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Got Arts?: South L.A. Weekend Happenings

cocoartfestivalWhen South L.A. does arts festivals, it does them right.

Their efforts at community-building and/or place-making are almost always rooted in the history of the area and the experience of its people. And, as part of that experience includes the lack of traditional outlets for expression, both the events and the works are often infused with an urgency and a sincerity that helps attendees feel they are participating in an important communicative process.

Tonight, for example, Community Coalition (a social justice-oriented non-profit) caps off a week of events with the South L.A. Art Festival. Last weekend, they played host to an event commemorating the life and death of Trayvon Martin (the African-American teen shot to death in a “stand your ground” case in Florida). Tuesday, their “Artivist Forum” brought together artists, community organizers, and community members to dialogue on creative solutions to the incarceration of black and brown youth, among other issues.

Tonight, they invite the community to come out for a family-oriented street fair beginning at 5 p.m. The fair will feature art, food, music, and other community resources and will take place in front of their headquarters, at 8101 S. Vermont Ave. For more information, click here.

Tomorrow, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival kicks off its 19th year in the historic section of Central Ave. around 11 a.m. (one of the future hubs of December’s CicLAvia). Local youth will be the first of the performers, with both long-standing greats and scene-stealing up-and-comers soon to follow.

The festival spotlights the corridor which was central to African-American arts and culture in the early 20th century. The Dunbar Hotel — the newly reborn anchor site of the festival, located at 42nd and Central — was the only major hotel in the city that welcomed African-Americans for decades. A hub for dignitaries, intellectuals, and writers, including W.E.B Du Bois and Langston Hughes, its jazz club became world-famous and the anchor of a vibrant scene along Central in the 1930s and ’40s, attracting greats like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles.

The festival is easily accessible via the Blue Line (at the Vernon stop) and runs both Saturday and Sunday, between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. along Central Ave. between 43rd and King Blvd. More information about it and performance schedules can be found here.

Finally, Leimert Park Village (the other CicLAvia hub) will be hosting its monthly artwalk between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 27th.

On the last Sunday of every month, Leimert Park plays host to an eclectic festival of art, drumming, music, spoken word, food, and family. It’s one of my favorite regular events, as it effectively and consistently uses public space to put the focus on unity and community. You can perhaps feel that best in the drum circle, where the young, the old, the homeless, and the well-heeled celebrate music and dance together. Or in the warm and hearty handshakes with which community members greet each other in the streets. It is also evident in the art, which collectively often depicts a celebration of community, heritage, and empowerment.

With new arts venues popping up and Leimert Park’s proposal for a People St. Plaza being approved to enter the design phase, the community is on the move. Come see what is new at 43rd Pl. and Leimert Blvd. For more information on the event and other happenings in the area, please click here.

 

 

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Today’s Headlines

  • Metro Board Approves Skansa Contractor Team to Build Westside Subway (LAT, The Source)
  • Editorial: Smart Growth Is the Future of the San Gabriel Valley (SGV Tribune)
  • More on Metro Sheriff Audit (LAT)
  • Carnage: Three-Car Crash in Granada Hills Kills One and Closes Freeway (LAT)
  • Cedillo Take Note: Vehicle Flips on North Figueroa (Eastsider)
  • Reckless Driving Now Applies to Cyclists, How About Cars? (SBSF)
  • What If We Had Raised the Gas Tax? (Strong Towns)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Today’s Headlines

  • Talk Radio Hosts Ridicule North Figueroa Safety (KFI - starts at minute 11)
  • Gold Line Foothill Extension 75 Percent Complete (Curbed)
  • A Questionable Link Between Reduced Drunk Driving and Uber Usage (KPCC)
  • WeHo Looks To Program To Improve Crosswalk Safety (WeHoVille)
  • Cities Around the World Doing Big Bicycle Infrastructure (Gizmodo)
  • Speed Cameras Work – Speeding Cut Around Parks and Schools (SB Chicago)
  • Animation of Growth of NYC Bike Network 1888 To Today (SB NYC)
  • Dancing in the Streets – Car-Free Lombard Edition (SB SF)

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Hit-and-Run on Cesar Chavez Sidewalk Kills 66-Year-Old Woman

The site of a hit-and-run last week. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The site of a hit-and-run last week. Click to enlarge. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Normally, you think of a sidewalk as a relatively safe place to be.

They have their problems, and are often in pretty lousy shape, but they usually manage to provide a sufficient buffer between pedestrians and the cars whizzing by in the adjacent roadway.

Not so in East L.A. last Wednesday, when the driver of a Red Dodge Durango came barreling down the sidewalk at Cesar Chavez Ave. and Eastman, injuring two women, one fatally.

I first heard about the incident from Jon Leibowitz, who was doing outreach for CicLAvia along the October route. He was in shock from having seen a truck slam into people in a busy business district and keep going.

Shop owners in the area confirmed it had been a horrific scene.

The manager of the bakery (the far sign, at left) said she heard a terrible noise and looked up to see a truck flying past her shop’s window, scraping the bricks and damaging the security gates as it went.

It was so violent, she said in Spanish. So violent.

We heard screaming, she continued. My first thought was for my son -- he had just walked out the door. We ran outside and that’s when we saw the women.

The two pedestrians, aged 66 and 49, had been knocked into the street.

The driver moved back into the roadway and disappeared. Read more…

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Lovely Art Installations Evoking Walking Placed in Hard-to-Walk-to Locations

The Walk a Mile in My Shoes public art installation at the intersection of Jefferson and Rodeo. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The Walk a Mile in My Shoes public art installation at the intersection of Jefferson and Rodeo features a bronze replica of Dr. King’s work boots. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

What do someone’s shoes tell us about them?

Some would argue quite a bit.

Others would argue that you need to actually spend some time inhabiting someone else’s shoes in order to really understand who they are and the journey they’ve been on.

Kim Abeles, the artist behind the ”Walk a Mile in My Shoes” public art installations at Jefferson Blvd./Rodeo Rd. and Rodeo Rd./Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., seems to believe both are true.

Walk a mile in my shoes... Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Walk a mile in my shoes… Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Inspired by “the wish to walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who walked in solidarity for the civil rights movement” as a way to know them and their struggles, she began looking for a photograph of King’s shoes.

Instead, she came a cross “a profound collection of shoes belonging to members of the peace marches” that had been collected by Xernona Clayton, a civil rights activist whose foundation was one of the forces behind the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in Atlanta.

Abeles used bronze casts of King’s work boots (above) and shoes worn at marches (below) to anchor her art pieces.

A bronze cast of shoes Dr. King wore to march for civil rights stands at Rodeo Rd. and King Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

A bronze cast of shoes Dr. King wore to march for civil rights stands at the intersection of Rodeo Rd. and King Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

She then used photographs of the shoes of others who played key roles in furthering civil rights to tell a richer story — one of an ongoing movement whose strength lies in diversity, empathy, creativity, and unwavering commitment to forward motion.

Some of the shoes featured at the Rodeo/King site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Some of the shoes featured at the Rodeo/King site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Some of the shoes I spotted at the Rodeo/King site included those of Rosa Parks, James Brown, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sidney Poitier, and Maya Angelou (for background on their efforts and those of others included in the piece, see here).

More interestingly, Abeles took the themes of inspiration, empathy, and “walking” as forward movement a mile down the road to the Jefferson/Rodeo site, where the featured shoes belong to a diverse set of local activists who have made unique contributions to community building.

It was fun to see the names of people I recognized and admired, like pedestrian advocate Daveed Kapoor or Richard Montoya (below), the co-founder of Culture Clash and man behind Chavez Ravine and Water and Power.

