Ned Paynter’s Rare Views of Los Angeles Landmarks

One of our favorite genres of photography is architecture shot on slide film by vacationing or itinerant college professors. The images they capture as lecture illustrations aren’t necessarily fine art, but they always present different angles on familiar landmarks. It’s a pleasure to discover and explore a new-to-us collection.

Recently uploaded by the Friends of San Diego Architecture is a large sampling of the 9,791 slides assembled by the late historian Dr. Ned Paynter between 1975 and 2006. He traveled in Europe and throughout America, dug the Art Nouveau, Mission Revival, casino kitsch and Postmodernism, and made a few trips up to Los Angeles to document a pre-gentrification Downtown and some intriguing oddities.

We’re pleased to share a taste of Ned Paynter’s local discoveries, and encourage you to explore the offerings on the Friends of San Diego Architecture site. If you fall in love with something, you can even buy a print. And if you’d like to get to know the opinionated and interesting man who captured these vistas, he blogged until the end of his life.

Aztec Hotel, Magnolia Ave., Foothill, Monrovia. Robert Stacy-Judd, 1925. (Photo 1987).

Bradbury Building, 304 S. Broadway. George H. Wyman, 1893. (Photo 1978).

Duarte School, 1431 Buena Vista St., Duarte. F.S. Allen, 1908 (photo 1991).

Eastern Columbia Building, 849 S. Broadway. Claud Beelman, 1929. (Photo 1989).

“Metropolis” Dress Shop, Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. (Photo 1982).

Pacific Auto Works, Long Beach, Schilling & Schilling, 1928. (Photo 1982, since demolished).

Tail O’ the Pup, Milton Black, 1946. NW Corner Beverly & La Cienega. (Photo 1982.)

Wardrobe Cleaners, 126 Catalina, Redondo Beach, 1950. (Photo 1985).

Mayan Theater, 1040 S. Hill Street, Morgan, Walls & Clements, 1926-27. (Photo 1986).

A Modest Proposal for Saving Rancho Los Amigos and Helping the Homeless of Los Angeles County

A SOLUTION FOR HOMELESSNESS:

A NEW LOS ANGELES COUNTY “POOR” FARM

By Colleen Adair Fliedner

Author of the Rancho Los Amigos Centennial History Book

The words “poor farm” generally conjure up images of Oliver Twist and filthy almshouses, where half-starved men, women and children live and work in deplorable conditions. When it came to the Los Angeles County Poor Farm, however, nothing was further from the truth. When it opened in 1888 about two miles from the fledgling community of Downey, the L. A. County Poor Farm consisted of 124.4 acres of agriculturally rich farmland; two wards; a smaller, more rustic building housing a kitchen, dining room, and employees’ quarters; and several dozen residents.

While there were other county poor farms in the United States, none seems to have had the same success as L. A. County’s. The idea of combining housing for the homeless and hopeless of the County with a productive farm was nothing less than brilliant. Within 10 years of its founding, an article written about the County Farm described it as “the most beautiful, well-managed and cheerful home for those that are unfortunate, of any country on earth.” As the years passed, the word “poor” was seldom used, in spite of the fact that it was still the official name of the institution. This was done, in part, to eliminate the negative connotation associated with a County Farm. But the other reason was that Los Angeles’ Poor Farm was actually a pleasant place in its day…and it certainly beat the alternative of living on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

The County Poor Farm housed a variety of individuals with a wide range of problems. Like every other aspect of this fascinating institution, the type of patients cared for was constantly changing. By the turn of the century, the most notable difference was in the increase of elderly people brought to the Farm. This had occurred as a result of the depression of 1893, when state aid was cut to indigent men and women over the age of 60. According to County records, the elderly who were admitted to the Farm were in good health, but simply had nowhere else to go. Another group of individuals whose numbers increased after 1900 were those with mental illness, and especially those suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction, which were considered a form of insanity at that time. Indeed, the County Farm became a sort of “catchall” institution, a custodial care facility that took up the overflow from the L. A. County Hospital and the state mental hospitals.

