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Tue, Feb

Coming Together on Infrastructure Spending, Falling Apart on Unintended Consequences

TRANSPORTATION POLITICS--It's no secret that taxpayers want their transportation, energy, communications and other infrastructure paid for, and built ASAP.  It's probably also no secret that the era of bipartisan discord on infrastructure prioritization is coming to an end.  But the 800-pound gorilla in the room is how spending will occur, and whether it'll lead to solutions or new problems. 

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have proposed dramatic new spending proposals on infrastructure.  Matt Bai has opined on Yahoo that Clinton is a champion of infrastructure, but wishes she would be more specific about her vision on how to best spend that money.  Americans need that specificity. 

On the other side of the political aisle, Republicans wisely (if not decades too late!) chose to shed their reticence to spend on infrastructure--and much of Trump's appeal in the primaries to GOP voters was his unabashed desire to spend big (nearly twice that of Sect. Clinton) on infrastructure.  Whether his willingness to take on new debt to do that is acceptable is another thing altogether. 

But for years, we've had the problem of consensus over what a good investment in infrastructure is, and how best to pay for it.  President Obama had the opportunity to spend well in his stimulus package, but despite some modest victories spent much (arguably most) on feel-good and politically-connected projects. 

To his credit, President Obama has gained his footing on transportation/infrastructure spending.  His current Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, was approved unanimously by the Senate and (if he so chooses) would be a great holdover for the next Administration, be it a Clinton or Trump Administration.  Transportation spending is both higher and smarter than when Mr. Obama took office. 

But there are a few "inconvenient truths" to transportation/infrastructure spending.   

Like it or not, fossil fuels aren't going away, and while our need to modernize the safety and efficiency of the use of fossil fuels is paramount, it is foolish to think that "the era of fossil fuels is over".   

While there are those who want fully electric cars everywhere NOW, it's more realistic to think that such a dream is years to decades away--only the very rich can afford those cars (no matter how some will spin things to the opposite), and if the misanthropes on the Far Left can be brought to bear, the need for the middle class and poor to have affordable utility bills is also a priority worth bringing back into our political debates. 

Speaking of affordability, we're so much into "affordable housing" that we've allowed the liars and enablers among our political elites to encourage overdevelopment that is neither environmentally smart nor geared towards the middle class.  Gigantic and mega-tall projects are geared to the upper crust of our society, favoring ocean views for the wealthy over truly affordable housing. 

Even when we've a surplus of housing both Downtown and elsewhere in the City of Los Angeles. Perhaps when capitalism catches up to the rental industry, we'll publish and encourage those looking for cheap rent to go to where it actually exists. 

Transforming neighborhoods and overdevelopment were NEVER goals of the movement that created the Expo Line and other light rail corridors, and hence the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is in full swing to restore democracy and livability in the City of the Angels. 

So while transit-oriented development has both its opportunities and its challenges, those advocating for an end to parking altogether look more like radicals and lunatics than true visionaries. 

Roads aren't going away, and cars aren't going away, and the need to treat the suburbs differently than rural or urban cores isn't going away.  File that under "common sense", or "growing up" and "confronting reality". 

And placing more burdens on communities, while denying basic governmental services, will NOT help bring us all together r... unless it's the desire to have a new wave of pro-succession movements, such as that we're seeing in Venice

And what's going on in Los Angeles is certainly going on in other major cities throughout the nation. 

Utilities, infrastructure, "big vision projects" and the like are supposed to enhance faith in our government and its leaders, not the opposite.  The Expo Line's chief complaint by its users is its lack of cars and trains--riders can't get enough of them.  Overdevelopment and neighborhood destruction to make a few people rich, however, are not going to help this line's benefits. 

We will, as a nation, or as a state, or as a city, come together in major transportation and other infrastructure spending initiatives.  But bad spending, and enabling those who seek to financially benefit at the expense of the majority, will do nothing but turn people off to transportation and infrastructure spending ... 

... and, by extension, turn people off to what government and its taxes can do for them.

 

(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.)

-cw

 

Will Frank Gehry Consider the Alternatives?

DEEGAN ON LA-Is it a tactic that will pay off or a “Hail Mary” to breathe a last breath of life into a dire situation? Whichever it turns out to be, it’s smart and that’s what anti-development activists have been showing lately: their smarts. No longer willing to automatically accept developers’ plans for incursions into their neighborhoods, or rely on threats of litigation or lawsuits, activists are “weaponizing” social media to mobilize their communities.

Read more ...

When the Going Got Tough, the Tough Caved … Controversial Granny Flat Vote Postponed

CITY HALL-Looking at a potentially close vote at the City Council’s August 23rd meeting, City Council members who favor the Planning Department’s proposed repeal of Los Angeles City’s existing regulations for development of second dwelling units (sometimes called “granny flats”) succeeded in getting the Council’s vote postponed until Wednesday August 31st.   

Many repeal opponents left the August 23rd meeting angry and frustrated that the Council, without public testimony or debate, had pushed the vote back another week. But with momentum strongly favoring the many homeowner groups and neighborhood councils who vigorously oppose the repeal efforts, the last-minute continuance apparently reflected concerns by some Councilmembers that the Council’s balance is now tipping against the Department’s proposal. 

The Superior Court had ordered City planning and building officials to stop their unlawful policy refusing to enforce the City’s adopted second unit standards. The Planning Department responded by proposing that the Council should repeal the existing ordinance’s protective standards. This would mean the City “defaults” to very permissive state standards allowing 1,200 square foot second units (as large as many primary residences) to be built “by right” throughout the City’s single family residential zones, including sensitive hillside locations. 

The Department marshaled public support for its repeal proposal principally from developers who were “stranded” in the midst of constructing second units that had been permitted under the LADBS’s unlawful policy of disregarding the City’s protective standards. To date, the Department has refused to consider the obvious alternative of “grandfathering” most of these stranded permit holders, while at the same time preserving and enforcing the current adopted protective standards for future permits. 

Seeking to avoid opposition to its repeal proposal, the Department put it on a “fast track,” infuriating homeowner representatives. One typical homeowner recently wrote the Council: 

Repealing this ordinance will have lasting negative impacts on the character and infrastructure of our neighborhoods.  Abandoning the city's local control of second dwelling units will leave us at the mercy of incredibly weak state standards, and throw open the gates to developers to further fuel real estate speculation in our neighborhoods.  

You have several options at your disposal to bring the City into compliance with state law on second units. There is simply no reason to discard our protective local standards. If revisions to the Second Dwelling Unit ordinance are necessary, at the very least they must be considered with adequate public outreach, not on the current “fast track” basis, so that all stakeholders have the opportunity to consider proposed changes and express their opinion.  

The homeowner coalition that opposes the Department’s repeal proposal stressed the positive aspects of the Council’s postponement of the second unit vote until August 31st.   Pointing out that the postponement meant opponents would have “one more week to make our voices heard on this issue,” the coalition urged: 

The vote is shaping up to be very close. We have come so far since the PLUM Committee voted in favor of the repeal at the end of June, and we must keep the momentum going.  It is critical for the City Council to continue to hear how the proposed repeal would harm neighborhoods. We cannot simply abandon our local standards for the development of second units in single-family residential zones. 

We have built a terrific coalition that has been active and engaged on this issue. Our efforts have not gone unnoticed, and we are in the final stretch. 

There are three ways that you can help in advance of Wednesday’s vote: 

  • Send an email to the City Council
  • Place a call to your Councilmember’s office
  • Attend the Council meeting on the 31st 

CityWatch readers should consider doing the same.

 

(Carlyle Hall is an environmental and land use lawyer in Los Angeles who founded the Center for Law in the Public Interest and litigated the well-known AB 283 litigation, in which the Superior Court ordered the City to rezone about one third of the properties within its territorial boundaries (an area the size of Chicago) to bring them into consistency with its 35 community plans. He also co-founded LA Neighbors in Action, which has recently been litigating with the City over its second dwelling unit policies and practices.)

-cw

 

Wesson’s Explanation to LA Times Opens Pandora’s Box

THE GUSS REPORT-A week ago, the Los Angeles Times followed-up on a story I broke a week earlier in CityWatch regarding the severe personal financial troubles of Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. 

David Zahniser, the Times’ veteran City Hall reporter, indicated in his article that Wesson refused to be interviewed but instead submitted a prepared statement via his media flack, who wrote, “Wesson attributed the problems to the home he and his wife bought for $759,000 …” 

The home he refers to was purchased by Wesson and his wife, Fabian, in 2007. It is located on Virginia Road in the City of Los Angeles’ Council District 10 that Wesson has represented since his 2005 election. For clarity, let’s refer to that property as “Virginia Road / LA City.” 

While Wesson may attribute his current multiple mortgage defaults and other financial problems to that purchase, his money troubles go back not years, but decades, even though he earned a consistent and generous government paycheck in various managerial and elected positions: 

  • In 1993, the Wessons defaulted on a mortgage for their house on Roberts Avenue in Culver City (“Roberts Ave / Culver City”.) The loan was from Avco Financial Services, a high risk, high interest rate lender that has since become a leader in the payday loan industry. 

Coincidentally, a senior Avco executive described the company to me as, at that time, a “lender of last resort for people who cannot get a loan elsewhere,” meaning that by borrowing from Avco, Wesson’s money problems are traceable to at least the 1980s.

Wesson had bought Roberts Ave/Culver City for $153,000 in 1988, but took a huge loss in 1993 when it sold for just $60,000. A year and a half later it got flipped for $168,000. Today it is valued at nearly $850,000. What does that tell you? 

And that isn’t the biggest red flag here. 

The default that triggered Wesson’s costly loss took place on the same day as its sale, November 24, 1993, which is also the day that he purchased a much pricier ($425,000) home on Bedford Avenue in Ladera Heights, an unincorporated area of LA County. Let’s call that property “Bedford Ave / LA County” so it is understood that it, like the property on Roberts Avenue, is not within the City of Los Angeles. 

  • In 1995, the Wessons defaulted on Bedford Ave / LA County, but narrowly avoided a scheduled foreclosure sale. Their overdue $21,086.06 indicates that payments were rarely, if ever, made to that point. 

During the years of these first two defaults, Wesson earned a comfortable living as the chief-of-staff for Los Angeles City Councilmember Nate Holden and as chief-of-staff for Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Burke. This is according to Wesson’s unreliable Wikipedia page which, in one section, incorrectly says he was elected to LA City Council on July 1, 2005, while in another section it correctly says he was elected on November 8, 2005 in a special election to replace future felon Councilmember Martin Ludlow who suddenly resigned after only two years in office. 

  • In 2002, the Wessons defaulted once more on Bedford Avenue / LA County, but again avoided a foreclosure sale for being in arrears to the tune of $34,619.45. This is while serving as an elected member of the California State Assembly, where he later became its powerful Speaker, holding great sway over the state’s budget and economic health. 

None of these earlier defaults were mentioned in Zahniser’s article, which focused exclusively on the Wessons’ defaults that took place after their late-2007 purchase of Virginia Road / LA City.

Also missing from his Times article are the massive federal and state tax liens that hit the Wessons after their purchase of Virginia Road / LA City in 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 totaling nearly $100,000 in taxes, interest and penalties for income earned during Wesson’s first four years (2005-2008) on City Council, either from salaries or other sources of income. 

Still, Wesson is a deft politician who now rakes in a combined annual household income in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, while sidestepping mortgage foreclosures that continue to hound him as recently as a few weeks ago, as detailed in Zahniser’s and my articles. And last year, he finagled a 17-month extension of his final term on City Council (and those of some of his colleagues) which also pads their public pensions by thousands of dollars, with a voter-turnout maneuver described by his former Council rival and fiscal hawk Bernie Parks as “a gimmick.” 

And here the story takes an odd, possibly perjurious turn. To be continued.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a writer who contributes to CityWatch, Huffington Post, KFI-AM 640 and elsewhere. He blogs on humane issues at http://ericgarcetti.blogspot.com/. The opinions he expresses are not necessarily those of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The Granny Flat War … From Someone Who’s Been In It

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL--On August 31, 2016, the LA City Council could make a huge mistake that will have lasting impacts on our community. 

Once upon a time, the city of Los Angeles created regulations that protected the characteristics of single family home zones. 

In essence, some of these regulations prevented homeowners from building big second homes on a single family home property. Makes sense, right? Because that’s what “single family home zone” means. 

So, in LA, a wide variety of different neighborhoods are zoned R-01. And these R-01 neighborhoods are really a great place to live, partly because our city’s zoning regulations have helped to keep them that way. 

These regulations did allow homeowners in those zones to build another detached home on the property. But that structure had to be small, low profile, and it couldn’t have a separate address. According to LA’s regulations, homeowners were free to build “granny flats” for their relatives to live in. And remember, they are always free to add an addition to their home. That was never in question. 

