Tue, Apr

Toothless Mansionization Ordinances Won’t Stop Reckless Development

VOICES-The Department of City Planning recently unveiled its second draft of amendments to the city’s toothless mansionization ordinances, the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO.) Consternation ensued. 

Their first draft of amendments, put forward for comment late last year, drew more than 600 responses. By almost 4 to 1, people asked for tighter limits on home size. But the latest draft seems to address developers’ demands, not the needs of our communities.

We asked for meaningful reform. Instead, it preserves loopholes that undermined the ordinance in the first place. To name just two, these include the exemption for attached garage space (even in “the flats”) and bonuses in non-R1 zones that increase house size by 20 percent with no public notification or oversight. 

The exemption for attached garages adds a whopping 400 square feet of bloat to houses, and the bonuses add hundreds of square feet more with no transparency or accountability whatsoever. And hillside neighborhoods are understandably concerned about inadequate conditions applied to grading and hauling, as well.

The Council Motion provided the blueprint for a simple, effective fix. Instead, the latest draft borrows elements from Re:Code LA that make the ordinance harder to understand and harder to enforce. These include “encroachment planes” and “side wall articulation.” 

City planners note that neighboring communities like Pasadena employ design standards of this type. Adopting best practices of other communities is great. In fact, LA should do much more of that – if and when we have the resources to implement them properly. Angelenos who have seen the inability or unwillingness of the Department of Building and Safety to enforce even simple floor area ratios may be excused for having their reservations.

The city sought input on the first draft of amendments and then ignored the concerns of an overwhelming majority. Six months have passed, and reckless development continues to threaten neighborhoods all over Los Angeles. We need to stop mansionization in the simplest, most effective and timeliest way. That’s what residents and homeowners want and what the Council Motion calls for. 

It’s time for Los Angeles to put stable communities and neighborhood character ahead of real estate speculation.  


(Shelley Wagers is a homeowner and community activist in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Short Term Rental Ordinance Round 2 … Still a Big Mess

EASTSIDER-On Saturday, the LA City Planning Department visited the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) for the second time to talk about the proposed Draft Short Term Rental Ordinance, along with another proposed Ordinance change over second dwelling units (aka ‘granny units’). As readers may remember, the first visit was not a resounding success. 

This time, we were visited by no less than Claire Bowin, Senior Planner from the City Planning Department. As Streetsblog reported, “Bowin has had her finger in a lot of pots in her tenure with Planning, working on the Bike Plan, the Mobility Element, the Housing Plan, the Cornfield Arroyo-Seco Plan, and Bike Plan Implementation.” 

Lately, she has been intimately involved with both the repeal of the second dwelling units issue and with the short term rental ordinance. Unfortunately for the LANCC group, before leaving due to scheduling difficulties, she only had time to go over a draft ordinance to repeal the rules over granny units. Then she took just a couple of questions regarding the short-term rental ordinance. 

The Second Dwelling Unit Repeal draft ordinance, regarding granny units, is being offered on an emergency basis, and will be over by the time you read this article, which is a shame. More on this issue in another column. 

Regarding the Short Term Rental Ordinance, Claire Bowin only took a couple of questions, referred us to the upcoming Saturday May 21 Hearing at the Deaton Auditorium (next to the new LAPD building), 100 W. 1st Street, LA 90012. The public hearing starts at 10 am, and I urge everyone who can to be there. 

Anyhow, back to the real issues. As you may remember, I was enthusiastic when the draft ordinance came out and urged folks to weigh in. 

Well, we’ve had some time to kick the tires on the proposal and a number of people have found some holes in the City’s Draft. For example, Raymond Klein, from the Brentwood Homeowners Assn., weighed in with the problems regarding enforcement, the no guest limit for hosts, and essentially, the running of hotels in residential neighborhoods. 

Next, a hat tip to Lucy Han, (a founding member of Community Above Profit, or CAP,) for pointing out the obvious flaw in the Draft Ordinance. It’s simple. There is an 800 pound gorilla lurking in the draft: there is absolutely no way that the City of Los Angeles can enforce this Ordinance unless the dot.com platforms like Airbnb and their like are responsible for maintaining the data and reporting it to the City of Los Angeles. If you don’t believe me, remember an earlier CityWatch article regarding the debacle over the City’s Surplus Disposal.  

City Controller Ron Galperin was brutal in his dissection of the absolute failure of this program, and it should pose a warning to elected officials in crafting the upcoming Short Term Rental Ordinance. The City simply can’t handle IT projects. This Ordinance won’t work unless LA City builds a massive database to handle the registrations that are going to be required. As I wrote regarding the Surplus Disposal mess: 

“If there is a single takeaway moment in the report, for me it is the following: the auditor complained that, as they tried to obtain data, they were reduced to looking at individual employees’ Excel spreadsheets that didn’t even have a common template. Clearly, the Mayor’s “World Class City” is an emperor without clothes.” 

So, what do you think the chances are that LA City will have a robust database up and running to actually try and implement the Ordinance? You guessed it: none…zip…nil. 

There is only one way to obtain the data to enforce this type of ordinance, and that is to require the platforms themselves, like Airbnb, to cough up the data. I covered this some time ago in an article about the absolute requirement of honest reporting to make any of these ordinances workable. 

Think about it. Airbnb is essentially a computer app hooked to a really solid, scalable, database. And they have spent millions of dollars developing this app and database. The rest is their claim of intellectual property -- a really good smoke and mirrors sales campaign to investors and hosts who need money. If it cost Airbnb millions to do their computer work, what are the chances that LA City can ramp up something to track what they do by chasing the individual hosts? gain, none…zip...nil. 

This is the biggest single issue that needs to be addressed prior to the next draft of the short-term rental ordinance. I hope the Planning Department and the City Council take heed. If this issue is not addressed, the inspectors who have to enforce the ordinance won’t stand a chance. They are already understaffed and simply cannot cover thousands of hosts one by one. The data is the key to any prosecution and/or fine for nonpayment of the TOT. 

So, urge lawmakers to stand up and get this ordinance amended the way it needs to be. Require honest reporting from the platforms themselves, like Airbnb. Otherwise, it won’t make any difference what they pass because the City can’t enforce it. And City Attorney Mike Feuer will be unable to even pretend to do his job of enforcement in court. 

Do we want all of our efforts to be one more LA City Special Debacle?


(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.

Resisting Arrest vs. the Fourth Amendment

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES- The Los Angeles Police Department commonly arrests people for “resisting arrest.” A deeper look into this process by questioning its legalities sheds new light on an old law enforcement excuse. Legal experts should question this, including both the City Attorney and the District Attorney. (FULL DISCLOSURE- I am NOT a legal expert, nor do I play one on TV!) 

Penal Code section 148 (a) is commonly known as “resisting arrest.” Clearly, this language is what requires immediate challenge. The presumption is that a person being arrested for a criminal act(s) who then resists, should receive the additional charge of “resisting.” 

The problem is that LAPD and many other law enforcement agencies across the nation wrongfully use resisting arrest as a “primary” charge when its legal language strongly implies that it is a “secondary charge.” 

People who have been arrested for “resisting” as a primary charge have claimed the Fourth Amendment as their legal defense. There are lots of cases that have achieved successful outcomes utilizing this formidable strategy. 

The Fourth Amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.” 

While there are elements within this definition that seemingly apply only to search warrants, there are other elements which seem to apply only to the protection of one’s self from unlawful seizure. 

In Skid Row (commonly known as the Homeless Capital of America,) LAPD often partakes in the action of arresting homeless persons for having tents on the sidewalk during the day. They follow this by completely seizing the tent and all of its contents. A Federal judge ruled against LAPD and the City of Los Angeles in the form of a preliminary injunction barring them from any further illegal seizures. 

The question that can be raised is, “Does LAPD need a search warrant before seizing a homeless person’s tent/encampment?” According to the Fourth Amendment, there would be a whole lot of judges signatures needed for the confiscation of tens of thousands of homeless people’s belongings all across LA County. 

As it relates to seizing property, the Fourth Amendment seems clear, but in regard to “the right of the people to be secure in their persons”, the Fourth Amendment has a lot of gray areas -- meaning room for interpretation. 

Can law enforcement simply walk up to people and arrest them? Can they simply walk up and arrest them for “resisting arrest?” 

There is a strong hint of abuse of authority/abuse of power every single time resisting arrest is used as a primary charge. 

Natural responses often are, “Why am I being arrested?” and, “What was I resisting?” Common law enforcement replies are, “You’re being arrested for resisting.” The conversation can go around in circles without any true and/or valid explanation by law enforcement for detention, sometimes for no good reason. Some officers and deputies even go as far as to say, “Am I supposed to explain (and possibly debate) everything to you before I put handcuffs on you?” 

