Thu, Mar

Hookah Mediation: The Nimbys v. The Renters


ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK - The mighty County Board of Supervisors scraped along the bottom for a moment or two before grinding to a complete halt on Tuesday.

I tried to call in to upbraid the board about hiding from the public, but the AT&T call center must have been swamped. The Executive office was duly notified in real-time and could have accommodated the speakers who wanted to comment, when the board emerged from their meeting, but it didn't happen.  The concept of waiting in the "virtual corridor " outside of a secret meeting is not recognized locally.  

No worries, because down Grand Park at City Hall, there was a deeply moving set of hearings on vital issues facing LA. Over the last week, a flood of late-arriving mail ballots propelled left-of-center candidates in races for mayor, city attorney, and multiple council seats.  Even Mitchell O'Farrell of CD13 is coming in at less than 32 percent, against four progressives, including Hugo Soto-Martinez, who has almost 41 percent of the vote.  

One public speaker took a moment to ask if folks had been troubled by the rise in aviation, "There must be fifty planes flying over downtown LA..." [The LA press club awards are this Saturday at Sheraton Universal.] 

Nury Martinez, the council president said that there were nearly 100 speakers who had signed up and she would try to take them all.  That tells you that the crowd is either very supportive of the council or very angry at the council.  Or both. 

Nury called up, Adena Tessler, and the crowd rumbled.  The Council President was taken aback and said,  "Sorry, I'm getting used to having a council chamber full of folks."  

Ms. Tessler is the Senior Regional Vice President of the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC).  She has a demonstrated history of working in the government relations and communications industry and is highly skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Grassroots Organizing, Crisis Communications, Government, and Media Relations. 

There were two big-ticket items on the docket.  A union-supported hotel worker ordinance and a swag bag from Subway.   Sorry, the second item was an ordinance to increase wages of Healthcare workers NOW, without having to put the measure on the ballot. 

"Move it to the ballot. Health care workers are heroes, but this measure is flawed," said one paid speaker.  "A fragile industry is struggling to recover, a Health care minimum wage... " BIG APPLAUSE 

He persevered, "Currently hotel guests may opt-out of daily room cleaning service...  this ordinance prevents paying overtime. The long-term impacts on the TOT (Transit Occupancy Tax)..." 

A mighty roster of well-versed public speakers was rolled out over about the next hour or so. 

Hotel Workers and Health Care both begin with an "H" and the House was full. 

"I make $17 / hour ... I work so many hours, I barely get to see my kids... I used to be a waiter, I'm considering going back... Please, support healthcare minimum wage." 

A representative from the hotel association countered, "send it to the ballot!" which in city parlance has two meanings, "We need money, let's tap the taxpayers" or "Hopefully, taxpayers will kill this big play by Labor."  

On Tuesday, it was the second meaning.  

A speaker from Kaiser said the company stands for community health... "but this will only benefit the few while harming the greater community. "Send this to the voters."  BOOOOO. 

A speaker who had worked as a housekeeper in the Beverly Hills Hotel for 22 years...spoke. APPLAUSE. 

Another speaker jumped up to say that the WaterKeeper and other environmental groups sent a letter blasting the idea promoted by VICA and BizFed that by paying workers fairly would negatively impact water usage during a drought.   

Kevin DeLeon, who got 8% of the primary vote for mayor running on a platform of support for working-class Angelenos, said, Los Angeles had the fifth largest GDP on earth.  Similar ordinances in Santa Monica, Long Beach, Glendale, and West Hollywood have already been adopted.  Let's not ask the voters to tell us to do something that we know is the right thing to do... "that's why they elected us... to take the tough decision, make the tough calls. "  

"This is not partisan, this is about fairness, respect, and dignity for the backbone of our economy. They are Los Angeles... and we are them.  They are us."    

A rising chant of  "Si Se Puede" which sounds like "U... S... A..." 

Mike Bonin, who does not wear a mask during closeups and is leading a progressive surge, said, "There was such energy. They may be invisible but they are not quiet." 