This worked, for the most part, to protect the character of the neighborhood. It guarded against overdevelopment. 

But one day, in 2010, the Planning Department made a mistake, based on incorrect legal advice, instructing officials to ignore the City’s standards, and instead, to follow the state standards, which are much more lenient. For the next six years, the City issued about 75 permits each year for second units in these single family home neighborhoods. Almost all of the permits were for structures that exceeded the City’s adopted standards. 

Earlier this year, a judge determined that the Planning Department’s “ZA Memo 120” was not legal. Since then, permitting for these structures (even the small ones that would have met the city’s regulations) has been halted. 

But instead of amending the City’s regulations, City Council is now considering throwing out the regulations entirely and defaulting to the considerably more lenient state’s standards. In essence, this would mean returning to ZA Memo 120, which a Judge has already revoked. 

Why does LA have different zoning standards than the state of California? Because LA has specific needs. Just like every other major metropolitan city in this country, our city has adopted regulations to protect against overdevelopment and against negative impacts on the environment, infrastructure, and the character of neighborhoods. 

All of this may seem silly to Angelenos who live on larger parcels of land or in apartment buildings. They might say, what’s the point? If it is your land, you should be allowed to use it any way you want. Right? 

I can see why some may think that. But imagine if you lived in my neighborhood: 

Welcome to the quintessential San Fernando Valley single family neighborhood. Our houses are very close together. In my cute, quiet little neighborhood known as “Kester Ridge” in Van Nuys, our mostly small houses sit on mostly small lots. Our fences (which cannot exceed eight feet in our backyard) create the barriers which afford us some visual, if not acoustic, privacy. 

Our backyards aren’t huge, but they offer a great place to relax; most of them are big enough to accommodate a small pool or a nice little garden. Most of the lots are approximately 50 feet wide and average about 6,000 square feet. Almost every house in the neighborhood is only one story high. 

So imagine you've just bought your dream home, right here in this cute little neighborhood. It took every penny you had. But you've worked hard, you turned it into a beautiful home, and you’ve promised yourself that you are finally going to relax and lay out by the pool in your lovely backyard. 

A few months later, the property right behind you goes up for sale. And the guy who buys it is a developer. He tells you that he doesn’t have any intention of actually moving to your little neighborhood. His car, an Aston Martin, gives you an idea of where he calls home. 

He’s going use the property to generate rental income. His plan is to rent out the main property, and, thanks to ZA Memo 120, he's also going to rent out a second house which he plans to build in the backyard! It’s going to be two stories high with just as much square footage as the main house. 

The backyard isn’t very big, so he’s going to have to build as close to your back fence as the law allows. He tells you that he's got properties like this all over LA. 

This developer has started an LLC for the property, and between the two homes on a single lot, he will be generating $6,000 a month in rental income. He doesn’t care one bit about the fact that your ability to enjoy your yard (to say nothing of your property value) just went down as a result of his actions. 

He says: “This isn’t my first rodeo.” 

So, you take a moment. You try to process this: A large, two-story tall, very visible structure in the small backyard -- even though the very concept of a single family neighborhood means that this sort of thing isn't supposed to happen. 

But he gets the permit. And no one in the City even notifies you that this was happening. You live right next to the property, well within the 500-foot range. How is this possible? If there had been a particular time to voice your opinion on the matter, no one in the government told you when it was. 

You try to talk to your political representative in City Council. They keep calling it a “granny flat.” But it’s not a granny flat. It's huge. It’s a fully functioning second home, with its own house number, mailbox, and soon, a whole bunch of tenants. 

You do some research online. Even California’s Legislative Analyst has determined that this type of “urban infill” in single family home zones is not going to solve the affordable housing crisis. In fact, this type of new structure isn’t even going to make a dent in the affordable housing crisis, because there is no requirement to price it affordably. They’ll be renting at market rates. But the politicians keep throwing around the term “affordable housing” when they discuss this issue. Strange, isn't it? 

So this developer builds -- full steam ahead. The framing goes up. It’s big. And tall. And man, it’s close! You think, well, maybe we’ll get used to it. And then one day you come home to see the framing for the second story window: it looks right down onto your pool, your yard and into your bedroom! 

The building is so close to its own property line that the people living in it won’t be able to see their own yard from the window. But yours? Well, they’ll be thrilled that you've given them such a lovely view. Too bad that you can’t say the same about your new view. (See photo above.) 

This is how it happens. And because this unfair and previously illegal thing has happened to you, you decide to sell your dream home. And the winning bidder? Well, wouldn’t you know it -- a developer. If this process continues ad infinitum, say goodbye to the very notion of a single-family neighborhood. 

Wealthy developers will have a huge opportunity to make a lot of money for themselves if the SDU ordinance is repealed. They will be able to outbid the average homebuyer and will overdevelop every property they can get their hands on. 

I have read a few misinformed articles that frame this issue differently. The politicians who are in favor of the repeal of the SDU Ordinance are likely in the pockets of wealthy developers whose projects have been put on hold. These smart politicians are smart to hold actual, legitimate granny flats hostage: they know all too well that if you create a crisis that arouses public sympathy, you can exploit it. 

This is all about greed. It opens the door to rampant overdevelopment…not granny. 

Here’s what I’m hoping my City Councilmembers will do: 

Investigate the environmental impacts of any possible changes to zoning laws before they make those changes. For instance, more “urban infill” means more concrete, therefore less groundwater is absorbed, making both the drought and the flooding, due to the lack of storm drains in my neighborhood, even worse.

Discuss this issue with the public, and do it in a way that is intellectually honest. Don’t tie this repeal to the creation of affordable housing. And that includes you, Mr. Mayor! California’s Legislative Analyst's Office has determined that urban infill will not solve the affordable housing shortage in Los Angeles. In fact, the LAO has determined that this repeal won't even offer a small supply of "affordable" housing for another twenty-five years. Our politicians need to stop spinning this issue. It's unethical to confuse constituents into submission. We deserve better. 

Remember, this isn't about granny flats. While I strongly oppose the repeal, I support the public’s right to build granny flats that are appropriate for the size of one’s immediate community. We just need our politicians to create the right laws -- or common-sense amendments to existing regs -- to make that happen. 

Our politicians have a number of potential solutions that don’t involve repealing the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance, leaving us vulnerable to overdevelopment. They should do their due diligence and behave with integrity. If revisions to the Second Dwelling Unit ordinance are necessary, at the very least they must be considered with adequate public outreach. It is not in LA's best interest to discard our protective local standards.  

I repeat: the politicians have several options at their disposal. Those options should not include throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Please contact your LA City Councilmember before Wednesday, August 31 about this important issue. We need a lot more support because the developers have been lobbying the City Council hard for the past six months.

 

(Dannielle Langlois is film and television actress who lives in Van Nuys, next door to the above “second unit dwelling.”) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Should Pets of LA’s Homeless Have Their Own Attorneys?

ANIMAL WATCH-Los Angeles Animal Services has issued a media release announcing, "Non-profit Law Firm Partners with Local Dog Rescue and LA Animal Services." It explained that the Inner City Law Center (ICLC), Downtown Dog Rescue (DDR) and Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) are launching an "easily accessible" Pet Resource Center on Skid Row. (No physical address was provided.) 

Here are some of the highlights of the program, which has very noble -- albeit idealistic -- goals: 

"Pets and homelessness are linked in many ways," we are told. “People living on the streets often rely on their pets for emotional support and companionship. Low-income families struggling to pay rent often also struggle to care for their beloved family pets." Thus, resources and services will be provided "to enable more people and their pets to stay housed. Fewer pets will enter the Los Angeles shelter system and fewer unwanted litters will be produced. 

“ICLC, DDR and LAAS want to make it known that no matter what a person's housing or financial situation there are ways [to] keep pets with their people.” 

This statement is a little unsettling because, although it does not directly say so, it implies this is always advisable. 

It is unclear what legal services Inner City Law Center will be providing to homeless pet owners -- but it is hoped there will be an emphasis on legal responsibilities of pet ownership, including public health and safety and humane care. The only description is that, “ICLC will provide space at its office on Skid Row.” (The Inner City Law Center website lists only one office at 1307 East Seventh Street.) 

The Pet Resource Center will be open one day per week and will be run by volunteers for Downtown Dog Rescue, a highly respected organization headed by Lori Weise, who has dedicated over 20 years to providing assistance -- with an emphasis on spay/neuter -- to the pets on Skid Row, in all downtown LA areas, and also in Compton. 

Here is the list of services offered by the Pet Resource Center: 

  • Free spay/neuter vouchers
  • Assistance with animal registration
  • Vaccinations
  • Microchips
  • ID tags
  • Collars
  • Leashes
  • Crates
  • Access to emergency boarding and short-term foster care.
  • Medical care at approved partner veterinarian clinics.
  • Assistance with transportation to animal hospitals.
  • Short-term motel stays for persons who do not have a permanent residence when their pet is      undergoing a non-outpatient medical procedure.
  • Trained, volunteer counselors to provide the necessary services and offer support. 

This program will only reach a few of the thousands of homeless persons in LA with pets, but it promises tremendous benefits. 

It also poses important questions to residents and taxpayers of Los Angeles. 

Do you think homeless people should have dogs/pets? 

This question was posted recently on the Weddingbee.com site by a woman in NYC, who explained: 

“I don’t think homeless people should have dogs. I live in NYC, and there are a lot of homeless people, and a number of them have dogs. While most of their dogs are very well behaved, my dog and I got attacked by an unleashed pit bull owned by a homeless person. I sustained a bite. The homeless person didn’t have any vaccination records for the dog. Of course the dog didn’t have any rabies shot tag. He didn’t have a cell phone that we could reach him on. I asked the police to help us, but they said they couldn’t do anything. We called center for disease control and reported the incidence. I couldn’t give them any information about the dog, except for its name and the owner’s name, no known address. I had no health insurance at the time (working a contract job and not married), so I couldn’t afford the $10,000 rabies shot. The CDC told me that the dog had to be observed 10 days after the bite to make sure it didn’t know any symptoms of rabies, and if it didn’t, I would be fine. . . .What happened is probably an anomaly, but that’s the main reason why I don’t like seeing homeless people with dogs. What do you bees think about this?” 

Most responders felt that the value to the homeless person of having a pet far outweighed any occasional transgression that affected a human or another animal. 

However, most also had the opinion that the homeless owner is “saved” by the pet, that the pet has a great life of attention, is often “fed before its owner eats,” and/or that having a pet causes a homeless person to be more responsible because of he or she has someone to love. 

Is a dog/pet’s life with a homeless person humane? 

In his photo series, Skid Row Stories,” a vignette by John Huang describes a homeless woman whose life included tragic physical and emotional abuse since childhood. He wrote,“‘I thank God for everything,’” she told me as she shared her dog food with other Skid Row residents who couldn’t afford to feed their pets today. She leaned forward from her wheelchair and bent down to kiss her dog. 'I love animals,' she said. 'They're always there for you.'" 

He later added: Update: I visited Cheryl to give her some supplies. Sadly I found out her dog was stolen. Part of the reality of being homeless.” 

Cheryl’s dog (a mid-size terrier) may have been stolen. Or, it may it have been left unleashed and unattended and wandered or run away. The presumption that it was stolen relieves her of any responsibility or guilt for the loss. Homeless people often have a series of dogs. 

One of the issues that MUST be addressed in any program involving the City issuing microchips and “registrations” for the homeless is that the dog is often someone’s lost pet which was found and not reported or taken to the shelter, as required by law, to be redeemed by a grieving owner. 

Will any pet discovered to have a prior microchip or license be impounded for the legal notification period (to allow transfer of title) before LAAS issues a new “registration” to the homeless person? 

Does anyone want to think of their lost pet tied in -- or to -- a shopping cart being pushed down a trash-filled street by someone who may be unable to care for him/herself? 

Los Angeles Almanac reports that in 2015 the homeless demographic in the City of Los Angeles showed the following characteristics:

 

 

(Source: Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority]

 

Will the Inner City Law Center's attorneys assure that animals whose legal ownership is being given to a homeless person through their program receives the same standard of treatment required of other pet owners?

If the homeless pet owner neglects the animal, abuses it or beats it during a fit of rage, will ICLC take action to have the helpless creature removed and the owner prosecuted or banned from having another animal? Or, will their duty be to the person who was 'temporarily out of control' and should be allowed to keep his/her pet? 

An LA Times article, “Hounding a Homeless Man into Giving up his Dogs,” portrayed the 2014 struggle by compassionate and concerned animal rescuers to have a Pit Bull and her ten puppies removed from a homeless man, Gerrick Williams, who was keeping them in a cardboard box on the sidewalk.

Even though City officials were inundated with emails alleging that Miller was operating a puppy mill for profit, General Manager Brenda Barnette said LAAS could not seize the dog and her 10 puppies because they were not “illegal.” 

