Stories for November 2004

Monday, November 29

Who's to Blame for the DWP P.R. Fiasco?

City Controller Laura Chick's audit of the DWP's public relations contract may point out a flaw in charter reform: Who was responsible?

McDonald's Prepares to Challenge Subway's Dominance

Last month, McDonald's Corp. began selling sandwiches at a handful of U.S. and Canadian locations in a step toward challenging Subway's domination of the deli submarine market.

Ports' PierPass Gets Accelerated Start

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach plan to launch a more aggressive program for extended gate hours in March.

Alternative Resolutions on Rise, But Rules Come Under Attack

More cases are diverted from the courts, while rules of mediation and arbitration are coming under increasing attack.

Finding Rhyme in Poetry, Reason in Investment Banking

It's been a long, strange trip.

Courts Will Play Role in Effort To Stem Abuse of 17200 Law

Proposition 64 required suits under Section 17200 to name a plaintiff and required the cases qualify as class actions.

Hospitals Responding to Survey Do More to Avoid Errors

Laurence Darmiento's weekly column concerning the Los Angeles County health care industry.

Bigger Gulp

Russ Weiner liked Red Bull so much he launched a competing drink, Rockstar, in a bigger can. Now he's bought a Hollywood party house to promote it.

Former Merisel CEO, Targeted In Probe, Claims He Was Loyal

An audit is under way concerning a deal engineered by the software company's one-time president.

Local Schools Lag in Endowment Returns Measured With Peers

The endowments of several local colleges performed better this year than in 2003, although their numbers trailed several other major schools nationwide.

Bondholders Claim Wedbush Misled Them on Vacaville Project

Bondholders claim that Wedbush Morgan failed to disclose accurate information about a 1999 financing of an ice skating rink in Vacaville.

Holding Your Nose, Writing the Check and Moving On

Sometimes you have to hold your nose and cut the check, but there's a

Workers' Comp Shift Puts Heat on Burn Units

Burn centers are under a fiscal strain as an unintended consequence of the state's workers' compensation reforms.

Stakes Could Run High in Debate of Mayoral Hopefuls

Howard Fine's weekly column concerning politics in the city and county of Los Angeles and the state of California.

The Art of the Settlement

The defendant evaluates the plaintiff's evidence and vice-versa, and then they make a decision: litigate or negotiate.

Redondo Beach Bucks Trend, Mulls Hike in Business Taxes

As Los Angeles eases its tax on businesses, Redondo Beach considers the first increase in more than a decade.

Trials Provide More Drama for Movie Depictions of Attorneys

Settlements aren't as dramatic as trials so they only rarely wind up on the

Luring Speakers Becomes L.A.'s Talk of the Town

A handful of venues feed a seemingly unending appetite for expert insights. And they're all looking to land the biggest names.

L.A. Stories

Mukluks and Mettalics Pace Trendy Shops' Holiday Sales

Rebecca Flass's weekly column concerning the Los Angeles County retail industry.

Wasser Steers Delicate Path In Brokering Divorce Deals

Dennis Wasser, Hollywood divorce attorney, tells of his adventures in the splits game.

Hollywood Roosevelt in Talks To Tune In Sirius Satellite Radio

Sirius is looking to boost its profile by piping music into common areas of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Rate Slash for City's Business Tax Won't Get Running Start

The business tax overhaul passed by the L.A. City Council could prove somewhat less than meets the eye.

Meltdown Makes Mark In World of Collectibles

Comic collectors have a place to meltdown.

Dodger Stadium Gets Makeover, Adding Pricey Seats Near Action

The Dodgers new Dugout Club and field-level luxury seats open next season, the centerpiece of a $15 million stadium upgrade that could increase the team's gate by more than $10 million next year.

What About Mediation?

The differences between mediation and arbitration.

Newsmakers

Local Bankers Plan Launch of New Lender Based in the Valley

Weekly roundup of Southern California banking and investment news.

Sleepy Head

Renee Bertrand's fashion company didn't suit her, so she ventured into the luxury pajama market with BedHead.

Santa Monica Studies Street Parking Permits for Businesses

Andy Fixmer's weekly column concerning the Los Angeles County real estate industry

Insurers Approach Cases Based on Numbers, Not Emotion

Insurance companies have the power to decide when to settle a case and when to go to trial.

Embrace the Devil You Know: Pursuing Accommodation

Despite the rising costs of settlement agreements, taking a case to trial still exceeds the price of cutting a check.

