California: From Bad To Worse

West
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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Just when it looked like things might be getting better, the California construction outlook for the year, it appears, has gone from bad to worse. According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2009 California Construction Outlook: Mid-Summer Update, the state’s budget crisis has had a nasty effect on our industry, “reducing state tax revenues and worsening the state’s construction declines.” The report says that construction starts for the state are expected to drop 22% in 2009 to $36.5 billion. Here are some of the sobering figures in the report: Read More

Whither BP?

West
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
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When BP opened their eco-friendly Helios House gas station on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, it was touted as the future of such facilities, and a coup for a brand whose image was all about conservation. The station, designed by Office dA and Johnston Mark Lee, featured a metal-clad, geometric design, low-flow toilets, solar panels and a floor made of recycled glass, among other features. (it didn’t, however, offer alternative fuels..) But it appears that BP may not have had such high regard for their endeavor. A recent drive-by revealed that the station, still unchanged, was no longer a BP but an Arco. Yes, Arco, the Wal Mart of gas. One of the helpful guides at the station explained that BP actually owns Arco, and that the change of label was “an internal business decision,” whatever that means. Looks like green marketing just took one on the chin.

L. Ron Hubbard Would Be Proud

West
Monday, July 13, 2009
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Yesterday while brunching in Hollywood we happened upon the biggest sign we’ve ever seen. Of course this being LA, it belongs to none other than the Church of Scientology. On July 3 their big blue building at the corner of Franklin and L.Ron Hubbard Way (yes that’s the name of the street) was officially fitted with a brand new sign that’s 84 feet long, 16 feet tall, and weighs 5.2 tons. It’s about three times the size of the former, well-known sign on the site. What’s more the marker, which reads “SCIENTOLOGY” in big white letters,  is fitted with LED lights so the letters glow at night (unlike the famous Hollywood sign nearby, by the way). Read More

Suburban Dreams

National
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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Little boxes on the hillside..

Little boxes on the hillside..

In the wake of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, global warming, rising energy costs, and constant gridlock, you’d think the model of Suburbia isn’t faring to well. Well, you’re not alone.   Dwell and Inhabitat are sponsoring a competition called Reburbia, dedicated to re-envisioning the suburbs. They’re asking entrants to design “future-proof” spaces, from small scale retrofits to large-scale restorations, to replace current types and systems like McMansions, cul-de sacs, big box stores, strip malls and car-centric communities. Ideas, they suggest, could come in the form of bicycle transportation hubs, energy generating freeway paving systems, and new housing prototypes (including a “McMansion farm rehab”, whatever that is). Enter here. And hurry, because entries are due on August 1! Winners will be announced on August 19 (Grand prize: $1,000).

Heritage On Hold… Again

West
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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Preservation groups hope a revised ordinance will prevent the destruction of historic icons like the Ambassador Hotel

For the second time LA’s City Planning Commission has put off a vote on proposed changes to LA’s Cultural Heritage Ordinance. Among other things, the changes would grant the LA Cultural Heritage Commission the authority to bar demolition of designated monuments—rather than just delay them, as is now the case. The last delay came on June 11. This time the sticking point was an attempt to limit changes to the interiors of landmarked houses, which made some houseowners very unhappy. The next vote will come at a planning meeting in September, so stay tuned..again.

Fire On The Mountain

West
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
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It’s not every day that a scary fire burns within a few miles of a major cultural institution. Well in LA it sort of is, but that’s beside the point. A recent drive on the 405 Freeway revealed to us what all the news reports are saying: There is a biggish blaze burning just one hill over from the Getty Center on LA’s west side. The smoke is thick and brown, and on first look bulged out at the top, not unlike a mushroom cloud. Yikes. Helicopters are running regular passes over the thing, which is spreading in thin lines along the mountains facing the Getty, moving southward down the Sepulveda Pass. But fortunately it appears that firefighters have it under control (in California terms a 10-acre fire is only a mini conflagration), despite a forced evacuation of the Getty and nearby Mount St. Mary’s College. Stay tuned… We hope we don’t have to see if all that marble and granite will hold up to a good ol’ California disaster. And for now, the biggest concern of drivers on the 405 is the threat of imminent traffic. Now that’s scary.

Still Waiting

West
Monday, July 6, 2009
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Back on April 19 LA County Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe told the Los Angeles Times that she was investigating the January 16 firing of former LA County Planning Chief Bruce McClendon. McClendon  told the Times that he was probably fired for protecting his staff from the efforts of County Supervisors’ aides to influence zoning and development decisions in the county. Watanabe  told the Times that the results of that investigation would be released “in the coming weeks.” Well it’s now been almost three months and the results of that investigation are apparently still not available. So what’s the wait? A call to Watanabe’s office referred us to her web site, where we found no documents relating to the investigation. So until then, we’re just left to wonder what’s going on…

FOGA Cut by How Much?

West
Thursday, July 2, 2009
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A model of Gehry's new offices in El Segundo

We knew that Gehry Partners had trimmed its staff recently due to the recession. But according to a story in Architectural Record, the cuts are much worse than we thought. Tony Illia writes that the company has reduced its staff from 250 a year ago to 112 now. That’s more than a 50 percent chop! Many of the cuts are due to the losses of projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and the delay of projects like Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Still the firm is still set to move into roomier new digs in El Segundo (pictured above)  later this year. Should be.. spacious. Still the story says the firm is working on new projects like a Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi,  the Beekman tower in Lower Manhattan, and the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington.

Cap + Trade = Green Building?

National
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
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The House’s passage of new Energy and Climate legislation (HR 2454: the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) on Friday means more than just the possible institution of a new cap and trade system for the U.S. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the act includes several elements that should spur green building as well. These include: Read More

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More Regions, More Problems

National
Monday, June 29, 2009
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Planetizen’s Nate Berg brings us an interesting report from America 2050‘s recent LA conference. The group is trying to develop a nationwide infrastructure strategy. In order to handle the U.S.’s mega problems, it’s divided the country into 11 “megaregions,” to “encourage regional thinking and cooperation on issues like transportation, energy, and water.” Read More

Saturday Night Live (At Dwell)

West
Monday, June 29, 2009
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Food truck mania

We don’t always give props to other design pubs, but after a great weekend at Dwell On Design, how can we not? After the expo, the panels, and the awards, on Saturday night the Dwellistas hosted a wonderful evening at the Geffen Contemporary in Downtown LA that started with LA’s first ever mobile restaurant row (Apparently the Kogi taco truck has helped spawn a phenomenon), and then became a night at the movies. Read More

What Will Happen To Neverland?

West
Saturday, June 27, 2009
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We mourned the King of Pop and watched YouTube videos of all our favorite songs….and then we wondered what was going to happen to Neverland, the Santa Barbara playground/estate that became an image of scandal. With the singer’s untimely death, speculation about a memorial park along the lines of Graceland has started. Read More

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