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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Re-Experiencing Los Angeles: Historic Downtown Core (Part VI)

A couple years back I was in downtown Los Angeles and had some time to walk around the Historic Core. Here's a link to Part IPart IIPart III, Part IVand Part V of this multiple part series of my little stroll around the area back in November of 2013.

On the corner of Main and 6th Street, the Pacific Electric Lofts

Ourdoor dining. According google maps, this section of Main Street is the northern most border of Los Angeles' Skid Row. The change is this area is incredible. 

Pacific Electric Lofts is located in the former headquarters of the Pacific Electric. The Pacific Electric - also known as the Red Car system - was a massive interurban and streetcar system. During the 1920's, it was the largest electric railroad system in the world. With over 1000 miles of track, it served all of metro Los Angeles - amazing when you remember that L.A's population in the 1920's was 1/10th of what it is today. The 1905 ten story building's large footprint made it the largest building west of the Mississippi until the 1950's. It was converted into loft apartments in 2005 with 314 units. 

Across the street, the backside of City Lofts, the original Mortgage Guarantee Building built in 1912 and reopened in 2004 a a live/work residence. The entrance is on Spring Street. 

Another view of the "back" of Spring Street. My guess is that this surface parking lot is in the cross hairs of development - which, honestly, is a good thing. 

The Cecil Hotel. Constructed in 1924, the hotel has apparently recently renamed and rebranded it's as "Stay on Main" - a 600 room budget hotel. Rooms go for about $125 a night. For downtown Los Angeles, that's budget. Not everyone can afford $300 a night. 

Looking north on Main Street. A security guard asked if I was a location scout (for a studio). No, just a blogger who enjoys taking photos of Los Angeles. 

Through the historic buildings on Spring Street, a view of the US Bank Tower. At 73 stories, it is the tallest building west of Chicago. It opened in 1989 and has been featured in numerous films, including "Independence Day." Current plans call for an observation deck on the top floors, to be opened in later this year (2016) and open to the general public. 

Entrance to "Stay on Main" - unfortunately, the reviews are not very kind. Some people loved it, some hated (really hated) it. It's really a budget hotel/hostel. Yes, you can get rooms really cheap with shared baths. If you're the backpacking through Europe type, "Stay on Main" might work out. But either way, I'd suggest reading the reviews - and the history of the building - first!

Around the corner on 6th Street, located in the Pacific Electric Lofts Building, is Cole's French Dip Sandwiches

Cole's claim to fame is that they invented the French Dipped Sandwiches. Which is exactly what Philippe's - located a couple miles north on the other side of Downtown Los Angeles - claims. 

You can decide for yourself. 

Back on Main Street, located in the Santa Fe Building on the corner of Main and 6th, is Pussy and Pooch, a really high end pet store.

One of the last stops before I made it back to my car was an "on location" movie shoot. This is actually very common in Los Angeles. 

Lots of big trailers. I asked the security officer what was being film, but he didn't know. Seriously, movies are often filmed using a pseudonym - a fake name - to avoid publicity (and paparazzi). 

A final look back down Main Street. The 1914 Rossyln Hotel - now the Rosslyn Lofts. As a hotel, the Rossyln, and it's annex across the street, was at one time the largest hotel on the west coast, featuring 1100 rooms.

Back at my car (the white Honda). You can see the orange Raw Materials art store sign. 

Here's a map of my "little walk" - which I accomplished in less than an hour. 

The meter was ticking - and I did not want to get a ticket. 

This part of downtown Los Angeles - the Historic Core - is amazing. My one hour (really, not even that) does not do justice to everything there is to see and experience.

Growing up in Los Angeles in the late 1960's and 1970's, and attending UCLA in the early 1980's, I avoided this part of downtown. Sure, I walked down Broadway a couple of times for the Latino vibe and feel. But never down Spring or Main. Back in the day, that was a no-go zone. 

If I did go downtown (most of my friends from the westside did not) it was to walk around the Bonaventure, or some of the shinny new buildings on Bunker Hill

While Bunker Hill is slowly filling in (it's only taken fifty years), I'd honestly rather spend time in the Historic Core. Much more interesting, more history, more people, more life. 

© 2016


Monday, January 18, 2016

Let Justice Roll Down: MLK Day 2016

E. Colden Ave. at S. Avalon Bl, Los Angeles - photo credit Camilo Jose Vergara 

When Martin Luther King, Jr., confronted racism in the white church in the south, he did not call on Southern churches to become more secular. Read his sermons and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." and see how he argued. He invoked God's moral law and the Scripture. He called white Christians to be more true to their own beliefs and to realize what the Bible really teaches. 

He did not say "Truth is relative and everyone is free to determine what is right and wrong for them." 

If everything is relative, there would have been no incentive for white people in the South to give up their power. 

Rather, Dr. King invoked the prophet Amos, who said, "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24). 

The greatest champion of justice in our era knew the antidote to racism was not less Christianity, but a deeper and truer Christianity.

Tim KellerThe Reason for God (pp 64-65). 

originally posted 1/17/11


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Re-Experiencing Los Angeles: Historic Downtown Core (Part V)

What makes a great city?

