We had a false alarm today. It actually began to rain. A few drops of water actually fell on the ground. People appeared shocked at the sudden appearance of rain, but sadly it didn’t last and we were soon back to normal. Dry ground, dry bushes, dry everything. We all know it. The State of California knows it. The LA Times knows it and just ran a front page story today about “Fires getting harder to fight.” The paper added in a subhead that vegetation is at record dry levels, creating “tinderbox conditions” for faster and hotter blazes, experts say.

The only organization that seems totally oblivious to the lack of water and the enormous fire danger is the California Coastal Commission, which just opened the door to camping in the Santa Monica Mountains in what used to be called Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (commonly called ESHAs). There were some simple, common-sense suggestions made to at least cut down the risk of fire. If they were going to allow what they call “cold camping,” meaning overnight camping but no fires, and if people were camping overnight where it gets a bit chilly in the mountains, it would at least be a good idea to have a ranger or two checking the camping areas. The coastal commission didn’t think it was necessary. People suggested they specify on “red flag days” when the fire danger was at the highest level to close it down to overnight camping. Again, the coastal commission said the wording wasn’t really necessary.  

I’m beginning to wonder if the California Coastal Commission is really necessary. I’d suggest you read Jimy Tallal’s well-done story on the commission’s actions this week.

•••

Karen and I went to downtown LA this past weekend to have dinner with friends at a restaurant in the Arts District. If you haven’t been into downtown LA in a while, it’s something that should be on your “must” list. There is a major transformation going on; old manufacturing and warehouse buildings are being converted into lofts and apartments and condos. It’s been going on for a number of years but it seems to have reached a critical mass and lots of people, particularly young people, are moving downtown. For one thing, there is quite a singles scene and lots of new restaurants and bars. It’s a little noisy for my age, but what the heck. It’s kind of fun and alive and you can always get ear plugs, and people are actually outside on the street at 10 o’clock at night. Great cities are constantly changing, which is why they remain great cities. Generally speaking, it’s a good thing, but there are always losers when cities change. Long established neighborhoods with longtime inhabitants feel the pressure of gentrification and often push back. It’s happening right now in Boyle Heights. Young people are moving into Boyle Heights and there are some serious local tensions about ethnic displacement. But for most of downtown LA, the changes are coming in areas that have been commercial or industrial, and long since past their prime and the new residents are breathing life into moribund areas. Apple just took one of the old elaborate movie palaces and built an Apple store while still maintaining the old structure and decor. There are large areas downtown that have no Nimbyism because there are no nimbys, just many underused older buildings. An easy start is to go online for the LA Conservancy and look up the walking tours of downtown (laconservancy.org). There still is a lot of homelessness and people living on some streets in tents and hovels but it’s not every street and there are lots of areas that are renewed, clean and safe. We’ve even considered taking the light rail downtown instead of driving, and we are currently working up the courage to do it.

•••

Odds & ends

• Sunday afternoon in Malibu is still filled with a bunch of guys and their very expensive boy toys zipping down PCH. I can attest that the high end car dealers Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin are clearly doing very well. A year of shutdowns seems to have wetted appetites for new expensive boy toys and what’s the point if you can’t show them off?

• There is a great big new house being built on the beach side of PCH, just across the highway from Tramonto Restaurant and I’ve been told the owner is Larry Ellison. The house looks enormous but it’s being built on three lots so it’s probably well below maximum size and bulk. Some billionaires have little taste, but from what I’ve seen Ellison has exquisite taste: lots of wood, Asian accents and the architectural concepts beautifully executed by first rate craftsman. I just wish we could get him or his associates a little more engaged in the town.

• There was good news recently from the city. It has worked out a way to get some of the ground water from LA Paz project (the project next to Steve Soboroff’s center with Whole Foods) pumped into Legacy Park. Hopefully, sooner rather than later the geese, ducks and many types of birds will be returning along with families and their kids on weekends.

• The State of California has just allocated $65 million to build an overpass over the Ventura (101) Freeway so animals can cross over onto the Malibu side. Is it just me—but it seems that is a heck of a lot of money for something of less than monumental significance. As with any government project, you can expect when done it will be well over $100 million and, frankly, I’d prefer to see the money used to improve the lives of children instead of the lives of mountain lions. 

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