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How City Hall Cheated the Disabled to Make Money for Developers

AFFORDABLE HOUSING HANDICAP SCAM--Just when you think that the Mayor and the Los Angeles City Council could not sink lower, new evidence comes to light. 

We see and hear the publicity stunts by Mayor Garcetti and various councilmembers, crying for the need to construct more Affordable Housing. What has the City been doing to create Affordable Housing? According to the LA Times on April 2, 2016, It has been demolishing Affordable Units to make way for pricy apartments, condos and McMansions! 

That’s right, the City has been helping developers not only destroy affordable housing, but then through its HCIDLA Committee, the City has been giving tax money for the developers who just demolished the rent controlled properties. They justify these gifts of our money on the grounds that the poor need housing. As a result of this scam, the City Council has been voting unanimously to allow rent controlled units to be destroyed and then giving hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to the very people who tore down the homes. 

It’s like a late night Infomercial, “Wait there’s more.” While Mayor Garcetti and current Council President Herb Wesson have been shedding crocodile tears for the less fortunate, they have been abusing the City’s disabled population in order to divert more tax dollars to the billionaire developers. On camera, they speak in the name of the disabled, while screwing them off camera. 

No need to take my word for it. We have documented proof. In January 2012, while Mayor Garcetti was City Council President, the City and its now defunct Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA] was sued in federal court for systematically and knowingly cheating Los Angeles’ disabled persons. (Independent Living Center of Southern California et alia v City of Los Angeles, Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA], United States District Court for the Central District Court of California, Case Number SACV12 0062JST.) 

For at least the last decade, during which time Eric Garcetti had been Council District 13 Councilmember (2001-2014) and City Council President (2006-2012), the City and Garcetti’s beloved CRA cheated both disabled persons and the tax payers. Here’s the scam they used: 

(1) In order to receive tax money to construct affordable housing, the City had to guarantee that the developers made their apartments and condos disabled accessible. [Lawsuit ¶ 76] 

(2)   Because making apartments and condos accessible to disabled persons costs the developers more money, the City not only allowed developers not to provide the legally require handicap facilities, but Garcetti and other councilmembers also frustrated the efforts of advocates for the disabled to document the violations. [Lawsuit, ¶ ¶ 78-82] 

As a result, Mayor Garcetti and current Council President Herb Wesson, along with all the rest of the Los Angeles City Council, have helped to divert hundreds of millions of tax dollars to developers by allowing them not to make the required handicap improvements to their projects.

“By the actions described above, Defendants have engaged in, and continue to engage in a pattern or practice of discrimination against people with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Government Code § 1135. The Defendants continue to engage in such a pattern, practice, or policy of discrimination so as to constitute a continuing violation.” Lawsuit ¶ 85 

That’s right; Garcetti and Wesson are still at it! Look at how many of the projects named in the lawsuit are in Wesson’s Council District #10. 

“. . . Defendants have known that their acts and omissions create a substantial likelihood of harm to Plaintiff's federally protected rights, and Defendants have failed to act upon that likelihood.” Lawsuit¶ 86   

We are not dealing with innocent mistakes of a complicated law. The law is as simple as one could want: “This money is to be used to make the housing accessible to disabled persons.” What’s not to understand? How does this then become, “Use this tax money to buy yourself a mansion in Bel Air?” 

Let’s remember that in 2011, the State abolished Los Angeles CRA due to rampant corruption. Garcetti and Wesson knew about this scam as they were actively aiding and abetting the diversion of hundreds of millions of tax dollars away from disabled people to enrich their buddies, the real estate developers. (CityWatch wrote a series of articles about the corrupt CRA, especially about Garcetti’s pet project, The Cesspool on Vine.)  

Angelenos have to ask themselves: Do we want to be ruled by men who steal from the disabled in order to give more of our tax dollars to developers? That is exactly what Garcetti, Wesson and all the other councilmembers have been doing. They know that the tax dollars were to make this housing accessible to the disabled, yet they allowed the developers to pocket this money while leaving the disabled persons out in the cold.

 

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

Los Angeles Has Changed: End of the Dream or a New Beginning?

AT LENGTH-I remember traveling one hot July day in 1955 to the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim. For the “happiest place on earth,” that day was a disaster. 

When Disneyland’s gates opened for the first time, the park unveiling was plagued with epic traffic jams, counterfeit tickets, broken rides, food shortages and a lack of water on a 100-degree day.

It was a bold move opening a theme park in the outer-reaches of Orange County -- an event that heralded the urban sprawl that has now become epic in Southern California. 

Gone now are the orange groves, vineyards and dairy pastures that once fanned out across the Southland from places like Torrance, Lomita, Gardena and even San Pedro. San Pedro locals still remember Lochman Farms Dairy on Western Avenue. 

Los Angeles County was once the largest agricultural region in the state. All of it has been divided and subdivided by freeways and thoroughfares, housing communities and shopping malls except for the last piece of vacant Lochman Farms land that’s to be developed known as Ponte Vista. 

This was part of the “dream” of an ever-expanding future. Disneyland and Hollywood fueled those dreams until they hit the brick wall of the Watts Riots in the summer of 1965. The hard reality set in that some parts of sunny California weren’t a part of the “happiest place on earth.” I watched the fires burn on TV from the hills of Palos Verdes and wondered. 

There is a lot more to this narrative that leads right up to Los Angeles today being the capital of homelessness that makes me believe that what we are witnessing is the demise of this dream. That all of the anger expressed by the Tea Party and the Donald Trump hostility on one side and the “enough is enough” campaign of Bernie Sanders are part of the same reaction to the squeeze.

More symbolic to this end were the recent deaths of both former First Lady Nancy Reagan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

With the first being a champion of the “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign and the latter a constitutional “originalist” appointee to the Supreme, both were extensions of President Ronald Reagan’s dubious legacy. 

The worldview of this Reagan triad that started back when he was governor of California and continued with his now discredited “trickle down economics” in the 1980s. This has persisted as a legacy up until President Barack Obama got his signature Affordable Care Act passed. 

The ACA continues to be a thorn in the side of conservative Republicans, Tea Partiers and neo-Trumpites even though it has survived three Supreme Court challenges, massively exceeded expectations, and has covered millions of Americans for whom the “dream” has slipped from their grasp along with their last middle-class job. 

What we are clearly witnessing in this curious presidential campaign year is the end of the Reaganomics era and the beginning of something else. That’s what the real debate is about. What’s the alternative to trickledown economics, free trade and inequitable wage compensation? 

Both Trump and Sanders criticize the free trade deals as a gambit that ships manufacturing jobs overseas, but clearly Sanders has the better grasp of the complexity of the issue and only recently has Hillary Clinton signed on to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. 

The TPP treaty is only understood by some 10 percent of the California electorate, but conservatives and liberals alike oppose it once it is explained. It is a curious phenomenon that, in a time in which Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much of anything, that voters both left and right oppose the TPP. This probably has something to do with the growing realization that “the dream” is slowing slipping from both hands. 

