Thu, Jun

Destitute and Homeless Vets in LA Still Wait for Promised Housing 

THE WAR AT HOME--In two weeks, on November 16, the Los Angeles VA will hold a public hearing to present a proposal for the "contemplated" first Enhanced Use Leases (EUL) that would consist of approximately 150 units of newly constructed permanent supportive housing on undeveloped open space located north of Buildings 336 and 339.  

The reason for these EUL's with non-profits is that the VA bureaucrats and politicians claim the federal government does not have any money to build housing for a few thousand war-injured and homeless U.S. Military Veterans. However, there seems to be plenty of money available to house and care for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.    

A written promise to settle the Federal Judgment against the VA's illegal use of Veterans’ legally deeded land included Secretary of the VA Robert A. McDonald, a defendant, as well as attorneys Ron Olson and Bobby Shriver (neither are veterans) who represent the plaintiff, homeless Veterans. In fact, it was guaranteed in writing by McDonald and Olson that they would end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles by December 31, 2015.  

It's now nearly a year after the promised deadline and Los Angeles is still the nation's capital of homeless veterans, a city where thousands upon thousands of war-injured and impoverished U.S. Military Vets are forced to live in deplorable and inhumane conditions at skid row and in back-alley squalor.  

On June 5, 2015, less than six months after he "promised" to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles, Ron Olson received ACLU's Humanitarian Award "for his work on behalf of homeless Veterans."  

Did I mention Los Angeles is still our nation's capital for homeless Veterans? 

And the ACLU also awarded Bobby Shriver a Humanitarian Award "for his work on behalf of homeless Veterans," even though the City of Santa Monica was sued in 2009 for abusing and mistreating the homeless when Mr. Shriver was Mayor and a City Councilman. 

Nearly two years after the infamous written promise, the VA is now "contemplating" leasing land for the building of 150 beds by "non-profit developers," which is an oxymoron if ever there was one.  

Did I mention Los Angeles is still our nation's capital for homeless Veterans with thousands upon thousands of needy disabled Veterans exiled from this land exclusively deeded on their behalf? 

Moreover, the current illegal occupants adjudicated in the Federal Judgment were to vacate Veterans’ land via an "exit strategy" as promised by McDonald and Olson. That promise and the ending of Veteran homelessness promise, have as much credibility and validity as Richard Nixon not being a crook and Bill Clinton not having sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. 

While Veteran housing was reprehensibly and shamefully neglected, the illegal occupants never exited but are well-entrenched with long-term sweetheart deals that will now make their illegal real estate agreements "legal," thanks to Humanitarians Olson and Shriver. 

Compare this article ... 

L.A. County Supervisors move ahead with a $2-billion new jail plan.

Recently, the LA County Supervisors moved ahead with a $2 billion new jail plan. Why doesn't the County follow the federal government’s lead and lease property for non-profits to build the jail for criminal prisoners -- or does LA County actually have more money than our Federal Government, which prints it endlessly?  

Think about this: LA County will spend $2 billion for 3,885 beds for convicted criminals while the federal government spends $0 for housing our war-injured homeless Military, yet still has billions to spend on Syrian refugees.    

Instead, the VA will lease this sacred land to non-profits to take care of only 150 of the tens of thousands of homeless Veterans in LA. 

Consider that Humanitarian Ron Olson and his law firm represent some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world, including mega-billionaires on the “Forbes 400” list (Warren Buffet: $65 billion) as well as wealthy CEOs from “Fortune 500” companies. Any one of these people could personally build seriously needed housing on VA property without an EUL, and it wouldn't make a dent in his or her individual wealth. 

Incredulously, Mr. Olson was entrusted to represent the plaintiffs – destitute and disabled homeless Veterans -- in the settlement that pitted poor homeless U.S. Military Veterans against the very rich and powerful non-Veteran elite. 

Ron Olson and Robert A. McDonald may have co-signed a promise to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles by December 31, 2015, but LA is still our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans. And the unlawful squatters – Mr. Olson’s wealthy and powerful non-Veteran cronies -- remain on Veterans’ VA property without providing one bed or even a blanket.

This is not being a humanitarian. This is a crime against humanity -- against disabled, destitute and disadvantaged homeless Veterans. 

How can the ACLU present Humanitarian Awards to individuals who have done absolutely nothing to help end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles as promised? 

Bobby Shriver has children attending the wealthy, private Brentwood School, which is one of the illegal occupants on Veterans land. And as mentioned before, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica for neglecting and mistreating the homeless while Mr. Shriver was a prominent politician of this wealthy sea-side resort. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama during a private luncheon in 2014 at the ritzy Hyatt Regency in fashionable Century City and publicly promised to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles by December 31, 2015. Later, he confirmed four months before the end of 2015, that this “wasn't going to happen this year.”  

All of this neglect and abuse by entrusted officials is illegal and immoral.  

On behalf of all disabled and homeless Veterans in Los Angeles, this is a demand notice to Robert A. McDonald that he must declare a "state of emergency" and immediately establish crisis humanitarian housing and care on the grounds of the Los Angeles VA. He must then begin the immediate construction and permanent maintenance of a new and modern National Veterans Home.

God Bless America and the Veterans Revolution!


(Robert Rosebrock is Director of The Veterans Revolution, Captain of the Old Veterans Guard, and Director of We the Veterans…and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DA Lacey Kicks Off the Whitewash Cover-up of the Sea Breeze Corruption Scandal at LA’s City Hall

CORRUPTION WATCH-In the wake of the Los Angeles Times article concerning the corruption surrounding the Sea Breeze project in Council District 15, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has announced her whitewash investigation to cover-up it up. The advanced draft of the final report allegedly concludes that poor beleaguered Mayor Eric Garcetti has been the victim of a plot by undocumented day laborers from Zacatecas, Jalisco and Chiapas. It seems that these day laborers have conspired to have their relatives unknowingly donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to Los Angeles City councilmembers and Mayor Eric Garcetti. (Photo above: Buddies. District Attorney Lacey and Mayor Garcetti.) 

Like any other Angeleno, when our trustworthy mayor discovered an extra $60,000 sitting on his front porch upon returning home one evening from a heavy schedule of TV appearances, he never bothered to ask: “From whence cometh all this money?” I mean, after all, whenever I find an extra $60K in my bank account, I never ask, “Hey, where did I get all this extra loot?” 

This scenario begs the question: What good would it do the philanthropic Mr. Leung to give Mayor Garcetti $60,000 in bribes if the Honorable Mayor had no idea who was lavishing gifts upon him? 

The LA Times article fails to explain how The Most Honorable Mayor would know that he was to reduce the number of votes on Mr. Leung’s Sea Breeze Project from 12 to 10 if he had no idea of the origin of the money? Maybe he thought it was just a periodic payment from the mayor’s favorite developer, CIM Group. 

But at this juncture, we have to spill the beans. Mr. Leung is not a villain. He is a patsy. Perhaps without realizing it, the LA Times Sea Breeze article paints the picture of Mr. Leung as the victim of City Hall extortion. Everyone else who has had any dealings with Los Angeles City Hall and the approval of development projects knows that every single project is unanimously approved. In fact, for a decade, the LA City Council has unanimously approved every project over 99.9% of the time. What would Mr. Leung benefit by Garcetti’s lowering the threshold from 12 to 10 votes if he was going to get unanimous approval anyway? 

Jackie Lacey, however, has a powerful ally in her whitewash – the public. Angelenos will believe anything. The chances are less than one in infinity that the LA City Council’s practice of giving unanimous approval to everything is not the product of a voting pact. For those educated by LAUSD, “one in infinity” is a small number. Since Angelenos apparently are not so good at math or logic, it must seem to them that 10,000 consecutive unanimous Yes votes in City Council is normal. Perhaps they do not know what “unanimous” means. Apparently, DA Lacey doesn’t either. 

Angelenos never notice that it is virtually impossible to flip a coin 100 times in a row and have it turn up heads 99 times. Go ahead. Try it. I’ll wait. Yet, they think that it is normal that 15 councilmembers simultaneously flipping coins 1,000 times in a row will end up getting “heads” 14,985 times. 

Let’s look at DA Jackie Lacey’s soon to be announced “deference” finding. She is going to find, based on no evidence whatsoever and ignoring all evidence to the contrary, that the one in infinity voting pattern at Los Angeles City Council is due to “deference.” 

The argument goes that each councilmember has so much respect for every other councilmember that he or she always -- over 99.9% of the time -- defers to another councilmember’s desires. 

But then we have Garcetti’s 2012 Hollywood Community Plan which received unanimous approval on June 19, 2012. This came after the City Attorney told councilmembers in March 2012 that the Hollywood Community Plan was based on fatally flawed data and the courts would reject it. In fact, the PLUM committee went into closed session with the City Attorney’s Office while considering Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan and the same information was conveyed to the PLUM Committee members. But after the closed door session, PLUM passed the Community Plan on to the City Council without any recommendation for approval. That’s right. Yet at the June 19 council session, each PLUM member voted YES for Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan. Why would the councilmembers who did not vote approval in PLUM then vote approval in council? This is not deference. This a criminal vote trading agreement in which all councilmembers must vote Yes. 

At the June 19, 2012 LA City Council hearing on Garcetti’s Hollywood Plan, Councilmember Richard Alarcon mentioned that the data was flawed and wanted to know whether City Planning could correct it in Garcetti’s Community Plan. In response, City Planner Kevin Keller, who had primary responsibility for the Plan, gave a long somewhat convoluted answer which boiled down to, “Yes, the Planning Department could re-do Plan with accurate data.” 

Thereupon, Councilmember Eric Garcetti insisted that his Hollywood Community Plan be approved, and within two seconds, it was unanimously approved. 

How does one pretend with a straight face that unanimous approval of Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan was based on a good faith deference when everyone knew that it was fatally flawed and would be rejected by the Court? 

In January 2014, Judge Allan Goodman rejected Garcetti’s Hollywood Community plan as based on fatally flawed data and wishful thinking. 

So let’s return to the plight of Mr. Leung and Extortion vs Bribes. 

Often one finds extortion and bribes as two sides of the same coin. A city councilmember lets a developer know that there is a serious problem with his project. After a few thousand dollars show up in the councilmember’s campaign war chest, the problem magically disappears. Whether we have extortion or whether we have bribery is often a Tweedledee Tweedledum situation. Let’s look at a quote from the Sea Breeze article: “At one crucial point, Garcetti invoked a mayoral prerogative – which he has used only twice – to make the number of council votes required to approve the project.” 

In a city council where each and every project receives unanimous approval, why would any developer pay $60,000 to reduce the number of votes needed for approval? This money has all the earmarks of extortion. Leung was buying something which was completely worthless – unless he was facing a threat that, unless the mayor got $60,000, his project was dead. When one is guaranteed unanimous approval, one does not pay $60,000 to have the number of votes for approval reduced by two. 

Let’s look at another absurd aspect of Jackie Lacey’s upcoming report. The councilmembers had no idea anything was amiss. Really? What person bribes a councilmember to the tune of $94,700 and then neglects to tell him who made the contributions?   

If $20K mysteriously appears in my bank account, I’m going to ask, “Where did this come from?” Apparently, Janice Hahn can get $203,000, Garcetti can get $60,000, Joe Buscaino can get $94,700 and then none of them asks the origin of all this loot? 

Let’s remember that each campaign check identifies the donor. Are we so naive as to think that in this day and age when compiling donor lists is a huge business, Garcetti never bothered to find out who just gave him $60K? 

The prime earmark of extortion is to let the “mark” know that there is a serious problem with his project and then after an appropriate amount of money appears in the mayor’s fund, that problem goes away. This is the pattern which the LA Times’ Sea Breeze article describes. (1) Problem (2) Payments (3) Problem disappears. 

Extortion is not rocket science. All it requires is complicit law enforcement and a very gullible public.


