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Wed, Apr

Schools Declared a ‘Safe Zone’: LAUSD says No to ICE Enforcers

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Public schools in Los Angeles, where about 50 percent of the student body is Latino, will not allow immigration officials onto school premises as the U.S. continues its crackdown on undocumented Central American immigrants. The Los Angeles Unified School District board decided Tuesday to name schools, from kindergarten to high school, as "safe zones" and resource centers for students and families threatened by the enforcement of new immigration laws. The resolution cited a "heightened sense of fear and anxiety" among students and families in the district, as well as the need for school grounds to welcome families who have questions about immigration. 

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Perfect Storm: The NII Ballot Measure Battle Lines are Drawn

VOX POP--Thunderstorms are an infrequent occurrence in Los Angeles. Last November all sides in the ongoing and often litigious development wars in Los Angeles – those who see density as a cure for all that ails us and the NIMBYs who want to embalm LA as it was 20 years ago – were caught off guard by the sound of thunder. A group named the Coalition to Preserve LA proposed a ballot measure that would establish a moratorium of up to two years for any development project that does not adhere to existing planning regulations or that requires a City Council vote to change the zoning of a particular site. 

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Los Angeles: Three-Card Monte and Bike Lanes

GUEST WORDS--Three-card Monte is a confidence game in which the victim (the “mark”) bets that they can find the “money card” – typically the queen of hearts – among three face-down playing cards. It’s a shell game without the shells. Dealers employ sleight of hand and misdirection to prevent the mark from finding the queen. The bottom line is that the mark always loser. 

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LA’s City Council Addicted: Can’t Stop Making Sweet Deals on City Property

GUEST COMMENTARY-Just eighteen months prior to handing over (in a below-market private sale) the keys to an old firehouse (photo above) bordering Richard Weintraub’s proposed development site for Sportsmen’s Landing, the City slapped Mr. Weintraub with a $1.6 million lawsuit to recover several years’ worth of taxes that he, as a hotel owner, was required to but did not pay.  

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Justice Scalia: The View from Here

A THEORY ON EVERYTHING-With the passing of 79 year-old United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday one can only hope we will have a reprieve from his reactionary "originalism" legal views. This might allow us to bring our country and the Supreme Court into the 21st century and a chance of achieving liberty and justice for all under law. 

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Is LA Now Giving Advice On Bypassing ‘No Pet’ Rules at Rental Properties?

ANIMAL WATCH-None of the following is intended as legal advice. Information contained herein is strictly for informational purposes. If you are a landlord in Los Angeles and have specific questions or situations regarding Service/Emotional Support Animals, talk with an attorney or rental-property owners’ association, such as the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) or Apartment Owners' Association (AOA). Both tenants and landlords can find information at HCID. 

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Find Your Neighborhood Council, Find Your Voice at City Hall

Find Your Neighborhood Council, Find Your Voice Here.

GET INVOLVED--This is a message to all residents of the City of Los Angeles, urging you to participate in your local neighborhood council. It is a chance for you to have an influence on the choices that your city government makes, such as the way that spending is divided among things like road repairs, parks, or public safety. (Photo above: Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council raising its voice.) 

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No Más Deaths! Stakeholders Demand Curren Price Support a Bike Lane for Central Ave

WORD ON THE LA STREETS BLOG -- “Bottom line is, citizens want to be involved, they want to be engaged in the process of figuring out how we reprogram our streets, how we reprogram our communities, making it more livable, making it more desirable, making it safer.”

So said councilmember for the 9th District, Curren Price, when interviewed by KCET’s Nic Cha Kim at CicLAvia: South L.A. in December of 2014 (minute 4:20). 

It is a perspective that many who live, work, play, and move along the Central Avenue corridor in historic South Central share.

Given that the corridor communities have a median income hovering around $30,000, an average household size between of 4 and 9 people, a median age of 23, and little opportunity for economic advancement thanks to limited access to higher education, area residents are very much at the mercy of their environment. Rapidly rising rents and the lack of affordable housing around the city make it nearly impossible for them to move anywhere else. And the high dependence of many families on transit, cycling, and walking to get back and forth to work and school means that just going about their daily lives entails constant flirtations with danger.

