Friday, November 30, 2007

Breakfast With Garcetti

This morning I forced myself to get up earlier than usual to attend Council President Eric Garcetti's community leader breakfast at Sabor y Cultura coffeehouse on Hollywood Blvd.

About 16 or so local school principals and leaders of community groups got together over coffee, juice, bagels and danishes to talk about the current issues and get an update from the councilman himself. I also spotted some familiar faces to the EHNC, such as Pilar Quispe, who heads a parents youth drug prevention group in East Hollywood, Nongyao Varanond, who heads Thai Health and Information Services Inc there in Thai Town and Nyla Arslanian from both the Greater Griffith Park NC and Barnsdall Arts Council. Eric's deputy staff were also in attendance.

I brought up the fact that all of the candidates in our neighborhood council election last month
wanted the same thing: more park/recreation space, traffic calming, less blight (graffiti, bulky items, litter), youth opportunities and arts-related programs.

Regarding parks, he mentioned the plan to put a recreation center on Santa Monica Blvd where the City's Bureau of Street lighting keeps a maintenance yard. He said it costs $30 million to move the site to an industrial area just to free the space to a park. I recommended they do a land-swap deal with Caltrans to move the yard to freeway land (since it's not preferable to put a park by the freeway anyway). He said he'll try to work this out with our Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon and probably the cost might be lower. Everyone in the neighborhood wants this park to happen, and Traci Calhoun, the principal of Lexington Primary Center, who was there at the meeting, also voiced her support.

Also regarding parks, I found out from field deputy Helen Leung that CD13 and the City's General Services are going to be talking to the owner of a vacant lot in the community to purchase it for a park!

I also found out from field deputy Alejandra Marroquin that the big construction area on Santa Monica and Mariposa (next door to Immaculate Heart of Mary School) will be a large affordable housing complex developed by Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, which will feature a community center. Looks like a potential venue for EHNC meetings!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mondo Video to Close; 24-Hour Cafe on the Way

Mondo Video A-Go-Go will be a-gone-gone or around October 15. The funky, quirky video store on the sourth side of Melrose at Heliotrope, which was imported from Los Feliz a few years ago, let its lease expire and did not renew due to higher lease rates, according to a local businessowner.

Replacing its space will be a 24-hour Armenian-owned coffeehouse (Armenian coffee is quite powerful, if you've ever tried it!). According to the same businessowner, another businessowner on the corner scoffed at the idea of a 24-hour establishment, but due to the vibrancy and streetlife of the Heliotrope-Melrose corner (a.k.a. "Hel-Mel"), it might just be the perfect addition to the 'hood. Perhaps not so for the owners of nearby City College Cafe (not the ones who scoffed), whose 8 p.m. closing time might cause customers to bolt across the street instead.

As for Mondo, it's rumored to be closing down for good. If you're into stocking up on eclectic VHS titles, run down to Mondo, pronto for some killer deals.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bike Racks Finally Come to Hel-Mel

Ten new "Inverted-U" bicycle racks were installed by the City of Los Angeles' Department of Transportation on September 29 on Heliotrope Drive at Melrose (a.k.a. "Hel-Mel"). The corner already sees a heavy amount of bicycle parking usage, from the Bicycle Kitchen and Orange 20 Bikes to City College Cafe, Scoops Ice Cream and the Pure Luck Pub. Previously, bicyclists had to settle on locking them to parking meters, which is illegal, but not enforced. Local bicycle activist Stephen Box (who's been dubbed somewhat of a "Jedi Master" by a certain area blogger) was responsible for lobbying to have the racks installed, which he described as a "year and a half-long process."

No word on why 10 racks were installed at nearby Majestic Golf Land on Melrose Ave. when they are sorely underutilized by clients of the golf driving range.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Guatemalteca Opens!

Guatemalteca Bakery and Restaurant, on 4770 Santa Monica Blvd, is now open. The eatery serves Guatemalan fast food and is the newest store in the local chain; another store has been operating not too far away, just a little over a mile south on Beverly Blvd. It also sports its own bakery that produces tons of pan francés (french-style rolls, which come with nearly every combo plate) as well as a huge selection of pan dulce and European-style pastries. The place is also a mini-market with shelves selling dry and canned good products, beverages, imported frozen fruits and vegetables and even a refrigerated case that sells milk, cheese and eggs for the convenience of people in the neighborhood.