Law enforcement has a “comfort zone” of zero culpability because they conveniently defer to the justice system with the mindset, “We can arrest you for anything….It’s up to the court system to either enforce or reject the case.” 

And in the case of “resisting arrest” used as a primary charge, what protections do “We, the People” really have? 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Los Angeles: Interfaith Groups Launching Gun Control Crusade

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Depending on which side of the issue you rest, gun control (or Second Amendment Rights) are hot button issues in the presidential race. Closer to home, Temple Isaiah in Beverly Hills, has formed a Gun Legislation Advocacy Committee, which has joined other faith-based organizations to form the Interfaith Coalition to End Gun Violence in the Los Angeles area.

Two months ago, sixty concerned people from all over Los Angeles filled an auditorium at Holman United Methodist Church with one common goal: keep their communities safe. Amy Phillips, a member of the GLAC, Moms Demand Action and other groups, share a philosophy, “Gun violence knows no geographic boundaries; no ethnic, gender, or age limits. From schools to movie theaters, from churches to street corners, a bullet finds its victim.” 

Phillips says, “I couldn’t comprehend after Newtown that this was going on. People were getting shot and our policy makers refused to do anything about it. I thought I can’t just sit here and complain or post on Facebook. My little involvement won’t change the whole system but if I didn’t, there would be one less person doing it.” 

When Phillips joined GLAC two years ago, one of the first actions she took was to get involved in creating an arts and advocacy program for 9th and 10th grade students in the religious school, all of whom had experienced a lockdown. Phillips thought kids could create posters with social messages. She showed the students a clip reel of new stories from the past decade which impacted them. 

This past year, the students used their phones to create videos on topics ranging from the gun issue to save the earth and Cast LA, an organization that works with women who are enslaved sexually or for labor. “The kids got to choose the topic and there was no budget, other than paper. They came up with creative videos, which they intend to tweet to candidates. The kids who chose the gun issue really got it,” she says. “We wanted to teach them advocacy through the arts.” 

GLAC is part of the Interfaith Coalition to End Gun Violence, with representatives from different temples, churches, and nondenominational groups – all of whom, as Phillips explains, are “fighting the same battle, getting everyone on the same page.” Phillips says meeting people who deal with gun violence on a daily basis was eye-opening. One of the steps her group wants to take is to bring the arts advocacy program to Holman United Methodist Church. 

While Phillips encourages people to consider choosing candidates who have positive records or stances on gun restrictions, she says GLAC and other groups focus on community-based activism. She believes most law-abiding gun owners want better gun laws, to make sure guns are locked up so that three-year olds can’t go around shooting, but they may be intimidated to share their stance with the NRA.

By getting involved on the local and state level with groups like the Interfaith Coalition and Moms Demand Action, Phillips says we can make a difference. “Gun violence is everyone’s issue. I don’t just want to be involved. I need to be involved. I cannot be idle and continue to see innocent people die and families ruined. The Interfaith Coalition to End Gun Violence is my pathway in,” she says. 

Action Info: For more information on GLAC at Temple Isaiah and the Interfaith Coalition to End Gun Violence, contact Karen Sloan at [email protected].


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

Living the Dream: A Streetcar Named Santa Monica

TRANSIT TALK--A Streetcar Named Santa Monica? OK, not exactly. It’s actually something better. A light rail line from downtown Los Angeles to within blocks of the sea. And if we do things right, in November the Expo Line could become one of several sorely needed (and accelerated) public transportation projects -- like a line through the Sepulveda Pass -- that Los Angeles is trying to make a reality. Vote early and often as they say in Chicago. 

What is so important about our new rail line to the beach? It came to me yesterday as I sat on the Expo Line to Santa Monica. 

We have broken the 63 year curse that no train would ever again pierce the sacred veil of LA’s far West Side. True, Boston’s 86 year long Curse of the Bambino is longer, but given our size, the Curse of the West Side impacted more Dodgers fans than Red Sox losers. 

“I am riding the train to Santa Monica!” I nearly shouted as we pulled into Bergamot Station.  I had the honor, thanks to a press tour with Mayor Garcetti and other elected, to preview the line which opens to the public on Friday, May 20. 

In any other city, the lightbulb that went off in my head that I was riding a train to the beach might not mean much. For example, riders of San Francisco’s N Judah light rail line have long been able to take the train to Ocean Beach -- since 1928, to be exact, when the route opened as a streetcar line. 

But this isn’t any other city. This is Los Angeles where the car was once king and small numbers of haters have long dictated what will, and won’t be, built. 

Now, at least as far as traffic-free driving goes, those days are long gone. And in its place are the famous Los Angeles parking lots, otherwise known as freeways that have sliced up dozens of perfectly nice neighborhoods and communities. 

Aside from the train’s arrival in downtown Santa Monica, perhaps the sweetest part of the ride for me was when the train chugged past the 10 Freeway close to the new Palms station. I also felt a pleasant whoosh of pride, and relief, when the train passed through Cheviot Hills where a handful of NIMBYs tried, and thankfully failed, to stop the Expo Line in its tracks. 

Ironically, it was, similarly, not in my back yard-minded Angelenos who more often than not allowed the freeway to come in, ruining neighborhoods for what sometimes seems like forever more.  

Reminders of our foolish addiction to the car abound along the route. As Neal Broverman put it in Los Angeles Magazine, “Views at the Palms, Bundy, and, especially, Sepulveda stations are kind of, ugh. The aerial views really show the auto-centric city planning that happened here -- tons of gas stations, liquor stores, and billboard blight. Hopefully, politicians like [Councilmember Mike] Bonin can help create more of a sense of place and really incentivize the Expo investment.” 

Now is the time to end the “no growthers’” stranglehold in Los Angeles and Santa Monica on sensible transit-oriented development and proceed with the building of projects worthy of our environment. 

Other public amenities I am hoping for with the opening of the Expo Line? That: 

  • Metro, Culver City Bus and Big Blue Bus got it right with their redesign of the feeder bus routes, and riders can get to the train car free. 
  • There is enough bike parking and bike share at the stations to accommodate all of the area’s active transportation and transit enthusiasts. 
  • Pedestrian improvements including sidewalks spreading out from the train line are inviting enough to encourage pedestrians to make their commute part of their 10,000 steps or bike ride a day. 

Kudos to Santa Monica which seems to have gotten things right, with Colorado Esplanade, the city’s attractive and WIDE pedestrian gateway and protected bike lane from the Expo Line station to Tongva Park, the Santa Monica Pier and beyond. 

Let’s also hope that Santa Monica will be measuring the benefits of the new train to downtown, including an off-the-charts bump for businesses in the area. For area merchants in downtown Santa Monica and at the other new stops along the line, it will be like CicLAvia all of the time with shoppers galore. 

Speaking of which, don’t forget the sure to be awesome bike and pedestrian streetfest, CicLAvia Southeast Cities, this Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm. 

Of course Expo to the beach will not be without its hiccups. Look out for the inevitable idiot drivers who think they can make it across the tracks ahead of the train, even though the light has changed. Others will whine about the noise and the increased foot and bike traffic around the stations and along the new protected bike path Metro has built adjacent to much of the line. Yay! 

And what about parking for transit riders who want to ride but simply can’t or won’t take the bus, walk or bike to the new stations? The new lot at Sepulveda and smaller lots at other stations just won’t be enough for the expected demand. This is why I am hoping Metro gets cracking on cutting deals with Caltrans and other land owners for more parking at underused locations like beneath the freeway at Pico and at churches and businesses along the remainder of the route. 

Metro has wisely done this at its Expo Line Crenshaw station where 400 spaces are available on weekdays in the garage belonging to the neighboring West Angeles Church of God in Christ

Lastly, consider signing the petition urging LADOT to provide signal preemption for the Expo Line through downtown Los Angeles and give priority to longer trains. 

With trains carrying hundreds of passengers versus cars carrying no more than a few, the choice is clear. 

See you soon on Expo and the rest of our growing transit system!


(Joel Epstein is a senior advisor to companies, law firms, foundations and public initiatives on communications strategy, corporate social responsibility (CSR), recruiting and outreach. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be contacted at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA’s Skid Row -- The Emergency That Cannot Wait

GUEST COMMENTARY--The criminal justice system, burdened with being the de facto forum for dealing with the mentally ill population in Los Angeles County, has now becoming the forum of last resort to deal with the homeless population of which the mentally ill are a subset.  

