somehow racist. Yes, the Green Line, which serves lily-white, wealthy communities like Lynwood, Willowbrook and South Los Angeles. Really now. At some point The Militant asked Privilege Boy a "gotcha" question and he couldn't give an answer. Ooh, moted, sucka!

Anyways, the speeches were done and we all got in the long-ass line, up the stairs to the platform to ride the train.

Always a joy to finally see the train come after waiting in line on Opening Day.
The trains looked exactly the same as the Japanese-made vehicles on the Blue Line. In fact, the trains made their home at the Blue Line's yard near the 405 in northern Long Beach for a couple years before the Green Line got its own yard facility a few years later.

Also, the cars were packed, mainly because for the first few years due to a lack of cars (and lack of riders), the Green Line ran single-car trains. It wasn't until sometime in early 1997 when the new, rounded Siemens P-2000 vehicles entered Green Line service and the line finally had two-car trains.

Back then you can have a clear view to the front window.
The Militant and his accompanying operatives rode their first Green Line train from the Imperial station to the "I-105/I-605" station (now just called the Norwalk station).

There, there was basically nothing, except a small fair at the Park & Ride lot where he got some free Metro Rail swag. But then it was straight back in line to the train going the other direction.

Nothing to see here in Norwalk really.
The Green Line has been criticized for not going all the way east to link with Metrolink's Norwalk station, which would have been a real awesome thing and connected commuters to places like Orange County and the Inland Empire, but all of the plans and funding for the Green Line was already in place by the time Metrolink was first conceived in 1990, and opened just two years later.

We're in El Segundo! Please check if you didn't leave your wallet behind!
After some monotonous riding in the middle of the Century Freeway, it was time to head to the western section of the line, which The Militant was waiting all day to see. It was nice, sleek, elevated, almost monorail-like, passing over a bunch of sprawling business parks with well-manicured landscaped lawns.

These futuristic-looking stations look like you're in a toy or something.
We arrived at the Marine Avenue station, now called "Marine/Redondo Beach," in the extreme northeastern reaches of Redondo Beach -- you can smell the sea, and feel the sea breeze, but you still can't see the sea (unlike in Mar Vista...). How deceptive. The Militant wanted his King Harbor freshly-boiled crab NOW!
The end of the line, then as it is now.
It was time to head back to the Blue Line. There wasn't much to see here either, though there was a cool burger joint just a block or so away on Marine. And then there was the end of the line, a yellow bumping post to keep trains from falling off some 40 feet below. Twenty years later, though there's talk of extending the Green Line to the South Bay, there are currently no solidified plans to extend it in either direction.

Today the Green Line is the 5th busiest line in the Metro Rail system, carrying some 39,000 riders each weekday. Despite what it never became, it was the first rail transit line in the United States to go from suburb to suburb, avoiding the city center. It was the first Metro Rail line to open in its entirety, with no future phases or extensions to follow. It was also the first light rail line in the Metro Rail system to be totally grade-separated (and the only light rail line on the Metro to have zero automobile collisions!). The Green Line also had the first "wrapped" rail vehicles on the Metro Rail system, and though it was never automated, it was the first Metro Rail line to use the automated station call announcements, which are standard systemwide.

If the Metro Rail system map is an upside-down stick figure, The Green Line represents the arms. And you can't do too much without arms, so let's give props to the Green Line on its 20th birthday today! Happy Birthday, Metro Green Line!

Monday, August 10, 2015

10 Reflections on Sunday's "Culver City Meets Venice" CicLAvia

The Militant so far has a perfect 14 out of 14 CicLAvia attendance record, and having gone though this thing that many times, it can certainly feel nearly routine. He most certainly had a wonderful time (most likely because he showed up at the route relatively early and did not have to "rush the route" as he had to do in the past), but a certain well-publicized controversy that got diffused in time probably added some tension and drama to the mix, along with a Hollywood Happy Ending. And this CicLAvia was also great due to the fact that, hey, we were all headed to the beach again.

And sure, the day began cloudy and overcast, but by the afternoon, the day of the week lived up to its name for the 14th consecutive time, burning off the clouds to reveal a virtually cloudless, blue Summer sky, which wasn't even that hot for an August day.