The establishment, which opened on September 15, is spotless, has an inerior painted in pleasant colors and well-designed -- the parking lot is in the rear (no mini-mall format here!), there's even a bicycle rack, and the front of the building is landscaped, with room for possible sidewalk dining. The restaurant has unique hours: 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Yes, there's a desayunos menu for the early crowd - the real early crowd, catering to a working clientele that starts work before dawn.

I got to try a combo plate with chile relleno, beans and rice. It wasn't anything mind-blowing (this is fast-food, after all) but the sauce was real good. It also came with a pan francés roll, which probably would have tasted even better if it were warm. They also have an extensive antojitos menu (tamales, etc), as well as tortas. The prices are way affordable so, I'll be dropping by once in a while.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

EHNC Candidate Information Session

Independent Election Administrator Stephen Box fields questions from EHNC candidates.

Nearly twenty East Hollywood stakeholders who are considering running for one of the the 17 seats in the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council's inaugural election attended a candidate information session on Monday at the Hollywood Youth and Family Center.

The session, led by Independent Election Administrator Stephen M. Box, was designed to inform potential candidates on the basics of the EHNC's upcoming October 30 Governing Board election and also let them know what was expected of them if they were to be elected to the EHNC's Governing Board.

A number of of people from the nine-member Interim Board or were active in the EHNC's formation committee have announced their intention to run, but many new faces also expressed interest, notified by the bilingual election information leaflets distributed to the neighborhood on Labor Day weekend.

Of the 17 seats in the election, 11 of them represent specific geographical areas known as neighborhood districts. The other six represent at-large stakeholder categories: Renter, Property Owner, Business, Student, Community Services (faith-based and non-profit groups) and Youth. All voters will be able to choose one candidate for each other 17 seats.

If you are interested in running for the neighborhood council, contact IEA Stephen Box at 323.962.6540 or email him at For more info on the EHNC's elections and to download candidate registration forms, visit their election website at

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture in San Pedro

This weekend is the 15th annual Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) at Pt. Fermin Park down in San Pedro, an annual celebration of arts, entertainment, food and activities focused on Filipino American culture.

Though the event itself is not in East Hollywood, the organizer of the festival, FilAmARTS is based in E-Ho at the Hollywood Youth & Family Center on Vermont, and the festival itself was born from humble beginnings on the campus of LACC back in Spring of 1992 and 1993 before moving down to 'Pedro.

With a visible presence of markets, restaurants, church parishoners and medical center staff - not to mention a good number of residents, the Filipino community is one of the most culturally-visible ethnic communities in East Hollywood. I should know - I'm one of them. My first FPAC was in 1993 and as a Filipino American music artist, I've performed at the festival for seven straight years from 1999 to 2005.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and tomorrow and admission is $5. Consult the website for information on shuttle parking in the vicinity.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Pure Luck Vegan Pub

A number of local bloggers have been raving about The (New) Pure Luck vegan pub on Heliotrope & Melrose, on our hip new "Hel-Mel" corner. Run by former Bicycle Kitchen volunteer Ben Ling, he bought out the former establishment this past May, which went under the same name, and had a soft opening leading up to the Bicycle Film Festival's block party at Hel-Mel in early July. The place serves up vegan versions of select Mexican and Asian dishes using plantains and jackfruit as a meat substitute, and aren't subjected to the overinflated prices you'd find at other vegan joints - everything is pretty affordable here. Their rosemary french fries are also a popular item, especially with the amazing selection of mostly microbrewed beer (Craftsman IPA, Fat Tire Ale, among others) on tap for just $4 a pint!

I'm not vegan - not by a mile - but I do like to eat healthy most of the time, so this adds to the choices out there. Plus, it's a great place to hang. Even Tai Kim of SCOOPS likes to drop by and hang out for breaks or after he closes down (TPL closes at midnight).

The Pure Luck was formerly a Korean-Chinese restaurant (which served HUGE portions -- I ate there in 2005 with five other friends and only ordered three dishes -- one of us still had to go home with a ton of leftovers), which had changed owners various times but still retained the name. Even before that (Circa '90s) it was an establishment known as the Mambo Cafe.