For three decades the Central City East Association (CCEA) has been warning that drugs, criminality, and mental health issues would converge at the epicenter of homelessness on skid row.  Add into the mix Prop. 47, which in essence decriminalized theft and drug offenses, and a series of court rulings which have allowed the homeless to take over public streets and sidewalks, and you have an ungovernable mess.  Yet homeless advocates and the attorneys they employ call it a civil right to live in squalor, and judges render decisions from their sterile courtrooms that play out far differently on the streets. Perhaps it would be considered untoward of us to suggest that the City sponsor a new homeless encampment on the sidewalks of 312 North Spring Street Los Angeles, the location of the Federal courthouse. 

The street population is at nearly 2,000 in skid row alone.  Businesses that remain do so despite the public safety and public health threat, wanting to stay in an area that is centrally located and to provide much-needed industrial jobs.  However, an increasing wave of crime makes victims of area workers, residents and the homeless themselves.  The violent nature of these crimes is escalating.  

CCEA has released a powerful 5-minute video  that allows the voices of the law enforcement, residents, and business community speak for themselves.  "Emergency" is an intense tour of the daily gauntlet that is Skid Row



It contains disturbing images of inhumane conditions on public sidewalks with vivid descriptions of Skid Row as told by the people who live and work there.  We urge everyone to watch the moving video and listen to the police officers who work on Skid Row. The question that is posed is one the leadership of Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County need to answer - how long will this nightmare be tolerated? 

It is well-documented that support for the mentally ill in our society has declined over the years and that a significant number of the homeless living on our streets are mentally ill. When they cause a disturbance in the community, the police are the first to be called. If and when an arrest is made, it then is deposited in the laps of Deputy District Attorneys and Deputy City Attorneys to decide if charges will be filed - with the low expectation that any misdemeanor charge will result in a meaningful sentence. 

Despite law enforcement's extensive training and new resources, the problems of homelessness and mental illness are vast.  Last year, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey presented a comprehensive plan to the Board of Supervisors that recommends enhanced treatment and services to safely divert mentally ill offenders from the county jail.  In Los Angeles, the Sheriff's Department and the LAPD are constantly collaborating with the various public and private sector organizations to better address the behavior of mentally ill individuals.  However, at the end of the day, it is the community of Los Angeles that must demand of our elected leaders at both the state and local level a comprehensive plan to combat the true roots of homelessness. 

As Oliver Wendell Holmes famously stated, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."  In the skid row area of Los Angeles, the homeless population is now not just swinging, but connecting, into the body of the law abiding residents who wish to walk the sidewalks or work in downtown Los Angeles.


(Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. Views expressed by Ms. Hanisee are her own and the association’s.)


LA Metro Mass Transit: Will Expo be the ‘Good Neighbor’ It Promised to be?

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--As discussed in my last CityWatch article), the Expo Line, after initial approval by the Metro Board in 2001, is finally opening for service on May 20th.   

You can go on a virtual ride right now via this link ...but the bigger question is "What's Next?" 

The Expo grassroots story is an amazing one, led by Darrell Clarke of Santa Monica and a host of volunteers, but the next big expansions of the L.A. County light rail system are the north-south Crenshaw/LAX line (somewhat of a north-south Expo counterpart) and a Downtown Light Rail Connector (an "Expo Phase 3" that also combines the entire countywide patchwork of lines into a true network)...but there are challenges as we move well beyond the grassroots. 

And sooner or later this transportation endeavor MUST go beyond the grassroots to become a multibillion-dollar operation...but to Metro's credit, their leadership and planning teams are as available as any governmental entity could ever be.  It is NOT hard to be plugged into the outreach meetings for Metro's expansion plans, and it's arguable that Metro is a model for governmental accountability and transparency. 

But while Metro's planners and leaders are accountable, available, and in touch with the grassroots, their political leadership need not be if they so choose.  By and large, the Garcetti-led L.A. City team works well with countywide political leaders (unlike Garcetti's predecessor), and acrimony over the paradigm of "the Wilshire Subway vs. suburban transportation efforts" is over.   

Ditto with the "getting the train to LAX".  So don't ever count me as someone who'll hurl bombs and epithets at Metro's efforts. 

Yet politicians are politicians, and planners have the ability to do great things (keep in touch with the grassroots, gather data impartially and use it to raise the bar for enhanced services).  But political, economic, and egotistic forces often lead to dogmatic and "groupthink" traps that are both self-imposed and counterproductive: 

1) The Expo Line is a welcome addition to the Metro Rail network, but its timetable is too darned long. 

Much of the problem is its streetrunning portions in Downtown LA and in Santa Monica--and it should be emphasized that it was the Santa Monica City Council which went against both common sense and the recommendations of the Expo Authority to insist on changing an elevated portion of the line to street level. 

So it's hard to know if the motorist who made an "ill-advised" left turn in front of a testing train in Santa Monica (LINK: ) is to blame, or if the City of Santa Monica is to blame, but...congratulations, Santa Monica! You've got your first car vs. train collision! 

Furthermore, while the old Air Line (the predecessor of the Expo Line that was abandoned in 1953) had an end to end travel time of approximately 70 minutes, the Expo Line has an approximately 55 minute travel time. 

So ... yes, the train is, for a host of reasons (and not too much of it is Metro's fault) too darned long. 

2) Meanwhile, parking is still being pilloried as evil and is in such short supply that it will limit usefulness of the Expo Line. 

I would love to see the day that the anti-parking zealots are either shut down, ignored, and are otherwise brought to bear--but they've got no right being a part of a city or county governmental planning team.  Parking for the Expo Line is especially critical because this line is billed as an alternative to the I-10 freeway. 

There's no Metrolink west and south of Downtown, so the Expo Line is the closest thing, and Metrolink requires parking to function well.  Does anyone really think that San Fernando Valley, Pacific Palisades, and South Bay car commuters will take a bus to the Expo Line? 

No, they clearly won't--and what they'll do is drive to the Venice/Robertson or La Cienega stations, where there is parking that's now occupied by 8-9 am, and where Downtown-bound traffic bunches up on the I-10. 

Yes, there are about five hundred parking spaces in the Westside portion of the Expo Line, but for a line that's supposed to carry tens of thousands of riders a day, that's both a slap in the face and a middle finger to the voters and taxpayers who paid for this line. 

And let's not forget that the City of Los Angeles is just as bad as the City of Santa Monica with respect to its quasi-theological and wild-eyed war on the automobile ... because unlike the City of Culver City, which is building a transit-oriented development next to the Venice/Robertson station that includes hundreds of new Expo Line parking spaces, the Casden Sepulveda project next to the Exposition/Sepulveda station in West L.A. has not ever been forced to create a new parking structure as a betterment for the Expo Line. 

3) The Expo Line is neither focusing on the present or the future with respect to bus or other "final mile" links, or to safety issues. 

Why the various bus lines that link to the Expo Line were "caught off guard" by the Expo Line, but costs and operations could have, and should have, been addressed years ago.  It's not like the Expo Line was a secret. 

Fortunately, human ingenuity isn't dead.  Ever heard of Uber or Lyft?  Perhaps a more cost-effective method is to establish more automobile connections/drop-offs when the trains are operating later than any connecting buses...because it's really scary to be stuck at an empty train station after dark waiting 20-30 minutes for a bus that might never come. 

Furthermore, howza 'bout establishing food truck and similar private sector services for those commuters wanting to eat or shop and otherwise have something to do--and with more eyes and ears in the vicinity--while waiting for the next train to arrive.  It's hoped that Metro and local cities will recognize these real-world issues and resolve them. 

Because the Expo Line was always supposed to be a good neighbor, and an overall boon to the neighborhoods through which it traverses. 

And it will be, provided that the same innovative and energetic grassroots that started this train rolling aren't thrown off that train merely because they've pointed out a few obvious and glaring problems that might be coming our way.


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


Is Hillary Clinton the de facto Choice for Black Women?

SOUTH OF THE 10-Two weeks ago 2 Urban Girls discussed African-American men supporting the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and caused quite an uproar. While the article looked at why Black men are supporting HRC, commenters remarked, why would ANY Black person support her? Most articles speculate that HRC has the women’s vote sewn up.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics, in every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of eligible female adults who voted far exceeded the proportion of eligible males who voted. 

Last week, social media was ablaze with African-American women posting selfies with Hillary Clinton when she appeared at the California African-American Museum (CAAM) in Exposition Park at the request of Congresswomen Karen Bass (D-CA37) and Maxine Waters (D-CA43). (Photo above.) 

Many of the women on hand were political movers and shakers, with many being members of an established political organization focused on grooming African-American women for a career in politics. 

The Los Angeles African-American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI) has, since June 2004, been the premier organization for women of color seeking a more active role in civic engagement. Women who join LAAWPPI have backgrounds ranging from running nonprofits to working with elected officials to serving on various boards and commissions throughout Los Angeles County. 