The Militant hates clickbaitey listicles, but most people don't read stuff on the Internet these days that's not formatted in list form, so, he grudgingly presents these Ten Reflections on this past Sunday's "Culver City Meets Venice" CicLAvia:

1. Let's TACO Bout This

Certainly what would have been the proverbial Elephant In The Room was the much-publicized ranting of Tito's Tacos that doth protested the CicLAvia route running in front of their front door, only to do an about-face two days before the event, because maaaaybe they suddenly discovered that the negative backlash would cost them business either way.  At any rate, despite people not getting the update and still sharing two-days-old news articles on their social media feeds, Señora Lynne Davidson did not sue Culver City and the event went on without a hitch.

And as you can see by the photo above and below, the crowd was, at worst, equivalent to a normal weekend day there without an open streets event.

There were bike racks provided by "Some Non-Profit Organization" on the Tuller Avenue cul-de-sac adjacent to the Westside crunchy taco institution, as well as signs on Sepulveda directing regulars on cars to the alley to access the Tito's parking lot (like they never used the alley before).

Sra. Davidson's fears of not only a lack of customers (their parking lot was just as full as it is during the other 364 days of the year that there is no CicLAvia on Washington Place), but of customers not purchasing insanely mass quantities of tacos in those cardboard boxes, were unfounded, as many CicLAvians arrived in groups of their own and purchased tacos in mass quantities.

Twitter user @fig4all Tweeted this pic of Sra. Davidson being interviewed by KABC-TV's Eyewitness News crew, apparently showing her eating humble pie next to CicLAvians ordering their crunchy tacos:

However, upon watching the KABC news report, they quoted Sra. Davidson as having a "let's wait and see" attitude regarding the raw numbers from Sunday. Hmph.

You know, in a way, The Militant is kind of glad Titogate happened, because it set a clear precedent for a well-known local institution (that no doubt has name recognition) having initial concerns about not being able to get customers during CicLAvia. Granted, her initial impression of the event probably resembled a marathon or a bike race, not the reality of CicLAvia that we all know and love. But perhaps from here on out, this well-publiczed precedent set by Tito's Tacos can be shown clear to any future local institutions that find themselves on future CicLAvia routes.

And who knows, after all the numbers come in, Señora Davidson will sue on the grounds that the next CicLAvia route won't be going in front of her eatery.

2. Both Sides Now

Remember back in April, 2013 when we had that big-ass 17-mile CicLAvia where we all rode from Downtown to Venice Beach? And how, despite how totally awesome that was, that it kinda sucked because CicLAvians were only allowed to use the Westbound lanes of Venice Boulevard?

This time around, CicLAvians got to use BOTH sides of Venice Boulevard (mostly), eliminating that crazy bottleneck of traffic for most of the route. Of course, west of Lincoln, it was the same old thing as two years ago, though at least for just a short segment of the route:

3. Stand Up And Be Counted

Did you see these things along the route?

Since these instruments did not appear to be releasing poisonous chemicals designed to kill every CicLAvian on the route (removes tinfoil hat), these appeared to be counting devices of some sort to count how many participants were on the streets at CicLAvia, to be compiled later by some expensive Beverly Hills accounting firm (or most likely by CicLAvia themselves, in cooperation with UCLA or another local educational institution). We wait the number for this one!

4. Just A Lot More Bikes

CicLAvia The Organization likes to stress the fact that the event is not just for bicycles, and smaller routes like Wilshire Boulevard and the short-but-sweet Pasadena route last May certainly brought out more non-cyclists, but the non-bike minority seemed even smaller this time around.

5. People On Skates Pushing Strollers At CicLAvia Are A Thing

For the non bicycle-riding CicLAvians, The Militant did notice a number of people pushing strollers while wearing rollerblades or roller-skates like this dude above along Washington Place. The Militant has never really seen that many people do that in previous CicLAvias. Count it as a thing now.

6. That Taco Tuesdays Song

Twice during CicLAvia, The Militant happened to ride near the Midnight Ridazz Taco Tuesdays ride contingent, which featured a trailer adorned with a sugar skull y corazon y sound system blasting their Taco Tuesdays Theme Song, which The Militant can't seem to get out of his head.

7. Abbot Kinney - The CicLAvia-Adjacent Corridor

Arriving at Venice Beach, The Militant met up with one of his operatives at the route's end, wanted to get something to eat, but they were local enough not to fall into the tourist trap that is the Venice Beach Boardwalk. So they opted for Abbot Kinney Boulevard, just a short distance east. Although this street was not part of the CicLAvia route and had normal automobile traffic (as well as detoured Metro Bus lines), it might as well have been as the street was crowded with CicLAvians also patronizing their restaurants and shops. Certainly, past CicLAvias have had participants spill over into non-route streets, but this was the first time The Militant has seen this phenomena in such an obvious form. Be on the look out for more of these in the future.

8. Big Media Companies Along CicLAvia Are Weird

Thousands of people rode by Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, and the corporation gets props for being listed as one of the event's sponsors, but The Militant didn't see much participation from the media giant beyond that. No Sony employees riding the route? No celebrities? Not even some gratuitous promotion (and maybe some swag) of their films and TV shows? It's strange, stupid, yet totally not surprising for this Los Angeles native to see how disconnected "Hollywood" is from the community.

At the same time, down the street, the NFL Network had a banner saying "The NFL Network Supports CicLAvia, but they were not listed as one of the event's sponsors, nor was there any sort of interactivity from them outside their office (Best practice: Coca-Cola giving away drinks outside their Central Avenue bottling plant in previous CicLAvias). Apparently the NFL Network was special enough to have their own private auto-acces barrier driveway -- the only business along the route to have one. Wait, it's because we don't have an NFL team, right?

9. The #EpicCicLAviaTour

Many of you read The Militant's #EpicCicLAviaTour post from last week to gain knowledge and familiarity with the route, and some of you even tried to visit all 25 sites. And some of you really had fun with that. This makes The Militant smile (behind his bandana mask, of course).

10.  Next Time Around...

The next CicLAvia is just two months away! It's going to be a familiar route for us CicLAveteranos. It's time to flip the scrip. The Militant may or may not try to walk the whole thing. It will also be a celebration of CicLAvia's 5th anniversary. It's definitely a part of our city and it's still growing.

Speaking of which, how bout some new routes? Venice isn't the only beach we have. How about a CicLAvia in San Pedro (how about ending the route at Point Fermin Park)? Or a Beach Cities CicLAvia?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour 4.1!!!!

Interactive map - click and zoom! Click here to view the map separately!

So we're already nearly 5 years into the CicLAvia thing, haven't we had enough already?


Just when we got over the last CicLAvia, along comes the XIVth edition of America's largest open streets event (Oh you know it, baby), and the third of four this year (But wait a minute, the last Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour was number 10.0, why is this one 4.1? You might ask. Well, The Militant categorizes his CicLAvia routes into unique versions of routes, and since this route is basically a modification of the fourth unique route from April 2013 (The legendary 17-mile "To The Sea" edition), The Militant categorizes Sunday's route as 4.1. Got it?). But even though this one is but a slight change from the Epic Venice Boulevard Route, there's a lot more new sights to see, especially along Washington Boulevard/Washington place, plus some locales he forgot to add during the 4.0 posting. Anyways, you know the drill, Share this link on your Facebooks and Twitters, visit the sights yourselves -- and if you do, Tweet with the hashtag, #EpicCicLAviaTour to stroke The Militant's ego and make him feel like his several days of staying up late at night to research and write all this was worth his while. And most of all, Stay Militant and Enjoy CicLAvia this Sunday! See you or not see you on the streets!

1. Culver City Metro Expo Line Station/Site of Culver Junction
Venice and National boulevards, Culver City

You may or may not have arrived at CicLAvia via the Metro Expo Line, which is the modern reincarnation of the Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line. Not only can you experience Los Angeles' transportation present, but you can glimpse its future (Phase 2 of the Expo Line, which opens next year, is clearly visible towards the west), and you're in the clear presence of its past -- this area is also the site of Culver Junction, where not one, not two, but three Pacific Electric Red Car lines converged, going to Santa Monica, Venice and Redondo Beach. TIP: Make sure you buy a Day Pass or that your TAP card is well-loaded before CicLAvia, so you don't have to queue at the ticket machines! The Militant says "You're Welcome."

2. Ince Boulevard/The Culver Studios
Ince Blvd & Washington Ave, Culver City

As you make your first turn going westbound on the CicLAvia route, take note of the street name: Ince.

If you know your Culver City history, the town was a planned community built by landowner Harry H. Culver, a Spanish-American war veteran who worked for SFV pioneer Isaac N. Van Nuys and purchased a large section of the old Rancho La Ballona. In 1913 he established the town and filmmaker Thomas Ince moved his operation here from Pacific Palisades (via his Triangle Studios down the street -- more on this later...) and bought this section of land from Culver himself to establish the Ince Studio, which featured a large mansion fashioned after George Washington's Mt. Vernon residence, that remains in full view today. Ince's studio was sold to Cecil B. DeMille after his mysterious death and had changed hands and names over the years, finally adopting its current name of The Culver Studios in 1970. Legendary Hollywood films were shot this studio, including Gone With The Wind, King Kong, E.T. and The Matrix.

3. Pacific Electric Ivy Substation
Venice and Culver boulevards, Palms

Downtown  Culver City is already rich in retail and artistic activity, and has a bevy of well-known eateries, like the popular Father's Office. The Militant can cover that in its own post (and kinda already did before). But welcoming people to Downtown Culver City along Venice Blvd (though technically located in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Palms), a block from the Culver City station is an appropriate link to the past - the Ivy Substation. The single-story Mission Revival-style structure served as a powerhouse for the Pacific Electric Railway from 1907 to 1953, when the Expo Line's predecessor, the Santa Monica Air Line, ceased operation. Today, it's a 99-seat venue for The Actor's Gang theatre company, renovated in the early 1990s. How interesting that a building originally built for transportation infrastructure was repurposed into a building for the arts, which in turn attract people using the new transportation infrastructure.

4. Culver Hotel
9400 Culver Blvd, Culver City

This 6-story triangular building, originally named Hotel Hunt, opened in 1924 as Culver City's first skyscraper (it was the tallest building between Downtown Los Angeles and Venice)  and housed Harry Culver's personal office on the second floor. Numerous Hollywood stars have stayed here, such as Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Ronald Reagan, and most notably the little people actors who played the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz during its filming down the street. Actor John Wayne was one of the later owners, and it was fully restored in the 1990s.

5. The Washington Building
9718 W. Washington Blvd, Culver City

Culver City's other 1920s-era triangular building is just down the street from The Culver Hotel. Built by Charles E. Lindblade, a business associate of Harry Culver who also bears a city street name of his own, this Beaux Arts-style building was designed by Arthur D. Scholz and Orville L. Clark. As it is today, the building housed numerous retail and office businesses over the years, including the Culver City post office, the MGM Studios Fan Club and Lindblade's real estate company.

6. Kirk Douglas Theatre/Culver Theatre
9820 W Washington Blvd, Culver City

Built in 1946 as The Culver Theatre, a 1,100-seat Streamline Moderne cinema designed by Karl G. Moeller that screened 20th Century Fox films as part of the Fox West Coast Theatres chain.
It was later operated by the National General and Mann Pictures chains, and finally as an independent theatre. It was split into three screens circa 1970s, and closed in 1989. In 1994, it suffered damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and underwent a major $8 million renovation later in the '90s, re-opening in 2004 as The Kirk Douglas Theatre (with Spartacus himself as a the major contributor in the renovation), operated by Center Theatre Group. It currently features two stages, one seating about 300 and a smaller stage seating around 100.

7. Sony Pictures Studios/MGM Studios
10202 West Washington Boulevard, Culver City

One can't mention Culver City without mentioning its massive movie lot, originally Thomas Ince's (remember him?) Triangle Studios operation until he moved to the Culver Studios property and sold this site to D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett.  In 1918, the studio was sold to Samuel Goldwyn, which became Metro Goldwyn Mayer in 1924 (following the merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Studios and Louis B. Mayer Productions). It became the Columbia Pictures studios in 1989 and Sony Pictures Studios from 1992 to the present.

On this lot was filmed a countless list of Hollywood productions, most notably The Wizard of Oz in 1939 (you will be riding next to the actual Land of Oz, think about that...), and currently, TV shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel Of Fortune.

10. La Ballona Elementary School
10915 W Washington Blvd, Culver City

This local school is literally some old school Culver City right heah! Established in 1865, it's one of the oldest schools in Los Angeles County still in operation. Back in the day, it had an enrollment of 158 pupils between the ages of 5-15, being taught by one teacher, a Miss Craft who made $50 a month, and the school year lasted seven months, since it revolved around the agricultural calendar of the surrounding area.
When it was established, it was in an unincorporated area that eventually became Palms, which was annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1914. When Culver City was founded the year before, it had no schools within its boundaries, so another school was built in the area in 1916. Eventually La Ballona was annexed into Culver City in 1920.