Back here in the Los Angeles Harbor Area we also have these dreams of waterfront development and of saving San Pedro. Perhaps someone will make a hat that reads “Make Pedro Great Again.” Yet, the issue of a few hundred homeless people camped out on our streets or the slow boating of waterfront development are only a veneer of the true problems that plague many parts of this great metropolis by the sea. Sustainable jobs, faster public transportation to the rest of Los Angeles and better access to capital investment for small business is the cure. 

The one key element that’s missing from the current plan to expand the MTA’s light rail system over the next 20 years is the connection from LAX to the Port of Los Angeles. 

This one change in the transportation plan would solve two of the three causes listed here for poor economics and would improve the lives of millions of county residents who live south of the 405 Freeway, as reported on in the LA Weekly. Read the story. Supervisor Don Knabe and Mayor Eric Garcetti need to hear from you. 

In the end, what’s needed for this new era is a different dream that is not predicated on more freeways, more cars or more urban sprawl as we ship jobs overseas. What is needed is for city governments to connect residents to themselves and to their city both physically and technologically.  What is needed are cities committed to being both economically and environmentally sustainable while ensuring shelter for everyone, even those who have the least.

 

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

Mike Antonovich, Tear Down That Sign!

FACING AN UGLY PAST-The sign says “Welcome to Hindenburg Park,” but for much of its history, Jews, people of color, and other minorities were not welcome in this piece of greenery in La Crescenta, an unincorporated area adjacent to Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb. That’s because it was the site of Nazi rallies and a Nazi youth camp during the 1930s. 

In fact, the park’s real name is Crescenta Valley County Park and it is owned and operated by Los Angeles County. The new sign was erected last month, on the western edge of the park, by the Tricentennial Foundation, a German heritage organization based in the North Hills section of Los Angeles. The foundation did not erect the sign to remind local residents of the park’s horrifying history, but instead, to “preserve the historical integrity of the site,” Hans Eberhard, the foundation’s chairman, told the Glendale News-Press

I’m a German American and, like many others residents of Los Angeles County, whose tax dollars pay for the park, I find the new sign offensive, not simply because it honors Paul von Hindenburg (a World War One hero and Germany’s president from 1925 to 1934 who appointed Adolf Hitler as German chancellor in 1933) but because it obscures the site’s ugly past.

My family, on my father’s side, left Germany and arrived in the United States in the 1860s. But they identified more as Jews than as Germans because of the anti-Semitism they were escaping in their native country. My mother’s side of the family left Poland and Lithuania in the 1880s to flee the wave of vicious and violent anti-Jewish pogroms, but they left friends and relatives behind who were later among the six millions Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. My father served in the army in World War Two and lost many friends in battles to rid the world of Hitler and the scourge of German fascism.

Many local residents, led by the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, are demanding that the County remove the sign.

The park is located in the district of Supervisor Michael Antonovich, one of five members of the Board of Supervisors that governs sprawling LA County, the nation’s largest county with over 10 million residents. It was under Antonovich’s watch last year that the County Department of Parks and Recreation allowed the Tri-centennial Foundation to erect the 6-foot high sign at the park’s entrance near the corner of Honolulu and Dunsmore avenues. Visitors are greeted with the sign that reads “Willkommen zum,” followed by “Welcome to Hindenburg Park,” and below that “The Historic German Section of Crescenta Valley Park.” At the bottom of the sign are the county’s official seal and the words “Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.” 

Despite the official seal, the county did not pay for the sign, which cost $2,500, according to Kaye Michelson, the department’s acting public information officer. She explained that the Tricentennial Foundation worked with the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley and the Crescenta Valley Town Council to fund the sign. 

Had these organizations — or Supervisor Antonovich’s office — done their research, they might have predicted that the sign would generate controversy, given the park’s history as a gathering place for American Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. 

Some proponents of the sign argue that they heard no objections about it before the County approved it. “That’s because hardly anyone knew about it until it was put up,” explained Jason Moss, executive director of the Jewish Federation. “If it had been a public process, I’m sure people would have opposed it. Now that it’s up there, we’re voicing our concerns.” 

An article about the new sign in the Crescenta Valley Weekly last month made no mention of the Nazi rallies held at the park. 

But after several local residents brought the issue to Moss’ attention, what appeared to be a harmless historical marker became the subject of controversy. Moss and others brought their complaints to Antonovich, who tried to deflect criticism by referring them to the County Department of Parks and Recreation. 

“I think there’s a way we can honor German-American culture, but also not forget what took place at that park,” Moss told me. 

In response to the complaints, the county’s Human Relations Commission will hold a public hearing on Thursday, April 7, from 4-6 pm, at the Sparr Heights Senior Center, 1613 Glencoe Way, Glendale, CA 91208. The hearing officers will report back to the full commission, who will then make a recommendation to County Parks Department, which could then decide what to do. 

But ultimately it will depend on whether Antonovich — who has served in that post since 1980 and has a reputation for closely monitoring activities in his district — insists that the sign be removed.

The sign’s opponents are urging people to contact Sussy Nemer, a staffperson for Antonovich ([email protected]) to voice their views about the sign. 

The controversy over the sign offers a teachable moment about local history and about the dangers of ignoring bigotry in our midst. As the cliché goes, if we don’t learn from the past, we’re doomed to repeat it. 

In 1925 the German American League acquired the land, named it Hindenburg Park, and maintained it as a private gathering for local German Americans, who held dances, picnics and other events there. 

Had the park simply been a place where German Americans celebrated their rich and fascinating cultural heritage, it would hardly be contentious. But the site also has a much more troubling history.

Although the German American League may have been founded to celebrate German culture, it always had a political side. According to a 1937 article in Life magazine, the group was “the Nazi organization in the U.S.,” previously known as the Friends of the New Germany. 

This country’s major pro-Nazi group was the German-American Bund, which sought to promote a favorable view of Nazi Germany and urged Americans to boycott Jewish-owned business. Its rallies not only featured Nazi flags but also American flags, claiming that its members were patriotic Americans. In fact, the Bund claimed that George Washington was “the first Fascist.” 

As early as 1936, the Bund operated 19 Nazi-inspired youth camps across the United States. One of them was called Camp Sutter and it was located at the German-American League’s Hindenburg Park.

I spoke with Arnie Bernstein, author of the 2013 book Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund. He explained that the purpose of these Bund youth camps was to “indoctrinate children in Nazi ideology.” Like most summer camps, the children participated in sports, hikes, arts and crafts and other activities. But they also were taught about Aryan supremacy and told to be loyal to the Bund, its leader Fritz Kuhn, and Adolph Hitler. They wore uniforms similar to those worn by the Hitler Youth group in Germany. They were forced to march around in the middle of the night carrying Bund and American flags, sing the Nazi anthem, give the Nazi salute, and shout “Sieg Heil” said Bernstein. As part of their camp activities, they were inculcated with Nazi propaganda. A Congressional investigation also uncovered sexual abuse between the adults and campers, Bernstein said.

In February 1939, Kuhn, who was often called the “American Fuehrer,” spoke at a pro-Nazi Bund rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City that attracted over 20,000 people. There he repeatedly referred to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “Frank D. Rosenfeld,” called his New Deal the “Jew Deal,” and stated that “the Jews are enemies of the United States.”

Another rally was held that month at the Bund’s West Coast headquarters at 634 West 15th Street in Los Angeles in building known as the Deutsch Haus (German House). The building was a site for pro-Nazi meetings and also housed a restaurant and beer hall as well as the Aryan Bookstore, where one could purchase the Bund newspaper, Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kamp, and other Nazi literature. The Deutsch Haus also screened German anti-Semitic propaganda films with titles like “Kosher Slaughter.” 

A few months later, on April 30, 1939, the Bund held a rally in Hindenburg Park, promoted as a celebration of Hitler’s birthday ten days later. Over 2,000 German-American Bund members came to hear Kuhn and West Coast Bund leader Herman Max Schwinn.

According to the Los Angeles Times: “Clad in a gray-and-black storm trooper uniform and flanked by a dozen uniformed guards, Kuhn spoke from a stage draped in red swastika banners.” The crowd cheered Kuhn and booed as a low-flying plane, sponsored by the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, bombarded the park with thousands of anti-Hitler leaflets. 

When it was Schwimm’s turn to speak, he read a telegram he had sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Do everything in your power to quarantine the United States against alien influences which are at work to drag the nation into war.” By “alien influences” he meant Jews, whom the Bund correctly believed were trying to get the Roosevelt administration and Congress to oppose Hitler’s efforts to take over Europe. 

A two-minute clip from the documentary film Rancho La Canada includes footage of activities at Hindenburg Park, including that 1939 Nazi rally. Some of the rally’s organizers were later put on trial for sedition.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times that week, Kuhn spouted typical Nazi ideas. Jews, he claimed held 62% of the high posts in the federal government and “have plotted to get hold of almost everything, especially in New York and Hollywood.”

That event was only one of many Bund and pro-Nazi events that took place at the park. These gatherings featured speakers from other American fascist organizations -- including the Silver Shirts, White Shirts, and Khaki Shirts — as well as the Bund.

Cal State-Northridge hosts a website and archive called In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California, 1933-1945” that includes photos of Nazi rallies at Hindenburg Park. One shows members of the Bund erecting a huge swastika in the park. 

In December 1939, Fritz Kuhn was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison for embezzlement, but the Bund briefly continued without him. Two years later, after the United States entered World War II against the Nazis, the Bund disappeared. In 1943, while he was serving his prison sentence, the U.S. cancelled Kuhn’s citizenship and deported him to Germany in 1945.

After the war, Hindenburg Park continued to be the site for German festivals. Southern California’s first Oktoberfest was held there in 1956. 

While the German American League owned the park, a 5-foot bust of Hindenburg adorned the grounds. In 1957, Los Angeles County purchased the land from the German-American League for $91,000, and removed the bust. The Board of Supervisors also abandoned the name Hindenburg Park and incorporated that section of the park into the larger Crescenta Valley County Park. 

Over the next half-century, memories of the American Nazis’ presence at the park faded. By the start of this century, few people recalled that the Glendale area had not only been a stronghold of Nazi activism but also a breeding ground for other hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and the John Birch Society in the 1950s. In the 1960s, Glendale was West Coast headquarters of the American Nazi Party. In 1962, when the KKK experienced a revival in response to the burgeoning civil rights movement, the Klan paraded down Glendale’s main thoroughfare, Brand Boulevard, with a horse brigade, marching band and burning cross. As recently as 2012, a tiny hate group called the Crescenta Valley European American Society, promoting “white identity and white pride,” had a brief presence on the internet and sponsored a European American Heritage Festival at Hindenburg Park — which generated controversy at the time — but all manifestations of this group, including its website, soon disappeared.

The La Crescenta and Glendale areas are now more diverse than in earlier years, but the scars of racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and other forms of bigotry never completely heal, as reflected in the upsurge of protest after the appearance of the new “Welcome to Hindenburg Park” sign last month. 

Hans Eberhard, the Tri-Centennial Foundation’s chairman, seemed either naïve or willfully ignorant about the significance of the site’s Nazi past. 

He told the Glendale News-Press that people who hoisted flags bearing swastikas in the park did so because it was the German flag at the time, not because they were Nazis. 

Seeking to downplay the dispute, Eberhard explained, “This is a welcome to Hindenburg Park. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an indication this is a historic site.”

Kaye Michelson from the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation echoed similar sentiments. “The intent was, and is, to honor the German-American heritage of the park,” she said in an interview with the Jewish Journal

Steve Pierce, a Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce board member, agreed. “The sign is just recognizing the German culture that was in our community,” he told the Glendale News Press last month. “I think that’s important. I’m very in support of that.” 

Mike Lawler, former president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, who has documented the area’s history of racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry, has a somewhat more nuanced view. The park’s history, he told me, is part of the “simple and recurring American story of an immigrant group celebrating their heritage as they assimilate.” But Lawler also understood why the sign has triggered a protest movement. “My overall feeling is that by burying uncomfortable events in history, we risk repeating past mistakes. Obviously, I don’t have the perspective of having been the victim of a mass genocide, so I cannot relate to the Jewish Federation’s feelings of offense. But I would hope that bringing attention to the park’s history would provide an opportunity for educating future generations about the dangers of nationalism and hate groups like the Bund.” 

Bernstein, the leading historian of the German-American Bund, was quick to tell me that “most German Americans weren’t Nazis or Nazi sympathizers.” Many, he said were “ashamed of Hitler and what was going on in Germany, and strongly denounced Kuhn and his followers.”

“The Bund was a small group compared with the number of German Americans living in the United States,” he explained. “But they were loud and noisy.”

Bernstein believes that any sign or plaque erected at La Crescenta County Park should not simply celebrate local German culture but also mention that the park was the site of pro-Nazi rallies.

“This controversy isn’t about Hindenburg himself, but what the park represents,” Bernstein said. “What was going on there was pro-Hitler activity. It’s an ugly fact of history but to avoid any mention of that is to erase an important part of the park’s past, which is something that people who use the park, or whose tax dollars pay for it, should know about.”

 

(Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. This piece was first posted at HuffingtonPost.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

Pot Tax: A Solution to Funding Housing for LA’s Homeless?

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2015 Status Report on Hunger & Homelessness, Los Angeles experienced a 12.4 percent increase in homeless families and an 11.7 increase in homeless individuals between September 2014 and August 2015. About 39 percent of LA’s homeless are living in cars or on the street because they can’t find housing. Los Angeles has had an increase in the number of added shelter beds but not enough to close the gap between supply and demand. The lack of affordable housing drives the increase in homelessness, followed by poverty, unemployment, and inaccessibility of mental health services.