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Controversial Gehry Project Approved: David Ryu Applauds, but Historic Preservation Suffers

DEEGAN ON LA- On Tuesday, November 1, the City Council approved Frank Gehry’s revised project at 8150 Sunset Boulevard. Gehry did not get what he wanted and David Ryu got more than may have been expected in a showdown over the project that the councilmember and many others objected to. Unresolved, just as it was when the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee met last week, is the status of the Lytton Savings Bank, a Modernist building that has been nominated for Historic-Cultural Monument status by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, pending an approval by PLUM and the full City Council. It sits within the footprint of Gehry’s project. 

The PLUM committee sidetracked a decision about what to do with Lytton in their rush to approve the bigger – i.e. Gehry -- piece of the project. Now that the deal has been approved by City Council, demolition is probably what can be expected for the Lytton Savings Bank building, Kurt Meyer’s architectural gem. 

Councilmember Jose Huizar’s PLUM committee will consider approving Historic-Cultural Monument status for Lytton on November 22, in what may be one of the most mocking, irrelevant and posthumous hearings they have ever held. Short of Frank Gehry changing his mind about not wanting the bank to be part of his collection of buildings at 8150 Sunset, or David Ryu doubling down to what he has already done for the community on this this project, preservation of the Lytton Savings bank building looks doomed -- even if PLUM votes for historic-cultural monument status. 

There’s a nuance between saying you are supporting or you are preserving. It’s the latter that has gotten caught in the throats of those who will only go so far in their expression of support for Lytton. Everybody seems to like the bank building and want to give it cultural monument status, but very few want to save it. 

Keith Nakata, Co-founder of the Friends Lytton Savings, stated that “it’s disappointing that the city did not handle the items in a way that would be appropriate to come to an intelligent decision about the project.” 

What benefits have come out of this controversy? Councilmember David Ryu (CD4), who was at the center of the negotiations to change the scope of the project, explains, “When I took office, this project stood at 234 feet. Today, it will be reduced by nearly a quarter, capping the height of this project at 178 feet. Additionally, the density will be reduced, community benefits will be provided to the adjacent neighborhoods, parking and pedestrian access will be increased, traffic improvements will be implemented, and additional workforce housing units will be provided with increased affordability overall.”                                                                       

Ryu’s recap set the stage for his immediate pivot to what may be his next land use and development objective: “This project serves as a clear reminder that the city must revise its rules on how the State’s Density Bonus law (SB 1818) is applied. I strongly believe that we are disproportionately incentivizing developers and that this exchange is not equitable for our residents. We must approach future projects that include affordable housing units with more common sense solutions to achieve better results for our city.” 

Gehry had the last word, referring to the future of the seemingly-doomed Lytton Savings Bank, and he kept it simple, telling a reporter that “somehow, I’m going to figure out how to recognize Kurt Meyer as part of our project.”


(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 protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Alert! Mega-Housing Developers Honing in on the City of Hawthorne

HAWTHORNE INSIDER-On November 8, residents in the City of Hawthorne will not only vote for their next President, they will also have an opportunity to voice their opposition to the mega-housing developers seeking to redevelop their community. The City Council will hold a Public Hearing at City Hall on Ordinance 2128 which seeks to increase the minimum lot acreage for high-density, mixed-use residential and commercial developments. 

In early 2016, the Hawthorne City Council adopted the Downtown Hawthorne Specific Plan. Residents rejoiced as it appeared that the decades-old defunct Hawthorne Mall would finally see development. The plan put forth by the Charles Company, the company working with land owner Arman Gabay, includes 600 planned rental units at the mall. (Photo above.) Many residents of the community currently oppose any housing at the Hawthorne Mall site.  

There are an additional several hundred housing units planned on the South Bay Ford site, further south down Hawthorne Boulevard. Two large-scale developments have surfaced in Hawthorne’s poorest neighborhood, Moneta Gardens. According to Councilwoman Angie English-Reyes, these were state mandated units. It is unclear if she is indicating that the Planning Commission and City Council had no option but to allow these developments. 

Residents from all communities in Hawthorne have come out en masse to oppose high-density housing projects. Overwhelmingly, residents support the Hawthorne Downtown Specific Plan which allows for a variety of housing and commercial development along the Boulevard. With the current changes made by Ordinance 2128, the minimum project size of any other project would be three acres, translating to a minimum of 135 units. This directly contradicts what so many residents have been advocating since the possibility of development arose. 

According to municipal code in the City of Carson, developers can “jump the block” and use lots that are separated by public streets to meet their site size requirement. Hawthorne’s Interim Planning Director and consultant, John Ramirez, says, “This is the intent of the changes made to Hawthorne’s zoning.” They are encouraging developers to acquire smaller parcels along the Boulevard to get the amenities of larger complexes. 

Unfortunately, that puts dozens of small businesses in jeopardy. Ramirez has suggested that these small land/business owners can sell out to big developers and then move back into the revitalized projects. What he fails to mention is the triple increase in rents by the developers, forcing several small businesses out of town -- or worse, out of business. 

The current Ordinance 2128 also increases the size requirement of living space in mixed use and single family zones, encouraging larger floorplans in each unit. This drives up the cost for builders to develop and thus, the monthly rent/purchase price on the units also increases.

“We estimate costs based on square footage. At $2.50 per square foot, we will be renting a two bedroom 1,200 square foot apartment for close to $3,000 per month,” says Bill Hassan, owner of KIG Properties LLC. 

By creating larger spaces at a higher cost, this Ordinance 2128 increases the potential for multiple families to cohabitate and overcrowd. These living arrangements increase car congestion, demand on utilities and public resources like police, fire and schools. 

The Hawthorne Police Chief, Robert Fager, has given two presentations on the hiring needs of his department in recent council meetings. It has also been made public through the Civil Commission that there is a lack of applicants for open positions in the Police Department. Additionally, close to 1/3 of the active duty Hawthorne police officers are set to retire in the next 5 years. There is a serious, inherently critical shortage of police officers to meet the demands of large units over three acres.

The City of Hawthorne also faces a huge parking crisis today. Because of poor planning in the 1960s-1980s, there are several smaller units all over the city that are not meeting the demands of modern living. For example, in the Ramona tract there are dozens of 2-4 unit buildings that are only required to have one space per unit no matter how many bedrooms the units have. Thus, a fourplex with 2-bedroom units is only required to offer four parking spaces despite most two-adult households having two cars each. That places a demand on the city to accommodate four additional cars for just one building. There are 1,035 apartment buildings in Hawthorne today. 

The zone text amendment approved by the Planning Commission 2016ZA12, which led to Ordinance 2128, seeks to increase this to one guest parking space for every two units -- a 33% increase in the guest parking space requirement. This places an economic burden on developers, causing them to reduce the number of living spaces in favor of parking spaces and does nothing to solve the current parking crisis.

Small to medium-sized mixed use development allows for a variety of home types to be constructed. The most vital of these smaller units are live/work spaces. As the City of Hawthorne’s Senior Planner, Chris Palmer suggested in his presentation at the October 19 Planning Commission Meeting that there are a variety of design options and industry choices that would be constructed in these smaller developments for tenants from artists to technology startups.

Liza Simone of Phantom Galleries LA has successfully created Gallery Row in Downtown Los Angeles. As a result, this living style has spurred a micro-economy of entrepreneurs who have both space to create and produce their own income. 

At a minimum of three acres, developers cannot economically build live/work units. The commercial space would be developed into large, high-profile retail and office space. These companies have a well-documented history of paying minimum wages and not offering room for professional advancement.

Additionally, by effectively stopping smaller projects from being constructed, thousands of construction jobs are lost. Dozens of professional contractors, their sub-contractors, material suppliers and laborers are without potential work, which pays at least triple minimum wage. 

Finally, these changes affect local builders who have been working with the city for decades to acquire land, work with zone changes and spend their time and money to create projects for resident’s approval. The current message that the Planning Commission is putting out to potential investors is that the rules can change at any time. This does not create a certainty that developers need to build. And our goal is to enhance economic development, not stifle it. 

Hawthorne has a history of pay-to-play politics. The Mayor’s office has been rocked with scandal, as two of the last three mayors were indicted on felony charges and the last mayor was evicted by two separate landlords. The corruption in local government has been attributed to wealthy land developers influencing elections with hefty campaign donations in exchange for political favors on their projects.

Mayor Alex Vargas promised an end to the pay-to-play corruption, while he touted the benefits of the Hawthorne Blvd. Specific Plan; however, recent introduction of Ordinance 2128 places the burden of mega-housing projects squarely on his shoulders. By crippling small- to medium-sized developments, Mayor Vargas is ushering in a new and deafening thunder of massive housing development in Hawthorne. 

Public Hearing on Ordinance 2128 will be held at Hawthorne City Hall on November 8, 2016 at 6pm.


(Amie Shepard is a local realtor and activist. She currently serves on the Board of the Hawthorne Economic Development Council and is Vice President of the Ramona Neighborhood Association. She was a candidate for Hawthorne City Council in 2015.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

A Welfare Tax for Developers: Why I'm voting ‘NO’ on Measure M

TRANSPORTATION CHOICE-I'm voting "NO" on Measure M for the following reasons: 

1) Measure M is like a welfare tax on us with the benefits going to land developers. 

If you own property in LA, you paid for the roads. The roads were built by the original developers and the cost was included in the price of the original homes. That cost was passed down to you (at a very inflated price) and you pay property taxes for their up-keep. For at least the last 30 years, the City has been giving your roads away to density-increasing land re-developers free of charge. 

Although the City claims it charges developers a "Transportation Impact Assessment Fee,” the City provides many ways for developers to escape such fees, such as allowing them to use Peak congestion Hour Trip Rates as an estimate of the number of commuters added by their projects. This accounts for only 25% to 30% of the actual number. Or exempting all residential development projects using the argument that the City needs to incent developers to build more housing. Yeah, right. 

So if developers are not paying their fair share toward the additional transportation infrastructure needed to accommodate the commuters their projects add to an area, why should we? 

2) Measure M would fund the wrong type of transit improvements. Since there's no room for new roads, the excess demand created by both past and (assuming it is allowed to continue) future unmitigated density-increasing land development must be accommodated on mass transit. But is "Light" Rail the best solution? 

The Expo Line cost $227 million a mile, but it takes an hour to go between Santa Monica and Downtown LA. Why? Because much of it runs at street level and has to slow to 25 MPH at every street crossing. It would have run faster if it was all elevated but that would have cost a lot more because "Light" Rail is still conventional rail, and conventional rail is not light in spite of its name. 

Metro should be planning to build all-elevated monorails because they: 

  • Run much faster than street-level trains and would make the SM to Downtown LA run in 25 minutes vs. 55. 
  • Run quieter. Monorails run on rubber tires rather than steel-on-steel wheels. 
  • Are much cheaper to build. It takes 40% less concrete and steel to elevate 15-inch-wide GuideBeams than 8-foot-wide conventional rail beds.
  • Are faster to build. The GuideBeams can be built offsite and installed at night.
  • Require much less energy to operate. Because Monorails run all-elevated, they can't collide with other vehicles. Therefore monorails are built much lighter than "Light" Rail trains and therefore take much less energy to move. San Diego's General Atomic is developing a frictionless passive-maglev monorail that requires no electricity to elevate after reaching 4 MPH.
  • Can't derail in earthquakes. Monorails straddle their track rather than sit on top of it.
  • Could be run over the parking lanes of major arterial streets, dipping down to street-level for passenger loading.
  • Would not take street space or Left-Turns away from private-vehicle traffic. 

There are already close to 50 urban-transit-class monorails running in the world.  The Wuppertal Germany monorail ran for over 100 years without a single fatality. "Light" Rail trains kill up to 100 people a year in LA. 

Another transit "improvement" to be funded with Measure M's tax revenue is "Bus Rapid Transit." This is the conversion of private vehicle lanes for bus-only use. While this may speed up bus travel, it will reduce the total people movement capacity of the arterial streets where lanes are converted to bus-only use. You don't improve capacity by forcing commuters out of small containers carrying 1 to 2 people that move by every 2 seconds and putting them into large containers carrying 40 to 64 which pass by only every 8 minutes or so. Do the math. 

