Monday, August 29, 2011

Community involvement: SB 1818 vs. the working committee meeting...

Received this email from Tomi Lyn Bowling regarding community participation at working committee meetings...her point is well taken with regard to avoiding public "burnout" however I feel the public is a vital contributor and should not be left to the final hour to get involved. Bowling made it a point when the Samoa Ad Hoc Committee was formed at the last STNC Land Use Committee meeting, to agendise and Brown Act this special working group, therefore making it open to the public. The public is needed to participate and assist the group. Already, the lions share of the research fell to a mere two Ad Hoc members and one community member.

I feel an informed public is the most serious adversary to right the wrongs and this subject is no easy one to comprehend without advance preparation and study; hence a special group to prepare the arguments against the Samoa Project. I also feel the public should be involved at this early stage because it is the best way to understand it all and finally I feel it is better to let a public speak from the heart because they really know what they are talking about rather than chant slogans someone else tells them too!

The best way to get started is to attend tonights STNC Land Use Committee meeting in which Bill Skiles, the chair of the Ad Hoc Working Committee will present the results so far on the Samoa working committee; if you feel moved to participate, attend tomorrow nights working committee meet and roll up your sleeves to help your community! Both meetings are at 7747 Foothill in Tujunga; tonights is at 7pm and tomorrow's is at 7:30 pm.

The email from Tomi Lyn Bowling is as follows:

Hi Terre!
Thanks for spreading the word about the Samoa project!
I just wanted to let you know that there will be meetings in the future, like when the developer comes, and when city council has attendees, where we will need massive outreach and as many people as possible to come and speak out.

These meetings with the team are more of a working group, each one researching and bringing their homework back to coordinate possible avenues to take for getting this project either fixed to make it more compatible to the area or removed from the use of SB1818 etc. If more people want to help with that research and development then that would be incredibly helpful!!!

However, if they think it's a rally meeting or one where they can voice their opposition they may be disappointed. If we have gotten people to come to these working meetings, when they thought it was a chance for them to speak out, they sometimes burn out and feel the meetings are a waste of time.  When we really need all of the shoulders to the wheel and as many voices as possible to be heard is the later meetings when the developer comes.

Just wanted to make sure you let folks know this is a working meeting.

Thanks again for all of your help!

Tomi Lyn Bowling
[And from Kathleen Travers: this invitation to the community has been posted:
I agree with Tomi regarding frustration and burnout from the general public were they to come to the SB 1818 working committee hoping to voice their feelings and concerns, and agree with you, Brock Ba'jer, that the Land Use Committee general meeting might be a better focus for that, especially on dates when City or builder representatives would be there to hear those concerns. However, the working committee could use the immediate volunteer assistance of those with land use public policy experience and knowledge (especially at the State and Federal levels, and/or in housing), statisticians, geologists, certain engineers (particularly structural) and environmental experts (chiefly in air quality and flooding/ground water recharging and contamination). If you think you might be able and willing to help, and can commit several hours and work on a tight deadline, please email me at, or come to the working committee meeting]

Saturday, August 27, 2011

No Place For Hate

Five years old; Floralita Street in Sunland
A funny thing happened on the way to being someone I thought I should be, I became myself and wasn't displeased with the result.

I've been writing what I think everyone will read; but what drew you here was what I wrote before I worried about pleasing everyone. I started out as an activist and that suits me. Now I get to be who I really am... hell, why make this blog if not to write what I please? The key is: I am the writer of those things others read and sometimes say they don't. I don't care about that, what matters to me is that I am true to my self. I write because I have something to say. It's icing on the cake if you read it, but I'll write it either way.

Let me say right now: The Foothills Forum is disturbing and disturbed. Remember those evil old people with no life who ratted you out to parents; put concrete bumps on the sidewalk because your skates were too noisy; and spyed on you and your boyfriend when your parents weren't home so they could tattle-tale, but you knew they really got off on looking in your windows?! Those people are writing on the Foothills Forum. They label, accuse, convict, and condemn. They attack the homeless mercilessly. They call people vile names and accuse them of prostitution, drug use, and perversions without a shred of evidence.

Oh I know they'll get what they deserve which is the same hate they dish out. I promise. I've alerted authorities beyond our little police department to the vigilante justice one imbecile (pictured with his catch of the day) rallied everyone to join him in: driving the homeless out of town by citizen task force (emphasis on force, Kelly Thomas advocates, take note); or the spying and sneaking and peeking Frankenstein is fond of, and then theres the Sunset guy: creator of 27 different kinds of trouble and solution to none. Thank god I'm "banned for life" I might've tried to find a happy medium among these idiots.

The Foothills Forum allows hate speech and advocates pugilistic verbiage from those Mike Wilken the owner and creator has little control of, but dearly loves to egg on for more hits to his site. When someone gets hurt, and they will, blame Mike. He has no love for his FF members; he has emailed me they are all "bat-shit crazy" yet they dance to his tune and kowtow for his favor, less they be suspended for a week and suffer withdrawals.

You know how you discover a truth sometimes and wish you hadn't but it just won't go away? This is a truth, there is something seriously wrong with the hate advocated on the Foothills Forum. So where does this leave us (or me)? At the beginning... it's a long road to right the wrongs. I hope I'll glance to the side while I'm on it to see I'm not alone.

Also read and

Friday, August 26, 2011

SB1818: A Monolith on a Millimeter

You’ve got to recognize the fault with Senate Bill 1818 almost immediately: it is called the High Density Bill. It could be more accurately named: the high density, no restrictions, no safeguards, no holds barred, destroys your neighborhood, makes a mockery of your specific plan, couldn’t care less about your community, bill…

Who fell for this foolishness? Well never mind; now we have to disprove its validity for use in our town of Tujunga. Lawsuits have been filed by other communities against it; we also have to file down its teeth before it chews this community up and spits it out. And we have to be quick about it as the SB 1818 Samoa Apartments are moving forward rapidly since they are bypassing the reviews and restrictions required by other projects.

SB 1818 is the reason we have this whole fiasco over the wretched plans to build on two lots on Samoa Avenue in Tujunga. This Senate Bill literally threatens to destroy a Tujunga neighborhood, a Tujunga historical landmark (nearby Bolton Hall), Tujunga community and lifestyle, endanger current and future residents with increased traffic and crime associated with overcrowding, school age pedestrian endangerment, flooding from undirected rainwater runoff,  and more.

SB 1818 was supposed to give builders incentives to create more affordable housing which is a good thing, right? Not this time! It allows developers to build bigger buildings than allowed if it is “affordable” housing. A four story building can be built where only two stories are allowed.

SB 1818 is exempt from many other requirements as well. When SB 1818 is put into the mix it allows privileged builders to bypass many essential regulations and reviews. Chief among these is the environmental act, Specific Plan demands, public review, and regulations of numbers such as parking spaces per occupancy and allowable number of units on a lot.

The only benefits derived by SB 1818 are those garnered by the developers, who build bigger, more expensive buildings on smaller, less expensive lots and bypass the usual restrictions for a fast track to disaster.

SB 1818 passed the legislature way back in 2005 but typically when a disaster passes you by, you breathe a sigh of relief and let it go. SB 1818 amends state law; in 2008 Mayor Villaraigosa signed into law the ordinance to Senate Bill 1818, giving developers free rein to build bigger apartment complexes than are actually allowed on the available land. This year SB 1818 has come to Tujunga in the guise of an “affordable” housing project. Disaster has hit home.

Let your voice be heard and your view be known: attend the next STNC Land Use Committee Ad Hoc meeting re: SB 1818 and the Samoa Apartment Project on Tuesday, August 30th from 7:30-9:30pm at North Valley City Hall 7747 Foothill Blvd in Tujunga.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Authentic Reply To An Audacious Question Re: STs 'Best Of' Contest!

Following are two emails I've received from members of our community; the first is in reply to the one that follows it... I will let both speak for themselves. And, I encourage all Sunland Tujungans to vote in the up-coming Best of Sunland Tujunga Contest! As you can see, it's competitive...
The following e-mail is printed with permission: [Also Note: Joe Barrett can't get his own material so he cuts and pastes mine...including the edits, LOL]

From: Tomi Lyn Bowling
Cc: Terre Ashmore, Jeremy Oberstein, Joseph Mailander
Subject: Re: Upcoming "best of S-T" voting
Date: Aug 25, 2011 3:27 PM
Hi Doc,

I'm not sure why I am wasting my time, again, trying to talk to you.  You'll twist it, ignore it, and lie about it. I assure you that all Catholics don't know each other, nor do any other religious group all know each other.  Please see list below for specifics on every winner and whom I knew.

First of all there have been no failures.  The contest is one of the best outreach events of the STNC for the three years running.  Your effort to CHEAT the system by filling in the ballots with your name and the paper's name and telling people "sign here" is the only failure. I didn't challenge you publicly or accuse you of doing what you actually did do - cheat. I tried to take responsibility, make peace with you for everyone else's benefit, and move on.  You cannot seem to let it go.  You tried to cheat and then had the audacity to tell everyone in the community via your paper that I was a liar, and a cheat because I did not allow your cheating. 

Copies of your falsified ballots have been attached here so all can see the effort you made.  Cindy and Mark do not call the shots and never have. But you'll just keep saying that and anything else that comes into your head no matter if it's a lie, twisted or whatever so it's pointless to say it.

You'll be happy to know that the contest is only being done electronically, one vote per server, and is now under the leadership of David Cain, the VP for Outreach as this is an Outreach event. Please direct your concerns for the 2011 contest to him. 

You seem to have very specific viewpoints on who should win so why don't you do what other papers do: The Foothills Paper's Best of Awards.  You can just choose them yourself! I think that is a super idea! No reason why there should be only one contest, most communities have several.

Regards our ad & my writing, well we had advertised for a few months but as you recall my doing so was based on your continued effort to work with the community and not be constantly attacking them in the paper which is such a waste of time and energy.  You did not maintain that for long at all. On top of that the ad was such poor quality, we even complained, but the trashed ad remained. Finally after a repeated complaint the bill was canceled.  It seemed that you were purposely trashing my ad and that made it clear you were still mad and, as above, you concurrently continued attacking other members of the community in the paper anyway so despite your claim, you have not lived up to the bargain and continued attacking STNC and the Chamber.

Thank you for this email which proves the point that you are attempting black mail.  As long as I advertise in your paper and write for you there will be peace but if I don't you'll continue attacking me in the paper. At this point there are very few in the community who are not fully aware that when I advertise you are nice but when I don't you attack me in any way possible, even making things up as you go.

That and your earlier threats have all been duly noted and forwarded to the appropriate authorities.

Here are the awardees of 2010 and whom I knew and how (and none of this has anything to do with my religion though you'll spin some nonsense anyway):
JOSELITOS WEST   - I do not know them.
 IMAGE WEST   - I do not know them.
 IN & OUT BURGERS Tujunga  - I do not know them.
 DOMINO'S PIZZA-Tujunga   - I do not know them.
 DO IT CENTER   - I have met the manager from the No2HD days.
 KATHY'S KREATIONS  - I know of Kathy, from various means, Xmas Trees, Chamber, but do not know her personally.
 DESCANSO SPA  - I do not know them.
 TUJUNGA CANYON SHOPPING CENTER  - Don't even know their names.
 STARBUCK'S SUNLAND  - I do not know them.
 RICHARD STEWART  -  I know Richard from his involvement in the STNC and previously met him once about 20 years ago.
 TUJUNGA  - I do not know them.
 OLD TOWNE CAFÉ - I know Chris from buying food at his store.
 STEEL PIT - I do not know them.
 UPS - I do not know them.
 VONS  - I do not know them.
 VOICE OF THE VILLAGE - I know the editor from placing ads and writing for them.  Never knew him before. I know Sonia from the Chamber. I don't know any of the journalism class people.
 FASHION GAL - I don't know them.

I am not the Secretary. All documentation was left with her.  I believe they were scanned or mirofiched but I do not know. You'll have to check with the Secretary.

Joe Barrett has nothing to do with anything I do. Other than STNC business at meetings, or a few contentious emails, we do not speak.

I have no idea what HIPPA means.  Seems to me the only lying going on here is coming from you and your paper.  Even your latest issue has accused people who didn't even live here of chasing off a business! 1800Autopsy was before Cindy Cleghorn, Abby didn't live here either and there was certainly no STA.

Best, Tomi

On Aug 19, 2011, at 10:39 AM,
TO: Tomi Lyn Bowling

> Based on the failures of the past three years, have you come up with a more viable method of voting that doesn't involve Cindy and Mark calling the shots?
> Just in passing, I took umbrage at your saying that "You didn't know most of the awardees." when in fact that a goodly number of them are Scientologists also.   I lived up to my part of the bargain (I dropped the charges) you didn't do what you said you'd do (advertise and write for us).  You gave in to joe b. and let the community down.
> And you might tell Tony, no I'm not stalking you, I just want justice for the 340 people that voted for The Foothills Paper.  And now that I think about it, when are the ballots going to be made public, or are you going to continue the HIPPA lie, or the one about them being microfiched?
> Doc
> Editor
> The Foothills Paper-The Paper with an attitude!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SB 1818 vs. The FBCSP

The Ad Hoc Land Use Committee Sub-Committee to oppose the SB 1818 Samoa Affordable Housing Project met for the first time tonight. Do not for a minute think you as a stakeholder cannot attend or participate and give your input. If this is a project that concerns you (and it should) then be bold: get involved and show your support for these dedicated volunteers vs. the Goliath housing project.

Despite some contentious beginnings the group managed to get through an entire list of nine Discussion Points. Bill Skiles has been elected as Committee Chair. Volunteer committee members Dean Sherer, Elaine Brown, Cindy Cleghorn and Stakeholder Kathleen Travers were assigned research projects of considerable magnitude while shared information from several knowledgeable members benefited the committee as a whole. Proceedings will be reported here in greater detail as the members begin to act upon them (the opposition is likely to prepare a defense by previewing this report so detailed information will be described when the committee has implemented it.)

The SB 1818 Samoa Project intends to build a massive 4 story complex of “affordable housing” on Samoa Street in Tujunga just 200 yards from historic Bolton Hall, a stone building that is priceless to the community and requires protection from the impact of increased traffic, parking, and land use that the proposed project would bring to the neighborhood. Of major concern to the committee is the impact of the Samoa Project on this historic resource.

Other impacts to the neighborhood include changing the flow of rainwater runoff which is already a problem, the magnitude of a four story building in a two story neighborhood, increased population (64 3-4 bedroom apartments or 200+ people but less than half the required parking spaces) increased vehicular traffic in a single lane roadway, failure to address fire truck access to the back of the structure, and numerous other issues.

What constitutes “affordable housing” was also discussed as it is reported the local residents in need may not necessarily qualify for residency in the project and of special concern are the veterans in need for whom no apparent provision appears in the project description. 

The project is inconsistent with the Foothill Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan which allows a maximum density of 55 multi-family units in this location. Although SB 1818 overrides the Los Angeles Municipal Code according to Dean Sherer, SB 1818 vs. the FBCSP is another issue, as Councilman Krekorian approved the Samoa Project with a letter of recommendation that it adhere to the FBCSP.

There is a probability there will be an attempt to push this project through without a public hearing but this Ad Hoc Committee will work to thwart that action and bring it to public review. Of special note is the appeal process; the Sunland Tujunga Alliance cannot file an appeal as they have done with other projects. A Planning Directors administrative decision on an SB 1818 project can only be appealed by an adjoining property owner.

The next meeting of the Ad Hoc Land Use Committee’s Sub-Committee will be on August 30th at 7:30 pm in the North Valley City Hall.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh Boy! Where's the yard sale?!

It’s the Great American Past-time: everyone loves a yard sale! We're all "American Pickers"! You might find the treasure of a lifetime for a dollar! You’ll never know adventure till you follow the “humongous yard sale” sign! 

This sign for the biblically proportioned sale was featured on Best of Craig’s List and scored big-time hits. Yard sales are a treasure hunt for the buyer and an opportunity for the seller to "de-clutter" and be rewarded for their effort. I can't imagine suburbia without this traditional exchange of goods.

For some it is a humbling experience: they're paying the rent or moving from foreclosure. It's vitally important they make a sale. It soothes the soul to see family treasure go to another family. In fact the history of yard sales goes back to the Depression era when families pared down belongings to what would fit in their vehicles as they moved to where the work was. Belongings were sold to those left behind. In all honesty that act preserved Mid-western American history as artifacts were salvaged and saved. Some of the best attended yard sales today advertise "Antiques, Vintage and Collectibles".

Sunland Tujunga has yard sales every weekend. In fact it is the go-to place for yard sales! Residents and visitors attend church, then go to yard sales, the farmers market and Sunday dinner at a local restaurant. It’s tradition. You can travel the commercial corridor of Foothill Boulevard and see dozens of enticing signs beckoning you to follow them to the "sale of sales"!  They are splendiferous in their artwork and neon colored creativity as posters cry to "buy our great stuff"!

More visitors (and their pocketbooks) are encouraged to come to Sunland Tujunga every weekend to spend money at yard sales than are drawn to local businesses. But while they're here they shop Sunland Tujunga's stores, attend the farmers market, and eat Sunday brunch! Surrounding communities have severe restrictions on yard sales which makes Sunland Tujunga's all the more unique to the community.

The problem is the ordinances for yard sales and signs are not in agreement. Are yard sales legal? Are permits required? What about those signs? What are the rules?

There's 'good news' and 'not so good news'. Yard sellers can breathe a sigh of relief! Yard sales are allowed in Sunland Tujunga by the Planning Commission and the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Sellers can have up to five sales a year for two days each, totaling 10 days and they must be between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm. Goods for sale must be used items belonging to the sellers. New merchandise is prohibited. No permit is required. Originally limited to two sales per year, this was amended to five per year in 1996 by then Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg.

The yard sale ordinance is enforced by the Department of Building and Safety who depends on a self-policing community with community members reporting violators rather than having limited personnel in the department keep track of the number of sales per site. "A self-policing community" is a crucial element to continued yard sales and removal of out-of-date signs!

Here's the rub: The signs (including signs for lost pets, farmers markets, and rentals) are in violation of Los Angeles Municipal Code Chapter 6; Article 7; Section 67. Granted they are deliberately overlooked and even allowed by the city. After all how do you find a sale without the sign? Craigslist only brings a small percentage of buyers; the majority who simply arrive in the community expectantly looking for signs never read Craigslist. A poll at several yard sales finds those who follow the arrows on signs have driven to Sunland Tujunga to look for the signs. One buyer said "I really like your (community's] quaint country ways and funny homemade signs" she and her friends "come here every weekend for great fun." When asked how much she spent she laughed, "more than I want to say."

Joseph Mailander, the author of the blog Street Hassle sent this insightful e-mail: “Given the city's penchant for permitting …every stripe of commercial billboard blight imaginable, it's almost unbelievable to me that they would codify anything additional at all about handmade signs.  To me, this is just another case of narrow but squeaky commercial interests bullying broader but quiet residential interests.

"There is already an enormous gulf between de juris and de facto practice here, and why add to that?  Given police resources, I can't believe anyone wants to further burden the LAPD or Planning Department with more code enforcement and calls ratting out strapped homeowners for putting up garage sale signs."

Mailander adds a suggestion many have already voiced "…we have an unwritten policy in Los Feliz: if you put up a sign in the morning, take it down in the evening.  It's a word-of-mouth, neighborly policing, and it's very effective.  Generally, as a garage sale sign has an address on it, if the neighbor doesn't take down their signs, someone will slip them a friendly note the next day."

An easy conversation with Councilman Krekorians aide Jeremy Oberstein, resulted in the suggestion this blog present its idea of self policing to the community. So, it should work the same way it does for visitors to Big Tujunga Canyon: "pick up behind yourself and someone else."

Everyone who holds a permitted yard sale brings a positive image to our community and can enhance that by taking down the signs they put up when the sale is over. Take down a few others that are out of date while you're at it. To continue with this "great fun" as one buyer called it, we should self police our signs. Besides, we all know where you live...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Butterflies in Yucatan

And now: a brief intermission while I research several new articles. Here is a story of another time and place in the interim...

Butterflies in Yucatan: 12/84
In Yucatan I chased my soul. I don’t know when it left me. I was touring pyramids on my honeymoon with a man I never knew. I was in agony, wondering if I’d chosen the wrong mate. I wanted to escape more than my vows… I wanted to leave behind all falsehood and find something true.

At Uxmal I broke my restraints to the Tour Group of Bermuda Shorts. They were glad to see me go, we also were unequally yoked. As they walked faster to avoid being paired with me, I began to fall back from them and veer off the Assigned Path. No one noticed or objected; the native tour guide looked right through me and turned his back as though to say ‘I knew you’d go’. My rehearsed litany of complaint went unsung. My ‘husband’ was entranced by a pair of voracious twins from Nooyauk. I hoped they’d take him home with them.

I don’t remember when it began, there seemed a shift in time and place. I was struggling defiantly up the stones toward an opening in the wall that was not solidly repaired; I could see inviting plants and flowers through the opening. There appeared to be a trail, so I followed it down the other side and away from the pyramid. A sense of timelessness fell upon me. Something enveloped me and was so familiar I mistook it for my self. Music began to play softly like my breath and being; I followed it like one entranced. Nothing in this life could have deterred me.

I’d been listening to the music for a while before I heard it. It called and beckoned over here now there. It swelled and receded like wind in the trees, though all was still. It was a lover’s voice: the pipes of Pan, I heard it clearly now and so loud I feared I’d have to share it with the others. It had no single source so I became lost in my wild pursuit of it.

I had left the group, the restored path and public pyramids, the tour, the guide, the civilized side of the ruins and climbed over the top of the sun bleached stones to plunge with abandon into the raw and untamed jungle.

Then I saw the butterflies. At first there were only a few: maize then azure then emerald petals floating lazily above the deep green; blooms I was sure were orchids became butterflies at my touch and joined the others in an erotic dance. I reached for them and they waited till I was about to touch them then danced down a trail and led me on, ever on.

They swirled in a whirlwind of tempo, in time with the rise and fall of sound. I also danced to their tune, stepping forward over fern and fall to reach for blooms that rose and flickered like bright flames through my hands only to flutter and descend a few steps farther in the forest and gather like an unthinkable bouquet of sun drenched blooms at a puddle on the forest floor.

A few became a hundred. I could hear their wings. They pulsed with sound. I thought if I could just touch them and encircle them with my arms when they rose in flight, something wonderful would happen. I followed the butterflies and music into another world. We came to a glen where all the butterflies of the forest seemed to have gathered. They encircled a small pond and vied for positions around the water’s edge. They mated and flew up in waves like confetti. The air was filled with them. The music swelled and increased, until it seemed a crescendo was about to crash down upon us all.

Suddenly the music stopped. The butterflies flew up into the trees and disappeared from view. The sound of silence swelled until it was shattered by an animal scream. It was not mine… Something was watching me through the tree trunks. Fear gripped my heart and I ran for my life.

I was disoriented, I was lost. I had traveled a half mile into the jungle. I ran this way then that and the thing that watched me followed. When I ran it ran; when I stopped it stopped. It never closed in, it paced me on a parallel path then it began driving me back to the pyramid.

When I was in sight of the pyramid I stopped to catch my breath and look for the opening in the stones I had come through. It was gone. I was on the outside, looking in. I was below a rocky rise upon which sits the long building called the Nunnery. Everything on my side was in sharp contrast to the buildings as I had left them. All was in an advanced state of ruin and decay; it felt like I had been gone for centuries.

Looking up at the Nunnery, I could see open doorways at regular intervals in the decaying stone walls. I labored to climb the rise to the nearest one. A few feet from the threshold I rose to look at my goal and, as though I was expected a heavily armed soldier swung into view deliberately blocking my way and in one graceful move swung his rifle from his shoulder to his chest and prepared to cock it. I could not see his eyes behind dark glasses but there was no intellect in his stance. I stumbled back down the rubble and climbed to the next doorway, thinking “damned socialists! They don’t know who I am.”

In perfect syncopation, an identical soldier swung into position in that doorway too. There were two more doors and two more soldiers. I sat at the bottom of the un-restored side of the ruins and stared at these four identical opponents who held their rifles across their chest, stood in blockade form and stared at the horizon over my head. I had no doubt there was a fifth and final one in the last door.

The thing in the jungle began to growl and worry like a dog with a bone, the music was stilled and no other sounds replaced it, a few butterflies were scattered about me on my rocky refuge, they were tattered now and dancing their last; reaching with ruined wings for the remains of life.

I made a mad dash for all I was worth up the rubble, along the berm, past the fifth doorway, without a glance, and around the end of the building to the carefully landscaped and paved parking lot in front of the pyramids. There my tour group was calmly waiting at the bus. I was hot, winded, scratched and bleeding. No one said a word or even thought it. I went to the end of the line.

As we waited for the guide to sign paperwork with the office, I could hear the distant strains of panpipes. No one else noticed.

The tour guide opened the bus door; sunburned tourists filed wearily in, talking colorlessly about the things they’d seen. I was last. (After all, I’d just run there from another place and time, and almost didn’t make it.)

The tour guide stopped me at the door, looked at me a long time then asked “are you married to that man?” I said yes. He had eyes the color of ice in a face burnt black by the sun under a brow like a bird of prey’s. I’d heard he was a mixed breed, unaccepted by Aztec and Mayan alike but able to speak many tongues and a guide for cultures who’d disowned him. I didn’t feel inclined to tell him what happened.

“He never asked where you went” my guide said.

“There were butterflies” I answered foolishly.

“I know.” The sunset was sliding slowly down the triangle of the pyramid, we waited for it to finish its journey; then he said, “He’s not the man for you.”

“I know,” and since I couldn’t bear the look in his eyes I got on the bus.

© Terre Ashmore 2009

Postscript: years later I saw a little Indy film called ‘El Norte’ the music and dancing butterflies are symbolic in that native culture for death and rebirth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Questions For Fresh & Easy

We owe it to ourselves as a community (and by community I mean every one) to research thoroughly every advance we make toward improvement. I desire the same things as other stakeholders in Sunland Tujunga: including a purportedly wonderful food market with fresh new ideas and merchandise. However, according to the simple research I have done about Fresh & Easy, we all need to ask more questions of them. An article from the Sunday Times in the UK dated August 4, 2007 when they first decided to take California by storm is revealing both in its scope and personal experience from Fresh & Easy’s country of origin.

I’ve been advised that an STNC board member has taken my inquiry in a personal way; such is not my intent as I do hope Fresh & Easy will overcome obstacles and become our new neighbor. But I naturally want my new neighbor to abide by the rules of my neighborhood, not change the rules to their benefit and my detriment. According to the calls and e-mail I’ve received, Sunland Tujunga has issues with alcoholism, underage drinking and DUIs. It does not bode well that an Assembly Bill concerning liquor licensing has to be created for the sole purpose of dealing with an issue arising from a merchandiser from another country. 

I also feel empathy for the other markets in the same census tract that should be equally supported by our STNC and FBCSP. Smart and Final, Foothills Market, and Albertsons are stakeholders too; in fact Albertsons was a model of decency when they bought the whole rundown Luckys site, remodeled it to perfection, then rehired all of Luckys displaced employees to serve our community faithfully. To allow a foreign market to move in without due diligence at the expense of an established American one is just plain wrong.

Questions to ask Fresh & Easy:
*Why can’t you have one or two manned checkouts for customers making alcoholic purchases?
*What percentage of our community do you intend to hire for a store in our community?
*Why can’t they have more than 20 hours of work?
*Are benefits full? Partial? Paid for by Fresh & Easy? Paid for by the employee?
*What percentage of middle and upper management is American?
*What will you do if unions (which are protected by American civil rights) petition to organize in your stores?
*What support (Youth, Arts, Schools) do you intend to give back to our community who supports you with our purchasing dollar?

Here are some other links to Fresh & Easy information sources:

[EDIT: here are more telling and interesting links; the first is F&Es own blog as they go after Targets interests and marketing strategy:
And here is one detailing behind the scenes health issues and comparison to Wal Mart practices ]

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Editorial: "Fresh & Cheeky"

Something haunts me about that comment from the Fresh & Easy spokesman “This is America!” which he quipped in reply to an audience member who inquired (at the STNC General Meeting) with concern for other markets in proximity to F&Es proposed location in Tujunga.

There was an uncomfortable silence while the speaker realized the reaction from his peers in the UK would be different from these Americans. Then again maybe he was safe as the audience didn’t quite get it… I certainly did not know Fresh & Easy was not an American company until that cheeky remark, and then I knew it in an instant.

The answer to the question is: he doesn’t care because this is America where free enterprise allows the total destruction of competition. This is especially true when your company reportedly idolizes Wal-Mart and patterns its future toward that American scheme, I mean dream. It turns out unions aren’t welcome at Fresh & Easy and locals, if hired, are only given 20 hours a week at $10 an hour. Period.

Four years ago Fresh & Easy promised to build in ‘food deserts’ where there was a shortage of good food markets for the starving public, yet they did not open in Watts (or Sunland)… they open where other stores exist and want to open in Tujunga with the likelihood they will close three other markets…that’s great marketing: ‘get one, loose three’.

Sure I love a good market and will shop there if and when Fresh & Easy opens but I think the sore spot left by loosing Trader Joes to nearby Montrose (a nod to John Drayman) made the STNC act without due diligence as to F&Es plans and expansionist ideas. (Also see the article on Assembly Bill 183 nick-named the Fresh & Easy Bill against underage liquor sales.) So what if there’s an Albertson’s, a Smart and Final, and Foothills Market all within the same census tract? That won’t last.

And about that cheeky retort “This is America!”?
That was the remark of one capitalizing on America, not celebrating it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What?! It's Obvious Governor Brown: AB 312 Needs Your Signature!

Not acceptable; I just received an email from Scott Lay who is Assemblymember Lowenthal's aide, that Governor Brown has failed to sign AB 312. What a dodgey thing to do; sidestepping the issue... why? Because the homeless (who have no address for voter registration) can't vote?

Lay has assured me AB 312 the Assembly Bill to protect the civil rights of Californias homeless from 'hate crimes' "will pass with or without Brown's signature" but I expect my elected representative to take a strong stand on the issues that concern me... and 157,000 others (the number of homeless in California).

I will keep you apprised of AB 312's progress. You can contact Assemblymember Lowenthal (who authored this Bill) to express your interest and concern at

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Bums in bushes, drinking liquor"...what is 'hate speech'?

“Cockroaches and scum”
  “Half-naked crack heads”
    “Damn ninjas in the dark”
      “Tweaks, junks, and drunks”
        “Hobo zombies” and “Stray Cats”

It sounds like a joke but it's the farthest thing from it! What have you posted on your local forum? Have you vented against the homeless? Devised ways to drive them from your community? Demanded they not be fed? It doesn’t matter when you wrote these regrettable remarks; search engines will bring them to the top. Would your post be an example of “hate speech”?

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) defines hate speech as “speech that advocates or encourages violent acts of crime or hate” and/or “speech that creates a climate of hate or prejudice, which may in turn foster the commission of hate crimes.” A website that uses hate speech is called a “hate site”.

A “hate crime” is a criminal offense committed against another person because of their race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or association with any of these groups. Soon, homelessness will be added to that list in an unprecedented move for civil rights. According to the staff for Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal who authored AB 312 “the homeless bill” will become law on January 1st, with or without Governor Brown’s signature.

Back to what you should not have posted: when law enforcement investigates crime, part of that investigation includes gathering and recording information about the motivation behind the crime. This information is included in reports that are sent to prosecuting attorneys. Although currently protected by free speech, hate speech can be motivation. Think about what you wrote…

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) in Washington D.C. is compiling a study on hate crimes against the homeless and how and where and why they originate. When interviewed about our homeless population and their future here in LA County…the conversation naturally turned to the tide of resentment voiced on the local forum and the drive to run the homeless out of town. Even the objections to feeding them is listed as a form of hate according to their study titled Hate Crimes Against The Homeless, America’s Growing Tide of Violence.

Following that conversation I contacted Mike Wilken “Admin” of The Foothills Forum. On July 12 I wrote him “The forum is attracting a lot of outside interest right now and people should watch what they put in print” to which he quipped, “Vague references to ‘outside interest in the forum’? Come on, you can do better than that.”

 I tried again, writing “I have become very careful with the printed word and suggest others do too, you never know who’s printing your posts” to which Mike snipped, “Maybe I do!” Well maybe he doesn’t.

So maybe you’d like to rush back at this point to The Foothills Forum and reread that post you wrote and edit or delete it? I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your opinion, I'm saying that is not the place for it…

...Back so soon? What?! Ten people quoted your post in their replies… well it’s too late now and being screen shot, printed, noted, and cataloged. There are numerous studies being conducted where the highest numbers of hate crimes originate. Since California has the second highest incidence of such crimes in the nation I guess you stand a good chance of being quoted in a government study.

But you’re safe behind your avatar right? Nobody knows who you are, not really… Oh wait, didn’t somebody demand that everyone stop “hiding behind avatars”? Whoa! You are screwed. Not to mention the most important point of all: any weak minded individual with a personality disorder who reads your words and acts upon them (even if you “didn’t really mean it”) will credit you with the idea to harm another because you wrote about it in a forum…

Doesn’t that just make you feel safe at night, to know some “bums in bushes, drinking liquor” are in harm's way because of you? That thread alone received 2500 views and 85 posts. Somebody’s certainly motivated.

An editorial of sorts...

As compelling as it is, I’m setting aside the issue of the whole overgrown idea that is the Foothill Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan (FBCSP). It is becoming unwieldy and is taking on the shape and incredulousness of that damn mammoth zucchini no one wants in the back yard.

What with the infamous proposal and the weird cast of characters on both sides (some with rage issues); the twists and turns and secrets galore; the query ‘to open or not to open’ the FBCSP; and whether residents or businesses get to be on top; it was hard to know where to begin and end. I will report the ‘leaks’ promised to come my way, but I will leave it to others to analyze them.

I feel those already well versed in the telling of events should continue on that topic while I take on a subject much nearer and dearer to my heart. You will find the very best background information on the FBCSP on Joseph Mailander’s site Street Hassle

Meanwhile, I will report on the homeless in our community and what they face daily just to survive. Their story resonates with me and yields more promise and less dementia if only because they give real perspective to our community’s regard (or not) for others on a basic level.

Oh there’s still controversy if that’s what you crave, and drama, and a colorful cast of characters… but there is genuine life and death decisions made and more at stake than you know. It will be a worthy read. I promise.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Assembly Bill 312: advancing the civil rights of the homeless

As Assembly Bill 312 wends its way through the system with revisions and approvals, it finally made its way to the desk of California Governor Jerry Brown on July 25 for his signature, but tragedy could not wait for new civil rights to be afforded to the downtrodden.

AB 312 is a civil rights bill making hate crimes against the homeless a violation of their civil rights by recognizing this growing tide of humanity as a distinct group against whom any abuse targeting their homelessness is a “hate crime”.

But the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic at the hands of Fullerton Police on July 5 has brought new awareness of the deadly attitudes stalking the homeless. To be honest the Bill may not have given Thomas any greater protection because revision made to the Bill while in consideration was written into AB 312, exempting law enforcement personnel from its requirements.

Kelly Thomas however, has given a face to the homeless. Thomas was beaten by Fullerton police while he resisted arrest for questioning for car break-ins and robberies. He is believed to have been ‘off his meds’ at the time. He went into a coma and died five days later. Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas was at his side but Kelly never regained consciousness before dying.

Assembly Bill 312 specifically adds homeless persons to the list of individuals protected from violence and intimidation under the Ralph Civil Rights Act. By adding homeless persons as a protected class, they would have the ability to bring a civil action for damages, attorney fees, and other appropriate relief if there is an infringement of their rights. It also provides a comprehensive definition of a "homeless person."

The author of this bill, Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach has indicated that on a national level, there has been an increase in violence towards homeless people. A report entitled, "America’s Growing Tide of Violence," notes that California has the second-highest rate of violence against homeless persons in the nation:

"There are an estimated 157,000 homeless people in California, perhaps the most vulnerable population in the state. Of those 30,000 are veterans. The homeless are more likely to suffer from mental and physical illness, and less likely to receive medical treatment. Even worse, they are the population most likely to be the target of violent attacks. In the last year alone, homeless people have been set on fire, stabbed, shot, and beaten with baseball bats."

Assemblymember Lowenthal from her office in Sacramento stated today “You don’t give up your rights just because you don’t have a home,” she said. “Nor do you stop being a person whose life is valuable. You would think everybody already knows that, but, sadly, they don’t.”

Among the supporters of AB312 is NAMI California (National Alliance on Mental Illness). In a letter of support for AB312 Frances Tibbits, Chair of NAMI California Legislative Workgroup states “Many people with mental illness suffer homelessness, through lack of treatment and our society’s lack of commitment to treatment and shelter for all.

“It is not a crime to be homeless, yet crimes are increasing against people of this status. It is very reasonable that homelessness should be a named status for which people shall not be subject to violence or intimidation. Existing law lists the following named protected statuses: political affiliation, sex, race, color, religion, marital status, sexual orientation or position in a labor dispute. Some can be changed, some cannot, but all are deemed worthy of named protection. People who are homeless deserve that protection.”

There are no opponents to the bill. Governor Brown has until August 25 to sign the bill. Californians can let Governor Brown know their views regarding AB312 by contacting him at