A few days after agreeing to allow the shelter to temporarily hold the dogs for him, Miller was arrested on a drug possession charge and sentenced to a year in a rehabilitation program. He told the Times reporter by phone, "This is a lot better than the streets." 

A shelter employee described the mother Pit Bull as “shy and her belly and teats sagging from having litters.” 

"If people are struggling, homeless and have addictions, another responsibility is not appropriate," Whitney Hope Smith, a rescuer who videotaped Miller's camp, told the Times. "It's very easy to give a sob story for homeless, but the endgame for the animals isn't pretty." 

What Do You Think? 

There is no question it is good to have spay/neuter, vaccinations, micro-chipping and licensing easily available for pets of the homeless. But how will these voiceless animals be protected, if necessary, from the actions or inactions of those who are mentally unstable, irresponsible or cruel after they are granted legal possession by the City and their whereabouts is unknown? 

Another serious concern is who would be held liable if dogs the City assists in placing and "registering" with the homeless attack, injure or kill other animals or a human?

Important basic questions that have not been debated by the public are whether the homeless should be held to the same or lesser standards of care and responsibility for pets, and who will speak for these animals’ legal rights to safety and humane treatment?

 

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com.  She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Neighborhood Integrity Initiative Heads to March 2017 Ballot, Delivers 104,000 Signatures to City Hall

VOX POP--The Coalition to Preserve LA announced Wednesday that the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is heading for the March 2017 ballot, marking an unprecedented push by residents to take control from for-profit developers who are wielding far too much power over what Los Angeles becomes.

Backers of the citizen initiative today delivered just shy of 104,000 signatures to Los Angeles City Hall, nearly double the number required, and predicted that their measure will easily qualify for the ballot.

At a press conference in South Los Angeles at the site of the illegally approved mega-development known as the Cumulus Skyscraper, residents of Baldwin Hills, West Adams and nearby areas condemned City Hall’s rigged development system.

Dove Pinkney, a member of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and the longstanding New Frontier Democratic Club, said of Cumulus, “The community should not be overwhelmed by people who are just in it for the money.” Veteran Los Angeles Sentinel columnist Larry Aubry warned, “There’s a corporate takeover of Los Angeles,” underway by developers. Aubry said that City Hall’s rigged system is hurting residents not just in South L.A., but citywide.

Damien Goodmon, a key supporter of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative and executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, said, “Development should be for us. Development should not displace us. Folk are getting pushed out because the City Council is busy building luxury housing.”

The March 2017 measure directly targets the City Council’s failure to plan for the city’s infrastructure, parks, and housing needs, and its severe bending of the rules to approve mega-developments that overwhelm local streets and destroy neighborhood character.

The Council’s failure to create and follow a modern “General Plan” common in well-run cities, and the City Council’s back-room dealmaking with wealthy luxury housing developers, have led to widespread destruction of affordable housing — while creating a massive luxury housing glut in Los Angeles.

According to the city Housing Department’s own data, L.A. has a staggering 15% to 20% vacancy rate in the thousands of luxury units built in the past 10 years. Yet overall rental vacancy rates are just 2.7%, and even people with good jobs can’t afford a place to live.

The City Council and city planners have allowed the demolition or conversion to condos of 22,000 affordable housing units since 2000, the city’s data show, much of it standing in the way of luxury housing developments. The real estate industry has showered the City Council and mayor with money — including $6 million in campaign contributions since 2000.

Each of the lost 22,000 affordable units would cost $300,000 to $450,000 to replace, leaving L.A. unable to catch up.

Opal Young, a member of the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Homeowners Coalition, said of the planned Cumulus skyscraper, which does not include any affordable housing, “The building that is proposed to be built totally overwhelms the community.” It would soar 320 feet in a neighborhood of single-story homes and two- to four-story businesses and apartments. The skyscraper would be surrounded by a fortress-like complex of 10-story luxury office towers.

Nearby resident Nadine Angele said that allowing developers to radically alter a community’s character is no way to create a livable city. Angele said the Los Angeles City Council and mayor hold “a trusted position. They should be ashamed for approving a 320-foot tower. It’s going to push local diversity out.”

Darren Starks, president of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners Association, and Clint Simmons, a member of Expo Communities United, both touched on the massive gridlock the skyscraper will bring to already overwhelmed streets including La Cienega, Venice, Jefferson and Washington boulevards.

Yet, Starks said, “When this project was initiated, we residents were never contacted.” Simmons, an engineer, slammed the project as “a community wrecker” filled with luxury housing — some place the future rents at $4,000 per unit — not intended for people in the community.

Residents from other parts of Los Angeles spoke in solidarity with local residents, including Luis Saldivar, a member of the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council.

Saldivar said, “We’re displacing people in Los Angeles [ranging] from South Central to the San Fernando Valley. You need to plan before you build. You can’t build, build, build.”

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative has attracted donations from more than 200 small givers citywide averaging about $25 each, as well as $20,000 from former Mayor Richard Riordan, who calls the current City Hall planning system “a train wreck.” The organized opposition to the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, led by the Chamber of Commerce, has attracted a handful of donors — two of them billionaire developers.

About 30 of the measure’s supporters last week met with Mayor Eric Garcetti to provide him an opportunity to announce his own long-promised reforms of the broken system at City Hall.

Jill Stewart, campaign director for the Coalition to Preserve LA, said Wednesday, “We appreciated the meeting with the mayor, but since April, Mayor Garcetti has not announced any notable reforms that would alter the Wild West system that’s destroying neighborhood character, displacing thousands of people, and wiping out precious older affordable housing.”

The March ballot measure requires the City Council to immediately begin writing a “General Plan,” and to include the communities in creating 35 Community Plans that address and create a plan for the city’s aging infrastructure, overtaxed safety services, sewers, water supplies, parks and housing needs. It would ban developers from choosing the consultants who write the Environmental Impact Reports for their own proposed projects, an obvious conflict of interest. The measure would place a two-year timeout on City Council back-room deals that let a small cadre of developers get around the rules.

(Patrick Range McDonald writes for the Coalition to Preserve LA)

-cw

 

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‘Mutual Bribery’ or Why We Have Unanimous Voting in City Council

CORRUPTION WATCH-Los Angeles has significantly more people leave each year than move here. We now know who is leaving the City – the Millennials starting families. Los Angeles has become a city to avoid as we are #60 on places where the professional and business service class want to live. That attitude holds true for all the middle class. Some older middle class citizens are stuck in LA since they bought their homes decades ago and their children are finished school. However, the Millennials who are deciding to start a family are moving away in droves. 

When tens of thousands more people leave the City than chose to come here, the supply of vacant housing increases. For several years, Los Angeles has seen its vacancy rate climb, except for one segment – rent controlled housing. Mayor Eric Garcetti has been tearing down poor people’s homes with a vengeance, swelling the ranks of the homeless. 

How does Garcetti get away with both the massive destruction of poor people’s homes and the construction of luxury units which show an ever increasing vacancy rate? Building more luxury units in Los Angeles is like stocking a kosher butcher shop with pigs’ feet. You know something isn’t right. 

Why would the kosher shop load up on pork products, when no one is buying them? And why is Los Angeles constructing more luxury condos and single family homes which are eight inches apart? Yes, I said eight inches! 

The answer to both questions is the same – the butcher shop no longer cares about being kosher and is catering to a different clientele; so too with the City of Los Angeles. Its housing policies have nothing to do with the housing desires or needs of Angelenos. 

Corruption Destroys 

While power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolute, “corruptionism” destroys. With the blessings of the courts and law enforcement, the Los Angeles City Council has become a bona fide criminal enterprise. I do not mean this metaphorically; I mean it literally. The Los Angeles City Council is a criminal enterprise. 

I do not suggest that it caters to criminals, nor do I merely imply that councilmembers are crooks. I mean that the City Council itself is The Criminal Enterprise. In the olden days of Al Capone and Elliot Ness, Chicago had corrupt judges and a plethora of city officials on the take. In Los Angeles, however, the City Council itself operates according to Mutual Bribery. 

The term Mutual Bribery is used because the State of California amended Penal Code § 86 in 2006 to forbid any councilmember to trade his or her vote in return for a vote by another councilmember. Penal Code § 86 is one of the California’s anti-bribery statutes. In the Los Angeles City Council, Mutual Bribery operates very efficiently. Each councilmember agrees to never vote No on a construction project in another council district. The reciprocal nature of their agreement is why it is called Mutual Bribery. 

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approves each construction project in the City 99.9% of the time. The courts see nothing wrong with this practice. The likelihood that this unanimous voting occurs “by chance” is less than one in one thousand billion, billion, billion. I think the number is written 1/1,000 followed by 18 zeros. Yes, ten years of unanimous voting is merely a statistical coincidence! 

But what is wrong with the system? After all, it is very efficient. All a developer needs to do to have his project unanimously approved is to have a kindly councilmember place it on the City Council agenda. It will be unanimously approved. And here’s the great part of the Los Angeles City Council: even if not a single councilmember actually votes for the project, it gets unanimous approval. 

Gee whiz, what could go wrong with a system in which a developer is guaranteed his project, no matter how many laws it violates and will get unanimous approval -- even if not a single councilmember leans forward to press his Yes button? The City Council has rigged its vote tabulator so the machine automatically votes “Yes” – a quirky reflection of the corruption at City Council. So let’s look at the impact of corruptionism. 

Ramifications of City Council’s Mutual Bribery 

When a city retains a construction company to build something, it is supposed to use competitive bidding. When the developer is chosen in secret with zero public oversight, there is great potential for pay offs, bribes, shoddy construction, skimming, etc. The unanimous vote trading at City Council allows a single councilmember to meet in private with a developer to construct whatever he wants, and then the City is compelled to pay for a substantial portion of the project. 

For example, look at Grand Ave Project across from Eli Broad’s Museum in DTLA. The City Council unanimously voted to give the developer $198 million. Where was the competitive bidding to see if this developer was the best one for the job? There was none. There never is any. 

Look at 5929 Sunset where the City gave the developer over $17 million. Was there any competitive bid to see if this developer was the best one for the project? Nope. 

Unanimous voting in City Council is habitually used to circumvent the requirement that all City- sponsored projects are subject to competitive bidding. Instead, one councilmember and one developer make a secret deal, and then, after that, the City Council unanimously approves millions of dollars for that project. CIM Midtown in Council President Herb Wesson’s CD 10 reportedly got $42 million plus all the sale taxes earned by retailers at the project site. 

Across LA, we see the City as “co-sponsor” of project after project based upon secret deals between one councilmember and one developer. Never is there any competitive bidding. That’s because the developer is selected before the city money is donated. 

As a result, billions of tax dollars are funneled to developers who are destroying LA neighborhoods and looting the public treasury with zero oversight. The courts see nothing wrong with this system. 

But wait, it gets worse! 

The construction mania continues and City Hall is in a panic over the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative [NII]. Why is that? As everyone knows, the middle class is deserting Los Angeles. There is an increasing glut of these luxury condos and yet the City wants to construct more and more of them. Yes, that brings us back to: why would a kosher butcher shop stock pigs’ feet? 

There Are a Couple Scams 

(1) The City will borrow the money and give it to the developers, who then will bankrupt their LLCs and LLPs, leaving the City’s taxpayers to repay Wall Street. The tax dollars that flow to Wall Street will then not be available to pay for our infrastructure improvements. The decaying infrastructure will then cause more businesses and more of the middle class to flee the City. None of that matters as long as the developers can siphon off hundreds of millions of tax dollars. 

(2) The newest angle is money laundering. Since Putin has made moving money out of the Russia illegal, the desire of Russians to move money to other countries has naturally increased. (Putin does not understand that his own massive corruptionism is the major reason so many Russians are devising schemes to get their cash out of their country. 

In order to cut down on not only Russians but also Chinese who are looking to stash their money overseas, the United States has a new rule requiring the reporting of real estate investments by foreigners. More specifically, in Manhattan and Miami-Dade real estate transactions of more than $3 million in NY and more than $1 million in Miami have to be reported. The purpose is to stop money laundering not only by Russian oligarchs but also by drug traffickers, Blood Diamond traders, weapons dealers and a host of other international criminals. 

So far, Los Angeles is not on the list of locales where reporting is required. Thus, some thug who made his money by the child labor and mutilations in Central Africa can still secretly buy up Los Angeles condos and small lot subdivisions (the new single family homes separated by 8 inches.) LA developers do not care who buys their units.  

Looking ahead, one can anticipate the Feds placing the same reporting requirements on LLCs and LLPs in Los Angeles real estate market and this is why condos and small lot subdivisions are so important. If a Russian oligarch buys a 12-unit apartment house for $10 million, his identity cannot be kept secret. But if he buys 12 condos or 12 small lot subdivisions, each one will be less than the reporting requirement. Secrecy is very important, especially if you’re hiding your money from Vladimir Putin. 

Why the Los Angeles Power Structure Circles the Wagons to Protect the Mutual Bribery at City Council 

We see why the entire Los Angeles power structure does not want anything to interfere with the Mutual Bribery running City Council. It is an extremely efficient system to get in on the international money laundering craze. In a year or two, it will probably be some other criminal venture that will become all the rage. 

With Mutual Bribery, there is never any disclosure of who is paying whom and how much is being paid. Each councilmember is the petty dictator in his or her district. All we Angelenos know is that our infrastructure has decayed, our taxes are increasing and our quality of life is deteriorating.

 

(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.

 

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LA’s Political Voices Come Together in Continued Modernization of LAX

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--What happens when the citizenry of all political stripes organize and the politicians actually listen to and work with them?  Progress.  Even in the City of Los Angeles.

(Plane lands on north runway at LAX-photo above) 

Actually, especially in the City of LA, considering how there's a persistent pro-grassroots movement that consistently fights against political oppression (like the Coalition to Preserve LA). 

Republican Richard Riordan came up with the concept of Neighborhood Councils, and Democratic LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl championed both citizen outreach and empowerment, in ways that were both scorned and which are now increasingly in vogue in the City of the Angels. 

And because of this adherence to grassroots empowerment, and because of both of civic heroes like Riordan, Rosendahl, Friends4Expo Transit, and the Coalition to Preserve LA, the goal was and is for civilized discussion, debate, compromise...and, most of all, for reasonable and realistic SOLUTIONS. 

Enter Councilmember Mike Bonin and Mayor Eric Garcetti, who both learned from and continued the efforts of their respective predecessors Bill Rosendahl and Antonio Villaraigosa to modernize LAX. 

And they've just made major progress!  After years of ferocious attacks and belittling by the LA Times and even the majority of the LA City Council, LAX will be modernized for a much cheaper cost, and with a much less invasive footprint, then the plan which LA World Airports tried to ram down our throats … and yet that which a NASA study concluded was not necessary. 

And after years of grief and lawsuits that Westchester was pushed into, those who stood up for Westchester (and, by extension, the rest of the Westside and even the City) are now vindicated

I still have concerns about how Mayor Garcetti's approach to Planning is entirely unsustainable, both economically and environmentally, but I will give the Mayor his props here:   

Mayor Garcetti kept his word and avoided and unnecessary push of LAX into Westchester that would have both cut off the vital north-south arteries of Lincoln and Sepulveda Blvds and that would have also threatened the viability of rail line from LAX to the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. 

In other words, in addition to avoiding the coziness of Wendy Greuel with the DWP, Eric Garcetti's election guaranteed a defense against a costly and devastating LAX expansion into the Westside.  I well remember how Mr. Garcetti put his foot down during the last mayoral campaign, and he's earned as much cred in stopping LAX expansion as he's done in promoting better balance at Metro. 

And shame on you, to those in the Times and the City Council for ignoring the "Group-Think" at LA World Airports about the northern airport expansion, and for pushing around and demonizing the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC) as selfish NIMBY's. 

So LA World Airports (LAWA), which runs LAX, will NOT be sued, but WILL be able to modernize, and WILL save a lot of money and disruption in its short- and long-term operations. 

As with the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line effort, where Westchester saved the county a lot of grief by allowing that line's maintenance yard to be built within its borders when other regions were truly playing the NIMBY card, Westchester will remain a devoted partner to LAX, and will seek to encourage light rail and local modernization when it makes environmental and economic sense. 

ARSAC had a lot of similarities with Friends4Expo Transit, in that grassroots/volunteer members of all political stripes came together and pushed for modernization that made sense...and saved money!  Civic leaders like Denny Schneider, Sheila Mickelson, Robert Acherman, and Marta Evry come from all over the political spectrum, and they all banded together and made a stand. 

It was truly David vs. Goliath...but I remember when Friends4Expo Transit was in the role of David, and yet persevered.  And to the memory of the late Nan Schneider...your hopes and efforts in defending Westchester against an overreaching political tidal wave were not and will not ever be forgotten or lost. 

When Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, and Tea Partiers all come together to make a stand, there must be a good cause behind that stand. 

Perhaps the biggest hero of all is someone who just doesn't get enough credit: City Councilmember Mike Bonin, whose transportation/planning efforts have focused on both credibility and compromise, on both idealism and pragmatism.  LAX modernization is something that Mr. Bonin has played a role in for decades ... decades! 

And I'm sure that Mr. Bonin's predecessor, Bill Rosendahl, is smiling from Heaven knowing that--as with runaway overdevelopment in Los Angeles, we don't always have to put up with that. 

Two other big Thank You's are in order: one goes to Argonaut writer Gary Walker.  Westsiders who read the Argonaut have known for many years that when the Times is off writing and opining about what the Times thinks will get its next Pulitzer Prize, they can always rely on Mr. Walker to factually and fairly write on issues that are most relevant to them. 

And then there's newly-appointed Director of LA World Airports Deborah Flint, and a host of amazing planners and LAWA officials who worked with the City of LA and Metro to change its obstructionist working paradigms to becoming a true partner, and a good neighbor, and of focusing on goals rather than fighting the wrong battles at LAX (which LAWA used to deem was its own personal property). 

Pinch me, somebody!  LAX modernization will actually occur without thrashing the Westside! 

Pinch me, somebody!  Metro Rail will be connecting to LAX! 

Pinch me, somebody!  The Expo Line IS a success, and LA is moving towards becoming an efficient and economically-viable city with respect to transportation alternatives. 

Now if we can only fix that overdevelopment/neighborhood transformation problem over at the L.A. City Planning Politburo, my cup would runneth over. 

But for all you heroes in Westchester, at LAWA, in the LADOT and Metro, and especially Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Mike Bonin...take a bow. 

Lord knows you've earned it!

 

(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.)

-cw

 

Gladstone’s Last Oyster

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--The iconic beachfront Gladstone’s may be serving its last oysters by October 2017. County officials aim to entice a new restaurateur or developer by expanding the maximum concession terms, which would give the new developer time to recoup investments. 

A vote by the County Board of Supervisors has doubled the long-term lease for the Pacific Palisades property to forty years from its current twenty-year term and would require a redevelopment plan for the facility in hope that a new establishment would be constructed from the ground up. 

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl wrote in a motion to the board, “Because the existing facility is seriously deteriorated and outdated, the Department desires the successful bidder to construct an entirely new facility.” 

Angelenos and tourists have been ordering chowder, crab cakes and the like at Gladstone’s since 1972. The eatery pays about $1.7 million in rent each year to occupy the state-owned property, which is operated by the county. The county discounted the rent to $875 K this year to accommodate the restaurant’s financial setbacks, according to the LA Daily News. 

How would the lease expansion bring in a bidding war? Kuehl’s motion would give new facility owners or developers forty years to recoup the cost of renovations or redevelopment instead of the existing twenty. The current owners of Gladstone’s would be eligible to rebid on the property. 

Carol Baker, spokesperson for the LA County Beach and Harbors said, “This isn’t some, ‘Let’s do this to Gladstone’s.’ This lease was coming to an end. We need to think about what’s the best way to move forward on this iconic property. It’s a harsh environment, right on the ocean. That property experiences a lot of wear and tear. An operator will need to address that – while you’re at it, what is your concept?” 

Former Mayor and current majority stakes holder of Gladstone’s Richard Riordan has some ideas, including a possible museum with a restaurant. He’s not officially tied with any redevelopment plans but favors the idea. “I think it’s a good idea if they can put the pieces together,” he said. 

The benefits of the proposed amendment include minimizing loss of revenue for the county when Gladstone’s closes, as well as making maintenance and security costs more affordable for a new operator. According to The Daily News, the restaurant has been running at a deficit of $100,000 per month. 

Currently, Gladstone’s website assures guests that there is no set closure date for the beachside restaurant. 

ATTENTION GUESTS:

Despite what you may have heard throughout the media, at this present time, there is no set closure date for Gladstone’s Malibu. We are happy to continue taking your reservations and event inquiries over the phone or via email/website submission. Thank you for your continued support and patronage to an iconic beach landmark!-Management.

 

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

-cw

Getting It Wrong: An Open Letter to LA City Councilman Mitchell Englander (and His PLUM Committee Buddies)

BILLBOARD WATCH--Dear Councilman Englander … At the August 23 meeting of the City Council’s PLUM committee, you publicly accused me of putting out false information in the articles I write about billboard and signage issues. Specifically, in asking a city official for clarification of a point under discussion, you said, “Because I want to make sure that when Mr. Hathaway writes about this, since he gets it wrong most of the time, that he hears it clearly.”

I consider this an attack on my personal integrity, because I always strive to be factually accurate and avoid taking things out of context or otherwise trafficking in misinformation. For example, before writing about PLUM committee meetings I almost always listen to the meeting audio, to make sure that I heard things correctly and that I accurately quote committee members and other speakers. I have a definite point of view about the signage issues the PLUM committee deals with, but that doesn’t mean I believe in using less than ethical and honest means to promote that view.

But your accusation was more than just an attack on me, it was an attack on the very idea that LA residents are entitled to be fully informed on the issues that affect them, in this case issues of billboard and signage regulation. That’s because the large majority of those residents can’t come to PLUM committee meetings to hear the discussion firsthand. Unlike lobbyists, billboard company representatives, and others who are paid to attend these meetings, most community people can’t take time off work, arrange child care, and make the necessary adjustments needed to attend a weekday meeting at City Hall. So, without someone reporting on the details of those meetings, they are denied the knowledge they need and deserve to form opinions and make decisions about the issues at hand.

I’m not paid, either, but I’m fortunate enough to be at a stage of my life that I can devote a significant amount of time to a cause I consider very important to the mental and physical health of communities throughout LA And an important part of that effort is to inform those citizens who want to know what their elected representatives are doing about billboards and signage but don’t have time to attend the many meetings held on the topic or read the many lengthy reports issued at various points in the deliberative process.

Unfortunately, your public statement at the Aug. 24 PLUM committee meeting tells those citizens, in essence, that the information they read online at the BanBillboardBlight [[banbillboardblight.org ]] website or in CityWatch or hear in public service programs on local radio stations is “wrong most of the time.” Doubly unfortunate is the fact that you didn’t specify a single instance of what you considered wrong, so it’s just an accusation put out there, deliberately or otherwise, to create doubt in some people’s minds that what they’re reading and hearing is factually accurate.

I have been writing articles about PLUM committee actions and deliberations, as well as those of the City Planning Commission and other government agencies, for almost nine years. In that time, not a single billboard company lobbyist or billboard company executive or employee has approached me and said that something I wrote was false. Not a single member of the PLUM committee, present or past, has contacted me to make that complaint. Not a single City Councilmember, not a single city planner or member of the city attorney’s staff or any other city official involved with billboard and signage issues has told me that something I wrote was inaccurate.

You surely understand that people come to meetings and otherwise involve themselves in community affairs, not because they are paid to, but because they believe in a vision of a better community and a better city. Those people deserve the respect and even the encouragement of their elected representatives, regardless of where they happen to stand on a particular project or issue. Those people deserve access to as much information as possible, so that they can make the kind of informed decisions that are in important part of the bedrock of a democratic system.

I hope you will take that into consideration before making unsupported accusations against someone who has volunteered his time and energy to disseminate that information as widely as possible and help make the system work the way it was intended.

(Dennis Hathaway is the president of the Ban Billboard Blight Coalition and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: [email protected].)

-cw

DWP ‘Reform’ Charter Amendment RRR: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

BUTCHER ON LA-“Reform” of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is on the November ballot as Charter Amendment Measure RRR and it’s just (w)Rong, (w)Rong, (w)Rong! Wrong for the ratepayers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. 

Remember Gene Maddaus’ clear, uncontested explanation in the LA Weekly about how the current “reform” proposal is really a guise for future rate increases that will be easier to accomplish without even a hint of public oversight or accountability? Maddaus noted that, "Board actions -- including ratemaking -- would no longer require City Council approval unless the City Council asserts jurisdiction." (Emphasis added.) 

“It's hard to overstate the importance of this provision,” Maddaus continued. “Under the current system -- the product of more than 100 years of governance reform -- the City Council must approve any rate increases. This exerts a downward pressure on rates. No politician wants to approve an increase and face the wrath of voters. (In his first State of the City address, Garcetti made a big deal of delaying any rate increases for a year.) 

“If you give ratemaking authority to an independent body, you remove that downward pressure. The result: Rates will go up. Fuentes, of course, has no incentive to spell this out, and neither does D'Arcy. (Both declined interview requests.) If you're campaigning for a ballot measure, you wouldn't want to tout the prospect of higher utility bills. It's much better to say, as Fuentes does, that the measure will ‘take the politics out of the DWP.’” 

