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A DAY IN

90012

Invading Civic Center

October 08, 2006|Jessica Gelt

In the 1800s, the heart of Civic Center was called Poundcake Hill. Now the area is practically level and swarms with cellphone-toting civil servants. The first City Hall, circa 1853, was made of adobe; today's City Hall, dedicated in 1928, starred in "Dragnet" and was invaded by Martians in "The War of the Worlds." They aren't the only ones to have menaced Civic Center. In 1910, union activists, described by the L.A. Times as "assassins," dynamited the paper's presses at Broadway and 1st, killing 20 people. The long-shuttered Hall of Justice on Temple once housed Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan.

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SHOP, DROP

Salvation and Salonen

At the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels gift shop--"Your Source for Truly Heavenly Gifts" --you'll find tapestries depicting the saints, rose-scented rosaries and the cathedral's private label of Chardonnays, Zinfandels and Cabernets. 555 W. Temple St., (213) 680-5277 . . . The LA Phil Store at Disney Hall sells books, children's instruments, CDs and stylish jewelry. On Thursday, the store will introduce a CD of the first live recording at Disney Hall by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the L.A. Philharmonic. Salonen will be in-store at 10:30 p.m. to sign copies of the CD, "Le Sacre du printemps." 151 S. Grand Ave., (213) 972-3440.

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452 height, in feet,

of City Hall,

which no building exceeded

before 1957

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FILMED ON LOCATION: Parts of "Blue Sunshine," the 1976 acid-gone-terribly-wrong B horror flick, were filmed in the convincingly ominous concrete maze of Civic Center. In one scene, lead actors Zalman King and Deborah Winters plot against hairless, tripped-out killers beside the Temple Street pedestrian bridge; in another, an acid dealer-turned-creepy politician holds a rally in front of the Arthur J. Will fountain.

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ONE THING TO DO

Splendor in the Grass

Commune with nature. It may be an urban jungle, but Civic Center is bursting with lush, green hideaways--blooming trees in Disney Hall's Urban Garden, dwarf coyote brush in the Department of Water and Power's Water Conservation Garden, a tree-shaded lawn behind the Edward Roybal Federal Building. The most picnic-perfect is the Civic Center Mall, between the County Courthouse and the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, a piazza with vegetation from around the world, piped-in classical music and one of the most spectacular fountains in the city--three tiers splashing 110,000 gallons of water over 19,180 square feet. There's even a taco truck on-site.

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FOOD, DRINK

A Martini After the Mall

In the underground Los Angeles Mall, built in the '70s to jazz up downtown, Leon's Kitchen is the most revered eatery surrounding the courtyard's swirling, orange-tiled fountain. It's easy to see why. With its "Nutritious Choices," Leon's stands apart from recent chain invaders. "We're refreshing to people who want a home-cooked meal," says manager Joe Escobar. The chicken is roasted daily, and government workers rave about the low-fat frozen yogurt. 201 N. Los Angeles St., (213) 613-0747 . . . A favorite among theater-goers, Kendall's Brasserie keeps fresh oysters on ice and makes a mean martini. 135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 972-7322.

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