Mon, May

Obfuscation Leadership … Translation: What Recovery

POLITICS--It's amazing how cute the headlines can be, both in how they're being written and presented, and in how we're supposed to read and take them at face value.  Ever get the idea that we're all being tooled?  No worries...you're not alone...and I am happy to help with translating the double-speak for you. 

1) From the Public Policy Institute of California:

The California Economy: Underemployed and Discouraged Workers  

Translation--With all due respect to the Millennials, who've never known a robust economy, and who don't realize how life is so wonderful with a full-time job and benefits, and who've never known anything but part-time jobs, most of us are underemployed.   

Those of us older folks who remember the Reagan and Clinton eras, back when both conservatives and liberals alike showed much more kindness and respect towards their fellow Americans, and when bipartisanship was a reality and not just a buzzword, respect the need for an adult and his/her family to have a respectable, affordable lifestyle based on pay, benefits and retirement. 

California's rich and powerful elites are doing fine, so why aren't you.  You've got part-time work, you're out of the unemployment figures, so rather than work like hell for an economy with "real" jobs, just lower the bar and tell everyone you're fine...and diminish those declaring we've got a service economy from hades to be haters, bigots, and whiners. 

2) From Fortune Magazine:

UnitedHealth Hasn't Given Up on Obamacare Altogether 

Translation--All the King's Horses, and All the King's Men, won't stop Obamacare from being financially sustainable unless we're all willing to pay 2-3 times more for our health care while getting 2-3 times less. 

But hey, why try to fix the problem, and replace a financial whirlpool into chaos, when it's easier to just demean and defame those who are simply pointing out the Emperor Has No Clothes.   

United and all the other creepy, self-serving health plans who (in large part) got us into this mess, and who wrote this politically-and-not-economically driven "Affordable Care Act" are now bailing out because (gasp!) they're losing money no matter how much more we're all being asked to pay into the system, and because (gasp!) the competitive/capitalist approach to health plans fighting to reduce costs and improve care isn't part of the ACA. 

And the plans that United will stay with?  Those similar to the ones that those who have health care through their employer now have.  But improve FULL-TIME employment with benefits to really fix the problem?   

Well...did you read the first translation above about underemployment?  Easier just to blame the evil conservatives and Republicans instead of focusing on reality, right? 

3) From The Sacramento Bee:

Medi-Cal set to expand coverage to undocumented children

Translation—No ... our taxpayer dollars would, never, never, NEVER pay for those not here illegally!  No, those who employ workers illegally, or the legal residents/relatives paying for and sponsoring their families, couldn't possibly be asked to clean up their mess. 

After all, we were promised by our government leaders this would neeeeeeeeeeever happen, right? 

How much nicer to have the rest of us pay for their mess, and decry those who want more Medi-Cal funds to go to cancer and autoimmune disease and disabled native-born and legal immigrants as bigots, monsters, and Nazis.  After all, why should an African-American child born in South LA have a higher priority for our tax dollars than an "undocumented" child whose parents and parents' employers knowing broke the law? 

4) From NBC News Online:

Most Americans Live in Areas With Unhealthy Levels of Air Pollution, Study Finds 

Translation--The LA/Long Beach area tops the list of unhealthy regions in our nation, which means that those who have been encouraging waves and waves of development and population influx, without ignoring the science of having too many people in too small a condensed region, are anything but environmentally smart or even friendly. 

But isn't it so much easier to blame those asking how we can allow so much population influx and development without enough water and space?  After all, asking to have enough infrastructure to sustainably accommodate hordes of new residents is the same as opposing affordable housing and racial justice, right? 

Because there's nothing so politically successful when trying to ram a bag of flaming razor-blades down the throats of those playing by the rules, and demanding we all play by the rules, than to demean and defame those trying to point out the obvious. 

Final Translation: Yes, we're being led by liars and cheaters and scoundrels. 

But if you don't like it, then leave.  After all, look what a great job we did in kicking out the generations who built this state to what it is now.  Yes, their money and resources and jobs are in Texas and all sorts of other states, but at least we don't have to hear them all complain anymore, so the problems they decried aren't really true, after all. 

And if you try to take action to fix the lawbreaking, science-defying, truth-smashing efforts we're shoving down your throats?  Well, look out...because next we're coming for YOU.


(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.) 


My Solution for LAUSD’s Failed Public Education Model: Bring Back Vocational Training!

EDUCATION POLITICS-Whether it's Donald Trump or those misguided souls continuing to set the course for public education "reform" at places like the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), what they have in common is the complete inability to deal with objective, quantifiable reality in explaining how they intend to achieve their goals -- or whether these should be their goals in the first place. 

My favorite unchallenged feel good lie about public education -- with literally no basis in fact although it remains an unattainable goal at LAUSD and elsewhere -- is that, "All students will be going to college." This flies in the face of reality: the total capacity of all U.S. colleges and universities amounts to only 30% of all high school graduates. College and universities could not accommodate LAUSD's specious goal, even if its graduating students had a mastery of all K-12 prior grade level standards -- which they do not. 

The fact that 75% of those arriving at junior colleges in California cannot even pass the prerequisite junior college entrance exam -- and are therefore forced into taking remedial rather than college level courses -- somehow fails to prompt anyone to question how they “got” these passing grades in high school, how they passed the high school exit exam, and how they received a diploma attesting to supposed K-12 mastery. 