Charter Amendment RRR will make future rate increases easier to just slide through, further away from the public eye than now. 

DWP rates too high? Secret future rate hikes? Who you gonna call? Your Councilmember? Good luck with that! 

No on RRR! 

It is wrong, wrong, wrong for workers! 

Kevin Walker of KPCC/89.3 explains in 5 things to know about the Los Angeles DWP reform plan,”  in his point #4, “Civil Service Exemption:” 

If the ballot measure passes, the DWP might be exempted from LA’s civil service rules, which dictate how city workers are hired, promoted and fired. 

Supporters of the changes say it would make the department more nimble. They also argue the DWP should be able to manage its workforce more independently because of the specialized nature of their employees.  

Organized labor defends the civil service rules as a protection against corruption and nepotism. 

"We are deeply troubled by the City’s refusal to recognize the long-term consequences that this ballot measure will have," wrote Cheryl Parisi, chair of the Coalition of LA City Unions.  

The measure also leaves the council the option to delegate its salary setting authority to the DWP’s board of commissioners. 

For many years, some public sector union leaders have argued that the protections of a merit-based civil service system are redundant and even unnecessary if strong due-process provisions and other assurances are negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement. That hypothetical argument continues: when workplace protections come from “the employer,” the work of the union is undermined; workers see their rights and benefits arriving because of the beneficence of the boss, the law, the government rather than stemming from the contract and the historical struggles that led to a strong, enforceable agreement. 

Civil service protections for the workers of the DWP are as important today as ever; the DWP has a long, strong history of advancing white men who already work for “the company,” and/or those with family already working there. Currently, hiring, promotions, testing, and disciplinary procedures are all administered by the City’s Personnel Department, and the DWP is treated as one of 40+ city departments. It may be slow and tedious but it’s slow and tedious in the very same way for every single person. It’s fundamentally a fair and open system that has helped build a diverse, competent city workforce. 

Acceding to the elitist isolationism of the current DWP workforce and leadership is a terrible idea. Instead, the City’s utility should step right into the nascent local hiring program aimed at training city residents to fill critical immediate job openings all across the City.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, chair of the elected Los Angeles Charter Reform Commission, advocates for the continued inclusion of civil service protections for DWP workers in an op-ed in the LA Times originally titled “A plan to make DWP even worse”: 

“Separating DWP’s hiring from the city’s Civil Service system is problematic too. The city of Los Angeles is a single employer and the DWP just one of its many departments. Employees can transfer among departments, depending on their skills and the city’s needs, through the city’s Civil Service system. This gives workers access to new opportunities throughout city government and helps the city deploy its talented employees to maximum benefit. 

“The Civil Service also provides objective procedures for hiring and promotion so that city jobs aren’t handed out as patronage. It was introduced in the city of Los Angeles in 1903 to counter a flagrant system of political spoils. In 1939, after the recall of Mayor Frank L. Shaw for corruption, the Civil Service system was overhauled and strengthened into a nationally recognized model of honesty and professionalism. 

“The Civil Service system has served Los Angeles well for decades, which is why the charter reform commissions insisted on keeping it in 1999. This merit-based, competitive method of hiring and promotion limits exposure to claims of discrimination, because the city must prove its testing practices are job-related and skills-based according to accepted legal models. This good government measure is as necessary now as ever.” 

The DWP works best as an integral part of a vibrant city. Open, fair, and transparent labor practices at Water & Power impact workers throughout the City as well as potential city employees, potentially benefit seniors in local LA high schools who are heading towards their futures. Who will get these great jobs? Will the department participate in the City’s local hiring outreach and put qualified Angelenos to work right now to start replacing the 40% of the current workforce soon eligible to retire? Or will the DWP kowtow to the crusty, inbred, nepotistic-leaning voices urging a private personnel system all their own? 

The Coalition of LA City Unions points out the myriad legal issues in one of its numerous legal briefings: 

“The proposed wholesale exemption of DWP from Civil Service violates the civil service mandate principle. If broad authorization of contracting out undermines civil service (Los Angeles Charter section 1022 narrowly limits contracting out to work that can be performed more economically or feasibly by independent contractors than by City employees), then surely exempting approximately one quarter of the civil service workforce subverts the entire system. Although the Motion - which has no specifics - cites an inability to hire quickly, there is no claim that the current DWP workforce does not perform DWP work efficiently, as the civil service rules seek to ensure. There is no basis to violate the civil service mandate as to existing City employees.” 

Perhaps most significantly, Charter Amendment Measure RRR is bad for the environment, for anyone committed to cleaner energy choices.

It is wrong for lovers of open, transparent, accountable government, and horrible for enthusiasts of public power. 

That’s why a broad new coalition is growing to oppose Measure RRR. Neighborhoods Against the DWP Power Grab recently announced its organizing efforts DWP ballot battle: Power grab or good government?               

It notes the involvement of former City Controller Laura Chick, actor/environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., former City Councilmembers Nate Holden, Robert Farrell, Hal Bernson, and Dennis Zine. The coalition also includes the unions of the Coalition of LA City Unions, UCI law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, William D. Smart Jr. of the Fix L.A. Coalition, and National Organization for Women California President Jerilyn Stapleton. In addition, it has support from Food and Water Watch, Consumer Watchdog, the Southern California Watershed Alliance, and Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association President Richard Close. 

According to the organization, “Chick, Begley and Holden are among the members of Neighborhoods Against DWP Power Grab, which is fighting Los Angeles Charter Amendment RRR.  Opponents say the measure will give DWP officials and the board overseeing the utility too much power, and makes the utility less transparent and accountable to voters.” 

Here is part of the organization’s argument against RRR: 

"Don't believe the false claims that this measure is ‘reform.’ Charter Amendment RRR is a power-grab by the DWP that gives voters less oversight over the DWP— not more. 

"This measure takes away voters' decision-making powers and accountability over the DWP by enabling unelected bureaucrats to run the department and determine rate hikes

"This measure gives the DWP Board the extraordinary power to spend millions of ratepayer dollars on contracts, rate hikes, and salaries without preserving currently existing oversight and approvals from voters and elected officials. 

"The DWP needs serious overhaul and reform, but this reckless proposal takes us backwards and does not reflect the good-government changes that ratepayers want and need. 

"In fact, this measure limits scrutiny over the DWP and decreases transparency by eliminating existing checks and balances. 

"This measure severely restricts voters’ power over DWP operations and rate hikes, and gives voters less of a say on clean water and renewable energy policies. 

"Making matters worse, this measure gives the DWP Commissioners, currently appointed citizen volunteers, ratepayer funded pay that could total as much as $2 million throughout the next decade. 

"This measure also opens the door to corruption and unethical hiring of friends and family by allowing the department to opt out of the civil service system. 

"This proposal could easily lead to mismanagement of our most precious resource: our water.

"If this misleading measure passes, the Mayor won’t have final authority to fire unelected and unaccountable DWP Board Members, who will have unprecedented power and control over rate hikes. 

"Vote NO on Charter Amendment RRR— the DWP power-grab. It’s misleading, worse than the status quo, and doesn’t represent the real change we need at DWP." 

Wrong, wrong, wrong! Vote No on RRR on November 8! Get involved in the campaign! Contact your Union! Watch this spot!

 

(Julie Butcher writes for CityWatch, is a retired union leader and is now enjoying Riverside and her first grandchild. She can be reached at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Death Politics: When are We Dead and Who Gets to Decide?

GELFAND’S WORLD--The editor of CityWatch sent me a news clip along with a question, "Is this a column?" Translated, that editorial question refers to whether the story of Israel Stinson provides important public policy questions, the kind that CityWatch covers. Israel Stinson was a two year old boy who had been kept barely alive through life support. Machines kept his lungs moving artificially. At the order of a judge, the life support was disconnected and the boy passed away almost immediately. 

The grieving parents are asking why their baby couldn't have been kept alive. The lawyers are asking why the hospital was in such a rush to pull the plug without bringing in the parents for one last visit. Members of the public commenting on internet sites are split as to whether life support should have been continued. 

There are numerous public policy questions. There is also a question of simple humanity that doesn't seem to be getting any play. That's because, sadly, it goes against the grieving parents, the pro-life organization that was representing them, and members of the public who donated money. 

Israel Stinson was barely two years old when he suffered a serious asthma attack. There are many children who get asthma, but luckily only a few get it badly enough for it to be a risk to life. Israel was one of the unlucky ones. His ability to take in oxygen became so limited that his heart stopped. News stories indicate that doctors worked on him for about an hour, using CPR while trying to get the heart to restart. Eventually the heart restarted, but the question remained, how much damage had been done? In retrospect, he had probably suffered widespread, irreversible brain damage in the first few minutes of his heart stoppage, but the doctors couldn't know this for sure at the time. All they could do is wait and watch. 

Faced with an uncertain outcome, the medical profession understands that there is nothing to do but provide supportive care and then just wait and see. So that's what they did. But eventually, after appropriate testing, they recognized that Israel Stinson was truly gone. They could keep his lungs moving and stimulate his heart to beat, but faced with evidence of his widespread, massive loss of brain tissue, they concluded that Israel was brain dead. 

Parts of our bodies can withstand the loss of oxygen for a substantial period of time. People get freezing injuries, yet somehow not lose all their toes. But the brain is an exception. Brain cells die rather quickly, and as far as medical science knows, once lost they stay lost. The cases where stroke victims recover function are generally attributed to the fact that other parts of the brain can learn to take over where the original tissue has failed. But when there is widespread, massive loss of brain cells, there isn't much to provide recovery. 

The case of Israel Stinson, as described in the Los Angeles Times by Erica Evans, establishes the simple facts, and then delves into the competing legal claims. Videos on YouTube provide the pro- and con arguments. There are numerous legal issues that are left hanging. Does a hospital have the duty to provide life support to a person that is brain dead? As the hospital sees it, they are being asked to tend to what is little more than a corpse. To the parents, things are different. They have the opportunity to spend time with their baby, whether or not he is responding in the way they would like. They have memories of his birth and subsequent life. They try to maintain hope. 

To the cold blooded rationalist, all hope for Israel was false hope. This may be, but the most cold blooded of rationalists has to concede that the choice being thrust upon the parents was horrifying beyond belief. They desperately wanted to believe that their child would get better, and doctors were telling them that this would never happen. In the meanwhile, they were getting some comfort by visiting with him, hugging him, tickling him to try to evoke some response. 

Some people are able to make the decision to pull the plug. Others are not. Sometimes it's because they can't bring themselves to make a decision that is so painful. Other people won't accept the fact that when brain function is irreversibly lost, their loved one is -- for all intents and purposes -- gone. They can see the chest moving in and out, and the occasional twitch, and for some, this is hope. 

The parents were advised to take him off life support. This is a polite way of saying that his breathing would no longer be created artificially, and he would almost immediately die, in body as well as brain. 

The parents refused. They kept the body of their son alive, going so far as to take him to Guatemala for interim treatment, then bringing him back to California. There is some question as to why the local hospital here in Los Angeles accepted Israel as a patient, but they did. But finally, recognizing his brain dead condition, the hospital petitioned the courts to allow them to pull the plug. The parents had the help of pro bono legal support and won a few days and a little false hope. Then a local judge pulled the plug judicially, and the hospital performed the physical act of turning off life support. 

The Los Angeles Times reporter Erica Evans began the account of Israel's last moments by describing him as "angelic-looking." It's true. The pictures look like a sleeping baby. It's only when you see the YouTube videos that you realize that there is almost no response to continued prodding and poking, in spite of the parents' desperate belief that they are seeing something going on. 

I am going to make a conjecture here. The parents saw Israel as injured, but somehow still with us. In photos, he looks like a sleeping baby. The parents refer to their strong religious beliefs, and felt (I think sincerely) that God was telling them to keep going. That's how they describe their beliefs on video. Perhaps they hoped that some day, this sleeping baby would awake to some level of normality. In brief, the parents were viewing their baby as comatose, and capable of recovery. It's true that some people in comas eventually wake up, sometimes years later. But they have to have intact brains for this to happen. 

These beliefs were opposed by members of the medical profession. There were several neurologists who did the standard, accepted tests, and concluded that brain death had occurred. The news story says that the doctors "declared the boy brain dead," as if it were an arbitrary ruling rather than a careful judgment based on the evidence of physical examination and lab tests. 

One YouTube discussion involved the legal definition of death. The attorney pointed out that in some states, death is defined as the cessation of heart beat rather than brain death. It was kind of irrelevant in the context, but it is part of the wider public policy question. 