The shoes of Richard Montoya at the Rodeo/Jefferson site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The shoes of Richard Montoya at the Rodeo/Jefferson site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The overhaul of the spacious traffic island at the Jefferson/Rodeo site allowed for the shoes to be put on pedestals, as it were, and for the inclusion of a blurb about each of the activists featured. The smaller space at the Rodeo/King site meant that activists’ affiliations had to be listed on a plaque on the structure holding King’s shoes.

Both are lovely sites and great reminders that there are many ways to serve your community.

The Rodeo/Jefferson site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The Rodeo/Jefferson site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

My only issue with the installations was their placement.  Read more…

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Advocates Gather in Leimert Park to Hear about CicLAvia Route through South L.A. Planned for December

He of many hats, Tafarai Bayne, speaks about the ways South LA can benefit from hosting December's CicLAvia. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Tafarai Bayne, he of many hats, speaks about the ways South LA can benefit from hosting December’s CicLAvia. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

South L.A. residents and advocates gathered at the KAOS Network in Leimert Park last night to learn more about CicLAvia and how the 6-mile route planned through the area on December 7th, 2014, would affect the community.

Staff from CicLAvia gave presentations explaining “ciclovias” and describing how the car-free, open streets events had first originated in concerns about the unhealthy conditions of city streets.

As people embraced them, they explained, the events evolved into important opportunities for community building. Open streets events here and around the country are now seen as key to creating vibrant public spaces, promoting active transportation and good health, bringing together diverse populations, and giving residents a fun and safe way explore new corners of their city.

And, they reassured the audience, the event is inclusive and welcomes pedestrians, skateboarders, and anyone else interested in leaving their car at home for a day.

Then, Tafarai Bayne, former CicLAvia board member and current member of the Board of Transportation Commissioners, put up a (still-being-finalized) map of the route that will run between Leimert Park and the Jazz District (below).

He told the group that, as it appears at the moment, Leimert Park Village (at the end of the route, at bottom left) will serve as the anchor of one hub and the other, Central Ave., will be closed between Washington and Vernon.

King Blvd. will serve as the connective (and, many will be pleased to know, flat) corridor between the two.

Organizers had originally considered staging some of the route along Crenshaw so that event participants could more easily access the Expo Line, but the construction of the Crenshaw Line has left much of the street in very poor condition.

The latest version of the South L.A. route runs largely along King Blvd. between Leimert Park Village and the Jazz District.

The latest version of the South L.A. route runs largely along King Blvd. between Leimert Park Village and the Jazz District. Yellow points signal crossing points for cars. Central will be closed between Washington and Vernon. Click to enlarge.

The route is exciting because it will offer families in park-poor South L.A. the opportunity to turn their streets into a giant park for a day — one that they can play in as they see fit. Given how much the community enjoys the King Day parade along King Blvd., I have no doubt that it will be a smashing success.

But it is even more exciting because it is so rare that South L.A. is considered a destination to be celebrated.

That step forward represents a personal and emotional victory for advocates like Bayne, one of South L.A.’s more recognizable ambassadors.

Read more…

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Gentri-flyer or Gentri-folleto? Streetsblog Translates Story on Gentrification in Boyle Heights

Behold, the most tone-deaf gentri-flyer in the history of man. (Photo source unknown)

Behold, the most tone-deaf gentri-flyer in the history of man. (Photo source unknown)

“What? More gentri-flyer drama?” you ask upon seeing the infamous flyer pop up again.

No, not at the moment.

Instead, in the hopes of continuing to facilitate the wider dialogue around gentrification that the flyer prompted, we translated the original May 28th story, “Gentri-flyer Sets Off Social Media Storm in Boyle Heights,” into Spanish. It made sense to do so, considering that many of those most likely to be affected by rising housing costs in Boyle Heights are Spanish-speaking. The discussion of their needs and what makes them vulnerable will be important in shaping the community’s search for policy solutions aimed at strengthening the economic base of the area and preventing displacement.

To read the Spanish version of the article or share it with Spanish-speaking folks you know, please click here. For the (English) follow-on to the original story, describing some of the history of turnover in Boyle Heights and where the community hopes to take the dialogue next, please click here.