Two years ago, I was back in Los Angeles and had a bit of time to explore the Historic Downtown Core. Here's a link to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV of this multi part series. 

This week continues back along Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. 

Above, the 14 story 1927 Financial Center Building, located on the corner of Spring & 7th Streets. 

Looking north (technically, northeast) up Spring Street. 

I crossed the street at the light - to walk along the east side (sunnier sider) of the street. 

The bright green (and somewhat faded) of the bike lane on Spring. 

Apparently, the one group unhappy with is the local location scouts and studio executives. Spring Street's historic architecture often fills in for New York or other East Coast cities, both present day and historic. The bright green paint - faded or not - makes this much harder for Hollywood to make this happen. 

The 1921 Spring Tower Lofts - apparently, one of very first live/work lofts in Los Angeles. 

L.A. Cafe - featuring outdoor dining on the street. My assumption is that this was one of the very first restaurants in the historic core to include outdoor dining right on the street. 

Mural outside of Premier Towers - another residential tower. 

Another view of Spring Street Lofts, and L.A. Cafe. 

Remember what I said about Spring Street being a popular filming location? Really true. 

"Notice of Filming" - despite major tax breaks from other cities to lure filming away from Los Angeles, L.A. remains the center of the entertainment industry, with up to 100 different commercials, movies, and TV shows being filmed on L.A. city streets on a given day. 

Premier Towers - consisting of two 1920's era buildings that are now one apartment building. Yes, looks like something straight out of Manhattan. 

Six Hundred - a women's clothing store - is located at 600 S. Spring Street. Easy enough. I love the the completely open door. This was November. Similar "open door" weather can be found in June as well. Of course, there's no doubt a time when the front doors need to be shut - winter days can be cold, late summer can be hot - but with it's Mediterranean Climate, Los Angeles (along with the rest of Southern California) has some of the best weather in the world. 

It's awesome how Six Hundred has fully taken advantage of this. Walking around downtown, it seems like it's only a matter of time until similar retail will eventually begin to take hold one block west along Broadway. 

Across the street: Market on Spring, Dry Cleaning, Syrup Expresso Bar, and City Grill. Spring Street - especially between 6th and 7th Streets - seems like ground zero for the gentrification occurring in the Historic Downtown Core. 

I came across this interesting quote from Carol Schatz, who has served as the Chair of the Los Angeles Central City Association since 1995:  

"Now [in downtown Los Angeles] we are getting shopping options. In the very beginning it was bargain shopping. Now we are seeing some higher end. That is great. What I think is going to be key is making sure that it's both eclectic retail and that it appeals to all income levels. I am not interested in created a yuppie town." 

The Los Angeles Times article (which was published a few days after I posted this) focuses on the major changes in downtown Los Angeles, citing both the Staples Center and the 1999 adaptive-reuse ordinance that made it easier to renovate old office buildings into housing as the two most important reasons for these changes. The entire article can be found here

Outdoor dining near the corner of Spring and 6th Streets. 

Before turning the corner, looking back down Spring Street. 

North corner of Spring and 6th - the 11 story 1910 Pacific Southwest Bank Building. Street level retail includes Springtime in New York Cafe. The upper floors are now SB Manhattan Lofts.

Looking west up 6th Street - on the left, you can just catch the EE of the Starbucks Coffee on the corner. On the right is a street level view of the Pacific Southwest Bank Building.

As a Christian, I posed this question a couple of months ago and think it's worth asking again: what makes a great city? 

What elements, what public policy, what sort of planning, zoning, and design elements provide for a great city? And create the greatest human flourishing in an urban environment? How are neighborhoods laid out? Roads, parking, public transportation? 

How does this affect the poor or economically marginalized - as well as the general populace? What can we learn from other places -- and from history? How does a Christian world-view affect this, if at all? 

Most of the building in the Historic Core were built in the 1910's and 1920's. Are there any design elements from the buildings or even the zoning that could be applied elsewhere in the city - even in such a car centric city as Los Angeles? 

I would have love to have spent more time exploring Spring Street, but I parked at a meter and was running out of time. I turned the corner and headed east on 6th Street. Here's more commercial - coming right out to the street. In that sense, it reminds me of the retail along Broadway - but catering to a very different clientele. 

Round 2 Los Angeles - got a lot of good reviews on Yelp. Once again, retail right out to the street. 

Across the street is the 12 story 1913 Lloyd's Bank Building. located on the corner of Spring and 6th Streets. Retail at street level. The building has been renamed as SB Lofts Building, with 1-3 bedroom rental units (on-line reviews aren't too positive). 

Backside of the building on the corner of Spring and 6th Streets. I was pleasantly surprised how clean this Downtown L.A. alley was. Apparently, according to google maps, this two block alleyway is called Harlem Place. 

Looking east (technically, southeast) on 6th Street. The shopping cart of belongings was the first real reminder that Los Angeles' skid row was just a three blocks away. In fact, the reason I was downtown was because I wanted to visit the Union Rescue Mission

A final view of the Lloyd's Bank Building. 

More next time in Part VI of our multi-part series on the Historic Downtown Core. 