Central Avenue, boasting the highest number of cyclists anywhere in the city during peak hours (and a very steady stream in off-peak hours), has seen nearly 300 collisions between drivers and pedestrians or cyclists over the last decade.

That we know of, that is.

Many of those who have been hit by cars have never reported the incidents to authorities, either because they preferred to handle things informally with the driver, the injuries were minor, or the incident was a hit-and-run and they saw no point.

So, even though more than three-quarters of residents are renters, the vast majority would tell you they are deeply invested in the well-being of their neighborhoods and would like nothing better than to see them become safer and healthier places for all.

Thus far, however, efforts to get Councilmember Price to sit down and have that conversation with stakeholders about their needs and aspirations have proven futile.

Over the past year, the community has been shut out of discussions about Great Streets’ and the councilmember’s plans to remake Central Avenue in the image of Broadway (downtown) and to remove the Central Avenue bike lane planned to help bike commuters get safely between Watts, historic South Central, and jobs downtown from the Mobility Plan altogether.

The Great Streets plans for the street were only made available to the public after Streetsblog published an article complaining about the blatant steamrolling of the community. When local stakeholders tried to follow up by delivering letters to the councilmember’s office and approaching the members of the Business Improvement District, they were still not able to get any response from Price to their demands for a bike lane.

Fed up with failed attempts at peaceful engagement and concerned that Price would once again try to see Central Ave. removed from the Mobility Plan at the City Planning Commission hearing, residents took action. Gathering their signs, courage, a megaphone, and a banner to be hung on Price’s building, they stormed the councilmember’s constituent center at Vernon and Central yesterday.

“We’re tired of coming to you!” said resident and safe streets advocate Samuel Bankhead.

“When are you going to come to our* office?” he continued. “I’m asking…when are you coming down to have a dialogue?…What solution do you have?” [*He was referring to the conference room a TRUST South LA, where residents, volunteers, and stakeholders regularly meet, discuss community problems and potential solutions, and plan community engagements as part of a mobility advisory council.]

Staff on site were not able to offer much in the way of reassurances.

When District Director James Westbrooks was asked by Bankhead if he would be willing to tell the kids standing there — kids that are regularly transported back and forth to school by bike along Central Avenue — that “we’re not gonna have a bike lane,” there was not much Westbrooks could say.

Price made up his mind on the subject a long time ago.

Sadly, the logic used to reach that decision — detailed in a statement emailed in response to stakeholders’ action — seems rather questionable. 

For one, Price says that safety is the key reason it would be difficult to add lanes to Central Avenue. Arguing it is “too narrow, has significant cut-through traffic all day, and has no pocket lane for left-hand turns,” he says there is no space for a lane.

But the narrowness of the street would really only be an issue in the context of the extension of the sidewalks, as suggested in the Great Streets plan, for the very brief section of Central between Vernon and Adams. That plan would put the street on a road diet and, instead of using valuable road real estate to carve out space for cyclists, install planters and bollards to make it feel like the pedestrian space had been extended.

The reconfiguration of Central Avenue, as proposed by Great Streets, includes a road diet, extended sidewalks, and the shifting of the bike lane planned to run from Watts to Little Tokyo over to Avalon. Source: Great Streets

The concrete sidewalks themselves would only be extended if funding should become available — something not likely to happen for several years, at the earliest. Meaning that most of the street space “reclaimed” by Great Streets would likely go underutilized, possibly for years.

Meanwhile, instead of taking the option to head a half-mile east to Avalon or a parallel side street (as suggested by Price and the Great Streets program), cyclists would likely continue to ride on the narrow and crowded sidewalks they ride on now (antagonizing business owners hoping to create an enticing pedestrian environment) or further slowing traffic by riding in the single traffic lane created by the road diet.

No one wins in that scenario.

But it’s Price’s other point that really drives stakeholders crazy.

“As a grandfather of small children,” his statement continues, “I would feel uneasy riding our bikes along this busy thoroughfare knowing the dangerous implications.”

