13
Thu, Jun

Street Talk … from Inside the ‘Still Bernie’ Rally Supporters Rally in Hollywood

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS LA STYLE-On Sunday, June 26 at high noon, various groups supporting Bernie Sanders for President inspired a march/rally in Hollywood. About 800 to 1,000 enthusiastic supporters from across the city and nearby counties took part in the march. They rallied with banners, costumes, dances, and songs and there was a strong presence of politically savvy young activists. 

The march covered two square blocks, swiftly moved up Cahuenga Blvd to Hollywood Blvd and continued down Vine Street. It halted for a while at Selma Avenue for a pre-rally kick-off before proceeding to the rally center in front of the CNN building on Sunset Blvd. 

KPFK Public Radio Host Cary Harrison said that the public thinks that Bernie Sanders has dropped out due to the lack publicity in the mainstream media, and that is not true. Harrison emphasized that people were at this rally to support the ideals and values Bernie stands for. “To push Bernie into the White House where we can actually see policy change,” he said, “…he hasn’t disappeared just because CNN wants him to disappear.” 

Harrison added that the grandchild of Jeremy White of Team Bernie LA sponsored this event. 

As I interviewed Harrison, standing on Vine Street near the “Black Men for Bernie” bus with performers atop, loads of cheers were heard from the crowd of supporters as they looked up at the speakers, singers, and dancers. 

Harrison explained that voter suppression is on, even in the public radio system. “I did a whole radio show on voter suppression on Election Day. We did the entire hour live but they eradicated every person I interviewed. Our public archives are gone…there’s no record of it.” 

At about 12:30 pm, an announcement was made to the street rally in front of CNN that the vote counts in Los Angeles County and the City of San Francisco had flipped in favor of Bernie Sanders. The youth were dancing to that tune! 

“As the votes are being counted I see that a lot of counties have been flipping and I believe that at the end Bernie is going to have won California,” said YahNé Ndgo, spokeswoman for Bernie or Bust, and “DC to DNC” -- a march for Democracy from Washington DC starting on July 13 and arriving in Philadelphia on July 23 for the Democratic National Convention to be held July 24 through July 28. 

Spokeswoman Ndgo said that Bernie and the 1900+ delegates he has secured will all be at the convention. They will be discussing and negotiating what the democratic platform is going to be. The delegates and super delegates will cast their votes and officially nominate the democratic candidate for president. 

Ndgo added, “A lot of votes have not been counted, a lot of votes have been suppressed, there’s been a lot of election fraud and the only way for that to be corrected is for the super delegates to come out and vote in a way that corrects the inappropriate shifting of the election to Hilary Clinton that caused her to get the majority of delegates. If they don’t do that there are a lot of people who will not vote as democrats.” 

“This is Bernie’s Parade,” said Lidia Arata, from Harbor City, who heard about this event a week ago online. Arata’s been a volunteer for Bernie since last summer. She summed up her interview with me by saying, “Bernie or bust no matter what. Only Bernie!” 

As I moved in the crowd, one of Bernie’s banners caught my attention. Rick Macias from the Inland Empire is with Latinos for Bernie. Macias announced that August 2 -- a week after the DNC -- will be the people’s Super Tuesday, when people leave the Democratic Party nationwide through social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, online, house parties, etc. 

Heather Kim from Torrance California, said with a big smile, “This is wonderful. I want the world to know that we’re still with Bernie Sanders. I represent myself, and I’m holding this banner that reads, ‘Asian Pacific Islanders for Bernie.’ We collected donations from about three hundred people to make this Banner,” Kim said. 

Kim belongs to two groups, Americans for Bernie comprised of 150 Korean Americans, and Palos Verdes for Bernie comprised of 300 people from Torrance and Redondo Beach. 

As hip-hop music was blasting in the background, Christen Jenson Story, a teacher from Oxnard, almost shouting so I could hear, said that this election has been completely rigged on so many levels, with a lack of caring for the democratic process. She emphasized that “from polling places being gone, to not having a truly open primary, the mainstream media completely manipulated in favor of Clinton and Trump on CNN all the time.” 

As I was walking away from the loud speakers, I ran into Chih Chang from Orange County. Chang said that we need to find the right person to do the right thing at the right moment. “And I think that Bernie Sanders will represent that,” he concluded. 

Activist Linda Milazzo from the West San Fernando Valley said she thinks it’s important to show that the spirit of what Bernie began will not end until we have real change. 

Don Irwin, resident of Los Angeles, has been volunteering for Bernie’s campaign since August 2015 and has canvassed in five states. “I think this event is fantastic, a good way to get started.” 

In addition, Irwin said that he wants to make sure that young people have the same opportunity that the system provided him. He coordinated voter registration drives with student groups on campuses throughout the city and state. Also, as part of the committee that coordinated this event he said that he “assists with social media since the mainstream media has blacked us out.” 

Finally, Esperanza Salazar from Santa Barbara County said that the media keeps saying that Hillary Clinton has won, but we can’t determine that -- especially when they are still votes to be counted. Salazar continued, saying that this is the first time so many different ethnicities have come out to register and vote, adding to a large voter turnout. “Bernie caused this to happen,” she said. “This is what Democracy looks like.”

 

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

Missing Pet Alert! ‘Cash’ Disappears from LA’s Pooch Hotel

PET WATCH-On June 11, 7-year-old lab-pit mix “Cash” opened doors at the Pooch Hotel where his owners Talita Trygsland and Louis Angelo left him for care and disappeared into the night.

Video surveillance shows Cash opening doors and exiting onto busy Highland Blvd without any Pooch Hotel staff members in sight.  It wasn’t until the next morning when Cash’s owners went to pick him up that the staff realized he had gone missing.  

This is not the first time a pet has suffered in Pooch’s care. Last year a 13-pound French Bull dog, “Boggs” was mauled to death by another dog. Since the death of Boggs, new owners have taken over.

Paradise 4 Paw’s currently owns the Pooch Hotel along with 9 other locations across the US. Saq Nadeem, Founder and CEO financially assisted the owners of Cash in their search at the outset but, according to sources, is no longer is providing such assistance. At this point they are merely providing the use of their location as a meeting place for volunteers.  

A search campaign in such a large city is costly and includes many rolls of tape, neon posters, and color photocopies. Volunteers are needed and a Facebook page has been set up.

If you can volunteer please contact the owners or message them on Facebook. A gofundme page has been set up to help the owners cover expenses.  There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Cash.

If you see Cash, please take a photo and text to 310-497-8887 with the location.

Charter School Founder’s Run for Mayor Will Ensure LA Education has a Place in the Campaign Debate

EDUCATION POLITICS--The just announced candidacy of Green Dot Charter Schools founder Steve Barr (photo above) for the mayor of Los Angeles next year might just be a blessing in disguise. A campaign between Barr and present LA Mayor Eric Garcetti will have an almost impossible task of keeping their equally abysmal records on public and charter education out of the public debate. Could this finally lead to some overdue reform? 

In reality, when it comes to public education policy, there isn't a nickel's worth of difference between present Mayor Garcetti's unwillingness to address and reign in clearly and long failed public education policies at LAUSD and Steve Barr's equally failed model of supposedly viable public charter education, which in reality is as bad or worse than LAUSD, if you don't fudge the stats. 

Green Dot Charter's illusory promises and policies of supposed educational reform and achievement are verifiably non-existent, when it comes to any objective measure of minority students' actual academic achievement. And while LAUSD and Green Dot actual achievement has avoided any real public scrutiny in the past, this is not a fact easy to keep under wraps during the heat of what will surely be a vigorously contested general election for mayor. 

My first impression is that Garcetti will have an easier time changing his position on LAUSD to address growing public awareness and concerns about LAUSD than Barr will have in explaining his record at Green Dot Charter School where he has called all the shots. Barr is a scammer who personally built Green Dot Charter to fool the public and give minorities’ false hope by utilizing the support of the same corporate interests that now want to run him for mayor. 

Has Mayor Garcetti ever called for an audit of either Green Dot or LAUSD to show the obscene contracts for goods and services that both of these entities enter into on a daily basis at rates many times greater than fair market value? 

Barr's candidacy should only be seen as just the latest move to further the corporate agenda to increase corporate profits in a more and more privatized public sector, while further eliminating what should be the objective governmental regulatory function that is already nowhere to be found in Garcetti's present administration, which continues to put the will and needs of the people behind the primacy of corporate profits no matter what the cost to the public. Could that be just one of many reasons why over 70% of the public think the economy is rigged against them? 

Doubt what I'm saying about Green Dot or LAUSD? All that the public needs to do is go into any Green Dot Charter or LAUSD school and they can see for themselves the same failed model of assured academic destruction based on mindless repetition. In these schools there is no analysis or any academic rigor. This model never addresses the subjective needs, level, and understanding of its students from where they are actually at academically, but always ends with the social promotion of the student whether or not they have learned anything. 

These de facto segregated schools remain filled with inherently intelligent, curiosity, and trapped minority children whose native intelligence remains purposefully undeveloped in both charters like Green Dot or public school districts like LAUSD until it predictably is destroyed. The indifference of a White population whose own children go to private schools is the main reason these schools exist, which the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education was supposed to eliminate 62 years ago. 

There is a certain sick irony to the fact that Whites with the social capital to change public education seem not smart enough to understand what the effects are against them if they continue to allow such travesties to continue. 

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

-cw

Was it a Stunt, or the Beginning of the End of NRA Supremacy?

GELFAND’S WORLD--On Monday, June 27, congresswoman Janice Hahn brought the House of Representatives gun control sit-in back to Los Angeles. This time it was a public meeting at a high school in San Pedro. A line of people stretching to the back wall waited their turn at the microphone to speak about their children, cousins, and friends who had been murdered. Some of the testimony was anguishing, nearly unbearable. What it all had in common was its reality. It's the American sickness, and we've been lax in dealing with it. 

Out of the hundred-plus people in the room, there were two who came to speak on the other side. They spoke of the Constitution and their rights under the Second Amendment. They were not well received, but they got their three minutes to explain to us that we should concentrate on something else -- pretty much anything else -- as long as we avoided talking about the guns. 

And then there was everyone else. An emergency room physician from Harbor-UCLA Hospital spoke quietly. His department sees, on the average, one gunshot victim per day. He described an event from just the night before. A fifteen year old boy who lived near the hospital was shot on his way home, early in the evening. The EMT's did everything they could, as did the hospital ER staff, but death was the result. Harbor-UCLA manages to save some gunshot victims, but loses others. 

Closer to home, people told of gunshot deaths right here in San Pedro. One woman, a neighbor and friend to many of us, showed the photo of her cousin who died by gunshot, just about 10 blocks away from where we were meeting. The victim was 17 at the time of her death. 

There were two additional protestors standing across the street from the meeting, carrying signs. One of the two, a guy named Donald who is an elected board member of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, held a sign that said, "People kill people, not guns." There was another protestor standing next to him, holding his own sign that had been written on a target. 

