The OPEN Daily » Mar Vista Essential Guide to L.A. Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:22:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Little Fatty (that’s the name!) in Mar Vista offers kung pao chicken with craft cocktails next door Tue, 22 Nov 2016 18:15:07 +0000 In this week’s restaurant news, the ever-expanding neighborhood of Koreatown welcomes a new addition, and Mar Vista gets a new Taiwanese restaurant with cocktails. 

Kung pao and cocktails: A new restaurant called Little Fatty (seriously, that’s the name) has opened in Mar Vista. It has taken over…

Continue reading: – Arts&Culture

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Woman killed in bloody stabbing attack in Venice Tue, 22 Nov 2016 10:07:28 +0000 A woman was stabbed to death on a busy Venice street Monday night, and police were on the hunt for suspects.

Continue reading: KABC-TV Los Angeles News, Weather & Traffic | Southern California News

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Soaptopia Stars in TV Commercial with Shaq & Kendrick Lamar Fri, 11 Nov 2016 19:28:09 +0000 Soaptopia, one of Mar Vista’s favorite stores, stars in a new commercial for American Express Small Business Saturday, along with Shaquille O’Neal and Kendrick Lamar. The two stars are quite adorable as they sniff the soaps and engage in friendly banter, but the best part for me is seeing a local store featured like this – and seeing Mar Vista landmarks as the two walk down Venice Blvd at the end.

Enjoy the commercial – and then come on out for Mar Vista’s own Small Business Saturday event – Make it Mar Vista – on Saturday, November 26th! Shop Local and support the businesses we love, including Soaptopia!Make it Mar Vista 2016

Continue reading: Sarah Auerswald, the Mar Vista Mom

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Woman Dies After Being Hit by Expo Line in Culver City Mon, 31 Oct 2016 06:53:11 +0000 A woman was fatally struck by a Metro train between the Expo Line’s Culver City and Palms platforms, authorities said.

Officers responded to the call around 9 p.m. and found the woman dead, according to Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Ramon Montenegro.

L.A. Metro suspended the line’s service between the two stations as the investigation was being conducted. Buses were provided to accommodate for the closure.

No further details were immediately available.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Continue reading: KTLA

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California relinquishes Venice Blvd, State Route 187, to Los Angeles, city gets $14.5M in the deal Mon, 31 Oct 2016 06:04:30 +0000 california_187-svg

One of the last surface streets in Los Angeles that is part of the state highway system will be turned over to the City of Los Angeles, the state said last week.

Venice Boulevard between the Santa Monica (10) Freeway and Lincoln Boulevard is actually little-known California 187, and under control of Caltrans.

The California Transportation Commission has approved “relinquishing” the highway — turning it over to the City of Los Angeles. L.A. will now be in charge of maintenance, traffic signals and other operations.

The city will be paid a one-time fee of $14.5 million, which the commission determined was “in the best interests of the state,” according to an agenda item.

Other former state highways have been relinquished to local city governments, including the former California 2 across the Westside, and Lincoln Boulevard (Highway 1) in Santa Monica.

–City News Service

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Football: Venice survives another crazy ending to stay unbeaten in Western League Mon, 24 Oct 2016 16:22:18 +0000 Just call Venice the “Cardiac Kids.”

A week ago, freshman Luca Diamont threw his fourth touchdown pass with 17 seconds left to rally the Gondoliers past Westchester, 27-26.

Then on Friday night, in a 21-21 tie against Hamilton, Venice got the ball on its own 29 with 36 seconds left. 

Diamont completed passes to Eric Gaines, Asamm Burroughs and Steve Asante.

Eddie Escobar made a 31-yard field goal with 0.8 seconds left for a 24-21 lead.

Continue reading: – Hot List

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8 Steps Towards a Sustainable Landscape Tue, 11 Oct 2016 00:33:01 +0000 _MWD3A sustainable landscape requires the right combination of plants, soil, and water. To cut your utility costs and restore your corner of the world, make these simple adjustments to your outdoor space.View Original Post

Continue reading: Los Angeles Magazine

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SoCalGas Conducts ‘Controlled Release’ Of Natural Gas In West LA Fri, 07 Oct 2016 16:03:54 +0000  Smell something funny in the West LA area? The Southern California Gas Company says to not be alarmed.

Crews were working on a pipeline project, which started about 9 p.m. Thursday and ended at about midnight, at which time they briefly conducted a controlled release of natural gas, SoCal Gas spokeswoman Rosa Maria Santana said.

