Category Archives: News

SurveyLA’s head discusses technology, methodology for preservation project

As mentioned in previous posts, the city is asking its citizens to recommend their favorite neighborhood spots to be made historical landmarks.  An event is being held Saturday, April 4 at the Central Library to kick-off the SurveyLA project.  Ken Bernstein, the project’s head, discussed the city’s renewed efforts to protect the city’s historical areas.

According to a report released by the Getty Conservation Institute showed that there was “no comprehensive inventory of [L.A.’s] resources,” said Bernstein.  “[GCI] entered into a grant agreement with the city” in which L.A. matched the J. Paul Getty Trust’s funding of $2.5 million for the five-year project that would strive to document historical places.

“[The project will] radically rethink how historical surveys used to be [with] a pencil and clipboard,” Bernstein said, adding that the city consists of 880,000 legal parcels.  “[It’s] creating an entirely new methodology…we now have a new database, and a field tool that surveys with tablet PCs…[using] donwloaded information from our geographic survey.  The city an upload a photograph and match it to the parcel [being surveyed].  It’s taken a bit of time to design and get that tool in place.”

L.A. approved an ordinance in 1962 that would preserve cultural heritage sites, but “in many ways we are playing catch up” because it wasn’t until recently that the city began taking more initiative in protecting its historical areas.

“This really should have been done 40 years ago,” said Bernstein.  “We’ve been operating…very much in the dark,” and neighborhoods in West L.A., the San Fernando Valley and downtown cities have yet to be surveyed for important places.  These are the areas where “significant buildings [may be lost] without [us] even knowing it…Community members have to rally to save [these places] at the 11th hour,” he said.  “It’s far better to be proactive and upfront well before there’s a threat to a particular site.”

The city is reaching out to those community members who are willing to act as neighborhood coordinators and reach out to their “friends and longtime residents to identify places that are important local landmarks…We are hoping to begin building a network of engaged active neighborhood volunteers” and work with Angelenos.

So far, the city has been getting a stream of steady responses from their online MyhistoricLA submission form, Bernstein said.  One example includes “an old (Chatsworth) movie ranch up against a hillside…that has never been designate and has great natural features.”   There have been some “offbeat responses,” but for the most part, many of the submissions have been “very interesting.”

Bernstein, who used to work with the L.A. Conservancy, said they are working on “a nomination for the Bob Baker (who has been at his craft for about half a century at this point) Marionette Studio just west of downtown, along with the original See’s Candy home on Western Avenue.  Both sites are “very (architectually) modest…but it’s not always about a single place or one great grandiose architectural landmarks.”

“It’s how these buildings tell the story of Los Angeles,” Bernstein said.

The SurveyLA kick-off celebration takes place this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Central Library, located at 5th and Flower in downtown.  A panel discussion headed by KPCC Air Talk host Larry Mantle runs from 1 to 2:30 p.m., when local community organizers, city officials, developers and preservationists discuss issues in surveying the city; reservations to attend the panel discussion can be made at

City to celebrate new efforts in documenting L.A.’s historic places

Los Angeles Central Library by mental.masala on Flickr

A celebration will be held at the Los Angeles Central Library to mark the city's new SurveyLA project, which is encouraging citizens to recommend historical sites in their communities. Photo courtesy of mental.masala at Flickr.

Every community has it: that bizarre house at the corner known for its strange architecture and perhaps even stranger occupants.  Angelenos can now report that odd abode, whether it’s someone else’s or their own, as a historical place of Los Angeles.  As part of a new preservation program to document the city’s historic resources, officials are encouraging citizens to suggest oft-ignored areas of their neighborhoods for their new SurveyLA project.

The city is throwing a kick-off celebration at the L.A. Central Library, located at the corner of 5th and Flower downtown, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 4.  KPCC Air Talk host Larry Mantle will host a panel of community organizers, city officials, developers and preservationists discussing the survey from 1 to 2:30 p.m.  Reservations are recommended for the panel discussion and can be made at

Among the 11 communities to be surveyed include the 210-freeway cities of Sunland-Tujunga, La Canada, La Cresenta, Lake View Terrace and Shadow Hills.

Got a suggestion for the survey? Visit to help out.

To get to the April 4 event car-free, take the Red Line subway and get off at Pershing Square, located at 4th and Hill and walk west to 5th Street.  If you’re driving, parking is only $1 all day during library hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays) with a validation.

Unfortunately, this blogger will be unable to make it – she’ll be playing a real tourist as she explores Paris and London for two weeks (stay tuned for special out-of-LA posts during those travels!).

Lincoln Heights Jail may become lofts

Lincoln Heights JailEastsider LA reports city officials are looking to find a new use for the Lincoln Heights Jail (see a previous post I wrote about the former prison here for CSUN’s Scene Magazine).

It currently houses a state-funded youth athletics center and the Bilingual Foundation for the Arts, a Hispanic theatre group.

The blog also reports that Cal Poly Pomona architecture students put together a rehabilitation proposal “integrated sustainable strategies” for the site as part of a class project.

Read more @ Eastsider LA: “Are you ready for loft living at the Lincoln Heights Jail?”

Before Wilshire Boulevard and rush hour, there were mammoths

In this undated photo, a worker holds a pickaxe at the bottom of one of the tar pits located on Rancho La Brea. Land owner Henry Hancock (for whom Hancock Park is named after), excavated the area for its tar content, and carloads of bones (which turned out to be prehistoric birds, mammals & plants) not then known to have a scientific value were burned as rubbish. Photographer: E.S. Cobb. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library historical photo archives.

On the first day of almost all of my anthropology courses, the professor usually began with, “How many of you have heard of Indiana Jones?  Do you think that’s what all anthropologists do?  Well it’s not!”

If I weren’t curiously poking around town and writing about it, I’d settle for…curiously poking around town and digging things up (True story: as kids, my younger brothers and I found coral while shoveling dirt around in the back yard as we tried to build a fort with plywood.  We lived 30 miles north of the closest beach.).  As a result, I’m jealous of the folks who discovered a goldmine of Ice Age fossils beneath an old May Co. parking lot near La Brea Tarpits.

Listen to NPR‘s story about the find here, or read the L.A. Times’ article, “Major cache of fossils unearthed in L.A.

The above photo shows the La Brea Tarpits area in an earlier time in more recent history.

Fight for Angels Flight continues

Olivet and Sinai, the cars of Angels Flight, are seen through the plastic gates blocking pedestrians from entering the landmark.

Olivet and Sinai, the cars of Angels Flight, are seen through the plastic gates blocking pedestrians from entering the landmark.

Anticipation over Angels Flight Railway’s reopening continues as LAist reports the debate of private vs. public at L.A. Downtown News.

After Downtown News printed an editorial last week saying “we have to turn to the government to (get the railway running again)”, Angels Flight Railway Foundation President John Welborne (who’s interviewed for this blog here) and Angels Flight Board of Directors Chairman Dennis R. Luna responded to concerns that the funicular should be handed back to the city.

“Safety must not take a back seat to attempts at political expediency,” wrote Luna and Welborne, and reminded readers that the last time the railway was in public hands, it took 27 years for the city to reopen it.

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