The Pure Luck
707 N. Heliotrope Drive

Sunday, September 2, 2007

DEFISAL- El Salvadoran Independence Day Parade

The streets of East Hollywood will play host this morning to the annual DEFISAL (Desfile de Independencia Salvadoreña) - the El Salvador Independence Day parade. El Salvadorans will whip out their blue-and-white pride to celebrate the anniversary of their independence from Spain on September 15, 1851. The local El Salvadoran community celebrates it on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend with a parade down Santa Monica Blvd. past popular El Salvadoran restaurants and shops, ending with a festival at Los Angeles City College.

The El Salvadoran community, which also has a large presence in the Pico-Union district (where the organizers of DEFISAL are based) is one of the most culturally-prominent ethnic communities in East Hollywood and has had a growing presence in E-Ho since the era of the Salvadoran Civil War from 1980 to 1992.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Anna's Cuisine on Fountain recently spotlighted Anna's Fast Food Cuisine, an Armenian-Russian eatery on Fountain and Berendo. Anna's, which has been around for nearly 10 years, is situated literally next door to The Food Network-celebrated Square One Dining. The small hole-in-the-wall eatery has kebobs, salads, soups and sandwiches and the article gave it a wonderful review.

Anna's Fast Food Cuisine
4859 Fountain Ave.

Monday, August 27, 2007

EHNC Shows, Tells at Southern California Community Partners Meeting

Representatives of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council delivered a lunchtime presentation in front of nearly 100 attendees of the Southern California Community Partners quarterly meeting on Monday at the California Endowment's Center for Healthy Communities in Downtown Los Angeles.

The EHNC's Israel Stepanian, Alfredo Hernandez and myself talked about the neighborhood council's formation and unique outreach techniques on how to communicate with and involve a uniquely diverse community using resources like relationships with schools, institutions and the use of technology and multimedia, which was exemplified with the screening of the EHNC's "This is East Hollywood" video presentation.

The three EHNC representatives also joined a panel discussion with representatives from the Empowerment Congress Southeast Neighborhood Development Council, a neighborhood council in the South Los Angeles area.

The meeting's attendees comprised of elected officials, city workers and community leaders from Los Angeles, San Diego, Palmdale, Anaheim, Pasadena, Glendale and many municipalities around Southern California. The event was hosted by the City of Los Angeles' Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees the city's system of 89 neighborhood councils.

The EHNC's delegation also included Election Committee chair Christine Jerian and Independent Election Administrator Stephen Box.

Southern California Community Partners is an affiliate of the nationwide organization Neighborhoods USA, which is a network of agencies, community groups and municipalities from across America dedicated to improving and empowering their neighborhoods.

During our April 19 certification hearing, one of the members of the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, impressed with our outreach efforts, asked us, "Can you take your show on the road?" So I guess this was the first stop on our tour! It was exciting and an honor as well to have our NC - and diverse community - be recognized.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Linoleum City

The plot of land on the north side of Santa Monica Blvd. between Berendo and Heliotrope is shaping up to be a 3-story Linoleum City store, which currently operates about a mile west on Santa Monica and Wilston Place, next door to the big Sears Roebuck store. Though L-City has been a Hollywood institution since 1948, the days of its original location are numbered as the block is making way for the proposed Paseo Plaza mixed-use development coming in '09, so it's moving east.

The new Linoleum City site was formerly Miller Studio Rental - a company that rented props and lighting equipment to Hollywood soundstages and production companies - and an adjoining wreck shop where recently-damaged autos lay in limbo. Prior to that, the property was once home to Pennsylvania Garden Supply Co, which moved a couple miles west to Santa Monica and Las Palmas Ave., where it operates behind the spacious Arena Nightclub.

As a Heliotrope Drive resident, though I don't really have much need for linoleum at the moment, the new development solved a major blight problem by itself -- the small Southwestern-style garden built by the Pennsylvania Garden folks on the parkway on the Heliotrope side. After Pennsylvania left, the "garden" was left unmaintained and was a seriously blighted patch where not only trash, but food waste and human feces were dumped. Now that L-City is setting up shop, the Southwestern garden was removed and will soon make way for a driveway leading to the rear parking lot.