Though there were separate male and female wards, an old man in relatively good health might have had a bed next to a 15-year-old boy with epileptic seizures, or a blacksmith with tuberculosis. In spite of this undesirable situation, State inspectors reported that the County Poor Farm was one of the cleanest, most orderly institutions of its kind in California. Unlike many contemporary county-run poor farms around the country, the men and women at the Los Angeles County Farm had plenty of food to eat and spotless buildings in which to live.

By 1898 the number of acres had grown to 227. There were groves of oranges, fields of alfalfa, oats, corn, sorghum, beets, potatoes, and various fruits and vegetables. Fifteen acres were set aside for large expanses of well-manicured lawns, a variety of shade trees, and colorful flowerbeds. Hundreds of eucalyptus trees rimmed the grounds and lined the roadways. Impressed visitors often remarked that the place was kept up so well that looked like a park, rather than a poor farm.

Even more amazing was the County Farm’s dairy. Two hundred gallons of milk were produced each day by its eighty-five cows. Part of the milk was churned into butter and a portion became the Farm’s own cheese. Chickens and hogs were raised for meat. Physically capable residents did most of the work in exchange for food, a place to stay, and a stipend for extra purchases, such as tobacco. The County Poor Farm was so successful in these endeavors that it not only supported its own expenses, there was plenty of extra food and dairy products to feed the patients at Los Angeles County Hospital.

Many residents were either too old or frail to work. These men and women were cared for at the County Farm for the rest of their lives. Unless a family member claimed their remains, they were buried in the cemetery situated at one end of the property.

In the case of the ambulatory residents, they were often taught skills to help them find jobs “on the outside.” Actually, the County’s goal was to heal the residents who could be cured, and then prepare them to become self-sufficient. Besides learning about agricultural and dairy work, professional craftsmen were employed to teach the residents a variety of skills. For instance, a cobbler instructed male residents in the art of repairing and making shoes and manufacturing artificial legs. With so many people living at the Farm, the shoe shop provided a much needed and cost-effective service. In another shop, residents were taught to weave wicker furniture, which was used throughout the buildings and gardens, as well as being sold to the general public.

After a few years, the staff began to notice that the residents who suffered with arthritis and hand injuries who performed these and similar tasks had actually improved. Thus, what initially began as a way to help these individuals earn extra money for themselves and the County Farm became the beginning of what is today known as “Occupational Therapy.” This and dozens of remarkable developments and discoveries actually began at the L. A. County Farm.

This institution, which had begun with some 40 residents in 1888, had over 200 residents by 1898. The number of buildings grew in accordance with the availability of County funds. Sometimes there weren’t enough beds, and people were turned away. That’s why it became increasingly important to rotate needy patients in, while releasing the trained and fully recuperated men back into society as soon as possible.

Among the most surprising facts was that a separate “insane” ward was built in 1907 for the burgeoning number of mentally ill patients who continued to pour in from the County Hospital’s overcrowded “insane” wards. The records noted why each patient was deemed insane and required confinement to the mental wards. By today’s standards, many of the reasons are shocking. They included: syphilis, anemia, cerebro-spinal meningitis, brain tumor, epilepsy, pneumonia, sexual derangements, typhoid fever, alcoholism, over-study, jealousy, sexual excesses, fasting during Lent, abortion, childbirth and lactation, menopause, love affair, domestic infelicity, uterine trouble, and, last but not least, masturbation.

By the 1930s, another period of building was underway. The new Spanish-style buildings were attractive, reflecting the Farm’s Superintendent, William Harriman’s, love for Old California’s mission architecture. In 1932 he took his theme a step further, changing the County Poor Farm’s name to Rancho Los Amigos, which he translated as “Home of the Friends.” Under Mr. Harriman’s leadership, Rancho Los Amigos continued its evolution, adding a hospital building and infirmaries. Apparently, most of the patients thrived, fondly describing Rancho as their “Home Away From Home.” They expressed their sentiments through letters and poems, such as this poem written by a woman patient in 1932:

OUR HOME

You call this the poor house? Nay friend, not so.

This house was built to God’s own plan,

Noble thought and loving hand.

 

This is not poverty’s abode, but wealth and love.

