September 11, 2012
JoAnn Hanson-Nortey got the awful phone call a year ago this week: Her 10-year-old son, Jordan, running full-tilt on the playground, had collided with another child and suffered a severe head injury.
“It was a freak thing,” recalls the Sherman Oaks mother. “They had banged heads running around a wall. You wouldn’t think it would be that serious, but it caused a skull fracture—the neurosurgeon said it was like a crack in an eggshell.” Had he not received immediate treatment, he could have suffered permanent brain damage or worse.
Instead, emergency medical technicians swiftly transported both Jordan and the other child, who also was seriously injured, to Northridge Hospital’s Richie Pediatric Trauma Center, which celebrates its second anniversary on October 4.
Championed by Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon with crucial assists from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and others, the center is one of only seven such units in Los Angeles County. It is also the first and only one to serve the San Fernando Valley’s littlest trauma patients, who until the center’s 2010 opening had to be airlifted to UCLA’s pediatric trauma center or to Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
“We have saved some real lives,” says Northridge Hospital’s interim president, Saliba Salo, noting that the so-called “golden hour”—the 60-minute window right after an injury in which quick treatment can make a life-or-death difference—is doubly important for children. Indeed, pediatric patients are so much more fragile that doctors refer to their window as the “platinum half-hour.”
“In the fiscal year before we opened the unit, we saw only eleven kids under age 14 for trauma,” says Salo. “But in fiscal year 2011, we saw 151, and we anticipate 155 this year.”
The center has been a longtime goal for the Valley, where doctors, first responders and community leaders advocated for years for its opening. Alarcon, in fact, made it a personal crusade after his 3-year-old son, Richie, was gravely injured in a 1987 car crash on Victory Boulevard; a suicidal driver rammed into the car in which the baby was riding, and because there was no pediatric trauma unit nearby, the little boy’s treatment was delayed while he was airlifted to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he died the next day.
In 2005, Alarcon—who by then was in the state senate—introduced a bill to authorize California counties to levy a surcharge on traffic tickets, a portion of which would fund pediatric trauma centers. The bill was vetoed, but Alarcon introduced it again in 2006.
This time it passed, and when it was scheduled to expire three years later, Padilla authored an extension. Los Angeles County Supervisors, meanwhile, agreed to levy the fine here, and to tap the so-called “Richie’s Fund” revenue to help launch the unit. Although private donations to the hospital remain crucial, the county’s funding distribution to its trauma and emergency care network has since included $1.6 million in startup operating funds for the center in 2011 and $1.74 million this year.
County health officials report that the Northridge unit not only hastens care for the Valley’s trauma victims, but also shortens wait times at the county’s other trauma care units by lightening the patient load elsewhere. Before Northridge Hospital was certified as a pediatric trauma center, every young trauma patient in the Valley or even points north of the county line had to be transported long distances to receive care, usually to Children’s Hospital in Hollywood or to UCLA. This year, nearly 42% of them have remained in the Valley for treatment.
The unit this year treated children from 47 cities and from as far away as Sacramento County, though the bulk of its patients come from the Valley. That proximity is key because having family members at hand plays a big part in a child’s recovery, says Melanie Crowley, who manages the hospital’s trauma program.
“If you or I had a child transported to UCLA or Children’s, we might wonder which car we were going to take to the hospital to see them,” says Crowley. “But a lot of our families don’t even have cars. They have to decide which bus to take.”
Crowley says the center’s cases run the gamut. “But the ones that stick in my mind are the ones that happen just because of the normal things that kids do. Kids who were just jumping on the couch when they fell and got a bleed on the brain. Kids who chased a ball out onto the street and got hit by a car. Kids injured because a car seat was installed improperly.”
And kids like Jordan, who, because the Richie Center existed, was getting a CT scan in preparation for neurosurgery within 45 minutes of his accident.
“The doctor literally called me from his car on the way to the hospital to explain the operation,” recalls Hanson-Nortey, a single mother who remained at her son’s bedside, 24-7, for the next five days. After some physical therapy, he was home, and 3 months later, Jordan was back to school full-time.
“I probably could have gone back in like a month,” the now-11-year-old boy says, “but my mom wanted to be safe.”