Mayor Garcetti and City Council members declared a homelessness state of emergency back in September of last year. The city budget analysts have proposed nine different ideas to fund increased housing, including a proposed 15 percent sales tax on medical marijuana that could raise $16.7 million toward the $2 billion needed to supply vouchers and to construct needed housing. Several California cities, including Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs have passed fifteen cents per dollar taxes on medical marijuana cultivation and sales. 

The pot tax would be similar to taxes levied on specific products like gasoline or tobacco and would be earmarked for permanent housing, as well as support services like mobile showers, vouchers, and outreach. 

Activists are busy raising funds and gathering signatures to place the Adult Use of Marijuana Act on the November 8 ballot, which advocates the legalization of pot for adults 21 and over. The proposed initiative has already garnered over a quarter of the needed 365,880 signatures needed and has raised over $2 million, $1 million from Napster co-founder Sean Parker. Should this initiative find its way to the ballot and pass, the tax revenue could increase significantly. 

According to a poll by the OC Register, between 56-60 percent of California voters are in favor of legalization, something the LA Country Board of Supervisors seems to ignore. Last month, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to approve a motion by Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Hilda Solis to create a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Enforcement Team to crack down on dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county, including Marina Del Rey, where dispensaries were banned in 2011. City Attorney Mike Feuer has been working to shut down SpeedWeed, a delivery service to patients with valid medical marijuana cards. The City Attorney claims SpeedWeed is operating in violation of 2013’s Proposition D, set to limit the number of dispensaries in the city.

Is it fair to tax medical marijuana to help fund solutions to LA’s extensive homeless crisis? 

Taxes on alcohol, tobacco, or even that bag of chips and Big Gulp are often referred to as a “sin tax.” Although medical marijuana cards may be fairly easy to come by, many who rely on medical marijuana to ease the effects of chemo or other conditions are on fixed incomes and the extra 15 cents on a dollar could decrease the affordability of a prescribed medication. If users of medical marijuana face what could be construed as a punitive tax, why not patients who take cholesterol medication, Xanax, or Viagra? 

The funding sources proposed by the city include several sales or tax proposals that would require a 2/3 vote, as well as a billboard tax, a sales and use tax, an increase in transfer fees, and a fee in lieu of inclusionary zoning, most of which might face an impasse to approval. 

The answer might rest at least in part in the passage of the proposed November ballot initiative legalizing pot for recreational use. In Colorado, the tax revenue from recreational marijuana totaled $42 million in one fiscal year, outpacing the revenue from alcohol.

 

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

Rent Control Is a Gimmick, Not an Answer, for Affordable Housing

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-Rent control won’t solve California’s enormous housing problems. But that’s not stopping many Californians from pursuing rent control policies in their hometowns. 

2016 threatens to become the Year of Rent Control, with the topic white-hot in the Bay Area, home to California’s most expensive housing. Rent control refers to laws that put limits on how much landlords may raise rents; such laws often include provisions requiring landlords to produce specific causes before evicting tenants. 

Last summer, Richmond became the first city in California in 30 years to pass a new control law (the law was later suspended, and the issue will likely be decided at the ballot.) This touched off similar legislation and ballot measures to establish or strengthen rent control in other Northern California cities, including Alameda and Santa Rosa.

And in recent months, rent control has become a top issue in the state’s biggest cities.

In San Jose, multiple proposals to tighten rent controls, perhaps by tying them to inflation, have been debated in the city council, and some could go to the ballot. A ballot initiative to cap rent increases was just filed in Oakland. Los Angeles is considering a new registry of rents and a crackdown on landlord efforts to skirt existing rent control laws. And in San Diego, a tenants’ movement and an online petition are building momentum to establish new controls. In all these places, landlords have countered with their own legislation or possible ballot measures. 

The attention to rent control is understandable, given the costs of housing, but unhelpful. Rent control is a policy that, as libraries full of research and California’s own experience demonstrates, doesn’t do much to accomplish its avowed purpose: to make more affordable housing available. The last thing California needs is a costly and time-consuming fight over rent control. 

As the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office made clear in a 2015 report, the heart of California’s housing problem is that we Californians have long failed to build anywhere close to enough new housing to accommodate the number of people who live here. The office said we’d need an additional 100,000 units a year, on top of the 100,000 units we’re building, to mitigate the problem. 

As a result, housing prices and rents have long been higher than in any other state. And the problem has been getting worse, even in this era of slower population growth. In 1970, the gap between California home prices and the rest of the country was 30 percent; today, home prices are 250 percent more expensive than the American lverage.

The shortage is strongest in the urban coastal counties where people most want to live, creating a wave of people who push inland in search of housing. So Californians devote more of their incomes to housing, live in more crowded spaces, and commute further to jobs. In a Sacramento speech last fall, Roger Sanders, former finance director for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, noted that, from 2010 through 2014, “the state population increased by 1.55 million, while throughout all of California only 312,000 permits for new housing were approved, or one unit for every five new residents.” 

Significantly, the urban counties (10 northern counties and seven southern counties) approved only 200,000 units, or only one for approximately eight new residents.” 

The reasons for the lack of building are many and related: community resistance, environmental policies, high costs of construction, a lack of fiscal incentives for local governments to approve housing, regulatory constraints on development, and the high cost of land. This is such a wickedly complex problem that it’s laughable to see rent controls as a cure. 

Since housing markets are regional, it’s especially hard to see how local rent control in one city or another could ever make any impact. To the contrary, one reason for California’s sprawl is the way that cities within regions compete with each other to claim the most desirable businesses and housing for themselves, while sticking their neighbors with needier people. 

And if rent control really works to control prices and produce stability, as its supporters claim, why are the cities with rent control -- among them Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Santa Monica, San Jose, Thousand Oaks, and West Hollywood -- so expensive? And on the other side of the question, opponents of rent control sound ridiculous when they warn that it will discourage new construction, especially since state law has exempted new construction from rent control laws since 1995. All but about 15 cities in California have no rent control -- and they have housing shortages, too.

The real import of the rent control debate is as a reminder of California’s civic disease: our long history of embracing complicated formulas as ways to dodge the hard work of democratically solving tough problems. Rent control laws often include complicated formulas for allowing rents to be raised by different percentages or in different ways depending on a host of conditions (like whether a landlord has made capital improvements or had made previous rent increases.) 

It’s instructive that rent control’s California history is deeply intertwined with the ultimate dodgy California formula, Proposition 13. That constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 1978, provided the foundation -- via its limits on property tax increases and supermajorities for state and local taxation -- upon which two generations of other fiscal formulas have been built.

One false promise of Prop. 13 was that saving property owners money on their taxes would lead to lower home prices and rents. So when home prices and rents soared after the amendment passed, liberal cities began to install rent control ordinances that, like Prop. 13, didn’t lower rents or housing prices either. 

