Friday, May 30, 2008

No stinkin' shooting is going to keep the Hayward down

Right on the heels of the Hayward bang-bang, the management has announced a rehab of the facade. From Blogdowntown:

The ground floor retail space in the Hayward Hotel at 6th & Spring is getting a major rehab, part of owner Pacific Investments' efforts to upgrade the building's presence in the Historic Core.

Worn awnings are giving way to ceiling-high windows and a modern feel. The effect, even in its current, unfinished form is a more open feel to the sidewalk and the storefronts.

One of the commenters found a Loopnet listing advertising for a restaurant to fill one of the storefronts.

Property Description:
Restaurant/Cafe/Sandwich Shop Opportunity
Downtown Los Angeles
Currently 2400 Live/Work Loft Condos within 2 block radius, an additionail 2500 for sale/lease within 8 months.

Beautiful Community
Neigborhood in huge growth spurt! Perfect time to invest!

Owners looking for Restaurant to bring charachter to the neiborhood. Willing to negotiate condition and lease terms.

Surronded by all historic loft buildings... next door to new gourmet market.

Community currently includes markets, cafes, restaurants, salons, winebars, dry cleaners, furniture showrooms, clothing stores, and art galleries.

Whoa, wait--a gourmet market?! Halleluja! MB and I have been bitching about how hard it is to buy groceries around here, and even though a gourmet market will be pricey, it will be so nice to be able to run across the street for, say, an onion if we need one.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Putting the ass in assimilation

Tuesday's LA Times had an amazing article, "New generation of L.A.-area Latino leaders aren't as friendly toward 'amigo stores'". Apparently, the City Council in Baldwin Park wants to do away with "amigo stores" (you know, quinceañera shops, Mexican restaurants, crédito fácil furniture stores,etc.) and bring in high-class retailers like Fridays and Cheesecake Factory. The quotes in the article are comedy gold:

"We want what Middle America has as well," said the second-generation Mexican American, recounting the meeting. "We like to go to nice places like Claim Jumpers, Chili's and Applebee's. . . "

"Some opponents say that one councilwoman had told critics to "go back to [Tijuana]."

"I don't know where they got that," said Councilwoman Marlen Garcia. "What I said was 'We're striving to insure Baldwin Park doesn't look like Tijuana.' "

Sam Romero, 73, owner of St. Teresa's Catholic Gift Shop on 4th Street, said he once cracked to a local paper that one local politician "broke every glass and mirror in the house so he wouldn't have to see a Mexican."

"Councilwoman Marlen Garcia, said she was tired of pining for the Islands, Chevy's and Jamba Juices of neighboring West Covina...

"As soon as they said 'La Curacao,' I said, 'That's it,' " Garcia said. "We're not against our culture, nothing like that. But we want something that speaks to every culture."

Oh God. Now that I've finished LOL'ing, I'm depressed. What bums me out is this perception that it has to be all or nothing, either 100% amigo stores or a generic mall with the same fucking stores you see from Santa Monica to Covina. One of the things I love about Downtown is that you have both. You have all of the 99 cent stores and botanicas and joyerias on Broadway and in the Fashion District, but you also have 626 Reserve and Pete's and a bookstore on Main. That's what makes it such a rich community. That's what makes it fun to live down here.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of Downtown planners who see it the way the Baldwin Park politicos do. They want to clear out the SRO's. They want to evict all of the Latino stores from Broadway. they want to bring in the Banana Republics and Baja Freshes and turn downtown into a mall with cooler buildings.

Look, I like Starbucks as much as anyone and having a Starbucks down here would be nice, but not if it means getting rid of all of the cheap gold stores and sunglass vendors and the video game stores down on Los Angeles. Can't they co-exist? Why does it have to be all or nothing?

Being from NYC, I see that it can be different (thought unfortunately, NYC has also become a little more generic, a little more chain-oriented than it used to be). If you walk down Broadway in New York, yeah, you can shop at the Gap and H&M, but you also get the great cheap shoe emporiums, the Chinese department stores that sell satin bedspreads and cotton Mary Janes and giant woks, the street vendors who sell Gucci knock-off bags. This stuff can all live together, believe me. And it should. Otherwise, you're living in Reseda with tall buildings and expensive parking. And what's the point of that?

Alexandria landlord slapped by judge

From the LA Times:

A federal judge has found that the city of Los Angeles allowed more than 100 poor and disabled people to be improperly evicted from a downtown residential hotel slated for redevelopment.

Judge Margaret M. Morrow issued a preliminary injunction last week ordering the city's Community Redevelopment Agency to locate dozens of the now potentially homeless people and pay them relocation funds.

She also ordered the owner of the Alexandria to make the building habitable for the remaining 100-plus tenants, many of whom are elderly and disabled.

The ruling is the latest turn in a long-running battle over redevelopment downtown. It marks a victory for the homeless and their advocates, whose claims that hotel owners were treating them badly fell on deaf ears in city government for months.


The Alexandria, a stately building at 5th and Spring streets, was built 102 years ago as a luxury hotel. Its architect, John Parkinson, also designed such notable buildings as Los Angeles City Hall, Union Station and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

For a time, the hotel, with its Tiffany skylight, was the most glamorous in all Los Angeles. But by the 1980s, as downtown fell on hard times, the beaux-arts revival landmark had become a weekly rate residential hotel, serving as housing of last resort for hundreds of disabled people.

