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Make It Mar Vista: Pop Up Bike Lanes and Parklets at Westside Business Festival


This Saturday, the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce is hosting “Make It Mar Vista” along Venice Boulevard starting at Centinela Avenue and heading west. The event is the area’s newish small business showcase, highlighting one of the Westside’s more walkable corridors with small shops and locally-owned restaurants.

But this year’s event is also another outreach event for the Mayor’s Great Streets Program on the Westside. Streetsblog has already covered how Councilmember Mike Bonin and Westside community and business leaders have led a multi-faceted public process for Great Streets planning that is unrivaled throughout the city, and Make It Mar Vista is another example of planning beyond the public meeting.

Bonin’s office, the Mayor’s office, the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce, and the Mar Vista Community Council have all worked together to create a progressive Great Streets plan, which will include a protected bike lane, improved crossings and sidewalks, and possibly even a parklet. Make It Mar Vista will have pop-up versions of the protected bike lane and parklet so residents, businesses, and visitors will get an idea of what the Great Street will look like once the redesign begins.

“Make It Mar Vista is exactly the type of programming we need on the Venice Boulevard Great Street,” said Bonin. “By encouraging people to spend time at our local businesses and experience the street in a new way, Make it Mar Vista helps foster the sense of community that furthers long-term investment in neighborhoods.”

According to event programmers, creating a community feel along the corridor is a shared-goal of Make It Mar Vista and the Great Streets Program.

“What we love best about Small Business Saturday is how it supports the local community,” writes Sara Auerswald, the founding president of the business district.

“These businesses are owned by our friends and neighbors, after all. And this year we’ve made it into a festival on the Great Street with art projects, live entertainment and, of course, the bike lane pop-up.”

Make It Mar Vista is working with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition to highlight the importance of the event. Bicyclists will kick off Make it Mar Vista by riding on the stretch of Venice Blvd designated as one of the Mayor’s 15 Great Streets. This family-friendly bike ride is a flat, 2-mile round trip along Venice Blvd and will be led by LACBC ride marshals and cyclists with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Cyclists, meet at 10 a.m. at the southeast corner of Venice & Inglewood, roll at 10:30 a.m. More on the full program for the event can be found after the jump or at the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce website.

Read more…


Eyes On the Street: Scramble Crosswalks Debut At Hollywood And Highland


A big X marks the spot: pedestrians scramble yesterday at the newly revamped intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

It may be one of those made-up statistics, but there is a repeated truism that millions of people visit Hollywood Boulevard every year, and they spend an average of about fifteen minutes there. Sure, there are the Walk of Fame, some beautiful historic theaters and other noble buildings, Metro Red Line subway stops, costumed performers, street musicians… but Hollywood Boulevard is mostly tacky souvenir shops, museums in name only, and sad restaurants one would never return to, all along a massive car-choked stroad.

Despite millions of tourists milling around on foot, there is no place to sit, or to hang out. There are hardly even places to shoot respectable selfies.

All that has not changed overnight, but the city implemented a pedestrian upgrade yesterday at Hollywood’s most prominent intersection: Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds, a marching band, and tens of thousands of pedestrians (most of whom just happened to be passing through) opened the city’s latest pedestrian scramble crosswalks.

Similar to intersections in downtown Pasadena, fronting USC and UCLA, and elsewhere, Hollywood pedestrians can now cross diagonally during a phase when all cars are stopped. The upgrade is part of the city’s inter-departmental Vision Zero improvements program, in which L.A. has committed to ending all traffic fatalities over the next ten years.

Hollywood and Highland

Lights. Camera. Scramble.

Read more…


South L.A. Town Hall Ends in Protests but Residents Hope Dialogue with Mayor Is Just Beginning

Mayor Eric Garcetti tried to pacify activists by discussing his efforts to humanize policing just before the South L.A. Town Hall was finally shut down. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Mayor Eric Garcetti tried to pacify activists by discussing his efforts to humanize policing just before the South L.A. Town Hall was finally shut down. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Really? A helicopter?? I sighed as I heard the aircraft swoop in low and fast outside Holman United Methodist Church Monday night as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first ever South L.A. Town Hall came to a rather unceremonious close.

