Mon, May

Asserting Jurisdiction


ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - A local landowner in CD4 has done some nasty things to some protected trees.  It reminded me of the old thought experiment, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Thankfully, in this case, several members of the public who attended several meetings over a couple of months heard everything and made some noise.  

"Why can't the Board of Public Works enforce the Protected Tree Ordinance #186873 against a landowner who cut down 7 protected trees and 1 protected shrub?” 

The woman I know was flabbergasted that the board was ignoring the city attorney’s advice and the findings of the Bureau of Street Services that each recommended a 4-year penalty. 

To this member of the public the Board of Public Works BPW did not seem qualified and “showed a clear lack of understanding of trees and how development impacts our city.”     

Are these the right people to be deciding such important matters?  

It's a fair question so the resident reached out to the council office of Nithya Raman urging her to file a 245 motion to veto the decision made at the BPW last week that had drastically reduced the penalty for the illegal removal of protected trees from an intact oak walnut woodland in the wildlife ordinance zone.   

Certainly, she reasoned, the community would appreciate a measure of accountability to those who show contempt for the protected tree ordinance.  

To Nithya Raman's credit, she agreed and filed a motion to assert jurisdiction so that the matter of the illegal removal of protected trees and a shrub at 8461 West Grand View Drive can be further reviewed and considered by the City Council's Public Works. 

Hopefully, by further review that means “action." The 245 motion will be heard at council  tomorrow (Item 20), Tuesday, May 14, 2024. 

Thought Tree Analysis: 

The councilwoman is striking a very nice pose in the fashion of Katy Yaroslavsky. Thank you, once again.  

In the instant tree matter, an engaged tree-loving community is upset about their woodland. Raman, reading the room is up for a round of local sheroe.  This is a win-win for the winners. 

As for the unfortunate fate of other trees - unfortunately, everything is on a case-by-case basis. 

"You can watch people align themselves when trouble is in the air. Some prefer to be close to those at the top and others want to be close to those at the bottom. It's a question of who frightens them more and whom they want to be like." Jenny Holzer 

For example, the plan to make room for a new Studio City Recreation Center in the grassy field down where the plebes live, where the city claims that -- the only reason we're not fixing up the old recreation center on-site where it sits today, is to protect a beautiful old tree that lovingly embraces it.  Gag. 

It is a nice old tree, but with every public objection other than a nasty lawsuit to an unwanted LARGER facility, the Bureau of Engineering and the Parks Commission are ready to … build, baby, build! 

(swooning) I do believe I may be feeling an assertion of jurisdiction coming on.  

If the city can just find a few more million for what was originally a $3M Prop K upgrade, Krekorian/Nazarian can FINALLY move forward with their plan to pave over the public wishes and the last bit of grassy turf in our park to erect a ginormous 25 million dollar net zero high school regulation basketball court. [rufkm]   

No, and this is in addition to the Harvard-Westlake land grab and concomitant high school regulation basketball court... VILLAGE.  This is important for Council member Yaroslavsky, who might be confused. Her father-in-law Zev has a "greenway" named after him that will be used to anesthetize the locals. 

HW, the leading sports gambling powerhouse and elite private school in the area, where current US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti cut his eye teeth, is underwriting the erection of a massive airplane hangar-sized complex.   

Neighbors who live beyond the trees were understandably worried about the Olympic archery program, but Nithya Raman got a promise of - no Olympic events. Period.  Pfffft, the Olympics last three weeks.  

Smart Speaker: Do we need so many high school regulation basketball courts in our open space?   Do we need to cut down so many wonderful old trees?  Could someone assert a little jurisdiction over this fiasco?  

What about Tuesday? 

The Assertion of Jurisdiction item discussed above is nestled among some other positive motions that the council intends to open up for loving comment on Tuesday.   

But first, there is an absolute doozy-whopper about the creation of a Charter Reform Commission and a ballot measure proposal for Ethics Commission Reform. READ: Expansion to seven members. [Needs more attention in another column] 

And nothing to see here, the appointment of Anisse Quinones as General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).   

Smart Speaker:  Isn't that the department -- 

Thanks to the great ones:  

Copper theft OT, $20,000 in the Council District 2 portion of the Neighborhood Services Enhancement line item in the General City Purposes Fund No. 100/56 to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and  $80,000 in the Council District 2 (Sworn OT.) 

A request by Traci Park (CD11) that LAHSA amend its outreach subcontract with St. Joseph Center to include outreach to move people experiencing homelessness in Council District 11 into mental health treatment beds.  

And a little draw down on the surplus real property trust fund from (CD11) for the Coalition for Responsible Community Development for the Vibrant Venice $848,011.  Vibrant indeed! 

And Monica Rodriguez (CD7)  is returning to retrieve $450,000 in taxable CRA/LA EBP funds available to Council District 7 from a 2019 motion.  Was that Herb Wesson?  

And finally, the City Attorney’s Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART) is onboarding nearly a million and banking some revenue off the County.  Oooof.  They need $118,000 to process the paperwork.   

Smart Speaker:  Any upcharges to cover the cost of protestor prosecution --       

Early Work: 

Early works are fascinating for art lovers and scholars alike. They often provide a window into an artist's creative process and offer insight into an artist's development and the evolution of their style. 

Of course, not all early works are hidden gems, but revisiting them can provide insights into the evolution of the style of a writer or artist. 

It's true of journalists, too.  

In December of 2013, Steve Lopez, a columnist from the LA Times wrote a piece called "Men’s Central Jail is an antique that should be replaced."   

Men's Central Jail is an antique that should be replaced 

At the time, many activists including, Eunissess Hernandez, were fighting hard against county incarceration.   

I tossed my hat in the ring and filled out an extensive LA Times questionnaire about my views as a candidate for Supervisor of the third district.  

My approach, which readers will recognize was to create a dialogue by parsing the statements made by Steve in his opinion column and responding.  

Smart Speaker:  Like the smart speaker shtick.  

Yes.  Steve’s comments are in quotes, SL, while Smart Speaker...  

SL: “The Men’s Central Jail has long rows of cells facing a wall. “It’s clearly inefficient, and it’s arguably inhumane and unconstitutional,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told me this week. ”   

Smart Speaker:  The costly and recent installation of almost 1,000 CCTV cameras is an interim solution to surveillance in the corridors until we successfully demolish the facility and replace it with a park or international art installation.   

SL: “Of course, problems at the scandal-plagued Sheriff’s Department go well beyond jail design.”   

Smart Speaker:  Right, and thus we want to minimize costly custodial solutions and maximize in-community services and jobs. Rebuilding a brand-new jail, with an emphasis on mental illness, Twin Towers 2.0 is among the worst ideas on the table. Independent Vanir Construction isn’t so independent.  We farmed management of the Coliseum out to USC, let’s hold off on doing so with the new jail.   

SL: “A county report estimated that a jail with a more practical design would require far fewer guards, for an annual staffing savings of $25 million. There would be an additional $10 million savings in operating and maintenance costs. ”   

Smart Speaker: Steve, we just approved $88,000,000 [tk.] on new Sheriff stuff, much of which recurs annually in the budget, per the CCJV. The Sheriff’s budget is $2.8 Billion so the $35 million in potential staff and operational savings, you reference, that needs to be carefully scrutinized and studied, is not the reason to build a new jail. At $50,000 per year to incarcerate an offender…versus $2,600 to monitor electronically, we’ll save far more by going out of the jail business. If you crave savings, like I do, consider that there are over 1,000 Sheriff’s Department employees who drive home in unmarked county cars every day, at enormous cost to the taxpayers, $4.00/gallon.   

SL: “And if a smarter design leads to fewer altercations and lawsuits, there could be a savings in legal costs.”   

Smart Speaker:  Conflicts occur in all settings new and old. “No one other than us is entitled to know how much we’re spending,” said Roger Granbo, assistant Los Angeles County counsel in charge of handling law enforcement cases. Mr. Granbo told the Daily Journal that recently. As you know, I vigorously disagree with that, frankly, insulting assessment. Granbo, who I do not know, has a tough job, upholding tradition and fear in the face of ‘evidence based’ alternatives. One effective way to reduce conflicts and legal costs is to not build a costly jail.   

SL: “Critics of proposals to spend more than $1 billion on a new jail say that the money should be spent instead on education and crime prevention, and that sentences of nonviolent offenders should be reduced and drug addiction and mental illness be treated as diseases rather than punishable crimes. I’m for all of that, but I think we will need a new jail too.”   

