Tag Archives: Valley Village

Update on Car-Free Living in Los Angeles

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Pedestrians and bicyclists take over Wilshire Boulevard during a recent CicLAvia

Pedestrians and bicyclists take over Wilshire Boulevard during a recent CicLAvia

So it’s been four months now in my car-free L.A. experiment. Other than three weeks in August when I was in NY (of course, I was also car free there!) I’ve been here the whole time, in L.A., in Valley Village, basically the core of the summer as we often describe it (or as the Beach Boys did, from “July to the end of September,” Beach Baby).

So how’s it working? I’m happy to report all the walking and biking has certainly kept my weight steady – I’d lost about 20 lbs. since March and have been able to maintain that. I do realize the biking portion of the program has really been assisted by a) warm/hot weather and b) the extended daylight of summer. Will my willingness to ride places be compromised when it gets dark at 5 p.m. in a month or so? I have good lights, I could use more reflectors and reflective clothing. I also like these things that light up your wheels.

Do I still worry about how my decision will be perceived? (Are you a loser? Are you too poor now to have a car???) Honestly, yes, still a little bit – but much less. I guess I’ve become the weird old guy on the bike.

The reaction from a couple of my friends who I thought would be shocked that I sold my car was really rather mild — and while I wouldn’t say hugely supportive — was not unsupportive in the least. Others are extremely curious about how I get places and do things. Almost without exception, people here in L.A. understand why someone would want to get rid of the car — the source of so much frustration and irritation here, not to mention the money pit aspects.

Anecdotally, I pick up that more and more people are trying public transport here — of course, that’s a middle class person’s luxury problem. But the truth is that L.A. and the Southern California regional area have made great strides in the past decade-plus on its public transport infrastructure, and it’s working better and just a whole lot more pleasant than it used to be.

More of that, please!


Car-Free in L.A.? The list of where to live.

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Magnolia Boulevard in Valley Village

Magnolia Boulevard in Valley Village

I was happy this piece in Metro’s The Source highlighted NoHo (specifically the NoHo Arts District) as one of the places in L.A. where it is most conducive living Car-Free or Car-Lite.

I live in Valley Village, which I guess I’d call NoHo-adjacent, and by this proximity, can also boast to be a good option for the Car-Free.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised over the (now two years, how time does fly) time I’ve lived here at how convenient the neighborhood is to my specific lifestyle – as the referenced Walkscore website puts it, “most daily errands do not require a car.” What they don’t tell you is what the criteria are for walkability distance, i.e., I know from personal experience that what I think is a reasonable walk another person might think of as a death march.

But truly, the usual places one needs: grocery, drugstore, movie theaters, restaurants, library, coffeehouse, yoga studio, park, gym, elementary, junior and senior high schools, public transit stops, farmers market, gay and other bars, etc. are all within easy walking or easy walking and biking distance.

The other neighborhoods The Source deems perfect for Car-Free living include Culver City, Koreatown, DTLA and Pasadena. I would also have included Los Feliz, my former neighborhood, which still has a huge place in my heart – and is very conveniently located to all amenities and is also a hub for Metro lines, bus and rail. And, it’s got Griffith Park. Hard to beat that.

Adventures in CarFree L.A.: going to the dentist

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My Chariot, at its former home in Palm Springs.

My Chariot, at its former home in Palm Springs.

Another in my series of the occasional challenges of getting around town without a car.

This one being, the dentist — that I’ve gone to for over 20 years and is no longer near where I live. I moved (many, many times); he didn’t. So, I was presented with a couple of options: one of the philosophies around CarFree living is to live local, as in, to patronize and support your neighborhood businesses. I guess that means including dentists and doctors. So, I could’ve easily found several within walking distance of my home. They are legion, actually.

But there you have the rub: I didn’t want to change dentists. He’s a great dentist. He knows my mouth intimately (wait, that didn’t come out quite right . . .) But you know what I mean. There’s a fortune invested in those chompers.

So, I vowed to get to him, and I did. I live in Valley Village, west and south of North Hollywood, north of Studio City, and east of Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley. The dentist’s office is in West Hollywood near the Beverly Center. For those non-Angelenos reading this, it’s about a 10 mile trip if you’re a crow. There’s also an ancient mountain range between these two locations, sometimes known as the Hollywood Hills.

There is no easy, straight, one-line public transport option between these 2 points. So, I opted for the best alternative I could think of, which is to take my bike on the subway.

Pretty easy, actually, and the bike ride turned out to be my workout for the day. I live about one mile west of the North Hollywood Station of the Red Line. I ride there using the Chandler Bike Path.

I get on the Red Line subway there and get off at Hollywood Highland Station, just two stops, 8 minutes, never a delay. But it does take you over (well, under) that mountain range and deposits you directly into the heart of tourist Hollywood.

Tough getting back on the bike amid the Marilyns and the Zorros. But I prevail. Google Maps tells me the best bike route to my dentist (Melrose and La Cienega) is to take Orange Drive south to Willoughby, then Willoughby all the way west to La Cienega. From there it’s a quick couple of blocks down La Cienega to my destination.

Can I tell you how much I love that Google Maps gives you a car, public transport, bike and walk option for any direction? Even if they’re sometimes wrong, I actually think it works better than Metro’s own website “Trip Planner” function.

I know we’re supposed to hate the Google right now because it’s farming our brains for their own sleazy 1% profit but just for the minute I’m liking this.

So here’s my thoughts:

The good: Nice sunny day for a bike ride. Kind of nice that I don’t have to go to the gym for exercise, my transport is providing it. Being early afternoon on a Thursday, there’s not a lot of traffic and no crazy drivers. I get there with minutes to spare, thus the Google Maps direction timer was accurate.

The bad: Parts of Orange Drive, especially just south of Santa Monica Boulevard, are in terrible shape. Let’s be frank, the street sucks. It needs new asphalt. Why they made it a sharrow street is like torture for cyclists. Also, Willoughby is a sharrow street too (which means you’re supposed to share the lane with a car –  um, good luck). What we really need in Hollywood-West Hollywood is a dedicated east-west street with a full bike lane for riders.

Oh, and the cleaning and check-up went great. My teeth may last for another year!

Yes, Virginia, it’s Easy and Cheap to take Public Transportation from the Valley to Long Beach

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Last Thursday, I had a lunch date with my friend and colleague Krys Grondorf, down at a place in Belmont Shore (Open Sesame) which is near where she lives. Time not being an issue, I decided to take the train options we have in Los Angeles to get to Long Beach, and document that trip for you here on the blog.

The trip involved two buses and two trains. It’s a distance of about 40 miles or so, according to calculations. I live in Valley Village, about a mile from the end of the Red Line Subway in North Hollywood. So I took the Orange Line (an express bus line that operates like a train, dedicated roadway with few stops) the one stop from Laurel Canyon to the North Hollywood Station.

From there, I took the Red Line Subway through Universal City, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Koreatown, etc. and got off at 7th Street/Metro Center, where I transferred to the Blue Line light rail.

The Blue Line runs mainly directly south after going east along Washington for a short distance just south of downtown L.A. It follows the previous right-of-way of the famous Pacific Electric Railway (red cars) which was dismantled after WW II – and then rebuilt in the 90s. I got off at the Long Beach Transit Mall, the end of the line, a couple of blocks from the ocean. I still had to take a bus, probably about 2 miles, to Belmont Shore. It was Passport Bus A or D, which I picked up around the corner from the Transit Mall.

I had a great lunch with Krys, walked around Belmont Shore for a bit, then took it all back to Valley Village.

Trip Time: about 2 hours each way

Cost: Each leg of the metro cost $1.50, debited from my TAP card. So that part of the trip cost $9.00, round trip. The bus in Long Beach was $1.25 each way, so the total cost of this trip was $11.50. According to the Trip Planner function on the Metro Website, the driving cost (round trip) would be $41.56 (which doesn’t include any parking fees that might be added). And actually, I think I could have used some kind of transfer for the Long Beach bus — but I didn’t know how to do that, so it would have been less than that $11.50.

So, it’s definitely doable. Would I do it every day? Hell, no. I did get a lot of reading done, and I did all my email and calls on the smart phone on the Blue Line. The nicest thing was the zero stress, and seeing parts of the city I don’t ever get a chance to see when driving. Oh, and there was a hooker on the Blue Line coming back, which was entertaining in its own way.

First, let me apologize about the crappy video below. I’m still learning how to use the smart phone video app, and the worst part about it is in bright daylight you can’t really see the image on the screen, so you’re pretty much shooting blind. Sorry about the last shot in Long Beach, I must’ve turned the camera off before I thought I did, and heaven knows why I turned the phone upside down. Ooops.

Apartment House Drama!

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These notes are all over our building!

Upon returning from New Orleans, I found this note put up in the lobby and near all elevator doors.

The Horror! Drama has enveloped the Broken Arms in Valley Village.

“Pictures were taken. Eviction imminent.” Have they called Homeland Security?

Notes:

  • how do we know this is dog urine or dog crap? Could it be a human violator? Feline?
  • As a previous landlord myself, I know that eviction is a really fracking complicated process. It would be better to say “eviction proceedings will be imminent.” (and good luck with that)
  • Perhaps the writer of this note should have taken a few deep breaths.

That’s what I feel I am doing now, after the sadness of the last couple of weeks, emerging from a murky lake. Breathe in, breathe out. Write the book. Look for work. Go to gym. Hell, somebody’s even got a holiday party tonight and invited me. Dress up. Go out.

Live.

Yet More Farmer’s Market Pix, this time Studio City

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Something easy for lazy Sunday of a 3-day weekend: More pictures from a Farmer’s Market, to add to the ones I’ve already posted on the blog of Los Feliz and Palm Springs.

Today I bought tomatoes, broccoli, eggs, peaches, spicy greens mix, and a chocolate chip muffin (which is already gone) and carried it all home in a backpack on my bike.

In addition to the pony rides at this Market, there’s a petting zoo. Next time, I’ll take pictures there.

Super Sweet

Strollers and balloons are big at the Studio City Farmer's Market

orchids

I was too big to go on the damn pony ride.

Hector Tobar: Second thoughts on street art: I’d host a wine and cheese reception

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Hector Tobar: Second thoughts on street art

Photo by Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times

What to do, in a neighborhood dominated by earth tones when artists bring out the colors?

Call the police. Call the Fire Department. Call the President…

Or, Paint it over, apparently.

I enjoyed this column by Hector Tobar where he weaves a little story about a valley neighborhood where some mural art appeared, and then what happened between the neighbors, all artists themselves.

I tend to like this kind of mural. However, I suppose that if it showed up on a wall near where I live, it would look out of place. Tobar is right, you expect to see this on factory walls downtown or in edgier places like Hollywood, Echo Park, etc.

I decided to post this after thinking about the Shepard Fairey-style art that used to show up all over Los Angeles – and which was political in nature. I’m thinking late ’80s, early ’90s – sometimes tied in with movements like Act Up, but not always. Multiple images of Reagan, Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, all resplendently ugly in their evil status quo.

I’m missing that we don’t seem to have that agitating kind of street art right now – when stakes are probably as high in the political realm as ever. Maybe next year, with national elections. Or maybe it’s there already and I just haven’t seen it, living in the sandblasted desert.