When it was my turn, I simply described an experience I had while teaching a class at a local university. I had accidentally spilled a cup of coffee onto the floor next to me and, looking down at the puddle, fought to keep my composure in front of the class -- the pool of coffee reminded me of the widening pool of blood that had spread out next to my friend after his murder. It's hard not to think about these things. The image stays with you, even after 19 years. I can't begin to imagine the level of grief and pain that stays with parents and cousins of victims. 

Perhaps this week's events signal a political awakening in America. I wonder if the sit-in by the congressmen and congresswomen may represent a political shift in the politics of murder. I realize that I am supposed to refer to the topic delicately, as gun control, but it's the effects of those guns that we really mean to talk about. So let's talk about the politics of murder, both mass and individual. 

Gun owners and their organizations have had a stranglehold on our ability to discuss the subject rationally and to enact practical laws. This political effectiveness comes from the fact that a lot of people treat the liberty to own and brandish firearms as their highest priority. They vote as a block, and they have managed to terrify a lot of politicians. Their lobbyists rule the land. Curiously enough, they make clear that the function of their guns is to protect them from their own government, an obvious reference to the ability of men with guns to kill federal law enforcement officers and, in the extreme, soldiers in the U.S. Army. It's completely obvious that the function of the gun is to kill people, no matter the idiotic signs that "Guns don't kill people." Why would the extremists buy all those guns if they didn't believe in their effectiveness as killing machines? 

And the dead accumulate. We hear the response from the people standing in line, "Enough is enough." But what to do? 

Here is what we need, and why that sit-in that occurred in the House of Representatives was important. We need a larger, equally devoted block of Americans on the other side from the gun nuts. Our numbers are vastly larger. There clearly are many more people who support gun control than oppose it. The strong majority of Americans support background checks. It's just that those of us who support gun control have been busy with other interests. We've been worrying about health insurance reform and global warming. 

Perhaps we can now agree that the situation has gotten way out of hand and that it is imperative that the country take action. If so, then it has to be done through a political movement. 

I don't think that we need bother ourselves with trying to counter such illogic as "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." I think that the people who recite these slogans understand the fundamental weakness of the statement. We just need lots of people on our side, and they have to be people who take action by voting. 

But before we can change the country by voting, we need to have candidates who make gun control a priority issue. We have to be able to develop political movements that can intimidate your run of the mill politician who is looking to see which way the wind is blowing. We need to be that wind. When congressmen representing traditional Republican districts start to hear from people about firearm deaths, and start to worry about a developing electoral majority, then the tide will have turned. 

That's why the sit-ins are so important. They could be the spark to ignite the movement. All those people who came to the San Pedro meeting on Monday night are just the most vocal and the most local. There are lots more all over the country. They need to be able to coalesce around a wing of the Democratic Party that will provide the leadership. It's that political wing that is necessary for the mass movement to win. It's asking a lot of politicians who have been trying to avoid the wedge issue of gun control, but perhaps this is the moment. 

At Monday night's meeting, one woman spoke of a niece of hers who had died in the Connecticut shooting. She spoke of the many parents who had to make the decision about whether to bury the corpse of their child with her favorite doll, or whether to save it as a remembrance.

 

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

-cw

Updates: Sex Assault Loophole, Rehab Mogul Arrest

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-First, an update on the Stanford rape case.

The six-month sentence of former Stanford athlete Brock Turner has elicited public outcry across the country, as well as a petition to recall the sentencing judge. Assembly Bill 2888 would close what prosecutors refer to as a loophole in California’s sex assault law. The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle on Tuesday. The sentencing loopholes currently paved the way for Turner to be eligible for a sentence that included probation in lieu of a time served in prison following his attack on an unconscious woman. 

The bill’s author, Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), says, “Simply put, rape is rape. We believe there should be consistency in addressing this issue.” Alaleh Kianerci, the Santa Clara Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted Turner, addressed state senators at Tuesday’s hearing, stating that the trauma experienced by the victim, referred to as “Emily Doe,” was no less than any other rape victim. “We all need to protect the next Emily Doe,” stated Kianerci. 

Under the new legislation, anyone convicted of eight specific sexual assault crimes, including crimes that involve alcohol or any other “intoxicating or anesthetic substance,” would no longer be eligible for parole. Several lawmakers see that bill as the best way to address the issue of punishment for sex crimes on college campuses. The bill’s co-author, Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa), adds, “It’s about changing a culture and preventing future crimes.” 

Rehab Mogul Chris Bathum Arrested on Drug Charges--The founder/owner of Community Recovery Los Angeles, a chain of two dozen plus sober living and outpatient clinics, was arrested in Lost Hills Tuesday for the “transport (or) sale of a controlled substance,” per the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Chris Bathum was released on $30,000 bail at 4:40 am, less than two hours after booking.

The California Department of Health has also filed a complaint in LA County Superior Court against both Bathum and CRLA for operating “unlicensed alcoholism and drug-abuse recovery or treatment facilities in Los Angeles County.” The Department of Health has petitioned the court to close the entire operation. A May investigation of two CRLA facilities, including a Woodland Hills sober living facility called “House of Women” and a Melrose facility known as “The Melrose Project” concluded that both facilities had been “improperly providing residential alcoholism or drug-abuse recovery or treatment services without a license.” 

As previously noted in this column, California’s sober living facilities often operate under a grey area, although the facilities are not permitted to provide any type of therapy or treatment, or dispense medication. However, sober living facilities in the state are for the most part unregulated and do not require a license to operate. 

Investigators found evidence of treatment centers at both the House of Women, which had a room labeled “Room Detox,” as well as a medication room, and at the Melrose Project, which former clients and staff confirmed was a treatment center. In August, the department had sent written orders to both facilities to cease all illegal activities and by September, Community Recovery CEO Kirsten Wallace responded in writing that, “The practices you demand us to cease and desist have ceased and desisted.” 

In May, the department returned to investigate and found that CRLA is “still providing services without a license, despite CRLA’s written statement of correction. In fact, the department interviewed staff and clients who confirmed that ongoing services were being provided at the facilities.” The Department of Health seeks a permanent injunction against Bathum and anyone acting “in concert with him” from “operating any unlicensed alcoholism and drug-abuse recovery or treatment facilities or in any way facilitating such operations,” per the department’s complaint. 

This is hardly Bathum’s first dance with law enforcement. The “rehab mogul” has faced accusations of drug use, insurance fraud and sexual battery, all of which he has denied. 

While sober living facilities may serve a purpose in assisting addicts on the road to sobriety, the unscrupulous must be prevented from taking advantage of the most vulnerable. Bathum’s arrest and the petition to close his facilities are the first steps in curbing the illegal and unethical manner in which he has engaged with those struggling with addiction. Hopefully, the state will clamp down on similar unethical operators through increased oversight and legislation.

 

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

 

Tale of Two LAs: The City Hall Reality and … the People’s Reality

EASTSIDER-If you’re an LA City Council member, life is grand. You are part of the highest paid city council in the United States, your term in office is good for 12 years (3 four-year terms), and all you really have to do is dance to the tune of the lobbyists, developers, and (mostly) Democratic insiders that brought you to the dance. No one who means anything can upset your applecart. 

So from your standpoint, everything is just fine in our town. 

Even as you finish selling the City to developers, and are now in the process of selling off the peoples neighborhoods. Witness the four Planning Department Ordinances that are speeding through the system and forever changing single family zoning for where we live. 

Another case in point would be last week’s decision by the spineless Planning Commission to actually increase the number of days a short-term rental can be used from 90 to 180 days, and to specifically provide for allowing vacation homes. Woo hoo! Party on! 

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, life ain’t so grand. So let’s take a look at what’s up for most Angelenos. 

1) Us old folks are still working. That’s right. More people over 65 are still working, and for longer, than any time since the turn-of-the-century. 

That doesn’t jibe too well with all those TV ads about checking your stock portfolio from your wonderful retirement home in some beautiful enclave. It’s more like: retirement, what retirement? This shift has unintended consequences as well, such as blocking employment for younger people since companies don’t have to pay to train older workers. 

2) Lots of folks in the “prime working age” category aren’t working at all.  

This is just not cool on so many levels. If you couple the decrease in what they call “workforce participation” with LA’s ridiculous rents, we’re talking about systematically destroying the lives of people at the very time that they are supposed to be improving their lot and tucking money away for retirement. 

3) Also, many younger people have it so rough that they’re living with their parents

For the first time since the turn-of-the-century, more 18-34 year olds live with their parents than live with spouses or partners -- even as the politicians and TV talk about an America that simply doesn’t exist anymore. 

4) Not only that, but for all the talk about Millennials and Hipsters, their real employment opportunities aren’t that good.     

One of the categories that I find particularly scary is what happens to young people who are neither working nor in school. This is a key part of our future, yet they wind up being categorized as “disconnected youth,” with predictions of a life far from the American dream that’s being sold by our politicians. 

5) Of those younger people who do get jobs, it is clear that the educational system has seriously let them down. Income segregation is the polite term.

And for college grads, it turns out that a lot of employers don’t even think they have the right job skills for the real world, even as they have piled up student debt. 

When I grew up, California had the best (and free) public education system in the nation. What the heck happened? 

6) What we used to call the middle class is both shrinking and changing as well. The phrase simply doesn’t mean what it used to, just as scary is what we call “middle class” is down by some 20% since the 1970’s. That isn’t trivial, and it’s even more troubling since it costs something like 30% more to even be in the middle class. No wonder life doesn’t feel so good for the governed. 

7) If you adjust for the outrageous housing costs and rents, LA just isn’t that attractive a place anymore. For example, renting a home in LA is simply beyond the reach of many people who do have a job.

A Tale of Two LA’s--In summary, the reason the troops do not have happy faces about our elected officials is that life in LA is pretty much going in the wrong direction and has been for quite a while. Deny it as they may, the City Council knows about these facts, because the LA 2020 Commission gave it to them straight in their report some time ago.

While the Mayor and City Council talk lovingly about the new “sharing economy,” even as they sell our neighborhoods to Airbnb and their ilk, the truth of the matter is that the new version of employment without benefits like health insurance, sick leave, vacations and pensions simply continues to erode what we refer to as the middle class backbone of our society. 

The Takeaway--I believe that the fundamental problem is that elected officials simply live in a different world than the troops. They only talk to each other and their mutual group of rich backers, lobbyists, and party insiders. So for them the world is good, and they simply have no real understanding of how most of the rest of us live. Their livelihood is determined by their current office, and the next one they will run for and the bubble that they live in. 

When politicians do run for office, they are not living in the same world as you and I. It’s all about demographics, likely voters, vote by mail, and statistical analysis of issues. Plus the hot button issues that will get them the $400,000 to $500,000 to finance their campaigns, along with suppressing the voters that might vote for someone else. 

