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Saturday, June 27, 2009

So where - or what - exactly is Los Angeles?

One of the most confusing and difficult things about the City of Los Angeles (above, in blue) is knowing where it actually is.

When someone says "Los Angeles" - what do they mean?

Greater Los Angeles? Greater Los Angeles represents a huge five county area (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties) with a total population of 16 million people.

Los Angeles County? Los Angeles County (below) covers 4,061 square miles, and over ten million residents.

The City of Los Angeles? Located within Los Angeles County are 88 different cities (along with numerous "unincorporated" areas). The largest of these cities is, of course, the City of Los Angeles, featured above in red.

The City of Los Angeles covers 469 square miles, and has almost 4 million residents.

It's huge - and is perhaps the most oddly shaped city major city in the world.

The City of Los Angeles consists of all the areas in white.

Downtown Los Angeles? In the map above, Downtown Los Angeles is the small red area. As you can see, it's no where near the geographical center of the city.

photo credit:

From downtown, you can go less than a mile to the southeast - and be out of the city limits. Or, you can go 40 miles northwest and still be in the City of L.A.

photo credit: Dan Wyman

So where's the geographical center of the City Los Angeles? The Franklin Canyon Reservoir (above) in the Santa Monica Mountains. If it looks familiar, it's because it was used in the opening scenes of the old "Andy Griffith" show. Here's some additional information from a previous post:

As a Christian, I'm reminded of the importance of what a friend in Europe - a university professor - calls "the sense of place." Both Jewish and Christian Scriptures describe events in real places. Archeology continues to validate the historical descriptions found in throughout the Bible.

More on the geography of Los Angeles, especially the City of Los Angeles, in a future post.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Bridge to the Past: The Los Angeles Central Library (Tour o' Downtown: Part III)

Our two hour tour of downtown Los Angeles ended where we first started - at the Los Angeles Central Library. This is the last of three posts on our downtown tour. Here's a link to the first post, which focused on the Bonaventure. And a link to 
the second, which focused on the Wells Fargo Center and the California Plaza on Bunker Hill. Free free to scroll down and then read them back in order.

In that we're still waiting for L.A.'s "subway to the sea" to become a reality, we took our car. As I shared in a previous post, parking downtown can be very expensive. Hot tip: if you have a Los Angeles Public Library card, the 524 South Flower Street Garage is available at just $1 for the first hour, and then only $4 for each additonal two hours. Here's a
link to more info.

If you've never seen it, the Los Angeles Central Library is a historic treasure and definitely worth a visit. The library originally opened in 1926, and in 1986 was saved by the heroic efforts of the Los Angeles Fire Deparement from an arsonist's fire. The city rallied around not just to to save and rebuilt, but to renovate and restore the building. It was reopened in 1993. Today it's a state of the art building that maintains it's historic roots.

Here's the children's section. There are some beautiful artwork focusing on varoius scenes from California history along the walls - and a huge selection of children's literature.

My kids along with my sister and her little three year old in the rotunda located on the 2nd floor. Each of the four walls contains more artwork - this time murals - depicting California history.

Below on the first floor. The ceiling artwork is by artist Renee Petropoulos. Here's a link describing other architectural highpoints found througout the library.

My favorite part of the library is actually the beautiful public park on the west end of the library. At one time this was a parking lot - making this garden a huge improvement! There are some beautiful fountains, large mature trees, and an outdoor cafe. It makes for a wonderful "welcome mat" to the four million people who live here in the city of Los Angeles.

One of the fountains contains this quote from nineteenth century abolintionist Frederick Douglass:

"Power never concedes nothing without a demand. It never has. It never will."

The design of this fountain reminds me of the passage found in Amos: "Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream." (Amos 5:24).

There is so much more to downtown Los Angeles: our brief two hours were just a chance to walk around and see some of the sights. 
I'd love to come back and have lunch in Cafe Pinot, the adjacent outdoor cafe (where apparently kids under 12 eat free? really? wow!)  but that have to wait for another day.

We opted for the "Panda Express" just inside the library. At least we were able to enjoy our lunch with this impressive view of the cafe and the Bonaventure.

Of the three places we visited, the Bonaventure, the office towers on Bunker Hill, and the Central Library - I found the Central Library the most enjoyable.

Why? Not sure. Maybe it's because of the three, it's the most public - and most welcoming - of spaces.

Maybe because it's a reminder of both heroic efforts of the Los Angeles Fire Deparment in 1986 - and the thousands of men and women that rallied around it to rebuild it.

But most of it, I think it's because of the chance to connect with Los Angeles' history. To walk through a building that has served generations of Angelenos. And, God willing, will serve generations to come.

© 2009


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Towers, Fountains, and Steps (Tour o' Downtown: Part II)

Our downtown excursion which began at the Westin Bonaventure (here's a link to our first post) continued with a stroll across the Flower Street skybridge toward the Wells Fargo Center on Bunker Hill.

Turning around and looking southwest for a final look at the Bonaventure.

Walking northeast toward the Wells Fargo Center we passed the downtown YMCA. I liked the sculpture and flowers. The two story YMCA and surrounding plaza was built on top of a 

parking garage. Nice use of space. 

