Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Gewgaw, Cache of pulp paperbacks

I don't collect paperbacks, but I ran across a bunch of these at the local thrift store and couldn't resist - I'm selling them on ebay for next to nothing.

I have a friend who's had the hots for Richard Chamberlain since he was in the mini series 'The Thornbirds'. She'd kill for this 'wallet sized photograph'.

Kildare's arch nemesis:

Good morning Mr. Phelps -You ever seen a grown man naked?

I preferred Debbie Reynolds in this role:

Sandra Dee was too cloying. And what the heck is she doing on that fence???

I really dig the crazy font on this book. I don't remember this show too much - I watched 'Time Tunnel'...I really liked Lee Meriweather.

Just try to ignore the phallic symbolism here.

My Brush With Tom Selleck

This is a very old story, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

Many years ago, a friend and I went to "The Battle of the Network Stars." This was a television special that featured various television celebrities competing in psuedo olympic type events. The whole circus took place at Pepperdine U, near Malibu. I'm not a groupie, nor am I a starstruck fan - it was just something to do, and hey, I was 20.

My now-husband-then-boyfriend was (and still is) pretty terrific - in spite of the fact that my friend and I were going just to oggle the rich and famous guys, he loaned me his very expensive camera, which had a big telephoto lens and an auto-winder - pretty expensive stuff in 1980. He gave me a quick lesson how to use it.

When we got to Pepperdine, I managed to wiggle my way into great viewing spots at every event. The camera looked so professional, security thought I was with the rest of the paparazzi. So, there I am, oggling and clicking, and having a pretty good time with my friend. I didn't really take that many photos, as there weren't that many celebrities I was interested in - I just held it up once in a while so it looked like I belonged there.

One of the last events was a diving event. A new star named Tom Selleck was introduced. Yup, this was pre Magnum P.I. (giving away my age here...) My eyes bugged out - I recognized him from his modeling days for 'Chaz' cologne, which I recall didn't smell all that great. His picture appeared in ads and posters at the department stores where they carried the stuff - I remembered him - he was, in my opinion, pretty darn hot, especially compared with the actor from 'B.J. and the Bear', who was all of about 5'2" tall. Feh.

So, there is Tom, looking pretty damn striking, standing on the high dive, dressed in a really good tan and a pair of short- shorts. Red ones, I recall. NIce amount of body hair. Mustache. About 6'4". wow.

Good diver, too. Nice form.

After the event was over, most of the stars headed off to their trailers or tents, just stopping to give some obligatory autographs and posing for a few pictures. The BJ and the Bear guy had an entire entourage trailing him off to his tent. That's when I spotted Tom, all by himself, tying his shoes on a bench. Alone. Fully clothed (damn.) Not a soul pestering him or a photographer snapping off a few. I made a beeline...

I was a pretty shy person, but I couldn't resist. I went up to him and asked if he'd pose for a few photos. I actually told him I'd seen his picture before, and thought (I can't believe I said it, what a goofball) he was by far the best looking guy there (which he was), and he was going to be famous (inspite of Myra Breckenridge). He looked a little embarrassed, but also thanked me sincerely. He was very obliging, posing with his foot up on the bench, putting his hand on his hip, doing the modeling thing - what a natural. Nice teeth too. I tried to look cool, and like I knew what I was doing, but I was so excited, I'm surprised the camera didn't fog up.

After about 5 minutes or so, his agent told him he had to go, but Tom was really gracious and excused himself - I thanked him. He waved. The day couldn't have ended any better.

The first thing I did when I got home was to rush my film out to the developers. Would you believe it, NONE OF THE PICTURES OF TOM CAME OUT - which explains why there ain't any pictures up on this blog. It was pretty devastating. I don't know what happened, and neither did my hub-then-boyfriend. I almost cried. My brush with fame was nothing more than a story with no pictures.

Ah, the rest is history. As an aside, I think Tom would have made a very good Indiana Jones.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey Day!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hillside Ordinance Human Comedy

In case you were wondering how it is that a condo or car lot can be built behind your home in spite of your objections, it's because our city's Planning Commission spends half its time dealing with the fallout from the Hillside Overlay Ordinance. Frankly, I think our commissioners are worn down by the time one of these rolls through a meeting, and simply lack the energy to deal with any other issues.