3) Measure M will NOT reduce congestion by 15%. This claim is as bogus as similar claims made to con us into approving the Measure R Sales Tax increase in 2008. For example, Metro's 2008 Long Range Plan (upon which the Measure R tax increase was justified) shows that freeway travel speeds would decline from 34 MPH to 20 MPH by 2030 without Measure R taxes, but would decline to only 23 MPH with Measure R taxes, allowing them to claim that Measure R taxes would decrease congestion by 15% (a 3 MPH increase from 20 MPH.) So Measure M is unlikely to reduce today's congestion by 15%. It may only make future congestion 15% less worse than it will be if the City continues to allow density-increasing land development projects without making their developers fund the infrastructure required to accommodate the additional commuters their projects add to the City. 

4) Measure M has no end date. Providing any government agency with an open-ended revenue stream is a license to waste it. 

So I'm voting "NO" on any new tax for infrastructure until the above problems are fixed.


(Bill Pope is a former traffic consultant to neighborhood councils. He can be reached as [email protected]  Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Clinton! Trump! Pick the Winner

CITYWATCH READER POLL—On the brink of the 2016 Presidential Election, CityWatch is asking readers to predict the winner. 

Fifteen months of primaries, controversy, debates, endless ads, non-stop media coverage, at-odds polls and family disputes have prepared you. Click on to the poll below and register your pick. It’s easy as that. 15 seconds of your time to provide some election outcome perspective. Go for it.

[sexypolling id="11"]

What California Can Learn from Stockton’s Debt

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Here’s a new maxim for Californians to live by, courtesy of this election: Don’t dismiss apocalyptic warnings from Stockton.

If you’re a Californian with a television or a mailbox, you’re encountering a barrage of ill-advised Stockton dismissals. Specifically, Gov. Jerry Brown, labor unions, and Sacramento building and infrastructure lobbies are trying to defeat a November ballot initiative—Prop 53, which would require voter approval for state revenue bonds of $2 billion or more—by marginalizing it as merely the flawed idea of a rich and selfish “Stockton farmer.”

This messaging turns out to be doubly wrong, as I learned firsthand on a recent visit to Stockton.

For one thing, the “Stockton farmer” slight badly underestimates the man in question, Dino Cortopassi, who turns out to be a formidable if blustery businessman with diverse interests, a knack for marketing, and a taste for taking on difficult fights. For another, the political message trivializes the real trauma in the city of 300,000 as it struggles through the aftermath of municipal bankruptcy. As a result, Stockton and its citizens, including Cortopassi, know the perils of irresponsible borrowing like Pittsburghers know steel and Houstonians know oil.

Cortopassi grew up on Stockton’s eastside and has spent his life in the area, despite amassing a multimillion-dollar fortune that would allow him to move anywhere he desired. He’s also all too familiar with the difficulties of debt. He started as a tenant farmer, borrowing heavily to buy equipment and farm as much land as he could, and then plugging back the profits into further expansion.

“I was in debt a long part of my life,” he told me during the half-day we spent together in a conference room at his business. “Debt never goes away. So when you borrow, don’t forget you have to pay it back.”

Cortopassi, 79, got ahead by doing things the hard way. He specialized in “headache” crops—like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and onions—that require more labor and attention, and that carry more risks in terms of weather, disease, and volatile market prices. While he identifies himself as a farmer (albeit a retired one), much of his business was in food processing. Business associates say he was an early adopter of new technologies, an unusually talented marketer, and maker of food brands, and a savvy investor (most notably in Dreyer’s ice cream). And his combativeness distinguished him; he was willing to wage big fights against larger food companies and against powerful unions, including the Teamsters, when they crossed him.

In recent years, as he’s stepped away from day-to-day management of his business, Cortopassi has had time to watch, with growing fury, as his hometown of Stockton declined and ultimately fell into bankruptcy.

That Stockton story is a convoluted one. But the heart of the tale is this: The city accumulated all sorts of unsustainable debts in a variety of ways, without realizing it.

The fundamental lesson is that when things go bad, even private debts or “safe” borrowing for projects can unexpectedly become obligations for the public. Stockton’s leaders had assumed that city revenues would keep increasing. Then the housing market collapse overextended Stockton homeowners and crushed the city budget. The city had little cushion because it had borrowed aggressively in the previous decade to pay for various public buildings, an arena, housing projects, and marina and downtown improvements. The final straw was a bond that Stockton sold in 2007, just before the financial crisis, to try to cover the costs of compensation and pension benefits it had promised its employees.

As a result of its crisis and bankruptcy, Stockton had to cut all sorts of basic services, including policing. That’s contributed to an ongoing tragedy: Stockton has one of the highest crime rates among California cities and is one of the country’s most violent places.

Cortopassi says he was frustrated about how, despite the fiscal carnage in Stockton and other cities, public borrowing has continued apace, with too little public attention. So, using rhetoric about as subtle as that of your angriest uncle, he’s started issuing warnings—in interviews, in self-published pamphlets (including one called “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!”), and, in a charmingly journalist-friendly touch, newspaper ads about “the Sacramento gang” that is borrowing without understanding the dangers of the “Debt Dragon.”

The fundamental lesson is that when things go bad, even private debts or “safe” borrowing for projects can unexpectedly become obligations for the public.

Cortopassi can be loud and bombastic. During our half-day together, Cortopassi yelled at me when I argued with him about the finer points of Prop 53 and about some of the numbers he uses on state debt. But, beyond the bluster, I found him to be quite thoughtful and strategic.

Prop 53 reflects Cortopassi’s strategic impulses. It can appear like a broadside against one mode of borrowing—a requirement for voter approval for state revenue bonds, bonds that have some guaranteed source of funds to pay them back (like tolls for a bridge). But the initiative is a carefully crafted political document full of exemptions for local governments, and with a requirement so high—only bonds of $2 billion or more would require voter approval—that it’s not clear to me that it would have much practical impact at all. After all, California voters approve most of the bonds upon which they already cast ballots. And state revenue bonds are hardly the only financing mechanism available to big projects.

What’s more, revenue-bond projects of that size are rare—precisely because it’s so hard to do anything big in California these days. The state’s non-partisan legislative analyst found Prop 53, if approved, would only prove an obstacle to two current state projects: High-speed rail and the governor’s proposed water tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. And both of those projects face so much opposition and so many obstacles that they could both die whether Prop 53 passes or not.

Cortopassi has business interests in the Delta, so the “No” on 53 campaign has argued that he’s acting primarily to frustrate the tunnels and serve himself. Cortopassi acknowledges his fervent opposition to the tunnels and desire to protect the Delta (among his passions there are restoring marsh habitat and duck hunting) but says his Delta interests are less than 5 percent of his empire.

When pressed, Cortopassi said that Prop 53, like any ballot initiative, can’t do everything. His goals for the measure, he told me, are to gain attention for the state’s debt issues and to win a victory at the polls that could set up future initiatives and political action to force a reckoning with debt.

Whatever you think of Prop 53’s particulars (and I remain skeptical), Cortopassi’s larger point is inarguable: California and its many governments have taken on too many different kinds of debts, and leaders and citizens alike are not facing up to them.

In his ads and writings, Cortopassi shows how debt is already cutting into the public services upon which Californians rely. He writes about how the state’s prison realignment has created new and largely hidden financial burdens for cities, including Stockton; about how water and parks bond measures are often corrupt efforts to secure money for the favored projects of the measures’ sponsors; about the $60 billion-plus in deferred maintenance on state roads; and especially about the many billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities.

“We act like we don’t have to pay debt back,” he says.

If you’re from Stockton, you know better.

(Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010). This piece first appeared in foxandhoundsdaily.com.)

Will Frank Gehry Cast Historic Lytton Bank Building as ‘the Orphan’ in His 8150 Sunset Production?

DEEGAN ON LA-In what could be seen as a blow to historic preservation, further frustrated by twisted planning logic, the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee has decided to approve Frank Gehry’s massive building project at 8150 Sunset Boulevard before considering a recommendation from the Department of City Planning’s Historic-Cultural Monument Commission to grant Historic-Cultural Monument status to the Lytton Savings Bank building that occupies part of the site. By reversing the review and approval process, they have gone about this backwards. 

Had the PLUM Committee considered the Historic-Cultural Monument status motion before the 8150 building motion, they would have had to seriously deal with the question of what to do about the Lytton Savings Bank building (photo left). Instead, they postponed consideration of Lytton Savings Bank’s Historic-Cultural Monument status until November 22. That’s well after next week’s November 1 City Council vote on approving the 8150 Sunset project. 

By taking these two motions out of order, they may have effectively destroyed hopes for preserving the Lytton Savings Bank building, even if it’s eventually granted monument status by PLUM. 

Steven Luftman, co-founder of Friends of Lytton Savings, is fighting for preservation of the building. “At the end of the day,” he says, “I believe that David Ryu will stand by his commitment to preserve the historic Lytton Savings building.” Councilmember David Ryu (CD4), who negotiated a compromise with the 8150 Sunset developer to bring the building height down, “supports the Cultural Heritage Commission decision to award Historic-Cultural Monument status to the Lytton Savings Bank building,” according to his spokesperson. 

The LA Conservancy is also working to find a solution that avoids the wrecking ball for the Lytton Savings Bank building. Director of Advocacy Adrian Scott Fine provided this statement to CityWatch: “The Los Angeles Conservancy continues to press for a win-win outcome and is deeply disappointed in the direction by the City to date. Not only is the project and preservation possible but it was identified in two separate preservation alternatives studied by the City in the environmental review process. Townscape Partners, and their architect, Frank Gehry, however prefer to instead proceed with their plan, needlessly calling for the demolition of Lytton Savings when it otherwise could be successfully integrated into the proposed project. In allowing this to happen, the City is not fulfilling its responsibility under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and thats a problem.” 

Luftman added, “I feel this could be an amazing opportunity to have two of the most significant architects of Los Angeles -- Frank Gehry and Kurt Meyer -- together in one project. It seems to me that what is keeping this from happening is greed and ego. I find it terribly sad that one architect would want to erase anothers work. Tearing down this historic Modernist building, an obvious Historical Monument, is unacceptable -- especially when alternatives exist. In the end it will be up to the city council to decide if wealthy developers are more important than the citys rich history.” 

The other side of the preservation question was represented at the meeting by Gehry himself, who offered no apologies when he said, “The Lytton Bank building is in a precarious position for this building project.” That statement, and the fawning over him by the star-struck committee members (one gushing “what an honor” it was to have him in the chamber,) left no doubt that the spin cycle was in high gear for project approval, and that Lytton would be orphaned. Anastasia Mann, Chair of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council observed, “The ‘guardians of our city’ are really selling our soul to the devil for celebrity here.” 

At the center of this brewing controversy was what to do about Frank Gehry’s plans that many (but not everyone) like to build a collection of signature buildings at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights Boulevard. Gehry has called this location “the gateway to the Sunset Strip,” to be flanked by his buildings on the south and, on the north, a mostly tree-obscured Chateau Marmont. 

That was the primary question -- to approve or not to approve Gehry’s plans. It was answered by the PLUM committee, pushed by David Ryu, who sent them a forceful letter objecting to the original plans a few days ago, just before the meeting, and subsequently entered negotiations to try to get the changes he hoped for. He seems to have met that goal, said his spokesperson, telling a local paper, “We got right what we wanted -- a 24% reduction [in height]. Right in the middle.” 

In the end, the committee unanimously voted for the compromises brokered by Ryu, who was out of the country but in text message contact with his chief of staff monitoring the situation throughout the PLUM meeting. Appellants Laurel Canyon Association and the City of West Hollywood, as well as the developer Townscape Partners, praised Ryu for his efforts to find a solution, while others at the meeting and in the community afterwards were unhappy with what he had done. 

