L.A. Weekly’s Slush column is an aggregated, link-filled look at L.A. news and culture — what people are talking about, balking about, posting on social media and IRL (in real L.A. life).
Anyone commuting around Los Angeles has surely noticed that the homeless situation has gone from a frequent conflagration to a full blown explosion. Now there are numbers to back up what we all feared. An estimated 60,000 people are living on the streets in Los Angeles County, a 16 percent jump from the previous year. For a visual representation of that number, imagine a sold out Dodger Stadium and add another 4,000 people. No longer a few tents and cardboard boxes we conveniently ignore when strolling to the latest trendy watering hole or concert venue downtown, it’s a civic emergency where parts of Los Angeles resemble refugee camps one would expect to see in the Third World. Diseases such as typhus, tuberculosis, hepatitis and various staph infections are becoming more prevalent.
Experts and city and county leaders are pointing fingers and attempting to place blame, but greed is the problem. Landlords and property developers steer residential policy and new developments are geared to the upper earners, so rents have naturally skyrocketed. Apartment buildings are getting converted into “Airbnb hotels” of dubious legality, and landlords are using every trick in the book to get around RSO rent controls in order to evict long standing tenants and get current market value for their properties. Everyday, several gainfully employed Angelenos are forced into living in their cars or out onto the streets, and the despair of being homeless can lead to drug addiction, alcoholism, violence, sexual assault and, ultimately, death.
Our leaders need to ask themselves what it is that makes our city great. Is it its real estate or the citizenry? Do they want to turn Los Angeles into San Francisco or New York City, now largely devoid of their once revered cultures, populated by a moneyed elite with an indentured serfdom commuting in and out of the city? Or do they want Los Angeles to remain a beacon of creativity and culture, as well as a stable home to the hard working middle and lower classes who make Los Angeles a national treasure? Perhaps one of the solutions is right in front of us. It’d also be nice if people stopped moving here and stopped happily agreeing to pay the ridiculous rent prices. We’ll keep following the problem and reporting on potential solutions.
This week the meteorologists at the National Weather Service station in North San Diego County picked up something strange moving across San Bernardino County. It looked like a massive raincloud but its pattern made no sense. Upon checking in with volunteer SKYWARN spotters up in Wrightwood, they confirmed that it wasn’t precipitation at all, but a 10-mile-wide swarm of ladybugs. Yes, you know, the cute little burnt orange bugs you don’t swat away when they land on you. The little buggers were 5,000 feet up, in the midst of their annual migration. By morning they had disappeared off radar, dispersing themselves across SoCal’s pristinely manicured landscapes, in search of fat, delicious aphids. May saw a billion butterflies fly through the Southland, June brought with it a “bloom” of ladybugs, so what entomological anomaly will July bring? Time and summer heat will tell.
BOUNCE ROCK SKATE
It was 2009 when Parks and Recreation first considered grants for converting the Echo Park shallow pool — next to the Echo Park Recreation Center and alongside a freeway onramp to the northbound 101 — into a skate park. Construction of the park continuously hit major delays because funding couldn’t quite keep up with the ambitious design, but finally, ground was broken last week. Offering 7,100 square feet of skating area, the park will cost nearly $900,000, with $500,000 coming from a Proposition K grant. Designed for the beginner to intermediate sk8tr, boys and girls (helmets on) will have an abundance of features on which to grind, including a “China” bank, a “hip,” a “waterfall” and a “hubba” ledge. If you don’t know what of these things mean, that’s OK, just skit on the sidelines when it’s ready and let sk8ter bois (and gals) do their thing. The project is scheduled to be completed by summer 2020.
The Sportsmen’s Lodge has been in existence under various names since the 1880s, before there was a Studio City or a movie industry. It’s been a Valley landmark since before there was a “Valley.” But its location was at a crossroad, along a dirt road called Ventura Boulevard, next to the river, adjacent to the canyon and with a natural artesian spring. “Hollywood Trout Farms” became a popular watering hole and fishing spot in the early 20th century, and in wasn’t long until Hollywood took notice of the beautiful little getaway just a stones’ throw from the studios and Old Hollywood started gathering there such as Gable, Wayne, Sinatra, Bogart, Hepburn, Bacall and Davis. In 1945 the property was further developed and renamed the Sportsmen’s Lodge. In 1962 the hotel was built and it became a home to many Hollywood stars who enjoyed the unpretentious privacy it afforded. The property maintained its cheesy splendor into the 21st century but waning popularity caused it to lose its luster. Soon developers came in.
This week, after much battling with cultural heritage commission, the city committee gave a go ahead for a $100 million renovation of the Sportsmen’s Lodge Events Center, to be completed by late 2020. The plan is to build a 94,000-square-foot entertainment complex, which will include eateries and shops, surrounded by landscaping that holds true to the original design. The new owners, New York real estate firm Midwood Investment and Development, have already signed up major tenants for the development, including the upscale Erewhon Grocery Store and the Equinox Fitness Center. Fortunately, the iconic Lodge Hotel will remain open and is not part of the redevelopment, but we wonder how its old school charm will mix in with the new upscale surroundings.
More than 400 earthquakes have rattled the Inland Empire in the past week, but that isn’t necessarily a prequel to a severe event as many are fearing in L.A. According to Dr. Lucy Jones (a research associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech), the series of smaller quakes are being felt because they are so shallow in the Fontana area. “This is just a place where the earth sputters along instead of letting go all at once, ” the local seismologist tweeted. In any case, it’s always a good idea to prepare for what we all know is coming one day. The folks over at KPCC have done a nice job preparing you for the “Big One.”