Monday, November 22

Colossal Miscalculations Paved Gardena's Path to Brink of Fiscal Collapse

An insurance venture formed by Gardena officials in response to a liability

Vegas-Bound Travelers Perk Things Up a Little at Desert Outpost

As Vegas-bound travelers zoom through Pearblossom, traffic has become an issue in this farthest-flung L.A. outpost; but business is perking up, too.

Third Street Promenade Expansion Under Fire

A developer is already considering scaling back a proposal to rebuild the Santa Monica Place mall in response to swift and sharp protest against the plan's 21-story residential towers.

Giving Thanks to Hollywood Well, Sort of

Despite perpertual charges of duplicity and inappropriate behavior Hollywood remains a draw.

Drum Dealer Marches To a New Beat at Store

Cyber-retailer of drums Chris Reid is branching out with bricks and mortar operation.

Newsmakers - sidebar

Ruthie E. Flores describes herself as a "traditional Latina" who still lives at home with her parents. But the 33-year-old Norwalk native, recently hired by Univision Communications Inc. as communications manager for Spanish-language television stations KMEX (Channel 34) and KFTR (Channel 46), has made a career out of challenging the status quo.

L.A. Stories

Like many junior high school students, Richard Crasnick used to fold a sheet of paper into a triangle and play tabletop football, or as some called it, paper football.

Feud Between Jakks, WWE Leads to Press Release Flurry

A press release war erupted last week between Malibu-based toymaker Jakks Pacific Inc. and its partner-turned-legal foe, World Wrestling Entertainment.

Alameda Corridor Takes New Tack on Traffic

The Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority will begin a rail shuttle pilot program next summer that's aimed at alleviating truck traffic congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Impact of China on Apparel World Is Debated

Tens of thousands of garment workers could lose their jobs when trade barriers are dropped on Jan. 1, 2005, according to activists.

Tech Rebound in Full Swing as Issues Rise

The strength of IPOs for Google, Los Angeles-based Jamdat Mobile and Shopping.com have helped spark a broad-based market rally that has lifted many beat-up technology issues.

Statewide Job Growth Registers Strongly Across Region

High housing prices have grabbed the headlines, but when economists look back at 2004 they may highlight California's sustained job growth as the

Searching for Meaning in Bellwether Shopping Weekend

How to gauge the strength of sales as the holiday shopping period kicks off? There are many indicators, from shopping bag counts to refinancing rates.

Not Soaring

Airlines are struggling to pack planes in a bid to stay profitable atop razor-thin margins, but ticket prices and fuel costs are also factors in the industry's sustainability.

Public Storage Expansion Puts Cash to Work, Boosting Stock

Public Storage Inc. is now spending the cash it has been stockpiling in recent years.

'Special Assignments' Survive Arrival of People Meters

People Meters were supposed to change the tone of local news in the traditional "sweeps" periods, but stations continued to show attention-grabbing reports in November.

Esprit Scouting Market as It Prepares Return to Retailing

Rebecca Flass's weekly column concerning the Los Angeles County retail industry.

Breach of Contract Case Against L.A. Firm Is Reinstated

Amanda Bronstad's weekly column concerning the Los Angeles County legal community.

Nursing Shortage Forces L.A. County to Hike Temp Pay

Laurence Darmiento's weekly column concerning the Los Angeles County health care industry.

Some Advertisers Bridle as Format Changes Approach at Clear Channel

Clear Channel's eight L.A. radio stations are about to cut their hourly ad count as part of a companywide effort to boost both program time and ad rates.

Newsmakers

On the Block

Alan Long and two associates created DBL to practice their own brand of real estate sales; the company will be transformed as Sotheby's takes over.

Transamerica Partners Near Sale of Complex's Final Piece

Andy Fixmer's weekly column concerning the Los Angeles County real estate industry.

Race to Fill Open Westside Council Seat Generating Heat

Howard Fine's weekly column concerning the politics in Los Angeles County and state of California.

Kmart Is Buyer, but Its Stores Could Give Way to Sears

L.A. real estate experts see Kmart stores going up for sale and Sears stores as a stronger force.

Monday, November 15

L.A. Stories

A collection of stories based in and around the Los Angeles business community.

Fighting Off The Shadows

The editor of the Business Journal says two things are hanging over our economic future now: Iraq and terrorism.