Curious as to why women of color are supporting Hillary, I spoke with several alumni -- “baby boomers” to “millennials” -- about their reasoning. 

Joy Atkinson, Executive Director of the Los Angeles African American Women's Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI) is no stranger to politics. Her father was the first African-American to run for Los Angeles City Council. 

“I have been around the political arena for many years and I think I know what [issues] politicians can and can't deliver. Mrs. Clinton served as an attorney for the Children's Defense Fund and helped stop the incarceration of teenagers in adult prisons and worked for the rights of disabled children in Massachusetts,” Atkinson remarked. 

“She also tackled the desegregation policies of Mississippi way after the 1954 decision to not segregate school children. She has been and still is an advocate for women's rights. As Secretary of State under President Obama, she was able to negotiate a cease fire between Israel and Hamas,” said Atkinson. 

Atkinson is also looking to separate fact from fiction when it comes to people’s perception of Hillary.

“Would somebody give me some reliable proof that Hillary Clinton is a "crook" and can't be "trusted" - I mean some evidence and not innuendo,” continued Atkinson. 

Many would think trigger words like “Whitewater” “Benghazi” “Email Server” would emit some concern in the areas of “trust”, yet that doesn’t seem to apply here. 

Hillary Clinton has also managed to finagle the support of Compton Mayor Aja Brown. Speaking at an event hosted by hosted by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in early 2015, Hillary publicly floated the idea of offering the mayor a job if elected President. 

“Don’t be surprised if you get a call,” Mrs. Clinton said after praising the Democratic mayor’s anti-gang programs. 

More than 70 percent of black women voted in 2012, out-voting white women (65.6 percent), white men (62.6 percent), and black men (61.4 percent). Exit poll data from Democratic primaries in 2016, show black women continue to make up a larger proportion of the Democratic electorate than black men.

 In 2008 and 2012, 96 percent of black women voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama. Will those same women show up for Hillary Rodham Clinton? 

Not all women of color have made Hillary Clinton their de facto choice for President.

Next week’s column will look at African-American women who are supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders.


(Melissa Hébert is an alumni of California State University Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science and a member of LAAAWPPI. She is the editor-in-chief of blog 2urbangirls.com and host of the Urban Girl Show. Melissa is also President of School Site Council in Inglewood Unified School District and is the mother of two handsome sons. She can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 


Granny Flats and Los Angeles’ Broken Planning System

GUEST WORDS--“The City’s repeal proposal is bad enough, replacing meaningful neighborhood zoning protection with virtually no protection. But the way the City is processing this proposal exemplifies its continuing broken planning system and completely undermines the City’s credibility at a critical point in time.” --Carlyle W. Hall. 

To head off a proposed ballot initiative that would impose a moratorium on major construction projects throughout Los Angeles, it’s been widely reported that the City is now seeking support for a planning and zoning “reform package” that will, once more, simply update the City’s 35 community plans. This proposed “solution” overlooks the City’s fundamental credibility problem: an ever-widening gulf between what’s promised and what’s actually delivered.  

In a recent example, Los Angeles Neighbors in Action prevailed against the City when Superior Court Judge James Chalfant found that, since May 2010, LA’s building officials have been routinely ignoring the City’s adopted zoning standards for development of second units (sometimes called “accessory dwelling units” or “granny flats”) in single-family residential zones.  

 Under state law changes enacted in 2002, second units must be approved on a “ministerial” basis (i.e., no public hearings and no conditions of approval) if they meet a city or county’s adopted standards—no matter how negative the ensuing traffic and infrastructure impacts. Further, if a locality does not have its own adopted standards, it must approve any second unit application that meets certain state “default” standards. The Legislature specifically designed those “default” standards to be so utterly weak—providing virtually no protections for the surrounding neighborhood—that any rational city would prefer to adopt and enforce its own local second unit standards. 

The 2002 legislative changes have made strong local second unit standards, like those adopted in Los Angeles, of great importance. LA’s adopted standards, for example, strictly regulate a proposed second unit’s size (no greater than 640 square feet in floor area), location (no second units in designated hillside areas) and visibility (second units must not be visible from the street). In contrast, the disfavored state “default” standards allow second units as big as many primary residences (1,200 SF), have no restrictions on the location or visibility of second units, and contain no other meaningful protections for surrounding neighborhoods. 

Like other cities, LA’s adopted second-unit standards were originally intended to be administered on a discretionary basis through the conditional use permit process. Shortly after the 2002 state law changes, then-Chief Zoning Administrator Robert Janovici issued an administrative memo in 2003 describing how the City would thereafter administer its adopted standards on a ministerial basis. For the next seven years, the City successfully administered those standards, issuing approximately 40 second-unit permits a year. 

In 2009, however, at the city attorney’s urging, former Planning Director Gail Goldberg undertook a series of community workshops to study alternatives to the City’s adopted standards. These workshops were swamped with homeowners wanting a voice in potentially major density changes to their neighborhoods. In light of the strong outpouring of citizen opposition to the 2009 effort, Goldberg “pulled the plug” on the study and refused to send any ordinance to the City Council.  

Most citizens assumed the issue had been put to bed at that point. But in 2010, the Planning Department issued a behind-closed-doors administrative memo (ZA 120) based on the city attorney’s mistaken legal advice. The city attorney wrongly counseled that, as a result of the 2002 state law changes, the City needed to “formally amend” its adopted standards in order to provide for their ministerial administration. 

ZA 120 ordered the City’s planning and zoning officials to stop following its adopted standards and instead to follow the weak state “default” standards. For the next six years, the City issued about 75 second unit permits annually, but essentially all of the increase in permits involved unlawful permits that exceeded the City’s adopted standards. 

In 2014, Los Angeles Neighbors in Action brought its lawsuit demanding that the City set aside ZA 120 and resume following its protective local standards.  After almost two years of litigation, the Superior Court recently ruled that, since 2010, based on the city attorney’s mistaken legal advice, the City has been unlawfully ignoring its adopted second unit standards on a routine basis. As relief, the City was ordered to stop using ZA 120 and the state “default” standards, rather than its adopted standards, as the criteria for issuing second-unit permits.  

The City’s response? Perversely, it now proposes to “fast-track” a proposed repeal of its adopted second-unit standards. Without any prior community input and study, that proposal is now scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission on May 12.  

The City’s repeal proposal is bad enough, replacing meaningful neighborhood zoning protection with virtually no protection. But the way the City is processing this proposal exemplifies its continuing broken planning system and completely undermines the City’s credibility at a critical point in time: 

  • The public notice for the March 12 Commission hearing, for example, blatantly misstates that repeal of the City’s adopted second-unit standards is proposed “for the purpose of complying with state law AB 1866.” This is nonsense. Judge Chalfant ruled that the City had to stop routinely violating its adopted standards, and he specifically ruled that the City can properly continue enforcing its existing adopted standards. There is no legal need whatsoever to repeal those adopted standards and replace them with the weak “default” standards. 
  • The City has put the proposed repeal ordinance on a “fast track” as an “urgency” ordinance. But it is hardly an emergency when a City is ordered by the Superior Court, as here, simply to follow its adopted zoning standards. Beyond that, under its adopted standards, the City issued approximately 40 permits annually over a seven-year period—the same number currently projected by its 2013 housing element. No crisis there. 
  • The great majority of California cities have adopted their own local standards, rather than choosing to implement the undesirable state “default” standards. Similar to LA’s adopted standards, cities throughout Southern California enforce their local adopted restrictions to protect surrounding neighborhoods. The City’s repeal proposal would embrace the “default” standard without even first examining the alternative second unit ordinance approaches of these cities. 
  • The much-heralded re:codeLA study will include, among other things, customized second-unit zoning standards designed to take into account the undeniably different topography, density, and character of LA’s diverse neighborhoods. The study’s rhetoric strongly denounces “one size fits all” zoning practices. But instead of awaiting the re:codeLA zoning recommendations, the City’s repeal proposal would immediately replace our existing strong second-unit standards with the weak “one size fits all” state “default” standards. 

Newly updated community plans also offer an opportunity for the City to formulate effective second-unit policies to be implemented throughout its widely diverse neighborhoods. But with its proposed repeal action, the City’s planning establishment appears willing to let LA’s neighborhoods suffer the negative consequences of unwanted (and unstoppable) second-unit development without first making any meaningful effort to study alternatives and to formulate public policies that take into account differing points of view. 

The bottom line: When the City says one thing but does another -- as its second unit policies and practices continue to do -- it completely undermines potential public support for its ongoing planning and zoning efforts.


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

Goodbye Gil Cedillo: the Tin God of Slaughter Alley

The full quote goes, “Behold how good and pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity!”

