14
Sun, Apr

Inside LA’s $1.85 Billion ‘Plan to End Homelessness’

HOW MUCH WILL LA PAY?--Last year, Mayor Eric Garcetti stood in Skid Row pledging to devote $100 million in city funds to the "war on homelessness." Months later, details on where the money was coming from or what it exactly it would be put towards still eluded the public. It was heartening that city officials recognized the growing homeless population and an imperative to act on it, but the solutions were not grounded or all-encompassing.

This week, the city of LA released a comprehensive report on what strategies and financial costs would be required to systematically wipe out homelessness in Los Angeles.

The report calls the City Council's pledge of $100 million in homeless funding an "important first step," but would have to be "magnified significantly" over the next ten years to actually fund the end of homelessness in Los Angeles.

According to the report, to fully tackle the homelessness epidemic in Los Angeles, some $1.85 billion would have to be spent over the course of a decade, reports the LA Times  -- and that's a number that "primarily the price of building or leasing new housing units," but not the expanded services and workers to provide them the report also recommends.

Last year, City Ad­min­is­trat­ive Of­ficer Miguel Santana and Chief Le­gis­lat­ive Ana­lyst Sharon Tso were put in charge of compiling the report that would act as a starting point for Los Angeles' first comprehensive plan to end homelessness in the city. The resulting document lays out several strategies officials believe will work in tandem to more effectively get people off the streets.

They offer the following as focal points for their plan:

Housing First
The report praises and advocates for a strong adherence to the Housing First approach, saying it "works to remove barriers to housing upfront in order to encourage better health outcomes for chronically homeless individuals." The Housing First philosophy is just as it sounds, putting the individual in long-term housing as a first step, and then applying social assistance to contribute to self-sufficiency.

Expand Rapid Re-Housing
Rapid Re-Housing involves taking individuals and families that are homeless and giving them rent vouchers for a specific period of time in an effort to give them footing to get back into the private housing market. It is thought to be more successful with people who are not chronically homeless. (It's also been very effective for families with kids, early evidence shows.) The report calls for an expansion of the program to quickly reduce the number of lower needs cases in the city.

Offering More Shelters and Storage Facilities
One short term solution the report offers is an increase in shelters and modifications in the services they provide. Currently, Skid Row is the central hub for homeless, necessitating long and costly commutes for many. A greater number of shelters around the city would ease access to case workers, health and social services, as well as laundry and hygiene facilities and allow people to "easily connect to the services they need to manage their personal well being."

Also suggested is expanding a safe parking program for those living in RVs and the creation of a mobile shower program that would travel the city offering a chance to wash up as well as connection to case management.

Acknowledge the Demographics of the Homeless
The report recognizes the need to distinguish the different types of homeless individuals to more effectively cater to the unique needs of each group rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The report breaks down the homeless population into four demographics: individuals, families, youths, and veterans. Different services can be targeted towards each subgroup to maximize their individual effectiveness.

City Council asked the City Ad­min­is­trat­ive Of­ficer (CAO) and Chief Le­gis­lat­ive Ana­lyst (CLA) to put an extra focus on homeless youth, LBGTQ homeless, as well as homeless individuals with pets that are often denied access to shelter due to the animal. People under these circumstances might require extra levels of service that fit their unique situation.

"No Wrong Door"/Coordinated Entry System
The "No Wrong Door" concept advocates that any city department that regularly comes in contact with the homeless could be equipped to connect those individuals with social, medical, or housing resources. Places like libraries and public parks would be used as access point to get people into social service programs.

Integrated into the "No Wrong Door" policy would be a Coordinated Entry System, a standardized entry into social services databases that would ensure "detailed and verifiable tracking of metrics at the level of the individual." Homeless data with this increased level of individual information will help the city better analyze the effectiveness of their programs.

Increased Accountability in Government
The report advocates for the creation of a "Homeless Strategy Committee" made up of the mayor, CAO, and CLA. In addition, the position of "Homeless Coordinator" would be created and filled with an expert in the field. The Coordinator would report to the CAO, acting as the point-person between City Hall and homeless services. The Homeless Coordinator would be in charge on enacting any city plans on homelessness.

Rezoning
In a move that might ruffle the feathers of NIMBYs all over town, the report stresses a need to revisit the land use policies of the city, citing a need for greater density. Part of the reason for the housing shortage has been city plans that skew towards lower density in the face of a growing population. The authors urge the city to analyze "existing residential and mixed-use zoning and land use capabilities citywide, creating new citywide residential zoning maps with greater density in areas most capable of supporting it." The report does recognize how controversial rezoning can be, so they make a note of suggesting city officials work with local communities to "reconcile these citywide maps with their existing local neighborhood plans."

Mayor Garcetti called the report "the blueprint we need to guide our decision-making process," but it remains to be seen how much of these plans will actually be enacted, as the price tag is certainly steep. Also unclear is what effect the proposed $1.8 billion in state funding for housing mentally-ill homeless people will have on the overall price. The report's authors suggest everything from state and federal grants to fees on real estate transactions to help foot the bill, but admit that funding might have to come from a bond or tax hike. Though Mayor Garcetti has talked a big talk about ending homelessness, proposing a tax hike might be a tough sell if he's running for mayor again in 2017.

At least one city official seems confident about public support for the plan. Councilman Mike Bonin told KPCC that he's "impatient" about enacting the plan, claiming constituents in his Westside district cite homelessness as a top concern, even higher than traffic. He added that "we have to do a lot of work to get those funding streams in place," but that "people are hungry for proposed solutions." Bonin thinks that if "folks really believe the city and county are working together," they would be open to funding such an expensive plan.

(Jeff Wattenhofer writes for Curbed LA, where this perspective was first posted.) Image via Tom Andrews / Curbed LA flickr pool. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016

There’s Too Much at Risk: Latinos in LA Must Get Their Flu Shots!

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-In an Op-Ed last December, the LA Times brought to our attention the results of UCLA’s California Health Interview Survey which noted that only 43% of Californians received a flu shot in 2014. Worse, among Latinos, the largest racial or ethnic group in the state, only 37% were vaccinated, many of them in Los Angeles. 