Another public policy question that is of utmost importance but was avoided almost entirely, involves whether there is any obligation for any entity, public or private, to continue providing long term care. Lack of payment in a system which avoids government funded of national health care is just one element in the discussion. The other question is whether an entity, public or private, can be compelled to continue treating a person that is, in their judgment, already dead at the level of the brain. It's a legitimate question. 

I'm going to change the subject just a little, and make a serious comment that is not meant to be morbid or rude, but is based on a real life experience. It's a comment that I don't see very often in these debates over heroic measures and prolonged life support. 

The context of this comment involves the shooting death of a friend that happened a little more than 19 years ago. I can remember looking down on the body, which had a gunshot wound where his right eye had been just a few minutes earlier. The bullet had obviously gone through the eye and into the brain. 

I remember staring for perhaps 15 seconds, watching carefully to make sure that he was really dead. My thought in the stress of the moment was this: Why would anyone want to survive that kind of wound? He would be blind, probably mostly paralyzed, and severely damaged in his ability to form any thoughts. I don't think he would have chosen to survive that level of destruction if he had had any say in the matter. 

How could you want anything like that for your friend or spouse or for your own child? Obviously the parents had a different sort of hope. They tried to believe that Israel would come back to life and live normally. 

But in trying to keep their child alive, they were also ignoring the fact that getting a little better would be the worst thing that could have happened to their baby, because there wasn't the surviving brain tissue for him to get truly better. 

I truly believe that from the moment of his cardiac arrest, Israel felt no pain and endured no suffering. It's not a lot, but it's the best we have. 

Addendum: The Epi Pen 

Whether Israel Stinson's story is a legitimate part of the national healthcare debate, the Epi Pen scandal certainly is. As almost everyone knows by now, the number of pharmaceutical companies making automatically injectable epinephrin dwindled to one. Given their newfound monopoly status, the company raised rates, and raised them again, and yet again. This is what private companies do when faced with a chance to make serious money. 

It's almost amusing to see members of congress complaining. Isn't the congress the organization that refuses to allow Medicare the chance to negotiate drug pricing? Isn't this the organization that could have invented some federal agency to oversee drug pricing, the same way that the state of California has some regulation over automobile insurance rates? They didn't, but they are complaining.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])

-cw

Coastal Com Rules Should be Simple: All Conversations are Public, Coast is Not for Sale

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Members of state commissions are dumb enough when they talk to people. Keeping them apart from conversations won’t make them any smarter.

That basic insight is why efforts to “reform” the Coastal Commission and various other commissions don’t make much sense. The idea should be to encourage more conversation—public conversation—from which commissioners and everyone else can learn. And legislation shouldn’t pick and choose—making conversations with some people permissible, and conversations with other people impermissible.

So discard any reform that limits conversations. And adopt simpler reforms that encourage more conversation.

What does that mean in practice? It means adopting two categories.

If there’s a conversation between a commissioner and anyone whose work involves talking to commissioners, then that conversation needs to be disclosed the very day it happens. Not just the fact of the conversation, but some details – the subjects covered, the amount of time, the location. And that disclosure must come from both sides – the commissioner and the people approaching the commissioner. If people take notes, they should share their notes.

The teeth of the matter is this: if there are private conversations that go undisclosed, those are illegal—and both commission members and the lobbyist or lawyer involved in the conversation should be subject to fines and other penalties.

Such rapidly disclosed conversations should be the norm—and the only path to conversation. There can’t be another secret path, or some exemption, or some way to go off-the-record. If you don’t want to have a public conversation with commission members, great, but the world gets to know about it.

Otherwise, the only other path is to go to a meeting and talk to the commission in public.

Of course, three minutes at the microphone isn’t a great way to have conversations. If people want to throw energy into reform in this area, they should devise new kinds of public meetings ( there are many people that have thought about such things) that allows for real conversations, not just speaking. There are many models for such things, all of which drive lawyers for commissions crazy.

Which is another good argument for approaching this problem differently.

(Joe Mathews writes Connecting California and is an editor for Zocalo Public Square.This column was posted most recently at Fox and Hounds.) 

-cw

Bullied Teen Wins $10,000 Scholarship for Anti-Bullying Video

CHAPMAN REPORT-A 17-year-old boy attending the Boys and Girls Club College Bound program in San Pedro won a $10,000 college scholarship this month from the Taco Bell Foundation for his personal anti-bullying video.    

Stephen Lee took the stance after struggling with bullying for years. He made the video with his own art work and the club staff helped him put it together. He received the good news call from the Live Mas team with the Taco Bell foundation while visiting his grandmother in Vietnam in July.  

“I was very grateful when I heard from a Skype call with the (scholarship) team early in the morning that I won $10K. I burst into tears. I am so grateful.”  

Taryn McNamara, the Taco Bell Foundation coordinator, said the Live Mas scholarship team gives out 220 scholarships across the country to students each year totaling $1 million. The scholarships range between $2,500 and $25,000 and are awarded to those who seem the most passionate about their future dreams and careers.  

“We’re looking at videos for kids with the most passion and desire,” she said. “We’re looking for the next generation of creators and innovators. We really like Stephen’s video and how he had so much passion for computer science.”  

Lee said the club at the Cabrillo Avenue site gave him the safe haven he needed to explore his dreams and passions. He was able to enhance his skills in art, animation, graphical design, game design and video editing. He was tutored, guided to prep for college and he even played ping pong. 

It was the first time he felt accepted despite “my quiet nature,” he said. Middle school and high school were filled with years of dealing with bullying. Students would attack him “verbally” he said and began making fake posts on social media using his name. His grades suffered horribly in those early years and he later spent much of his time feeling lost about his future. 

Once he attended the club, however, his life began to change for the better. His parents, Hudson and Sylvia who came from Vietnam and are U.S. citizens, were so delighted he felt at home there that they drove and picked him up from the club nearly every day and on the weekends.  

His father, Hudson, said when his son called “and told me he had won a 10k scholarship during work, I was so shocked and speechless I didn’t know what to say to him. I am very proud of him.”  

Eventually, the younger Lee said he found the courage at last to go to administrators at South Torrance High school where he attended and officials there acted on his concerns.  

But the club, he said, is where he made his discoveries that he enjoyed computer science. Family members in the field also taught him about coding and he was able to design three computer games at the club.  

“The Boys and Girls club…helped me calm down whenever I was stressed,” Lee said. “I have a lot of friends over there that I talked to. However, I talk to the staff a lot as well. I felt very comfortable talking to every single one of them. Even when I had a personal problem, they were there to hear me out and give me advice without judging.”  

His suggestions to other children who are bullied is to understand that no one else can solve “your problems” and to look to the people who do support you, a family member, a friend. “There’s always at least one person who is there for you.” 

“I feel every single situation is different and I feel that some people had it even worse than me,” he explained. “All I can say is what I learned. Learn to laugh at yourself, but don’t put yourself down. Don’t take actual constructive criticism as an attack, but learn from it. Lastly, don’t expect anyone else to solve your problems.” 

His future plans, he said, include making an app that will help school teachers and administrators determine whether students are being bullied.

See Steven’s video.


(Diana Chapman has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” You can reach her at: [email protected].)

With An $8 Billion General Operating Fund, How Come LA Can’t Fix Anything Without Asking Us for More Money?

RANTZ AND RAVEZ--Some readers have commented that I like to Rant a lot and seldom Rave about the positive areas of Los Angeles. While it is true that I focus on unnecessary taxes and fees on a regular basis, I do comment on the positive aspects of Los Angeles when I find them. The problem is that I don’t find them that often. 

There are so many social issues facing Los Angeles that the positive Rave issues are lost in the negative concerns impacting L A. I try and find the practical solutions to the problems facing our city using existing funds and not calling for new and or additional taxes and fees. The issue is using current funds to improve the living conditions in Los Angeles. 

Los Angeles City has a general operating fund of over $8 BILLION DOLLARS! This does not include Special Funds and other Federal and State dollars that the city uses to operate a variety of programs. Some necessary and many part of the fluff of city government. The money is there….it all depends on how it is spent on projects and programs. 

Knowing the City of Los Angeles’ operations for nearly 70 years, I know the issues and solutions to the problems. I have lived with them during my 33 years with the LAPD, two years as an elected member of the Charter Reform Commission and 12 years as a member of the Los Angeles City Council. In addition, I have been a Los Angeles resident my entire life. Born, raised and educated in the City of the Angels. 

While the issues that negatively impact our city are continuing to mount day by day, solutions without additional cost in the form of taxes and fees to the residents and business owners are never mentioned by our elected leaders. It appears that the only answer to all of the ills impacting Los Angeles come with increased taxes and fees and any other way of pulling more of your precious dollars to fund this and that and remedy the ills of Los Angeles. 

Take for example our gridlock transportation situation. Our local roads and freeways have all become huge parking lots. The 101 freeway holds the title of having the worst traffic congestion in the nation. It usually takes me around two hours to travel from the West Valley to downtown or the Westside of town by car during most times of the day. Saturdays and Sundays are not much better. The political solution is to increase taxes for all of us and all future generations in Los Angeles. Remember that when government raises taxes, they seldom if ever rescind them.    

Then there is the EMERGENCY Homeless situation surrounding Los Angeles. While Los Angeles City and County have declared the homeless an emergency, Governor Brown has not joined the bandwagon on this issue. So, no state money is appropriated to the Los Angeles region to address the homeless matter. Again our city leaders have a solution of more taxes, fees or bond measures or any other sort of tactic to take more of your money to address a situation that is without doubt out of control and getting worse. 

The DWP established, with a vote of the public, the Rate Payer Advocate position a few years ago. I did not support this measure when I was on the council since I saw it as just another layer in the system that was not working for the people paying their water and power bills. Namely you. The cost of the Rate Payer advocate and his staff is now many millions of dollars annually? This money is coming from your water and power rates. Rates that have already been increased and will continue to increase in future years.       

While the ratepayer advocate is a good man, is his position necessary in the big scheme of things? 

Now our city leaders want to establish a PAID WATER AND POWER COMMISSION. There is an existing Water and Power Commission that is appointed by the mayor and answers to the mayor. It is a volunteer position and one of the political payoffs for supporting the mayor. It is interesting to note that in Los Angeles when you are selected to sit on a commission, you sign a document announcing your resignation. It is used when your services are no longer necessary and you are being dismissed. Talk about a hammer over your head to have you follow the directions of the Office of the Mayor. 

This new paid DWP Commission will cost you more money to run with the staff and other personnel necessary to carry out the new duties. Is it necessary to establish a PAID Water and Power Commission in Los Angeles, I say NO. It will just cost you more in your Water and Power bills.       

The city lacks direction and priorities. This has been the case for many years. Everyday is a new day to develop ways to take more of your money with a promise to make it a better run city. Our sidewalks are crumbling along with our streets. When we check, we find that there is no agenda or focus on a continuing basis. Lack of coordination and priority setting has been a long-standing problem in Los Angeles that continues as I prepare this article.   

We see crime continuing to increase in our region with little impact by law enforcement. Is it time to exercise your 2nd Amendment Rights and purchase that gun before new restrictions are imposed on you and other Californians? Just saying!     

As we approach the November election, I will be providing you with my recommendations and logic on the ballot propositions and certain political offices. Hopefully our population will vote to make things better in Los Angeles, California and America! 

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

(Dennis P. Zine is a 33-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. He writes Just the Facts for CityWatch. You can contact him at [email protected].)

-cw

The Real Reason Hollywood Has No Target Store

CORRUPTION WATCH-The reason Hollywood has no Target Store can be summed up in one word: Garcettism. Without the interference by Eric Garcetti, first as councilmember for council district 13, and then as mayor, the Target Store would have been completed and operating several years ago. (see unfinished store above) 

I happen to live within walking distance of the Target location and I like Target. I also like the rule of law and I detest corruption. If any member of the Citizens Coalition Los Angeles (CCLA) dislikes Target or does not want a Target store, I have never heard them even hint at such feeling. Everyone I know believes that we need to be a society based upon the law and not on the whim of one politician. 

The Zoning for Target Was Brand New 

There have been false claims that Hollywood’s zoning is out of date and it was unfair to apply old laws to a new project. The “zoning” law governing this Target Store is called Vermont/Western Transit Oriented District Specific Plan (SNAP) and it went into effect March 1, 2001. 

SNAP had been based upon years of study involving every parcel within its 2.2 square mile area and each parcel was designated as fitting into a Subarea. There were five Subareas A through E. The Target proposed to build on a Subarea C parcel. The City and local community had considered whether they wanted retail stores taller than 35 feet and they expressly decided not to permit a retail store to be higher than 35 feet. 

