Watch my Pencil vs. Pixel interview

As a professional question-asker, I love meeting people who have good questions to ask me. Cesar Contreras is one of those people, so I was honored to be featured on the latest episode of his web series, Pencil vs. Pixel. We chatted about solving problems creatively, the beauty of living in Los Angeles, and, of course, walking. You can read more here, and download the audio, too, if you’d like to take me along somewhere in your earbuds.

Thanks, Cesar, for a great interview!

Posted in speaking, watching | 2 Comments

East of What

this-is-not-the-eastside

It’s a debate as old as time. Or at least as old as Intelligentsia. Some people insist upon calling a large swath of Los Angeles “the Eastside,” which other people don’t think is actually “the Eastside.” This debate has raged on websites, at events, in person, even here on this very blog. Some say “the Eastside” starts east of the Los Angeles River. Others claim it starts somewhere around Western Avenue (that would make sense, right?). Others ask, “East of what?”

But no one—to my knowledge—has ever tried to make an official and binding declaration for where the Eastside is. Until last night.

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (my neighborhood, y’all) spent a large part of their agenda last night deciding whether or not Silver Lake was considered “the Eastside.” Curbed LA liveblogged the meeting, quite hilariously I might add, and folks chimed in immediately on Twitter with their thoughts.

 

Personally, I think my neighborhood has other, larger issues to address (like the fact that everyone incorrectly spells it Silverlake… can we get a ruling on that???), but as someone who runs a nonprofit called design east of La Brea, I do have some thoughts on the matter.

First, a geography lesson, for those who have no idea what I’m talking about:

eastsidemap

The issue at hand is that some neighborhoods, specifically Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park all have, in recent years, by various parties, been referred to as “the Eastside.” Many people think that calling that area “Eastside” (which I guess is a newer thing, like in the last 20 years or so) is insulting to the generations of Angelenos who established the culture traditionally known as “Eastside,” which originates more towards the actual area named East LA, but has come to encompass many neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights and many other heights. These advocates would prefer that you equated “Eastside” with “East of the LA River” (although this logic doesn’t totally work because the LA River takes a sharp turn just north of this map and runs East-West. So you’d have to say, “East of the LA River below Griffith Park and above somewhere before Long Beach” or something—I don’t know).

I’ve marked some areas on the map for additional East/West context. Downtown is right there at the center, and in most cities, the downtown is used to define the “East” and “West” parts of the city. In fact, Broadway, which runs a Northeast/Southwest path through Downtown, is where the addresses change from W. to E. [Update: I was wrong, it's actually Main, two blocks away.] I also added two streets, Western and Eastern, which were actually named two centuries ago when they represented the city’s boundaries and don’t mean much now but boy is that fun to look at or what?

As you can see, on pretty much all these counts, there’s nothing really “east” about Silver Lake. Silver Lake is actually WEST of downtown, which I would say already disqualifies it from being Eastside. Some might say that Silver Lake deciding NOT to be “Eastside” is almost a move to make themselves seem more “Westside,” which should have people living in West LA preeeeetty outraged, if you ask me.

While I’m not sure the “ruling” will solve anything (people have their own definitions of neighborhoods and places and those are tough to change), over at LA Observed, Kevin Roderick brings up another important issue:

Calling Silver Lake and environs the Eastside certainly has its fans, and not just among urban enthusiasts who need a label to fill out the anti-Westside narrative and those other newbies whose grasp of Los Angeles’ construction and backstory is so thin they just see west, east and middle. Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Echo Park share enough distinction in common that, despite claiming barely a sliver of the city’s four million population, I’d lump them together as a mini-region if only there were an a useful and adequate name for the place. They don’t belong to downtown, Hollywood or the real Eastside — and the term many like, Faux Eastside, will never catch on. I’ve yet to hear a suggestion that feels real enough to work for both the newbies and for deeper-rooted Angelenos, but I’m still hopeful something will bubble up with more authenticity (and specificity) than Eastside.

It’s funny because when I tell people why I live here, I say something like that. I don’t just live in the walkable, small-town-ish Silver Lake neighborhood, I feel like I live in this three-neighborhood corridor, which pretty much offer all the services I need within a two-mile radius from my house. When people ask me where I live, I always just say Silver Lake, but it might be cool to tell them I consider myself a resident of this entire three-neighborhood region.

And, as we know, people love putting labels on things. So to appease the Eastside proponents, and to help everyone else understand a little more about Los Angeles, I’ve come up with some alternate names for This Area that is Not the Eastside.

New Names for the Los Feliz-Silver Lake-Echo Park Mini-Region

  • Felivecho
  • LoFeSiLaEcPa
  • The West Bank (all three neighborhoods border the west bank of the LA River)
  • Three Lakes District (named for the area’s three lakes: Rowena Reservoir, Silver Lake, Echo Park Lake)
  • Sunset Corridor (named for the street that links all three neighborhoods)
  • East Sunset
  • Sunset Heights
  • Sunset Triangle (both named for the plaza at the center of the region, and for the triangle you make when you draw an area encompassing all three neighborhoods)
  • 101 East
  • The 2/4/704 (named for three buses you can take to get to all three neighborhoods)
  • Red Line West (the neighborhoods in relation to the nearest subway line)
  • Griffith-Elysian (named for the two large parks at either ends of the region)
  • Stairway District (these neighborhoods have the highest concentration of public stairways in the city; would also bring tourism to the area)
  • Coffee District (like the Bicycle District, this area could be known for coffee, or perhaps the Juice District)
  • The Cut (this a very old name for a section of Sunset between Echo Park and Silver Lake where crews blasted away the rock to create a mini-canyon so the road could go through)
  • Edendale (this is an older name for a part of Silver Lake where the film studios were once located, but I don’t think many people associate it with the actual place anymore so it could be reappropriated for all three neighborhoods, which all had film activity; again, would get attention from tourists and history buffs)
  • West Eastside
  • Hipsteria
  • East of What
  • Near Eastside (like Chicago’s Near North, by Pat Saperstein/@EatingLA)
  • Eastside Lite (by Shawna Dawson)
  • Trastevere (by Adam Baer/@glassshallot)
  • Eastside Adjacent (by Jeff Miller)
  • The Mideast Side (by Eric Brightwell, who even has a map, and a very good explanation)
  • Tri-Hipster Area/Tri-Hip (by Seamus Garrity/@masterofleisure)
  • LosSilverDale (by Ed Fuentes/@viewfromaloft)
  • The Weastside (by Ed Fuentes/@viewfromaloft)
  • Brooklyn West (by Avishay Artsy/@heyavishay)
  • Silver Monica (by Dan Koeppel/@bigparadeLA)
  • The Upper East Side (by Tom Marble)
  • Silver Lake Alps (by Larry Gassan)
  • Charneyville (by Mike Kessler/@mikekessler)
  • Steampunk Row (by Mike Kessler/@mikekessler)
  • Williamsburg West (by Mike Kessler/@mikekessler)

Let me know what you think and add yours in the comments or ping me on Twitter to add!

Top image: LA Eastside

Posted in building, riding, walking | Tagged , , , | 34 Comments

Hooray for Hollywood

It's hard to break into Hollywood

There’s nothing I love better than showing people around my city, so I was extremely excited to be on the other side of the interview for this month’s“Ask a Local” feature in Sunset, talking about some of the lesser-known Hollywood gems. (Like Lake Hollywood, above. Right? A lake in Hollywood???)

Since I understand that not everything I ran my mouth about could end up in print, I created a guide on Jauntful of all my favorite Hollywood places that you can download and print out, should you be visiting this fine neighborhood sometime soon. You can also click the image below to enlarge and save on your own computer or device.

And please add your favorite Hollywood spots in the comments!

awalkerinLA_hollywood_79

Posted in building, creating, designing, eating, reading, Sunset | 4 Comments

My favorite stories from 2013

#dailybougainvillea #morningwalk

I know, I know—it’s practically 2015! But my week of visiting family for the holidays melted almost imperceptibly into a week in Vegas covering the Downtown Project for Gizmodo. And you know the rule: For each day in Vegas you need at least one day at home to recover. So here we are, three weeks into the new year and I’ve just now had time to catch my breath and take a proper look back at the old one.