The Opinion/Op-Ed illustrated that in early November, California had its first infant death of the year from the flu. It can be easy to forget that the flu actually does kill. Young, healthy adults might only miss a few days of work if they catch the flu this winter, but by skipping flu shots, getting sick and potentially spreading the virus, they are also endangering vulnerable children, many with chronic diseases, as well as the elderly with whom they come in contact. 

That statistic becomes even more troubling when one examines differences among first, second and third-generation Latinos. First-generation Mexican Americans — those born in Mexico, where vaccination is widespread and more commonly accepted than in the United States — are far more likely to get flu shots than those born and raised here. In 2014, only 24% of second-generation Latinos and 15% of third-generation Latinos in California received a flu vaccination, compared with 61% of first-generation Latinos. 

A Los Angeles Times study, using the California Health Interview Survey data, showed that even when taking into account factors such as insurance status, health status and characteristics such as education and age, the disparity in flu vaccination rates among Mexican Americans of different generations remains. 

This is an economic issue as well as a public health issue. One study estimated that in just one year, 2003, the flu cost the United States $87.1 billion in medical costs and lost wages. The Latino population is expanding in Los Angeles and California, and that means absenteeism and hospitalization costs associated with the lack of flu vaccinations will also expand if the generational patterns continue. 

There is one simple explanation for why vaccination rates among second and third-generation Latinos differ so significantly from those of their newcomer parents and grandparents. Mexico heavily promotes vaccination in general, and it has the highest rate of flu vaccination among people 65 and older in the nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In the U.S., however, many people aren't persuaded by public health campaigns for flu shots; they are suspicious of vaccinations, wrongly believing that shots cause health problems rather than prevent them. 

The flu vaccination message that has been so well communicated in Mexico needs to spread to Latinos and everyone else in California. Flu shot campaigns aimed at Latinos should particularly target second and third-generation immigrants. Now, such campaigns are mostly delivered in Spanish, though the Pew Hispanic Center has shown that English is the predominant language for the children of newcomers. Family-related messages are also important because many Latinos live in multigenerational homes, where the risk of spreading the flu to the very young, to the elderly, as well as to those with chronic diseases, is acute. 

We must agree with the conclusion of the writers of the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed piece (Mariaelena Gonzalez, assistant professor of public health and a member of the Health Sciences Research Institute at UC Merced, and Jennifer Mendiola and Van Do-Reynoso, both doctoral candidates at UC Merced) when they say that California and Washington should provide funding for new outreach to promote free or low-cost vaccinations; they should also fund additional research into the most effective forms of health communication for our changing population. 

The lack of wide-spread vaccinating among Latinos creates unnecessary dangers. Economic losses, due to the flu and the deaths associated with it each winter, are preventable with a one-dose vaccine. Los Angeles, a city that already has many issues to solve, does not need to add this unnecessary and preventable problem to the pile.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village.  He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016  

 

 

Report Card: California’s Response to the Porter Ranch Gas Leak

CALWATCHDOG--Gov. Jerry Brown has intervened as activists, analysts and residents decried a massive ongoing leak in a Los Angeles-area gas pipeline. “More than two months after a natural gas leak began emitting large amounts of a greenhouse gas near a wealthy neighborhood here, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, ordering California agencies to move as quickly as possible to resolve the issue after previous attempts to stem the flow of methane failed,” the New York Times reported.  

“In declaring the state of emergency, Mr. Brown — who has been criticized by many residents for his slow reaction to the problem — reiterated all the state has been doing to help plug the leak and monitor air quality, as well as the state’s efforts to make sure the gas company paid for disruptions and damage caused by the leak,” the Times added.

An environmental mess

The disaster afflicting Porter Ranch, one of Los Angeles’s newest communities, has broken unflattering environmental records. Already “the largest recorded natural gas leak in California’s history,” according to the Independent, the leak has been “expelling an estimated 110,000 lbs of methane into the atmosphere every hour: about a quarter of the state’s daily methane gas emissions.” Tim O’Connor, California director for the Environmental Defense Fund’s oil and gas program, told the Independent that the leak was “far greater than the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster” in its aggregate impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Southern California Gas has conceded that its own judgment may well have been to blame for the breach. In a statement, the company revealed “it decided nearly 40 years ago against replacing an underground safety valve that could have cut off the gas leak when the storage tank first erupted in late October,” as the Fiscal Times observed. “Executives of Southern California Gas apparently concluded it was too hard to find replacement parts for the valve and that the underground storage tank wasn’t close enough to homes to warrant the time and expense. Instead, they gambled that the cutoff valve would never be needed. Now they are struggling to contain runaway greenhouse gas emissions that could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and greatly contribute to climate change.”

Fumes and fury

The news has compounded outrage and frustration in Porter Ranch, where Southern California Gas has moved to help residents cope with — or flee — the fumes. “This is the biggest community and environmental disaster I’ve ever seen, bar none,” Mitchell Englander, the neighborhood’s representative on the Los Angeles City Council, told Bloomberg. “Life there is not on hold — it’s on the edge and it’s on the brink of pandemonium. People are living with fear, uncertainty and doubt.” What residents remain have been plagued by discomfort and illness.

“A shopping center by the freeway still bustles, but the longest lines are at a storefront that Southern California Gas established to assist residents with relocation, health problems, air-filtration systems and claims. The smell of chemicals added to natural gas — which itself is colorless and odorless — pervades the air. Homes of residents who’ve already received relocation assistance sit vacant, while signs warn of increased police patrols to ward off looters. Some residents and visitors wear gas masks.”

Health officials have issued reassurances that residents’ symptoms, including dizziness and vomiting, were only temporary.

Gov. Brown himself arranged to meet neighborhood representatives. Paula Cracium, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, told the Los Angeles Times “she and others at the meeting urged Brown to be more visible on the issue and to help with a major concern that will last long after the leak is plugged — declining property values.”

