Thu, Dec

Is DWP Pretending We Have Enough Water … to Keep the Developers Happy?

GUEST WORDS--Hardly anybody outside of city government has heard of the 2015 Urban Water Management Plan, but this obscure document has huge implications for the future of Los Angeles.  The DWP is set to adopt the 2015 UWMP on June 7, in spite of the fact that the picture it gives of our water resources is largely inaccurate.  What's more, it's likely that city officials will use the DWP's absurdly optimistic projections to greenlight even more reckless development. 

For those who aren't familiar with the process, the preparation of the UWMP is mandated by the State of California.  Every five years, water agencies are required to create a plan that shows how they're managing their water resources.  It makes perfect sense.  I'm sure everyone reading this understands how important it is that we practice effective stewardship in this area. 

Unfortunately, the phrase "effective stewardship" doesn't really come to mind leafing through the draft of the 2015 UWMP.  A better phrase to describe the authors' conclusions would be "completely divorced from reality".  But let's start with some facts.... 

Here in LA we only get about 10% of our water from local sources.  Almost 90% of the water we use comes from outside LA, most of it the result of runoff from snowpacks in the Sierras and the Rockies.  Here's the bad news.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, between 1955 and 2015, April snowpacks in the Western United States declined 23% on average.  In other words, if you're thinking this is a cyclical drought and everything will get back to normal in a year or two, think again.  The snowpacks have been declining for decades, and all the current data indicates the trend will continue.  This means that the sources we rely on for almost 90% of our water are shrinking steadily. 

The 2015 UWMP acknowledges that we're getting less water from the Sierras, and that deliveries from the LA Aqueduct have been drastically reduced.  During the 2014/2015 period, the LAA brought us less than 14% of what it delivered during the same period 30 years ago.  And do you know how much water we got from the Aqueduct between April and September 2015?  Not a drop.  The LAA was dammed for months to comply with an agreement we've made with the people in the Owens Valley. 

So how are we going to replace the water we used to get from the LA Aqueduct?  The 2015 UWMP offers the usual talk about recycling and stormwater capture, both of which are certainly important, but I’ll talk about that later.  Right now, let’s focus on this section from the Executive Summary under the heading Water Transfers. 

“LADWP plans on acquiring water through transfers of up to 40,000 AFY [acre feet per year] to replace a portion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (LAA) water used for environmental enhancements in the eastern Sierra Nevada. The City would purchase water when available and economically beneficial for storage or delivery to LADWP’s transmission and distribution system.” 

The problem with this is, there’s no guarantee that the Metropolitan Water District, or any other water agency, will be able to spare 40,000 acre feet every year for the next 25 years.  The UWMP mentions transfers of water originally intended for agriculture in the Central Valley.  What?  Have they seen the photos of landscapes collapsing due to overpumping?  Are the farmers in the Central Valley just going to hand over 40,000 AFY?  To back up its claims, the 2015 UWMP offers a chart titled “MWD Forecast Supplies of Groundwater Storage and Transfers in 2040, Average Year (1922 – 2004 Hydrology) “.  Note the dates in parentheses.  They’re basing their calculations on conditions that existed well before the current crisis began.  And they’re using those figures to project water supplies 25 years into the future. 

Let’s move on to groundwater.  Historically the city’s aquifers have given us 10% to 15% of what we use in a year.  But according to the 2015 UWMP, we can boost that to almost half our supply by 2040.  Check out this statement from the Executive Summary. 

“The exhibits show that the City’s locally-developed supplies will increase from 14 percent to 49 percent in dry years or to 47 percent in average years.”  

This is a pretty amazing statement.  But it’s this next sentence that really knocked me out. 

These local supplies are not influenced by variability in hydrology, and will become the cornerstone of LA’s future water supplies. 

To say that our groundwater resources are not influenced by variability in hydrology is absolutely untrue.  It’s a ridiculous claim, and the people at the DWP know it.  Groundwater in LA, just like groundwater all over the world, is subject to constant variations in hydrological conditions.  This is especially true in the Western US given the ongoing changes happening to our climate.  For the DWP to make this statement at all is absurd, but to put it in a document that will be used in planning for the next 25 years is incredibly irresponsible.  

Adding to the uncertainty about our groundwater resources is the fact that about half of the wells in the San Fernando Valley are currently closed due to industrial pollution.  The DWP is planning to build treatment plants to purify the water from these wells, but nobody knows when they’ll actually break ground.  At this point they don’t even have the funding lined up. 

And this leads us back to the DWP’s plans for recycling and stormwater capture.  There’s no question that we need to pursue both aggressively.  To its credit, the DWP has already made some progress in both areas, and has ambitious plans for the future.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  At this point, the DWP’s recycling and stormwater capture programs are in their infancy.  The majority of the projects listed in the 2015 UWMP are still in the planning stages.  Making them happen is going to be a long, complex process.  The DWP rate increase will help, but nobody knows what the eventual cost will be.  Getting approvals for these projects will require cooperation from private interests and government agencies.  In other words, talking about these projects is a lot different from actually making them happen.  The 2015 UWMP claims that we’ll be getting half our water from local sources by 2040, based in large part on the assumption that all their plans for recycled water and stormwater capture will go without a hitch.  That’s simply not going to happen. 

To put all this in context, it’s not news that the City of LA is inflating its claims about access to water.  We’ve been doing it for decades, and so have many other cities all over the Southwest.  Why?  In order to promote development.  If you want to get investors to back construction in your city, you have to guarantee that they’ll have access to all the water they need.  So the 2015 UWMP is really just the latest chapter in our long history of lying about our water resources. 

Then why does any of this matter?  It matters because the situation has changed.   All through the 20th century, whenever we needed water we’d just reach out and grab it from somewhere else.  The LA Aqueduct, the State Water Project and the Colorado River Aqueduct were built to support development in rapidly growing cities throughout the Southwest, with LA being the biggest customer.  

The problem is, we can’t do that anymore.  The snowpacks in the Sierras and the Rockies are shrinking.  Water flowing through the Colorado River is declining.  Farmland in the Central Valley is collapsing.  And for the first time in its history, the LA Aqueduct has gone dry.  

This is why the DWP Board of Commissioners must not adopt the 2015 UWMP at its June 7 meeting.  For them, voting to approve this largely fictional document is just business as usual.  It’s what the City of LA has been doing for decades in order to insure that City Hall can justify any amount of development.  I’m not arguing that we should halt development.  What I’m saying is that we need to plan for future development based on a realistic assessment of the water resources we actually have.  The 2015 UWMP is far from realistic. 

Let me put this as simply as possible.  We need water to survive.  LA, along with the State of California, is in the middle of an unprecedented water crisis.  If we don’t change the status quo and take a long, hard look at reality, we could end up compromising resources that are crucial to LA’s survival. 

This is serious, folks. 

(Casey Maddren was born in Los Angeles and has lived here most of his life.  He tries to capture as much of the city as he can in his blog, The Horizon and the Skyline.)


Hell No! No More Taxes, Fees or Bond Measures

JUST THE FACTS--Don’t be fooled and fall for all the talk and commercials generating from City Hall about More Taxes and Fees and Bond Measures that are being proposed by city leaders to address Transportation, the Homeless Crisis, Lack of Affordable Housing, Crime and myriad other social issues facing the City of Los Angeles and our region of Southern California. 

I will start with Transportation and the 7-day a week gridlock we face on our local streets and freeways. While we are glued to our cars, we are being pressed and encouraged to support a tax increase for the next 40 YEARS to address the freeway and roadway traffic gridlock in the region served by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. 

The problem is not the lack of connecting roadways and freeways and surface streets for us to use in our travels. It is the over development of residential apartments and condos in and around every inch of land that is available. 

The problem is that the rich developers want to chew up every inch of land to build apartments and condos at market rate prices. Nothing that is affordable for the middle class or senior population with many living on social security. When we examine our transportation gridlock, the answer is not more buses and trains to the rescue. 

At the present time, how many of you ever ride the public transportation on a regular schedule? I bet few of you reading this article are regular public transit riders. I know this since I have used the Orange Line, Red Line and Blue Line on occasion. Many of the rides are reflective of our marijuana culture. I know this because every time I have ridden the public transit lines, the area has a distinct odor of Marijuana. 

Many of the women I have spoken to state that they will never ride the public transit lines due to their fear of becoming the victim of a crime. So to conclude, spending our hard earned tax dollars on additional public transit lines will not reduce the congestion and gridlock on our roads. We are a car-oriented society and that is not going to change in the years ahead. 

Remember that it was the politicians and city planners and auto industry that scrapped the Red Line and other public transit systems from our region many years ago and pushed us into those nice cars with all the comfort features we have come to enjoy. Galpin Motors would not be the world leader in Ford sales for over 25 years if we liked and used public transportation. 

So, my recommendation is vote NO on any new tax proposal for more public transportation. Remember they want this tax to last the next 40 years. Our grandchildren’s children will be faced with this tax for many years to come.


When Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a Housing Emergency almost a year ago, it was because he was forced to do something since the situation was and remains out of control, while negatively impacting communities all around Los Angeles. Since that time, we have not seen anything significantly done to address the problem. The only remedy is the request for more money. 

With an $8 BILLION DOLLAR-plus city budget, a few thousand dollars does little to correct the current situation. Recent reports by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority illustrate the growing homeless situation in and around Los Angeles County. 

Across LA County, homelessness has increased 5.6 percent and this is on top of the 12.4 % from the previous two years. What is truly alarming is that homelessness has increased 36% in the San Fernando Valley. With a 2% vacancy rate across Los Angeles, finding housing … especially affordable housing … becomes more and more difficult. And finally, of the homeless population increase, 25% are seniors who have been unable to find housing.


My final review deals with the increasing crime trends in Los Angeles and surrounding communities. As the murders continue to increase along other violent crimes, neighborhoods buckle under to protect their families. There have been propositions that have contributed to cleaning out the prisons and putting the criminal element back on the streets. Prop 109 and Prop 47 are two of he measures that have been partly responsible for making our cities across California less safe. A new proposal by Governor Brown will continue the trend of putting more criminals on our streets. We have gone up and down with crime over the years. The recent trends show continued increases in crime. 

If you care about your city and county and state, take the time to vote in this Tuesday in California’s Primary Election. 


(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].)












“Enough is Enough”! Energized Angelenos Kick Off Quest for Signatures for Neighborhood Integrity Initiative

CITYWATCH VOX POP-Cheering for an end to overdevelopment and new hope for community empowerment, activists from Venice to NoHo to the Wilshire District rallied in Frogtown on Wednesday to kick off signature-gathering for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a citizen measure aiming for the March 2017 ballot. 

The diverse crowd shouted “No More!” just outside the planned “Bimbo Bakery” luxury complex, which will dwarf the Latino enclave of Elysian Valley — and which sets a disturbing precedent for devoting much of the river to “waterfront” homes for households of $500,000 to $750,000 and up. 

Residents of Frogtown, or Elysian Valley, spoke out side by side with residents from the Westside, Hollywood, Wilshire District and Valley. 

Melissa Arechiga, an Elysian Valley resident whose parents were among the last families to be evicted during the infamous destruction of Chavez Ravine to make room for Dodger Stadium, told reporters, “We want to make sure that what happened at Chavez Ravine doesn’t happen again.” 

Arechiga worries that the box-like, 117-unit luxury project along Blake Avenue, just a few miles from Chavez Ravine said the so-called Blake Avenue Riverfront Project will destroy the character of the neighborhood and price out its working-class residents. 

Robert Leyland, an elected member of the Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council, told the crowd in Frogtown that the “out-of-scale” Riverfront project was a hot topic during the recent ouster of Neighborhood Council members who worked closely with numerous developers who see Elysian Valley as hot. 

“The pro-development candidates lost, and the neighbors won” key seats in the Neighborhood Council elections, Leyland reported, to the cheers of activists from across LA. 

Jill Stewart, campaign director of the Coalition to Preserve LA, which is sponsoring the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, said the 2017 measure, which needs about 65,000 signatures to make the ballot, is “hotly opposed by developers and City Hall politicians who have accepted millions of dollars from developers since 2000.” 

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative requires the City Council to create a General Plan for LA's aging infrastructure and to plan out the city's future based on real, not exaggerated, population projections. 

The City Council has shirked this core duty for more than a decade, leaving a Wild West system driven by wealthy, and often foreign, developers and their bankers. Current infrastructure plans at City Hall, for example, date from the 1950s. 

Stewart dispelled a key falsehood being publicly repeated by City Council members — “their lie that the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative halts most development for two years.” In fact, the narrowly crafted two-year timeout affects “3% to 5% of projects in Los Angeles — those so far out of character for the community and its infrastructure that these projects require a full legislative exemption vote from the City Council,” Stewart said. 

She explained, to applause from supporters, that the vast majority of Los Angeles development plays by the rules. Nor will the measure slow down construction of 100 percent affordable housing, which is exempted from the timeout aimed at City Council mischief. 

What will face a tough time when the initiative is approved, Stewart said, are the kinds of giant, rule-bending projects that are now recklessly swamping entire neighborhoods with their impacts. 

Instead, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative brings in the community, forcing the City Council to work with the community, at meetings held only at night and on weekends, to update the 35 Community Plans — reforms that could protect the Los Angeles River, for example, from luxury condos now being planned behind closed doors. 

From Koreatown, attorney Grace Yoo gave a dramatic example of City Hall's secretive dealings: the proposed 27-story luxury Catalina Avenue skyscraper in a two-story neighborhood on a tiny street about the width of the one in Frogtown. Her group NAME TK and the Coalition to Preserve LA recently sued to halt the project, which has already destroyed affordable housing — and will mean the destruction of even more. 

“Enough is enough,” said Yoo. “The City Council needs to respect the community.” 

Stewart said the location for the rally was chosen because the luxury project approved on the river, a citywide resource, exemplified what’s wrong with City Hall’s out of date, developer-oriented General Plan and Community Plans. 

The geographic and ethnic diversity represented by community leaders at Wednesday’s kickoff showed the Coalition to Preserve LA campaign is reaching neighborhoods in all corners of LA. “This is a city-wide movement,” Stewart said. “That’s got to frighten our opponents — developers and City Hall.” 

Mannie Flores of the Pico-Union Westlake community said he was supporting the initiative because it will give greater control to a community fighting an uphill battle against displacement and gentrification. Even with the LA Unified School District on its side, his area is fighting hard to prevent an influx of restaurant-nightclubs, and drinking drivers, near community schools. 

Community plans, as sought by the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative and heavily influenced by residents, not by developers, could restrict locations of alcohol-serving businesses. 

Sylvie Shain, a community organizer, told initiative supporters the story of her fights to obtain justice for tenants, including a Vietnam War veteran, evicted from their homes on Cherokee Avenue in Hollywood because the new owners want to turn rent-controlled apartment into haute hotel rooms. 

Echo Park artist Anne Hars caused a sensation when she shared with the crowd a flyer she designed on the spur of the moment to capture her views of the disruption caused by the overweening influence of developers. 

The flyer shows a developer directing a bulldozer to knock down a house as the family/tenants run for their lives. The flyer’s inscription says: “Welcome to Garcettiville.” (Photo above.) Hars is well-known for putting up balloons around homes that are slated to be bulldozed to make way for developers’ projects. 

Equally popular were the petitions that need to be circulated and signed by registered voters to get the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative on the March 2017 ballot. 

Questions and answers were also shared at the event. One question: can a petition circulator obtain signatures from folks who live outside their immediate neighborhoods? Answer: Absolutely. The only issue is making sure the signer is a registered voter and resident of Los Angeles. 

Another question: can my neighborhood council endorse the initiative? Answer: Absolutely. A Neighborhood Council may vote to endorse a ballot measure. But councils are barred from endorsing individual political candidates.

(John Schwada is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner and is the Communications Director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. He is a contributor to CityWatch. His consulting firm is MediaFix Associates.)


DWP Report Covering IBEW Non-Profit Reforms Comes Up Short

PERSPECTIVE--The DWP GM’s long-awaited report on the status of reforms at the Joint Institutes for Safety and Training, the two non profits who have eaten through over $40M of DWP ratepayer money, was released on May 12th.

As with her first report last September, General Manager Marcie Edwards failed to provide any substantiation of reported progress. This is in direct contradiction of promoting “the purposes of transparency and follow-up,” as she claimed in her cover memo of this latest report. 

It only remains to be seen if Edwards, who openly criticized City Controller Ron Galperin’s audit of the trusts, legally changes her name to Marcie D’Arcy.

Before I dive into the report, “Let’s do the numbers,” as Kai Rysdall of American Public Media’s popular Marketplace broadcast says.

Unfortunately, the Trusts have not published their audited financial statements since the end of fiscal year 2013, compelling me to rely on the IRS 990 filings for 2014 data. The 990s are short on detail, but there is enough to point to an increase in cash accumulation of $500K over the previous year.


That brings the total cash for the two trusts to $11.3M, pushing three times the annual contribution they receive from us, the ratepayers. Still no explanation is forthcoming as to what plans there are for this excess funding.

It is worth noting that the trusts are 501(c)(6) corporations.

IRC 501(c)(4), (c)(5), and (c)(6) organizations may engage in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office provided that such intervention does not constitute the organization’s primary activity.

It would appear, then, that some of the $11.3M could work its way into political action. The Trusts previously reported they wanted the money for a “rainy day fund.” Not a bad idea, since it would help offset the $4M IBEW Local 18 poured into Wendy Greuel’s failed campaign for mayor.

The rapid growth in prepaid expenses from $75K to $991K over three years in the Joint Safety Institute raises questions. Is it an advance for a major program – or perhaps junkets for the next few years? A reconciliation of the account is in order. Ordinarily, prepaid expenditures tend to level out in most organizations owing to timing (as appears to be the case at the Joint Training Institute).

Edwards’ report pointed to accomplishments, but offered no evidence of what the specific steps were, not even a hint. It alludes to the establishment of formal spending and contracting policies, without sharing so much as a summary; the same for assurances that there would be adequate segregation of duties – a vital safeguard against fraud.

Perhaps the most pathetic admission is the failure to identify duplication of services between the two trusts. At the same time a dedicated manager has been engaged to invest the Trusts’ cash even though the city is capable of handling the role.

No justification was given for the $220K salaries paid to each of the administrators beyond being linked to the DWP pay scale. You would think the jobs could be consolidated.

Edwards did not question any of the assertions.

It is time to authorize another audit of the Trusts by the City Controller. This time, the audit should focus on the reform process and the so-called accomplishments. Otherwise, the report is nothing more than a “trust me” statement.

Would you trust an unaudited report from an organization with an unscrupulous track record?

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


Bernie and The Donald are Right! The Game IS Rigged, Particularly in California

EASTSIDER-So it’s political season again, and the other day I was wondering about two things for this week’s article. First was, how much does it cost to buy an Assembly seat in California? Second was, why in god’s name would Jose Huizar care about homeless people? Lucky me, the Internet (and CityWatch, of course) saved me yet again. 

Let’s do the easy one first -- our very own Council District 14’s Jose Huizar. Goodness knows he’s personally created enough homeless people with his propensity to do anything any developer wants, including wiping out affordable housing in the name of saving affordable housing, having the police sweep folks up out of Skid Row to make way for new downtown developments, and approving skybridges between the developments downtown so that the tenants don’t have to be bothered with the smell and reality of those living below them. 

When I saw in the LA Times that Huizar had become a champion of a one “B” as in Billion dollar bond for the homeless, I was momentarily perplexed. 

It was a good bet that guilt and remorse were not on his list of reasons for doing this, so why indeed would he, of all people, care? CityWatch to the rescue, in the form of Richard Lee Abrams’ very cool article last week about bonds for the homeless

Eureka! The answer is simple -- the scumbag real estate developers are in trouble!

I always wondered exactly who could afford the obscene rents in their new developments, and Mr. Abrams demonstrated the obvious answer: no one can or will. Vacancies are up, what’s left of the middle class is beatin’ it out of Dodge, and the developers are in a pickle. 

For example, I could never figure out who actually lives in the giant Orsini development on Sunset Blvd by the Hall of Administration, because it looked like about 10 people were actually renting in this monstrosity. 

Now I have the answer. No one really lives there. It’s just like the housing market when the banks kept churning out mortgage CDO’s way past the point of no return until the collapse. Here as well, the development machine has to keep on building until the bottom falls out. 

Gallopin’ Jose to the rescue. Since the only population statistic LA has that’s growing is its homeless population (thanks to the developers and City Hall,) so how to extract some money from them? After all, they don’t have any money. 

BONDS! Of course, let’s put a billion dollars of liability on the taxpayers, to fuel the developers’ machine. Of course it won’t actually work, as a recent LA Times article points out, but, what the hey, build them and don’t worry about who’s actually going to be able to get in. LA politics at their blatant worst. 

And that’s the tie in to my question about what it costs to buy an Assembly seat…as well as why our City is simply one giant ATM machine to the developers. 

See, at least I know what it costs to buy an LA City Council seat -- about $400,000 to $500,000 cash up front before you announce. Unless, of course, it’s a fight between two professional politicians contesting the same seat. But when it comes to buying an Assembly seat, I had no idea – but recent legislative changes got me to wondering. 

Dan Walters to the rescue, it turns out that the short answer is, the cost varies -- based on which District you run for, and what ballot initiatives will be on the November ballot! 

You see, back in 2011 the governor and the legislature changed the rules of the game for state wide runoffs and ballot measures. Courtesy of SB 202 (2011), ballot measures must appear on the November instead of the June ballot. Add in the “top two” primary system change from Proposition 14 (2010), and the June primaries became a sort of second-rate event. The real action comes in November. 

Here’s how the combination of these two changes revised the fiscal math of winning a seat in the California legislature. First, it made most of the elections a one party runoff. Since almost all the seats are gerrymandered to be guaranteed safe for either a Democrat or a Republican, the top two primary vote getters are usually from the same party. The old system saw the top Republican and top Democrat face off in November, no matter how many votes each got. 

Whether it was intended or not, this makes the buying and selling of legislative seats in the primary a lot less interesting because the runoff is usually the top two Dems or Republicans in a given District -- instead of our “old” two party everywhere system. Essentially, insiders only need apply. Makes you think that Bernie and the Donald are right about the system being rigged, doesn’t it? 

Prime example here would be between Kamila Harris and Loretta Sanchez in the Senate race to replace Barbara Boxer. They will likely be the two winners out of a field of some 34 candidates for that gravy-no-term-limit position, so the primary is just a warmup. Watch for party machinery, money and endorsements, arm twisting, those kinds of things. And Republican candidates probably won’t get bunch of votes. Parenthetically, I’m told the smart money is on Willie Brown’s pony in the race, Kamila Harris. 

The second change involves our initiative process – it’s where the money variable really comes into play because there’s a ton of money behind some of these initiatives. That money is usually going to go to one of the top two November candidates. 

As an example, let’s look at the 4th Assembly District, way up around Lake/Yolo/Napa Counties. There is no incumbent, and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D) has suddenly become the beneficiary of some $700,000 from front groups backed by Chevron and Valero oil companies. Wonder why? C’mon, no you don’t -- Big Oil has an interest in the outcome. 

And look at the millions of special interest dollars that will be spent on stuff like the billion dollar bond measure for the homeless. On top of that, right now, statewide, we have the pot initiative, maybe an extension of the Governor’s Prop 30 sales tax, bonds for Education, as well as the Metro 1/2 cent sales tax measure. And back to our 4th Assembly district race…just coincidentally, there’s also talk about an “oil extraction tax” on you know who.   

If you think that the players in these ballot measures aren’t going to give to their favorite politicians to curry favor (sounds nicer than buying their vote), then you still believe in the tooth fairy. 

And the Point Is... 

Like the headline says, Bernie and the Donald agree on one thing -- the game is rigged. And it is. This isn’t about Democrat or Republican, it’s about how politics really works in 2016, particularly here in California. Most of these state offices are locked in by political gerrymandering to be permanently (D) dem or (R) rep. My little traipse through reality is simply an explanation about how the political parties, special interests, lobbyists and political consultants manipulate us like Monsanto’s genetically modified food crops. 

So think about this article when you vote on the June primary ballot or in the November general election. Check out the results and see if I’m right in my analysis. Get disgusted, get angry, and get involved.


(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.



After All the Screaming: Quiet, Mobility and Open Space

THE EXPO LINE--Memorial Day, my son and I had the pleasure of a quiet, enjoyable walk in the area where so much hullabaloo over the Expo Line occurred over the past two decades. That highly-disputed region between Overland Avenue and the 405 freeway.  The trains were quiet, and pretty much hidden behind the sound walls. The main noise coming from children on their roller skates and a considerable number of bicyclists. 

Is this widened right of way, particularly near the Westwood/Rancho Park station, the "Palms Park West" that some Expo advocates (including myself) fought for?  No.  But the pedestrians, bicyclists, and skaters now have a nice new place to travel, and I dare say the children and their parents from Rancho Park and adjacent neighborhoods will be the biggest winners. (Photo above: Palms sound wall.) 

Is this widened right of way one big parking lot?  No--there is a lot of need, and very short supply, of good parking spaces (not free, but affordable and to enhance overall community access to this new light rail line) for the Expo Line.  This is particularly true for the "regional" stations at Bundy/Olympic, Exposition/Sepulveda, and Venice/Robertson but not so ideal for the "local/neighborhood" stations at Westwood/Rancho Park. 

The private sector can and should be expected to come up with transit-oriented residential development that requires parking spots for long-distance Expo Line commuters who live far away, but with financial incentives to keep those living near the line to minimize use of automobiles .  Workforce housing and senior/student housing advocates also have a golden opportunity for affordable and transit-oriented housing. 

The biggest problem, arguably, is the poor quality of the sidewalks on major thoroughfares such as Westwood and Sepulveda Boulevards: 

1) Pity that all the screaming that Rancho Park and Cheviot Hills did, to the waste of hundreds of thousands of legal dollars from dues-paying homeowners associations, wasn't focused on redoing and repairing the sidewalks on Westwood and Sepulveda Boulevards between Pico and National Blvds.  Pity also that consensus for a rail bridge over Overland Ave. wasn't fought for, but at least we can fight for better sidewalks and bus stations. 

2) Pity also that both the City Council and City Attorney haven't been able to come up with a legal answer to prevent the homeless from setting up quasi-permanent residence on the Sepulveda Blvd. sidewalks below the I-10 freeway overpasses.  The Exposition/Sepulveda station, however, is clean and free from graffiti, homeless encampments, and other urban blight...and we should keep it that way. 

The Mar Vista Community Council just unanimously voted for expedition of repairing our City's sidewalks from a woefully-insufficient 30-year schedule to a 7-10 year schedule, and starting with our sidewalks (particularly near our transit stations) would be a true no-brainer. 

The need for high-quality smart bus benches for the transit-dependent on Sepulveda and National Blvds. would also be a step up for those who must, and those who want, to access transit and mobility without their cars. Until that happens, it's just not fair to expect anyone to use bus transit unless they're financially forced to do so...and it's not like other cities and counties don't have quality bus shelters/benches. 

And while speeding up the line with signal prioritization Downtown for the trains is an issue, the ridership is still very high for the Expo Line (at least 45,000/day and counting) because Santa Monica, West LA, Culver City, the Mid-City, and Downtown LA are all key locations to access.  It's worth pondering how future Laker, Clipper and other sports teams' games will be impacted by the presence of the Expo Line. 

It's no secret that the first step is always the most painful...and hence we needed an Expo Line Authority to get this legally-difficult piece of infrastructure done at all.  It's also no secret that the reason that insufficient speed and mitigation for the Expo Line rests almost entirely on those who opposed the line, and not on Metro and the LADOT, who just wanted a convenient, safe, and attractive ride for those who wanted a new mobility option. 

But for now, as of last Memorial Day, it was a nice day to walk, roller skate, bicycle, or just sit down on a bench and take in a new stretch of open space that used to be nothing but weeds and sawdust--and it's my guess that all the rumors of property values in Rancho Park and adjacent neighborhoods going UP are absolutely true now. 

The best end to a fight is often a calm, pleasant silence as a final "statement" and "resolution".  I'm glad we can finally enjoy this golden silence for now, and hopefully for the indefinite future.


(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.


A ‘Diet’ to Give California Drivers Indigestion

NEW GEOGRAPHY-In the past, it was other people’s governments that would seek to make your life more difficult. But increasingly in California, the most effective war being waged is one the state has aimed at ourselves. 

The Jerry Brown administration’s obsession with becoming a global model for reducing greenhouse gases is leading to an unprecedented drive to completely reshape how Californians live. Rather than focus on more pragmatic, affordable steps to reduce greenhouse gases – more efficient cars, rooftop solar systems and promoting home-based work – the goal increasingly seems like social engineering designed to force Californians to adopt the high-density, transit-oriented future preferred by Brown’s green priesthood. 

The newest outrage comes from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research in the form of a proposed “road diet.” This would essentially halt attempts to expand or improve our roads, even when improvements have been approved by voters. This strategy can only make life worse for most Californians, since nearly 85 percent of us use a car to get to work. This in a state that already has among the worst-maintained roads in the country, with two-thirds of them in poor or mediocre condition. 

The OPR move reflects the increasingly self-righteous extremism animating the former Jesuit’s underlings. Ironically, the governor’s proposals to impose this road diet rest partly on expanding the California Environmental Quality Act, which Brown, in a more insightful moment, described as a “vampire” that needs a “stake through the heart.” Now, instead, the inquisitors seize on vague legislative language and push it to what the Southern California Leadership Council has dubbed “an undesirable and unmanageable extreme.” 

In essence, the notion animating the “road diet” is to make congestion so terrible that people will be forced out of their cars and onto transit. It’s not planning for how to make the ways people live today more sustainable. It has, in fact, more in common with Soviet-style social engineering, which was based similarly on a particular notion of “science” and progressive values. 

Brown’s green political theology already has done much to devastate the state’s heavily minority working class. Despite its improved economy, California ranks the very worst in such measurements as poverty, once the cost of living is factored in, among all states, including Mississippi. By the most recent estimates, roughly one in three California households, largely minorities, lives close to, or in, poverty. 

The higher electricity costs caused by Brown’s policies impact the poorer, heavily minority inland areas, where residents are more dependent on heating and cooling than in the wealthier, and generally whiter, more temperate coastal areas. It also makes manufacturing and other blue-collar industries that employ them ever less competitive. The state’s policies have also made it, according to one recent survey, “the worst” state in America in which to be a trucker. Policies that make the roads worse won’t make that situation any better. 

Brown’s green jihad is also burdening housing development. Despite high prices and demand, California has consistently failed to build enough housing, both single-family and multifamily structures, largely due to regulatory constraints. What is being built, after leaping over numerous hurdles, tends to be very expensive, or, in the case of affordable housing, can be achieved only with massive subsidies. 

Some suggest that policies promoting higher density lead to more affordable housing and a lower cost of living. Given the high costs of building such housing, this notion is absurd. Indeed, research consistently shows that dense cities – Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco – are also among the least-affordable in the nation. 

Increasingly, California’s middle class is also suffering from these policies. High housing costs are already putting ownership out of reach even for fairly affluent families, something that does not bode well long-term for our human capital. Some tech workers have started to relocate, notably to lower-cost areas such as Texas and Arizona. Many more, suggests a recent Beacon Economics study, will migrate in the future, as they enter their thirties. 

In a sense, the “road diet” can be seen as the state adding insult to injury – and in a way that is seriously detached from reality. Los Angeles, for example, has spent $16 billion on a rail system, but the share of people taking transit in the entire region has actually declined. One has to be utterly delusional, as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti arguably is, to think that anti-driving policies and transit will actually make Angelenos more mobile. 

But for the bureaucratic clerics at OPR, how regular people live does not constitute the Holy Grail. Instead, they want to use “the coercive power of the state,” recently celebrated by Gov. Brown, to make driving ever more miserable. OPR even is considering mandating devices on cars that measure mileage. Oddly, the “road diet” makes no distinction between electric cars, hybrids or economical cars as opposed to gas guzzlers. 

For the OPR, driving is intrinsically undesirable. Hence, road improvements are bad because they “likely lead to an increase in [vehicle miles traveled].” For most Californians, cars remain easily the more efficient option; in Southern California, the average transit commute takes nearly twice as long as driving alone. And federal data shows this to be the case across the nation, including in New York, the city with by far the nation’s best transit system. Indeed, Hong Kong, with its high density and high-quality transit system, comes the closest to the goals of folks like OPR and Mayor Garcetti, with work trip travel times 75 percent greater than in Los Angeles. 

Even as a strategy to reduce greenhouse gases, the road diet won’t be much help. In fact, ever more congested freeways – the likely result of the road diet – could actually increase carbon emissions, as well as other pollutants, something the OPR planners largely ignore. More pragmatic ways to address congestion and reduce greenhouse gases – promoting improved mileage, electric cars, ride-sharing as well as more telecommuting – can accomplish these objectives without purposely inconveniencing Californians. Meaningful greenhouse gas reductions, notes a report by McKinsey and Co., can be achieved without reducing driving and without living in denser housing.

Basically, the road diet, like much of the Brown agenda, will do little to suppress warming even as it succeeds in making Californians more miserable. For one thing, California is too small to have any measurable effect on a global phenomenon. Indeed, these policies could prove self-defeating, as they chase residents and industries to other states and countries with more energy-consuming climates and less-strict regulation. 

In a more rational world, such hostile policies would lead to push-back from the citizenry. But California is an increasingly left-leaning, one-party state where issues are rarely debated. Pockets of resistance inside the Democratic Party to Brown and his agenda – many of them minorities from the state’s interior – are being criticized by the state’s gentry class, an effort financed by the omnipresent hedge-fund billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and his legislative minions. 

Sadly, it may be years before the public is fully aware of these issues, and what they mean for people’s daily lives. Voters may soon find that, if they pass a bond measure, such as one being proposed for Los Angeles that includes road improvements, that Gov. Brown’s planning elite will eliminate them. This classic “bait and switch” would leave drivers shelling out money for investments that don’t make their commutes easier. 

Ultimately, congestion will become more and more the norm, while governments pour ever more funds into transportation systems that don’t really take cars off the road. There will be manna from heaven – in the form of Sacramento spending – for politically connected developers, construction unions and contractors, as well as for those politicians they so generously fund. But for most Californians, the memory of greater mobility will fade into oblivion. 

Ultimately, only Californians can slow or reverse this unwise drive toward a society that is gridlocked not only on the roads, but also in terms of class and upward mobility. The middle-class dream of better incomes, good public schools and up-to-date infrastructure is slowly being erased by an over-reaching regulatory state that rewards the well-connected but devastates the middle class. This process can only be reversed when Californians finally stand up and say, as a people, basta ya! Enough already!


(Joel Kotkin is a R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism in Houston. His newest book is “The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us.” This was first posted at newgeography.com.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

There’s Much More to Next Week’s CA Primary than Bernie and Hillary

GELFAND’S WORLD--We have some crucial decisions to make next Tuesday, June 7, but most Californians seem to have forgotten about everything except Hillary vs. Bernie. The Barbara Boxer senatorial seat is open, along with the congressional seat currently held by Janice Hahn. 

Things are made complicated by the modified blanket primary that California now uses. Some of you may remember it from a previous election -- for any one office such as U.S. Senate, all candidates are listed, no matter what party or absence of party. This election, there are 35 candidates in your Voter Information Guide running for the Senate. The frontrunner is state Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose main opponent on the Democratic side appears to be Loretta Sanchez. There are 11 candidates listing themselves under No Party Preference, which is the term we now use for what used to be called Decline to State. On the Republican side, we find (blast from the past) Ron Unz and others. 

The gimmick is that for each office, the top 2 vote getters will end up on the November ballot, whether they are from different parties or from the same party. It's possible therefore that Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez could face each other in November, even though one would have gotten more votes than the other in Tuesday's primary. 

The June vote is no longer a party primary, at least in districts where one party has a strong majority in voter representation. 

Notice that your own party registration is also now moot (except for the presidential primary) because every voter gets to vote for any candidate of any party (or non-party) for each office except the presidency. Even then, those of us registered as No Party Preference are allowed to vote in the Democratic presidential primary if we choose. 

There is one congressional race that is of particular interest. Congressional District 38 is being vacated by Janice Hahn, resulting in a large number of candidates. Here are a few characteristics of this district: 

It runs from the harbor in the south (Wilmington and San Pedro) up through Compton and South Gate. 

It includes a bloc of African American voters to the north. 

Overall, it is approximately 70 percent Latino. 

The two contenders are Isadore Hall (African American) and Nanette Barragan (Latina). 

You might look at this district as having been crafted to be a Latino seat in the last redistricting. Nevertheless, Hall has accumulated an amazing collection of endorsements. You want mayors, state Senators, congressmen, Assemblymen? He's got them all. You want the Democratic Party of California and its subsidiary branches? He's got them. Hall seems to have been the heir apparent to Janice Hahn, because he got her endorsement for the race early on. 

Barragan seems to have come into the race a bit later, and (it is rumored), is the choice of the Latino caucus, who recognized that a seat that should by rights belong to them was heading elsewhere. 

But there is one thing about the Barragan candidacy that makes it interesting on a regional and even national level. Barragan is endorsed as someone who will fight against global warming. An organization called Climate Hawks Vote has given her a strong endorsement. The term Climate Hawks refers to those who don't and won't pussyfoot around about the reality of global warming. In an era in which conservative interests have been able to get away with either avoiding the issue ("I'm not a scientist") or outright lying ("global warming is a fraud"), it's time to recruit and support candidates who speak for scientific reality and our critical need to take action. 

The Climate Hawks Vote endorsement goes even further, painting Hall as a faux environmentalist, pointing out how he used the state senate's voting rules to make himself look more environmental than he really is: 

"By sharp contrast, her primary opponent fights for Big Oil. Last week during a critical vote on a fracking bill, state legislator Isadore Hall III was sitting on the sidelines with his friends at Western States Petroleum Association as the vote count seemed to stall at 19 (it needed 21 for passage). He told them his voting strategy - he would abstain so as to not cast the deciding vote, but if two others voted for it he’d have to go along so as to not hurt his reputation with the greens. Fortunately for Hall’s entirely undeserved reputation, two others voted yes, so he cast vote no. 22. He’s the number-two recipient of oil money in the state legislature last year.  Now he’s running for Congress in south Los Angeles."  

Hall, by the way, claims to be pro-environment, and refers to cap-and-trade legislation that has his name on it. Major environmental organizations endorsing Barragan don't seem to be buying into Hall's line. Instead, they refer to her leadership in beating back an initiative that would have allowed oil exploration off the coast of Hermosa Beach. 

For what it's worth, the Los Angeles Times has given Barragan its strong endorsement, making Hall out to be a conventional politician who has taken money from the gambling, tobacco, and oil industries, and defended their interests. 

CD 38 is going to be an interesting election. And as noted above, even if one of these two candidates defeats the other next week, it isn't over. Second place is where you need to finish to be in the money. 

One other point that realists will have to confront: Either candidate, in winning the CD38 seat, is heading to a long streak of watching the Republican majority call all the shots. Unless some electoral miracle occurs, this candidacy is at least a 6 year investment in Democratic Party seniority, while waiting for the possibility of redistricting giving the House back to the Democrats after the next census. We can expect either candidate to vote pretty much the Democratic Party ticket in the congress. 

The U.S. Senate race could also lead to an all-Democratic runoff in November. Any reasonably well known Republican candidate would be expected to finish between Harris and Sanchez, thereby making it to the finals, but it's not obvious that there is such a person this year.


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


The Free and the Brave … Confronting the Challenges of a More Complex World

Most of us who have heard of the vandalizing of the Vietnam War Memorial in Venice are still in a state of shock, and are calling on the LAPD to reverse their decision to not investigate the case.  But there is good news: the army of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who are growing up in respect to our fallen military are a much better representation of who we are. 

Last year, a small army of over 4,000 Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorer Scouts, Sea Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Camp Fire Girls, and other youth groups placed over 86,000 flags early on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend at the West Los Angeles Veterans Memorial Cemetery.  This year that number was even higher, and it reflected a more prominent co-ed presence than ever. 

The girls stepped up, and the boys stepped up even more, judging from the ocean of uniformed youths I saw there.  And THAT is the true America we live in--both the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts led the ceremonies this year, with a special speech from Jimmy Weldon of "Yakky Doodle" fame (yes, he can still do that beloved voice, even at age 90).  Reverence was discussed, and its tie-in to Old Glory...and then the youths went to work. 

Memorial Day is special, and started shortly after the Civil War.  It was originally called Decoration Day, and became Memorial Day.  Unlike Veterans Day, the holiday dedicated to thank and honor those who served in the military, Memorial Day is meant to commemorate those who served and died for our everyday liberties. 

We live in an ever-more-complicated world, with the needs of Americans to be respected and balanced with the needs of non-Americans.  The prioritization of Americans in our world has much to do with our current presidential election cycle...and taking on the difficult issues is something our youth will have to grapple with as much as did older generations. 

Very recently, President Obama visited Hiroshima and discussed the "evil that fell from the skies" in the form of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Many in Asia, the Philippines, and the United States believe that this evil was of Imperial Japan's own making, and reflect concern that the "War of Asian Liberation" (as it is so taught in Japan) doesn't show that Japan "gets it" like Germany does with that latter nation's Nazi past. 

Many have viewed President Obama's visit as an "apology", and demand that he visit Pearl Harbor to apologize to those buried there.  Well, President Obama DID visit Pearl Harbor this weekend.  President Obama is from Hawaii, and knows all too well the nightmare that was visited on our nation that awful day of December 7, 1941. 

And while those of us who study history and civics might recognize that the nuclear bombing of Japan simultaneously ended the Second World War, saved millions of American and Japanese lives (the Japanese were in training to fight to the death, including women and children), and send a message to Stalin and the Soviet Union that the War was over for them, too...clearly, the two nuclear bombings cannot and should not be something we should be "proud of". 

And while even today, the remains of our nation's fallen youth still only now make it home from where they fought in the South Pacific in World War Two, and remain as a beacon of dignity and sacrifice in Normandy and other battlefields in Europe, the agony and ambivalence of war and foreign conflicts must always be taught, and never forgotten. 

So while Congress now debates whether to require young women as well as young men to register for the draft at age 18, the ambivalence and challenges of that issue must be debated...because there probably IS no right answer.  Perhaps women SHOULD serve (perhaps there would be fewer wars if they helped run the military), and perhaps both men and women SHOULD all be required to serve two years in either civilian or military roles. 

Perhaps, too, both history and civics should make a come-back as required learning every year in high school, instead of the elective and/or two years that are currently part of our high school requirements ... to say nothing of our woefully-incomplete college requirements.

But on these two issues, there is NO ambivalence: 

1) The disgusting individuals who secretly defaced the Vietnam War Memorial in Venice did more than just burn American flags to make a point.  They are the villains, the losers, and the miscreants who reflect the worst of our society. 

2) The army of boys and girls (and their supportive parents) who descended on the West LA Veterans Memorial Cemetery last Saturday morning to place an ocean of American flags made their own point, and they did it for all to see.  They are the heroes, who are the newest wave of Americans, and who are of all ethnicities and both genders...and they reflect the best of our society.

And it's not hard to figure out which group outnumbers the other. 

God Bless America, and may the memory of our fallen heroes, who gave everything for our daily rights, happiness, and quality of life--and our FREEDOM--live forever in our hearts. 


(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.)



The 8150 Sunset Project: Rotten to the Core

GUEST WORDS--I am often asked by exasperated residents: “How can the city approve this (8150 Sunset) project?” My answers have changed over the years because the attitude of our elected officials has changed. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when I first became involved in neighborhood work, I think city politicians like John Ferraro actually cared about residents.

Today the only thing most politicians care about is their next election – and who will fund it. And to get that funding from the deep pockets of the developer class they will approve almost any project and break every promise they make to their constituents.

The negative impacts on communities from rubber-stamping any and everything developers’ desire doesn’t concern city politicians, because they will be long gone before “it” hits the fan. Politicians are masters of musical chairs. They dance to the tune of term limits and – before the music stops – routinely shuffle on to Sacramento, Congress, the County Board of Supervisors, or maybe even run for Governor.

Sometimes they even run for mayor and pretend they had nothing to do with anything bad that happened while they were on the City Council.

If I sound angry, it’s for good reason: I am.

I finally had a chance to look at the 8150 Sunset Project and I cannot believe what I saw – and what the Planning Department recommends that the Planning Commission (and eventually the full city council) approve.

For starters, this project has been mysteriously designated as an “environmental leadership development project” – which mandates that any actions or judicial proceedings, including potential appeals, brought to challenge the approval under CEQA must be resolved within 270 days after certification of the record of proceedings supporting the approval.

This is what city hall was going to use to streamline approval for the downtown stadium if it had gone forward. How the 8150 Sunset project received such status is a complete puzzle. But, obviously, somebody must have known somebody ­– because the fix is in. This special status makes it very difficult for any person or group to challenge this project – no matter how neighborhood crushing it will be or how many rules the city manipulates or ignores to approve it.

Make no mistake about it: 8150 Sunset is a really, really bad project.

It will overwhelm the surrounding neighborhood and create problems for the City of West Hollywood, too. In a May 23, 2016 letter to the Hearing Officer the City of West Hollywood dumped a bucket of cold water on the project. 

West Hollywood is objecting to the proposed traffic light LA says it needs to mitigate the project. The problem is that where LA wants to put the new traffic light is in the City of West Hollywood at Fountain and Havenhurst Drive – and, of course, the City of Los Angeles can’t enforce a mitigation on an intersection outside their boundaries.

West Hollywood also objects to the exits from the project onto Havenhurst because the cut-through traffic will overwhelm the street. Likewise, they also object to the project connecting into their sewer line and the maintenance that would require.

There is also the matter of the City of Los Angeles granting a public easement to the developer which clearly constitutes an illegal gift of publically owned land. And to make matters worse, the city kicked in a surplus property at 8118 Sunset Boulevard to sweeten the deal.

Those of you who have been in L.A. for a long time will remember that address as the location of “Pandora’s Box.” Records show that the city tore it down in the late 1960s and turned the property into a traffic island in the middle of Crescent Heights that contains a bus stop. The public easement is the sweeping right hand turn from eastbound Sunset to southbound Crescent Heights.

The city is proposing to cement over the turn lane and unite the traffic island/bus stop with the northeast corner of 8150 Sunset. So, one day you will be able to use the right turn lane (that people have been using for generations) and the next day it will be gone. 

There will be no pesky, time consuming street vacation process to determine if the turn lane/traffic island/bus stop is needed. The city will just call in a few cement trucks to cover it over. But don’t worry, the city says it will still own the land beneath the cement – but the developer will maintain it (while using it for the benefit of their project).


The wheeling and dealing between city hall and real estate speculators, the rule bending, the giveaways, the false promises to residents – this is the sort of crap that has millions of people rebelling against the political establishment all over the United States.

The 8150 Sunset project is rotten to the core and the politicians who made it possible should be ashamed of themselves. But, thanks to the game of musical chairs, politicians bet that they can move on to another office and put enough distance between themselves and the consequences of their decisions – distance that enables plausible denial and makes shame a moot point.

This project is the last straw for me.

I am finally at the place where many of my community activist friends have been for some time now. We have no confidence that city hall cares about anyone outside of what they call the “city family” – those that work for and promote the vested interests of city hall. The motto of the City of Los Angeles might as well be: “The people be damned.”

It is time for a new groundswell of opposition to business as usual in L.A. Maybe that will take another secession movement or maybe a new city charter that gives power directly to the people. But beyond ballot measures to remedy this sorry situation, I believe we need to develop a Federation of Neighborhoods with representatives from every neighborhood and community organization in the city.  We must stand as one against the corrupt power structure of city hall – otherwise, one project at a time, we will lose one neighborhood after another.  

This is a united we stand or divided we fall moment. 

As for the 8150 Sunset project, this is Councilman David Ryu’s moment. He has written that he knows the project is too tall and too dense, but he has to go beyond writing letters to the Planning Department.

Frankly, Ryu’s letter was disappointing. It was not what I expected of him – or the kind of letter John Ferraro used to write. Ryu must say no to removing the right turn lane and surrendering 8118 Sunset traffic island to this project. He must say no to the destruction of the historic Lytton Bank building just as his colleague Mike Bonin did with the Barry Building.  He must demand real mitigations and be prepared to stand up in council, vote no, and urge his colleagues to support him in opposing the project as presented. 

The city council has a long history of not opposing the vote of a councilmember on a project in their district. Ryu needs to remind his colleagues of that.

If any councilmember votes to approve the 8150 Sunset project over the wishes of Councilmember Ryu we must not forget their vote. 

If the Mayor Garcetti supports this project we must not forget his vote. 

The game of musical chair depends on the constant shuffling of offices on the part of politicians and the poor memory of the electorate. 

We must remember the votes on the 8150 Sunset project. 

A mindful and energized electorate can win against all the developer money thrown against them. Councilmember Ryu proved that when he was elected. Now he must deliver on his promises that put him in office. 


(James O’Sullivan is President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association and co-founder of Fix the City … a non-profit, citizen association whose stated goal is its name … to Fix the City. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

Los Angeles, City of Ideas: A Love Story

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-May 30 marked 28 years since I’ve moved to LA with a bunch of suitcases and ideas. What was the initial attraction? LA to me is a land of ideas and possibilities. The guy at the gas station is a member of SAG and your dentist has a screenplay. People leave hometowns and even countries for the possibilities. There’s a different kind of energy here than you might find in the bustling streets of New York. Driving through Topanga toward that first slice of the coastline or through Laurel Canyon to Sunset is unlike what you’ll experience in any other city. 

Our history is young compared to Boston or London. There are no brick buildings where colonists gathered to plan the break from England. What we do have are relics from the early days of the studio system, Spanish colonial revivals and examples of Art Moderne. As millions of veterans returned from the Second World War to create a residential housing boom in our city, Arts & Architecture Magazine commissioned major architects of the day to design the Case Study Houses, brilliant minds like Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen, A. Quincy Jones, Ralph Rapson, an experimental program that ran between 1948 and 1966. 

LA’s signature Googie architecture in the fifties and sixties was a tribute to the car culture and Jet Age futurism. Coffee shops, gas stations, car washes, and other commercial designs featured cantilevered roofs, starbursts, and hard angles. Sadly, many of the best examples of Googie architecture and significant examples of other schools of architecture have not been preserved, although the LA Conservancy works to nominate buildings for Cultural Historic Status. 

I first fell in love with our city’s unique mix of architectural styles when I was writing for a real estate website about six years ago. Since then, I’ve taken tours of the Case Study homes, Pasadena’s Bungalow District, and taken walking tours past the bungalows and apartments that were the homes of many Hollywood icons. 

There’s something uniquely special about strolling through Grand Central Market, (photo above.) where Angelenos have been buying delicacies and flowers since 1917, when Broadway was LA’s commercial and entertainment district. The history of the market reflects the city’s history and immigration patterns. Buying Bob’s Donuts, fresh fish, or peanut butter at The Farmers Market on Fairfax is another tradition that pays tribute to our city’s past. 

When I became aware of the aggressive tactics of developers who seem to have a stronghold on the City Council, I was disappointed and concerned. I’ve watched historically relevant buildings fall to ugly strip malls, boxy apartment buildings, and parking structures during the past 25 plus years since I first moved here. Would developers finish off the city, leaving only tract homes and McMansions with minimal setbacks? Is there anything that can be done to stop this takeover? 

Through a series of introductions, I began to cover the grassroots activists throughout Los Angeles who gather in offices, living rooms, and coffee shops to protect their neighborhoods. The energy of ideas in motion that first attracted me to Los Angeles is alive in every person and every group gathering recall signatures and meeting with those charged with protecting the interests of constituents to let them know the rollover in favor of developers with deep pockets is unacceptable. 

Los Angeles, like many cities, faces challenges including a lack of affordable housing and public transportation, increasing traffic and homelessness but for every challenge, there are Angelenos who are passionate, driven, and applying creative ideas toward solutions.

And that just may be what I love most about Los Angeles.


(Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA’s Sweet New Expo Ride and LA Times Sour Coverage

TRANSIT TALK--Why is the Los Angeles Times so negative towards the Expo Line? The Times does some worthy reporting: they have an international bureau with needed reporting on the Middle East catastrophes, they believe in the threats of global warming and climate change, they cover state and local news with a fair amount of unbiased reporting. But before, and since, the opening of the Phase II of the Expo Line, their articles have focused on the negative. There is little to none of the local boosterism one would expect from the major hometown newspaper. (Photo above: Happy Expo Line rider.) 

The published letters to the editor have been negative about the new train line, and so far none have been positive. I know at least one Times reader and subscriber who sent in a positive letter-me, and would gladly have my letter not published for someone else in favor, but there is nothing from the Times. 

Is this a Chicago situation? The Times is owned by the Tribune of Chicago, buying the paper from the Chandler family, and there is a history of animosity from Chicago towards Los Angeles, and California, before the purchase. In the 1980s, Chicago columnist Mike Royko wrote an article chastising the fern loving wimps of California, and then seemed to like the idea of the state disappearing in an earthquake. Why such animosity and wishes for mayhem, destruction and death on such a large scale? 

After the Tribune purchased the Times a character trait emerged in the paper. It was one of telling us in Los Angeles who was in charge and that we in Los Angeles needed lessons to know this. Within the first weeks of the purchase the Tribune, excuse me the Times, posted on the front page of the sports page how the Chicago Cubs were doing, as if we didn’t have two major league teams of our own, and as if we cared.  

After a heavy snowfall in the local mountains they posted a photo of a cabin covered in snow with the caption it was just like New England? No it’s not, it is just like Southern California. The lack of understanding of Southern California … with seemingly little effort to try … remains an acidic riddle. 

Eventually the Tribune people seemed to have read the memo that Los Angeles is its own place, with its own history, and long ago passed Chicago as the “Second City,” and is indeed an international city unto itself. But these latest negative articles and letters about the Expo Line seem to indicate the new Tribune Publishing Chairman Michel Ferro has steered the Times back into their perceived role of Los Angeles second to Chicago. 

A Times preview article reviewed the Expo Phase II route, and made particular note of the 17th Street Station in Santa Monica which will serve Santa Monica College. (I will also be using this station.) Of all the stations mentioned, this was the only one where walking distance was discussed, one-half mile to Santa Monica College as if this was a burden. The publisher did not do homework, this station is served by the Santa Monica Bus Lines 41 and 42 to take students to SMC, and the college has their own shuttle to the school and back to the station. The bus stop is across the street from the station.  

Moreover, any regular transit rider knows that a one-half mile walk is routine and not an issue. If one has a disability with walking, then it could be an issue, but solved with Santa Monica Buses and Santa Monica College shuttle. If someone is able-bodied and not able to walk one-half mile, then here is a great way to get into shape through walking. Indeed, walking is always involved with riding transit, particularly in Los Angeles, and this is good, it is about exercise, and seeing the city on a human level and not behind the wheel. 

The Times focus was on driving to stations and parking to ride, and then I guess just walk across the street to the destination. In a previous article I wrote of the need for parking at light rail and subway stations, but in West Los Angeles property is expensive and money could be better spent on maintenance of all transit, and building more. I use buses to get to train stations in the day when demand for parking is highest, and in evenings I drive to stations since bus service greatly declines or just stops.  

There was the photo of a man at a station next to a dog. Only certified service animal are allowed on trains and buses, and they must be on a leash. If no a service animal they must be in a closed carrier. I saw none in the photo. Indeed, city law states all dogs must be leashed when on public grounds, which a light rail station certainly is. Surely someone at the Times knows this, and should have not allowed that photo which will encourage people to bring their unauthorized, unleashed dogs to the trains.  

Then there are the three letters to the editor complaining about MTA in general, and Expo Phase II in particular, and as of today, not one positive letter. The woman in the first letter voices her concerns about trains traveling near schools and along pedestrian walkways, as if this is a problem. Crossing railroad tracks are like crossing streets: look both ways, don’t cross when the signals say no crossing, cross when safe. 

There is no mention of the hundreds of schools along streets and very busy boulevards which put students and others in danger from vehicle accidents, and pedestrians and bicyclists being hit by vehicles. Students are subjected to the health issues of breathing in vehicle exhausts, including dirty diesel engines, from traffic near the schools with schools near freeways subject to greater health risks. The light rail trains run on electricity and do not generate vehicle exhaust.  

This woman then disparagingly compares the transit systems of Los Angeles to New York. Perhaps she is unaware of the history of Southern California which once had an extensive urban rail system which became neglected and hastened to its demise by General Motors, Standard Oil and Firestone Tires so the trains could be replaced by buses. This decision was made by corporations with headquarters and major offices in New York, along with the financiers behind this, so New York could be complicit in the demise of our rail system. While this woman cannot be blamed for not knowing this history, the Times, as the paper of record for the city should know, and should have qualified this statement. 

The second letter laments that no train currently goes to LAX. Valid point. However, it is in the news that Metro and LAWA are pursuing a people mover into LAX from the Crenshaw and Green Lines. If this letter writer doesn’t know this, fair enough, but for the Times, the paper of record, to not acknowledge this is a neglect of their duties. This letter writer voices opposition to upcoming Proposition R2 for increasing transit projects. I favor it, but the Times responsibility is to present both cases, and it didn’t happen with this letter. 

The third letter laments the time it takes for the crossing arms to close off roads to traffic while a train passes. He would like to shorten the time. Repeatedly there are news accounts of horrible accidents nationwide between trains and vehicles that cheat the crossing arms and try to sneak across the tracks before the train passes. 

These accidents lead to horrible multiple injuries and deaths. If the reader thought the time was long now to wait for the train to pass before the crossing arms lower and then raise, the wait would become all day, if not longer, if there is a tragic accident between a train and vehicle, and traffic is prohibited from crossing the tracks effectively sealing off the streets. With the current wait times Metro seems to be on the side of caution, and they are right. The letter writer may not be aware of these situations, but surely the Times, which is in news business would know of these stories, and has not presented any counter argument to this.  

I’ve ridden Expo Phase I often. I’ve ridden Expo Phase II and will be regular rider. It is fantastic, it is a game changer, it is an accomplishment for the city, it is a great day and one made for local boosterism. Can there be improvements? Absolutely. But this is not the time to throw out negatives after negative as the Times has been doing. The Expo train is in Los Angeles, not Chicago.

(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native. He is a transit rider and advocate, a composer, music instructor, and member and president and executive director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra)



LA: Just a Matter of Time before No One is Safe

JUSTICE INTERUPTED--Just before 9 pm on Friday, May 13, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Hollenbeck Gang Enforcement Unit shot and killed 28 year old, Roberto Mark Diaz during a routine gang suppression patrol triggered by major increases in gang related shootings throughout the Hollenbeck Division. 

Diaz ran from police officers, pulling out a handgun and fired in the direction of the two police officers. The police officers returned fire and killed him. One police officer sustained a gunshot wound to his shoulder area and a second officer injured his back as he darted away in his attempt to avoid being struck by gunfire. 

Diaz, a hard-core gang member, had an extensive criminal arrest and conviction history having served time in state prison for Armed Robbery and Ex-felon possession of a firearm. Diaz, with his noted violent criminal history was classified as a “low- level, non-violent” criminal offender, currently supervised by the Los Angeles County Probation department under AB 109. He was last released from Los Angeles County jail on April 22, 2016 after having served 10 days for a probation violation under AB 109. 

When the “Officer Down-Officers need Assistance” call went out, Chief Charlie Beck’s mainstay, Ruby Malachi, Captain of the Community Relationships Division, wasted no time heading for the crime scene. Prior to the LAPD’s Force Investigative Division, Officer Involved Shooting Team and their Scientific Investigative Division arrival, Malachi had already breached the crime scene tape -- trampling through the crime scene. 

Malachi’s job is “community relationships.” Her latest endeavor is making videos of dancing police officers (the Running Man's New Zealand dance challenge.) Thanks to Beck, her newly created job duplicates efforts of all other Divisions (at a great waste of money to taxpayers.) Her job description does not include intrusion of crime scenes before they’re investigated. 

While Malachi’s officers were dancing in front of a camera, a woman walking through Lincoln Park in Lincoln Heights on May 9 (also in LAPD Hollenbeck Division) was approached by a Hispanic male who held a gun to her head, forced her into a public restroom and sexually assaulted her. Fortunately, the victim was able to give responding police officers an excellent physical description, including distinctive facial tattoos to police. Within a short time, Police officers from both the LAPD Hollenbeck Specialized gang unit and Detectives assigned to LAPD's elite Robbery-Homicide unit were able to identify Edgar Alexander Lobos and arrest him. Lobo is a 27 year-old hard-core gang member and ex-felon.

According to Captain William Hayes, Lobos had an extensive criminal arrest history that includes vandalism and domestic violence but was classified as a non-violent, low-level criminal offender and was under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Probation department under AB 109.

These are the most recent examples of the epic “fails” triggered by Governor Jerry Brown and his quest to empty out California State prisons.

Since the passage of AB 109, hundreds of “low- level, non-violent” offenders have killed, raped, assaulted, maimed and kidnapped innocent victims. In 2014, voters passed Prop 47 that Governor Jerry Brown touted as the Bill that would reclassify drug and theft crimes that involve less than $950 from felonies to misdemeanors. Now two years later, criminals have an easier time committing crimes because they know they’ll get no more than a “slap on the hand.” 

Both Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti have remained dreadfully silent while violent criminal offenders, hard-core gang members supervised and placed under AB 109 and Prop. 47 are being let out of prison after spending little to no time in prison and are reoffending in record numbers.

Both violent crime and property crimes rates are escalating with each and every passing day within the city of Los Angeles. 

Malachi’s Division could be just as effective with civilian clerical workers rather than $100,000 per year paid police officers who serve the City best by patrolling the streets -- not dancing in production videos. 

Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) criticized Beck for taking officers off the streets amidst a citywide rise in crime, which has seen violent crime rise 20.2%, property crime rise 10.7%, robbery rise 12.5%, and auto theft rise 17.1% from 2014 to 2015. Most or all are attributed to AB 109. In 2016, those numbers are, again, on the rise. 

On June 7, 2015, State Assemblyman Jimmie Gomez was asked if he was going to consider making amendments to AB 109. At the time, there were discussions relative to making amendments to the law in Sacramento that several deemed to be “broken.” Assemblyman Gomez's chilling response was, "Not on my watch. I will not consider making any amendments to AB 109.” 

For those who don’t know, crimes that fall under AB 109 are not always “low level, non violent” crimes. Many of the inmates' current convictions generally fit that description, but past crimes committed by some of these offenders have ranged from violent assaults to sexual offenses, child abuse and second-degree murder. 

As the November elections draw near, Governor Brown is using his campaign funds to gather signatures that would place the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” initiative on the November ballot. Brown’s duplicitous claim that his measure applies to only “non violent felony offenses” has the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), and a host of other organizations, engaging in a battle against this initiative. Brown amended the initiative that originally concerned only the reform of rules for juveniles being tried in adult court. His amendments now add inmates to the fray.

The California District Attorneys Association filed a lawsuit against the Governor in February 2016. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said Attorney General Kamala Harris should not have accepted Brown’s January 25 amendments to the proposed ballot measure filed because “the filing is not an amendment of the prior initiative draft – it is a completely different and new initiative.” 

This does not bode well for innocent people who live and work anywhere in the state of California. The effects of both Prop 47 and AB 109 have been the abysmal failures that have left hundreds of innocent victims in their wake. In Los Angeles, Chief Charlie Beck sits smiling. He gave his support to both AB 109 and Prop 47 along with his support for Brown’s half-baked ballot initiative.

From all over the City, San Pedro, Harbor, Van Nuys, Mission Hills, Sunland-Tujunga, East Los Angeles and even Northeast Los Angeles, residents, stakeholders, community groups, community Police Advisory Board members. Neighborhood Councils and Neighborhood Watch Captains are demanding more patrol officers for their areas. Currently there are over 600 police officers who do nothing but clerical work within LAPD. Malachi’s Community Relationships Division has more than 100 officers who do nothing but photo-ops and videos.

It is patently dangerous for all citizens in Los Angeles and both Beck and Garcetti know this. 

Garcetti, for his part, believes training parolees to pick up trash on roadways can rehabilitate them. Each parolee will have a shot at a 90-day employment opportunity, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. Oh, and did I mention life skills training, cognitive treatment and therapy? 

On May 27, Garcetti spoke at a Press Conference in South Central about the debt of gratitude Angeleno’s should be paying prisoners. “When people have paid their debt to society, our debt of gratitude should be, not just thanking them for serving that time but allowing them a pathway back in,” he said. 

What? Garcetti should be thanking taxpayers for shelling out more than $47,000 per year to incarcerate each inmate who violated the rights on an innocent person in the commission of a crime. Common sense dictates that victims of violent crimes deserve “at least” some of the respect Garcetti offers to parolees -- something he neglected to offer! 

Perfect timing for such a stupid statement from the Mayor of Los Angeles -- as the City cries for more police officers to patrol the streets of Los Angeles and Brown wants voters to let even more dangerous, violent felons out of prison. 

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

Has LA Lost Its Confidence?

NEW GEOGRAPHY--Throughout the recession and the decidedly uneven recovery, Southern California has tended to lag behind, particularly in comparison to the Bay Area and other booming regions outside the state. Once the creator of a dispersed, multipolar urban model – “the original in the Xerox machine” as one observer suggested – this region seems to have lost confidence in itself, and its sense of direction.

In response, some people, notably Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, favor creating a future in historical reverse, marching back toward becoming a more conventional, central core and transit-dominated region – a kind of New York by the Pacific. Eastern media breathlessly envision our region transforming itself from “car-addicted, polluted and lacking in public transit” into a model of new-urbanist excellence.

Here’s a basic problem. Their LA of the future – the one that wins plaudits from places like GQ magazine – essentially negates the region’s traditional appeal, offering the middle and even working classes, a suburban-like lifestyle in one of the world’s great global cities.

Vive la difference

UCLA’s Michael Storper correctly notes how far the Southland has fallen behind its traditional in-state rival, the San Francisco Bay Area. Storper correctly traces much of this gap to the domination of the Los Angeles tech sector by aerospace firms and the fact that this area also had a broad base of nontech-oriented manufacturing.

Can we become a second San Francisco? Regions, like people, do not easily transform themselves into something else. For one thing, the Los Angeles area’s diverse industrial legacy tended to attract a larger share of historically poorer blacks and Hispanics than the Bay Area, whose population is 33 percent black and Hispanic. In contrast, 55 percent of the five-county Southland area’s population has either Hispanic or African American backgrounds, according to data from the 2014 American Community Survey.

Propelled by its better-educated population and more focused business community, the Bay Area’s tech sector is roughly six times larger per capita than the national average. The Bay Area’s large tech firms may move some employment to Texas, Utah, Arizona or abroad, but it’s highly unlikely that the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google will leave the Bay Area in the foreseeable future.

In contrast, Southern California’s industrial economy has faced persistent decline, and, to date, has no strong replacement source of employment. Los Angeles has lost half its manufacturing jobs since 1990, compared with a national decline of 24 percent, and 28 percent statewide. As occurred earlier in the Midwest, this has left a large stranded population with little prospects for upward mobility. No surprise that LA leads the region in percentage of people in poverty, when adjusted for housing costs, more than 25 percent, a rate higher than Mississippi.

Southern California cannot mimic the Bay Area’s economic structure any more than it can duplicate the north’s population profile. With the loss of many of its largest firms, particularly in energy and aerospace, the region’s future increasingly depends on small, often immigrant-run firms that rely on the diversity of urban form in the area. They often tap workers, logistics, and industrial space in the Inland Empire but rely on executives, designers, engineers and professional service firms that tend to concentrate along the coastal strip.

Some people, including much of the region’s political and economic leadership, see this dispersion as a prime source of Southern California’s weakness. They seem to neglect the fact that, according to Census Bureau data, the Los Angeles-Orange County area already constitutes the densest large urban area in the United States, packing in more people per square mile than either the San Francisco-San Jose area or greater New York, and about twice as many as in Portland.

Densification, often cited as the best way to lower house prices, simply does not address the issue of affordability. For example, an eight story high-rise in the Bay Area costs more than five times as much per square foot to build than a single-family house. Furthermore, Angelenos spend on average almost 50 percent of their incomes on rent, among the highest rates in the country.

More density, justifying investments in fixed-rail transit, won’t improve congestion, either. Eastern media accounts see the region morphing into the “next great transit city” But this vision has been something of a fool’s bargain. Well-connected developers, unionized construction workers and contractors who build transit systems have much to celebrate, but after spending $16 billion to build its rail and busway lines, the region’s core transit system – the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – carries fewer riders today than it did 30 years ago.

Across the five Southland counties, these and other major projects (such as Metrolink commuter rail) have failed to keep transit’s work-trip market share from slipping, while, with virtually no public expenditure, more people work from home than take buses or trains to work. The traffic congestion relief promised by rail spending has not occurred.

Back to the model?

The attempt to densify LA, and turn it into some variant of an East Coast city, was always doomed to failure. People came and settled this region in an archipelago of villages, not around a single dominant downtown. Even now, Downtown Los Angeles shows little prospects for emerging as the area’s primary economic center. Downtown LA holds barely 3 percent of the region’s jobs, less than one-third the rate for San Francisco, and almost one-seventh the level in New York City.

“The future of Downtown Los Angeles is not professional services – it’s entertainment, it’s bars, it’s restaurants,” admits José Huizar, the LA City Council member representing Downtown and one of the biggest supporters of renewed development in the area.

Without a strong urban employment core, the entire current emphasis on traditional transit makes little sense. Instead, we should focus more on allowing the various parts of the metropolis do what makes the most economic sense for each one. For example, Los Angeles, still the big enchilada, needs to shore up its powerful entertainment and design center, as well as what’s left of its blue-collar base, such as the increasingly beleaguered seaport.

LA’s grand hopes of challenging Silicon Valley faces some serious headwinds. Its tech and engineering employment numbers over the past decade have actually decreased, relative both to Orange County and the Inland Empire, according to a recent analysis by Chapman University’s Marshall Toplansky and Nate Kaspi.

Orange County may have far better prospects for become a Southland tech center, boasting a somewhat higher percentage of both engineers and tech workers and a higher proportion of tech jobs relative to its overall workforce. In terms of STEM jobs, Orange County ranks about 20 percent above the national average, while Los Angeles, once a tech haven, is 12 percent below average. Orange County’s well-educated and significantly Asian population also approximates that of Santa Clara County, home base of Silicon Valley. Although not an entertainment power on the scale of Los Angeles, Orange County has an impressive entertainment, arts and design focus that has been growing steadily.

Ultimately, the future of the Southland may rest with what happens in the Inland Empire. Riverside County, for example, is the only Southland county, according to the state Department of Finance, to enjoy both positive international and domestic migration. At a time when millennials are fleeing the coastal counties, the Inland area has had the fastest growth in California among millennials, including those with college degrees. From 2000-12, notes demographer Wendell Cox, the two Inland counties added roughly 230,000 residents ages 20 to 30, compared with 130,000 combined for Los Angeles and Orange counties, which have three times the population.

Downtown Los Angeles, by the way, said to be the prime attractor of young people, boosted its millennial population by less than 5,000 during that time span.

The Inland area, with its more affordable housing, is best-positioned to revive the diverse, middle-class economy now under severe stress closer to the coast. It serves as an “escape valve” for people, and companies, who no longer can afford, or wish to live in, an ever more congested and expensive area so appealing to an important and affluent sector of the population.

To take advantage of it unique multipolar structure, Southern California needs to focus not on centralization but building on regional diversity. With the limited prospects for converting into a traditional transit-oriented area, we need planning initiatives that exploit such strategies as expanding home-based work, dispersing jobs to where people live, and even maintaining and improving the freeways that knit the region together.

Southern California can enjoy a renaissance, but it can’t do so by trying to become something it’s not – and never will be.

(Joel Kotkin is a R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism in Houston. His newest book is “The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us.” This was first posted at newgeography.com.


California Back in Big Oil's Crosshairs: Feds Quietly OK Offshore Fracking

ENVIRONMENT POLITICS--"This move paves the way for offshore fracking permits that were previously frozen and the dumping of toxic wastewater directly into the Pacific Ocean." 

Two federal agencies on Friday quietly finalized two reports, set for release next week, which found offshore fracking in California poses no "significant" risk to the environment -- paving the way for oil and gas companies to resume the controversial extraction method in the Santa Barbara Channel and imperiling the region's wildlife in the process, opponents said. 

The announcement Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (OEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement puts an end to a court-ordered ban on offshore fracking in federal waters off the coast of California. The moratorium was put into place in January as part of a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which challenged the Obama administration's 'rubber-stamping' of offshore drilling activity without an environmental review.

Environmental activists warned on Friday that kicking off a new round of drilling in the area puts wildlife at risk from chemical-laden wastewater and said they would be willing to file another lawsuit to keep it from happening.

"The Obama administration is once again putting California's beautiful coast in the oil industry's crosshairs," said Miyoko Sakashita, director of CBD's Oceans program. "Our beaches and wildlife face a renewed threat from fracking chemicals and oil spills. New legal action may be the only way to get federal officials to do their jobs and protect our ocean from offshore fracking." 

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch, criticized President Barack Obama for "doubling down on fracking, instead of providing climate leadership and protecting our communities and our environment." 

"This move paves the way for offshore fracking permits that were previously frozen and the dumping of toxic wastewater directly into the Pacific Ocean where Californians swim, fish, and surf," Hauter said. 

The news comes a year after a pipeline rupture in Santa Barbara sent tens of thousands of gallons of crude spilling onto public beaches and into the Pacific Ocean. The operator of the pipeline, Plains All American, has a history of wreaking environmental havoc throughout Southern California and elsewhere. 

And it also follows the recent signing of the historic deal reached in Paris last December to keep global temperature rise under 2°C, a goal that climate advocates say can only be reached by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and investing in renewal energy. 

"It's clear that Americans want an inspiring new vision for our energy system," Hauter said. "The president continues to indicate that he is not the person to fulfill that vision. It’s a vision that can only be achieved by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and moving swiftly to a system driven by energy efficiency and renewables."


(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams  … where this was first posted.) Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Who’s In Charge at LA’s City Planning, the Queen of Hearts?

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--Queen of Hearts: Now... are you ready for your sentence? Alice: Sentence? But there has to be a verdict first... Queen of Hearts: Sentence first! Verdict afterwards. Alice: But that just isn't the way... Queen of Hearts: [shouting] All ways are...! Alice: ...your ways, your Majesty. 

Just when you think that the broken planning process in Los Angeles is back on track, obviously pushed by the likely voter approval of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative in March 2017, another foolish planning initiative sneaks up on you. Apparently oblivious to the April 2016 pronouncements from the Mayor and the City Council to begin an immediate and thorough update of the entire General Plan and Community Plans, on May 17 City Planning held a scoping meeting for the ”new” Hollywood Community Plan’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) .

Never mind that there is no actual project for the DEIR to evaluate. And never mind that local plans should follow, not proceed, the updating of the mandatory and optional citywide General Plan elements. Like the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” City Planning has decided to first prepare a DEIR to evaluate the future plan, then a detailed zoning ordinance to implement the future plan, then a new text to retroactively shape these implementation ordinances, and finally updates of the citywide General Plan elements in order to carefully guide each local Community Plan long after it has been prepared and presumably adopted

This approach to City Planning would sit well with the Queen of Hearts, who decided on death sentences before she rendered verdicts! In City Planning’s case it is implementing a Community Plan Update before it has been prepared. 

So, at least for CityWatch readers, let me describe how professional planners would and should proceed with the Update of the Hollywood Community Plan, as well as what should be considered in the environmental impact for this Update. 

Correct sequencing is of paramount importance. Common sense, as well as professional planning standards, leads to an inevitable conclusion. You cannot update local plans until you have updated the required and optional citywide General Plan elements. At present, only two of Los Angeles’ mandatory citywide General Plan elements are up-to-date: Housing and Mobility (Transportation). Four other legally required elements are seriously out-of-date: Noise, Public Safety, Open Space, and Conservation. Still other optional but absolutely important elements are woefully out-of-date. 

For example, the General Plan Framework Element, which ties all other citywide elements together, was prepared in the early 1990s, and it is based on 1990 U.S. census data. Its population forecasts for the year 2010 exceeded LA’s actual 2010 population by over 500,000 people. Other important elements, especially Infrastructure, Public Recreation, and Service Systems, date back to the 1960s. They are now a half-century old and, to say the least, ought to be updated before the grandchildren of the planners who drafted these documents are hired to implement them. 

There are very compelling reasons for correct sequencing, for looking at Los Angeles as a whole before burrowing into fine-grained local planning and zoning. Only citywide General Plan elements can answer such obvious questions as: 

  • How much realistic population growth will LA actually experience – as opposed to the grandiose thinking of the Southern California Association of Government, real estate developers run wild, and their ever-faithful City Hall enthusiasts? 
  • If there is population growth in Los Angeles and adjacent areas, when and where will it appear? 
  • What user demands on local infrastructure and public services will result from this population growth? 
  • What is the existing and anticipated capacity of local public infrastructure and services in these areas based on the City of Los Angeles’ Capital Improvement Program and other public budgets? 
  • How will these infrastructure and services systems deteriorate over time, and what are reliable maintenance programs have been funded to keep them operational? 
  • Where in Los Angeles is there sufficient residential, commercial, and industrial zoning capacity for existing and future residents of all socio-economic strata? 
  • What environmental concerns, especially the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, affect the nature and location of future public and private development? 
  • What esthetic considerations, especially the character and scale of existing neighborhoods, should be considered in local land use decisions for public and private investment? 

To ignore the answers to these questions, and to just blindly up-zone and up-plan local private parcels, as is happening again in Hollywood, is the height of folly. It is the obvious path to ensure that LA’s legacy of shoddy city planning, toxic air, polluted water, pot-holed and rutted roads, cracked and uneven sidewalks, and record traffic congestion will only get worse. 

The current approach also reveals the same hubris that blind-sided the City of Los Angeles with three lawsuits that in 2013 totally overturned the previous Hollywood Community Plan Update. In that case Superior Court Judge Alan Goodman threw out the entire Hollywood Plan, including the plan’s text, its Environmental Impact Report, and its lengthy ordinances to densify much of Hollywood through zone changes and general plan amendments. Judge Goodman’s decision also directed the City of Los Angeles to start anew, and it also resulted in the reinstatement of the even older 1988 Hollywood Community Plan. 

Now, apparently dusting off these discredited planning documents, City Planning is undertaking a comprehensive environmental analysis on a “new” Update of the Hollywood Community Plan that does not even exist. City Planning’s website still features the plan text rejected by Judge Goodman four years ago. The only new documents are two tentative, indecipherable maps of proposed plan designations, proposed zones, and a 33-page ordinance matrix of these zone and plan changes.  They are labeled, “Subject to change.” In other words, there is no actual project for the Draft Environmental Impact Report to evaluate and then compare to such alternatives as the existing 1988 plan, a downzoning plan reflecting Hollywood’s dwindling population, and the Alternative Hollywood Community Plan Update prepared by the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. 

Environmental Impact Report: Once the citywide General Plan elements are updated and once there is a detailed, carefully defined Community Plan Update for Hollywood, what questions should the Draft Environmental Impact Report carefully answer? This is my first cut at those categories: 

  • What do Hollywood’s residents want for their community over the next several decades? 
  • What is the capacity of local commercial, industrial, and residential zoning? More specifically, what is the projected population of Hollywood if existing residential zoning is built out to its full legal capacity, without any discretionary actions to boost density? 
  • What are the actual population trends in Hollywood, as opposed to notoriously inaccurate and inflated forecasts from the Southern California Association of Governments? 
  • How much existing residential, commercial, and industrial space has been lost in Hollywood through demolitions to clear building sites for new projects? In terms of residential, what were the cost factors for this lost housing? How will these trends be continued or slowed by the draft Update’s zone changes and plan amendments? 
  • What is the status of major infrastructure and service categories in Hollywood in terms of existing capacity, forecast capacity based on incremental degradation, secured funding for maintenance and repairs, and changes in user demand for infrastructure and services? 
  • To what extent does the existing plan, proposed plan, and the DEIR’s alternatives address adaptation to climate change and the mitigation of the Green House Gases responsible for global warming and climate change? 

These questions are obviously a tiny part of what the eventual Draft EIR will investigate, but these are all important categories that were hardly considered in the 1988 plan restored by the Los Angeles County Superior Court, as well as in the 2012 Hollywood Update rejected by the same Court.


(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. He welcomes questions, comments, and corrections at [email protected].)


Sanders to Trump: ‘Game On’… Let's Debate in 'Biggest Stadium Possible'

TRUMP DOUBLE’S DOWN--Donald Trump has doubled down on his challenge to debate Bernie Sanders, telling reporters in Bismarck, North Dakota on Thursday that he would agree to a one-on-one with the Vermont senator for "something over $10 million."

"If we can raise for maybe women's health issues or something, if we can raise $10 or $15 million for charity," he said. "We have had a couple of calls from the networks already and we'll see."

Sanders responded by tweeting that he was "delighted" Trump had agreed to debate.

"Let's do it in the biggest stadium possible," he wrote.

The comments come after talk show host Jimmy Kimmel asked Trump on air Wednesday if he would debate Sanders ahead of California's June 7 primary—a question submitted by Sanders himself—to which Trump responded, "If I debated him it would have such high ratings. Take that money and give it to some worthy charity."

Sanders immediately responded, "Game on."

On Thursday, Sanders' campaign spokesman Michael Briggs told USA Today, "Of course we're interested. It was Bernie's suggestion."

The senator's campaign manager Jeff Weaver also told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that it would be "great for the American people to be able to see these two candidates on stage debating the important issues... I have to believe that this would be one of the most widely-watched debates ever in presidential politics."

"I hope... [Trump] doesn't chicken out on this," Weaver said.

Watch the interview:


Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have seemingly agreed to a one-on-one debate ahead of California's primary on June 7—or, as Politico puts it, "the debate the world has been waiting for."

Appearing on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Wednesday night, Trump said he would debate Sanders if the proceeds from the event went to charity.

"If I debated him it would have such high ratings," the presumptive Republican nominee said.

Minutes later, Sanders tweeted, "Game on." [[https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/735689625407131648 ]]

"I look forward to debating Trump in California before the June 7 primary," he wrote.

Sanders' campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs added Thursday that the Vermont senator "thinks a debate is very important to California voters." The news comes shortly after Sanders' Democratic rival Hillary Clinton reneged on a promise to debate him again ahead of the state's primary, which Sanders called an "insult" to voters there.

Writing for CNBC on Thursday, news columnist Jake Novak argues such a debate would be nothing less than Hillary's Clinton's "worst nightmare":

A Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders debate in the coming days before the June 7th California primary is getting closer to becoming a reality. If this happens, it will likely be a huge boost for Sanders, a mild aid to Trump, and -- to borrow the key buzz word of this election so far – a YUGE pain in the neck for Hillary Clinton.

For Sanders, this entire election has been a "nothing to lose" proposition. He was given no chance to even make a dent in Mrs. Clinton's inevitable coronation, er presidential nomination, by the Democrats. And as a lifetime Senate backbencher, he was not in danger of losing a chairmanship or leadership position. While it's basically impossible for Sanders to overtake Clinton in the delegate battle, the latest PPIC poll shows Sanders trails her by just two percentage points among likely California primary voters.

As of Thursday morning, no formal debate between Trump and Sanders had been arranged. However, Politico notes that Sanders is scheduled to appear on Kimmel's show Thursday night.

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams… where this was first posted.)


Pit Bull Poll: Should Animal Services GM be Fired for Condoning the Adoption of a Pit Bull with a Violent History?

ANIMAL WATCH-A Pit Bull named Sammy with a prior record of repeated aggression and who had just bitten a Los Angeles Animal Services kennel worker in the abdomen, was released on April 28 to NovaStar Rescue, at the personal instruction of LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette. NovaStar states on its site that it started in 2012, lists only a PO Box address in Ola, Arkansas, and describes itself as “[a] small rescue in Ola, Arkansas. The main focus of NovaStar is to . . . save the pitties, the most loyal yet most misunderstood dogs.” 

“Sammy” was the name given to the dog by kennel staff. He was “Sodom” when he was surrendered to the shelter on January 28 by his owner, who reportedly gave the reason that the dog had “tried to bite him.” A behavioral memo that same day by an Animal Care Technician states, “dog growled and snapped more with acd [animal control device] and according to owner dog is a guard dog.” 

Sammy was described as a Male, Unaltered, Black and White American Staffordshire Terrier, Age: 5 yrs. Weight: 69 lbs. (Impound #A1608123) on PetHarbor.com, where he was listed for adoption to the public. 

During the time Sammy was being offered to a “forever” home, he was chalking up warnings by shelter personnel -- warnings such as: “dog attempted to bite through the kennel when I was lowering the guillotine door on the kennel next to his. be careful when anywhere near this dog;” “this dog is getting worse. lunges at kennel door, growling, barking, biting at door;” “THIS DOG IS VERY AGGRESSIVE. WHEN I GOT NEAR KENNEL DOG LUNGED TOWARDS FACE AND WAS TRYING TO BITE THROUGH KENNEL CAGE. USE CAUTION WHEN HANDLING THIS DOG….”


Click below to create your own question.

[sexypolling id="6"] 


Then on April 14, the memo reads, “DOG BIT AN ACT. RABIES OBSERVATION.” The rabies observation is a standard procedure required by the County Department of Public Health (DPH) when a dog bite breaks the skin. The dog is quarantined for ten days. (This is mandated whether or not the dog has a current rabies vaccination.) 

On April 24, at 4:28 PM, an e-mail from a private g-mail account was sent to Brenda Barnette, stating: 

“Attention Brenda and Mario: 

“I am providing you notice prior to the euthanasia of ID number A1608123 [North Central] that he has rescue interest. Pursuant to California Food and Agricultural Code section

31108 (b) you are prohibited by law to kill him/her. This is your official notice of rescue interest for ID number A16081234. DO NOT KILL HIM! 

“If you do, you will be in direct violation of FEDERAL CODE and will be prosecuted by intent policy and California Animal Networks will press charges. 

“Pursuant to section 31108 (b) of the California Food And Agriculture Code: 

“(b) Except as provided in Section 17006, any stray dog that is impounded pursuant to this division shall, prior to euthanasia of that animal, be released to a nonprofit, as defined in Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, animal rescue or adoption organization if requested by the organization prior to the scheduled euthanasia of that animal. 

“Paperwork was sent in from NovaStar Rescue placing a hold on this dog. “PLEASE ADVISE. 


At 4:53 pm, April 24, Brenda Barnette responded, with cc’s to three LAAS staff/shelter personnel: 


Will the rescue pick him up Monday? I do not know if this dog is in danger, but you can’t put an indefinite hold on an animal. Please check, I notice that you gave two different “A” numbers.


It is surprising that -- considering the documented history of this dog -- -the GM would release it for adoption, first to the public (before it bit the Animal Care Technician) and then to a ‘rescue.’ Ms. Barnette could have easily determined that the above Fd. & Ag. Section did not apply, because this dog was not a “stray.” Additionally, according to legal experts, there are no federal laws governing this issue. 

So, was Brenda unsure of the law, or intimidated by the threats of an individual who does not appear -- nor claim -- to have a formal association with either of the groups she identifies in her email? 

Secondly, GM Barnette acknowledged that it was a dangerous animal by requiring under the condition of release, according to reports, that Sammy leave the state and be taken to Arkansas. 

Here is the LAMC Section that describes how an animal can be declared dangerous: 


(b) Dangerous Animal-Declared. The Department, after a hearing, may declare any dog or other animal to be a dangerous animal whenever it has bitten, attacked or caused injury to any human being or other animal. 

Apparently the GM’s order was not taken seriously by the local rescuer, because on May 15, Los Angeles Fire Department and LAPD responded to a small, unkempt older house on White Knoll Drive, Los Angeles 90012, (near downtown LA) at approximately 9 pm, where a pit bull was attacking a woman who “was visiting dog to determine if she wants to adopt from the rescue who had been fostering the dog.” That dog was later identified by LA Animal Services as Impound #1608123, “Sammy.” 

The victim was unidentified in the LAFD report, except for the first name, “Melanie,” at a 760-485-XXXX phone number. 

“Sammy” was alive but had been stabbed 19 times by a neighbor who heard the victim screaming. He was transported to an emergency clinic, where he was euthanized, according to the County Dept. of Public Health report.  

Ironically, on May 16, NovaStar Animal Rescue posted on Facebook: 

“For those of you who follow this rescue you probably saw the writing on the wall. Terre has been taking in more dogs than we have been able to place. NOVASTAR IS FULL. We cannot take any more pups. Please help!” 

So who is “Tiffany?” Is she a qualified rescuer under LA Animal Services criteria? Did she sign a release form that she was aware that the pit bull had attacked a human, causing bodily harm, and that he had exhibited a pattern of aggressive behavior? 

Since he was not transported out of Los Angeles, is the City potentially liable for injuries to the victim? 

If Tiffany was designated as a legitimate member of NovaStar Animal Rescue in Arkansas for the purposes of “pulling” Sammy, can that organization or the California Animal Networks, which Tiffany claimed would “press charges” if Sammy was not released, be held legally and/or financially responsible for the attack? 

Or is this just a symptom of a greater quandary? There is no state or federal law governing “rescuers.” There is no prior experience or training mandated, nor are there maintenance, health and sanitation requirements for privately housing multiple animals for adoption. There is also no prescribed inspection or monitoring of care and condition of the animals and no mandate for insurance or standards for temperament of animals sold/adopted to the public by rescuers. In California there is no permit or license issued to establish accountability. To become a “rescue,” all that is necessary is a nonprofit tax status, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

The safety and lives of not only adopters and their families and pets, but also the dedicated people who care for animals in shelters and humane societies -- and the rescuers, themselves -- need to be given more thoughtful consideration. At least five shelter employees at LA Animal Services have reportedly been injured in dog attacks in the last three months, two sustaining possibly permanent damage.

Rescuer Rebecca Carey, 23, was killed in her home in 2012 by dogs she had ‘saved.’ And, an 18-month-old pit bull, named Lily, viciously attacked her adopter and rescuer Patricia Agnello as she was placed in the car with her new “fur mom.” Lily was stabbed-death by a neighbor to save the women. 

Although there are highly responsible and competent rescuers all over the country who maintain high standards for both themselves and adopters, there are also those who act on emotion and make poor decisions as to how many animals they can adequately care for and which animals may not be safe to rehome. 

Based upon the rapidly increasing number of tragic attacks by adopted dogs (including the April 22 killing of a three-day-old baby in San Diego by a recently adopted Pit Bull,) isn’t it time the CA Food and Agricultural Code that mandates unsafe animals “shall” be released to rescues upon request be reconsidered by California lawmakers?


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

November Ballot: LA’s Proposed Transit Tax Doesn’t Add Up

TRANSIT PERSPECTIVE--Math is a funny thing.

Take averaging, for example. Mark Twain observed that if you have one foot in a bucket of ice and one foot in a bucket of boiling water, on average you’re pretty comfortable.

Similarly, consider subtraction. Somehow, government officials have calculated that subtracting money from your wallet for taxes actually puts more money in your pocket.

That’s the conclusion of a recent study of the economic effects of Measure R, the 2008 increase in the L.A. County sales tax of one-half of one percent to fund transportation projects.

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation determined that over its 30-year lifespan, the Measure R sales tax will create $80.7 billion in economic output while costing each resident just $25 a year in higher taxes.

The Society of American Magicians prohibits them from revealing how this trick is done, but they can’t stop me from exposing the secret.

It’s done with mirrors. A typical dollar spent by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is counted three times: once when Metro hands it to a contractor, once when the contractor hands it to a union construction worker, and once when the worker spends it on rent, food, car payments or entertainment. They call these reflections the “direct,” “indirect” and “induced” effects of spending.

This “multiplier effect” would work if the money spent by Metro was earned by Metro. But it’s not. It’s earned by you, and then taken from you with a higher sales tax.

The study uses another trick, division, to determine that this higher tax costs each resident only $25 per year. Using multiplication instead, the 30-year cost of Measure R comes out to $3,000 for a family of four.

Figured another way, if the 10 million residents of L.A. County didn’t have to pay that $25 per year in extra taxes, they would have an extra $250 million annually, $7.5 billion over 30 years, to spend on whatever they personally find useful. Add the multiplier effect to those numbers, without government middlemen, for a true picture of what’s lost to higher taxes.

Now Metro wants taxpayers to cough up another $120 billion for more transit projects. The money would come from adding more years to the 30-year Measure R tax and hiking the sales tax by another half-cent per dollar, raising L.A. County’s sales tax rate to 9.5 percent for 40 years.

The transit agency would then borrow against the future sales tax revenues to start spending the $120 billion immediately.

Just how much is $120 billion?

It’s enough to pay for the repairs and deferred maintenance of every freeway in California for the next 10 years, twice.

It’s enough to build 120 desalinization plants like the one in Carlsbad that’s supplying 7 percent of San Diego’s water.

It’s enough to pay off the student debt of everyone who was enrolled in a four-year college or university in California in 2014. Seven times.

But Metro wants to spend $120 billion on a long list of public transit projects, even though ridership on public transit is declining. Metro boardings are down 10 percent since 2006 despite $9 billion of spending on rail.

Metro CEO Philip Washington says ridership will increase when the system is fully built out. “We’re not building for today,” he said recently, “We’re building for 100 years down the road.”

A hundred years ago, a telephone looked like a black candlestick. It didn’t have GPS or a camera. It didn’t have a keypad, or a dial, or Angry Birds. It didn’t even have a ringtone unless you count the bell in the box on the wall.

If the people of 1916 had designed a communications system for “100 years down the road” and racked up $120 billion in debt to pay for it, we’d still be paying taxes for something that was long gone; and we’d be wondering why our taxes are so high, and why there’s never enough money for road repair or water projects or education.

That’s what happens when governments run up too much debt, as ours already have—local, state and federal alike.

Multiply that by your children’s future, and then by your grandchildren’s future.

And when you see Metro’s sales tax increase for transit projects on your November ballot, don’t get taken for a ride.

(Susan Shelley is an author, former television associate producer and twice a Republican candidate for the California Assembly. This piece was posted first at Fox and Hounds.)


Los Angeles: Mayor’s Data Analyst Inspires with ‘Believe in Yourself’ Toastmaster Speech

POLITICAL PROFILES-Inspirational speaker, Juan Vasquez, a Data Analyst for the Mayor’s Office, competed in the District 52 Toastmasters International Speech Contest held at the Castaway Restaurant in the City of Burbank on Saturday, May 21. 

Vasquez represented Voces Latinas Toastmasters, a public speaking club that meets twice a month at the White Memorial Hospital in East Los Angeles. 

The criteria for participating in the high-level competition involved having won several prior speech competitions starting at the club level and having moved upward on the echelon, winning the area and division contests.

Vasquez competed with four other contestants, representing other Divisions in Toastmasters District 52. The winner will go to Washington DC in mid-August to the Toastmasters International Speech Contest, where this year’s World Champion will be recognized.          

Vasquez delivered an inspirational speech built around his running the 26.2-mile Los Angeles Marathon in 4 hours and 19 minutes, prized with a medal. He vividly laid out a detailed continuum -- covering from the very start of his run to the finish line. He recounts his heartfelt experience of committing to a set goal and overcoming the mental challenges that crossed his mind while running. He did not win a trophy at this speech contest. Still, I was able to interview him to expand on his 2016 LA Marathon experience. 

One day, while chatting with his colleagues at City Hall, one dared Vasquez to run the LA Marathon. “The most I had run was 6 miles. In college, I played soccer with a small team for two or three hours a week,” he said. “Not very athletic.” 

However, Vasquez said that the LA Marathon seemed like an opportunity to prove to himself that he could accomplish things that he thought were impossible. “It’s a way to show myself what I could accomplish, and challenge myself to go far beyond what I thought I could do,” he said. 

In a six-week preparation period, Vasquez explained how he started with 8 mile-runs on the weekends and scaled it up to 22 miles. On weekdays he ran three to six miles a day followed by going to the gym “to work on strength-conditioning.” He and his two colleagues from work formed a support system to run on the weekends. “Our schedules sometimes conflicted but it was always nice to talk to someone who knew what it was like to run 16 miles on a Sunday.” 

Once the Marathon started, he elaborated, “I kind of got into my pace. I started feeling very comfortable, enjoying the environment around me, the food, the families, and the music.” Thousands of people come out to support the runners, he said. “A lot of it hurt and was frustrating. There were times when I asked myself, why did I do this?” He wore his headset as an aide to move on when things got difficult. “There was a point at mile 20 that was by far the most challenging, running two-miles uphill,” he said. “It was a great experience though.” The run started at Dodgers Stadium in Elysian Park and ended in Santa Monica Beach. 

Vasquez said that his two colleagues from the Mayor’s Office also crossed the finish line within 6 hours, their common goal was to complete the run. “But, we each had our own individual goals as to how we were going to do it. It was never about a competition between the three of us,” he explained. “We wanted to accomplish the big goal and we all did.” 

Running the LA Marathon has raised his confidence in the workplace and his ability to connect with people. “It gets me to put difficult things in perspective. If I have a difficult day at work, I say it was a difficult day, but it wasn’t 26 miles,” he said with a big smile. 

“It helped me realize that I should always believe in myself and that there might be other reasons why I might fail but never because of my self-doubt.” 

Juan Vasquez is presently preparing and looking forward to run in the Long Beach Marathon on October 9th of this year with a goal to finish under four-hours.

(Connie Acosta writes about Los Angeles neighborhood councils and is a neighborhood council participant.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Hey, Butt Out of California, Chicago!

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA—Dear Chicago … Would you kindly remove your thick, stubby hands from my beautiful state? 

C’mon -- don’t try to look all Midwestern and innocent. You know exactly what I’m talking about. For years Chicago has been grabbing signature California institutions and screwing them up. 

I get a reminder of your mismanagement every night when I turn on the television to watch my local baseball team, the LA Dodgers. Of course, the Dodgers aren’t on -- they aren’t even available on televisions in nearly 70 percent of the Los Angeles market. The reason? Mark Walter of Chicago. 

Specifically, Walter’s firm Guggenheim Partners, a financial services company with headquarters in Chicago and New York, paid too much for the Dodgers -- more than $2 billion a few years ago. And to cover that price, the Guggenheim-owned Dodgers greedily sold TV rights to Time Warner Cable for a sum so high that other cable providers, understandably, refused to pay to carry Dodger games. So the majority of Southern Californians who don’t get Time Warner have been unable to watch Dodger games for more than two years. 

Walter, the Chicagoan at the head of this toxic deal, couldn’t even manage to get the games on the air for this, the final season in the career of esteemed announcer Vin Scully, thus separating LA from its favorite voice. And there’s this irony; since this deal also blocks internet transmission of games to anyone in Southern California, people in Chicago can watch Dodger games even while people in Los Angeles can’t. 

Then, in the morning, when I go out to my driveway to find out who won the game Chicago wouldn’t let me see, I encounter another local voice badly damaged by you Chicagoans: my latest copy of the Los Angeles Times

Since Tribune Company bought the Times in 2000, California’s biggest newspaper has suffered under waves of Chicago executives who made big promises while cutting the number of reporters and pages. What’s your secret, Chicago—how exactly do you produce so many corporate mediocrities? Full disclosure: I worked at the Times for the first eight years of this ongoing Chicago occupation, before quitting after meeting Sam Zell, a Chicago real estate billionaire who is simply the most profane and dishonest person I have ever encountered in a professional setting. 

More bad media news: Chicago now also owns the San Diego Union-Tribune; the latest Tribune chairman, Michael Ferro has been boasting that he has some virtual reality machine that will magically transform local newspapers into profitable global concerns. Reportedly, it achieves perpetual motion too. (How did our engineers in Silicon Valley miss this?) 

Northern California has also seen a disturbance in the force emanating from your town, Chicago. Two years ago, Chicago lured away the great California filmmaker George Lucas, promising lakefront land for a museum housing his art and Hollywood memorabilia. This choice was inexplicable on many levels, including the meteorological -- as the author Nelson Algren put it, “Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring.” 

Fortunately for us, Chicago’s leaders are flubbing the whole deal—the project has been held up—and San Francisco seems likely to lure back Lucas’ museum by offering prime land on Treasure Island. (So shed no tears for the billionaire filmmaker.) 

Why do Chicago-California marriages go wrong? The short answer: clashing cultures. California burst on the scene quickly, with a premium on speed, while Chicago, in the words of novelist Neil Gaiman, “happened slowly, like a migraine.” 

Also consider that the defining poem of Chicago, Carl Sandburg’s 1914 masterpiece about the “City of Big Shoulders,” actually boasts that your city is “wicked” and “crooked” and “brutal.” California, requiring finesse, can’t compare to your city of butchers in these regards. (Just look at how Boeing, which moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001, has cut jobs in what’s left of California’s aerospace industry.)

Chicago’s inability to handle delicate work is perhaps most evident in the surprisingly difficult relationship between California and that Chicagoan in the White House. What should have been a natural alignment between a liberal president and a liberal state has been undermined by the deep-dish stubbornness of Obama. 

The president and his Chicago education secretary Arne Duncan should have been natural partners for California Democrats eager to do more for schools after years of cuts. Instead, California and Chicago fought bitterly, often because of Duncan’s inflexible insistence on imposing the same uniform policies on a state with so many wildly different regions. 

Obama also managed to alienate Silicon Valley, which supported his campaigns, by demanding that tech firms behave like appendages of his intelligence apparatus. And, for much of Obama’s presidency, his administration devoted more energy to deporting our undocumented friends and neighbors than to delivering on his promise of legalizing their status, so they can contribute even more to California’s success as an economy and society. 

Forgive me for also mentioning how Obama infuriated millions of California commuters who voted for him -- including yours truly-- with his knack for blocking rush-hour traffic during his endless political fundraising trips here. It’s as if he didn’t understand that our big cities don’t have an “L” elevated train like you do in Chicago to get around Secret Service roadblocks. These visits were almost always more about him taking from California (campaign dollars and Hollywood-tech cachet) than about giving anything, even his attention, to us. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and Republican governors seeking to lure our companies to their states have had more public conversations with real Californians than Obama. 

To be fair, in other contexts Chicago pig-headedness has obscured California’s own failings. No one really talks about our state budget problems anymore given the length and bitterness of the struggles over public finances in your city and state. Yes, we did elect an Austrian action star as governor, but he -- unlike a couple of your recent governors -- never went to prison. And our pension problems and a recent spike in crime don’t look nearly so daunting compared to the size of those problems in Illinois. 

All of this begs the question: Why do you keep meddling in our state’s challenges when you have so many giant problems of your own? 

Please, for our good and yours, butt out of California, and get back to doing the things you do best.

Like screwing up our connecting flights.


(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square ... where this column originated.) Photo: Dr. Scott M. Lieberman/AP Photo. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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