It was a little after 8 p.m., and pleas from an exasperated Reverend Kelvin Sauls that those “interested in having a civil conversation…remain here” while the rest left in peace had fallen on deaf ears. When members of the Black Lives Matter movement — who, throughout the meeting, had turned their backs on Garcetti and his staff when they spoke, interrupted speakers, broken into chants of “Black Lives, they matter here!,” and ascended to the stage to take the mic — began shouting Garcetti down in earnest, dialogue was finally rendered impossible.

The next thing we knew, the mayor was being whisked off the stage and out the door, buffered on all sides by city staffers and police. The meeting was effectively over. Adams Blvd. between 5th and Arlington was quickly shut down as protesters surged outside to surround the mayor’s car and the aforementioned helicopter arrived shortly thereafter.

Exchanging glances with some of the South L.A. friends and community advocates in attendance, it appeared we had some of the same questions on our minds:

What were we supposed to make of what just happened? And, just how hysterical was the coverage of the meeting going to be the next day?

As for the latter: pretty hysterical.

Right wingers from and The Blaze (neither of which was present at the event), wrote of the mayor being “forced to flee” the event and needing to be “escorted to safety,” giving their following the ammunition needed to declare the protesters to be (in some of the more G-rated comments, at least) jobless “thugs,” “racists,” and “terrorists.”

Local coverage of the event wasn’t a whole lot better, focusing on the “chaos,” the meeting as a “hotbed of civil disobedience,” the “aggression” of speakers, and the actions of activist Jasmine Richards, who jumped on Garcetti’s car, prompting viewers and readers to post many of the same kinds of ugly denouncements found on the right wing websites. Weirdest of all was seeing a Fox11 reporter, who had not been at the meeting the night before and who had absolutely no idea what was behind the protests he claimed had “nearly ambushed” the mayor, stand outside a city administration building the next morning and wonder on air why no protesters had shown up to heckle the mayor as he met with HUD secretary Julian Castro about homelessness.

None of which is surprising, of course, but is disheartening all the same.

As for the former query — what were we supposed to make of what just happened? — the answer was much more complicated.

These were South L.A. residents and advocates. There was nobody I spoke with that did not understand where the anger was coming from. While the core group of protesters may have been small (anywhere between 20 and 50 people), their concerns had the empathy of many in attendance. At least, up to a point.

When Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State L.A. and organizer for Black Lives Matter, had taken the mic toward the end of the meeting and explained why people were turning their backs on the man she called the “back door mayor,” there were nods and murmurs of understanding.

Black Lives Matter had consistently asked the mayor to sit down with them in quarterly town halls to work with them on addressing police brutality, police reform, and community empowerment. Over the summer (just prior to the Police Commission’s ruling on the fatal police shooting of Ezell Ford), they had even staked out Garcetti’s home trying to get him to agree to a meeting, only to have him sneak out his back door on his way back East to do some fundraising. Abdullah told town hall attendees that because all their requests had been ignored — they had not even been formally invited to the event, despite having been the ones that had asked for it — they were resolved not to sit down until they were given seats on the stage (which they eventually did with the help of transportation advocate Damien Goodmon).

“We are appreciative of this space,” she said, “but [Black Lives Matter] created this space.”

It was a claim many of the elders in the community might have disputed. Some I spoke with after the meeting were shaking their heads over the fact that they found themselves confronting so many of the very same issues they had gone up against as activists in their youth, that young men were still dying at the hands of police and there was still no accountability. And Reverend Sauls, an important advocate for the South L.A. community on a wide range of issues since his arrival at Holman in 2012, had been the one to moderate a meeting between the Black Lives Matter advocates and the mayor at Holman this past July.

But her larger point stood: they were being excluded from a process that they felt they had helped set in motion. And hearing the mayor talk about the importance of respectful dialogue and communication was only adding insult to injury. Read more…


City Hall Vision Zero Forum Foreshadows Culture Change for L.A.

National Vision Zero advocate Leah Shahum speaking at L.A. City Hall last night. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

National Vision Zero advocate Leah Shahum speaking at L.A. City Hall last night. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night, the city of Los Angeles welcomed national safe streets advocate Leah Shahum at a forum discussing what Vision Zero will mean for Los Angeles.

For the uninitiated, Vision Zero is a road safety policy that adopts the goal of zero traffic deaths. That zero applies to everyone: people walking, driving, riding, etc. Vision Zero stems from the principle that traffic deaths are preventable and unacceptable.

The concept originated in Sweden in the 1990s and has spread to many cities in the United States. When the City Council approved Mobility Plan 2035 last month, Los Angeles became the 9th U.S. city to adopt Vision Zero. The reach of L.A.’s Vision Zero policy was extended to all city departments by Mayor Eric Garcetti via a recent mayoral executive directive. Garcetti’s directive mandates that numerous city departments work together with community groups to reduce L.A. traffic deaths to zero by 2025. The directive also includes an interim goal of reducing traffic deaths by 20 percent by 2017.

Yesterday’s forum was introduced by livability champion Councilmember Jose Huizar, who sounded an optimistic note about changes underway in the city. After adoption of Vision Zero in the Mobility Plan, Huizar declared that new ways of thinking mean “no more pilots.”

Leah Shahum heads the national non-profit Vision Zero Network. Below are some key points in her presentation:  Read more…

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Metro Board Passes Ridley-Thomas Motions: Loan Fund, College Student Pass

California's Strategic Growth Council has awarded the city of Los Angeles a half-million dollar grant for a study that will make it easier to build infill housing in Transit Priority Areas, similar to this transit-oriented development above the Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Under a motion passed today, Metro will provide loan support to transit-oriented businesses, such as this ground-floor retail above the Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At this morning’s Metro Board of Directors meeting, County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas shepherded the passage of two worthwhile motions that advance local livability. The motions are detailed below:

Community College Student Passes

The board unanimously approved a Ridley-Thomas motion that directs Metro’s CEO to report back in 60 days regarding current college TAP programs and the feasibility of piloting a “Universal Community College Student Transit Pass Program.” Benefits of these types of programs include increased transit ridership, reduced driving, and reduced traffic congestion.

It is not clear how student passes would be funded, though the motion includes a number of possible funding options:

In addition to the “opt-in” increase in student registration fees, the costs of such a program could be subsidized by the college, as it will reduce parking demands. In addition, Metro could solicit additional resources through the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee. Later this Fall, the Metro must also provide a proposal to the State of California on how we propose to spend approximately $30 million of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund/Low Carbon Transit Operations Program revenue that is expected to be allocated to the agency through the State’s Cap and Trade Program; a revenue source that is anticipated to grow in the coming years. Given the focus on increasing ridership, this may also be a viable funding source for a Universal Pass program.

Transit-Oriented Housing/Business Loan Fund

As a result of a November, 2014, motion authored by then-Chair L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as the leadership of new CEO Phil Washington, Metro is stepping up its involvement in affordable housing. Among recent developments on this, Metro has upped its targets for affordable housing in joint development projects, and retooled its development policies to allow discounted land prices to incentivize affordability. In March, Metro set aside $10 million ($2 million per year for five years) for a loan fund primarily supporting transit-oriented affordable housing. The way this fund will work is still taking shape.

Read more…


Equity, the Mobility Plan, and the Myth of Luxury-Loving Lane Stealers

A man waits for a bus in the shade of a telephone pole on Figueroa Ave., just north of 85th St. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A man waits for a bus in the shade of a telephone pole on Figueroa Ave., just north of 85th St. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

It’s hard to take some of the hysteria surrounding the City Council’s approval of Mobility Plan 2035 this past August very seriously.

