NEIGHBOROOD COUNCILS BUDGET ADVOCATES--Do you want to get more involved? Are you already advocating for your community? Come be a part of Democracy in Action: Budget Day 2017.
The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates have invited citizens of Los Angeles to make your voice heard on local City Services, the city’s fiscal budget and how your money is spent. Every community is different and every community has their own set of problem areas. Here is your chance to let the Mayor’s office, Los Angeles City Council and the City Hall Departments know exactly what matters to you the most!
As elected officials to the City of Los Angeles, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates represent each and every stakeholder in the City of Los Angeles. We invite you to come work side by side with the Budget Advocate to help pinpoint the problem areas in our city as well as highlight the areas that are successful.
The 36 Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, representing 12 regions throughout the City, will be in attendance. Make your voice heard and follow our progress throughout the year.
The NCBAs meet twice a month, the first Monday of the month at 7 PM and the third Saturday of the month at 10 AM to discuss the City’s Budget and finances. The NCBAs also meet with most of the departments and issue departmental reports throughout the year. The NCBAs also issue an annual White Paper, usually in March, that contains their recommendations regarding the departments and the Budget. The departmental reports are part of the White Paper.
For more information and to check out the 2017 white paper, visit NCBALA.com.
Please register for this free event:
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The Donald Trump administration may be committed to rolling back regulations that protect the environment, but Harbor Area and South Bay residents are ready to fight. The action at the South Coast Air Quality Management District meeting on April 1 regarding the PBF Energy Refinery in Torrance, is just the latest example.
About 50 of the 300 people in the room resolutely waved “Ban Toxic MFH” signs whenever MHF was mentioned by the board or speakers.
This meeting took place partly as a result of Torrance residents that became active following the former Exxon Mobil refinery explosion two years before PBF Energy took it over. In February, about 100 people marched in the rain to protest the refinery’s continued use of the alkylation catalyst, modified hydrofluoric acid or MHF. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and PBF Energy gave reports at the hearing. The main topics were the refinery’s MHF, and public opinion on the chemical.
Speakers explained that in 2015, shrapnel from the explosion nearly pierced a tank containing MHF; a rupture or explosion of the tank would have released gaseous MHF that could have affected 30,000 people.
“MHF not only burns because it is an acid, it is a systematic poison,” said Sally Hayati, panelist at the hearing and president of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance.
Fluoride ions from hydrofluoric acid easily absorb into human skin. They then bond with calcium in human bodies, making it unavailable; without calcium, cardiac arrest can result. Lungs can also fill with blood and water.
Laboratory scientists consider hydrofluoric acid to be one of the most dangerous chemicals to handle. Using EPA guidelines, Hayati and a team of other scientists determined that the worst case scenario from an MHF release would be lethal exposure.
Since the explosion two years ago, the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance has informed the community of MHF’s potential danger as a refinery catalyst. Their campaign has been successful, prompting government officials to respond to the will of the people.
“My No. 1 priority is to make the people safer,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who represents Torrance. “I have introduced a plan to the Assembly to not just make [the PBF refinery] safer but all refineries. That includes a ban on MHF.”
Muratsuchi’s plan consists of five Assembly bills: AB 1645, AB 1646, AB 1647, AB 1648 and AB 1649. In addition to banning MHF, the other bills would call for real time air quality monitoring, a community alert system, more refinery inspectors and codification of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Interagency Refinery Task Force.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who was also present at the SCAQMD hearing, supports Muratsuchi’s bills.
“This is personal for me … it involves the safety of my constituents,” said Hahn. “It’s a common sense plan.”
Elected officials from Torrance, including the mayor, were in attendance as well. On March 28, the city council voted against a phase out of MHF. However, Mayor Patrick Furey told SCAQMD board members and the audience about two resolutions the council adopted. One encourages the refinery to adopt safety measures. The other supports regulations that include a safer catalyst than MHF.
Safer catalysts include sulfuric acid and solid acid. Laki Tisopulos, an engineer with the SCAQMD, and Glyn Jenkins, a consultant with Bastleford Engineering and Consultancy, discussed each catalyst and its potential to replace MHF.