We have arrived at a point of political correctness in which even a mention of easily quantifiable Latino and African American (premeditated) underachievement can get you labeled a racist. We are supposed to go along with the delusional belief that what remains an over 90% de facto segregated public education system (sixty-two years after Brown vs. Board of Education ruled that such a system is inherently unequal) can somehow change at LAUSD. The only thing that’s been unequivocally and predictably achieved is learned underachievement and inferiority among Latino and African American students. 

There's a saying that people who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. There was a time, starting at the end of the 19th century and going up through the 1960s, when public education was seen as the great social equalizer against inequality and poverty. A big part of public education’s achievement was the enforcing of academic excellence. This was done without today's completely self-delusional social promotion that destroys academic excellence. Our current policy has led to the failure of public education. And without white participation in the system, there seems to be no accountability. 

A big part of the once well-rounded public education system was a vibrant industrial arts and vocational program that provided professional training for the 70% of students who were not going to college or for those who had no way to support secondary education without a skilled profession that enabled them to pay for it. 

Automotive, wood, metal, electrical, print, and many other types of “shop” fulfilled this function. These courses created a real life context in which some students who might be struggling with English or math comprehension in a traditional classroom could find out just how smart they really were when they could master skills in shop and other vocational classes that offered practical application. 

But the magnificent potential of shop classes that taught valuable trades and skills was sabotaged in the 1970s and beyond. These industrial arts classes became an over-enrolled dumping ground for predominantly minority students who were disrupting other classes, stopping other students from learning. Rather than see that there was an understandable racial imbalance in these classes, the simplistic LAUSD administration choose to close all the shop classes, pushing the lie that all students were “going to college.” 

What these administrators understood – similar to the manner used by Donald Trump to sell his vacuous program -- is that human nature is such that Johnny's minority parents would rather be told that 9th-grade Johnny is going to be a doctor or a lawyer -- even if he doesn’t know his times tables -- than to be told the uncomfortable truth. 

So now we are faced with a reality where 60% of the mostly uneducated 2.4 million people behind bars in this country are African American or Latino, which, unless you are a racist, can only be attributed to a complete and utter failure to provide them with the educational skills needed to be gainfully and legally employed contributors to our society. 

At a cost of $78,000 a year to deal with school dropouts in the juvenile justice system and then comparable costs once they graduate into our now privatized for-profit prison system, shouldn’t we try to bring back what once was a vibrant industrial arts and vocational education program in our middle and high schools? 

When the Bernie Sanders campaign talks about a new ‘New Deal’ to rebuild America's infrastructure, does it occur to anyone that the welding, electrical, plumbing, woodworking, masonry, and other trades no longer have the skilled workforce that will be needed? To become a state certified welder -- a profession in which there is a critical shortage -- it takes about six months of training to be able to pass the state exam and begin work at a $40,000 a year trade. 

All around Los Angeles there are richly constructed buildings and monuments to our heritage that are now in advanced decay. How is it that older countries like France have learned to maintain their heritage, realizing that doing so is fundamental to their society's continued advancement and well-being. 

Something as mundane as LADWP’s $1000 subsidy for more efficient pool motor replacement program or a serious conversion to residential solar panels that would supply most of our carbon-free electrical needs, would go a long way toward finding gainful employment for young people who are unnecessarily swept up in the criminal injustice system. 

What stands in the way of this no-brainer winning program that could help develop the skilled workforce we need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure are vested corporate interests and the school administrators they hand pick to maintain a failing system of public education. At the base of such a system that is built on corporate greed is the truly racist not-so-secret belief that Latino and African American students can't learn. It's a simple choice: people or profits.


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

Legalizing Prostitution: A New Election Issue?

MY TURN-If you are bored to tears with the political candidates platforms of "breaking up the banks, building a wall, following the constitution as it was written, deporting 11 million illegal immigrants" and so on, I have a brand new topic for the next Presidential debate. It’s a subject that none of them have discussed … and it’s as old as civilization itself: legalizing prostitution. 

I’m sure that none of you were expecting that to be a political issue, yet California State Attorney General and Senator wannabe Kamala Harris received a gift from State Judge Jeffrey White who ruled against a suit brought by a San Francisco-based advocacy group, Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education and Research Project, against Attorney General Harris and the district attorneys of four counties in March 2015. 

According to a post in CalWatchdog.com, the suit claimed that prosecuting sex that is “part of a voluntary commercial exchange between adults” violates the state and U.S. Constitutions. 

Harris must have breathed a sigh of relief since her argument was almost the same as the Judge’s. 

"There is no fundamental right to engage in prostitution or to solicit prostitution,” wrote Harris in her motion to dismiss the case. “Neither is prostitution or solicitation expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.” But shortly after Harris filed, the Supreme Court ruled, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that same-sex marriages were constitutionally protected — a decision that plaintiffs sought to use to their advantage against Harris. 

I found one interesting part in the Plaintiff's submission: Plaintiffs commenced this lawsuit to challenge California’s intrusion upon their fundamental liberty interest in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex. The Supreme Court’s jurisprudential theme of shielding private, sexual relationships from governmental oversight,” they wrote, claiming that the ruling’s treatment of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, allows individuals to engage in intimate conduct without unwarranted governmental intrusion.” 

According to the Associated Press, prostitution has been illegal in California since 1872, with a 1961 update increasing the state’s $500 fine to $1,000 — while leaving in place the original punishment of six month’s time in jail. Rounding out his decision, White also rejected plaintiffs’ claims that their rights to free expression and to earning a living did not extend to using illegal activity to do so. 

So here it is... the great moral dilemma. One of our political parties advocates keeping the government out of the Doctor /Patient relationship (unless it comes to women’s health) but they have this obsessive interest in our sex lives. 

I would pay to watch a debate with the five Presidential candidates discussing the pros and cons of legalizing prostitution in the U.S. 

Taking a much needed break from the Neighborhood Council election morass and the National Election Circus, I decided to see what countries have legalized prostitution. At the same time I wanted to see if the sky has fallen; if the population has turned into pillars of salt; if AIDS fatalities have risen; and what other mayhem might have occurred. 

Here is what I found: 109 countries have deemed it illegal. Along with the United States, (with the exception of Nevada (where it is legal but restricted) and Rhode Island (that passed a law in 2009 making it a crime,) such “progressive societies” as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Russia, China, Viet Nam and Saudi Arabia are all examples of countries that have declared prostitution illegal. 

The seventy-seven countries practicing such debauchery include: Canada, Cuba, European Union, Israel and Switzerland. Five countries have no laws for or against it; and eleven countries have restricted laws that include regulating locations imposing strict health requirements, minimum ages, the prohibition of brothels, and outlawing sex slavery and "pimping." 

If we look at it from an economic point of view, according to the book, “Prostitution: Prices and Statistics of the Global Sex Trade” (available from Amazon for $2.99,) it is estimated that prostitution's annual revenue is $168 billion. 

Annual dollar sales in the world’s top ten prostitution markets are: 

China: $73 billion

Spain: $26.5 billion

Japan: $24 billion

Germany: $18 Billion (Legal Industry)

United States: $14.6 billion

South Korea: $12 billion

India: $8.4 billion

Thailand: $6.4 billion

Philippines: $6 billion

Turkey: $4 billion 

In many countries where it is legal, taxes are paid for "services rendered." The website ProCon.org presents both sides of different issues using experts in the various fields. In the case of prostitution, both sides make strong arguments.     

Looking at “moral dilemmas,” we know that moral standards in American society have changed over the past twenty years. Whereas racial inter-marriage was once illegal, it is now an accepted and common sight. Legalizing Marijuana will probably appear on the November ballot. Marriage to members of the same sex is the law of the land. Who knows what other moral issues will disappear? 

Personally speaking, we have such important challenges that need to be met...locally, nationally and internationally. I would think government intervention into our sex lives should be way down on the list of priorities. And it would not be a reason to either vote for or against Kamala Harris in the Senate race. 

As always....comments welcome.


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA’s Mayor and The ‘Dishonest’ Mistake

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-We all mistakes, mostly honest ones, because we are in a hurry, lack information or just figure out problems poorly. But prominent public officials cannot be let off the hook so easily. After all, they have their immediate staff available to investigate a full range of public policy questions, as well as the backup to fact-check claims and investigate all alternatives. Furthermore, in addition to resources down the hall, they have access to experts in the departments and agencies that report to them, as well even more experts in academic institutions and think tanks who are only a phone call or an email away. 

Thus, when public officials make mistakes, in this case Mayor Eric Garcetti with his repeated claims about LA's housing crisis, I can only conclude that it is a "dishonest" mistake. Through press releases, statements, and his recent State of the City address, Hizzonor has remarked again and again that by gradually updating Los Angeles' community plans, he can solve LA's housing crisis that includes sky-rocketing rents, a growing lack of affordable housing and an increasing homeless population. His prescription, as follows, is straight forward enough, even if most of it is not spelled out in detail: 

  1. Despite the Hollywood Plan’s demise in Superior Court due to its inflated population forecasts, subsequent updated community plans will be used to massively up-zone large swaths of each community plan. 
  1. Real estate investors will then charge in and build large amounts of housing in each newly deregulated neighborhood. 
  1. Some of this new housing will be affordable. 
  1. Most of the new housing will be high end, but this over-supply will suppress housing costs for all other types housing. 
  1. The new luxury housing will eventually deteriorate and also become affordable housing. 

Why do I call these frequently made claims “dishonest mistakes?” 

First, the City of Los Angeles does not have current and accurate information about its own population. There are no realistic population forecasts, especially for local neighborhoods. It relies on data from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and these data are incredibly inaccurate. 

For example, in 1996 and again in 2001, based on SCAG data, the General Plan Framework predicted that the 2010 population of LA would be 4.3 million. In fact, the population was about 3.8 million, or 500,000 people fewer. When similar inflated numbers were misused to turn the update of the Hollywood Community Plan into a tool to up-zone and up-plan much of Hollywood, the Superior Court threw the proposed plans and zoning ordinances out on their ears. 

Second, the City of LA does not have current and accurate information about the housing potential of existing zoning. Earlier assessments indicate that current zoning could support a population of between five and eight million people. Without this information, as well as population forecasts, there is no way to determine if any particular neighborhood needs its local real estate up-zoned to meet future population growth. 

Third, the City of LA does not have current and accurate information about the capacity of local public services and infrastructure to meet the needs of existing residents, much less greater numbers of future residents in a particular neighborhood. Nevertheless, the General Plan Framework is crystal clear that up-zoning and up-planning can only proceed where there are sufficient public services and infrastructure. 

Fourth, the Mayor's approach to housing that advocates demolishing what exists and replacing it with new market housing will wipe out far more affordable housing than it will construct. In fact, this is already happening, with about one unit of new affordable housing replacing four demolished older units. In other cases, such as single-family homes, McMansions cost about three times the price of the less expensive homes they demolish to create a building site. 

Fifth, there are no data supporting the Mayor's claim that an unregulated housing market will produce affordable housing. Investors target the most lucrative housing alternatives available, which is luxury housing. Investors will not plunk down money for housing projects that are either money losers or just scraping by. 