Here God moulds, makes, creates characters; and takes the ones He wants

For fitted works in His great house above.

You’ll find within these open doors welcome and protection from cares,

Worldly strife, wickedness, and human woes.

The best of all we need for happiness.

 

Behind these stately walls do roam

Kindly hearts and culture, too.

Souls filled with music, from whose faces shone

Thoughts as a draught of Heaven’s own blue.

We have the best which can be given,

Heat, food, best of matrons, nurses kind.

Superintendent’s mind.

Doctors so wonderful.

Nay, this is not a poorhouse, friend, but earthly heaven.

 

The fact that so many patients felt this way is not surprising, when one considers the excellent care they received and the way they were welcomed to their “new home.” A small booklet given to each patient began:

“Our new friend, we welcome you to our little city. We hope you will find here a pleasant and comfortable home, with health and happiness. To this end, we need your help, not only in compliance with instructions of the medical staff who are working for your good, but in your thoughtful consideration and assistance of those who are weaker and less fortunate. You will not be burdened with oppressive rules. The one called the Golden Rule covers them all.”

Since its humble beginnings in 1888, what began as a home for the County’s needy has evolved into the world-renowned Rancho National Rehabilitation Center. Most of the County Farm era’s buildings on the south side of Imperial Highway have been demolished, leaving a large tract of land empty, with the exception of a few structures which have been repurposed. Could this County-owned property provide the space to allow the homeless of Los Angeles to erect their tents? Restrooms with showers like one would find in a campground could be erected. Perhaps converting empty shipping containers could be used for housing, as is being done in other cities around the country. Like the old County Farm, community gardens could be planted to provide fresh produce for the residents. Food banks could deliver meat and other necessities to prepare meals. Volunteers could teach some of the formerly homeless modern-day skills and, perhaps, help them find jobs.

The concept of bringing the homeless to a place where they would be safe, clean, fed, given rehab, and taught ways to re-enter society worked beautifully in the past. Why can’t it work now?


Video of Esotouric’s Richard Schave giving public comment to the Historical Landmarks and Records Commission of L.A. County in support of saving Rancho Los Amigos and using it for the public good.

King Eddy Bar poem (1997)

Do you love and miss the old King Eddy bar as it was before the Downtown L.A. gentrification brush blotted out its soul? Come slip into that dark, cool place in this poem by Bernard Tucker, graciously shared by his sons.

King Eddy Bar

The door yawns

lets in the morning –

a handful of regulars

for breakfast of coffee, beer, boiled eggs.

The fusty 40 x 50 foot saloon

reeks of stale tobacco and cheap booze.

Walls of layered grime

yearn for a coat of paint.

A Jack Palance-of-a-guy

lords over the rectangular bar.

Whiskey runs a poor second to draught,

Christmas lights chase each other

around the top shelf,

feign merriment.

 

By noon two dozen stools and chairs hold

the local fraternity

descended from their cheap nests.

TV is on.

Juke box plays ‘Nights in White Satin’,

a thin bent body yells

“Who put that crap on?”

Late afternoon, the dark hole roils,

the past wrapped around beer glasses

the present seen clearly in refills

and the only sun, a hard boiled egg.

 

I crack the door,

the polite bartender points to the far corner:

my patient dangles his only leg

from a stool,

sugar diabetes and nicotine

claimed the other.

Quick to butt his cigarette

“only have two a day, doc.”

His wheelchair waits by

lifesize sepia Babe Ruth poster

“goes back to the twenties

only thing worth a damn in this joint!”

Not a bad hero for these players,

age wearing heavy on their shoulders,

every day must step up to the plate

handle whatever comes,

and the pitching can be mean.

 

– Bernard Tucker

   March 1997

   Los Angeles

 

Bernard Tucker was a cardiovascular surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downtown Los Angeles for 30 years before retirement in 1999. Originally from a small silver mining town in Northern Ontario, Canada, Bernard first came to Southern California in 1961 for a medical internship at Memorial Hospital in Long Beach. A lifelong interest in literature spurred him to start writing poetry in the early 1990s and attending workshops organized by Hy Baker and the Pasadena Poets. His poems covered topics ranging from his youth in Canada to nature as well as the more human side of practicing medicine. The people and environs of Los Angeles were of course a major inspiration, and poems covered local matters such as the city’s homeless population, 1992 riots, urban wildlife, and the Los Angeles River. Bernard passed away in 2019.

