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Sat, Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanders immediately responded, "Game on."

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

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

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

Watch the interview:

Earlier:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-cw

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

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

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

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

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

LA PULSE 

Click below to create your own question.

[sexypolling id="6"] 

 

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

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

“Attention Brenda and Mario: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tiffany” 

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

“Tiffany,

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

“Brenda” 

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

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

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

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

SEC 53.34.4. DANGEROUS ANIMAL – PROCEDURES. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                           

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

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

TRANSIT PERSPECTIVE--Math is a funny thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just how much is $120 billion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-cw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, Butt Out of California, Chicago!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like screwing up our connecting flights.

 

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

Good News, LA!

BUTCHER ON LA--“The final story, the final chapter of western man, I believe, lies in Los Angeles.” – Phil Ochs 

When we bought our first house in Highland Park in 1992, I used to go outside early in the morning for a cigarette and chat with the old, old-timer who lived at the top of the street. I don’t remember his name but we were amazed to discover he grew up on the same street as my mom – Peshine Avenue in Newark, NJ. I especially loved his stories about our little northeast LA street: “That house? Long ago it was the only one on the street. This whole area here? It was a little ranchero. That house’s been here since the mid-1800s. Ever wonder why all these lots are so long and narrow? (I hadn’t.) ‘Cause there used to be a redline stop at the bottom of the street. You could hop on the train on Figueroa and ride all the way to the beach.” 

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Don’t be Fooled: Councilman Trying to Score Billions for His Developer Buddies and You are Paying for It

HOMELESSNESS POLITICS--Councilmember Huizar’s call to give $1 billion to real estate developers should surprise no one. As reported here and elsewhere, the City has manufactured a homeless crisis for one purpose: to justify giving those billions to their developer buddies. 

The Bond Ploy--Don’t be fooled into thinking that the taxpayer is not paying for the bonds. The money has to be repaid. That’s the nature of a bond. Wall Street banks lend the City a billion bucks and we repay them $1.25 Billion. Sweet deal for the developers and sweeter deal for Wall Street. Not so good for taxpayers. The City is already floating hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds through its HCIDLA department to give to the real estate developers to construct apartments for the homeless. Gee, I guess that just slipped Huizar’s mind. 

Each billion we borrow for developers to build apartments for the homeless uses up the City’s credit. When we borrow too much, Wall Street raises our interest rate. We still have to pay for the $1 billion lawsuit which is forcing us to fix out sidewalks. We have billions of dollars of unfunded liability for the pension funds. The DWP just raised everyone’s rates and they will raise those rates for the next four years.   

Why So Many Homeless Now?--How did we get so many homeless? The city tore down their homes, throwing thousands of people onto the streets. 

Why did the City tear down their homes? The apartments constructed during the last decade have a 12% vacancy rate. Five percent is equilibrium. Thus, developers are in a financial squeeze. They are “building into a glut.” Also, 2015 was the top year for millennials to move to urban areas. Twenty-five years ago the birth rate for millennials peaked and ever since then it has been downhill. The demand for new apartments is steadily dropping which means each new apartment the developers build will be vacant. With that type of future market, lenders do not want to loan money to the developers, but if they do, the interest rate is a very high to reflect the escalating risk. 

The Future Looks Bad for Real Estate Developers--Things are bleak for developers. The millennials are moving away from urban areas and away from apartments. The millennials have entered the child rearing age, and like all prior American generations, they prefer single family homes with yards. Thus, they pack up and they leave their urban apartments. If you’re going to move, the time to do it is when you’re starting a family. In 2016, there is a plethora of great jobs all over the country with a rapid diminishing number of decent jobs in LA. That’s why our middle class is exiting. 

New people are not moving to LA. One reason is the migration of millennials away from all urban areas; they are the largest group on the move. We are not attracting foreign immigrants so there is no immigrant demand for apartments. Each person or family who leaves Los Angeles creates another vacancy. Thus, our housing stock increases with each departure. 

This demographic trends means financial disaster for developers. They have over-built apartments and are beyond the saturation point. 

LA Apartments at the Saturation Point--The City never tells you about the “saturation point.” We have saturation points for a variety of things like sugar in coffee, traffic congestion and housing. There comes a point when coffee can hold no more sugar and we can tolerate no more sugar. So too with traffic. When traffic congestion mounts, fear of terrible schools dooming your child’s future, the prospect of your employer moving elsewhere, and the deterioration of the city’s infrastructure and the constant threat of more taxes all find our emotional saturation point. Something’s got to give. That’s been happening to a lot of Angelenos lately. The people who can afford to leave LA move elsewhere. This is particularly true for families. 

With the 12% vacancy rate, developers realized that the saturation point has been reached. But they are powerless to prevent people from moving away; they cannot prevent employers from relocating to other states. They do, however have one group of people for whom they can construct apartments: the homeless! 

Huizar’s Plan to Bail out his Developer Buddies--The problem is that the homeless have no money. But, the taxpayers have an endless supply of cash. After all, we gave Wall Street over $3 trillion to rescue the bankers from the Crash of 2008. 

So now the people are being duped into thinking that we have to build new apartments for the homeless. Huizar is silent about immediate solutions which would eliminate the need to construct more apartments, such as: 

(1) Stop tearing down rent controlled apartments. 

(2) House the homeless in the 12% vacant apartments. That’s thousands of units into which we could move them. 

The reality of the homeless population is that some are easier to house than others. There are the mentally disabled, the drug addicted and the alcoholics. While they merit help, it is not as simple as providing a decent place to live. However, those whom the City intentionally made homeless by tearing down rent controlled apartments can have their problem solved overnight. Just give them a key to a home, and after that, provide follow-up services if needed. 

Why Huizar Wants Taxpayers to Borrow Billions--Why build more apartments when we already have more than enough vacancies? Because the purpose of the City Council is to transfer tax dollars from us to the developers. By housing the homeless in the available apartments, we would give no money to the developers. 