It is the same at the national level -- like when Hillary Clinton comes out with one of her “I feel your pain” speeches; or Donald Trump channels the pain and anger of the large chunk of our society that has simply been discarded -- even as he flies in his jet to Scotland to advertise the opening of his luxury golf course. It’s just a ploy. Trump is probably more believable in his horsepuckey than Clinton, but it is still just smoke and mirrors by all. 

Same for our local City Council and Mayor. Their daily lives and who they interact with are the elites and special interest groups who all live in the same bubble. Do that long enough and you simply have no real connection with the average person who lives in your district. 

They cannot relate to those who they no longer understand. Welcome to the land of 15-0 and 11-1 prearranged votes. Our City Council. 

(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.

Short-Term Rentals Crisis Seeking Long-Term Solutions

 DEEGAN ON LA- Mixing and matching the needs of guests, hosts, neighbors and the City is a challenging problem being attacked and defended from all sides, as a prospective Short-Term Housing Ordinance makes its way through the review process and into law. 

The huge black eye of “party houses” has only fueled the debate for those who do not want short-term rentals. These houses, many of which charge admission, often rent short-term just for the weekend, frequently beginning the party on Friday evening and not ending it until Monday morning. 

Ersatz country clubs by day and dance halls at night, these hillside houses are both loud and a threat to public safety when the narrow canyon roads are clogged with double-parked cars that make it impossible for emergency vehicles to pass through. When the police arrive, responding to complaints from neighbors, it’s easier to take the ticket and pay the fine then turn down the volume. Tickets are a cost of doing business. 

Help with the party house problem, though, is on the way. Councilmember David Ryu (CD4) has introduced a motion 

that will regulate party houses. It’s now with the Public Safety committee, and City Council President Herb Wesson has ordered that the Planning and Land Use committee (PLUM) also review it. It’s gotten so bad that some developers are building houses in the hills with the intention of turning them into party houses. There will be public hearings and a vote by the full city council that will lead to the Mayor signing whatever ordinance is developed into law. 

Ryu is suggesting that the strong party house laws in Newport Beach’s “Loud and Unruly Gathering Ordinance”, and Malibu’s “Excessive Special Events Ordinance” be viewed as best practices models. 

Party houses are the “poster children” for what can go wrong. But they are not the only objectionable elements in the booming “shared economy” paradigm – a phenomenon that has introduced the world to Uber, Airbnb, and other ways to access transportation and housing -- doing it your way.  

A hearing by the Planning Commission on June 23 did little to resolve the overall short-term housing matter, except for allowing an opportunity for the commissioners to vote for extending the number of days that a host can rent short-term – extending it to 180 days annually, double what had been proposed as a 90-day limit. While some cheered that extension, others were upset that this represents an upward trend. The Commission also considered a 15-day limit on the rental of second homes. That issue is worthy of a separate hearing and review. 

"We have seen hosts voice concerns about the proposed cap -- from the number of days to the fact that it applies to a person even if they are just sharing a spare bedroom in their home. Even with the proposed 180 days that is an increase from the original proposal of a 90 day annual limit -- when someone shares a spare bedroom, or the home in which they live -- these dont represent housing units taken off the market, but rather, the homes of middle class people trying to make ends meet,” says Glenn Gritzner with Mercury, speaking for Airbnb 

Key issues of the proposed ordinance include the types of residences permitted, registration of housing units so they can be tracked, having a cap on the number of rental days (the 180-day decision), data-sharing from rental platforms (the booking agencies) to the city so there can be monitoring and enforcement, setting and collecting fines for breaking the rules, and the collection of the city’s 14% transient occupancy tax (TOT). 

Considering that none of these elements currently exist (except the 180-day limit) it’s a huge expectation to believe this problem will have been solved in one hearing. In fact, going into the Planning Commission hearing, Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) called the proposed ordinance “half-baked”, in a letter to the Planning Commission President. 

The pros and cons include regulating what has traditionally been a unregulated mom and pop business, and accountability and standardization that applies to hosts and “platforms” -- tech-speak for online websites where you can advertise your property if you are a “host” or find lodging if you are a “guest.” 

Regulation and accountability through registration, monitoring, reporting, and taxation would go a long way to stabilizing this market before it gets really out of control. 

The simple way to get the taxes collected, offers Helen Walker, who manages several properties, is to sign up with a service like Avalara at mylodgetax.avalara.com. 

“They send a reminder every month and we just sign in to their website any time between the 1stt and 10th of the month, and report the income for the prior month. They calculate the taxes due and pay them to the tax collector and the money comes directly out of our bank account. They charge a small service fee for filing. No muss, no fuss. They automatically renew our business license each year, too. They take the burden off the websites having to report to the City, and puts the burden squarely on the property owner/manager, where it should be in the first place. What could be easier?” 

Organization like the Short Term Rental Association have mixed feelings about the ordinance. Executive Director Robert St. Genis is concerned that the process may move underground, away from any sort of standardization or quality control or accountability which are all features of the proposed ordinance. 

He adds, “There are parts of the ordinance that we like, such as TOT (transient occupancy tax) revenue payments going into affordable housing, and we support registration, and registration fees within reason, but don't agree that portals should be the policemen. The term limit of 180 nights is a job killer, completely arbitrary and accomplishing no goals whatsoever other than hurting livelihoods and killing jobs.” 

“A key component is the use secondary homes as vacation home rentals. That may need to be addressed in a separate ordinance. Many, many owners own vacation residences, and generations of families have been doing this for decades.” 

“At the end of day, this is such a complex issue that it cannot be dealt with by one piece of legislation. All agree it is not going away. So, how do we address it? We dont want to drive it underground.” 

With no controls, measuring the size of the short-term rental market is hard to gauge, but best estimates by independent monitors are that there are 20,000 “hosts” in LA. Ari Teman, the entrepreneur behind the Airbnb monitoring software Sublet Spy 

says that “40 hosts — out of L.A.s 20,000— account for the majority of L.A.s Airbnb activity.” 

What does the establishment say, those that are now faced with challenges to their business model? Barbara Nichols, a real estate broker, cites several concerns, including, “Long term renters are vetted, credit checked, and background checked. You know who you are dealing with. When you move into a single family neighborhood you have an expectation of knowing who your neighbors are. Strangers in and out of a neighbors house destroys neighborhood connections. If the argument for “home sharing” is to help a homeowner pay the mortgage, a homeowner can rent a spare bedroom for six months or a year and currently get the same benefit.” 

Users of Airbnb are enthusiastic about the availability of obtaining housing for a few nights when traveling, and point out the non-financial benefits of hosting. David Mann, who has experience as a host and a guest says “When I host, I proactively engage with my guests and that way get to know people from everywhere. They sense I am interested in what life is like in their part of the world, and friendships have developed during and after their stay. Its more of a social relationship than an economic relationship. My one bad experience as a guest was immediately remedied by Airbnb staff beyond my expectation." 

A few days ago, the city stepped in, with City Attorney Mike Feuer filing charges 

against apartment owners that allegedly evicted tenants, then rented out their units via Airbnb. With regulations, Airbnb would be required to flag an egregious situation like this and block the landlord from renting through them and profiting unfairly. Other platforms could do the same. Platforms can already voluntarily ask the city housing department for this information, but do not. 

Attorney Randy Renick of Hadsell Stormer & Renick, who is representing some of the evicted tenants, says that “Airbnb is a co-conspirator in this scheme and needs to be taken to account. They've known landlords have been violating the RSO for some time, using the Ellis Act to wrongly evict tenants, but theyre willing participants in re-renting units. The city housing department can provide a list of Ellis Act evictions on request. Airbnb could use that to filter out properties that do not qualify for short term rental. As I understand it, the City Attorney is going to be sending the list to Airbnb, whether they like it or not.” 

Legal action is a good start, but enforceable guidelines are a solution. That’s the big challenge now, with so many different perspectives from City Councilmembers, hosts, guests, platforms and the public all weighing in. 

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

Screwed! Angelenos Crushed by New Taxes Avalanche

JUST THE FACTS--Those in power with little or no concern for you and your family have done it again and again and are continuing the trend of doing it one more time. I am talking about the new avalanche of tax proposals that have been approved by various forms of government with no insight as to the challenges most of us face in our daily dealings with society and the multiple layers of government that control and manipulate our lives and provide us with little in return. 

I will begin with the proposed ½ cent transit tax that was originally scheduled to run for the next 40 years. Since 40 years was not enough time to soak us of more of our hard-earned money, it was modified to … the end of time. Yes a new transit tax if approved will be on the books forever! 

How long is that going to be? Past most of our lives and onto the lives of our children’s children. That is not very nice of our generation to saddle future generations with taxes before they are even born into our society with so many taxing situations. 

This tax is proposed to enhance our region’s transportation in many ways. I like the one about the freeway enhancements. They want to use our new tax dollars to install more car pool lanes then convert then into Fast Trac lanes where you have to purchase a computer and pay per mile depending on how many passengers you have in your vehicle. We pay to build the enhancement then pay to use it. Not much of a FREEway anymore. More like a toll road like they have established in parts of Orange County and other parts of the country. 

If you recall, CalTrans spent around one billion dollars expanding the 405 freeway from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside in an effort to reduce the congestion and gridlock on the 405. Well, if any of you have driven on the 405 recently you know you still sit in your car waiting for traffic to move. The money spent was good in establishing freeway construction jobs and not much more. 

The Experts now want to try another wild and costly solution to remedy the current and continual traffic gridlock along the same area of the 405. This time it will involve a tunnel or some other process to move traffic along the corridor. The pie in the sky ideas to reduce traffic in our congested region are just that. Wishful thinking without much if any substance.   

Before you vote to add an additional ½ sales tax to city purchases for transportation enhancements, ask yourself this simple question. How often and how much do you rely on public transportation to move around Los Angeles? I imagine that most of you seldom if every use the bus or rail system serving the Los Angeles region.   Since you don’t utilize the public transportation system in Los Angeles, why vote for an additional tax. 

The transit dependent population that currently uses public transportation to move about Los Angeles will not change. It will just be more of the same. More money gone and little if any improvement for those of us that enjoy the comfort of our cars. Remember that Keyes Motors would not be a world - class car dealer if people did not purchase cars to drive around our region. 

In addition to the transit tax, there are other proposed taxes and fees to address the exploding homeless population. Namely a $1.1 to 1.5 Billion dollar bond measure or parcel tax. The City of LA has an approved $8.76 BILLION DOLLAR BUDGET FOR THE 2016-2017 fiscal year. One would think that if the Billions were spent wisely, we would not have to keep going back to the tax payers for more and more money. 

Don’t forget about your DWP fees that are all going up. They have already been approved for increases for the next few years.   

I could go on and on with the increases we are all facing on the November election ballot. My message is very clear and to the point. With a city budget of $8.76 BILLION Dollars, there is money to dedicate to the priorities in our region. NO NEW TAXES. VOTE NO in November and let our elected officials do the job we have elected them to do. Provide municipal services within the approved budget. No more fees and/or taxes!      