9. NFL Network
10950 W. Washington Blvd, Culver City

Well, well well. The TV network and web site run by the National Football League is based in an area that hasn't had a football team since 1994. Let that irony sink in for a second.

10. King Fahd Mosque
10980 Washington Boulevard, Culver City

This Islamic house of worship was built in 1995 as a gift from Saudi Prince Abdulaziz Bin Fahd to serve the growing community of Muslims in the Westside, named after the king of Saudi Arabia at the time. Its facade features hand made marble tiles from Turkey, and a 72 foot-high minaret topped with a gold leaf crescent.

11. Tellefson Park/Rollerdrome Site
1105 W. Washington Pl, Culver City

There's a designated activity hub here at this 1.5-acre Culver City park, which was dedicated in 1976 as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations. It was named after former Culver City councilman and city attorney Mike Tellefson, who served the city for 31 years. In 2013, the body of a suicide victim was discovered in the park.

But longtime Culver Citizens remember this site as a legendary roller skating rink called The Rollerdrome,  a wooden structure which opened in 1928 and had a characteristic rounded roof. Roller skating events were centered around the rink's organ, which was played by a live organist, and provided memorable evenings for local families and youths. It was torn down in 1970, which was a shame, since roller skating enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the '70s.

12. Tito's Tacos
11222 Washington Pl, Culver City

Many Angelenos already know of this longtime Westside (American) taco joint known as Tito's Tacos, which as we all know, was founded in 1959 by a businessman who may or may not be an actual Mexican guy named Tito. Everyone has their opinion on Tito's, but three things are indisputable truths: 1) It's a Culver City Institution; 2) It's not authentic Mexican food and 3) People come here for the nostalgia anyway. But this small business, currently owned by Señora Lynne Davidson, which makes roughly $310,000 in profits annually, has been in the news recently, and not in a good way to us CicLAvians.
See, Señora Davidson is threatening to sue Culver City government for lost revenue because the CicLAvia route will cut off access to her customer base (which crowd the tiny parking lot and forces motorists to circle the block and/or shortcut the lot from the little alley). The pro-CicLAvia city council has assured her she be trippin' over nothin' and everything will be aite, but she ain't got no time for dat.

So, CicLAvians, we've all heard this before. Business "A" is pissed at CicLAvia for "shutting down their business" during CicLA-Sunday. But CicLAvians swarm the place and the said business makes a lot of moolah. It's tempting to boycott, but it's perhaps a more powerful and more noble thing to prove Señora Davidson that she's just plain loca. So what else can you do?

You can also try their delicious burritos, chips and salsa -- enchiladas ooh, because the only thing better than a Tito's Taco, is two. Again -- the only thing better than a Tito's Taco, is two.

But seriously, Señora Davidson, you have no reason to fear CicLAvia this Sunday. Because we are coming. And you will get A LOT of business. And you can be rest assured that unlike your car-oriented customers, we won't be crashing into your wall. [MIC DROP]

UPDATE: It seems that Titogate has attracted a lot of negative press for the 56 year-old Culver City institution. However, The Militant is happy to report that as of early Friday afternoon, Tito's Tacos has changed their tune (no, not their catchy jingle, that should never change) and has worked things out with the CicLAvia organization, who is providing support for Tito's bicycle and automobile customers alike. So drop the Tito's hate everyone, they cool now:

13. The Oval District/Palm Place
Area within Washington Place, McLaughlin Ave, Venice Blvd & Inglewood Blvd, Mar Vista

You might not see much from the street level, but this neighborhood just north of the CicLAvia route, a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone known as "The Oval District" is one of the first automobile-oriented property tract developments in Southern California.

When seen from a map or an aerial view. the streets of this 200-unit housing development of predominantly 1- and 2-story homes resembles an hourglass shape with an oval road in the center (which caught The Militant's eye and caused him to investigate the history of the place).

The 137-acre neighborhood was developed in 1912 by a Lillian Charnock Price (there is a "Charnock Road" two blocks north of Venice, BTW) who hired renowned landscape architect and urban planner Wilber David Cook, Jr. (who worked for legendary late 19th/early20th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design an "Aristocratic Suburb" marketed as “Palm Place."

