Sunday, February 21, 2010

Heritage Square Short Cut

Post by Bobby Gadda.
When Adonia and I decided to check out the Heritage Square museum, we were dismayed to discover that there is not a direct way to walk there from the Heritage Square Gold Line stop. You actually have to walk pretty far north next to the noisy highway, and then double back. I noticed from the satellite view there is an intriguing dirt road that goes directly there on the east side of the arroyo. We thought we would check it out. Here is a map of the route we took, with all of the fence-hopping points marked:

View Heritage Square Short Cut in a larger map

First, we walked down Pasadena Ave and crossed the 110 and the arroyo. We found the entrance to the dirt road blocked by this easily hopped fence:

I could see a dumpster down the road, so I figured it was one of the many county access fire roads that tend to follow the arroyo. We hopped the fence and walked down the road.

Since it has been raining so much lately this area is very lush and green, with pretty big trees and bushes on both sides. The arroyo drops off to the left and there are the backyards of houses up on the hill to the right. It is a very nice walk through the greenery.

As we walked along we started to notice debris from old houses, such as these rusty bathtubs.

I recognized these weights as the signature debris of old-house retrofitting; our building in koreatown also has a pile of these out back. There are the weights to balance windows that go over pulleys, I suppose an antiquated technology that is made obsolete by modern energy-efficient windows. Our windows still have them and you can hear the weights rattling around inside the window frame when you open or close the window.

At this point it became clear that the museum must control this right of way since it was full of their stuff - why couldn't you walk to the museum this way? Adonia and I got our pedestrian indignation on as we ranted about how they had named the metro station after the museum, yet failed to provide an easy way to walk there from the station. All they have to do is open the gates and there is this great path!

Eventually we reached a fence that had barbed wire and was therefore too challenging for us to climb. Directly to the left of this fence, however, we noticed that the fence on the arroyo was bent over where other people had crossed it. We took this as an invitation and hopped that fence into the arroyo:

In this part of the channel the sides aren't too steep so it was pretty easy to walk on. We walked past the museum until we reached an actual hole someone had cut in the fence. This fence hole, and footprints in the arroyo led me to believe that others had trod this path before us:

Now we were at the museum entrance, and I asked the proprietors why the gates aren't open to allow easier access from the Gold line. They said that it simply is a matter of lack of volunteers and money - they would need people to staff the other entrance as well, and money to upgrade the path and entrance on that side. After seeing the advanced decay of some of their structures, I saw how this access might not be the most of their worries right now. I suppose what really needs to happen is for the city or county to put in a path here, and the museum could just fork over 8-10 feet of their right of way. Then the fence along the arroyo could just be moved in a bit and there would be a nice pedestrian and bike access along this stretch of the arroyo. This would be similar to the first stretch of the arroyo seco bike path, just a mile or so up the road.

When we were leaving they were nice enough to offer to let us out the back way, and some very friendly volunteers opened the barbed wire gate and walked us back to the Pasadena Ave entrance. No fence hopping required! So if you aren't comfortable hopping fences, you can at least leave this way.

Luckily For Me There's Heritage Square

On the edge of Montecito Heights in Northeast LA sits Heritage Square, an odd hodgepodge of stately old homes that have been spirited here from various sites in the region.

A lovely tour guide in Victorian garb led us through some of the houses. She said that the park started in 1969 with two relocated mansions from Bunker Hill, but those burned down. (Later we saw some fragments of fireplace tile, their grisly remains.)

First, the Mt. Pleasant House, a rich family home built in 1876. I like the corner details that look like giant pieces of Pez made of chalk. Our tour guide pointed out ornate hinges and door knob rosettes. We didn't get to see much of the interior of this guy because a group was setting up for an event. This is an important source of income for the park.

Next door sits the Hale House, a Queen Anne number from 1887. Oh the ornate woodwork, the lincrusta paneling! Each chandelier had been outfitted with both gas jets and electrical sockets, and both energies flowed down the same channel, yikes.

At some point in time (maybe the 1970s?) the house got painted a bunch of different colors as an advertisement for a paint company, and stayed that way until some official insisted that Heritage Square repaint it. Supposedly it caused a number of accidents on the 110 Freeway, just across the channelized Arroyo Seco waterway from the park.

Miss Victorian Tour Guide classified this house as working class, while the Mt. Pleasant House typified a custom home of wealth, and the Hale House was a middle-class tract home. It had originally sat near Lincoln Park and the Selig Zoo. It may have had a lion or two pass through.

This Methodist church on one end of the lot seems to have an evil glow emanating from its core. The interior's cavernous waste cannot be accessed by visitors.

Though they look like archery targets, these are actually part of the Heritage Square Manhole Collection. Really these drive home the point that for many years in LA our history has been something to sweep aside, maybe into a confined zone where the diehards can go and salivate over broken bits that got in the way of endless progress. Heritage Square was founded at a time when rampant redevelopment changed the character of Los Angeles' landscape, burying Victorian splendor beneath towers of Epimethean postmodernism.

But wait, there's more!

A carriage house.

An exile from Angelino Heights, replete with the elaborate woodwork of John J. Ford. This home had been built as a tract by the Beaudry Brothers, but Mr. Ford embellished his family's home with his own handiwork.

One other gem of a house sits on the lot, but I didn't find the exterior impressive and no pictures could be taken in the interiors of the buildings. Octagon House! Bobby described it as a proto-Bucky Dome. You walk in the door, and immediately lose your sense of direction as two rooms mirror off the entryway. Plus there's a little tower on top.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Walking, Biking, Trainriding Weekend

Busy weekend followed by busier week = just uploading pictures now.

On Saturday Bobby and I took a tour of downtown LA's historic core with a very nice docent from the Los Angeles Conservancy. As history and walking enthusiasts, we'd already seen quite a few of the sights included on the walking tour from Pershing Square to the Bradbury Building. But boy do I love tours!

The Bradbury Building, an anomalous beauty from 1893, lets daylight flood into its interior via a glass ceiling. The wood detailing gleams.

There's a little park on the backside of the Bradbury Building that I'd never seen. It has an interpretive exhibit memorializing the first black woman to own property in Los Angeles, Biddy Mason. In fact I think it's called Biddy Mason Park.

After the tour we ventured on to lunch at the Nickel Diner down on Main Street, and ran into this dog-splosion on the way.

All of these people had dogs with them. I think maybe a free spay/neuter clinic was going on? I saw a lot of Latino families with little pups, which surprised me cause usually in that area I just see downtown yuppies with conspicuous consumption dogs (does a weimeraner's piss smell better than that of the homeless who've been removed from that part of the city? It's debatable).

On Sunday we rode all the way to Sierra Madre, following the Arroyo Seco from downtown LA to downtown Pasadena. OMG I saw so many roadies, there had to be tens of thousands of $ in gear and bikes riding around on Sunday.

Pretty bridges in Pasadena.

Then we made it to the Rose Bowl, which has confusing signage.

But walking's a good thing, Rose Bowl! (I know it's actually directing people to flow in one direction instead of in two, but I still think it's a mean sign. Too symbolic in our car-dominated landscape!)

The Rose Bowl does seem kind of like a ciclovĂ­a, there are lots of people walking and biking on the loop road around the parking lots. But there were still lots of cars present, maybe that's unusual, this was Super Bowl Sunday and there seemed to be some kind of run finishing up. I tell you though, it makes me sad to see a young woman drive up in an SUV, park, and get out wearing running clothes. Maybe she lives in the middle of a freeway and can't run from her home?

Then we headed east on Mountain Street to Sierra Madre. This little residential street went through the "Bungalow Heaven Historic District."

At one point the street became a really wide boulevard for a few blocks.

This seemed strange to me, because the homes lining this big wide street looked pretty fancy and well-maintained.

What historical vagary led to such a wide street? Nowadays a wide street is an invitation to speeeeed through a neighborhood; maybe in the past there was a streetcar line through here or a greenbelt.

After lunch in Sierra Madre, we climbed up as high as we could and saw a post-rainy day view of the LA Basin.

We decided to take the Gold Line home, and coasted down from the foothills to Sierra Madre Villa station on Sierra Madre Villa Avenue. This station and the few between it and downtown Pasadena make little concession to the bicyclist or pedestrian; you enter this one through a parking garage, and then you must yell to your companion to be heard over the roar of the 210 freeway shooting past on both sides of the platform.

