The push to make downtown L.A. a real city center

imagePhoto courtesy of Todd Jones Photography.

Downtown Los Angeles has long suffered an identity crisis. Bustling and noisy during the day but a ghost town at night, this “city center” is far from being the center of the L.A. Tourists flock to Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the beach. Few stray downtown for a day of sightseeing.

But AEG, the company who owns and operates the Staples Center and LA Live!, wants to change that. The latest push for downtown rejuvenation includes a proposal for a $725 million NFL stadium, and an expansion of the Staples Center. The big idea? Bring crowds downtown and keep them there. AEG’s Tim Leiweke says the company hopes to see completion of the NFL stadium in time for the 2016 Super Bowl.

Angelenos who live and work downtown have already witnessed a dramatic change in the past few years, as the city pays more attention to downtown and its potential for tourism and entertainment revenue. The first push saw the addition of LA Live! and the Marriott Hotel. So how do they feel about this second wave of development?

Listen to downtowners talk about a potential NFL stadium:

Greg Johnson, who is homeless and living on the streets downtown, says development means pushing out the homeless population and making way “for the rich.”

“All they’re doing is building for the rich,” said Johnson. “We can’t go to the stadium. We’ve got no money. We probably can’t even get a job there.”

The demographic shift has been dramatic in the last few years, according to Johnson. While the homeless population has swelled with African Americans, the new lofts and apartments downtown are being filled with White and Asian residents.

“They say, ‘taking back L.A.’,” said Johnson. “I never knew it was missing.”

However, Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row, says that companies like AEG can have a positive impact on the problem of homelessness in Los Angeles.

“The first push actually brought a lot of attention to the fact that Skid Row exists,” said Bales. “This latest push probably could have the same effect. It brings more attention, but it also sounds like it could bring more jobs to the area.”

AEG has donated between $10,000 and $15,000 to Union Rescue Mission, according to Bales, and also occasionally offers sports tickets to residents of the homeless shelters. In 2006, Leiweke announced a gift of $250,000 to the Midnight Mission.

Making a difference will require more effort from the business community, said Bales, including a dedication to creating more permanent housing for the homeless population. But above all, says Bales, Los Angeles must experience a “change of heart” about homelessness.

“The biggest piece missing in solving the situation of homelessness in L.A. has been the business community,” said Bales. “That’s one of the reasons why we are the capital of homelessness. The City of Angels is the capital of homelessness. How embarrassing is that?”

Listen to the full interview with Union Rescue Mission CEO Andy Bales here:

Students discuss expectations and inspiration at Manual Arts High School

imageFrom left: Henry Pineda, Nestor Nunez, Kerlie Medina and Gisela Bats.

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes it’s hard to keep awake, especially at seven thirty in the morning.

Most of us rely on a cup of coffee or a cold splash of water to the face. But Thoreau was right. Nothing works quite as well as true inspiration.

Tom Roddy’s journalism class at Manual Arts High School explored recently what keeps them awake to their own aspirations. Where does inspiration come from, and why do some find it and others fail? How do students establish the expectations they have for themselves? And what happens when they are faced with low expectations from others?

“People outside the school think Manual Arts is like prison,” said senior Nestor Nunez.

Listen to Nestor Nunez:

imageKerlie Medina is a senior who says that low expectations from others only encourage her to break them.

“Those negative things that people think about us makes me actually want to try more,” said Medina. “People may say that just because we live here in South Central Los Angeles, they probably think that we’re not as smart as other students. I think it’s wrong. I think there are smart people here.”

Medina added that supportive families can make a difference in a student’s life. “[Parents] should support their children,” said Medina. “If they don’t, then who else is going to support them?”

Listen to Kerlie Medina:

Henry Pineda says he noticed a difference in attitudes toward students during a field trip with Community Coalition to Beverly Hills High School.

“Students over there are actually expected to achieve,” said Pineda. “They’re actually expected to be the doctors of the future, the presidents, the senators and all that.”

Listen to Henry Pineda:

While the students at Manual Arts may receive support from their peers, teachers and families, Pineda says that negative perceptions come from outside the community.

“People from everywhere else except South Central L.A., they don’t have those expectations of us,” said Pineda. “They probably feel like we’re going to take the lower jobs. That makes me feel like they’re kind of just putting us down on purpose.”

But where do these perceptions come from? According to Medina, the root of the problem is stereotyping.

“I think it’s because of all the stereotypes people form of difference races,” said Medina. “They believe so much in these stereotypes, they judge you without even knowing you.”