…Which may not even be something to hope for. A lust for “unity” seems to lead to fascism, and whether of left or right doesn’t matter, because it is inherently oppressive. I prefer to think that what would really be good and pleasant would be solidarity: working together towards common goals, while making room for, and use of, the exhilarating diversity of thought and talents in our bustling little communities here in LA.

Sad to say, we don’t even get that, as our (sort of, in one case) elected leaders play us off into factions that fight each other over quibbles and intuitive but usually incorrect gut feelings, while the powers-that-be make their own quiet plans.

That may be changing. For now, CD 1’s Gil Cedillo (who squeaked into office by fewer than 800 votes, and then immediately backstabbed the good folks he’d pandered to in the safe streets community), gets to play tin god in the council chambers, blocking road diets and bike lanes, then grudgingly tolerating a traffic signal or two after enough bodies pile up, while keeping North Figueroa the perfect model of a modern Slaughter Alley. But opposition is rising …

As the LA Times noted a couple of days ago, not one, not two, but three candidates are gearing up to oppose him after what many in NELA hope will be his single term. They are former opponent Jesse Rosas, Miguel Amaya, and our own Josef Bray-Ali, the owner of Flying Pigeon LA, a former white-hat developer, and a tireless advocate for safe streets, local businesses, and a healthy community. Although the Times article characterizes him as a “bicycle advocate,” we all know that he is much more, and that the original road diet plan would have strengthened commerce and neighborhood solidarity and made the street safer for all—cyclists, yes, but walkers and drivers as well.

All Cedillo’s efforts have done is paint the street with blood—literally.

Meanwhile, across town, Paul Koretz is seeing opposition, as Beverly Grove lawyer Jesse Max Creed prepares a run for CD 5. Koretz has been steadfast in blocking bike lanes on Westwood, refusing even to permit an impartial study of the matter—which leads you to wonder what hidden interest he is “protecting” in his busy Westside district. Even Ryan Snyder’s plan for the street, which would have left all car lanes and parking intact, was refused consideration. 

Creed is not running on a pro-bike ticket (at least not yet), but there’s a chance he’d be more reasonable than the ever-obdurate Koretz.

So it looks like, with a little bit of solidarity, we might be able to vote a couple of neanderthals out of office, and move in folks who believe it is people, and not traffic jams, that make a city great.

Don’t forget to vote local on March 7th next year!


Councilmember Ryu Infects the Valley with ‘Spot Zoning’ … Adding Fuel to the Recall Fires

BEGGING FOR RECALL-We’ve all heard about the ruckus in Hollywood about spot zoning. That is the practice of councilmembers’ taking R-1 lots with single family homes and re-zoning them for large apartment complexes, often to be built with tax dollars as Affordable Housing. 

Hollywood got so fed up that it spawned the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Well, Councilmember David Ryu isn’t going to ignore poor old Sherman Oaks. Councilman Ryu has brought Spot Zoning to the Valley. 

Claiming to be the homeowner’s friend and to protect his constituency from the developers, Councilmember Ryu has not voted NO on a large development project since he was elected. 

Councilmember Ryu did vote YES on the gigantic Palladium Towers in Hollywood, and now he has moved on to destroying single family homes in Sherman Oaks. Approving Spot Zoning is a strange way to protect his district from Spot Zoning. 

When the neighbors told the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council that they wanted to retain the R-1 zoning for their homes along Magnolia Boulevard and in the nearby neighborhood, Ryu’s response was that the community should be glad that he let them know what was happening. 

It may sound strange for a councilmember wanting praise for not concealing when a developer seeks Spot Zoning. In the culture that permeates Los Angeles City Council, however, being deceptive and closing the community completely out of any and all input to major decisions like Spot Zoning is Standard Operating Procedure. So, councilmember Ryu does seem to be a little more open than the other councilmembers. Some think that it’s the same as the difference between a polite mugger who does pistol whip you and one who needlessly whacks you on the head after stealing your wallet. 

Spot Zoning can destroy the value of a family’s major asset, the home. 

But these enterprising families are fighting back. They got the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council to reject the project despite the developer’s renting a large bus to bring his friends and employees to stack the Neighborhood Council’s audience in favor of demolishing the homes. Perhaps, the SHNC Board member resented such crass manipulation. 

And now, these neighbors may sign on to the Recall Ryu campaign which grew out of his support for the Palladium Towers and his deception over putting a professional basketball court in the wilderness of Runyon Canyon. 

We can expect Ryu’s crocodile tears any time now. Nothing makes a Councilmember tear up faster than a Recall. 

But don’t be naive, that will not stop Ryu’s Spot Zoning of R-1 homes to Multifamily Affordable Housing. Ryu has promised this R-1 neighborhood to the developer, and Ryu knows on which side his bread is ultimately buttered. 

On the other hand, Ryu’s mega support for developers is earning him a lot of enemies. Along with Krekorian and O’Farrell, Councilmember Ryu may become prey in the Recall Games.


(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.

Another Bad Idea: A Local Income Tax!

TAXED TO DEATH--Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have suggested an income tax on millionaires dedicating the money for homelessness relief. Opening the door for local governments to impose income taxes would erode the state’s major fund raising mechanism, burden taxpayers with more paperwork, hit small businesses whose owners pay business taxes through personal income taxes, and subject more government revenue to a highly volatile revenue source. 

All in all -- a bad idea 

Last week, when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill that would have permitted local governments to levy cigarette taxes, he complained that there already are too many taxes on the coming ballot. A push for an income tax would increase the volume of tax measures facing voters. 

Yesterday, the LA Board of Supervisors put off for one week a motion to ask county lobbyists to try and convince legislators to change the law that prohibits local jurisdictions from imposing an income tax. 

Still, Pandora’s Box on local income taxes has been cracked open. If the movement persists, the consequences can be great. 

The proposal to levy local income taxes comes at a time that a statewide effort to extend the Proposition 30 state income tax levies is on-going. California’s top income tax payers already pay the highest income tax rate in the country. 

LA County wants to pile on. 

The LA County supervisors think they have a winning proposal. The press release announcing the effort said a poll showed 76% support. Advocates of the idea will point to 14 states that give permission for some local governments to raise income taxes. Of course, it’s always easy for those polled to say they are willing to raise taxes on someone else. 

But what happens when there is an economic downturn? I dealt with that concern for the state last week considering the possibility of a Shakespearean Tragedy for the State Budget. Looks like the locals want to stage a similar play. 

When I write “locals,” I mean more than Los Angeles. If the legislature decides to change the restrictions on local governments imposing an income tax, does anyone think other jurisdictions will sit idly by? Los Angeles County supervisors say they want the money to help the homeless. There are a lot of other interests in communities around the state that consider the causes they believe in worthy of more economic help. 

But, what about the taxpayers? 

How long before local taxpayers who continue to get hit with increased tax rates throw up their hands and give up on Los Angeles and California? The burden continues to grow. Proposition 30 was sold as a temporary tax for seven years. Perhaps many high-end income taxpayers said they would weather the storm. However, those taxpayers are now looking at an additional twelve years of the highest income tax rate in the country BEFORE local governments jump on that gravy train. 

In the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) poll of members issued last week, the number one concern for small business owners was the income tax. 

Before anyone thinks the push for new taxes is only about the rich, consider what likely might occur if government budgets relying on increased income tax revenue are hard hit during a recession or economic slowdown. 

I remember reading about the Midwest congressman who announced on the floor of the House of Representatives in the early years of the 20th Century that he was voting for the amendment to the United States Constitution that would establish an income tax because his constituents wouldn’t pay the new tax. It was aimed at the rich. 

The income tax eventually came after his constituents, too.


(Joel Fox is the editor of Fox and Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. This column was posted first at FoxandHoundsDaily.comPrepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

One Coming, One Going and One that Got Away

BIZ WATCH--The attention-grabbing tiff between California Governor Jerry Brown and Florida Governor Rick Scott over the latter’s business-snatching safari to the Golden State highlighted a week of the state’s constant struggle to stay on top of business recruitment. The scorecard was mixed with news highlights of one business coming, one leaving and, watching with regret, one that got away.

California can improve the score if it keeps business burdens in mind. More on that later.

But first, the positive.

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced that medical device company Cerebain Biotech was moving headquarters from Dallas, Texas to Costa Mesa. GO-Biz’s announcement crowed about California’s dominance in the biotech field with 2848 companies directly employing 281,000 people. California, home to so many innovative companies, is hosting the annual biotech convention in San Francisco in June.

On the other side of the balance sheet, Jumba Juice announced it was moving its national headquarters from Emeryville to Frisco, Texas outside of Dallas. The company noted that less expensive living and operating costs were major reasons behind the move.

