North Hollywood: The perfect launch pad for a former mayor’s new life

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Via Flckr/ Creative Commons/ by V31S70

Lankershim Blvd. Via Flckr/ Creative Commons/ by V31S70

Dear Antonio:

Forgive me the informality, Mr. Mayor, it’s just that I’ve known you a bit for so darned long, going back to the early 1990s, when I routinely interviewed you as Gloria Molina’s alternate on the transportation board, and then we were in that political discussion group with Wendy Greuel, who was trying to succeed you. Now, after serving as state Assembly speaker and Los Angeles mayor for two terms, you are about to become un-mayor and, well, what then?

Since those nasty term limits will send you back to the private sector and out of the mayor’s Hancock Park mansion, the good folks at Zócalo suggested I write about a Los Angeles community where you might consider putting down new roots in your new non-role: North Hollywood.

Oh, I know when you were growing up, North Hollywood was hardly a garden spot, and it still has an ample sprinkling of non-garden spots, particularly in the north end of the neighborhood. It continues to provide ample grist for the bitterly amusing memories of Adam Carolla, once a star linebacker for the North Hollywood High Huskies.

On top of that, several of our nicest neighborhoods (and there actually are quite a few) have spent the past few decades scheming to get out of North Hollywood. Thus, we now have hard-to-find nearby communities with names such as Toluca Terrace, West Toluca Lake and the slightly more accessible Valley Village.

No matter. North Hollywood marches on. Now, the area is acquiring a kind of cool, just as you’re searching for a new home. Perfect!

Why, the LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne even said in a recent article that Lankershim Boulevard, which bisects North Hollywood, is “emphatically on the rise,” so it must be true. We’re kinda happening.

Even better, Antonio, you can take some credit for the resurgence. The now-disbanded Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles invested tens of millions of dollars in what is grandly called the NoHo Arts and Entertainment District, centered at the intersection of Lankershim and Magnolia Boulevard.

The CRA/LA helped spur construction of office space, preserved historic structures, and stabilized dozens of small theaters, recording studios, dance troupes and other arts-related groups and creative businesses. The result: the core of North Hollywood has a diverse and vibrant pedestrian culture, and in how many parts of Los Angeles can you say that?

You didn’t start that work, by a long shot, but you kept it going to substantial fruition before state budget problems killed the CRA/LA, so it’s time you reaped some rewards from one of your more substantial achievements.

Oh, it’s true that the CRA/LA and you never could do much with the quake-wracked Valley Plaza/Laurel Plaza shopping center, but it wasn’t really much the fault of the city, or the developer, given the inflated expectations of that area’s neighbors. And at least there’s still a very nice Macy’s there with a lot of available parking, so you can pick up some new suits for your job interviews.

By the way, in those nice North Hollywood neighborhoods, you can actually buy a house with a big yard, maybe on a quiet block without any sidewalks, for as little as half of what it might cost on the Westside. I know you’ll be getting by on one of those modest city pensions, so you’ll need to husband your financial resources (okay, now I’m kidding; you’re going to do fine on that honking big pension, plus whatever else you can earn).

Here’s another nifty thing about North Hollywood: It’s kind of in the middle of everything. As a man who’s spent most of the past decade zooming all over the city, you’ll love this. From NoHo, in minutes you can be anywhere in the Valley, certainly, or in our sister cities of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena. Hollywood and West Hollywood are just over the hill, and you can hop into downtown for a power lunch with your old political buddies in 25 minutes.

If you need to fly somewhere, there’s a free shuttle to nearby (but not too close) Burbank Airport. I hate to say it, but after all your long-stymied efforts to improve and expand LAX, the Burbank Airport is much easier to get in and out of, and it’s right there.

Yes, the Westside remains impassable to mere mortal ex-mayors without police escorts, but you’re the one who said that the billion-dollar 405 improvement would make it easier for us to get there. Now, you’ll get to put your own drive-time where your mouth, and our money, have been going all these years.

Speaking of transportation, North Hollywood is already the terminus of the Metro Red Line subway (a project you helped authorize back in your MTA board alternate days) and the Orange Line, a dedicated busway that girdles the San Fernando Valley and preps it mentally for its own eventual light-rail line. The daily bustle of thousands of riders scurrying from one to the other is a wonderful thing to see. Public transit that works in Los Angeles. Who saw that coming?

From the North Hollywood station, you can hop on the Metro for a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s, an author lecture at the Central Library, a football game at USC, or a string of gallery openings in Culver City. It’s so pain-free and cheap that it’s easy to forget we also have a bus system (I know, the MTA forgot about the bus system for years, too).

The Red Line (and the other rail lines of varying colors) are the coolest, and within a year (or two, according to the slipping completion schedule), you’ll be able to get all the way to the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade on the Expo Line, thanks in part to that expedited federal funding you secured.

Of course, North Hollywood also has the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which gives out the Emmys and has a cool plaza of statues and plaques honoring Hall of Fame TV stars, and (again thanks to CRA/LA encouragement), a Laemmle art-house movie theater.

I know you’re a bit of a gourmand, so you’ll be delighted to hear that we have some fantastic restaurants and nightclubs. I’d start with the Federal Bar, Spumante, Firenze, Eclectic Wine Bar & Grill, Kansas City Barbecue, MP’s Soul Food, and Bow & Truss. For breakfast, there’s Eat, and the wonderful coffee house cum pie shop called Republic of Pie. For middle-of-the-night munchies, there’s the North Hollywood Diner.

Your discriminating palate will probably want to give Little Toni’s a wide berth, unless all those political banquets have somehow given you a weakness for Sutter Home White Zinfandel or Lancer’s Rose’ (I’m guessing that’s a no).

Oh, and Antonio, the bad boy in you should be delighted to hear that North Hollywood seems blessed with a staggering plethora of smoke shops and marijuana sales facilities.

I’m no expert on this, but, based on the density of such shops here (at least until the City Council gets around to implementing that new Supreme Court marijuana shop zoning decision), North Hollywood must have the mellowest residents in Los Angeles, Given your high energy, perhaps a little all-natural medicinal self-care will blunt, so to speak, the edge of an unexpectedly early retirement.

As one final enticement of North Hollywood living, we’re the perfect place to indulge your weakness for gorgeous newscasters. KABC is just a few miles east, and the studios for KCET and KNBC are even closer. Happy hunting, Your Honor.

David Bloom is a writer and consultant in communications and social media based in North Hollywood. He wrote this for Zócalo Public Square. You can find more here.