Sixth, there are also no data supporting the claim that in Los Angeles, over time, pricey housing declines in price and becomes affordable -- what the Mayor's courtiers call “filtering.” On the ground, the opposite is the case, with all types of residential real estate increasing in price over time, even when controlled for inflation. 

Seventh, the Mayor's approach ignores the real causes of LA's housing crisis, which is just a local expression of a national trend, and in some cases, an international trend. These causes include the elimination of government programs to fund, and in some cases, to build and operate public housing.

In addition, increasing levels of wealth and income inequality leave most of the US population with less purchasing power in constant dollars to spend on housing. 

Finally, this trend also includes large amounts of foreign investment in US real estate, especially residential projects in large US cities like Los Angeles. When Russian, Chinese, Brazilian, and Saudi oligarchs and princes park their money in the US, it goes into luxury projects, not into affordable housing. This investment not only reduces the amount of affordable housing, but tends to pull up the price of all levels of housing. 

With such compelling information readily available, why then do Mayor Garcetti and his kindred spirits make so many dishonest mistakes when it comes to planning reforms, zoning, and housing issues in Los Angeles -- even when these ideas have been rejected by judges in successful law suits against the City? 

While only the fly on the wall knows for sure, my guess is that the Mayor and his circle of contributors, advisors, lobbyists, publicists, and on-call experts are so linked to private real estate investors, that they will not let facts, experiences, or contrary viewpoints cloud their vision of a Los Angeles where real estate speculators have free rein.


(Dick Platkin is a former LA City planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. He welcomes comments and corrections at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA Politics: Like that Old Saying ‘Talk is Cheap’

JUST THE FACTS-Those who say they support the men and women of the LAPD really don’t show it in their actions, deeds or public comments. Recently I attended the “Twice a Citizen” dinner celebration for our Los Angeles Police Department Reserve Officers. Hundreds of LAPD Reserve officers and guests attended this annual banquet in Hollywood. Reserve officers included doctors, airline pilots, attorneys, actors and many from other professions. 

Chief Charlie Beck attended the dinner, along with a number of Assistant Chiefs, Commanders, Captains and other members of the Department. What was notably missing were all the members of the Police Commission as well as elected officials. It seems that not one elected official in the City of LA could find the time to show support for our LAPD Reserve officers. Their vocal “support” of the dedicated men and women of the LAPD Reserve Corps end up being truly empty words. 

Police Commission President Matt Johnson and his fellow commissioners are the appointed heads of the LAPD. They review Department policies and practices; and they carry out a variety of other responsibilities that impact the men and women of the LAPD. In addition, they dictate policy directions to Chief Beck -- directions that become orders and modifications affecting the way the LAPD delivers service to the people of Los Angeles. It’s interesting to read stories that detail the following recent crimes and then wonder why the Police Commission, particularly Mr. Johnson, seems totally out of touch with illegal activities taking place throughout the City: 

*Women found stabbed to death in South Los Angeles apartment. 

*Beloved worker found bound and fatally shot inside Laundromat in South Los Angeles. 

*LAPD and Sheriff’s Department Command Staff criticized for handling of wild LA police pursuit. 

*4 shot in South L.A. while setting up for BBQ. 

*Man with gunshot wounds dies in liquor store. 

*Family ID’s body of woman found off freeway. 

*Police seek clues after driver shot in Van Nuys. 

*Horse beaten and shot to death and left on Sylmar street. 

*2 women sentenced in shooting death of young father outside church. 

*Man found shot to death inside alley in South LA. 

*Man shot, wounded during carjacking in South LA. 

*3 wounded in Pacoima shooting. 

*Mayhem in East Hollywood as robbery suspects crash into 4 cars; 3 in custody. 

*20 year old beaten and stabbed to death near Sylmar High. 

*Three teen boys shot in Pico-Union area. 

*Three people shot, wounded in South LA. 

*Hunt for assailants who attacked four in separate South LA shootings. 

*Vigil held for Los Angeles murder victim as search for killer continues. 

As you can see, very serious crimes are happening throughout Los Angeles, committed by very violent people. One would think that Mr. Johnson and his fellow commissioners would be concerned about victims and their family members who’ve been impacted by the ever-increasing crime numbers. 

Operating with less than the budgeted 10,000 officers, the LAPD must police the sprawling City of Angels, a task made more frustrating when the Department sees that the Commission members and especially its president, Mr. Johnson, push forward their policy on officer-involved shootings. They seem more concerned with protecting criminals than our officers. 

Mr. Johnson and his anti-police attitude will only force members of the LAPD to think twice before engaging in a situation causing him or her to draw a weapon. It’s a sad state of affairs when those who are sworn to protect and serve are not adequately supported by those who set policy for them. As I have mentioned before, it may be time to arm yourself to protect yourself and your family.            

Perhaps someday we will have elected officials and police commissioners willing to let those who commit crimes know that it is wise to cooperate with the directions of the officers who are sworn to “Protect and Serve.”


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

LA Councilman Puts the Brakes on Runyon Canyon Basketball Court … as the Growing Pains Continue

DEEGAN ON LA-It suddenly looks like Runyon Canyon Park may be morphing from being a regional wilderness park hosting 300,000 dogs and 1.3 million people per year into what may become it’s opposite: an urban recreation and sports center, with amenities that include the installation of a professional-level basketball court, the existing hiking trails, and a feared-to-be modified dog park. 

