Month: November 2017
A Team Without A City
“I’m having difficulty staying a fan this year,” said Steeler Guy at Thanksgiving Dinner. “I can’t get past the CTE. It’s a gladiator sport. These guys are going to be putting guns in their mouths in 20 years time.”
He admitted it didn’t stop him from walking up to Hollywood Blvd at 10 am last week to catch the early game at a bar. He too, had tremendous difficulty finding a bar willing to put the volume on, even when there were less than a dozen customers in the room. He ended up at Hooters, of all places, where the Pittsburgh fans had taken over.
We agreed we were fortunate not to have sons to agonize over come time for the AYSO/Pop Warner family discussion. Our imaginary parenting could be flawless while we watched someone else’s son go helmet to chest plate at top speed.
The mockups for the new Rams stadium in Inglewood depict three tiers of luxury boxes and every seat filled to capacity in 2020. We’re not moving in that direction. At $2.6 billion, it will be the most expensive sports stadium ever constructed. Personal Seat Licenses will range from $175,000-$225,000 for club seats. That’s what you pay Stan Kroenke, billionaire, to obtain the rights to pay him another $350-400 per ticket to see the game live.
Here was the tailgate scene before the Texans game. Based on this tableau, I would say the median Rams fan is 45 years old, drinks beer, and works in the construction trade. Hard to see six figure PSL’s coming out of anyone’s wallet here. Somewhere in Los Angeles, the thinking goes, lurk 70,000 rich people who aren’t going to the games now when the Rams are both a prodigal returned and winning, but will nevertheless appear deus ex machina in three years time, checkbooks open. Rich people in LA will not allow their kids to play football. What makes anyone think they’ll pay a fortune to subsidize a game of which they disapprove?
The people who will keep the game alive in LA are the three guys from Arizona we ran into at Dick’s Sporting Goods who drove all night from Phoenix just to see them once. And oddballs in the Valley who are determined to have a slice of sports fan ecstasy and civic harmony after 20 years of no team.
To quote RB Todd Gurley: “Please come to our games”.
Rail Killer, Me
Here’s a bittersweet factoid: halfway through a massive buildout of the rail system, Metro ridership is down 16% in the past three years. Transit ridership is down nationally, but nowhere more so than Los Angeles, which alone accounts for nearly a quarter of all rider losses in America, even as we’ve connected the San Gabriel Valley to the beach through the addition of the Gold and Expo Lines. Anyone want to guess how many riders ended up in the back of my car?
This is a forbidden topic of conversation in policy circles, where 30-year plans continue apace, as though rideshare never happened.
On paper, transit oriented housing has much to offer. If we build snazzy new apartment complexes adjacent to train stations, the thinking goes, we can whisk people to and from work without anyone having to get into their car. It’ll be clean and fast, and people can sip their coffee and look down on the gridlock below with bemusement and relief. Throw in a little music, and….here, why don’t I just let Cameron Crowe perform the honors:
If we gave them great coffee! And great music! Such was the pre-Jobsian America before the iPhone, and the Cambrian explosion of apps.
Overlooked in the optimism is an inherent contradiction in transit-oriented development. It ain’t cheap. The very people who pay $2400 for a very modern, desirable one-bedroom apartment, fully stocked with amenities, are the least likely to utilize public transportation. The train ushers in the housing, the housing sets gentrification in motion, the transit-oriented demographic gets pushed further away from transit lines, where people can afford to live. If they can swing it, they take UberPool home for maybe a buck or three more.
I drive a lot of people home from work. As rideshare spreads, this is more and more of my clientele. In 2014, Uber lowered the per mile rate in Los Angeles to 90 cents, an act greatly decried by the drivers. The Uber argument was: the cheaper the rate, the more the demand, and greater revenue overall for drivers. Uber runs on metadata, and the data was correct. My hourly has risen significantly each reach year I’ve driven.
Los Angeles does not run on metadata, it runs on politics. Metadata says you match shift workers with employment zones. Which is to say, you start the rail system in Van Nuys, and East LA and Torrance, and you work your way toward downtown. Politics says you do the reverse. You build trains in the
whitest, wealthiest, liberal precincts of the city, where there is 98% approval for public transportation…for other people. Because, climate change.
Last Sunday, we rode the Expo Line from the Rams game to Bergamot. We whisked silently along the treetops, peering down into pedestrian-free neighborhoods brightly jeweled with succulents. Near the stations, giant excavations were being dug for parking garages atop which fresh Bento Box transit-oriented apartments would soon sit. It was the most civilized public transportation experience I have enjoyed since crossing Puget Sound in a ferry, way back in the ’90s.
I had two thoughts. First, if we cannibalized our not insignificant equity at Chez UpintheValley, a princely sum in the red states, if I could obtain every dollar of paper profit today, fat stacks of cash in my eager hands, there was nothing we could buy here, as far as the eye could see. Secondly, where we build trains, the whiter it gets. The whiter it gets, the more money I make driving.