In 2006, as gentrification was sweeping through downtown and lofts began to transform old buildings, developer Ruben Islas and partners purchased the building and began renovating it.

Islas, who specializes in low-income and senior housing, pledged to keep the building as affordable housing and received funds from the CRA and the federal government to help pay for the rehab.

Soon, however, many long-time tenants of the building, organized by homeless advocacy groups such as the Community Action Network, began accusing developers of waging an illegal campaign to get them out and replace them with wealthier clientele.

They claimed that the water and elevators were shut off for days at a time, destroying their quality of life and leaving the disabled among them stranded upstairs without potable water or flushing toilets.

The Los Angeles City Council and the CRA board declined to step in, despite the parade of residents in wheelchairs urging them to do something.

Islas denied the charges and accused his critics of sabotaging work at the Alexandria by turning off the water and disrupting service on an elevator.

Last fall, residents filed a lawsuit charging that Islas and his partners "systematically and intentionally worked to remove the long-term tenants of the Alexandria and replace them with non-elderly, non-disabled and non-African American tenants."

The lawsuit, which seeks damages, is set for trial next year.

If you look at the Alexandria's website, it definitely seems as if they are trying to get lofties into the building (check out this photo, which, trust me, does not resemble anyone who currently lives in the hotel).

This situation truly sucks because there are so many buildings in this area that can be developed without displacing people (the building I live in, and most of the buildings in the area, were vacant before they were developed into lofts). One of the things I love about downtown (despite my over-reaction to the Hayward shooting) is that it is economically diverse in a way that you see a lot in New York but don't see much in LA. The SRO residents were here first, and if they lose their housing, they have no place to go but the street. Plus there are plenty of empty buildings/lots that can be developed, so why push out people who really need their homes?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

That "Crime" stuff, do we have it here?

The whole adventure at the Hayward (with the shooting, and the helicopters, and the... GLAVIN!) has us all thinking about Crime over here. I thought I would do a little digging to find out how much of it we actually have.

The LAPD keeps monthly stats and makes them available on their "COMPSAT" site. Let's take a quick compare between Downtown and out old 'hood, Silver Lake (Northeast division.)

Northeast division recorded 463 violent crimes among it's quarter of a million peeps last year, or 1.852 per 1,000 population. Not bad!

Central division saw 363 violent crimes in 40,000 residents for a rate of 9.075 crimes per 1,000 population! EVERYBODY PANIC!

Wait, I don't feel very dead. How can this be?

Well, looking out the window I see hella lot more than forty thousand people. More like four HUNDRED thousand, which is the "daytime population" number for Downtown thrown around by people like the National real estate investor and Blogdowntown. The true number is probably higher (just as the true number for the night time population is probably closer to fifty or sixty thousand.) But plugging in our new daytime numbers gives a violent crime rate of 0.9 crimes per 1,000 population. Nice! Half the crime rate of Silver Lake! But this number is probably misleading as well.

The problem is, there are daytime crimes that will affect the daytime office-and-shopping population, and nighttime crimes that will affect those who live here. Lofties will be safer than SRO residents from some crimes, like burglary, but will be affected more by other crimes like theft-from-vehicle. So how do we get our thoughts around the real danger?

This problem was the subject of a paper by Richard Peiser and Jiaqi Xiong presented in the Journal of Real Estate Research, Oct-Dec 2003. Their goal was to quantify the actual danger presented to a daytime shopper, using 1997 police crime stats. Their somewhat surprising result was that they found that a shopper was twice as likely to be victimized shopping in Santa Monica than in Downtown LA, even back in 1997! Think of that. You are much safer wondering around Downtown with a wad of money and a dreamy look on your face than you would be in Santa Monica, at least in the daytime. At night? Not so much.

Still, the "conventional" crime rate for downtown is very high, and without any information as to whether the crimes are day or night, it is hard to say what our true risk is on nights and weekends. However, my gut feeling is that the more people there are on the street at any given moment, (and Downtown, this number is going nowhere but up,) the lower the risk. Perhaps the LAPD can shed some light on this, given Bratton's famous love for stats and computers. I'll ask.

A neighborly day in the beautywood

We were one of the first people to move into our building, so we've been able to watch as the apartments around us slowly fill up. The diversity of people who live here is fascinating. Our landlord has priced the apartments at a dollar a square foot cheaper than other buildings in the Historic Core, so it isn't all just yuppie fucks.

Directly next door to us is a black kid who works as a DJ. He owns a ginormous flat screen TV, but he has sheets hung in the windows instead of proper curtains. He must gig a lot because he's hardly ever home.

Down the hall is a Japanese guy who sells vintage vinyl. He doesn't speak much English, so I'm guessing he buys vinyl in the States and ships it to Tokyo. I caught a glimpse of his aparement when we first moved in, and he had almost no furniture, just boxes of records piled to the ceiling.

On the floor below us, facing the airshaft, there's a woman running a dressmaking business. She has all of the dressmaker's dummies lined up against the patio doors. She also owns a chow and a chihuahua, and MB saw her walking the dogs while wearing a police officer costume with a name tag that read, "Officer Naughty." (ETA: And how cool is that! --MB)

Next door to the dressmaker is a guy with a fish tank in the window. He has a lot of oil paintings stacked up on the floor and I'm guessing he sells them for a living.