It may also have a precedent-setting corporate sponsorship and branding agreement, that could be the first of many times the Department of Recreation and Parks, and their partner Friends of Runyon Canyon (FORC), make cash deals for corporate naming rights in the park. Growing pains are already evident. 

The explosion of Runyon Canyon’s popularity is relatively new, according to regulars, and it is drawing attention from many constituencies -- including the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council and surrounding community, the private non-profit support group Friends of Runyon Canyon, the Rec and Parks special department handling corporate sponsorships in our parks, and beleaguered Councilmember David Ryu (CD4), who both inherited the current problem and then got whipsawed by a plan for a possible conversion of the hillside park from being a peaceful and sylvan retreat, away from the dense urban sprawl surrounding it, into what a forthcoming “Vision Plan” hopes to be able to create at the nature preserve.. 

A statement from Ryu’s office has just been released: 

Per my request, the Department of Recreation and Parks will halt construction of the proposed basketball court at Runyon Canyon Park. The department also agreed with my recommendation to have the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners reconsider its prior approval of this project.  

This project was initiated before I became the Councilmember of the Fourth District and it is clear that community concern regarding this project needs more robust consideration prior to any further action.  

The park has been open since 1984, although, “nobody used to care. But now with the celebrity thing, people want to have that rub off...it's got buzz as hip and cool, to be able to go home and say I saw a star at Runyon Canyon,” explains Daniel Overberger, an 11-year yoga teacher at Runyon Canyon. 

The proposed basketball court, a sponsored gift by a hip clothing company that wants to brandish its logo on the court, stating that its product line is “unique and ingenious…embodying exclusivity." It wants to reach who they believe are the hip consumers who use the park. 

According to the contractor’s documentation, it is called a “basketball facility” and includes a “regulation-sized tempered glass backboard - same exact piece of glass used all the way up to the NBA level.” The new court will “bring an authentic arena feel to the backyard.” 

So then how do you mix together dogs, hikers, yoga, and a basketball facility that mimics NBA standards and feels like an arena? This is giving people lots to talk about. The future of corporate commercialization of the park is uncertain, although that has been strongly denied by city officials. However, the City Council has not yet pre-empted the building of the court by offering a motion with an ordinance specifically forbidding commercialization and branding in city parks. 

The Canyon’s growing pains will take careful nurturing so that all its users will be assuaged and satisfied. Close-by neighbors as well as outside visitors, who according to FORC comprise eighty percent of the park’s users, should be able to benefit from this natural civic resource. 

David Ryu and his partners -- Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council, Friends of Runyon Canyon Park, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and clothier Pink Dolphin -- have their work cut out for them, responding to feelings that range from anger and near-depression to exhilaration. 

Nobody has yet provided a big picture solution to the future sustainability of this 136-acre pristine wilderness park that includes 90 acres dedicated to off-leash dogs, smack in the middle of Hollywood. It’s in one of the most densely populated areas of our city, containing dozens of high density land use projects on the drawing boards. Unless the rhetoric cools down and collegiality heats up, arriving at a consensus about what the park should be is going to be tough. A homogenized view will be the only way all parties can emerge feeling whole. Give and take will be needed to reach a happy medium and move on. 

Leadership is required and the responsibility is David Ryu’s, the only elected official who is directly part of this controversy. He is the highest ranking public steward of Runyon Canyon Park. As one regular at the park said, "David Ryu can be the hero or the villain. If he does what the people want, he can be the hero of CD4. If he doesn't, his career is finished." 

Ryu can facilitate a conversation concerning the public and private partnership concept to help explain its needs and the benefits. He has had “town hall” meetings with the community about the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Park circulation plan to improve parking and utilize shuttles, and how Metro can manage traffic for the Miracle Mile as construction of the Purple Line Extension gets under way. 

To gain a stronger buy-in from community members, the public needs to understand how envisioned private-public partnerships can offer funding for improvements for city parks. Guidelines need to be set for what donors can expect, short of branding and commercialization. Underwriters should be philanthropists, not merchants. 

Ryu knows how to organize and lead community groups to reach consensus. Partnering with Recreation and Parks leaders, there should be an effort to provide education about the private-public partnership program. Creating what charities rely on as “best practices” could be very helpful. 

There are potentially millions of human visitors and dogs coming to Runyon Canyon in the next several years and the park and the community must be ready for them. As our city continues to densify, parks will grow increasingly important as a refuge from the urban confinement that surrounds most of us. 

To complicate things, a lawsuit has been filed by Citizens Preserving Runyon, against the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners; respondents were named as being Friends of Runyon Canyon (FORC) and contractor B&W Holdings, LLC, dba, Digital Interiors, the company awarded the job to construct the basketball court as well as other jobs. 

According documents filed with the Clerk of the Los Angeles Superior Court on April 18, the lawsuit asks: 

(1) That the Court issue a writ of mandamus directing the City and its departments, including Recreation and Parks, to set aside their approval of the Project and to require preparation of a legally adequate environmental review, as well as adequate notice and a hearing, before any re-approval of the Project; 

(2) For a temporary restraining order, and preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining further construction and completion of the Project until this action can be decided on the merits; 

(3) For costs of suit and attorneys' fees according to law; 

(4) For such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and appropriate. 

Litigation is either settled or it drags on. If an EIR is ordered, the process could go on for many months. This will give plenty of time for considerations about “the deal” at the center of the controversy -- how it came about and what legitimacy it has in light of the public outcry against political leaders and park officials. The lawsuit alleges a failure by the City to give the public “due process” consideration – many saying that they did not want the basketball court but were not given a chance to weigh in. 