Since then, his scars have healed, his hair has grown back and he plays tennis and begs his mother to let him play football—in vain. She says she has seen a side of her son that is braver than she had ever imagined; he says he’d like to be a policeman someday.
“I wasn’t that scared because I knew the doctors were going to make me better,” he says now. His mother’s perspective is slightly different.
“The people at the hospital turned something really awful into something that was just pretty bad that we could get over,” she says.
September 6, 2012
The next shiny, new section of Grand Park debuts Tuesday, but its centerpiece has been around for decades—although odds are you’ve never heard of it. Called “The Historic Court of American Flags,” it’s long been flying under the radar.
When the court was first completed in 1971, it featured 18 replica flags dating back to 1774, with plaques describing each one. The minimal landscaping surrounding the display served mostly as a cover for a four-level parking garage below. As far as public visibility, you’d be lucky to see more than a few stars and stripes from the neighboring streets.
Now, as the Grand Park Project gives the 12-acre space between the Music Center and City Hall a dramatic makeover, the flags have been uprooted from their original spot in the center of the park space and arranged parallel to Hill Street and Broadway. This not only vastly opened up the middle of the park’s third block but also gave the flags a more showy location.
Dawn McDivitt, the county’s project manager for Grand Park, said the flag court provides the community with “a space to reflect” on the nation’s—and the county’s—history. She said the county’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs was consulted on the flags’ relocation and were “very, very pleased” with the results.
The flag court represents an effort by the designers to incorporate the area’s history with its future. A signature feature of the park, in fact, is the renovated Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, which, like the flags, was largely invisible to the public until two parking lot ramps were demolished and relocated.
The newest touch was the design of the concrete pedestals in which the poles and plaques have been mounted. Before, everything was cemented at ground level. Architects from Rios Clementi Hale Studios, which designed Grand Park, created the blockish pedestals so that the flags and plaques could be seen more easily, by more people.
The latest section scheduled for opening this week has been dubbed “Community Terrace.” Besides the court of flags, it boasts plants and flowers from all six floristic regions of the world, 24 cherry blossom trees from the Japanese Consulate, and, of course, the park’s movable magenta benches, chairs and tables. Terraced ramps will improve access to the area while offering extra seating capacity for large events once the final segment of the park near City Hall opens on October 6, just in time for the hugely popular CicLAvia to roll through the next day.
The Community Terrace is also home to theVietnam Memorial Monument, which features a bronzed Army helmet from the war’s era. The helmet had been sawed off and stolen twice over the years, so designers upgraded the monument with a threaded steel rod and other security measures to keep any would-be thieves at bay.
The terrace will open with a short ceremony on Tuesday, September 11 at 9 a.m. Bea Cohen, a 102-year-old World War II veteran recently honored by the Board of Supervisors, is expected to be on hand for the event. During the ceremony, the historic flags will be hoisted by veterans from all branches of the military, as well as by fire and law enforcement officials.
August 28, 2012
As the county Hall of Records hits the big 5-0 this year, it’s getting a youthful new neighbor and a second look by a public that’s been largely unaware of its towering architectural stature—and its aging condition.
Unbeknownst to many in the Civic Center crowd, the 1962 building is a striking example of Modernist architecture and ahead-of-its-time eco-design by the legendary Richard Neutra with his then-partner Robert Alexander.
Now that Grand Park, with its splashy pink furniture and high visibility quotient, is set to open its next segment right next door to the Hall of Records on September 11, a new generation of Angelenos is about to meet up with a structure that Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne describes as being “among the most underrated modernist buildings in Los Angeles.” There’s even talk of screening outdoor movies and concert simulcasts on the Hall of Records wall that faces the new Community Terrace section of the park.
“Bringing more people into the area is a good thing and will change how people view [the building],” said Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy. Although she says the Hall of Records is “very much admired”—and eligible for listing on the California Register of historic resources—it’s less visible than other downtown Modernist favorities like architect A.C. Martin’s Department of Water and Power Building, not to mention Frank Gehry’s internationally acclaimed Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“Buildings that people can see from the freeway, they really tend to care about,” Dishman said.
Although it’s been keeping a low profile, the 15-story Hall of Records is a busy place, bustling with workers from eleven county departments. But its signature tenant, the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, picked up stakes and moved to Norwalk years ago, along with the records that gave the building its name.