Thus, this entire Affordable Housing matter is a giant scam to transfer your money to the billionaire developers rather than housing the homeless in places that are vacant. In many instances, we have already given the developer millions of dollars in subsidies. 

Let’s see a City Council motion that calls for the homeless to be housed at the high rise at 5929 Sunset Boulevard. (Photo above.) It is vacant and we’ve given the developer over $20 million. The developer owes us.

 

(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.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Dateline Sacramento: Ballot Measures Like Weeds in the Nov Election Turf

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-My column last week detailed Prop. 50 and the slew of initiatives possibly headed for the November ballot. Election officials across the state are not only prepping for the June 7 primary but are also making decisions that will impact just how many choices you’ll have to consider for the statewide ballot come the first Tuesday in November. 

County elections workers are busy checking the hundreds of thousands of signatures collected during the past months to determine whether or not backers collected enough valid signatures to move forward. The propositions ask voters to weigh in on everything from gun control to the salaries of hospital employees in what would be the most jam-packed ballot since 2000. Much of this hinges on random samplings of signatures. Depending on random sampling results, Secretary of State Alex Padilla could order that every signature be checked, which would not be completed by the June 30 deadline to qualify for the November ballot and would be delayed until November 2018. 

Eight measures are already headed for the November ballot, although the statewide minimum wage initiative will likely be withdrawn since Governor Brown has already signed a minimum wage law last month. Five of the ten measures checked appear to have cleared the random sampling and reports have not come in for the remaining five. 

An advisory ballot measure, which asks voters for their opinion on federal campaign finance laws could be placed on the ballot by the Legislature, which would boost the number of statewide propositions to eighteen.

Pot Legalization Initiative 

One the initiatives that appears to be headed for the November ballot would legalize recreational marijuana. According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, if passed, the measure could generate more than $1 billion annually for state and local governments. The Legislative Office Analyst’s office speculates the passage of the measure would lead to an increase in marijuana usage and thus, require additional funds spent on drug treatment. 

State lawmakers recently held a hearing on the measure, which is supported by former Facebook president Sean Parker and others. If passed, the possession, transport, and use of up to an ounce of marijuana would be decriminalized for adults over 21 if used for recreational purposes. The measure would levy a 15% tax on retail sales. According to supporters, some of the funds generated would go to increased law enforcement and drug treatment programs. Supporters also argue that the measure would reduce the cost of keeping offenders in jail or prison. 

Opponents of the bill argue that the decriminalization might increase home invasion robberies and Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) expressed concern that the proposal is an initiative instead of legislation that could be refined by legislators. The California Association of Highway Patrolman and other law enforcement groups argue that the measure could lead to an increase in DUIs and drug-related accidents related to marijuana use, which they say would not lead to a savings for law enforcement. 

Legalization of recreational marijuana may not be the tax revenue panacea it appears to be. According to Business Insider, since Colorado and Washington State first legalized pot, both states saw an upswing in medical marijuana licenses, probably as a result of the increased sales taxes on recreational marijuana. The legalization hasn’t necessarily impacted the black market for the same reason. While the increase in marijuana usage may not necessarily lead to increased need for drug treatment, the increase in driving under the influence of THC (the active ingredient in pot) has increased in both states. It’s important to take a balanced look at the potential pluses and minuses. 

Affordable Housing 

The lack of affordable housing is a pressing issue in Los Angeles County and members of the Assembly and Senate continue to urge Gov. Brown to dedicate funds toward affordable housing programs. At a budget hearing last Tuesday, Assembly Democrats asked for $650 M allocated to rental housing subsidies for low-income workers, as well as tax credits and housing for farm laborers, half of what some in the Assembly had already requested. Senators are also requesting $200 M in funding to combat homelessness. The governor has not included either request in his revised budget, stating that housing subsidies aren’t cost efficient.

Governor Brown is supporting a $2 billion bond promoted by Senate leaders that would reallocate existing funds toward services for the homeless. The governor’s housing affordability plan centers on loosening developer restrictions, a move that is unpopular with both labor and environmental groups.

The governor’s plan, supported by economists and academics, rests on the premise that the crisis reflects lack of housing to meet needs. His plan would streamline the development process but is dependent on how his plan could override local government restrictions. Exempted from detailed local government reviews are urban projects that would reserve at least 20 percent of their units for low-income residents; if the projects are near public transit, that percentage is reduced to 10 percent. The caveat is the property must already be zoned by local government for high-density residential projects. 

The Governor’s plan might be an effective strategy for adding to the housing supply, which may, in turn, decrease costs but does not take into consideration parking and traffic considerations that would impact quality of life in existing neighborhoods. Developers and those who own these buildings must be held accountable to make sure units are affordable and there needs to be a substantial net gain in the number of affordable units to counter the increased traffic and parking issues. 

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

Are LA Politicians Selling Off Our Neighborhoods for Campaign Contributions?

PAY FOR PLAY-Since 2000, the real-estate industry, which includes deep-pocketed developers, has shelled out at least $6 million in campaign contributions to political candidates in Los Angeles-- each election season, the industry pours hundreds of thousands into local campaign war chests. Developers expect, and receive, big favors in return. Neighborhood activists say it’s a sure sign that our city’s development-approval system is rigged and broken — and desperately needs true reform. 

“Six million dollars is just the tip of the iceberg,” says City Hall watchdog and CityWatch columnist Jack Humphreville. “When you bundle all the lobbying fees by the real estate developers, lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and all their cronies, the campaign contributions are just a drop in the bucket. And this does not include helping fund the pet projects of the Mayor and City Council.” 

In fact, developers consistently pay their lobbyists hundreds of thousands to woo City Hall politicians and bureaucrats to win approvals for mega-projects. 

For the massive NoHo West project in North Hollywood, (note aerial photo of proposed project above) employees for the development firm Merlone Geier gave $6,500 in campaign contributions to LA politicians between 2008 and 2015, and the developer paid $240,182 for a City Hall lobbyist to schmooze with the City Council, the Planning Department and the Building and Safety Department. 