The donation of $260,000 by clothier Pink Dolphin includes $122,534 for repair of a retaining wall, according to MOU documents obtained from the City, showing the bid from contractor Digital Interiors. Unknown, but possibly discoverable in the lawsuit, is how many contractors actually bid for the job and where Digital Interiors’ bid fits into the range of bids received. The document shows that the contractor is contributing a drinking fountain, valued at $9,800 as a “discount” to the overall bill. 

Important to note is that there is that no free-and-clear cash benefit will accrue to the city from this donor transaction. The total amount of $260,000 is allocated to costs. Increasing the value of this or any gift might be a better philanthropic gesture, allowing the city to reinvest additional funds into other park needs. This could also help offset the perpetual benefit the donor gets from a permanent branding of the basketball court, displaying its corporate logo in the park. Despite the fact that their maintenance endowment will only run ten years, their logo will remain as a permanent commercial. 

An added benefit for the donor would be a larger tax-deduction for charitable giving. The value of what is being branded by a corporation -- a sports facility in a very popular city park -- may have been very seriously underestimated. 

Perhaps LA Recreation and Parks Department’s Partnership and Revenue Branch could use instance as a precedent in the future: paying costs and gaining a surplus for other park needs should be part of all sponsorship negotiations. 

How hard of a deal did the Rec and Parks department and FORC try to make behind closed doors, or did they settle for the first quarter-million dollars that walked in the door? It seems that, from reading the contractor’s documentation, the contractor may have said, “This is what it will cost you,” and the city said to the donor, “This is what we need to pay the contractor.” If so, that’s a “passing the tin cup” style of fundraising, just to get by, instead of setting a higher threshold and saying “we’re worth it.” 

A trained and experienced development officer from a major philanthropic institution (and our city is full of them) could lead the sponsorship negotiations for the city. Setting the bar higher is something to consider for either permanent staff or for consultants providing training on how to raise money for charities. It may be unfair to expect program managers and analysts in the city’s bureaucracy to understand the complications of successful fundraising. More growing pains. 

It should be a civic pleasure to support our great city. Feeling of a little bit of financial pain comes along with the benefit of a sponsor’s branding, promotion and tax write-off. Donors need to understand that they are playing in the Big Leagues in LA. We cannot be beggars. Ask the Mayor if the City is worth it. 

Some question FORC’s role as advocates for the park. “An advocacy organization that encourages heavy construction without an Environmental Impact Report is not fit to protect a Nature Area. An advocacy organization whose violations trigger costly lawsuits from aggrieved constituents has no mandate or moral authority to represent Runyon Canyon. FORC's persistent sneakiness, mendacity and arrogance have destroyed the public's trust,” offers Michael Konik, a 23-year resident of Vista Street and a longtime volunteer trash cleaner at Runyon Canyon. 

When he took office nine months ago, David Ryu withheld $600,000 in disbursements to the community earmarked by his predecessor. Ryu will also receive an additional $1 million in discretionary funds for this year, so he could be sitting on up to $1.6 million dollars to use at his discretion. He has formed a Discretionary Funds Task Force to advise him how to support community projects with this bankroll. 

Some of that CD4 money, an estimated $122,534, could be budgeted for fixing the retaining wall, considered to be a public safety hazard. This would shift the financial burden from the corporate donor to the well-funded city council office that stewards the park. And it would remove one of the arguments for making the deal with this donor in the first place. 

Realistically, if Pink Dolphin needed a new home for its quarter-million-dollar gift there are many charities that would probably jump at the chance to benefit from its philanthropy. Anyway, the company could “bail,” believing that the negative public relations backlash is not worth the “branding” opportunity. They also may not have known how many issues were sidestepped in the rush to accept their money -- and what could be involved with an EIR, if it gets to that stage. 

Hollywood legend Francis Ford Coppola has said, “A contract is only a starting point.” It’s not unreasonable to argue that either Pink Dolphin or the city might reconsider what could be seen as a less than favorable deal, especially as the process for arriving at that deal is examined in the lawsuit. There’s also the possibility that the city will lose the lawsuit and the donor deal will die. 

Severing the basketball court donation right now might be a preferable option, especially if the retaining wall can be paid for by David Ryu. As long as the branding and basketball court continue to be the main conversation point, it distracts attention from the very serious business of creating a sustainability plan for the park. 

If FORC is as good as it looks, money should not be a problem, especially when combined with David Ryu’s approximately $1.6 million in discretionary funds (subject to any allocations already committed by him.) None could be found on his discretionary funds website A request for Ford Theater Trails, appearing in the April 2016 minutes, appears to be in abeyance. 

A source that requested anonymity claims that, in addition to the Pink Dolphin donation, FORC collected other donations in 2015 totaling $94,000 ($51,000 in checks, $40,000 through Pay Pal, and some stock donations.) They should have no trouble attracting other sponsors as plans for more park improvements unfold. When they incorporated, FORC’s goal was to encourage not one major donor but many donors to assure the ongoing financial support for Runyon Canyon Park. 

The Friends of Runyon Canyon Park have alluded to a “Vision Plan” that will help shape the future improvement and sustainability of the park. This is a critical working document that may be presented soon. When that happens, the whole community will be able to deal holistically with the future of the park, and not just in the wake of the current controversy. 

They (FORC) have a chance to work closely with Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council, using Councilmember David Ryu as a facilitator -- a role that suits him. Hopefully, that will help as more growing pains emerge.