And some signature elements of the building’s architecture are now broken, repurposed or out of public view, although many of its glories remain (see photo gallery below.)
Its most compelling features—massive solar-activated aluminum louvers, designed to move with the sun and keep the offices inside shaded—have been locked into place for more than two decades. The building’s manager says they’re “beyond economical repair.”
In a digital age, the windowless wing of the T-shaped building that was built to hold records now tends to hold mostly county workers instead.
A cafeteria on the building’s top floor, with its dramatic “spider leg” exterior columns and broad balcony showcasing killer views, has long since stopped dishing up lunch for bureaucrats. Instead, it’s been transformed into office space for Superior Court witness and juror services.
The Hall’s “Mad Men”-era lobbies have seen better days, too—though they still exude enough early ‘60s fabulousness to attract film and TV crews galore. (“The Lincoln Lawyer” shoot left behind spruced-up light fixtures and a series of oversized Los Angeles-themed photos in a glass case.)
And the exterior lighting that once illuminated the building’s Hill Street facade? It’s out of order, with a bench pulled over the fixtures so no one trips on them. “It’s on the list for repair,” sighs Charlie Bedell III, chief of the District Attorney’s Property Management Division. The D.A.’s office, which now occupies most of the office space in the Hall of Records, is charged with the often thankless task of maintaining the building. Other tenants range from the Alternate Public Defender and the Auditor-Controller to Regional Planning and the Treasurer-Tax Collector.
Still, there are signs that things are perking up: fresh landscaping around the building looks bright and healthy. A mosaic-and-granite mural by artist Joseph Young on the north side of the building was restored by a conservator hired by the county Arts Commission in 2008 (although it’s due for another cleaning soon.)
And, while the general public may be only vaguely aware of the Hall of Records’ existence, Hollywood location scouts have placed it on the A-list.
“Everybody wants to come to this building to film,” Bedell said. “They love the old architecture of this building. They love the uniqueness of this building.”
Hollywood also loves what’s not readily visible—the subterranean world of tunnels connecting the building with the Hall of Administration, the Hall of Justice and the Criminal Courts building.
“Most people don’t know these tunnels exist,” Bedell said, although they’ve been seen in features ranging from “Eagle Eye” to “National Treasure.”
With a long list of maintenance needs, and a short supply of funds, a top priority is repairing the tunnel doors so they can be secured after-hours—of particular importance now that a public underground parking lot serving Grand Park has opened right next to the Hall of Records.
But there’s so much left to do. The building’s deterioration frustrates Neutra’s son, architect Dion Neutra, who bemoans the non-functioning louvers, the “abandonment” of the rooftop cafeteria, the lobbies “all festooned with crap and signs.” His Vienna-born father worked for much of his career in Southern California, creating striking residences and office buildings that helped establish a signature mid-century aesthetic in Los Angeles, Orange County, Palm Springs and other areas. Some of Neutra’s buildings have been destroyed, and preserving his legacy requires vigilance. (Efforts to stop the planned demolition of Neutra’s Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania are underway.)
In that context, the upkeep of the Hall of Records takes on new urgency, Dion Neutra said.
“Why would a steward of a building like that, with millions of dollars of original cost, allow it to deteriorate like that?” he asked. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
The significance of the building goes beyond its architectural pedigree. Integrated into the Hall of Records are two artworks from the county’s Civic Art collection: the Joseph Young mural and a dramatic eight-story-high screen by ceramicist Malcolm Leland that covers the building’s ventilation system.
Clare Haggerty, the Civic Art collections manager for the county Arts Commission, said she would like to see plaques installed on both artworks, to inspire passersby to take a deeper look at what’s in front of them. In the process, they might just see the Hall of Records itself in a whole new light.
“I would say that, like a lot of our artworks, sometimes to appreciate them, you need to know a little of their backstory,” Haggerty said. “It’s actually pretty amazing.”
Photos by Henry Salazar/Los Angeles County
August 19, 2012
Never heard of Arthur J. Will? That’s about to change.
For decades, a fountain tucked between the Hall of Administration and the courthouse has carried Will’s name, honoring his work in creating the Civic Center Mall during the late 1950s while serving as the county’s chief administrative officer.