The environment the students face at school also plays a large part in forming their own expectations, as well as influencing the views held by others, according to the students. One problem the group brought up in their discussion was littering.

“Other schools are really clean,” said Pineda. “When we come over here we’re walking through trash and it makes us feel down, like we live in this poverty that we just see every day.”

Listen to the students discussing the problem of litter at Manual Arts High School:

Inspiration, according to the students, begins at home.

“My parents expect a lot from me, which is a good thing because it makes me want to do better,” said junior Carlos Guerrero. “I think it all depends on the person. If you let it bother you then it’s going to affect you. It’s all up to you.”

Listen to Carlos Guerrero:

“My inspiration comes from my mom, ” said Jose Cornejo, who explained that his mother was an intelligent student but dropped out when she became pregnant. “She always tells me to do good in schools because she doesn’t want me to work hard.”

Listen to Jose Cornejo:

Junior Mariana Ruiz says that her father encourages her to work hard in school so that she won’t have to face the harsh terrain he experienced himself.

Listen to Mariana Ruiz:

The motivation to succeed also includes the desire to alleviate the burden their parents carry, said the students.

Listen to the students discuss the importance of being able to help their families:

In the end, self-determination can be the strongest motivating force in a student’s life. “Sometimes, I inspire myself,” said Nunez. “When I have bad grades on my report card, I put it right at my bed at the wall so every time I wake up I see the grades, I’m like, I’ve got to do better than that.”

Dia de los Muertos at the California Science Center

As part of the closing phase of the “Mummies of the World” exhibition, the California Science Center plans to offer a special Dia de los Muertos display on Nov.1 and 2. The “Day of the Dead” is a traditional holiday celebrated in Mexico on Nov.2, and focuses on praying for loved ones who have passed away.

The California Science Center Dia de los Muertos display will feature the traditions and culture of the indigenous people of Latin America. According to a press release, the public is invited to bring non-returnable photographs of departed loved ones that will become part of the display which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

The History of Dia de los Muertos, courtesy of the California Science Center:

Despite the sound of the name, Dia de los Muertos is a festive, centuries-old holiday rooted in Mexican tradition, predating the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas. The holiday memorializes the lives of family and loved ones who have gone before us. In this custom, it is important to maintain good relations with the dead because it is believed it is they who intercede and bring good fortune to the living. The display will feature traditional Mexican folk art, artifacts, flowers, pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”), and photos of the departed. Guests will also find the Libro de Recuerdos (“memory book”) where they may leave heart-felt messages for the dead.

“Mummies of the World bridges the gap between the past and present through science, which increases our knowledge of the historical and cultural record around the world,” said William Harris, Senior Vice President of Development and Marketing, California Science Center Foundation. “Dia de los Muertos bridges the past and present in a very different way through culture and family traditions.”

Photographs donated for the Dia de los Muertos display should be small to mid-sized, placed in a self-standing frame and only feature the departed loved-one. Photos and frames will not be returned.

The Dia de los Muertos display will be available for free public viewing November 1-2, 2010. To see the Mummies of the World exhibition, tickets are required and can be purchased in advance at  For more information, visit

Mummies of the World makes its Midwest debut at the Milwaukee Public Museum on December 17, 2010.

The meaning of Proposition 19 for Los Angeles



Wandering the Venice Boardwalk, it might be easy to image a Los Angeles where marijuana is legal and easily available. But while Proposition 19 might have seemed like an easy pass in California — the state home to the hippy movement, first to reduce the maximum penalty for possession of marijuana and first to allow it to be grown and consumed for medical purposes — the reality is a little more complicated.

A poll conduced by the Los Angeles Times/USC on Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in California, shows opposition at 51 percent. Of the 441 likely voters polled by telephone, 39 percent support the measure. The poll also hints at the complex divisions between various demographic groups.

Men, for example, are undecided on the issue, while women are more likely to vote against it. Republicans “overwhelmingly” opposed Proposition 19, while the legalization of marijuana is supported by most Democrats and Independents. According to the poll, voters under the age of 40 are more likely to support Proposition 19 with 48 percent indicating a “yes” vote, while 59 percent of older voters opposed it. Only 28 percent of voters 65 and older supported Prop. 19. According to the LA Times/USC poll, Latino voters opposed the legalization of marijuana 2 to 1. White voters also opposed the measure in majority.

Support for Proposition 19 also depends on where you live in California, according to the poll. Researchers found that Proposition 19 was “leading only in the Central Coast counties and running far behind in the largely conservative Central Valley and in Southern California.”