As goes the annual tradition, I round up my favorite stories from the previous year (see: 201220112010) and give a little play-by-play analysis. 2013 was fun. It was a year of big changes, even to my own identity—remember, I started the year as Gelatobaby and ended the year as A Walker in LA!—and big steps for causes I care about. It was also challenging in many ways, personally and professionally, which I can only think is a good thing. To toast these shiny new frontiers, I’ve divided 2013 up a little differently, creating categories that include not only things I wrote, but some things I said and did, and some things that were said about me.

The Regular Gigs

In August I started as the Urbanism Editor at Gizmodo where I’ve written over 100 stories. Here’s the one that was most popular. Here are two of my favorites I wrote: Her and its vision of a future Los Angeles and the LA Aqueduct’s 100th anniversary, or the mules that built LA.

After writing an article for Los Angeles Magazine about living in LA without a car, I was asked to write a weekly column for their website where I highlight the weird and wonderful things I see while walking around Los Angeles. Like this.

Over at T: The New York Times Style Magazine, I wrote about the most classy and creative women in Los Angeles (not on purpose—they just all happened to be women!): Ellen Bennett, Amanda Chantal Bacon, Tara Maxey and Matt Poley (okay, Matt’s my token dude), and Deborah Sussman.

DnA: Design and Architecture, the KCRW radio show I’ve worked with forever, expanded its format, adding six additional DJ’s—”design journalists”—to report on emerging local designers. I was lucky enough to interview Brendan Ravenhill, Tanya Aguíñiga, Scout Regalia, Jennifer Parry Dodge, Bari Ziperstein, a group of CalArts graduates on their debt-ful futures, and the president of Muji at their new LA store (he loves to ride public transit in LA!).

I love writing for the LA Weekly, where I got to write profiles of two outstanding locals for the annual People issue—the city’s pedestrian coordinator Margot Ocañas and JPL’s Bobak Ferdowsi (who you know better as Mohawk Guy)—a diary of Pacific Standard Time Presents, the Getty’s modern architecture extravaganza, and I even wrote a story where they put my name on the cover, about Arts District real estate visionary Tyler Stonebreaker.

#LAHaters

After finding myself fuming about a TOTALLY STUPID article someone wrote about LA, I decided that instead of chastising the clueless writer on my blog, I would reward them for achieving a new level of LA-hatred. The “LA Haterating” series became a cult hit, and I’m sorry to say I had enough material to write five of these pieces. Although I will say towards the end of the year, LA was blessed with some ridiculously generous press and I wondered if I was being put out of business

Becoming a Writer

One of the most popular stories I wrote this year started as a talk I gave around a campfire at CAMP, the new creative business conference run by my friend Sonja Rasula. When I got flooded with emails and tweets asking me to post the story, I was thrilled to publish it on Medium where it still gets shared a few times a month.

Urban Adventures

I had the best year exploring all that LA and its environs had to offer. I hiked Mt. Washington. Took photos of Palm Springs midcentury houses on a bike. Went to a party at Jackie Treehorn’s house. Rode CicLAvia to the Sea. Walked six miles of Wilshire (on National Walking Day!) and produced an audio tour for CicLAvia. I serendipitously bumped into Critical Mass and rode around LA with hundreds of strangers. Kayaked the LA River. I walked (almost) the entire Big Parade. Took a 24-hour camping trip to the desert. Helped lead the annual Design-n-Dim Sum bike ride. Walked nine miles from the San Gabriel Mission to downtown LA for the city’s 232rd birthday. Had a bike decorating contest and ride for my 36th birthday. I helped organize walks all over the city for Walktober.

Since stuff like this is no fun to find out about after the fact, I put together a list of where to find LA stair walks near you. And as always, check out de LaB for fun adventures like the dim sum bike ride and Los Angeles Walks for more walks as well as ways to get involved with our advocacy work.

Other Places I Walked

Sayulita, MexicoMiami. Arizona (twice). France and Switzerland (and Italy for about three hours, although I was on skis almost the entire time). Big Bear. Boston. Santa Barbara. Colorado (four times, including testing out Denver’s B-Cycle bike share in a minidress). Zion National Park. New York City. St. Louis. New Jersey.