(James Poulos writes for CalWatchdog … where this perspective was originally published.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016

I’m Happy Sheldon Adelson Wants to Own a Newspaper

TRADE WINDS--There is good news and bad news to report from the world of those whose business it is to relay the news. The good news is that the family of Sheldon Adelson, the casino-owning billionaire, bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest daily paper in Nevada, at the end of last year. The bad news, too, is that the Adelsons, who initially sought to hide their controlling interest in the Review-Journal, bought the paper.

The purchase is good news because it’s a vote of confidence in the continuing relevance of metropolitan newspapers. Adelson is one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful business tycoons, with a net worth estimated at more than $20 billion. He is such an important Republican funder that presidential candidates half-jokingly refer to their bids for his support as the “Adelson primary.”

Adelson is also hugely influential in Israel, where he owns newspapers and is close to the prime minister, and in China, given his casino company’s dominant presence in Macau. The fact that Adelson (his sons, technically) deemed their hometown paper a coveted trophy (they paid an inflated $140 million for it) is a sign that newspapers may be making a comeback, at least as billionaire status symbols. Ten years ago when I worked at the Los Angeles Times we practically begged deep-pocketed Angelenos to make an offer for the paper, but to little avail.

Business tycoons, like the rest of us mortals, are susceptible to trends and fads, and when someone like Adelson considers newspapers as desirable a commodity as sports franchises or yachts, other prospective buyers tend to follow. Indeed, Jeff Bezos’ 2013 purchase of the Washington Post may have done more than anything in a long time to make newspaper ownership cool again. And that’s what this industry needs—billionaires eager to rescue newspapers for their cool factor. Certainly no one has been rushing to buy them these days for their profitability.

The bad news, of course, is that Adelson’s injection of resources into the newspaper will likely come at the expense of its independence. Why, after all, does he really want to control the paper? You now have the wealthiest tycoon in the city’s leading industry controlling its largest news outlet. Adelson no doubt believes he is providing a civic good by ensuring the viability of the newspaper’s future, but he also has a strong agenda when it comes to litigation and regulatory issues affecting his casino empire, and how they are covered in the press.

Even if Adelson turns out to be a more benign owner than liberal critics are assuming he will be, it’s safe to assume that the Review-Journal will not be known in coming years for its aggressive reporting on the casino industry or on Adelson’s business dealings in Macau.

Debates about media ownership, about who controls the printing presses and airwaves, have long been an impassioned subject in this country, and for good reason.

By the same token, while Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post provided a needed boost in resources to one of the nation’s most important newspapers, it’s safe to assume that the Post won’t be taking the lead in covering how Amazon is altering the retail landscape and influencing legislation in various jurisdictions. But at least Bezos isn’t a Washington insider, giving his journalists a great deal more autonomy than their counterparts in Las Vegas are likely to enjoy.

Debates about media ownership, about who controls the printing presses and airwaves, have long been an impassioned subject in this country, and for good reason. The First Amendment doesn’t allow the government to directly control who can or can’t own newspapers, but Washington has for decades imposed media ownership limits via its power to award licenses to run TV and radio news broadcasters. The somewhat antiquated media ownership rules, and the public debates around them, blindly champion the ideal of so-called localism, of preferring media owners embedded in the communities they cover.

Adelson’s ownership of the Review-Journal suggests the potential downsides to local ownership of media. So does history: It was the local ownership of many TV stations in the deep South that blocked national network coverage of the civil rights movement a half-century ago.  (Photo left: Adelson)

At the same time, the critically-acclaimed movie Spotlight offers a veiled homage to the underappreciated advantages to out-of-town ownership. The movie, about the Boston Globe’s inquiry into the epidemic of Catholic priests abusing minors and its cover-up by the church, barely alludes to the fact that the newspaper was at the time owned by the The New York Times. Much of Spotlight’s dramatic tension revolves around the journalists’ willingness to stand up to, and upset, powerful local interests, but little is made of the fact that their institutional employer was insulated from such pressure by the fact that its owner wasn’t local.

Having worked at four different newspapers, I know there are always trade-offs when it comes to who owns media, and that the character of owners isn’t solely determined by whether they are local or out of town, individual or corporate. It is hard to come by truly judicious and independent owners who can act as truly neutral community arbiters. The profile of the ideal media owner, from a public interest standpoint, is an individual or family with deep roots in a community that is focused primarily, if not exclusively, on the news business, and won’t compromise that journalistic integrity to advance other business interests. Think of the Sulzbergers of New York or the Grahams of Washington.

Problem is, such owners are becoming an endangered species, given the challenges to the traditional newspaper business model. Many 20th-century newspaper-owning families were admirably principled and civic-minded, but it’s also true that they were making big profits that shored up their independence. In its present crisis, the newspaper business needs more people like Bezos and Adelson to enter the fray, to subsidize newsgathering with fortunes made in other businesses. The hope is that such individuals will do so because they believe it’s a worthy philanthropic cause, or because they think they can re-engineer the business model over time to make decent returns on a once distressed asset.

The worry, however, is that new owners will wade into the business not for those reasons, but to help their own pre-existing agendas. Which is why we should all keep an eye on what happens in Vegas. Contrary to Sin City’s marketing slogan, whatever happens there with the Review-Journal and its new owner is unlikely to stay there. It will help shape a national trend.

(Andrés Martinez writes the Trade Winds column for Zócalo Public Square, where this column was first posted. He is also Zocalo editorial director and  professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and a fellow at New America.)

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CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Cities: LA is Not New York …Yet

DEEGAN ON LA--Our city may have more billionaires than Manhattan, the fabled, silk-stockinged borough in New York City, but we don’t yet have what that Eastern city has:  a “billionaire’s row” where there is competition to see who can build the tallest building to house the richest owners. 

Aren’t we lucky? But for some, don’t we wish! (Photo above: NY Skyscrapers) 

“Tower Envy” has arrived -- along with the desire by some in powerful positions to make us look like Manhattan. 

Laid back Los Angeles has its share of high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs -- a big collection of family foundations and scores of “paper millionaires” who may have been serving you dinner last night and are still dreaming that their script will be the next big box office hit.

