Sunday, October 11, 2009

Earthside Wild Grape Wine

You know those grapes I posted about last month? Well, they're on their way to becoming wine. Here's the story:

In early September we went back to Earthside to sample the grapes. Since many had already turned to raisins and others were on their way to waste, I decided it would be OK if we picked a bag or two of ripe grapes. We ate and picked. Don't know why, but "foraged food" always tastes especially good.

By the way, these are Wild Grapes, Vitis Girdiana also called Wild Desert Grapes or southern California Wild Grapes. They are native to southern California and grow in chapparal woodlands, streamside, or canyon bottoms. The grapes were used by the Cahuilla of southern California for wine and raisins.

Here's our bounty all washed and ready to be crushed, which I did by hand.

Straining the grape juice. Cleaning the buckets and straining the juice, you do that repeatedly.
After adding yeast, it was less than a day before the juice started to ferment. Then its just a matter of time, mixing the juice up, straining and re-straining the juice.

Here's the finished product -- Earthside Wild Grape Wine, Vintage 2009.

The whole process was fun and we learned a lot. There are certainly things we'll do different next time. Mainly, the recipe we used called for added water, which we won't do again. Meanwhile, figure we'll open the first bottle sometime early next summer.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vin Scully at Work

Came down with a bad case of nostalgia the other day. Just being at the stadium sends me back to my first game as a boy. It was a long time ago, but I still have the tickets.

The Dodgers don't miss a beat on this nostalgia thing. Everywhere, you see the old and the new. There are the retired numbers over the outfield. Fans wear Dodger jerseys with player names that span the decades. And Dodger Vision -- that giant TV screen in left field -- runs clip after clip that blends the the old stars and the old glory with the new.

Then there's Vin Scully. He's been calling Dodger games since 1950. In one man, he connects Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Robinson to Ramirez, Koufax to Kershaw. And he connects us to all the history that is the Dodgers.

Like millions of others, I've heard Scully's voice my whole life. Over transistors, in backyards, on bikes, in cars, stores, homes. Wherever there's a radio, there has been Vin Scully, his stories and Dodger baseball.

So, here's Vin Scully at work. Unfortunately, my camera couldn't get much detail. But, it shows enough to make my point.

Scully's the guy in the KABC booth, calling the game solo, as is his custom. Blue shirt and tie. Headset on, he's got the game below, a monitor in front and pages neatly arranged on his desk.

I like how Scully's work style contrasts with the TBS announcers. The TBS booth looks like a flurry of activity -- three monitors, notes on the desk, notes on the wall, announcers flipping pages with help standing behind. But, Scully is the picture of control in his neat, organized booth. And while the other announcers have slumped shoulders and their heads down, the 81 year old Scully is sitting tall at the edge of his chair, eyes forward.

Doing his job, sitting at the edge of his chair, at 81 years old!

Scully, the Dodgers, Los Angeles -- its all been an unbelievably good fit. For all of us.

He has all the accolades a baseball announcer could ever have. What more to say than thank you.

And, I suspect, Vin Scully would return the thanks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dodgers 3 Cardinals 2

You can watch a million games and you won't see what happened tonight.

The improbable stage was set: Bottom of the ninth, Cardinals up 2-1. With two outs, James Loney hits a routine fly ball to left. Surely the game is over. But, amazingly, Cardinal left fielder Matt Holliday drops the ball. At the last minute he turns his glove away and the ball smacks him in the stomach. After the game one Cardinal complained that Holliday lost the ball in a sea of white towels the crowd was waving. Holliday said it was the lights. No matter. The Dodger's had new life.

With this one improbable error, you could feel the crowd's expectation. It was as if we knew the Cardinals were going to unravel and somehow the Dodgers would win. And it happened.

The team and the crowd went wild.

Mark Loretta got the game winning hit. Dogpile on Loretta. This was a stunner.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Four East Pasadena Issues for the General Plan Update

As promised, here are my top planning issues concerning East Pasadena that I think should be discussed and be part of the city's updated General Plan.

1. Eaton Wash Trail

And the winner of the award for longest planned project never built is ..........................
The Eaton Wash Trail!
Seventy-eight years after the first plan, we have a trail of plans, but still no trail.

First, there was this 1932 plan that I posted on a year ago.

1932 Plan for Eaton Canyon Park

Then there was the 1967 plan approved by Pasadena's Director of Parks. Really a plan for a park and trail extending from Eaton Canyon south along the wash to the southern city limits. Exciting stuff. But, the plan went nowhere.

Instead, over the years, bits and pieces of the long planned park were carved away for developent. A few acres here and there for housing developments, 30 acres for an industrial park and so it went. The old plans gathered dust on a shelf.

Then, 40 years after the city's '67 plan, the city revived plans for an Eaton Wash trail in the 2007 Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Less ambitious than earlier plans, but still holding on to the goal of a north south trail along the wash.

But, the city has never gotten behind the trail in any serious way. Most of the noise for a trail these days is provided by others -- the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy , Pasadena's Open Space Now, local bloggers and Cal Poly graduate students. The city has largely been passive while others push an Eaton Wash trail as part of a web of proposed regional trails.

In 2008, Cal Poly graduate students produced the Emerald Horseshoe Concept Plan: trail connections for the Los Angeles Region. In particular, Part 4 (be patient, it takes some time to load) of the Concept Plan presents the trail plan. With cues from decades old plans, the Concept Plan takes the Eaton Wash trail to another level -- the students revived old plans for public use of the Eaton Wash Reservoir and for a migratory bird sanctuary. They propose an Eaton Wash Plaza where the wash crosses at Colorado Blvd. and give details of how the trail connects to other trails to the north and south of the city.

The Eaton Wash trail, especially as envisioned in the Concept Plan, has the potential to directly connect the city with Eaton Canyon and with the city's natural landscape. The trail would be a much needed defining element of East Pasadena and a recreational attraction used by people across the city.

Certainly the city would have to change spending priorities to build the trail. And LA County would need to cooperate. All possible and all appropriate for a general plan discussion. Pasadena is a resourceful city. Projects the city wants tend to happen. It is time for the City of Pasadena to take hold of this long-planned project and do what it takes to build the trail.

2. Open Space

Preserve open space. Absolutely. Positively. No exceptions.

Be proactive about planning the open space under the Edison power lines. East Pas has dozens of acres of land zoned open space and sitting under power lines just growing weeds. Now that Edison is making all kinds of "green" noises, why not seize the moment and be proactive about using this land for more than weed fields. Urban farms? Community gardens?

City owned land adjacent to the Eaton Wash and between Orange Grove and Foothill. The land is zoned open space but was approved for an ice rink building 500 feet long, 116 feet wide and 54 feet high plus a parking lot for 150 cars.

The 1994 General Plan requires the city to "preserve and acquire open space." However, the city's zoning code allows construction of massive buildings, such as the proposed ice rink and a parking lot for 150 cars, on "open space" zoned land. What's the point of the open space designation if you're just going to pave it and construct massive buildings? I think there's a disconnect between what the General Plan requires (or should require) and what the zoning code allows. The zoning code should be changed.

3. Development Near the Sierra Madre Villa Metro Station
This is a big big issue. If or when building resumes, there is likely to be a lot of pressure to develop within 1/2 mile (generally walking distance) of the Sierra Madre Villa Metro Station.

Traffic is already congested along Foothill and Rosemead. Obviously how new development impacts traffic will be a huge issue.

If there are new developments, what kind of uses will they be? I'll admit to some disappointment over the lone "transit oriented" project we've seen so far. As originally planned, the corner of Foothill and Sierra Madre Villa and the old Stuart building was to include a mix of uses, including office, bio-tech uses, and some housing. Somewhere along the way, that plan got jettisoned and the entire area is now primarily devoted to housing. I'd rather have the mix of business uses and potential work opportunities than just more housing. But, hopefully future development around the metro will bring in more business uses.

Also, maybe I'm just not clued into swanky '50's styling, but the Stuart apartments just don't read enduring quality and design to me. They don't reflect the same quality or appealing design as the historic Stuart building that fronts the apartments or the Kaiser office building to the west. The apartments more reflect the untitled design of the SMV Metro Station, which seems uninspired to me as well. Standards need to be higher for future development.

4. St. Luke's Medical Center

I've posted before on the proposal to develop the St. Luke's site with condos and assisted living. DS Ventures, which bought from Cal Tech, paid way too much for the Public Service zoned St. Luke's property anticipating that they'd be able to jam condos on the site. The proposal is now on ice as the owners apparently work their way through bankruptcy. Pasadena needs to evaluate the best uses for the site and adjoining neighborhood without regard to the price paid by the westside developer. This is an exceptional and rare property with great history. Likewise, future plans for the property should be extraordinary as well. Among other possibilities, future use should include return to medical services and medical research.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Updating Pasadena's General Plan -- October 6 Meeting

The city is updating its General Plan. There are a lot of ways folks can get involved and have their voices heard. A whole list of meetings and surveys is here. For those in East Pas, there is a meeting this Tuesday, October 6 at 6:30 pm at the Stuart Pharmaceutical Building (now apartments) at 3660 E. Foothill. City representatives will talk about emerging themes for future planning of the city and receive input from those who attend.

What's so important about a General Plan? Well, a city's General Plan guides how a city develops -- where growth is allowed and how much. For instance, the city's 1994 General Plan called for development in the city's downtown and at metro stations. For better or for worse, that is what has happened. The General Plan called for protection of existing residential neighborhoods. For the most part, that has happened as well.

Imagine a Great City

The story of the city's current General Plan is a good one. It is told in the preface to the Land Use Element adopted in 1994. The story has all the elements of a good land use dispute -- a voter approved initiative to slow growth, lawsuits filed to challenge the initiative and a city leaders grappling with what to do. The city had to appease a citizenry that voted to limit growth and legal arguments of those who wanted growth.

The result was a campaign to "Imagine a Great City" and create a new General Plan. Pasadenans responded in droves. Charged to imagine a great city, 3,000 people attended more than 50 workshops to work out the city's future. When a consensus emerged, a handful of farsighted residents oversaw the wordsmithing. A General Plan emerged that has guided the city's development ever since (and served as a model for other cities).

Though we lived well west of Allen, I took part in the workshops, meetings, hearings and such that led to the new Plan. It was pretty exciting stuff -- deciding a city's future. One way or another, I've since tried to stay in touch with city planning efforts.

Public interest in city planning is not at the fever pitch it was 20 years ago. But, it probably should be, at least on the east side of town. The plan to drive growth downtown and near metro stations has played itself out over much of the central and western parts of the city. East Pas, with metro stations at Allen and Sierra Madre Villa, has seen some "transit oriented development," but could be in for a lot more. There are other issues out here too -- development of open space, use of the Eaton Wash, plans for St. Lukes and more.

Before Tuesday's meeting, I'll try to list some of the planning issues I see affecting East Pasadena.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

San Gabriel Mountains -- From Santa Anita

I think I've posted more pictures of the San Gabriel Mountains than anything else. The mountains are our "most dominant scenic assets."

Views of the mountains -- really good panoramic views -- are few and far between. Though the mountains loom a mile high behind us, it is hard to see or feel the full force of their presence. The built out city predominates.

But, if you're looking, there are mountain views to be had. Among the reasons I like East Pas are the many ground level mountain vistas that still remain. Victory Park has great views to the east. Neighboring cities have some great views too.

For this view, I travelled all the way to Arcadia. The view from Santa Anita is hard to beat.

We were there yesterday, which was Free Friday (admission is free every Friday). Watched the horses, lost a little money, but enjoyed terrific mountain views.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bear Sightings -- Bear Swimming in Upper Hastings Ranch

The Star News reports today that a bear raided some trash cans and then strolled through an Upper Hastings Ranch neighborhood apparently chased by Animal Control officers. No pictures, but the story says the bear stopped periodically to swim in some backyard pools.

Here's the part of the story I didn't like: "Had the bear damaged property, the law would have required that it be destroyed, California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Harry Morse said."

It is hard to know what has gone on before with bears in this neighborhood, but the state response seems a little heavy handed and premature. For the most part, I think folks who live near the mountain's edge welcome sightings of wildlife and take responsibility for themselves and their property. That seems right to me. There are many things you can do to deter wildlife from getting into your trash for instance.

But, is it really that stark for the state authorities. You call them and if there's any property damage -- bang the bear's gone? Isn't there something else they can do? I would think a little more measured response is in order from the state authorities. There must be some reasonable alternatives that have not been explored.


This summer we've seen an increase in wildlife activity in NE Pas neighborhoods. I think the increase started even before the fires. The Station Fire burned a lot of wildlife habitat and presumably either killed many wild animals or forced them into unburned areas of the mountains. Since the unburned areas are closest to neighborhoods, it will be interesting to see whether we see even more bears and other wildlife in our NE Pas neighborhoods.