The following is a case in point - I copied it from the September 5, 2007 Planning Commission meeting minutes (public record). This and one other HIllside project is discussed for most of the 3.5 hour meeting that began just after 7pm. My comments are in (bold italics)




Planning Commission consideration for approval of a Precise Plan of Development to allow first and second-story additions to an existing two-story, single-family residence on property located within the Hillside Overlay District in the R-1 Zone at 602 Paseo de la Playa.


Approval (that's what you think...)

Planning Associate Martinez introduced the request and noted supplemental material available at the meeting consisting of correspondence received after the agenda item was completed.

Michael Guzman, 602 Paseo de la Playa, applicant, reported that he had met with the Youngerns (536 Paseo de la Playa) to discuss their concerns as urged by the Commission at the last meeting. Submitting renderings to illustrate, he contrasted the revised project with the original design, noting that 407 square feet have been eliminated, of which 75% percent was removed specifically to address the concerns of the Youngerns. He noted that the project meets or exceeds all setback requirements; that the maximum roof height is 16 inches lower than the existing roof; and that the project will be built according to the City of Torrance green building initiative.

Commissioner Browning noted that he was not present at the previous hearing, however, he had reviewed the audiotapes and visited the site and surrounding area several times (more than once?) and believed he was qualified to participate in this hearing.

Commissioner Browning stated that he would have appreciated new elevations along with the revised plans, particularly of the front the home, because when looking at the silhouette he felt it overpowered the residence to the north. He noted that even with the revisions, the FAR (floor area ratio) still exceeds 0.50.

Mr. Guzman related his belief that the bulk of the project was mitigated by breaking up the fa├žade with a courtyard rather than building lot line to lot line, noting that the front door is 60 feet from the property line.

After a show of hands of those who wished to speak, Chairperson Busch requested that speakers limit their remarks to four minutes. (the neighbors showed up in droves).

Tim Youngern, 536 Paseo de la Playa, submitted photographs of the revised silhouette taken from different areas in his yard and maintained that the proposed project would tower over his home impacting light, air and privacy (remember this comment the next time the city approves a three story condo next door to your house). He reported that Mr. Guzman did not share the revised plans with him and contended that the changes were made to appease the Commission, not neighbors.

Mr. Youngern stated that the revised project would still act as an airfoil and block cooling ocean breezes; that it would take away light from the south side of his home; and that it would detract from the value of his property (why should he be any different from everyone else in this city?). He further stated that privacy issues have not been mitigated because windows could be changed and the roof garden/green roof could be turned into a balcony. He maintained that street noise will reverberate off the north wall of the residence into his yard and voiced his opinion that the proposed architectural design was not in harmony with the neighborhood. He urged denial of the project, noting all of the surrounding neighbors oppose it. Responding to a question posed at the last hearing, he reported that his home has an FAR of 0.32.

Matthew Kadlick, 606 Paseo de la Playa, submitted a letter detailing his opposition to the project. He reported that he and Mr. Guzman are involved in a property line dispute and that overgrown trees on the contested property have disrupted his phone service. He contended that the project would impact his privacy and adversely affect the value of his property and that the design was not cohesive with the rest of the homes in the neighborhood.

Marjorie Hill, 539 Camino de Encanto, voiced objections to the proposed project, contending that it does not comply with the Hillside Overlay Ordinance. She expressed concerns that Torrance could go the way of other beach communities where towering structures have spread like a contagious disease choking out smaller homes (sorry honey, it's already happened, just not on your street).