© 2016


Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Flash Mob: Journey of Faith Church at South Bay Galleria

With over six million views and counting, Journey of Faith Church's 2010 Flashmob at the South Bay Galleria is an outstanding reminder of what - or, better, who - Christmas is all about. As my family and I join Christians from around the world celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, I thought today would be a good time to repost this video.

I love the fresh take on some very familiar Christmas Carol - and taking the Christmas message beyond the walls of the church in such a creative, winsome way. And every Christmas, I'm  also reminded of the words of renowned British science fiction author H.G. Wells: If there is no God, nothing matter. If there is a God, nothing else matters.

A friend of mine will be starting at a new job in Los Angeles, a couple of miles from Journey of Faith Church. I showed him the video and suggested he try visiting the church once he gets settled in to his new job in L.A. 

That's his plan. If you're anywhere in the South Bay and are looking for a church community, I'd suggest stopping by (Journey of Faith is located in Manhattan Beach - six miles directly south from Los Angeles International airport). Here's a link to their website.

Wishing everyone a blessed and meaningful Christmas.

© 2015


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Re-Experiencing Los Angeles: Historic Downtown Core (Part IV)

Two years ago, I was back in Los Angeles and had a bit of time to explore the Historic Downtown Core. Here's a link to Part I, Part II, and Part III of this multi part series. 

This week continues along Broadway Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. 

Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing an incredible transformation. Much of the impetus for historic is the 1999 Adaptive Reuse Ordinance. This single act of registration has allowed for a radical change of downtown Los Angeles, allowing for tens of thousands of new housing units in previously under utilized historic buildings. 

If Main Street Street and Spring Street, both adjacent to Broadway, are any indicator, it's not a question of if - but when - Broadway will undergo similar gentrification. Figaro Bistro is one of the first attempts on Broadway. 

Figaro Bisto was "opening soon" back in November 2013. I checked on-line; apparently they didn't make it. 

But a few doors down is a historic business that came back strong. 

Back in November 2013, Clifton's Cafeteria was closed and in the process of going through an incredible renovation and makeover. 

After a multi-million dollar rehab, It opened in 2015 to absolutely rave reviews. I had a chance to make a brief visit once it opened, I'll post those photos on a future post. 

This is the intersection of Broadway and 7th Street, looking northwest up 7th Street towards the office buildings along Flower and Figueroa Streets. Today, construction of the massive 73 story, 1099 foot Wilshire Grand Tower - located six blocks away at 7th and Figueroa - would dominate the landscape. The Wilshire Grand Tower is scheduled to open in 2017. 

This is continuing to look at the west side of Broadway. A Spanish language congregation - Catedral de la Fe - currently is meeting in The State Theater, located at 703 Broadway. 

The State theater is part of the 13 story 1921 United Building, another of the dozen of historic theaters located on (or near) Broadway. 

Aside from the obvious language differences, it's probably not my style in terms of style or theology. Still, I very much appreciate seeing churches a part of the urban mix of Los Angeles. 

Apparently, Catedral de la Fe is part of a pentacostal denomination called The Universal Church. I also found this review from Wendy Gilmartin from L.A. Weekly:

Loads of L.A.'s Latino brethren (and sistren) are flocking to emerging forms of neo-Pentecostal religion because, for many, it eclipses the staid rigorousness of traditional worship in a Catholic church. And how. Catholic mass never got this many feet a'stomping and tambourines a'janglin'. The most musical of the week's events (and, yes, noise complaints do occur) usually happens on Friday evenings. 

Catedral de la Fe (formerly the State Theater) downtown is bigger (and louder) than most storefront Pentecostal churches around town, and the folks here definitely make the funkiest ruckus. By day, the rundown exterior of the formerly grandiose theater sits quietly, like a defunct storefront shell — even though some of the original 1921 filigree still shows through — but then the sun sets and the marquee glows, chandeliers flicker on, the house grows crowded, and spare seats are hard to come by. 

Arms raised, keyboards twinkling, drums crashing and Hallelujahs filling the air: The building practically rocks back and forth on its foundation in the spirit of Jesucristo. Whether you're passing by outside or stomping inside the church, on Broadway and 7th, it's hard to ignore the power of the Lord. 

If you're in Los Angeles, and looking an English speaking congregation, I'd recommend either Pacific Crossroads Church or Reality Los Angeles. Both great churches.

This is looking back at the north corner of 7th and Broadway. 

And another view looking back up Broadway at the east corner of 7th and Broadway. 

I crossed Broadway and headed east (technically, southeast) on 7th towards Spring Street. Silo Vodka Bar was under construction. 

Certainly a contrast from Carl's Jr and KFC on the same block. Of course, it's normal to find both in an urban center. 

7th Sole - a boutique shoe store. This seems to be the look and feel of the newer, gentrifying downtown Los Angeles: small, upscale retail located right at street level. 

The 14 story 1927 Financial Center Building, located on the corner of 7th & Spring Street. 

My understanding is that this building is made up of offices - rather than having converted to residential. 

I turned the corner and headed north (technically, northeast) back up Spring Street. I'll save that for next time in Part V

© 2015