Win one, lose one in the business tug-of-war with Texas.

As far as that rhetorical battle with Florida, pretty much a wash as well. Governor Brown pushed back at Florida. He said job creation success in California is far superior than that in Florida with California creating twice as many jobs as Florida over the past year.

True as far as it goes. But since Florida’s population is about half California’s, Florida actually had a slightly faster jobs growth rate. The fact checking site PolitiFact put the issue in context this way: “Brown’s claim is close on the raw numbers. But it leaves out the important context that California is a much larger state that needs to add more jobs to keep its millions more people employed.”

On the other hand, PolitiFact dismissed Gov. Scott’s argument that California would lose 700,000 jobs because of the new minimum wage increase law.

All the while this activity was going on, across the state line in Nevada, the enormous Tesla battery gigafactory is going up. Bloomberg News had an updated report on the giant factory.

A couple of years ago, there were a number of articles on this site supporting California’s attempt to capture the factory designed to build batteries for the Tesla car company, which is headquartered in California.

Ironically, in this period of prominent discussion of building walls, I began my article about the Golden States’ failure to win the factory this way: “Maybe we should build a fence around California not to keep people out but to keep businesses in now that the Tesla decided that the battery gigafactory would set up shop across the border in Nevada.”

The gigafactory represented the latest technology and possibly 6500 jobs, so it was a big loss to California and its quest for capturing businesses that produce innovative and cutting edge technology.

What to make of all this? That California is in a constant competition with other states over business placements and job creation. To stay competitive, state legislators and regulators have to consider businesses’ bottom line costs, which seem to grow simply because of state imposed mandates, regulations and taxes.

While legislators congratulate themselves for passing bills to improve the human condition, they should remember that successful businesses are the essential element for improving people’s lives. Legislators must consider ways to offset the growing costs they mandate on business so that businesses remain in California, are built in California and create more jobs.

(Joel Fox is the Editor of Fox & Hounds … where this analysis was first posted … and President of the Small Business Action Committee.)


City Hall’s Template for a New LA: More Widespread Displacement for Lower Income and Middleclass

VOX POP--As a mayoral candidate in 2012, Eric Garcetti boasted that Hollywood’s high-end development had “become a template for a new Los Angeles.” With those words, LA Weekly looked into what that template would look like for the rest of the city. The paper’s findings were startling, especially for working- and middle-class folks.

In 2013, with an investigative report titled “Hollywood’s Urban Cleansing,” the Weekly found that between 2000 and 2010, nearly 13,000 Latinos were driven out of Hollywood and East Hollywood. As a longtime City Councilman, Eric Garcetti represented these neighborhoods, and experts and activists blamed the exodus on luxury overdevelopment, which spurred eye-popping gentrification. Residents and experts decried the city’s planning policies, which Garcetti and other City Council members largely shape, that dramatically altered affordable communities forever. The Weekly wrote:

Hollywood-area City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who is running for mayor in the March 5 primary and has for 12 years avidly led the urban renewal in Hollywood, won’t discuss the census data, the outflow of Latinos or the area’s net population loss, none of which were foreseen by his office. But Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, a tenants’ rights advocacy group, says, “It was an economic tsunami that pushed low-income people out. There was massive displacement.”

 Representing more than 8 percent of Hollywood and East Hollywood’s population, the exodus of nearly 13,000 mostly Latinos is believed to be the largest mass departure from an LA neighborhood since “black flight,” between 1980 and 1990. In that demographic upheaval, 50,000 residents fled the violence and shattered neighborhoods of South Central and South Los Angeles.

 Garcetti and other LA politicians have insisted that growth is as inevitable as summer tourists, and that City Hall is merely facilitating Hollywood’s unavoidable, denser future with smart planning. But census data and the stories of those who have fled suggest that city planners and political leaders are facilitating what some criticize as the urban cleansing of Hollywood.

 Father Michael Mandala, who was pastor at the landmark Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church on Sunset Boulevard from 1998 to 2011, repeatedly saw landlords drive out Latino families of three or four in order to rent the same space to one or two white tenants. “I’m wondering if the policymakers are on the mark with fixing Hollywood,” Mandala says, “or are they clearing out what they don’t want?”

What happened in Hollywood is remarkably similar to what’s happening today in other LA neighborhoods, such as Koreatown and Westlake. It begs a simple question: Is this the kind of citywide template that Angelenos want? 

Further, Hollywood activists believed developers, who have given millions to L.A. politicians in campaign contributions, were receiving big favors while citizens were getting screwed over — the same complaint uttered today by residents in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. The Weekly reported:

Brad Torgan, an attorney at The Silverstein Law Firm, which represents one of the groups, describes the Hollywood Community Plan as Garcetti’s personal “vision for Hollywood — good and bad.” But, Torgan says, “There’s a perception that the plan was created for the development community at the expense of the residents.”

Experts were clearly disturbed by City Hall’s hard push to help out their deep-pocketed developer pals. The paper wrote:

Dowell Myers, a demographer and urban planning professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, says L.A. political leaders and planners have already gone too far to draw a high-end crowd to Hollywood. “We don’t need more condos,” he says. “We need more rentals. Rentals are where you house lower-income and poor people.”

 Dennis Frenchman, a well-regarded professor of urban design and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a similar message for Los Angeles’ leaders: “Diversity is the key to long-term sustainability. … Density without diversity makes things worse.”

Former Hollywood resident Mercedes Cortes, who was pushed out of her home, asked a question that still remains relevant today — and one that City Hall leaders have shown no signs of considering when trying to carry out a new template for a denser, more high-end Los Angeles filled with luxury housing mega-projects.

As if talking directly to Garcetti, the grandmother and retired house cleaner [Mercedes Cortes] delivers up one of [her] complaints, still unanswered after all these years: “When they start to build something, why does the middle class have to suffer for that?”

With our community-based movement, however, citizens across L.A. are standing up and speaking out. We are no longer allowing City Hall to easily get away with their secret deals and bad planning policies that dramatically impact millions of hard-working Angelenos. Read more of the Weekly article, and you’ll know why our cause and the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is so important.

And please join the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative movement by clicking to our Act page right now, and follow and cheer our efforts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at [email protected].

Together, we can create the change that LA needs!

Time to Prepare for 2020! Last Census Missed Too Many Latino Children in LA

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Carol Emig who is president of Child Trends, a nonpartisan research organization and Arturo Vargas, the executive director of NALEO Educational Fund, have found that the 2010 Census missed some 400,000 young Latino children — the equivalent of more than half a congressional district. The data — a comparison of census records with county birth, death and immigration records — indicate that the 2010 undercount rate for young Latinos was 7.1%, compared to 4.3% for non-Latinos. The shortfall was pronounced in specific counties in five states: California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New York. 

California accounted for more than a quarter of young Latino children who were not counted. An estimated 47,000 Latino children under age 5 were missed in Los Angeles County alone, by far the biggest undercount of any county in the United States. 

According to an Op-Ed that Emig and Vargas wrote in the Los Angeles Times this past Sunday, U.S. Census Bureau data are used to allocate more than $400 billion in federal funds to states and counties for transportation, public health, early childhood programs and other essential services. And young Latino children — who represent one-quarter of all U.S. children under 5, and whose numbers are growing — need these services most of all, since nearly two-thirds of them live in or near poverty. The census count also determines each state's congressional representation. An accurate census is essential to the fair distribution of national resources and to the very life of our democracy. 

They explained that many California families struggle to afford child care in a state where the average annual cost of center-based infant care was $11,600 in 2013 (the latest year available.) That's more than 40% of the median income for single-parent families. 

The federal Child Care and Development Block Grant allocates funds to help states subsidize child care for low-income families. How is the amount of the block grant determined? By the census count of children under age 5. 

In California's case, the thousands of missing Latino children means that every year, California received less than its fair share of Child Care and Development Block Grant funds. This is why it’s so important to have an accurate count. 

The Census Bureau does an important job of counting the country's residents every 10 years and paints a generally accurate picture of the total population. The next census, in 2020, will be the first to count people online, but technology alone can't fix the particular undercount of Latino children.

I think we can all agree with Emig and Vargas when they argue that undoing the Census' Latino undercount requires quick action — the 2020 census is around the corner — as well as adequate funding for research and education from Congress and private groups. It isn't only a matter of helping one group of children and their families. 

When Latino children are undercounted, they are shortchanged, but so is every other U.S. resident. The undercount can be remedied in time for the next census, if we act now. Hopefully by the next five Cinqo de Mayos everyone will be in the books.


