Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Measure R Tax: Arriving Tomorrow!


The half-percent increase in our sales tax that will fund Measure R, which provides tens of billions for additional transit lines and freeway improvements, begins tomorrow. LA County residents will now pay a 9.75 percent sales tax.

According to the Daily News, "Voters had approved Measure R several months before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger imposed a 1 percent state sales tax - which began April 1 and will expire in 2011 - to help whittle down California's $24 billion dollar deficit." Here's how it may affect some sample purchases: "The additional half-percent sales tax means an extra penny for a $3.25 medium-sized Starbucks latte. It means an extra $7.50 for a $1,500 plasma TV with a 50-inch screen. It adds $96 to the price tag of a basic Mini Cooper car selling for $19,200." You have less than 24 hours to make all your big purchases, so get a move on.
[Daily News via Curbed LA]

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bel~Air's Moraga Vineyards - From Canada's National Post of all places. . .

Tippling in Bel Air

Moraga Vineyard's grapes loll about in more SoCal sunshine than the bathing beauties at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel.

Moraga Vineyard's grapes loll about in more SoCal sunshine than the bathing beauties at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel.

Photograph by: Handout Photo, Canwest News Service

The setting could not be more idyllic had it been designed by Universal Studios: lemony sunshine, the Santa Monica mountains beyond, a lonesome wisp of cloud making only a cameo in cerulean California skies. Cached on a quiet palm-and-manor-trimmed street in Bel Air -- the luxe L.A. neighbourhood -- Moraga Vineyards (so named because it is in the Moraga canyon) stretches improbably over 16 acres of steep hillsides, claiming some of the world's priciest real estate.

Moraga Vineyard's well-pampered residents (grapes) loll about in more SoCal sunshine than the bathing beauties at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel. But as proprietor Tom Jones notes: "A grape doesn't know its address: It's about the way the breeze comes in and the sun shines." What's most startling about this secret garden is precisely that: its secrecy. (This city and its people are not generally known for their discretion.) And Moraga remains unknown even to native Los Angelenos. Jones protects the privacy of his grapes like a bodyguard does a starlet.

Now 87, Jones is a retired aeronautical engineer and the former CEO of Northrop Corp. He's tall and trim, wears well-pressed chinos and a button-down, and has the tidy elegance and gentlemanly dash of an old-Hollywood screen idol.

"This is the way California used to be," he says of this lush sweep of Bel Air bacchanalia, populated with wild roses, sycamores, a family of golden eagles, and animated only by the sound of soft, leaf-ruffling winds. Jones bought the property in the late '50s when it was a horse ranch owned by Victor Fleming, who directed Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. (Fleming's wooden stables are still intact, and now house Moraga's offices.) The place still beguiles with the mystique of a more rugged, long-gone, horse-trammelled California of agriculture and big skies. "I was born and raised in Pomona, and [my wife and I] bought this property because it reminded us of an old California."

Jones later realized that the soil in the canyon was identical to the soil in Bordeaux: Underfoot there is calcareous sandstone, a layer of marine fossils (the Los Angeles Basin was once submerged under the Pacific) and 40-foot-deep gravel beds ideal for sauvignon blanc.

Moraga also boasts a microclimate (more rain, chillier nights) that is distinct from the surrounding city and perfectly vine-friendly. Jones resolved to plant grapes in 1978: "It was just an experiment. The cost of farming on these hills is so steep. We had no intention of being commercial," he says. But his wine was fast praised for its depth and complexity, said to resemble a top-flight Bordeaux, and made its way to the world's finest tables (Alain Ducasse's three-starred Paris restaurant). When Jacques Chirac dined at Ducasse, he reportedly sampled Moraga, asking the waiter after an enchanted sip: "Is this Bordeaux?" (Today, Moraga vintages also star on wine lists at such decadent dining rooms as Hotel Bel-Air's restaurant and New York City's The Modern.)

It wasn't until 2005 that Jones determined to build a winery. He acquired the approval (and signatures) of 106 Bel Air neighbours before approaching the authorities. "We're very good neighbours," he says. "The grapes are quiet." Hiring 20 miners from Nevada to dig up the wine cave, Jones's winery is now the first in Los Angeles since Prohibition in 1920.

Walking through Moraga, steeped in sunshine and silence, you can spot the white silhouette of the Getty Museum perched high across the canyon -- the only reminder that you're in the midst of a smog-cloaked mega-city. Rodeo Drive is 15 minutes away. "If you're a bird, the Hotel Bel-Air is a mile away," says Jones, preferring to consider the distance for a sparrow, than for, say, an SUV. (For the non-winged: The hotel is a 10-minute drive down lush, coiling roads.)

