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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer in Winter: Manhattan Beach in January

Manhattan Beach is a beautiful beach town located five miles south of Los Angeles International Airport. I was back in Los Angeles last January and took time to together with a friend from UCLA who lives in the area.

Yes, these photos were taken in the middle of Winter It was an exceptionally beautiful day - and a reminder why people put up with insane housing prices, soul numbing traffic, and all the other inconveniences of living in metro Los Angeles.

Surfing and boogie boarding in January. Manhattan Beach is mentioned in the 1962 song, "Surfin' U.S.A.", by the Beach Boys. Group members were from the adjacent city of Hawthorne and surfed in Manhattan Beach

This is looking south with the Palos Verdes Peninsula visible in distance. 

And looking north. 

At one time Manhattan Beach was considered an affordable beach community. According to the wikipedia article, home prices in Manhattan Beach "are among the highest in the state of California. More homes exceeding $1 million were sold in Manhattan Beach than any other city in California."

In terms of cost, "Beverly Hills, La Jolla, Malibu, Bel-Air, Montecito, and other high end cities in California all anked behind Manhattan Beach."

So maybe it's not a place that you or I will be moving to anytime soon. 

That's OK. It doesn't mean you can't visit. Saturday morning, the streets were hoping with locals and visitors enjoying the vibe and feel of downtown. 

Looking west on Manhattan Beach Blvd towards the Manhattan Beach Pier. 

Dining al fresco, Saturday morning in January in one of Southern California's truly great beach cities. And I didn't even spend any time at the beach. 

If you visit, especially during the summer, make sure you get there early in the day if you want to find parking. And bring a sweatshirts, and even long pants. Ironically, coastal fog in May and June can actually make it cooler than in January. 

More next time. 

© 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Clifford Clinton's legacy: Clifton's Cafeteria, Downtown Los Angeles (Part II)

Last November I was in Los Angeles and had time to stop and see a few sights - including the recently remodeled Clifton's Cafeteria on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles. 

Clifton's is a Los Angeles area cafeteria chain founded by Clifford Clinton in 1932. Clifton's on Broadway is the last surviving location.

What stands out is the incredible decor. The main dining room is designed to look like the Redwoods outside of Santa Cruz, California - where Clinton spent time as a youth. You think the waterfall in the main dining room is cool? Walk back a bit further ... 

... to the MASSIVE faux Redwood tree in the back of the restaurant - towering some three stories. 

Walk upstairs to the street side dining room - reminds me of something out of Main Street USA at Disneyland ... 

... meets Night at the Museum. Enjoying your meet next to realistic dioramas of taxidermied animals. This is of a coyote chasing an antelope. Very Californian. 

On the other side of the room, you have Africa - and the king of the beasts. Wow. There's no glass case - but don't touch. 

Where do you get stuff like this? 

An African safari? An estate sale? Or maybe a Natural History museum that's going out of business?. 

The sign out front describes Clifton's as a "Cabinet of Curiosities." The new owners took four years and spent $10 million to resore the restaurant to it's original 1930's and 1940's grandeur - curiosities and all. 

And they really did. Check out the incredibly restored staircase. Wow. 

I absolutely recommend a visit to Clifton's. It's a 80+ year old Los Angeles landmark, and is also considered the world's largest cafeteria. In the middle of Downtown Los Angeles. Who knew? 

Here's a link to last week's post, highlighting not only Clifton's the restaurant, but the founder Clifford Clinton. 

I had no idea, but Clinton was an incredibly generous man, coming close to bankruptcy in his efforts to feed needy Angelenos during the Great Depression. A deeply committed Christian, Clinton also fought for years against the corruption of City Hall, served in the US Army in World War II,  and came in second (out of 15 candidates) in an election for Mayor of Los Angeles, and work to solve world hunger through his self funded non-profit Meals for Millions. Truly an incredible man. Apparently, his grandson is working on a book on his life and legacy. Clifford Clinton's legacy really is more than a chain of local cafeterias. 

Back outside and across the street. Clifton's is tucked in between the buildings near the corner of 7th Street and Broadway. 

This is old school Broadway - primarily catering to Mexican and Central American immigrants. It seems like only a matter of time until the this patch of Broadway undergoes the same changes - that is, the same gentrification - nearby Spring Streets and Main Streets have experienced. 

Apparently, Apple in the process of securing a lease for a Downtown Los Angeles Apple Store at 8th and Broadway. My guess is that in 5-10 years (perhaps even sooner) these photos will feel historic. 

Catedreal de la Fe, a Pentecostal Church, located in The State Theater in the 13 story United Building, at the corner of 7th and Broadway. 

Jesuscristo es SeƱor. Jesus is Lord. Absolutely. 

My guess is that Catedreal de la Fe rents (rather than owns) the theater. Assuming that's the case, I'm curious is they'll stay put - or relocate? If they stay put, will work at create an English speaking service as well? If not, will The State Theater remain a theater ... or something else?