And by “hysteria,” I mean the lawsuit and most recent claims by Fix the City president James O’Sullivan, who told MyNewsLA that the city “want[s] to make driving our cars unbearable by stealing traffic lanes from us on major streets and giving those stolen lanes to bike riders and buses,” and that, worse still, “…not all of us — in fact, very few of us — have the luxury of being able to ride to work on a bike or bus.”

Oh, yes. All those transit-dependent people luxuriating on bikes and buses, stealing your lanes. How very selfish they are, indeed.

I’m sure that at this very moment, those very transit users are rubbing their hands together in collective selfish glee as they stand, sweating through their work and school clothes in 90-degree heat at a filthy sun-drenched bus stop while waiting for a bus that is late because it is stuck behind car traffic. In fact, they are probably high-fiving the sweaty cyclists riding past them on the sidewalk as we speak.

Some people are just so selfish.

Shameless luxuriating at S. Flower St., just south of Adams. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Shameless luxuriating at a S. Flower St. bus stop, just south of Adams. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

* * *

The crux of most arguments against the Mobility Plan generally lies in the notion that the needs of the many (beleaguered drivers) are being subjected to the whims of the few (mostly arrogant/entitled hipsters) — a claim supported by census data suggesting that only 1% of folks in Los Angeles County ride bikes to work and just 11% use transit.

Which, I’ll admit, can sound pretty damning.

At least on the surface. (And as long as you don’t consider the possibility of people switching over to transit or cycling as more and better infrastructure for both goes in as part of the Mobility Plan [PDF]. But I digress.)

When you think about what those numbers mean on the ground, you have a completely different story on your hands. One that suggests that those doing the complaining are (inadvertently, I hope) advocating for the holding of lower-income Angelenos hostage to the very traffic conditions that they themselves find so abhorrent and destructive. Conditions that will continue to present challenges to lower-income residents who desperately want their neighborhoods and the children they raise there to grow and thrive and be healthy. And conditions that the complainants themselves had the means to escape.

Pshaw! Thou art a luxury-loving lane-stealer, you might be thinking to yourself.

Just bear with me.

And let’s take the case of Central Avenue in South Los Angeles — a street slated for a protected bike lane and road diet, per the Mobility Plan — and see why a different approach to mobility matters. Read more…


Lawsuits and Leadership: Where Is Mayor Garcetti On L.A. Mobility?

Can we get some clear leadership on L.A. safer, multi-modal future? Mayor Garcetti at last month's Vision Zero announcement. Photo: Joe Linton

Can we get some clear leadership on L.A. safer, multi-modal future? Mayor Garcetti at last month’s Vision Zero announcement. Photo: Joe Linton

Yesterday, the Orwellian-sounding Fix the City officially announced their lawsuit against the recently approved city of Los Angeles Mobility Plan 2035. The plan, unpopular with those that value car travel time over public safety, is controversial because of provisions that would, in some cases, remove mixed-use travel lanes (car lanes) or car parking to add bus, walk, and bicycle infrastructure, including traffic calming.

Fix the City’s lawsuit [PDF] claims that the plan is illegal under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because removing car lanes will increase car congestion and thus increase vehicle emissions. The lawsuit cherry-picks data from the plan’s car-centric environmental studies to make this claim. It cynically takes worst-case-scenario projections and presents them as fact.

In a particularly bald statement, published at MyNewsLA, Fix the City representatives claim that bicyclists are stealing lanes from drivers.

Fix the City Vice President James O’Sullivan said the city acted as a “social engineer” when approving the mobility plan.

“They want to make driving our cars unbearable by stealing traffic lanes from us on major streets and giving those stolen lanes to bike riders and buses,” O’Sullivan said.

