Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Pickle Jar

You remember ship in a bottle? Well, the pickle jar will do for trains and subways. Particularly the old rails and subways that used to run in Los Angeles before the Federal Highway Program of 1956 decimated the local rail system developed by Henry Huntington and his partners, and thus begat sprawl. Huell Howser recently re-visited the Subway Terminal Building in Los Angeles, which was the nexus of the Red Car Tunnels in downtown LA, subsequently abandoned and is being filled in for condo development. It's now an LA City Cultural and Historic monument.

The picture above is the Belmont Tunnel substation, near the tunnel entrance, which was originally a mile-long commuter route between Westlake and downtown. During the Cold War it was used to store emergency rations in case of nuclear war. The last segment of it was demolished for a condo development, which converted the Subway Terminal Building into Metro 417 and Pacific Electric Lofts.

The KCET program, Subway Terminal Update, California's Gold, from Huell Howser, revisits the Red Car Tunnels under Los Angeles and the tunnel entrance at Belmont Station. It expands on his earlier episode of exploring the tunnel and subterranean infrastructure. It's a fascinating exploration of the old tunnels, boarding platforms and back room subterranean equipment and storage areas. However, some public criticism of his showcasing of historic neighborhoods on public television has raised controversy. On the one hand, he's provided KCET with some very prominent historic examination of the old Los Angeles neighborhoods, called Interactive LA.

But now this: Huell Howser, enemy of historic preservation:

One would think that Huell Howser, the renowned public-television host of "California Gold," would be an advocate for preserving the state's historic treasures. Unfortunately, in agreeing to do a 14-part PR series for government redevelopment agencies, Howser is supporting those who actively bulldoze California's history.

Public Television Program Shills for Redevelopment Agencies:

August 2, 2009 – The LA Times reports how “The California Redevelopment Assn. and its partners have put up $320,000 to help Howser produce 14 episodes highlighting the achievements of redevelopment projects around the state, part of an attempt to convince Californians that they should care about this little-understood arm of government that receives and spends more than $5 billion a year in property taxes.” The article truly exposes how public television can be exploited to shape public opinion. Unfortunately, reporter Huell Howser did not profile the countless examples of redevelopment projects that involve demolishing people’s homes and small businesses (livelihoods), only for developers to walk away from the projects.

Jes' strummin' on the old banjo...