The controlled release of natural gas stopped at 11:30 p.m. Thursday, and natural gas was expected to dissipate in the air early Friday.

SoCalGas crews had replaced a supply pipeline and were in process of putting the new pipeline into service and notified the Los Angeles County Fire Department of their work, Santana said.

The natural gas is non-toxic and lighter than air, so escaping gas will rise and dissipate safely, she said. The non-toxic odor is added to the odorless natural gas as a safety precaution.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Continue reading: CBS Los Angeles

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Santa Monica calls for Car Free Fridays to encourage transit, walking, biking Fri, 07 Oct 2016 03:11:07 +0000 Expo Line Extension -

It’s never been easier to get around without a car in Santa Monica, now that there’s the new Expo Line extension, pedestrian improvements, Big Blue Bus service and a shiny new bike-share system.

So the city is taking a challenge to the streets, asking those who live, work and play in the beach city to give up their car for one day a week.

Santa Monica launches “Car Free Friday” tomorrow, with hopes people will take up the carless challenge permanently.

“Fridays are more of a casual day, people have fewer meetings, and so it’s a great day to get out there, get on your bike, use the bus, use the Expo Line, as you head into the weekend,” said city spokeswoman Constance Farrell.

Officials have worked with businesses and large employers in the city to encourage their employees to take part and they’ve launched a social media campaign to encourage participants to document their experience using the hashtag #CarFreeFriday.

Farrell said she hopes to expose a new audience to the expanding variety of mobility options in the city.

“I think people get into a routine,” she said. “Just trying it on Car Free Friday hopefully will get people to try it for other days.”

Downtown Santa Monica has long battled traffic congestion. But according to City Manager Rick Cole, it’s gotten worse in recent months. 

“Our traffic professionals say they’ve never seen this number of people and volume of traffic,” Cole said on his blog in August.

Improvements made to the beach promenade for the Expo extension opening and introducing bike sharing may all be contributing to the increase in crowds. So the campaign to encourage going car-free is part of a larger plan to mitigate traffic impacts in the city.

The new Expo Line extension, which opened May 20, has brought renewed interest and access to the city with the first rail connection to downtown Los Angeles in 50 years.

A recent survey of Expo Line riders conducted by Metro found about two-thirds were new to the train and about half of those used to drive alone.

If you’re planning to join Car Free Friday, let us know what challenges you face in giving up your car. We’ll be updating this story with social media posts from #CarFreeFriday so don’t forget to use the hashtag if you are participating and copy us @KPCC.

This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at

Continue reading: Local | 89.3 KPCC

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Hidden Cash Is Back With A Scavenger Hunt This Weekend In Santa Monica Thu, 06 Oct 2016 03:12:44 +0000

Remember Hidden Cash? The sensation that made people do insane things, like tear up a park or run into traffic for as little as $20? If you’re in the mood for possibly sifting through the sand for some spare cash, you may want to hit the beach this weekend in L.A.

On Sunday afternoon, Hidden Cash will be at the Santa Monica Pier with a $1,000 prize. Unlike previous iterations of the scavenger hunt, you’ll have to RSVP on Facebook, and organizers say the pot could get bigger if more people RSVP.



Hidden Cash already hit downtown San Diego this past Saturday, and organizers have been planting small amounts around Santa Monica in anticipation of Sunday’s event.





Come on! Santa Monica? Like that place needs any more money.

The last wave of Hidden Cash drops were the brainchild of Jason Buzi, a millionaire real estate investor from the Bay Area. This time, though, it’s simply a startup marketing scheme.

The blog of EvoNexus, a tech incubator space in Santa Monica, explains it all: the Hidden Cash drops are part of the launch of an augmented reality app known as Metaverse. It’s currently unclear how Metaverse will be incorporated into the cash hunt, but we’re certain it will be revealed if you appear at the hunt on Sunday.

Also, here’s a picture of the team that worked on the app. Shouldn’t they be looking at their phones?

gometa.jpg The GoMeta team. (Photo by Nancee E. Lewis)

Continue reading: LAist

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UCLA Volunteers Help Beautify Mark Twain Middle School Wed, 28 Sep 2016 05:27:45 +0000 Recently, a team of Volunteers from UCLA came to Mark Twain Middle School to beautify the campus – and one of the parents told us what it felt like to have them there:

So exciting to have 100s of UCLA students come to our school to help beautify our Mark Twain Campus.  It felt like bees returning to their hive!  We even had the opportunity to reconnect with a MT alumni, Candy, who returned as one of the UCLA task leaders. What a great day, the painting looks fantastic!  We truly appreciate these volunteer efforts from UCLA!img_7547 img_7554 img_7560img_7563 img_7565 img_7568img_7572 img_7573 img_7574img_7592 img_7595 img_7597img_7600 img_7603 img_7610

Photos courtesy of Staci Boggeri.

