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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Experiencing L.A. in Century City & Beverly Hills (Part I)

photo credit: cartoonist2006

Century City is a district within the city of Los Angeles, located immediately adjacent to the Beverly Hills. The above aerial photograph shows Century City on the left, Beverly Hills to the right. 

My wife and I were in Los Angeles earlier last year, and had some time to walk through the areas pictured above. 

We started at the intersection of Olympic Blvd and Avenue of the Stars. Above is the now completed "The Century" condominium tower. The upper units are going for $5-$6 million dollars. 

The top unit was recently purchased by Candy Spelling (widow of TV producer Aaron Spelling) for a mind boggling $35 million dollars. That's not $35 million for the building, that's $35 million for one unit

Walking north, the "2000 Avenue of the Stars" office building - often referred to as the "Death Star".

Built on the site of the former ABC Entertainment Center, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, along with the twin triangle Century Plaza Towers," form the "Century Park" development. Sorry, not a fan. 

Office buildings along the northern edge of Century City. Century City was built on the old 20th Century Fox's back lot, beginning in the early 1960's and was designed to be a "city within a city." Here's a link to a previous post with some more historic background and photos.

The building on the left was originally known as Century Park East, located on the corner of Avenue of the Stars and Santa Monica Blvd. My dad worked across the street in the similarly designed Century Park West building, and I spent a couple summers working at his office. As a teenager in the 1970's I loved the vibe and feel of Century City. At the time, everything still felt so new and modern. I loved the office towers, the outdoor shopping center, and huge set backs from the street.

Guess my perspective has changed as an adult. 35 years later, I see this same layout of Century City as a negative. The large setbacks and lack of any sort of retails or commercial space at ground level removes all pedestrian life from the streets.

The result is what can feel like a ghost town, even in the middle of the day. Above, looking up Avenue of the Stars. 

Granted, no cars on either side of the street at rush hour during a weekday makes this a very unique shot. Reminds me of a previous post on Matt Logue's "Empty L.A." project. 

But even at the busiest times, you'll rarely see people on the sidewalks. Most people drive into Century City, for work - or perhaps shopping at the outdoor mall - then leave.

As an aside, f you are looking for a place to park, I would suggest Century City's Westfield Shopping Center, which offers three hours free parking. By way of contrast, I had a lunch appointment in a Century City office tower a few years back. Two hours parking was $32. 

In what can be described as an "experiencing L.A." moment, the cost of parking was more expensive than the cost of our lunch. Fortunately, the guy I was meeting with picked up both lunch AND validated my parking.

While Century City is a district within the city of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills is it's own, separate city. Beverly Hills and it's interesting neighbor, the city of West Hollywood, are completely surrounded on four sides by the city Los Angeles. 

Walking along Santa Monica Blvd, looking northeast towards West Hollywood. 

This is what most people think of when they Shoe boutique (translation: high end shoe store). Not our taste, or price.

Not everything in Beverly Hills is over the top expensive. Across the street was a pizza delivery shop. The building in the background is the Beverly Hilton Hotel. My High School Prom was held here back in the day. Long story, but no - I didn't go.

Medi Beauty - a plastic surgeon - located on the corner South Santa Monica and Charleville Blvds. A "google map" search turned up over two hundred plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills. 

Nosh of Beverly Hills, corner of South Santa Monica and North Roxbury Drive, where my wife and I stopped for breakfast.

Nosh is a yiddish word meaning snack or little meal. Nice place. 

Lox by the pound. Delicious on bagels. I can't imagine buying $35 worth, though. 

Another "experiencing L.A." moment - Nosh's version of the gift shop at the end of the ride. You can buy shirts or hats at the register. 

In contrast to Century City, Beverly Hills has a ten story high limit in it's business district. A couple of small tables were set up outside along the street. This was our view while we ate breakfast.

Contrasting the two areas, I definitely prefer the much more traditional urban layout and design of Beverly Hills to the 1960's era design of Century City. More energy on the street, more - well -  life. 

More next week in Part II of a Walk Through Beverly Hills

© 2012



Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Open Thou Mine Eyes" - Humanities Building, UCLA

Royce Hall (pictured, above) is one of the four original buildings at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

photo credit:

Modeled after the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio (above) in Milan Italy, Royce Hall opened in 1929 along with the rest of the Westwood campus.

photo credit:
Another view of Royce Hall, along with Haines Hall. The Arroyo Bridge was built in 1927 across the ravine just east of these two buildings. 

Twenty years later (1947) the entire ravine was filled in to make way for campus expansion, but the bridge was left standing. The inside is a large, cavernous building. Here's a link to an interesting L.A. Times article on the history of the Arroyo Bridge. 

photo credit:
Found this photo (above) posted by some UCLA grad students; really gives a good idea what the interior of the bridge looks like. As an undergrad at UCLA in the 1980's, friends and I got down inside here a couple of times and walk around. Pretty cool. 

photo credit:

Another view of the bridge, this time looking south west, with a view of Humanities Building (originally what was the Physics-Biology Building) and the Library. 