“Commercial Only Project. Projects comprised exclusively of commercial uses (not Hospital and Medical Uses) shall not exceed a maximum building height of 35 feet and a maximum FAR of 1.5 ... ” (SNAP page 24) 

Target admitted in court that it could have constructed a store which did not violate SNAP’s 35 foot requirement. But in order to construct anything, however, Target needed to obtain a building permit. As CCLA heard from various sources, Councilmember Garcetti wanted a 75 foot Target store. So Target could get City Council’s unanimous approval for a 75 foot store, but no approval for a legal 35 foot store. 

If Garcetti had allowed The Target to construct the legal store with its parking underground, as is the parking for the adjacent non-profit Assistance League, then the Target store could have been operational by end of 2009. 

As Judge Fruin found in 2014, there was no basis for the Target to claim hardship in order to violate the SNAP ordinance. Thus, Judge Fruin rejected Target’s 75 foot store. (July 17, 2014 Judge Fruin Decision page 5.) 

Judge Fruin ordered Target to stop construction on the illegal store – construction that had begun with the blessings of Eric Garcetti. People need to stop and think about the mess Garcetti created by interfering with the construction of a legal Target store in the first place … and then giving Target a permit to build an illegal store. 

In July 2014, Target was free to revert to the original 35 foot store, but it was coerced into appealing Judge Fruin’s decision. First, it went to the appeals court to overrule Judge Fruin and allow it to continue building an illegal store. 

We need to pause here and look at that utterly ridiculous request. No permit should have been issued for a 75 foot store since that height was more than double the maximum 35 foot height. The trial court had just ruled the obvious: 75 feet is illegal. Based upon a double illegality, Garcetti asked the appeals court to allow the construction to continue. It said No. 

Then Garcetti had the City and Target petition the Supreme Court to allow the construction to resume, but the Supreme Court would not even consider the matter. 

Thus, Target was a three time loser. So why did it not make the prudent business decision and follow the law? Target has said that it is losing $100 million in sales per year, for each year this Target store is not built. 

If the Target could have gotten a permit from the City to construct a legal store staring in 2014, there would be a Target Store operating at the corner of Sunset and Western. 

Garcetti is the Obstacle to the Store’s Construction 

Let’s emphasize a crucial point: neither CCLA nor La Mirada filed any appeal to prolong the litigation. CCLA can see no obstacle other than Eric Garcetti to Target having been able to build its store in Hollywood at some time during the past eight years. In our opinion, the fault rests with one person: Eric Garcetti. 

Rather than allowing Hollywoodians to have a Target Store, Garcetti had the City Council approve a material change to SNAP by adding a Subarea F which would allow a superstore at the Target location as well as elsewhere in SNAP. A major change to a new Specific Plan to add a Subarea which had been previously rejected requires an EIR. But none was done. Thus, the City Council knew for an absolute fact that its approval of the Subarea F would result in additional litigation. Illegally changing the law is what CCLA calls illegal. This is not a complicated concept. 

By the way, did you realize that Target’s store will not be on the ground level, but it will begin on the 3rd floor? So if this plan were to be built, shoppers would have to go up three flights before even reaching the store itself. They call this pedestrian friendly? 

More False Propaganda 

As soon as the City Council approved the change to SNAP in May 2014, Mitch O’Farrell -- who pretends to be councilmember for CD 13 but who, from what we can ascertain, is in reality only administering the district according to the wishes of Eric Garcetti -- claimed that the construction would soon resume. 

Apparently Garcetti believed that the City Council’s decision trumped the court order halting construction. But neither Target’s attorneys nor the City Attorney suffered from such hubris. They knew that Judge Fruin’s order will remain in effect until he or a higher court reverses it. 

Thus, Target and the City asked the appeals court to dismiss their appeal so that construction could resume. On August 16, 2016, Division Seven of the Court of Appeals said that Judge Fruin’s stop order remains in effect. 

Writing the unanimous decision for the appeals court, Justice Perluss reminded Target and Garcetti that they LOST in trial court. Then, Justice Perluss explained that when one loses, one does not then get to ignore the court order and continue construction.

We should remember that Garcetti has trouble following court orders. After Judge Chalfant had ordered the developer at 5929 Sunset not to demolish the facade of the Spaghetti Factory, Garcetti’s office – or so the story goes – hand walked the demolition permit through Building & Safety so that the facade could be destroyed overnight between Friday and Saturday. As a result, Judge Fruin had occupancy permits from 5929 Sunset pulled and the tenants had to move out. 

Target is now at square one – at the same place it was in 2008. Target has probably lost well over $800 million, and Hollywoodians have not had a Target Store for eight years. All this trouble just because Garcetti thought that he could just kick aside the law and do whatever he wanted. 

What Will the Future Bring? 

Target and Garcetti now have to ask Judge Fruin’s permission to resume construction. No one knows how Judge Fruin will rule. In fact, Judge Fruin himself should not know how he will rule since none of the legal papers with the facts and arguments have been submitted to him. 

It seems that one pivotal issue is whether the City can make a drastic change to a new Specific Plan which had previously chosen not to have a Subarea F, without the City first conducting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR.) 

That raises another issue for Judge Fruin. Should he allow the construction to resume before the case’s final determination? If he allows a 75 foot store to be built and then he finds that the Subarea F amendment to SNAP required an EIR, he will have encouraged economic waste. 

Who knows what weight Judge Fruin will give to the fact that Target can still construct a legal store under the original SNAP ordinance? Since litigation has already taken eight years and future litigation could take an additional eight to twelve years, Target can solve its financial problem right now by constructing the legal store. It is not Judge Fruin’s concern whether or not Garcetti will issue a permit for a legal store. 

CCLA has no objection to a legal store and urges Target to ask the court for permission to proceed with a store which is compliant with SNAP as of July 17, 2014. The May 2016 SNAP amendment does not mandate a 75 foot store. 

Update: On August 23, 2016, the City and Target went to Judge Fruin and asked that they be allowed to resume construction. Judge Fruin said, “No.” The jurisdiction remains in the appeals court until October 17, 2016, and until then Judge Fruin will not have jurisdiction to do anything.

 

(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. Full disclosure: The author is a member of Citizens Coalition Los Angeles (CCLA,) one of the two petitioners in the litigation involving the Target Store on the southwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue in Hollywood.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The Misguided Metro 1/2 Cent Sales Tax Increase

GUEST COMMENTARY--Transportation politics are in place to make a major disruption to communities by the mistaken belief that light rail can be put into existing boulevards. This is contained in the November ballot Proposition M to increase the sales tax and extend it. 

Putting light rail into existing boulevards at grade would kill off miles of businesses for lack of good access, would make greater traffic congestion including CO2 emissions and increase development at destinations that would further imbalance the ratio of travel demand to infrastructure capacity. 

Among the supposed political motivations to do this is the belief that less VMT and CO2 emissions will result, BUT THAT IS NOT SO! The real motivation is to add Real Estate to the tax base and please developers. However, the consequences have dire affects for the City and County of LA while conflicting with affordable living and achieving environmental goals. 

A profound incompatibility exists in trying to mix vehicular and rail transit modes in the same right of way. The State Public Utility Commission (PUC) requires a physical separation between the two different modes – which create major difficulties in operational and turning movements for vehicles and rail itself when light rail is put in the center of existing boulevards. Among those obstacles are the lack of opportunities to make left turns resulting not only in business failures, increased congestion and CO2 emissions but also with very much increased intrusions of traffic into adjacent residential neighborhoods to make up for the lack of left turn opportunities. 

The Metro list of boulevards to have light rail include Lincoln, Sepulveda, Santa Monica, La Brea, Van Nuys Boulevards and a number of others. As seen in the accompanying plan image, this would invalidate much of what Metro would intend to do in the greater LA area. 

In the recent EIR of the Westside Mobility Plan study, the impacts for both the centrally located light rail, which was then abandoned due to impacts, and the last alternative with an exclusive bus lane near the curbs were acknowledged as having “significant and unavoidable impacts.” Both of these conditions made more congestion and GHG emissions than not doing the projects at all. That makes such a ½ cent tax increase a waste of taxpayer money and offers sound reasons for not doing the projects. And more to the point of this discussion -- not voting for the tax increase! 

The ½ cent sales tax increase has been in the lobbying pipeline for some time, which probably means few politicians had been given truthful disclosure on the matter of these recent revelations in the Westside Mobility Plan study. 

The intent, to first use light rail, was to achieve a higher capacity mode to move person trips. The failure is due to the incompatibility of modes which degraded each of the rail and vehicle purposes and abilities. Mixing cars, trucks, buses and light rail becomes a traffic quagmire. Rail is supplemental to the vehicular network. And the ‘low hanging fruit’ of exclusive corridors like the Expo and Orange lines have been picked. 

The way to add the desired capacity to remove congestion, and the “CO2e” associated with it, while making truly “rapid bus transit,” is by designing some roadways as continuously flowing traffic facilities and incorporating the quantitative aspects of efficiency through controlled traffic management and the qualitative aspects of urban design concerned with function and experience at the pedestrian scale. Vehicular modes need to be controlled and made efficient; place making for pedestrians and bike riders need appropriate space and protection. 

Continuous flowing traffic (CFT) makes better use of the existing boulevard roadways giving the higher capacity that is required to remove those traffic bottleneck and gridlock conditions. The CFT roadway facility is designed to remove obstruction to flowing traffic, would still have cross traffic at grade as is needed in the urban context and would have traffic signals controlled by the LA system called Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) system now used in some 4400 applications in locations throughout LA. 

A CFT roadway can have community compatibility with low and safe speeds, a constant 30 mph for example, but would provide faster travel time because signals would be timed to ensure green lights on the timed and spaced roadway intersections giving a mile of travel each two minutes any time of the day. Lanes of flowing traffic could have as much as twice the current lane capacities that stop and go traffic operate at and with current technology and driver abilities.  

This roadway joins the overall Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) planning strategy to reduce VMT and GHGs while developing sustainable communities in cities of all sizes and fixing many of those existing problems currently in the denser and overdeveloped areas of LA. Rightly so the approach stresses ‘Network Management’ and the transforming of vehicular efficiency with CAFÉ standards (54mpg by 2025) as well as increased use of electric and fuel cell vehicles. 

In that, vehicular mileage is comprised of greater than 95% of County travel in the movement of goods and people, and with rail less than 2%, an urban roadway system with capacities between that of a regular boulevard and that of a freeway becomes a needed and timely addition to solving traffic problems in selected corridors. LA County has the Traffic Signal Synchronization Program (TSSP) which is effective on arterials where signals are spaced greater than two miles apart. But now there can be the CFT low cost, compatible urban roadway system at grade that deals with signalization being closer than TSSP. 

Existing and future vehicle and traffic management technologies can be added to the basic CFT roadway architecture that comprises the ability to provide “continuous flowing traffic on urban interrupted streets.” The consistency of the system provides a safer driving environment for human drivers and can be combined with the autonomous vehicles of the future. 

It is important to acknowledge some of these objectives to reduce VMT and GHG that can be achieved with the following policies: Disperse future growth to within the contained area called LA County to not attract overdevelopment in communities that will then make congested streets and excessive GHG emissions. This is an essential part of the planning strategy to reduce VMT and CO2e by making the length of the “averaged trips” shorter by having more complete and balanced communities dispersed throughout the County which by proximity of destinations will reduce average trip length. 

Two things about the implied lack of Metro planning. There first is the fact that it is not feasible to put light rail into existing boulevards successfully eliminating most of their intended plans. Then there is the idea of trying to bring greater land use densities into the already high density areas of the LA Basin which already have congestion and communities in protest to preserve and protect themselves from drastic character change and gentrification. In contrast, it is the suburbs that need the job growth and increased urbanity to foster greater productivity within sustainable communities whose proximity of land uses decrease VMT and GHG emissions. 

In the LA Basin you fix the traffic congestion with higher capacity and in the suburbs you structure diverse land use growth with evolving higher capacity in selected growth corridors.

That brings us to the present situation that would fund a political battle and planning disaster. Jack Humphreville says it concisely: “If this measure is approved, it will increase Metro’s tax revenue over the next 40 years by $120 billion to an estimated $300 billion. These funds will be used to subsidize Metro’s money losing operations, fund its pensions, and finance its very ambitious, debt fueled capital expenditure program that will burden future generations of Angelenos.” 

I would add that this particular top-down planning not only does not work functionally and does not contain essential citizen participation but would set back real transportation solutions to mobility as well as socio-economic and environmental objectives. 

Instead, give existing over-developed communities a break by dispersing a meaningful amount of growth and business creation to the suburbs to drive urbanity and productivity through proximity there also decreases VMT and GHG emissions by a massive amount of shorter vehicular trips. This is how transportation can realistically and affordably structure sustainable communities countywide. It evolves the existing dominant mode of travel into being efficient and making efficient urbane sustainable communities. 

Work towards getting the bottom-up community planning that balances the top-down planning which can result in what is needed begins by the first step of voting down the proposed ½ cent tax increase.

