Adding a splash of color to Brutalist design, in the final stages of converting an office building near LAX to a hotel. Believe it or not, the bolted-on cross pieces are new. I can’t imagine they’re aesthetic, which makes me wonder if it’s some sort of earthquake retrofitting and they’re making the best of it.

It’s an interesting approach, but it still looks way more institutional than inviting, IMO.

Update: It turns out the scaffolding is being used to hang a full-height geometric design. I’m still not convinced it didn’t start as some sort of seismic retrofit, but it will at least look a little more inviting once they’re done.

These are all on three different days, incidentally, which is why you can’t see the first square on the left side in the middle photo.

Update: This LA Times article on what to do in an earthquake may be relevant. In most cases, you want to drop, cover, and hold — don’t run outside, since you’re more likely to be hit by something falling off a building than crushed in a collapse. But “brittle concrete buildings” are more likely to collapse than other types.

The city of Los Angeles in 2015 passed a law requiring those buildings to be retrofitted, but gave owners a 25-year deadline to do it once they are given an order to seismically evaluate the building. The city is still working on preparing its list.


I don’t remember much about Marineland of the Pacific. It was an ocean park/aquarium like Sea World that operated near Los Angeles for several decades, closing in 1987. I know I visited at least once, with my grandparents, but all I remember is:

  1. The view from what I assume was Palos Verdes Drive, as the car crested a low summit, brown hills rising to the right and falling gently toward the ocean on the left. The park stood on a promontory jutting out into the ocean. I haven’t been able to locate the spot, but that could just mean the road’s been moved.*
  2. A sign saying “CAFE” visible from the parking lot, which I misread as rhyming with “safe.” (Evidently I was very young at the time.)
  3. That’s about it.

You’d think I’d remember the sea life at least a little, though I suppose it’s possible I’ve misattributed some memories to Sea World (which, come to think of it, I don’t remember super-well either).

Not much of Marineland remains aside from a few names at Terranea Resort, which now occupies the site. But a piece of that history is coming back. In 2014, a 35-foot whale statue from the park entrance was found in a maintenance yard. The city has approved plans to place the statue at Point Vicente Park just up the road.

Apparently the decline and closure of the park was rather sordid: HBJ, the textbook company that owned Sea World at the time, had tried to buy Marineland’s star orcas. They weren’t selling. So HBJ bought the park in December 1986. Late in January, they secretly loaded Orky and Corky onto trucks in the middle of the night and drove them down to San Diego. A week later, they announced the park would close in March. They shut it down halfway through February, and by May they’d sold off the property to a real estate developer. Plans for a conference center were never realized, and the site was abandoned for 20 years until construction began on Terranea.

*Update: My dad pointed me to the Wikipedia article, which led me to a post at Modern Day Ruins, which led me to the California Coastal Records collection of aerial photographs. I found one from 1986 that indicates that Rancho Palos Verdes Drive is in the same spot as it was back then, but the housing developments on either side to the east of the turnoff weren’t there at the time. That’s probably why I didn’t recognize it. Or the road I remember could be the one down to the parking lot.

Stranded travelers leaving LAX on foot down a closed Century Blvd.

I work in an office building across the street from Los Angeles’ main airport, LAX. This morning was….interesting.

I was driving to work as usual, and noticed two things:

  1. Just past the next intersection, the street was completely full of stopped cars.
  2. At least five helicopters were hovering in place up ahead.

This is the third time in as many months that I’ve seen helicopters just holding position like that near the airport. Once the choppers were keeping an eye on a damaged airplane making an emergency landing. Once was the ex-TSA agent bomb scare on September 11.

I turned onto a side street and took a back way to the parking structure. The drone of helicopters was stronger when I got out of the car, and police car after police car started racing down the left side of the street, sirens blaring.

The building concierge hadn’t heard what was going on. She just shrugged and said, “L.A.”

Once I got into the office I found out what was going on: There had been a shooting at the airport, an incident still ongoing. There were still airplanes taking off at the time, though we hadn’t noticed anyone landing, and more and more helicopters took up position in the sky down the street.

Information was still spotty at the time, so I sat down to work, but it’s unnerving to listen to the constant drone of helicopters when you know they’re there because something’s wrong, especially when that sound is punctuated every few minutes by yet another siren.

