May 23rd - our Fortieth Meeting

CLAWSON BLEAK stepped forward to lead the Pledge - and another good job, with time for us all to get set.  GREGG ELLIOTT and LENNY FRIEDMAN took us through You're a Grand Old Flag, which also went well.  New member MICHAEL GINTZ got our immediate attention when he suggested we had a bank account worth $86,400 - which, it turned out, is the number of seconds in each day. At the end of the day, there is never anything left over for future credit. - so spend wisely!

We had a visiting Rotarian, Alessio Coppola from Studio City- he is a retired scientist who worked for Hughes, and is a PP of Studio City. He was introduced by RALPH BEASOM and PETER MORE.  PP JIM COLLINS brought along Bob Kaplan, who is a fellow member of the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Venice. RALPH BEASOM had a Special Guest, here for the second time - Chuck Magnuson, who I seem to recall is a close neighbor of RALPH'S.  

PP DOUG DESCH came up for an announcement, and first told a joke - as is his usual wont.  He explained why he didn't hear so well, and it was of course a touching story - but also of course, funny. This was Almost Perfect Attendance Thursday, and those with ten years are more not only wore flowers (so the waiters could identify them) but were listed as follows:  10 - LEO TSENG, MIKE O'CONNELL.  11 - LENNY FRIEDMAN.  13 - RICK LVERMORE, PP RALPH WOODWORTH. 15 - MAX LICHTENBURGER, PP STEVE SCHERER. 16 - PP RON LYSTER, BILL MICHAEL.  17 - PDG ANDY ANDERSON, BRUCE HARRIS, HARLAN LEWIS, HOMER NEWMAN.   18 - PP DAVE MORE, RUDY ALVAREZ.  19 - JACK HARRIS, GLEN SANDERSON.  21 - BRUCE ROLF, TERRY M. WHITE, TERRY R. WHITE, ERNIE WOLFE.  22 - DICK ROBINSON, FLOYD DEWHIRST.  25 - ROY BELOSIC
26 - PP DOUG DESCH.  29 - PP JOHN SINGLETON.  39 - PP BOB LUSK, and the Champ at 48 years, PP JIM DOWNIE!  Some of us also got dessert…

RUDY ALVAREZ introduced Fuminori Minamikawa, who is in Asian American Studies at UCLA, where he is also a Visiting Scholar - RUDY is his Counselor.  Fuminori lives in Jimokuji, just west of Nagoya, and is very fond of his hometown.  The family has lived there for three generations, where his father is a station manager of Central Japan Railway.  The whole family enjoys playing and watching baseball, and they and their neighbors participate in the historical festivals which are organized by Jimokuji Kannon temple - built in 700 A.D!

Nearby Nagoya and Los Angeles have been Sister Cities since 1959.  There are numerous Los Angeles reminders there, which is one reason Fuminori wanted to study here in LA.  Nagoya is also known as "car city"since it is the largest manufacturer of autos in Japan.  Toyota is headquartered there, along with many suppliers of parts.  There has been an influx of foreign workers, mainly from Brazil, who bring new customs and different ideas, of course.  These changes were most interesting, and led to his deciding to study Sociology.  He wanted to come to the U.S. since we have so much more experience in receiving immigrants than in relatively insular Japan.

He has completed the course work for his Ph.D. at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, so he is here to prepare to write his dissertation.  His focus is to study "the experience of Japanese people in Los Angeles" which involves a great many interviews of both newcomers and those who have lived here for awhile.  He volunteers at a Japanese language school for children, and enjoys talking to the students in both English and Japanese.  His friendships gained at UCLA will be among his most important memories.  His year will end in September, and he will return to Japan, expecting to become a Professor of Sociology.  FLASH - that's why RUDY is his Counselor!  He is looking forward to sharing his experiences here with the AMA Rotary Club when he returns to Japan.