This seeks to expand and cover more hotels and more workers. These are common sense, fair prudent steps--expand fairness, opportunity, and a panic button, for women workers in hotels.   "That does not need to go to a ballot," said Bonin. 

John Lee dba Staffer B John Lee (still not indicted) said, he had "the utmost respect... for the service industry. He called it, "An important piece of what makes LA run... " but there has been no independent financial analysis.  

Curren Price,  who successfully beat back a progressive challenger in the CD9 race, said, "I stand in solidarity with my colleagues who see that this is "the right thing to do!" APPLAUSE.  

LA, he said, has always been the cutting edge. "The sky did not fall in other cities." 

Nithya Raman, who, like Nury Martinez has been very reluctant to expose her face, was maskless as she referenced the #Metoo movement from 2018, and how workers across many industries stood together for worker safety. "When it wasn't powerful white guys, getting caught, the passion went away."    

I guess she forgot about "Bad Mayor" a possible musical by Rick Jacobs and Eric Garcetti.  

The people listening were wondering if Raman was oblivious to the in house Mayoral horror show scandal that unfolded as she was running for office. Why the mask? 

Paul Krekorian surprised the room with a somber confession: "I don't talk about myself very much. How I grew up. People here, know me as a lawyer from San Fernando Valley.  My dad was a Marine who drove a cab...he worked out in the sun, with his hands, six days a week. My mom was subjected to stunning sexual harassment." 

A gasp, then:  "We must stand up for working people... who often don't have the voice.  My concern is a question of process. The ordinance has not been considered by any committee or any analysts." 

Many members of the public cringed as Krekorian said,  "Panic buttons," are an obvious solution but not one member of this body has introduced a motion.  Why?  "Why wasn't this done three months ago... or six years ago," he said, as if punishing his naughty colleagues.  

"It's your job... to take input, then reach a decision. None of that was done." 

Today, the question is simple, "if we are going to enact this, shouldn't we have had one hearing?  

One speaker imagined shouting out, "Would that be a One item hearing, Mr. Krekorian, like the 12-billion-dollar Budget?" "Sir, you're disrupting the meeting."   

Krekorian continued, "Sorry members, this is not the way this body should make policy. Members make motions, have them heard by committees, then we bring them to the council for a vote.  I don't believe we've justified our right to do that." 

Joe Buscaino, who has endorsed Rick Caruso for mayor, coughed twice consecutively, prompting concerns among city staff that he may have contracted covid.   

Paul Koretz got to the meat of the matter, "CEOs and executives have made exorbitant amounts of money. Hospitals have profited. Executives took bonuses and incredible compensation.  Workers don't get treated as essential, despite their dedication." 

And Mike Bonin stuck a fork in it, "We need to do this citywide and nationwide...but this is a great first step!"    APPLAUSE. 

2nd reading, June 28.. Si Se Puede...


Los Inquilinos v The Nimbys:

Nithya Raman led the charge on item 5 a plan to address "boomers who are aging out of the workforce."  Many small businesses will shut down. This could lead to small business closures, but also an opportunity for some cities and nonprofits, as they retire, they can sell the businesses to their employees.  

Curren D. Price, she said, "has been a leader in this space and she called it a "great model." And urged her colleagues to leverage city resources to promote "employee-owned businesses". 

In the old days, you would hear the speakers from both sides on just one item, but now, the way the council takes comments en masse, it's a mish-mash of many great flavors, on Wednesday it was the Inquillinos (renters) and the Nimbys (not-in-my-backyard ists). With a touch of vendadores (street vendors). 

A NIVBY [tm] is a NIMBY from Venice, a legendary 'loosely linked' group of residents and business owners. 

"Tenants who are the most vulnerable..but also mom and pop landlords, are hurting, there is "generational wealth" and there is "barely getting by" said one speaker.   "I've been living there for forty-eight years and they want to evict us."  