There are a lot of young people renting apartments on the lower floors facing the airshaft. I don't know why they're renting apartments that don't get any kind of light or air--maybe it's cheaper to live down there? The apartments do have a shared patio that wraps around the entire floor, and there are no fences dividing the space, so you can step out onto the patio and walk to your neighbor's patio door. The result is that the lower floors are party central--everyone opens the patio doors, runs around on the balcony and drinks together. I'm guessing there's some bed hopping going on as well.

On the roof are the penthouse apartments that rent for $3,500. I didn't think they'd fill up but it turns out that people are renting them for their businesses. For example, one guy is renting three penthouses--one to live in and two to run his catering business. It's pretty cool that we really do have people who use live/work lofts for living and working.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What marketing genius came up with this one?

We have a rooftop pool, which means I'll be purchasing this product for Kidlo.

Note the brand name. Am I a freak for thinking it better suited to condoms than children's clothing?

More on the shooting

Blogdowntown has coverage of the shooting. What's interesting are the comments. A sample:

I was in my loft right across and heard the shots, I just moved into the new building at the Manhattan directly across from the Hayward, what a great way to welcome me into the neighborhood!!

I was really scared, I just hope this isnt something that happens often, I thought Dowtown was relatively safer now, Im always going out here and finally decided to make the move. Can anyone tell me just how bad it might be?


Adrienne: I can assure you that this isn't a normal event. First time I think I've heard of something like this in the four years I've lived here.


I agree with Eric. Been here since 2004, and this was the first time I'd seen something like this downtown.

Now, the westside...Alex and I saw one shooting, heard 2 - all within one weekend.

The next weekend we came downtown to tour lofts, and four months later (due to construction scheduling), moved into Santee Court. We would have moved sooner that year had rain not stopped so much construction downtown.


We were watching it all transpire, including the police sniper on the roof of the Stock Exchange. Definitely scary, but definitely not the norm. Adrienne, don't worry, you're safe, we have an 8 mos. old in this neighborhood and if it was not safe, we would not be here. :) The only recommendation I can make is to remember, you ARE in an urban environment and you need to be aware all the time. But that's any city environment in the world. (Editorial note: Another family with a baby!)

And finally, a comment from MB:

We just moved from Silver Lake to the Manhattan. My wife is a little freaked out about this. For me, when I found out it was a starter pistol, things went from "Scary" to "How drunk was he?"

The LAPD crime map for downtown can be scary, but then, during our time in peaceful ol' Silver Lake a body was dumped in the alley behind El Cid, as well as a lot of broken car windows. And before we were married, there was a gang related drive-by murder down the street from her... In Brentwood! But let me say this: I've lived in Los Angeles since the Eighties, and I have never felt safer here. And I feel much safer here than I ever did in NYC.

So now I feel silly for the freakout, but at least I wasn't the only one. Adrienne and I should get together for drinks and commiserate on being easily spooked. *sigh*

Up on the roof

The building we live in has a fairly odd idea of "amenities". The standard items are here, the gym, rec room, the pool, etc. If you squint and hold your head the right way you can even see them. Tilt you head the other way and they are gone. It's like looking at one of those wiggle pictures depicting the passion. Tilt it this way, it's the sacred heart. The other way, it's the Crucification. This way, it's a gym and rec room. That way, it's a white concrete hole with a curl machine and no bathroom.

The pool on the roof looks fantastic on the web site. In person it is somewhat larger than a king size bed. It is three and a half feet deep in the shallow end and four and a half feet deep in the deep end. Next to the pool is a hot tub. It is most definitely larger than a postage stamp. There is also a tent thingie for shade and a table and some chairs and the kind of chaise lounge that really shows the dirt. But none of this is the point. The point is that there is a rooftop deck available for unwinding the day, on any day that you feel the need to be unwound.

You can't actually see the sun set from the deck, but that doesn't matter. It's quiet and lightly breezy and the colors fade in that rosy pastel way you just don't get in less smoggy cities. I like to go up to the roof at dusk with a travel mug of rum and coke and lay on the grimy chaise and think about nothing.

Last time I was up there, there was a guy at the one table with his laptop and headphones. He was a large Hispanic guy with a very relaxed demeanor. He told me he had moved into the building with his girlfriend just a few days ago, but he would be gone in six weeks, shipped out to Afghanistan with the Army. His service was supposed to end next month, but he had been "stop lossed" for the second time. After eight years in the military, this would be his first overseas posting.

Our building has twelve floors and a penthouse floor (only the fire plaques say "13th floor") and another floor above that, which comprises the upper floor of some penthouse apartments, as well as the pool. A thin man and a huge dog emerged from one of the apartments, and the dog brought the man with him over to the pool gate for a meet n' greet. My friend said that the thin man had leased a number of penthouse lofts in a row, and was planning on living in one and running a delivery restaurant from the rest. "Most of these lofts up here" He said, "are being rented by people running businesses."

We talked a bit more about politics, family, the war.

Although I suppose it was dark enough, the KRKD tower was not yet lit up. I took a photo of it and went home.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Shooting at the Hayward" or "Why did we move down here again?"