Another added bonus was the maintenance of the seven crape myrtle trees planted there during an East Hollywood Community Association cleanup day in early 1998. I personally planted one of them! After Pennsylvania moved out, the new business owners neglected to maintain the trees, and the roots attracted trash and stray saplings grew from the tree well. Whoever's building the L-City store cut out the saplings and cleaned up the trash! Looks like L-City seems to be a good neighbor so far.

Guatemalteca Restaurant

That "mystery building" on Santa Monica and Berendo is finally unveiled, even after curiously asking my contact at Councilman Eric Garcetti's CD13 office since the building sprang up last year. It's going to be a Guatemalan restaurant called Guatemalteca, which will also sport a bakery, adding to an already ethnically-diverse array of eateries in the neighborhood which include Armenian, Thai, El Salvadoran and Filipino (and countless other) cuisines.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Metro Rapid 704

Metro is introducing Metro Rapid Line 704 today, which runs from Union Station to Santa Monica beach via Cesar Chavez Ave. and Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards. The new line supplants the old Line 304 limited service. For anyone heading from East Hollywood to the Westside, this is an excellent way to go, even better, a great way to get to the beach this summer.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Congress of Neighborhoods

So this is what it's like to be certified...

Today, just 40 hours after being certified, the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council returned to DONE's bi-annual Congress of Neighborhoods event, this time at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Elson Trinidad, Israel Stepanian and Lucy Varpetian represented the EHNC at the event.

The Congress of Neighborhoods is organized by DONE as an informational conference for and about neighborhood councils, which features training and topical discussion sessions as well as a chance to network with elected officials, city departments, community groups and other neighborhood councils.

Thas been attending the Congress since its first installment in Fall 2001 but decided to stop attending after the Spring 2004 event to concentrate on completing its certification -- little did we know it would take three more years to do just that!

We were greeted by friends and supporters such as our former DONE project coordinator Christine Jerian (now with SCAG), Central Hollywood NC's Debbie Wehbe, Hollywood United NC's Erik Sanjurjo, Rampart Village NC's Tara Brown, as well as BONC Commissioners Linda Lucks, Tsilah Burman and Michele Siqueiros (they all just love us now...).

But perhaps our coolest moment was when our councilman, Council President Eric Garcetti, gave us props in front of the 1,000 attendees (Play YouTube clip above).

Friday, April 20, 2007

This is East Hollywood

"We decided to show a brief, 7-minute short film, highlighting the uniqueness and diversity of our community, which shows more depth than a PowerPoint or slideshow can allow. And besides, this is Hollywood, baby - you gotta be in pictures!"

Here it is - our "secret weapon" on Certification Night.

EHNC - Certified At Last!

The East Hollywood Neighborhood Council became the 89th certified neighborhood council in the City of Los Angeles on Thursday, April 19 at a packed Faculty & Staff Center on the L.A. City College campus. The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners voted unanimously 4-0 to certify the EHNC, after a public hearing marked with enthusiasm, emotion and some Hollywood style -- the premiere of the short film, "This is East Hollywood," which made a very strong impression on the commissioners. About a dozen residents, businessowners and representatives of local elected officials, nonprofit groups, churches and neighboring neighborhood councils, spoke up in not only their enthusiastic support for the EHNC's certification, but shared their honest and unique experiences in or with the community. The certification vote, met with loud cheers and applause, was the culmination of five long years of hard work by the EHNC.

More than five years ago I embarked on a journey: to form the EHNC, which was originally supposed to be a separate-but-related entity to the East Hollywood Community Association, which I started in 1996. But I discovered that the people involved in the EHNC were more involved, diverse, proactive and energetic and knew we were onto something special here.

Why did it take so damn long? Many reason -- a high transient renter population, a large immigrant population, many of whom have a long-standing fear or mistrust of anything related to government and also long periods of having a shortage of core formation committee members to get the work done - especially getting those petition signatures. But even after overcoming all of that, and not having a set deadline, I decided to take my time and learn from other NC's mistakes (and successes as well), to immerse myself in the knowledge of the NC system though events like the Congress of Neighborhoods or the Citywide Alliance of Nieighborhood Councils. East Hollywood was a special community - arguably the most diverse in the City - and the people involved were a special group as well -- most of us are under age 40, or not that much beyond it, and a diverse bunch as well. So when our Certification Hearing came, I wanted to us do it right.

And I guess we did.