Continue reading: Sarah Auerswald, the Mar Vista Mom

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State wants to use crystals and traffic jams to generate renewable energy Wed, 28 Sep 2016 04:40:51 +0000

Los Angeles drivers spend up to 81 hours each year sitting in traffic, and as a state, California has plenty of gridlock to go around. Consequently, state officials are trying to make the best of a bad situation and turn some of those slowdowns into a source of renewable energy.

As the Associated Press reports (via, the California Energy Commission will set aside $2 million for a study on whether the state’s roads can be engineered to harness untapped energy from motor vehicles with the addition of piezoelectric crystals.

According to a 2014 report analyzing the feasibility of the project, these crystals generate electricity when stress is applied—stress that could come from cars passing over them or from the vibrations of vehicles idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The idea was first proposed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto in 2011, apparently inspired by a similar project underway in Israel at the time. Unfortunately, as the AP reports, the project eventually flopped as costs got out of hand. Informed by the AP of this development, Gatto said, “Hearing these details for the first time—obviously, they’re not heartening.”

Still, Gatto is hopeful the idea will yield better results in California. A 2014 report estimates the system could produce energy at a cost of between eight and 18 cents per kilowatt hour. In Sacramento, utility costs run at almost 15 cents per kilowatt hour.

Continue reading: Curbed LA

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Santa Monica Municipal Airport begins evicting aerospace corporations in effort to reduce air pollution and improve safety Thu, 22 Sep 2016 05:31:22 +0000 Two aviation companies at Santa Monica Municipal Airport asked the federal government this week to halt their pending evictions, which are part of the city’s strategy to reduce aircraft operations and eventually close the facility.

Atlantic Aviation Inc. and American Flyers — private firms that…

Continue reading: – Hot List

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Budget for Great Streets program increases to $2M Thu, 22 Sep 2016 04:52:47 +0000 Pico Boulevard gate of Fox Studios in Los Angeles, California. Part of the New York Street set is visible in the background. Photo via Wikimedia Commons/downtowngal, November 2011

The Great Streets grant program, which is aimed at improving the walkability of city streets, has been increased to $2 million for its second year, up from the $180,000 offered the previous year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday.

Grants were originally available only to projects for select streets around the city, but are now being offered to any eligible projects on any street. Applicants can apply for grants of up to $13,000 each.

Applications are due Nov. 20 at

–City News Service

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Santa Monica’s Pico Blvd. to host LA’s first “Fitness Crawl” Thu, 22 Sep 2016 02:49:47 +0000 The Pico Improvement Organization is producing the first Fitness Crawl in the LA area. 

Sixteen fitness businesses along 2.5 miles of Santa Monica’s Pico Blvd. will hold 10-minute workouts, every 20 minutes on Saturday, October 8, 2016 from 8AM – 11AM.

All Crawlers will receive a free gift bag and giveaways. 

Tickets are $5.

Crawlers will run, jog or walk from workout-to-workout, which includes traditional favorites, like CrossFit, Zumba®, Pilates®, Gyrotonic®, yoga, and karate and “totally LA” workouts, like professional dance choreography onstage at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, resistance training at the Original Muscle Beach, surf instruction on the sand at Santa Monica beach, belly dancing on the lawn at Virginia Avenue Park, virtual golf and virtual ski instruction.

Santa Monica’s Pico Blvd. has over a hundred of Yelp’s highest ranked, most reviewed and longest reviewed businesses on the west side, in all categories.

 It is home to some of the LA area’s most prestigious fitness businesses.

 The participating fitness businesses are:

  • 34° North (Gym)
  • Altus Sports Institute (Gym)
  • Bands and Body Fitness (Resistance training at the Original Muscle Beach)
  • CLARE Foundation/NAAM Yoga (Yoga)
  • CrossFit Reflex (Gym)
  • Goju Ryu Karatedo Seiwa Kai USA (Karate)
  • Good Body Pilates® (Pilates®)
  • Gyrotonic® (Core training)
  • Learn to Surf (Surf instruction on the beach)
  • Morgan-Wixson Theatre (Choreography)
  • Pilates on Pico (Pilates®)
  • Players Club Golf (Virtual golf)
  • Restore Muscle + Movement (Pilates®)
  • Sa’eeda (Belly dancing on the lawn at Virginia Avenue Park)
  • Venice Family Clinic (Zumba®)
  • Virtual Snow (Virtual skiing)

For tickets and reservations, go to:
Sponsored by the Pico Improvement Organization; City of Santa Monica; Santa Monica Buy Local; Virginia Avenue Park; CLARE Foundation, Avon Rent-A-Car, ZICO Coconut Water; Health-Ade Kombucha; Trader Joe’s; Gibbons Media and California Nightlife.