Last night, a man at the Hayward Hotel fired shots out of his window. Details from KNBC:

Police: Man Accused Of Firing Shots From Hotel Window
Officials Say Starter Pistols, Air Rifles Recovered From Man's Abode

LOS ANGELES -- A man suspected of shooting from a downtown hotel toward the street was in custody Sunday, police said.VideoThe shots were fired from the Hotel Hayward, 601 S. Spring St., just before 8 p.m. Saturday, said Los Angeles police Officer April Harding of the media relations section.No one was injured.Police determined the man was firing from a street-facing window on the east side of the 12-story building, according to Newsreel Video.Police blocked off Broadway and Spring Street between Fifth and Seventh streets during the incident, Harding said.A police helicopter was used during the two-hour standoff, which ended when the accused sniper, on the seventh floor, surrendered to police, Newsreel reported.The man was described as a man between 45 and 55, Newsreel reported.Police entered the man's residence, where they found a collection of starter pistols and air rifles, but no lethal weapons, according to Newsreel.Police said that the man was possibly responsible for similar shooting incidents this past week, Newsreel reported.The man's name was being withheld while police continued their investigation, said a watch commander at the Los Angeles Police Department's Central Station.

This was across the street from where we live. I'm not a happy mama.

When we moved to the neighborhood, I knew we were taking a chance since it definitely has its gritty side. I've worried about the safety factor, solely because of Kidlo. I've always hated the suburbs, but now that I'm a mother, I get it. I get why people want to huddle into their little homogeneous enclaves, with alarms on their houses and cars, not letting their kids play on the streets. Part of me wants to flee the city with Kidlo and raise him in a place where nothing bad can possibly ever happen to him. Yes, I know that such a place doesn't really exist, but it's such a seductive idea. It's why suburbs thrive.

But MB and I feel very strongly that we don't want Kidlo to grow up in a bubble of privilege, completely cut off from people who are different. We want to live in a neighborhood that's culturally, racially and economically diverse, with a strong and thriving arts scene. We want to break our dependence on driving and enjoy walking, bumping shoulders with other people and truly immersing ourselves in life, not limiting our interactions with other human beings to shopping in a climate-controlled mall.

I'm Puerto Rican and grew up in Soundview in the Bronx and lived in Brooklyn and the East Village in New York. My family was poor--I know what it's like to eat government cheese and go to the hospital emergency room for health care. I was the first person in my family to go to college and now I'm solidly middle class, at least with regards to my wallet. So in many respects, I straddle two worlds (if not more). I'm glad that Kidlo will grow up with more resources and more opportunities than I had. But I don't want him to take it for granted. I don't want him to feel contempt for others simply because they're poor. I don't want him to look at people who come from different countries and treat them as if they are sub-human.

So here we are Downtown.

But then I wake up to the news that a man was shooting a gun across the street. I see people dealing drugs on 5th Street. And I fear that I'm not doing the right thing by my son.

That's the tradeoff, right? By opening yourself up to new experiences, you open yourself up to fear as well. But if you give into that fear and wall yourself off from life, you sacrifice your humanity, your creativity, the capacity for empathy and compassion.

By the way, my sister is a New York City cop. She sees a lot of ugly shit. But she still wants to raise her kids in the city. She understands the risks in a visceral way, but she doesn't want to be cut off either. So there she is.

And here we are. Downtown.

Friday, May 23, 2008

When worlds collide

We were at 626 Reserve last night when a homeless man in a wheelchair came in and asked the bartender for $5. The bartender politely threw him out. Then after we left the bar, we saw an old man with his wheelchair parked in the doorway of the soon-to-be SB Spring, shaking out his sleeping bag onto the ground and getting ready to go to bed. That's the sad part of living down here--so many sick and damaged people with no place to go.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Waiting to Cross the Street

I found some cool pics by a photographer named Florian Böhm. They're images of people waiting to cross the street in New York.

Downtown LA doesn't have this level of diversity (yet), but it's funny how the blank, waiting-for-the-light-to-change stare seems to be universal.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Random Stuff

Saw a homeless woman doing sun salutations in the alley behind Glo.

The new Starbucks on Wilshire and Bixel is apparently a big hit. I'm hoping it encourages more retail in that area. I'm ambivalent about chains, but there is almost nothing on the stretch of Wilshire from the Harbor Freeway to Union, and the Starbucks has definitely made that area feel less desolate.

Traffic was crazy in South Park tonight. Based on all the young girls I saw tricked out in Lakers gear, I assume everyone was driving in for a game.

*quick Google*

Duh, not only a game but the first game of the Western Conference Finals.** A commenter on Curbed LA said that traffic in South Park isn't bad even on game nights, but I think he's a little deluded.

There was a party in the park behind FIDM. Don't think it was Lakers related. They had a band, balloons, food. Wanted to check it out but I had to get home to put Kidlo to bed.

Saw two different men pick up cigarette butts from the floor. Only one of them was homeless.

I need to get myself some new shoes. All this walking is making me realize that my shoes are only suitable for strolling from the garage to my office and back again. My hips and knees are aching, which is sad considering that when I lived in NYC I walked at least two miles a day, plus climbing up and down the subway stairs, all while schlepping a bag with the approximate weight of a bowling ball. I hope the exercise pains die down and I get back into shape soon.

ETA**: It was also the finals for American Idol. We don't have cable and don't watch much TV so I didn't have a clue. I'm so out of touch...

Searching for families Downtown

I emailed Angelenic a couple of days ago to ask if they know of any families Downtown. Rich Alossi contacted me and said he'd like to do a story on raising kids in El Centro, sharing tips, resources, experiences and so on. He's calling me tonight so we can discuss it further. Very cool.