The PLUM meeting may have lasted five hours (its last three meetings were dedicated solely to 8150 Sunset,) but the wrangling has been going on for years. “The Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council has spent three years trying to work with the developers,” emphasized Neighborhood Council Chair Mann. These compromises negotiated by David Ryu are better than nothing...its a step in the right direction. I was impressed that he was able to get them. Its David versus Goliath. Obviously, theres more to be considered; everybody's not thrilled, but I don't know how anybody else, under the circumstances, could have done better than David Ryu did for the community. Davids efforts have been as a result of his attempts to represent his constituents. The reality is that no one else would even try.” 

Where does this stand now? The PLUM committee will send a unanimous recommendation to the full City Council to approve the 8150 Sunset plan when they meet on November 1. On November 22, the committee will consider the unanimous recommendation of the Cultural Heritage Commission to grant Historic-Cultural Monument status to the Lytton Savings Bank building. 

If, after monument status is approved, a preservation plan can be created that includes relocating the Lytton Savings Bank building, or keeping it on site, then it has a chance of remaining intact. Other than Frank Gehry having a change of heart, or David Ryu pulling a rabbit out of his hat, or litigation, it’s possible that the orphaned Lytton Bank building may not be adopted.


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 protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Wake Up LA! Damning LAT Report Exposes How Developer Bought City Hall Favors

CORRUPTION WATCH--On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times published a damning, in-depth report about developer Samuel Leung and his associates who greased LA’s rigged development approval system with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions that benefited City Council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti, seeking favors for a 352-unit residential mega-project known as “Sea Breeze” that the City Planning Commission had rejected.

The LA Times pulled out all the stops — six reporters worked on the story, flashy graphics are featured on the website and a data base was created that provides more information about the contributions. It’s the kind of hard-hitting, fact-driven, eye-opening news feature that should prompt an investigation by the LA County District Attorney’s Office corruption unit. 

Now, the Coalition to Preserve LA and its supporters aren’t surprised by the LA Times’ Sunday bombshell. In fact, we believe the paper should have been covering soft corruption among developers and City Hall politicians much sooner.

Because for months, week after week, our citizens’ movement has rolled out the hard facts about the millions of dollars deep-pocketed developers spend on campaign contributions, slush funds, officeholder accounts and politically connected lobbyists as they seek profitable spot-zoning favors for mega-projects that end up destroying neighborhood character, creating gridlock traffic and causing wide displacement of lower-income and middle-class Angelenos. 

By the way, our opposing campaign that’s funded by billionaire developers never, ever mentions the obvious influence peddling that’s going on at City Hall. Neither do the developers’ apologists. It’s as if developers never seek to change city zoning rules and manipulate a broken planning and land-use system that favors the fat cats over ordinary people.

But the Times report shows that’s obviously case, and we’ve published numerous stories that offer proof as well. This is not just one bad-apple developer doing something shady while everyone else plays by the rules. To wit:

  1. NoHo West in North Hollywood, where developers spent hundreds of thousands in campaign and lobbyist cash to get City Hall favors for a luxury housing mega-project
  2. The same goes for the Westside luxury housing mega-project known as Martin Expo Town Center
  3. And there’s the luxury skyscraper in Koreatown that Mayor Eric Garcetti pushed through against the wishes of the City Planning Commission;
  4. There’s also the Cumulus luxury housing mega-project in South LA — the developers again spent hundreds of thousands in campaign and lobbyists money to get profitable spot-zoning favors from City Hall;       
  5. And there’s billionaire developer Rick Caruso and his luxury housing skyscraper known as “333 La Cienega.” 

As one can see, developer’s seeking spot-zoning favors from the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti is happening across Los Angeles — and developers are raking in millions upon millions in the process while longtime residents get displaced, streets get more clogged with traffic and neighborhoods get ruined.

It’s why a citywide solution that’s the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is desperately needed — developers and LA politicians need to be reined in and the playing field needs to be leveled.

Read the LA Times and check out its database. It’s all there, and you’ll see — LA’s broken and rigged planning and land-use system must be reformed.

(Patrick Range McDonald writes for 2PreserveLA. Check it out. See if you don’t agree it will help end buying favors at City Hall.)



Too Much of a Good Thing

PERSPECTIVE--Increased TV and film location shooting in Los Angeles is a good thing, but can it cross a line?

Some residents in a very quiet neighborhood Valley Village think so … and they have good reason. They support local filming, but a certain production has turned their block into a studio backlot extension for too many days.

Five times in two years, to be exact, for multiple days per event – all at the same residence. The permits cover 3-5 days each, although there is usually an added day at the front or back end for prep and breakdown. The hours run from 6AM to 10PM. However, the crews start arriving at 5AM. Overall, this quiet residential street has been a commercial zone for approximately 25 days within the last two years (with more to come), with 10-ton trucks, trailers, canteen vehicles and porta-johns lining both sides of the street. There are no ex-LAPD officers on hand.

Aside from noise, difficulties backing out of driveways, lack of parking or inadequate access for emergency vehicles – concerns which can be mostly overlooked if they occurred a couple of times per year – the conversion of a residential street for commercial use on a semi-regular frequency is contrary to the right to enjoy one’s property.

There are no restrictions as to how often a specific block or residence can be used as a shooting location.

There are restrictions on yard sales, however.

The owners of the residence who allowed their home to be used are gone during the filming and do not have to put up with the inconvenience. There must certainly be some form of compensation involved. If so, I hope they report it on their tax returns. According to the residents I spoke with, they have not been responsive to appeals from the neighbors.

It would seem there should be a reasonable restriction on location filming in residential neighborhoods, including limits on the number and size of vehicles, the frontage occupied, the hours and days per shoot and minimum requirements for a permit approvals from the affected residents in accordance with the nature and scope of the shoot.

The zoning laws of our city are increasingly being ignored at the expense of the residents.

In this instance, the production company may be enjoying a tax credit for filming locally, but the residents receive little or nothing, only congestion, the aroma of the honey wagons, and noise late into the night.

Not a good deal.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].)


State Audit of LAUSD Teacher Jail Costs: Just another Cover-up

EDUCATION POLITICS-What kind of a credible and independent audit of the costs related to LAUSD's removal of allegedly bad teachers can the State of California Auditor objectively perform, when it goes into the audit without questioning anything LAUSD tells them? 

There is no question that it is an expensive proposition to keep charged teachers sitting around, often for years on end, while having to pay their salaries and those of their substitutes. The California State Auditor, in its recently released audit of this practice, never once mentions or takes into consideration the fact that LAUSD saves a fortune when it is able to rid itself -- by hook or by crook or by fabricated charges -- of teachers at the top of the salary scale. These are the teachers with expensive benefits packages and lifetime health benefits -- the ones LAUSD needs to get rid of, one way or another, before they vest. 

The State Auditor presumes from the beginning of its audit that there is an actual net cost and not a net savings achieved when LAUSD targets, removes, and ultimately fires high seniority teachers. It doesn't even consider there just might be an actual savings to LAUSD of $60,000 a year in combined salary and benefits in just the first year these teachers are gone. Simply stated, a major component of what this audit should have looked into has been completely ignored and omitted. And with this blatant omission goes any chance of this audit having any validity, let alone holding accountable for their criminal behavior all those at LAUSD who continue to perpetrate this fraud. 

For one small illustration in this flawed audit -- and what can only be considered a purposeful oversight – we need to examine what is not considered here and elsewhere in the attached State audit. For example, while this audit says: "For a selection of 18 re-assignments (teachers being charged,) costs per case ranged from about $7,000 to nearly $315,000 during the period we reviewed." No information or statistics are given as to how many of these teachers – 93% of whom in unaudited reality were at the top of the salary scale -- were forced out and replaced by fresh out of college "teachers" working on emergency credentials for $35,000, instead of $80,000 a year. And, of course, these young teachers also have significantly less expensive benefits packages. 

If just 16 of these forced-out teachers were at the top of the salary scale, the average cost of removing them was $19,687.50; again, the savings to the District was approximately $60,000 per teacher, leaving a net savings to LAUSD of $40,312.50. And that's in just the first year of this gift to the District that keeps on giving, as long as teachers continue to be dissuaded from sticking around too long. 

It is worth mentioning that both my attorney and I contacted the California State Auditor during this audit with sworn evidence to prove that LAUSD's is actually saving money in the long run on teachers' jail, their substitutes, and all the out of pocket costs it immediately recoups when it forces these high seniority teachers out. I was assured by several people in the California Auditor's office that they would look into this. 

And of course, how or why should the public be concerned, if they are constantly told by all the media marching in lock step with LAUSD that this is about the costs of dealing with "teacher misconduct" and not a felonious scam (see Penal Code 132-134) to get rid of high seniority teachers so the District can save money to squander elsewhere (which is why they needed to target senior teachers in the first place.) 

There's no way LAUSD or the California Auditor could get away with this without the complete cooperation of the mainstream and public media that refuses to report what is actually going on and why. 

If you have any doubts, just read reporter Howard Blume's Los Angeles Times LAUSD party line article about this recent state audit that unquestioningly parrots LAUSD's position that this is only about teacher misconduct: 

Do you think it’s a coincidence that every time the issue of teacher misconduct is mentioned that a picture of convicted teacher Mark Berndt is hauled out to paint all teachers with the same “pervert brush?” Could that be why one element of the Rafe Esquith vs. LAUSD class action suit is defamation...and another is age discrimination? 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Prop 57: Not Just a ‘Juvenile’ Initiative

TRUTH & CONSEQUENCES-When touting the merits of The Public Safety & Rehabilitation Act of 2016 (also known as Proposition 57,) the 2016 California voters guide addresses the question surrounding juvenile arrests for violent or serious criminal offenses to be charged as adults. Those convicted could spend years incarcerated in California State prisons. Prop 57 strips away the power of prosecutors to try juveniles as adults, overturning Proposition 21 which was approved by 62% of the voters in 2000. Prop 21 gave prosecutors, instead of judges, the right to decide whether juveniles should be charged as adults. 

A prosecutor could file directly against a juvenile in adult court under W&I 707(d), but could also file a “fitness hearing” in Juvenile Hall. Under W&I 707(c), a juvenile is presumed to be unfit for juvenile court. 

Prop. 57 will also strip judges of the power to set sentencing guidelines, transferring that power to Governor Brown's appointed members of the Board of Parole Hearings instead. 

Prop. 57 overturns key provisions not only in Marsy's Law, a Constitutional amendment enacted by voters in 2008, but also the “Three Strikes Law” (Prop. 35), The Human Trafficking law (Prop. 35), The Street Terrorism and Prevention Act (Penal Code Section 186.22) and The Victim’s Bill of Rights (Prop. 8.)

If the court order does not have the enhancement under PC 667.5 of the California Penal code, then a current incarcerated criminal can be released early from state prison. Prop 57 allows the worst “career criminals” to be treated equal to first‐time offenders, prohibiting strong sentences that judges could impose. 

The Voter Guide also hides the fact that Proposition 57 seeks to set new guidelines to allow both appointed Board members and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation staff to enhance “good time” credit for current incarcerated adult inmates convicted of very violent and serious criminal offenses and also grants early release from state prison. Presumably, these credits will apply if they attend educational or work/vocational programs -- even if there is no availability for those programs in a particular prison. 

Prop. 57 is a Constitutional Amendment that affords new rights and privileges for even the most dangerous criminals. If passed, it cannot be overturned by the Legislature. 

The devastating effects of AB 109 and Prop. 47 have threatened the safety of all communities and claimed the lives of many innocent victims. Adding the negative impacts of Prop. 57 into the mix would ultimately weaken all of California’s anti-crime laws.

Did you know that violent crimes across the State have escalated over 10% last year? In Los Angeles, crime statistics point to a 20% rise in violent crime last year. Those charged with enforcing the laws of the State know this only too well.

Each side claims the other side is lying. Supporters insist Prop. 57 will help fix the broken system that would rehabilitate prisoners and reduce the recidivism rate. They want inmates to have the “tools” to “stop the revolving door to prison.” 