Left: A celebration of marijuana at UC Santa Cruz on April 20, or “4/20,” courtesy of IndyBay

So, who might be most likely to vote for the passage of Proposition 19? A left-leaning, twenty-something male from Santa Cruz.

And least likely? A right-leaning woman in her late 60s from Bakersfield.

But what about in Los Angeles? This politically and ethnically diverse city could go either way on the vote. What would Los Angeles be like as a city with legal weed?

To begin with, smoking in public would still be illegal. Individuals would be able to carry up to an ounce without breaking the law. Lighting up in front of minors would be a big no-no, and so would driving. However, roadside impairment testing is extremely difficult for police, which may be considered cause for concern. What about the cost to buy marijuana? Well, pot could actually get cheaper. According to the Rand Drug Policy Research Center, the price of marijuana could drop significantly, by as much as 80 percent if legalized. Questions remain as to how much revenue sale and taxation of marijuana would bring into the state, and whether or not anti-marijuana laws would be enforced at a federal level.

How are you planning to vote on Proposition 19? Let us know in the comments box below.

Halloween Events in South Los Angeles

October 29:

LAPD 77th St. Area Halloween Carnival Extravaganza
Oct. 29 to 31, on Broadway between Florence Avenue and 79th Street.

Fun, rides, games and food!


Martin Luther King Street Carnival at Western
1546 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90062

Carnival Hours;
Friday, Oct. 29, 3pm to 11 pm
Saturday, Oct. 30, 1pm to 11 pm
Sunday, Oct. 31, 1pm to 11 pm

Pre-Sale tickets are sold at the Southwest Police Station, 1546 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Save money by buying early. $20 per sheet of 10 tickets, good for one ticket per ride. The Southwest Community Relations Office can be reached at (213) 847-5800. View a slide show of last year’s tricks and treats on Leimert Park Beat.


Halloween Festival at the Rita D. Walters Learning Complex
Oct. 29, 4pm to 7pm, 932 W 85th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90044

Free entry. Costume parade, games and prizes.


Halloween at the Expo Center
Oct. 29, 5:30pm, 3980 Menlo Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90037

5:30pm to 7 pm: BINGO

7 pm: Costume parade and contest

7 pm: Monster House the Movie

Also: Syncro Swim Showcase

Brought to you by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and Brotherhood Crusade.


October 30:

Women4Wesson “4th Annual Halloween Masquerade Ball”
Oct. 30 at 8pm, 3785 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010

Please join Women4Wesson under the leadership of our President, Fabian Wesson as we reach out to assist homeless, helpless and often hopeless children. In attendance: special guest Councilman Herb Wesson, 10th District,  City of Los Angeles.

The event will be held on Saturday, October 30, 2010 from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 on the Skydeck of the 22-story glass wrapped Solair Wilshire tower.  The address is 3785 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA.  Valet parking is available.  Masquerade and vintage costumes are optional.

Reserve your tickets now by calling Gladys Wesson-Strickland (310) 672-7281 or Patricia Childers (323) 293-7502 or email: kingandassociate[at]


The City of Angels 2010 Masquerade Ball
Oct. 30, 8:30pm to 2am, 431 West Seventh Street, Los Angeles, California 90014

The History of the Masquerade Ball: First noted in Italy during the 15th Century Renaissance, Masquerade Balls were costumed public festivities that were particularly popular in Venice. They were generally elaborate dances held for members of the progressive class, and have been associated with the tradition of the Venetian Carnival. Today, these balls are embodied all over the world.

About the Event: There will be two rooms of Mingling, Laughter, and Dancing while listening to the sounds of progressive DJ’s. Upscale men and women from all over SoCal will gather wearing the most extravagant costumes and masks.

General Admission $20.00
$15.00 before 9:30pm with RSVP: RSVP[at]

LA Athletic Club
431 West Seventh Street
(on the northeast corner of 7th and Olive Streets)
Los Angeles, California 90014
Doors Open at 8:30pm. Event runs until 2:00am
For more information visit


HARD Haunted Mansion
Oct. 30, 6pm to Nov 1, 2am, Shrine Expo Center, 665 W Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90007

This two day dance festival takes place on Halloween weekend featuring live performances from Underworld, Bloody Beetroots, Boys Noize, Rusko, Calvin Harris and Flying Lotus. Tickets are sold out for Saturday night, but still available for Halloween at $75 (over 18 only) or $130 V.I.P. (over 21 only.) Buy tickets online here or visit a href=“”> for more information.