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


Federal Judge Steps Up for the Homeless, Changes the Way Police Seize Their Property

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-One of LA’s most dubious distinctions is that the city and county have the highest population of chronically homeless people in the country, almost all of whom live on the streets, according to a November report by the US Housing and Urban Development Department. Since 2013, LA’s chronically homeless population has grown by 55% to 12,536. Over a third of the nation’s chronically homeless live in California.

Back in September, Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a homelessness state of emergency and the city is working on finding innovative solutions to fund affordable housing projects. 

In the meantime, many of the homeless are subjected to seizure of the essentials they need to survive. A US Circuit Court judge ruled last Wednesday that local police have been overreaching in their confiscation of property without due cause. The LA Times reported the injunction prevents the city from seizing property without sufficient notice. The injunction also orders the city to sort and store confiscated items of value. 

The plaintiffs of a lawsuit that led to the injunction are four Skid Row residents, along with the Los Angeles Community Action Network and Los Angeles Catholic Worker, who hoped to include the entire city in the injunction that only covers Skid Row and surroundings, where more than 1,300 tons of personal property were confiscated in 2015.

Judge James Otero said, “The city, in many instances, appears to be confiscating all property, without differentiating the types of property or giving homeless people a meaningful opportunity to separate essential medications or medical equipment from their other property.” 

The city argued that the officers had provided notice before seizing the property and that some of the plaintiffs were exaggerating. Judge Otero responded that “some of the individual defendants appeared to take away property from a person lying on the sidewalk, visibly suffering physical pain.” 

The city has been tweaking an ordinance allowing for the confiscation of items left in public areas. An earlier law was struck down by court order in 2012 when it was found to have violated the Fourth Amendment rights of homeless individuals. Business and homeowners in the area have pressured the city and the police to remove the shopping carts, tents, and encampments of a growing homeless population. 

The most recent changes to the ordinance permit homeless people to keep only the possessions they can fit in a trash bin but the lack of adequate storage space precludes this. Homeless individuals tend not to be stationary so they’re left with no other storage space but the sidewalk. The city has two storage bins where the homeless may store property but space is limited and some items might not fit. Instead of coming up with additional options, the city has pursued property seizure, despite rejections in court. 

City Councilmember Mike Bonin addressed his concern about the cost of future lawsuits a few weeks ago but he voted for the recent changes nevertheless. Civil rights attorney Carol Sobel, who represents the current plaintiffs, has profited from suits against the city, taking in $1.7 million over the past few years. 

As the city continues to address the affordable housing issue, the number of chronically homeless in Los Angeles is unlikely to decrease, especially as rents continue to skyrocket. Instead of fending off lawsuits and trampling over rights, the city should focus on temporary solutions to the storage issues. Any changes should also offer an agreeable solution to business and homeowners, as well.


(Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Photo credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


DTLA Bike Lanes: The Good the Bad and the Clueless

CYCLE TRACKS--As Joe Linton reports in Streetsblog LA, downtown’s Los Angeles Street will soon see a protected cycle track replace the plain-paint bike lanes that connect Union Station and First Street. 

This is an undeniable Good Thing. I gladly celebrate any upgrade in bicycle facilities in any parts of the city that see, or that could see if they weren’t so daunting, lots of folks going about their business on bikes. It’s not just “One Less Car” anymore; it’s well-proven that urban bicycling improves productivity at work, boosts public health, and raises small business income. It also re-stitches the civic fabric, as people come to view their city as something more than traffic jams, and their fellow denizens as people, not just shadows behind a windshield in the next lane over. Making safe places to ride in through urban areas means that more people will ride -- and the various, albeit incomplete, bike lane networks in the central city are showing it to be so. Bikes are everywhere, and their riders are just about anyone. 

But LADOT is quoted in Linton’s article as stating that that particular stretch of Los Angeles Street was chosen because it was an easy sell: it’s mostly government offices along the route. In other words, it represents a sort of failure of nerve, and one that degrades DOT’s mission of providing access to all. How? Well, while it’s nice that all the bureaucrats can ride more safely to work and back now, and that LA can test yet another cycle track (there are several in town already), Los Angeles Street has absolutely zero accommodation for bikes where it counts, in the Fashion District. 

I ran a tiny clothing company for several years, and I still dabble in the rag trade. I have made probably hundreds of trips up and down Los Angeles Street, on foot and by bike, and I can tell you, after a decade of observation, that that street and its neighboring roadways absolutely swarm with bikes. Beaters, cruisers, fixies, road bikes, folders, homemade cargo bikes, just about every damn sort of pedal-powered two-wheeler, all duking it out in mixed traffic all day long. Yet the Los Angeles street bike lanes, now as before, stop at First Street. The Fashion District, where bikes are a significant part of the traffic mix, begins around Third and stretches south to at least Twelfth Street. 

Bad … and clueless. Really, we don’t need to “test” cycle tracks: they’ve already been tested, all over the world and in several parts of LA itself. Plenty of data has been published showing that they smooth traffic, boost safety, entice hordes of new riders onto the streets and are good for business. 

We don’t need more “tests.” We need to rationalize our roads, because the present arrangement is killing us, directly and indirectly. Another “pilot project” is little more than a delaying tactic by an agency that’s afraid to do its job.


(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are focused on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

Airbnb LA Style: The Draft Ordinance

EASTSIDER-There’s a lot to like in the Draft Short Term Rental Ordinance.  Check it out to see the exact text. In a nod to the City of Santa Monica’s Ordinance, the City of LA uses SM’s reference to “Home-Sharing” in categorizing the type of allowable short term rentals. Further, it requires the type of disclosures from the Hosts that we’ve been urging for some time. 