“Don’t get me wrong — I love bike riders and buses,” he said. “But not all of us — in fact, very few of us — have the luxury of being able to ride to work on a bike or bus. We rely on our cars. If there were meaningful options to car travel that would be another matter. But there aren’t.”

Never mind that continuing nearly a century of wholesale investment in car infrastructure would also be “social engineering.”

What’s sad is just how put-out these 100 percent “rely on our cars” drivers tend to be. Why are they not grateful that they have been catered to for so long, and that Mobility Plan 2035 continues to favor expansion of car facilities, too, on its Vehicle Enhanced Network and plenty of widened streets?

While the lawsuit might sound somewhat like a parody, the funding behind it come from long-time foes of increasing the city’s transportation options from the Westside and people who successfully fought the Hollywood Plan.

These are well-heeled culture warriors, and they clearly don’t back down from a fight.

While the city prepares to defend its progressive mobility plan, it is also preparing a legal defense against a lawsuit challenging its retrograde redesign of the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. For those just joining us, community members filed a lawsuit against the bridge redesign because the new bridge would not have sidewalks needed to make the bridge accessible to all road users.

And this is where the city finds itself, in large part because it can’t seem to make up its mind about what kind of city it wants to be.

On one hand, you have Mayor Eric Garcetti and LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds out in the sun declaring a plan to reduce transportation related deaths to zero by 2025.

On the other, you have the Bureau of Engineering, with the support of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and Former Councilmember Tom LaBonge, arguing that a road diet on the bridge is untenable because of the possible unproven impacts it might have on car congestion, despite the safety concerns of the approved design. You have a trio of Councilmembers working to gut the Great Streets Initiative in their districts by taking road diets and bike lanes off the table, and even trying to get them removed from the Mobility Plan.

The filing of the lawsuit by Fix the City appears to be bad news for Angelenos interested in seeing Los Angeles become a safer, more equitable, more livable place – with more robust transportation options and safer streets.

However, it doesn’t need to be.

Instead, it could be a wake-up-call to Mayor Garcetti. Read more…


Is Bikelash Spreading to Some of the More Progressive Neighborhood Councils?

Last night, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council voted to “reconsider” its support of the recently-passed Mobility Plan for the City of Los Angeles. The plan, which places safety at the center of all transportation decisions instead of vehicle travel speed, has been a favorite target for conservative talk radio hosts, “Fix the City,” and now some Neighborhood Councils who favor the reverse.

LACBC has made bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard connecting to Expo and to UCLA a priority for years.

The LACBC has made bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard connecting to Expo and to UCLA a priority for years.

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, located in newly-elected David Ryu’s 4th Council District, isn’t the first Neighborhood Council to reconsider support for the Mobility Plan. The Mar Vista Neighborhood Council considered, and rejected, a motion from one of its transportation committee chairs to change its position from support for the mobility plan to opposition. Mar Vista’s vote, which occurred hours after the City Council passed the plan, was good politics given that their Westside City Councilmember was one of the leading forces in getting the plan passed.

However, there is still an opportunity for mischief.

Three Councilmembers are pushing amendments that would gut the plan in their districts. Councilmembers Curren Price and Paul Koretz are each proposing removing planned bike lanes from Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard. Both of these streets are designated as “Great Streets” by the L.A. Mayor’s Office. Taking bike infrastructure off the table on Westwood and Central seems a direct challenge to Vision Zero and Great Streets and the soaring rhetoric of Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Gil Cedillo has slipped into self-parody and is actually proposing to remove all planned infrastructure in his northeast Council District.