But the truth is that, outside of a couple cameo appearances in the movies “Pretty Woman” and “500 Days of Summer,” the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain has remained mostly anonymous, its street-level view completely obscured by two concrete parking-lot ramps on Grand Avenue.
Now, the 1960s-era fountain is being spectacularly re-imagined for a starring role in a $56-million transformation of Will’s long overlooked public space, which stretches from the Music Center to City Hall. The parking ramps have been demolished and moved, and the fountain has been restored under the watchful eye of the Los Angeles Conservancy.
In recent days, the fountain has been tested for the first time since it was turned off in July, 2010. Last Monday, a nighttime run-through of the fountain’s stunning new kaleidoscopic hues brought smiles of satisfaction—and relief—to the team responsible for the $5.2 million makeover. (For a front row seat at the testing, take a look at our video, linked above.)
“This is a huge milestone to have this be so successful and so enticing,” said project manager Dawn McDivitt of the county’s Chief Executive Office. “We can’t wait to show it off to the community.”
The fountain, which is now also more energy efficient, will remain closed to the public until late summer or early fall, when all four blocks of the 12-acre park project are completed. Currently called Civic Park, it’s designed to create a sense of place in a downtown on the rise, with a performance lawn, a grand event lawn, ADA-accessible walkways, a dog run and a community terrace area showcasing plants from around the world.
But it’s the fountain—with its new prominence and engaging interactive features—that promises to be one of the park’s biggest draws.
Karen Adhikari of Fluidity Design Consultants, which oversaw the fountain’s restoration and expansion, said the Los Angeles Conservancy required that the existing structure be kept largely intact, most notably the space-age-styled granite and concrete “bowl.” What’s more, material used in the restoration, she said, needed to precisely replicate the original look.
But the conservancy also signed-off on a dramatic modernization: a ¼-inch-deep “membrane pool” with 79 interactive jets and a dark granite bottom that produces crisp reflections of the fountain and surrounding buildings, including the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Designers of the 6,200-square-foot pool would like to see visitors of all ages wade in.
“We hope that people will find this a peaceful place, an active place, a place that is constantly changing and never repetitive,” said Adhikari, whose company worked in tandem with the construction firm of Outside the Lines.
For months, wood fences along Grand Avenue concealed from public view the fountain’s sparkling renovation. But last December, that didn’t deter one particularly determined passerby from trying to get a peek. He had reason to be more curious than most. His father was the fountain’s namesake, Arthur J. Will.
Robert Will said he was driving along Grand Avenue with friends after a downtown lunch when he saw the fences and pulled to the curb.
“I got out, jumped up and peered over the fences,” said the 80-year-old Will, a retired Washington D.C. lobbyist. That’s when he says he was approached by security officers, who ordered him to move along.
“I want to look at the fountain,” Will said he responded. “They were very polite but they still said, ‘Get out of there!’ ”
Two weeks ago, pursuing a more conventional route, Will wrote a letter to the county’s current chief executive officer, William T Fujioka, saying that he and his family would like to attend the dedication of the fountain and the new park later this year—a request the CEO’s office says it will be thrilled to honor.
“My dad was so proud of the mall,” said Will. “It was his baby.”
August 8, 2012
Get ready, L.A., the space shuttle Endeavour will soon be rolling like a rock star.
On October 12, weather permitting, the decommissioned shuttle will begin a three-day, 12-mile journey from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center in Exposition Park, the orbiter’s new retirement home.
Officials predict that the 2-m.p.h. urban journey will draw thousands of onlookers, reminiscent of the raucous crowds that turned out for The Rock’s four-county crawl to the Los Angeles Museum of Art, where it became the centerpiece of artist Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass.” The shuttle’s passage will mostly take place along Manchester Avenue, Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Boulevard. (See map below.)
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who joined Science Center and NASA officials to announce Endeavour’s itinerary, called the upcoming transport a “once-in-a-lifetime event” for the Los Angeles region, which he noted shares a long and storied history with aeronautics and space exploration. Just this week, scientists at JPL in Pasadena made history with the high-risk touch-down of the rover Curiosity on Mars.
