Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to that neighborhood to the south of here...

On February 22nd, 1911, William Paul Whitsett, land development tycoon, threw a big party. The Pacific Electric ran trains out from Los Angeles to the middle of nowhere, in the vast expanse of the San Fernando Valley. Barbecue and land auctions...make sure you brought your checkbook! A new town's been built, and this time we did it right!

And so went the birth of Van Nuys, California, USA.

When my mom and dad brought me back from Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, a building which is now the big blue Scientology monstrosity and surmounted by a CROSS, (How tref!) they took me back to an apartment in Van Nuys. I really have no memory of that earliest memories are of the second place we lived, in Tarzana.

I'm actually a bit perturbed that no big plans were made to celebrate the Van Nuys Centennial. I mean, it's not like something like this could sneak up on people. 100 years of Van Nuys, man! Every summer for 22 years, San Bernardino has done the Route 66 Rendezvous. Car culture has been so important to the Van Nuys mystique...why isn't there a similar event? For a brief time the Keyes auto dealerships revived Cruise Night...that didn't last long. Where's the big shiny parade of Kustom Kars?

There's going to be an event at the Van Nuys Orange Line Station this Saturday. Maybe when y'all are done with the Health Fair at beautiful Plaza del Valle, you might want to drop in and see how the festivities over there are going. It seems very ad-hoc to me, though. Not really much can be hosted have the platform for the Orange Line, you have a small parking lot, and you have not much else. Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Park is in the process of being remodeled, so I guess I understand why these festivities weren't held there. But can't they figure out some place better than the Orange Line station? Dang.'s part of my life, the Valley. Panorama City is Van Nuys' kid sister, the one who was a cute little beauty queen in the beginning, had a wild youth, and now is getting ready for her closeup again. Van Nuys was the sensible place, where you went to deal with City, State and Federal business when you didn't have to go Downtown. Older and wiser. I just wish they would have made more to-do about the old girl hitting the Century mark.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting people out of their cars in LA: Yes We Can.

Yeah, it's Missing Persons. I grew up on KROQ in the '80s. Guilty as charged.

Anyway, we definitely need to change our attitude about things like walking and using public transit in LA. Here in Panorama City, our "Walk Score" is actually quite good. I'm using the address of our Post Office as the starting point for the Walk Score site.

One of the most transformative things to happen to our city was the revitalization of Downtown LA. From an area which was by and large a post-urban wasteland in those aforementioned '80s, we saw the area revitalized by redevelopment and a live-work-play philosophy. People are living downtown now. People are going there for the arts and sports. And people are getting there the easy way: via the Red Line that goes from North Hollywood to Downtown LA in 30 minutes.

But how do we get people from the Red Line to places like the LA Convention Center, LA Live, Little Tokyo, etc? Here's part of the solution.

I hope this gets built. I hope something like this also gets considered for the Valley. Imagine a streetcar that runs like this:

A 16 mile ring that connects the Van Nuys corridor, the busiest transit corridor in the Valley, to things like the Orange Line, the Red Line, the NoHo district, and a revitalized Ventura Blvd. It would have links out to all the points of interest in the Valley without major transferring. In some respects it actually replicates something we lost from the old Red Car lines mentioned in the LA Streetcar, Inc. video...the Valley actually did have connectivity from Downtown a long time ago via streetcars. I wasn't even born when they were ripped out of the LA Landscape in mid-1963.

The big long term issue is a need to get off of hydrocarbons and onto cleaner and more sustainable energy. You see, we have this problem called Peak Oil. Right now, oil from places like Saudi Arabia is getting harder and harder to pump. About 30 years ago, we were in a similar position in Texas. This is why harder to extract sources like the Alberta Tar Sands are now being tapped.

The situation looks like this:

And even without this, we have another problem, which is Anthropogenic (made by humans) Climate Change. The rocket scientists at NASA can explain it better than I can, therefore I linked to their site. We're pretty safe from ocean levels rising here in the Valley, but the folks who live on the LA coast are not so lucky. We need to do something about this other than basically do as the Republicans in our national legislature have done and stick their fingers in their ears and say "La la la Climate Change isn't happening, la la la I can't hear you..." The best science we have suggests that not only is the average temperature on the planet going up, and glaciers are melting, and ocean levels are rising, but it's doing so at a speed we never anticipated. So we have less time to reverse the damage that's been done...that is, if we can.

So yeah, we need to get people out of their cars. Light rail, subways and streetcars are helpful for the future. I am a transit user myself, and not by choice. I have certain non-obvious handicaps that do not allow me to safely drive. However, even people who do have a choice should consider making the choice to not drive, and it's city, county, state and federal government's responsibility to make the public transit option more attractive for the public. Yeah, that's a progressive policy stance, but ultimately it's one in the best interest of human survival. Because ultimately that's what the stakes are.