In Koreatown, developer Michael Hakim, who wants to build a 27-story residential skyscraper in the middle of a low-slung, working-class neighborhood, paid $41,400 for a lobbyist to chat up LA Planning Department officials so he could get a big gift from the City Council: a special “General Plan amendment” and a “height district” change. 

Hakim also agreed to give $250,000 to City Council President Herb Wesson’s so-called “Community Benefits Trust Fund,” a kind of slush fund that Wesson can use to curry political favor and pay for his pet projects. Hakim has given $3,900 in campaign contributions. 

“Those campaign contributions over the past decade show that City Hall has been selling out our neighborhoods to developers,” says Grace Yoo, a prominent Koreatown social justice activist and attorney. “Our development-approval system is clearly rigged and broken, and we need to fix that with the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.” 

What do developers get for spreading around such eye-popping cash to win height district changes and General Plan amendments? Many of them stand to make millions in profits. At the same time, their mega-projects often bring about the demolition of affordable housing units. 

The Los Angeles Times recently found that “more than 20,000 rent-controlled units have been taken off the market since 2001, city records show. The removals peaked during the housing bubble and then bottomed out in the recession, but they have risen significantly since then.” 

The paper concluded: “Looking to cash in on a booming real estate market, Los Angeles property owners are demolishing an increasing number of rent-controlled buildings to build pricey McMansions, condos and new rentals, leading to hundreds of evictions across the city.” 

Alice Callaghan, a longtime, highly regarded homeless advocate who works in Skid Row, says such developer greed seriously impacts everyday Angelenos. “Developers are reaping huge profits by lining the pockets of City Council members and the mayor while taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill to shelter those made homeless by these greedy developers and politicians.”

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, however, looks to level the playing field, and give Angelenos more say in how their communities are developed and shaped. 

Humphreville, Yoo and Callaghan all support the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which will be placed on the March 2017 ballot. You, too, can join the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative movement by clicking onto our Act page right now, and following and cheering our efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at: [email protected]

Together, we can create the change that LA needs!

 

(Patrick Range McDonald writes for 2PreserveLA.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TSA Canines are Just a ‘Dog and Pony’ Show … Focus should be on Screening

SECURITY POLITICS-The reason Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security lines across the country have become excruciatingly long is because TSA is not opening and staffing all of its screening checkpoints.  

The TSA has directed resources and personnel away from screening to non-screening functions including behavior detection officers (BDO), the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) program and passenger screening canine teams. 

In order to immediately reduce overall wait time for travelers, TSA must redeploy its non-screening resources-none of which have been proven effective and all of which cost exorbitant monies-and personnel back to the screening checkpoint so that all lanes are open and fully staffed ahead of the busy summer travel season.  

"On a daily basis, only a handful of the screening checkpoints at a terminal are open while the remaining checkpoints are closed," said Marshall McClain, a canine police officer at LAX, President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association and a co-founder of American Alliance of Airport Police Officers (AAAPO). 

"Passengers will be shocked with empty checkpoints in lines that last over an hour and a half-causing missed planes and extreme frustration.  They are wondering what the problem is.  TSA has the ability to staff these closed checkpoints but they are diverting resources and personnel to things like BDO, VIPR and passenger screening canines -programs that have shown to not enhance security, waste taxpayer dollars and take away from the TSA's core function of screening.  

"By opening and staffing all available screening checkpoints with non-screening BDO, VIPR and TSA canine personnel, wait lines could be significantly reduced.  In order to fortify security at the screening area, the TSA should simply abide by the law that's already on the books that requires an airport police officer be stationed at the screening checkpoint but should provide added flexibility and allow the officer to be within 300 feet of the checkpoint and do away with the blanket waiver to the law that the TSA Administrator can issue." 

Recent calls by those with a bully pulpit, but without the understanding of how the process works, assert that TSA's passenger-screening canines reduce wait times and improve security.  As the on-the-ground law enforcement officers, many of whom are canine handlers, that patrol some of the country's busiest airports, AAAPO police officers have seen no evidence to support this claim-we have seen quite the opposite, as has the American public and Congress.    

The stated purpose of TSA's passenger-screening canines, or vapor wake dogs, are to detect explosives but they have an extremely high rate of false-positives that result in secondary screening of these individuals which ultimately delays screening wait lines even further and requires the use of additional TSA resources.  TSA's passenger screening canine teams do not have a high degree of detection accuracy and have never positively identified explosives on a traveler.  They may look good but they are only a dog and pony show which jeopardizes safety.  Furthermore, the dog's nose goes "blind" within half an hour.  

When a TSA passenger-screening canine alerts to explosives on a passenger (which have all been false-positives to date), TSA protocol calls for that individual to continue through the crowded screening checkpoint so that TSA can conduct secondary screening. Logistically, allowing a person who is suspected of having explosive material on their body to continue through the screening area jeopardizes the safety of surrounding passengers, particularly as they are clogging up the lines and causing a chokehold with more people to potentially injure if they do indeed have explosives.  More time is lost because secondary screening involves more TSA resources.  It is a lose, lose, lose scenario. 

"The argument has been made that TSA's passenger screening canines can allow passengers to go through the screening process with shoes, belts and coats," said Frank Conti, a canine police officer and First Vice President of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association.  

"However, this does NOTHING to improve security at airports since these TSA canines are consistently yielding false positives-this process is scary and only provides a false sense of security.  Law enforcement canine teams, who have the underlying police training to immediately identify the level of a threat and respond accordingly-by isolating the suspect-and have the capability to mitigate the problem before it reaches a sterile area and/or plane, should instead be used to fortify screening at airports." 

"There is no doubt that screening wait times will surge this summer and that responsibility lies firmly with TSA," said Paul Nunziato, President of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association and co-founder of the AAAPO. 

"Over the last several years, the TSA wasted billions of dollars and has done nothing to promote safety.  The result has been that TSA has stopped focusing on its primary goal of screening and began programs such as BOD, VIPR and canines to 'spend all the money Congress gave them,' according to former TSA Administrator John Pistole.  