(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].) Photo: LA Times. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The People Speak: ‘AngelFest’ Put on Hold ‘til 2017

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' request by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, the lessee of the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, for a special event called AngelFest scheduled for October 7-9, 2016 has been delayed until 2017. The event will be “a three-day commercial family-friendly music, food, and cultural event with maximum attendance of 65,000 people per day (including approximately 1,200 workers). 

The event is developed and managed by the Make Good Group and designed to have a cross-generational and multicultural feel highlighting the unique contributions the City of Los Angeles makes to the world.” Tickets for the event are proposed to cost approximately $295 for the three days, with a portion of every ticket sold donated to the Los Angeles Parks Foundation to improve the recreational amenities within the Basin. 

During the event, five performance stages and other additional festival areas, including concessions, would be open to ticketholders at the northeast portion of the Basin including Woodley Park (I and II), the cricket fields, the archery range, the Japanese Garden, and the northern developed part of the Wildlife Area (known as Woodley III). The AngelFest is planned to end at each day by 9:45 p.m. 

After the Environmental Assessment (EA) was prepared, the Corps concluded that the project was in “compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and all applicable environmental laws and regulations. The Corps determined that the impacts resulting from the implementation of the two action alternatives evaluated in this EA would not have a significant impact upon the existing environment or the quality of the human environment; therefore, preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. This finding generated an immediate, and negative response from environmental groups. The Festival has now been rescheduled until 2017, but still remains a major source of concern to Valley residents. 

The primary purpose of the Basin “is to provide flood risk management for the residents of Los Angeles County residing downstream of Sepulveda Dam.” The Basin venue is ill equipped to handle large City-wide “entertainment” functions, concerts, outdoor spectaculars, etc. These activities interfere with the Basin’s natural habitat and negatively impact its ecosystem and environmental sustainability. The Basin is unique in that it is a flood basin, not an ordinary park. Musical festivals are incompatible with the intended purpose of the Basin.  

The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society is opposed to this event. It has expressed concerns that “Woodley commons is a deceptively complex, mostly self-contained ecosystem. Erecting a security barrier around its Wildlife Reserve during a huge event with loud music, bright lights and pyrotechnic displays does next to nothing to protect that ecosystem. From the pocket gophers that feed raptors, herons and owls to the insects and plants that feed resident and migrant bird populations, the entire park weaves a web of support that is robust yet fragile. Birds and other wildlife in the park have taken decades to acclimatize to freeway noise and airplane overflights — but five music stages blaring …, 65,000 people tramping around daily, plus all the trucks, structures, cables, generators, porta-potties and untold other hardware needed for this project, will tear the fabric of that web in ways that will in some cases be felt for years, or forever.”           

The obvious environmental destruction clearly offsets the economic benefits gained. The Basin should be restricted to low density recreational uses that do not impact the natural ecosystem of the Basin. The comment period still remains open from April 12, 2016 to May 27, 2016. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. on May 27th. Direct comments to: [email protected]. Contact Deborah Lamb, [email protected] or at (213) 452-3798 for information. Documents may be viewed at this Army Corps of Engineers website.      


(Gerald A. Silver is President of Homeowners of Encino. He served on the Citizens Advisory Committee that helped craft the Ventura Blvd. Specific Plan. He can be reached at l[email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Silverlake Artist’s ‘UpHouse Balloon Project’ Fights Back Against Developers

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-All over the city, developers are using pretty unscrupulous measures to remove residents from their homes under the pretext of building affordable housing. Throughout Los Angeles, disgruntled activists have been organizing to fight back, collecting signatures for recall petitions and to add initiatives to the ballot. If developers want to change the face of the city, they’ll face some angry voices. 

Perhaps one of the most creative approaches come from Silverlake artist Anne Hars. Through her “UpHouse Balloon Project,” she places bouquets of balloons to mark homes slated for demolition to make way for new luxury housing. 

Anne has launched a Go Fund Me page last month to finance even more balloon bouquets. “The balloon project seeks to ask people to consider the meaning of home and community, the value of our labors, and if we are going to be a caring city – a city of angels, or a city that rewards developers profiteering off homelessness and the housing crisis,” she says. “With your help, I can balloon more threatened rent stabilized homes across Los Angeles and help draw attention to the loss of affordable homes in L.A.” 

Inspired by the Pixar film “Up,” Hars has been installing balloon bouquets on “small-lot plots throughout the areas west of downtown, which are prime for gentrification by over-zealous developers. Many of the small lot plots where Hars places her balloon installations often contain rent-stablized cottages, typically occupied by low income households. 

Developers evict tenants to make way for larger, high density luxury housing developments, which has motivated Anne to do something. She says evicting as many as 64 or more tenants adds to the growing population of Los Angeles homeless, as the tenants aren’t able to afford most of the rents in LA. 

So far, local neighborhood groups have been helping the artist affix balloon bouquets to dozens of homes slated for demolition. 

The areas hit by this new wave of gentrification include Chinatown, Silverlake and Echo Park, where housing values are on the rise while median household wages are stagnant, well below the national average. Many lower-income families can’t afford to pay market value rents; they depend on rent control. Cities with separate municipal governments like Santa Monica or Long Beach have strict rules limiting evictions and new developments but Los Angeles does not. 

The latest area hit by development fever is an original 1934 property in Valley Village and the fate of the property is in the hands of The Cultural Heritage Commission. If the property is not designated as historic, it will be demolished to build a three-story condo, resulting in the destruction of 80-year old trees, as well as the last piece of history on the block. 

The 1934 property is a hub of community education and urban farming. On the other side of the equation sits Urban-Blox, a boutique firm that “works with a select roster of notable architects to develop urban infill properties…dedicated to seeing value where others do not, which often involves re-imagining and redeveloping properties towards new uses, density, or end users,” per the firm’s website. 

If the historical designation is denied, more than 28 small lot houses will be demolished, along with three dozen mature trees -- every square inch of open space. A public street will be vacated and tenants will be evicted from rent-control buildings. The property is across the street from the Dougherty House, which was razed just three days before the property was to be considered as a city Historical Cultural monument. The pair of single story houses that were demolished included a front home built during World War II and the back home believed to have been an early-century gabled farm house and the former home of a young Norma Jean Dougherty aka Marilyn Monroe. 

Like the Dougherty House, the 1934 lot has already been approved for demolition by, yes, you guessed it, Councilmember Paul Krekorian. Currently, residents are in litigation with the property owners over title. Although the property hasn’t yet been sold, plans to develop it are already underway. 

The cozy relationships council members have with developers seems to be behind the wave of gentrification. While the buzzword “affordable housing” is tossed around, tenants are evicted from what was affordable housing to pave the way for McMansions and costly condos. As land values continue to rise in certain neighborhoods, long time tenants are being forced out, hardly helping LA’s affordable housing crisis. 

In the meantime, Anne Hars continues to do her part to make Angelenos aware. Local groups throughout the city contact her with new sites. There are 25 sites on her ever-growing list. She believes developers are “war profiteers.” 

Hars is raising funds through Go Fund Me. For donations ranging from $10 for a Little Bag of Balloons to $65 for a Big Bouquet, Anne will be able to balloon off threatened properties. 

For more information, visit her Go Fund Me site


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

Maximum Distortion about Hotel Minimum Wages

WORKERS RIGHTS-After the triumphant 2014 passage of Los Angeles’ $15.37 hourly minimum wage ordinance for city hotel workers, there came a moment of puzzlement for many at City Hall and elsewhere. Why was LA’s large hospitality union asking that some of its members be paid less than the promised wage? 

Was this, as some suggested, a cynical deal to make a union shop more attractive to employers by making sure union workers got paid less than non-union employees? 

This issue, as one person close to the situation said on condition of anonymity, “is a complex and challenging one.” The basic problem, however, seems to be the inability of many to understand the diverse needs and desires of working people, and the fact that some benefits may mean more to them than a fatter pay envelope would, if it excluded those benefits. 

A recent Los Angeles Times article just about editorialized on the subject, referring to “a series of loopholes that cut union workers out of the very pay increases their leaders have championed.”

The article quoted two bellmen and a waitress at the Sheraton Universal, a hotel represented by UNITE HERE Local 11, complaining that it was unfair they only collected the current state minimum of $10 an hour in salary, while a nearby non-union hotel would pay $15.37 an hour. Both these positions garner very substantial tips or service charges in addition to the hourly wage, however, making them some of the best compensated of all hotel workers, although the base pay rate for tipped employees is $10 an hour. As it happens, UNITE HERE has compelled management to agree to return all tips to workers, instead of holding on to some of them, as hotels once did. 