Yes!

Exactly!

This is exactly the reason stakeholders finally stormed his office yesterday!

They are tired of being uneasy and they are tired of feeling that they are constantly in danger!

Unlike Price, however, because they are lower-income, are patrons of shops on Central, have kids in schools along the corridor, work along the corridor, and reside along the corridor, they don’t have a choice about where to ride.

As explained in depth here, gang activity makes the side streets a very difficult proposition for youth, lone commuter cyclists, and families. Busy thoroughfares like Central Avenue offer lots of eyes, familiar faces, and potential safe havens. And, it is one of the few streets in the area that offers a straight shot between the downtown warehouses (where many of the commuters work), historic South Central, and Watts.

For folks who are trying to get to work on bikes that are in questionable condition because they can’t afford better ones or who have kids in tow, having to travel as much as a mile out of their way just to access a short stretch of bike infrastructure can also constitute a real hardship. The city would never ask drivers to make such a detour or to take the least safe route. It makes no sense to put that burden on the shoulders of the most vulnerable of LA’s citizens.

Gang territories in Historic South Central; Central Ave. is the border on the right edge of the lopsided figure. The borders between gang territories — generally main streets — are often where you have a lot of activity between rivals, but civilians are generally able to pass. Gangs’ occupation of neighborhoods means that side streets are where gang members tend to feel they can act with impunity. People who don’t live on those streets tend to avoid them. Source: Coalition for Responsible Community Development

South Central cyclists are the economic engine of the community.

The vast majority are riding out of necessity: they can’t afford transit, work off-peak hours, are making deliveries between small businesses, or have to get to several sites in a short space of time.

Their existence is already precarious.

The least the city can do is offer them slightly safer passage so they can bring home a salary to their families, get their kids to school safely, patronize local businesses, and continue to build a stronger community.

If, as Price contends, he takes seriously his responsibility “to make the best…decision on behalf of the entire community,” then hopefully he will rethink his effort to see the Central Avenue bike lane removed from the Mobility Plan.

Disadvantaging his constituents who struggle the most does not uplift the community.

It undermines it.

(Sahra Sulaiman writes for LA Streets Blog … where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

 

Rising Crime Connection: Chief Beck Disbands LAPD’s Parole Compliance Units

LAPD INSIDER-On January 28, 2016, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck unilaterally disbanded the Parole Compliance Units (PCU) within all divisions of the LAPD and ordered that those officers assigned to the PCU be redeployed to patrol assignments. That was the Unit that specialized in conducting checks on early release "non-violent, non-serious" offenders. 

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Jill Stewart: ‘The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will Not Stop (Legal) Development’

DEEGAN ON LA--Last Sunday was not a day of rest for Jill Stewart, the Campaign Director of the just-launched Coalition to Preserve Los Angeles who said the same thing to a group of 45 community activists and in a video interview for the newsletter of a major residential association: “The (CPLA’s) Neighborhood Integrity Initiative ballot measure will stop the “back-room” deals between developers and council members.” 

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It’s Easy: My Solution to the 10% Drop In Metro Ridership

TRANSIT TRAVELER-Ridership for Metro is down ten percent, causing an onslaught of debates, advice, admonishments and calls for change to the transit network. This collective outburst is rather strange considering that, only seven to ten percent of the people use transit, and the rest don’t. This means everyone else is a driver. 

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Here’s Why You Can’t Afford a House In LA

NEW GEOGRAPHY--There’s little argument that inequality, and the depressed prospects for the middle class, will be a dominant issue this year’s election. Yet the most powerful force shaping this reality—the rising cost of housing—has barely emerged as political issue.

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Gil Cedillo: LA’s Do-Nothing District 1 Boss

LET’S TALK NELA, CONT.--Dissatisfaction with the imperious ways of do-nothing district boss Gil Cedillo is spreading…though perhaps it’s unfair to call him a “do nothing.” He has, after all, cancelled the Figueroa Street redo that would have boosted business and quite likely prevented the four deaths that have occurred on that street since his election; he has, after all, kept Reyes Park at Humboldt Street effectively closed (a narrow gate is open at each end, but the foreboding jail-like fences blocking the main entryways effectively keep the park deserted); and he has, after all, gotten the city to place a few of the same plastic trash bins it is placing everywhere else along Fig as well, generating one of Cedillo’s precious photo ops. (Photo above.)