In all, Endeavour completed 25 flights, totaling 4,671 Earth orbits. It was built to replace the Challenger, which exploded shortly after takeoff in 1986, claiming the lives of all 7 astronauts. Endeavour flew its final mission to the International Space Station in May of last year. Among the orbiter’s final crew was Commander Mike Kelly, whose wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded by a gunman last year.
With the 30-year shuttle program now over, Endeavour is one of three shuttles that will go on display around the country, and the first to travel along city streets. The others—Discovery at the Smithsonian outside Washington, D.C. and Atlantis in Florida—have already been delivered.
Endeavor is scheduled to arrive at LAX from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on September 20, riding piggyback on a Boeing 747. That date, however, is dependent on weather conditions, said Stephanie Stilson of NASA, a key player in the transport. “Water drops can become like BB’s” on the fragile surface of the 170,000-pound craft, she said.
After the shuttle is removed from its carrier with a series of cranes and slings, it will be placed on the “Overland Transporter,” a frame built by NASA for “state of the art maneuverability and stability,” according to the agency.
And it’ll need it.
Some stretches of the passage to the Science Center are so narrow that some trees may need to be removed to accommodate the craft’s 78-foot wingspan. In those cases, two trees will be planted for each one that must be uprooted. Villaraigosa said that, like the shuttle itself, its earth-bound journey will be “a marvel of ingenuity and engineering.”
Along the way, on October 13, there’ll be an official ceremony at Inglewood City Hall in the morning and a curbside celebration that evening produced by dancer/choreographer Debbie Allen at the intersection of MLK and Crenshaw boulevards.
At the Science Center, the spacecraft initially will be housed in a cavernous temporary hangar, which is scheduled to be open to the public starting October 30 for the exhibition “Mission 26: The Big Endeavor.” Eventually, the shuttle will be the centerpiece of the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. The $200 million price for the new center and Endeavour’s transport is being underwritten by private donors.
View Mission 26: The Big Endeavour in a larger map
July 25, 2012
The 6,200-square-foot pool in front of the restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain has only a quarter-inch of water, but it’s likely to be a huge crowd magnet, says Jim Garland, president of Fluidity Design Consultants, which oversaw the fountain’s restoration and expansion.
“It’s going to be awesome,” says Garland. “There’s a similar pool around the Millennium Park Fountain in Chicago, and kids roll around in it, and people just love it, and it’s probably the most popular fountain today in the United States.”
But under the sleek, nonslip surface and its inviting jets of water, an elaborate system of machinery and maintenance workers will be hustling around the clock to keep that expanse—technically known as a “membrane pool”—clean. The pool’s filtration system was kept separate from the one used for the fountain itself, Garland says, because health codes set a higher standard of cleanliness for interactive water elements.
Every drop will circulate every half-hour through an underground filtration and disinfection system that will kill bacteria with ultraviolet light and chlorinate the water. Security guards will patrol to ensure that no one abuses the pool area or mistakes it for a bathtub. And the crews that monitor the fountain at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion will manually test for cleanliness at least three times daily.
“It’s about a 10 minute test—we just take a water sample and drop in a tablet,” says Keith McTague, director of building services and chief engineer at the Music Center. “We’re mainly doing it as a check and balance on the filtration system, which is automatic, and so that the readings are documented. But if we have to do it more often, we will.”
These safeguards are crucial because, while the historic Will Memorial Fountain was designed to keep people out of its waters, the adjacent membrane pool was conceived as a way to entice kids and grown-ups alike into getting wet.
“Nobody was sure there would be money for an interactive area like that,” Garland says. “But…we all fought to keep it in.”
Much of the inspection and testing of the system will rest with the Department of Public Health environmental health unit which, among other duties, acts as the county’s “fountain police.”
Chief Environmental Health Specialist Bernard Franklin says the Grand Park membrane pool is different from the roughly two dozen other interactive fountains throughout the county. Most of those, he says, are “splash pads” in which water spurts from a dry deck surface—not like Grand Park, where jets are placed in an ever-present layer of water.
In fact, Franklin says, the Grand Park pool will be the last of its kind in the county after September, when revisions to the California Building Code and the California Code of Regulations will prohibit pools of standing water in fountains that encourage public interaction with the water.