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City Planners Listen to Stakeholders Regarding Potential for Bike Lanes Along Boyle and Soto

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

As I pedaled my way up the hill towards Mariachi Plaza, I had to dodge a skateboarder coming straight at me at a rather significant clip.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a skateboarder in the middle of the road there.

The eastbound stretch of 1st between Boyle Ave. and Pecan St. is quite wide, and the skaters usually turn onto Pecan or hop back onto the sidewalk and out of traffic at the Pecan/1st intersection. The thrill of an unfettered downhill is brief, in other words, but apparently worth the risk of skating against traffic.

That’s who needs special lanes, I thought as I crossed Boyle and picked up the 1st St. bike lane. There are more skaters than bikers, and they need to be able to get around easily, too. 

I was thinking about the possibilities for community-specific road reconfigurations because I was on my way to a roundtable meeting to discuss the possible implementation of bike lanes on Soto St. and Boyle Ave., two of the 19 streets on the 2010 Bike Plan’s Second Year slate of projects. The roundtable, run largely by David Somers of City Planning and LADOT Bikeways Engineer Tim Fremaux, was the city’s first stab at connecting with a few Boyle Heights stakeholders and gathering specific feedback regarding mobility and other issues along those streets.

Screen shot of the 2010 Bike Plan's lanes planned for Soto (from Huntington to 8th) and Boyle (from 5th to 8th).

Screen shot of the 2010 Bike Plan’s lanes planned for Soto (from Huntington to 8th) and Boyle (from 5th to 8th). Click to enlarge.

I was looking forward to hearing other stakeholders’ thoughts on the lanes. Although I didn’t expect any of the participants to offer push-back, I knew they would be aware of the concerns that others in the community might raise when the city looked for support for the project from the wider public.

First among those concerns is the view that bike lanes can act as a gateway drug for gentrification.

When the city comes a-calling in a long-marginalized community and only offers the one thing that is at the bottom of that community’s lengthy list of needs, it’s not unusual for some to be suspicious of the city’s intentions.

The popular “bikes mean business” mantra doesn’t help allay fears, either, as it doesn’t necessarily hold up in lower-income communities. There, bicycles can signify of a lack of resources, and long-standing businesses catering to hyper-local needs are not the ones well-heeled cyclists are likely to favor (see the discussion of the gentri-flyer debacle for more on this).

Another key concern is that Boyle Heights is a largely (bus) transit- and pedestrian-heavy community and that it needs upgrades to its pedestrian and bus infrastructure much more than it needs bike lanes that facilitate connections to rail.

This is not to say there aren’t a lot of cyclists in the area — there are. There is a sizable number of commuters, as well as a growing contingent of youth that regularly ride for both transport and recreation.

But they aren’t as visible a presence as the pedestrians. And it is often economics and community mobility patterns (i.e. moms needing to run errands with a few kids in tow) that keep many reliant on walking, skateboarding, and/or transit, not the lack of bike infrastructure–meaning that the community may be unsure that it would reap any benefits from the presence of the lanes. Read more…

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The DOGGR Days of Summer: DOGGR Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Fracking Regulations

Early drilling operations in Baldwin Hills (photo courtesy of L.A. Times, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2008/10/theres-been-muc.html)

Early drilling operations in Baldwin Hills (photo courtesy of L.A. Times, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2008/10/theres-been-muc.html)

It’s that time of year again.

Time for the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), the agency tasked with regulating the Oil & Gas industry, to once again skip the home to one of the largest urban oil fields in the U.S. on its listening tour.

The occasion? DOGGR is seeking public comment on the latest version of the proposed regulations (released mid-June) regarding the use of unconventional well stimulation practices in oil and gas production.

Let me see if I can put what that entails into English.