Unhappy Brokers Deserted Marsh Before Spitzer Allegations Surfaced

There were indications of turmoil within the ranks of Marsh & McLennan before allegations of serious wrongdoing arose.

Insiders' Edge Doling Out Stem Cell Funds

The race to fill the 29-member commission that will dole out $3 billion in stem-cell research grants is turning into an insider's game.

Single-Unit Operations Undaunted by Packed Landscape

It may seem like Starbucks dominates the specialty coffee market, but the Seattle-based behemoth is still outnumbered by independents.

Distractions Finally Set Aside, Villaraigosa Gears Up for Race

Antonio Villaraigosa has finally turned his attention to unseating Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn - but has he started too late?

Renegade Businesses Draw Unwanted Attention in L.A.

Councilwoman Jan Perry has proposed an ordinance that would give building inspectors and police new powers when trying to close problem businesses.

Maps Sold to Travelers And Prop Masters, Too

Brian Draper opened Geographia Map & Travel Bookstore in 1986, after almost a decade in the restaurant business. He had a 1975 degree in geography from California State University,

Technology and Outsource Sectors Make Biggest Splashes

Technology and outsourcing services posted the most impressive results on this year's list of fastest-growing private companies.

Lacking Leverage, Hotel Union Falls Back on Boycott

In its call for a boycott of nine L.A. hotels, Unite HERE may have played its last card in the contract dispute.

Car Tuner

Dave Marek loved drawing cars as a boy; now he's chief designer for Honda's American division.

Chancellor's Choice For Anderson School Dean Drops His Bid

Chancellor Albert Carnesale's choice to lead the Anderson School of Management has withdrawn from consideration.

Hospitals Fear Flow of Foreign Nurses Could Stop Due to Change in Policy

Hospitals that relied on a stream of foreign nurses to fill an acute shortage will see the flow slow to a trickle.

History Favors DWP, L.A. in Suit Challenging Fund Transfers

Neighborhood council groups in L.A. and mayoral candidate Richard Alarcon are taking on 65 years of precedent challenging the DWP's right to transfer millions to the city's general fund.

Broadway Gets Another Beverly Hills Hit at Wilshire Rodeo

Broadway Real Estate Partners LLC has agreed to buy the Wilshire Rodeo office and retail complex in Beverly Hills for $151 million, according to sources close to the transaction.

Momentum Builds for Drive To Reduce Role of Safe Seats

A Republican activist's push to put more California political districts into play is likely to meet resistance.

Hollywood Hops as Fredericks, TV Guide Channel Make Deals

A couple of Hollywood notables are on the move.

Panel Finds for DirecTV on Piracy

A group of people who claim DirecTV falsely accused them of stealing satellite services intends to fight to reinstate the case.

Home Grown Brew

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf continues an expansion drive.

Due Process Is Slow Process When Dealing With Nuisances

To give owners the benefit of the doubt, the city has a lengthy process for defining a nuisance business.

Scandals Have Papers Cautious on Circulation Tallies

Los Angeles area papers are taking a hard look at how they calculate their readership.

Hairy Situation for Workers in Wage Suits Arises From Ruling

A Beverly Hills hair model plans to appeal a published appellate ruling that could have a wide-ranging impact on an entire branch of employment litigation.

Newsmakers

A list of the promotions and announcements of some of L.A.'s movers and shakers.

Ascent Adds Restoration to Its Repertoire With Cinetech Deal

Adding film restoration to its repertoire through the purchase of Cinetech allows Ascent Media to cover the range of post-production services.

Hanmi Stock Rise Brings Cheer, Caution as Bank Gets New CEO

Hanmi Financial Corp. has had a banner few weeks, but some analysts are beginning to urge caution.

Bigger Top

Aztec Tents and Events manufactures and mounts hangar-size shelters.

Outsource, of Course

The 10 fastest-growing private companies in Los Angeles.

Pouring Effort Into Bringing Good Things to Those Who Wait

Customers, some rushing to start a busy workday, don't seem to mind waiting in lines for their caffeine fix.

Port Logjams Force Ships to Detour North

A South Korean freight giant, fed up with delays at Long Beach, will divert its larger ships to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.

Shaq? Gone. Kings? Locked Out. Winter of Discontent for Staples?

With the NHL lockout, the Shaq-less Lakers and the historically dismal Clippers, the cheering at Staples Center may not be as loud as usual this winter.

