Waiting For The Train

A possible route for the Crenshaw line extension through West Hollywood…

I’ve spent the better part of a lifetime waiting for the train, and while it’s never shown up, I still have some reason to hope. When I first moved to West Hollywood in the mid-1980’s, I had just returned from five years in New York City while attending college and afterwards. Though a Southern California native, I had grown accustomed to the quality of life in a city as transit-rich and pedestrian-friendly as New York, and felt its lack when I returned to Los Angeles.

Though it wasn’t a term anyone would have used at the time, I became something of a proto transit geek, following news as the Red and Blue lines were slowly built, pointing out bits of track and abandoned stations left over from the old Red Car system to my patient and bemused friends, and even stumbling upon an already-forgotten RTD study in the cramped old West Hollywood Public Library outlining a never-realized 1982 plan to restore light rail on the old Red Car right of way stretching from Santa Monica to Century City and through Beverly Hills to West Hollywood.

Nothing had come of that plan, and just recently the original route of what is now the Red Line subway had literally been derailed by Congressman Henry Waxman. A widely admired liberal on most domestic and foreign policy issues, Waxman acted like a Reagan Republican when it came to public transportation issues in his own district – the legislation he pushed through Congress at the behest of a small group of affluent Hancock Park residents delayed construction of the Wilshire Blvd portion of the subway for three decades.

That original route would have included a station at Fairfax and Santa Monica Boulevards that would have also served as the eastern terminus of the studied light rail line. Land had been purchased and cleared for the station, and at the time I moved into the neighborhood, a weathered sign announcing imminent construction was still present on the vacant lot. That land on the northwest corner ended up becoming a mini-mall instead, and the closest we have come to a subway station in West Hollywood is the Subway sandwich shop located there.

Thirty years later, plans for a West Hollywood Metro station are once again part of the MTA’s long range plan, backed by city government, and now supported by a sophisticated advocacy group. Budget, funding, and construction issues remain formidable, and the dour predictions I made in my twenties that I would probably be in my sixties by the time that Los Angeles had a truly workable rail transit system now seem either eerily prophetic, or perhaps still overly optimistic.

Even at that, this is progress, and I’m still hoping that one day, perhaps in the same year that I qualify for social security, I might be able to walk to the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Fairfax, descend stairs into the cool interior of a subterranean station, and hop on a train that will take me…most anywhere I need to go. If so, it will only be happening about forty-five years later than it needed to…but what’s half a lifetime or so when you’re waiting to catch a ride?

“A Street Corner Named Desire” at Neo Ensemble

flyerCongrats to all involved in “A Street Corner Named Desire” at Neo Ensemble, a very fun evening of ten minute plays running through October 25th which includes the debut production of my own “The Proposal,” along with terrific plays from Carolyn Arilyn Carpenter, Alex Dremann, Mark Harvey Levine, Sheila Sawhny, and David St James among others.

Special thanks to Starina Johnson for doing a terrific job of directing and performing in “The Proposal,” along with equally wonderful cast members Anthony Marquez, Heather Horton, Tameka Bob, and Linden East. It’s a fun evening, go see it!

A View From Crescent Heights

For almost thirty years now, I’ve lived in the Crescent Heights neighborhood of West Hollywood. I write that knowing that I may be one of the few who actually thinks of the few square blocks to the east and west of Crescent Heights Boulevard as it runs through West Hollywood as a distinct and cohesive neighborhood. But in the years I’ve lived here, I’ve come to see the neighborhood as having its own unique identity in relation to the rest of West Hollywood, just as West Hollywood itself has its own unique identity in relation to the greater Los Angeles area.

West Hollywood is known for many things, including its active and highly visible gay and Russian emigre communities, as well as the abundance of actors, writers, musicians, and other creative types who have traditionally chosen to live here. It is also known by its residents for an east side/west side divide that serves as a kind of microcosm of similar geographical divisions seen in Los Angeles County as a whole.

The west side of West Hollywood, bordering Beverly Hills and including the Sunset Strip, is more affluent and is also the cultural center of the city’s LGBT communities, while the east side, though now rapidly gentrifying, is more working class and affordable, and also serves as the center of the city’s Russian emigre population. Though the exact boundary between the west and east side can be debated, most would agree that Crescent Heights Boulevard lies very close to that boundary, and might even be that boundary itself.

In recent years, however, this balance in Crescent Heights between affluence and affordability has become threatened. At the same time that new stores, parks, and restaurants have been making this a neighborhood that is more urban, interesting, and livable than it has ever been before, skyrocketing rents and real estate prices, slowed but not stopped by the Great Recession, have made it more difficult for those who would seemingly most appreciate the urbanity of this area…students, immigrants, senior citizens, young people just starting their careers…to become residents.

The Crescent Heights neighborhood, like the rest of this region, is constantly changing. With some changes in my own still-hectic schedule, I find myself with just a bit more time than in the past few years to explore my neighborhood, the surrounding areas, and Los Angeles on a whole. I’ll be occasionally sharing some of those explorations here, along with whatever other topics may suggest themselves to my often-addled brain. That is the view from Crescent Heights that I will be offering…