By lunchtime, Century Blvd. had been blocked off by police and the trapped cars had been cleared out, leaving the street eerily empty. A stream of stranded travelers trudged along the sidewalk and in lanes, dragging their luggage away from the airport and toward hotels, offsite parking, or transportation. The cafe downstairs was swamped (though not as full as I’ve seen it during conventions).

What surprised me were the people getting out of cars at the curb just outside of the barricaded area, pulling their suitcases with them and starting the mile-long trek toward the airport. I can only assume they were counting on delays being lifted by the end of the day and their flights actually taking off. Though I’m not sure what the people waiting at the bus stop inside the closed area were planning to do.

It’s about two in the afternoon right now. I’m pretty sure I heard an airplane take off a few minutes ago. Most of the helicopters are gone, and while the street still looks closed, I can see more people walking toward the airport than away from it. It looks like things may be starting to return to normal.

Update 6:00pm: Century Blvd has been re-opened for traffic (though I wouldn’t say it’s moving, and airplanes are taking off again. If you look closely in the picture below, though, you can just see some helicopters still holding position above the airport.

Backed up traffic at sunset

On a completely different note: I’ve decided to try NaBloPoMo and post every day this month. I’ve been getting all the NaNoWriMo emails, and while I don’t have the time or story ideas (and Katie’s covering the “writing a novel” thing), I’m a little nostalgic for a writing challenge.

A couple of months ago I started a job near LAX. I live in central Orange County, 40 miles away. Unfortunately, that includes driving through the mess of Los Angeles freeways during rush hour. It’s a horrendously frustrating slog through stop-and-go and slow-and-go traffic that has me ready to gnaw off my own leg well before I get to work.

To make things easier, what I’ve been doing is driving about half-way to the end of the LA Metro Green Line in Norwalk, then taking the train the rest of the way. It’s worked out pretty well so far:

  • It cuts my driving time in half.
  • The part of the drive that it cuts out includes the worst of the traffic (east-west on the 105, or 405, or 91).
  • I get some extra reading time.
  • It’s relatively cheap ($1.50 each way, plus 35¢ to transfer to a local bus for the last mile).

It saves a lot of stress. The main downside is that I can’t drive anywhere during lunch, but at least there are a lot of options within walking distance. Unfortunately, the parking lot in Norwalk is often full when I get there, so some days I end up driving the whole trip anyway.

In theory, I could take trains the entire way. There’s a Metrolink station a couple of miles from where I live. Unfortunately, the Metrolink system and Metro system only share one transfer point: Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. I’d have to go really far out of my way, and transfer across two or three different Metro lines. Or else stop at Norwalk/Santa Fe and take a bus across town to the Green Line. With all the extra transfers, it didn’t seem worth it.

Still, the first day back at work after J was born, I figured my sleep-deprived self could use the break.

The Metrolink Experience

The thing to remember is, Metrolink isn’t light rail. It’s commuter rail.

The ride itself? Great. The trains were nice and roomy. Some of the cars had seats with tables. I even tethered my laptop to my phone to catch up on some blogging.

On the downside…

It’s expensive. Metro costs $1.50 to ride anywhere in the system, plus 35 cents to transfer to a bus for the last mile. Metrolink costs me $7.75 each way, but includes free Metro & local bus transfer. Monthly passes, of course, would cut down both prices.

Trains don’t run as frequently. I missed a train and had to wait 40 minutes for the next one. (I actually missed two trains, the first because I had to drive around the block to the alternate parking lot…so I spent an hour waiting just to get on the train.)

Trains don’t run into the evening. The last Metrolink train heading south from Norwalk leaves at 6:51. With two buses and a train between me and that train station, and every transfer a potential delay. This time I lucked out: The bus I took from work got me to Aviation station just in time for me to catch the green line, which got me to the end of the line just in time for me to catch the Norwalk bus, which got me to the Metrolink station with 5 minutes to spare. Just a couple of minutes at any of those points could have added 10-20 minutes of waiting and left me scrambling for an alternate way to make those last 20 miles home.

That last one is the kicker. For me, the main point of taking the train instead of driving is to reduce stress so that I can focus better when I need to. If I have to spend half the trip home worrying about making that last train, what’s the point?