Galaxy of Goo

West Hills resident Bonnie Klea is vivacious and no-nonsense. She won a battle over a rare bladder cancer diagnosed in 1995, and has long suspected the toxins that taint a big piece of land near her home — land on which, if Los Angeles planners get their way, more building will soon be allowed.
That's the lead paragraph of investigative journalist Michael Collins' latest article on the many shenanigans surrounding the repurposing of various former aerospace sites in the San Fernando and Simi valleys. Published by the L.A. Weekly on March 4, Collins sheds light on recent moves by developers to build office buildings on the former DeVry University property in Canoga Park.

Another story Collins uncovered recently reports on KB Homes efforts to build on land in Runkle Canyon in Simi Valley that is contaminated with the toxic substance benzo(a)anthracene (published in the April 16 issue of the Ventura County Reporter). To read these articles and other past and present investigations by the award-winning journalist, visit

Weekend Events in the Valley

There's plenty to do this weekend in the Valley so keep it green and ride your bike to one of the many festivities. Check out the calendar over there to the right with a complete listing of events, times, dates, locations and links.

I am totally bummed that I will be in Sacramento on Friday evening and Saturday and therefore will miss two of the three days of the free Hawaiian Festival at Northridge Park. The Imua Ho'Olaule'a main events -- namely Hawaiian music, dancing and food, food, food -- is something I really look forward to every year. Oh, and the Saturday night fireworks show, this year being hosted by the Neighborhood Councils of Northridge East, Northridge West, Reseda and Winnetka.

Here's an entertainment schedule courtesy of one of the performers, the Jumpin' Flea Circus Players of Los Angeles.

MMMM...kahlua pork, some lau lau and a few malasadas, eaten while watching the cutest-ever keiki hula dancers and all is right with the world. Aloha!

Cycling Calabasas

After a long (20 or so years) hiatus, I have started riding seriously again, still on the Univega I bought from I. Martin Imports in West Hollywood back in 1985 or so.

For the past couple of weeks I've spent an hour or more three days a week riding around the Valley, mainly on the north end. Valley Circle, Rinaldi, Plummer and Lassen all are very hospitable to cyclists. A couple of times I've ridden down to Lake Balboa and last Saturday rode the Orange Line bike path all the way to Valley College.

What I really enjoy is going slowly enough to really take in the sights. There is an amazing diversity of restaurants, furniture stores, clothing shops and industrial areas.

Today, for instance, I rode from my home near Cal State Northridge to Calabasas, taking a detour into the foothills of Woodland Hills where I lived for a few years as a child (Calabash Elementary, woo hoo!). Then I rode into Calabasas (had to use the sidewalk as those cobblestones are a killer) and took a break at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the shopping center across from the Commons.

At about 10:30 a.m. the place was doing brisk business with mommies & stroller babies, a couple of laptop space takers and the like.

I took my coffee & scone outside and sat by a lovely fountain right in front of a couple of shops I'll have to return to. Susie Cakes creates what looks like delicious confections -- cupcakes and full-size cakes -- and has a sign touting their recent selection as Best Tasting in the Traditional Category of the 2009 Nesquick Challenge for their red velvet (mmmmmmm) cupcakes.

Also stepped into newly-opened O' My Sole a shoe store that has the tagline -- Life's Too Short To Wear Boring Shoes. At the Calabasas store, which the clerk on duty told me is the smallest of the Southern California-based chain, the emphasis is more on comfortable, but stylish, shoes. Don't just by the website, by the way. It is not really reflective of the variety of the store's offering.

But the point of this post is not to hawk these particular stores but that I would not have ever known they were there had I not taken the time to ride by. So next time you want to get some fresh air and get to know your neighborhood better, do it from the back of a bicycle. Just watch out for potholes!

Greenest Soundstage Opened at the WB

Warner Bros. newly opened Stage 23 in Burbank is the first soundstage built to LEED specifications and is waiting its LEED certification. What, you say? A soundstage is basically just a big airplane hangar -- how hard could it be to get that LEED certified?

In an article in the May 22 issue of the AIA's Architect newsletter, WB project leader Rasa Bausa, said, "It’s an unusual building with no daylight. It‘s a warehouse type of building and functions differently. To try to fit that use into the LEED rating system we had to come up with distinct and clear definitions of how to place a new building type that wasn’t contemplated in the LEED rating system. I think it helps because we are an industry that really does care about sustainability. That was something we needed to tackle, not only for us but for the industry—how do you build a green stage?”

The 21,600-square-foot building is the 35th sound stage at the Warner Bros. Burbank lot. Sustainable construction elements include the use of Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber, recycled steel and metals, non-toxic paint and adhesives, and foundations made with concrete mixed with 35 percent recycled fly ash. The perimeter of the stage is made of permeable asphalt, which will allow rainwater to seep into the ground.

The project also incorporates energy efficient lighting and cooling technologies with a 100-kilowatt generating solar array being added to the building.

More than 92 percent of the materials from the stage demolished to make way for the new project was reused and recycled, with Warner Bros. saying that 1,890 tons of materials were diverted from landfills in the process.

The Studio also expanded its solar electrical generating system, which will now produce more than 500 kilowatts of clean power.