Attention, Joan Crawford Lovers: The Mildred Pierce House is For Lease!

We got a tip today from a Glendale resident and Joan Crawford fan who wishes to remain anonymous, and who we’ll call Veda.

Veda wanted to be sure we knew that 1143 North Jackson Street, which served as the exterior of Mildred and Bert Pierce’s unhappy marital home in the 1945 film of James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce, and which is a featured location on our Birth of Noir tour, is available for lease.

Surely someone within the sound of our digital voice loves Joan Crawford and is looking for a pleasant suburban home in which to bake pies, spoil their children, call a wandering spouse’s bluff and maybe make their first fortune? Just don’t schedule a house tour expecting to find a cozy upstairs for the kids’ rooms: it’s a famous blooper that the single story exterior location gives way to a two-story studio set.

Veda notes that the Rossmoyne Historic District is a terrific neighborhood, and you’ll be walking distance from Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Ralphs, Vons, and We’re Pouring, the local taphouse and gastropub.

Should you move in, we hope you’ll step outside and join our Birth of Noir tour group when we’re again able to give tours. We’ll tell the story of the prior owner, a lovely French lady, and how she saved the now magnificent front yard palm tree, because it was in the movie, and what kind of a monster would buy the house and not save Mildred’s dying palm tree if she could? The world is held together by such small acts of grace, and we are so grateful.

Richard Schave’s Public Comment to Los Angeles Planning Commission on Times Mirror Square

For context on the below public comment that Richard Schave made on 5/14/20, please see our newsletter post, Listen Live As The L.A. Times Project Appeal Hearing Illuminates City Government’s Corrupt Soul.

So, what happened today at the Planning Commission hearing for Times Mirror Square? Fireworks. And not celebratory fireworks, but the kind of explosion that happens when an errant spark falls on the barge and blows the whole enterprise straight to hell.

You can read our blow-by-blow commentary on Facebook, but in short, the Commissioners told Onni Group:

• That their projects suck;

• That the site deserves an architecturally distinguished building;

• That they were disgusted by the lack of affordable housing;

• That offering to donate $1 Million to Pershing Square was stupid;

• That it was their own fault the project wasn’t moving forward;

• That they had no intention of violating the Brown Act for them;

• That they didn’t care if the funding dried up and the project died.

Then they rejected the appeal and continued consideration of the EIR until July 9, when they expect Onni Group to return with a great design and affordable housing component.

It was glorious! We predict Times Mirror Square will soon be on the market again. And William Pereira’s 1973 addition might yet get the thoughtful vertical expansion it deserves.

Updated May 18: the wild Times Mirror Square Los Angeles City Planning Commission audio is now online! Listen to the hearing here. Read Commercial Observer coverage of the hearing here.


Public Comment: My name is Richard Schave. I am principal author of the Historic Cultural Monument nomination for Times Mirror Square.

A City Planning staffer threatened me over this work. I have shared this information with the FBI.

I am asking the Commission to accept the appeal and deny the EIR.

I hope you have all read the plea released by the US DOJ yesterday, describing how a private citizen worked with Jose Huizar, serving as the Guiliani to Huizar’s Trump, creating an alternative city planning feedback loop, predicated on bribery, extortion, shell corporations, nepotism, and money laundering.

A principal point of public interface for this criminal enterprise is this Commission.

When I went to Huizar’s City Hall office before the PLUM hearing to speak with staff, I found the FBI had sealed the office. When I asked for a meeting with Huizar’s replacement Marqueece Harris-Dawson before PLUM, his staff told me there was no need to meet, since they intended to follow Huizar’s direction on Times Mirror Square.

PLUM rewrote the landmarking designation for the benefit of developer Onni Group. Yesterday’s RICO filings mention Onni’s $50,000 donation to Jose Huizar’s wife’s PAC.

The City of Los Angeles deserves better. Do the right thing, accept the appeal, deny the EIR.

