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01.28.2009
Eavesdrop: Alissa Walker

ELECTRONIC BLIGHT ORCHESTRA

Make it stop! Los Angeles’ ongoing battle to put the lights out on those searing electronic billboards got another surge of power this month as statewide legislation was introduced to help fight the blight. After LA enacted a three-month citywide moratorium on new digital billboards in December, this month Assemblyman Mike Feuer introduced Assembly Bill 109, which proposes a two-year statewide moratorium on the construction and conversion of digital billboards. Yes, billboards were preparing to build and digitize themselves! It’s like Transformers! AIA board member and LA Planning Commission member Michael Woo, who first proposed the LA moratorium in December, wrote a fantastic piece in the LA Times where he explained these shiny suckers are not only dangerous, they’re actually plotting to take over the city: A new type of LED-embedded glass will turn entire sides of high-rises into king-size animated ads for Full Throttle energy drinks. Watch for local residents gouging their eyes out with spoons.

FALLOUT OF THE HOUSE OF USHER

The very public reverberations continue after the December resignation of LA’s Planning Commission president Jane Usher, who bade farewell to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with a spirited letter of wishes for the city to carry out in her absence. (Our favorite: “We must begin by ending our current artifice: we have not enforced our billboard permit program ban.” Ahem.) After her dramatic exit, Kevin Roderick said in his weekly commentary on KCRW that Usher’s outgoing statement was actually much more vicious than it appeared at the outset, saying that it “essentially called BS on the mayor’s approach to letting developers build wherever a bus might someday pass, in the name of transit-friendly growth.” Ouch! Although critics were initially incensed that the overly developer-friendly Sean O. Burton was appointed to fill her seat, everyone was quite pleased to hear that architect Bill Roschen was named as president early this year. The principal of Hollywood-based Roschen Van Cleve Architects describes his work as “place-based design.” It’s about time.

WE’LL MISS HERB KATZ

On a sad note, a beloved fixture in the architecture community and a pioneer of Santa Monica’s revitalization, Herb Katz, died on January 7 after a long battle with cancer. As president of RTK Architects since 1966, Katz was the designer of a diverse list of projects, including many civic, institutional, and educational works in Santa Monica, where he also served as mayor. Hundreds of people attended his memorial service on January 12, which was covered in the next day’s Santa Monica Daily Press, slugged the “We’ll miss you, Herb” issue. Katz was first elected to Santa Monica’s city council in 1984 and served the city in some governmental capacity every year until his death. Now that’s what we like to call community service.

Send tips, gossip, and tasteful billboards to awalker@archpaper.com

Alissa Walker