It would be great to be able to form a Downtown Families Group so that we can help each other deal with various challenges, from the mundane (how do you do groceries when your car is parked a block or more away) to the so-overwhelming-it's-hard-to-think-about (what do you do about the school situation?).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Silverlake sucks

A post in Curbed LA asks why the Rowena Reservoir isn't open to the public. Some replies in the comments section:

rowena reservoir is encased. the water in the picture is "non-structural" - by which i mean purely for aesthetics. the space used to be open to the public, after it was first built. this being silverlake, i'm sure it was closed at the request of the neighbors.

The heartbreakingly beautiful Rowena Reservoir actually covers a subterranean water storage tank and even though the precious H2O is now protected and secure below such landscaped wonderfulness, my bet is the grounds will remain off limits long into the future. I'm gonna hazard a guess that it was fenced off due in part to the efforts and outcrying of area residents who feared it would draw the vast unwashed transient masses. That's what the Silver Lake Meadow is for.

Ugh. I'm so glad we moved.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Park for Kidlo

One thing that's not so great about living downtown with a kid is the lack of green space. We live just three blocks from Pershing Square, but there's no playground and that big concrete hole in the center is ugly and unappealing. There's Angels Knoll Park in Bunker Hill, but it's on a steep slope, and meh. Also not appealing. There are various parks in the planning stages, but who knows how long it'll take for them to get built (if some of the ever are).

But I'd read about a park near FIDM and Ralph's, so I packed Kidlo into the jogging stroller and walked over, even though it was 95 degrees today. It's a little less than a mile away from my apartment, so not too bad a walk even with the heat. It turned out to be a little jewel of a park, with grass, arbors covered in vines, a fountain and even a playground. It was so hot that Kidlo didn't want to move from the carriage, so we sat under an arbor and enjoyed the breeze for a while. It was early so the park was mostly empty, but as I left I saw a man and his two sons ride their bikes into the park. I'm glad that Reina will be able to talk Kidlo to the park without having to drive all the way to Griffith Park.

After the park we went to Ralphs and I did a little shopping. Very little because of how farking expensive it is. Jaysus, even with the price of gas it's still cheaper for us to drive to Trader Joe's and Costco. But it's nice to have a supermarket that's a quick bike ride away in case we need an onion or something.

While at Ralph's, I saw a pregnant woman shopping and a man carrying his son on his shoulders. It's nice to know I'm not the only person raising a kid down here. I think I'm going to try and get some sort of parents group together for downtown. I'm going to email a few bloggers and see if they'll give me a little space to put out the word.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Party in Montebello

So before the parking bullshit (see post below), I took Kidlo to a birthday party for the grandson of Reina (the woman who takes care of Kidlo). We had a ball even though it was brain-meltingly hot. 95 degrees and no air conditioner in the house. Oo-wee, I forgot what it's like to go to a party and sit in a puddle of your own sweat. But the whole family turned out, there was a lot of good food and we got to hit a piñata. Cumbias on the stereo and cholos bouncing baby cousins on their knees. It reminded me so much of home, except with us we'd be eating pernil y arroz con gandules.

I drove down Whittier Boulevard to get there, and that was a trip too. I'd recently read about Whittier on LA Eastside, a blog devoted to the neighborhoods east of the LA River (check it out--it's hilarious, well-written, enlightening). I loved seeing all of the paint jobs on the stores. I couldn't snap any pix because I was driving with Kidlo, but I found some great shots at Walking in LA (another great blog--nothing but maps and photos).

Most of the people at the party spoke only Spanish except for Reina's oldest son and her daughter-in-law. Spanish is hard for me--I learned it from my Abuela who spoke only Spanish, but she died when I was 19 and since my mom came to New York from Puerto Rico when she was just five, we speak English with each other. Most of my other relatives also speak English. When people speak to me in Spanish, I can understand most of what they are saying, but when I try to respond I sound drunk and brain-damaged. What I do to verb conjugations is a crime. ¿Bueno, que vas hacer? I did my best. I wish I could get over being embarrassed about it, because that just makes it worse and who wants to talk to someone who's both stuttering and self-conscious?

Kidlo is just learning to walk and he spent most of the party stumbling around. Between chasing him and walking to work, I should be able to lose the final 11 pounds of pregnancy weight. I like when he spends time with Reina's family since my family is back in NYC. She's so good to him and he gets to hang out with her teenage sons and grandson. MB and I are kind of hermity and don't know a lot of people with kids, so I want to make sure he gets a social life. Hell, maybe I'll get one for myself.

ETA: Forgot to mention that a woman at the party said (in Spanish), "I heard you moved to El Centro." This reminded me of the post written by the Militant Angeleno, Journey To The Center of Town...Or...The Militant Puts His Foot Down On The Whole Eastside / Westside Nonsense. That really brought home for me how there's this whole enormous side of LA that's invisible to most white people (and transplants, like me) in this city.

Parking sucks downtown

After naming this blog Under the Alexandria, it looks like I won't be parking there anymore. I got home from a party at 6 p.m. with the baby in the car and my husband away for the evening, and the fucking gate was locked. The only way to get into the lot would've been to drive to 5th Street, unhook the baby from the car seat, walk into the Alexandria's lobby to ask the guards to unlock the gate, then hook the baby back into the car seat and drive around the block to get back to the gate. Fuck that. I drove to the lot on 6th and Main and parked there. It's $50 more a month to park there, but it has 24 hour access without having to jump through all these fucking hoops. We're going to keep the spot in the old garage for the woman who takes care of my son since she's never driving with the kid at a time when the gate is locked. But for me, we get to pay an extra $600 a year. Fuuuuuuck.