There are no formal tours but if you drop around for a tasting -- even better if you buy a bottle or two -- Jones or a staff member will be happy to show you around.

---------

IF YOU GO

Hotel Bel-Air, like Moraga, is redolent of a grander old-world Hollywood. An oval-shaped pool (once an equestrian arena) is well-ornamented with visiting starlets; petal-drizzled pathways ribbon their way through gardens so fragrant that Jo Malone crafted a scent (Orange Blossom) after them; guest rooms (each one of a kind) cosset with wood-burning fireplaces, Spanish marble and languor-inducing Italian linens. 701 Stone Canyon Rd.; 310-472-5234, hotelbelair.com - For more information on Moraga Vineyards, visit moragavineyards.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

Westwood Village / Los Angeles Film Festival Screening


The Los Angeles Film Festival will be screening the classic 1971 film, "Billy Jack" with the digitally remasterd film print taking place at the wonderful Billy Wilder Theatre located at the Hammer Museum this Saturday, June 27th @ 9:45pm. This is the last weekend of our Festival and we have truly saved the best for last.

BILLY JACK
(USA, 1971, 114 mins)
Directed By: T.C. Frank
Producer: Mary Rose Solti
Screenwriters: Frank Christina, Teresa Christina
Cinematographers: Fred J. Koenekamp, John Stephens
Editors: Larry Heath, Marion Rothman
Cast: Tom Laughlin, Delores Taylor, Clark Howat, Victor Izay, Julie Webb, Debbie Schock, Teresa Kelly, Lynn Baker, Stan Rice, David Roya, John McClure, Susan Foster, Susan Sosa
Music: Mundell Lowe

DATE: SATURDAY, JUNE 27th
TIME: 9:45PM
LOCATION: BILLY WILDER THEATRE @ THE HAMMER MUSEUM
COST: $12.00

SYNOPSIS
  • Watching Billy Jack today it seems part time-capsule, part alternate history, as it’s tough to imagine a film quite like this catching on again. After an initial, half-hearted release by Warner Bros., star Tom Laughlin sued the studio to gain back the rights and try it himself. His own innovative grass-roots release became a smash success, turning the conventional wisdom on film distribution upside down.
  • Directed by Laughlin under the pseudonym T.C. Frank (he also co-wrote the story with his wife and co-star Dolores Taylor), the film tells the story of an alternative school for wayward teens run on a Native American reservation that is protected from small-minded townspeople by a mystical Vietnam vet. Billy Jack may spring from the ideologies of the ‘60s counterculture, somehow touching on gun control, environmentalism, education, discrimination, and a whole policy think-tank worth of other issues, but as filmmaking it comes from the fast-and-loose exploitation school, hence its high-minded, proto-political correctness is surrounded by motorcycles, fast cars, groovy girls and a few hearty helpings of martial arts whoop-ass. And keep an eye out for a pre-WKRP Howard Hessman, appearing here as part of the early improv comedy group The Committee.

LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL, JUNE 18-28, 2009.

"One of the best film festivals in the United States" - Filmmaker Magazine
"An essential stop on the North American circuit" - Variety

Film Independent Home of the Los Angeles Film Festival, presented by Los Angeles Times, and the Spirit Awards, live and uncut on IFC

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Final Home of Michael Jackson

We previously reported on Michael Jackson's rental of his extravagant Bel~Air / Holmby Hills estate. Click on the Link Below to see our archived post and pictures of the home where MJ spent his last months and where he ultimately passed:


Final Pronouncement - MJ is Dead (LA Times)

Michael Jackson is pronounced dead [Updated]

[Updated at 3:15 p.m.: Pop star Michael Jackson was pronounced dead by doctors this afternoon after arriving at a hospital in a deep coma, city and law enforcement sources told The Times.]

Have the Reports of his Death been Wildly Exaggerated?

Now the LA TIMES is reporting MJ is in a coma.

I am not a doctor, but he could certainly be brain dead with the machines keeping things going.
We will all know soon enough.

2:06 PM | June 25, 2009

[Updated at 2:46 p.m.: Pop star Michael Jackson is in a coma and his family is arriving at his bedside, a law enforcement source told The Times.

Jackson was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center this afternoon by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics.

Fire Capt. Steve Ruda said paramedics responded to a call at Jackson's home at 12:26 p.m. He was not breathing when they arrived. The paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and took him to the hospital, Ruda told The Times.]