Rent control has been -- and will be, if it expands in the near future -- just another complication in a housing world that already has too many such kludges. And it’s a particularly counterproductive one since, just as Prop. 13 keeps taxes lower the longer you stay in your home, rent control grants special privileges to the older and more stable among us, regardless of their actual financial need. 

That is the peculiar tragedy of 21st-century California: A place that once cherished and defined the new is now organized around the imperative of favoring the old and the established. It is infuriating, and odd, that people who think of themselves as progressives defend, and even seek to extend, such fundamentally conservative policies. 

The people who need protection in California are poor people who cycle through housing. The best approach here is not more housing incentives -- decades of housing incentives both to developers and renters have produced very little housing here -- but developing robust support structures (via transportation, health, child care, jobs, and cash) that follow poor people wherever they can find opportunity. And, of course, more housing.

In a state devoted to anti-tax formulas that don’t keep taxes low and education funding guarantees that don’t guarantee much money for education, it’s no surprise that rent control laws don’t make housing affordable. So let’s not pretend that rent control is anything other than just another way of pretending to address our housing problems.

 

(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. Primary editor: Andrés Martinez. Secondary editor: Paul Bisceglio.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

Special to CityWatch: Requiem for a Big-Hearted Man: ‘God Bless and Bye-Bye’

ME AND BILL ROSENDAHL-A few years ago a friend got into a beef with a well-known multi-millionaire when he loudly protested about the mysterious building project happening on the entrepreneur’s sprawling LA property. The police were summoned by the big-shot’s entourage, including body-guards, and my friend called me, frantic and scared, asking for help.

So who do you call to stop an injustice leveraged by a rich guy’s bullies? LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, that’s who. (Photo above: Former Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl with former California Assemblyman Tom Hayden.) 

I reached Bill at City Hall and described my friend’s situation; his reaction was immediate and emphatic. What Bill told the LAPD brass I never knew. Nor did I ask. I do know the LAPD never showed up to investigate that totally bogus complaint. 

I saw Bill a few days later to thank him. “Hey,” he laughed. “You know how I hate these rich guys who think they’re above the law.” 

It was vintage Bill Rosendahl, elected in 2005 as the LA City Council’s first openly gay lawmaker.

Bill had many of the instincts of politicians but didn’t share some of their worst shortcomings. “I like him personally,” he once told me after a city councilman got into a conflict-of-interest controversy. “But he’s like all politicians – they get too much power and they can’t help themselves. They’re like kids around candy.” I can’t recall anyone ever saying the same about Bill’s tenure at City Hall.

Bill often reacted viscerally to society’s privileged. Even more reliable was his instant affection for society’s underdogs. 

But Bill was also the effusive, gregarious cable TV talk-show anchor who loved gossiping with journalists. 

Archives at Loyola Marymount University contain 814 public affairs shows hosted by Bill between January 1989 and Sept. 2006 when he was an executive at Century Cable and later at Adelphia Communications. I don’t know Bill’s record as a TV executive but I know as a “journalist” he was an enthusiastic and skilled enabler of lively TV debates about public affairs, and that may be his most lasting public legacy. 

Bill always tried to use his anchor-man platform for good. 

In November 1999, Councilman Joel Wachs, then a closeted gay man, was being interviewed by Bill about his campaign for mayor. During the taping, Bill asked Wachs: "Are you a gay man?" Wachs’ answered that he was. Shortly afterward, Bill called to tip me off. Bill said he believed Wachs’ revelation would help his mayoral election chances (not enough it turned out). I got the story, and Bill was helping move the ball for the gay community.

Bill’s signature sign-off on his shows was “God bless and bye-bye!” It was corny. But endearing.

Deep-down Bill was someone who practiced “religion” – if religion means having a big-heart. For years, he provided food and shelter for a revolving crew of homeless people in his Mar Vista home. Bill had an ascetic’s indifference to appearances. His house sometimes looked like it was lifted out of the Ozarks: the free-range chickens clucking in the backyard, the ill-kept lawn, the beat-up truck. It was not the typical Westside domestic scene. Overseeing this menagerie was Bill’s big heart, providing a welcoming space for an array of colorful characters. 

Three weeks ago, I held Bill’s scrawny hand in mine as he lay in a sunlit room in his house. Bill was dying from cancer; his face ravaged by illness. I said comforting words to him but I’m not at all certain he recognized me or public affairs consultant Rick Taylor who was also visiting Bill. Earlier, Rick reminded me that he had run the campaign of Bill’s fiercest rival in Bill’s first campaign for council. “But Bill never held it against me,” said Rick. “He was that kind of a guy.”

Seeing Bill in that bed – with hospice caregivers tiptoeing around - was sad and humbling. But I was also grateful to have had a chance to pay tribute to a man who was an important and unforgettable part of LA’s civic life. 

A few days after that visit, I talked to former assemblyman Tom Hayden who mentioned that he too had visited Bill to pay his respects and regale him with talk about their mutual progressive political friends and roots (Bill worked for George McGovern and Bobby Kennedy in the Sixities). “He was fully conscious and in good spirits when I was with him,” Hayden said. “But he could barely talk.”

Then Hayden dropped a ‘bombshell.’ 

Let me explain. Hayden for months has been fighting to block a developer’s plan to bulldoze a rugged hillside and cut down dozens of trees to make way for two 15,000 square foot mansions in Brentwood’s Sullivan Canyon. The developers have included Ezri Namvar, the so-called “Bernie Madoff of Beverly Hills,” and his family. (Ezri Namvar is now serving time in a federal lockup after being convicted of running a Ponzi scheme that stole millions from the Persian Jewish community.)

During his visit with Bill (who had represented Brentwood on the City Council,) Hayden swears the dying man whispered to him: “Save Sullivan Canyon.”  

Hayden told me he wasn’t trying to get an endorsement. “It was volunteered,” said Hayden. And what was it really worth anyway? 

Still here’s the eerie part. The maybe-Bill-karma part.

Soon thereafter, Hayden’s crusade against the Sullivan Canyon mega-mansions project hit pay-dirt. It happened when a City Hall bureaucrat surprisingly ruled that team-Namvar had violated a seldom-used city law that made it illegal to cut down so-called “protected trees” on their property unless they had a permit. Their punishment for killing three protected trees: A five-year ban on developing anything on their property. 

It was a stunning victory for Mother Nature and LA’s urban forest. It came out of the blue. Or did it?

Hayden told me the day Bill died that his Irish Catholic heart pondered the possibility that Bill’s death-bed blessing had something to do with the Sullivan Canyon “miracle.” Maybe, he said, it was just another good deed from the man with the big heart. 

There’s not much more to say but this: Bill, “God bless and bye-bye!”