The large-sized lots were unique, and park-like in their large setback from the street and the palm tree-lined parkways, but only a small number of homes were built. Price sold the development to Robert Sheman, who was the stepson of Moses Sherman, the developer of the Los Angeles and Pacific Railway, which built the original rail line on nearby Venice Boulevard. What was originally intended to be the first car-oriented development was going to be a transit-oriented development!

But those didn't sell either. The lots were still too large and pricey. So Sherman sold it to a financier group that marketed it as "Marshall Manor" in 1920 and interest began to pick up. But it wasn't until after World War II, when suburbanization was in vogue and Los Angeles' Westside development boom commenced, that the rest of the lots got built.

14. Mar Vista Hill (a.k.a. The 'Mar Vista' in Mar Vista)
Centinela Ave & Rose Ave, Mar Vista

Everyone know that "Mar Vista" is Español for "sea view." But riding along Centinela or Venice during CicLAvia, you can't even see the sea. Where is it?

Well, The Militant will tell you where to see the "Mar Vista" in Mar Vista. He implores you to take a short detour from the CicLAvia route and continue north along Centinela Avenue, switch your gears (or pedal harder, you fixie heads), and go up the hill (Mar Vista Hill) until you reach Rose Avenue. Then turn right and go  up the hill to the open space that contains the baseball field and community garden. Look to the west, stand on top of the telephone poles laying on the ground in front of the small parking lot, and you can have a semi-unobstructed (damn you, DWP power lines!) view of Santa Monica Bay from the Palos Verdes peninsula to the Santa Monica Mountains.

Mar Vista Hill is a 203-foot-above-sea-level promontory that was once a garbage dump, and was later the site of the Venice Reservoir in 1940 (smart, huh). The reservoir was decommissioned in the 1960s and replaced with the baseball fields you see today.

So come on up to Mar Vista Hill, where you can see the sea, to see all that you can see!

Go visit Mar Vista Hill and tweet a pic of the ocean with the hashtag #EpicCicLAviaTour!

15. State Route CA 187
Venice Boulevard between Lincoln Blvd and the 10 Freeway

You may or may not know that Venice Boulevard, in addition to being a two-time CicLAvia route, was also a Pacific Electric Red Car line, but did you know it's also a designated California State Highway?

In 1964, CalTrans designated State Route 187 starting at the Pacific Ocean. In 1994, it was shortened to the 5.4 miles from Lincoln Boulevard to the 10 Freeway.

The number "187" also happens to be a reference to the California Penal Code designation for murder, which is most likely why a young, '90s-era, pre-commercialized Snoop Dogg is standing by the sign in this photo.

17. Mario's Brothers Market
12904 Venice Blvd, Mar Vista

No deep history behind this neighborhood Mexican corner market on Venice and Beethoven, but the name caught The Militant's eye. He's seen some of you CicLAvians ride in CicLAvia in Mario/Nintendo cosplay, so this would be a perfect photo/selfie opportunity.

While you're here, support the business and buy something inside. Maybe it really is owned by a Mario. Or a Luigi. Ask where The Princess is. If they're successful enough, they might move to a larger location and rename themselves "Super Mario's Brothers."

Tweet a pic of yourself (or your group) in front of Mario's Brothers with the hashtag "#EpicCicLAviaTour"!

18. Venice High School
13000 Venice Blvd, Venice

Venice's namesake secondary school was one of three on-location sites for Rydell High in the 1978 motion picture Greaseand was the school scene in the Britney Spears video for her debut hit, "...Baby One More Time." The main Moderne-style school buildings, built in 1935-37  were designed by local architects John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley, who also designed the Griffith Observatory.
The campus is also famous for its statue of legendary Hollywood actress and famous alumna Myrna Loy at the front of the school. Other famous alumni include Beau Bridges, Crispin Glover, the late Ivory Queen of Soul, Teena Marie and In-N-Out Burger founder Harry Snyder. Go Gondoliers!

19. Old Venice Civic Center
681-685 Venice Blvd, Venice

Venice, originally founded as part of Santa Monica, seceded from that city in 1911 and for the next 15 years, functioned as an incorporated city. In 1926, due to political mismanagement and crumbling infrastructure, it was annexed into the City of Los Angeles. Its vestigial remnants of its civic government still remain, though. The old Venice City Hall still stands at 685 Venice Blvd (pictured), now the venue for Beyond Baroque Theatre. Next door on 681 Venice Blvd is the old Venice Police Station, now the home of the Social Public Arts Resource Center (SPARC), the community arts nonprofit that spearheaded the modern urban mural movement. It's interesting to note that both of these government buildings were adaptively re-used for arts purposes. The Militant is looking at the old LAPD Parker Center in DTLA and wonders if it could make some sort of badass performing arts venue...