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Forget Kinsey, the Whole Coastal Commission Should Walk the Plank

CAUGHT IN THE ACT-Show trials aren’t what they used to be. Ask California Coastal Commission Chairman Steve Kinsey, whose hearing this Wednesday in Morro Bay to decide the fate of the Commission’s Executive Director Charles Lester was supposed to be a brief “fake-weighing” of the evidence, followed by a hearty pushing of Dr. Lester into the sea. But instead, it’s ended up as a cause celebre among environmental heavy weights and some not-at-all-grandstanding politicians who think Dr. Lester should be kept on board, if not canonized. 

The truth is that Dr. Lester should not be kept on board. In fact, the public should give Mr. Kinsey a hand when he leans over to push Dr. Lester off the ship of state. And then, once Dr. Lester is safely off the boat and Kinsey still has his back to us, we should push him overboard as well. And after that, Commissioner Wendy Mitchell should also get the heave-ho. That should do it for now. 

Why all the shoving? Because all three of these individuals recently betrayed the public’s trust in a very specific way which, unlike Mr. Kinsey’s “charges” against Dr. Lester, can be clearly detailed and explained as follows:    

Shortly after the Commission approved, on January 9, 2015, the construction of a 75 to 82 foot high automated dry stack boat storage facility with 11,600 square feet of water coverage (i.e. the structure will hang over that many square feet of water) at Basin H in Marina del Rey (permit No. 5- 14-0770), Commissioners Kinsey and Mitchell, along with Dr. Lester -- as well as the rest of the Commission -- were informed that several key representations presented to the Commission in connection with the project application were false. 

The false information could hardly have been more material. In response to a question regarding the logistic feasibility of the proposed automated storage system, the Commission was assured by one of Dr. Lester’s deputies (with Dr. Lester himself observing) that, in effect, the technology was tried and true; specifically, that “other parts of the country use this technology” and so it’s “not unproven.” The falsity of this claim has never been disputed. 

The truth is that there is only one operational fully automated dry stack boat storage facility in the world, and that facility, far from being an argument in favor of the Marina del Rey project, makes it clear why this current project needs to be further vetted by Commissioners. To date, the commissioners have not received full and clear information about what they and their constituents are getting themselves into. 

First, the referenced operational facility (in Port Marina, Florida) doesn’t work for small boats. A wet slip (the most convenient and desirable way to store one’s boat) in the Marina del Rey market costs between $625 and $700 per month for a 34-foot boat, including hookups. Yet the rental fee for the same sized boat at the Port Marina automated facility is approximately double the cost. 

Commissioner Mitchell has stated that her support for the Marina del Rey project was, to a significant extent, based on the belief that it would increase the public’s access to the marina by offering more places for small boats to be stored. But shouldn’t learning that small boats will not be accommodated by the new structure prompt Commissioner Mitchell to ask for some clarifications on all this?   

The public and the Commissioners are owed full and accurate disclosure of what taxpayer dollars are being spent for an invaluable coastal location whose charter requires it to be safeguarded for public recreation. The most efficient way to do that would be to reconsider the item at the Coastal Commission's next meeting so that all the new information could be taken into account by the Commissioners. They would then be free to vote the same way they did the first time if they so chose. This is the kind of due diligence that the law, common sense, and good citizenship require. Chair Kinsey has several times been asked, yet still refuses, to reconsider the item. 

And by, in effect, suppressing important new evidence regarding the boat storage development, Commissioners Kinsey and Mitchell, as well as Dr. Lester, have committed much the same transgression as do lawyers who neglect to inform their clients of a settlement offer. Those lawyers get debarred. 

(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government.  He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a teacher who lives in Los Angeles. Views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. ) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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