October 31:

Haunted Picnic
Oct. 31, 11am, 658 E 111th Place, Los Angeles CA 90059

A Harvest Celebration for L.A.’s Community Gardens & Friends, hosted by Stanford Avalon Community Garden and the Los Angeles Community Garden Council. Theme: A family-friendly picnic & fusion of Halloween & Dia de los Muertos activities. Food buffet, live music, garden swap/seed giveaway, Dio de los Muertos altar display, kids’ activities, costume parade, beer garden (adults only), and garden information tables.

Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010
11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
658 E 111th Place,
LA CA 90059
Free Parking: 600 E Lanzit Ave. (Off Avalon)

$5 for community gardeners: if you volunteer, you get in for FREE!!!
$10 all others
Children under 12 free
Wear Your Halloween/Dia de Los Muertos Costume!


Halloween Festival at the Spider Pavilion
Oct. 31, 12pm to 5pm, Natural History Museum, 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Open Again September 26 Through November 7, the one-of-a-kind Spider Pavilion is a beautifully landscaped area on the Museum’s South Lawn where spiders freely spin their spectacular webs for all to see. Tickets are sold in half-hour intervals throughout the day at a rate of $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors, and $1 for children. Museum Members receive free admission. Tickets can be purchased at any Museum admissions desk or at the Spider Pavilion itself. The Pavilion is open every day of the week from 10 am to 5 pm, with the last tickets sold at 4:30 pm. Learn more about the exhibit at


Also Halloween Weekend:

Long Beach Comic Con
Oct.29 to Oct. 31, The Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd.

Friday: 1pm to 8pm
Saturday: 10a.m. to 7 p.m
Sunday: 10am to 4pm

Admission: $25 for single-day pass; $30 for single-day pass on Saturday at the door; $45 for three-day pass; children ages 10 and younger are free. Tickets available at the Comic Con website or participating comic book stores.

For more information, visit


Have an event to add? Email details to southla[at]

Map of South Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils and Meeting Calendar

View South Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils in a larger map


Neighborhood Councils in the South Los Angeles region:

Central Alameda Neighborhood Council
Community and Neighbors for Ninth District Unity Neighborhood Council
Empowerment Congress Central Area Neighborhood Development Council
Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Development Council
Empowerment Congress Southeast Area Neighborhood Development Council
Empowerment Congress Southwest Area Neighborhood Development Council
Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council
Mid City Neighborhood Council
Park Mesa Heights Community Council
South Central Neighborhood Council
United Neighborhoods Neighborhood Council
Voices of 90037 Neighborhood Council
West Adams Neighborhood Council


What are Neighborhood Councils? from Empower LA.

For more information on Neighborhood Councils, visit Empower L.A.

Obama LIVE at USC

President Obama’s “Moving America Forward” rally can be viewed LIVE at: via

Dignity in Schools Campaign pushes back during Week of Action

For the one million teenagers in the United States who will fail to complete high school this year, the Dignity in Schools Campaign ran a National Week of Action through Oct. 11 to Oct. 17. It’s purpose, according to the organization, was to “push back for dignity and fairness in schools” and rally against zero tolerance discipline.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign claims that in 2006 in the U.S., more than 3.3 million students were suspended at least once and 102,000 were expelled.

“Students of color, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students and other historically disenfranchised students have been targeted for these of punishments,” argues the organization in a press release.

In Los Angeles, parents, youth, and community advocates joined the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s Los Angeles Chapter (DSC-LA) for a press conference, demonstration and testimonies in front of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education Building. A report on implementing positive behavior support for South L.A.‘s youth was re-released by CADRE, the Public Counsel Law Center, and Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. According to the Dignity in Schools Campaign, the policy included in “Redefining Dignity in Our Schools: A Shadow Report on School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (SWPBS) Implementation in South Los Angeles, 2001-2010,” was not fully implemented by the LAUSD. The Dignity in Schools Campaign concluded that “as a result, while suspensions citywide have decreased, in Local District 7 serving South LA, the disproportionate suspension of African American students has increased.”

Service day at the Robeson Center

The Robeson Center is a great space on Vermont that has unfortunately suffered decay and is in great need of interior TLC. Peeling paint, dusty bookshelves and cluttered rooms are preventing the community center from being a real hub of activity in South L.A. The first phase of their cleanup process began a few weeks ago with members of the Black Workers Center in Los Angeles. Phase two will begin on Thursday, and there are plenty of jobs for everyone.