Pres. GEORGE reminded us that PP DAVE WHITEHEAD will be running our meeting on June 20th, and PP DOUG DESCH will be in charge on the 27th, while Pres. GEORGE is attending the Convention in Barcelona.  He also told us of the gift to Rotary International of one million dollars from the Bill Gates Foundation, for Global Health.  This is certainly welcome - but I'm slightly puzzled because Bill Gates wrote an article about eradicating Polio in Newsweek awhile ago and never MENTIONED Rotary!

Perhaps some of you saw the recent article in the LA Times about the same subject, and Rotary was finally mentioned at the tail end of the article.  Let's not forget that Rotary started Polio eradication in 1979, several years before the World Health Organization finally stepped forward. I'm bothered by these scraps of credit, so stay tuned on this, OK?

Our Speaker, Steve Soboroff, came in just before he was set to speak, and was introduced by SALLY BRANT.  Steve is well known to many of us, having spoken here before, and he has a really impressive list of credits, all of which he has earned.  He was recently honored by Harvard Business School as "Business Statesman of the Year", and is past president of the Recreation and Parks Commission. He was a major player in getting the Alameda Corridor project underway, and is Chairman Emeritus of Big Brothers, to name just a few of his significant involvement's.  Steve had some visual highlights which illustrated his description of what is being done at Playa Vista.

Steve began by pointing our how so many things have changed - and yet are still the same - as the last time he spoke to us.  He was concerned then about the environment, traffic in Los Angeles, Education, the need for Parks, jobs and at-risk youth -all subjects he would cover again on this visit.  He is President of Playa Vista, which is now owned by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Oak Tree Capital and Union Labor Life - all of whom took it over after many false starts by Maguire-Thomas, etc.  He pointed out that he was an ideal fit for this position, since he had so many contacts plus an established reputation as a man who gets things done.

He went on to point out that democracy  - which he pursued when running for Mayor, is exhausting - and dictatorship, which now gives him a lot more control, is lots more fun!
At last, Playa Vista is underway - construction is going on, the wetlands are being restored, and its shape is emerging.  Here he began to use his visuals, and they were indeed helpful in visualizing what is taking place.  This is a mixed-use project, designed to combine residential, commercial, retail and recreational activities in one area - you can walk to work, for instance.  He spoke of their affordable housing - which is reserved for only four occupations: police and firemen, teachers and nurses (since the great majority of them cannot usually afford to live anywhere near where they work).  As an example, 93% of our police now live outside Los Angeles.  He suggests that while we are at lunch, the value of our homes may have gone up by two or three thousand dollars - which is why they have several residential areas to be constructed. They already have 25K applications for the first 3K units.  He added that he does get some calls from people, who begin by saying, "Steve, you may remember that I supported you - and I'm wondering if you can get my mother-in-law (or whoever) into 'such and such' development."  Several different architects are being used, so the complex will indeed vary widely in appearance, and 'feel'.

The area where they are building is where the Howard Hughes Airport was - not in or near the wetlands, which will all be restored.  In one area that was pictured, there will be 3000 trees, and 10,000 native shrubs to be planted.  There are also hiking and biking trails - it will be beautiful.  They have downsized the original plan from 13,000 homes to 6,000  - and I asked him afterward how the new owners will ever come out on this.  He doesn't think they will - but after the project languished for almost twenty years, these changes will at least bring it to fruition.

Steve feels that the project will make you think you were living 75 years ago - except for the technology.  They will have 1200 small neighborhood electric cars, to move around in the area. These will cost $28 a month, which will just be added to your mortgage payment.  This is intended to reduce two car families to one car plus the smaller vehicle, and the government has agreed to use their own fleet for mail delivery. All the contractors have agreed to set aside 10% of their jobs for at-risk youth, and some units will be reserved for prison-released people, so it is not to be an elite-only neighborhood.  Traffic is a concern, and Playa Vista is working on over 50 nearby intersections - only four of them in PV itself. This mitigation effort will cost $150 million.  They are adopting fifteen nearby schools, to help them as good neighbors.

Steve, you are certainly a good salesman.  Thanks for sharing what is going on, and we will be interested in further updates, certainly.

YOE, Ernie Wolfe