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

-cw

Lies, Disrespect Will Derail Transportation Funding

TRANSPORTATION POLITICS--This is neither the first nor last time I will emphasize that American voters, taxpayers, consumers, or just about anyone reasonable will have a problem either paying more to get more, or being flexible and adaptable for unexpected delays or cost overruns when it comes to transportation, health care, education, the homeless, or anything else...but NO ONE tolerates being lied to or disrespected when it comes to our hard-earned and precious money, safety and time. 

As both a physician (dermatologist) and a transportation/community advocate, I believe that acting with credibility and honor is the best way to ensure that our fellow human beings are treated with respect, and that we can most likely get something in return when it's needed (like better health care and transportation spending). 

If we need more spending, then do it!  But how often is it simply a manner of spending WELL and with an operating policy of being sensitive versus tone-deaf to those doing the spending? 

After all, if the argument can be made that we need to spend more on a given priority or project, then most people will do it if they at all possibly can.  But diverting any reasonable argument or complaint with a "wordstuffing" or a suggestion that the person complaining is making an argument completely different, and completely unreasonable, than the actual argument being made just is WRONG.  And it'll backfire. 

CASE IN POINT #1:  As per my last CityWatch article, the concern and fury behind me and my family being LIED TO by United Airlines for up to three days after repeated requests, and complaining about lousy and inadequate operational management in its Midwest/Southern operations got me both: 

1) A slew of private responses stating that--yes--United really IS lousy with respect to operations and ATTITUDE towards their customers (and probably their workers, too), compared to other domestic U.S. airlines. Furthermore, American and Southwest have made advances in the domestic air commuter market because they're more efficient, and really are trying to achieve better customer service with a more professional and kind approach to their paying customers. 

2) A gaggle of trolls (probably paid and/or butthurt airline workers) who all said the same thing--that weather is something we can't avoid, and to "get used to it or don't fly".  As if I, a physician, would ever promote unsafe travel!  As if a reasonable delay of luggage arrival isn't understandably going to happen at times! 

But if United's Houston hub will be shut down by a two-hour rain storm, and the other airlines won't be, then maybe United Airlines needs to have a smackdown in the marketplace with other, BETTER airlines that actually do give a damn about their customers, and who won't lie and lie and LIE about when planes will leave and arrive, and when luggage will truly arrive and leave an airport, in a manner that distinguishes them from other competing airlines.   

Honesty is the best policy, after all...and the private sector won't tolerate inhumane treatment when there are other choices to make. 

CASE IN POINT #2:  The public sector, while it is more often than not a monopoly (and an onerous one, at that), must also treat their "paying clientele" (you know, the TAXPAYERS) with regards to honesty and transparency and respect. 

It is neither honest, nor transparent, nor respectful, to knowingly LIE through one's teeth about how the California High-Speed Rail's "competitiveness" with an air flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Those suckering the rest of us with respect to speed, cost-effectiveness, convenience, and viability of a LA/SF high-speed rail never did apologize to the taxpayers... 

...and the public relations of that entire project threatens the entire future of intercity/commuter rail, which is an endeavor that our state really MUST pursue (LINK: ).  When Governor Brown leaves office, expect a slowdown--or even shut down--of funding for the High-Speed Rail project by less rigid governors who realize that other transportation projects need funding first. 

Yet we DO need a high-speed rail, or at least higher-and-more-frequent intercity rail network in our state! 

But NOT for the LA-SF connection.  As I learned when I had to give a lecture in Bakersfield, there is NO nonstop flight to/from Bakersfield and LAX, Ontario, Orange County, Burbank or any other local possibility.  Fresno is also an obnoxious commute and problem.  My commute yesterday between my Temecula clinic and Bakersfield was by car--very inefficient, and very exhausting. 

And for THIS we should blame the CA High-Speed Rail ninnies who should have always shut their pieholes about a speed and operational impossibility between LA and SF, and who should have emphasized the inability for Central Californians to access either northern and southern California with efficiency and ease. 

If or when we get a High-Speed Rail, we will NOT have most of the commuters going from Northern to Southern CA, or vice versa--most of those commuters will be going from SF or Sacramento to Fresno or Merced, or from the LA Basin to Bakersfield. 

Already we see high ridership on the Amtrak service between LA, Anaheim and San Diego--and with more and faster trains, we'd see more.  Because it just makes sense--check out the proposed CA High-Speed Rail route

And on THIS issue, the governor is to blame--the airlines will not fly more if it's not cost-effective to go to/from Central CA...but they WOULD help with the costs if a pitch could be made to emphasize the smaller commutes that airlines can't profitably do, instead of compete with (and probably antagonize) airlines who do a pretty decent job of getting to/from Northern and Southern CA. 

CASE IN POINT #3:  No, I do NOT have a hard heart for the homeless--and I really don't know just about ANYBODY with a heart and/or brain who does.  I treat the homeless, and fight for the homeless when I can.   

So I'll keep this brief.  But if the City and County of LA wants to grab state emergency funds, and spend all kinds of money, good after bad, to address the homeless emergency before our utilities and sidewalks and basic services are funded--at the expense of the same taxpayers who are screaming for their taxes to pay for our critically-necessary infrastructure...they will fail. 

Taxpayers will revolt, and maybe not spend more on needed transportation initiatives, because they do NOT like to be disrespected.  No one likes to be disrespected.  Or lied to.  Or "wordstuffed" into saying they don't care about the homeless, or that they don't care about the infrastructure mess our government leaders got us into. 

No one knows if November will be a success or failure for the transportation initiatives our society needs to pass to deal with a half-century of underinvestment in our infrastructure (so vital for our economy, environment, and quality of life!). 

But if November IS a failure, then our government leaders will suffer the same fate as United Airlines inevitably will if it dehumanizes and disrespects and lies and diverts the taxpaying, voting public. 

I've worked with enough honest, sincere and moral leaders (LA Councilmember Mike Bonin and Former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane come to mind) to know that we CAN get the right message to the voters.  But sadly enough, they're in the minority of our so-called leadership. 

And we'll all suffer as a result--because whether it's the private or public sector, it's always, always, ALWAYS management who creates a successful or failed operational business or government endeavor.

 

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

-cw

‘O’ My! LA’s Office of Mismanagement Exposed

PERSPECTIVE--Controller Ron Galperin (photo above) has uncovered a gap in the City’s cash management controls.

The audit report, covering the issuance of Proposition O bonds, makes a case for the city to hire a real Chief Financial Officer instead of parsing out finance responsibilities to a mishmash of executives who appear to have trouble communicating with each other.  

Bonds to fund various projects were issued way in advance of the commencement of actual work on projects dealing with water quality.  This finding raised a red flag and called into question the management of projects authorized under other propositions.

The net result was an average balance of $171 million in idle cash from 2010 through 2015 – idle meaning sitting in the treasury earning very little. All the while debt was serviced at higher rates. The negative margin was 1.9 points, which amounts to an average loss of $3.2 million per year. The actual loss was pegged at $54 million.

This is a loss of real dollars; the payments were unnecessary.

There is plenty of blame to go around.  CAO Miguel Santana either failed to perform basic analysis of the cash flows or did not understand the magnitude of the timing.

The Bureau of Engineering regularly failed to reasonably estimate project schedules, which led to the too-early issuance of bonds.

But there is one department that should share accountability – the Office of Finance.

According to the Office’s website:

The Cash and Debt Management Division manages the City’s cash handling policies and practices as well as the City’s relationship with our banking partner Wells Fargo Bank. This Division manages Street Improvement Bonds and coordinates other debt issuance in the City.

Antoinette Christovale served as Director of Finance/Treasurer for 16 years, which happens to span the entire time the bonds were issued. I do not know what her specific duties were, but a treasurer would ordinarily stay on top of debt service and be involved in analyzing the need and timing of bond issues.

It appears that Christovale’s department failed to identify another problem.

In an audit report issued  June 2015, Galperin discovered $500,000 in payments to Wells Fargo Bank for check printing from February 2012 to March 2015.  The City prints its own checks. 

Christovale retired in early 2016. She was replaced by Galperin’s Deputy Controller, Claire Bartels. 

While the players may change, the organizational structure that led to this embarrassing lack of due diligence is still in place.

Let’s hope Bartels and Santana ride herd on the departments charged with managing debt.

Better yet, let’s fold the Office of Finance and the CAO under an independent CFO with solid credentials. The City is an $8 Billion entity.  Only the most able executive should be trusted with its finances.

(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].)

-cw

Lessons from Beverly Grove’s Successful Fight against McMansions

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-On July 14, 2016, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission will consider proposed amendments to the Baseline and Hillside Mansionization Ordinances. As explained in previous City Watch articles, a unanimously adopted City Council motion directed the Department of City Planning to revise the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance by removing bonuses and exemptions that contribute to mansionization. 

Apparently City Planning only got the first part of this message because through many months of ordinance preparation, they have gradually reverted to their tried and true model, gradually slip in mansionization loopholes, whether bonuses or exemptions advanced by real estate developers, even when opposed by nearly all neighborhood residents and organizations. 

As this showdown over the fate of LA’s neighborhoods comes closer, we can learn about the day-to-day realities of mansionization in Los Angeles, including repeated claims and the counterclaims, by examining the Beverly Grove Residential Floor Area District (RFA).  It is now nearly three two years old, and it contains, by the far, the toughest anti-mansionization provisions in Los Angeles, aside from Historical Perseveration Overlay Zones and several residential Specific Plans. 

Beverly Grove RFA historical lessons to date: 

  1. The ordinance provisions that the City Planning staff, alongside the City Planning Commission and the City Council added to the original 2008 Baseline Mansionization Ordinance in 2008 were billed as design enhancements that would curb the visual impact of larger houses. This claim, often advanced by architects, was that articulated front facades, stepped back second stories, breezeways, decks, and balconies reduce the harsh visual impact of McMansions. But, in practice, it was all a hoax. 

These so-called design features were nothing more than loopholes that allowed developers to increase the size of houses by 42 percent through secret ministerial decisions conducted by the Department of Building and Safety (LADBS). To this day, in fact, no one knows what loopholes LADBS used to approve building permits for the thousands of McMansions built in Los Angeles over the past decade. 

  1. When the hard data, including photographs, was presented to the City Planning Commission (CPC) for mansionization in Beverly Grove, the CPC readily conceded that the mansionization bonuses and exemptions they had celebrated five years earlier had totally failed. They even complimented Beverly Grove residents on their thorough case and approved forthwith the Beverly Grove Residential Floor Area District. 
  1. The Beverly Grove RFA episode then became the basis for a unanimous City Council motion directing City Planning to remove the loopholes from the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. City Planning’s initial response was to take up that challenge and also fold-in the closely related Hillside Mansionization Ordinance. 