Royce Hall, Haines Hall, the Humanities Building and Powell Library were the original four buildings when the campus opened in 1929. 

The inside of the Humanities Building has recently been remodeled, now housing offices and classrooms. Above are a couple of faculty members at the east entrance.

Closer inspection reveals a biblical quote above the east entrance, from the Psalms:
"Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law." Psalm 119:18

As a Christian, I appreciate seeing scripture or Biblical references on public buildings. It's a reminder of the influence Christianity has had in our nation's cultural and educational system. Sadly, it's impossible to imagine a building on a public university built today with any reference to scripture or God.

But is there ever a "down side" having scriptural references on things like public buildings? Maybe.

For me, I can find myself developing a warped, that is, an overly romanticized, view American history. That is everything in the past was good. To be sure, there is so much good about American history. But it needs to be balanced with some of the wrongs and injustices as well.

Second, I can develop a sense of entitlement about Christianity in the public sphere, that my faith somehow deserves special privledges, sort of a "most favored nation" status.

And third, I can get stuck in the past, rather than focusing on the present and the future.

Again, I appreciate public displays of Christian faith, both past and present. I just want to keep them in a proper perspective.

Is the glass half full, or half empty, in terms of Christianity on public universities like UCLA?

An entire blog could be devoted to what's happening on universities but here's something that's rarely, if ever, reported on: the growth of Korean-American campus ministries at places like UCLA.

According to Sharon Kim (Gen X Religion, Chapter 5 "Creating Campus Communities") there are 14 recognized Korean-American student ministry groups on campus. This number doesn't include at least a dozen Korean-American churches with non-recognized Bible Study groups on campus. An incredible 54% of Korean-American undergrads at UCLA are members of an on-campus ministry. At a campus-wide Christian rally several years ago, there were over 1,000 students in attendance, nearly 85 percent of the attendees were Asian- American. There are six Asian-American ministries, and four Chinese ministries. Groups like Intervarsity, Campus Crusade, and Navigators have growing percentage of Asian American (the Navigators is 80% Asian American!).

As a Christian, I am so thankful for incredible things that are happening on university campuses. To be sure, Christians of all backgrounds face challenges in terms of living out their faith on campus.

But as an older professor at USC reminded me, "today, there are so many campus ministries for students to be involved in - nothing like this existed 40 years ago."

And on the East Coast, Harvard professor Dr. Peter Gomes commented “There are probably more evangelicals [on Harvard’s campus today] than at any time since the seventeenth century.”

In terms of Christianity on campuses in Los Angeles, the glass is not full, but neither is it empty. 

"Open Thou Mine Eyes" to see also the wonderful things happening on campuses in the city - and around the world.

View Humanities Building UCLA in a larger map

© 2012
originally posted 5/24/09



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Experiencing L.A. in "the 626" (Monterey Park, suburban Chinatown)

The city of Monterey Park, a suburban community located 7 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, has the distinction of having the highest percentage of Chinese Americans of any city in the United States. 

These photos are along South Atlantic Blvd, one of the major thoroughfares in the city. Above, the Chinese Evangelical Free Church. My wife and I attended a friend's wedding here years ago. 

The Chase Bank at the corner of Harding and S. Atlantic. The city of Monterey Park has a population of 60,000 residents  -  2/3rd of whom are Asian-American; almost 50% of whom are Chinese Americans.

Unlike previous blog posts, many of these photographs were taken while driving - through my windshield. 

This could be a suburban shopping plaza pretty much anywhere in the United States, except that everything is in both English and Chinese. California State University, Sacramento professor Timothy Fong describes Monterey Park as "the First Suburban Chinatonwn."

According to our friends at Wikipedia, beginning in the 1970's, well-educated and affluent Asian Americans began settling in the west San Gabriel Valley, primarily in Monterey Park.

In many ways these signs remind me of Koreatown, a few miles away in Los Angeles (here's a link to a previous post). As an aside, there are also numerous suburban Korean American communities in Cerritos, Hacienda Heights, Fullerton, Buena Park, and the northwest San Fernando Valley.

Back to South Atlantic Boulevard: apparently Monterey Park tried to pass zoning ordinances in the 1988, in an attempt to limit new building resulting from the growth from the influx of Asian immigrants. As a result, many Chinese immigrants moved a couple miles away to the adjacent city of Alhambra.

While in the 1980's Monterey was called "Little Taipei" - there has been a continual shift north - and east.  

Many established, wealthy Taiwanese immigrants have since relocated out of Monterey Park and northward to wealthier cities of San Marino, Arcadia, Temple City, South Pasadena, and eastward to Diamond Bar, Hacienda Heights, Walnut, and Rowland Heights (sometimes called the "New Little Taipei").

The map above of San Gabriel Valley - located immediately east of downtown Los Angeles, shows the checkerboard of different municipalities. Unlike the Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley (the vast majority of which lies within L.A. City limits), the San Gabriel Valley has over thirty independent cities, each with their own city government. 

Over 1.5 million people live in the San Gabriel Valley, most of which is covered by the 626 area code. More on this in a bit. 