20. Electric Avenue
Electric Ave and Venice Blvd, Venice

No, '80s singer Eddy Grant didn't rock down to this street to take it higher (VROOOM!) But this street was so-named because it was one of the old Pacific Electric Red Car rights-of-way, which included Pacific Avenue (of course) and Venice Blvd. The railway, of course, was built to serve (and sell property in and around) Abbot Kinney's Venice of America development. Rock on to Electric Avenue towards Brooks Avenue and look to your left for actual remnants of Pacific Electric tracks at Millwood Avenue, Westminster Avenue and Broadway. If that kind of stuff excites you, be on the look out for The Militant's upcoming Pacific Electric Archaeology Map (view the preview edition map here, including Venice sites). And then we take it higher (Oh yeah)!

21. Abbot Kinney Blvd
Abbot Kinney Blvd between Washington Blvd and Main Street

New arrivals to Los Angeles are likely oblivious to the fact that Venice's upscale arts and boutique corridor is technically one of its newest streets. Until 1992, that stretch was confusingly known as West Washington Blvd, which, along with Washington Street and Washington Way, was a source of disorientation among motorists. A small group of business owners lobbied to re-name the stretch after the community's founder. Ignorance of local history was so bad back then, that then-City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who grew up in the Westside, asked aloud at a Los Angeles City Council committee meeting, "Who is Abbot Kinney?" (Really, Zev?!?!) Thankfully, due to a street name change, and other things, we're a lot better at our Los Angeles history.

22. Venice Of America Centennial Park
Venice & Abbot Kinney boulevards

This park, which neighbors the Venice-Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library and built for Venice's centennial year of 2005,  was made on the very same median that carried the Pacific Electric Railway tracks, and in honor of that, the design on the park's paving resembles that of railroad tracks. The Militant went there in a famous bike ride to Venice Beach in 2008 and encountered a bunch of ducks walking in this park.

23. Venice Traffic Circle and the Lost Canals
Grand and Windward avenues, Venice

Traffic circles, or "roundabouts" as they're known in Britain, are not a common sight in the US, much less Los Angeles, though a dozen or so are known to exist here (more in a future post). So what up with this one? This part of Venice was part of Abbot Kinney's original "Venice of America," replete with its own canals. But unlike their Italian counterpart, these canals were not physically connected to the ocean, and the water had gone stagnant and kinda gross. By the 1920s, the Venice city infrastructure was falling apart (which meant little resources or political will to maintain the canals), and the automobile had started to conquer the streets of the Southland. So they were filled in circa 1929. The CicLAvia course on Grand Avenue was once the Grand Canal, and the traffic circle was formerly the location of a large saltwater swimming lagoon. The surviving canals, located south of Venice Blvd, were built by a different developer a couple years after Kinney's canals opened.

24. Windward Hotel/Pacific Electric Station
Windward and Pacific avenues, Venice

The Windward Hotel, now a traveler's hostel, is not only the oldest hotel building in Venice, but its eastern ground floor entrance also functioned as Venice's Pacific Electric station. For the first half of the 20th Century, Venice was a popular western destination for the Red Cars, and the preferred way to go. North of Windward Way, there was no Pacific Avenue, but a dedicated "Trolleyway" for the Red Cars. When passengers disembarked at the Venice station before 1929, they were treated to an awe-inspiring view of the large lagoon (now the traffic circle) and canals just across the street, welcoming them to Venice of America. Now, for CicLAvia, when you arrive here, use your imagination and pretend to be transported back to a time when you didn't need cars to get around. On this day, it won't be that hard.

25. Pacific Electric Grand Canal Bridge
Grand Canal at Venice Blvd, Venice

Ride just a few blocks down Pacific Avenue to Venice Boulevard to see Venice's characteristic namesake -- it's system of canals, built in 1905 by the aforementioned Mr. Kinney. The ornate concrete bridge spanning two side of the Los Angeles City parking lot near the Grand Canal is the original bridge that carried the Pacific Electric Venice Short Line tracks until 1950.