Franklin, who helped author the new rules, says that while the Grand Park pool will be well maintained, others with a lesser design or oversight could generate potentially unhealthy conditions. “Pools like these can be big collectors if you’re not careful,” he says. “Dirt gets in them, pigeons and ducks come around them, people try to use them in ways they aren’t supposed to.”
To that end, camera monitors and round-the-clock security will be in place to discourage mischief and enforce rules that will, among other things, ban camping and skateboarding in the park.
The results promise to be well worth it.
As the designer Garland puts it: “At night, you’ve never seen anything like it. It’s going to be magical.”
July 12, 2012
When Grand Park opens in the downtown Civic Center later this month, it won’t just be the show-stopping fountain and collection of internationally-inspired garden plantings that will have eyes popping—and tongues wagging.
Check out those benches.
Perhaps not since “festive federalism” stamped its exuberant, mid-‘80s color palette on the 1984 Olympics has such a comment-worthy color explosion rolled into L.A.
While most of the park itself remains out of view behind temporary chain-link fencing swathed in green mesh, a pair of its vibrantly-hued benches recently popped up outside the 2nd floor entrance to the Hall of Administration, where they’re visible to everyone passing by on the busy pedestrian corridor to and from Starbucks.
And everyone, it seems, has an opinion.
“Awesome. It’s fun. Different,” said Adrian Taghdiri, who’s interning in the County Counsel’s office.
“They’re cute, but it’s a little bright,” said Frances Espinosa of the Assessor’s Office.
“Beautiful!” said Zella Scott of the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s office.
“A little bit too loud for me. It’s like something out of the 1960s,” said Jesse (Jay) Luna of Public Health.
“Generally, with pink you think of breast cancer awareness. It’s different, I guess,” said MacKenzie Smith of the D.A.’s office.
“Will the boys not sit at the girls’ benches?” wondered Renee Rose, also of the D.A.’s office. “You’ll have to be very in touch with your masculine side not to be intimidated.”
“I like them, especially on a bright, warm, sunny day like today,” said attorney Ludlow Creary, passing through after an appearance in Federal Court. “They’re very inviting. I think it’s very L.A., but that’s not a bad thing. Something like this works in L.A.”
So what color are those benches, anyway? Officially termed magenta, the after-lunch crowd passing by this week offered its own interpretations, ranging from “kind of like a fuchsia, but with a little deep purple in it” to “hot pink!”
Technically a variation on the color known as Pantone 219C, the hue was toned down and “richened” by the park’s designer, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and by JANUS et Cie, the firm hired to produce the custom-designed furniture that will adorn the 12-acre expanse. (In its original form, the color is also associated with Pantone Barbie and is a dead-ringer for “Lights” in Essie’s “Poppy-razzi” nail polish line. In other words, Elle Woods would love it.)
Even though it exudes an unmistakable sense of Southern California fun, the color choice has a far-from-frivolous role. It’s a key factor in establishing the new park’s identity, taking inspiration from a variety of influences around the world, including the green seating at Paris’ Tuileries Gardens.
“We obviously wanted to really create something iconic with the furniture,” said Tony Paradowski of Rios Clementi Hale. “Our idea was to have a floral quality throughout the year.” No matter what plants were in season, “the furniture would always be this kind of bloom-like color sensation throughout the garden.”
In addition to 26 freestanding benches and 41 wall-mounted benches, the park will offer furnishings that can be moved around by patrons: 120 café tables, 240 café chairs and 40 lounge chairs on the lawn.
Using unsecured furniture is “definitely a different model for Los Angeles, but in other cities this has been around for quite a while,” Paradowski said, citing New York’s Bryant Park and Hyde Park in London, where folding fabric chairs are rented out in nice weather. Grand Park’s around-the-clock security should help keep the chairs from walking away, as will a plan to tether furnishings together after-hours, he said.
As for the color, Paradowski thinks most people will come to love it, although he acknowledges that the benches “definitely ask for opinions.”
“We worked with the construction crew out there, and a lot of them said, ‘Wow, why’d you pick pink for the chairs?’ I think a lot of them are still scratching their heads.”