Virtual Snow (Virtual skiing);
For tickets and reservations, go to:

Continue reading: | The Santa Monica Mirror Online

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 Popular Marugame Monzo Stretches Their Udon All the Way to Sawtelle Fri, 16 Sep 2016 20:28:16 +0000

Looks like a second outlet for the Little Tokyo mainstay

Popular Little Tokyo udon specialist Marugame Monzo is headed for a second location, landing along some prime real estate in West LA’s Sawtelle Japantown.

A tipster writes in to say that some business has been brewing at 2029 Sawtelle in the former Satsumi Imports location, and sure enough if you head there now you’ll see a big new ABC license pasted to the front. If the ownership name — Marugame Udon USA LLC — didn’t give it all away, note that Monzo’s parent company Toridoll is also listed on the paperwork.

It’s early going for the space, so don’t think you’ll be slurping made-to-order udon any time soon. But this new location should be a boost for the exceedingly popular Downtown noodle shop, and with beer and wine for sale it’s only a matter of time before this Sawtelle Japantown option draws massive numbers too.

Marugame Monzo Sawtelle
2029 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Continue reading: Eater LA

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As Venice booms, some residents wonder whether L.A. is holding them back Thu, 15 Sep 2016 12:34:11 +0000 There are few places so ingrained in the identity of Los Angeles as Venice — the quirky artistic vibe, the bustling boardwalk and the designer real estate.

For decades, the beach district has served as a cultural touchstone for the larger city, from the days of beatniks, Jim Morrison and the Z-Boys…

Continue reading: – Arts&Culture

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Plug into an Electric Future at the AltCar Expo in Santa Monica Thu, 15 Sep 2016 00:45:28 +0000

AltCar Expo will host the first public test drives of the new Honda Clarity

The 2006 documentary film “Who Killed the Electric Car?” opens with a comically somber scene: a General Motors EV1 sits in a cemetery, draped in a black sheet, while mourners place funeral flowers atop its hood. “We are here today to say goodbye to an idea,” a man says, as bagpipes play.

One year earlier, GM crushed and discontinued their entire electric vehicle fleet, a seeming death knell for the budding alternative fuel movement. Hundreds of eco-minded Californians protested the decision, their dreams of zero-emission freeways slipping further out of reach.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” — but one decade later, a different question has emerged: How mainstream can the electric car get?

At this weekend’s 11th annual AltCar Expo, the public can take part in the transportation revolution.

Attendees can test-drive the newest electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell cars, like the BMW i3, the Chevy Spark and the Nissan LEAF; pedal down Pico Boulevard on emission-free electric bicycles; or hear panels of experts discuss the future of clean-energy transportation.

As of January, more than 400,000 people across the country are driving plug-in electric vehicles, and more than 45% of those drivers are Californians, according to the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative.

Two percent of cars in and around Santa Monica, the AltCar Expo’s host city, are fully or hybrid electric vehicles, says Garrett Wong, the city’s lead sustainability analyst for climate and energy problems.

While that percentage may seem small, Wong estimates it will increase fivefold over the next few years as more and more locals switch to green cars. That exponential uptick is likely for a few reasons: a growing number of competitively priced models, more enticing state rebates, and the surging trendiness of EVs.

“I think what Elon Musk has done with the electric vehicle is similar to what Steve Jobs did with the computer — that is, make something that’s desirable and cool and fun and sleek,” Wong says.

Musk’s Tesla Model 3 —a slick, relatively affordable, fuel-free sedan — has garnered as much hype as a new iPhone. After unveiling it in March, the car racked up more than 373,000 reservations in less than two months.

Beyond their futuristic design and growing cachet, emissions-free cars are a massive boon for the environment. To Wong, who rides his bike to Santa Monica past gas-guzzlers and fuel cells alike, that impact is palpable.

