Better late than never

Organizers to hold meetings about Altadena’s secession from PUSD

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 4/29/2010

Saying they have more than 7,000 valid signatures, supporters of a long-dormant proposal to have Altadena split from the Pasadena Unified School District will be hosting two community meetings, the first one set for Tuesday. 
“These meetings are intended to encourage an atmosphere of mutual respect for an open discussion of the ways that forming an AUSD will and will not represent the best way to get all of Altadena’s students on the road to success in college in a few short years,” Chief Petitioner Bruce Wasson wrote on his Web site,
Tuesday’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. at Café Culture, 1359 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena. The last meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 20 at the Coffee Gallery, 2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena.
As of March 14, 7,062 signatures had been gathered, according to Wasson. But according to Daniel Villanueva, assistant director of the division of business advisory services of the LA County Office of Education (LACOE), Wasson has not yet submitted the completed petitions. Also included in the Pasadena district is Sierra Madre.
Wasson declined to comment, referring calls for information to his Web site.
Once the Local Agency Formation Commission for the County of Los Angeles (LAFCO) receives the petitions and verifies the signatures, the county will conduct a feasibility study. The county will also hold community meetings during this period. If the county determines that the formation of an AUSD would harm PUSD in any way, the petition would be denied.
The study would focus on the fiscal condition of the school district as it relates to the creation of a new district. It would also determine the number of students expected to attend schools in the new district. 
After that, the county Board of Education will vote to either deny or approve the petition. If approved, the state Board of Education will decide whether the secession effort should proceed. If things get that far, the matter will come back before Altadenans for a vote. 

CNPA honors Pasadena Weekly

by Kevin Uhrich, Pasadena Weekly, Apr 22, 2010

The Pasadena Weekly received top honors at the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Better Newspapers Contest in Monterey Saturday for its coverage of last summer’s Station Fire.
In addition, the paper was named as a blue-ribbon finalist in the general excellence category, as were an investigative report and a breaking news story.
The paper received a first-place award among weekly papers with circulations higher than 25,001 for the Sept. 3 story “Fire on the Mountain,” detailing the devastation caused by the worst brushfire in Los Angeles County history, written by City Hall Reporter André Coleman, Deputy Editor Jake Armstrong and Editor Kevin Uhrich.
In the general excellence category, judges recognized the paper’s Jan. 8, 15 and 22, 2009, editions for their “breadth of story selection and general news coverage.”
Armstrong’s investigative piece, “Just Too High,” examined grossly disproportionate marijuana arrest rates in California and Pasadena, where African Americans are three times more likely than whites to be arrested for pot-related offenses.
Former Deputy Editor Joe Piasecki’s story, “Hater Nation,” was penned after the Weekly received a letter threatening then-President-elect Barack Obama. Piasecki is currently studying for his master’s degree as a fellow at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
“It’s kind of unusual for a weekly alternative paper to win awards for investigative reporting and breaking news, but we seem to do that rather well,” said Uhrich. “I’ve been blessed with some wonderful and talented people, not all of whom were recognized, but are nonetheless great writers and reporters and editors who certainly deserve recognition.” 
Those journalists include Carl Kozlowski, Chip Jacobs and Justin Chapman, as well as veteran Music Editor Bliss and Calendar Editor John Sollenberger, who routinely break entertainment-related stories. Also contributing to the paper’s overall success in 2009 was Art Director Joel Vendette and former Copy Editor John Seeley.
The Sacramento-based CNPA was founded in 1888 and has nearly 1,000 members, including daily, weekly and campus newspapers. There were more than 4,000 entries in 28 award categories.

New lease on life

City starts eminent domain proceedings to acquire Morgan’s YWCA

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 4/15/2010

With no objections, the Pasadena City Council unanimously voted to direct city staff to open eminent domain proceedings to acquire the historic but long-vacant and now decaying YWCA building located at 78 N. Marengo Ave. 
Public comment Monday night was clear: Pasadena residents want the city to take the building over from the current owner, Trove Investments, in order for the structure to be restored and used in a way that will enhance neighboring Centennial Square, the area around City Hall, the Pasadena Courthouse, Pasadena Central Library and the Pasadena Police Department.
Although City Manager Michael Beck did not state what the city is considering using the building for, residents suggested it be utilized to house homeless or serve as a senior center.
“It has been tragic to witness the ongoing deterioration of this rare and priceless cultural resource,” wrote Richard Quirk, an architect and the vice chairman of the city Planning Commission. “I am encouraged and delighted to see the city has decided to take on the commencement of the ambitious rehabilitation and reuse of the YWCA building.”
Peterson Law Group, representing Trove Investments, submitted a letter of objection to the city taking control of the building.
“Trove has the means to develop the site to a variety of uses consistent with the city’s goals,” the letter stated. “It is absolutely unnecessary for the property to be taken by eminent domain.”
Trove acquired the property in 1996 for $1.8 million. The city offered Trove $6.43 million, but Trove countered with $12 million. 
Julia Morgan, California’s first registered female architect, built the historic YWCA building in 1921, six years before construction on City Hall was finished. Morgan went on to design numerous structures throughout California, including Hearst Castle, owned by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. 

Rawman & Green-Girl to the rescue

Ron Gilmore’s ‘green toon’ heroes eat up the Green Lifestyle Film Fest

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 4/8/2010

Sounding much like his eco-superheroes Rawman and Green-Girl, artist and independent filmmaker Ron Gilmore of South Pasadena recently accepted the Green Apple Award for Outstanding Contribution to a Sustainable Lifestyle with the aplomb of a satisfied parent.
“If I can educate some people and get kids to eat their veggies, then I guess I’ve done my job,” said the 46-year-old Gilmore after accepting his prize during the awards portion of the fourth annual Green Lifestyle Film Festival at UCLA in late March.
Gilmore’s characters, whose true identities are Gilbert Moore and Lotus Lee, are based on himself and his girlfriend. The pair made its second appearance at the film festival, a three-day event dedicated to creating “change for the greater good,” as its promoters say, and featuring productions focusing on topics ranging from proper diet and alternative energy to overpopulation and the effects of air pollution.
Opening night ceremonies at the James Bridges Theater on March 20 included appearances by Australian model and actress Joanne Rose, preteen hip-hop artist Li’l Maxso and Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, among others.
The Green Lifestyles event marked the second formal appearance of the dynamic green duo. Drawn and animated in much the same 1960s style as Stephen Colbert’s “Tek Jansen Adventures” and “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” characters of “SNL” fame, Rawman and Green-Girl actually debuted in 2008, when the event was called the Raw Lifestyle Film Festival. That first episode, “Beware the Beekeeper,” can be viewed on Gilmore’s Web site,
This second episode, which took the computer graphics artist about a year to write and animate, is titled “Rawman and Green-Girl Meet Frankenfood” and features the intrepid couple doing battle against a company called Big Pharma Seed, whose CEO becomes a monster after eating tomatoes grown from genetically engineered seeds.
The film is only about eight minutes long, but Gilmore, who was the only artist from the Los Angeles area participating in the festival, said a longer version is in the works and will be appearing early May at along with other films that premiered at the festival. He’ll then post it at To receive updates about Rawman and Green-Girl, join their fan page on Facebook.
“I have been interested in living a healthier lifestyle since I was in my 20s and that slowly evolved into the realization that we need to live in a clean and green environment to be truly healthy,” Gilmore said about the inspiration for his characters. “When I became a raw-vegan, I felt like a superhero because I had never felt so vibrant and alive.”
Once he finishes adding two scenes to the new episode, which he had to leave out due to time constraints, Gilmore, who works for a customs broker and international freight forwarding company near LAX, plans to approach Erewhon Natural Foods Market and Whole Foods Market about showing “Frankenfood” in some of their stores.
“I think it fits perfectly with their mission statements,” he said, since his cartoon is about vegan superheroes who fight against man-made environmental dangers and the contamination of the food supply from such harmful elements as pesticides, genetic modification and artificial ingredients.
For the third episode, Gilmore, who grew up in Redding and took an art correspondence course and an art class at Chouinard Art Institute but says he is mostly self-taught, is thinking of covering the cartoon characters’ origins, with a plot line loosely based on “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” He plans to work on that installment after finishing his current project, “Dynamite Brothers,” which he will pitch to television networks as a Saturday morning cartoon.
The adventures of Rawman and Green-Girl weren’t the only items on the agenda at the March 20 film festival in Westwood. 
Opening ceremony keynote speaker Bill Ryerson, president of the Washington-based Population Institute and the Population Media Center in Vermont, did not have happy news to report on the future of resources due to overpopulation. The two organizations he works for spread the benefits of family planning in developing countries by means of education and community outreach.
“When people are told that contraception gives them AIDS and that family planning is a trick, overpopulation is very difficult to solve,” said Ryerson. “The negative effects of overpopulation are inevitable at this point. Infinite growth is not sustainable in a finite universe.”
Film festival founder Dorit stressed that the event’s focus was aimed at redefining green as sustainable through film. Dorit said she created the festival in an effort to make green more mainstream and because there is too much infighting among members of the green movement.
“This festival, which belongs to all of us, was created to counter messages of fear and violence in the media by presenting quality, low-budget films that challenge us and inspire us to live lives of inspiration and to become the magnificent beings that lie within each of us,” she said.
The films, Dorit said, “set new and higher standards for a more evocative and representative media. It is through art like this that we break the bondage of lethargy, ignorance and self-defeating and destructive behavior patterns.” 