Downtown Los Angeles Development, Jose Huizar and the Bishop Mora Salesian High School Slush Fund

What follows is purely speculative quarantine spitballing.

As politically obsessed Los Angeles reads the tea leaves of the slow drip, drip, drip of Federal charging documents and plea agreements in the ongoing FBI public corruption investigation, anticipating the blast of information that will finally explain how this city got so far off the rails and who steered the train, we find ourselves wondering…

Why did Jose Huizar direct so many Downtown L.A. real estate developers, billboard companies, lobbyists, construction firms and lawyers to donate to his alma mater, Bishop Mora Salesian High School in Boyle Heights, a private college prep institution with only 400 students? Have all donations from developers been reported, or did some come in the form of stacks of cash in a liquor box? Why did his wife Richelle Rios (Ramona Convent Secondary School, class of ’87), a non-practicing attorney, work in the school’s development office from July 2012 to January 2016?

Is it possible that untraceable donated funds from entities seeking Jose Huizar’s PLUM Committee and City Council support for lucrative projects was used to pay off former students seeking compensation for abuse suffered at the hands of pedophile priests and brothers of the Salesian Order who were shuttled between California schools for decades, as detailed in this December 2019 CNN investigation?

Justin Jangwoo Kim’s plea agreement shows that just one corrupt Jose Huizar land use vote came at the price of $500,000. There could easily be tens of millions moving around Huizar’s transactional chess board.

So, where did all that money go? Is the answer back home in Boyle Heights?


Sign The Petition: Los Angeles Citizens Demand: Corrupt Councilmember José Huizar must resign

April Fool: Times Mirror Square EIR Challenge Rejected, or “Nothing to see here, G-Man”

Last October, a passionate band of concerned Angelenos went to Los Angeles City Hall to testify one last time in support of the preservation of William Pereira’s Times Mirror corporate headquarters.

This recognized architectural and cultural landmark had been deliberately cut out of the approved Historic Cultural Monument designation by the Los Angeles City Council, a political body with numerous members under FBI investigation for public corruption in service of real estate interests.

But almost a year after investigators raided Councilmember Jose Huizar’s City Hall office and home, he was still sitting on the council, and questionable projects in his Downtown district continued to get the green light.

Still, it’s important to show up and speak truth to power, even when it seems like the fix is in.

Included in our group that fall day were preservationists, historians, architects, affordable housing advocates, longtime L.A. Times and Times Mirror executives, neighbors, tenants and descendants of the newspaper’s founders.

Although we went into the hearing room expecting to bear witness to the city’s approval of demolition of the great newspaper and media HQ that Otis Chandler built, that didn’t happen. It seemed that the City Planning Department had received a long letter that gave them pause, so they paused approval of the project… “for one week.”

To see what we said in October, learn more about this wild preservation campaign through Fall 2019, and read the letter that gave the city pause, click here.

That letter, from Lozeau Drury, the attorneys for public interest nonprofit SAFER, proved to be the prelude to a legal challenge to Onni Group’s project EIR, citing numerous instances where serious problems had been glossed over or ignored by City Planning in order to approve the enormous development.

One particularly interesting point: although Councilman Jose Huizar continues to promote a streetcar loop through his nonprofit initiative L.A. Streetcar, the EIR provided no analysis of how such a conveyance would impact traffic around the site. Is there going to be a Broadway Streetcar, or isn’t there? In politically supported Downtown L.A. development, it seems you can have it both ways.

One week turned to a month, then to several. Six months later, we’re still holding out hope that the landmark Los Angeles Times complex can be saved.

But on April Fool’s Day, City Planning came out of its slumber and issued a new document, which declared that nothing in SAFER’s challenge letter justified halting the project. Although this new document references a complete rebuttal of SAFER’s claims (“March 2020 Responses”), this rebuttal was not shared by the city, so we’re unable to weigh its merits. [Update: the rebuttal was provided after we requested it, and you can find it here, with the section on Jose Huizar’s Schrodinger’s Streetcar highlighted.]

We hope and expect that SAFER will appeal City Planning’s determination by the April 10 deadline, and that Times Mirror Square may yet be saved.