But we don’t have that many towers … for now. New York City has, by recent count, ten times as many towers as we have here in LA. And many say, “let’s keep it that way.”  But others say, “game on.”

It used to be that New York’s 1,250-foot tall Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. Now, there are two dozen 1,000 foot plus towers in construction or the planning stages in New York, several of them on Billionaire’s Row between the southern edge of Central Park and 56th Street.

Nowhere, in our own City of Gold, epicenter of the Golden State, do we have what our eastern cousins have on “billionaires row” (although we do have a “billionaires beach.”) And we don’t have a building boom breaking the 1,000 foot barrier. That would be equivalent to 100 floors! There’s lots happening on “billionaire’s row” in New York and it is causing some anguish.  We should learn from their pain.

Pro-growth supporters here in LA, those being accused of trying to turn our city into another New York, can take heart that the average height of our tall buildings is only 41 stories; theirs is 39 stories, but those are dubious bragging rights -- they have many more tall buildings than we have, ten times as many, as reported in tracking by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

A city of steel canyons shading it most of the day, New York City presents a stark contrast to sun-kissed Southern California. The direct sunlight, all day and all year, is one of our region’s true natural attributes, along with our mountains and valleys and the stretch of Pacific Ocean coastline communities from the South Bay to Malibu. Add in the surf and sunscreen and you have the complete opposite of “The Big City.” 

This is one of the things that attracts people here in the first place…a climate unmatched by most cities on Earth, a population that “lives and lets live,” and a pride that we don’t have to be anything more than what we are: a City of Gold. Why would we want to be a “City of Shade” like Manhattan? 

As the civic leaders and those in the third floor executive suite at City Hall, the politicos, developers and NIMBY’s all know: there’s a huge conversation going on about being LA -- laid back or New York “Manhattanized.” Low slung or vertical? Increased density or missed opportunities for growth? Or is it mix?

Two of the newest, and let’s hope freshest leading voices in this conversation will be recently appointed (subject to confirmation) Vince Bertoni as Director of City Planning, who is currently Pasadena’s Planning Director. He is replacing the longtime incumbent Michael LoGrande, who has has resigned. The other new voice is Jill Stewart, executive director of the Coalition to Preserve LA, who is leaving her longtime post as editor of the LA Weekly to take up her new advocacy position.

The Mayor has had a “tear-down” in LoGrande, and now he’s bringing in a “fixer-upper”in Bertoni, as well as the vocal opposition now under the leadership of Stewart. She is putting in place a “shadow” planning department that may have its framework created by the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative ballot measure. 

So meet the new land use and development troika: Garcetti, Bertoni and Stewart.

What a great start to 2016. Everyone’s on notice: it’s not likely that we will experience the city planning chaos of 2015 that was marked by multiple lawsuits and equivocations. Politicos have to think twice about using their near-dictatorial powers over zoning in their council districts, making spot decisions and granting favors that go against the interests of the communities, and the community groups that must regroup to help to create a citywide strategy by aligning with the new leadership at the city planning department instead of automatically calling their lawyers.  (Photo right: Los Angeles skyscrapers.

The phrase, “I’ll sue you”, roared by community groups, should be tabled until the dust settles. We’ll have to see how the new planning director, the mayor, and the backers of the ballot measure arrive at a compromise. 

The new organization, CPLA (Coalition to Preserve LA) led by Jill Stewart, is influenced by the advocacy-experienced Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF.) It recently polled a group of concerned citizens and voters and learned that 72% of those surveyed expressed support for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative that would create boundaries within which developers and politicos will need to operate. Poll info can be seen here.  

There could be little doubt that the slew of successful lawsuits filed by community groups against the city and developers may have triggered the ballot measure. Emboldened by these successes, it’s becoming SOP for litigation to be as common as an EIR for new mega projects. As the city rapidly densifies, the litigation element is a huge red flag. Another could the growing concern that we are not experiencing unparalleled growth and soon we may become victims of a housing bubble, followed by a crash

Both Bertoni and Stewart bring considerable talents to the face-off involving continuing the low slung, horizontal profile of our city or spiking it upward to the stars complete with towers in the vertical profile typical of growing cities everywhere. 

Stewart’s remit is more interesting than Bertoni’s. The organization she fronts has newer energy and a smarter approach – to go over the heads of lawmakers, supporting the rights of the public by letting them vote on land use and development policy in November. The clock is ticking as the qualifying signatures accumulate. That should make the politicos sit down for some serious talks.

Vince Bertoni inherits a city planning department seen by many as a co-conspirator in turning our beautiful city into an eyesore. Mansionization and towers have signaled the decline of the city’s Mediterranean identity and the concurrent diminishment of our quality of life.

Towers may be inevitable as our city expands and continues to densify. But, they should be planned in areas zoned for them. Thesezones need to be part of an integrated master plan rather than the “Wild West” approach that satisfies the politicos and developers but not the needs of the greater city.

We should be thinking about the future generations that will settle in zones that are yet to be determined. 

“Planning” is the operative word and it must be returned to the vocabulary of “growth.”

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

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CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016

All the Reasons Why the St Louis Rams Think the NFL Should Let Them Move to LA

STADIUM WARS--Decision time is drawing close for the NFL to pick a team or teams to move back to Los Angeles, and this week the three combatants—the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, and St. Louis Rams—all submitted their official move requests to the league. 

The Rams have a plan to return to LA by way of a $1.86-billion Inglewood stadium, and the Chargers and Raiders have thrown their lot in together to lobby for a $1.7-billion stadium in Carson. Via the LA Times, we're getting a look at the argument one team, the Rams, made in explaining why they and their Inglewood stadium are the best choice for Los Angeles. 

The Inglewood stadium site has the best location, says the Rams; it's centrally located (between four freeways) and will be less than a mile away from a future Crenshaw Line station. The site will also have 12,675 dedicated parking spaces, plus "32,000 parking spaces available within one mile of the stadium and just under 42,000 available within two miles for large events such as the Super Bowl."