Votes of Confidence

Two nonprofits I work with got blessed with support and funding in 2013. design east of La Brea, or de LaB, which features the work of designers and architects working east of La Brea, received a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to produce our new series Making LA. And over at the pedestrian advocacy organization Los Angeles Walks, we launched our Hey, I’m Walking Here campaign and raised over $13,000 on Kickstarter.

Talking ’bout Walking

There’s nothing I like running my mouth about more than walking. In August, I was featured in a New York Times article about LA’s pedestrian renaissance. While walking the Big Parade, I was interviewed for the new show City Walk. And I was honored to be on panel on walking for SAG featuring my hero Ed Begley Jr. And while I wasn’t always talking about walking, I loved being a regular guest on the Participant Media/Pivot TV show Take Part Live.

2014 is already shaping up to be a great year. Thanks for reading and for all your support and ideas! Be sure to follow along on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or right here at A Walker in LA to see what happens next.

Posted in writing | 4 Comments

At least one of my Silver Lake wishes is coming true

On days like this, it's a crime that the Silver Lake Reservoir's not swimmable.

Remember back, way back a few months ago where I made that ridiculously long list of some things a newcomer like me wanted for my neighborhood of Silver Lake?

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 4.06.36 PM

Remember this item, in particular?

This week, just a few hours after I walked by the Silver Lake Reservoir on a 85-degree day and gazed longingly at its soon-to-be-decommissioned waters, this landed in my inbox:

Silverlake_Plunge_for_FB_cover

Swim Silver Lake is a proposal launched by my friend and neighbor Catherine Geanuracos to convert the Ivanhoe Reservoir, which is being taken offline this year due to changing water regulations, into a swim lake and pool.

Obviously, I am thrilled about this development. There’s already a great model in LA for what this can look like, a place called Hansen Dam Swim Lake. And I believe we can do it in a way that supports the naturalization of the shore and preservation of the wildlife habitats around the larger, adjacent Silver Lake Reservoir. You can sign up for more information here.

If you want to learn more about this and other ideas for the reservoirs once they go offline, check out this event tomorrow via the awesome Bruce Chan of the awesome Bruce’s Buddies:

SATURDAY, 1/18
Silver Lake 2020 Pop-Up Presentation
Mid-Day
@ Silver Lake Meadow
Silver Lake
FREE!
By now, most of you have probably heard about some of the awesome proposals for the soon-to-be decommissioned Silver Lake Reservoirs, like most recently Swim Silver Lake (I know, right?) The Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy will be out at the Meadow on Saturday for a pop-up presentation on what is possible (and feasible) for the future of the reservoirs. Stop on by while getting a walk in around this great recreational and ecological amenity for LA.

Posted in building, creating, designing | 1 Comment

Happy new

First sunset captured from my desk in 2014. I should stay home more often.

Just getting back to my desk after weeks of eating, drinking, traveling, exploring, walking, riding, talking, and listening. Lots to report, but first and foremost, I’m jumping on the bandwagon and starting a quarterly email newsletter. The first newsletter will be a recap of the previous year (like my usual year in review posts), with regular updates coming to your mailbox every season or so. Sign up here, and I’ll see you in 2014!

Posted in crafting, creating, partying, writing | 1 Comment

City lights

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 8.09.02 AM

“It was an nightly adventure that took me to almost every angle of Los Angeles,” filmmaker Colin Rich tells The Creators Project. “It was an exercise in patience. A lesson in light. An understanding of what it is to live amongst each other and to understand the system and order of a city, the seemingly complex organics that make it up and the life form that the city truly is.”

The end result, a beautiful timelapse named City Lights will make you fall in love with LA all over again. And if you find yourself sobbing when it’s over, chin up: there are two more in the series.

Have a lovely and light-filled holiday.

