Pushing Back on Pershing Square

All we're asking for is a fair hearing for the homegrown idea that L.A.'s oldest public park might be best if it was restored, not reimagined by French architects at the direction of a future felon.

Gentle reader,

Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.

If you’ve signed our petition asking the city to restore Pershing Square, you got an email this week, asking you to call in to the rescheduled Cultural Affairs Commission hearing, after the previous one was cancelled when Richard made public comment about the agenda not being online.

We hoped members of the public could remind the Commissioners that former Councilman Jose Huizar, soon to face trial for racketeering, had not included Angelenos in discussions about the future of the park. We didn’t have high hopes that they would vote “no” on moving Huizar’s park plan forward, but you never know until you ask.

But because the city is completely incompetent (in addition to being corrupt), there was no way for anyone to call in and give comment! We called and called, for an hour, then two, only to hear a robotic voice say “the meeting has not yet started,” horrible hold music, then a busy signal. We broke up our calls to this worthless number by contacting the City Attorney and Council District 14 to complain.

The Commissioners were apparently having a lovely Zoom meeting, watching Huizar’s handpicked architects present about their big plans for Pershing Square and gearing up to vote on spending $24 Million to make it happen, and staff members were apparently wondering where that pesky Kim and Richard were… when the City Attorney once again shut the meeting down as illegal, because it is a Brown Act violation not to be accessible to the public.

There is no excuse for the city not being able to host a public hearing, ten months into this pandemic. But there are also no consequences when they screw up so profoundly. They will try again on February 10, and we’ll be there to shine a light on the impropriety of the whole affair, as long as the access line works. Third time’s the charm?

And speaking of corruption: the first of the crooks on City Council was sentenced this week. Here’s what we shared on social media on Monday:

Unhappy sentencing day to ex-Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, who sold Angelenos out to money laundering developers as one of the reliably unanimous "yes" votes on Council—and more significantly on PLUM, the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, where his implicated protégé John Lee currently sits.

His prize: 14 months confinement, probably served in the traditional white collar cage in Lompoc, $15,000 fine, three years supervised release. He didn't even get rich doing this—though he did get off with paid escorts while partying out of state with the men to whom he sold his votes.

Los Angeles deserves so much better than weak characters without convictions, who burnish their lack of personality by associating with powerful institutions like the LAPD (Englander was a reservist), who can be bought as cheaply as a wild weekend.

City Hall is mostly empty now, as disease riddles our communities and Angelenos suffer the consequences of decades of corrupt misrule. When the lights come on again, we pray that all those in the self-described City Family who were part of the criminal enterprise for which Englander was sentenced today will be named, shamed, charged and punished.

It is not just a few bad apples, and it's not just the one or two prominent City Councilmembers you suspect. Council is just the smiling face of the corrupt machine. The brains operate in obscure offices, far from public scrutiny. Some work for the people, some in private firms. They are expert at picking clean our civic bones.

To kill the monster, the DOJ must kill the brains, or this rotten system will just roar back into life with a new vat-grown Mitch Englander (law and order! / family man!), a new Jose Huizar (neighborhood kid made good! / family man!).

For the love of Los Angeles, investigators: yank the whole conspiracy into the light and let us see it squirm!

Tomorrow at noon, we’re Touring Southern California’s Architecture of Death with historian Nathan Marsak, to tell the stories of the early cemeteries in the heart of pueblo, and the 1910s modernist impulse that brought us the bold and hygienic community mausolea and their stunning stained glass laylights. This webinar will appeal to fans of offbeat history and architectural innovation, and those of you who can’t get enough of the irrepressible Nathan Marsak. And we have another special guest just added to the program: Professor Steve Hackel of UC Riverside, with a history of Campo Santo at El Pueblo, L.A.’s first cemetery, and the controversy surrounding the County’s unearthing of graves in 2010.

On February 6, it’s Esotouric Celebrates Los Angeles Historic Preservation, 1900s-1980s. Every 21st century L.A. preservationist stands on the shoulders of giants—so let’s get to know them, and hear from a couple as well (Margaret Bach of the Los Angeles Conservancy and Jean Bruce Poole from El Pueblo). From Mission mender Charles Fletcher Lummis to the savior of Olvera Street Christine Sterling, visionary city planner Calvin Hamilton and hard-driving Cultural Heritage Board leader Carl Dentzel, from Heritage Square to Carroll Avenue, the birth of Hollywood Heritage and the L.A. Conservancy, it’s a wild ride. To sign up or read the full description, click here.