Gov Brown and his band of followers insist that, “To be granted parole, all inmates, current and future, must demonstrate that they are rehabilitated and do not pose a danger to the public.” But ask yourself, how can anyone “prove” they’ve been rehabilitated during a hearing? Does a simple promise to not harm another guarantee public safety at that inmate’s hands? What happens to all that “rehabilitation” when an inmate is released from prison and cannot assimilate back into society or cannot find a job to support him or herself? 

The California District Attorney’s Association (CDAA) wrote an analysis of the Governor’s Initiative (Prop. 57) in February 2016. 

They note, The term non-violent felony offense is not defined in the initiative, or elsewhere in California law. However, Penal Code section 667.5(c), which has been the law in California since 1977, defines violent felony with a list of some 23 offenses. That list currently includes crimes such as murder and attempted murder, mayhem, forcible rape (but not all rapes,) forcible sexual assault crimes (but not all of them), felonies involving great bodily injury being inflicted on a victim, felonies involving firearm use, robbery, some arsons, kidnapping, carjacking, some felonies involving explosives, and any felony punishable by death or in the state prison for life. Logic dictates that any felony not included in the definition of violent felony would be a non-violent felony for purposes of the initiative.” 

The CDAA also notes that, “not all ‘non-violent felonies’ are limited to low-level crimes like drug possession or auto burglary. Proposition 8 provided California with a ‘serious felony’ list passed by voters in 1982. The ‘serious felonies’ list far outweighs the “violent felonies” list that is found in Penal Code section 1192.7(c). 

“The ‘violent felony’ list is a subset of the ‘serious felony’ list, meaning that violent felonies are also serious felonies. There are numerous serious felonies that are referred to as ‘not violent’ under California law, but which are, in fact, violent in nature. Here is a just a small sampling of those ‘non-violent’ felonies:

  • Penal Code section 136.1 Threats to a crime victim or witness. 
  • Penal Code section 186.22(a) Active participation in a criminal street gang. 
  • Penal Code section 186.22(b) Various felonies committed for gang purposes. 
  • Penal Code sections 191.5 & 192(c) Vehicular manslaughter. 
  • Penal Code section 192(b) Involuntary manslaughter. 
  • Penal Code section 243(d) Battery with personal infliction of serious bodily injury. 
  • Penal Code section 244 Throwing acid or flammable substances. 
  • Penal Code section 245(a)(1) Assault with a deadly weapon. 
  • Penal Code section 245(c) Assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer or firefighter. 
  • Penal Code section 246 Discharging firearm at an occupied dwelling, building, vehicle, or aircraft. 
  • Penal Code section 261(a)(1) Rape where victim legally incapable of giving consent. 
  • Penal Code sections 261(a)(3) & 262(a)(2) Rape by intoxicating substance. 
  • Penal Code sections 261(a)(4) & 262(a)(3) Rape where victim unconscious of the act. 
  • Penal Code section 261(a)(7) & Penal Code section 262(a)(5) Rape by threat of public official.
  • Penal Code section 422 Criminal threats. 
  • Penal Code section 451(c) Arson of a structure or forest land.
  • Penal Code section 451(d) Arson of property.
  • Penal Code section 455 Attempted arson.
  • Penal Code section 459-460(a) Residential burglary.
  • Penal Code section 487(c)(2) Grand theft firearm.
  • Penal Code section 4501 Assault with a deadly weapon by state prison inmate.
  • Penal Code section 4503 Holding a hostage by state prison inmate. 
  • Penal Code section 12022(b) Any felony involving the personal use of a deadly weapon. 
  • Penal Code section 18740 Exploding a destructive device or explosive with intent to injure.” 

In fact, 56 out of 58 major cities across the State, including Chief’s of Police, District Attorneys and members of the Law Enforcement community stand in staunch opposition to Prop. 57. 

Governor Brown, through his ballot committee has contributed over 40% of the $10.5 M raised in support of Prop 57. 

Prop. 57 makes for great “political speak” just like AB 109 and Prop. 47 that have proven to be epic fails. So, too, will Prop. 57. Politicians know far more about the salesmanship in peddling bills but far less than law enforcement officials who actually patrol the streets -- your streets. 

The choice belongs to voters in November. In today’s current political climate it is difficult to know who is actually telling the truth. But is it really worth gambling away safety in our homes, neighborhoods and schools -- putting our families at risk? 

Get the facts on Prop. 57 before you vote because it can’t be undone down the road.


(Caroline Aguirre is a retired 24-year State of California law enforcement officer, LAPD family member, community activist and Neighborhood Watch captain. Aguirre is a CityWatch contributor.)


(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter and a regular contributor to CityWatch. She can be reached at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Legalized Weed: Getting Out In Front of It.

SPECIAL PROP 64 REPORT--At the Oct. 18 Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council stakeholder meeting, President Mona Sutton read aloud a statement released by Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, just two weeks earlier. The statement called on the city’s neighborhood councils and citywide committees to discuss the legalization of cannabis. He expressed the hope that this could be a space where community impact statements, white paper suggestions and recommendations could be provided to the Rules, Elections, Intergovernmental Relations, and Neighborhoods Committee -- a committee he chairs. 

For Sutton, this call-out was a welcome change from her experience a couple of months prior when she chatted with Mayor Eric Garcetti during a regional gathering of neighborhood council presidents.

“With a pending vote on cannabis in California, are you going to get out in front of it anytime soon?” Sutton recalled asking. 

She said the mayor looked a little dumbfounded by the question before she followed up with a suggestion. 

“How about [making it so that potential operators pay] $100,000 to open or get permit fees for this and renew it yearly?” 

“We can call it the Sutton tax,” Sutton recalled the mayor facetiously responding. “You can call it whatever you want, but how about we start a fund and use for something really important?” she asked. 

Matt Garland, a local stakeholder at the meeting, agreed with Sutton, except for the part about the $100,000 entry fee. 

Garland, a medical marijuana patient for the past 15 years, said he was excited that there are groups and cities looking at how communities can benefit from the legalization of recreational cannabis.

“There are some potential benefits with legalization, but it depends on how the city regulates it,” he said. “I’m really hoping we can do something in Los Angeles.” 

Garland argues that cities should move towards obtainable small business licenses, seeing legalization as a potential jobs growth engine in low-income communities, if done right. 

“This could be just one more job that people are doing,” Garland said in a later interview with Random Lengths. 

Garland sees this moment as an opportunity to bring above ground the existing black market economy of marijuana. Garland said he spent eight years in Humboldt County in the 1990s. He recalled communities with few job opportunities but they had their own growing project going, providing a lot of people with a little bit of income. 

“We’re talking $20,000 to $30,000 a year for a part-time job,” Garland said. “The result of that was that small businesses prospered because people had money to spend. I know that was 20 years ago. But I do see the potential benefits.” 

But Garland’s views are a little different when it comes to how Los Angeles has been dealing with the illegal cannabis dispensaries opening up everywhere, then shuttering like pop-up restaurants. He agrees with City Attorney Mike Feuer’s aggressive crackdown since he came into office. 

“My concerns for San Pedro are in regards to patient access, family safety and the lack of regulation around medical cannabis,” Garland said. “It has created an unsafe environment for the community.”

He went on to say that Wilmington and parts of San Pedro have been made a dumping ground for illegal pot dispensaries. To a certain extent, Garland’s attitude was similar to that of neighbors of Barton Hill Elementary School who turned out for the Sept. 25 rally opposing a proposed navigation center on Pacific Avenue. 

At the time, rally attendees mocked bureaucratic attempts to sanitize the public perception of homeless storage facilities and weed shops by renaming them “navigations centers” and “medical marijuana dispensaries.” 

The enduring popularity of 2013’s Prop. D, the ballot initiative limiting the number of medical dispensaries to the 135 that opened prior to 2007, is probably the reason why Los Angeles has been so slow to prepare for the possible passage of Prop. 64, along with Feuer’s reelection bid to office in 2017. 

Feuer’s visit to San Pedro on Oct. 13 illustrates this point. It was intended to be a town hall meeting in which he would give a brief introduction, then open the floor for questions from attendees. There were 75 to 100 people present. 

Included in his opening remarks was the fact his office, with the help of the Los Angeles Police Department, has closed more than 800 dispensaries in Los Angeles -- 48 in the Harbor Division alone. Many more are still being investigated in the Los Angeles Harbor. This announcement was received positively, even if most of the attendees were more interested in hearing about Feuer’s enforcement efforts regarding problems related to homelessness. 

When he gave the same intro in Wilmington, the applause was sustained for 30 seconds or more.

“All marijuana-dispensaries in the city are illegal under that ordinance,” Feuer said. “Some can get limited immunity to enforcement by my office if they hit a whole bunch of cylinders. They can’t be too close to each other; they can’t be too close to parks; playgrounds and schools. They can’t have their signs lit up at night…a whole bunch of things they have to do.” 

At this meeting, he reminded attendees that he had no staff and no list of addresses to work from when Prop. D was passed. 

The city attorney also said there may be five or six shops that may be able to satisfy criteria to be immune to prosecution. The number of investigations are declining, he noted, because they are closing the dispensaries as investigations proceed. 

Feuer noted that it was unclear what would happen if Prop. 64 passes. He said it is possible for the city to say, “No, we don’t want medicinal marijuana.” Or, it is possible the city could say recreational marijuana is okay, but medicinal marijuana will be more restricted. 

It was at this meeting that residents learned that there’s another initiative headed towards the March ballot that would create some licenses for marijuana facilities in the city. 

“Another thing has happened,” Feuer answered to a question about the possibility of legalization. “Gov. [Jerry] Brown signed a law about a year ago that created some regulation for medical marijuana in the state and only allows those that are permitted by local jurisdictions to exist.” 

As Feuer noted, none of those that are permitted are legal in the city. 

“If I’m going to guess, there are going to be some significant changes in several areas of this law but in the meantime we are doing what you asked, and that [is] aggressively enforcing the law.” 

But there is a subset of activists, civic leaders and community members who believe the passage of Prop. 64 can economically benefit historically disadvantaged communities in very tangible ways.

Carson is dealing with similar concerns. The community hopes legalization will be an opportunity to expunge the criminal records of youth who where arrested for marijuana possession. In turn, they can then find better jobs. 

On Sept. 24, former Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell, in conjunction with the Carson-Torrance chapter of the NAACP, hosted a town hall meeting on Prop. 64 at the Carson Recreation Center — one of many in recent months focused on the potential impact on communities of color in Los Angeles County. 

The panel included Greg Akili from the nonprofit organization Corporate Accountability International, which is known for its high profile campaigns to protect public health, the environment and democracy from abuse by transnational corporations; Virgil Grant III, co-founder and co-chairman of California Minority Alliance, a nonprofit that aims to prepare disadvantaged communities to economically benefit if marijuana is legalized; and Cat Packer, a campaign coordinator for Californians for Responsible Marijuana Reform. 

Farrell framed the conversation by noting the negative impacts that the war on drugs has had on communities of color. 

“If this passes, we will see a cultural shift,” he said. “The moment is here, but where do we go after?”

He went on to say that passing this proposition has broad ranging impacts on life as we know it and might lead to better business opportunities for blacks and Latinos. 

“Before 1964, only whites owned the liquor stores in Watts,” he said. “After the Watts riots, blacks and Latinos went into businesses, they got liquor licenses and liquor stores.” 

Carson resident Robert Leslie, a retired police officer who worked on a drug task force, said he was very concerned about rising crime rates as a result marijuana legalization for recreational use. 

“As a police officer I saw recreational marijuana use … connected with burglary and assault,” Leslie said. “Many people I arrested were repeat offenders. Then they had to go into reversion programs…. Smoking marijuana also causes cancer. And according to some studies smoking it is worse than tobacco.” 

It wasn’t just retired police officers who still had misgivings regarding marijuana’s legalization. Others also expressed concern, like Tony Wafford. 

“To be honest, I could care less if people out there are smoking weed,” Wafford said. “That’s what I call it, not cannabis or marijuana. It’s weed. But I am still battling with what weed does to people.”

