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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Experiencing LA: Third Street Promenade

The Third Street Promenade is a three block pedestrian mall located in the Los Angeles adjacent city of Santa Monica. I was in the area last February, decided to stop by  and walk around a bit. 

Free parking is never a given anywhere in the Los Angeles area. There are several large parking garages, with first 90 minutes being free - which was great. 

This is walking along Wilshire Blvd, between 4th and 3rd Streets, from the parking structure to the Promenade. If you wonder why in the world people put up with traffic, crazy high rent, and the other inconveniences of living in Los Angeles - this is it. 

This is what a February afternoon in Los Angeles is like. The Pacific Ocean is in the distance. 

The former JC Penny's, on the corner of Wilshire Blvd and 3rd Street. It's now a Banana Republic. 

Across the Banana Republic is a former Barnes & Noble bookstore. The bookstore opened in the late 1990's ... but - unfortunately was unable to compete with Amazon. 

People hanging outside chairs - and checking their phones. 

Footlocker on the corner of 3rd and Arizona. 

Across Arizona Avenue, the 1923 Criterion Building. The building housed various movie theaters (both single screens, and then multiplexes) until 2013, when the ground floor retail became a Victoria Secrets. The 2nd and 3rd floor apartments start at $2145 - for a tiny 326 square foot studio apartment. 

Third Street was originally a regular city street open to automobiles. In 1965, the city of Santa Monica closed three blocks to vehicular traffic, and created the "Santa Monica Mall." By the late 1970's, the mall was in desperate need of an update, which finally occurred in 1989 with the opening of the now iconic Third Street Promenade. 

The updates in the late 1980's included creating curbs, to bring it back to feeling like a classic city street. In addition, whimsical fountains and sculptures were installed. Perhaps most important, a change in city codes finally allowed for outdoor dining. Located in the distance is the 1930 Clock Tower Building. 

Plenty of people were out and about the Sunday afternoon I was there. While enclosed malls around the country are struggling (and closing) Third Street Promenade attracts 11 million visitors a year. 

Why do people live in cities? It's pretty simple. Because they want to be around other people. People were created to be around other people. It's a God-given trait, and despite despite the explosion of online shopping, I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon. 

This is the corner of Third and Santa Monica Blvd. Unlike enclosed malls, Third Street Promenade has a mix of architectural styles, with buildings dating back to the 1920's. This four story building currently houses The Gap. 

If there's a criticism of Third Street, it's that it feels like a clone of other successful shopping districts around the country. While it has it's own unique vibe and flair, much of it - like this massive Apple Store - can be found elsewhere. 

But there are unique restaurants as well. 

Chili Beans is found in just two other locations in Southern California. And I like the the look of the exterior of the building. It features higher end sunglasses. 

Why else do people live in cities? Perhaps it's stumbling across individuals like violinist Karolina Protsenko. 

Karolina is a 10 year old superstar violinist. On weekends, you'll often find her playing for tips on Third Street. 

Or, performing on shows like, say, Ellen

Apparently, Karolina Protsenko's YouTube videos's have received over 250 million hits. 

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon her performing on a Sunday afternoon. Even if you're not into shopping, if you're in the area, it might be worth to stopping by just to experience hearing her play. Perhaps you can tell your grandkids "I remember hearing Karolina Protsenko when she was just playing for tips on Third Street!" 

At the end of the three block public Third Street Promenade is the private outdoor shopping mall, the "Santa Monica Place". The Santa Monica Place originally opened as an enclosed mall in 1980. With an overall declining interest in enclosed malls, Santa Monica Place underwent a massive $250 million dollar transformation, literally taking off the roof and re-opening as an outdoor shopping center in August 2010. I was short on time, so a visit to the Santa Monica Place will have to wait for another day. 

Back on Third Street Promenade, heading back to Wilshire & 3rd Street, and my car. 

Third Street Promenade is located in between Wilshire and Broadway, just three blocks from the Pacific Ocean, in Santa Monica. 

Parking garages, offering 90 minutes of free parking, can be found along 2nd and 4th Streets. Third Street Promenade also located ajacent to the terminus of the Expo Line Light Rail (originating in Downtown Los Angeles). 

© 2019



Saturday, May 4, 2019

Crime and Punishment: Prison Nation at Los Angeles Pierce College

Earlier this year, I was on a work related trip at Pierce College in San Fernando Valley. This was early February. 

Pierce College is two year community college, located in the Woodland Hills neighborhood, on the western edge of Los Angele's San Fernando Valley. This is a photo from the campus looking north towards the Santa Susanna Mountains. And a reminder how suburban much of Los Angeles really is. 

Art work around campus was promoting a political commentary display the campus "Prison Nation."

The full name is "Prison Nation: Posters on the Prison Industrial Complex."

Above, various political commentary displays on what organizers refer to as the "Prison Industrial Complex." Below are a couple of examples:

"Capital Punishment means them without the capital get the punishment." 

"One in Every Three Black Men Between the Ages of 20 and 29 will Spend Time in Jail." 

Much of the wall space was dedicated to a graphic novel approach to the material on the criminal justice system in the US. 

Organizers took stabs at both political parties. Above, the Crime Bill under Democratic President Bill Clinton. 

... as well as criminal justice policies under Republican President George W. Bush. Did I give the display the time it deserved? Honestly, no. I had about ten minutes to look around. 

Most of the photos and commentary on this blog tend to focus on the "best of" Los Angeles, often ignoring the he harder issues a major city faces. Sure, I've commented on traffic, the cost of housing, and homelessness - as well as my Christian faith. It's easy to comment on from the sidelines - solutions are much much harder. I'm certainly no expert in public policy. 

But regarding what organizers call the prison industrial complex, wouldn't it make more sense - for example - for non violent criminals to make restitution for what they did? If someone embezzles from a company, wouldn't it make more sense to pay back the company (plus, of course fines) rather than a system of retribution? 

I appreciate Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry focused on prison reform, for challenging my thinking in this area years ago. It is the world's largest Christian nonprofit organization for prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, and a leading advocate for justice reform.

Prison Fellowship has worked with members of Congress to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993), the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (2000), the Prison Rape Elimination Act (2003), the Second Chance Act (2008), the Fair Sentencing Act (2010), and the 21st Century Cures Act (2016) as well as a variety of state-level criminal justice reforms (source: wikipedia article). 

Perhaps changes to the criminal justice system is something that people on from different political parties, as well as different faith backgrounds, can find at least some common ground in. 

Here's a link to Pierce College's website.  

© 2019