Toxic Is in the Eye of the Beholder

The “Another Toxic School?” article [May 2-8] shows up on the L.A. Weekly Web site as a news piece but it really belongs in the opinion column, since Max Taves didn’t make any effort to contact the Los Angeles Eco-Village about its position on the proposed school. As president of the board of the nonprofit behind the L.A. Eco-Village, and as a licensed architect, I invite Taves to contact me to find out how the alleged “aging hippies” really feel about the proposed school and what they proposed as an alternative.

Ian McIlvaineVenice

In response to “Another Toxic School?” by Max Taves, I feel compelled to respond. It would interest me to know if Taves was responsible enough to venture to the blighted areas that would be improved by the project. In any event, I am an architect and engineering professor who formerly taught in the LAUSD system. I also formerly lived in the area near the school site. I am on the project team of LEED Neighborhood Development Certification for the only on-the-ground pilot project in the area of the school sites. It surprises me that Virgil Middle School is not happy that its site will gain a $10 million cleanup. It is worth it, and if it is not done now, then when — and at what greater cost later? It will be inconvenient in the short run, but a vast improvement in the long run.

After many meetings attended by many community members, the LAUSD board approved a plan to clean up a blighted area and better utilize land it already owns, rather than look to destroy affordable housing at another possible site. Everyone interested should go to Site No. 11, look at the selected area and determine for themselves that a properly designed proposed construction can clean up blighted parcels and result in a safer, vastly improved school site.

Suzy SherodLos Angeles


Billboards Gone Green?

Regarding “Billboards Gone Wild” [April 25-May 1]: Since neither a love of our cityscape nor the ability of our public leaders to enforce the law will end billboard blight, the need to save the world’s environment will have to do the job. The battle against the sea of ugliness that is L.A.’s thousands of billboards is also the battle against the destruction of our planet’s weather systems by the addition of too much carbon to the atmosphere. Illuminated billboards are the quintessential example of an unnecessary, no-value-added use of electricity — which, in Los Angeles, is mostly carbon-intensive, coal-fired power. (Not to mention unnecessary light pollution.) Clear Channel Outdoor, CBS Outdoor, Regency, Vista and L.A. Outdoor will never get “onboard” (so to speak) serious carbon-reduction attempts because their business model is predicated on fossil-energy waste.

Illuminating Hummer ads with coal-fired electricity is an outrageous waste of the atmosphere’s carbon-absorption capacity while coal and other carbon emissions continue to change the planet’s climate. The city of Los Angeles and its Department of Water and Power, perhaps working with the state Public Utilities Commission, should calculate how many megawatts are consumed by their population of billboards. Compiling this data will require “the list,” that still-missing comprehensive and accurate accounting by billboard owners of all their billboards, both “legal” and “illegal,” in Los Angeles.

As the Weekly article notes, many billboard-support structures are substantial constructions, not easily removed. Some can be put to good new uses. Many billboard structures with an east-west alignment could be converted into south-facing solar-electricity-generating panels and towers — structures supporting solar-photovoltaic panels and DC-to-AC inverters that feed solar electricity directly into the power grid or adjacent facilities. Maybe even a few small- or medium-scale wind-power machines as well, if L.A.’s dwindling birds aren’t threatened.

Other billboard structures might become urban aerial vegetated habitats, avian apartment houses or structures for pollinators such as bees and bats — if not in L.A., then in other places that retire large billboards.

Gregory WrightSherman Oaks


The Unkindest Cuts

Anyone who read about the troubles at the Los Angeles Public Library [“Library Book Liberation Front,” May 2-8] might wonder if a resource as valuable as the books themselves — the library staff — has been affected. My example is fairly extreme; although I’ve been a full-time librarian for the city since 1996, I was unlucky enough to be working as a substitute this February, when suddenly all substitute hours were cut to zero. My attempts to return to a regular schedule were rebuffed, and so with less than a month’s warning, I found myself essentially terminated in violation of the city’s own civil-service rules. Fortunately, I was rescued at the last minute by my hometown of Burbank, which now benefits from my 18 years of experience as a librarian. Far worse off are the many retired librarians who substituted to supplement their pensions; these people have been left in the lurch by the city they served, some for decades.

Fees can be eliminated and books can be obtained later, but a professional staff can’t be replaced once they are driven away. Library-school graduates will think twice before starting a career with a library that throws away the most experienced employees. Even before I was forced out, most of my friends saw what was coming and left for greener pastures. The clerical staff, even more essential to public service than us, are considered even more disposable by the city. What you have left at the Los Angeles Public Library is a nervous workforce, some counting the days to retirement, with few young people being groomed to replace them. So be kind to the staff at your local library, because they are getting a raw deal. And if you live in Santa Monica, Burbank, Pasadena or any city other than Los Angeles, be glad that with government, you get what you pay (and vote) for.

Joel J. RaneLos Angeles

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