Seeing the Prairie for the Trees

Your Tree People article was no doubt inspiring to many [“Citizen Forester,” April 15–21].
It was frustrating, however, to those of us students of the historical landscape of Los Angeles.

Trees clearly benefit humans to a certain degree, providing shade under which to sit and picnic or park your car. Trees also make things look pretty. Non-native trees sometimes even host native species in urban environments.

Still, if we are to live within the ecology of the landscape here, we must recognize that this Mediterranean land was historically mostly prairie. There were a few rivers, along which many willows grew, and a few sycamores and cottonwoods, with a smattering of cienegas or marshes.

But mostly, the plants were low to the ground and evolved to survive without much water and with plenty of sunshine.

If there are too many trees where they ought not to be, unintended consequences happen. For instance, common crows have proliferated because of the many trees where they can now survive in large numbers. These unnatural crow populations have decimated the California least tern, an endangered bird species.

It is great that Andy Lipkis has built an organization that is listened to by the politicians. I just hope people listen with an educated ear.

—Marcia Hanscom
—Robert Roy van de Hoek
Wetlands Action Network & Ballona Institute

I recently received a link that led me to the wonderful story Judith Lewis wrote on Andy Lipkis and his quest to make changes in the Southern California area.

I haven’t been so inspired to read a lengthy article in a long time. I met Andy some years back at a Soil and Water Conservation Society meeting, a very pleasant and enthusiastic character. And recently I have had the pleasure to be associated with his group, TreePeople, on a project that the Natural Resources Conservation Service supports in the replanting effort of the San Bernardino Mountains.

—Paul Laustsen

Regarding your most complimentary cover feature story on Andy Lipkis, I find it curious that Andy’s version of his background includes acknowledgment of a two-week summer camp’s impact on his development but mentions not a word of his two years’ high school experience in which his faculty enabled him, with guidance, to devote all two years to research and exploration of his interest in trees. This included looking at his interest through each frame of reference mandated by California public school curricula: mathmatics, rhetoric, history, science, social psychology, art and physical fitness.

We were a school-within-a-school out of University High School, West Los Angeles, 1970–1978. We had to battle every day, politically, for our existence during our eight years of operation. Operating an automous model program that eliminated failure and graduated scores of students who, like Lipkis, are now making significant contributions to society across most every discipline. We were forcibly closed in 1978 — a subject worthy of an L.A. Weekly story.

Now, thirty-five years later, Los Angeles Unified School Districts administration is mandating district-wide creation of schools-within-schools as the salvation of what thwarts secondary schools’ poor performance. None has returned my emails nor phone calls offering to share what we learned about making our model work.

For shame, Andy Lipkis!

—Caldwell Williams
Los Angeles

Witness for the Defense

Re: “The Defender” by Seven McDonald (April 15–21), I found it interesting that this supposed “defender” of Los Angeles, Hillel Aron, failed to mention anything that makes this city great. I suppose at one point Aron says “freeways are cool,” but is that it? Los Angeles “supplied the world with movies and television” — right, dude, that’s something we all should take pride in.

Los Angeles is great, to be sure, and it’s not because of the city’s San Francisco–like views, or Manhattanesque skyline. Rather it’s the 24-hour donut shops in every strip mall that you only notice when you’re looking for a maple bar at 4 a.m. It’s the pleasure in knowing that you got from Wilshire and Vermont to the Santa Monica pier faster by the 720 Rapid than you would have driving on the 10. (The freeway traffic is hell, and that is nothing to celebrate, but this inevitability makes it all the more satisfying to cross town in 25 minutes by bus.) I could even mention how great the F Dash is, but this “defender” from West Hollywood doesn’t care, and that’s another reason why I love this city.

—Brigid McManama
Los Angeles

More Than Fair Play

I see many plays each year but few that challenge me to think. That is why I am baffled by your reviewer’s comments on Questa by Victor Bumbalo [Theater New Reviews, April 22–28]. This is a well-crafted play, well-acted, and it includes issues and interrelationships that we don’t usually see. Your reviewer is entitled to her opinion, but she obviously didn’t see the play that I saw. This thought-provoking, edgy work should be seen by everyone in the gay and non-gay community.

—Bill Kaiser
The Purple Circuit

Raging Grassroots Fire

I had a good laugh at one paragraph in Robert Greene’s column about Mayor James Hahn [“Not So Rosy, Jim,” April 22–28; Web exclusive]. With exquisite understatement he says, “The level of suburban outrage against illegal immigration . . . and the tendency to blame Latino immigrants for the city’s ills, is growing . . . The level of understanding on the part of policymakers and the political left about the power of the anti-immigrant resentment, and the relationship between the immigration issue and the failure of government institutions, remains low.”

A puppy can be paper trained in just a few weeks, but our glorious leaders just don’t seem to learn. And this unteachability (is that a word?) extends to both major parties, left and right. Blame it on reapportionment, which creates districts so incumbent-safe that none are ever voted out. They feel they have nothing to fear from even the deepest citizen resentment. But that may soon come to an end, even without the reapportionment panel that Governor Schwarzenegger wants. The Internet puts Joe and Jane Average in touch with things like a legislator report card (www.betterimmigration.com) and networking opportunities that maximize the effectiveness of our no-longer-plaintive cries to be heard. San Diego talk-radio host Roger Hedgecock is leading a Hold Their Feet to the Fire trip to D.C. next week (www.nomoreamnesty.com). He and 10 other radio hosts will remote their shows from D.C. There is a raging fire in the true grass roots that will burn the butts of any “leaders” who don’t shape up.

—Barbara Vickroy

We Have a Winner

L.A. Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Gold won the 2005 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award last week for newspaper restaurant review or critique. This is his sixth James Beard nomination and third time he’s won the award. He previously won in 2001 for magazine restaurant reviewing at Gourmet magazine and in 1999 for newspaper restaurant reviewing here at the L.A. Weekly. Also honored were Lee Hefter of Spago Beverly Hills for Best California Chef. The restaurant also won for outstanding service. And the tiny but wonderful taco stand Yuca’s was one of four restaurants named to the foundation’s America’s Classics roster.

Send letters to L.A. Weekly, P.O. Box 4315, L.A., CA 90078. Or fax us at (323) 465-3220. Or e-mail us at letters@laweekly.com. Letters, which must be typewritten and include a daytime telephone number for verification, may be edited for purposes of space or clarity.

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