Nice dreams

Barney Frank leads discussion restoring the ‘American Dream’

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 4/8/2010

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend Rebuilding the American Dream, an economic summit featuring talks by Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank and several business and community leaders, beginning at 8 a.m. Friday in downtown Los Angeles.
Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, will headline the 17th annual economic summit hosted by the Greenlining Institute, a multiethnic public policy, research and advocacy organization.
The daylong event will focus on restoring “the American promise of prosperity for all citizens in an era when the high cost of higher education is skyrocketing, home ownership is imperiled by rising foreclosure rates and the state’s budget crisis is putting vital services at risk,” according to a prepared statement.
“This important event will give us an opportunity to hear from many different stakeholders,” said Hector Preciado, health policy director for the Greenlining Institute and chairman of the conference. “Congressman Frank will voice his perspective on financial reform to California constituents, but it will also give our constituents the opportunity to voice their opinions on what is happening at the community level and bounce ideas off our community leaders.”
Along with Frank, speakers will include Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, Coleman Advocates Executive Director NTanya Lee, California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey, Los Angeles City Councilmember Richard Alarcon, Bank of America Home Loans President Barbara Desoer, California Endowment President and CEO Dr. Robert Ross, California Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), California Public Utilities Commissioner Tim Simon and Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar.
The event is at the Center at Cathedral Plaza, located at 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles. To register for the event, visit

Eminent concern

Pasadena officials may seize Julia Morgan’s long-neglected YWCA building

By Justin Chapman and Kevin Uhrich, Pasadena Weekly, 4/1/2010

After literally watchng a onetime gem deteriorate over the years into a local eyesore, Pasadena officials hope to soon take control of the former YWCA built by Julia Morgan, California’s first registered female architect.
Located at the corner of North Marengo Avenue and Holly Street — its backdoor facing North Garfield Avenue and City Hall’s front entrance — the building was constructed in 1921, six years before City Hall was built and just a year before Morgan designed San Simeon, the sprawling, opulent hilltop mansion overlooking Morro Bay, owned by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. 
Morgan, who designed numerous structures in the Los Angeles area, also built for Hearst the iconic and long-vacant Herald-Examiner newspaper building at the corner of 11th Street and Broadway in downtown LA. Like the old Her-Ex building, the local YWCA has been empty for years, its windows and doors boarded up and the structure falling into an ongoing state of disrepair.
Urged on by members of the nonprofit group Pasadena Heritage, the Pasadena City Council will consider seizing the property through eminent domain following a public hearing set for 8 p.m. April 12 at City Hall, 100 N. Garfield Ave.
The current owner, Angela Chen-Sabella of Trove Investments, who acquired the property in 1996 for $1.8 million, has been negotiating with the city for more than a year but so far has rejected all offers. Trove is asking for $12 million. The council is considering directing city staff to open eminent domain proceedings so that the city has the ability to take action if negotiations with Trove are not successful.
Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, believes the historic building will be better off in the city’s hands, even if it is seized under eminent domain.
“There have been several different ideas for the building but they haven’t panned out,” she said. “Meanwhile, time goes by and the building is suffering.”