Thursday, August 14, 2014

Interviews With Plaza-Adjacent Business Owners, Sunset Triangle Plaza

I wanted to do some research on the impact of plaza projects on fronting business owners, so I went to Silverlake's Sunset Triangle Plaza and interviewed Julie Choe, owner of Mornings Nights Cafe, Vivian Ku of the restaurant Pine and Crane, and Genelle LeVin of Silverlake Improvement Association.

Choe, who has owned her cafe for about ten years, said that once the plaza was installed, the street was safer and her business' profits went up by 20%. Ku and LeVin also described positive experiences with the plaza.

"At this point, this place has become a destination spot, so we're just getting busier and busier," Choe said.

Choe said many local business owners were hesitant at first, but decided to participate in the People St program, converting their street to pedestrians only on a temporary basis, to see how things would work out. A year later, they were convinced.

"Regardless of financial reasons, this was good for the neighborhood, for the community," Choe said. "And without the community, we have no business."

See the full playlist of all interviews here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The speech I gave at the last Granada Hills South Neighborhood Council meeting.

I’m here to ask the Neighborhood Council for a letter of support for the plaza proposal. I’m not asking for money, I’m not asking you to become a community partner, because that’s not an option anyway. I’m just asking for a letter of support. Because the Neighborhood Council is the only organization that exists to act as a voice for the community.

Every other community organization that Granada Hills has exists primarily to advance the interests of businesses. I don’t want to present this as community versus business, because that’s really the opposite of what this is. It’s not hard to see how foot traffic and appealing spaces invite people to linger in our central business district, how a feeling of pedestrian safety enhances a business district’s appeal.

Last time I spoke at a General Meeting of the Neighborhood Council, it was quite rightly pointed out that I hadn’t yet done enough outreach to the business community. So I walked door to door on Chatsworth, between Zelzah and Yarmouth. And I got 14 signed letters of support from local business owners. And those 14 letters matter, but also, so do the opinions of the stakeholders who live and shop in this community, and whose needs those businesses exist to serve. Not the other way around.

But the Rotary Club Foundation Board voted against the plaza proposal, and their reason for doing so was QUOTE: “We don't know of one business that is in favor of the project.” They also mistakenly believed that the plaza would block the alley.

Then I learned that Granada Hills BID voted against the plaza, after their executive director answered zero phone calls and zero emails from me. Afterwards, when I spoke at their public comment, and mentioned the fact that we’re closing in on 1000 petition signatures, the BID President told me, QUOTE, “I couldn’t care less if there’s 30,000 names on a petition.” END QUOTE. Because their sole mission is to serve commercial property owners.

Then the Chamber president said in a comment to a plaza supporter on Facebook, QUOTE “you have no skin in the game. The businesses there and the landowners are the only opinions that matter to the Chamber.” END QUOTE. Okay, fair enough — that’s the Chamber’s purview. But where can the public go to have their opinion matter? To have their skin in the game? Neighborhood Councils are the public’s only voice.

Going out on food truck nights, we’ve got all these petition signatures in favor of the plaza, but opponents say, “That doesn’t matter; people come from all over the place to the food truck nights.”

So I say, “Would you like me to show you how many of the signatures are from people with a 91344 zip code?” And they say, “That doesn’t matter; those people aren’t business owners.”

So I say, “We’ve got fourteen signed letters from business owners.” And they say, “That doesn’t matter; they’re not property owners.”

My question for you is this: when do we start to matter? There’s this constant shifting of the bar. And we’re constantly hearing this message: you don’t matter.

We’ve raised money on Kickstarter, and while it’s not a staggering sum, if you believe that every dollar is a vote, that matters.

We’ve got high school kids walking through there every day, and they could use a safe place to be in after school. They matter.

We’ve got tons of pedestrians walking through there every Friday night. They matter.

BID’s sole mission is to represent business interests. Rotary represents business interests. The Chamber’s sole mission is to represent business interests. So this Council is really the only option the public has for a voice. Where the public gets to matter.

It would be really great if there could be at least one organization in this town that says to the Kickstarter donors, the petition signers, the 14 business owners, to the public, to the community: you matter.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Let's create a pedestrian and bike-friendly plaza at Chatsworth and Zelzah Streets in Granada Hills!

Illustration courtesy Solo Goodspeed

Petition:            Donation:

Wouldn't it be great if Granada Hills had a town square? A place to sit down and eat on food truck nights? A place for public music performances? Free dance classes? Or a place for people to just come together and enjoy?
We want to create one. 
We love the lively street life that the food trucks have brought to the sidewalks of Chatsworth Street. But food trucks come and go. To maintain that lively atmosphere, we need to create something that is ours
In cooperation with the City of Los Angeles' People St. program, we want to expand Veteran's Triangle Park, at the corner of Chatsworth and Zelzah Streets, all the way to Menchie's for a temporary, 12-month pilot program. But doing that requires community support. And that's where you come in. 
 Any inviting gathering space needs tables and chairs. It needs umbrellas for shade. It needs trash pickup. And most importantly, it requires an enthusiastic base of supporters. Donating to this project shows that you think it should happen! 
Right now, this project is just in the idea stages. We have to complete an application to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation by October 1. If LADOT approves the application, work will begin to temporarily block the turn lane to vehicles for one year. 
 Q: How are you going to expand Veteran's Park? 
 A: By working with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to convert the redundant diagonal right turn lane from Zelzah to Chatsworth into a pedestrian plaza. 
 Q: Won't this ruin traffic? How am I supposed to turn right? 
Actually, instead of every car stopping every time, as you do now at the stop sign, you'll turn right at the light, which will be green about 50% of the time. 
This change would mean that if you hit the green light, you won't have to stop at all. And if you hit the red light, you can still legally turn right once it's safe. 
In other words, right turns from Zelzah onto Chatsworth will work just like they do at the vast majority of normal intersections all over Los Angeles. 
 Q: If the street is blocked off, where am I supposed to park? 
A: It's true that closing the redundant right turn lane will result in the loss of four parking spaces directly in front of Menchie's. But we expect that the loss will be offset by the addition of more parallel parking spaces on Zelzah, and offset by the increase in people who visit on foot, by bike, or by public transit. 
There is the possibility that you may have to walk an additional 50 feet or so if you're headed to Menchie's for a frozen yogurt treat. But think of the calories you'll burn. 
 Q: But will it be safe? Won't people crash into the plaza, because they're still used to turning right there? 
A: This project will be engineered by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, who will create lane striping, signage, and safety barriers. So yes, it will be safe. 
Artistic rendering courtesy of Daniel Guimera
Q: Will this project ruin business?
A: It's our belief that more foot traffic, more gathering places, and greater pedestrian safety are good for business. A similar project was undertaken in Silverlake, and a clear majority of local business owners felt that the plaza was positive to neutral for their business. 
Just because people leave their cars doesn't mean they leave their wallets. 
Q: Why are you doing this? 
 A: We love Granada Hills, and we want more of it. Specifically: 
 • More free community cultural events. People St mandates that all programming in the plaza must be free of charge, and we agree. 
• More safety for students who walk through the area to get to and from Granada Hills Charter High School. 
• More safe and easy access to Veteran's Triangle Park. 
• More vibrant street life on our main street. 
• More pedestrian-friendly space to enjoy. 
• Something that belongs to us. The food trucks brought life to Chatsworth Street, but food trucks come and go. What happens if they decide to leave? Then we'd still have this plaza. 
Q: What organization are you with? 
A: Um, none. We just live here. We don't stand to gain financially from this project. David is a lawyer. Linda is a freelance writer who also writes a blog about Granada Hills for free. We just want to see the community we call home thrive. That's about it. 
However, we are undertaking this project in cooperation with a number of organizations: primarily the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. We're also reaching out to the Granada Hills South Neighborhood Council, the Granada Hills Business Improvement District, and Councilmember Mitchell Englander's office. The project won't happen without the cooperation of all of those organizations. But most importantly, we want the people of this community to participate too. 
 This Kickstarter is undertaken not only to help fund the creation of the plaza, but also to show all of those organizations that this project is wanted and supported by the community at large.   

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Granada Hills Neighborhood Council Members "Jumped" Into Board In Violent, Gang-Style Ritual

    Granada Hills Charter High School's normally peaceful Rawley Hall erupted in terrifying violence last night as members of the Granada Hills South Neighborhood Council performed the annual ritual of beating new board members as a test of loyalty.

    In the melee, pictured at left, board members were given their gang names and forced to swear  allegiance to the organization for life.

   "The only way outta this sh_t is in a muthaf__in' box," said departing President Dave "Boo Boo Bear" Beauvais. "But they also give you a nice plaque."

The new Neighborhood Council Officers are:

Secretary: Anthony "Shrimp Boy" Matthews

Treasurer:  Brandon "Flash Dolla" Schindelheim

Parliamentarian:  MC Funkadelic

 Vice President: Jerry "Askew"

 President: Brad "Miget Killa" Smith

Read the complete, and somewhat more factual, list of election results here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Are You Ready To Rumble? Earthquake Prep, Demos, And Burgers This Saturday At The Disaster Preparedness Fair

Guest post by Bill Hopkins, GHNNC Emergency Preparedness Chair

Ever been curious to see the fire department dismantle a car with the Jaws of Life?

Visitors to this Saturday's Disaster Preparedness Fair can also go for a ride in the Shakey-Quakey Schoolhouse earthquake simulator, learn about preparing pets for disasters and emergencies, walk through the LAPD Command Vehicle, learn about free Community Emergency Response Team classes, and get preparedness information from the Red Cross, the Gas Company, LADWP, and other organizations.

 "The first 72 to 96 hours after a disaster, emergency services will be overwhelmed handling priority emergencies, requiring residents to be self-sufficient during that time," says LAFD Battalion Fire Chief Gerry Malais. "Having three or more days of food, water, medical, and pet supplies is imperative so that you’re not dependent on overwhelmed city services."

Volunteer emergency response organizations like Citizens Emergency Mobile Patrol and Civil Air Patrol will be on hand, as will an amateur radio ham radio station (call sign: K6D) and representatives from CHP, LAPD, LA Sheriff's Department, animal rescue organizations, and emergency preparedness product vendors.

The family-friendly event will also include a Fire Department open house, a puppet show, and a sparking electric diorama from LADWP to demonstrate of electrical safety.

How-to demonstrations include "sidewalk CPR" and how to use a fire extinguisher, and event freebies include emergency preparedness kits for the first 500 attendees and free burgers and hot dogs, and a drawing for an EP backpack filled with emergency supplies.

The free event is sponsored by Valley Neighborhood Councils, Earthquake Country Alliance, local merchants, and Councilmember Mitchell Englander, with various City, State, and Federal agencies. For further information, please email

Sixth Annual Valley Disaster Preparedness Fair 
Saturday, October 5, 2013, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm 
Fire Station 87, 10124 Balboa Blvd., North Hills (between Devonshire St. and Lassen St.) Preparedness information, demos, activities for kids, free food 
Admission is free

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