What gets left out of the complaint here, however, is how the wage and benefits package is determined. It isn’t, in fact, imposed by “union bosses” on the workers; as UNITE HERE spokeswoman Daria Ovide points out, the wage agreements are negotiated by the workers themselves, through their representatives. “I don’t think any union workers get paid less overall than a non-union worker does,” said Ovide. “There is a mosaic of benefits that non-union workers simply do not get. For instance, $7.50 an hour for full-family medical benefits alone. Pension benefits, legal benefits, training benefits for people who are laid off when hotels close to renovate. Add these up to the [$10 minimum] hourly wage and you just get more [than $15.37 an hour.]” 

Ana Hernandez, a UNITE HERE shop steward who works as a telephone operator at the Sheraton Universal, pointed out that the union contract also brings work condition benefits, unavailable to non-union workers, something that is hard to put a dollar value on. She said: “We deal with a lot of hotel issues.” For instance, “union housekeepers do about 14 rooms a shift. Non-union housekeepers do as many as 30.” (A hotel employer spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment for this article.) 

Union officials agree that, because of the nature of their earnings, union workers who get tipped don’t always get paid as much per hour as union workers who work in areas where there is no tipping. This results from the negotiation process between the workers and management, that also tries to make union workers’ “total compensation” equitable. The agreed-upon contract, of course, is then voted on by the union rank and file. 

“It’s called majority rule,” said Local 11 President Tom Walsh. He observed that it doesn’t always satisfy everyone. He contended the idea that his union would take a lower salary simply to make unionization more appealing to management is absurd. There certainly hasn’t been a rush of invitations from management inviting UNITE HERE to organize non-union hotels, because their managers understand that even with a lower starting wage, union agreements cost them more. 

Another union official, who asked not to be identified, noted: “Employers don’t pick unions, workers do. Not everyone needs the same benefits package. Undocumented people may need health care the most. Others need more sick days. People in sight of retirement want pension benefits. They don’t always care what form their earnings come in.” 

He added, “They’re calling this a sweetheart deal. But unions couldn’t go on representing workers if they got them a $13 wage with no benefits when there was a $15 wage on the books.” 

Walsh noted that the lower starting salary is not set in stone. “We’re going to fight harder for more money the next time we negotiate.”


(Marc Haefele is a commentator on KPCC’s Off Ramp program and has written for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Los Angeles: What’s Next for Mass Transit? Depends on Who Metro’s Listening to!

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--On May 20th, history will be made in Los Angeles with the opening of the second phase of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica.  In theory, this line, dubbed the "Aqua Line" by those who advocated for it, is one of the greatest victories of grassroots activism in our modern era ... but while Metro deserves kudos for keeping close to the grassroots, it has the potential to be undermined by the same forces that made LA County such a traffic-laden hellhole in the first place. 

First things first: I am truly honored to have been part of the Friends4Expo Transit (F4ET) team, and in its innermost circle, for the decade or so (2000-2012) I fought for it.  Yes, there were battles beyond that, but the big decisions were in our collective rear-view mirror but that time, and the Expo Line was a fait accompli.  Being part of grassroots activism like F4ET will be one of my life's most cherished efforts. 

And to people like Darrell Clarke, Russ Davies, Kathy and Jim Seal, Julia Maher, Faith and Pressley Burroughs, Bart Reed, Jonathan Weiss, Karen Leonard, Sarah Hayes, Annette Mercer, and a host of others who "jumped on board" that train to connecting Downtown to the Mid-City to the Westside, it really WAS a "Friends" movement--it's doubtful they'll ever get the credit for the sacrifices and slander they encountered along the way. 

We all meant well, and wanted an extra option to the I-10 freeway traffic and wanted to bring the different geographic, socioeconomic, and ethnic regions between the Downtown and the beach together.  I'll go out on a limb and suggest that we either played a role, and/or were the result of, improving racial and socioeconomic relations after the LA riots of 1992 which was a huge factor in shutting down the Wilshire Subway effort. 

What we did NOT expect (well, maybe we should have expected it), was the stubborn and entrenched (but very empowered ... WAY too empowered) minority of individuals who had a lot to gain with respect to their egos and political status by fighting the line for racial reasons ... and speaking ONLY for myself, I was appalled to see both black and white "community leaders" use the race card to fight this line. 

By and large, most everyone--black, white, Latino, and Asian--saw this line as a no-brainer.  The I-10 freeway is horrible, and people need another option.  End of story. 

Unfortunately, and in part thanks to the host of legal and community efforts to stop this line, and in particular to place this line underground everywhere from USC to Dorsey High School to Cheviot Hills/Rancho Park, it's now a lot slower than it could have been had those fighting (and really misleading their neighbors!) the line figured out that: 

1) This is a line that has a cap on ridership because it shares the tracks with the Blue Line in the Downtown area, so only so many trains each day could run on it. 

2) If a grade separation was needed, and the choice was between a $30-$40 million bridge, a $300 million underground tunnel, or at street level, then DEMANDING the tunnel would inevitably lead to a street level solution. 

Oh well, so it'll be 50 minutes from one end to the other, but not everyone goes that far, and it's almost certain that there will be signal modifications and operational modifications along the way to make it faster--and during rush hour, it's by far better than the I-10 ... at least with respect to traffic.

Other issues to be fixed include insufficient parking and an imbalance to bikes and "alternative transportation" that really hurts car commuters (who want to access the line, and/or access the pedestrian venues nearby), as well as an overdevelopment craze that treats this limited light rail line as if it were the Wilshire Subway. 

The Expo Line is a light rail line that will carry 80,000-100,000 riders a day, while the Wilshire Subway is meant to carry 300,00 or more riders a day.  For the City of LA to re-zone Pico Blvd. on the Westside, or anywhere else along the line, the way it is trying very very hard to do, and in a manner against the wishes of the grassroots activists who fought the line, truly undoes the good will that Metro and the grassroots have worked so hard to fight. 

So whither Los Angeles mass transit?  Will the Crenshaw/LAX Line be a success story about redeveloping Crenshaw Blvd. and allowing a Mid-City to Westside to South Bay line to develop?  Will the political leaders highlight this line as the first step to both a LAX link as well as a "Phase 1" that cries out for both a "Phase 2" to the north and a "Phase 3" to Downtown as we see with the Expo Line. 

Mass transit is, indeed, in transit in the City and County of Los Angeles, and for it to succeed in the 21st Century it will ... as with the Expo Line ... need to listen to the grassroots. 

After all, it is the grassroots and taxpayers that are being asked to pay for it, right?


(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.)


Let’s Get Local! How LA Should Spend $4B in Potential New Transpo Funds

 GUEST COMMENTARY--As Metro considers a potential transportation sales tax for the ballot in November 2016,  jurisdictions such as the City of Los Angeles will see what’s called “local return” funds with this new possible revenue.  Right now the draft plan proposes 16% of the potential Metro Measure go back to cities and unincorporated areas of the County.  So far, there are no policy requirements how jurisdictions spend this local return, so each city and the unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County will make these policy decisions.

What is local return? They are funds allocated and distributed monthly to jurisdictions on a “per capita” basis by Metro. The City of Los Angeles, given its size, receives the biggest local return in the County, many estimate that this has the potential to be $4 billion in transportation funds for the City of Los Angeles if the Metro sales tax is successful.

City of Los Angeles: LA is beginning discussions on how to use these new transportation dollars if Metro’s transportation sales tax is successful. There are already two motions introduced by Councilmembers on how to potentially use these funds (Motion 1, It is likely that these will begin to be discussed on Wednesday May 25th at the City of LA’s  Transportation Committee.

Join us on Thursday 5/12 at 2pm for a conference call/webinar to discuss this opportunity in the City of Los Angeles. Kindly email John Guevarra at [email protected] for registration and a calendar invite. 

Investing in Place was dismayed to see the Los Angeles Times op-ed from Council Member Joe Buscaino advocating that we focus only on potholes with these funds. So far there is no mention of a strategic vision for these funds, as well as an issue important to us — of funding/accelerating the fixing of the City’s over 11,000 miles of broken sidewalks with these public dollars. Let’s change this.

Investing in Place supports fixing potholes, but we’d like to see a more strategic, data informed approach base on needs/outcomes and community input. 

Investing in Place supports prioritizing fixing broken sidewalks, improving the safety of crosswalks, addressing the backlog of bus stops in need of investments, and the implementation of existing plans (Mobility 2035, Vision Zero, Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan and more) brought into this important policy and funding conversation.

It is critical that the City of Los Angeles take a thoughtful and inclusive approach with the potential $4 billion in new transportation funds to address improving our communities and all the ways we travel on our streets and sidewalks.  After all, do we want $120 billion in transportation taxes and still have broken #lasidewalks and crosswalks?  We sure don’t.

(Jessica blogs at Investing In Place … where this perspective was first posted.)



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