LA’s Media Industry

At the end of last month, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar) completed his trade mission to LA, California.  The two-day affair targeted the next stage of the TV and movie industries in Ireland, in an attempt to learn something from the LA scene.    Varadkar met with a variety of leaders in all sorts of related industries such as Hulu, Disney and Netflix.

In Ireland, the audio-visual industry’s estimated worth is €1bn.  TV and animation accounts for approximately €700m of this. The Irish government hopes that this sector will double within the next five years through an increase in production activity and doubling the number of employees in the industry.

LA is definitely the place to learn about the media industry, especially TV and audio-visual.  The 2017 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of California found in 2015 that a whopping 1.6 million jobs were added to the economy in the creative sector, generating 759,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs for workers who collectively earned $56.9 billion. So it’s potentially a good industry to work in.

Cannabis Cafe

America is getting its first legal cannabis restaurant – Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe – right here in Los Angeles.   This means it is the first business in America that has received a license to serve meals containing food ingredients and marijuana.

Rather than bartenders the budtenders greet customers and sit with them to help guide them through the menu which features: joints, dab rings, bong service and more, together with locally-produced food items.

Those engaged in the cannabis industry in California believe this is a huge step for America’s marijuana legalization for social, recreational and more widespread medical use. According to chef Andrea Drummer:

“Cannabis consumers have had to kind of be closeted.  To be able to engage in and consume in a space with like-minded people and not have it be secret and not feel judged, I think it’s an exceptional concept.”

Some menu items at the La Brea Avenue, West Hollywood location include: mascarpone-filled crepe with peaches, white bean hummus and buttermilk fried chicken sandwich.  It is important to note that the food itself is not cannabis infused but vaping and smoking is allowed.

According to co-founder Sean Black:

“Being the first, we want to make sure we set the benchmark very high. We want it to have the same respect as fine wine … Cannabis can be a fun recreational part of society, like alcohol, without being dangerous.”

LA-Armenian Relations

Last week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his wife Anna Hakobyan arrived in Los Angeles and went to City Hall for an historic first time visit. The event was hosted by Councilman Paul Krekorian, LA City Council’s first elected Armenian American. They were greeted by thousands of people, excited by the visit.  Los Angeles is home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia.

At the visit, Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the Armenian visitors and said:

“You make Los Angeles what it is, truly a city of angels. A place where in times of division, in times of hatred,  in times of splitting us in two – everybody belongs here. And every Armenian feels as if LA is their second home; you belong to the city.”

California Housing

Homelessness has been an issue in California for many years with potential solutions constantly being drummed up.  Now though Airbnb has gotten involved in this issue with its recent pledge to invest $25 million which would be put toward the goal of creating affordable housing in California.  In the past, money has been put toward the problem from large corporations including Facebook, Google and Microsoft as well.

This money would be put in the two states most severely impacted by rising housing costs and increased homelessness: San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

The Trump administration recently arrived in LA to form a deeper comprehension of the homeless camps there.  Over the summer, the city’s Mayor asked the President to tour the streets of LA that he believes are home to over 35,000 people each night.

Another solution is rent caps which was approved by state legislators and will impact millions of tenants.  This has been one of the most significant initiatives taken to address affordable housing as it limits annual rent increase to 5 percent after inflation as well as implementing new impediments to eviction.  This would lead to greater rental security as well.  This legislation was reinforced by Governor Gavin Newsom who has prioritized tenant protection in his first year in office.

“By Women, For Women”

A gender inclusive workplace according to lawyer, entrepreneur and mother of four Amy Nelson is a “workplace that especially caters to women with children.”  Having seen the tremendous pay gap and discrimination levied toward pregnant women, two years ago she launched The Riveter.  This establishment attempts to transform the current status of the workplace which is “built by and for men.”

Indeed their mission statement is:

“We see a world in which equity of opportunity is a reality, not merely a promise, and we strive to work with others who share our ideas. While devout in our mission to serve women in their work, we are inclusive of all. We are built by women, for everyone.”

Given that Nelson only established The Riveter back in 2017, it’s pretty impressive that it has already raised $21.6 million in venture capital. one of its co-working spaces is in LA.

Then there is the local success story of Yola Jimenez’s all-woman mezcal business that she took over from her grandfather.  some of today’s workers are the granddaughters of the original workers!  with the increase in popularity of mezcal in recent years, the model she has developed, she believes, will be able to “provide jobs and incomes, which, some studies show, can have larger impacts on communities.”