“TSA should screen passengers and luggage and put their money and manpower into doing this to the best of their capabilities.  They've taken their eye off the ball and we are seeing the consequences.  Right now it's just an inconvenience-soon it could be a nightmare scenario where a real threat gets through to a plane-and no one wants that to happen.  

“It is beyond clear to any traveler that all TSA needs to do is fully staff all screening lanes at terminals.  This is absolutely something they can do if they take their canine team, BDO and VIPR people and put them at the checkpoint-yes, it really is that simple."

 

(Jasmyne Cannick is a Los Angeles activist and writer and handles communications for LAAPOA.)

Whistleblower: City Cooked the Books to Attract the Rams

SPORTS POLITICS--Another lawsuit has emerged in the aftermath of the NFL's decision to move the Rams franchise from St. Louis to Los Angeles.     

Inglewood's former budget manager accused city officials of juggling the books to paint an inaccurately rosy picture of city finances to help persuade the NFL to move the Rams there, and of firing her when she blew the whistle.   

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Want to Win the Poverty and Homelessness Battle? More Jobs … Fewer Tax Hikes

SHOCKING STUDY--In 2007, about a year before the economy crashed, the Gallup Poll found that 28 percent of Americans had at some point worried about becoming homeless.

It’s worse today. A new UCLA study found 31 percent of county residents worried about becoming homeless. Even among people earning between $90,000 and $120,000, 1 in 4 were afraid they would one day live on the street.

The fear is a symptom of a stagnant economy. If people felt confident that they would always be able to find a job, some kind of job to pay the bills, everybody would be sleeping better at night. Instead, there is widespread anxiety that unemployment could be imminent, devastating, and at an ever-younger age, permanent.

When economic stagnation is the problem, a tax increase is not the solution. Higher taxes drain away resources needed for growth and job creation. Beleaguered businesses shrink, close or leave. Poverty spreads like water on a marble floor.

So it’s particularly depressing to see the city and county of Los Angeles plotting to raise taxes in the name of helping the homeless.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposed $8.75 billion budget includes a pledge of $138 million to help get homeless people into affordable housing, but the future of Garcetti’s 10-year, $2 billion plan to house the homeless depends on persuading voters to approve a higher sales tax, more borrowing, or a new transfer tax on real estate transactions. None of those proposals reached 50 percent approval in a recent poll conducted for the city. They’d need a two-thirds vote to pass.

L.A. County’s proposed budget would spend $100 million to help the homeless, about one-fifth of what county officials say is needed. A poll on how to pay for it found 76 percent support for a half-percent tax increase on income over $1 million, about 67 percent support for a half-percent increase in the sales tax or a 15 percent sales tax on marijuana, and 47 percent approval for a $49 parcel tax added to property tax bills.

But can the problem of homelessness be solved with higher taxes?

There is reason to doubt it.

The Skid Row Housing Trust recently opened an affordable housing development to serve homeless veterans. “The Six” provides 52 units of permanent supportive housing, but it cost $16.7 million, about $321,000 per unit.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority says 46,874 people in L.A. County are without a roof over their heads. To house each of them in a place like “The Six” would cost $15 billion.

Suppose we paid it. Would Los Angeles then be free of homeless encampments? Would the sidewalks be clear for pedestrians? Would red lights be just red lights, and not a 30-second Dickens novel?

Not likely, thanks to the federal courts.

In 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city of Los Angeles over enforcement of a section of the city code that allowed police to arrest people for sleeping on the street. The city lost. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Constitution “prohibits the city from punishing involuntary sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter in the City of Los Angeles.”

The courts have also protected panhandling, calling it a First Amendment right. Last year, cities in Maine and Illinois were told they could not ban panhandling on the medians at intersections or in a busy downtown area.

So Los Angeles taxpayers could spend twice the city’s annual budget on housing the homeless and still have no legal way to stop a new wave of people from replacing them on the streets.

Homelessness is not one problem and it doesn’t have one solution, unless you’re a politician searching through polling data for a way to get voters to support another tax increase. Nobody likes homeless encampments? Bingo!

What’s needed in Los Angeles is a comprehensive effort to improve the business climate so people can find good jobs or run small businesses profitably. Every government policy that burdens businesses or consumers with higher costs reduces hiring, deepens poverty and puts more people at risk of living in vehicles, shelters or tents.

Sadly, our elected officials think of businesses not as engines of economic well-being, but as cash registers to be robbed by government do-gooders. They would rather have their picture taken in a homeless shelter than get out of the way and let people earn a living.

That should keep everybody up at night.

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

-cw

 

Save Valley Village: Living Room Activism in Action

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-This past week, I was honored to be invited to a meeting of some of the core members of Save Valley Village, a group that has been laser-focused on ensuring neighborhood integrity and fair development. Each member is facing his or her own battles, including invasive demolition of houses or buildings in their backyards or steps away from their own homes. (Photo above: demolition of Marilyn Monroe house in Valley Village.) The support and advice the members shared with each other touched me. This is at the heart of democracy and what makes our country great. It’s easy to feel disillusioned and that we have no power when it feels like politicians in Washington, Sacramento, and City Hall rubber stamp the needs of special interests while ignoring the average voter. But activists like the folks at Save Valley Village and other groups we are profiling are proof that this doesn’t have to be the case. 

At the heart of the agenda was a rather obscure definition of “major remodel,” buried in a 1991 memo for a non-conforming project. It seems developers and contractors have been taking advantage of this loophole, submitting the wrong permits that promise to save existing houses and instead tear down the structures, saving just a couple of two by fours and nails. 

One member explained how the city eases the path for developers. The zoning administrator can give bonuses and enforcement is discretionary at best. When neighbors have called to complain that builders are “breaking laws and mandates, Building and Safety makes excuses that they’re understaffed.” 

In one case, the yard of a home next to a project was flooded and developed mold. The neighbor called 311 but the employee refused to take a report. “As per Krekorian’s MO, the developer demolished without a permit. There was to be a cultural hearing the very next day,” said the frustrated member. Although Vince Bertoni, former head of Pasadena’s Planning and Community Development Department, has replaced Michael LoGrande as planning director, little seems to have changed. 

The rash of demolitions in Valley Village and nearby areas has led to environmental concerns, a loss of oak trees and historic properties, as well as rental evictions, a dearth of affordable housing units and increased traffic, all concerns for Save Valley Village residents who were preparing for a public hearing to address the Horace Heidt Estates apartments’ proposed expansion on Magnolia and Hazeltine. 

Another project addressed was the Hermitage/Weddington project. Per Save Valley Village, Urban-Blox (Raffi Shirinian, David Dual) has decided to move forward with the planning project. 

A 21-year resident is in litigation with property owners because “their grandson tried to sell the property to developers behind her back, aware that the owners had an agreement to sell to her.” The resident “has lived, run, and breathed this property and was very close to the original owner who had built it.” 

The developers now propose to remove a public street, demolish a single family home with guest house, a rent-controlled triplex, and another five units in one of the first buildings that was developed in 1934. The ensuing project would also destroy over three dozen trees. 

Community members attended the first public hearing on March 29 in opposition. Save Valley Village turned in over 200 pages of evidence of non-compliance, requiring the developers to do a full EIR. They also turned in piles of letters in opposition from the community, historians, naturalists, arbor consultants, non-profits and “all kinds of public voices.” Each of the hearing attendees signed a pink sheet that promised delivery of a letter of determination, listing the time frame for appeal. Once that date has passed, there’s no chance for appeal. 

As of last week, not a single resident has received a letter of determination, which the city claims to have mailed. In fact, not a single resident even received notice of the initial March hearing. Save Valley Village is unable to file appeals as of yet without sending a representative to the department of planning, which is charging for copies on top of making it difficult to access the information. 

“We lost three buildings down the street, a total of 19 rent-controlled units, because nothing was posted anywhere. The city has refused to show us records and made it impossible to appeal the project,” shares a disgruntled member. “They have also destroyed 14 trees, which had bird nests in them. Birds are still circling where their home was. Urban-Blox has never actually built anything. They work with a guy named Steve Nazemmi who is in a dozen or so projects in Valley Village that he has demolished.” 

Although these skirmishes against developers seem to pop up like gophers or moles -- uphill battles with lack of transparency from developers, the city’s Planning Department and the Building and Safety departments -- Save Valley Village and other groups around the city are dedicated to continuing to protect neighborhoods and the quality of life in our city.



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

Our Vets and the Price of Racism at Brentwood School

VOICE FOR OUR VETS--Brentwood School, the private elitist school for children of the wealthy and powerful ($37,000 tuition) has made national news that exposes its underlying racist attitude. Here are two examples: 

Brentwood School holds a privileged lease for its 25-acre athletic complex on Veterans VA property that was deeded exclusively as a National Home for disabled and homelessness Veterans.  Los Angeles is our nation's capital for homeless Veterans while Brentwood School's lease was adjudicated in Federal Court to be "unauthorized by law and therefore void." 

The VA, along with Brentwood School, appealed the Judgment.  VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald met privately behind closed doors with two of his personal wealthy and powerful friends -- Bobby Shriver and Ron Olson -- both are attorneys and neither are Veterans, and they unilaterally agreed to vacate the Judgment with a counterfeit settlement agreement that promised to end Veteran homelessness by the end of December 31, 2015.  

Los Angeles is still our nation's capital for homeless Veterans and Skid Row is the capital for all homeless in Los Angeles with more than 90% being Black, that includes countless war-injured and impoverished U.S. Military Veterans that need to be housed and cared for on this land instead of Brentwood School's athletic complex, UCLA's baseball diamond, City of Los Angeles's "rent free" public dog park, etc. 

While the federal judgment was fraudulently vacated, Brentwood School has plans to expand its athletic complex instead of being evicted.  Now the School has been embarrassingly exposed for student's racist assault on Blacks and the Los Angeles VA is complicit in all of this. 

Bobby Shriver has a very serious conflict-of-interest as he has children that attend Brentwood School and he must be banned from any participation of any nature on Los Angeles VA property. 

The VA police have special privileges to use the Brentwood School athletic complex while all Veterans in general are prohibited from entering on property deeded in their exclusive behalf, and there's a so-called "sharing agreement."  

This is disgracefully corrupt and Mr. McDonald along with Ann Brown, executive director of the Los Angeles VA, must resign or be fired posthaste. 

The most corrupt VA in the nation continues to get more corrupt, and now it allows racist tenants on VA property with a "sharing agreement" that has been adjudicated "unauthorized by law and therefore void." 

These same corrupt co-conspirators continue to ignore their responsibility and promise to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles. 

Speak up and demand CHANGE at the Los Angeles VA. 

God Bless America and the Veterans Revolution!

(Robert Rosebrock is Director of The Veterans Revolution, Captain of the Old Veterans Guard, and Director of We the Veterans … and a occasional contributor to CityWatch)

-cw

 

LA’s Streets Are No Work of Art

TALKIN’ TRASH--It was only Tuesday but it was shaping up to be another great week in LA. The transformational LA happening, CicLAvia Southeast Cities was on the books, having blessed Huntington Park, Walnut Park, Southgate, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood and Watts, with its boundless energy and the joy of ten miles of car-free streets. 

Like earlier CicLAvias, this one introduced thousands of Angelenos to neighborhoods many knew nothing about -- other than the evening news’ caricature of drug- and crime-infested areas unsafe at any time of day. 

And the beat goes on with Metro’s Expo Line opening to Santa Monica this Friday. 

At times like this, everything seems so possible in the capital of the Best Coast. 

So why is it so hard for the City of Los Angeles to take care of the little things like picking up the trash?