Wafford recounted his son’s experience with a medical marijuana card. 

“He went to a job interview and then he tells me he can’t pee in a cup. I said, ‘Where’s your weed card?’ He said that wouldn’t help. I smoke cigars and drink brandy on Sunday, but I can pee in a cup on Monday. If this proposition passed tomorrow, can people go and do whatever test they have to and get a job?” 

The third expert speaker was Packer. She said when she was in law school she did not think she would get involved with marijuana legalization -- she wanted to stick to civil rights issues. 

“But, I’ve seen bad legalization,” said Packer. “I worked on a legalization campaign in Ohio. Ten investors were spending $2 million each to control all of the state’s cultivation. To try to get more voter support these investors put forward a companion bill that would expunge records, but only after the other initiative passed and the investors got their monopoly. I moved across the country and got involved with Californians for Responsible Marijuana Reform because this is a civil rights issue. Mass incarceration is real. And. it is due to drug arrests, which are primarily related to marijuana. 

“Because money is involved in this, legalization is inevitable, but you have a choice of what type of legalization you want. Proposition 64 is not perfect, but it’s the best initiative so far because it acknowledges the war on drugs and the harm that it has had on the black community.” 

Packer went on to give some key features of the proposition: 

  • Having 1 ounce (8 grams) and 6 plants is legal for anyone 21 and up. 
  • $10 million of taxes from marijuana sales goes to community reinvestment for communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. This can increase every year up to $50 million. 
  • 20 percent of tax revenue goes to environmental remediation of harm due to illegal past cultivation. 
  • Retroactive penalty reduction for people incarcerated and petitions for expungement for past criminal offenses due to marijuana. 
  • Five-year ban on cultivation operations of 22,000 square feet and above to discourage monopolies from developing. 

When Packer began to talk about how the revenue would be used she took a moment to get personal. 

“If it were up to me, some of this money would be going into training cops not to be racist,” Packer said. 

There were grins and scoffs and someone exclaimed, “That’s not going to happen!” 

Nevertheless she encouraged citizens to be aware and provide input to their cities if the proposition passes. 

During the question and answer portion of the forum, attendee concern ran the gamut of where will the taxes go to where they are needed to the potential of increases in crime. 

Associate professor of business law Charles Thomas asked, “Can local governments level their own taxes?” 

“Yes, they can also choose to just allow cultivation,” Packer replied. 

Packer said that her group plans to organize watch parties on election night with people who have marijuana convictions. That way at 12:01 (a.m. Nov. 9) after Proposition 64 passes, the state will have a list of people whose records can be expunged. This bit of information received a rousing round of applause. 

Packer noted a tough road ahead in changing perceptions of marijuana. She looked professional and was well dressed. She told us that she is a recreational user of marijuana. 

Virgil Grant asked the crowd to lobby to change the drug testing issue and to lobby assembly members like Mike Gibson on the issue. 

Akili said that the fight against white supremacy is not over, that some will find ways to keep minorities unemployed (credit tests and appearance like hijabs or tattoos.) 

Prop. 64 does not give a one-size-fits-all solution to cities. It offers flexibility. 

Residents and business owners from Carson to San Pedro have been invited to join the conversation and affect local marijuana policy.


(Terelle Jerricks is Managing Editor of Random Lengths … where this column originated. Christian L. Guzman is Community Reporter for Random Lengths.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Is California Still Hangin’ Out at the Home of the Free and the Brave?

ALPERN AT LARGE--Freedom isn't for sissies.  Life is complicated, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't confront it--particularly in a free society, where our decisions aren't supposed to be made for us.  If America is "the home of the Free and the Brave", then the obligations of freedom are NOT above and beyond us. 

Our California ballot is so very complicated, and with so many taxation and policy questions, it's easy to run away screaming from your ballot box and/or absentee ballot envelope.  But with the understanding that you need not vote for every measure and/or proposition or election race, here are a few considerations: 

1) Taxing a few of us for something we're all supposed to benefit from is neither democratic, courageous, nor moral.  If it's good enough to tax some of us, then tax all of us. 

The argument that the more wealthy should pay more than those less wealthy makes sense, but how to do it in a fair manner will be argued long after we're gone.  If we don't all have some skin in the game, and if the money's not supervised with respect to transparency and quality spending, then why do we need to nail other financially and hurt our economy? 

Joel Fox, former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, states it well when he decries how California--home of Proposition 13--appears willing to tax itself into oblivion, particularly when it's "someone else" who'll pay the taxes for YOUR pet priorities. 

Of course, many of those who tried to keep California on an even keel have retired and left the state, or have passed away, leaving poorly-educated new generations who think that the warnings of Big Government are all crazy and for paranoid seniors (I guess the worshiping of youth has replaced the respect of elders and the knowledge/wisdom they've collected over their lives). 

And for those of you willing to vote for OTHERS to pay more for what YOU want...well...how brave of you.  How BRAVE of you!!! 

2) VOTE NO on Proposition 55:   Ooooooh, those awful rich people!  Get 'em!  Make 'em pay their fair share!  So I guess that the "big lie" that this tax on those making $263,000 per year would be temporarily taxed is being shown as just that...a lie.  And does that figure carry the same weight and wealth as it does in states with a lower cost of living? 

And if more small business owners, who work 80-100 hours a week for that money, leave the state (along with your job), that'll make you happy?  And is paying over 50% of your income in federal and state income taxes enough to make lower-income Californians satisfied?  And will the money, supposed to go to education, BE ... SPENT ... WELL? 

Is our tax dollars, particularly our education tax dollars, being spent well in California?  Do you really favor the public sector education unions over your own job/employer? 

3) VOTE NO on Proposition 56:   Oooooooh, those awful cigarette smokers!  Get 'em!  Make 'em pay their fair share!  Because there are so MANY smokers left and because that extra money will be spent so ... damn ... well!  Best that we enact laws that require higher healthcare premiums and life insurance premiums for smokers (the latter already exists). 

4) VOTE YES on Propositions 53 and 54:  Transparency is good.  Bonds have to be paid back, and if it's over $2 billion then the taxpayers should vote on it.  Ditto with us all being able to see legislation online for at least 72 hours before Sacramento can vote on it. 

... and in other races where we have to S.O.S. (Save Our State) ... 

5) VOTE NO on Proposition 57:  What...the jump in crime after we passed Proposition 47 wasn't enough for you?  You think that there are just gobs and gobs of innocent sweeties those nefarious prosecutors and judges threw away in jail for funzies, and that their ridiculously-long rap sheet means nothing?  You really want to put yourself and your family at risk...AGAIN? 

6) VOTE NO on Proposition 58:  Latino children have been among the chief beneficiaries by requiring families to specifically request for bilingual/immersion education programs.  Passing this would be a step backwards--if someone is bilingual, then that is an unqualified plus in our world. But if a child doesn't speak and learn English first, then it's a guaranteed restriction on their future. 

7) VOTE NO on Proposition 64:  We already look the other way for those with small amounts of recreational marijuana, and already are OK with medicinal marijuana.  You want more DUI's for those high on pot (which is by far more available in high concentrations today than in the past, and are virtually hallucinogenic at certain doses) like in other states?  There's a difference between tolerating pot, versus telling your kids it's "just fine" or to even watch advertisements go up that virtually encourage teenagers and kids to "go for it" when it's legal (or even earlier).  VOTE NO! 

8) VOTE NO on Proposition 62, and YES on Proposition 66--Mend it, don't end it!  The death penalty exists for a reason, and reasonable reforms and commutations have already been made (and should continue to be made) for the protection of the innocent.  Do NOT reward those who ultimately seek to let those truly guilty of monstrous crimes out of prison, and/or who do NOT truly understand the unforgiveable act of first-degree murder.  Please speak for the rights of the slain--because they cannot speak for themselves!  Victims' lives matter ... right?   

9) Vote YES on Measure M--I am no hypocrite, and no purist. I've already opined that we shouldn't need Measure M, but we damn well do!!! 

With respect to transportation, the public education lobbies have financially crippled the state with respect to proper budgeting.  LA County MUST Save Itself!  And demand matching grants from Sacramento and Washington whenever possible! 

Measure M taxes all of us, and is filled with BOTH freeway and rail projects, as well as operational and sidewalk/road repairs that we all can benefit from.  Chambers of commerce, newspapers throughout the County of LA and among those benefiting the most from transit projects. 

Former County Supervisor Yaroslavsky, who helped kill the subway construction bonanza when the spending was out of control in the 1990's, favors Measure M, and he earned his reputation as a fiscal conservative. 

And I am also a fiscal conservative, recommending a "no" vote on every tax/bond initiative in the city, county, and state...but Measure M is the big exception, and we can fight for more transportation, and better inclusion for the county, the very day after we pass it. 

But we MUST pass Measure M. 

Again, freedom isn't for sissies. We should NOT, even in the la-la land of California, forget that we are part of the Home of the Free and the Brave.  No taxes or stupid Big Government when it's unhelpful.   

But when we tax ourselves, or make policies that affect all of us, let's all do it together--including that taxpayer/voter you see in the mirror every day.


(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)




In the Case of CA Assembly Member Patty Lopez the System Really is Rigged

MY TURN--I first became acquainted with Assembly Member (notice it is now assembly member NOT Assemblyman) Patty Lopez (D) right after she was elected to the 39th District of the California Legislature. Her opponent, the incumbent Raul Bocanagra (D) was already trying to raise funds for a recall attempt. He and his establishment supporters couldn't believe they had been outvoted by a Mexican born immigrant and a "Woman" at that. (Patty Lopez, above left) 

Now in 2016, Bocanegra is in a runoff with Lopez in a bit of déjà vu. Assembly District 39 encompasses: Agua Dulce, Arleta, Canyon Country, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, Newhall, North Hollywood, Northeast Granada Hills, Pacoima, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Shadow Hills, Sun Valley, Sylmar and Sunland-Tujunga. 

If those areas sound familiar, it’s because they seem to have been traveling under a black cloud of late. They have endured fires, floods, incompetent politicians, forced High Speed Rail routes, homeless encampments, economic blight and probably the locusts will come this winter. 

Full disclosure--- I am not in the 39th District so am unable to vote for either one of the candidates. In the last two years I have become rather familiar with the Northeast San Fernando Valley. As I have stated here several times, the people really care about their neighborhoods and are willing to stand up and fight. I admire their tenacity and willingness to participate in their own future. 

Also in full disclosure I don't agree with everything they want to do ... but then again I don't live there. Its population is an ethnic microcosm of Los Angeles and incorporates the economic scale with a solid middle class. It also has political diversity with both Trump and Clinton signs on the lawns. 

So why do I think she faces a rigged system? The Los Angeles Democratic Central Committee in most instances will endorse the incumbent. This election they chose to endorse Bocanegra. I tried to find out why. I know it’s hard to believe, but no one wanted to go on record. 

I did learn about something called "pay for play" which Trump has accused his opponent of doing. Well, last election instead of talking with his constituents in the last two weeks of the election he was out campaigning and giving funds to his colleagues. The Central Committee is determined by election and surprisingly Bocanegra's friends were elected to represent the area and they voted to endorse him. 

He is very prolific in fund raising and does spread it around; whereas the last election Lopez supporters sold pozole and enchiladas to help her financially. This time he is also raising for more money but interestingly she has the support of both Republicans and Democrats in the area. 

Originally from Michoacán, Mexico, Assemblywoman Patty López came to the U.S. at the age of 12 and was raised in the city of Pacoima. She is a wife, mother of four and grandmother of three.   She started working in the community giving voice to those that previously had none.   Her website Patty Lopez for Assembly talks about her advocacy for education which led to her 2014 victory. She also publishes all literature and news bilingual. 

In my opinion it is because she is at every event in her district.   She knows her communities and fights for them. One recent success was her spear heading efforts, along with other organizations in the community. to open a satellite branch of Mission Hills College in Sunland. They broke ground last month. 