I will not, however, be changing the name of this blog. "In the Big Parking Lot on 6th and Main" doesn't have the same ring to it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Date Night

My husband and I have a regular date night on Thursdays (our nanny works late on that day), and this week was our first date night downtown. It was so much flippin' fun to have a date night WITHOUT DRIVING.

First we went to a Mexican restaurant on Spring between 5th and 6th The restaurant was pretty mediocre but it was nice to sit and watch our neighbors walk by.

Then we walked down Broadway. It's so cool to see the old theater facades. There's been talk about restoring the theaters for years, but I don't think it's going to happen any time soon.

We were going to have a drink at Broadway Bar but they have a dress code. So we kept moseying down Broadway.

Blurry pic, but I wanted to show that a new Pilates studio is opening in the neighborhood. Pilates! On Broadway!

When we hit 9th we swung around back to Spring. This is the back of the Orpheum.

We stopped at 626 Reserve for a drink. Lucky us, it turned out they were having a speed dating event for Black singles. Great wine and awesome people watching (and the people were so very pretty).

There were three older (as in their 60s) gentlemen sitting at the bar, and they immediately introduced themselves, asked us our names, how long we'd been in the neighborhood, etc. When was the last time something like that happened to you in a bar in LA? What's that? Never?

Turned out these gentlemen were old buddies from USC, and one is the chair of the sociology department at Cal State Northridge. This was wonderful on so many levels. First of all, how great to hang out with people who aren't white young hipsters? Second, they were so funny and smart and interesting--one guy had even been in the Peace Corps in the 60s. Finally, just being around people who are freakin' friendly instead of the usual LA too-cool-to-talk-to-you bullshit.

We left after two hours (after getting handshakes good-bye from the bartender and an invite to come back soon), and all of the building facades were lit up.

I'm really looking forward to checking out the rest of the neighborhood.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rents in the Historic Core

A post on Curbed LA breaks down the rents at some of the loft buildings in my neighborhood.

Union Lofts: $1800 for 630sf. Dark, no tubs in bathrooms.

Chapman Flats: $1800 to $2200 for 800sf

Pacific Electric Lofts: One month rent free with 13 month lease (but no info on rents)

The article doesn't say if in-building parking is included. That would definitely add to the appeal, but these buildings still seem way overpriced. These rents are going to come down--believe it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More thoughts on downtown development

I saw a post on Curbed LA that mentioned LA Live. Since I had only a very vague idea of what LA Live is, I did a little googling and quickly found out that LA Live is basically Marina del Rey combined with Universal City Walk, located right next to the Staples Center.

Wow. Talk about missing the point of being downtown.

I know that South Park is supposed to be the most successful neighborhood in Downtown--but by what criteria? Do we really want to recreate Marina del Rey Downtown? I mean, if you want a Marina del Rey living experience, wouldn't you rather just live in Marina del Rey and be able to walk to the beach?

If you're going to develop Downtown, you should exploit what's good about being in a dense city: walkability, readily available mass transit, older buildings with details you don't find in newer construction. That's the hook. Not, "Ooh, it's just like Third Street Promenade! And almost as expensive! Only it's not next to the beach and the freeways form a cluster fuck around it!"

The Bank District/Gallery Row/Historic Core (pick the name you like best) makes a lot more sense. You're restoring the beautiful Beaux Arts and Art Deco buildings that are already there. There are more and more restaurants, bars and galleries springing up. It's a quick trip to the freeway but you're not living right next to it. You have easy access to most of the major bus and rail lines in the city. And you have a lot of economic and ethnic diversity, which is not the case in most of LA.

It'll be interesting to see what happens in South Park as the condo crash continues. I think the more central areas of Downtown may wind up doing better in the long run. The artists and creative types who are drawn to the Historic Core may be more likely to stick around simply because their expectations are more reasonable. And the changes to the neighborhood are driven by residents, rather than by developers.

Downtown developer up shit's creek (which is good news for folks like me)

From Bloomberg via Curbed LA:

May 11 (Bloomberg) -- A package of Los Angeles real estate on sale for 35 cents on the dollar is attracting investors to the depressed shares of Meruelo Maddux Properties Inc., the biggest private landowner in the city's four-square-mile downtown.

The stock has plummeted 85 percent since an initial public offering 15 months ago as the global credit crisis threatens to disrupt refinancing of $200 million in mortgage debt coming due in the next 12 months, as well as completion of the city's tallest downtown residential tower.

Meruelo Maddux owns or controls 80 acres including the Little Tokyo Shopping Center, home of the country's largest Japanese supermarket, as well as warehouses and buildings used in Tom Cruise's action film ``Mission Impossible III.''


Meruelo Maddux's market capitalization of $142 million is about a third of the book value of its properties minus debts. Loan payments and maintenance consume $500,000 a month more than the company takes in, eroding the developer's $13.5 million in cash.


