Ask Chris: Is the “General Hospital” Building Safe For the Unhoused?

The Boyle Heights building seen in the title credits of the ABC soap opera will be converted into 360 new housing units after new seismic standards deem it unsafe

How can “General Hospital” house the homeless if it’s not safe for patients?

In 2008, after a string of new laws imposed strict new seismic standards on “essential” buildings like hospitals and prisons, Los Angeles County decided to move patients from the magnificent art deco LAC+USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights (seen in the title credits of the ABC soap opera General Hospital for decades) to a brand-new building nearby. It now plans to convert the original 1.2 million-square-foot landmark into 360 new housing units for unhoused Angelenos. Although it was built in 1932, the sturdy concrete hospital is probably safer than most residential buildings. It currently offers art and cooking classes, a food pantry, and movie nights at the Wellness Center behind its massive walls.

Q: What’s with the working pay phone on the Chaney Trail in Altadena?

A: “I’m the last man standing,” says Steve Littlejohn, who operates 300 pay phones around L.A., “and I’m wobbling.” His most profitable kiosks are in libraries, jails, and rehab centers, with his most popular one located at a county sheriff’s station. Littlejohn maintains the coin-operated phone high on the hill at the request of Los Angeles County officials: overly enthusiastic hikers sometimes forget to leave the forest before park rangers lock the gates at 8 p.m., so they’ll need two quarters to be rescued. Cell service is spotty in nature’s wonderland, but reliable old copper wires keep a dial tone without an electrical connection or an iPhone update.

Q: Are the police doing anything to stop loud cars with modified mufflers?

A: Fifty years ago, muffler clatter was capped at 76 decibels, and the EPA had an office of Noise Abatement and Control. Today, California sets the standard at 95 dbA, the sonic difference between a toilet flush and a lawn mower. There are occasional sting operations, and fix-it tickets recently added mandatory fines, but an effort to install sound-activated cameras was quashed by the Specialty Equipment Market Association, whose members produce intake manifolds, performance headers, and exhaust systems that make cars roar.

Chris’s Pick

Toon In On Mickey and Minnie’s First Attraction

(Photo by Star Foreman)

Hollywood Boulevard has the El Capitan, and now Disneyland has the El Capitoon. The new theater facade is at the center of a reimagined Toontown and fronts Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the amusement park’s first ride dedicated to Walt Disney’s original rodent. “This centennial year is a special time to introduce Mickey and Minnie at Walt’s first park,” says Imagineer Manny Chavez. Runaway Railway features a train that splits into separate cars, sending riders off in all directions as the visuals—conventional props and special effects— unspool around them. “It’s 2½D,” says Chavez, “like 3D without the glasses.” Check out the collection of props based on cartoons, like the ship’s wheel from Steamboat Willie and the sorcerer’s hat. They’re huge because the movies are always bigger than real life.

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