Monday, April 27, 2009

Downtown L.A.: New Looks, Old Problems

Nice shops and restaurants have brought new faces to the area, but old residents feel the city isn't doing enough to help them.


Video: A look at the changes, problems, and people in Downtown L.A.

Fresh Faces, New Places

Downtown Los Angeles, once an unpopular destination for Angelinos, is becoming relevant again. City developers have been working hard and putting money into the area to turn it into a city-center that Los Angeles can be proud of.

Led predominantly by the recently opened L.A. Live, the area is undergoing a facelift, with new restaurants, shops, and residences springing up in all directions.

The changes have brought new people into the area, both visitors and residents. The city is attempting to attract a younger, trendier crowd to the area in order to build up nightlife and bring in new businesses.

In the country's other major cities (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.), downtown is the center of the action. The heartbeat of those cities is the downtown area. Los Angeles is hoping it can create the same type of effect for its downtown.

Check this out: Downtown L.A. News

What's New?

  • L.A. Live
  • Shops
  • Restaurants & Bars
  • Residences (mainly lofts)
  • Hotels
  • Coming soon: Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live
  • Coming soon: Regal Cinemas (movie theater) at L.A. Live

The Problem

While the gentrification of the downtown area seems to be nothing but a positive, there is a large group who aren't happy with the changes they are seeing. Most of those against the new look have lived in downtown for years. Most of them, are homeless.

When most areas get nicer, the cost of living becomes more expensive. And when people are paying more to live, they usually prefer not to have homeless people sleeping in front of their homes.

The downtown area houses the largest homeless population in Los Angeles area. Over the last two years, roughly 13,000 homeless people have called the streets of downtown their "home."

The homeless agree that cleaning up downtown is important. Once a haven for crime and drug dealing, the statistics have shown the area has become safer. However, the new projects have also eliminated much of the low income housing options for transients who had been living their life hoping to earn enough money to pay for shelter one night at a time.

Now, the homeless feel they are being pushed out with nowhere to go.


Video: Joseph Thomas - Los Angeles Community Action Network

Check this out: LACAN Website

The Stay Hotel

One of the area's major problems since the gentrification is the lack of low income residences. More homeless people are on the streets because they can't afford shelter in the newer hotels.

In 2006 the city of Los Angeles, recognizing this may be a problem, passed an ordinance prohibiting many downtown hotels from remodeling unless they continued to provide housing for low income residences.

The Cecil Hotel, one a very popular spot for transients turned into the Stay, an upscale youth hostel. The hotel is now tied up in a federal lawsuit over the issue.

Owner Bill Lanting sees no issue with the remodel but declined to comment on the issue.

However, this is just one of many similar situations in the downtown area that are making it harder for the homeless people to stay and live.

Check this out: Change checks in at a skid row hotel - Los Angeles Times

Video: Rory Thomas about the importance of low income housing

Downtown Homeless Shelters

One reason why downtown has been populated by so many homeless people is because of the many homeless shelters in the area.

For years, homeless people have been able to eat, sleep, and put the pieces of their lives back together thanks to the availability of these homeless shelters.

However, with the new downtown remodeling and the current state of the economy, homeless shelters are seeing rushes of people that they cannot accommodate.

Herbert Smith, the President of the Los Angeles Mission, explained that his shelter was seeing a rush of people that they had never seen before and they were being forced to turn people away in record numbers.

More homeless people being turned away from shelters has resulted in even more on the streets closer to Skid Row, right outside of the main downtown area. And while central downtown is beginning to thrive, shop owners and residents just two to three blocks east, are suffering.

Check this out: Los Angeles Mission Website

Video: Chen Yun about the problems she faces outside her store

The Resolution

The city of Los Angeles is excited about the prospects of a popular and booming downtown. The goal all along has been to make the area safer and nicer.

In order to achieve the goal, the LAPD has doubled its patrol in the downtown area. As a result, arrests have more than doubled and the number of police issued citations have tripled.

The homeless in the area feel they are being targeted. Instead of being helped, they are being hunted.

Both sides must work to find some resolution to bring a happy ending to this tale of two cities.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

L.A. Live Livens Up L.A.

Open since fall, the new entertainment complex is bringing fresh options to Los Angeles residents looking to have some fun in downtown.

As part of the new downtown, L.A. Live has created quite a buzz since opening directly across the street from the Staples Center.

The concerts, restaurants, clubs, and entertainment attractions have brought more people to the area.

The location across the street from Staples Center are bringing a lot of attention to the area along Figueroa St. and making downtown L.A. a prime spot for tourists and residents to visit.

L.A. Live is the main project in the gentrification of the downtown area. Once a rundown, unpopulated, and dangerous area, the new complex has caused a migration into the downtown area.

New shops, restaurants, and residences are opening and a younger, more affluent crowd are spending their time and even moving into the area.

Nokia Theatre

The Nokia Theatre was the first to open for business at L.A. Live. Since it opened it has housed a number of concerts and shows from the most popular bands.

Ritz-Carlton Residences

These high-class residences are still under construction but figure to bring an entire new look to the downtown area once it is done.

The building is over 40 stories tall and will include over 1,000 rooms.

ESPN Zone and ESPN Studios

L.A. Live also is home to the Los Angeles ESPN Zone. Also, ESPN opened its first ever West Coast studios at L.A. Live above ESPN Zone. ESPN now records an entire SportsCenter show from these studios.

Grammy Museum

The Grammy Museum located at L.A. Live shows visitors the history of the music industry and the award show that honors its great participants. Over the last few years the Grammy Awards have been held at the Staples Center so the close vicinity makes L.A. Live a prime location for the museum.

Check this out:
L.A. Live Website

  • ESPN Zone
  • Trader Vic's
  • Fleming's
  • Lary's Carvery
  • New Zealand Natural
  • The Conga Room
  • Rock'n Fish
  • The Farm
  • Yard House
  • Lucky Strike
  • The Grammy Museum
  • Nokia Theatre
  • Club Nokia
  • Ritz Carlton Residences (Coming soon)
  • Regal Cinemas (Coming soon)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NCAA Transfer Rules Putting Dreams on Hold

New rule forcing college baseball players to sit out a full season after transferring to a new school

Transferring just got a little tougher for college baseball players. The NCAA has implemented a new rule forcing all transfers to sit out their first season after transferring to a new school.

The rule, already in place for college football and basketball, is sure to change the landscape of college baseball. Baseball players transfer more frequently than any other college sport. Just last season, USC's baseball team used up to as many as five transfer players in their starting lineup at one time.

"The rule benefits mid-major schools," said USC assistant coach Doyle Wilson. "They want to discourage transfers so that the smaller schools aren't losing all their good players to bigger programs."

The rule, set to go into effect this season, is the same rule that forced basketball transfer Alex Stephenson to sit out this season after transferring from North Carolina. Even though Stephenson applied for eligibility this season, it was expected that he might have to sit out. For some baseball players last year, it was not.

Last fall, Stanford football player Sam Weinberger (no. 39, below) decided he was unhappy playing football for the Cardinal and wanted to chase his dream of playing college baseball. After Stanford gave him clearance to transfer, Weinberger applied to USC, got in, and then earned a spot on the USC baseball team. The NCAA forced him to sit out the entire season.

The sophomore pitcher was caught off guard as the images of him stepping right in to success on the field as a Trojan were in jeopardy.

"I'm just using this time to get acclimated to my new team and the new system here," said Weinberger. "Then hopefully by next year I'll be ready to go."

Weinberger, originally recruited to Stanford as a linebacker had been converted to a fullback and felt he wasn't being treated properly by the coaching staff. Weinberger, who suffers from Diabetes, believed the Stanford coaches pushed him too hard despite his illness. There were even times when Weinberger felt so sick during practices, he thought his life was in danger.

Weinberger applied for eligibility on the grounds that he had left Stanford because of the negligence of the coaching staff. But the committee of ten did not approve his application unanimously and he was denied.

Still, NCAA transfer rules contain many confusing loopholes despite the new rule. Players can still fight for their eligibility, and some continue to get it. Last year Taylor Grigsby, a midyear transfer from Cal, gained eligibility after only a month because he had been accepted into the graduate school at USC.

But despite any way around the new rule, it has changed the landscape of college baseball and will continue to do so throughout its first few years of enforcement.

Weinberger talks about the transfer process:

Weinberger working to get ready this season:

More Rule Changes in College Baseball

2009 season brings roster cuts and scholarship limits for college baseball programs

Baseball Manager Jared Sandler

New NCAA rules for college baseball are causing headache for a lot of coaches around the country.

The new rule in place this season now limits the number of players on a roster to 35. In the past, teams could only have 35 active players. Now, 35 is the limit period.

The rule has already taken its effect at USC. This fall, 19 players were cut from the team, more than they have ever made before. With only 35 available players and over 50 games in a season, the team can't afford to take chances on players who may not succeed later in the season.

One of the players who suffered from the cuts was pitcher Sam Weinberger.

Weinberger, who had transferred from Stanford after playing football there last fall, was cut because the coaching staff felt they could not take a chance on him this spring. Weinberger was a great athlete that pitching coach Tom House was trying to groom into a great college pitcher, but with no room on the roster, there was no room for error.

The rule also hurts the team in terms of injured players. In the past, if a player was injured, the team could simply redshirt him for the season to open up another roster spot. Now, a redshirted player takes up one of the 35 spots, making it even more difficult for coaches to deal with serious injuries.

In response to the new rule, USC head coach Chad Kreuter has chosen to fill his roster with more freshmen then in years past. Kreuter is more reluctant to get rid of young talent because he feels he can groom them over the next couple years so they can be stellar upperclassmen.

Here are some familiar faces from the USC Trojans baseball team: