New From CityWatch
GELFAND’S WORLD--The pharmaceutical industry sued the state of California on Friday. You see, California recently passed a law that would require the drug companies to give advance warning before they raise prices substantially. Under California's new law, drug companies are at least supposed to provide some advance notice and to explain their reasons. So as night follows day, the pharmaceutical industry filed suit, wrapping themselves in the Constitution and various other sacred obligations.
PERSPECTIVE--Remember being taught about the Boston Tea Party? The patriots of Boston finally had enough taxation without representation. Well folks, get your tea bags out and ready.
DEEGAN ON LA-Are protections to control alcohol permits that had been approved and put in place by neighborhood councils with community input and city approval being diluted? This is what community activists are saying: City Attorney Mike Feuer has been allowing City Planning to remove, reduce or modify conditions without notifying the neighborhood councils and the original stakeholders involved in the creation of these conditions in the first place, leading to the very negative impacts those communities have been trying to avoid.
At issue are Conditional Use Permits for Beverage (CUBs) that set the conditions for establishments selling alcohol in communities.
Has this been happening because the City Planning Department does not loop in the relevant stakeholders about proposed changes? Or, is it because the City Attorney has advised that City Planning can let these agreements be reduced or lapse without further discussion and approval?
A group of Westside activists feels this erosion stems from unilateral actions taken by the City Attorney.
They take serious issue with City Attorney Mike Feuer who they have met with at least three times, but say they have gotten nowhere. The activists allege that the City Attorney is unilaterally approving these rollbacks which, in their view, should only be able to be approved by the City Council, after review by the community.
When asked about this, a spokesperson for the City Attorney told CityWatch, “We cannot discuss any confidential advice we may have given a client.”
Activist Wendy-Sue Rosen of the Brentwood Residents Coalition provided CityWatch with the context of the issue: “For decades, applicants for Conditional Use Permits for Beverage (CUBs) routinely engaged with community organizations and stakeholders to gain support for their CUB applications by agreeing upon land-use conditions designed to mitigate adverse impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods. The cooperative process worked—CUBs were granted and neighborhoods were protected. Then, in 2012 the City Attorney’s office reversed that process with no notice to the community, no instruction from the City Council, no opportunity for public input.”
“The Coalition,” Rosen continues, “had three in-person meetings with City Attorney Mike Feuer. We came away very concerned and surprised that the City Attorney seemed unwilling to exercise the City’s police powers to protect neighborhoods. It was alarming that the City Attorney was allowing CUB holders to break the promises they made to obtain their permits.”
Zeroing in on the role of the City Attorney, Rosen said, “In Westwood, an applicant for a CUB negotiated with the Westwood Community Council and local stakeholders to gain their support, agreed to a set of land use and public safety conditions, and obtained the benefit of the permit. Then they came back later, not to the Community Council, but to the West LA Area Planning Commission to ask for the removal of the conditions they had previously agreed to. At the hearing the City Attorney instructed the Commission they were required to remove the conditions.” “The City Attorney is clearly setting public policy. That is the job of the City Council. This supposed “policy change” came with no notice to the community, no opportunity for public input, and no consideration by City Council. We were just told this is how it is,” concluded Rosen.
Stepping into the dispute is Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) who represents significant parts of the westside, including Westwood. On November 28, he introduced a motion addressing complaints from neighbors reporting that too often the Planning Department was removing neighborhood protections from the establishments that sell alcohol that had been initially been put in place as part of agreements to issue the license in the first place – resulting in problems in their neighborhood.
“It has been brought to our attention," said Koretz, "that the Planning Department has been removing conditions without notifying the original stakeholders involved in their permit approvals leading to the very negative impacts that we've been trying to avoid. I believe that it is the local community's right to be involved in the decision-making process of how the sale and service of alcohol impacts their communities. They have intimate knowledge of the issues specific to their neighborhoods and, therefore, their volunteer hours of effort and input should not be erased with the stroke of a pen.”
A spokesperson for Councilmember Koretz told CityWatch that “the Councilmember wants to make sure a balance is being maintained, and that we want our small businesses to thrive within the communities they serve but not unduly impacting neighborhoods by reversing previously agreed upon traffic, noise, hours of operations and parking mitigations to name a few.”
The matter is currently with the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee for deliberation. No hearing date has been set.
(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at email@example.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
BUDGET ADVOCATES-As a City Budget Advocate, I volunteered to chair the Cannabis Committee for this year’s White Paper which will be submitted to the Mayor early next year. With cannabis being the newest department to generate revenue to the city’s General Fund budget, our committee’s first goal was to meet with the newly hired Executive Director, Cat Packer and ask, how do we keep track of the money? The advantage of being a new line item in the budget is that there is no haze of the past, no inconsistencies on the “whys and hows” of the department’s budget. It’s a fresh start to transparency, which is the primary goal of the Budget Advocates representing 97 neighborhood councils.
PREVEN REPORT-How is charging admission to a public museum not the same thing as charging admission to a public library?
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-In a city of smaller communities, it’s the Neighborhood Councils that connect the Mayor’s Office and the Council with the issues facing each neighborhood. The job of EmpowerLA and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) is to support the Neighborhood Councils. But what happens when Empower LA drops the ball?
SMALL BIZ WATCH--As sexual harassment allegations spread to more individuals and industries, the sad facts are coming out regarding treatment of women at work that many have known about for decades. It’s easy to point to more “glamorous” enterprises like entertainment, investment, culinary, tech, politics, fashion, and think that these “ego-head” movers and shakers are getting their due. In the days to come #MeToo will certainly spread to less glamorous industries and less prominent transgressors, and many industries and localities will have unfortunate and distressing sexual harassment accounts to deal with.
LA WATCHDOG--The unfunded liability for the Department of Water and Power’s retirement liabilities improved as a result of the 12.7% return on invested assets for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. As a result, the shortfall decreased from $2.8 billion (81% funded) to $1.8 billion (88% funded).
CLIMATE POLITICS--At a moment when firefighters—and anyone who lives and breathes in Southern California—could use a break, the atmosphere is about to double down.
CAL MATTERS--With sexual harassment and assault allegations ricocheting through the state Capitol, two female lobbyists say they soon faced the consequences of speaking out—a state senator who suddenly wanted to avoid meeting with them.
ANIMAL WATCH-In a shocking and embarrassing display of arrogance and disrespect at the Los Angeles Animal Services' Commission meeting on November 28, Commissioner Roger Wolfson – an appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti -- included insults and bullying to attempt to overrule the decision of General Manager Brenda Barnette and Chief Veterinarian Jeremy Prupas and gain approval to switch impounded dogs in city shelters to vegan food.
ALPERN AT LARGE--As stated in my last CityWatch article, Los Angeles City and County is using its successful 2028 Olympic bid to accelerate the many Metro projects that have been delayed to 2035 or beyond.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Does one need to sue Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in order to get the truth? That might be the case when it comes to un-licensed, un-permitted dog and cat breeders operating in the city.
CORRUPTION WATCH-All educated people have heard Lord Acton’s quote from 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” One interesting aspect of Lord Acton’s statement is that it took thousands of years for someone to concisely state what everyone knew. It’s the lesson behind Sodom and Gomorrah where the judges were named Liar, Deceiver, and Perverter of the law. Socrates’, Plato’s and Aristotle’s discussions on how to bring together wisdom and power yielded no solution. As the Arab political philosopher al-Farabi noted in his parable of the pious ascetic, the corruption power brings taints even the righteous. (The ascetic had to lie by acts of deception to save his life.)
DATELINE HOLLYWOOD-We’re in a VIP Room at the Avalon Hollywood. It’s a celebration the likes of which this reporter has never seen. An impossibly good looking private host escorts us through a private door to a VIP Table where Tom Joad sits snugly behind a velvet rope, sipping Dom Pérignon poured out of a Magnum at table side.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-At the height of the previous anti-Russian cold war, roughhewn anti-Communists, like J. Edgar Hoover, wrote long forgotten tracts, like his masterpiece, Masters of Deceit. He told “real Americans” about telltale signs that slick-talking liberals sneaking into their circle of friends might really be clandestine Reds. Picking up his theme, in 1949 RKO Studios produced I Married a Communist, but it was such a dud that the studio renamed the film, The Woman on Pier 13. A half-century later, acclaimed writer Phillip Roth wrote a sarcastic novel with the same name, “I Married a Communist.”
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS—Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmembers José Huizar, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Curren Price today officially opened the Skid Row Community ReFresh Spot, a personal care center that will provide new access to showers and toilet facilities for Angelenos experiencing homelessness.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS—Check out the graphic at the top of this article. This is what we will be seeing at Olympic and Figueroa when the new hotel-residential-commercial project is built there, probably in 2022.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Five current and former police officers of Asian descent filed a lawsuit last week against the San Gabriel police department in Los Angeles county, California, alleging that fellow officers openly disparaged people of Asian heritage.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Wells Fargo & Company has decided to evict a popular tree-lighting festival from the parking lot of one of its branches, a move coming at a time when the bank is working to rebuild its image in the aftermath of a scandal involving the opening of accounts for millions of customers without their permission.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The Los Angeles City Council Public Works and Gang Reduction committee approved a motion earlier in November to hire homeless individuals to collect garbage. The motion, which was written by city councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Joe Buscaino, also aims to address the excess garbage on public walkways and streets – one of the issues residents most frequently report to the city.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Community Relations Officer John King promoted the idea that Rancho San Pedro’s public housing residents and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles are on a journey together. King spoke at an Oct. 26 meeting regarding the public housing’s redevelopment.
YES IN MY BACK YARDERS ON THE MOVE-Of the fifteen bills in the “housing package” signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 29, the one that got the most attention in the media was State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 35—and for good reason: SB 35 goes a long way toward “putting teeth” in California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocations, the number of housing units that each city’s and county’s zoning must accommodate. Moreover, the bill’s provisions for “by-right” approval of certain multi-family, infill developments both circumvent the California Environmental Quality Act and eliminate negotiations with developers over community benefits.
VOICES--Los Angeles is in the throes of an unprecedented housing affordability crisis, with homelessness at historic highs. So why does our planning department see fit to allow developers to buy up affordable, rent-stabilized buildings and convert them to luxury, million-dollar condominiums?
EASTSIDER-Everyone knows about the plight of the folks living around Porter Ranch, and how well SoCalGas has treated them. Now it appears that all DWP customers will be receiving a “gift” from the Gas company that we really, really are not going to like!
BELL VIEW-This one goes way back. When I was about 8 years old, I got together with my friend up the street, Davy Dexheimer, to play Hot Wheels. We set up a track down Davy’s long driveway and raced our cars against each other. Davy had quite the collection, and one in particular caught my eye. So, when we were packing up our things at the end of the day, I pocketed one small car and headed home.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-Without Justice in our society – and particularly in the Criminal Judicial System -- there is a strong tendency by some members of society to resort to misguided vigilante justice or, as it states in Exodus 21:24, to demand an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth, a hand for hand, a foot for a foot.
REMEMBER ENRON?--Los Angeles’ escalating housing costs are not due to impartial market forces, but rather, the product of judicially sanctioned corruptionism. Hillel Aron and Jason McGahan, in their November 29, 2017 article, What Happens When Wall Street Is Your Landlord? describe the personal pain and suffering that is increasingly befalling Angelenos.
FIRST PERSON REPORT-My parents love true crime shows. They love Dateline, 20/20, you name it. Lester Holt and Keith Morrison are like family friends at this point. It’s been this way since I was in high school, and I remember my sister and I finding it funny how much these morbid shows entertained our parents until we got hooked on the stories too. But there was always a running commentary from our parents.
DEFINING THE DEBATE-The first time I remember being sexually harassed at work was at my second job ever, working at a bookstore. There was a man there who always tried to work sexual innuendo into every conversation we had.
VETS FOR PEACE SPEAK OUT-The U.S. president, Donald Trump, revealed his inner nature again earlier this week when he retweeted a series of anti-Muslim propaganda videos from the deputy leader of an ultranationalist, neo-fascist hate group in the UK. Trump sank to a new low in terms of the blatant falsehoods and myths he will invoke and propagate to incite enmity against Muslims.
AT LENGTH--It seems like it was just two short years ago that we lived in a country that was moving forward past historic racial divides with the election of the first black president —a man who brought intelligence, grace and compassion to our highest office without a hint of scandal.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--The Republican Party’s road to the 2018 mid-terms looks increasingly like Pickett’s Charge, the Confederate assault on fixed Union positions that marked the high-water mark for the southern cause. After achieving its greatest domination of elective office in 80 years, the GOP seems likely to get slaughtered.
MUSINGS BY MIRISCH-There’s something about Pixar and senior citizens. The world’s leading animation studio, groundbreaking within an art form traditionally associated with children and families, seems to be at its absolute best when making pictures featuring senior citizen characters -- perhaps the least traditional of animation characters -- in prominent roles.
LA WATCHDOG--As a result of Raul Bocanegra’s resignation from the State Assembly, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a special election to fill his seat. This will more than likely include two trips to the polls, a primary and then a runoff, costing taxpayers an estimated $2 million, if not more. And this does not take into consideration the distraction caused by this special election or the campaign dollars spent by the aspiring candidates. (Photos above: State Senators Kevin de Leon, left and Ricardo Lara)
LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday, November 28, the politically appointed Board of Water and Power Commissioners rubber stamped the transfer of $242 million of Ratepayer money from the DWP’s debt burdened Power System to City Hall without any meaningful discussion.