Robert Hill, 539 Camino de Encanto, Marjorie Hill’s son, indicated that he still has several concerns about the project, including the bulk and mass. He stated that according to his interpretation of the Hillside Overlay Ordinance, remodels are restricted to the preexisting limits of the structure, meaning that the proposed second story should be confined to the bulk and mass of the existing second story. He requested confirmation that the three transom windows would have sill heights of 6 feet and explained that modifications to the windows had not mitigated the privacy impact because the transom windows could be converted to full size windows in the future. He expressed concerns that the addition could create a wind tunnel due to the Venturi effect (this is more likely in big cities like New York, but it sure sounds impressive). He reported that Mr. Guzman did not contact his mother until after she submitted a letter of objection to the Planning Department.

Commissioner Fauk requested clarification regarding Mr. Hill’s claim of view impact at the last hearing, noting that the silhouette for the proposed project cannot be seen from his mother’s property due to trees and shrubbery.

Mr. Hill responded that they enjoy a filtered view of the sunset at the fence line (in other words, if you peer through the shrubbery and over the fence), as well as a blue sky view, that would be blocked.

Albert Ortiz, 620 Palos Verdes Boulevard, voiced objections to the proposed project, citing the impact on the Youngerns’ property (wait a minute - is this guy is no where near the property in question?!).

Pamela Moran, president of the Riviera Homeowners Association, stated that it does not seem fair or reasonable that the enjoyment or value of one person’s home should be sacrificed to increase the value of another person’s home, noting that residents treasure their privacy in an increasingly crowded world (meaning the other 90% of Torrance). She related her belief that the burden was on the applicant to prove that a project would not adversely impact other properties in the vicinity and urged the Commission to use caution when considering a project that could potentially harm neighbors (Too bad there wasn't any of this outrage when they approved the Wilson Park McCondominiums - oh yeah, hardly anyone knew about it...)

Ruth Vogel, 114 Via la Soledad, noted that she is not directly affected by the project, but has lived in the Riviera area for 47 years. She related her understanding that no one has been allowed to “piggyback” onto an existing second story due to the “grandfather clause” in the Hillside Ordinance and maintained that allowing this project would set a bad precedent. She also expressed concerns about the precedent that would be set by allowing the rooftop garden. She reported that she reviewed the Hillside Ordinance § 91.41.6, but could not find the word “significant,” as it mentions only that a project may not have an adverse impact on other properties in the vicinity.

Planning Manager Lodan clarified that there is no “grandfather clause” in the Hillside Ordinance that would limit a project to the footprint of the existing structure, noting that there have been numerous cases where first and second-story additions/expansions have been approved. He explained that there may be the perception that it’s easier to gain approval for the expansion of an existing second story as opposed to starting from scratch but there is nothing in the ordinance that addresses this issue.

Commissioner Fauk conceded that the word “significant” is not in the Hillside Ordinance, but noted that it has long been the practice of the Planning Commission and the City Council to look at a project’s impact in terms of significance, especially with regard to views. (yes, we'd hate to ruin the views they have of the congestion on Crenshaw and Hawthorne Blvds. He explained that the Commission commonly considers the quality of the view impacted, as well as the degree to which the view is impacted considering the totality of the overall view.

Monte McElroy, 108 Via Mesa Grande, provided background information about the Hillside Overlay Ordinance, which she helped formulate (ah, so YOU"RE the one responsible for this mess...), explaining that it was meant to discourage second stories, allowing them only after all other options have been exhausted. She stated that she visited the Youngerns’ residence and observed that the proposed project would shade their house and denigrate that their yard. She maintained that there was a way to minimize the impact of the project, eliminating the bulk of the square building, so that the Guzmans could still have a beautiful home without ruining their neighbors’ view and enjoyment of their property.

Roberta Blowers, 621 Camino de Encanto, voiced objections to the project, citing the impact on neighbors’ view, air, light and privacy, as well as the impact on her view. She noted that the Hillside Overlay Ordinance simply states that a proposed development shall not have an adverse impact on other properties in the vicinity and it does not specify how much or how little and offered a dictionary definition of the word “adverse.” She voiced her opinion that the project’s FAR was too high and expressed concerns that the roof garden over the garage could easily become a deck and that obscured glass in windows meant to protect privacy could easily be replaced with clear glass at any time.