  • The Inglewood stadium would rise in an area that, for its association with the now-gone Hollywood Park racetrack and the recently renovated Forum, is already well-known to Angelenos. 
  • The site has all the necessary environmental approvals and has been primed for construction, so it's basically "shovel-ready" right now, according to the application. 
  • The nearly three-million-square-foot stadium would be the NFL's largest, and would be ready to go by 2019. (As the LA Times notes, the previously mentioned completion date was 2018. There's no explanation given for the new, later date.) 
  • But it's not the size of the stadium; it's how you use it. This one would accommodate two teams equally, offering each their own locker rooms, team offices, and owners' suites. (They are exactly the same in size, so no team would get the unfair advantage of larger locker rooms.) That means the Rams could share with, say, the Chargers, as they've said they're open to doing.
  • The clear roof and open sides of the stadium will protect football fans in "inclement weather" and be four degrees cooler in the seating area than an open stadium (excellent for those warm LA days).
  • The Inglewood stadium isn't just bigger than the one in Carson, it's got more seats from general admission up to the suites and club seats, which translates into more potential dollar signs for the NFL. The stadium would have 70,240 seats, plus room for 30,000 more in standing-room only conditions. It would also hold 274 suites and 16,300 premium seats. 
  • An Inglewood Super Bowl could make up to $50 million more than a Carson Super Bowl, say the Rams.
  • The NFL could take up in the multi-use complex rising up alongside the stadium (on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack) and create a central "NFL retail and entertainment district" in Inglewood.
  • The neighboring event venue could possibly host NFL-related events like the annual draft selection. "Other potential NFL opportunities on the campus include an NFL retail store, a West Coast wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and NFL-themed hotels."
  • LA was the Rams's stomping ground from 1946 to 1994, and people have not forgotten them. An LA Times poll taken in January 2015 showed that 62 percent of the more than 35,000 respondents wanted the Rams to come back to the city. 33 percent of poll-takers sided with the Raiders, and the Chargers only got 5 percent of respondents' support. The results of an NFL focus group in LA showed that "30 out of 53 respondents preferred the Rams to relocate, followed by 17 votes for the Chargers and 6 for the Raiders."
  • Rest assured there will be no money-related hiccups in the project because Rams owner/stadium developer Stan Kroenke is rich and can definitely pull this thing off, plus he's married to a Walmart heiress. 

(Ok, so what it actually says is "Mr. Kroenke, as developer of the Inglewood project, has a demonstrated ability to deliver on large real estate development projects," but they mean pretty much the same thing here.)

(Bianca Barragan is associate editor at CurbedLA.com, where this piece was first posted.)

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CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 3

Pub: Jan 8, 2016

LAUSD: The Year of Deaf Ears

EDUCATION POLITICS 2015--Under Bennett Kayser’s (photo) leadership, the LAUSD’s Budget, Facilities and Audit (BFA) Committee exposed details of John Deasy’s iPad program that helped lead to the former Superintendent’s resignation. Kayser was rewarded for his efforts with a campaign to unseat him that was heavily funded by the California Charters School Association (CSSA) and other corporate education “reformers.” After an election that included accusations that were not ethically sound, a $25,000 “Voteria” payout to one lucky voter and an attack based on Kayser’s Parkinson's diagnosis, Ref Rodriguez replaced Kayser (photo) on the Board. The effects of this change have already been felt in the District. 

Helping to force the resignation of a Superintendent placed on the Board by Eli Broad was an act that required a tenacity that does not seem to be possessed by the current BFA Committee. For example, after a presentation about the ways that the LAUSD Charter School Division is ignoring reports about violations of the ed code, the current Chairperson, Monica Ratliff, directed the Office of General Counsel (OGC) to look into the accusations. 

Had this instruction been followed, it could have been an important step in making sure that the LAUSD is properly regulating the charter schools under its jurisdiction. Unfortunately, instead of conducting an independent investigation, the OGC “communicated [these concerns] to the Charter Schools Division”, which was ironic considering the entire point of the presentation was to point out that the CSD was already aware of the accusations and that they had chosen not to pursue action. Not surprisingly, the CSD reported back to the OGC “that members of the Charter Schools Division have been working diligently on [these] concerns.” 

This conflicted with what the CSD had previously reported and the fact that corrective actions have still not taken place. With this type of inaction, is there any question how the Rodriguez affiliated “Lakeview Charter Academy was insolvent for nine years” without action by the CSD?  

Ref Rodriguez is more specific in his refusal to listen as he blocks  those who disagree with his viewpoints from his social media pages. Since his Facebook page and Twitter feed are promoted on his LAUSD hosted web site, this makes his censorship an example of government “abridging the freedom of speech”. The OGC tries to justify Rodriguez’ actions with the argument that “under the law, communication, even communication with a government entity, is not unfettered.” So much for the ability of citizens “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

As the department responsible for fulfilling public records requests, the OGC also utilizes its power to block the dissemination of information that can influence dialog within the District. Despite the District’s anticipation “that responsive records [would] be available on December 23, 2015”, the OGC has still not released information about Disruptive Parent Letters in response to a request that was made on August 17. 

Additionally, a response to a renewed request for information about the forced retirement of former Food Services head David Binkle has been delayed by the OGC for 14 days because “the District needs to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.” In previous correspondence they admitted that they were already in possession of at least two documents but would not release them because at that time they were part of an audit that was “the subject of an ongoing investigation.” 

A District that does not take complaints seriously, blocks stakeholders from social media accounts and refuses to release information to the public does not sound like one that is serious about its goal of “parent and community engagement”. Perhaps this goal is meant to be aspirational like “100 percent attendance” or “100 percent graduation”; achievements that are unattainable but that look good on paper. 

Under this scenario, the LAUSD only has to let the public speak but does not have to listen to what they are saying. However, true engagement requires much more, starting with an OGC that does not work against the interests of the people it is supposed to serve.