I really like riding the Gold Line, it's got a really pretty route through Pasadena, South Pasadena, Highland Park, and Lincoln Heights. Nice views all the way into downtown LA.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Heart My Regional Lifestyle

I'd been invited to attend a meeting of the fledgling Orange County Bicycle Coalition, so I took the Metrolink down to Santa Ana this afternoon.

I consulted with Tustin native Joe Linton about bike routes from the Santa Ana Depot. Here's the route he recommended to old town Tustin:

View Untitled in a larger map

It served me well, and I got to the chain pizza place early. I had a hunch that I might be the only transport cyclist in attendance, and that I'd be way outnumbered by middle aged white guys, and ding ding ding! Guess who was the only one who didn't sit in traffic to get there (and definitely came the farthest too).

I listened while the new board discussed bylaws and coordination with bike clubs, and then they graciously listened while I described my work with Latino cyclists in Los Angeles. I was thrilled to find out that they want to develop educational programming for a variety of cyclists in Orange County, recognizing that self-selecting recreational cyclists (or what one guy termed "Lycra geeks") from Irvine did not need further education. Apparently OC has lots of League of American Bicyclists-certified instructors (LCIs), but no demand for classes. We need to find ways to connect vulnerable riders with these resources.

Seriously, I did not know if these folks would be interested in connecting with the many "invisible riders" in OC, and I'm really glad they are. The hard part will be putting programming in place to actually impact the cultural barriers between roadies and working cyclists. Starting a conversation with community advocates in Santa Ana would be a good start, especially in light of the upcoming OCTA service disaster. I'd imagine that many families that will be impacted by those service cuts could also be positively impacted by bicycle programming.

I realized at 7:44 pm that I needed to get back to Santa Ana by 8 pm or have to wait another two hours for the next train to LA, so I started packing up abruptly to get out of there. Multiple nice guys offered me rides to the train station, with others chiming in, "she's carfree." Turns out I like riding my bike! It's not something I lug around for kicks. It's funny when hospitality collides with my commitment to shifting transportation paradigms.

I hauled my ass back down Main Street, knowing full well that I might not make the train. The streets accommodated me nicely, few cars to deal with and few lights at which to wait. Pump pump pumping my legs I zigzagged through the neighborhoods, remembering that I'd have to cross the train tracks after passing Grand. Sure enough, I heard the train wailing as I approached the crossing. I made it over the tracks just before the arms came down, and whipped down the last few blocks to the station.

Of course, from the direction I'd approached the station, I had to get my bike up three flights of stairs, across a pedestrian bridge, and then down another three flights to get on a northbound train. The Pacific Surfliner pulled into the station just as I did, and I lifted my Panasonic high and went for it, tumbling up and then down the stairs past confused disembarking passengers.

Some conductor must have taken pity on my struggling form, because the doors miraculously stayed open until I burst into a coach car and gasped ferociously.

Hooray for regional transit! I know we've got many many many gaps in our system round these parts, but it's damn impressive that with a little help from my two-wheeled friend I can make it from one county seat to another for a meeting and then get home again at a reasonable hour.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

John Wayne Airport to UC Irvine

I flew back to Orange County Airport today from Portland. My cabbie picked me up at 5:30 am to go to the Hollywood MAX station, and his quiet samba soundtrack made me feel awful as we wended our way through sleeping SE. I hate leaving Portland.

My flight ended quickly, and then I had to figure out how to get from the airport to UC Irvine, a few miles away.

First task was figuring out how to exit the airport complex on foot. I had a hunch that if I wandered through a parking garage I might get out to the MacArthur Boulevard, which fronts the airport. That worked; there were even signs directing me how to get out. Once you exit, you're in a rather automobilized zone, but I figured out that if I just followed Michelson Drive, the street coming out of the airport, I could get to a bus stop in a few blocks.

On my way to Michelson and Von Karman to get the 178 I passed a rather attractive office building.

Then I waited for a few minutes for the bus and made it back to UCI in time to do reading for today's classes. John Wayne Airport is way closer to UCI than LAX is to my house, so I think I've figured out an easier way to maximize travel time vis a vis my school obligations.