[Updated at 2:12 p.m.: Paramedics were called to a home in the 100 block of Carolwood Drive off Sunset Boulevard. Jackson rented the Bel-Air homefor $100,000 a month. It was described as a French chateau estate built in 2002 with seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces and a theater.

The home is about 2 1/2 miles, about a six-minute drive, from UCLA Medical Center. An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the time to travel between the home and hospital as two minutes.]

The news comes as Jackson, 50, was attempting a comeback after years of tabloid headlines, most notably his trial and acquittal on child molestation charges.

In May, The Times reported that Jackson had rented the Bel Air residence and was rehearsing for a series of 50 sold-out shows in London's O2 Arena. Jackson had won the backing of two billionaires to get the so-called "King of Pop" back on stage.

His backers envision the shows at AEG's O2 as an audition for a career rebirth that could ultimately encompass a three-year world tour, a new album, movies, a Graceland-like museum, musical revues in Las Vegas and Macau, and even a "Thriller" casino. Such a rebound could wipe out Jackson's massive debt.

--Andrew Blankstein and Phil Willon

Michael Jackson Dies @ Bel~Air Area Home

R.I.P.
Michael Jackson Dies

Michael JacksonWe've just learned Michael Jackson has died. He was 50.

Michael suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon at his Holmby Hills home and paramedics were unable to revive him. We're told when paramedics arrived Jackson had no pulse and they never got a pulse back.

A source tells us Jackson was dead when paramedics arrived.

Once at the hospital, the staff tried to resuscitate him but they had no luck.

We're told one of the staff members at Jackson's home called 911.

LaToya ran in the hospital sobbing after Jackson was pronounced dead.

Michael is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince "Blanket" Michael Jackson II.

Story developing...

Michael Jackson rushed to hospital [Updated]

2:06 PM | June 25, 2009

Pop star Michael Jackson was rushed to a hospital this afternoon by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics.

Capt. Steve Ruda said paramedics responded to a call at Jackson's home around 12:26 p.m. He was not breathing when they arrived. The parademics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda told The Times.

[Updated at 2:12 p.m.: Paramedics were called to a home on the 100 block of Carolwood Drive off Sunset Boulevard. Jackson rented the Bel Air home for $100,000 a month. It was described as a French chateau estate built in 2002 with seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces and a theater.

The home is about 2 1/2 miles, about a six-minute drive, from UCLA Medical Center. An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the time to travel between the home and hospital as two minutes.]

The news comes as Jackson, 50, was attempting a comeback after years of tabloid headlines, most notably his trial and acquittal on child molestation charges.

In May, The Times reported that Jackson had rented the Bel Air residence and was rehearsing for a series of 50 sold-out shows in London's O2 Arena. Jackson had won the backing of two billionaires to get the so-called "King of Pop" back on stage.

His backers envision the shows at AEG's O2 as an audition for a career rebirth that could ultimately encompass a three-year world tour, a new album, movies, a Graceland-like museum, musical revues in Las Vegas and Macau, and even a "Thriller" casino. Such a rebound could wipe out Jackson's massive debt.

--Andrew Blankstein

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bel~Air Association Annual Meeting - a HUGE SUCCESS!





Thank you to all our Members that attended the Bel~Air Association's 67th Annual Meeting. It was standing room only in the ballroom filled with our wonderful community supporters.

And a very enthusiastic thank you to our special guests: State Assembly Member Mike Feuer, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and newly elected CD-5 City Council Member Paul Koretz.

Each of our special guests made heartfelt and passionate speeches concerning our past, present and future as well as some of our greatest challenges that lay ahead.

All of us at the Association look forward to another wonderful year of doing great things for one of the truly great world communities -- Bel~Air.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bel~Air Association Annual Meeting - Tomorrow, June 23rd


We look forward to seeing our fellow Bel~Air Association Members at our 2009 Annual Meeting tomorrow night: June 23rd from 6 to 8 PM.

We already have well over 200 RSVPs, so the night is sure to be fun, informative and a great way to reconnect with those in our community.

The evening will also include speeches from our special guests, State Assembly Member Mike Feuer, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and newly elected CD-5 City Council Member Paul Koretz.

The theme of this year's meeting is "What has BAA done for you lately?"
And you may be surprised at how much was accomplished this last year alone.

Our Association President Harvey Saferstein will host and moderate a Question and Answer session.

**Please Note that this is a Bel~Air Association Member Only Event**

For more information, please contact our Bel~Air Association General Manager, Paulette DuBey.
Phone: (310) 474-3527
Email: paulette@belaironline.org

Villaraigosa bows out of California governor's race

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced on national television today he would not be running for California governor in 2010 after flirting with a bid for higher office for months.