They said that sulfuric acid has been used instead of MHF to refine fossil fuels for decades. Out of the 18 refineries in the state of California, 16 use sulfuric acid. Converting the PBF refinery would cost between $100 million and $200 million.
Solid acid technology is newer. But Jenkins said that there is a refinery in the United Kingdom that successfully refines fossil fuels with it. The same refinery switched away from MHF because it was considered too risky. Like the name suggests, the solid acid process uses a solid catalyst. No acid clouds would result from an explosion, making it safer than either the gaseous MHF or sulfuric acid.
Tisopulos estimated that converting the PBF refinery to use solid acid would cost $120 million initially. Additional costs would come whenever the catalyst had to be replaced.
PBF Energy has not embraced the idea of switching catalysts. In an advertisement in the Daily Breeze, the company stated, “We are confident that the many layers of protection, mitigation steps, and safety systems we have in place allow us to operate the MHF Alkylation Unit safely…”
Their own estimate for converting to another catalyst was around $500 million.
“The discourse [between PBF Energy and the community] has been if the chemical is changed, we lose jobs,” Torrance Councilman Tim Goodrich said.
Fearing any potential job loss, various refinery workers and union members stood up during the hearing’s public comment section and said that they support the status quo. They feel the refinery is safe enough and that the explosion this past year was a fluke.
“…[T]here is no reason why MHF can’t be phased out while jobs are protected,” Hahn responded. “I believe the switch will accelerate newer and safer alternatives, innovation, and lead to better jobs.”
Muratsuchi agreed. He said he doesn’t want to see the refinery shut down, but it should be safer.
In November 2016, the EPA inspected the safety of the PBF Energy refinery.
“They were not following their own safety procedures,” said Dan Meer, assistant director of the Superfund Division of the EPA.
The EPA released a preliminary report on the inspection in March.
“There are issues the refinery needs to address,” Meer said. “If I had to a rate the current risk, with 10 being an emergency situation, [PBF] would be somewhere between a 5 and 7.”
Meer went on to explain that PBF did not have permits to store certain chemicals it has on site. Management is also not effectively communicating with workers, which could be dangerous in an emergency situation. PBF has until the end of April to respond to the EPA and make changes. Otherwise, the EPA will take administrative and legal action.
“This is an urgent public safety risk,” Hayati said. “The refinery should not be in operation at least until the EPA verifies that procedures are being followed.”
Although the local United Steelworkers don’t want to change the catalyst, the steelworkers at the international level feel differently. A study completed by United Steelworkers found 131 HF releases or near misses and hundreds of refinery violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules.
“The industry has the technology and expertise [to eliminate MHF and HF],” the report stated. “It certainly has the money. It lacks only the will. And, if it cannot find the will voluntarily, it must be forced by government action.”
Los Angeles Harbor
The SCAQMD has plans to release an environmental impact report on the Tesoro Corporation’s desire to combine its Wilmington refinery with the former British Petroleum refinery in Carson. Environmental organizations view the report as flawed and will call attention to Tesoro’s plans at the Los Angeles People’s Climate March on April 29.
In 2012, Tesoro purchased the refinery in Carson. Tesoro’s expansion into that site would include adding storage tanks to hold 3.4 million barrels of oil.
Communities for a Better Environment and other climate advocates oppose the expansion. But the focus of the march will be to inform the people about Tesoro’s lack of accuracy and transparency in detailing the project’s impacts to the SCAQMD.
“Tesoro has said that this project is going to reduce emissions and will be ‘cleaner,’ but they admitted to their investors that they are switching to a dirtier crude,” said Alicia Rivera, a community organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.
In a presentation to investors, Tesoro called the type of crude oil, “advantaged crude.” The advantage is that it is cheaper than standard crude. The new type of crude will originate from the Canadian Tar Sands and the Midwest’s Bakken Formation. (About 75 percent will come from North Dakota and 25 percent will come from Canada.)
“These fuels have different characteristics than what Tesoro is refining [in Wilmington] now,” said Julie May, senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment. “They behave more like gasoline. They contain more benzene, which is a volatile organic compound that causes leukemia.”
The draft environmental impact report that Tesoro submitted to the SCAQMD does not clearly mention a crude oil switch. In a comment letter to the SCAQMD, May explained that this failure does not meet the California Environmental Air Quality Act’s project description requirements. Consequently, no one can properly analyze the switches’ impacts, environmental effects and risks to community and worker health and safety.
Another major reason Communities for a Better Environment wants to march against Tesoro is the corporation’s failure to properly evaluate the scope of the project. If the environmental impact report is approved, the refinery will receive fuel via ships traveling from Vancouver, Wash. Vancouver is the site of a rail-to-oil tanker terminal in which Tesoro and Savage Energy invested.
“That [terminal] is the bridge to bring dirty crudes from North Dakota and Canada,” Rivera said. “We call the rail cars that transport the fuel ‘bomb trains’ because some have derailed and exploded.”
Refineries and projects like this undoubtedly have an impact on Harbor Area residents. The challenge now for Communities for a Better Environment is getting residents to come out to the march. Rivera and other Communities for a Better Environment members acknowledged that many of residents are immigrants or working class people; for them, climate change is not always a tangible concept nor an immediate concern.
But Communities for a Better Environment is determined.
“We have youth members going to elementary and middle schools and colleges,” Rivera said. “We are pamphleting markets and Catholic churches. When we inform [people] about this project, they want the expansion to stop.”
On the day of the march, Communities for a Better Environment will circulate a petition to marchers. Its purpose is to pressure the SCAQMD to take Tesoro’s EIR back to a draft stage. Then it can properly detail the project and allow for public input.
The SCAQMD has the authority to finalize the EIR before the march. But that won’t stop Communities for a Better Environment from trying to get the community engaged.
“We need to bring attention to local industries trying to expand in a time when they should be cutting down their emissions,” Rivera said. “Tesoro’s Los Angeles refinery is the highest greenhouse polluter in the state. If the project goes forward, it will be the largest refinery on the West Coast.”
(Christian L. Guzman is community reporter at Random Lengths … where this report originated.)
NC BUDGET ADVOCATES--The city of Los Angeles allows developers to build without adequate parking spaces per unit then tickets vehicles for parking in desperation anywhere they can. It’s a catch 22 and adding to the misery, fines keep increasing each year. The city of Los Angeles is causing the parking problem so why are they charging (ticketing) us?
Excessive on-street parking is a major issue in Los Angeles. A parking ticket fine in LA on average is $68 but parking is non-existent. So the people of this city are sitting ducks who are quickly fined before they can even put their vehicle in park. If the city keeps going at this rate Los Angeles will be a walking only city.
According to www.parking.controlpanel.la … a website introduced by the LA Controllers office … the Los Angeles Department of Transportation Citation Program generated close to $148 million in gross ticket revenues in Fiscal Year 2015-16, but some 3⁄4 of ticket revenue went to overhead, salaries and administrative costs. The remaining $41 million was available through the General Fund and used to pay for City services such as police and fire.
This website also indicates that "the City of Los Angeles also has a responsibility to make sure parking tickets are fair and reasonable". If this is the case, why does the city allow developers to continue to build multi-unit dwellings without sufficient parking?
Currently Los Angeles drivers who receive tickets for parking violations have a better chance of getting relief because of the 2016 Weiss v. Los Angeles case (Court of Appeal, State of California, 8/8/2016) in which the California Supreme Court ruled that Los Angeles will have to handle parking ticket appeals rather than contracting them out to a for-profit company.
The ruling came after Cody Weiss filed a lawsuit against the city and lost his appeal of what he believed was an unfair ticket. Weiss sued the city challenging the practice of farming out its ticket appeal process to Xerox, a for-profit company. “Xerox did not give the citizens a fair chance to fight parking tickets,” Weiss told NBC4. “Their motivation was to make money. They were motivated by greed.”
The issue with Los Angeles did not stop there, around January 2017 budget Advocate Brigitte Kidd was approached by William Taylor a Military Veteran who received a $490.00 traffic citation in the mail and he told her he needed assistance fighting a citation he received on August 7, 2016 at 8:54 am.