Paying the Music School
The MacLeod Incident
(November 13, 2020) The City of Los Angeles celebrates this week the grand opening of the Valley Riverway, an inter-connected system of landscaped bike and walking paths along the tributaries of the LA River. The 60-mile network descends from the the Chatsworth reservoir along Browns Creek, from Porter Ranch on the Aliso Canyon Wash, from Granada Hills on Bull Creek, and from Sylmar along the Tujunga and Pacoima washes. An East-West corridor on the Metrolink right of way connects the northern tier of the Valley, completing what local bicyclists are referring to as “the hyper loop”.
“It is now possible to pedal continuously from pretty much anywhere to anywhere else in under an hour, without having to stop at a light,” said District 6 Councilperson Andrew Hurvitz, who secured the $100 million project using Measure M funding. “We thought it might be a nice linear park. We didn’t realize the extent to which it would be adopted as an alternative transportation network connecting neighborhoods.”
Construction of the East Valley light rail line has brought traffic to a standstill during commute hours, adding to the Riverway’s appeal. The troubled addition to the Metro system, originally budgeted at $2.7 billion, is now on its second contractor, with cost overruns expected to reach $4.6 billion when completed in 2024.
“At 2% of the rail budget, the Riverway was considered by the City to be exorbitantly priced. It was an orphan with birth defects. Until the MacLeod incident, that is,” said Hurvitz, referring to a now infamous cell phone recording of a conversation at a local pub between representatives of Sheila Kuehl’s office and Kiewet/Shea, the first contractor on the rail line: “A hundred million? That’s a rounding error for us. $300 million got misplaced during the Expo Line build no one has been able to find. We know it’s floating around somewhere, but the auditors got bored and stopped looking for it.”
The conversation, punctuated by cackling, went viral on Twitter, inspiring the hashtag campaign #RoundMeUp.
In the wake of the MacLeod revelation, the blogger known as UpintheValley staged an insurrection at City Hall “in the spirit of Yukio Mishima”. Taking command of a balcony, he unfurled a banner outlining the Riverway project, and made an impassioned speech to an audience of derelicts and office workers on lunch break, some of whom thought they were watching live theater and left tips for the ‘performer’. The blogger had repeatedly been ticketed by police for climbing fences into the Pacoima Wash and refused to pay the citations on principle, claiming all of the river watershed as a public right. Liens had been placed against his house by the City, which he also refused to pay, precipitating a personal and legal crisis.
“Let us rise from our stony sleep, brothers and take back the commons!”, he proclaimed, after a rambling preamble that referenced Beauty, freedom of movement, the Golden Ratio, and the perfidy of hack politicians. Exhortation to occupy the Mayor’s office was met with a bemused reaction from onlookers, who, sensing an absence of irony, returned to their cubicles.
He retreated to a hallway and committed a partial hari kari, in which the stomach wall is opened, but not fatally. He then began a two-day walk back to Van Nuys, holding his gut bag, smearing blood atop each gate denying river access.
When he reached MacLeod Ale, there are conflicting accounts as to his final words, which were interpreted as either: “the circle is closed”, or “I’ll have that beer, now.” A special IPA, the Dolorosa, was subsequently brewed in his memory.
The fallout from his martyrdom led to what locals now refer to as the Valley Spring. Hurvitz wrested control of Nury Martinez’s seat on the City Council in a special election, setting the stage for the Riverway approval.
Among the Horns
Two Flags, One City
Letter to Sandman
The White Favela messenger service at work.
Our civic solution for the people living in the shrubbery along the 405 and panhandling at the Roscoe Blvd offramp is to mis-hear Joni Mitchell, cut down the shrubbery, and put up a chainlink fence.
So far, so good.
Chainlink is always the answer. It means we did something.
For now, the favela-ians are back on the railroad tracks, and conducting through-the-fence panhandling excursions by handwritten notes. I give it a week.
Don’t you want to meet Sandman? I wonder how he got his moniker. I hope it wasn’t this way.
Shots Fired From the Microcosmos
Fire makes for a good action movie, loud and beautifully terrifying. People struggling against fire are always heroic. The world as we know it is changed in a matter of hours. Three months after the Wildwood Canyon fire, Trixie and I scampered up the charred hillside…as though crossing a WW I battlefield or post nuclear Japan. You could still smell the ash everywhere.
And yet, already, green shoots sprout cheerful from the cinders, unperturbed by the ruckus, seemingly grateful for Nature’s chastisement.
You want to see nature’s real horror movie? Consider the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer, now eating the Sweetgum trees in my neighborhood.
This guy. This monster, this Godzilla of the microcosmos, no bigger than a BB pellet, tunnels its way into the trunks of trees, sowing spores. Unlike termites, it doesn’t actually eat the wood, it sows eggs which create larvae, the larvae become a fungus. The fungus devours the tree from the inside. The tree isn’t food. The tree is a host, a womb for the evil grubs to squat in while they make more evil grubs, which apparently have no purpose on this earth but to sow more larvae. Once inside the trunk, they are immune to pesticides. There is no stopping parasite rex.
Half the sweetgums in our neighborhood we lost this year. Half! A magnificent colonnade rotting from within, branches dropping on cars, tipping like dominos. They won’t be replaced in three months. It’ll take 30 years.
Try to make an action movie about that.