 

(Carl Petersen posts at Change the LAUSD and was candidate for the LA School Board. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

Stories from the Front Lines: Los Angeles Planning Disputes Old and New

 

 

 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--Old planning disputes are still with us: For those with memories going back to the 1980s or curiosity about that decade, the planning disputes now widespread in Los Angeles are an echo of what already took place three decades ago. Then and now, they include gentrification, over-priced housing and the lack of affordable house, rent control and rent stabilization, law suits against City Hall (AB 283), citywide initiatives (e.g., Proposition U) to restrain out-of-control real estate speculation, lack of sufficient infrastructure, mass transit, preservation of residential neighborhoods, overlay ordinances to chill out irate neighborhoods in lieu of citywide fixes, and repeated failures to consider adopted plans when dishing out zoning exceptions. 

In Los Angeles we may have lots of sunshine, but there is not much that is really new underneath that warm sun, such as the protection of single-family neighborhoods, including their character and scale. 

This is why all of LA’s official, legally adopted plans and policy statements, such as the City Planning Commission’s Do Real Planning, are uncompromising in their goal of preserving single-family neighborhoods. 

This not only refers to the basic land use, which is single-family homes, but also to scale and character. It is these policies, in fact, that gave rise the Historical Preservation Overlay Zones of which Los Angeles now has over 30, with many more in the cue. 

They also led to Specific Plans protecting residential areas, such as the Mulholland Corridor Specific Plan and the Mount Washington/Glassell Park Specific Plan. They also resulted in four Residential Floor Area districts, and over 20 short-term Interim Control Ordinances. 

Finally, the policies also prompted re:code LA, an ambitious program that will eventually rezone all residential areas of Los Angeles. Although the final re:code LA zoning ordinances are not yet completed , they are certain to bring forth a tsunami of controversy, especially if they change the use, character, and scale of residential areas. 

Hovering in the background, then and now, is a perpetual fight in Los Angeles between those who view their residences as homes versus those who view them as nothing more than a house. For the former, mostly residents and their neighborhood associations, a home is where they live and raise families, including the surrounding neighborhood. 

But, for the latter, houses and especially the land underneath them, are a commodity that can be bought, sold, or expanded based on a simple calculation: maximization of profit. Legally adopted plans and zones, as well as the myriad of overlay ordinances in Los Angeles, are not tools to protect homes, neighborhoods, and their residents, but regulatory devices that hinder the business of real estate speculation. 

The goal of these speculators is to, hopefully, sweep these ordinances and regulations aside, or, as a backup, make sure there are enough escape hatches embedded in new ordinances so they do not get in their way. 

While this difference between a house and a home might be the common denominator for nearly all of the planning disputes in Los Angeles, it is painfully visible in the disputes over the construction of McMansions in single-family neighborhoods, as well as the closely related construction of tall, narrow, attached homes called small-lot subdivisions.

***

Lessons from Beverly Grove: The neighborhood where I live and that I and other City Watch writers have written about, Beverly Grove, is a living laboratory for these protracted fights. Over a period of ten years and still counting, vocal brokers and contractors conjured up endless greed-is-good arguments to justify their business model. Spinning tall tales to gullible local residents that they were sitting on a pot of gold that could only be accessed through the construction McMansions, they would use third parties to buy small houses from desperate people, illegally demolish their homes, and then quickly build and sell a big, boxy spec house. 

But, just as quickly as the mansionizers could spin their yarns, local residents would rebut them. For example, claims of widespread public support for McMansions evaporated when residents went public with two independent surveys conducted by Council District 5. They both revealed that nearly two-thirds of local residents favored controls on mansionization. Likewise, when tea-bagger type arguments sprouted, such as “No one can tell me what do with my property,” we coolly replied that the purpose of zoning was to protect property values and the quality of life, not just give real estate speculators like them a free rein at the expense of their neighbors. 

Likewise, we also rebutted repeated claims that mansionization raised property values, while ordinances to stop mansionization would reduce property values. We showed that houses next to McMansions lose $50,000 -100,000 in value, even though the overall value of homes in areas protected by overlay ordinances, such as an RFAs and HPOZs, experience the same positive real estate trends as surrounding unprotected areas. 

One of the most ridiculous arguments we easily debunked came from the City Council no less: McMansions increase the supply of affordable housing in Los Angeles. The facts are exactly the opposite. The demolished homes were affordable, while the big, boxy houses cost far more than displaced residents could afford. 

Now that the Beverly Grove Residential Floor Area District has been adopted and enforced for over a year and half, we have other information to share with anyone concerned about mansionization and supportive of City Planning’s efforts to remove the loopholes from the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. 

First, there is still a robust real estate market in Beverly Grove, with the small houses that used to be demolished now worth more than they were before the RFA. The realtors who predicted doom and gloom are as busy as before trying to buy houses for anonymous people who claim they want to live in our area. The same realtors even use the same gimmick of mass-produced hand-written offers to buy houses. 

Last, but not least, there are plenty of new home improvement projects under way in Beverly Grove, as well as new additions fully permitted by our RFA, and even some totally new RFA-compliant houses. These new houses are not only smaller than the McMansions that are now banned, but some of these new houses are extremely attractive, a charge never leveled against McMansions. 

In fact, we are happy to show any reporters or other doubters around our neighborhood how effective the Beverly Grove RFA has been and how a citywide version, supported by neighborhood groups across Los Angeles, could achieve similar results for nearly 4,000,000 people, rather than about 2000. 

Bottom line, Beverly Grove demonstrates that homes values are fully compatible with good design and the preservations character, scale, and quality of life. 

It also demonstrates that the reincarnation of Proposition U, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, would do far more to transform Los Angeles into a global city, than periodic waves of deregulated real estate speculation, whether McMansions, small lot subdivisions, or over height mega-projects.  

Blade Runner imagines what a deregulated Los Angeles would look like.

 

(Dick Platkin reports on local planning issues in Los Angeles for CityWatch. He is a former LA City Planner, who now serves on the Board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Planning Committee. Please send any comments or corrections to [email protected].) 

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

Hey, Who’s Killin’ My Post Office -- And Why?