 

(John Schwada is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner. He is a contributor to CityWatch. His consulting firm is MediaFix Associates.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The Party’s Over for this Outrageous Developer

DEEGAN ON LA-The alignment of well-organized community activists, an egregious land use proposal, a councilmember that “got it”, and some guerrilla tactics all combined a few days ago in a victory for hillside residents and wildlife when a proposed 132,000 square foot hillside party house was scratched by the developer, following an outpouring of objections from the community. The Michael Scott Party House in the hills will not be built. 

The project was unable to get the support of Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) who, after carefully listening to his community of outraged constituents, called on the Building & Safety Commission to deny the haul route permits and requested that the applicant withdraw his project as proposed. A spokesperson for Councilmember Koretz told CityWatch that “developer Michael Scott did indeed subsequently withdraw his application.”   

Many factors contributed to this victory and provide a “how to” manual for communities in our city faced with rampant out-of-control development that’s happening practically everywhere. For a while, especially in Hollywood, it took expensive litigation to stop a developer. 

Now, communities are becoming more aggressive and emboldened in taking the lead in the fight against developments that they feel do not fit in their neighborhoods. Many success stories are being written. More will come as the developer-politico axis realizes people are angry with what they see as the ruination of their neighborhoods. 

The successful activist model created to stop the party house relied on a coordinated community campaign that sets a good example. 

The key is to be tactical with your strategy to stop a project, or modify it, so it fits into your vision of your community. Steps you can take that this and a few other recently successful community preservation campaigns have taken include: 

  1. Get on record with your councilmember immediately. Find him/her at this link and send a letter or email stating your objections to the development project. Every letter and email counts. Swamp your councilmember with community objections. Say what you are against specifically, not just NIMBY (not in my back yard) complaints. 
  1. Learn the “Council File” number at this link so you can its track progress through the city system. Go to the hearings and make public comment. 
  1. Learn the City Planning route the project is taking at this link.  Find out the code(s) assigned to the project, and what they mean; go to hearings and speak out. The public is always allowed public comment time at public hearings on zoning and in City Council committee and full council meetings. 
  1. Know some city planning vocabulary
  1. Make contact with several key staff at your council office. Know who they are and be sure they know who you are and why you are contacting them. Who to know at your council office: the councilmember, the chief of staff, the planning deputy, the deputy that covers your community, and the press deputy. 
  1. Register to vote at http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration and remind your Councilmember that you are a constituent that has a vote, and the action he or she or she takes on the project may influence how you vote the next time they are up for election. Now is a watershed time for this tactic: half the city council members are up for election in the March 2017 primaries. If you live in an odd-numbered district, your council member will need to campaign for re-election in the next several months and will need your vote to win. Elections are won by very small numbers of votes which magnifies the importance of each vote. It’s powerful leverage when an organized community gets together on an issue and says to their councilmember “we won’t vote for you unless…” 
  1. Open a Facebook page to share with supporters. 
  1. Start a Move On petition 

and adjust the settings so each time someone signs the petition and enters a comment that information automatically arrives in the email box of who you select to receive it. Include the council member, the chief of staff, the planning deputy, the deputy that covers your community, and the press deputy. The constant reminder that there is organized opposition makes an impact. 

  1. Go to your neighborhood council and make public comment at the land use committee meeting and at the board meeting. If the land use committee has not scheduled a hearing on the project you object to, request one. Most NC’s try to protect their neighborhoods and may be on your side. They are a great resource to get you “into the loop.” 
  1. Be inspired. Each of these projects became a victory for the community activists that campaigned to protect their neighborhoods: Los Flores; Edinburgh; Hillside Party House and Harry Potter. 
  1. Contact a reporter at your local paper and give them your story. Media pressure helps bring your message not only to the developer and the council office, but to your greater community. Editors like local stories. David v. Goliath themes capture attention. 
  1. Never back down. Tennis legend Bjorn Borg, a former world No. 1 tennis player widely considered to be one of the greatest in tennis history, with 11 Grand Slam titles that included 5 consecutive wins at Wimbledon, revealed a secret of his success when he said, “My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball.” 

Good luck, warriors!

 

(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.

Today, I’m Appalled to be an Angeleno

SKID ROW- On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council passed a revised ordinance which completely dissed all homeless folks in LA and should embarrass any and all Angelenos. They did it with one 13-1 vote. As a home-grown Angeleno, this is the lowest point I’ve personally experienced since the “Rodney King Riots” in 1992. 

The issue? Homelessness is rising at an alarming rate in Los Angeles. With a glaring shortage of low-income housing and literally no low-income housing units under construction anywhere in the city, homeless people are piling up on our city’s sidewalks. That also means that tents, encampments, personal property and even bulky items have been expanding over more and more sidewalk areas, making homelessness that much more unmanageable. 

With multiple settlement agreements (Jones v. City of LA) (Lavan Injunction) already on the books, homeless folks are allowed to pitch tents and sleep on the sidewalks from 9pm until 6am. Without anywhere to go and/or store their belongings in the daytime, houseless people living on the streets simply leave their tents up 24/7. 

The Los Angeles Police Department is either inconsistent or confused about what to do. If they cite homeless sidewalk dwellers at a feverish pace (think: Safer Cities Initiative), the police will be seen as bad guys who lack compassion as they criminalize the homeless. On the other hand, if they look the other way, sanitation and public safety issues endanger more people than just homeless persons. 

With the City Attorney’s office combing through every relative legal document, and after months and months of weighing all options, they presented a unique option that no one saw coming. It’s called ordinance 56.11, a law already on the books that the City Attorney’s office has simply decided to revise

As previously stated, City Council voted to approve it, although the vote was not unanimous. This happened after the revised version of the old ordinance went through not one but two committees – the Public Works and Gang Reduction committee and the Homelessness and Poverty committee. All the “i’s” were dotted and all the “t’s” were crossed. 

Here’s the problem: 

In deciding that homeless folks can no longer store/possess their personal property on the sidewalk in the daytime, it has been determined by the City that the only possessions a homeless person can possess must fit into a “60-gallon container with the lid closed.” 

In other words, a trash can…say what? That’s right, the City of Los Angeles has voted and approved a revised ordinance which orders homeless persons to store their good belongings in a large trash can. Wow! 

As a Skid Row resident, I can’t even begin to find the words to describe how demoralizing and inhumane this idea is! 

City Councilmember Gil Cedillo (the lone dissenting vote) said during the council meeting at City Hall, “We were on one path which was a more respectful path focusing on housing, services and storage and now we are on a totally different path altogether.” 

Less than two months ago, the City of Los Angeles unveiled its “comprehensive homeless strategy” --a plan that combines resources with the County of Los Angeles. The County’s separate release of their own plan is just over 100 pages. The City’s plan is well over 200 pages. 

What’s relative to this topic is the emphasis the City put on their strategic priority strategy to “decriminalize” homelessness. 

Now, less than two months later, they’ve suddenly changed their course of action -- a complete 180. 