With last year’s signing into law of Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), the highly imperfect but significant first step forward in regulating unconventional oil and gas drilling practices in California, DOGGR was officially tasked with taking on some of the very regulatory functions it had shied away from for years. These included defining a range of unconventional drilling practices (and related terms) and adopting rules and regulations specific to those practices that operators must be able to comply with to receive a permit to drill. The regulations, the bill specifies, are to be completed by January 1, 2015.

In addition to requiring operators seek specific permits for fracking and other unconventional practices — a first in the history of drilling in California — SB 4 orders the State to conduct an environmental impact report (EIR) pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), analyzing the effects of hydraulic fracturing statewide by July 15, 2015 (DOGGR’s broad Notice of Preparation under CEQA can be found here).

This is also a first, as fracking operations have generally gotten around being subjected to CEQA reviews.

That doesn’t make SB 4′s approach perfect — it appears fracking can continue unabated, even while testing to determine whether it is safe is still underway (especially with the defeat of SB 1132 in May). But, it is still a major step forward, considering that, as recently as 2011, Governor Jerry Brown fired Elena Miller (who reviewed drilling permits at DOGGR) and Derek Chernow (acting director of the DoC), for slowing down the permitting process and suggesting that fracking operations should be subjected to CEQA.

The different deadlines for the completion of the regulations and the EIR are one of the many things activists point to as a being problematic. Why, for example, would the state require that regulations for drilling practices be put in place before studies examining the safety of those very practices are completed? And, will future drilling operations be subjected to project-specific CEQA reviews (and therefore a public process)? Much will depend on what comes out of the EIR.

Other problems quickly surfaced in the first set of draft regulations for public comment that DOGGR released last November, two months after the bill was signed into law. Read more…

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Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project Takes Another Step Forward

The new bridge appears to make space for cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Source:

The new bridge appears to make space for cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Source: Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement project

At a press briefing yesterday morning, Councilmember Huizar and representatives from the Bureau of Engineering (BoE) and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) announced that “the planning and building” of the Sixth Street Viaduct is progressing “substantially.”

As proof, they released two new renderings of the bridge illustrating the efforts of the BoE, the design team lead HNTB, architect Michael Maltzan, the joint venture of Skanska and Stacy and Witbeck, and Huizar’s office to refine the design vision of a ribbon of arches across the entire length of the new Viaduct. The arches will soar up to 60 feet, throughout, and two will feature ascending stairs (rendering below), offering patrons unique views of the city, river, and park space below.

To tell you the truth, though, the briefing took me by surprise.

I didn’t even find out about it until after the fact, something that I find odd for a few reasons.

For one, this is one of the most iconic structures in the city and is widely beloved, including by many in Boyle Heights who have been very vocal in asking that the city and design team do more to involve the community in the process of determining the bridge’s future.

For another, this $401 million project is the largest of the BoE’s $1 billion bridge project portfolio, and will have a significant impact on folks on both sides of the bridge and below it during the four years of construction and beyond (should it impact housing prices, for example).

And, third, over the past couple of months, I had tried contacting project people through the website and facebook regarding project updates, all to no avail.

I had been particularly curious about the progress of the project because, at a public meeting on the project last year, the crowd had been told that the design would be 90% completed by January of 2014 and that a community briefing would be held at that time so the public could review the design. Participants also learned that the reconfiguration of intersections that would be impacted by increased traffic flows once demolition was underway (below) was to have begun this summer.

The intersections slated for improvements to help accommodate the increase in traffic they will see during the period the viaduct is closed. Source: Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project

The intersections slated for improvements to help accommodate the increase in traffic they will see during the period the viaduct is closed. Click to Enlarge. Source: Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project

Those plans and the briefing never materialized. Nor did the work on the intersections.

Instead, it now appears intersection improvements and reconfigurations will likely begin in the fall. And, some time in August (or later), the comprehensive set of updated Viaduct renderings will be completed and presented for public review at a briefing.

Notably, although only two renderings were released yesterday, they do seem to signal a slight shift in the tone of the project. Read more…