EASTSIDER-Let me be clear:  I like my Post Office. I like the mail carrier that actually delivers mail to my door six days a week. I like the fact that there is one Federal office building in my area that makes me smile instead of frown; and I like the idea that in almost every community in the United States, large or small, thereisa USPS office, as well as mail carriers and a postmaster. They form a positive connection to my government, decent paying jobs with benefits, and are often the visual emblem of government, providing services to those who cannot or are unable to leave their homes. 

This is unlike the politicians who run my government, those whose services seem to largely include selling off public assets and granting tax breaks for corporations and the rich. 

The usual attack on the USPS states that it is inefficient and “people don’t use mail anymore.” That it’s somehow part of the “old economy,” replaced by smart phones, and most importantly, that it is economically unsustainable and would be broke were it not for massive infusions of cash from the federal government. This drumbeat has been going on for so long that if you ask someone in my neighborhood if the post office is losing money, most folks would say “sure!” Such is the impact of repeated media coverage over time. 

So when the Washington Post and the Brookings Institute (the number one rated think tank in the nation)put out hit pieces about the USPS going broke and the need for change, it came as little surprise to many. The facts, however, do not support the argument…it’s simply not true! 

Hey, somebody has to stand up for the USPS -- and clearly, it will not be the media, the once-reliable Brookings Institute or the political/lobbyist class. Forgive me, but this humble blogger can’t help himself. 

The truth is, the US Post Office was getting along just fine until 2006, when Congress passed its annual appropriations bill. Buried in it were a couple of real doozies from our bought-and-paid-for elected officials: the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” and the “Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund.” 

Have you noticed that whenever elected officials really sell us out it’s always with language that says the exact opposite of what the legislation does? 

What they really did was require the USPS to pre-fund years and years of anticipated retiree health care benefits. You got it. The Post Office has to pay about $5.5 billion per year into this bogus fund to prepay health benefits. This was done by the same Congress that stole Social Security Fund money for years, putting it into the General Fund to “balance” their phony budget. The same Congress that creates its annual “showdown in Washington” moment for television to increase the National Debt ceiling just to stay afloat. 

The take away from these articles is that the USPS is going broke, the politicians can’t fix anything, and the profitable parts of the USPS ought to be spun off to the private sector. Yeah, well, they “fixed” the Post Office all right. 

The scary truth is that this horsepuckey has been repeated so often, and in so many places, that our numbed citizens now actually believe it’s true. The exact opposite is the case. Only in America. 

Now, I understand theWashington Post article -- Jeff Bezos (who bought the paper) probably wants to privatize the operation so that Amazon and the private sector can “help” us become more efficient. 

By spinning off the profitable areas of Priority Mail and parcel delivery from the USPS, Amazon can cut wages, eliminate benefits, magically become bigger than FedEx and UPS and take over the world. Or maybe FedEx or UPS can become the biggest, or whatever. Even scarier, they plan to generate mergers and acquisitions activity by the financial services industry, enabling them to skim money off a load of corporate debt, possibly causing the next financial crash to be even bigger.  

What I don’t understand is theBrookings Institute piece. Over the years, Brookings has always had a reputation for middle of the road or even (gasp) a liberal bent. 

When Elaine C. Kamarck, a “Senior Fellow of Governance Studies” and “Director of the Center for Effective Public Management” for the Institute, wrote about privatizing the USPS in her article, Delaying the Inevitable,”  I read it with great interest. 

There are two fundamental problems with her piece. First, the conclusions of the article are based on a basic math error, evidently not Ms. Kamarck’s forte. If you take the roughly $5.6 billion annual prepayment for the fiscal year in question, the USPS actually made money. But instead, Kamarck took a bunch of these annual payments and clumped them together to come up with the $22.4 billion figure; then she used it in a single fiscal year analysis.  

The other bad assumption of Kamarck’s piece is not a simple math error, but rather the typical dismissal by pseudo-science economist types who “assume” that delivering the mail, with all that it entails, is an unprofitable and hence worthless act. This mind set is endemic only to people who live in a huge metropolis like Washington DC or New York City.  

If you live somewhere else, like McFarland, CA or Sanger, CA in the central valley, or Hayfork, CA in the Trinity Mountains, or in any small town in America, you know that the USPS performs vital services to the underserved. It’s a physical symbol of the Federal government that helps you. It’s a gathering place, where mail carriers actually go out and do something for the forgotten; it provides decent jobs with benefits to members of the community and it may just be there for us in a time of need.  

So, of course, the lobbyist and political elites want to get rid of the USPS; and they are closing more post office branches every year. But I have a better idea: how about blocking the politicians from putting these slimy pieces of “payoff legislation” into appropriations bills?   

For those interested in this issue, see the blog Save the Post Office for more information.

 

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

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

Path Sharing: Is This Really an Issue?

IT’S BEEN THIS KIND OF YEAR--Prominent in the LA Times “Burbank Leader” edition this morning was an article describing an apparently hard-fought compromise allowing cyclists to continue using a seventy-year-old bridge to cross the LA River between Burbank and Griffith Park. The issue? Horseriders preferred to ban cyclists altogether, claiming they “scared the horses.” And cyclists wanted to be able to pedal over the bridge, claiming…well, “I just wanna!”  

Burbank’s city council made a mostly good decision: cyclists can use the Mariposa Bridge so long as they walk their bikes across.

Sound oppressive? Well, the bridge is narrow, covered with a layer of soft dirt, and shared with powerful 1500-pound animals. Waling your bike for all o f a hundred and forty feet under those conditions makes sense to me.

I am no apologist for equestrians, though I rode horses a fair bit in the distant past. I suggest that a horse that is afraid of cyclists is a badly-trained horse. Let us look at the history of this precursor to the bicycle: for about 7,000 years, horses have been used in war, including the shooting wars of the last four hundred years.

This means that the average horse can be trained to go calmly into a battlefield where guns are blasting, bayonets flashing, bombs exploding, and people screaming in rage and pain. If they can be trained to endure that, they can certainly be trained to see a bicyclists without suffering an immediate and total nervous breakdown.