Last week I took a walk from my apartment near Olympic and Western in Koreatown north through the neighborhood and East Hollywood to Sunset Blvd and Normandie and back again. What I saw wasn’t pretty. In the years that I have lived in Koreatown I can’t believe the things I have seen people do with their trash. 

The rodent-infested homeless encampment under the 101 near Monroe at Normandie is emblematic of our problem. But heaps of trash and discarded furniture on Hobart, Harvard, Ardmore, Kingsley and other area streets also attest to our utter failure to conquer what should be a relatively modest challenge for City Hall. 

I love, and regularly use, MyLA 311, the City’s excellent free app for reporting bulky item pickup and other services. And it works well. But clearly, not everyone is using the simple app. 

Nor should they have to. L.A. Sanitation is out and about, or should be, all of the time. Why should Sanitation workers wait for a call that may never come telling them that some bonehead has left his transmission on the curb? If you see something, say (and DO) something should apply to LASanitation as well as transit riders and airline passengers. 

Like dogs, too many Angelenos seem to use their rubbish to mark their territory. Too many of us throw our beer cans, bottles, diapers, condoms, butts and worse out the windows of our cars and trucks onto the street. Or maybe they just open the door, dump out their trash and drive away. Or not. How do I know? I’ve witnessed it again and again. 

If only there were a special place in hell for people who don’t know how to treat Mother Earth. Are the schools in LA and in all U.S. cities and other countries we Angelenos come from really so bad that they don’t teach students to put trash in bins and not on the streets? It’s a miracle that the polluters haven’t yet killed off all of our flora and fauna with the oozing motor oil and car parts they leave behind after the lube job at Joe’s Curbside Auto Repair. 

Where is LA Sanitation, Code Enforcement and the LAPD when these “people” are dumping their auto parts and construction debris on our streets and the empty lot across the street? 

I know the dumping in KTown by locals and visitors pales in comparison to what the fracking and coal companies are doing to the world on a daily basis, but it still sucks. 

Sure, keeping our city clean is a partnership and the public has a big role to play. But it’s also a basic city service and if the government can’t take care of the little stuff like litter, how can it expect us to have any confidence in its management of the real challenges like jobs, the economy, schools, policing, homeless services, transit and infrastructure? 

I like our gifted, committed Mayor and many members of the City Council. But don’t they see what I see every day out my window? Don’t they believe in sanctioning illegal dumping and enforcing the law? Don’t they believe in accountability at LA.Sanitation? And when will we see those promised regularly serviced trash and recycling bins on our streets? 

Cleanstat, the Bureau of Sanitation’s cleanliness scoring of every street in the City (they drove all of LA’s public streets and alleys) is a work of art; but our streets aren’t. 

Now is the time to get out and pick up the trash. Garbage collection and enforcement can change our landscape and mother knows we need to. 

According to the Cleanstat website, Los Angeles is leading the way as the only big city in the U.S. conducting a regular cleanliness assessment of every city street. 

Assessments are nice, but I don’t need no stinkin’ assessment. I can smell it.

 

(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]. Follow Joel Epstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thejoelepstein.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

LA Needs Reliable Public Transportation - Not Just Emphasis on Rail Lines

GUEST COMMENTARY--There was one heck of a birthday party Friday. After years of bated breath, the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority finally opened its 6.6 mile, $1.5 billion Expo line light-rail extension, which stretches westward from its previous Culver City terminus all the way to Santa Monica. Adding to the hype, there were a host of celebrations near the new Santa Monica stations and a full day of free rides. 

But after the crowds clear, the confetti is swept up, people will have to pay full price for train fares again. We’re still going to have an extended train track. In fact, if Metro stays on track – no pun intended – to complete the decades’ worth of projects it has planned, Angelenos will have a pretty extensive rail system by 2040. 

It’s great that Metro’s push to get Angelenos out of their cars is finally leaving the station, so to speak. But there’s a caveat: Transit systems cost serious money to build and maintain. The Metro expects to drop $410 million on maintenance and security in 2017, an 8.6 percent increase from this year. 

Fortunately, they’re looking for more money to fund these projects and improvements. To this end, the Metro’s Board of Directors is working on a draft plan for a referendum to go on November’s ballot. The referendum proposes to extend half-cent Measure R sales tax approved in 2008 for at least 20 years and introduce another half-cent sales tax, Measure R2, to take effect for 45 years. If all goes according to plan, the Metro will end up with $120 billion in extra cash.

Los Angeles voters need to approve Measure R2 in November if they want to see further improvements in their transit system’s accessibility and reliability. But first, the Metro needs to amend its expenditure plan and make sure it uses its money for the benefit of as many Southlanders as possible, not just the ones who live and work near rail corridors. 

To that end, Metro needs to reach more potential riders by allocating more funds toward pedestrian, biking and bus infrastructure, as well as maintenance to ensure that their system is fast and reliable. That would come at a cost, namely a lesser emphasis on new rail construction. 

Hopefully the transit gods will forgive me for saying that, but it’s no secret that rail projects are costly and take a long time to complete. Just look at the Expo line extension. Even when they’re done, they primarily serve corridors of high-density, high-wealth development. This is all well and good; trains serve these areas well. 

But Los Angeles is a diverse place, and rail wouldn’t be the most effective option for all of its areas. Anyone familiar with my Metro columns knows that I’m big on buses and multimodal transportation as ways to reach people in lower density areas who wouldn’t otherwise utilize public transportation.

Case in point: Santa Clarita Valley residents recently voiced concerns about the returns their community would receive under the current iteration of Measure R2. San Fernando Valley leaders have shared similar sentiments about the attention their communities would receive. Lower density suburban communities like these would benefit more from bicycle and pedestrian paths and improved bus infrastructure. These projects would be faster, easier and cheaper to implement than rail and would have a wider reach.

For example, the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit corridor, completed in 2010, runs through one of the busiest and most congested corridors in the city. And yet it only cost $31.5 million to install, a fraction of what the Expo extension cost. 

But try telling that to Metro. A full 35 percent, or $42 billion, of Measure R2 is currently earmarked for major rail construction projects. By comparison, only 4.5 percent, or $5.4 billion, is going toward street improvements and biking infrastructure, with another 1 percent allocated for bike paths along the LA River. Bus system extensions are only getting $350 million. That’s chump change. Let’s say that Metro reallocates $2 billion away from rail construction and gives an extra billion each for multimodal and bus expansions. That adds up to $7.75 billion, or 6.5 percent of the total sales tax revenue. 

In the shadow of big rail, that’s still chump change, but the boosts to the non-rail transit system would be anything but trivial. The extra cash could go a long way in planning new bus routes, improving street and fleet maintenance, improving the convenience and reliability of bus service and establishing more bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure.

So yes, rail systems are a worthy investment for the more urbanized areas of LA, and you can bet that I’ll be living it up at the Expo extension’s grand opening. But when that shiny new rail line starts to lose its luster, Angelenos still need a fast, reliable and convenient way to get around the city. Measure R2 can give them the option they need. But first, Metro needs to change its track.

 

(Chris Campbell writes for the Daily Bruin where this was originally posted.)  Illustration: Annie Chan/ Daily Bruin. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA Cable Users Beware! This Time Warner Mega-Merger Just Created a 'Price-Gouging' Monster

CABLE WARS-The maligned merger between Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks is complete, which means the three companies have now become the country's second-largest cable provider, despite months of warnings from consumer and open internet advocates who assailed it as the creation of a 'price-gouging' monster. 

Charter ultimately paid $55 million to purchase Time Warner Cable and $10.4 billion for Bright House Networks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the acquisition earlier this month with several caveats -- including a ban on data caps and TV exclusivity deals that would harm competition -- but opponents warn that the deal is still bad news. 

"[T]here is some solace that, if rigorously enforced, these conditions should eliminate the more egregious harms this merger could cause while creating a baseline for acceptable industry behavior," Public Knowledge senior staff attorney John Bergmayer said at the time. 

However, he added, "It is hard to cheer for further media and broadband consolidation, regardless of what conditions the FCC or DOJ might adopt." 

What does the merger mean for the average consumer? As Tim Karr, senior director of strategy at the advocacy group Free Press, wrote in a blog post earlier this month, "Charter will need to hike prices to pay down the nearly $27 billion in new debt it took on to complete its merger. That’s a burden that amounts to more than $1,000 per average Charter customer." 

Free Press president Craig Aaron also previously warned that the merger, which he called "wasteful and costly," undermines FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's "oft-stated priority of competition, competition, competition." 

"It hands far too much control over the internet's future to a cable giant with the incentive and capability to gouge its customers with higher and higher prices," Aaron said. "It gives cable monopolists like Charter and Comcast the power to throttle the nation's burgeoning video market and stifle innovation at the edges of the network."

 

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams where this report was posted earlier.) Photo: AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Here’s How to Drive Up Transit Line Ridership … EXPOnentially

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--For those with any understanding of the politics and psychology of transportation--and this November's half-cent sales tax measure for more transportation/transit, it's not hard to connect the success of the Expo Line with the success of the "Measure R-2" initiative.  

And for my neighbors in the San Gabriel Valley, ditto for the Foothill Gold Line.  So, while everyone is (rightfully so) in the Expo Line celebratory mode: 

1) Ridership must be high even when it's not free, and it should be done as a common sense mobility effort, not as a civic duty. 

To those of you reading this who envision transit ridership as a civic or even theological imperative, this may bother you to read this, but whether it's Chicago or San Francisco or Washington, D.C. or New York, transit ridership is ultimately a common sense/self-interested/capitalistic attraction to those who use it.  It should be a no-brainer to avoid mind-boggling traffic, and THAT is the best way to promote ridership. 

Sunday afternoon after a fun backpacking trip in the San Gabriel Mountains, the I-10 freeway was still an ugly and infuriating 40 minute trip from Downtown to the Westside, so the lengthy Expo Line transit time is still quite competitive with the freeway and/or streets of the Westside and Mid-City. 

It will please you all to know that the LADOT, Big Blue Bus and Uber/Lyft industries are very much aware of the need for connectivity--and help is on the way.  It certainly WILL be a trial and error experience with respect to buses and DASH line connections...but it should be remembered that the Green Line, which "goes from nowhere to nowhere", still has one of the highest riderships of any transit line in the nation because of bus and Blue Line connectivity. 

With more businesses and housing projects moving next to the Expo Line stations as a free market strategy (it's amazing what human ingenuity and self-interest will do outside of government interference and dictates), it's certain that the Expo Line will reach high ridership levels faster than anyone can predict.  Even the Westside neighborhoods that fought the Expo Line are seeing home prices go up, according to my friends in the real estate biz. 

And I will NEVER back down from this last statement: to the women who want to ride transit, speak up!!!  If the County Sheriffs have an insufficient presence, then raise the cry.  If nighttime businesses and eyes/ears next to the transit station are so rare that certain stations pose a safety problem, speak up!!!  But if we have enough riders to ride this train, then this will be a safe and convenient ride for ALL of us.

2) What IS your civic duty if you're a transit advocate: Speak up for betterments! 

It's not Metro's fault that the City of Santa Monica rejected the advice of the Expo Authority to have a street-running Expo Line in Downtown Santa Monica, and it's not Metro's fault that the local opposition in the Westside rejected a compromise rail bridge at Overland Avenue (it HAD to be a $300 million tunnel or nothing...so they got nothing after all their lawsuits), so the length of the ride can't be helped much in the Westside. 

But the Westside trip is fairly speedy.  It's the Downtown Los Angeles street running portion of the Expo Line that can be worked on.  It's incumbent on us all to fight for signal prioritization for trains to make the Downtown portion of the ride faster--or, for that matter, anywhere on any portion of any line where light rail trains run.  The rail crossing guards should not be overly long (drivers have rights, too), but trains should have priority at crossings. 