 

(Phil Brown AIA (member, American Institute of Architects,) has invented the CFT roadway system improvement by research and development that has occurred over the last twelve years analyzing the Westside traffic problems and the socio-economic needs of Greater Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

 

Same Old Same Old: Proposed La Cienega Luxury High-rise is Oblivious to it Surroundings

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--Mega-developer Rick Caruso’s proposed 21-story luxury high-rise apartment complex at the intersection of LaCienega and Burton Way is a city planning accident waiting to happen. It also similar to the three nearby Miracle Mile museum projects that I criticized as being oblivious to their surroundings in last week’s CityWatch column.  In those cases, I charged that these bizarre museum projects were just plopped into place. They are totally disconnected from the Miracle Mile, and they do nothing to address that historic corridor’s deficient public services and infrastructure and lackluster appearance. 

Market-based land use decisions-- Likewise, the 333 S. LaCienega project, which has recently completed its Draft Environmental Impact Report and is now shopping for support among community groups, has the same weaknesses. To begin, at this location -- the former Loehman’s and DWP water treatment site -- this project totally conflicts with adopted zoning and planning ordinances. To be built, the City Council must legally alter the underlying parcel’s zoning and General Plan designation. Until this happens, as designed, this project is dead in the water because it could only be built according to code.

While building to code would totally please surrounding neighborhoods, the developer, Rick Caruso, complains that a smaller building would generate much less profit than a luxury high-rise. He is undoubtedly correct, but reduced future profits are hardly legal grounds to justify spot-zoning and spot-planning. If elected officials cast aside every land use law and adopted General Plan element when investors thought they could make a fatter profit with a more permissive zone and General Plan designation, future accidents would no longer be waiting to happen. They would be happening right now.

Racing against the lock to get approvals-- Sitting in the wings is the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. It comes up for a vote in March 2017. If approved, it would stop spot-zoning and spot-planning for good, and that includes many future accidents, like this one. This is why Caruso Affiliated must keep one eye on the calendar. For this project to go forth, it must obtain all of its approvals before the Initiative forces City Hall to take planning seriously. At the same time, Caruso Affiliated must also keep an eye on anxious neighbors and community organizations since many of them see no need for a luxury high-rise at this highly congested location.

The neighbors not only have full rights to appeal and litigate this project, but also know that this area already has three regional traffic generators: the Beverly Center, Cedars-Sinai Hospital, and the Beverly Connection. They have also realized that City Hall made a colossal error by incrementally turning this area into a regional center through many separate land use actions. Furthermore, with or without Caruso Affiliated’s 333 S. LaCienega high-rise, this section of Los Angels is becoming much busier. The nearby Beverly Connection has been remodeled, while Cedars-Sinai is in a perpetual expansion mode, and the Taubman Corporation’s Beverly Center is undergoing a massive, $500 million renovation.

Despite so much private investment pouring into this area, it does not have nor will it have mass transit. While it has several METRO bus lines, few people who live, shop, or depend on medical care at this location rely on transit. As for the Caruso project, its future tenants only need to pick up the phone and a luxury car and chauffeur will be waiting for them.

While Wilshire Boulevard will eventually have a Purple Line subway station one mile to the south, no one contends that it will reduce traffic congestion in the Beverly Center area. San Vicente, Burton Way, Third Street, and LaCienega will still be a mess when the subway opens for business in 2023, and then for the foreseeable future.

The other disturbing issue is that that if/when the City Council adopts spot-zoning and spot-planning ordinances for this site, the resulting high-rise will be more than twice the height of other nearby buildings, such as Cedars’ new Saperstein wing.   Furthermore, its streamlined moderne architectural design is totally at odds with other buildings in this area, except for another Caruso Affiliated luxury project one block away. 

Area deficiencies-- But what about this area’s major deficits, other than horrendous traffic congestion? Like most of LA, they are legion, and this building’s proposed Community Benefits deal only scrapes the surface.

To begin, this entire area needs to have its conspicuous and dangerous overhead wires undergrounded. On nearby Third Street, filled with trendy stores and restaurants, they loom over both sides of the streets.   This commercial center, like most of Los Angeles, also has broken sidewalks and lacks coherent street furniture, such as light standards, benches, signage, and trash cans.

San Vicente Boulevard is even worse. It is nearly impossible to cross it on foot, and its motley selection of trees includes some that are barely alive. And, since LA welcomes billboards, unlike neighboring Beverly Hills, they are a true blight in this corridor.

At its best, the enormous private investment flowing into 333 S. LaCienega will not fix this area’s many deficits. At its worst, it will exacerbate traffic congestion, if that is possible, and its spot zoning and spot-planning – courtesy of the LA City Council -- sets a dangerous precedent.

Despite disclaimers, it is only time until they are matched with follow-up City Council actions to grant similar requests from other real estate speculators. When this happens, landowners will reap enormous windfalls in increased property values, but none of this instant wealth will trickle down to the local community.

Then, lot by lot, like much of Los Angeles, height and density will increase by spot-zoning, totally sabotaging LA’s besieged planning process. Of course, the necessary supporting infrastructure will still be ignored. Water, electricity, telecommunications, street capacity, waste water, storm drains, pedestrian enhancements, parks, libraries, schools, and much more, will remain after-thoughts.

When this finally happens, though, today’s elected officials will have moved on to cushy consulting jobs, or perhaps they will be winning horseshoe tournaments in their desert hideaways.

What to do? I think one of my neighbors hit the nail on the head in her testimony to a local Neighborhood Council meeting.

She argued that community groups should not bless such projects in exchange for negotiations that produce supposed community benefits.

This is because spot-zoning and sweetheart deals are a slippery slope. They are designed to divide local communities by peeling away shortsighted factions. Their side deals then end up “shredding LA’s zoning code” and destroying entire neighborhoods.

Finally, even when developers have tremendous pull that allows them to usually get what they want, our response should be, “Build to code or don’t build at all.”

(Dick Platkin is a veteran city planner. He reports on local planning issues for CityWatch, and he welcomes comments and questions at [email protected].)

-cw

‘Sacramento, When It Comes to Transportation Funding You Ought To Be Ashamed!’

ALPERN AT LARGE--No need to mince words here:  if the state did its job on transportation funding, then Metro wouldn't have to keep raising its county sales tax every few years.   Sacramento, when it comes to stealing and misappropriating transportation funding, you stink ... and you ought to be ashamed.  And now there's a bill (SB1379) to have Sacramento play a direct role in choosing the Metro Board?! 

There's a darned good reason why the Metro Board had to take over the last portions of the 405 widening project through the Sepulveda Pass:  Sacramento was broke and spending money on other things ... did you know we spend as much or more on former state workers as current state workers?  

But whatever ... no one other than the nerds even read or care about that "pension" thing. 

And past governors kept offering and then taking away money for the Expo Line and other major Metro projects--seriously, if we didn't have Measure R passed, it's anyone's guess when we'd have an Expo Line or Crenshaw/LAX line...and there would be nothing left for any other projects. 

Freeways really should be under the largesse of the state, and major rail lines (the latter of which, if you think about it, are freeway-alternatives or freeway-supplements) should be a combined state/local project with respect to planning and funding. 

Meanwhile, while this governor spends more time shoving a high-speed rail line down the throats of an ambivalent taxpaying public (tens of billions of dollars here, folks) without getting airlines, the private sector, and Amtrak on board, the lion's share of getting the light and heavy rails to our major LA City/County destinations has been the responsibility of the county. 

You know, the supes.  The five elected kings and queens of LA County.  There are four Metro seats for the Mayor, and seats allotted to different geographic regions of the county.   

Balance and fighting is always tough when fighting for projects and money, but after years of infighting we passed Measure R, and if we pass Measure M (also known as Measure R-2) this November, we won't have to agonize over freeway and rail access to the ports versus LAX light rail access versus the Wilshire Subway or the Sepulveda Pass Subway versus ... 

... you get the idea--freeways in the northern and eastern portions of the county, along with new rail lines, are just as vital as they are in the southern and western portions of the county. 

Our past mayor set the groundwork for LAX reconfiguration and getting the light rail to LAX, but it's been Mayor Garcetti and Westside City Councilmember Bonin who've worked with the right people to finish the job while also FIIIIIIIIIINALLY (!) allowing LAX renovation/reconfiguration without smashing into Westchester, and cutting off Lincoln and Sepulveda Boulevards. as well as future rail line extensions. 

Unfortunately, the past mayor also infuriated the southern and eastern portions of the county with respect to Measure R spending, and focused so much on the Wilshire Subway that eastern and southern rail lines appeared to be getting the short end of the stick. 

So enter Senate Bill 1379, sponsored by Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), which would maintain 4 seats on the Metro Board, but only have two county seats for the Metro Board while replacing the three others with a seat for Long Beach, as well as an appointee by the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly. 

Most of you reading this would want to respond with a "slow jam" of the following: "THE STATE WOULD SUPPLANT COUNTY GOVERNANCE OF A COUNTY ENTITY WITH STATE APPOINTEES". 

I'm not sure if the "D" in D-Artesia stands for Democrat, Dum-Dum, or Delusional, but if this is the best that Mr. Mendoza can do to ensure equity between the west and east halves of the county with respect to transportation funding, then maybe he should find a new hobby. 

The late Bill Rosendahl felt that Measure R should have been a full penny to get the job done, and that means a Gold Line to the San Bernardino County Line and to the full Eastside, a Green Line to the South Bay, and a light rail line to the Southeast Cities as well as the obvious north/south and east/west rail lines for the LA County urban core and LAX. 

Ditto for our roads and freeways, and for operational expenses. 

We're getting the job done, Mr. Mendoza, and both the Mayor and the County pols are getting along better than they've gotten along in decades.  Washington realizes that LA is a heckuva good partner in transportation spending. 

But the same is not true for Sacramento.  That entity really owes us tens of billions of dollars for our roads and rails and other transportation needs. 

So let's just hope that SB 1379 is just a misguided shot in the dark by a Sacramento that truly has been asleep at the switch for a very, very long time with respect to transportation. 

A simple note to Sacramento: don't give us lame, sophomoric governance bills.  If you really want to help, spend a few billion a year on city/county directed needs.  After all, that really IS the sort of thing that taxpayers expect their state taxes to go to, rather than to have to pay it again to the counties because Sacramento spent transportation money ... somewhere ... else 

(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.)

-cw

 

Our Own ‘Vexit’? Venice Thinking about Leaving the City of LA

SUMMER OF OUR DISCONTENT-Venice has been a part of the city of Los Angeles for 90 years, but residents have started a campaign to separate the neighborhood to become ... well, it has to figure that out. 

But it's SoCal's own Brexit – Vexit. 

"What's best for Venice?" says Nick Antonicello, chair of the new ad hoc committee on city-hood at the Venice Neighborhood Council. 

The Council voted in late July to explore how a split could happen. 

One option would be to "detach" Venice from LA City to become an unincorporated part of LA County. Another would ask a nearby independent city like Santa Monica to annex it. The last – and most ideal – is to become its own city. 

The movement is because Antonicello and others are increasingly frustrated about the lack of attention it gets from City Hall. 

"People in Venice like home rule and they like to control their own destiny," he says. "Small municipalities work very well." 

Antonicello argues that Venetians are the best decision-makers to tackle local issues like housing, homelessness, gentrification and more. 

Plus, he sees that wealthy Venice is putting more tax dollars into the city's coffers without getting much back in return. 

But no matter how it tries to break off and why, it will be tough for Venice to go it alone. "All of these situations are handled by something called the Local Agency Formation Commission," says journalist Isaac Simpson who wrote about the rift in Curbed LA.  

The Commission will put the city through a financial stress-test to make sure it can afford to exist without LA's help. East Los Angeles has failed that test several times when trying to incorporate. 

If a city passes the Commission's test, then the issue has to also pass two separate referendums: one by the neighborhood itself, and the other by the rest of Los Angeles. That's what thwarted the 2002 efforts to secede by Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and the Harbor Area of San Pedro. All those votes failed. 

"Venice would easily pass its own ballot," says Simpson. "In terms of getting the entire city to let them go as a second-most-visited tourist location in Southern California, the likelihood there seems extremely slim." 

But if Venice does succeed, there will be a clear loser: Los Angeles. 

"Well, it probably gets a lot poorer," says Simpson, noting that the wealthy tax base of Venice won't be a part of LA's budget anymore. 

Regardless of which option is taken, it could be weeks or months before the Venice Neighborhood Council decides what its next step will be.

 

(Take Two, exclusively on 89.3 KPCC, 89.1 KUOR and 90.3 KVLA in southern California, and on 88.9 KNPR in Las Vegas, captures the spirit of the West in a conversational, informal, witty style and examines the cultural issues people are buzzing about.) Graphic credit: LA.Curbed. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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