Monday, November 23, 2009

Fun Finds Along the Arroyo Seco

One of the great pleasures of living along the Arroyo Seco Corridor are the fun finds ~ usually inexpensive ~ that make urban adventures worth having. Here are a few of my recent favorite things, each of which I enjoyed for less than 5!

1. The 'Mayan Mocha' at Antigua Coffee House, 3400 No Figueroa St., Cypress Park: A sweet, smooth concoction that will make you forget the stresses of the day. Great little coffee spot with wi-fi and sandwiches, too! (

2. New Puppy LA Gallery at 2808 Elm Street #1, Cypress Park: This is my new favorite art gallery find...and best of all, I discovered that my pal Alex owns it. Beautiful space (you must see the bathrooms....really) with interesting shows and interesting people. (

3. Huarache Azteca Restaurante: I love this place for....what else...the huaraches! You will get an amazing authentic meal here.  A small family restaurant at 5225 York Blvd in Highland Park, this local eatery attracts everyone from hipsters to bohemes to construction workers to latinos/as who know the real thing when they taste it. No website but you can call them at 323-478-9572.

4. Travel Town in Griffith Park: OK, I know this is along the LA River, not the Arroyo Seco, but have you been to this long-time attraction lately? It's now a wonderful family museum with FREE admission and FREE parking that will touch the hearts of anyone who loves trains (and early autos, too). For a mere $2.50, you can ride the miniature train with your child (or grandchild or significant other!) and during the holidays, they have special evening 'Santa' rides, too!  (

5. Bulgarini Gelato Artigiande: What can you say about the most amazing little gelato shop tucked away in the most ugly shopping center in Altadena? Only that you'll NEVER taste better, more authentic gelato than you will here, at a price that will lure you back several times a week. (

Happy Exploring!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Heroes of the Hahamongna - One in a Series

Growing up in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York gave Mary Barrie a natural affinity for the mountains and nature. Perhaps that's one reason why when she and her family moved to Southern Califoronia, they settled in the San Gabriel Mountains foothills of La Canada-Flintridge.

An avid hiker, dog walker and equestrian, Mary began exploring this natural wonderland on its many varied trails and byways. These walks brought her to a meeting of the La Canada-Flintridge Trails Council, where she quickly became involved with numerous trail clearance and restoration projects.

Shortly thereafter, Mary's family became involved with Rose Bowl Riders, which for years has been a tenant of the City of Pasadena with stables, riding ring and clubhouse in the Hahamongna Watershed Park.

Many people may not know this, but the Hahamongna is almost a grand hub for hiking and horse trails that wind northward into the Angeles National Forest and southward along the scenic Arroyo Seco River into South Pasadena.

Throughout the past 21 years, Mary has watched the changes happening in the Hahamongna Basin: the closing of the gravel pit operation and the creation of the Hahamongna Watershed Park, along with the adoption of the Hahamongna Master Plan, an element of Pasadena's Arroyo Seco Specific Plan.

As meetings and discussions grew about the future uses of the Hahamongna and the Hahamongna Annex, Mary quickly moved into activist mode, using her skills as a law librarian to research both the history of this natural basin and the myriad of planning and legal documents its potential future has engendered.

Why such vigilance? Because Mary believes that the Hahamongna Watershed Park is a special rustic expanse that should not be developed and that every little 'modification,' whether a new road here or the cutting of major trees there, can easily lead to the 'slippery slope' of massive real estate development. She also wants the City to implement the Master Plan that's been officially approved and is concerned about how plan elements are being nibbled around the edges by proposed staff modifications not formally adopted within the Master Plan approved by the Pasadena City Council in 2003. When discussing her passion for Hahamongna, Mary notes the many efforts over the past century to construct everything from amphitheatres to museums on this unique parcel, which also plays a key role in the City of Pasadena's water future due to its storage capacity behind Devil's Gate Dam and its spreading fields.

Even if you haven't met Mary, you probably already know her if you attend any community or city commission/council open space, environmental, or recreation meetings in Pasadena and La Canada-Flintridge. Yes, she is relentless. Yes, she sometimes irritates people because she can be seen as an obstructionist to 'progress.'

