Walking his dogs in Griffith Park is a daily and usually placid ritual for Glendale resident Patrick Gourley. But on a recent morning, he saw something that horrified him. Los Angeles city crews were chopping down the 99 eucalyptus trees lining the parking lot in front of the Los Angeles Zoo.

Seems this mass tree killing is part of the zoo’s $107 million master plan to re-create itself over the next five years. Key to that plan is the zoo’s 30-acre parking lot, which will no longer be your typical cement car pond. It will become a super eco-friendly parking lot–botanical garden. Zoo officials have dubbed it the “California demonstration exhibit on environmental sustainability.”

“It will become not just a parking lot but an educational part of the zoo,” said Lora LaMarca, the public relations director at the zoo.

Only native trees like sycamores and alders will be planted in this new California-theme botanical wonderland (eucalyptus are from Australia) The old trees were in the way of a new and improved Zoo Drive, and would have blocked the newly designed zoo entrance, officials say.

The new road and parking lot will be designed to reduce storm-water runoff into the nearby Los Angeles River. What runoff persists will be cleaned before it reaches the waterway by grasses planted in the roadway medians, or “riparian dry retention strip ponds.” The parking lot also will include a solar-panel electrical facility that will produce 5-megawatt hours of power a day.

“We are going beyond mitigating [the tree removal],” said Bill Lukehart, the project manager for the zoo master plan. “We’re setting an example here.”

Even Gourley is impressed by the zoo’s eco-project, which will double the number of trees in the lot. However, he thinks the road could have been designed around the eucalyptus.

“The trees never even entered the equation, and that’s what really pisses me off,” Gourley said. “To slash and burn through to do whatever you want just smacks of what Los Angeles has always done.”

—Lee Condon

Canada, Love It and Leave It


There was no rousing rendition of O Canada, but there was a lot of talk about a north-south brain drain at last week’s West Coast launch of Canadian author Jeffrey Simpson’s new book, Star-Spangled Canadians: Canadians Living the American Dream.

The 50-plus crowd of expatriates at the Canadian consul general’s house in Hancock Park heard New York–born Simpson’s take on why 660,000 Canadians live in the United States. Simpson, who was uprooted to Montreal at the age of 9, interviewed 250 ex-pats, from nurses to entertainers, who cited lower taxes, greater opportunity and money as the biggest reasons for leaving the Frozen North.

In Simpson’s book, he recounted the story of news anchor Peter Jennings, who, after establishing himself as a foreign correspondent with ABC News in the 1980s, wanted to go home to Canada. Jennings talked about a job with a Canadian television executive, who pledged to get back to him the next day. The call finally came 11 months later; needless to say, Jennings had already signed a new contract with ABC.

Even the composer of “O Canada,” Calixa Lavallee, made his way south because he couldn’t make a decent living in his hometown of Quebec, Simpson said. Lavallee went on to become the president of the U.S. Music Teachers National Association.

“If you want to make $10 million, the chances are you are going to have to go to the U.S.,” said Simpson.

The entertainment industry has always been a huge attraction for Canadians, including Mary Pickford, who moved to Hollywood in the early 1900s. Just this week, Molson beer mascot Jeff Douglas, better known as Joe Canada, arrived in the U.S. Canadians were so up in arms about Douglas’ defection that the national newspaper, the National Post, launched a campaign to get Canadian theatrical agents to find him work. Alas, it was no use; Douglas is currently ensconced in the L.A. area.

Sampling the party fare, Canadian native OffBeat wondered why the motherland couldn’t reverse the drain by exporting some of her national delicacies: poutine (a savory dish of French fries, gravy and cheese curds), Bloody Caesars (vodka and Clamato juice) and Nanaimo bars (chocolate macaroon cream bars, named for the British Columbia town where they were invented). Well, maybe you have to live there to appreciate them.

—Christine Pelisek

Power Surge


As state bigwigs wrestle with California’s energy fiasco, residents and officials of working-class South Gate on Tuesday made it clear that they are unwilling to bear the brunt of the solution. By a 3-2 vote, the City Council approved an advisory measure opposing a new power plant in their city.

The vote came after hundreds of residents marched from South Gate’s high school to City Hall to protest a proposed 550-megawatt natural-gas power plant the size of Dodger Stadium. If approved, this project, called Nueva Azalea, would be the first new power plant in the L.A. area in 13 years. Seven new power plants are now under construction across the state, with another 14 applications under consideration by the California Energy Commission.

Nueva Azalea would use new technology that would make it cleaner burning than other fossil fuel–driven power plants, but would still release toxic emissions into a densely populated, low-income, heavily minority area that is already one of the state’s most polluted.

South Gate residents, who get energy from Southern California Edison, have seen their bills creep up, but speakers told council members they would rather pay more for power than endure a new source of pollution.

“The citizens of South Gate have sent a message,” said Councilwoman Xochilt Ruvalcaba, an outspoken project opponent. “We don’t want this in our city.”

—Sara Catania

Clinton Shafts Immigrants


Immigrant-rights groups must have smiled earlier this month when conservative political columnist Linda Chavez lost her bid to become the new secretary of labor following her admission that she “helped” an undocumented immigrant by allowing her to live in her home and giving her small sums of money, otherwise known as the minimum wage.

But undocumented immigrant-bashing Chavez’s karma-like comeuppance will do little to temper the sour taste left by the Clinton administration during its final days in office.

Last month, Clinton signed the Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act, known as LIFE, ending the hopes of thousands of immigrants who had trusted the administration to soften some of the draconian measures enacted by the GOP Congress.

While revising visa regulations to help spouses and children of immigrants to enter the country, the bill did nothing for thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Haitians who fled their homelands during the 1980s. Those groups had pleaded for the same deal the Republicans helped Cubans and Nicaraguans secure in 1997. Under the 1997 law, Cubans and Nicaraguans who fled governments seen as hostile by Republican lawmakers were allowed to apply for permanent residency.

But the bill Clinton signed off on left the Central and Caribbean Americans out in the cold. “We were angry and disappointed,” said Angela Sambrano, director of the Central American Resource Center. “The implications are really devastating for thousands of people.”

The bill also marked a tactical shift by Republicans, who stole a page from the Democrats by including a late amnesty provision, which they quickly presented as their own idea. The move was surprising given that amnesty has long been a dirty word among Republicans.

But amnesty was apparently a selling point used by Republicans such as Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who now support giving an estimated 400,000 immigrants wrongly denied permanent residency under the 1986 amnesty program a chance to apply for residency. The immigrants had filed a class-action lawsuit against the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). INS denied it did anything wrong. Hatch, however, acknowledged that the service made a mistake. Calling it an opportunity to correct an “error,” Hatch gave the bill his blessing, lauding it as an opportunity to reward those who “play by the rules.”

And whose rules might those be, Mr. Hatch?

—Sandra Hernandez


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