Beverly Grove practical lessons to date: 

  1. During the ten years of organizing to stop mansionization, Beverly Grove residents, including their neighborhood association, the Beverly Grove Homes Association (BWHA) never gave up. The residents and the BWHA wrote many articles for City Watch, had repeated contact with reporters and columnists at the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly, and became regulars at Council District 5. They also maintained a professional demeanor and attempted to restrain any rancor towards elected officials, even in the case of former Councilmember Jack Weiss, who was in cahoots with the mansionizers. 
  1. As a result of continued reinvention or their organizing activities, the Beverly Grove community disposed of a phony pro-mansionization astro-turf organization (i.e., top down groups pretending to be grass roots associations) created by some realtors and contractors. The residents also beat back the astro-turf organization’s nuisance lawsuit. To little surprise the astro-turf group pulled up it tent and disappeared into the night the moment the City Council adopted the Beverly Grove Residential Floor Area District. Their POB and web-site also soon vanished. 
  1. Like all other neighborhoods in LA, the mansionizers made a host of the sky-is-falling claims about ordinances that restrict mansionization. In the nearly three years that the Beverly Grove RFA has been in force, all of these claims have been totally disproven by reality. 

The mansionizers claimed the RFA would reduce property values, but, like other RFA’ and HPOZs, local Beverly Grove home values have soared over the past three years. The only trend that can be observed is that houses next to Beverly Grove’s 75 McMansions have not appreciated at the same rate. 

The mansionizers claimed that real estate activity would stall in the Beverly Grove neighborhood, but the same realtors are still hard at work with the same door knocking, mailers, flyers, and ads. They still are shilling with form letters designed to look like hand-written notes from people who claim they want to move into the neighborhood and desperately want to buy a house. 

The mansionizers’ claim that McMansions are built by local residents who need more space has also been shown to be bogus. All of the Beverly Grove McMansions are spec houses, and no local resident demolished their house, moved into a rental property for a one or two years, built a McMansion on the suddenly empty lots, and then moved back to the neighborhood. Instead, the local residents who sold out to the mansionizers sheepishly disappeared, probably loading up moving vans with their prized possessions in the dark of cold and windy nights. 

The mansionizers claimed that McMansions are designed for large, multi-generational families, but the people buying the McMansions have the same family size as other residents. McMansions filled with large multi-generational families were just a fiction. 

Finally, the mansionizers often repeated claim that they are only building to meet a market demand has also not held up. The McMansions sell more frequently than older houses, and often sit vacant for many months with for sale signs. In some cases, the lack of demand caused builders to move into their empty houses, and in other cases turn them into party houses or short-term rentals. 

The real upshot of these lessons in that local campaigns against mansionization must charge on for years and be continually, but not arrogantly, in the face of elected officials and City Planning staff. 

A second conclusion is that the repeated claims of mansionizers are nothing more than self-serving hot air. They constantly make the same bogus Chicken Little opinions, no matter how many times they are rebutted by opponents, or, in the current case, by empirical reality. They nevertheless plod on in the hopes they can eke out a few more spec houses before a new, effective mansionization ordinance finally puts the kibosh on their slimy business model. 

Finally, a third conclusion is that any decisions to add size and bulk to a house beyond what is allowed by-right, must not be a ministerial LADBS decision, but must go through City Planning as a discretionary action.

 

(Dick Platkin writes on Los Angeles city planning issues for CityWatch. He lives in Beverly Grove, and is a Board Member of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association. Please send any comments or corrections to [email protected]) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA Pulse … Vote Now: Should CA Legalize Recreational Pot?

CITYWATCH ACTION POLL--Californians are set to decide whether to make recreational marijuana use legal, as other Western states have done, after the California Secretary of State’s office said on Tuesday the issue could be put to voters in the November ballot.

The proposed so-called “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” which is supported by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom among others, would allow people aged 21 and older to possess as much as an ounce of marijuana for private recreational use and permit personal cultivation of as many as six marijuana plants.

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[sexypolling id="8"]

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“Today marks a fresh start for California, as we prepare to replace the costly, harmful and ineffective system of prohibition with a safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it right and completely pays for itself,” initiative spokesman Jason Kinney said in a statement.

The measure would also establish a system to license, regulate and tax sales of marijuana, while allowing city governments to exercise local control over or disallow commercial distribution within their borders.

The initiative required just over 402,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot and exceeded that number on Tuesday, the Secretary of State’s office said. Secretary Alex Padilla is slated to certify the initiative on June 30.

Opinion polls show attitudes have shifted more in favor of liberalized marijuana laws since California voters defeated a recreational cannabis initiative in 2010.

California led the way in legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in 1996, with 22 other states and the District of Columbia following suit, although cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under U.S. law.

Voters in four states - Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska - plus the District of Columbia, have gone a step further since 2012 in permitting recreational use for adults. Voters in several more states will consider similar legislation in November as well.

Opponents of liberalized marijuana laws have argued that such measures carry public safety risks and would make pot more accessible to youngsters.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco for Reuters. Posted by Huff Post.) 

Is It a Good Idea for LA to Borrow Billions of Dollars?

THE CITY--Is it a good idea for the City of Los Angeles to borrow so many billions of dollars that the Federal government will have no choice but to bail out the city five, ten or fifteen years from now?

From a Keynesian macro-economic point-of-view, deficit spending at the right time and in the right place can be beneficial -- spending of billions of dollars can stimulate a sluggish economy. 

Traditionally, deficit financing has been done by the Federal government during the bust phase of the business cycle. We are currently in the boom phase of the business cycle. 

Los Angeles, however, is facing an economic disaster that is not shared by other portions of the country. What was once the nation’s premier destination city has become an “exodus city,” meaning that more people are moving away than are coming here. The gross numbers of this exodus, however, can be too simplistic. We need to look at who is coming and who is not coming to LA, as well as what part of the population is leaving. 

Due to the economic down turn after 2008, the number of illegal “Mexican” immigrants declined. (People use the term “Mexican” in common parlance without regard to national origin to refer to any persons who come illegally or legally from south of the border.) People who were drawn to the US to work naturally lost their economic incentive to come here during the Great Recession. Illegal “Mexican” immigration was primarily the result of a strong economy. When our economy turned south, so too did the “Mexicans” – they went home and stopped spending money locally. And their absence made recovery much slower in Los Angeles. 

Another reason LA is becoming an exodus city is that educated Millennials who have reached child rearing age are leaving. Unlike the “Mexicans” who are easily re-attracted to Los Angeles by an improved economy, when the Millennials move away, they are unlikely to return. 

These younger people are moving to Texas, Arizona, Nevada and the Carolinas in order to have the kind of lifestyle that is being killed in Los Angeles. They’re seeking single family homes with yards in cities with new infrastructure and decent schools. If they wanted to raise their families in a small high rise near a freeway and use slow dirty mass transit, they could move to NYC or Chicago or simply stay in Hollywood. 

Back during the period of time that former Mayor Villaraigosa and Council President Garcetti were declaring war on the middle class and the single family home, other parts of the nation were creating “new Los Angeleses.” Decades ago people flocked to Los Angeles primarily for our endless single family homes and our great weather. We also had job opportunities galore. 

Families like the ones that moved to Los Angeles in the 1920's, the 50’s and the 80’s now see a different Los Angeles -- a crowded, dirty urban area dominated by a pathologically corrupt City Hall that is waging war on the very things Millennials desire the most: a single family home and a decent job. Employers see the same situation; they realize that the high cost of doing business in LA is more than the escalating taxes. 

In order to attract an upwardly mobile, family-oriented work force, there must be a decent school system. But LAUSD is one of the worst school districts in the industrialized world. It costs between $11,000 and $32,000 per year per children to send a kid to private school in Los Angeles. Employers know that they have to pay that extra cost since the only place their employees receive income is from their employers. Why would an upwardly mobile family want to penalize their children by sending them to LAUSD schools when they can move to a smaller city with decent public schools? Why would employers want to absorb the overhead of paying employees enough to cover the cost of private schools for their children? 

If, however, someone comes along and gives away billions of dollars to a particular LA business whose projects can only be done by people who live, work and spend their money in Los Angeles, the City can economically survive. One thing about a huge mixed-use project in Hollywood with 30% occupancy -- it cannot be built in China by Chinese laborers. The same is true of the Subway to the Sea that goes from DTLA to the ocean. There’s no way to export those jobs. 

As we learned from the Chinese, an economy can be kept afloat by constructing entire cities…where, incidentally, no one will live. So, is there any reason that the same game plan cannot be used in Los Angeles? Answer: No, there isn’t. It can be done here -- provided we Angelenos don’t have to pay the bill. 

Federalizing local debt so that LA can deficit finance its way out of economic disaster is much better than the old CRA system. Before we abolished the corrupt Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA,) Angelenos bore the brunt of the corruption. CRA projects paid no incremental property taxes to the city and that seriously reduced the City’s operating revenues. Although LA had the legal right to spend CRA money on streets, paramedics, parks, pension contributions, etc. while Villaraigosa was Mayor and Eric Garcetti was City Council President, it chose to give the money to real estate developers. That decision to give hundreds of millions of dollars annually to real estate developers is why Los Angeles now has a crumbling infrastructure whose deterioration is far beyond our financial means to repair without tax increases. 

Under this new system to Federalize debt, the Federal government will bear the economic losses. People still think that Federal money is free and there are no economic or social costs in opening the Federal bank vaults and letting the money spill out. One thing is clear though – the more the City borrows and spends, the better the economy becomes in the short run. 

Every dollar spent by a construction worker has the same multiplier effect as the dollar spent by an aerospace engineer. NASA, however, is not located in LA, but construction workers on The Subway to the Sea have to stay and spend their wages in LA. From an economic stimulus standpoint, there is no reason that federalizing local debt will not work. 

Here are the steps: 

(1)   Borrow Billions of dollars and spend it locally. 

(2)   Have the Feds bail out Los Angeles. 

What could go wrong? 

The November 17, 2015 the HCIDLA report to the Mayor warned what can go wrong – the voters might not approve the necessary bonds or tax increases that require a 2/3 vote in order to prevail on the November 2016 ballot. 

As the HICDLA report said, it will be a massive sales job and its outcome is questionable. Thus, two advertising campaigns are under way: 

The first ad campaign pleads the plight of the homeless – who will remain homeless despite the fact that Los Angeles has plenty of empty apartments to house them. It will be important between now and the November election not to let anything reduce the scope of the homeless crisis. If people realize that there are better ways to help the homeless than giving billions of dollars to real estate developers, they won’t approve the sale of bonds. 

If ballot measures fail, the City could borrow funds from the Federal government or through smaller bond offerings and then give those funds to developers to construct apartments were a portion of the projects are for affordable housing. For example, on May 13, 2016, the City Housing Committee approved $27.6 million in bonds to provide money to give to developers for affordable housing. 