Elected to a second, four-year term in March, the mayor told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he wanted to devote his full attention to Los Angeles, which is facing its worst fiscal crisis in decades.

Villaraigosa’s decision adds a dash of clarity to the race for the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination which, at the moment, appears will be between state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Brown has yet to say if he will run, while Newsom already has announced his candidacy.

In a recent Los Angeles Times Poll, voters citywide gave Villaraigosa a luke-warm approval rating, and a plurality opposed his entrance into the governor’s race. Villaraigosa received a favorable job approval rating from 55% of those surveyed, statistically equivalent to the vote he won in the city’s March election against a field of little-known and underfunded candidates.

Starting in July, the mayor and city council agreed to lay off 1,200 city workers, and furlough those who remain to help close a $530 million deficit for 2009-2010. City officials continue to negotiate with city unions for alternatives, but no deals have been announced.

Given the city’s precarious financial situation, and with Villaraigosa set to sworn into a new term on July 1, announcing for governor could have created a sticky political situation for the 56-year-old mayor.
Plus, winning the California governor’s race has proven to be an elusive quest for big-city mayors.

Several Los Angeles mayors including Tom Bradley, Richard Riordan and Sam Yorty all tried, and lost, along with San Francisco’s Joseph Alioto. Pete Wilson, the former mayor of San Diego, lost once and became a U.S. senator before trying again and claiming victory over former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who went on to become a U.S. senator.

The latest statewide Field Poll in March found that without Feinstein in the 2010 governor’s race, Brown was the top Democratic contender with 25%, followed by Villaraigosa with 22% and Newsom with 16%.

-- Phil Willon and Maeve Reston at L.A. City Hall

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Update on Hillside Area Amendment - Continued to July 21st

Greetings All:
The Hillside Area Amendment (CPC-2008-4683-CA; Council File No. 09-1390) was heard before the Planning & Land Use Management Committee today. The item was continued to July, and tentatively set for July 21, 2009. That is all for now. As the date approaches I will try to let you know if that day is set as soon as it is confirmed.
We do not have any new updates to give regarding the Baseline Hillside Ordinance.
Thank you for your continued interest in this project.
Sincerely,
__________________________________________
Erick Lopez
City Planner
Department of City Planning
Community Planning Bureau - West Coastal Division
200 N. Spring St., Room 621
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 978-1243
(213) 978-1226 - fax

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday's Turbulence

Is our economy finally getting better? Are there any real "green shoots"? Or are we about to have a double dip?

I certainly don't know, but the chart above scares me.

From Calculated Risk, the above graph compares the actual quarterly unemployment rate (in red) with the Obama economic forecast from January 10th: The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

If anything the situation is worse than expected, not better.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bel~Air Ranks #4 in School Test Score List

Westside at the top of school test score list

DrillingWestside neighborhoods dominate the list of top Academic Performance Index scores, according to The Times' Mapping L.A. project. The Top 20 list is somewhat more diverse, including Hancock Park, Eagle Rock, Mt. Washington and Northridge.

The median API score reports the 2008 test results posted by the school that falls exactly in the middle of the pack. California's Academic Performance Index (API) combines several tests into a single number between 200 and 1000 for each school. The tests that make up the API and their weighting are listed on the California Department of Education website.

In 2008, the average score statewide was 742. The state's goal is for every school to reach 800.

This Wednesday - Farmers market returning to Westwood Village

The popular Westwood Village farmers market is coming back.

The weekly market will open Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Broxton Avenue in the heart of the village. It replaces the long-running Thursday market that shut down after construction began on Palazzo Westwood, a large mixed-use project by developer Alan Casden. A Sunday market operated in the village from last summer until December.

Stephen Whipple, who runs the Culver City market on Tuesdays, will manage the new Westwood operation. More than two dozen producers will offer fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, plants, California beef and more. Live jazz music will be provided by Don Allen and his Spreadin' Rhythm 'Round trio.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Baseline Hillside Ordinance Update - Comments

The following is an email from Erick Lopez - LA City Planner
NOTE that I have broken the email into two separate posts as it includes two distinct elements of the proposed Hillside Ordinance:


For those of you that made comments to City Planning / Erick Lopez, please review the City's compilaiton to be sure they were included!
______________________________________

Baseline Hillside Ordinance Update
We received a lot of additional comments during the extended comment period for early input. It took us some time, but we have read them all and have summarized the new comments which were not already expressed at the February 2009 Hillside Kick-Off Meetings on the attached document. Feel free to download the document and distribute it to anyone who may be interested. If you do not have a copy of the summary of the first set of comments please contact me and I will send you the file.