And with respect to parking, it's NOT inappropriate to both encourage alternative, non-automobile access to the Expo and other light rail lines, as well as to demand the private sector come up with parking, bicycle, bus and pedestrian amenities to access the line.  Bundy/Olympic, Exposition/Sepulveda, and Venice/Robertson are ripe for such private sector sponsorship.  If Culver City can do it, then so can Los Angeles and Santa Monica. 

Finally, with respect to sidewalks, it's time the rest of the City's grassroots consider following the lead of the Mar Vista Community Council:  we REJECTED the 30 year timeline the City came up with to repair our City's sidewalks.  Forget THAT nonsense--we favor a 7-10 year timeline.  Perhaps the City should prioritize the sidewalks within 1/2 mile of each of our rail/transit stations! 

3) Be a Transit Advocate, not a Transit Bully. 

After fighting the car-only culture for years, it's not appropriate to be those who demonize automobiles and their taxpaying, commuting, hard-working drivers. 

It would be doggone nice for all of us to be able to avoid using a car to get to work, but that doesn't always work out.  Ditto for groceries, dropping the kids off to soccer practice, etc.  I hardly could have gone backpacking last weekend in the San Gabriel Mountains via a bus, could I? 

So be kind--some of the things I hear freak me out, and have no business in a civilized conversation with your neighbors.  If you have a problem with white people, black people, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. then put a sock in it...especially if you want a favorable vote come this November for a half-cent sales tax to finish the job of a 21st Century transit system for L.A. County. 

The Expo Line was meant to bring us all together.  Be FOR something.  Let's DO this!

  

(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.) Photo credit: LA Times.

-cw

 

Gentrification Debate: Boyle Heights is the Heart of LA for Latinos … It Should be Allowed to Grow

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Boyle Heights is the center of gravity for Latinos in Los Angeles but gentrification may be a problem. Like most of Los Angeles, Boyle Heights has long been a gateway community for people from all over the world; it once was the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in LA, according to a very interesting article by Scott Garner. 

Garner says that Mexican Americans have made their homes in this neighborhood since the 1800s, and the early 20th Century saw African Americans, Japanese, Russians, Poles, Serbs, Italians and Jews from Eastern Europe also settle on or at the foot of the bluffs on the LA River’s east bank. 

What brought them there was the lack of racially restrictive covenants that dictated who could live where in much of the city of Los Angeles. Even the neighborhood cemetery was open to burials of almost all, though Chinese Americans were shamefully relegated to its potter’s field. This openness helped Boyle Heights rapidly develop, especially from 1900 to 1930, as streetcars and the river’s viaducts knitted the once-isolated neighborhood into the city. 

Boyle Heights in the years after became an important center of Chicano culture, a historical moment still preserved by the neighborhood’s many murals. Today it remains a center of gravity for Latinos in Los Angeles. 

Residents of Boyle Heights are concerned about the possibility of widespread gentrification, which has led to some friction as the market has heated up. 

Tracy Do, a realtor at Compass, told Garner that she’s increasingly bringing clients to the neighborhood as an alternative to areas such as Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Glassell Park. She listed a three-bedroom Boyle Heights single-family residence this month and received more than twenty offers in less than a week.  

“It's certainly an up-and-coming neighborhood,” Do said, “and it's rising quickly in terms of desirability due to its distance from downtown LA and the Arts District specifically." 

In a seller’s market, buyers who are finding themselves priced out of Northeast LA are “turning to Boyle Heights for the next best thing.” And she noted that buyers who can afford only a condo in another neighborhood can get a single-family residence in Boyle Heights. 

In March, the median price for single-family homes in the 90023 ZIP code was $225,000, based on two sales, according to CoreLogic. In the 90033 ZIP, based on two sales, the median price was $233,000, and in 90063, the median price was $380,000, based on thirteen sales. 

Los Angeles is becoming slowly but surely a really expensive city to live in. We have to make sure that everyone who has a full time job in Los Angeles can afford to live here. This problem is not going to be solved just by creating more affordable housing. Shane Phillips, an urban planner in LA, argues that low vacancy rates is the real problem causing the lack of affordable housing, not high-rises. It’s a problem that won’t be solved by trying to prevent change. That’s the path San Francisco chose and now a shabby one-bed-room apartment there rents for $3,000 a month. 

I couldn’t agree more with Shane Phillips when he says that to solve this problem we are going to need a more humanistic approach to housing policy. We need to realize that when we reject adding more housing to our neighborhoods, we turn away real people who want to make a better life for themselves and contribute to our region’s success.

 

(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].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CA June Primary: Prop 50 Matters Not

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Are you immortal? If so, you might take some time to read and consider Prop 50. But if there’s a good chance you might die some day, don’t waste another precious second on this earth thinking about Prop 50, which appears on the June ballot here in California. 

Seriously, leave that part of the ballot blank. Or vote for it. Or against it. It doesn’t matter. 

You can stop reading now. 

For those who might want an explanation of why they shouldn’t care, I wasted my time reading the measure and ballot arguments. 

And here is a very abridged argument – hey, I have better things to be doing – of why Prop 50 doesn’t matter. 

It only applies in the rare circumstances when a legislator has broken the law or been indicted for a crime and the legislature wants to kick them out. (Photos above: Indicted CA State Senators Leland Yee, Ron Calderon, Rod Wright.) Vote yes, and it would take 2/3 to suspend a legislator, and the legislature could stop paying them. Vote no, and the status quo prevails: it takes a majority vote to suspend the legislature, and there is no provision to get rid of their salary. 

I guess you could argue about which is better -- but both sets of rules seem OK for me. I suppose I prefer the status quo -- maybe some legislature might try to make mischief and suspend the pay of someone they didn’t like in a Prop 50 world -- but really, why should this matter? 

The legislature put this on the ballot to show that it was responding at a time when three state senators were facing very different charges. But it’s pretty meaningless. 

And if you’re still reading this post here, you might think about getting a life.

 

(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. This was originally posted at Fox and Hounds. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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