Thursday, November 11

At L.A. Hospitals, Capacity Varies

The area's recent hospital closures affect different parts of L.A. in different ways.

Monday, November 8

Court May Widen SLAPP Protection

The state Supreme Court will hear a case that could result in widening of protection against libel lawsuits.

Downtown Housing Developers Making Plans to Cash In

Institutional investors are willing to pay huge sums for those pioneering housing projects in in downtown L.A., and some of the developers are preparing to sell.

Hoy Makes Little Headway in L.A.

The battle for Spanish-language newspaper readers in Los Angeles appears to be going to the incumbent, La Opini & #243;n.

It's Vegas, Baby, for New Generation of Traveling Chinese

China's burgeoning middle class is in the midst of a travel boom, but for the most part these new tourists are bypassing Los Angeles.

No Easy Answer to State's Quest for Relevance

If California split its presidential electors based on the popular vote, both candidates might have actually campaigned here.

UCLA Expels Taco Bell Over Labor Issue

A group of UCLA students, unhappy with the labor practices of a supplier toTaco Bell, has prevailed in convincing the Student Union, to terminate the restaurant chain's tenure.

L.A. May Take Hit in Election Fallout

As a result of last week's presidential election, Los Angeles will likely face an uphill slog in getting its share of federal dollars for social programs and public works projects

Acid Reflex

The Los Angeles Times' restaurant critic recently demoted Bastide from four stars to one a harsh welcome for its new chef.

Controversial Oilman Linked to Anschutz Sale of Pipeline Stake

Philip Anschutz has agreed to sell his share of a publicly held limited partnership, Pacific Energy Partners L.P., to a partnership with ties to controversial oilman Oscar S. Wyatt Jr.

Telemarketing Limits Blamed for Slip in Newspaper Sales

The numbers at L.A.-area newspapers are on the decline, with blame attributed to the new do-not-call rules, which hinder subscription campaigns.

L.A. Stories

Can you buy a $1.5 million Beverly Hills house for $180? Well, no. But you could win one for that price if you enter Century Housing's raffle.

Napster Goes Portable With New Music Service

Napster, now based in L.A., will soon start offering a $14.95 monthly subscription service that allows unlimited downloads from its archive.

Signature Styles Keep Graphologist on Track

Andrea McNichol founded Graphology Consultants International in 1980 to combine her areas of expertise, handling both routine and prominent cases

Stogie Lovers Puff Cigar Sales Higher

Stogie lovers keep on puffing, even as California's taxes, smoking bans and advertising blackouts become more problematic for tobacconists.

After Long Run, Business Tax Reform Nears Finish Line

The 11-year effort to reform the business tax structure in Los Angeles is poised to clear one of its last major hurdles this week.

Appointment of Deaton to DWP Expected to Ease Some Tensions

In tapping Ron Deaton to head the DWP, Mayor James Hahn forestalled a protracted nationwide search and created a plum opening at a key City Hall post.

Lack of Presidential Fireworks Hits Market for Political Ads on Airwaves

Spending related to California propositions took up some of the slack from a virtually uncontested presidential race and a cakewalk for incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Measures Spell Relief for State Businesses

Almost all the propositions that were supported by the business community won voter approval, aided by the governor's backing.

Commentary: Placing the Blame on Monica and Bill

The editor of the Business Journal asks: "The predictable finger-pointing is well under way: How could the Democrats have blown it again?"

Ixia's Diversification Results in Sales Growth for Its Test Tools

Generating earnings growth has been a challenge for small technology companies in the aftermath of the industry downturn of four years ago.

The Right Bite

Laura Trice's Wholesome Junk Food cookies took off when she shrunk them down to sample size.

Port Officials Struggling to Find Solution to Ongoing Congestion

Maritime officials, hoping to avoid a repeat of this year's port congestion, are considering changes that could include additional hires.

Fighting Back

Gary Michelson was awarded $510 million after a legal dispute over the spinal implants he developed in his move from surgeon to inventor.

Headphones, Sheets Don't Block Din of Century City Project

Headphones and window coverings are tools in the battle against construction noise in Century City.

Supervisors Request Investigation Into Animal Carcasses' Destination

County supervisors have called for an investigation into a Vernon company's alleged improper sale of carcasses for use as animal feed.

Monday, November 1

Former Producing Partners' Spat Has IRS Taking Notice

Film producer Gary Barber is in a tax battle resulting from a dispute over the value of his shares in former employer Morgan Creek.