The second ad campaign is designed to convince us that we need more subways despite the fact that Angelenos shun subways and basically, the only people who use mass transit are people who have no other choice. The fact that the subways were constructed for the poor is shown by the lack of parking near the subway stations. Just take a look at the Metro Stop at Western Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. If people living in The Oaks wanted to use the subway, the nearest place to park their cars would be their own home since there is no parking anywhere near the subway station. 

Thus, the crucial first step for Los Angeles to “deficit finance” its way to financial success is to convince voters to incur billions of dollars’ worth of debt that will then force the Feds to pay our bills starting five, ten or fifteen years from now.

 

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

Great Streets Initiative: Transforming Miles of LA Roads and Sidewalks

URBAN UPLIFT-Fifteen percent of the landmass of Los Angeles is streets and sidewalks. These 7,500 centerline miles of roads constitute the single largest physical element under city control, according to Lilly O’Brien, program manager of the Great Streets initiative -- a political organization staffed by trained urban planners housed in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. 

Great Streets has been working with city councilmembers, city departments like the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), and nonprofit design organizations to make better use of existing city resources and infrastructure while simultaneously creating urban corridors that reflect --and hopefully economically engage -- the people who live there. The initiative ties into a national and even global push to pedestrianize underutilized swaths of the urban fabric. In design terms, the 15 streets the project has undertaken so far largely demonstrate this blend of infrastructural alignment and local identity through sidewalk installations and pop-up play spaces. 

For one day, nonprofit organization Street Beats (photo above, courtesy Street Beats) transformed the intersection of Crenshaw and Florence into a musical instrument by using bump-outs to install DJs at each corner and fashioning scramble crosswalks to look like a giant urban keyboard. Pedestrians could engage in light-pole-mounted-speaker beat battles using iPads. 

Meanwhile, on Reseda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, LA-Más attempted to transform the car-oriented environment of the sidewalk into a living room by designing the installed furniture in a late-midcentury modernist style and combining it with a painted flagstone paving pattern. (Photo left, courtesy Stacey Rigley/LA-Más.) As Lilly O’Brien said, “these are designed to be places that could both support a communal space and a local economy.” 

“Our installations weren’t supposed to blend into the fabric; they were supposed to live in the in-between of the sidewalk, between what’s legal and illegal, between what’s private and public,” architect Elizabeth Timme, the co-executive director and cofounder at LA-Más said. According to Timme, her boundary-blurring work made it clear that the street was a pedestrian space, not a vehicular space, while also creating a far more accessible and welcoming area. 

Kounkuey Design Initiative has been working on a pilot “Play Streets” program for the initiative that closes off thoroughfares in South LA to vehicles and then introduces varying amounts of infrastructure to see “how play gets activated,” cofounder and executive director Chelina Odbert said. 

She’s discovering that regardless of the amount of equipment introduced into the environment, “people will play no matter what; closing down the street does the trick tangentially.” After securing the participation of LADOT and the Great Streets initiative, Odbert enlisted the help of “play experts” (i.e. kids) to develop the initial design concept into a workable reality, introducing everything from Hula-Hoops to temporary slides on reclaimed asphalt. The pilot program will run for one year, and depending on its results, may effect more permanent, citywide changes. 

This potential for broader urban change is in keeping with the scope of Mayor Garcetti’s original plan. As he told AN via email, “I launched the Great Streets initiative to energize public spaces, provide economic revitalization, increase public safety, enhance local culture, and support great neighborhoods. We are changing the culture around how we use our streets by partnering with urban designers on community-level improvements that appear hyperlocal but reverberate around our city.” 

The ongoing initiative will continue to develop and apply its findings to streets throughout Los Angeles.

 

(Julia Ingalls is a writer for the Architect’s Newspaper. This piece originated at archpaper.com.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Consumer Affairs Director: ‘Workers and Business Can Thrive with a New Minimum Wage’

GUEST COMMENTARY-For nearly 40 years, the County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs was our local consumer protection agency. As director of the department since 2012, it was my job to make sure all consumers in LA County were treated fairly under the law. 

However, Los Angeles County is only at its strongest when both consumers and businesses thrive. So about a year ago, the County’s Board of Supervisors made an important change to both the focus and name of my department. Today, the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs empowers both consumers and businesses in LA County. 

Starting this July 1, LA County will have an increased minimum wage. Businesses in unincorporated areas of LA County with more than 26 employees must pay their employees a minimum wage of $10.50 an hour. 

Businesses with 25 or fewer employees will follow a staggered schedule, paying $10.50 an hour beginning July 1, 2017. The minimum wage will increase every year until 2021, eventually reaching $15 an hour. 

The County believes honest work deserves fair pay and this law will certainly boost workers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet. 

The Board of Supervisors has tasked my department with enforcing the minimum wage. If workers believe they are not being paid the correct minimum wage, they can file a claim. We will look into the claim, contact the business if necessary, and take appropriate actions to ensure businesses are in compliance. 

The County’s minimum wage law includes an anti-retaliatory measure that states that employers cannot punish workers if they file a wage claim or assist in an investigation. 

We know some business owners are concerned about what this change means for their bottom line. However, just as our department’s name suggests, we are working hard to boost Los Angeles County businesses. 

For months, my team has reached out to businesses across the County. We conducted several round-table events and went door-to-door to more than 200 businesses to educate employers about the new wage law. 

When enforcement efforts begin later this year, if a claim is filed against a business, business owners will have the opportunity to prove they’re in compliance, or to correct a violation. 

In addition, the Board of Supervisors and my department are developing new programs to help businesses succeed. The Small Business Initiative, a collaboration with several County departments, will provide workplace development programs and faster plan checks for restaurants among many benefits. The County’s Small Business Utilization plan is establishing easier ways for local small businesses to compete for millions of dollars of available County contracts. 

So when we say “Honest Work, Fair Pay,” that could mean your business getting paid, too.

Consumers and businesses thriving...it’s the LA County way.

 

(Brian J. Stiger is Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Visit dcba.lacounty.gov or call 1-800-593-8222 to learn more about LA County’s new minimum wage. This piece first appeared in PublicCEO.com. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The LA Model: Trickle Down Deceit

CALLING IT LIKE IT IS--Call it the Eric Garcetti Trickle-Down Theory of Dishonesty, where the city’s top executive has so consistently told half-truths to the public that mendacity has drip, drip, dripped down to his voluntary Commission appointments.

There was Garcetti’s $1,400 per plate DC fundraiser for his re-election coffers on the eve of the LAPD Commission ruling on the Ezell Ford killing, which he told Black Lives Matter protestors was a trip to raise money for housing.   He also claimed that veteran homelessness would be eradicated in LA by the end of 2015, at which time he admitted was still rampant because the problem was twice as bad as he originally thought.

In recent weeks, I exposed at Huffington Post his awkward, dishonest Tweets about Super Bowl LV coming “back to Los Angeles,” and here on CityWatch his untruthful claim that LA was on the verge of becoming a “No Kill” city, despite doctored statistics and there being no such thing as a no kill city anywhere in the U.S.

So, it was no surprise last week that City Council, as predicted, unanimously confirmed Garcetti’s re-appointment of Roger Wolfson to the LA Animal Services Commission despite having a 41% absentee/tardiness record in 2015, on track for worse in 2016 and his ongoing failure to pay his overdue dog licenses or their late fees.  In fact, City Council failed to ask Wolfson a single question as he sat in the front row with his arm wrapped behind LAAS GM Brenda Barnette. (Photo above.)

Wolfson’s story about his background in the legal profession does not add up, especially between June 10, 2013 and June 17, 2015, and in his City Council file resumes.

On that 2013 date, in a gushing LA Times article about plays he puts on in his backyard, Wolfson said, “I’m not a doctor or lawyer, but I want to be a pillar of my community.”

But on June 17, 2015, Wolfson described himself in an interview with TheNewHollywood.com as “a civil rights attorney.”

According to Wolfson’s City Council file, which contains an overkill list of every speech he says he ever created or delivered, he was indeed an attorney, describing himself as a founding partner of Haft, Harrison and Wolfson, a NY law firm founded in 1999, which he started after working as an attorney at the law firm he says was founded by his mother and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.

Wolfson’s resume, which appears to be identical for both of his Garcetti appointments, lists him as a member of the New York, Connecticut and District of Columbia Bars, but is unclear as to whether he is presently licensed to practice law before any of them.

According to the Connecticut Judicial Branch, Wolfson was suspended in 2000 for failure to pay a client security fee.  He is presently listed as retired and therefore cannot practice law there.

In Washington D.C., records reflect that Wolfson is suspended due to his failure to attend continuing education courses and/or pay dues, and might not be able to practice there, either.

(NOTE: Attorneys not actively practicing law often list themselves as “inactive.”  Suspensions, whether administrative or disciplinary, are considered a permanent black mark on an attorney’s record.)

And according to the New York State Unified Court System, Wolfson’s license lapsed in April.

Wolfson also lists himself as a member of the United States Supreme Court Bar Association, which is largely considered a vanity membership, except for those who actually practice law before the SCOTUS, which Wolfson does not appear to have done.   Its Public Information Office did not respond in time for this article.  Wolfson and the Mayor’s office did not respond to a request for an interview.

In the world of Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council, the truth glass is almost always half bull. 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, Huffington Post, KFI AM-640, LA Times, LA Daily News, and Los Angeles Magazine.  He blogs on humane issues at: ericgarcetti.blogspot.com/.) 

-cw

Stage Watch: The Fringe Fest Produces Some Winners … ‘Office Beat, a Tap Dance Comedy’ Among Them

GELFAND’S WORLD--The Hollywood Fringe Festival ran through June 26, allowing increasingly lively crowds to catch up to shows that have been receiving positive coverage. I managed to catch Tilt, Time Stands Still, and Office Beat, a Tap Dance Comedy. I have to admit that the idea of a tap dance comedy struck me as unusual, but it turned out to be one of the better shows. 

Office Beat is the creation of Tap Overload, itself the creation of Gabe and Mindy Copeland, a husband-and-wife team with long backgrounds in tap. The show opens on a more or less normal office setting with a row of desks and chairs. But this office is a bit peculiar, because the workers don't talk and don't seem to be doing much office work. What they do is tap dance. They like to tap dance. They do it as individuals, in pairs, and as an entire ensemble. 

One day, they get a new boss. He's a mean guy. He posts signs making it against the rules to do any more tap dancing. (This is called dramatic tension, and it's all that this show has or needs.) The staff resist the new boss by dancing when he's not around, and becoming increasingly rebellious to him when he is around. I'll leave it to your imagination to decide whether the boss ultimately has his way, making this show a tap dance tragedy, or maybe he eventually changes his mind even as he discovers that he himself can tap! (The exclamation point would be appropriate if things were to turn out that way, don't you think?) 