The negative effect is deeply concerning. For the ordinance language to instruct homeless people to store their property in trash cans is not only embarrassing for human beings struggling to survive, but the collective damage caused to their subliminal mental psyches cannot (and will not) be measured nor documented. 

How can the City of Los Angeles pat itself on the back as if they did something good when the negative long-term impact will cause more trauma to an already wounded and vulnerable population – a population the City is already struggling to help? 

As a formerly homeless man who still lives in Skid Row, I say, “How dare the City of Los Angeles order me to put my belongings in a trash can? Does that mean the City thinks my personal property is worthless? Is my life as a Skid Row resident also worthless? How do I know this isn’t a trick and as soon as I ‘voluntarily’ put everything I own in a trash can, it won’t ‘accidentally’ be mixed-up with real trash and discarded into a dumpster?” 

As someone who often wears suits and ties, is the City of Los Angeles now telling me that I must store my suits and ties in a trash can? Are they out of their minds? 

This is an insult and very well may be the most disrespectful ordinance in the history of the City of Los Angeles and possibly all of America. (Right after slavery laws!) 

Imagine the Summer Olympics with millions of tourists from all over the world here to cheer on their countries’ athletes. How will the City of Los Angeles answer the most-asked question: Why do all the homeless people here travel with trash cans filled with all of their personal belongings? 

I don’t even want to know the City’s answer. It will probably be even more disrespectful and embarrassing than me having to pull my suit, tie and dress shoes out of a trash can for a meeting at City Hall. How many millions will the City spend – or, rather, waste – to build brand new trash cans? Surely they’re not gonna just rinse out used ones…right? 

The human rights violations continue to mount. Where is the United Nations when you need it?

 

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

Too Big to Jail? SoCal Gas Ignoring State Advice for Offsetting Porter Ranch Leak … What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

WHISTLING A DIFFERENT TUNE--Back in February, when the enormous gas leak in Aliso Canyon was finally plugged, SoCal Gas promised to do everything in its power to offset the disastrous environmental effects of the largest methane release in American history. Seeking to ensure the company followed through with that promise, Governor Jerry Brown had officials with the state's Air Resources Board come up with a step-by-step plan for the company to follow in reducing emissions. Having received a draft of that plan, however, SoCal gas seems to have changed its tune a little. Okay, actually a lot.

George Minter, Regional Vice President of SoCal Gas, writes on the first page of a written response to the ARB's proposed plan: 

As you are aware, the ARB explicitly decided not to regulate fugitive emissions, such as those from the leak at Aliso Canyon, a decision confirmed by the ARB on multiple occasions. Thus, any proposed mitigation program from the ARB does not itself impose any legal obligations on SoCal Gas.

Translation: We're going to go ahead and ignore your recommendations because you can't legally make us do anything about any of this.

As the LA Times points out, technically SoCal Gas is right that there is no current law that would force them to comply with the state's recommendations. But given the extraordinary scale of the leak, the impact it had and continues to have on residents of Porter Ranch and surrounding areas, and how much it has negatively affected California's emissions goals, it seems callous for the company to reject state proposals for addressing the problem. And boy has SoCal Gas rejected those proposals.

The plan drafted by the ARB includes recommendations that SoCal Gas focus on cutting methane emissions, which have a much larger effect on climate change than carbon; invest in offsetting opportunities in and around the site of the leak; and act quickly to reduce global emissions, putting a timeline of five to ten years on reduction efforts. SoCal Gas politely declined to follow all of these recommendations.

Most egregiously, the gas company disputed an important measurement of the leak's environmental impact. The ARB wants SoCal Gas to offset the leak according to a metric that accounts for methane's enormous short-term effect on the environment. SoCal Gas, however, wants to use a more traditional measurement that would allow it to spend considerably less money offsetting the emissions. According to a report by KPCC, by the standards SoCal Gas wants to use, the company would achieve only 30% of the emissions mitigation that the state is asking for, saving itself $64 million in the process.

Making matters worse, some environmental activists say even the state's recommendations will not fully offset the enormous damage caused by the leak. Anna Moritz, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, told KPCC that "it will be incredibly difficult to mitigate those effects not only on local communities, and the ecology of the area, and the climate... it may be impossible, in fact, to get us back to prior to the leak."

SoCal's rejection of the state's proposals comes amid news that the CEO of parent company Sempra Energy will be receiving a year-end bonus of more than $3 million, bringing her total compensation for 2015 to $16.1 million.

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer has filed a lawsuit against SoCal Gas that would force it to adhere to a state plan for the emissions offset, but the company doesn't seem to worried about the case. As KPCC reports, SoCal Gas recently told shareholders that the value of the gas lost plus emissions mitigation would be just $33 million. For those keeping score at home, that's about the cost of two years worth of pay for Sempra Energy's CEO.

(Elijah Chiland is associate editor at LA Curbed … where this piece originated.)

-cw

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Transpo Measure R2: A Giant Step for LA's Mass Transit System

IT’S ALL ABOUT JOBS--A week ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) Board held a hearing on a proposed $120-billion plan to dramatically expand mass transit throughout the region. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce was on hand to support the Crenshaw Northern Extension. We have pressed for this project for several years, and so were pleased that it was included in the list of projects to be funded. However, we were disappointed that it is not scheduled to begin construction until 2049. (Photo: Work on Crenshaw/LAX line in progress.)

A little background for those not familiar with this project. The Crenshaw line is a north-south light rail line that will connect to an LAX people mover. Its northern terminus is at the Expo Line below the 10 Freeway. The proposal would extend that line north through the Mid City area and West Hollywood before terminating at the Hollywood & Highland Metro Station. I think most people would agree that it makes sense to connect the airport to the region's top tourist destination. Hopefully, we can get this project's timeline moved forward. 

The important thing at the moment, though, is to get this plan approved on November 8th by the voters. That is not necessarily an easy thing, because all of the improvements (as currently proposed) would be funded by an extension of the existing sales tax for 18 years and an additional half-cent sales tax for at least 40 years, boosting the county's base sales tax rate to 9.5-percent. The measure must be supported by two-thirds of the electorate.

In the past, LA voters have been supportive of mass transit, passing Measure R in 2008, and more recently, falling just short of the needed votes for Measure J in 2012, gaining 66.1-percent in support but needing 66.7-percent. 

The new initiative calls for highway improvements as well as a dozen mass transit projects that would double our existing system. Having a transit system that gets people to where they want to go is key to the economic future of this region. It is also key to having a livable city.  

One of the criticisms we often hear from opponents of mass transit expenditures is that the system doesn't take people where they want to go - despite the fact that METRO is currently building five lines, more than any other place in the country. This new measure will expand the system even further. The sooner we get started on this expansion, the sooner there will be a system that gets people to more destinations. 