I stopped to get gas at the corner of S. Atlantic & Garvey - love the Chinese guy squatting while on on his cell phone. Super common all over China. Less common in the USA.

Inside the MASSIVE "Ranch 99" supermarket across the street (corner of S. Atlantic & Garvey). 

Ranch 99 markets are found in California (as well as Washington State, Texas, and Nevada) featuring a wide selection of Asian American food choices. Here's a link to their store locator. But this was the largest I'd ever seen. Note the bi-lingual signs inside the store. 

The soy sauce aisle. Wow, what a selection. 

Here's something you'd be hard pressed to find in your average Kroger or Safeway: squid tentacles.

Or eel sliced. Mmmm. 

The Ocean Star Restaurant. The reception of that wedding my wife and I attended at the Chinese Ev Free Church was held here. Excellent time, outstanding food!

Speaking of food . . . 

. . . more recently, I came across this GREAT video by the Fung Brothers, a couple of Chinese American guys, celebrating life in "the 626" (their area code). 

Very catchy tune, and really captures the Asian American experience in what they affectionately call "the SGV" (San Gabriel Valley). The song kicks in at 1:08. 

Cars in the parking lot at Ranch 99. Unlike "poor" immigrant neighborhoods of previous eras, there's a lot of money in the San Gabriel Valley. That's certainly not to say that everyone is rich. Far from it. But it's certainly another world from the small urban Chinatown next to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (here's a link to a previous post on that).

A final shot out my car window at the corner of S. Atlantic and Emerson, with yet another Chinese-American shopping center up ahead. The San Bernardino Freeway - "the 10" - was another few blocks up. 

The Fung Brothers video, and my very brief drive up South Atlantic Blvd, reminds me that while our family lived in Los Angeles for five years, there were huge parts of the metro are that we never experienced. 

In fact, I think the vast majority of our (former) neighbors on "the westside" of Los Angeles don't even know the San Gabriel Valley exists. Hmm, their loss. Of course, it's never too late to take a trip over. 

All part of experiencing L.A.

View Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park in a larger map

© 2012


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Experiencing L.A. on a "Daddy/Daughter Date" - in Westwood

Back in the Spring of 2009 my daughter really wanted to take the bus into Westwood Village, for a special "daddy daughter date." We could - of course - have driven, but she really was excited about taking a bus

By the way, that Statue of Liberty billboard on the right of the photo above isn't a billboard - it's the side of a twelve story building.

Much of Westwood Village isn't much of a "village" anymore. This is at the corner of Westwood & Wilshire Blvds. With over 100,000 cars traveling through on an average day, it's one of the busiest intersections in Los Angeles.

This is to prove that - yes - we did take the bus. The MTA driver was super friendly, and there was zero traffic into Westwood (it was a Saturday). I actually walked from our home to Westwood Village a couple of times (long walks). Riding with my daughter = much more fun!

This is much more of the "village" of Westwood Village: on Broxton Avenue, with the "Fox Village" movie theater visible in the distance through the trees. In addition to being the home of UCLA (my alma mater), Westwood has (or up until recently had) the highest concentration of single screen movie theaters in the world.

At this exact same spot a year or so later, I came across the Steve Carrell fim "Dinner For Schmucks" being filmed. Apparently, Broxton Avenue in Westwood Village is a popular "on location" site. Here's a link to a previous post on what that was all about. 

Westwood Village, circa 1980. Anyone else remember those weekend art shows? 

While still a nice place to visit, Westwood is not longer the entertainment "mecca" it was in the 1980's. Found this photo on the "Vintage Los Angeles" Facebook site.

Westwood is technically part of the city of Los Angeles.

Westwood, as well as places like Brentwood, Hollywood, Venice are all communities within the city limits of Los Angeles. 
Meanwhile ... Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Pasadena are all separate, independent cities. Confused? Don't be. Even people who've lived here their entire lives aren't sure what's part of the city of L.A. - and what's not. Here's a link to a previous post on what's is - and what's not - part of the city of Los Angeles.

Lunch at Subway: my daughter's choice. If you're in Westwood and looking for a place to park, I highly recommend the public parking garage at 1036 Broxton Aveune. The first two hours are free.

Dessert at Diddy Riese. Now we're talking!

Huge line out the door. Yummy ice cream and cookies - at a price that blows away all competition.

Their big cookie ice cream sandwich is just $1.50. THAT'S why there's almost always a line. 

We decided to take a completely different bus route home. It involved a transfer, but my daughter was really excited about the prospect of going a different way and taking two buses home (twice as fun).

We loved being able to help our kids engage with the city, even in small ways like this. 3000 years ago King Solomon wrote "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). 

This verse is often limited to what some might see as "religious instruction" - rather than all of life. Thinking out loud, I wonder if my daughter will even want her parents to show her how to ride the bus - where to get on, how to make a transfer, how to read a schedule - when she's older. How much better to have her mom and me start to show her now.

Even on a "date" with her dad. 

Welcome Aboard. 

View Diddy Riese, Westwood Village, Los Angeles in a larger map

© 2012
originally posted 3/7/09