Creating Public Art: One ‘Box’ At A Time

August 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles has been called the mural capital of the world.

It’s a reputation Councilman Jose Huizar hopes to expand: one utility box at a time.

In 2012, Huizar spearheaded the adoption of a new citywide ordinance that gives artists greater latitude for creating murals on some private and some public properties. It was the reversal of an earlier ban on most murals, which some people complained were out of control.

Now the councilman is spearheading a campaign to transform nondescript utility boxes in his District into public art.

The latest effort is in Highland Park where the councilman, Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council and Highland Park Chamber of Commerce are running a voter-driven contest to find artists who will be allowed to paint their vision on one of 15 utility boxes along Figueroa Street and York Boulevard.

Huizar spokesman Rick Coca says the councilman was inspired to bring the transformative project while working on the mural ordinance. “…The Councilmember saw a couple of utility boxes that had been painted and he really liked them and thought this is something we should do on a big scale to promote public art,” Coca said.

To date, from Downtown LA to Boyle Heights and El Sereno, over 100 utility boxes have been painted in Council District 14. The utility boxes, which are really traffic signal cabinets, are now pieces of art showing the identity of each neighborhood.

The contest has already drawn over 50 submissions from local artists. Designs range from very simple and joyful letters and flowers, to more elaborate entries featuring a myriad of characters and city scenes.

Contest sponsors are hoping the community will become engaged in the project and go to Huizar’s website – – to vote for their favorite sketches.

Utility boxes throughout city council district 13 will soon be covered with art. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Utility boxes throughout city council district 13 will soon be covered with art. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Artist Andrew Cervantes last year was chosen to put his art on a utility box in El Sereno. He says it is a very gratifying “to see your work on the street.” His utility box mural, featuring brightly colored hummingbirds and flowers, is on Valley Boulevard and Vineburn Street.

Cervantes told EGP the project is a great way to expose younger generations to art, especially as the work is being completed in public view.

“I was in a location near a high school and students would stop and ask me if they could do that too,” Cervantes recalled. Some “showed me sketches and they had talent,” he said.

Artist Ester Petschar Rose chose to feature renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo on her utility box, located on Huntington Drive and Monterey Road in El Sereno near the fire station.

“This is a great idea because it gives opportunity to artists and at the same time people can get to meet them,” she said.

Public art is such an important component of what it means to be a community, by reflecting the neighborhood and the people in it telling a story, Huizar said.

“Now through our efforts with the Council District 14 utility art boxes, we are home to far more art boxes than any other District in the City,” the councilman said.

Huizar’s staff had to get permission for the public art project from the city’s Department of Transportation, which controls the boxes that are part of the city’s infrastructure.

“They have a function, and they can get removed for a variety of reasons,” noted Coca. “It’s rare, but it happens. Often, we have artists come back and do another box when that happens,” he said.

Residents and stakeholders are encouraged to vote for their favorite sketches before the Aug. 20 deadline. Each voter can choose up to five sketches. The winners will be announced Aug. 24.

For more information, contact Councilman Jose Huizar’s Office at (323)254-5295 or email

Woman Arrested For Calling In Bomb Threat

August 6, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

The California Highway Patrol announced last week the arrest of a 49-year-old woman suspected of calling in a bomb threat that forced the evacuation of its dispatch center in Eagle Rock.

The threat was made to the dispatch center about 3:45 p.m. July 28, CHP Sgt. Jose Nunez said. Calls were rerouted to other dispatch centers and thefacility was evacuated until the all-clear was given just before 6 p.m., Nunez said.

Margaret Gallagher, who allegedly admitted making the call, was arrested about 9:15 that night at a home in Ventura County and was booked on suspicion of making a terrorist threat, the sergeant said.

It was not divulged how investigators identified Gallagher as the suspect, and no possible motive was given.

Gallagher was released from custody on July 29 and is due in Superior Court in Ventura on Aug. 12, according to Ventura County sheriff’s online inmate records.

Father Killed Rescuing Son

July 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

 A 53-year-old man was stabbed to death in Eagle Rock while trying to rescue his son from two assailants, who were later arrested, police said Sunday.

The knifing happened near Figueroa Street and La Loma Road at 7:55 p.m., not far from the July 4th Rose Bowl firework show.

Paramedics rushed the 53-year-old man to a hospital, where he died from his wounds, said Los Angeles police officer James Richter of the Media Relations Section.

Two male suspects fled into the night after the stabbing, but shortly after they were tracked down by police to a nearby location and taken into custody without incident, Richter said.

The suspects have not been publicly identified, but they were about 25 and 45 years old, he said. The age of the victim’s son was not immediately available.


Obama Concludes L.A. Visit with ‘Garage Interview’

June 19, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

To the relief of commuters across the Southland, President Barack Obama wrapped up a  21 1/2-hour visit to Los Angeles today with an interview conducted by comedian Marc Maron in the garage of his Highland Park home for his podcast “WTF with Marc Maron.”

The president’s trip to the neighborhood just blocks from Occidental College, where he studied as an undergraduate, caused street closures and traffic delays from the 134 Freeway off of Figueroa to Colorado and on York Boulevard from Figueroa to Avenue 51.

Commuters may not have been happy to be inconvenienced, but spectators of all ages excitedly lined the route hoping to catch a glimpse of the president and his motorcade.

The closures lasted about four hours, from 8 a.m. to a little after 12 noon.

The contents of Obama’s conversation with Maron will not be released until the podcast is uploaded and made available on Monday morning.

“I’m fairly certain this is the first time a president of the United States has been interviewed in a garage,” principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One en route from Los Angeles to San Francisco. “But we thought it was a very unique opportunity for the president to take some time, again, away from the sort of daily back-and-forth of what’s in the news on any particular day, but really offer listeners the opportunity to have more insight into how he makes decisions, what his day-to-day lifestyle is like, what he’s thinking about in terms of his family, his past, his futu— a lot of those sort of personal reflections.”

The conversation was the latest in a series of interviews Obama has granted to unconventional sources, following the online talk show “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis” and the YouTube personality GloZell.

Obama In Highland Park Today

June 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Comedian Marc Maron will interview President Barack Obama in the garage of his
Highland Park home for his podcast “WTF with Marc Maron.”

“We think this is an opportunity to have an extended candid conversation, not necessarily about news of the day items, but I think this is going to be much more about areas of the president’s life that don’t always get reported in the news,” principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told
reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Los Angeles.

The podcast is scheduled to be uploaded Monday.

Closures in the area will start around 8 a.m. at the 134 Freeway and Colorado Boulevard and continue until 12 noon. Street closures around Yoork Boulevard and North Avenue 51; Yosemite Drive and North Avenue 56.

The president arrived in Los Angeles Thursday.

Obama told supporters at a fundraiser Thursday night he hoped they would leave with the sense that completing “the unfinished business we’ve got… depends on you.”

If we want the change we believe in, then we’re going to have to work harder than ever in our own communities and in our own places of worship and in our own workplaces and reflect those values and ideals and then push this society and ultimately push Congress in the direction of change,” Obama told a crowd of approximately 250 at the home of filmmaker Tyler Perry near Beverly Hills.

Obama also used the 23-minute speech to recount his accomplishments as president — including the improved economy; increased production of wind and  solar power; rising high school graduation rates; fewer people without health insurance; and cutting the budget deficit.

“There’s almost no measure by which one could argue that we have not

made significant progress over these last 6 1/2 years,” Obama told the crowd that included “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, series co-star January Jones, Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA, and former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

“But we’ve got so much work to do. There’s so much that’s left undone. We still live in a country in which the idea of equal opportunity is not felt, is not experienced, is not lived for too many young people.”

Obama went on to call for “reforming our criminal justice system in a way that we are not incarcerating nonviolent offenders in ways that renders them incapable of getting a job after they” are released; increased spending on research and making college more affordable.

Obama will leave Highland Park and head to the San Francisco area, where he will speak at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and fundraisers for the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The president is expected to return to Southern California on Saturday, spending the night in the Coachella Valley.

Eagle Rock Machete Attack Victim Recovering

May 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

 A machete attack Tuesday night in Eagle Rock is the result of a night of drinking between co-workers, ABC 7 reported Wednesday.

The attack occurred around 9:30 p.m. at a home in the 2300 block of Yosemite Drive, the station reported.

One of the two unidentified men claimed someone had stolen his cellphone and then started slashing the victim in the head with the machete, according to police.

Hearing screams, the victim’s family took the machete from the suspect, but then attacked him using the weapon.

Police said Wednesday that both men are recovering.

The suspect is facing a charge of attempted murder.

‘Sleeping Driver’ Hits Woman, Children Walking on Sidewalk

May 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A woman and two children were hospitalized in stable condition after they were struck by a vehicle on a sidewalk in Eagle Rock Monday night.

The vehicle driver had fallen asleep, Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Roy Escalante said.

The accident occurred on the 1600 block of Yosemite Drive around 8:40 p.m. The vehicle struck a tree and then a 55 year-old woman pushing a stroller with two children, Escalante said.

The driver had not been booked, but the incident remained under investigation, Escalante said.


Fire Burns Grass Lot In Eagle Rock

April 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Fire burned approximately two acres of grass Tuesday in Eagle Rock, but no one was injured.

Firefighters dispatched to the 4600 block of Townsend Avenue at 6:17p.m. took 38 minutes to put the fire out, said Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

No structures near the fire were threatened by the flames, Scott said.

A cause of the fire was under investigation, he said.

Reservoir Repairs Could Strain Water Supply in Eagle Rock, Echo Park

March 13, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Department of Water and Power officials asked water customers in downtown and northeast Los Angeles this week to conserve water for the next two months while the Eagle Rock and Solano reservoirs undergo repairs.

The Eagle Rock Reservoir, which serves northeast Los Angeles, is getting valves in preparation for a new cover, and a liner is being installed at the Solano Reservoir, which serves areas near Dodger Stadium, such as Echo Park, and parts of downtown Los Angeles.

