Wednesday, November 23, 2005

L.A. Bits

UPDATED POST -- see below for revised item on Whole Foods

:: Monday's USA Today reported on the fading age of L.A.'s kitschy roadside eateries. Story is timed to the debate over the fates of Tail O' the Pup and the Derby:

These attractions, intended to be noticed through a windshield, once were common: An igloo-shaped soda shop; ice cream emporiums in a giant freezer with crank on top; a Mother Goose Pantry store in a shoe; a hosiery store topped by a 30-foot leg. There's a formal name: "programmatic" architecture, a roadside-vernacular style in which a building depicts the product sold or something associated with it.

Only a relative handful have survived, and recent moves by condo developers to displace two original examples here have triggered an uproar among people who think that commercial buildings that are shaped like hats, tamales, teapots or lemons are worth preserving.

Above, the infamous Randy's Donuts near LAX. (Link via LA Observed.)

:: Perhaps "Poltergeist" should be required viewing for the MTA team constructing the Gold Line extension into Boyle Heights. The LA Times notes that long-forgotten remains (dating back to the late 1800s) have been found on site:

In all, workers digging an eastern extension of the Gold Line railway found the skeletal remains of 108 people — as well as 43 arms and legs. Scattered among the remains, beneath otherwise nondescript grounds leading to the brick-bedecked crematorium, were old coins, empty coffins, metal objects and even garbage.

The discoveries stunned Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials and surprised residents, because they unearthed a layer of history that most had forgotten ever existed.

:: Curbed L.A. asks a few burning questions -- none of which we know the exact answers to, but we'll fill in some blanks.

First up, the site wonders, Whassup with the Sunset-Vine Tower? Indeed, we've been wondering that for years as well, going back to our 2003 post on L.A.'s Ghost Towers. Built in 1963, this skinny 20-story building-- best known for its pivotal role in the 1974 disaster flick "Earthquake" -- was the first skyscraper built in the city after Los Angeles repealed its 14-story building height limits. (Actually, correction -- see the comments; to clarify, it was one of the first. But 600 S. Spring was really the first.)

More recently, it was also home to the 360 restaurant/bar, which offered up amazing views of the city from the building's top floor, and several radio stations. But it's been shuttered since Dec. 6, 2001, when an electrical room in the basement was destroyed by fire. The Tower was evacuated, and hasn't been occupied since. A second fire on the building's roof in May probably didn't help matters and ongoing plans to turn the tower into condos.

By the way, there's something cursed about that intersection. The Washington Mutual across the street (on the former site of NBC) was paralyzed last December by a fire in its underground power chamber.

Meanwhile, Curbed LA also asks about the long-planned Hollywood Whole Foods. Early on, we heard it would be built on the former site of The Velaslavasay Panorama (above), just west of Western Ave. on Hollywood Blvd. (When the Panorama folk were forced out, they blamed the coming Whole Foods.)

The panorama building is long gone, but the lot sits empty. Perhaps that portion of Hollywood wasn't quite acceptable just yet for Whole Foods. Then, as Curbed LA mentions, drawings of the proposed development on the Derby site in Los Feliz included a Whole Foods.

But, as Mitch Glaser -- who also discusses the Whole Foods/Hollywood question -- notes, word is Whole Foods got scared away by the furor over the potential demolishment of the Derby.

One interesting possibility, mentioned by an inside source: What if Whole Foods moved into the Albertsons on Hillhurst? It's not unprecedented -- Whole Foods took over the Albertsons (formerly Lucky) store at 3rd and Fairfax. And that Albertson's was a dump, just like the one on Hillhurst. Just a thought.

No comments: