Councilmember Tom LaBonge hosted a 93rd birthday party this morning for avid Griffith Park hiker Sol Shankman by officially dedicating to him a new bench on the nonagenarian’s favorite trail in Vermont Canyon.
“I hereby declare this Sol Shankman’s bench, so that people know a guy named Sol Shankman hiked here for 30 years. Here, here,” Mr. LaBonge said to about fifty friends, members of Mr. Shankman’s family and avid Griffith Park hikers who had gathered for the event. “We should all be so lucky to live to be 93.”
Mr. Shankman added quickly: “To be 93 and vertical,” eliciting a laugh from the crowd.
Part of the trail Mr. Shankman hiked to his new bench was nearly vertical but he hiked the one-third mile trail despite offers of rides from the Griffith Park maintenance crew that installed the bench for him.
Mr. Shankman began daily hikes in Griffith Park in 1976 to address a serious heart malady. Soon thereafter, his health quickly improved. The experience converted Mr. Shankman, a retired chemist who owned a Shankman Lab in Los Angeles in 34 years, into a champion of hiking. All told, Mr. Shankman has walked roughly 31,000 miles in Griffith Park over the past 30 years. In a series of hikes during the 1980s, he also walked from Tijuana to San Francisco along the California coast.
Besides Mr. Shankman and his daughter Janet Williamson, his grandson Gavin Williamson, his girlfriend Anneliese Clay, Honorary Mayor of Griffith Park Louis Alvarado, Dr. Paul Fleiss and other members of the Hilltoppers hiking group.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember LaBonge and Los Angeles Fire Department officials were relieved to announce on Saturday that an arson suspect was arrested in the recent spate of brushfires in Griffith Park.
Gary Allen Lintz, a 43-year-old transient whose last known address was in Glendale, was arrested in a dramatic sequence of events involving citizens and the fire department's arson and counter-terrorism unit.
"It was like a movie that they could have shot over there at Warner Brothers Studios," the Councilmember said during a press conference in the TravelTown section of the park, near that studio's lot in Burbank. "This is a great relief." Hikers spotted Mr. Lintz bicycling away from the area of a brushfire Saturday. Undercover arson investigators then noticed him join a group of nearby cyclists. He was conspicuous because, unlike the others, he was not wearing biking gear. They pulled him over for questioning and discovered evidence linking him to the fires, said LAFD Battalion Chief John Miller. The arrest was the culminating event in several tense weeks for Los Angeles park and fire officials. Eight suspicious fires had been set in Griffith Park in a three-week period, burning a total of 200 acres. Coming just 15 months after a massive fire that burned almost one-quarter of the 4,218-acre park, the incidents were particularly alarming. Last week, Councilmember LaBonge met with hundreds of hikers asking them to help city officials by reporting any suspicious behavior that might be fire-related. He also convened a meeting for 50 agency- and department heads involved in fire-fighting and park management in Los Angeles to strategize ways to work effectively to find the culprit.
Councilmember Tom LaBonge completed his “Tour LaBonge” series of summer evening bike rides on Wednesday, August 20th, by leading about 40 cycling enthusiasts on a 10-mile tour of Hollywood, Larchmont and the Miracle Mile areas. The ride culminated with a cruise along a neon-lit Hollywood Boulevard just past dusk.
“We could solve so many of the challenges facing Los Angeles right now if more of us rode bikes,” the Councilmember said. “We could take a big chunk out of air pollution, traffic and our waistlines, too.”
The Hollywood Ride was the fifth and final ride in “Tour LaBonge,” a series of five Wednesday evening rides in Council District 4. The councilmember launched the bike series to promote good health, instill a sense of community and help people avoid the financial strain of high gas prices. In keeping with tradition, the Councilmember served ice cream cones to all riders at Fire Station 27 at the end of the 10-mile ride.
The Councilmember highlighted some of his favorite spots in the area, including the new BCAM, Broad Contemporary Art Museum on Wilshire Boulevard. Michelle Mowery, bicycling coordinator for the Los Angeles Dept. of Transportation, joined the ride. The City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation is updating its Bicycle Master Plan, a process that includes the gathering and analysis of data on improving the city’s bike route system. You can read more about the bicycle master plan by clicking here.
Councilmember Tom LaBonge met with Griffith Park area residents and Sierra Club hikers on Tuesday, August 19th in two separate meetings to discuss the recent suspicious fires in the park. Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Logan and Griffith Park Ranger Doug Kilpatrick joined the councilmember in soliciting the public’s help in finding the person or people responsible for the fires.
“We need the public to be our eyes and ears in the park,” said the Councilmember, who hikes in the park daily himself. “These fires must be stopped.”
The officials distributed bulletins urging the public to participate in the search for the firebug. The fires occurred at the worst possible time of year for the park. California chaparral, the park’s native foliage, is highly susceptible to brush fires. Current low rainfall, hot weather, low humidity and wind contribute to a fire hazard.
After meeting with residents at the Griffith Park Visitors Center, the Councilmember walked to a parking lot where about 300 hikers had gathered for a weekly Sierra Club hike. He encouraged them to look out for suspicious activity in the park as well. Last Saturday afternoon, August 16, five fires broke out in different sections of Griffith Park, requiring about 300 firefighters from several agencies to battle them on the ground and in the air. About 50 acres burned in about three hours before the fires were contained. One section of the park, Travel Town, was evacuated and one firefighter was injured and taken to an area hospital.
How do you honor firefighters who work every day knowing they may be killed while protecting the public? How do you thank their families?
Councilmember LaBonge joined other city officials and the families of fallen Los Angeles firefighters at a bittersweet ceremony dedicating a memorial to those who have died. The Los Angeles Fire Department Fallen Firefighter Memorial opened on Thursday, August 14th, in Hollywood at an event that was both poignant and affirming.
"It's such a nice place for families like mine to pay respect," said a tearful Lisa Wallace, whose father Harold Radcliffe was killed in a 1974 helicopter crash when she was nine years old.
Her father's name is listed with more than 250 others on a bronze monument designed by LAFD Capt. Dwayne Golden. The monument commands the plaza in front of the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society on Cahuenga Blvd. Councilmember LaBonge joined Council President Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Dennis Zine at the $2.2 million memorial, which was funded by the Community Redevelopment Agency and private donations.
Hillside residents will welcome the rain now that, thanks to Councilmember LaBonge, the city is adopting tougher soil standards for construction in steep hillside areas. After the record rain storms of January, 2005, mudslides forced officials to close several canyon roads, some of which remained closed for months. Over 100 hillside buildings were also “red-tagged” by the City, which means they were declared “unsafe to occupy,” and residents of the Mount Olympus neighborhood in Council District 4 were temporarily evacuated. The councilmember immediately directed the Department of Building and Safety to review its standards for soil stability in these areas and determine whether requirements need to be tougher. After careful review, the department determined that every building that had been red-tagged was constructed before current building, grading and soil stability standards were in place. To tighten enforcement of those standards, however, the city will now require all new hillside development - including building additions and major improvements – to supply engineering and geological reports on the mitigation of flood and mudflow hazards. “Soil stability isn’t glamorous or exciting until you wake up on a rainy night and your house is sliding down the hill,” the Councilmember said. “I made sure the City is doing everything possible to protect people and their homes if a mudslide should happen.”
A major Emergency Preparedness event will be held in Council District 4 this weekend. The Page Museum at the LaBrea Tar Pits will host the 17th Annual Emergency Preparedness Fair on Saturday, Sept. 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Seventeen city departments, emergency services organizations and county and state agencies will demonstrate how to handle a natural (or man-made) disaster and distribute FREE samples of emergency products. For more information, click here.
Councilmember LaBonge joined Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today in calling for a one-half cent sales tax increase to fund a subway expansion that would alleviate traffic woes county-wide. He and a group of city and county officials gathered on a subway platform downtown to pledge support for a State Assembly Bill (AB 2321) which clears statutory hurdles for the proposed tax hike.
"If a doctor looked at traffic circulation in Los Angeles, he'd say we're all clogged up," the councilmember said, opening his jacket and pointing to his heart. "One hundred years ago, they brought water to Los Angeles. Fifty years ago, they built the highway system. Now, we must invest in this important expansion of our weak transportation system."
The state bill is sponsored by Assemblymember Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, and outlines specific projects to be funded, including a subway extension along Wilshire Boulevard between Western and Fairfax avenues in Council District 4.
Residents and businesses along the Wilshire corridor have been expressed strong support for this subway extension.
The tax hike may appear on the ballot as early as November.