Mon, Mar

Is City Hall Ignoring North Hollywood Residents On Hot-Button ‘NoHo West’ Mega-Project?

NEIGHBORHOOD INVASION-Despite deep concerns among North Hollywood residents about the controversial NoHo West mega-project at 6150 Laurel Canyon Boulevard near the 170 freeway, Los Angeles City Council member Paul Krekorian made clear on Tuesday, July 26, at a public hearing that he fully supports the oversized development that’s located next to a low-slung, residential community. Once again, City Hall appears to be siding with deep-pocketed developers. 

At a well-attended LA planning department hearing at Van Nuys City Hall, Karo Torossian, the director of planning for Council Member Krekorian, testified that Krekorian backed NoHo West as proposed. Torossian and his boss, who represent North Hollywood in Council District 2, were unmoved by local residents’ (photo above) worries that the mega-project would destroy the character of their neighborhood and create nightmarish traffic problems. 

“We are concerned about the six-story apartment building,” said Diann Corral, president of the Laurel Grove Neighborhood Association, at the hearing. “It’s not in keeping with the character of our neighborhood.” She also added that no traffic mitigations had been offered to residents. 

Merlone Geier Partners, a San Francisco-based firm, and Goldstein Planting Investments, a Los Angeles-based firm, are the developers behind NoHo West, a project that features a whopping 1.6 million square feet of retail and residential space with 742 rental units. It’s a massive project that the developers have been pushing hard at City Hall. 

Merlone Geier employees, including chairman Bradley Geier and partner Peter Merlone, have given $6,500 in campaign contributions to LA politicians between 2008 and 2015, and the developer paid $240,182 for a City Hall lobbyist to schmooze with the City Council, the planning department and the building and safety department. 

Goldstein Planting Investments employees have spread around $7,400 in campaign contributions to local pols between 2009 and 2015, and the firm shelled out $174,349 for a City Hall lobbyist to meet with the City Council and city agencies. 

During the hearing, the developers seemed to wave off community concerns, going so far as to tell residents what was best for them. 

“The neighborhood needs to grow,” a representative for the developers said at the hearing. 

But many residents sounded a similar theme — while retail development was welcomed, the proposal to jam 740 rental units into two large towers with no traffic mitigations was not. One resident testified, “Density is a buzzword of developers. It is their profit point. But in a neighborhood, it is a killer.” Another resident said, “Your decisions today will affect my life.” 

Residents also believed the traffic studies in the project’s environmental impact report were inaccurate with bad data. 

There was little mention, however, about the health impacts of building NoHo West next to the 170 freeway — according to top scientific researchers at USC and UCLA, children and pregnant women who live in freeway-adjacent homes, known as “Black Lung Lofts,” are more likely to suffer serious health problems. The LA City Council continues to ignore the serious public health problem and approve such housing. 

But that’s what happens in LA’s broken planning and land-use system. Developers spread around big cash at City Hall, and expect profitable favors in return from City Council members no matter what local residents have to say. Since 2000, the real estate industry has contributed at least $6 million to the campaign war chests of LA politicians. 

Enough is enough. We need to reform LA’s broken planning and land-use system, which is what the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will do. 

In fact, the Los Angeles Times, the LA City Council, Mayor Eric Garcetti and numerous neighborhood groups all agree that reform is desperately needed

Join our citywide, grassroots movement by clicking here right now to donate any amount you wish, and follow and cheer our efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at [email protected] for more information. 

Developers and their politician pals will do anything to defeat our reform movement and continue their wrong-headed policies. But together, we, the citizens, can create the change that LA needs!


(Patrick Range McDonald writes for the Coalition to Preserve LA where this piece was first posted.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

How ‘Organized Crime’ Controls Los Angeles’ City Hall

CROOKED POLITICS, CROOKED DEVELOPMENT-If it is organized and it is criminal, it is organized crime. No, it does not have to come from New Jersey. No, it doesn’t have to have an Italian name, but Italians like Jews are not excluded from organized crime. At the LA City Council, crime is non-discriminatory. We’ve got Whites, Gays, Jews, Hispanics (formerly known as Mexican-Americans), Blacks, a woman, etc. The requirements to be “organized crime” are simple: (1) be organized (2) be criminal. 

What’s so bad about organized crime? After all, aren’t crime lords known for being great family men, er, I mean “family persons?” Don’t we hold the heads of organized crime in great esteem? Who doesn’t know the name Michael Corleone or John Gotti or Eric Garcetti? 

Al Capone must be turning in his grave, green with envy at the brilliant scam that has become the Los Angeles City Council. Gone are the days when hoods bribed public officials. In Los Angeles, they are the public officials! 

We don’t mean to imply that the more traditional forms of organized crime have left the scene altogether. One always wonders about the large unions, especially in the building trades. Now, we’re not saying. We’re just wondering. One tends to look askance at multi-billion dollar public works projects. That couldn’t be happening here in Los Angeles, could it? No one would ask the voters to blindly give $120 billion for mega-construction projects…would they? 

Here’s the crux of Los Angeles City Hall’s organized crime: Joe Blow city councilman is keen to tear down a bunch of rent-controlled units in the Valley and construct some of these small lot subdivision “homes.” One might ask, why tear down poor people’s homes to build these so-called single family homes which are separated by eight (8) inches?   

Here’s why: rent-controlled units are bad tax shelters for millionaires and rent-controlled units are terrible for money launderers. The only people who benefit from rent-controlled apartments are the elderly, the disabled and the poor, otherwise known in Los Angeles as the “Expendables.” As we have learned, when it comes to destroying poor people’s homes, Garcetti wins the Olympic gold medal. 

As the Los Angeles Times reported on July 28, 2016, the Feds are looking into a lot of these real estate deals. It’s almost as if the administration at LA City Hall got a heads-up on the cut-offs for reporting transactions to the Feds: the dollar limit to trigger reporting is just above the investment amounts in these fancy condos and “small lot subdivisions” single family homes. 

Rather than construct a 26-unit apartment complex where developers looking to hide their money would have to cough up several million dollars above the new federal reporting limit, they can now “invest” in several of these new individual “homes” -- where each one costs well below the reporting limit. We are sure there is no connection here between Don Garcetti’s having already raised all the money he needs for his re-election and these new small lot subdivisions. 

Here’s the genius of Los Angeles’ organized crime: It’s been in operation since 2006, the year that Garcetti first became City Council President and Penal Code § 86 criminalized vote trading. But under the City Council’s own “vote trading agreement,” each councilmember purchases the votes of each of the other councilmembers by his/her promise to never vote No on a development project in another councilmember’s district. 

We are certain the ghost of Meyer Lansky must be trying to come back from the dead so he can partake in this brilliant con. All a developer has to do to get his construction project approved is be “nice” to one Los Angeles City Councilmember. Wow, in days of yore, the old time mob had to buy off or at least intimidate the majority on a city council. In today’s LA, though, developers have the sweetest deal of all – just be nice to one councilmember and, as if by magic, City Council unanimously approves whatever each developer wants. 

They are guaranteed 100% approval no matter how many codes they violate…no matter how many poor people the developer drives from their homes…no matter how much ethnic cleansing occurs…no matter if entire neighborhoods are destroyed. 

All that matters is that the nice city councilmember puts the project on the City Council agenda for it to be unanimously approved. Let’s note that juicy word, unanimously. No matter how crooked a project may be, it is guaranteed unanimous approval

And the system is fool proof. Under the rigged LA voting trading system, unanimous approval does not even require a single councilmember to vote for the project. The LA City Council has fixed – and we do mean “fixed” – its vote tabulator so that the machine itself automatically votes “Yes,” even if not a single councilmember actually votes!   

Tax shelters and money laundering are big business. Billions of dollars are looted each year from foreign governments and of course drug traffickers also need places to wash their loot. So it’s interesting that at the same time demographers are reporting that more Angelenos, especially middle class professionals, are leaving Los Angeles than are choosing to move to LA, the Garcetti Administration is constructing more and more of these condos and tiny houses separated by eight inches. When more people leave a city than move into it, the housing supply increases – even if no one adds a single unit. So why is Garcetti building us into a glut – with prices just below the federal reporting line? 

Although Penal Code 86 criminalized the “vote trading agreement” that exists in the Los Angeles City Council, it has operated undisturbed for a decade under the law enforcement and judicial assumption that 10,000 consecutive unanimous votes in a 15-member city council is just a “coincidence.” Now, in our opinion…that’s a well-organized criminal enterprise.


(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.


Here’s What California Needs: More Protection for Mega Developers

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--The changing landscape of Los Angeles and environs has prompted concerned groups to mobilize to protect neighborhood integrity and stop the deep pockets of developers from yielding undue influence on council members and planning commissions.

All that could change if SB 734 were to pass. The bill would provide protection against potential lengthy litigation against large developments in California. In Hollywood, the $1 –billion redevelopment of the Crossroads of the World complex and a $200-million hotel/residential development at Yucca Street and Argyle Avenue are among the projects that would be protected by the new law that is intended to reduce lawsuits against large developments throughout the state.

In a nutshell, the bill would not protect mega-projects ($100-million plus) from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) suits but would fast-track the suits to wrap up within nine months instead of up to three years. The bill would also provide for higher wages for construction workers and place strict guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy.

SB 734 would extend by two years a 2011 measure supported by Brown and influenced by legislation that year that would have benefitted the now defunct Farmers Field football stadium project downtown.

However, since the 2011 measure passed, only six projects qualified for the fast-track process, including Apple’s expanded corporate headquarters in Cupertino and a proposed arena for the NBA Golden State Warriors in San Francisco. Although some of the six have been built or are currently under construction, none have needed to utilize the provisions.

Critics of the 1970 CEQA intended to preserve the environment say the law is overbearing. However, the proposed bill is limited to massive developments like sports arenas and condo towers, which could absorb any litigation costs, unlike smaller developments.

Proponents say the bill is essential to California’s economic recovery, fast-tracking job-producing, environmentally-friendly projects. The bill’s co-author, state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) is hopeful for a bi-partisan super-majority vote in both houses by the end of the legislative session in August. If the bill is signed into law, developers would need to apply to the governor to be certified to meet the investment, wage, and environmental parameters.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups oppose the bill because they are unhappy with the standards that developers need to meet. The state’s Judicial Council, which is sets policies for the courts, is also opposed to the measure on the grounds that the bill would push these suits to the front of the line, even before previously filed suits.

While encouraging green projects that would add to employment seems sound, SB 734 would provide fast-track litigation and special treatment only to large-scale mega-projects, weakening the ability of activist and environmental groups to impact or stop mega-developments in their neighborhoods. Large-scale projects often compromise traffic, parking, affordable housing, and neighborhood integrity and citizens should have a voice that is not quieted by a shorter litigation process.

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


Beware More Government Overreach … Big is NOT Always Better

POLITICS--It's a surefire way to keep us troglodytes in check.  You know, us backwards-type cave-dwellers that presume the happiest way to make Los Angeles family-friendly, environmentally-sustainable, and ripe for a first-rate economy is to preserve neighborhoods (including single-family neighborhoods), have great schools, parks, and libraries, and to keep LA right-sized?  Well, the enlightened lawmakers have fortunately found an answer to THAT Neanderthal form of thinking! 

Get past us country bumpkins and fast-track the skyscrapers!  Yep, as the Times reports, the state is considering a bill, SB 734, to fast-track expensive and high-rise developments and receive more defense against potential lengthy litigation. 

You know, that awful, AWFUL litigation to allow citizens their rights to ... have rights?  

It's certainly merited to avoid prolonged, wasteful, costly, lengthy legal battles, but is there a defense fund to allow ordinary, non-uber-wealthy citizens the ability to sue and pay the legal bills to fight the 1%-uber-wealthy types in court?  Will THIS be part of the SB 734 to ensure speedy trials, too? 

I'm guessing ... well ... NO! 

But for the City of the Angels, HERE are some ideas whose time has come. 

Rather than voting in a gazillion new taxes and bonds (I'm probably leaning towards making an exception of Measure R-2, because it's going to ensure transportation funding in a world where we need that more than ever), maybe we can just vote NO and instead: 

1) Vote in favor of this spring's Neighborhood Integrity Initiative--it's favored by pro-growth moderates who just want to have a coherent, law-abiding method of Planning and Development that's truly environmentally-sustainable, doesn't harm Angelenos, and/or force them to leave to avoid living in a City that's apparently desperate to turn itself into a hellish urban "hive". 

2) Encourage those supporting the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative to come up with similar initiatives, including a Neighborhood Council Legal Advocate, to be funded by the City, as a new but actually helpful part of City Government.   

The City Attorney does NOT represent the citizens of LA but rather the City Government (look it up), but who has the ability to counter the City when its government violates its own Charter and Bylaws?  Where can Neighborhood Councils and citizen groups go when they need to have a lawyer represent them?   

Having paid (and, potentially, pro bono) lawyers as part of LA City Government is as timely as it is morally--and legally--appropriate.  Frankly, this potential office should also have the ability to sue the State if it's violating its own laws, and/or federal laws.  And it would be paid for by OUR tax dollars, and for OUR own benefit and protection. 

And, as in my last CityWatch article, there are all sorts of tongue-in-cheek humor about why we should tax and hurt ourselves in the name of "progress", but we can also come up with a few good answers to boot. 

Because Neighborhood Councils are also a form of progress, and one where the "little guy/gal" has a place to go.   

We NEED a Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. 

And we also NEED a good lawyer or two to help us defend ourselves against governmental overreach, whether it’s from Downtown LA, the County, or even Sacramento.


(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.)



8150 Sunset Project: Welfare for the Rich, Greed on Steroids

PLANNING POLITICS--When I first wrote for CityWatch about the 8150 Sunset project (“Rotten to the Core”), I thought something was really wrong with it. Now, two months later, after much research, I know there is. Back then I had heard that Luci Ibarra of the Planning Department’s Major Projects Division had insulted many who opposed the project, including the representative of West Hollywood and Councilman Ryu’s office. The talk from the neighborhood was that she was committed to the developer and hostile to any criticism.   

On Thursday, July 28, 2016, the 8150 Sunset Project breezed through the CPC hearing aided by the star power of Frank Gehry (photo above) and considerable help from Ms. Ibarra. City staff must be objective in their evaluation of projects. She was not. 

Some have described the Frank Gehry design as putting lipstick on a pig. But it is so much more than that. It is the prototype of things to come and if allowed to stand will dismantle zoning all over the City and destroy our neighborhoods. 

In a stroke of brilliance, Townscape Partners hired Gehry to redesign a project that seemed doomed to fail and turned it into a star, tripling its square footage. This is Hollywood, after all, where celebrity is worshiped and people line up to get a glimpse of the rich and famous. That is what happened on Thursday when the planning commissioners fell all over themselves in praise of a project that will overwhelm the local streets and infrastructure. 

But do they care? Not when they got Frank Gehry himself to show up and talk to them about design and his ideas on architecture. The commissioners swooned while the local community wept. Four Commissioners even admitted that they had visited his studio regarding the project. Still, they claimed to be objective. The fact that four of the six commissioners that were voting made this admission is of concern. 

After Gehry spoke the real show began. Representatives of four groups that had appealed the planning department’s initial approval of much of the project got up one at a time and listed the reasons why the City should deny this miscarriage of justice. Next, the representative of the Neighborhood Council told the Commissioners why the project would not work for the neighborhood. Sarah Dusseault, chief of staff for David Ryu, stood up next and argued that the project was too big and pointed out why it should not be approved as presented as well as the terrible precedent it would create. 

I sat in the back of the room nodding affirmatively at each point. Sarah and Julia Duncan from Ryu’s office really nailed a couple of very salient points, telling the Commissioners that, contrary to what Planning staff had written in their reports, there was ample reason and justification in the law to turn this project down, send it back for more work and to make it smaller. 

Then the crowd of extras delivered by the developers came to the microphone one at a time to sing the praises of Mr. Gehry and the project. Whenever the commissioners had a question they turned to Ms. Ibarra for clarification. If there were three facts and two did not support the developer she chose the third that did. Misinformation was sprinkled in to flavor the meal she was serving up and the commissioners devoured it.   

Members from the four groups opposing the project, along with the Neighborhood Council and the Council office, listened in silence as all of our arguments were turned down. Once again, the commissioners once sang the praises of Frank Gehry and approved the project.  All of us left worn out after a five hour ordeal in an un-air-conditioned room. But we are determined to carry on. 

I have no idea what the City of West Hollywood or the two other appellants will do, but Fix the City stands ready to protect all the neighborhoods across the City and litigate if necessary, fast-tracked or not.  

This project is welfare for the rich, greed on steroids -- one more example of the ruling class sticking it to the rest of us. It is also the advanced guard of projects that will destroy zoning as we know it. Using Senate Bill 1818, (Density Bonus) law, Townscape partners agreed to set aside 28 of their 249 apartments for very low income residents. For that they are asking the Commissioners to grant them a 300% increase in square footage instead of the 35% they are really entitled to get. Instead of asking for a Height District change to increase the FAR, Townscape is using the Density bonus law. Fifty (50) of those 249 units they will build will be condos selling from three to twelve million dollars. There will also be 65,000 sq. feet of commercial space.   

In their own financial statement, they claim they will make a 15.9% profit which translates to $52 million. Like I said, welfare for the rich. They will also close the southbound section of Crescent Heights from Sunset Boulevard without the standard process required by the Streets and Highway Code to vacate it. They claim they will use B permits to cover over the road and take over the current traffic island which has its own address (8118 Sunset) to create an outdoor public space. 

When questioned on how they can do this, Planning’s answer is the City will continue to own it (the island and road to be covered over by cement) and the developer will maintain it.  First the people of California own the streets, not the City but who’s going to stop the City from doing this? This is the big gamble developers are taking all over Los Angeles. They ask themselves, how many projects can we slide through before someone sues us?  Given that there are more of them than groups who can afford to sue, the odds are forever in their favor. 

We the people have few options available to us except to carry on and organize to affect change. I am sensing all over the City a feeling similar to the one that led to the secession movement. What is different this time is that it is not just the Valley and some in Hollywood that feel disaffected -- it is most of Los Angeles.  

(Jim O’Sullivan is one of the Fix the City founders and President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association.)  Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

California Superintendent Tom Torlakson: Governor for a Day (or So)

EDUCATION POLICY ALERT-Well, here's our chance! Imagine my surprise when I heard on NPR this morning that State Superintendent of schools Tom Torlakson -- my very favorite State official -- is Acting Governor of California for the rest of the week. 

This is what happens when your whole state government comprises the biggest delegation at the Democratic National Convention. 

While every other force in Golden State politics is looking for unity in the City of Brotherly Love, my mind leaps to the education priorities we could advance! 

It wouldn't be the first time an Acting Governor did a whole lot of governing when Jerry Brown was out of state. 

So I’ve penned a letter to the Superintendent to offer my assistance: 

Dear Acting Governor Torlakson, 

First off, congrats! 

I am writing you to offer to rush to the State Capital and work feverishly alongside you to advance our public education priorities while the rest of California’s political wish lists languish in the Philadelphia International Airport baggage claim. (It’s not their fault they exceeded the 3.7 ounce limit.)

I admit, I’ve been feeling envy what with all the selfies my friends have been posting. Betsy pictured with Dolores Huerta. Randi pictured with Bill Clinton. Carolyn and Dallas were even interviewed about their experiences as mother and daughter in Hillary’s and Bernie’s respective delegations.

But, oh, the things we can get done for our schools while they're distracting our elected officials! 

By the way, Tom, I hope you don't let the “Acting” qualifier get in the way of the work we can do together. The philanthropists and politicians certainly haven't let their lack of credentials get in the way of dictating what our teachers and principals do. So let's give it a go! 

Just say the word and I’ll be on the next Southwest flight to Sacramento. I’ll use carry-on, so my only baggage will be emotional -- a decade of mourning for the once top-funded California public school system and my more recent PTSD from the assault on public schools by the charter lobby. 

But there’s no time for a pity party. Here’s my short list of what we mice should do while the cats are away.



What’s that? Charter = accountability? That’s so funny you say that because...they’re lying.

Charter schools claim to receive autonomy in exchange for more accountability. But this is just a slogan because--have you opened a newspaper lately?! 

There’s the report of Principal David Fehte of El Camino Real Charter High School in the Southern part of the state who’s been flying first class and buying expensive wine and charcuterie plates at fancy hotels (does he wine and dine alone?) while he moonlights as a scout for the NBA. (Now that Arne Duncan has resigned as US Secretary of Education, I’m pretty sure basketball connections no longer exempt alleged cheaters from scrutiny.) 

Then there’s the LA Times report of a charter school paying $566,803 to a teacher who sued because the director, Kendra Okonkwo, forced her to travel with her to Nigeria to marry Okonkwo's brother-in-law to gain US citizenship. 

And Gulen.

I know, Caprice Young is cozy with the politicos -- but they’re all in Philly this week! (Note: send Philadelphia Inquirer reporter list of California Democrats who have ignored the Gulen scandal said reporter has been covering for years. Pitch idea of confronting them on the Convention floor.) 

And I get it -- geopolitical conflict is complicated. But the moms at the PTA meeting said there isn’t room on Tuesday’s agenda between the bakesale and ordering “I’m a proud public school parent” t-shirts to debate which side of an attempted foreign coup our middle school should be on. They just want the money for our schools that the cult leader in the Poconos is allegedly sucking out of the US education ATM through the vast network of charter schools he has “inspired.”

Here are a few articles in preparation for our discussion: the Washington Post, the New York Times,  60 Minutes, The Atlantic Monthly, just for starters. 

I can't make any promises, but I’m pretty sure the expert, researcher Sharon Higgins, would rush right over to Sacramento from Oakland to brief us on this. Shall I tell her 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday? (Note: Locate entrance closest to freight elevator for her BOXES of documents.) 

Tom, do the blinds in the Capital totally block the sun? I ask because we could co-host a screening of Killing Ed, the Mark Hall documentary that tells this story. The Nigerian forced marriage has not yet hit the big screen, but we can discuss with Hollywood producers if you wish. Geronimo could write the “based-on-a-true-story-I-swear-I’m-not-joking” screenplay. (Note: clear 4 front parking spaces for stretch limo and ego of Hollywood producer.)



Voters were hoodwinked and they know it. Here's a 4-minute video to brief you on how the parasitic law creates conflict, featuring “me.”    




Just throw away the whole project. Period. (Note: Do not exceed 5 minute discussion on this item.)




Some politicians might think kids need more reading and writing drill-and-kill just because I said "ain't" but I know you can take a joke. KPCC’s Mary Plummer covered this law when she was the knock-out arts education reporter for the NPR affiliate. Guess what? Now, she’s the knock-out  "political” reporter, so she can go exactly where the story takes us. I would imagine she could cover a political angle for a lot of the reports she covered in education.




My own LAUSD middle school’s library has been shuttered for five years since LAUSD cut all the school librarians in an effort to offload pension costs of elderly teachers. It was shameful. And, no, telling principals they can cut something else in order to fund a librarian is not funding libraries. 

Google could provide wifi, HP could provide the printers, VOX could create a digital version of The Weekly Reader (I know--I'm showing my age), etc. etc. In exchange, hang a plaque in each library saying they did something for humanity by helping to make this generation literate.




Sure, AB1369 was progress, but “suggestions” rather than requirements don’t go far enough. One in five students have dyslexia, and most cases go undetected for years. Can you imagine sitting in school and not being able to access written curriculum for years? We currently don’t test until two years after a teacher notices that a student is suffering. There is lots of evidence that this would put a major dent in the high school dropout rate, too. Now that’s a Data Wall I’d like to see in every school! I could pretty much promise that the dedicated folks from Decoding Dyslexia would rush over to help us with the details. They’ve been working on it for years.

12:00 lunch meeting on Wednesday? (Note: Search yelp for good lunch deliveries near the Capital.)




Charter schools should not be offloading their pension costs onto the public school districts. That's like charging the US Postal Service for the pensions of FedEx drivers. 
(Note: Are the union leaders away this week, too?)




I hear Eli likes to send his money to Arizona.  Getting Eli out of education policy is our best chance of returning education funding to levels that are not a national embarrassment, and eliminating all number of his “disruptions.” 

That about covers it for now. If Jerry has a long layover, I'll make further plans. I await your call! 

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

Eye Opener: Massive Shakeup Hits Skid Row Housing Trust … Too Little Too Late?

SKID ROW … ‘FIRST PERSON’ REPORT- In what can only be described as a “massive shake-up”, Skid Row Housing Trust has just taken major steps that change the core if it’s existence. 

SRHT last week fired ALL of their nighttime desk clerks and replaced them with armed security guards. This week, they notified ALL of their tenants that they are now working with the Los Angeles Police Department to rid their buildings of drug dealers. 

Read more ...

Expo Line Expansion Fails to Make Up for LA Transit Loss

NEW GEOGRAPHY--The long awaited and highly touted Santa Monica extension brought an approximately 50 percent increase in ridership of the Los Angeles Expo light rail line between June 2016 and June 2015. The extension opened in mid May 2016. In its first full month of operation, June 2016, the line carried approximately 45,900 weekday boardings (Note), up from 30,600 in June 2015, according to Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) ridership statistics.

However MTA ridership continued to decline, with a 51,900 loss overall. Bus and rail services other than the Expo line experienced a reduction of 67,300 boardings (Figure).

Between June 2015 and June 2016, rail boardings rose 30,500, while bus boardings declined 82,400. In other words there was a loss of 2.7 bus riders for every new rail rider over the past year. Los Angeles transit riders have considerably lower median earnings than in the cities with higher ridership, and lower than the major metropolitan average (see the analysis by former Southern California Rapid Transit District Chief Financial Officer Tom Rubin and "Just How Much has Los Angeles Transit Ridership Fallen?"

Note: A passenger is counted as a boarding each time a transit vehicle is entered. Thus, if more than one transit vehicle is required to make a trip, there can be multiple boardings between the trip origin and destination.

Because the addition of rail services, as in Los Angeles, can result in forcing bus riders to transfer because their services can be truncated at rail stations, the use of boardings as an indicator of ridership can result in exaggeration, as the number of boardings per passenger trip is increased.

This may have produced a decline of as much as 30 percent in actual passenger trips since 1985, as a number of rail lines have been opened in Los Angeles. 

(Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1985) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appointed him to the Amtrak Reform Council. This piece was posted originally at New Geography.) 


City Hall’s Great Conundrum: Getting Developers to Build Affordable Housing … Like Getting Blood from a Stone

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-We have all heard the expression “getting blood from a stone.” That is the conundrum facing City Hall’s efforts to solve LA’s housing crisis through private investment. It isn’t really working, and the City’s half-hearted efforts have been further complicated by two upcoming ballot initiatives. The Building Better LA initiative, on the November 2016 ballot, would require affordable housing built through municipal programs to utilize unionized labor. 

Then, in March 2017, LA voters will weigh in on a second, more comprehensive initiative, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. If approved, this ordinance would impose a two year ban on City Council legislative actions that spot-zoned and/or spot-planned high-rise luxury housing projects. During this hiatus, the City would be required to begin the update of LA’s legally required but outdated General Plan, eventually including the city’s 35 Community Plans. 

While these updates would identify locations that had the greatest need and potential for affordable housing construction, the Initiative also permits the construction of 100 percent affordable housing projects through City Council zone changes and/or General Plan Amendments. 

In response to these two initiatives and an undeniable crisis in LA’s supply of affordable housing, the City Council directed the Department of City Planning to investigate a value capture approach to increase the production of affordable housing. If adopted, the City would attach a condition to all residential discretionary actions: each project must include a specific amount of affordable housing. 

The City Council made their bed, and now they must sleep in it. 

On one hand, the Council and their planners are fully committed to neo-liberal economics, which means slashing as many public housing programs and governmental regulations on private investment as possible, replacing them with harsh policing paired with government incentives for developers. As intended, this approach has fanned the flames of real estate speculation. And, driven by the economic imperative to maximize profit, this feeding frenzy has resulted in a glut of financially lucrative luxury housing, but virtually no affordable housing. 

In the face of these unwelcome trends, the luxury housing crowd has spun two whoppers about LA’s housing crisis that I have previously debunked: 1) Luxury housing produces affordable housing by pulling down the rents of middle and low income housing. 2) Luxury housing transmutes into affordable housing, a type or reverse alchemy called filtering. When pressed, however, the tellers of these tall tales cannot cite any addresses or neighborhoods in LA where these supposed miracles have actually taken place. 

On the other hand, as hinted at in the value capture report, LA’s amalgam of existing housing programs barely produces any net gain in affordable housing. This is because many market housing projects have extensively eliminated existing affordable housing through relentless demolitions and evictions. The value capture report, however, did not mention a third factor that has shrunk the supply of affordable housing. As reported by John Schwada in CityWatch  the City of LA does such a poor job at inventorying and monitoring affordable housing that many landlords surreptitiously rent out these units at market prices, sometimes even as short-term rentals.  

This is why the City Council has uncomfortably moved down the path of increased regulation of discretionary residential land use actions through a value capture ordinance. It is their silent admission that their old programs and old justifications (the whoppers) have run out of gas. Even though the value capture option conflicts with their devotion to classical neo-liberal hocus-pocus, they don’t have a better option until such time that the Federal government restores many slashed public housing programs of yore. 

The Value Capture report describes existing affordable housing programs in LA, such as the poorly performing Density Bonus/SB 1818 option. It also inventories more dynamic programs from other cities, such as NYC. In the Big Apple, Mayor de Blasio has successfully championed inclusionary zoning (i.e., mandatory affordable housing requirements.) 

The report also outlines potential value capture approaches that LA should consider, largely imposing an affordable housing requirement on residential projects built through discretionary actions. Depending on the City Council’s eventual ordinance, LA’s likely value capture ordinance will include on-site affordable housing requirements for most discretionary actions, including the General Plan Amendments, Zone Changes, and Height District Changes targeted by the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Two other provisions, allowing developers to meet their affordable housing requirement through off-site construction or in lieu payments could also be folded into the final ordinance. 

But, regardless of what the final value capture ordinance will look like, I wish the City Council the best of luck, because their ordinance will have little impact on LA’s affordable housing crisis. This is primarily because the Council and its value capture ordinance cannot avoid the essence of their conundrum: the need of developers to maximize profits from their real estate investments. The greater the City’s affordable housing requirement, the lower the resulting private investment and number of affordable units. The smaller the City’s affordable housing requirement, the greater the resulting private investment in luxury housing. There really is no escape from this affordable housing dilemma. 

As far as I can tell, wide-scale up-zoning and up-planning is not proposed in the value capture ordinance, although this will certainly happen through Community Plan Updates and re:codeLA ordinances. But, if the City Council did eventually attach a mandatory affordable housing requirement to every Community Plan Update or re:codeLA ordinance containing up-zoning and up-planning, it would be a New York City-style sea change for Los Angeles. But, given the grip that real estate interests have on LA City’s elected officials and policy wonks, this outcome is now a flight of fancy. 

Furthermore, if the eventual value capture ordinance adopted an SB 1818 approach of automatically approving economic incentives for all zone changes and General Plan amendments that include an affordable housing component, it would be an extraordinary windfall for property owners. After their entitlements, with only token City surveillance, some of these new “affordable” units could be quietly rented out at market rates or the real money-maker: Air BnB’s. 

When this happens, the City Council’s self-imposed conundrum may finally reach its breaking point. They would have to admit that no private market approach, even value capture, can successfully address LA’s – or for that matter the entire country’s – housing crisis. The public sector could then either resume the construction and management of affordable housing or face levels of overcrowding, homelessness, and civil disturbances unseen in the United States for many decades and again beyond the capacity of the LAPD to contain

(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. He also serves on the boards of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and the East Hollywood NC Planning Committee. Please send any comments or corrections to [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CA Should Pass New Regulations BEFORE Marijuana is Legalized in November

POT POLITICS-California may soon join the growing number of states that allow recreational marijuana by passing the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Initiative (Proposition 64) on the November ballot. The measure would legalize marijuana and hemp under state law. Portions of the measure could take effect as soon as the day after Election Day. 

The potential for recreational legalization should cause local officials to rethink the way they currently approach marijuana laws and whether that approach should change before Election Day.

It aims to establish state agencies to oversee the licensing and regulation of a marijuana industry, enacting a sales tax of 15 percent and a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for medical marijuana sales and cultivation. Proposition 64 is considered likely to pass, with recent polls indicating that roughly 60 percent of Californians support recreational legalization, and with a reported excess of 600,000 signatures on the initiative and financial backing of more than $2.25 million to date. 

Around the country, the trend toward legalizing recreational use of marijuana is growing more popular. Recreational marijuana use is legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Eleven other states, including Nevada, Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Massachusetts, may be legalizing recreational marijuana in the near future. Beyond that, 24 states already allow medical marijuana to treat a variety of physical and psychological ailments. 

Proposition 64 is endorsed by the Marijuana Policy Project of California and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws. If passed, it would legalize marijuana for those 21 years of age and over and would establish the Bureau of Marijuana Control within the Department of Consumer Affairs to regulate and license the marijuana industry. 

Proposition 64 would allow local governments to “enforce state laws and regulations for nonmedical marijuana businesses and enact additional local requirements for nonmedical marijuana businesses, but not require that they do so for nonmedical marijuana businesses to be issued a state license and be legal under state law.” It would also allow local governments to ban recreational marijuana businesses entirely. With respect to cultivation, Proposition 64 would allow local governments to “reasonably regulate” cultivation through zoning and other local laws, but only to ban outdoor cultivation outright. 

Proposition 64 would require local governments to allow indoor cultivation in private residences, and further indicates that any local ban on outdoor cultivation would be automatically repealed if the California Attorney General determines the federal government has legalized marijuana. The wording of the initiative likely makes its application both retroactive and prospective, meaning it would preempt existing regulations if they are inconsistent and prohibit new regulations that violate its provisions. 

Beyond that, some of Proposition 64’s provisions would likely take effect almost immediately. While the provisions surrounding recreational retailers and other businesses would not become functionally effective until the State began issuing licenses on January 1, 2018, recreational use and cultivation in private residences could begin as soon as the day after the election. 

As a result, it is imperative for concerned public agencies to consider, and to enact, regulations surrounding recreational use of marijuana prior to Election Day. 

This may seem counterintuitive — after all, it involves regulating around a law that has not even been enacted yet — but public agencies that fail to pass ordinances surrounding these issues could face preemption and grandfathering problems in the days, weeks and months after Proposition 64 passes. Artfully drafted ordinances can avoid some of this awkwardness by including provisions only triggered by the legalization of recreational marijuana. 

For example, a public agency could pass an ordinance banning all cultivation outright, and include a subsection clarifying that, in the event indoor cultivation in private residences is legalized, a regulatory scheme of the city’s choosing kicks in immediately. This would allow public agencies to regulate how they wish under current law, while protecting themselves in the event Proposition 64 passes. 

But the window is short. Most public agencies would have to take a proposed ordinance to a planning commission and have two readings of the ordinance before their city council, and all of this would arguably need to occur prior to October 8 to allow the 30-day period to lapse so the ordinance is effective prior to Election Day. 

Even if Proposition 64 becomes law, local governments still have wide latitude to regulate marijuana within their jurisdictions, but public agencies should act soon to ensure the most protection against grandfathered uses or preempted local schemes. A brand new regulatory scheme is growing in California, and local governments need to act swiftly to cultivate the proper regulations to ensure their communities flourish in the brave new world of recreational marijuana legalization.


(Originally published in PublicCEO. Jordan E. A. Ferguson provides legal services to cities, special districts and private clients across Southern California. As an associate in the Municipal Law and Special Districts practice groups of Best Best & Krieger LLP, his practice involves city attorney and general counsel services. He can be reached at [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


MacArthur Park Drug Dealers and What Big Pharma Knew

EASTSIDER-Recently, the LA Times did an excellent investigative series about OxyContin use in LA, choreographed by the drug’s manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. 

The stories of people hooked on this stuff, and the collateral damage done to their loved ones is well presented by the Times, so I won’t even go there. Suffice it to say that their headline, “You Want a Description of Hell?” seems spot on. 

More pertinent to this article is the second part of the story, Here, with devastating detail, the Times proved beyond a reasonable doubt what the drug maker knew as it supplied hundreds of thousands of OxyContin pills to a sleazy front in MacArthur Park. 

So what do we have here other than a corrupt company pushing pills to the unsuspecting, without having to pay a price? Even if you are lucky enough not to have a loved one or relative with a drug problem, let’s consider the costs -- the costs to us, the taxpayers of Los Angeles -- as contrasted to the profits of big pharma and the even larger profits reaped by the big banks who launder the drug money. 

Our Costs--In most cities, public safety represents between 60 and 70 percent of the general fund budget and Los Angeles is no exception to the rule. That’s a lot of taxpayer money. And the more money spent on finding and apprehending drug related offenders, the less money is available for the community’s other safety concerns. We all know there exists a lot of unfunded need for public safety services. 

The LA City budget barely touches the surface of those costs such as paying for the criminal justice system required to handle all judicial matters as well as the costs of incarceration, rehabilitation, medical treatment and so forth. 

An enormous amount of money for that must come out of taxpayers’ pockets. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the human pain and suffering so eloquently described by the LA Times

We tend to shy away from a cost/benefit analysis of drug addiction and its associated expenses. But drugs and public safety are closely intertwined issues in our City, and the combination is hideously expensive, both in terms of the devastation to people and the budget-breaking costs to law enforcement -- and us. 

When dope dealers get busted, they go to jail. If addicts get caught, they also often go to jail for the crimes they committed to pay for the drugs and/or they clog up our health care system as their bodies deteriorate and they start to die dirty.

Purdue Pharma’s response to the Times article was to defend their product, OxyContin. 

They did not respond to the fact that they knew about the Lake Medical Clinic and the incredible amount of “product” that they were selling -- yet did nothing other than cover up. And back to costs, it took an entire team of federal, state and local law enforcement to build and prosecute the case. 

Their Profits--Clearly, we lose, big time. So who wins? How about the drug companies like Purdue Pharma and big financial services institutions like HSBC? In the case of Purdue Pharma, the money trail is pretty clear. They have made about $31 billion dollars selling OxyContin. 

It is also clear that Purdue Pharma decided to expand their market by targeting those with “chronic non-cancer pain,” which includes a broad swath of society. In such expanding markets, the economic winners are not only big pharma but the professional class of marketing executives, database developers, marketing collateral designers, sales forces, and middle managers. Not to mention attorneys.

It would seem, in fact, that if you are a white-collar crook, be it with a corporation like Purdue Pharma or a huge financial services institution like HSBC (an international banking corporation with its headquarters in London,) you can get away with serious crime and not pay a dime. 

I mention HSBC specifically, because there is clear evidence that they engaged in massive money laundering, both for foreign states such as Iran and Sudan, as well as good old fashion laundering of drug money for the drug cartels. For proof, as well as a link to the 288 page staff report, see “Too Big to Jail: Internal Treasury Documents Reveal Why Justice Department Did Not Prosecute HSBC.  

There is no doubt that Attorney General Eric Holder intervened in the proposed Indictment of HSBC over these very issues. Result? No indictment. And this was not a one-off, by the way. In her confirmation hearings, our current Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, suggested that there was not enough evidence to prosecute HSBC, even though she oversaw the case and was aware of the staff recommendations. 

The Takeaway--Something is clearly wrong with our system of justice. And you and I are clearly paying for it in more ways than one. If the feds would start doing their job for a change, by prosecuting huge crooked drug companies and financial services institutions, then maybe the word would trickle down. I don’t know how direct a correlation there is, but it seems to me that vigorous prosecution of so-called “white-collar” crime would mean less profit for the corporate crooks and less crime for you and me in Los Angeles. 

Hey, one can hope.


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

Calif Scorching Temps Astound Climate Scientists

PLANET WATCH--As wildfire rages in California, flooding affects millions in India and China, and eggs are fried on sidewalks in Iraq, scientists say global climate catastrophe is surpassing predictions. 

Southern California's years-long drought has resulted in one of the "most extreme" wildfires the region has ever seen. 

Record global heat in the first half of 2016 has caught climate scientists off-guard, reports Thompson Reuters Foundation. 

"What concerns me most is that we didn't anticipate these temperature jumps," David Carlson, director of the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) climate research program, told Thompson Reuters Foundation late Monday. "We predicted moderate warmth for 2016, but nothing like the temperature rises we've seen." 

"Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal," Carlson added. "The ice melt rates recorded in the first half of 2016, for example—we don't usually see those until later in the year." 

Indeed, extreme weather events are currently wreaking havoc around the world. 

In Southern California, firefighters are battling one of the "most extreme" fires the region has ever seen. The so-called sand fire had consumed 38,346 acres as of Wednesday morning and forced the evacuations of 10,000 homes, and one person has died. 

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus reported on the unusual fire last Friday in Pacific Standard

The fire, which started as a small brush fire along the side of Highway 14 near Santa Clarita, California, on Friday, quickly spread out of control under weather conditions that were nearly ideal for explosive growth. The fire doubled in size overnight on Friday, and then doubled again during the day on Saturday. 

"The fire behavior was some of the most extreme I've seen in the Los Angeles area in my career," says Stuart Palley, a wildfire photographer based in Southern California. "The fire was running all over the place. … It was incredible to see." There were multiple reports of flames 50 to 100 feet high on Saturday, which is unusual for fires in the region.

Time-lapse footage  filmed on July 23 showed the fire's tall flames and rapid growth.


"Since late 2011," Holthaus explained, "Los Angeles County has missed out on about three years' worth of rain. Simply put: Extreme weather and climate conditions have helped produce this fire's extreme behavior." 

The fire is an omen of things to come, according to Holthaus: "Even if rainfall amounts don't change in the future, drought and wildfire severity likely will because warmer temperatures are more efficient at evaporating what little moisture does fall. That, according to scientists, means California's risk of a mega-drought  --  spanning decades or more  --  is, or will be soon, the highest it's been in millennia." 

As University of California professor Anthony LeRoy Westerling wrote Tuesday in the Guardian: "A changing climate is transforming our landscape, and fire is one of the tools it uses. Expect to see more of it, in more places, as temperatures rise." 

Meanwhile, in India's northeast, Reuters reported Tuesday that over 1.2 million people "have been hit by floods which have submerged hundreds of villages, inundated large swathes of farmland and damaged roads, bridges and telecommunications services, local authorities said on Tuesday."

Reuters added that nearly 90,000 people are currently being housed in 220 relief camps. 

"Incessant monsoon rains in the tea and oil-rich state of Assam have forced the burgeoning Brahmaputra river and its tributaries to burst their banks -- affecting more than half of the region's 32 districts," the wire service reported. 

Local officials also told the media that "more than 60 percent of region's famed Kaziranga National Park, home to two-thirds of the world's endangered one-horned rhinoceroses, is also under water, leaving the animals more vulnerable to poaching." 

An unusually heavy monsoon season has also devastated communities in northern China, AFP reported Monday, with nearly 300 dead or missing and hundreds of thousands displaced after catastrophic flooding hit the region. 

And in Iraq, temperatures last week reached such unprecedented heights that a chef literally fried an egg on the sidewalk. The TODAY show tweeted footage of the incident: 

Stateside, the heat dome continues to inflict scorching summer temperatures across the country. In one Arizona locale, for example, meteorologists are predicting a scorching high temperature on Wednesday of 114° Fahrenheit. One Arizona resident posted a video Tuesday desperately asking people to pray for the state as it faces more hot weather. "It is still six billion degrees," the resident lamented. "Lord, we need you." 

Yet there appears to be little relief in sight: for the first time ever, USA Today reported Tuesday, the U.S. federal government's climate prediction center is forecasting hotter-than-normal temperatures for the next three months for "every square inch" of the country. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

(Nika Knight is a writer at Common Dreams … where this piece was first posted.) Photo: Nick Ut/AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


LA Crime Climbing, LA Taxes and Fees Climbing … And, Our $189,041 Per Year Electeds Appear Clueless

JUST THE FACTS--The latest Los Angeles City Crime Statistics reflect a growing trend of more and more crime victims and little relief in sight from our law enforcement agencies. From the LAPD to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to the California Highway Patrol, more and more attacks on our dedicated law enforcement personnel are taking place with few residents standing up and voicing their support for the men and women who risk their lives Protecting and Serving our diverse communities of Southern California.

And, the LA area men and women in blue are not the only ones paying a price. According to preliminary data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, as of July 20, 2016, sixty-seven federal, state and local law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty this year, increasing eight percent over the 62 officers killed in the same period last year. We've also found an alarming 78 percent spike in firearms-related officer fatalities, many of which were ambush-style killings.

Thirty-two officers have been killed in firearms-related fatalities this year, a dramatic increase of 78 percent, compared to 18 deaths during the same period last year. Traffic-related fatalities were the second leading cause of officer deaths, with 24 officers killed thus far in 2016. This represents a 17 percent decrease over the 29 officers killed in traffic-related incidents during the same period last year.

It is reported that crime in Los Angeles City is up in many categories. Namely assaults, robberies and property offenses. The overall crime increase is at 6.3%. Property crime is up 3.8% while violent crime has increased 15.9%. Violent crime has led by 19.2% in aggravated assaults and16.8% in robberies. 

The reasons for the increases can be attributed to many factors. Officers’ fear of being accused of profiling or engaging in selective enforcement is a contributing factor. Gang violence, the exploding homeless population, and the 2014 Proposition 47 that reduced many crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor contribute to those negative numbers. And, Measure 109 has done its part .... while the state prison population has been reduced, the communities have become the victims of these measures. 

You will soon be voting on the elimination of the California Death Penalty. Proposition 62 will be on the November ballot. Keep in mind, with the elimination of the California Death Penalty, more people will be filling the overcrowded State Prisons forcing the release of other violent inmates into our communities.  

If you live in a portion of Los Angeles served by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Sheriff reports an increase of 8.4% in violent crime and a 6.8% in property crimes.


HE FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON-- There was an arrogant man that owned a number of trailers and parked them on valley streets to advertise a variety of items and services. The trailers were left on major roadways and created serious traffic hazards throughout the San Fernando Valley and generated a large number of resident complaints. 

At the time, I was a Los Angeles City Councilman and moved to eliminate the trailers from the roadways. Signs were posted prohibiting the parking of the trailers on Valley streets and citation enforcement began. The citations had little to no impact on the parking of the trailers and the frustration of the community grew more and more. 

I worked with then Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, our current Los Angeles City Councilman, who represented my district in the assembly. We teamed up and drafted state legislation prohibiting the parking of the trailers on all roadways. The legislation eliminated the problem and peace returned to the communities. The arrogant man … I will not mention his name … appealed the state legislation. This month, a federal court upheld the legislation and ruled that it did not violate any rules or constitutional provisions. I Thank Councilman Blumenfleld and the court for upholding the legislation banning the trailers from all city roadways.


TAXES AND FEES AND MORE TAXES AND FEES … ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT SOME OF THE PROPOSED INCREASES--The DWP has already increased your Water and Power Rates. The new rates from 2016 thru 2020 have been approved and will be reflected on your future DWP Bills. As they say, this is a done deal and nothing can be done to change it. 

However, you have a vote for the proposed future tax and fee increases. 

I will start with increased taxes for the Transit. This will add a ½ cent to sales tax until the end of time. This will increase our sales tax to 9 ½ cents. 

There is the proposed $1.5 Billion Dollar Bond or Parcel Tax to address the Homeless. Either way, your taxes will increase … likely your property tax. 

The County has proposed … then changed their mind … to implement a tax on Marijuana.   This is assuming that the November election will see Marijuana approved for recreational use in California. This is proposed to raise between $78 to $130 million annually. 

If you are rich enough to be in a Millionaires club, you will see an increase in your taxes to address the homeless. 

As we approach the November election, I am sure additional taxes and tax increases will be brought up to address the many ills of our city. The current Los Angeles City budget of $8.76 BILLION is just not enough money to run the City of the Angeles!  

(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].)


A Venice BID is at Your Doorstep: To Stay Silent or Make Big Noise is the Question!

WATCHING THE NEIGHBORHOOD-An entity called a ‘Business Improvement District’ or BID is almost here. The City Council will meet and vote on its creation in late August. What? You don’t know anything about it? You and just about everyone else in Venice. This is one very big secret. 

Here’s what it is. A specific ‘district,’ run by a public-private partnership, whose boundaries have been gerrymandered to include properties owned by the pushers of this entity and large swathes of city property. Boundaries include Ocean Front Walk from North Venice to Barnard Way, includes part of Rose, touches parts of Main St., 4th, Sunset, Abbot Kinney, and Windward. It’s a large area. See the map for a better picture of its reach. The public relations put out by supporters is that they are goilng to make our world in Venice cleaner and ‘safer.’ I think we are hearing that line right now on our national political scene. Who doesn’t like ‘safe?’

This proposed BID will be run by a public-private partnership which will receive funding from the City estimated to include about $450,000 from the General Fund, to run the proposed ‘clean and safe’ services. There appears to be little accountability and oversight built into this process. The assessments on the owners (don’t call it a tax) will filter into the coffers of the partnership. We are talking about millions of dollars. Property owners who vote for the BID, will have no say in what goes on with this entity unless they somehow get on its board. Fat Chance! 

The gerrymandered district includes a huge amount of city-owned property. It is estimated that the assessment from city property will comprise about 25% of assessment monies collected and, in turn, the managers of city land will have 25% of the vote for or against a BID. You already know how the city will vote on this. The deck is stacked in favor of a ‘yes’ vote for a BID. 

This new group will create its own quasi police force complete with batons, pepper spray and uniforms to keep ‘order.’ Call them green shirts, call them brown shirts — we all know what they are: minimally trained ‘officers’ who will attempt to assert their newly acquired authority over the residents and whomever else (think the poor and the homeless) crosses their path, get in their way or those who just don’t look like they ‘belong.’ They are the Deciders. Sounds scary, right? You should be scared. BID’s are supposed to keep the place cleaner too — now that’s not scary, right? Who doesn’t like clean? So remember the BID mantra — ‘clean and safe.’ 

We have not read a public statement from the council office on this BID creation. BID’s seem like an elegant way to outsource the City’s job and many of its responsibilities. Cities seem to love BID’s.

Last but not least, we should tell you that this very quietly forming BID is being pushed by some property owners who are the most interested in controlling OFW — owners who have stealthily converted many of our residential units into short-term rentals —entire buildings we should add, are pushing for a BID formation. Some of the BID pushers are now being investigated by the LA City Attorney for illegal conversions of rental units. This was announced in the LA Times. 

Gentrification on OFW will be a by-product of this entity as it has been in other BID’s in other cities. While there may be a lot in this BID for the big property owners, there is nothing in it for tenants who will have absolutely no say in the BID forming around them and their businesses. No vote, nada. In no way is a BID a democratic process. Tenants can expect the property owners to pass on the costs of the BID to them. 

If you want this BID, stay quiet. If you don’t, say something. Make ‘big noise.’ There are many lawsuits already filed against BID’s all over the city, your big noise will be in very good company. 

Tara Devine is the BID’s consultant and point person for information. Her contact is: [email protected]


(Marian Crostic and Elaine Spierer are co-founders of Imagine Venice … where this commentary was first posted.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Krekorian Recall Misses on Signatures but Launches Movement

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW--A petition to recall Council Member Paul Krekorian (photo above) missed the target of more than 18,000 signatures needed to be included on the November election ballot but activists say the effort has launched a wave of activism throughout the city. 

“We knew going into this that it would be extremely difficult to amass the more than 18,000 signatures needed to get the recall on the ballot,” says a spokesperson for the recall group. “We did not raise campaign funds; we did not hire lobbyists. This was strictly a grassroots endeavor.” 

The spokesperson continues, “We can assure Mr. Krekorian that substantially more than the four people he so arrogantly conjectured want him out of office. We absolutely know that the signatures for his recall are out there; we are simply understaffed and unable to collect them.” 

“The sole reason the required amount of signatures were not met was simple. We just did not have enough bodies to collect them,” shares the spokesperson. “We did learn from the experience. We believe everyone should have the experience of circulating a petition at some point in their lives. You get a real take on people. We learned more about Krekorian and have more proof of his special interests than when we started. It was difficult when we started to keep the statement of reasons to 300 words or less.”

Although the recall will not appear on the ballot, the spokesperson for the group shares that the effort was a success. “We helped other council districts with the recall process, connecting with other council districts, which allowed them to organize their efforts. We reminded so many that they had to right to file, that we have the choice to succumb to the unacceptable corruption or to do something. We shared a great deal of evidence so many people’s experiences, all of which had come to the same conclusion.” 

What’s next for the group? “We are organizing for a bigger plan of action,” shares the spokesperson. There’s nothing in the Election Code that prevents us from filing another one. This was a good trial and run and we are just getting started.” 


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


Are Angelenos the New Mayans?

LEARNING FROM THE PAST-Are Angelenos the new Mayans? Historians relate how the Mayans and their great cities just disappeared. Of course, Mayans who are still living in Central America would dispute the idea that they aren’t here, but I am talking about the demise of their great cities in the 8th and 9th centuries. Read this piece by Joseph Stromberg on August 23, 2012 on Smithsonian.com“Why Did the Mayan Civilization Collapse? A New Study Points to Climate Change.” 

When we look closer to the Mayan collapse, we see that the entire civilization did not disappear, but rather certain cities collapsed. Thus, maybe we Angelenos have something to learn from the Mayans. If Los Angeles slips to a 3rd, 4th or 5th rate city, urban areas like South Texas, Richmond Virginia and Phoenix will continue to thrive. But if one lived in a great Mayan city, its demise would not be palatable because others prospered. 

We are certain that Mayan cities like Tikal in today’s Guatemala did not have a CityWatch to publish articles warning of the forces which were dooming the city. If Tikal had TikalWatch, we imagine that the leaders of Tikal would have ignored its prognostications. That’s what rulers do. 

Although I have not polled them, I think that the common impetus for CityWatch contributors is to make Los Angeles a better place to live. Such a desire leads them to agitate against decisions which are harming the city and to promote programs to improve the city. Eliminating the negative and accentuating the positive make for a healthy society. 

Here are some trends reported in CityWatch, a couple of which correlate with the fall of Tikal. 

(1) Population Density--The rulers thought population density meant greater wealth as they had more subjects, and thus, they appeared deaf to the downside of too many people in too small an area. The primary support which Tikal’s population needed was food, but as the population became concentrated near the great central ceremonial temples, the clearing of vast acreage extended far into the forests. As a result, the deforestation reduced precipitation, which reduced the crops, which lead to more deforestation in an endeavor to grow more food. 

Meanwhile the rulers wanted a larger population as a considerable portion of their wealth came from trade and that required tradesmen. 

Because the rulers concentrated the population around the ceremonial centers, they needed to build more temples which required the burning of vast acreage of trees. Their palaces and public buildings required prodigious amounts of wood for the fires to make the lime plaster for construction. That building mania not only attracted too many people into small geographic areas, it also accelerated the deforestation. 

We see a general parallel with Los Angeles, where the wealthy want to concentrate the real estate wealth in The Basin with extremely dense office complexes like Bunker Hill, DTLA and Century City, but the social costs of supporting these modern temples overburdens society. 

Bunker Hill was constructed somewhat similarly to Tikal – through the forced participation of the citizenry. The Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA] was behind Bunker Hill as private investment houses did not see it as a financially sound project. Due to the CRA’s power, the office towers on Bunker Hill did not have to pay any incremental property taxes. That is not as harsh as whipping Angelenos to carry away millions of tons of bags of dirt on their shoulders, but the loss of tax revenues was the same as taking between $700 million and $1 billion out of Angelenos’ bank accounts. We had to pay for all the city services, while the billionaire developers paid zilch. 

While the few men who owned Bunker Hill became vastly wealthy, everyone else in Los Angeles suffered due to our infamous traffic congestion. If LA’s rulers had ignored the real estate developers and had allowed businesses to follow people as they moved away from The Basin, LA would be decentralized. We would have as many cars going and coming, but without our rush hour traffic jams as tens of thousands of people would not be trying to get to the same place at the same time. 

(2) Response to Drought --Another similarity between Tikal and LA is that nature starts droughts but men make them worse. As mentioned, Tikal continued to densify its population which increased the need to cut down more trees to grow more food and to burn more wood to create the lime plaster for their buildings. 

It is common for cultures to perpetuate destructive trends. One reason is that those who are in power usually gained power due to the current way of doing things and their personal power depends upon the city’s modus operandi not changing. That seems to be the mentality of Los Angeles. 

After WW II, hordes of people descended upon Los Angeles as a form of heaven on earth. This influx made real estate developers king and they knew how to turn the tide to their financial benefit. Los Angeles’s landmark study in 1915 warned Angelenos not to allow developers to retard the spread of business and industry, but rather to allow business and industry to follow the people as they moved to the periphery. 

Rather than learn from past mistakes, the City has tripled down on the densification of Hollywood. Not surprisingly its crime rate continues to escalate as Councilmember-Mayor Garcetti pushes the destruction of rent-controlled apartments and more mixed-use projects into the Los Feliz area. Did the rulers of Tikal order more slashing and burning of the forests in the face of evidence that aggrandizing Tikal was leading to its demise? 

(3) Tikal’s People Moved Away--When the Mayan trade routes shifted and business opportunities followed to towns near the sea, people left the great inland Mayan cities. Life was already becoming too arduous due to the population density of Tikal. The demand of rulers for more wealth and the rising cost of food and housing was making Tikal unsustainable in light of better conditions elsewhere. 

Likewise, for over 15 years our City’s rulers have ignored the health of our port, while the Panama Canal has been widened and shipping more easily goes to the Gulf of Mexico – near Texas where many former Californians now live. If the City had not focused on destroying rent-controlled homes and over-constructing luxury apartments for the last decade and a half, we might have made wiser plans for the port and its workers. Drastically escalating the cost of living for port workers and dissing San Pedro was not a wise policy. 

Did Tikal’s rulers ignore the emigration when it started? Did they unknowingly accelerate it? We know that Los Angeles’ rulers are both ignoring and accelerating the loss of our more productive work force. 

The USC Sol Price Institute for Public Policy has told us that the great population influx into Los Angeles is over. Other demographers have documented that Los Angeles is losing people. The only reason the population rises is that births exceed deaths and the net population exodus. Newborns are a burden on society for 18 to 23 years. The portion of the population which we need to bear the cost to repair our decayed infrastructure is the very segment which is leaving Los Angeles. 

Demographic patterns do not stop because City Halls turns a blind eye. Twice a week CityWatch explains not only the factors which are harming Los Angeles, but the measures needed to improve LA. 

My pet proposal to reverse LA’s decline is to stop the corrupt vote-trading scam where every councilmember agrees to never vote No on another councilmember’s construction projects. The vote trading deal turns Los Angeles into 15 fiefdoms – or, you could say, LA is more like15 wards that extend “mob courtesy” to each other.


(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.

Yes on Prop 66: Reform, Don’t Eliminate, California’s Death Penalty

DEATH PENALTY POLITICS-Historically, Californians have overwhelmingly supported the death penalty. Yet, during every election cycle a ballot measure comes up looking to repeal it.  Well this year is no different. Governor Brown and a host of Hollywood elite are actively pushing Prop. 62, which would repeal the death penalty, granting criminals convicted of murder with special circumstances, a life sentence instead.   

Opponents of the death penalty try to point out the possibility of persons being wrongly convicted of capital offenses, sentenced to death and then being executed. The fact is there is no documented case of this EVER taking place in California due to the expertise and painstaking quality of investigation and prosecutorial work that has gone into death penalty cases. 

Instead of abolishing the death penalty altogether, a smarter move is to mend a broken system. Prop. 66 is the answer Californians are looking for. The goals behind Proposition 66 are laudable and more in line with the thinking of the California electorate that voted to reinstitute the death penalty to begin with -- mend it, don’t end it. 

Prop. 66 reforms will speed up the appeals process, ensuring appeals are heard within five years and no innocent person is executed. It doesn’t do so in a hasty way intended to cut corners. It does so by eliminating legal and procedural delay tactics while still respecting the legal rights and recourse for those convicted.  

Proposition 66 would ensure that every person sentenced to death has qualified death penalty appeals counsel assigned immediately, eliminating the current wait of five years or more. The appeals would then be expedited without endangering due process, and initiated at the trial court level where the facts of the cases are best known.  

Death row inmates have murdered over 1000 victims, including 226 children and 43 police officers; 294 victims were raped and/or tortured. It’s time California reformed our death penalty process so it works and provides murder victims and their families with some sense of closure. Instead of talking about how barbaric and unfair the death penalty in California is, those seeking to abolish it should give thought to those victims who had their lives taken from them, often in truly brutal and horrific ways, and their families who have had to live with the knowledge that the murders of their loved ones continue to live at the expense of the taxpayer.   

And regarding the expense, those backing repeal of the death penalty try to point to a great windfall of savings for the taxpayer if those on death row simply spend that time in prison for life rather than face execution. Even at an estimated $150 million reduction in annual costs, one would still have to concede that the savings is a paltry drop in the bucket compared to the vast size of California’s budget and hardly the worst use of taxpayer funds. Instead, under Prop 62, taxpayers are on the hook to feed, clothe, house, guard and provide healthcare to brutal killers until they die of old age costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.  

Criminals don’t end up on death row unless they are convicted of the worst crimes. Victims left behind, grieving families throughout California and their loved ones, don’t deserve anything less than justice. Justice is a reformed -- not eliminated -- death penalty. 

We urge a No vote on Proposition 62 and a Yes vote on Proposition 66. 


(Michael Hestrin was sworn in as the Riverside District Attorney in 2015. Prior to being sworn as the DA, Hestrin spent 18 years as a line prosecutor in the DA’s Office. Mr. Hestrin’s views are his own and do not reflect those of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Developer Checks Out of Villa Carlotta Hotel Conversion Plans … Victory for Community

DEEGAN ON LA-Breaking News-Audible gasps, in the Department of City Planning hearing room Wednesday, greeted the surprising news from Vila Carlotta developer CGI Properties that it was withdrawing its application to turn the historic Franklin Avenue apartment house into a hotel.

“This is what’s achievable when you have representatives in office that are responsive. David Ryu (CD4) was engaged, and he kept his word” exclaimed Sylvie Shain, the last evicted tenant of the Villa Carlotta to move out—-just a few weeks ago. 

Shain, the leading figure in the long fight against converting the historic structure, with its star-drenched history of tenants and “bohemians”, was nearly speechless when reached by CityWatch on-set at her production job following the unexpected announcement by the developer.

Sarah Dessault, chief-of-staff for Councilmember David Ryu (CD4) provided this statement to CityWatch: “Councilmember Ryu's goal is to create and preserve great neighborhoods and protecting Villa Carlotta and its rich history is an important part of that effort. (Photo left: Councilman David Ryu with CES executive director Larry Gross.)

“We are grateful to CGI for their decision to withdraw their application for a zone change. They listened to us and to the community and are working to restore this cultural monument. 

“Working closely with Larry Gross and the Coalition for Economic Survival and the tenants throughout this process has invigorated the Councilmember's work to protect tenants rights and prevent displacement.”

The Hollywood United Neighborhood Council was also against the hotel conversion, and made that known last week. They stressed, in their board decision, that affordable housing should be prioritized over hotel conversions.

Unknown is what’s next for the building, that will continue to undergo renovations by the developer, or whether Shain, and all the other tenants that were evicted through use of the Ellis Act, would be given the right to return which is conditionally embedded in that state law. 

The Wallace Neff designed Villa Carlotta was built in 1926, in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, is a standout piece of architecture in the neighborhood known as Franklin Village. Tenants for the first fifty years of operation read like a who's who of the movie and music worlds.

For now, one Hollywood dream has come true, and a Councilmember that ran on a pledge to listen to the community has delivered on his promise, which is good, all around.

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at [email protected].)



LA's ‘Affordable’ Housing Efforts: Unaffordable and … Morally Bankrupt

PLANNING POLITICS--Nice to know I'm not the only one who's aghast at how the City's efforts to improve affordable housing is making things worse, not better.  Let's keep it simple, please:  we need senior affordable housing, student affordable housing, and workforce affordable housing.

Everything else is just overdevelopment, and a warped interpretation of how the City and State wanted to ensure a middle class could afford to live in California. 

My recent sarcastic CityWatch article about how developers could use, and should use, the usual talking points in justifying overdevelopment and unsustainable urban projects is something we all see just too darned often. 

And then WE get called crazy, or zealots, or NIMBY's, or racist, or what have you...which is the perfect way to get reasonable people to shut up and be shut down. 

The recent CityWatch article about the Casden Sepulveda development was a true flash to the past of what set me (and other Expo Line supporters) off about where this City is going. 

Cities and neighborhoods will always have to figure out variances and compromises for the greater good, but it is NOT the state law (SB1818) on affordable housing that is the problem...it's how the City of Los Angeles interpreted it that is the problem. 

In particular, while I find our current Mayor Eric Garcetti to be more affable and responsive than his Sacramento-based, smashmouth-politics predecessor, his "overdevelopment and neighborhood destruction with a smile" usually has the same result of his predecessor. 

And the good will that Antonio Villaraigosa lost after getting Measure R passed (because of his predisposition to enabling overdevelopment) is pretty much getting lost by Mayor Garcetti before his own transportation initiative (Measure R-2, as it's often called) because of the "sons of Casden", such as that which is being planned "by right" at 12444 Venice Blvd. 

The tallest and least affordable and most neighborhood destructive project for miles around is being promoted as "by-right" by an inscrupulous smashmouth developer who refuses to work with the public to come up with a compromise that would create TRUE affordable housing, and have a project that's appropriate for the neighborhood. 

Better to come up with a shorter, market-value condo development with lots of extra parking to serve the local commercial corridor of adjacent Downtown Mar Vista--at least THAT would be more honest than promising local artists the ability to live in $2000+/month "affordable housing". 

Meanwhile, Boyle Heights ain't the only neighborhood that's losing affordability.  The whole darned City is becoming unaffordable for the middle class! 

Meanwhile (again), the Build Better LA Ballot Initiative on this November's ballot is being opposed by business (such as the LA Chamber of Commerce and Valley Industry and Commerce Association) and LA Tenants Union alike! 

So maybe the City of LA won't be surprised if BOTH Measure R-2 AND the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative pass, but Build Better LA does NOT. 

Want to REALLY enhance affordable housing, transit-oriented development, pedestrian-friendly streets, sustainable development and urban infill, and a better quality of life for all Angelenos? 

1) Acknowledge that Downtown/City Hall and the "Planning Politburo" are being dominated by zealots who enable the uber-rich and connected, and smash the law-abiding remnants of the middle class. 

2) Acknowledge that Neighborhood Councils, local Chambers of Commerce and tenants organization will do wonders in guiding local efforts for affordable housing that are cheap, quick to build, and get the job done. 

3) Acknowledge that universities can and should direct affordable student housing efforts. 

4) Acknowledge that local businesses can and should direct affordable workforce housing efforts. 

5) Acknowledge that legitimate, non-compromised senior advocacy groups can and should direct affordable senior housing efforts. 

6) Acknowledge that, with the exception of Downtown and certain key locations, virtually ALL affordable housing developments should be 2-4 stories tall...maximum! 

7) Acknowledge that there are many neighborhoods south of the I-10 will be ripe for affordable housing and a new development of the middle class where it's been long overdue. 

8) Acknowledge that, while mass transit is a venerable and laudable goal, PARKING can and will be needed for the unforeseeable future.  If a project spills out parking to the adjacent neighbors because it doesn't provide enough parking spaces for its residents, then it NEVER should see the light of day. 

9) Acknowledge that the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is by far a better plan than Build Better L.A. because, as with Neighborhood Councils, it allows a democratic, grassroots approach to teaming up with the developers who choose to play by the rules rather than our socialistic, winner/loser approach that portends to help the little guy ... but only helps the rich and powerful. 

...Because to do anything otherwise is just ... unaffordable, and morally bankrupt.


(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.)


Is This Sodom 2016? The City of Los Angeles Falls to #60

CORRUPTION WATCH-After a decade and half of corruption, the City of Los Angeles continues to decline. The relationship between corruption and urban decay is one of the oldest stories in western civilization, and yet, it is also the most current. 

Corruption Leads to Destruction--Genesis and rabbinic tradition instruct us that injustice, abuse of the poor, and corrupt leaders destroy society. Sodom was ruled by four judges: Liar, Habitual Liar, Deceiver, and Perverter of the Law. Through a variety of ploys, the rulers of Sodom stole the wealth of others especially of the poor and strangers who had no friends to protect them. 

It has been reported that Sodom’s rulers destroyed the homes of the poor and then charged the people of Sodom billions of dollars to build homes for the poor, except they built luxury homes for the wealthy while the poor languished in the streets of Sodom. Oh, no…wait. That wasn’t Sodom. That’s Los Angeles under the reign of Garcetti. 

Just as the rulers of Sodom were smug in their complacency believing that no one would disturb them in their wealth, the city councilmembers and mayor are confident that no one will hold them accountable. Certainly not the district attorney who sees nothing wrong with the massive vote trading scheme which has dominated the City Council since Garcetti became City Council President in 2006. 

One of the worse cruelties of the Garcetti Administration has been the intentional and systematic destruction of the homes of the poor. Surely, the destruction of over 20,000 rent-controlled apartments -- throwing the elderly, the disabled and poor into the streets -- is a measure which would make the rulers green with envy. 

As CityWatch recently reported, one of Garcetti’s planning commissioners revealed the purpose behind destroying the homes of the poor: to make the Metro system more profitable. 

Why does Garcetti want an expanded the Metro system? It has nothing to do with improving transportation but rather with getting people to tax themselves another $120 billion which will be given to the campaign supporters of Garcetti and the elected officials in Los Angeles. 

Destroying the homes of the poor swells the ranks of the homeless so that the same politicos who have destroyed poor people’s homes can pretend to come to their rescue. Here’s Garcetti’s plan in a nutshell: Destroy a poor person’s home, give a million dollars to a billionaire. 

The Absolute Right of Councilmembers to Steal--Los Angeles City Councilmembers have this absolute right to steal because they’ve made their Faustian deal with each other: “I will never vote against a project in your district, if you never vote against a project in my district.” In 2006, Penal Code § 86 criminalized vote trading by councilmembers as a form of bribery. The votes of other councilmembers may not be purchased by cash or by another councilmember’s vote. 

This unlawful vote trading pact has been a form of “Mutual Bribery,” by which the City Councilmembers approve each and every construction project UNANIMOUSLY -- over 99.9% of the time. What does the City Attorney say about Mutual Bribery? 

“ . . . City Council’s unanimously agree[ing] 99% of the time . . . Does not give rise to a reasonable inference that a Councilmember ‘gives, or offers or promises to give, any official vote in consideration that ...another member of the legislative body ...shall give this vote either upon the same or another question.’ (Penal Code, § 86.)” Thus, sayeth the City Attorney. 

Really? Ten thousand consecutive unanimous votes in a 15-member city council does not give rise to an “inference” of vote trading?   

If you went to Vegas and the House won 10,000 times in a row, would you pretend that it was just the luck of the draw? If a casino’s tables won every hand for just one day, does anyone think that the Nevada Gaming Commission would allow that casino to operate the next day? 

Yet, the District Attorney has allowed these types of astronomical odds to rule LA City Council for ten years while accepting the absurd explanation that the unanimous votes are just the luck of the draw. 

As the judges of Sodom learned and the rulers of Los Angeles are discovering, some laws come with built-in penalties. Retribution for corruption tends to be slow, but it is devastating. People move away from Los Angeles, making the city poorer and poorer day by day. 

Before Garcetti was first elected to the LA City Council in 2001, Los Angeles was one of the nation’s premier cities. In less than a decade, Garcetti destroyed his own council district in Hollywood so much so that, between 2000 and 2010, Hollywood’s population dropped by 12,596 people. 

Los Angeles’ Brain Drain --Furthermore, recent data shows that Los Angeles as a whole has suffered greatly due to the corruption in Garcetti’s City Hall. The most important segment of a city’s work force is its “professional and business services section.” This portion of the population is crucial not only for the wealth it adds to the city; it’s also the bell weather of a city’s future. 

As noted by Joel Kotkin and Michael Shires in their July 22, 2016 article in NewGeography.com,  “In many ways, the business and professional service sector may be the best indicator of future U.S. economic growth.” 

As the name implies, “professional and business services” are dependent upon a strong economy with a growing business section. A city that does not attract the “professional and business services” sector is a city in decline. 

Los Angeles has fallen to Number 60 among U.S. cities for attracting the “professional and business services” sector of the work force. These workers are the stable middle and upper-middle class. They are the classes that can afford to pay taxes; they also have enough education and jobs skills to move to a less toxic municipal environment. 

It is no mystery why a pathologically corrupt City Hall drives away businesses and the city’s more productive people. 

“Los Angeles is barely treading water while the rest of the world is moving forward. We risk falling further behind in adapting to the realities of the 21st century and becoming a City in decline. § For too many years we have failed to cultivate and build on our human and economic strengths, while evading the hard choices concerning local government and municipal finance presented by this new century.” -- December 2013, 2020 Commission, “A Time for Truth.” 

When the rulers expropriate a city’s wealth for themselves and their cronies, the streets are not repaired, the sidewalks are not fixed and water mains constantly burst. Los Angeles has fewer parks than any large city and its traffic congestion has become the worst not only in America but also in all of Europe. Businesses look at the long-term when deciding whether to stay or leave Los Angeles. Increasingly, businesses are finding that they should get out while they can. 

Businesses Move Away from Corruption--Likewise, when businesses consider where to re-locate, they look at the long-term. When they look at Los Angeles, they see a city which has shot itself in the foot when it comes to obtaining federal money. Is anyone surprised that after Garcetti stole the Promise Zone money from South Central and gave it to his developer buddies in Hollywood, that the Obama Administration skipped Los Angeles when giving out its transportation grants?    San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 07/11/1, Southern California Gets a Big, Fat $0 from Feds for Freight, Road Improvements. 

Businesses look at Los Angeles and see our possible future: (1) Continued decaying infrastructure as more and more money is drained from the city treasury and diverted to developers; (2) huge tax increases that will be needed to pay to rehabilitate our infrastructure. 

Businesses see that the City is incurring billions upon billions of dollars in debt that they, the business leaders, will have to repay. The only people who can avoid paying their share are the developers who form LLCs and LLPs in order to receive their influx of cash from the City and then BK their “collapsible” LLCs and LLPs. No rational businessman willingly remains in such a morass of corruption. 

We Angelenos need to ponder the fact that LA has fall to #60 in attracting the “professional and business services” sector of the work force. Can you even name 60 other U.S. cities? That’s how far down the list Los Angeles has fallen. If our City was on American Ninja Warrior, we wouldn’t even advance to the next round. 

“Power corrupts and corruption destroys.” – GOD, Genesis 18 (more or less.)


(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.

Name Calling Vs. Critical Thinking: Donald Trump, the Ghost of Tricky Dick, and Saving San Pedro

AT LENGTH--It’s an old but tested technique of argumentation. When you can’t win on the facts or logic, call your opponent bad names. Donald Trump and his political surrogates have lost the argument on Hillary Clinton’s email. Now they’ve gone back to the “Crooked Hillary” schoolyard taunt. This is a tactic about as sophisticated as a couple of schoolboys tossing back and forth “yo’ mama” jokes. But it is not without historical precedent. 

The classic example was back in 1950 when Richard Nixon ran for the Senate against Helen Gahagan Douglas -- a campaign that echoed his win over New Deal liberal Jerry Voorhis for a House of Representatives seat by calling Voorhis a “Commie.” In the Senate race, the Nixon campaign manual included a “pink sheet” comparing Douglas’ voting record to that of the Communist Party­. Nixon won the California senate seat and an indelible sobriquet that would follow him for his entire life – “Tricky Dick.” 

Name calling and slander are the most common tactics the losing side uses to distract an audience from real issues. We’ve seen that to be true at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and we’ve seen that to be true in the recently concluded neighborhood council races. It even continues on Facebook today. 

I recently reposted a Facebook post from a Bernie Sanders delegate for the 44th Congressional District, Carrie Scoville. The post was on the terms “groupthink” and “norms” in a discussion on organizational theory. 

Groupthink: “Remaining loyal to the group by sticking with the policies to which the group has already committed itself, even when those policies are obviously working out badly and have unintended consequences that disturb the conscience of each member . . . Groupthink involves non-deliberative suppression of critical thoughts as a result of internalization of the group’s norms . . .” 

Renowned research psychologist, Irving L. Janis defined the term “Groupthink” as being the desperate drive for consensus at any cost. 

I thought this was a good topic to discuss amongst our community in light of battles over homelessness, coyote sightings and those claiming to be “saving San Pedro.” 

Coastal Neighborhood Council member Gayle Fleury was one of the first to greet the discussion topic with suspicion. 

“What is this in relation to?” she typed. “It sounds: 

  1. Ultra-left-liberal bias.
  2. A leap to judgment.
  3. An intentional swipe at people who were just seated on the council.
  4. A blind eye to the way Central was run the past year. 

What is your intention? Is it positive? Do you want GOOD things for Central? Or are you just driven by anger that you were not elected?” 

To which I responded: 

“Gayle, you inevitably will take the above academic discussion and twist it anyway that you can, but let me make one thing clear -- in both Central and Coastal neighborhood council districts, Sen. Bernie Sanders won a majority of the votes. In fact, he eventually won over Hillary in the entire LA County. (I was incorrect on this point in my response. Sanders lost Los Angeles County by more than 140,000 votes.) 

“So if anything that I write sounds at all like any of his political positions, then I would say that they are rather mainstream considering that the second highest votes went to Clinton, another ultra left liberal by your standards. This, in San Pedro, makes up something over two-thirds of the voters!

That through some mistake of neighborhood council elections [or distraction by the electorate] the people who mostly ally themselves with Trump have gotten elected to the majorities of two of these councils should not be overlooked by those paying attention to something more relevant than coyotes or panhandlers. 

“And as far as my leadership at the Central NC over the past 2 years, it was done with a high degree of ethics, command of the rules and compassion for those who needed help the most. That is more than can be said about the current leadership, which violated more laws, by-laws and broke more rules in just two meetings than I did in two years.” 

By the way, Gayle is not the only one who has continued to cast aspersions against me and others on social media even after the elections were over. As if to consolidate their “desperate drive for consensus,” even as they have called for community voices to come forward with concerns coated with the promise that they will listen. 

My suggestion to everyone with a gripe about the way the City of Los Angeles treats San Pedro is to show up and start complaining. They might even listen. But will they commit to getting the city to act and respect its citizens? 

As for my intentions -- they’ve been the same for more than 35 years -- it is to empower the people of this community with information, engage them in a public civic debate of the issues that affect them the most and to hold those who are in power accountable for the consequences of their actions. 

Or put another way, the role of journalism should be “to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.”  I do ascribe to that motto more than a little. 

However, what I will say to all of my critics both near and far is that once you start in on the juvenile name calling, you have already lost the debate, even if you win the election. I only wish this weren’t true in our national elections.  For what I actually fear most is that the good people of this country will remain silent, like many have in San Pedro, while belligerent bullies like Donald Trump mouth off with racist, sexist and homophobic name-calling to silence their opposition.


(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He was elected to the presidency of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in 2014 and has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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