We are elders, so what's going to happen, "La calle!" (the street). There is going to be more homelessness, and I think it's unfair what they are doing to us. That is my comment.  Muchas Gracias." 

My name is Andrea and I want to speak on Item 21 and general... "I am going to senior year... I am here to speak on not taking the protection for covid rent.  Covid has negatively impacted my family.  Honestly, it stresses me out, to see my parents suffering. Our peers are stressing out. It affects our school, our education."

Another speaker, "On June 16, they shut off my electricity at 1st and Soto... I suffer from migraines and high blood pressure.

The owner doesn't answer calls... what can I do?" 

Ana Cruz of the power community, power collective... said, that the cost of a permit is jumping to $541 for sidewalk vendors on July 1. 

"Please help the vending community, who continue to suffer the pandemic... they still go out to work to provide... 

"Make this a priority, as it's the only income they have. Vigna Hernandez, from Boyle Heights...echoed "Cinco Cuarenta Uno..." she said starts on July 1st.  The City Council's official translator got it wrong and said, it was a 5-point 41 increase.   

Several vendadores begged that the basic food prices are really high, even to pay the daily expenses is hard. "Please consider this. Please support the families... because we are dependent on street sales. 

"Please keep the permit fee the same price.  We are hardworking people who just want to work and have a normal life.

Sabrina Johnson of the People's city council came up.  "If you roll back tenant protections, you would be rolling back some of your own progress." She said it was a  "gauze pad on that to stop the bleeding..."  Ms. Johnson offered a side note / veiled threat, that it would become, " Uncomfortably loud in your own neighborhoods if you vote against tenant protections." 

Creativity was in abundance, one Inquillino was also a Vendadore and linked the two causes.  

"Do not vote to take these protections away. Many of us have had to start street vending but it's hard with the high permit fees that start on July 1st.  Please provide these vendors who just want to make an honest dollar, they just want to pay their rent and not be evicted... but all the criminalization now, we have nowhere to go but to let these protections continue.  

Another inquillino rose to suggest "we need anti-harassment implementation."  

Then it was the Nimby's turn.  

Jessica Rogers... "standing for Venice.  Called the need to kill the planned homeless housing median project, an "imperative," and "grave," She characterized the ideas of Mike Bonin as "minority, Marxist, and utopian" minded. 

A chap who embraced the wearing of short pants (even to city hall) during the summer, Jim Murez... spoke out. 

He said he was the President of Venice Neighborhood Council, but " We were told we wouldn't have a chance to give comment on Friday, so he came today. He said, he'd received over 3000 votes running for city council, and that nobody wants the homeless housing for 200 million dollars for 150 beds.  He said it was a lot of money.  

Marjorie Weissman, said she was speaking for the fourth time, but said that "this is being pushed through planning without proper review."She referenced an impractical tandem parking lift system, that was part of the project.  The notion that a mechanical garage is going to resolve the parking problems, she said is absurd.  A NIMBY professor, who called himself a low-rise prize-winning architect with a german accent said  "the technology is not there yet."  

She called it, the whole thing an embarrassment and a fraud, before thanking NIMBY leaders, Paul Koretz and Joe Buscaino. 

"Thank you for meeting the people who will be evicted."

This westside beach community opposition reminded me of a similarly bad idea entitled, Boat Central... that was previously jettisoned in Marina del Rey. It was a Don Knabe et al. supported automatic boat launching facility, that was riddled with problems and never left the port.  

President Martinez acted as the referee at Wednesday's meeting.  In a way, she's both a nimby and a vendadore.

 "Yolanda," she said, "We will take three additional speakers." 

A Dr. Scott Meyers said he'd raised money for... "several of you" and called the project a "monster" and a "travesty."

The President was getting hungry as lunchtime approached, reminded, "this is not a back and forth," before issuing another stern directive lest people think the strong turnout is an indication that the public is really welcome,"If you speak out again I am going to have you removed." 