June 24, 2012
With crowds, speeches, and even a rare appearance by its normally reclusive creator, Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” finally opened on Sunday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“This is a monument to our own time and our own place and our own aspirations as people,” exulted LACMA Director Michael Govan, noting the months of public spectacle that accompanied the execution of the immense sculpture. “It does make the impossible possible.”
Surrounded by a geometric field of decomposed rock, the artwork—a 680,000-pound hunk of Riverside granite positioned atop a 456-foot-long concrete trench—basked in the L.A. sunshine. Birds perched on it. Palms swayed beside it. At one end, a Unocal billboard and a 99 Cent Store sign bedecked its horizon. Awestruck visitors gawked at the rock’s scale, called friends from beneath it and pretended to hoist it, creating, in the words of Curbed LA, an instant tradition of “boulder holding.”
Privately, Govan called it “an amazing, contemplative oasis in the middle of the busy metropolis.”
Heizer, dressed in a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and shades, had his own take as the crowd mobbed the Nevada earth artist, begging for autographs: “It isn’t a golf course, that’s for sure.”
Heizer conceived the sculpture 43 years ago, but didn’t complete it until he visited a granite quarry in Riverside County decades later and found the boulder that is its centerpiece. (Or, as Heizer joked in an interview on Sunday, “It found me.”)
“The Rock,” as it came to be known, captured Southern California’s imagination as it moved to LACMA from Jurupa Valley, inspiring block parties, traffic jams and marriage proposals. The 105-mile journey along surface streets was a feat not only of engineering but also of bureaucratic ingenuity, as the teardrop-shaped megalith traveled a circuitous route through four counties and 22 cities.
Maria Chong-Castillo, a public works deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, was singled out during the dedication for troubleshooting the dozens of permits needed for The Rock’s move. (Terry Semel, co-chair of the LACMA Board of Trustees, told the audience that when the project was first proposed, “we thought this is either the best idea ever or it’s a total screw-up!”)
The project—which had been scheduled to open last November—was repeatedly delayed by demands for bonds from municipalities who feared their infrastructures couldn’t handle the load.
Those fears didn’t materialize. Still, as a thank-you, LACMA offered free admission to its galleries from now until July 1 to residents of the ZIP codes through which the rock passed during its 11-day journey (click here for the list).
Among the out-of-town dignitaries was Mayor Laura Roughton of Jurupa Valley, where the boulder was blasted out of the side of a mountain. “I love it!” said Roughton. “I went back to the quarry after The Rock left, and it seemed kind of lonely without it, but it’s probably getting the respect now that it deserves.”
Heizer was bemused at the hoopla. Born in California but living now in the Nevada desert, he was absent during The Rock’s highly publicized journey, arriving in L.A. only afterward to oversee the assembly of the piece. “We knew it was going to attract some attention,” he said, but to him it had more to do with the culture of Los Angeles than with his vision.
“L.A. is an automobile culture, and what you saw was just the biggest automobile in town goin’ down the road,” Heizer joked. “That’s why you got all excited. You just love cars.”
On Sunday, however, it was all about the art, as Govan, Semel, Yaroslavsky, Heizer and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cut a bright red ribbon (with some help from Govan’s young daughter), and a throng of hundreds mobbed the artwork.
Earlier public response had been a mix of admiration and shock at the piece’s privately financed price tag, a reported $10 million. As the boulder made its stately progress, clad in shiny white plastic shrink-wrap, some predicted it would be a masterpiece while others compared it to a 340-ton frozen turkey.
“People have asked me over the last few months how you justify dedicating these resources and this much space to something like this,” Yaroslavsky said to the crowd on Sunday. “But this going to become, along with Disney Hall and ‘Urban Light’ and the Hollywood Bowl, among the iconic views and visions of our region. . . Everyone will see this work in a different way.”
On Sunday, the crowd was mostly impressed, and most in attendance agreed that photos and TV coverage didn’t do justice to the impressive scale of the piece.
“It’s like a meteor!” gasped 5-year-old Adam Davis, clutching a book on Lego Star Wars Legos. “It’s like a meteor that fell down into the earth!”
“It’s gonna add a lot to the community,” agreed his father, Darren Davis, who lives near the museum. “It’s just amazing to have such a persistent piece of history for everyone to enjoy.”