Back at the corner of 6th and Spring Street - heading back to my car. Many of these old office buildings have been recently been converted to residential. Got to love the massive ficus tree on the corner. 

More ficus trees, along with some outdoor dining, along Spring Street. When their roots are not ripping up sidewalks, ficus trees are great. 

By the way, this was the Saturday before November. Beautiful sunny skys and a warm Fall afternoon. Say what you will about Los Angeles, but it's got some of the most ideal climate in the world. 

I had parked a few blocks away, at the corner of 6th Street and Main. Across the street are the Santa Fe Lofts and Pacific Electric Lofts. These are a couple more examples of historic buildings that have been converted into apartments and condos. 

Like the rest of Downtown Los Angeles, metered parking isn't necessarily cheap - but I was there less than an hour, so it was the way to go. Great experience. I wanted to check out The Broad and Clifton's. And next time bring my wife and kids.

© 2016


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Clifford Clinton's legacy: Clifton's Cafeteria, Downtown Los Angeles (Part I)

Last November I was back in Los Angeles and had several hours to explore the city. After a visit to Echo Park Lake and a quick look at the new Broad Museum in Bunker Hill, I drove over the check out Clifton's Cafeteria in Downtown Los Angeles' Historic Core. Above is the corner of 6th and Spring Streets - just a couple of block from Clifton's. 

Above our a couple of new residents out of a Saturday afternoon bike ride. Since the adoption of the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance in 1999, the Historic Core has undergone a radical transformation, welcoming thousands of new residents. The Adaptive Reuse Ordinance allowed older buildings (primarily outdated commercial) to be adapted to residential units. 

No, this is not the Westside (Santa Monica, Westwood, Beverly Hills). This is downtown Los Angeles on a Saturday afternoon. 

People, life, activity at Spring and 6th. I like the mural, too. 

This is walking down 6th Street towards Broadway. While Los Angeles does have a subway line (and small but growing light rail system) buses - including this large articulated Metro bus - are much more common. 

Corner of 6th and Broadway. Here's a link to a previous blogpost with some photos and thoughts on Broadway. 

Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles. 

In contrast to Bunker Hill, developed in the 1960's and generally devoid of people, the much more traditional streets of the Historic Core are alive with pedestrians. Along with Main Street and Spring Street, Broadway is undergoing a massive transformation. 

Before World War II, Broadway was the premier shopping district of Los Angeles, as well as home to a dozen massive movie palaces. After the war, as the city grew outward, Broadway and the rest of Downtown experienced significant economic decline. Businesses catering to Mexican and Central American immigrants picked up the slack, and by the 1980's Broadway was again filled with shoppers, this time speaking Spanish. Rents were comparable to Beverly Hills (no joke). 

Broadway is again in transition. Apparently, Apple just signed a lease to open a new Apple Store two blocks away at 8th and Broadway. The area is changing again, this time catering to the thousands of new residents moving in to the area - with more on the way. 

The 1960's had it wrong. Bunker Hill, despite it's walkways and impressive office towers, is not inviting to people. The much more traditional Historic Core (which feels more like New York or most other cities around the world) gets it right. 

One of the places that continues to "get it right" is Clifton's Cafeteria. 

Clifton's has been a part of Los Angeles since 1932, and at this Downtown spot since 1935. Unlike many businesses that pulled out of downtown when times and tastes changed, Clifton's stayed put, continuing to serve the community. It recently reopened under new ownership after a 4 year $10 million restoration. I had heard about this - and wanted to see if for myself. 

During the renovation, this neon sign, continually lit for over over 77 years, was found behind a wall. It's now part of the floor when you walk in adding to the old/new feel of the restaurant. 

Clifton's Cafeteria is ... a ... cafeteria. 

Apparently, it is actually the largest cafeteria in the world. 

So grab a tray, wait in line, and enjoy the experience. 

If Clifton's feels like something out of the 1930's - it's because it is. The new owners worked hard to keep that feel despite the multi-million dollar renovation. 

It was a Saturday afternoon about 3pm - and PACKED. 

In a city that can feel so segregated racially and economically - it was encouraging to see people from different backgrounds there. Apparently, at Clifton's that's always been the case

Since it opened in 1935, Clifton's has been known for it's special, kitschy decor. 

Clifford Clinton, the original owner, designed the cafeteria with large murals, a rock waterfall, and other decorations designed to mimic the redwoods outside of Santa Cruz, California where he spent time as a youth. The new owned have done an excellent job restoring the vibe and feel, as well as giving it a very appropriate 21st update. 

The kitschy interior is well known. What is less known is Clifford Clinton's deep religious faith. 

Tucked into the corner of the main dining all is a small chapel. What's that all about? Who was Clifford Clinton?

photo credit:
According to The Native Angeleno: Clifton's owner Clifford Clinton "was born in Berkley in 1900, the third of ten children. His parents, Edmond and Gertrude, were missionaries, captains in the Salvation Army. Edmond owned a chain of restaurants in San Francisco, which gave the Clintons the resources to travel around the world and spread the word of Christ. They all lived in China for two years, from 1910 to 1912, volunteering at a Christian orphanage for the blind." 