These amendments were tabled in August, but a report on their projected impact is due later this month. Because the last City Council Transportation Committee in September has been cancelled, and its schedule falls on the first night of Yom Kippur, these proposals will likely be debated again in October. Read more…


First Round of Great Streets Improvements Continue on Cesar Chavez; City Says Community Engagement on Horizon

The intersections slated for improvements are St. Louis, Chicago (south), Breed, Soto (in limited fashion), Mathews (just the crosswalks), and Fickett (south). Click to enlarge. Source: Great Streets

The intersections slated for the first round of improvements along Cesar Chavez include St. Louis, Chicago (south), Breed, Soto (in limited fashion), Mathews (just the crosswalks), and Fickett (south). Click to enlarge. Source: Great Streets

Tracking the Great Streets program as it has begun to unfold around town has, at times, been a bit of an exercise in frustration. Which never fails to strike me as odd, given Mayor Eric Garcetti’s declaration that the transformation of the 15 chosen streets into gathering places would happen via a “bottom-up and community-based process” in which the city “[worked] with neighborhood stakeholders to develop a vision for each corridor.”

But the incredibly robust public engagement process seen in Mar Vista — one in which the district’s very enthusiastic City Councilmember Mike Bonin used the plans as an opportunity to engage his constituents about how Venice Blvd. could be re-imagined, the neighborhood council created a Great Streets ad hoc committee, and community members were asked their opinion on a variety of potential improvements — has yet to be replicated elsewhere. [See the kinds of options offered to Mar Vista residents on everything from bikeways to crosswalks to bus amenities to street furniture to events/programming, below.]

Instead, the experience in other districts has been decidedly more uneven.

Along Central Avenue (South L.A.), there was practically no outreach early on; when outreach did finally get underway, it was to let folks know what had already been decided upon for their street, not to solicit their ideas on the options for how to transform the area.

The selection of N. Figueroa (Highland Park) as a Great Street seemed to give Councilmember Gil Cedillo the opening he was looking for to re-route the bike lane planned for the corridor, regardless of what some in the community wanted (and possibly inspiring Councilmember Curren Price to do the same for the bike lane planned for Central Ave.)

And along Cesar Chavez Ave. in Boyle Heights, curb extensions were first striped at St. Louis in early June — well before the neighborhood council was approached about what was happening in their neighborhood.

The wider community was also only introduced to the plans during a few outreach sessions — one on the corner where installation of the bulb-outs had already begun in late June and at a couple of open houses held in mid-August, long after installation was complete and work was already underway at another intersection on the street.

A planter, some paint, and plastic bollards create curb extensions at Cesar Chavez and St. Louis. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A planter, some paint, and plastic bollards create curb extensions at Cesar Chavez and St. Louis. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

When asked about the discrepancy in the processes, the mayor’s office responded via email that, “The work on Cesar Chavez was focused on pedestrian safety improvements and was accomplished through a partnership between LADOT [the L.A. Department of Transportation], Councilmember Huizar, and the Great Streets Studio. These kinds of basic improvements, similar to filling a pothole or fixing a sidewalk, may be made on a Great Street segment separately from the visioning process with the community.” Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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#DamienTalks Episode 15: LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds on Vision Zero

Reynolds speaks at Monday's press conference announcing the City of Los Angeles' commitment to Vision Zero. Photo: LADOT

Reynolds speaks at Monday’s press conference announcing the City of Los Angeles’ commitment to Vision Zero. Photo: LADOT

Today, #DamienTalks with Seleta Reynolds, the General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation about the City of Los Angeles’ recent announcement that L.A. will be a Vision Zero City.

In short, that means that all planning, construction and enforcement decisions that impact the transportation grid will be based on whether or not it helps the city reach a goal of zero traffic deaths.

In addition to being one of the city’s leaders and organizers on this issue, Reynolds has some experience with Vision Zero from her time in the Bay area. We ask her about this experience, what L.A.’s plans are, and the uncomfortable question about law enforcement’s role.

If you’re looking for more, here’s some of Joe Linton’s recent coverage of Vision Zero in Streetsblog Los Angeles: City Announces Vision Zero Strategy, Council Passes Mobility Plan Including Vision Zero, Sustainable City PLAn Includes Vision Zero, LADOT Focuses on Vision Zero in 2014 Annual Report.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the Damien Talks homepage on Libsyn.