Responding to audience members’ comments, Mr. Guzman contended that Mr. Kadlick’s opposition to the project was based solely on the property line dispute. He reported that the only view affected from inside the Youngerns’ home is from a kitchen window that faces an 8-foot high wall; noted that this window didn’t exist until the home was expanded two years ago; and voiced his opinion that this view does not deserve the same protection as a view from a preexisting portion of the house. He maintained that any impact on light and air to the Youngerns’ property was mitigated by the revisions, which eliminated 20 inches along the entire north wall, including from the existing structure, and 36 inches from the rear of the home adjacent to their property. He noted that he was raised in this neighborhood and is committed to responsible development. He stated that he believed he has made substantial concessions and compromises and urged approval of the project as submitted.

James Meyers, Lean Arch, Inc., project architect, noted that he has won awards for his designs, including an award from the Los Feliz Homeowners Association for best renovation project. He reported that his firm focuses on the environmental impact of land uses and related his belief that this neighborhood was a good example of an area where homes were not being designed to take advantage of natural resources, therefore, consuming much more energy than necessary. He explained that the roof garden was not meant to be used as exterior space, but rather to provide more greenery and cool and oxygenate the air. He suggested that the proposed residence should serve as model for future development and contended that the structure’s deep overhang and rectangular wings were much more in character with the ranch-style homes in this neighborhood than the Spanish-style homes being developed.

Commissioner Browning expressed concerns about the project’s impact on light to the Youngerns’ property.

Mr. Meyers noted that he submitted a shadow study which indicated that project would only impact the Youngerns’ property very late in the afternoon during winter months. Mr. Guzman pointed out that that shadow study does not reflect the revisions which moved the north wall of the residence 20 inches further away from the Youngerns. (pardon me, but logic has no place in this meeting!)

Commissioner Weideman questioned whether the roof garden could be accessed from the deck on the southeast corner of the residence.

Mr. Meyers explained that the roof garden will not have safety barriers around it and will not be used as a deck and that it was simply meant to mitigate heat gain on the south side of the residence and act as a view enhancement from windows within the residence as well as from neighboring properties. He reported that the roof garden will be maintained by professionals and access would be via a gate on the deck off the living room.

Commissioner Fauk related his understanding that only one window in the Youngerns’ residence would be shaded by the project. Mr. Guzman confirmed that the only window affected is the Youngerns’ kitchen window (where they stand for hours, sunworshipping).

Commissioner Uchima questioned whether a one-story design was considered (wait a minute - isn't this already a two story house?).

Mr. Meyers explained that expanding on the ground floor only was not feasible due to the way the existing house is designed because it would result in a massive first floor with a small penthouse on top.

In response to Commissioner Browning’s inquiry, Planning Manager Lodan advised that the area called out on the plans as a deck could technically be considered a balcony because it’s accessed by living space on the same level and confirmed that it would be required to have safety railing.

In response to Commissioner Horwich’s inquiry, Planning Manager Lodan confirmed that the FAR of 0.529 listed in the staff report was correct.

The Commission recessed at 8:20 p.m (One hour and 15 minutes later...) Fire Marshal Kazandjian asked everyone to exit the room, so he could rearrange the chairs to provide more seating. The meeting reconvened at 8:35 p.m.

Commissioner Fauk asked that Mr. Yourngern be allowed to provide clarification regarding affected windows.

Mr. Youngern reported that two windows in his home would be affected by the project, one in the laundry room and one in the kitchen/family room, however he was not concerned about the window in the laundry room (how magnanimous).

At Commissioner Fauk’s request, Mr. Meyers confirmed that the transom windows would have sill heights of at least 6 feet.

MOTION: Commissioner Horwich moved to close the public hearing. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Weideman and passed by unanimous roll call vote.

MOTION: Commissioner Browning moved to deny PRE07-00013 without prejudice. (was there ever any doubt) The motion was seconded by Commissioner Weideman and passed by a 5-2 roll call vote with Commissioners Fauk and Gibson dissenting.

Commissioner Weideman stated that his vote was predicated on the fact that he believed the project would have an adverse impact on light and air and he still thought the FAR was too high even though the applicant had made great strides in reducing it.