The Wells Fargo Tower (one of two office buildings at the Wells Fargo Center) is located on Grand Ave. in between 3rd and 4th Streets. The Wells Fargo Tower always makes for a fun picture from this angle. The building is four sided, but the southern-most corner is very sharp, making this 54 story building appear like a flat, almost 2 dimensional, object.

As we crossed Grand Avenue towards the California Plaza and Water Court, the Walt Disney Concert Hall (more on this in a future post) was visible a block to the north. The tall office towers of Bunker Hill drop off quikly around the Concert Hall.

Looking west toward the 73 story US Bank Tower, another Los Angeles landmark that's been in multiple movies and TV shows (including the films "Independence Day" and "Hancock"). I never understood why the tallest building west of the Mississippi doesn't have any sort of observation deck on the top floor.

The California Plaza, located across the street from the Wells Fargo Center. The California Plaza consists of two large office towers, MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and a 1.5 acre water court. Part of the outdoor courtyard - including the upper half of this huge fountains - actually cantilevers over Olive Street. How cool is that? The California Plaza also connects Bunker Hill to the historic Grand Central Market via the Angels Flight funicular - which, unfortunately, currently isn't operating due to an accident that occured in May 2004. 

Again, I don't understand why it's been over six years and Angel's Flight remains closed.
While the Bonaventure was a unique hotel, we enjoyed walking around outside in the Wells Fargo Center ande California Plaza a lot more. Yet, these large open spaces still seemed devoid of activity, of energy ... of people. Granted, more people would be out and hour later around lunch time. But where was the "hussle and bussle" in the financial center of our nation's 2nd largest city?

"How desolate lies the city once so full of people" begins the prophet Jeremiah (Lam. 1:1). What makes a downtown - and a city - isn't the buildings (as important as they are) but the people. Other parts of downtown, especially Broadway, are much more crowded, much more alive. Ironically, you'll find more people out and about in Hollywood, Westwood, or Santa Monica than you will find downtown. 

Heading down Bunker Hill. A set of escalators run alongside the Bunker Hill steps. I took the steps, but my kids, my little nephew and my sister opted for the outdoor escalator.

Our final destination: The Central Public Library - and it wasn't just to get our parking validated. The Central Library is worth a visit in and of itself. More on this on a third and final post on our downtown excursion.

© 2009


Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Bonaventure (Tour o' Downtown: Part I)

Last month my sister was in town with her little three year old son. He really loves elevators - so I figured we'd take them for a quick tour of the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles.

The Bonaventure opened in 1976 and - this being Los Angeles - has been featured in numerous films, TV shows and commercials. It consists of four 32 story round towers surrounding a slightly larger 35 story central tower. The top two stories consists of a restaurant and revolving lounge.

Parking in downtown Los Angeles can be, well, pricey. Two hours parking at the Bonaventure would run $30. If you live in L.A. and have a Los Angeles Public library card, you can get validated library parking across the street in the underground garage for only $1 for the first hour, and then $4 for each additional two hours (up to 3 hours total - after that, the rates go up significantly). Here's a link with more info. Don't forget to read the fine print!

If you have any other tips on parking, esp if you're not from L.A. (and can't take advantage of parking at the Central Library across the street) let me know - I'll add them to this blog entry.

I took a number of photographs inside the large open 7 story lobby - until I was approached by hotel security who asked me to delete the pictures and to refrain from taking any more. He was friendly, but firm. The building is one of the more recognizable buildings in L.A., so I guess the hotel is being extra cautious.

Fortunately, there's the web - a good friend of this blog. Here's a photograph I pulled from google 
that gives a good idea what the interior lobby looks like:

photo credit: Payton Chung. 

Once inside, the seven story lobby puts the "maze" back in "amazing". I've been there at least 20 times, and I find myself still getting disorientated. Here's another lobby pic from the web: 

photo credit:

I like - but don't love - the Bonaventure. To be sure, from a distance, the five cylindrical towers are impressive. But down at the street level, the building feels like a fortress. The two entrances are purposely hard to find, and there is little to nothing to see at street street level except a seventy foot high cement wall.
It can be tricky finding things: the front desk, the pool, and the "sky bridges" that lead out from the second and six (or is it seventh?) floors to adjacent buildings. Above is the view from the sky bridge (going across Flower Street) to Bunker Hill.

Still, the Bonaventure is an amazing hotel, and a great place to explore. If you stick to just walking around the lobby and asking any of the staff for help (including "what floor am I on?") you're fine.

It's also a great place to stay. We had family members from out-of-town who stayed at the Bonaventure while here on vacation here - and loved it.

And the elevators. Can't forget those. That was the whole reason for our visit. Definitely an "E" ticket (in terms of elevators) and worth the ride. As you can see, they've got floor to ceiling glass. Here's my kids enjoying not only a view, but hopefully a vision, for the city the LORD has called us to.

We walked around downtown a bit, and ending up at the Los Angeles Central Library. It was very do-able, even with three small kids in tow. Here's a link to Part II of our little downtown excursion.

"Seek the peace and prosperity of the city .. pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Jeremiah 29:7

© 2009