But Mary is passionate about the Hahamongna and this passion keeps her vigilant even after 10 long years of activism. For Mary is not looking at just the Hahamongna of today ~ she sees herself as a just another person in a long continuum of community leaders who have helped Hahamongna beat the odds for over a century and remain a beautiful expanse of natural, biodiverse open space where people can enjoy passive recreation through hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, disc golf, and just sitting and meditating among the beautiful, mature grove of oak trees.

Mary's forward vision and activism to keep the Hahamongna rustic for future generations is why she is a Hero of the Hahamongna.

Monday, November 9, 2009

California Water Week in Review

The first week of November 2009 was quite a week for water in California.

First, the Chino Basin Water District decided to postpone its massive surplus water auction, which had gained international attention and a projected auction bidding of up to $1000 per acre foot!

More importantly, the California State Assembly and Senate passed a series of bills to create an $11 billion bond package for voters to consider in November 2010 to revamp the state's aging and overstrained water delivery system.

The new water bill's approval came just as UCLA Law's Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment was holding its symposium, "Adapting to a Parched Future: Cities, Development, and the War for Water."

While the initial focus of this seminar was on water/development issues, the newly approved water legislation quickly took center stage among the esteemed panel, which included Ellen Hanak, Director of Research and Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California;  Peter Hsiao, Head of the Los Angeles Land Use and Environmental Law Group, Morrison & Foerster LLP; Brandon Goshi from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California - ably pitch-hitting for CEO Jeff Kightlinger; and Mark Gold, President, Heal the Bay.  Cara Horowitz, Sabin Family Fdn Executive Director, Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, served as moderator.

Ellen Hanak presented the opening overview of California's current water situation, which is well-known to those of us who follow this issue. She was followed by comments from Brandon Goshi on the importance of water conveyance during normal seasons to replenish the massive storage instructures that MWD has built in Southern California, notably Diamond Valley Lake. He added that MWD supported the water bill package  because it serves the dual goal of ecosystem restoration and reliable water supply delivery.

Peter Hsiao veered the topic back towards water solutions through a thoughtful presentation on how new solar energy panel transmission in the Owens Valley can generate both important non-hydroelectric energy to Southern California as well as mitigate the tremendous windstorms and environmental damage created by the overdrafting of the Owens River for so many years.

Mark Gold explained why Heal the Bay opposed the legislative water package, noting that it tended to nibble around the edges of the problem, rather than promise true water reform. He also stated his misgivings about whether the $11 billion package would pass voter muster next November, adding that even if it did pass, the current inability of the State of California to sell bonds for already enacted Proposition 84, (a water bond act passed two years ago), did not bode well for future bond sales of any type. Asked if HTB would oppose the bond ballot measure itself, Mark stated that it was too early to tell, since that would be a decision of his board of directors. He opined that HTB might stay neutral on the issue.

On a positive note, Mark did state that he felt that several local efforts in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties were bearing fruit in developing with groundwater cleanup and low impact development.

A spirited question and answer period followed, with panelists answering questions from whether the bond will pass (Ellen Hanak predicted yes, since it won't raise taxes and there's something for everyone in it, like a Christmas tree) to the absence of an agriculture representative on the panel.

It's important to note that the approved bond legislation does not include the construction of a new statewide water conveyance (a la the Peripheral Canal), along insiders tell me that the major water users are seeking ways they can fund it in partnership with federal stimulus money.

So what does the juxtaposition of a massive multi-billion dollar water bond with the potential sale to private parties of over 240,000 acre feet of privately managed water mean?

My crystal ball indicates that we will continue to see the powerful disconnect between water politics and reality for at least the next 24 months. Even in a best case scenario for the water bond, its passage next November means that those bonds won't even be floated until spring of 2011 and funding won't flow until fall of that year at the earliest.

How, then, will this affect the small, average water user in the meantime? I don't think it's a stretch to predict continued water rationing with greater fines, more water pipe bursts, and continued ecosystem damage in the delta, coupled with sporadic environmental damage throughout the state in such areas as the Station Fire burn area, where massive water run-off in the Arroyo Seco watershed and possible mudslides, regardless of the amount of rainfall, is inevitable.