Large Downtown Deals Continue in Year-End Rush

Several big downtown properties have sold or are about to sell in an ongoing race to the end of the year.

Year-End Rush Gathers Steam With Dealmaking Flurry

The spate of activity in the western San Fernando Valley continues to intensify through the fourth quarter.

'American Original' Seeks to Reinvent as Brand Fades

How does a business cope when its flavor-of-the-month status ends? Von Dutch Originals is finding out.

St. Regis Nears Sale, Condo Conversion

Century City's St. Regis hotel is nearing a sale and may be converted to condominiums.

Squeeze Play

Collegiate Sports of America tries to match students looking for sports scholarships with schools around the country.

L.A. Stories

Nobody would want to eat a 65-year-old hot dog. But everybody wants to eat at a 65-year-old hot dog stand.

Commentary: I'm a Lucky So and So

The editor of the Business Journal reflects on turning 50.

Case Against Osbournes Can Proceed

An appellate court has reinstated a lawsuit over a Santa Monica firm's claim that Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne breached a contract for their reality TV series.

Iranian TV Station Faces Reorganization After Suit

National Iranian Television News has filed for Chapter 11 protection.

Local Firms See Opportunity in Emissions Restrictions

A recent mandate for reduction of greenhouse gasses could spur development of cleaner engine technology.

Century City Construction Cuts Into Retail Traffic, Sales

Stores at the Westfield Century City shopping mall have been hit by street construction and renovation of the center.

Anderson Dean Finalist Emerges

Some insiders are concerned about the emergence of Geoffrey Garrett as the leading candidate for dean of UCLA's Anderson School of Management.

Jury Pool Rises as Changes Take Hold, But Nearly Two-Thirds Remain Absent

Taking a glass-half-full view of a series of reforms to the county jury system, Los Angeles Superior Court officials are touting gains that have brought responses to summonses up to 40 percent.

Tow Truck Drivers Vie for Conquests On a Rush-Hour Afternoon in L.A.

A look at the army of truck operators who fan out across the city each rush hour to collect cars parked illegally on major thoroughfares.

Acquisition Brings in Dollars At Cost for Computer Sciences

From Wall Street to Main Street, the perceptions can seem worlds apart. Take Computer Sciences Corp.'s 2003 purchase of DynCorp, the world's 13th largest private military contractor.

Mixed Attendance and Reviews Fall Like Rain on Fashion Week

Several Fashion Week shows were hampered by late starts, wet weather, power problems, mixed attendance and complaints that there wasn't enough spark.

Hotels Lose Business Over Labor Strife

Uncertainty surrounding a union's dispute with nine Los Angeles hotels has resulted in canceled room reservations, banquets, catering assignments and meetings.

Shelley's Travails Present Dilemma for Area Democrats

Two L.A.-area Democrats are at the center of the storm created by the growing scandals surrounding fellow Democrat and California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

School Ties

Yash Gupta, the new dean of USC's Marshall School of Business, wants to revamp the faculty and improve ties to the city's business community and the school's alumni.

California Civil Suits Anticipated Charges Brought by Spitzer

Contingent commissions at the center of the Marsh & McLennan scandal were the subject of two lawsuits filed three years ago in California.

Rockaway Owners Get Back to Their LP Roots

Gary and Wayne Johnson, owners of Rockaway Records in Silver Lake, started out buying and selling old records at swap meets, and they've survived by relying on their old favorite records.

Crackdown on Parking

The city of Los Angeles is about to get tough with motorists who park in tow-away zones during rush hour.

Sony Plans Spur Interest in MGM Offices

Sony officials are already listening to pitches from real estate brokers whose clients want to sublease MGM's newly built Century City headquarters.

Marsh's Clients Reviewing Fees Amid Concerns of Overcharges

Some clients of Marsh & McLennan's L.A. office are concerned enough to start shopping for a new broker.

Bruins Brew New Java Contract With Local Coffee Firm

The task of keeping UCLA students caffeinated has fallen to locally based Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Santa Clarita Getting Its Share of Growth, Pains

A new wave of development has turned Santa Clarita from a bedroom community into a busy suburb, eating up open space and bringing traffic problems.

Loss of Tribune's Fuller Thrusts L.A. Paper Into Uncertain Times

The retirement of Jack Fuller, president of Tribune Co.'s publishing unit, raises the murky question of which shoe might drop next at the beleaguered newspaper group's flagship paper.