After all, in recent weeks, the Los Angeles public corruption investigation has once again kicked into high gear. A lobbyist pleaded guilty to bribing a politician, who could only be Councilmember Jose Huizar, with half a million dollars in a liquor box—for just one land use vote. (In response, we have called for his resignation.) A virtual City Council meeting was overshadowed with the news that former Councilmember Mitch Englander had made a deal with the Feds in exchange for leniency on his felony charges.

Court watchers expect more charges, arrests and indictments of sitting politicians, developers, lobbyists and city staffers to happen any day.

So, why did City Planning reject SAFER’s challenge? Perhaps the office felt it had no choice. To acknowledge SAFER’s bold claim that the EIR should never have been approved in the first place would be to admit that politicians like Jose Huizar are able to pull strings at the highest level of land use, for the benefit of their developer and lobbyist friends.

If that’s the case, it will all come out in the coming indictments. And Los Angeles will be left to pick up the pieces of our broken, beautiful city. We hope that, unlike Parker Center, Times Mirror Square will still be standing when we do.

The National Emergency Library is here for Los Angeles

Libraries, how we love them—especially when they’ve got plenty of room and don’t cull the weird stuff that nobody has checked out since 1923!

Back in the good old days, earlier this month, we were still spending our Tuesdays at the Huntington Library, where we’d split the day between peering through a magnifying lens at unpublished negatives of Grand Central Market, reading snarky editorials on the foibles of the Golden Age Hollywood set in Rob Wagner’s Script magazine, and wandering the holy gardens.

These visits have kept us sane while battling to preserve Los Angeles landmarks from the relentless forces of what we’ve long suspected, and what is finally being proven, to be rampant public corruption.

But the Huntington, like so many wonderful places in Los Angeles, is now closed for the duration, and it’s right that it’s closed. We’ve all got to hunker down like bears in our dens and wait out the viral peril⁠—but there’s no rule that says we have to be bored or zoned out while we wait.

The good folks at the Internet Archive have taken the nation’s temperature and written a marvelous and healing prescription: their enormous collection of scanned books, which in normal times is available for free check out, but with use limits, is now 100% free and always available. You can browse a selection of 1,428,426 volumes, and we bet at least 3,745 of them would be exactly what you’re looking for right now!

To get you started, we’ve curated a short list of L.A.-centric titles that will enhance your understanding of this improbable and baffling city, and get you familiar with this terrific digital resource.

But we must remind you that these books, however fascinating, are all written about a place very different from the Los Angeles of 2020. When we get through this public health crisis—and we will get though it—our shared history will be one of a metropolis that faced the greatest threat imaginable at the same time that the DOJ was taking down a big chunk of its corrupt city government.

If you put a twist this screwy into a script, they’d throw you out of the writer’s room. Yet it’s happening, right now, to us. And when the risk of disease has passed and the cancerous rot of corruption has been cut out of the halls of power, we’re going to need a new story to tell about what it means to be an Angeleno in 2020 and beyond.

Luckily, we’ve got nothing but time on our hands to study the past and imagine L.A.’s bright future and what each one of us can bring to the table.

So be well, have faith, be careful out there, and enjoy! And do share your recommendations for great reads that you find in the National Emergency Library in the comments below.


ESOTOURIC’S SELECTED TREASURES FROM THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY LIBRARY

Update 3/28/20: as this information has circulated, writers have complained that the Internet Archive’s loan policy change violates their copyright. Please use the links below responsibly, enjoy older, weirder, out of print offerings, and buy books by working writers.

Piccolo’s Prank (1965) by Leo Politi: a rambunctious monkey runs amok on old Bunker Hill, and if you love this one, there are many Politi treats in the library

Exploring California Byways in and Around Los Angeles; trips for a day or a weekend (1967) by Russ Leadabrand: a slow-paced guidebook to out-of-the-way places still worth seeking out, once the quarantine is lifted

Historic California in Bookplates (1936, reprint edition) by Clare Ryan Talbot: reproducing the miniature works of art that identified treasured volumes as the property of notable Californian individuals and institutions

La Reina : Los Angeles in three centuries (1929) published by Security Trust & Savings Bank: a collection of historic photographs used by the pioneer bank as part of its branding efforts

The Los Angeles Guide Book (1972) by Annette Welles: because sometimes it’s fun to imagine we’re time traveling tourists, it’s a great reference if you happen to be writing a period mystery in quarantine, and who doesn’t want to know that Norms diners used to suck?