Posted in watching | 1 Comment

Getting L.A. to grow up

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 2.45.00 PM

One of the best moments in the new movie Her is watching Joaquin Phoenix ride an elevated train through a Los Angeles of the near-future, dance through a bustling station (actually the Hollywood/Western Red Line station), and emerge at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The scene got a surprised laugh from everyone at the screening I was at last Friday: Director Spike Jonze had just completed the Subway to the Sea!

You can see a part in the trailer:

The movie was wonderful in the way that it presented a dense, future Los Angeles as something beautiful—not some dystopian world to be feared like so many other movies. It was an L.A. that I wanted to live in. But it’s especially frustrating that many Angelenos do not see the value of living in a more vertical city. In a piece I wrote for Gizmodo today, I call for L.A. (and other squat cities) to grow up. It might be awhile until we get there: Today, a judge shot down Hollywood’s new community plan that would allow for taller building heights.

You can read my piece here: Tall Is Good: How a Lack of Building Up Is Keeping Our Cities Down.

Posted in building, designing, Gizmodo, watching | 1 Comment

#25daysofchristmaslights

Streetscape snowflakes. #25daysofchristmaslights

Happy December! I’m snapping a photo of Christmas lights every evening until the big night. I did this last year and it was one of the highlights of the holiday season. But this year I’ve got a #HASHTAG. I thought I was being all clever and original, but funnily enough, it looks like other people are using it, too. So let’s all capture #25daysofchristmaslights together!

The only rule is that you have to find the lights on foot. Of course.

Posted in Street Walker | 2 Comments

Pharrell proves LA is not only walkable… it’s danceable

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 2.21.14 PM

I might as well just give the part of my brain in charge of hearing over to Pharrell since he practically dominated it all year with the song of the spring, the song of the summer, and now the song of the fall. But I would say that his latest song—”Happy“—is probably his crowning achievement of 2013 since he’s managed to create one of the best things I’ve ever seen: A self-described “first 24-hour music video” with hundreds of people dancing and singing along on the streets, sidewalks and various other public spaces of LA.

Yes, that’s right—Pharrell, We Are From L.A. and Iconoclast have made a video that’s basically 24 hours of people walking in LA.

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s an edited version, which you can watch here:

But the far more fun experience is to head over to the website and play with the actual 24-hour long video, where you can skip from vignette to vignette, hour to hour, neighborhood to neighborhood, block to block—you get the idea!—seeing new dancers and new locations every few minutes (including an entire section filmed in Union Station). Sometimes they’ll walk outside of a location and right onto the street that’s actually there with a kind of continuity you never usually see. They must have walked a few dozen miles a day just to get all the takes. I had to tear myself away from it to write this blog post but as soon as I’m done I’m picking right back up where I left off, with that guy jamming at the top at 12:15.

We’re very lucky that so many things are filmed in LA so we have these perfectly preserved little time capsules of how our city changes over the years. Usually it’s just a glimpse of a building or a street we recognize in the background, even through a hyper staged set—a piece of LA slipping through when it was supposed to be Anywhere, USA.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 2.36.27 PM

But there’s something about the angle of the camera, the improvisational nature of the performers, the buses zipping by in the background, all drenched in that beautiful SoCal light, that makes the city the star. This is one of the most accurate representations of LA’s contemporary urban environment I’ve ever seen. If anyone ever asks me what it was like to be a pedestrian in LA in 2013, I can show them this video and say, yup, that’s pretty much it. Smiling people, palm trees, and sun. DONE.

This video is sweet and utter perfection and everything about it makes me, well, HAPPY. However, there are two things I want someone to do with this video:

1) Watch all 24 hours and live tweet/blog it.

2) Map all the locations.

I’d happily do it. In fact, I could do both at once and everyone could come watch—kind of like The Clock. Invite some of the performers to reprise their roles and have a big 24-hour dance party. Get the Dancelavia kids to program the day. I’m totally serious. I’m available.

More ideas from readers: Josh Berta says we should have a Happy walking tour, where we walk the route (dancing, of course), and suggests other cities should make their own Happy videos. And Steven White proposes a game show where we “spin the wheel” and have it land on a time—whoever guesses the location wins a prize.

Also, a great reminder of another LA walking video: OK Go’s video where they walked a route that spelled out OK GO.

Posted in Street Walker | 8 Comments