And just announced for February 13, In The Shadow of the Hotel Cecil: A Main Street Time Travel webinar, is a must for fans of true crime and sleazy history. The notorious SRO hotel has become an object of pop culture fascination since tourist Elisa Lam disappeared after checking in to one of its quasi-legal shared hostel rooms in 2013. But the hotel is so much more than a crime scene. We’ll tell its story, through the lens of true crime and urban development, and the story of the fascinating neighborhood that surrounds it. Once a year-round carnival midway, Main Street has changed with Los Angeles, and its many facets will amaze, horrify and inspire you. For more info, or to reserve your spot, click here.

Stay tuned as we roll out a new webinar program each Saturday. And remember if you can’t watch live or need to leave mid-stream, you can watch the recording for one full week. There’s still time to see The Biggest Little Country Store in the World: How Crawford’s Markets Fed the San Gabriel Valley and Transformed The Industry. through Saturday night.

These webinars are now available as On-Demand recordings: John Bengtson’s Silent Film LocationsGeorge Mann’s Vintage L.A.Pershing Square 1866-2020Cafeterias of Old L.A.Programmatic ArchitectureAngels FlightGrand Central MarketOhio River ValleyBunker HillCharles BukowskiRaymond ChandlerBlack DahliaDutch Chocolate ShopBradbury BuildingTunnelsL.A. Times Bombing and 13 Uncanny Crimes & Mysteries.

And we’d love to see you tomorrow at noon for Touring Southern California’s Architecture of Death with historian Nathan Marsak.

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard


Subscribe! In the latest subscriber's edition of this newsletter—$10/month, cheap!—The Most Disturbing Item We Ever Discovered While Doing Research at The Huntington Library—A story about brains, knockout drops, family traditions and a bad night on New York City's Tenderloin.


If you enjoy all we do to celebrate and preserve Los Angeles history, please consider signing up for (or gifting) the subscriber’s edition of this newsletter, or putting a little something into our digital tip jar. Gift certificates are available for any webinar in our library or upcoming calendar, starting at $10. Printed matter? We’ve got a swell selection of books and maps, some written by us, others sourced from dusty warehouses. For a wider selection, Bookshop uses the power of distributor Ingram to help independent bookstores stick around. We've curated a selection of uniquely Los Angeles titles, and when you order from these links, it supports participating local shops, and us, too. You can also click here before shopping on Amazon... & if you love what we do, please tell your friends.


We're dark until public health officials determine that groups can gather safely. But in addition to weekly webinar programs, we've got 138 episodes of the podcast You Can't Eat The Sunshine free to download for armchair explorers, and videos of the Downtown L.A. LAVA walking tours, plus Cranky Preservationist videos.


Santa Barbara has lost a fierce preservationist. RIP Kellam de Forest. He fought for Goleta's Rio Grande gas station and so much more.

L.A.’s Audubon Society is the latest nonprofit to challenge the Times Mirror Square project EIR, on the grounds that City Planning is ignoring the threat of mass bird deaths if Onni Group's planned towers are erected without an appropriate avian strike remediation design plan. They call for Los Angeles to join San Francisco, New York and the Federal government in adopting bird-friendly building standards. (PDF link.)

The L.A. Business Journal looks at how a few local tour companies are faring through COVID, with our pivot to digital programming held out as a pandemic success story. We know we're very lucky, and hope that our dedicated peers get their careers back soon.

We appear as the "aggressive historians" in Nate Rogers' piece in Vice on "The Century-Old Neon Sign Tearing Up LA Conservationists," advocating for the preservation of Pasadena's scarce and stunning Adohr Milk Farms sign on Arroyo Parkway. (Fun fact: the writer’s father is Paul Rogers, who did the amazing cover art for Kim’s novel and designed their Raymond Chandler map collaboration.)

You might have spotted Kim talking about a blood-soaked Richard Ramirez making no impression on the locals in the trailer for Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, out next month from Joe Berlinger and Netflix.

Lovely, sad photo essay by Sandi Hemmerlein of the "Windows of Wonderment" installation of historic Bob Baker marionettes at Loof's Hippodrome on the Santa Monica pier. No (living) children's laughter here.

The first batch of material from Lillian Michelson's Cinema Research Library has been digitized by the Internet Archive, and is worth exploring. Check out this 1986 reprint of a 1934 guide to poster design, with under-the-hood tips for artists who want to create brand new Jazz Age advertising.

Our hearts go out to the Rod's Grill family on hearing the sad news that owner Manny Romero, who fought hard with his dedicated staff to protect the landmark diner from eminent domain threats from their car dealership neighbor, has died from COVID. What a loss to Arcadia, and to us all.