LA WATCHDOG--As a result of an expose in the Los Angeles Times that disclosed numerous incidents of groping and sexual harassment, State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) announced that he will not seek reelection and that he will resign from the California State Assembly on September 1, the end of the legislative session.
LA WATCHDOG--Why are Councilmembers Paul Krekorian, the Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee, and Paul Koretz, the Chair of the Personnel Committee, and Mayor Eric Garcetti unwilling to be transparent about the City’s pension crisis that contributes to its never ending Structural Deficit and is crowding out basic services to Angelenos?
LA WATCHDOG--For the last four seasons, three million Southern California households have been unable to watch the Dodgers in the comfort of their own homes because of a business dispute between two media giants, Charter Communications, the owner of Time Warner Cable now doing business as Spectrum, and Direct TV, a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company with a market capitalization exceeding $200 billion.
LA WATCHDOG--Ever since The New York Times broke the story on October 4th about the sexual harassment and rape allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, numerous other victims have surfaced, naming not only Harvey Weinstein, but other Hollywood predators, including filmmaker Brett Ratner, actor Kevin Spacey, and director James Toback. And no doubt there will be others who have used their power and status to prey on those lower down on the food chain.
RESISTANCE WATCH--Opponents of the Republican tax plan moving through Congress showed they were not backing down on Tuesday as hundreds of protesters chanted "Kill the bill!" and "Tax the rich, not the sick!" as they assembled outside the offices of GOP lawmakers.
RESISTANCE WATCH--On a nippy November evening, 80 defiant Boyle Heights residents and allies trekked to the Westside to rally near multimillionaire Frank “BJ” Turner’s McMansion, miles from the historic corner where Turner is trying to drive out LA’s historic mariachi musicians and their families.
RESISTANCE WATCH--If you want to make a real difference that impacts so many of our community members and residents, please attend and share this event hosted by March and Rally. This is one of the most crucial issues we are currently facing in LA.
RESISTANCE WATCH--The National Day of Action is planned for Monday as the Trump resistance fights the Republican tax plan, which is expected to raise taxes on middle-income Americans while cutting them for corporations and the richest families. (Photo: @Indivisible12th/Twitter)
FEDERAL AID POLITICS--As thousands of Californians struggle to recover from October’s devastating wildfires, the White House has left California’s appeal for relief funding out of its $44 billion disaster aid request to Congress, meaning the state may not receive any federal aid for them. (Photo above: Smoke obscures the sun in Santa Rosa, Calif., during the October wildfires. )
ANIMAL WATCH-Two Pit Bulls owned Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue, a West Hollywood group, recently attacked innocent victims in separate incidents while in the care of fosters in the city of Los Angeles. Both were declared Dangerous Dogs by LA Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette. This means the dogs must be removed from the city or euthanized and that the owner cannot license or keep another dog within the city limits for three years.
ANIMAL WATCH-“We are opposed to puppy mills," stated Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Wednesday, as the City Council discussed repealing a ban which would have restricted local pet shops from selling dogs, cats and potbellied pigs not obtained from an animal-care facility or rescue organization. "This will not affect puppy mills,” she said, “They’re going to continue to be there.”
ANIMAL WATCH-At its Tuesday night meeting, Oct. 24, the Los Angeles Animal Services' Commission, appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, approved General Manager Brenda Barnette’s report requesting removal of all dog-breed ID labels from kennel cards in the interests of “transparency,” because she and the City shelter staff “really don’t know the breed of the dogs.”
ANIMAL WATCH-Animal activists and crime-ravaged communities reporting rampant animal neglect and abuse, cheered when the long-sought Los Angeles Police Department's Animal Cruelty Task Force (ACTF) was formed in 2005 to address felony crimes against animals, including dog fighting and cockfighting. The motion was introduced by now-Congressman Tony Cardenas and seconded by current Secretary of State Alex Padilla, while both served on the City Council, and was approved on May 13, 2005.
ANIMAL WATCH-“If there is nothing bad or dangerous in a dog’s history--especially Pit Bulls--why would Brenda Barnette hide its records?” asked a visitor at the September 12 Los Angeles Animal Services Commission meeting.
@THE GUSS REPORT-On Friday, the National Football League (NFL) released a news nugget that was obscured by Friday’s Hurricane Harvey, President Trump pardoning former sheriff Joe Arpaio, and North Korea firing off some test missiles.