The work will put a strain on the amount of water that will be available for the area, DWP officials said.

“We are making these short-term operational changes to our system to make sure we can safely work on key infrastructure repairs in Eagle Rock and Solano while maintaining dependable water service for our customers,” said Marty Adams, LADWP Senior Assistant General Manager of the water system.

The utility is taking steps to make sure the work will not affect service in these areas, Adams said, but “the distribution system will definitely be stretched to its limits for the next two months.”

“We continue to urge Angelenos to conserve water as part of Mayor Garcetti’s goal of reducing citywide water consumption by 20 percent,” he said.

School Board Candidates Debate in Eagle Rock

February 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Three candidates running for a spot on the board of the second largest school district of the country were at Eagle Rock High School Monday evening, taking part in forum where they told voters why they should represent District 5 on the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education.

The school’s auditorium was nearly packed, with many of those in attendance there to support their preferred candidate, incumbent Bennett Kayser, or one of his two challengers, professor Andrew Thomas and charter school executive Ref Rodriguez.

District 5 covers a large and diverse area that includes schools in the southeast communities of South Gate, Cudahy, Maywood and Huntington Park, as well as east and northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods like Highland Park, Cypress Park, El Sereno, East L.A., Mt. Washington, Lincoln Heights and Eagle Rock among others.

(Left to right): Ref Rodriguez, Andrew Thomas and incumbent Bennet Kayser speak to a large audience about their future plans for the District 5. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

(Left to right): Ref Rodriguez, Andrew Thomas and incumbent Bennet Kayser speak to a large audience about their future plans for the District 5. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The seven-member school board oversees LAUSD’s $7 billion budget and sets policy for District’s 1,000 schools; 650,000 students; and more than 45,000 employees.

It was the first debate with all three candidates in attendance: Kayser and Thomas opted to not take part in a debate sponsored by the United Way of Greater L.A. and a diverse group of community partners Jan. 28 at the Goodwill Community Center in Lincoln Heights, leaving Rodriguez as the only participant.

Kayser’s absence in particular raised the ire of several community groups, who in a news release said his “refusal to participate” deprived the community of “an opportunity to meet all candidates, learn their values, strategies and ideas for the Board and the District,” which is key to voters deciding which “best meets the needs of their children and local schools.”

Kayser responded to the criticism Monday, distributing a written statement explaining he had participated in multiple other election-related forums, interviews and Q and A’s and that “Debating debates is pointless.” The concerns facing District 5 “are too large for us to waste another moment on this contrived issue.”

At Monday’s forum, moderated by education journalist Annie Gilbertson, Kayser said his time as a board member has benefitted LAUSD students. He said he voted to add $34 million for early childhood education and adult education as well as sponsoring hundreds of fieldtrips. He is a big supporter of providing better programs for students with special needs, he said.

Thomas said his two children attend LAUSD schools and the experience has left him unsatisfied with the quality of schools throughout the district. “Three out of ten LAUSD school students are not graduating,” he said. The next school board needs to fix the District’s budget and implement Common Core –that sets high academic standards in math and English language arts/literacy, he said.

In 1999, Rodriguez co-founded “Partnerships to Uplift Communities,” a network of highly respected charter schools. He said the achievement and excellence gap could be closed by providing better education to LAUSD students. Communication between parents and teachers and the board willing to collaborate is the key to success, he said.

While all three candidates seemed to find common ground on issues such as Common Core and the restoration of arts and music programs, Thomas and Keyser expressed disapproval with the growing number of charter schools in the District.

Thomas said 18% of LAUSD students now attend a charter school and that takes money away from other public schools. “Every time a charter school opens they take away money from LAUSD,” he said, adding that 20% of charters are performing below the standard.

Rodriguez defended charter schools noting that many perform exceptionally well, but added that those programs that fail to provide a high quality education should be closed. While most parents move their child to a charter in search of higher quality education, much of the exodus from traditional LAUSD schools is due to parents leaving because they cannot afford to stay in the city.

“It’s not about charters taking away kids, it’s about parents [leaving],” he said.

All three candidates agreed that teachers are vital to providing high quality education and they need an environment that allows them to do their best.

Keyser said teachers need more flexibility in their lessons. Rodriguez said teachers should to be paid better. Thomas said that the biggest priority is to reduce teacher-student ratio.

In regards to the Local Control Funding Formula, a new funding mechanism that allocates more money to schools with large numbers of special need students, English Learners (EL), and students in foster care, Rodriguez said the funds should support high quality proficiency programs. “Schools need peer coaching, peer training, especially for foster kids and low-income kids.”

During the forum, Thomas called for greater transparency at the District. “Schools have decided for the second year in a row not to publish results” on the Common Core standards and that’s not acceptable, he said.

Kayser said programs and services for children with special needs should be required at schools with low-income families.

“I have a son who goes to King Middle School and it is a good opportunity to see where each candidate stands,” Norma Lopez told EGP following the forum.

“It’s good to see diversity among the candidates,” added Gabriel Sandoval.

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