Photo gallery below by Los Angeles County photographer Martin Zamora.
June 14, 2012
Summer is almost here, with news from the coastline: More than 80% of the county’s beaches are clean.
Or are they?
Chad Nelsen, environmental director of the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, says he views beach grades and report cards as a rough-but-useful guide to a beach’s overall cleanliness and history. Beach grades aren’t same-day evaluations, he notes, and they don’t yet say enough about why a beach’s bacteria level may be elevated.
“Any given beach can be clean on any given day, but these kinds of report cards look at the average,” says Nelsen. “They can tell you if a beach is chronically polluted or typically clean.”
Beach grades are culled from ocean water samples collected from hundreds of coastal locations. In Los Angeles County, the Department of Public Health samples the water weekly at 40 sites between the Ventura County line and the Redondo Beach Pier, plus five sites between April and October at Avalon Beach on Catalina Island.
In addition, the department reviews monitoring results from scores of samples taken by the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, the Hyperion water treatment plant and the Los Angeles County Sanitation District.
Those samples are tested for total coliform, fecal coliform, and enterococcus bacteria—so-called “indicator” bacteria that signal the presence of agents that can make swimmers sick. The results are compared to state water quality standards and updated each week by the Department of Public Health. Then they are turned into a rolling 30-day online “report card” that grades the water quality at each beach from A to F.
The test results also are shared with Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group that analyzes water quality at hundreds of beaches along the West Coast and posts its own weekly beach-by-beach assessment, as well as a comprehensive annual report published in May.
Surfrider’s Nelsen compares beach grades to “a spelling class, with a bunch of weekly quizzes.”
“You might get an A or a B or even an F on a given week, but if the scores average out to an A at the end of the month or the end of the year, you’re probably doing pretty well.”
This year’s Heal the Bay report had mixed reviews for L.A. County: Some 82% of the county’s beaches had earned dry-weather grades of A or B last year, a 7-point improvement over the prior year. But the county was still below the statewide average, and trouble spots persisted in places like Avalon and Malibu.
The reasons for those scores tend to defy simplification.
Ken Murray, who directs the Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Environmental Protection, says the test results, and therefore the grades, are impacted by all sorts of factors—weather, water depth, whether the sample was taken near or far from the mouth of a storm drain, even the number of birds in the area.
Pollution control efforts inland can make a big difference. Malibu’s new Legacy Park, for example, is essentially a grassy, state-of-the-art system for capturing urban runoff. And Murray says a new rainwater harvesting system at Penmar Park in Venice “is really going to help the water quality in the beaches because runoff there is going to be captured and treated—and used to water the Penmar Park golf course—before it can hit the bay.”
Precipitation is also a major factor. A beach that is Grade A in dry weather can be rendered unfit overnight by a heavy rain and the ensuing runoff, and be perfectly swimmable again in less than a week as bad bacteria are dispersed by waves and killed by sunshine.
Long Beach, for instance, was a coastal success story this year, partly because of big projects upstream that diverted runoff, upgraded sewers and reduced the tons of debris that the Los Angeles River dumps out onto its beaches. But city officials noted that part of that sharp improvement—93 percent of the city’s beaches recorded A or B grades on the Heal the Bay scorecard—may also have simply stemmed from a relative lack of rain.
Avalon, meanwhile, has been a chronic low scorer and officials have spent years trying to pin down the reasons. “We had thought the problem was sewage lines around Avalon Harbor,” Murray says. “But they spent millions to repair that, and the bacteria levels are still high.”
More tests—these ones on boats—were similarly inconclusive. Now Avalon’s antiquated sewers are undergoing a new, multi-million-dollar round of repairs, and the city is under a cease-and-desist order from the state to clean up its water. Also, Murray says, a team of UC Irvine researchers is studying Avalon “to give us a new set of eyes.”
Amanda Griesbach, a Heal the Bay water quality scientist, says the science is evolving. Someday, she predicts, beachgoers will be able to tell the cleanliness of the water with a single, same-day dipstick test that will be posted at each beach and may even suggest a pollutant’s origin.
“When that happens—and that’s where the science is heading—it will be awesome,” says Griesbach. “But right now, the existing methods are the best we have.”