It appeared as though Mike Bonin had bought a busted out a new blue blazer, and he looked very crisp as he noted that so many people... were facing the "sunsetting of renter protections" and that it "strikes an existential fear in people's hearts." 

Council President Martinez noted that,"What is going to happen today is the initiation of a report... and the housing committee to work with groups to get feedback and provide outreach to tenants. How can we expand and strengthen, once the moratorium ends." 

She wanted to show the public that they have a plan. To help understand it,  Bonin brought out, Anna Ortega, the Assistant General Manager of the Regulatory Code and Compliance Bureau for the Los Angeles Housing Department.   Transparent California, a site that posts government worker salaries, has her listed as Director of Enforcement Operations: $268,897.29. 


Ortega took a moment to correct Mike Bonin, she said, "The parameters are a floor of 3% and a ceiling of 8% ... but we can report back, how it will work under the existing prohibition... " Bonin had suggested a 10% ceiling and was happy to take the correction.  

She reminded us that there is a "12-month holdback, after the lifting of the declaration, for the landlord's to boost the rent."

Bonin was visibly moved by her correction.  

DeLeon said, "Thank you very much... "  as he praised Nury Martinez,  "for your leadership during the pandemic"  and the action you took with the collective body to move forward for our inquilinos ... our renters. 

"God knows," he said, "we don't want to add more folks onto the streets of LA..." Madame president says mom and pops have to be made whole because they hold the notes, but the young women and their children. The anxiety, the loss of certainty... the knock-knock EVICTION.  "Many folks are quite frankly less than one paycheck away." 

He wanted to make sure that everyone had a "roof overhead" in Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, and Pacoima." 

Does that include a "tiny roof?" 

Joe Buscaino called for a revote so he could dramatically vote NO on item 22.  But after all the drama a strange thing happened. When Council President Martinez got ready to call the vote, she noticed that " Two members are going to recuse... " so she said, "I will bring this back on Friday for a vote...with that, it is what it is. 

A brief adjournment followed for Erika Devore Brunson, age 86, of Los Angeles, California who passed away on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.  

Erika was born on September 4, 1935, and landed a role in the German film "One woman is not enough" in 1955.  She made 21 films in Berlin.  

Paul Koretz who got shellacked by Kenneth Mejia in his bid for Controller told us that she played the voice of Mickey Mouse in translated versions of American-produced animated features.  She eventually became a spay and neuter philanthropist.  Koretz touted Ms. Devore Brunson's work with Michael Antonovich, the former Fifth District County Supervisor,  for unveiling one of the first mobile spay/neuter clinics.  Koretz said it was a pioneering effort that sparked many more." 

Marqueece Harris-Dawson adjourned in the memory of Reynaldo Reaser. After emerging from prison in 2006, Reaser made a commitment to make up undo or restore some of the damage he'd done.  He got involved in gang intervention work and provided safe passages for 500 young people every school year.  He helped distribute food and other benefits, during covid." 

Mr. Reaser was killed on June 6 in an automobile accident. 


Hookah Mediation: 

There is a lack of understanding.  Historically, people came together to resolve their differences, while smoking the hookah. 

For hundreds of years, persons have gathered to smoke the hookah, as a form of Constitutionally protected speech and association, by and through, deep personal expression and of peaceful assembly, and a means of finding common ground over personal or business-related conflicts, like the modern-day mediation process. 


"Fine art is the finest investment!" John Paul Getty

As of December 31, 2021, the City has approved project-specific and administrative appropriations totaling $95,427,716 or 100 percent of Excess Bond Proceeds. Of this amount, $7,272,551 is for allowable administrative costs.  

(Eric Preven has been named a finalist in the upcoming 64th SoCal Journalism Awards in the category of Journalist of The Year (Online).  A commentary co-written by Joshua Preven entitled “The Pandemic Should Not be Used as a Pretext to Muffle the Voices of the Inconvenient Public” is also a finalist.)

Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions expressed by Eric Preven are solely his and not the opinions of CityWatch)