The citation stated that he did not stop for a railroad crossing going westbound on Century Blvd at Grandee Avenue. The letter also instructed Mr. Taylor to respond to Los Angeles Superior Court by September 26, 2016. Mr. Taylor immediately responded claiming that “the timing of the traffic light to the crossing arms and camera has been out of sequence for over three months. Crews have even worked on Sundays to correct the timing issue”. Mr. Taylor claims he did nothing wrong and did not understand why he received a ticket.
Mr. Taylor appealed the ticket and went to court on November 17, 2016, where he plead not guilty. In court the Judge had Mr. Taylor plea to lesser fine of $285.00 but she did not dismiss the ticket. In response, Mr. Taylor still declaring his innocence, decided to file a civil lawsuit against Metro Transportation Authority and Los Angeles County to get his money back for the traffic infraction.
After further investigation Mr. Taylor found out the money paid to Los Angeles Superior Court was divided between at least 20 different entities with the last dollar going to Xerox Corporation and that if he wanted to sue he would have to bring all of them to court.
After finding out this information Mr. Taylor requested a list of the 20 different entities and was denied this information by a MTA representative. After being denied access to this pertinent information, Mr. Taylor filed a complaint with MTA and reached out to several city officials who could not answer any of his questions.
After not receiving a timely response from MTA, Mr. Taylor went to the next MTA board of directors meeting where he spoke during the public comment time and there he was instructed to meet with a MTA representative in the hallway that could further assist him with this matter.
In the hallway the MTA representative took down Mr. Taylor’s information and instructed him to file a claim for damages if he wanted to receive a refund. Mr. Taylor agreed but did not understand why he had to file a damage claim instead of MTA just reversing his ticket and giving him his money back.
Even after receiving a refund Mr. Taylor is still not satisfied because none of his questions about where his $490.00 traffic infraction money went were ever clearly answered.
Since this incident the city has started making repairs to the light and has also decided to put Eastbound cameras at the Century/Grandee intersection as well and after the local CBS news picked up the Taylor story in February 2017, the city has decided to refund every driver who received a ticket at that intersection a refund but we still have questions.
Why is a for-profit company still handling Los Angeles city traffic violations after the State Supreme Court ruling?
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The failure of Measure S, which would have put a two-year moratorium on development projects in Los Angeles, is a victory in the fight for affordable housing for UCLA students. But there’s still a long way to go.
It’s no secret Westwood has one of the highest rents in Los Angeles with an average of $4,200 per month for a two-bedroom apartment – well above the average city rent of $2,650 per month. Because UCLA does not guarantee housing for fourth-year students, most UCLA students live off campus at some point during their college career. Although living off campus is cheaper than living on the Hill, off-campus housing prices are still unaffordable for most students, especially when rents are increasing.
But the trend of rising rent doesn’t have to continue if the Westwood Neighborhood Council gets involved. WWNC, which makes recommendations to the Los Angeles City Council about development projects in Westwood, has often opposed high-density housing, advising the council against approving development plans that would increase the amount of people who could live in Westwood. However, such high-density housing could lower rent prices in Westwood by increasing the availability of housing options and improve business in the Village.
Considering how expensive it is to live in Westwood and the number of students seeking affordable housing here, WWNC must take the cue from last week’s election that residents want to shift toward high-density development and help approve more high-density housing projects. They can do so by urging City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who represents the neighborhood in the city council, to approve more affordable housing projects in Westwood. Doing so would not only give cash-strapped students much-needed relief from high rents but could also help businesses in the Village thrive by bringing in more people to patronize them.
The council’s opposition to high-density projects is not new. The Land Use and Planning Committee often uses the excuse that these projects have higher bedroom counts than apartments and therefore will not fit the local aesthetic, but this an arbitrary distinction. They often also cite overcrowding of the community and lower home values as reasons to disapprove of these projects.