L.A. Bizarro! The Insider’s Guide to the Obscure, the Absurd and the Perverse in Los Angeles by Anthony R. Lovett and Matt Maranian (1997): an over-designed pre-internet marvel celebrating the weirdos, visionaries and benign hustlers who have been largely displaced under our pro-development City Council, but who we sincerely hope can bloom again in the new L.A. to come

Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County by Leonard and Dale Pitt (1997): an essential companion for any dedicated Angeleno, packed with fun facts you never knew about familiar places

Los Angeles, City of Dreams by Harry Carr (1935): the first great insider’s take on modern L.A., by a crack reporter who spent four decades chronicling her transformation from sleepy backwater to modern metropolis

Bread & Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles by Paul Greenstein, Nigey Lennon and Lionel Rolfe (1992): the astonishing story of how the bombing of the L.A. Times building inspired the creation of a new kind of city in the desert, a site we will be visiting with Paul Greenstein on our likely rescheduled Desert Visionaries tour

The Dream Come True: Great Houses of Los Angeles by Brendan Gill and Derry Moore (1980): a loving survey of domestic architecture historic, contemporary and celebrity, richly illustrated with original photographs, and including some rare lost gems

A Slight Epidemic: The Government Cover-up of Black Plague in Los Angeles: What Happened and Why it Matters by Frank Feldinger (2008): recommended for obvious reasons, in the hope that we not repeat the mistakes of 1924

A Statement From Esotouric About COVID-19 and Upcoming Tour Dates

Update, May 17, 2020: In accordance with current state and local restrictions on mass gatherings, we have now had to officially postpone all of our remaining scheduled events into June. The postponed tours will be rescheduled as soon as it is again ruled safe for groups to gather in enclosed spaces like a tour bus. Forensic science seminars will resume when Cal State Los Angeles again allows outside groups to hold events in classrooms. We appreciate your patronage, and are so sorry for this ambiguity. 

Update, March 15, 2020: In accordance with current guidance for mass gatherings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we have postponed all tours scheduled for the next eight weeks, through Architectural Gems of Riverside (5/9).


Original announcement, March 11, 2020:

Gentle reader,

We have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Southern California, and studying historical and current best practices for protecting vulnerable community members from a new and potentially dangerous virus.

There is no knowing how quickly the virus will spread, or the impact that its spread will have on the public health system.

However, it’s clear that healthy individuals practicing social distancing by avoiding unnecessary public gatherings will flatten the curve of infection, slowing the numbers of people who end up in the hospital with respiratory issues. Keeping hospital beds open as long as possible means a better outcome for those who do become ill, and makes all of us safer.

This article in The Atlantic offers insight into the benefits of social distancing: Cancel Everything.

We love to give tours, and it’s how we make a living, but we have to put the community first. So we have decided that the responsible thing to do is to postpone our upcoming tours until the risk to vulnerable people from COVID-19 is better understood and under control.

We are tentatively listing all of our upcoming tours, through Eastside Babylon on June 27, as “Tour Date Paused, To Be Confirmed or Rescheduled.”

If you have purchased a ticket for an upcoming tour, we hope you’ll keep the booking. We will keep you posted about any change in the tour status.

If your tour date does end up being rescheduled, your booking can:
1) Be moved to the new tour date, or
2) Be applied as credit towards a different tour, or
3) Be turned into a gift certificate, or
4) Of course you may have a refund on request at any time.

Our sincere hope is that the public health concerns will resolve themselves as we head into springtime, and we’ll be able to resume scheduled tours on their previously scheduled dates.