Meruelo Maddux's biggest bet is that people will want to live downtown, where 500,000 work but only 35,000 dwell....Meruelo Maddux is building a 34-story rental tower, known as 717 Ninth, that will be Los Angeles's tallest downtown residential structure. Twenty floors have been erected so far. The building is across the street from a 50,000-square-foot Ralphs Grocery Co. outlet, the first supermarket-chain store to open downtown in more than 50 years.

Bank Balks

While a ``large bank'' pulled out of a $97 million construction loan for the tower in January, the project will be completed on time next year, Meruelo told analysts on a March 31 conference call, without identifying the lender. The company is negotiating a new loan, he said.

People do want to live downtown. What they don't want to do is pay $700K to do it. Wonder what the sales prices will be when the tower is finished next year?

Why We Moved Downtown (and why everyone else may follow)

The main reason was space. My husband (hereafter known as My Boy, or MB) is a computer consultant who works from home. He also has a lot of hobbies and loves to fix watches, collect and use old cameras, rehab motorcycles--basically, take things that aren't working and get them up and running agin. So he needs room for a workbench and tools. Plus just over a year ago we added a charming redheaded baby to our family and Kidlo needs his own room.

We'd been living in Silverlake and needed to move in a hurry (landlord poisoned our air conditioner--don't feel like getting into the details), but all of the places in our price range were tiny--700 sf or less for a two bedroom. We looked at houses but a) they were expensive and b) we were worried that we'd rent a house and then get kicked out a few months later when the owner defaulted on the mortgage (more on that later). We thought of buying but we didn't have enough of a down payment saved up (the days of no-money-down mortgages are over).

So basically we were screwed. Until MB saw an ad on craigslist for downtown lofts.

I work on the west side of downtown and we'd been going to Art Walk for a few years, plus we love going to Little Tokyo for conveyer belt sushi. So we knew the area and liked it a lot, plus MB and I grew up in New York (me in the Bronx, him on the Upper West Side), so we're city kids at heart. We decided to take a look at new lofts on Spring Street and holy shit, they wuz cheap. Crazy cheap. Like $1600/mo for almost 1,000 sf cheap. We were paying almost $2100 for our shithole in Silverlake, so when we saw those prices we did the Tex Avery eyes-bulging-tie-spinning routine. We would have to pay for parking, but even with that we were looking at saving almost $300 a month.

So we went for it. And here we are.

There have been a few things to adjust to. Having the car a block away is a pain in the ass when you have the baby and groceries and other shit to haul around. And the neighborhood is definitely still on the gritty side (though a helluva lot better than it used to be). Seeing drug dealers on 5th did not make me a happy mama.

The good part is that our loft is unbelievable. Brand new kitchen, two bathrooms with deep tubs and marble floors, dark wood (well, Pergo) floors and huge windows. We even have a patio! We're having a wall put in to section off the baby's room and still have enough left over to fit in MB's work area and a writing desk for me.

Plus the creative vibe in the neighborhood is amazing. Our next door neighbor is a DJ, the Japanese guy across the hall is a dealer in vintage vinyl, a woman on the 5th floor runs a dressmaking business. And it's a real city, so I walk down the street and overhear people's conversations (Today's example: "Women, money and drugs they didn't pay for!"). And Broadway reminds me so much of the Bronx. I love how whole families turn out to shop, Abuela, Mami y Papi, Tia and all the kids. I love how you can see some big tough cholo with baggy jeans and tats cradling his baby cousin in his arms.

Financially, living here is an incredible bargain. It's not just the cheap rent--not driving every day is going to save us a huge amount of money. And here's where I get to the "why everyone else will follow" part...

Because the condo market has collapsed and condo buildings are being converted to rentals, the rents have dropped and are going to keep dropping. It's just flat out cheaper to live here than in Los Feliz, Silverlake and even Echo Park (which is ridiculously overpriced). Cheaper rents = what I'm seeing in my building, which is an influx of young artist types who are no longer priced out of the neighborhood. The more creative people who flood in, the more retail we'll see, the streets will get safer and that in turn will attract even more people.

Also, the price of gas is going to keep going up--China and India want gas too, which means the days of cheap gas are over. Mass transit ridership is booming. Downtown is where all the transit lines for the region converge, so you can live downtown and take the Rapid to Santa Monica...or the red line to the Valley...or the gold line to get the picture. Or if you're like me and work downtown, you get to walk, get some exercise and completely eliminate your commuting cost.

(As an aside, places like the Inland Empire and Antelope Valley which have long, expensive commutes, high rates of foreclosure and no local employment are fucked).

Of course, there have been artists moving into downtown for more than ten years, but what you're seeing now is the second wave--people weren't willing to deal with hard core skid row or couldn't afford to buy a luxury condo, but are now getting pulled in by the Art Walk vibe and the cost of living.

Downtown has gone over the tipping point, so now it's just a matter of watching the people flood in.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Walking to Work

One of the things I love the most about living downtown is being able to walk to work. My office is in "City West," which is real estate speak for west of the Harbor Freeway (you think they'd come up with a catchier name like WeHa). It's just a mile from our loft on 6th and Spring and I can't believe how much better I feel now that I'm walking two miles a day. It's not just the exercise (though I'm already noticing my clothes are looser). It's being outside and seeing other people, hearing their conversations, soaking up their energy.

When I was driving to work, I never really got a chance to transition from home-brain to work-brain. I'd piss around at my computer for an hour or more before getting anything done. And at night, I didn't have a chance to clear my head of work crap before getting home and dealing with the baby. But now the walk gives me that little bit of space to be alone with my thoughts, so when I get to work I'm ready to actually work, and when I get home I can enjoy the baby without feeling cranky and exhausted.