The METRO network is the key to dealing with growth issues in the region, and is the only solution that I have heard from any source that makes sense. As is currently happening in Hollywood, future development would be encouraged in close proximity to transit stations. Yes, that may require up-zoning in areas near the stations, but by focusing development there, it also allows the City to preserve existing single-family neighborhoods elsewhere. As the system is built-out, residents will be able to utilize mass transit to get around. It is true that people will still have cars and use them, but by orders of magnitude, we will see significant improvement as the system is expanded. 

There are three general suggestions to handle growth that I have heard that do not make sense. Some people suggest that we merely concentrate all development in Downtown L.A., but that is not an answer for growth. This region is so vast and spread out that you cannot accommodate all development in the center city. Besides that, if you do not encourage development within sub regions, those communities will deteriorate. New development is critical to revitalizing our neighborhoods. 

The proponents of the proposed Neighborhood Integrity "no growth" Initiative don't want increased density near transit stations. For them, the solution is to merely build-out under the current zoning citywide. The problem with that is it would spread development all over the city whether near transit or not, resulting in more congestion everywhere. Plus, you cannot justify the high cost of building a mass transit system if you cannot concentrate potential riders near the stations.

And then there are those who say they don't care where development goes so long as it isn't built near their neighborhoods. That is again not a solution and an abrogation of our responsibility. Development must go somewhere if we are to have a healthy economy, and it is better to have a plan than no plan at all.

Which brings us back to the Metro proposal that will likely be placed before voters this fall. There are hundreds of successful transit examples worldwide that point the way for Los Angeles. We have reached the physical limits of growth in this region. The basin is filling in. If our children are to have a future here, we have to find a way to grow and improve mobility.

Voters need to seriously consider the benefits of this expansion of our transit system and determine if those benefits justify the increase in sales taxes. Personally, I believe that the expansion is warranted. 

This region is on the right track, and with the support of voters we will continue in the right direction.

(Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 23 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood. This perspective was posted earlier at the Hollywood Chamber and Fox and Hounds.) 

-cw

What was Richard Alarcon Thinking?

MY TURN-Many people have described Richard Alarcon as a great example of the “professional politician.” He prefers to think of himself as the advocate for community service, having been involved in the political arena most of his adult life. In the last three years, though, it has been mostly on the dark side. 

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What I Owe Bill Rosendahl … My Friend and So Much More

A LIFE POSTSCRIPT--Whether it's common sense, common decency, or common courtesy, there is just often too little of such "common" commoditites.  But sometimes there are individuals who stand out and show that YES, those sorts of things can be achieved ... with honesty to boot.  As my friend and colleague Gary Walker of the Argonaut reported so well, we've lost a great man who's earned a cherished and lasting memory within our hearts:  Bill Rosendahl. 

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Voter Irregularities Cited in Upcoming Studio City Neighborhood Council Election

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--An email sent this morning to all registered candidates running for the upcoming Studio City Neighborhood Council revealed that Empower LA Elections Committee head Jay Handal had emailed registered voters’ confidential information to the existing SCNC board and council members. The email contained registered voters’ private email, passwords and sensitive documents such as driver’s license, passports, 1099’s, property and tax documents. 

The email leak was sent out Wednesday from Studio City Neighborhood Council incumbent Lisa Sarkin notifying members that there had been "a violation of privacy rights," asking them to immediately delete the documents. “We must not participate in this breach of security”. 

“It is concerning that the current reigning council would have access to all the online voters’ private information and passwords. They could have gone in at any time and changed their vote. This is why I and other concerned community stakeholders are running for this year’s council. We have witnessed and protested the corrupt actions of Lisa Sarkin and the existing SCNC committee, and want to be a transparent, fair and just voice for our community, not big developers and special interest groups.”  said Patrice Berlin running for the board position for the 2016 SCNC.  

Eric Preven, another candidate running for office says, “This is a serious breach of trust, verging on Electoral Fraud. We are demanding that the city investigate this matter and suspend the election until all of this is out in the open and rectified. Voters have a right to know that their private information and voting rights were compromised. Voters who have been notified of the breach are greatly concerned and are demanding that the City Attorney, election authorities and the Mayor’s office get involved.” 

In a second e-mail following the release of confidential voter information, Mr. Handal wrote: "The Studio City Neighborhood Council elections are documentation, they are online, and there are 7 ballots with voters able to qualify for up to 5 ballots. This scenario is unique to SCNC and the difficulties that voters are experiencing are specific to SCNC." 

Richard Welsh SCNC candidate for Homeowners seat says “After all I have seen and read on this topic, I can only conclude that the system for voter qualification as established by the SCNC is fatally flawed. 

The fact that confidential evidence is required to prove voter eligibility inherently creates a situation where an election under this system cannot be fairly and transparently administered. 

It is my strong feeling that the election should be postponed indefinitely until which time an emergency task force can be convened to reestablish the parameters of the process using a more conventional and inclusive model as should be readily available in the form of other Neighborhood Council procedures.” 

For more information on Studio City Neighborhood Empowerment go to www.ourstudiocity.org

 

If you have registered for on-line voting and have concerns over privacy and/or election transparency issues write to: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

 

(This report was provided by Eric Preven, Patrice Berlin and Richard Welsh, all candidates in this year’s Studio City Neighborhood Council election.)

-cw

 

TrustUNworthy! California OK’s Aid-in-Dying Law … Drug Companies Instantly Hike the Price of Meds

DEATH POLITICS--When California’s aid-in-dying law takes effect this June, terminally ill patients who decide to end their lives could be faced with a hefty bill for the lethal medication. It retails for more than $3,000. Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes the drug most commonly used in physician-assisted suicide, doubled the drug’s price last year, one month after California lawmakers proposed legalizing the practice.  

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The Importance of Drought Tolerant Gardens in LA … and What You Can Do about It

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Sometimes it is important to step back from the weighty city planning and environmental issues confronting Los Angeles to focus on the small, personal steps we can take to make LA a more attractive and sustainable city. This is why I want to focus on drought tolerant gardens, something the minority of Angelenos who live in single-family homes can act on. 

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My Reform Forum Takeaway: DWP Reform Not Ready for Prime Time

EASTSIDER-In lieu of my normal straight reporting job on these events, let me just say my take-away from Tuesday evening’s DWP Reform Forum, organized by the Pat Brown Institute and CSULA, is all in the headline above -- after attending this forum, trying to put DWP Governance Reform on this year’s ballot would be a colossal mistake. 

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LA’s Cash-Strapped Rec and Parks Sold Its Soul for a Million Bucks!

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-(CityWatch reported this disturbing story … an example of how money blinds, how greedy green can overwhelm green parks and wildlife … earlier this month. This is a sad follow to that story.) The Make Good Group LLC, a marketing agency that bills itself as The Social Impact Company, is behind the three-day, multi-stage AngelFest that could bring 65,000 visitors per day to the Sepulveda Basin (photo above) this October, but not without continued pushback from neighbors and conservation groups including the Audubon Society. 

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