Sunday, November 19, 2006

Los Angeles Times Checks in on South Pasadena

A New Era in South Pasadena - Los Angeles Times
Change has found its way into a city long known for guarding its small-town, historic charm. Not everyone is on board with revitalization efforts.
By David Pierson

>>South Pasadena is the kind of town that takes its history seriously — a place that's proud of slogans like "South Pasadena — where the past is the present" and "South Pasadena: 1888 with all the modern amenities."
Long averse to any change, South Pasadena has embraced an aggressive redevelopment strategy that has brought loft condos, high-end restaurants and trendy shops to a city that has prided itself on a Main Street USA feel even though it's less than seven miles from downtown Los Angeles.

City Hall is pouring millions of dollars into upgrading crowded intersections and repairing an antiquated water system.

The biggest project, however, is a proposed redevelopment of the city's downtown along Mission Street that could bring in dozens of new residential units, new storefronts, underground parking and perhaps a bowling alley.

There is even talk of acquiring the dilapidated Rialto Theatre — a jewel in the eyes of historic preservationists — from private owners in hopes of making it the centerpiece of a spruced-up city core.

The revitalization effort marks a turning point of sorts for South Pasadena, which for decades has focused much of its attention on blocking the extension of the 710.
So far, officials have promised to build slowly and to approve only those designs that blend with the city's architecture. And most important to many, officials have said that no large chain stores or restaurants will be welcomed into the new South Pasadena.
Fear of overcrowding is one of the reasons there was an outcry over a new housing development in the southwest corner of the city named the Ostrich Farm. The so-called live/work building with its concrete-colored interior and showrooms filled with midcentury modern furniture is being offered to tenants who are supposed to work out of their loft apartments.

Some council members and residents feared that the 53-unit building would bring in too many new residents and possibly burden the school district and overload city streets, which have been kept in a notorious state of disrepair over the years. The mayor also questioned whether residents were actually working in their homes.
Some have called for the city to enact an ordinance that prevents chains from opening downtown. Others have expressed concern that the new town center will also add more pressure on the police and fire departments, which are understaffed, forcing the city in recent times to explore contracting with the county for services.<<

I suppose everyone tends to think their hometown is something special, but when major metropolitan newspapers do stories like this, it backs up that notion.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More Evidence?

KB Home CEO Leaves After Options Review - Houston Chronicle
ALEX VEIGA AP Business Writer

>>The resignation of KB Home Chairman and Chief Executive Bruce Karatz in the wake of a stock options scandal leaves the company without the man who built it into one of the nation's top homebuilders during the past two decades.
Karatz, 61, was the latest corner-office victim of so-called backdating of employee stock options without properly accounting for the maneuver.
The situation also prompted the company to fire the head of its human resources department, Gary A. Ray. Richard B. Hirst, executive vice president and chief legal officer, resigned.

The inquiry revealed that Karatz and Ray had selected the grant dates for the stock options, and no other senior executives had a role in establishing incorrect grant dates.
KB Home refused to comment further on Monday.
Still, the loss of Karatz came as KB Home and other homebuilders are struggling through a housing market slowdown.<<

I know someone who interviewed to work with them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Using A Touch-Screen At The Local Fast Food Joint

Jerry Hirsch of the Los Angeles Times tells us about fast food eateries using computerized touch-screen kiosks to take orders.

Devices such as touch-screen ordering kiosks — whether in the drive-through lane or inside the restaurant — promise many advances for quick-serve eateries, analysts say.

"It cuts down on labor, ensures accuracy and is often faster and easier for people to use," said Darren Tristano, a restaurant industry analyst with Technomic Inc. in Chicago.

Yum Brands Inc.'s KFC is testing indoor self-serve kiosks at three locations in Florida. Elsewhere in the state, McDonald's Corp. franchisee Gary Moulton has spent more than $100,000 to install two or three touch-screen systems inside each of his six restaurants.

The investment is paying off. Moulton said customers using the kiosks spent an average of 20% more per order than those who ordered at the front counter.

"The kiosk will always suggest an item like a drink or a dessert if it is not ordered," he said. "Front counter servers don't always do the same."

Paul Knight, who sells such machines for NCR Corp. of Dayton, Ohio, notes another potential advantage for restaurants.

"Anonymity encourages people to make larger orders," he said. "They are not embarrassed to super-size something because they aren't doing it face to face."

I remember ten years ago or more that the Taco Bell by Cal State Fullerton had touch-screen ordering.

Chains including Yum Brands-owned Taco Bell have experimented with touch-screen ordering, but the companies haven't expanded the programs, citing problems with the software or insufficient customer interest.

Yup, see. I was right. This technology can also help get people around language barriers. I would think raising the minimum wage and the increasing costs of employing people would also contribute to the use of these machines. Instead of several employees taking orders, one employee can service the machines at various locations to work out bugs.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Plans Revealed for Mixed-Use in South Pasadena

Cortney Fielding of the Pasadena Star-News tells us about plans for South Pasadena:

Visions of stucco high-rises and chain restaurants were laid to rest at the Community Redevelopment Commission meeting when Torrance-based Decoma unveiled its vision for a 145,000-square-foot Midwestern-style development comprised of small boutiques, high-end dining and second floor office space and condos surrounding a public town square.

Heavy on brick and plaster, the project spanning three city blocks from Hope and Oxley streets to Fair Oaks and Mound avenues will house 18 existing downtown businesses and add an estimated 15 new shops and restaurants to a city desperately searching for new sales tax revenues.

I think this town will always hold a special place in my heart, whether or not I ever live there again.