About half way through Office Beat, I realized that this show has managed to capture the look and feel of the good old days of silent film. There is no spoken dialogue, and the cast is left to communicate using their own athletic ability, facial expression, and a bit of mime. There are a few written signs (No Tap Dancing Allowed) which fit the bill precisely as replacements for what the old-time movies used to call intertitles. And just like the silent movies -- which were never silent, but had musical accompaniment, often with a lot of rhythm -- the show was ultimately a bit of Buster Keaton or Clara Bow. 

Gabe Copeland as the new hire and Valerie Rockey as an office worker were outstanding. Rockey turns out to have been the runner-up on the tv show So You Think You Can Dance. Actually, they all were quite good. The audience filed out in good humor. 

Time Stands Still is the story of Sarah, a photographer of wars and famines, who has arrived back home to New York City from the middle East. She is recovering from a near-fatal exposure to an improvised explosive device. She squabbles with her long-time boyfriend James, a writer of wars and famines. The two of them squabble with their old friend Richard, an editor at the magazine they seem to work for, and they get to know Richard's brand new love interest Mandy. This is a lot of introduction to shoehorn into 60 minutes of playing time. Mandy, though much younger than the others, is the source of commonsensical interventions when they are most needed. It's that oldest cliche from the movies as explained by Roger Ebert -- in a story about teachers and students (or in this case, the young and the middle aged), the teachers eventually learn from the students, the older from the younger. 

Lauren Shein as Sarah holds her own with a convincing and naturalistic acting style. Tashia Gates as Mandy gets to portray positive emotion battling the gloom and anger presented by the others. 

I mention the next play because it has been getting a lot of positive comments in the Fringe's own review site, while paradoxically reflecting on my own negative comments about the Fringe management in a previous column. Tilt is either a decent first effort by a talented actor/playwright or the ultimate salute to sadism, irresponsibility, and amorality. 

In a mountain cabin, a slightly hairy, crazed fellow shambles around holding a crowbar in hand and spouting pseudo-profundities. The door opens and in comes a less-crazed fellow in a black leather jacket. It turns out that they did an armed robbery a week earlier and have been hiding out. Black leather jacket went away for a few days, leaving the hairy fellow to watch over the cabin. 

It is at this point that we learn something shocking. Sometime during that interval when leather jacket was away, the hairy fellow was surprised by a couple who were trying to gain entry. The couple, who we never see, were interested in what used to be called a romantic tryst. We now learn that the hairy fellow, reacting to being discovered, used his crowbar to break the legs of the couple. Then he duct taped them to a couch. This is all rattled off in what otherwise passes as a comedy. The fact that this conduct amounts to torture doesn't come up in the ensuing dialogue. The hairy fellow is resigned to killing the captives, and leather jacket desperately tries to find a way out. Neither of the main characters displays empathy towards the captives. 

The staging gimmick is that the main characters are looking towards the audience as they discuss the injured couple. We are the victims and they are us. It's not quite breaking the fourth wall, but it's close enough. 

There is a lot of further explication of how this all came to be. The fellow in the black leather jacket turns out to be the more civilized -- or at least less crazy -- of the two crooks. He's been a Beverly Hills jewelry salesman, and now he is caught up in something he didn't intend. It's the ultimate nightmare -- a wide awake bad dream in the making -- being forced to choose between joining in murdering the injured couple or somehow figuring a way out of the quandary. 

You might say that leather jacket is more capable of planning for the long run, and the hairy fellow is less capable of impulse control. Perhaps the moral of this story is that you shouldn't take off and do armed robberies with homicidal maniacs, because bad things could come out of it. Or you might consider the moral question faced by the salesman -- should he take some action that will eventually result in him being punished by the justice system (like arrange for the two victims to be saved), or should he abandon the injured couple to their own bad luck and just take off. Like I said, the leather jacket character doesn't seem to apply empathy to his attempts at planning. The victims are there as a plot gimmick, put there to create an impossible situation for the less crazy of the two crooks. 

This not being a romance, the salesman eventually takes his half of the swag and leaves the injured couple to the announced homicidal intention of the crazed fellow. It's about as amoral an ending as you might imagine. 

There is something worth thinking about here. If you were to analyze this play according to a deep critic such as the late John Gardner, whose book On Moral Fiction explained what real literature is about, you would realize that the play comes from a very bleak and depressing place. The salesman raises the moral issue early on, but this theme just sort of evaporates away, as the dialogue takes the two characters into an exploration of their own relationship and how they came to be stuck in their difficult situation. Our salesman character doesn't so much deal with his moral question as he manages to divert himself from it by thinking about other things. 

I guess we have a new art form here, the theater of responsibility avoidance. Students of Antonin Artaud and the theater of cruelty might take note. 

I've concentrated on the meaning of the play, sort of like you might consider the moral meaning of Oedipus Rex or Rhinoceros, but only to illuminate the fundamental lack of moral thought at its core. 

This is not to criticize the acting or the technical proficiency that went into the writing and directing. Ben Moroski is the author and plays the guy in the leather jacket. Michael Shaw Fisher plays the hairy guy. Unlike some other Fringe plays I have seen over the past couple of years, the actors do their lines like they really mean them, find the comedic pauses effectively, and basically sell the characters to the audience. Tilt is worthy of being considered on a higher level than, for example, Time Stands Still, because the presentation is excellent. The fact that one play argues serious moral concerns and the other makes them frivolous is a different question. I wonder if Tilt, as performed this week, might (with a little judicious rewriting) be the opening act in a much deeper three act play. 

On the same weekend, Long Beach Opera performed The News. It's a rhythmic, tuneful one-act opera with two female singers, a supporting band, and full-wall projections of what is going out from a television news show. It's the news on television, performed in front of us as modern opera. 

Mark Swed's review in the L.A. Times nailed it: The singers are great, the band is great, and the level of in-depth commentary on how television delivers the news is a bit weak. Singer Loire Cotler is something called a rhythm vocalist. She uses her voice as a percussion instrument to amazing effect. Maeve Hoglund is the more traditional soprano voice, and performs well.

 

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

-cw

Shocker! Councilman Discovers the Homeless In His District are his Own … Not Bussed In from Elsewhere

AT LENGTH--It has been more than 10 months since Councilman Joe Buscaino held his San Pedro Forum on Homelessness at the Warner Grand Theatre, where he reiterated the commonly held belief that neighboring cities were busing their homeless to the San Pedro area. 

He vowed he would stop this practice and called for greater cooperation amongst local cities to curb the importation of homeless people. Then he appointed a special task force to deal with the issue. The San Pedro Homeless Taskforce still hasn’t reported its findings. The homeless problem persists. Only it’s not what Buscaino expected. 

In Buscaino’s weekly e-news bulletin, he reports that, “In April, the Emergency Response Team met with 145 homeless individuals, 85 percent of whom are from the Harbor Area.” 

The report continues on about the reported results in the month of May that, “the team met with 170 individuals, 88 percent of whom were from the Harbor Area.” 

These reports from his trusted sources are similar to, but higher than national statistics, that show that most people who are homeless live in places in which they were reared and lived in a home.

The reality is that the people whom we have come to call “homeless” in our neighborhoods (at least some 85 to 88 percent) are in fact right at home because this is where they came from. They just don’t have a roof over their heads with a permanent address. 

This fact flies in the face of tightly held prejudices that perceive the homeless in our communities as outsiders. The councilman now must recognize them as his constituents. 

The Cost of Sweeping Homeless-- This is a hard fact to swallow for the indignant Saving San Pedro crowd after shaming the homeless on social media and having consistently called for more encampment sweeps to the tune of $30,000 per action. 

It was reported at one of the recent Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council meetings that there have been 27 such sweeps in the Harbor Area since the end of last summer, possibly more by now. By my estimation, the sweeps have cost the taxpayers of Los Angeles somewhere around $810,000. 

In addition to this expense, the police routinely issue tickets for infractions for any of the 24 municipal codes of which the homeless could be in violation, just by existing in a public space. Most of these tickets go to warrant for failure to appear. This only adds to the public expense and burden to the superior courts­, not to mention the cost to the homeless themselves. 

This criminalization of the poor has become a revolving door with a downward spiral. It’s part of what keeps the homeless, homeless. None other than the U.S. Department of Justice has recognized this vicious cycle for what it is: a civil rights violation that jeopardizes federal housing grants to our city. Enforcement actions such as the ones this city has used do nothing but make city officials look responsive. 

In response to the Los Angeles Police Department’s growing awareness that we can’t arrest our way out of homelessness, the Los Angeles Police Commission and the Los Angeles Chief of Police, Charlie Beck, issued new policy guidelines this week that change how officers approach the mentally ill and homeless populations. This policy change comes after two officer involved shootings of homeless people in the past few years. One of those shootings was judged “out of policy” and the officer is being criminally prosecuted. 

Clearly there must be more creative and effective ways to spend $810,000 in Council District 15 and the rest of Los Angeles. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the estimated $80 million spent on police and fire department to react to the homeless crisis isn’t working either. 

Homelessness itself is not a crime. We as neighbors and as citizens of this city and nation must not continue down this misconceived path. The homeless are our neighbors without shelter. If this were any other kind of crisis that left 46,000 residents countywide without shelter for even a day, someone would call for the Red Cross and the National Guard to step in. 

In Los Angeles, we talk the issue to death at city council meetings. Then we propose three different bond or tax measures, one of which will be voted on in November. Yet, not one new emergency shelter or new low-income housing unit will be opened or built before then. 

If this is how Los Angeles handles a crisis, I’d hate to see how the city would respond to the next major earthquake.

 

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

SCOTUS Speaks: Time for California Lawmakers to Dump the Affirmative Action Ban

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--The California legislature and Governor Brown now have all the ammunition they need to do what they should have done years ago. And that’s dump the outdated, outmoded, and grossly harmful Proposition 209. That’s the state amendment passed by voters two decades ago in 1996 that banned the use of race as a factor in college admissions.

The ammunition was supplied convincingly by the US Supreme Court when it strongly upheld the University of Texas’s affirmative action program. Justice Anthony Kennedy rammed the point home that race can be considered in admission to insure broad, and meaningful racially diverse colleges.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris further underscored the critical importance of affirmative action at California colleges in her friend of the court brief.

Affirmative action also assures the fair and equitable use of tax dollars for public education. This is a point missed or deliberately distorted in the affirmative action wars. That is that African-American and Hispanics pay taxes, lots of taxes, and are vital public stakeholders. Yet when colleges and universities shut the door or severely limit the number of African-American and Hispanic students at public institutions this means their tax dollars’ amount to de facto support of modern day quasi Jim Crow education. They are forced to pay for educational services and advantages in higher education that white students get and their children are denied.

Studies on college admissions to California colleges and universities have repeatedly found that there was a big plunge in the number and percentage of Black and Hispanic student enrollment after the passage of Prop. 209. This downward trend has remained agonizingly steady over the years. 