She has hosted dozens of free, informative workshops on housing, education, small businesses, immigration and other key issues. She is staunchly committed to protecting the rights of women, children, seniors and veterans. She has been a champion for the people in countless ways. 

Seven of Assemblywoman Patty López' bills have been signed into law this year alone. Her groundbreaking legislation promises to improve the overall quality of life for California's children, working families, foster youth and college students while also supporting small businesses, giving local residents the power to shape their communities and reforming the criminal justice system. 

She was recognized by fellow legislators and environmentalists at the 2016 Green California

Advocacy Day Reception for her exemplary efforts to safeguard our communities and

the environment. The annual event is hosted by Green California ‒ a network of more than 100

organizations that plan, strategize and work collaboratively to voice their concerns to the State Legislature and regulatory agencies on issues impacting the air, water and other natural resources. 

When Lopez went to Sacramento she was not received with open arms by her fellow democrats. After all, she had beaten their colleague, who thought he would be the next Assembly speaker. Subsequently she has made inroads. The Women's Assembly Caucus has been helpful and she has learned how to get things done. Patty Lopez is not a great orator. She doesn't keep her audiences spell bound. She is not a sophisticated politician. What she does ... better than her predecessor ever did ... is truly represent them. She has her pulse on the community and its needs. 

She has raised less than $100,000 and he has raised close to $500,000. She has received endorsements from a large number of different organizations. She also received the endorsement of the Daily News in the Primary. When you see the list of his doner's you know where his priorities will lie. 

I don't know Raul Bocanegra. I've sent queries to his campaign but no response. It's not hard to understand. He was Chief of Staff for ex LA Council member Felipe Fuentes, when Fuentes was in the Assembly. Fuentes was never forthcoming, so obviously Bocanegra followed in his Boss’s footsteps.   I had to smile at Bocanegra's web site since one of the words used to describe him was "humble." 

The ex assemblyman has some skeletons in his closet.   I found some letters on line from a group of high powered women who wrote the LA Weekly "We are asking that you please make public any sexual harassment complaints made against Raul Bocanegra, including what the investigation found of said complaint and whether or not a financial settlement of any kind was reached. These are taxpayer dollars and voters have a right to know if a State employee's sexual harassment settlement cost the taxpayers money while still allowing him to continue to walk the halls of the State Capitol." 

The LA Weekly asked for a copy of the complaint; received it, but didn't mention the disposition.   Of course the LA Weekly gave Fuentes the "Worst Congressman of the Year." award. Bocanegra as his Chief of Staff should probably share that title. 

We Americans do not encourage excellence in our leaders. In order to run for anything one needs to belong to a group, or political party. In order to get support, a candidate must convince his/ her backers by either compromising or acquiescing to so many people, in spite of good intentions, one has diluted the original reasons for running for political office. Patty Lopez was the exception in 2014. I hope for District 39's sake she is again. 

This is why Hillary Clinton's email server issues don't bother me. We all have flaws. On a scale of one to ten that was a stupid mistake but it didn't hurt the country. If we compare flaws, I'll take Hillary any day compared to her opponent. 

He did say something that I agree with: We should have term limits for all Federal political offices. Three six-year terms for Senators; four two-year terms for House seats. This is the only way we will be able to encourage our best and brightest to be an integral part of the governing process. 

As always comments welcome


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected])


Free Black Cats on Halloween: Garcetti’s Dangerous Delusion

@THE GUSS REPORT-Dishonest or disconnected: on any given week, you never know where LA Mayor Eric Garcetti is going to land on Planet Policy. Last week, I proved how his administration knowingly falsified thousands of pet adoptions, one of his many and ongoing dishonest humane claims -- with more to come. A week later, it is still the #1 Most Viewed article on CityWatch.

This week, Garcetti’s administration is showing its total disconnect from humane issues, causing a public backlash by giving away animals for free (a dangerous idea at any time) – including black cats and kittens – during Halloween week. This practically begs for their torture, exploitation or abandonment soon thereafter. 

So say former LAAS Commissioners from the administrations of Garcetti’s two predecessors: 

Laura Beth Heisen, an attorney and MBA, is a former LAAS Commissioner appointed by Mayor James Hahn and is chair of the City’s Spay/Neuter Advisory Committee, appointed by City Council president Herb Wesson. She warns, “The number one rule of rescue is: ‘No free animals, especially prior to Halloween!’ For good reason. They wind up being used for abusive, tortuous non-pet purposes like bait for dog fighting, sold for lab experiments or bizarre Halloween rituals.” 

Marie Atake, founder of Forte Animal Rescue in Marina del Rey was an LAAS Commissioner appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. She says, This type of practice only reminds us that (in politicians’ views) animals are commodities, hence the animals in the pound are treated the same as impounded cars; actually those cars are more valued than sentient animals! To city officials, animals are important only when they make their empty promises to get elected. How many of them ever visit the LA animal impound facilities once they’re in office? I spoke up for the animals, and was threatened by the Mayor’s office to ‘shut up or else,’ and I chose the ‘else’ and resigned from the LAAS Commission. It is a shame that the most important qualification to stay on the LAAS Commission is to not care for animals and just rubber stamp. This campaign is another example that proves their priorities and intentions.” 

Atake’s point shines a glaring light on the comprehensive lack of prior humane experience by virtually all of Garcetti’s current shelter Commissioners: 

Alisa Finsten was appointed last week to the LAAS Commission with zero inquiry by City Council on her qualifications for the role and her knowledge of humane policy. 

Earlier this summer, Garcetti appointed Olivia Garcia to the Commission with the comparatively stellar qualification of “occasionally doing some transportation of animals for a local charity.” 

LAAS Larry Gross possesses extremely deep qualifications…to be on any Garcetti panel related to housing and tenants’ rights issues, but has threadbare prior experience in humane issues. 

Then there’s the bickering duo of Roger Wolfson and president David Zaft who spend more time in meetings on their petty, personal differences than on policy…when Wolfson actually shows up to meetings. 

This seems to be Garcetti’s end-goal: keep misleading the public on humane issues by maintaining a dumbed-down LAAS Commission light on experience and featherweight in courage. Garcetti would need to first show he cares about a problem before taking measures to fix it. To date, he has proven only the opposite.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640 and Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


EEK! Elections. Emails. Education.

It's Halloween and the fate of the Republic is in our hands. A double whammy, if you dare.

There’s much talk about how little talk there has been about public education in the presidential election. I guess the Russians just aren’t interested enough in American education policy to dump emails on the topic.

One leaked email did have particular relevance to public education though. David Dayen in the New Republic calls it “the most important Wikileaks revelation.”  

A month before the 2008 presidential election, a senior Citicorp executive sent his appointment picks to Obama advisor John Podesta. Those preferences included Arne Duncan as Education Secretary. Duncan, who put the public-education-as-a-competitive-marketplace on steroids. So destructive was Duncan that his legacy is that the decades-in-waiting revamp of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act removes most of the power from the Secretary of Education.

Flash forward to 2016, when some education activists are crying foul that their union leaders might be, well, leading. Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelson Garcia appear to be having discussions about education with Hillary Clinton. For shame!

While many education advocates are grateful that the frontrunner’s advisors this time around include actual educators, the more militant activists see something nefarious. They could be relieved, though, that leaked emails show that the Clinton campaign recognized Rahm Emanuel as a liability for the civil war he has stoked against Chicago public schools. These are indicators that we might be in for some change of thinking about public education policy if Love Trumps Hate.

You do need WikiLeaks to see that education issues are out in the open in other elections.

Massachusetts is having a hu-u-u-ge public debate about lifting its charter cap, which even LAUSD ex-pat and Boston Supe Tommy Chang opposes. Elected officials in that state, from mayors to Senator Elizabeth Warren, oppose lifting the cap, and the massive out-of-state and decidedly right-wing money backing “Question 2” has raised eyebrows enough to show the charter agenda is about a lot more than charter schools.

In Oakland, the charter group deceptively named Parent Teacher Alliance (the same PAC that ran the disgusting campaign against LA school board veteran Bennett Kayser) gave money to an anti-rent control group. It’s connections like this that show the charter lobby has far bigger interests than putting students first, or in this case, even under a roof.

Salon reprinted a post from Capital and Main about what those billionaires really want out of the charter industry (and a third installment is coming soon). 

Closer to home, local reporters continue to help the CCSA get its point across to the public. KPCC touted the highest priority of the charter lobby: to transfer the power of charter authorization away from those pesky elected school boards. Afterall, it would be a lot easier for the charter lobby to control one appointed state board than to pick candidates in so many messy local elections for school districts up and down the state.

That drew the ire of Curmudgucation, a.k.a. Peter Greene, who had a thing or two to say about Kyle Stokes’ framing of the board as the fox in charge of the henhouse. This notion is lifted right out of the charter lobby's playbook. 

I’m no reporter, but, no, simply asking school board members for reactions to the CCSA's talking points does not count as in depth reporting.

The public deserves a fuller picture of the inherent conflict between the CCSA and LAUSD. The school board is elected by the public to oversee public assets and investments of the school district. The fact that the board is pushing back against the massive giveaway to charter school corporations is a result of voters throwing out the rubberstamping board members of yesteryear. Presenting CCSA's perspective without explaining that its mission is to displace the public school system is misleading at best.

The time is NOW to make it clear that our own elected leaders are the only officials who should authorize schools in our district. Tell your elected officials at every level how important this is. It's the week before a presidential election. Chances are, you'll be hearing plenty from them in the next few days. And the backers of the agenda to have someone else make those decisions are so wealthy, they could easily slap it on the next ballot.

LAUSD does not always make it obvious that we're looking out for our schools either. For example, why is this neighborhood school advertising Great Public Schools Now's takeover of the district as just another parent choice? Is somebody in LAUSD wanting to give away our schools? 

It's confusing enough to find our who's on our side. Take a look at this convoluted web:

Button your hatches! In my neighborhood and all over the west side, the CCSA has paid parent organizers and a group called SpeakUp Parents! infiltrating grassroots school groups, promoting *choice* and trashing the district for being non-responsive to parents. Are they in your neighborhood yet?

Did you see this? PSconnect got mentioned in the Washington Post for fighting on behalf of Los Angeles public schools! 

Please support our public programs. We really want to engage the community in discussion about the issues that matter for the survival of public education in Los Angeles. We've lined up awesome speakers! Can you donate $10 today?

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)


Did LA County Supes Ignore Valley Fever Risks to Female Prisoners?

SUPRESSING PUBLIC COMMENT-Five months ago on March 8, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed a motion by Michael D. Antonovich to contribute $1 million to ongoing efforts to discover a vaccine for Valley Fever.  

The disease, as the Motion describes, is an infection that is caused by inhaling certain fungal spores found in the soil and dirt.  

When inhaled, the spores “attack the respiratory system” and although many infected individuals exhibit no symptoms or experience mild respiratory illness, according to Antonovich's motion, Valley Fever "can be life-threatening” to the immunocompromised and others who are at higher risk to contract Valley Fever including infants, adults over 60 years old, African Americans and Filipinos, diabetics, and pregnant women. He notes in closing that the incidence of Valley Fever has increased dramatically in recent years, including in the Antelope Valley. 

Last Tuesday, the same five LA County Supervisors who voted in favor of the motion just described passed another motion related to Valley Fever -- approval of the Mira Loma Women’s Detention Center project including an EIR finding that all “significant adverse effects” of that project “had been reduced to an acceptable level.” 

Disturbingly, a fact considered significant by the Board in the March 8th motion -- that Valley Fever can be "life-threatening” to certain vulnerable groups -- was completely absent from the presentation made to the Board regarding potential adverse effects of the project. This is crucial, because the facility will be located in Lancaster, in the Antelope Valley, where the rate of Valley Fever, according to the Board’s own statistics, is 1300% higher than that of the rest of LA County.  