LA City Council has even adopted the Santa Monica idea of regulation through requiring registration and a tax certificate (fancy for hotel tax.) This provides the critical data necessary to track and enforce the Ordinance. 

Recognizing the lawsuit that is still giving City Attorney Feuer an identity crisis, the Draft Ordinance also specifically holds that renters of units cannot participate in Home-Sharing without an express approval by the landlord. That was the underlying issue in the case which proved for once and for all that short term rentals are not legal in residential zones. 

For the poor decimated folks who have been zapped from their rent-controlled apartments or their “affordable housing,” the Ordinance finally makes it clear that RSO units and designated affordable housing are exempted totally from any short term rentals. Pretty much a case of “after the horse left the barn” and “oh gee, what part of the zoning laws didn’t you understand?” But you gotta start somewhere. 

The Ordinance also provides for enforcement and fines for violation. 

Don’t Get Too Giddy 

Understand that Airbnb, HomeAway and their progeny are going to go nuts -- just like they did over the City of Santa Monica’s Ordinance, and for the same reason. 

Using Pareto’s law, around 80% of Airbnb’s profits come from around 20% of the listing entities -- entities that are in the vacation/party house business as a business. Eliminating those players from the mix seriously affects Airbnb’s bottom line – which is serious for this bunch of wannabe billionaire venture capitalist types who desperately need that IPO to monetize their wealth and fortune. Tank the profits, tank the IPO. 

So we can expect a fierce, incredibly well-funded, and uber-coordinated push back as the Draft Ordinance moves forward. 

Which brings me to my next point. If we want this Ordinance to pass, if we want to patch some holes and ambiguities in the Draft (like Santa Monica did in expressly prohibiting Vacation rentals,) then we are going to have to fight for it. 

Many of you will remember the PLUM Committee hearing that was held way back in August of last year. It was a serious food fight that had so many people attending that they had to use the Council Chambers to hold all of us. And of course, Airbnb was there in force. 

Going to the Hearing 

The City Planning Department knows that this Ordinance is contentious. Witness the fact that the Public Hearing is going to be held in the large auditorium next to the new LAPD building -- Deaton Auditorium, 100 W. 1st Street, LA 90012. And they’re even holding in on a Saturday -- May 21 -- starting at 10:00 am so that regular people can attend. Be there. 

Not to be cynical, but the elected officials in the City of Angels respond best to two things: (1) incredible amounts of heat, as in lots and lots of citizens getting up and attending meetings, writing to Councilmembers, telephoning, emailing and such, and (2) Money. Of the two, we can never outspend Airbnb with their billions. 

But what we can do is suit up, show up, and provide the backbone for our politicians to stand up to Airbnb. They need to do the right thing for the actual people who live in Los Angeles. In this regard, I honestly believe that our Councilmembers finally understand that if we let Airbnb destroy the character of our neighborhoods, then we will have destroyed the City of Los Angeles. 

After all, in its immense and sprawling structure, only neighborhoods truly define the City. 

Hope to see you there. 

For Contact Information on the Ordinance and the Hearing:

Matthew Glesne, Housing Planner

City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning

Policy Planning and Historic Resources Division, Citywide Unit

200 N. Spring Street, Room 667, Los Angeles 90021

[email protected] | 213-974-2666


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


Koreatown Loses Needed Park … ‘Campaign Contributions Appear to have Trumped Neighborhood Priorities’

THE CITY-Plans to build a park in densely-populated Koreatown were trumped by the developer of a proposed 364-unit luxury apartment project who … joined by family and business associates … contributed $25,600 to the campaign warchests of city officials, including $2,900 for Council President Herb Wesson and $4,500 for Mayor Eric Garcetti, city records show.

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Dear Mr. Garcetti: Sometimes Friends Can Be So Disappointing

WHO CAN YOU TRUST?—(Editor’s note: This open letter was intended for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Jimmy Gomez. It deals with critical city planning issues and the ongoing matter of trust and transparency. We felt it was important for you to see this letter.) Photo above: LA’s ongoing air quality crisis.

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Janice Kamenir-Reznik Up Close (Part 2): ‘Porter Ranch Lead Revealed that Lawmakers were Asleep at the Switch

CAMPAIGN 2016-Candidate Janice Kamenir-Reznik is the sole woman running for State Senator Fran Pavley’s 27th District Seat. The longtime attorney and social activist shared her thoughts about the implementation of the state’s expanded Paid Family Program, the housing crisis, and education. In the second part of this interview, we discuss the drought and infrastructure issues, utilities, campaign finance reform and criminal justice.

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Eli Broad Bias Showing at LA Times … No Fan of Public Teachers and Schools

EDUCATION MATTERS-In the last few days, the LA Times has published misleading information on the California Appeals Court decision this week denying the lower court ruling in the Vergara lawsuit – a suit wherein a few carefully chosen students were urged to press a lawsuit to terminate teachers without due process, changing the law pertaining to what they call tenure. In addition, this lawsuit would serve to weaken teachers unions.

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Why Is Southern California Underrepresented in State and National Politics?

RECLAIMING THE POWER-For the first time in decades, California is poised to play a significant role in determining each party’s presidential nominee. Being a reliably blue state, presidential candidates in the recent years have done little campaigning in the Golden State. As Angelenos know, whenever President Barack Obama’s entourage arrives in town, Southern California in particular has served little purpose in national and state politics other than as a source of money from the region’s Hollywood elite.

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