The studies also found that colleges and university administrators have done everything they could to devise policies and strategies employed to deftly skirt around Proposition 209 to ramp up the low numbers of black and Latinos on the campuses. The efforts have failed to boost the numbers. The problem of stagnant or declining Black and Hispanic student enrollment is made even worse by the widening gap between the percentage of underrepresented minority students graduating from California high schools and the percentage enrolling at UC. 

In 2014, the California senate took a big stab at trying to roll back Proposition 209 when it passed theConstitutional Amendment 5. This would have given voters another chance to consider the use of race in college admissions. The bill was pulled after some Asian-American constituent groups claimed that reinstituting affirmative action would do major harm to Asian-American students' chances of getting admitted to state colleges and universities. The charge that Asian-Americans would and are getting the short end of the admissions stick from affirmative action doesn’t hold up. 

Asian-American students already make up a disproportionate number of students at many public universities. According to university figures, at the University of Texas they make up 16 percent of the university enrollees though they are only 4 percent of the state’s population. 

The figures there are typical of their enrollment at many public universities where Asian-American students make up double digit numbers of the student population. 

The other old argument is that affirmative action is just another way of imposing quotas that would admit a lot of unqualified, poorly educated Black and Hispanic students to the colleges. This is nothing more than a rehash of the old quota or reverse bias argument that’s been used for years by conservatives to thwart affirmative action.

Quotas have long since been ruled illegal. Despite popular myth even before the imposition of Proposition 209 in California there was never a quota system that mandated a set number of Black and Hispanic students be admitted at any California university or state college. Race, then, was simply used as one of several factors that could be considered in a student’s admission. 

The brutal reality is that Proposition 209 is a relic of a time past when the relentless attack on affirmative action was a sneaky, and malicious way to maintain a racially discriminatory, two tiered education system that blatantly excluded Black and Latino students. It was bad public policy then, and in the two decades that Proposition 209 has been on the books, it still is.  

Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, there’s absolutely no reason why California lawmakers shouldn’t speak too and dump Proposition 209. Their swift action on this can and will serve as a model for other states that followed California’s lead and imposed bans on affirmative action in higher education to make affirmative action a reality again. We’ll all benefit from that.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is President of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. For more Hutchinson insight.) 

-cw

Not Rich? You Have Two Options … Become Homeless or Move Out of Hollywood!

DEEGAN ON LA-What’s the difference between an 18-unit apartment building at 1850 N. Cherokee Avenue in the heart of Hollywood that has a long history of providing rent-stabilized housing for working class tenants, and a trendy 24-unit boutique hotel that may replace it? How about the potential of a one-quarter-billion dollars gross for developer David Lesser over a 25-year life span of the new enterprise? And over $6 million in “bed taxes” to the City of Los Angeles over the same period? 

The conversion from rent-stabilized (RSO) apartments to hotel is an economic model for both developer Lesser and the City that may be too good to pass up. Most evictions and redevelopments hinge on what’s in it for the developer, and that usually means big profits. Incumbent rental occupants often become collateral damage and worse in the process. In this case, as in many others, some former tenants evicted by Lesser using the Ellis Act  have become homeless. 

If the boutique hotel is approved by the Planning and Land Use Management committee (PLUM), and then the full City Council, there will be no more fixed 3% annual rent caps on the formerly Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) building. The new hotel’s room rates can fluctuate with the economics of supply and demand and LA will receive a 14% per bed, per night Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) that, in itself, could eventually bring the city one-quarter-million dollars annually.

An activist community is fighting City Hall over this conversion, and now has a second chance at a PLUM hearing on Tuesday, centered on a CEQA-based argument on homelessness that has apparently caught the attention of the PLUM members. It seems that the city has no overall screening process to consider the cumulative impacts of how Ellis Act evictions add to homelessness, especially the loss of RSO housing units, even though they are required to under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). 

Recently, Governor Brown declared that CEQA, a state law, that may get in the way of progress and hinder developers should be minimized or eliminated altogether. Brown wants it diluted or removed from the planning process. 

The full council file for the Cherokee Hotel (CF 09-0967-S1) project is now available online. The public hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 28 at 2:30pm in Hearing Room 350 at City Hall. 

The transcript of an eye-opening conversation between Director of City Planning Vincent Bertoni and Councilmembers Jose Huizar (CD14) and Gilbert Cedillo (CD1) sheds some daylight on a City Hall where departments and council offices are not in sync. It shows us how an operational dislocation hurts occupants of RSO housing that are being evicted by the Ellis Act and becoming homeless as a result.

In the transcript of the PLUM meeting, the City Planning Director and two of the 15 City Councilmembers -- Huizar and Cedillo -- admit they do not know what the cumulative impact their constant approval of Ellis Act evictions has had in creating homelessness. Most likely, the other 13 Councilmembers are equally unaware that when they say “yes” to developers wanting to build in their districts, often with favors attached, they are also saying “no” to tenants who are also constituents. 

This shocking admission was reported by Jill Stewart and Miki Jackson in their expose published on June 24 in CityWatch, detailing how the “LA City Council and City Hall are clueless about their role in fueling homelessness.” 

In a stunning turn of events, PLUM will reconsider this matter on Tuesday, June 28. This reflects how far the community will go to try and preserve affordable housing in a rapidly densifying Hollywood that many consider ground zero for much of what’s wrong with city planning. It also highlights the influence that developers lord over politicos relying on them to fuel their election campaigns. 

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (CD13), who holds sway over development projects in central Hollywood, is up for re-election next March. So is his mentor, former CD13 councilman and now Mayor, Eric Garcetti, who many credit or bedevil, depending on your point of view, with getting the development wrecking ball rolling into high gear in Hollywood. 

The developer has said he does not intend to tear down the two existing 1929 buildings on Cherokee, but to repurpose them, retaining the character that adds to the neighborhood. No word yet on the fenestration (the arrangement of windows and doors on the elevations of a building) but it’s likely that that will not change and, to the eye, the building may look pretty much the same as a hotel as it did as an apartment building. At least there is no longer the intrusive threat of the original plan that included a 69-unit condo building that could have looked something like this.     

We will never know if the prospect of the 69-unit condo project was a bluff, a threat or a tactic by the developer to make a 24-room hotel look better by comparison. But one thing’s for sure: the current tenants will be the big losers. A few of them have already become homeless and need to move far away to obtain affordable housing. This is yet another result of the citywide reduction in affordable housing exacerbated by Ellis Act evictions initiated by developers who are intent on tearing down pre-1973 rent stabilized (RSO) housing. 

Removing affordable housing from inventory is the opposite of providing supportive housing for the homeless and lower-wage-earning residents. While the City may think it can support evictions that result in more homelessness and then ask taxpayers or the Governor to fund homeless housing, in truth, it really can’t. 

This schizophrenic approach is hurting the neediest, and slowly works its way up the food chain to damage the many politicos that are starting to be seen for what they are: the creators, not the solvers, of the homeless problem that comes from Ellis Act evictions. 

This is a variation of the well-established pattern of dislocation and gentrification throughout Hollywood and other communities, with some unique twists, explained by community activist Sylvie Shain, saying, “the tenants of 1850 N. Cherokee were vacated in 2013, under the Ellis Act, per a prior project approval for this site to build a condo complex, which was approved in 2009 but never moved forward. Half of these tenants did not receive relocation assistance because the owner benefited from the applicability of a waiver in the Los Angeles Municipal Code (Chapter 151.09G), provided for in the following circumstance: “The tenant received actual written notice, prior to entering into a written or oral tenancy agreement, that an application to subdivide the property for condominium, stock cooperative or community apartment purposes was on file with the City or had already been approved.” 

This is another example of how Hollywood is rapidly changing people’s lives and bank accounts. This hotel conversion project shines a spotlight on the politicos that have helped to shatter the dreams of everyday people who have been living in Hollywood in redevelopment projects; and there are dozens more on the books. These are tenants who, under the politico’s pro-development addiction, are now unable to afford living in Hollywood once they have been “Ellis-Acted” out. 

Bertoni, Huizar and Cedillo now admit to being complicit in creating an increase in homelessness through their constant approvals of tearing down affordable housing, throwing people onto the street. More of their colleagues need to turn the corner away from denial and into the reality of taking solution-based actions. 

While everyone is scrambling for up to two billion dollars in funding to help the homeless, there’s an easy non-monetary first step available: place a moratorium on Ellis Act evictions. Get the facts and a perspective on how this directly and cumulatively impacts our homeless crisis.

 

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

 

Many LA Latinos are On Edge about State’s New Aid-in-Dying Law

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Julie Watson from The Associated Press wrote and reported that California this month has become the latest state to allow the terminally ill to legally choose to end their lives, raising worries among some people in the state’s large Latino and African-American communities that poor people with serious illnesses could be pressured to take lethal drugs as a cheaper option to long-term care. 

Concern has surfaced across the Golden State, from primary care physicians and administrators of large hospital systems, to ethics professors and clergy. 

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the nation, called the new law “a failure of solidarity” in a society where loneliness and isolation already prevail. 

But those fears were found to be unsubstantiated in a recently released study conducted by UCLA professor Cindy Cain with the department of health policy and management. 

Cain found that in states such as Oregon, which began implementing the law in 1997, the number of those who died with prescription assistance rose gradually each year, from less than 20 in 1998 to 105 in 2015. 

Most of those who chose to end their lives were 65 and older, white, had some college education; and more than 60 percent of them had private insurance. 

The data doesn’t support the idea that the passing of the aid-in-dying law will disproportionately affect the poor or vulnerable groups, Cain said. 

This spring, the national right-to-die advocacy organization Compassion & Choices named Latina, African-American and Filipina-American women to reach out to minority communities. The group also set up a bilingual hotline explaining the law and held meetings in largely Spanish-speaking areas such as California’s Central Valley. 

“We knew we would need to learn to talk about the issue around death and dying in a way that was not just recognizable to the white community,” said Toni Broaddus of Compassion & Choices. 

In an April 14 column in the Chicago Tribune, cancer patient Miguel Carrasquillo called on his fellow Latinos to “break the cultural taboo of discussing death and medical aid in dying.” 

He called himself the “Latino Brittany Maynard,” a reference to the 29-year-old California woman who was dying of brain cancer when she moved to Oregon to access the lethal drugs in 2014. Her story galvanized support for the proposal that became the California law. Carrasquillo’s mother supported his fight for the option, but his father saw it as intervening in God’s work. 

Carrasquillo died of cancer in his native Puerto Rico, lacking the funds to move to a state with a right-to-die law. His mother promised him she would keep pushing for the practice so others do not have to suffer as he did. 

In California, before a doctor can prescribe lethal drugs, a patient 18 or older must make two oral and one written request. The law also requires a diagnosis that the person has less than six months to live and that the person can take the drugs without help from anyone. 

Life-ending drugs will be covered under MediCal, the state’s public insurance plan, but it limits coverage of outpatient palliative care consultations unless the person has stage IV cancer.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected].) Los Angeles Daily News staff writer Susan Abram contributed to this report.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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