Although Supervisor Solis raised concerns about Valley Fever three separate times during the Board discussion, she never once asked about how inmates who fit one of the vulnerable profiles -- African-American, Filipino, immunosuppressed (including HIV-positive), pregnant, or some combination thereof -- will be kept safe. Most of these inmates just described have the additional vulnerability of coming from outside the region which lowers the chance that they have built up an immunity to the pathogen.  

And it’s an important question, when you consider, for example, that according to the LA County Department of Health, it is appropriate to “warn people at high risk for severe [Valley Fever] not to travel to endemic areas when conditions are most dangerous for exposure.” [Acute Communicable Disease Control 2014 Annual Morbidity Report.] Those conditions include dust storms caused by the kind of high winds endemic to Lancaster. (Watch DPH powerpoint for the Santa Susana Field Lab Community Advisory Group.) 

If it’s appropriate to warn a woman who is African-American or pregnant or both not to even visit Lancaster, how can it be appropriate to incarcerate her there? 

That question would have been posed to the Board prior to their approving the item if Chairman Solis had not shut out the public. Having cleared the room earlier in the day, because of some rowdy protesters opposing the Mira Loma project, the Supervisors recessed into closed session for almost an hour. When they returned, the protesters were gone, leaving about twenty calm individuals wanting to speak on both sides of the prison item. And yet despite numerous calm entreaties for the public to be let back into the meeting, Chairperson Hilda Solis kept the doors shut.  

It’s shameful. It will never stand.


(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government. He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a CityWatch contributor and teacher who lives in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


City Council Vote Trading Makes Money Laundering … Exposed in LA Times … Work

On Sunday, October 30, 2016, The LA Times broke its article about the massive money laundering operation at Los Angeles City Council. The thing which makes the money laundering, i.e. illegal campaign contributions aka bribes, effective is the City Council’s unlawful vote trading agreement. Each councilmember agrees to always vote yes for each other councilmember’s project, and as a result of this agreement, projects are unanimously approved over 99.9% of the time. 

This vote trading is not deference – no matter how many superior court judges want to look the other way. Deference does not result in unanimous approval 99.9% of the time. The US Attorney Eileen Decker just put away State Senator Ron Calderon for 42 months saying that it is a crime to buy a vote with cash. It is equally criminal to buy a vote with a return vote, but Attorney Decker conveniently forgets that Penal Code 86 criminalizes Vote Trading in city councils. 

When one looks at the amounts of money which were laundered for LA City Council politicians including Mayor Garcetti, one realizes that the lynchpin of the corruption is the criminal vote trading agreement. No developer will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars without a guarantee that the councilmember can deliver the city council’s approval no matter how many laws his project breaks. 

The thing which makes the money laundering feasible is the guarantee that the councilmember can deliver. The favor can be as simple as needlessly tearing down Marilyn Monroe’s Valley Village home as Councilman Krekorian did or as massive as the Millennium Towers in Hollywood or the Sea Breeze project in the LA Times article. It does not matter. If a councilmember puts it on the city council agenda, it gets unanimous approval. 

Without the guarantee which the Vote Trading Agreement brings, developers could not afford to bribe a majority of the City Council. Those bribery cost would be much more than the money to one councilmember. Imagine how much the final councilmember’s vote to make a majority would cost a developer! Assuming that developer did spread around enough cash to buy a majority, he certainly would not squander more money to always buy every single councilmember! The very fact that we have ten years of unanimous approval proves that we have a vote trading agreement and not occasional deference. 

Under the Vote Trading Agreement, each councilmember knows that he/she can guarantee the passage of any project which he/she places on the city council agenda. Once an item is on the agenda and the council president calls that item, it receives unanimous approval. Councilmembers do not even have to vote since the Council’s vote tabulator votes yes for each councilmember. 

Do not expect the criminal vote trading agreement to disappear.   The courts have ruled that it is beyond the power of the courts to question anything which the City Council does. In considering the unanimous approval of thousands of projects, the court ruled in the SaveValleyVillage #2 case that the city councils’ actions are non-justiciable. That means the courts will turn blind eye and a deaf ear – no one will ever be allowed to have a trial to put on evidence.   The court threw out all such cases as non-justiciable. No matter what state laws the City Council breaks, the Court says that their behavior is beyond the reach of the law. 

Now you know what the criminal vote trading agreement has been in operation for over a decade and billions of dollars of illegal construction projects have been unanimously approved and will continue to be unanimously approved. 

The combination of open and notorious money laundering, i.e. cash bribery, coupled with vote trading, i.e. buying votes by return votes, are a permanent fixtures in Los Angeles. Despite a four year prison term attached to each violation of Penal Code 86, you can rest assured that no L.A. City councilmember will ever be held accountable for violating Penal Code 86.

Calabasas Gets an ‘F’ on Development Measure

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--This past July, I covered the aggressive actions The New Home Company had taken to prevent members of Save Malibu Canyon [[ http://www.savemalibucanyon.com/ ]] from gathering the necessary signatures to place a petition on the November ballot. The petition was viable because the proposal required both a zoning change and a general plan amendment. The 16-acre parcel, which is at Las Virgenes and Agoura Roads, would require hillsides to be altered to stabilize an ancient landslide. 

The petition drive was successful and Measure F appears on the November 8 ballot. Should the “Yes” on Measure F succeed, New Home Company would get the green light to the construction of Canyon Oaks, a development of 71 homes and a three-story hotel. A “No” vote would “send the development company back to the drawing board. 

On the surface, this seems as business as usual for developers but the story has some unusual quirks that give residents pause to take notice. The New Home Company has proposed an alternative project should the measure fail, which would include 205 residential units and 150,000 square feet of commercial space. The campaign to support Measure F focuses on avoiding the alternative higher density plan. Supporters claim the higher density project would increase traffic. 

It’s not unusual for developers to threaten to build a more significant project to get the go-ahead but what’s eye-opening here is that a sitting council member (and the city’s general manager) have been actively lobbying on behalf of the project and in support of Measure F. In fact, Council Member Fred Gaines, has sent at least one e-mail and has appeared on a robocall funded by the New Home Company to support Measure F. 

Fred Gaines, per his law firm website, is “the Founding and Managing Partner of Gaines & Stacey LLP, a San Fernando Valley-based law firm, which specializes in land use, zoning, environmental law, related litigation and political advocacy.” The firm provides counsel to property owners and real estate developers and Mr. Gaines has concentrated his practice “in a variety of areas, including administrative approvals, environmental review of development projects and litigation involving development projects. 

When developer Richard Weintraub proposed the Rondell Oasis hotel project next to the 101 Freeway at Las Virgenes Road last spring, Gaines recused himself from discussions because his law firm had represented the developer on other projects. 

Although the Gaines & Stacey client list does include a roster of developers, he doesn’t appear to represent The New Home Company as a client. However, he appears to be committed to supporting commercial development in the city. According to Calabasas City Planning Commission minutes from a regular meeting (December 2013), then-mayor Gaines announced he had convened a special meeting of sixty real estate brokers to present them with “the last handful of parcels available for commercial development in the city and we told them what we want,” urging them to “bring us a hotel.” That same month, The New Home Company submitted an application for the residential units and a four-story 120-room hotel. (The hotel project was later limited to three stories.) 

Gaines does not stand alone as a vocal proponent of the project. City Manager Tony Coroalles promoted two proposed hotel and residential projects to be located on the city’s west side in The Acorn newspaper last December, stating that “the entire City of Calabasas can use the revenue generated by the bed tax from these properties. We recently lost a significant source of revenue when Spirent moved out of the city and we are taking on a significant new expense with the opening of our new senior center.” 

Although the City’s General Plan would allow up to 180 housing units and 155,000 square feet of development at that site, maximum buildout would need to be approved by city officials. Opponents of the measure cite that geological and biological constraints would limit what could be developed on the property.

The General Plan also states that the city “will not sacrifice the area’s natural environment or its residents’ quality of life in the pursuit of municipal income.” Tax revenue, state opponents to Measure F, is not a reason to approve development. 

In addition, a city council member and city manager should not be actively lobbying for development despite environmental and quality of life issues for residents on the west side of Calabasas.


(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)


The Future is Here: A 100% Clean-Powered Los Angeles!

SPEAKING UP TO POWER-Every two years Anglenos have the unique opportunity to share their views on the future of LA’s energy policy during public comment on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) 20-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). It may sound like the kind of dry process that would attract only the wonkiest of policy wonks, but in fact it is a crucial opportunity to pressure our leaders to chart a bold course towards the health and wellbeing of LA’s communities. 

LADWP says that the IRP focuses exclusively on three “Rs”: Rates, Reliability and Renewables. Given the health and climate change consequences of a 20-year energy plan, it is unacceptable that a public-owned utility does not focus on the human and environmental cost to our communities and future generations. Somehow LADWP understands we need renewables as a matter of costs, but it fails to acknowledge the bigger issue at hand, that they are key to solving our dependence on fossil fuels and the damage they inflict in our communities and our environment. 

After the SoCal Gas blowout near Porter Ranch disrupted thousands of families, Food & Water Watch and our partners pressured City Hall and LADWP to study transitioning Los Angeles to100 percent renewable energy to end the City’s dependence on dirty, fracked gas. We were initially encouraged to learn that LADWP’s IRP intended to study a 100 percent fossil-free scenario. However, the IRP seems like it will only contemplate reaching 65 percent renewable energy by 2035, at best. Worse yet, LADWP is planning to invest heavily in gas-powered plants. 

As Los Angeles moves off of coal by 2025, there are plans to reinvest in a whole new era of LADWP gas power plants. The gas power plants are located throughout Los Angeles County in Sun Valley, Wilmington, El Segundo, and Long Beach and disproportionately impact low income, communities of color. We are at a crossroads. DWP has a choice to reinvest in dirty, polluting gas power plants or move to clean, renewable energy. 

This is an opportunity to inject equity and justice in our energy plans and make smarter, more just choices. The City must clean up communities burdened with pollution from gas plants and infrastructure by decommissioning these facilities and transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy. 

Thanks to efforts by Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles has approved a motion to study 100 percent renewable energy for Los Angeles. But the IRP process is where the rubber meets the road. LADWP is making decisions this year about LA’s energy future that falls short of this 100 percent renewable goal. 

Affordable clean energy technology is here and has been for a while. LADWP must transition the city to 100 percent renewables by 2030. No excuses. We don’t need to just reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we need to end it. Fortunately the technology to make the transition will also generate good, green jobs. 

Even without the pressing environmental and public health needs the case for renewables can be made in terms of hard costs alone. For example, an air-cooled gas generator can cost up to 10 times as much as solar power. Once human health and climate change are factored in, there is absolutely no reason to invest in old, dirty technology. 

It’s time for LADWP to break up with all fossil fuels and embrace renewables to generate power, to become an advocate for electric transportation, for both private cars and public transit. Some electric vehicles even have the technology to power homes in case of outages. More importantly millions of residents who live near freeways will no longer be exposed to tailpipe emissions. 

Additionally, as the devastating drought continues, it is undisputable that renewables have a much lower water footprint than fossil fuels. From extraction to transportation and refinement, fossil fuels cannot compete with renewables when it comes to water savings.  

It’s time for Mayor Eric Garcetti, the City Council and LADWP to take leadership. They can choose to do right by Angelenos or they can choose to keep sacrifice zones where people and the environment will pay a hefty price. Our communities have a huge opportunity to remind them of these obligations during the IRP, October 26 through November 14, whether by showing up at a LADWP meeting, submitting written comment or visiting City Hall. Help lead Los Angeles into a clean energy future. 


First Hearing: October 26, 6-8pmDWP Headquarters, 111 N. Hope Street, Los Angeles 90012 

Second Hearing: November 2, 6-8p; Wilmington Senior Citizen Center, 1371 Eubank Avenue, Wilmington, CA 90744 

Third Hearing: November 3, 6-8p; Pacoima Neighborhood City Hall Cultural Room, 13520 Van Nuys Blvd, Pacoima 91331


(Andrea Leon-Grossman is an organizer with Food & Water Watch focusing on a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy for Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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