She built the business with two partners – Lykee Li and Gina Correll Aglietti in Mexico City.  But today – the newly branded Yola Mezcal – is headquartered in Silver Lake and does so much more than produce mezcal.  Between all female music festivals and philanthropic endeavors, the company does not seek to exclude men, but certainly aims to “create a future [in an attempt to] understand what it means to be women and men and learning to live together.”

Sounds like way more than just an all-women brand.          

Local Infrastructure and Environmental Progress

Great efforts and much work is being undertaken in LA in the fight for climate change. Simultaneously however, for over 30 years, some of the energy being used on a daily basis in houses is coming from a place where coal is burned in a furnace at the bottom of Intermountain’s 710-foot smokestack.  Between one-fifth and one-third of the city of LA’s electricity comes from there.

However, in 2025, there are plans to shut down the plant that creates very dirty fossil fuel. In the meantime, LA has other plans to assemble a natural gas-fired power plant in its stead.  Gas burns cleaner than coal but does trap heat in the atmosphere and leaks methane from pipelines.

The ultimate goal for LA is to import solar and wind power from the area too and construct a compressed air energy storage facility for renewable energy.  Given that two bills were passed last year in an attempt to reduce/eliminate emissions from buildings while offering incentives for moving to renewable electric infrastructure, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

The Californian Building Industry Association (CBIA) also recently found that “natural gas is seen as cheaper and more energy-efficient, whereas electricity is seen as safer and more often viewed as a clean energy source.”

Los Angeles River

There have been issues for a while now at the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles River.  As such, there has been a call by city officials on creating a change in how the area is monitored.  The situation is so bad that, according to co-founder of LA River Walkers and Watchers, Evelyn Aleman:

“Our community members are afraid to use the bike path, also afraid to use local businesses because the crime we are seeing is spilling into local communities affecting everyone,”

As such, Bob Blumenfield who is a member of the LA City council recently proposed a motion for a pilot program that would render one organization to be in charge of patrolling the area.  He believes that putting the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in this position is “the perfect entity [for the job given that] they are a park agency.”  He went on to explain:

“They know about water quality, park issues and interest in creating vibrant parks and the rangers unlike most other rangers are peace officers.”

The hope is that the motion will be heard by the end of 2019 by the city council and that if approved, a few months later it will be implemented.

Japanese Culture: From LA to TA

Japanese culture is alive and well from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles.  One individual who can attest to the Tel Aviv, Israel part is Mozes Victor Konig.  Last week, he had the opportunity to enjoy Japan Day courtesy of the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Eat. 

Hosted by Tel Aviv’s Embassy of Japan, for the last 11 years this event is intended to offer families a taste of Japanese culture within a Japanese-based atmosphere.

“I found it to be a really hands-on experience of Japanese culture,” Mozes Victor Konig, Tel Aviv, Israel based photographer said.  “Getting a taste of the tradition, hearing the language and meeting Japanese people living in Tel Aviv is about as real as it gets,” he said.

“This actually gave me a taste for learning more about Japanese culture.  Next time I’m in Los Angeles – hopefully at Thanksgiving time – I would like to visit the exhibition taking place at Japan House, ‘Bakeru: Transforming Spirits.’ It is very hands-on for kids which is appealing to me as there is an interactive display whereby you put masks on which – with the aid of digital technology – turns them into Japanese folklore figures. Tales include: Shishi Odori (beast dance), Nahamage (deity frightening kids who misbehave) and more.”

Japanese-Israeli relations have been improving in the last five to ten years.  In 2015, the Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe, visited Israel; the first time in a decade a Japanese PM had ever made the trip.  The idea behind the trip was to improve relations between the two countries and this has been happening ever since.

LA: The Housing Crisis

For years Los Angeles has faced a crisis of an inordinate amount of homeless individuals.  Many solutions have been proposed and executed over the years but still the problem remains.  Here we take a look at some of the latest news on this subject.

In 2018 21,631 homeless individuals were housed.  The amount of tax dollars used on this (millions) was 23 percent more than in the year before.  Still, this accounted for a doubling of the amount of individuals housed in 2014.

The question therefore remains though, why are there still so many people living on the streets, in vehicles and shelters of LA?  In 2018 the homeless figure increased 12 percent, rendering 59,000 LA county individuals homeless.

A new proposal by the LA City Council has just been voted in which could make matters a whole lot worse.  A prohibition against sleeping in vehicles in many parts of LA is to be put in place.  The rules make it clear that individuals will not be allowed to spend the night in their cars on residential streets or make their vehicles their homes “within a block of a park, school, preschool or day care facility.”

This ruling has angered many local activists who argued at the City Hall that such a measure was “counterproductive” to the 9,500+ individuals currently making their homes in this way.