We are currently incorporating these new comments into the list of objectives that we developed from the first set. We are also in the beginning stages of developing proposed solutions based on these comments and objectives. When we have something new to report, we will distribute it to the individuals on the hillside interest list. If anyone needs to be added to this list, please send me an email with contact information.
Sincerely,

__________________________________________
Erick Lopez
City Planner
Department of City Planning
Community Planning Bureau - West Coastal Division
200 N. Spring St., Room 621
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 978-1243
(213) 978-1226 - fax

Hillside Area Amendment Scheduled for PLUM on Tuesday, June 16 at 2 PM

The following is an email from Erick Lopez - LA City Planner
NOTE that I have broken the email into two separate posts as it includes two distinct elements of the proposed Hillside Ordinance:
______________________________________
Greetings All:
This email is to inform you that the Hillside Area Amendment (CPC-2008-4683-CA; Council File No. 09-1390) will be on the Planning & Land Use Management Committee Meeting agenda (item No. 3) on Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 2:00 PM. I have attached a copy of the agenda to this email. Just as a reminder, the staff report and other related documents have been posted on our Department website (http://cityplanning.lacity.org/); they are too large to attach to this email. To download these files, please go to our home page and click on "Plans & Ordinances" on the left side, then click on "Proposed Ordinances"; or click on the direct-links provided below:
Note: The file linked above is large and may take some extra time to download. The map contains parcel lines for the entire city in order to allow the general public to zoom into their neighborhoods and determine whether their property will remain within the proposed Hillside Area boundaries, or if the designation is proposed for removal. Instructions for how to use this map more effectively can be found on the link below.
Let me know if you have any questions about these documents.

Sincerely,
__________________________________________
Erick Lopez
City Planner
Department of City Planning
Community Planning Bureau - West Coastal Division
200 N. Spring St., Room 621
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 978-1243
(213) 978-1226 - fax


From the Planning and Land Use Management Committee
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 Agenda:

09-1390
CPC 2008-4683
Negative Declaration, report from City Planning Commission and proposed
CA Ordinance amending Section 12.03 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code to
revise the current Hillside Area definition; and a proposed Ordinance Map establishing a new Department of City Planning Hillside Area Map.
Applicant: City of Los Angeles Commission Vote: 6-0 Fiscal Impact Statement Submitted: No Community Impact Statement: None submitted

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

SHELVED! Westbound Sunset Left Turn Lane onto 405

Click on Picture to Enlarge Image / Letter

I am happy to report that the proposed left turn lanes from westbound Sunset onto the 405, which could have caused miles of traffic backups on Sunset along much of Bel~Air, has been shelved for now. Below is a letter to stakeholders from Caltrans & Metro explaining the same. HOWEVER, the left turn lanes will be reconsidered once the 405 expansion is completed -- so stay tuned as we intend to stay on top of this potential traffic disaster.

California State Controller: Out of Cash in 50 Days

FROM CalculatedRisk

California State Controller John Chiang wrote to Governor Schwarzenegger today. The following graph shows California's Cash Outlook starting in July 2009.

Click on graph for larger image in new window.
California Cash Deficit

And here is the letter to Governor Schwarzenegger (note that May was worse than projections just a few weeks ago):
On May 29, 2009, I informed you of the precarious nature of the State’s cash condition and alerted you to impending risks which threaten the State’s ability to meet its payment obligations.

The situation has not improved. Based on actual revenues received during the month of May, and finalized May Revision data provided by the Department of Finance on June 1, I have the following updates to the State’s 2009-10 cash outlook:

• In the absence of legislative action, the State will not have sufficient cash to meet all of its payment obligations on July 28. By July 31, the cash deficit will increase to a negative $2.78 billion.

• In April, the State’s cash balance will fall to a negative $25.3 billion – the lowest point projected for Fiscal Year 2009-10. To put this shortfall into proper perspective, it is five times the $5.1 billion cash deficit we faced this past spring.

In the letter I sent you on May 29, I indicated we would have a negative cash balance of $1.02 billion at the end of July, and a low point for 2009-10 of $22 billion. The additional deterioration is a result of two factors: (a) May revenues coming in $827 million less than projected by the Governor’s May Revision, and (b) adjustments made by the Department of Finance to its revenue and expenditure projections. Attached is a chart detailing the projected cash low point for each month for the fiscal year starting July 1.

While the severity of the shortfall has worsened since my last letter, the time available to correct our budget and cash deficits has not materially changed. The State will run out of cash in less than 50 days without corrective action by the Legislature and Governor. ...