“I’ve realized that the [gas-fueled] car is violent, in a way. There’s lots of noise that it creates; there’s lots of smells. … But when you’re next to an electric vehicle, it’s calm. It’s quiet. It’s clean. You don’t have to turn away to breathe. It’s a lot more sensitive,” he says.

In 1996, Santa Monica city officials started replacing their outdated natural gas fleet with electric alternatives. To encourage citizens to do the same, they’ve installed 62 public EV charging ports across the city over the past decade.

In the next six months, 30 more charging ports will pop up in parking structures, surface lots, parks and libraries, according to Wong. After that, the city will start experimenting with on-street charging by retrofitting streetlights to include EV ports.

As part of Saturday’s AltCar Expo event lineup, Wong is leading a community discussion on how to maximize the effectiveness of public chargers and build an even stronger civic support system for EV usage.

Those who find themselves curious about electric vehicles can check out the dozens of options on display — including the West Coast debut of the 2017 Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid — or get behind the wheel of the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell before it hits car dealerships later this year.

Kids without driver’s licenses can try out an array of two-wheeled rides, like the Air33, billed as the world’s lightest, foldable electric bicycle, or the URB-E, an electric scooter made by hand in Pasadena.

The AltCar Expo runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St, Santa Monica. Admission and test drives are free, but registration for Friday’s industry conference is $60. Find more  

information at

Continue reading: The Argonaut Newspaper

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Grease Screening at Venice High School September 17th Wed, 14 Sep 2016 15:14:54 +0000 Come on out to Venice High this Saturday, September 17th to see Grease, right where it was filmed! Free admission, with refreshments sold as a fundraiser.Grease Screening at Venice High School

Continue reading: Sarah Auerswald, the Mar Vista Mom

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Soak Up ‘The Art Of Originality’ With Five New Murals In Mar Vista Wed, 14 Sep 2016 10:02:04 +0000
The Mar Vista Art Department (MVAD) was recently transformed into a colorful branded space where guests took part in an interactive evening of art, music, food and Hansen’s Natural Soda. A component of the brand’s “Art of Originality” campaign, Hansen’s House gave people a chance to experience creativity with truly original people making original creations. The late-summer event aligns with the brand’s SoCal spirit, and is a continuation of a rebranding effort that began early in the summer. Hansen’s presence can also be felt across the East Side of L.A., where OOH boards, small format out-of-home and mirror clings can be seen carrying the brand’s new tagline, “This Is What Original Tastes Like.”

The Artists


Mural Location: 12525 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066



Mural Location: 12446 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066


Wyatt Mills

Mural Location: 12523 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066



Mural Location: 12503 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066



Mural Location: 12470 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066



Advertising Agency: LRXD

Production: Mar Vista Art Department

Artists: DJN3FF, Apex, Wyatt Mills, MadSteez, Starfighter

Photography: Birdman Photos

This post is brought to you by Hansen’s Natural Soda.

Continue reading: LAist

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Generous Donation Makes Mar Vista Boys & Girls Club A Reality Wed, 31 Aug 2016 13:21:12 +0000 MAR VISTA ( — A lot of elbow grease and a lot of community support has paid off as a Boys & Girls Club four years in the making is about to open.

Jack and Cindy Jones took a tour of the brand new youth center named in their honor after their $1 million donation.

“It’s unbelievable to actually see that this is the day and the doors are open,” Cindy Jones said.

Officials from the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica and the Los Angeles Housing Authority took part in the ribbon cutting for the grand opening.

The club includes an art shop, education center, teen center, gym and a technology center and a game room.

“This place is going to be filled with Children,” Cindy Jones said. “Children having fun. When Children smile it lights up a room.”

Continue reading: CBS Los Angeles

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Santa Monica City Council votes to close airport — as soon as it’s legally possible Thu, 25 Aug 2016 07:14:12 +0000 Santa Monica Airport 7

After years of stonewalling by Santa Monica Airport on demands from neighborhood residents to relocate a dangerous student pilot school from the airport, eliminate toxic lead-burning fuels, and reduce harmful emissions carcinogenic jet fumes, the Santa Monica City Council’s historic vote Tuesday was unanimous 7-0 to close the city’s airport as soon as legally possible.

The city owns the 227 acres of land that the airport sits on, but the FAA claims that federal agreements require the airport to be kept open until at least 2023. 

The FAA voted earlier this month to keep the airport open — on the basis of a $240,600 federal grant it received in 2003.

Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole addressed council members at Tuesday’s meeting, saying that the resolution to close the airport would be a historic step forward for the city. 

“It is not the first step, nor will it be the last in the journey towards local control of Santa Monica Airport,” Cole said. 