Planning Manager Lodan noted that a resolution reflecting the Commission’s action would be brought back for approval at the next meeting. Chairperson Busch advised the applicant of his right to appeal the decision to the City Council.

The Commission briefly recessed to allow the room to clear.


There you have it - another 'fruitful' Hillside Ordinance meeting. Next on the agenda: Two other projects in other areas of Torrance that took approximately 5 minutes of the board's precious time.

But wait - another Hillside project is on the agenda... pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little...

...another 45 minutes - an hour ? later, a continuance is issued.

The meeting adjourned at 10:45pm.

A majority of the 3.5+ hours was spent on projects related to the Hillside Overlay. This is pretty typical when a Hillside project is on the Planning Commission agenda.

To quote the one lone voice of reason at this meeting "...the Hillside Overlay process tears neighborhoods apart..." In all fairness, having some control over rampant development is a good thing. Unfortunately, the rest of the city of Torrance doesn't enjoy the special privileges given to a select group of homeowners.

Yet, we're paying for it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Taste of Torrance, This Old House, R.I.P.

This is a memorial to a nice old farmhouse near Van Ness Blvd and 171st St. in Torrance that couldn't convince anyone to love it as is - It's now an empty lot.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Taste of Torrance, Cool House

I've always liked this house - it could use a little TLC, but I just love the butterfly overhang, two PV stone chimneys (count 'em), the sputnik light, and even the privacy fence - I'm a sucker for this kind of mid century home, even when they put green indoor/outdoor carpet on the front steps. If I were braver, I'd ring the doorbell and ask for a tour.

I felt a little icky photographing it - I didn't want anyone to think I was staking it out. But it's the only house quite like it in this area, so I overcame my anxiety.

I did it because, sadly, another favorite home of mine was torn down - it just broke my heart. The stately old home was located on Van Ness Blvd, just north of Artesia Blvd. It was an old farm house, across from what use to be a dairy. They'll probably put two ugly stucco faux mediterranean/tuscan/villas there. Mark my words.

I was lucky enough to capture the original home on my cell phone camera - when I figure out how to download it, I'll post it. I realized that if you like an old home or building, and you live in Los Angeles county, you'd better get a picture of it, because chances are, it'll get torn down.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Heart Pound Cake

I will put my mum's pound cake against anyone elses. It's my favorite cake with coffee. It's not a dieter's delight - it's got a pound of butter, a pound of sugar - hence, its name. But it is outstanding.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Gewgaw, Chinese Clothes Sprinkler

I remember when my mom used a clothes sprinkler to do her ironing - hers was a plastic bottle with a corked nozzle. You'd shake the water out on the shirt and iron away. No steam iron in those days. My job was to iron all my dad's handkerchiefs. I think the job would have been more pleasant with this little ceramic sprinkler, although I don't see my chinese mom buying one of these.

Pop out the rubber stopper on his head, fill 'er up, and voila - if you look closely, you can see the words 'sprinkle plenty' debossed on his pants.

What, not 'splinkle prenty'? Anyway, he's far too cute to get too upset about.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Taste of Torrance, Cooper's Hawk, dining

As I was about to start my car, I noticed this hawk dining on a pigeon right on the wall of my yard. Above him (out of view) was a crow, harrassing him. He seemed completely unbothered by the crow or me, so I snapped several pictures. He didn't leave until a man rode by him on his bike - I caught a magnificent view of his powerful legs and talons as he flew off with his prey - remarkable.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Gewgaw, Pitalito Timana, or Colombian Bus Lines

This is a little hand made terra cotta bus I picked up at a flea market many years ago. It's a broken down, albeit it colorful, bus loaded to the gills with people - including two men sitting on the bumper (one playing the guitar). The top of the bus is packed with fruit, bananas, sacks of coffee, gas, baskets, sodas, and even a little pig. The driver is looking under the hood. Everyone inside looks very patient. This is obviously no American bus.

Maybe someone can translate the words written on the side: Carzon Timana Pitalito, Colombia Teinvita, Pitalito Huila, Colombia Queriya.