Here are some shots from my walk home last night (it was drizzly, so the shots are a little dark).

A hotel at the corner of 6th and Figueroa. I don't know the name.

Standard Hotel, 6th and Flower

6th and Hope

Niehule, a new salon on 6th and Hope. I probably won't be able to afford it.

Pershing Square in the rain

Across from Pershing Square, in the jewelry district

The back of the Los Angeles Theater, 6th and Broadway

Los Angeles Theater, 6th and Broadway

Looking south on Broadway. Note the Eastern in the background, where John Stamos just bought a loft.

KRKD Tower, as seen from Broadway

Hotel Hayward, an SRO on 6th and Spring

Why We Left Silverlake and Moved Downtown

Well, the main reason is that our landlord hired an incompetent air conditioner repairman who painted the inside of our air conditioner vent with a chemical approved only for use outdoors, thereby rendering our apartment uninhabitable. But there were other reasons to leave Silverlake:

1. Parking Nazi neighbors: We drive old Mercedes-Benz's. They're cheap so we have no car payments, they're roomy so we can stash baby gear without driving a mini-van or (shudder) an SUV, and they're comfortable in a rolling-sofa kind of way. One of our cars is a diesel Benz, painted brown, with a dent in the front. We call him Heinrich. Poor Heinrich has seen better days but we love him anyway. But our neighbors did not, as I discovered one morning when I put my key in the lock and a woman darted out of her house to tell me she'd called the cops to have my car towed. My reaction: "What the fuck did you do that for?" She babbled about abandoned cars but the real answer is that she didn't like having my old, ugly car parked in front of her million dollar house. She later threatened to call the EPA on my because the car leaked oil. Then there was the dude who kept chalking our tires to see if we were moving the car. He finally let the air out of one of the tires and pulled the pin out of the valve so it couldn't be refilled. Ah Silverlake, what a tolerant and progressive community, hm?

2. More neighbor nastiness: There was a protest in our neighborhood over a new apartment building going up because...I have no fucking idea why that sparked a protest. They weren't building a shopping mall or a twenty story building, just your run-of-the-mill townhouses. I guess that affects property values somehow? Then there was the crazy bitch who threatened to call the cops on neighbors who were having a yard sale. No, I have no idea why.

3. Insane earthy-crunchy parents: There was an anti-vaccination flyer posted on the Coffee Table bulletin board. Parents push around $1200 Bugaboo strollers. A friend of mine who teaches at Ivanhoe told me about a parent who protested when her kid got detention for wrapping his hands around another kids throat because, "He was just expressing himself."

4. Head-up-the-ass syndrome: One of the shop owners in Sunset Junction had a dachshund that she let roam loose up and down the block. Predictably, the dog ran into the street and was killed by a car. So how did the hipsters react? By having a candlelight vigil for the dog. Seriously.

5. Silverlake is just like San Francisco: This is not a compliment.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday on Spring Street

I had to run errands in my car on Sunday, which meant I had to get it out from the garage under the Alexandria Hotel. Six days out of the week the garage entrance on Spring is open, so I just walk down the ramp, say hello to Max and wait for him to get my car. But Sundays are a different story. None of the valets work on Sunday and the gate on Spring is locked. So.

I walked down to 5th Street and the first thing I noticed was groups of men standing around, shoulders huddled together, exchanging money. This is not something I see happening during the week, so I'm not sure why Spring turns into a drug supermarket early Sunday morning. Even though I was a little freaked, no one hassled me or even looked at me, and I slip into the lobby of the Alexandria Hotel.

As usual, there were two guards at the desk and as usual they were very young and did a good job of filling out their uniforms. Last week, I saw a hipster girlie flirting with the guards and doing pretty well with them until she said, "So, open the garage door for me, yo." To quote my friend Damagazelle, "My eyes rolled so far back into my head that they dislodged and slid to the end of my coccyx."

Anyway, I said good-morning and asked the guards to open the gate to the garage. They were nice and polite, as always, but they're not valets and they won't actually get the car for you. I walked onto a waiting elevator and punched the button for the basement. The doors slid open onto a narrow hallway with dirty tile floors and holes punched into the plaster walls. I walked through and into the garage, praying that my car was parked on the first basement level. The first level is pretty dark and pretty dank, but getting my car out of the first level is a straightforward job--just pull out and drive it up the ramp.

But of course, my car wasn't parked on the first level.

Oh shit, the elevator.

Not the elevator I'd just gotten out of. This was a car elevator, painted red, all metal with no door. To run it you have to hold two buttons at the same time. When you do the elevator lurches, then slowly and loudly slides down to the second basement level.

The second basement level makes the first look like paradise. It's dark, there are puddles and chunks of plaster in piles on the floor and I'm the only person down there--well, me and the guy who is hidden under a car, waiting to kill me (har har).

I found my car and backed it into the elevator--and since the elevator is narrow and I drive a 1985 Mercedes Benz with a body that's 17 feet long, this took me a few minutes. Then I pressed the two buttons again and made sure I didn't overshoot the floor, and then I pulled out of the elevator, up the ramp, paused a moment to let a man pushing a shopping cart go past, waved to the guard and finally pulled out onto Spring Street.