Smart Speaker:  I’m for all of that, but I don’t think we will need a new jail. Read the Austin Report a few summary pages are attached.   

SL: “Especially with the added load of state inmates serving county time due to the federal crackdown on overcrowded prisons.”   

Smart Speaker:  The added load, to use your term, is diminishing. Post-realignment we need to be sure that non non non’s don’t recidivate. What one does in jail, matters, and the Sheriff enjoys putting an Education Based Incarceration spin on things, but what about a Community Based Education spin on things? Hard to connect the dots on how a new jail will reduce recidivism.  

SL: “A new jail, done right, would have a mental health evaluation and referral center to reduce that population of inmates.”  

Smart Speaker:  You ought to go back and look at the transcripts from when they were setting up the Twin Towers project. It sounded so good you’d want to make a reservation if you didn’t know better.   

SL: “It would have a veteran and homeless court.”   

Smart Speaker: We’ll get you a veterans and homeless court without a new jail, Steve. Jackie Lacey has talked about rolling those out, asap. We’ll see.  

SL: “And a way for inmates to occasionally make court appearances by video, rather than being in transit all day for proceedings that often last a minute or two.”   

Smart Speaker:  First of all, “Court Call” has been around for years, and a Skype system can be set up wherever you put the computer. We can accomplish this without a new jail, but we do need prosecutors and judges to agree and cooperate.   

SL: “This is an antiquated system,” a sheriff’s official said on my tour of the jail as we strolled past moldy walls and walked under a plastic tarp that was suspended from the ceiling to catch the trickle from bad plumbing.”   

Smart Speaker:  Infrastructure falls apart, and AECOM writes a to-do list, but remember the big goal is to phase out the dungeon. We can make Men’s Central functional for the short period we’ll need it. Fast forward to the day they demolish Men’s Central… the population will be directed here and there. Now freeze. That’s the final outcome we want. An empty Men’s Central… for good. Hold the Billion-dollar tab!   

SL: “Each day, beginning at 3 a.m., hundreds of inmates are herded out of cells.”   

Smart Speaker:  If we spend a billion dollars on a new jail, they’ll still be herding them from here to there and back. Nicer cells, with fewer staff, won’t reduce the numbers of inmates. Connecting those offenders with something in the community is our only chance. We need to focus on that piece, not a new jail.   

SL:” It’s a massive daily movement that is made more cumbersome and dangerous by the long corridors and poorly lit alcoves.”   

Smart Speaker: Steve, we spent a bloody fortune rigging the jail with cameras, let’s focus on reducing the population of incarcerated people because it really doesn’t work. The space we do need for the really dangerous offenders is available, according to James Austin and other experts.   

SL: “Teams of inmate plumbers help with the backlog of breakdowns, but it still takes up to five days for repairs.”   

Smart Speaker: Five days for repairs is upsetting, and a new jail would probably work better, but if we build it, aren’t we going to fill it?   

SL: “One inmate told me that conditions are much better in the state prisons he’s been in, including San Quentin.”   

Smart Speaker:  I believe that there is support for that one inmate’s POV on Yelp.   

SL: “Ridley-Thomas said he’s shooting for early in the new year.”   

Smart Speaker:  Thanks for the heads up. We’ll get the word out fast and early that a brand new jail is not in tune with what LA county residents want or need in 2014. And if the youngsters, who will ultimately be left with the bond payments, could speak, they’d probably say, no thanks, too.   

Some officials believe the Sheriff’s Department should use vacant jails outside the county to relieve crowding and reduce the need to release inmates early. Do you agree?   

A deal to bring 500 offenders to the Taft facility in Kern County was approved briefly, on 9/24/2013, before being ‘un-approved’ a couple weeks later. Taft is a good example of why, in general, sending offenders way up north is a non solution for LA County. 1) The facility is in Valley Fever country (a scary illness that has been widely written about, and contributes to an unwanted health risk for all.) 2) The lower cost per offender is a mirage because of health care and transportation considerations 3) The concept of busing folks over 120 miles up the 5 Freeway is very costly, and makes visitation by family members less doable. The absence of community contact directly contributes to recidivism, and thus, by any estimation it is a bad solution to farm offenders out of county.  Peter Laarman of the Justice not Jails coalition said it right in just over a minute.   

Supervisor (D3): Eric Preven

 (Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions are of Mr. Preven and not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)