Most recently, they advised the city council against granting a developer a Land Conditional Use Permit to build a fraternity house at 611 S. Gayley Ave., considering it a “boarding house” since it had too many rooms. But this “boarding house” could have housed many Bruins.
And it’s not just inconvenient – the lack of affordable housing in Westwood has undermined students’ well-being. Students wholive off campus struggle to secure reasonably priced housing. Additionally, the high cost of living off campus has led to problems such as greater food insecurity, since students have less money to spend on nutritious food and do not have the security of a meal plan.
Expensive housing in Westwood has also hurt the broader Westwood community. Rising housing prices push low- and middle-income people out of the neighborhood since they cannot afford rent. Having fewer people in the village will further stagnate Westwood’s economy – one that should be vibrant but instead is sluggish. If Westwood becomes more of a destination to visit than a place to live, there will be fewer people walking around the village, and thus, less foot traffic for the businesses in Westwood.
In response to the damaging effects of unaffordable housing in the village, the WWNC needs to urge Koretz to fight for more affordable housing projects in Westwood.
He’ll listen. In fact, he often takes the neighborhood council’s advice on development projects, said Lisa Chapman, president of the WWNC. For example, in 2011 the neighborhood council convinced Koretz to not let the city auction off parking garages in Westwood to private bidders since Westwood residents wanted to maintain free parking in the Village. The WWNC should take similar action and represent its constituents who voted against Measure S by pressuring Koretz to approve high-density housing.
Of course, some WWNC members and homeowners in Westwood think higher-density housing will make the Village too crowded and undesirable. However, that belief is out of tune with what city residents think. The fact that Measure S failed indicates that most people who voted in Los Angeles think that fighting development projects is the wrong solution to housing problems.
Certainly,high-density housing will make Westwood more crowded, but current development with many low-level apartments and single-family homes shows that Westwood is not near capacity –meaning it could fit a lot more people with efficient development.
The choice is clear: Either Westwood can collect dust as an aging LA neighborhood or it can revitalize itself by opening its doors to more affordable housing. LA voters made their choice. It’s time for WWNC to follow suit.
(Emily Merz’ perspectives appear regularly in the Daily Bruin … where this viewpoint was first posted.)
BUDGET ADVOCATES--The Budget Advocates of Los Angeles have been in existence for 13 years … a group of citizens dedicated to the people of Los Angeles and watchdogging the city's budget.
The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates know the City Budget is the one issue that touches every person, company, and life in Los Angeles and affects such things as tree trimming, pot hole filling, sidewalk repair, police and fire protection, parks and arts, and all other services provided by the City.
Among this group are two legendary budget advocates, Jay Handal and Jack Humphreville.They are also the two longest serving Budget Advocates. Both have been BAs for 6 years. Jay is currently the Co-Chair of the Budget Advocates Committee. Jack is currently the Budget Advocate for Region 5 …Central Los Angeles.
Here’s a quick Q and A with Jay Handal and Jack Humphreville:
Q: What made you want to get involved with NC Budget Advocates?
Jay Handal: As someone interested in budgets, it was apparent to me that the City was not being good stewards of our money. I wanted to be able to dig in and change the direction of the existing Budget Advocates so that we were not just reporting on how to spend each portion of a dollar, by department, but rather to looking at efficiencies, waste, fraud, abuse and long term forecasting.
Jack Humphreville: City’s finances were a mess. City Hall was misleading us. Concern about policies that neglect our streets and infrastructure. Diverting funds to the personnel. Inefficient operations. Felt that I could make a difference.
Q: What are some of the changes the budget advocates have influenced?
Jay Handal: By far the biggest change was the formation and hiring of the Revenue Inspector General. In his first year he found more than $43 million due the city. Our second biggest accomplishment was getting the City Council to recognize our work and to formally give us a seat at the table to present and have our recommendations analyzed.
Jack Humphreville: Ask Jay. He has a better handle on it. But the major change is that City Hall knows we are there and they have become more open and transparent, in large part because of Miguel Santana.
Q: What can people in the community do to get more involved and be more supportive of the budget advocates?
Jay Handal: Stakeholders should read our report and comment to us. Stakeholders will see how money is actually being spent and how very limited dollars may be reapportioned in order to bring more services to them. Stakeholders should contact their council members and demand that recommendations for change be accepted and enacted.
Jack Humphreville: People need to tell their representatives that the City’s finances are unacceptable.
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.)
UPDATE--Answering the call to be a Neighborhood Budget Advocate is not for the faint hearted. Recently the budget advocates met with Mayor Garcetti to discuss the White Paper, (research, recommendations for fiscal responsibility of city departments and offer alternative options for revenue generation), and of that group attendance more than 10 are new to budget advocacy. Who would be attracted to what some call a complicated game of find the money molly?
We asked Amy Foell – Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, Ivette Ale – Voices of 37 Neighborhood Council and Brigette Kidd – Zapata-King Neighborhood Council three new budget advocates the following questions;
What interested you in the role of the neighborhood council budget advocate?
Amy Foell: I decided to educate and empower myself and my community through public service. It’s important to understand how our tax dollars are being utilized. Many Los Angelenos are not aware of how City Hall is spending our money collected from taxes.
Ivette Ale: As the Treasurer and new member of my neighborhood council, I was seeking opportunities to learn more about the City budget and ways I can better serve. I attended Budget Day and I learned that Budget Advocates was a body that had a "seat at the table" in city government and to amplify the voices of stakeholders in my district.
Brigette Kidd: My initial goal for running for a seat on the Zapata-King Neighborhood Council was to find out how I could get trees trimmed in the area that overshadowed light poles and stop signs which was safety issue; and also made some locations easy for tagging. I knew it wasn’t where you lived, but how you lived that could make a difference.
Budget advocates play an important role by providing recommendations to how the City can run more efficiently, what was your role in the White Paper that was presented to the Mayor on March 8, 2017? What did you learn?
Amy Foell: I researched assigned departments, interviewed department heads and co-wrote sections of the White Paper. I covered the Economic & Workforce Development Department as well as the Department on Disability. Each department has their own personality and level of openness towards BA’s objectives. I believe our City can bring in much more revenue by harnessing solar power and other sustainable practices.
Ivette Ale: As the chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, I organized a discussion with department leadership and drafted the subsequent recommendations for the Cultural Affairs Department. I learned that there are issues that span across several departments. For instance, access to the City's internet backbone and standardizing technology is a consistent problem across the board, for example the Cultural Affairs Department lack of tech support prevents the department from capturing revenue and maximizing use of facilities.
Brigette Kidd: I chaired the Information Technology Committee. As Ivette mentioned technology is a major problem. The ITA is making some strides with the creation of the 311 app, but inefficiencies are from lack of communication from one department to another and that each department has different technology goals. The major road block is unifying departmental goals to create an intuitive, reliable and easy to update technology system that protects critical assets (water, utilities, sewage), and communicate across all departments while providing transparency and clear costs to tax payers.
Why is it beneficial for others to get involved as a budget advocate or budget representative for their NC/area?
Amy Foell: It would be great if every citizen had to take a turn as a budget advocate for LA. I would wager the positives would offset the negatives. Folks would gain a greater understanding of the various departments, monies allocated and spent. Amazing ideas and solutions would develop and voter turn-out would dramatically increase. This utopian vision may be a stretch goal, but a woman can dream. Just over a year ago today I was completely unaware of neighborhood councils and budget advocates. Today I’m a District B representative for Los Feliz neighborhood Council, co-chair of the environmental affairs committee, and a budget advocate. The learning curve is steep but anyone can do this because we all care about our home.
Ivette Ale: Looking around the room at a budget advocate's meeting, it is evident that there are gaps in community representation. Becoming actively involved in budget advocates provides an avenue to legitimize, vocalize and amplify the concerns of our areas. But regardless of political background and identity, at the heart of budget advocates is a desire for transparency and accountability. It is an underutilized body with the potential to be transformative with increased, diversity and participation.
Brigette Kidd: Learning how to challenge effectively. As a budget advocate you can challenge budget issues with research and facts. Get involved because you are either adding, subtracting multiplying or dividing.
If you are interested in getting involved in your local neighborhood council or becoming a budget advocate check out Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate Responsibilities.
(Adrienne Edwards and Brigette Kidd are Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates. More info at ncbala.com.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--A year of record boardings on the San Gabriel Valley’s Gold Line train is suppressing bus ridership, causing a local independent operator to propose substantial reductions to lines that offer similar service.
As a response to a passenger shift from buses to the light-rail foothill extension running from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border for a year, West Covina-based Foothill Transit is proposing to slash bus lines, including Line 187, one of the most popular east-west bus routes that runs from Montclair to Pasadena, across the foothill cities of the San Gabriel Valley.
Foothill Transit will de-emphasize the connection between Azusa and Pasadena by splitting the line into two: an eastern and a western segment.
“With regards to Line 187 as it relates to the Gold Line, the Azusa to Pasadena ridership has really fallen off,” said Kevin McDonald, deputy executive director of Foothill Transit. “We are keeping the eastern portion, which will go to the Los Angeles County Arboretum and the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia.”
Under the proposed restructuring plan voted for public consideration by the governing board on Friday, the agency will cut Line 187 in half, which will continue to run from Pasadena to Azusa. The split will also create Line 188, which will from Azusa to Montclair. (Read the rest.)
HAWTHORNE--In a move that stunned local residents, the Hawthorne City Council voted to extend their own terms by an additional year in the March 14th, 2017 meeting.
Under the guise of compliance with Senate Bill 415, city leaders swiftly made a motion to bring Hawthorne Ordinance 2136 from the table and called for an immediate vote. Ordinance 2136 serves to alter the election cycle of the City of Hawthorne by extending current terms by one year to accommodate the switch to even-year elections.
Two weeks prior, Councilmember Haidar Awad called for the ordinance to be tabled indefinitely due to public outcry, leading many residents to believe the ordinance would not be voted on.
Councilmember Nilo Michelin quickly objected to the motion on March 14th to bring the ordinance off the table and called for discussion. He was censured by Mayor Vargas because he was out of his seat during the motion. After a second objection by Michelin, Mayor Vargas called the vote again but allowed discussion on the Ordinance 2136 after.
“There are other ways to do this,” cited Councilman Nilo Michelin. “The state said that the elections need to be on even years by 2022. There’s nothing about extending terms. It could start in 2017 or 2019. It could be shorter terms.”
Councilmember Awad quipped that the residents in opposition were running for political office themselves, and only serving self-interests. After allowing Michelin and Awad time to speak, the Mayor again called for a vote on the ordinance which passed 4-1.
Up for re-election in November 2017 were Councilwomen Olivia Valentine and Angie English-Reyes. Valentine was appointed to council in a special appointment process after losing her seat by election to incumbent Nilo Michelin and newly elected Haidar Awad. Both Valentine and English-Reyes remained silent during the discussion, but ultimately voted to give themselves an additional year to fundraise and campaign.
Several residents are gathering outside of City Hall on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017, prior to the City Council Meeting to speak out against sitting elected officials canceling a scheduled election and extending their own terms. Advocates for voting rights are encouraged to come and participate. The address to Hawthorne City Hall is 4455 W. 126th Street, Hawthorne CA 90250.
(Amie Shepard is an activist and a one-time candidate for Hawthorne City Council.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The city’s plan to put the unfinished Target project in Hollywood back on track moved ahead on Wednesday after the city council approved a plan in which Target will pay a $1.2 million in-lieu fee for employee child care.
The issue regarding how Target would satisfy the city’s requirement to provide childcare was one of the final steps for the project to receive approval to resume construction. However, the project still must clear a remaining hurdle in court before construction can begin again on the partially completed store at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue.
The Los Angeles Superior Court must rule on a lawsuit filed by the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association, which contends the city violated zoning laws in approving the project because it exceeded allowable height limits. A court hearing on the matter is expected to occur soon.