Leaders at the Robeson Center say they hope this will be the “last big push” needed in advance of a planned open house in mid to late November. The three days of cleanup, which the Robeson team is calling the “Service Day Slam,” will consist of three hours per day from Thursday, Oct. 21 to Saturday, Oct. 23. Volunteers are needed to help with painting, flooring, ceiling tiles and cleaning.

Service Day Slam schedule:

·      Thursday, Oct. 21 7am – 10am

·      Friday Oct. 22 10am – 1pm

·      Saturday, Oct. 23 1pm -3pm

If you can volunteer some time and effort, please simply show up at one of the service days.

OPINION: Clamping down on distracted driving is long overdue

While waiting at a red light the other day on Venice Boulevard, I turned my head for a moment and spotted the girl in the SUV next to me painting her nails. She was holding the steering wheel with her knees, the pot of nail polish in her left hand and the brush in her right. I wondered what “nail painting emergency” she was experiencing that meant she simply must paint her nails in the car rather than, say, wait until she was on solid ground and not operating a dangerous machine.

I can’t say I wasn’t annoyed. But I also can’t say that I honked my horn or shouted for her to stop and pay attention to the road. Instead, I rolled down the window and sighed loudly: a small act of defiance, born of forced resignation.

Nail painting girl is the symbol of a dizzying trend: drivers in L.A. doing anything other than concentrating on driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation has labeled distracted driving an “epidemic.” Last year, 5,474 people were killed and around 448, 000 injured because drivers simply weren’t paying attention. Yesterday began a county-wide zero-tolerance campaign in Los Angeles to target distracted drivers, and I can safely say that I’m very happy about it. I’m tired of being annoyed by selfish drivers putting lives at risk because they’re too “busy” to paint their nails at home. We’re all busy. Get over it.


On the other hand, some drivers don’t seem busy at all. They seem to think that driving should be as relaxing an experience as possible for them. Last week I was stuck behind a cream Cadillac going 35 mph on the freeway. When I finally managed to pass her, a quick glance revealed that she was deep in conversation on her cell phone. Aside from the moving vehicle enveloping her body, she looked like she could have been sitting at home on the couch with a glass of wine, relaxing while chatting to an old friend. Meanwhile, traffic was piling up behind her.

The statistics show that 20 to 29-year-olds are most prone to distracted driving. Being part of that age group, I am not cool, apparently, for being such a driving prude. But the table above does also prove that my experience with “light truck” drivers is universal: How come they are able to lean down and wolf whistle into my open window, but are incapable of using their blinkers?

My level of annoyance with certain L.A. drivers began to grow after the cell phone ban took effect. I was relieved at first: why should you be on your cellphone while driving at all? Why not just wait the extra 20 minutes to make that call? I also happen to dislike receiving calls from someone in their car. The noise of the traffic is too loud to have a conversation, the driver is totally distracted, and I don’t want to be at fault when they go plowing into a divider. So, I was looking forward to sharing the road with phone-less drivers, our hands firmly on the wheel and our minds on the next turn.

But it was not to be. What happened instead was a new trend: drivers putting their calls on “speaker” and holding the phone a few inches from their faces. If anything, this method is more dangerous than before. And I am certainly more annoyed by it, since it seems that these people think what they’re doing is perfectly legal; they’ve figured out a loophole that only requires three inches of distance to put them in the clear.

Sadly (for them), this is not the case. I was happy to note yesterday that a cop pulled up alongside one of these “hands free” drivers and told her to get off the phone or he would give her a ticket. Funnily enough, she actually argued with him. In the end, I’m sure, the phone went into her lap until the next block.

I guess what really irks me about these drivers is that they think they’re exempt from distracted driving regulations, and from creating a safe environment for other drivers. They think they have some sort of “right” to use their driving time as a period in which to fulfill boring errands or entertain themselves. One woman a while ago was actually reading a magazine while driving. That’s just plain stupid. And I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen someone eating a meal at the steering wheel, licking ketchup off their fingers and dropping pickles into their laps.

I know driving in L.A. is a pain, but it’s also a necessity. And everyone deserves to reach their destination safely — maybe even with a smile. I commend the drivers simply who turn on their favorite radio station and sing along — loudly — all the way home.

Annoyed by distracted drivers too? Or do you think the laws are too harsh? Tell us about it in the comments box below.

How do they do it? Driving 75mph While Reading a Novel (courtesy of YouTube):

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.