For those tours that end up being rescheduled due to public health concerns, we’ll notify all ticketed passengers of the new date when confirmed. Because we hope to resume touring as soon as possible, tickets for upcoming tour dates will still be available for purchase. Esotouric gift certificates are also available. If you’re hesitant to sign up for a tour date that isn’t 100% confirmed to be operating, we’re happy to put you on the RSVP list, and will notify you of the tour status, and if it’s about to sell out.

Thank you for your understanding as we navigate these trying times and try to be the best little tour operators we know how to be.

If after reading this you’re thinking “How can I help Kim and Richard make it through these uncertain times?” then we’d be grateful if you bought an Esotouric gift certificate or two, an investment in our shared future of exploring the secret heart of Los Angeles together.

We love you. Be well. Wash your hands!

yours for Los Angeles,
Kim and Richard
Esotouric

South L.A. LACMA Satellite Site in Violation of Sweetheart City of Los Angeles Lease?

As the Los Angeles County Supervisors rushed to approve LACMA’s hot-off-the-presses EIR for Peter Zumthor’s new museum building last April, ignoring the 83% of public emails begging them to vote no, they made frequent mention of museum director Michael Govan’s claim that LACMA intended to open satellite facilities in far-flung corners of the County.

Bringing art to under served communities is a terrific thing, and we’d like to applaud LACMA’s commitment to building diverse audiences, especially young ones.

But when we recently went out to look at the most widely reported of the proposed LACMA satellite sites, the former transit garage Building 71 on the edge of South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, we saw no signs of any LACMA presence.

Almost two years after the deal was announced, we found the barn-like 84,000 square foot 1911 concrete structure sealed up tight, with Playboys gang tags on the entry bays and metal cages clamped to the windows.

 

When LACMA proudly announced its 35-year no-rent lease of the historic tilt-slab structure in January 2018, it was with the promise to retrofit and activate Building 71 as an art center to serve the 9500 children who attend school in the vicinity.

But we learned from our conversations with museum administrators that LACMA soon balked at the seismic, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and hazardous materials abatement costs associated with bringing Building 71 into compliance as a public space suitable for hosting events and exhibiting art. And indeed, there is no evidence that any work has been done to improve or activate the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park site.

However, the lease agreement did not only call for LACMA to retrofit and activate the derelict Building 71. The lease states:

Additionally, within one year of the execution date of the Lease, LACMA shall provide certain public programming at several recreation centers within the surrounding communities. Within eighteen (18) months of the execution of the Lease, LACMA will begin public programming on the premises area.

If LACMA was providing public programming at any of the South Los Angeles recreation centers, or on the grounds of the Wetlands Parks, we would have expected to have seen a press release. Nothing has been heard about any of the exciting initiatives promised in the January 2018 lease agreement:

• Free Social Justice-themed School Tour and Art-making Program

• Teen Tour Guide Program

• Intergenerational Weekday and Weekend Programs

• Teaching Assistant Training Program

One year has passed with no public programming at rec centers. 18 months has passed with no public programming at the Wetlands Park. We are now more than two years out, and LACMA appears to be in violation of its no-rent 35-year lease from the City of Los Angeles.

The lease served its purpose, though, by providing cover for Michael Govan’s inspiring claim that approving the ill-conceived, over-priced Zumthor building was serving the public good and bringing great art and cultural programming to South Los Angeles.

Recent reporting by Carolina Miranda in the Los Angeles Times suggests LACMA may be shirking its responsibilities at the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park because it simply doesn’t have the money.

We believe that City Council should hold LACMA accountable, and remind the museum that it made a commitment to bring the arts to South Los Angeles. LACMA and City Hall owe the community straight answers about what’s happening with Building 71. It’s not enough to clap each other on the back and smile for the press release photos: you have to write the checks and do the work and actually improve Los Angeles.

Or perhaps, since LACMA isn’t using Building 71, and if the museum is indeed in violation of its lease agreement, this useful and centrally located City-owned site could be freed up for other civic uses. Its 84,000 square feet could even be used to house some of the more than 60,000 Angelenos who are sleeping on the streets.

If you share our concerns about the misuse of this site and about LACMA’s unsustainable redevelopment scheme, please sign our petition and consider supporting the Save LACMA non-profit, which is currently fundraising for a ballot measure to stop the museum from destroying itself.