The Los Angeles Superior Court previously ruled in favor of the neighborhood association and construction was stopped in 2014. Target appealed the ruling to an appellate court, and the city altered zoning regulations at the site to allow for a taller building. The La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association filed a second lawsuit against the revised zoning plan last year, and the appellate court sent the matter back to the superior court for consideration. (Read the rest.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Thank you for your support. Thank you for standing up for your property rights. Thank you for being someone who wants to allow Los Angeles to flourish. If it were not for you, we would have never brought light to this abuse of the planning system. We have received calls from other neighborhoods in which HPOZs are in process inquiring how to stop theirs. The answer is to organize and stand up early enough in the process, not be afraid to speak out. We did that. Without us taking a stand together, we could not have achieved what we did: a significantly liberalized Preservation Plan. Your energy gave us a voice.
Yesterday’s Planning Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee was a stark reminder that even when it appears you have a chance, the cards may be stacked against you. It was a stark reminder of the inequalities of politics. It was a stark reminder that we live in a great city which can make great errors in judgement. Government is a machine oiled with backroom promises and lack of discussion. Yesterday was a reminder of that. PLUM’s decision to push the Miracle Mile HPOZ to City Council is an indication of everything that is wrong with our City government.
What have we accomplished? We prevented a horrible Preservation Plan from being adopted and instead we will have the most lenient in the City. We made sure you can paint your house any color you like. We made sure an arborist report will not be required if a property owner decides to remove mature trees. We made sure that solar panels are permitted as per state law (and if they try to prevent drought tolerant, just let us know). We replaced the language that would mandate transparent gates with allowances for solid. Many additions that were prohibited under the old rules will now be allowed, including many second stories. And for those who don’t want to imitate ‘20s architecture, we forced the City to allow contemporary. To be sure, the language is still a mess, but it’s not what it was.
What did we learn? We learned that had we been involved and organized earlier, this abuse would likely never have happened. We learned that we could make a difference. And we learned that the people who were drawn to our group saw the future not as something frightening or repugnant, but to be embraced. That is why we are setting up Miracle Mile Forward. We look forward to seeing you all at future meetings - more information to come.
(Say No HPOZ is a citizen group formed to fight a proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL BUDGET ADVOCATES--The City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on March 8th to present and discuss their White Paper for the coming city budget fiscal year 2017 – 2018.
The White Paper will contain priorities, recommendations to improve revenue generation, collection and operations and the efficient use of our tax dollars.
The Budget Advocates take on the arduous task and spend hundreds of hours in meetings with city department and agency General Managers, and senior staff to learn, study and analyze their departments' strategic plans, operations, budget proposals and then develop recommendations.
The Budget Advocates will next meet with and present our findings to the City Council Budget & Finance Committee followed by a presentation to the full City Council in the coming months.
Please contact me if you wish to receive a copy of the Budget Advocates White Paper.or more information on the white paper please visit NCBALA.com, track our progress while we wait to see how our Los Angeles City Mayor responds.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Less than two months after a horrific warehouse fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist colony in Oakland, city inspectors came knocking at the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles’ Fashion District.
On Jan. 18, two officials with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety showed up unannounced to the art studio and event space, which also was home to 17 artists. As the inspectors made their rounds, residents frantically posted in a community Facebook group to try to find out why two strangers with clipboards were surveying the property and asking to look inside their bedrooms.
This wasn’t the first time city officials had discovered people were living in the commercial warehouse space at 939 Maple Ave. For more than a year, in fact, the city had known Think Tank was illegally housing residents. But it wasn’t until the tragedy in Oakland that the city took more forceful action.
“We knew once the Ghost Ship fire happened, we were like, ‘This is it,’” says Think Tank Gallery executive director Jacob Patterson.
After the inspection, the LA City Attorney’s office served an order-to-comply notice to the property owners, giving the gallery until Feb. 13 to either acquire a certificate of occupancy or have residents removed under threat of a criminal complaint. By the end of the month, all of the artists had moved out.
In the wake of the fire, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer assembled a warehouse task force along with building safety officials, promising an “aggressive response” to illegal-use commercial spaces. The city’s D.I.Y. community has been on edge ever since, and the threat of a widespread crackdown on underground lofts and warehouse spaces has left many artists in fear of eviction. (Read the rest.)