The city’s senior adviser on airport affairs Nelson Hernandez laid out the airport’s impact, arguing that the airport adversely impacts the local environment with noise and air pollution, as well as posing a threat to public safety.

“The City Council has decided that the airport is basically antiquated and it no longer is a community asset,” Hernandez told KPCC.

The council’s resolution directed Cole’s office to implement measures designed to reduce the airport’s negative impact. They include designing a park to replace the airport, ensure that modern safety protocols are in place at the airport and phasing out the use of leaded fuel in aircrafts that fly there, Hernandez said. 

The city manager’s office was also directed to file a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration to shave the runway by 2,000 feet. Hernandez said that piece of land isn’t part of any federal obligation. 

Another reason for the council to adopt the resolution, according to Hernandez: It would reflect what the residents of Santa Monica voted for on a 2014 ballot. 

The measure was intended to give the City Council the power to make decisions regarding the fate of the airfield and received 60 percent of the vote, the L.A. Times reported. 

The measure only allows the space to be used for parks, open space or recreational facilities.

Continue reading: Local | 89.3 KPCC

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Skate doc ‘Made in Venice” celebrates the house that Z-Boys built Thu, 25 Aug 2016 07:13:55 +0000 If the 2001 documentary “Dog Town and Z-Boys” engagingly gave Southern California’s skateboard culture its influential due, then “Made in Venice” comes across as its scrappy, but no less lovable, kid brother.

While he profiles many of the boarders who also figured into the Stacy Peralta film, director…

Continue reading: L.A. Times – Entertainment News

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A Sneak Peek at The Mar Vista Mon, 15 Aug 2016 00:32:10 +0000 Chefs D. Brandon Walker and Jill Davie serve a meal inside the future home of The Mar Vista Photo by Maria Martin

Move over, Mitsuwa. Interesting restaurants have been popping up all along Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista, but the best may be yet to come.

Once a place where bartenders in tight-fitting nurse getups slung stiff cocktails for live rock band audiences, former nightclub The Good Hurt at 12249 Venice Blvd. is undergoing a transformation to reopen this fall as The Mar Vista — the first “for the public” restaurant for local chefs D. Brandon Walker (who goes by Chef D.) and Jill Davie.

“The neighborhood is changing so rapidly, and we want to be a part of it,” says Davie, who has had ties to Rockenwagner, Josie and Venice Beach Wines and made TV appearances on the Food Network, “The Next Iron Chef” and “Shopping with Chefs.”

For now, a square chunk of storefront on the north side of the block between Centinela Avenue and Grandview Boulevard is boarded up. But in short order, designer Greg Swanson explains, The Mar Vista’s finished space will feature natural wood and natural light — all the better to showcase progressive Los Angeles cuisine, says Chef D.

And, perhaps most importantly, The Mar Vista is a concept driven by a commitment to give back to the community.

Chef D is executive chef of the St. Joseph Center’s Bread & Roses Café, a nonprofit restaurant in Venice that feeds the local homeless. He also leads St. Joseph’s Center’s Culinary Training Program, which offers an education in classical French cooking techniques to people grappling with barriers to employment such as police records, homelessness and disabilities.

The Mar Vista will serve as an extern site for the Culinary Training Program, employing two trainees every seven weeks, and donate excess food back to Bread and Rose Café.

Two Chefs, One Vision

When asked which chefs she admires, Davie is quick to reply, “Julia Child,” who presented her with the Food and Wine Baby Chef Award in 1996.

Then Davie squints her brows and thinks a bit more. “Barbara Tropp of China Moon Café in San Francisco,” she adds, “because she was tiny and kicked butt.” Seems fitting, since Davie is 5’1” with a noticeably athletic build. She was a high school soccer star who founded the women’s team at Venice High School and now practices hot yoga.

Hours later via text, Davie tacks another chef onto her influencer list: Nadia Santini of Dal Pescatore, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Lombardy, Italy, where Davie dined while doing a culinary tour through Italy. “She’s an amazing chef and is the reason I only wears skirts in the kitchen,” types Davie.

After helping to launch Venice Beach Wines, Davie found herself plotting her next move. Not one to sit still, she launched Cranked, which takes the less-than-perfect fruit that nobody wants from the farmers market and puts them through her grandma’s hand crank to form a sweet dessert. Of course, extra goodies can be added — like whipped cream, vanilla meringues, crunchy quinoa, peach chamomile syrup, local bee pollen, basil and mint.

Serving as the corporate chef for Sunkist for 11 years and being a chef in L.A. for more than 20 years, Davie began to wonder what happened to the bruised fruit left over when the farmers packed up at the end of the market. That’s when the idea for Cranked bowls came to her. She began to crank with the kids of her now-business partner in The Mar Vista, Demetrios Mavromichalis, owner of Venice Grind and The Wood and one of the founders of the Mar Vista Farmers Market.

“Forty percent of the nation’s produce goes to waste. California grows 80% of the nation’s produce. Cranked offers awareness and an opportunity to get kids involved,” says Davie, who cranks at events like birthday parties and children’s book fairs. “It’s a way to start a conversation.”

Cranked bowls will be on the menu at The Mar Vista, and the cranking will be done on a cart tableside.

“I never wanted to open a restaurant if it was for my ego,” explains Davie. “And I never wanted to do it alone.”

And then, the project began to take form.

The first piece of the puzzle was the support and enthusiasm of Mavromichalis, a longtime champion of Mar Vista’s independent business ecosystem. When Pepy’s Galley, the diner inside the former AMF Mar Vista Lanes, closed in 2014, Mavromichalis offered Pepy’s employees jobs at The Wood. He’s long been sweet on the idea of Davie and Chef D. launching a restaurant in their own backyard.

The second piece fell into place when Chef D. and Davie met, ironically, at The Good Hurt, where Chef D. was wearing his musician hat that night. Chef D.’s philanthropic path was very appealing to Davie.

It was just a matter of time before Chef D. opened his first restaurant. And Davie seemed like the perfect partner: energetic, bubbly and a kindred spirit who loved to “play with food … in a good way,” he says.

Jorge Rivas, who graduated from Chef D.’s Culinary Training Program eight years ago, will be The Mar Vista’s third chef de cuisine. Rivas previously worked as executive chef at the Blue Plate Restaurant Group (Blue Plate, Oysterette, Blue Plate Taco).

A Meal with a Side of Music

On a recent Tuesday night, jazz music wafted in from the street as a select group of food writers previewed a few dishes from The Mar Vista menu.

An intimate affair, passed hors d’oeuvres — Turkish pops and flaxseed avocado toasts — greeted the guests as Chef D., Davie and Rivas welcomed guests to dine together around a long table dotted with hefty loaves of sourdough bread alongside small dishes of butter sprinkled with black sea salt.

For starters, they served a refreshing summer tomato-melon salad and gazpacho — or, as Davie calls it, “California in a Bowl” — with an ember-roasted melanzana in the middle and arugula, dehydrated black olives and crunchy sunchoke chips on top.

Next up was the L.A. Lau Lau, inspired by Chef D.’s wife, whose family hails from Hawaii. Floating in a broth, steamed collard greens (instead of banana leaves) wrapped nicely around a delicious blend of halibut, oxtail, beef cheeks and smoked yucca bursting with flavor.

And for the entrée: a pulled pork spare rib meatball along-side Anson Mills grits from South Carolina, with an added local touch of fresh corn niblets mixed in, plus crispy black kale for crunch.

Of course, the grand finale was a Cranked bowl, which Davie furiously, and joyously, hand cranked with a team of two graduates from St. Joseph’s Center’s Culinary Training Program.

“We have 40 years of being a chef up here,” Chef D. said, beaming as he stood beside Davie and Rivas.

Before any dish had been plated, the three chefs stood before their invitees, laying out their mission for The Mar Vista to be a place where locals gather to eat, hang and hear music.

A dropdown “Murphy Bed” stage is part of The Mar Vista plan, with live late-night sets of mellow music from singer-songwriters as well as jazz and bluegrass artists.

Local Pride

Later, on a Sunday night, Davie is sitting at a long wooden table on Venice Grind’s back patio, sipping on a four-shot short cappuccino, preparing for her day ahead as chef at HopSaint Brewing Company in Torrance, where she’s been consulting for the past few months.

“So many chefs live in and around Mar Vista,” says Davie. “Hans Rockenwagner, Mary Sue Milliken [Border Grill], Raphael Lunetta [JiRaffe], Josiah Citrin [Melisse, Charcoal] …”

Add to that list chefs Walker and Davie, who will be working in the culinary trenches close to home to create a new restaurant that, in Chef D.’s words,  will “elevate the neighborhood’s restaurant standard and provide a location that locals can proudly call their own.”