During the height of the Great Depression 10,000 people ate free over a 90 day period. Despite the fact that this incredible generosity almost bankrupted him, Clinton then opened an emergency "Penny Cafeteria" - feeding 2 million people for free over the next two years. 

Clinton's faith also motivated him to fight a very corrupt City Hall, Police Department, and the Los Angeles crime underworld, almost getting him killed when a pipe bomb explode in his basement. Incredibly, he did not back down, and personally worked to secure 120,000 signatures needed to hold a special election to recall Mayor Frank Shaw. 

Hofmann's Christ In Gethsemane
Between 1943 - 1960, an estimate 7 million people visited the elaborate "Garden of Meditation" display he created in the lower level of the restaurant, focusing on the life and impact of Jesus Christ. 

But wait, there's more. According the KCET website

"A month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Clinton, at the age of 41, enlisted in the army and said he would "do anything" to serve his nation. He served as a private and rose to first lieutenant as a mess officer.

After the war, he ran for Mayor of Los Angeles, coming in second in a field of fifteen candidates.

photo credit:
Clinton next set his sights on world hunger. He asked Caltech biochemist Dr. Henry Borsook, to develop a food supplement that would provide proper nutritional values while costing no more than five cents per meal. Clinton offered his own money to finance the research. This led to the development of Multi-Purpose Food (MPF), a high-protein food supplement that could be made for just three cents per meal. Clinton then created Meals for Millions, a not-for-profit organization, which would go on to provide millions of MPF meals to people in over 60 countries around the world."

Wow, I had no idea. 

Incredible man. Equally incredible legacy. 

Here's a final look at the main dining room - with the rock waterfall in the foreground.

More on Clifton's in the next post.  

© 2016


Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Broad (rhymes with Road) Downtown Los Angeles

This past November I was in Los Angeles for a conference, and had a few extra hours to explore the city. After a sunrise hike on the Upper Temescal Ridge Trail and a walk around the recently renovated Echo Park Lake, I drove over to the new Broad (rhymes with Road) Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

The Broad is located at 221 South Grand Avenue. A small park was created next to the museum and adjacent Emerson hotel. 

Looking south down Grand Avenue. 

A couple of gourmet food trucks outside. 

The round window is one of the more distinct architectural features of the building. 

The Broad is fairly unique in that the entrance is actually off the street - located on corner of Grand Avenue and Second Street - bringing life to the street as people are coming in and going out of the museum. 

And waiting to get in. The good news - the great news - is The Broad is FREE.  Which is also the bad news. Every single one of the free tickets is snatched up at least a month in advance. 

Fortunately, there is a standby line. According the museum's website, it can be a 10-45 minute wait on weekdays, and a 60-90 minute wait on weekends. How long do people wait at, say, Disneyland for one ride - after paying $$$ to get in? The Broad is an entire museum and is free. 

So, this is the standby line. An unintended consequence is bringing more people out on the generally empty streets of downtown L.A.'s Bunker Hill. And gourmet food trucks ... 

All day parking on weekends is $12, or $8 if you park across the street. I put some quarters in a street meter for 20 minutes. I didn't want to pay full freight for parking - or wait an hour to get in. So, unfortunately, photos this time are limited to just the outside. 

Another view of the park outside of the museum. Lot's of people hanging out, enjoying an unusually warm November afternoon. 

Across the street from The Broad is the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Here's a link to when my wife and kids and I enjoyed a free concert there several years back. 

Across the street from the Disney Concert Hall, and diagonal from The Broad is this 50 year old parking structure - what I personally consider the ugliest structure in the entire city.

This was built back in the 1960's as a "temporary" structure - and it's still there. A massive development called the "Grand Avenue Project" was stalled back in 2008 - putting development once again on hold. Here's hoping that this can be finally be replace in the near future. 

Across the street from The Broad, is the MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art. Admission is $12, or free Thursdays after 5pm. If you'll notice in the photo above, there a railing in the middle of the street - the middle of Grand Avenue. What's that all about?

Unknown to most people, Grand Avenue is actually a two level street. This section of Grand Avenue is part of Bunker Hill. When the area was slated for re-development in the 1960's, Bunker Hill was flattened (at least, a little) and a two level road was built through part of it. The Broad, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and various other hotels, and office towers are located on the upper level of Grand. Then there's the lower level. This is driving along the lower level of Third Street, with the intersection of Third and Grand ahead. 

This is lower Grand Avenue - with the office towers peaking through the two upper decks of upper Grand. Despite the surprisingly clean and wide sidewalks, I would not describe this as pedestrian friendly. 

I wanted to see one more thing a few blocks away in downtown L.A.'s historic core - which is very pedestrian friendly. More on that next time. 

© 2016