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Continue reading: The Argonaut Newspaper

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The Other Side of the Seven Stories Mon, 15 Aug 2016 00:32:02 +0000

An early conceptual rendering depicts the 85-foot residential and retail building planned for Venice Boulevard Rendering by GMPA Architects courtesy of Crimson Holdings

Some community leaders say a seven-story residential and retail building planned for the southeast corner of Venice Boulevard and Wasatch Avenue is just too tall — and its 77 housing units too dense — to be a good fit for Mar Vista, where single- and two-story structures are the norm.

The developer behind these plans, however, has found an unexpected ally: local artists.

The Mar Vista art scene has flourished over the past several years, with new public art and community arts events contributing to a strong post-recession comeback by independent shops and businesses.

But as rent prices go up — the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Mar Vista hit $2,900 last month, according to data scientist Andrew Woo — artists are feeling the squeeze.

After learning of plans for the building, Mar Vista ArtWalk organizer Lenore French contacted developer Crimson Holdings Real Estate Investment and Development to pitch the idea of including affordable housing for artists.

Crimson Holdings Managing Partner Pamela Day, an ArtWalk donor, embraced the idea, earning French’s enthusiastic endorsement with the promise of setting aside roughly 10% of the building’s housing space as affordable housing for artists.

French then put out the call for artists to support Day’s project at 12444 Venice Blvd., citing 2008 legislation by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco) that may allow the developer to establish a preference for artists when filling affordable units.

“I believe that I’m the first developer on the Westside to use this obscure law to offer artists affordable housing. I want people to know that we’re saying Mar Vista is for artists,” said Day, adding that she’d also like to set aside five affordable units for artists in another project nearby.

The seven-story, 85-foot building planned for Venice and Wasatch is within the mile-long stretch of Venice Boulevard slated for pedestrian-friendly enhancements under the city’s Great Streets plan.

Replacing the two-story strip mall that currently houses the DeCarlo Pizza and Siam Chan restaurants as well as other businesses, the new structure would include 75 vehicle parking and 89 bicycle parking spaces at and below ground level as well as 2,100 square feet of ground-floor retail. Day said there’d be five stories of housing and another story of retail over what she called a “podium.”

At a Mar Vista Community Council Land Use and Planning meeting last month, Day emphasized her commitment to affordable housing as she revealed design plans before an audience of about 90 people.

“I work with artists, and one thing that I know is there is not enough affordable housing for them. One of the things that we’ve sought is to have more affordable housing to keep them in the community. We’re seeing time and time again — and we’re seeing now in Venice — how artists are being evicted,” French told the crowd.

D.J. Neff, a Mar Vista muralist who founded the Mar Vista Art Department studio and retail space, said he’d like to see the building go up across the street from his business.

“We are the first ones to leave [due to higher rents], but we bring beauty to the neighborhood,” added local painter Mitchelito Orquiola.

Day said her project is qualified “by right,” a term meaning that the project conforms to local zoning to the degree that only construction permits are needed — not extended city review.

But according to City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office, Day is using a density bonus that allows her to build a taller project and therefore will trigger further review by the city’s Planning Department.

The Mar Vista Community Council is slated to consider supporting or opposing the project at its Aug. 9 meeting.

Reaction to the development was mixed, and the primary objection seemed to be its height.

One of its most vocal opponents is Ken Alpern, a long-time member of the community council.

“The fact is this project could have been smaller. The presentation that was given was so filled with half-truth and falsehoods that it’s hard not to be upset,” Alpern said.

Ray Gunther, a 28-year resident, said the building’s height would transform Venice Boulevard into resembling other Westside thoroughfares that are lined with high rises and suggested that the building could set a dangerous precedent.

“This thing is way too big. It’s monstrous, hideous, it’s unconscionable. This is what’s coming to Mar Vista. It’s going to become the next Wilshire Boulevard. And to those of you who are happy with it, all I can say is be careful what you wish for,” Gunther said.

Concerned about traffic, resident Leanne Chaney was initially opposed to the project but became less skeptical after Day and others spoke about how ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft are deemphasizing the need for automobile ownership.

“Urban life is changing and we’re going to have to deal with these issues [of cars and traffic]. I have to learn how to integrate these new changes into my life, as we all do,” she said.

Bonin has asked the Planning Department to request a public hearing due in part to the project’s height.

In order to maximize “pedestrian orientation” for the Great Streets initiative, he believes all projects on the boulevard should have underground parking.

“This will dramatically change the character of Venice Boulevard, which is undergoing a rebirth due to the mayor’s Great Streets initiative,” Bonin said.

Continue reading: The Argonaut Newspaper

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