I suspect that equestrians use the “horses are nervous” argument to arrogate trails and other facilites to their personal use. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be walking on some trails, because it “makes horses nervous”! If that’s the case, your horse needs an animal psychiatrist. And anyway, how do you walk up to it to get on and ride?

But cyclists were asking too much here as well. It’s a narrow dirt-covered bridge; judging from the photo in the article, two cyclists would have difficulty crossing paths on it. It makes sense to walk. Especially as there’s not bikeway on the other side, at least not for several hundred yards. A shared-use trail—even if it’s shared only with hikers—is no place to shred.

This should not have been contested territory. The bridge is a public facility with a peculiar configuration that requires some compromises by all users. (Indeed, many hikers are made nervous by gigantic horses on the trails….)

A waste of time and organizational energy. With people dying in the streets, there are more important matters to attend to.

(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are centered on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.)  Photo: Roger Wilson/Burbank Leader.

 

T 

CityWatch

Vol 43 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2015

If I were Los Angeles’ Homeless Czar

SKID ROW-With all the recent talk of a possible “Homeless Czar” who would lead the effort to solve homelessness in Los Angeles, I can’t help but begin the New Year with a resolution of my own. 

If I were named as Homeless Czar, here’s the first thing I’d do: I’d withhold the paychecks of everyone with jobs related to homelessness…period. Then I bet we’d get some solutions – and fast! Problem solved. 

Seriously though, everyone we look to for solutions for homelessness is receiving a paycheck -- including non-profit executive directors and CEO’s earning six-figure salaries, some as much as $200,000 to $300,000 a year. 

The Mayor and City Council also make six-figure salaries. Fifteen City Councilmembers each “earn” $250K. LAPD is “earning” a $1.5 billion budget for the current fiscal year. And so on. 

Add to this the money that comes from the Federal government (American taxpayer money,) as well as funding from the state and local levels, along with grants and donations from private foundations and public “do-gooders.” Think about it…there is a ton of funding being generated by the very presence of homelessness. 

It stands to reason that as long as homelessness continues, a lot of “leaders” will continue to get paid. Maybe there’s just no impetus for them to do anything significant at all…only enough to justify “earning” their paychecks. 

With that established, as the Homeless Czar, I would have access to internal documentation to support my theory. And that’s when I would drop the hammer! 

During my first press conference on the steps of City Hall, I’d boldly announce, “No one will receive paychecks until the desired results have been achieved.” 

I can guarantee that the necessary “sense of urgency” we’ve all been waiting for would instantly be present. All solutions -- coordination of efforts, outreach, healthcare, housing and shelter options and more -- would be quickly implemented with easily identifiable results: less homeless folks and less encampments on the streets across the City and County of Los Angeles. 

Voila!  Then and only then would paychecks for the “experts” be resumed. 

Unfortunately, this idea of mine is not the reality. But then again, neither are your promises to quit smoking, stop drinking, exercise more, lose 25 pounds, go back to school and get a better paying job. 

The funny thing is, if I really were named the Homeless Czar, I believe I could actually do the job in a relatively easy fashion. All I’d need is complete compliance from everyone. 

Unfortunately, you’re stuck now with the other guys – the ones with the “comprehensive strategic homeless plans.”  But if nothing else, I would make them earn their paychecks. 

Happy New Year!

 

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

-cw

 

 CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

Westfield Village: West San Fernando Valley is ‘Fielding’ the Greed

JUST THE FACTS-Westfield Corporation spent $350 million on the development and construction of the Westfield Village in the West San Fernando Valley community of Woodland Hills to benefit the people in the San Fernando Valley and, of course, as an economic boost for their own company. With all the upscale dining establishments and numerous stores, including a brand new Costco, the concept was intended to create jobs and be a destination for shopping and relaxation for Valley residents and visitors. There are very few cultural spots in the West Valley; the “Village” was designed to fill the gap.   

But there are problems.  First of all, there is the paid parking situation. For the entire Village. While you can receive one courtesy hour free, additional time (three hours) must be obtained from either the Costco or another establishment. However, some shops don’t provide any validation at all for their customers. 

As you can imagine, most people who shop at Costco purchase large quantities of merchandise and roll their shopping cart to the parking lot. Unfortunately, many Costco shoppers must park on the upper level of the multi-story parking structure and then struggle to get to their cars and load their items before driving away. This is inconvenient for most shoppers who, once arriving at their vehicles, must follow long lines to exit the parking structure. If you forget to get your parking ticket validated, you must pay to exit the lot. For this reason alone, many Costco shoppers have informed me that they prefer other Costco locations in the Valley such as the ones on Tampa and on Sepulveda Blvd. in Van Nuys. 

In addition to the tiered parking situation, Westfield operators want to charge for parking along the surface lot adjacent to Topanga Canyon Blvd. This is taking advantage of the good people of the San Fernando Valley; no other shopping center in the entire Valley charges for parking. 

I suggest that Westfield re-examine its parking policies. They should provide free parking for shoppers willing to visit their centers and spend money. 

One of the first businesses to open at Westfield Village has already closed its doors. I had the opportunity to meet the family that owned and ran the dessert shop, “Confexion.” They invested a large sum of money and hoped to make it work. Unfortunately, the store did not do well and closed shortly after opening, a sad situation since they put their heart and soul into the venture, in addition to a considerable amount of money. 

Given the expensive rents and other costs associated with Westfield Village, I project that more stores will close in the near future.  

The Westfield Corporation purchased a large segment of property along Topanga Canyon Blvd between Vanowen and Oxnard, buying all the existing stores, investing considerable dollars to improve the neighborhood. Their next phase of development is the Promenade site on the southern end of the property. Currently, there are homeless people residing in this mostly abandoned shopping center. 

Rumors are circulating that Westfield intends to develop hundreds of residential units, both apartments and condos, as well as some retail on the site. The surrounding neighborhood has become more and more congested with large condos and multi-story apartments. And as road become more crowded, additional market rate residential units will only cause more gridlock and frustration for the public. I am considering filing a court action if Westfield proceeds with the housing development. 

I welcome your thoughts and ideas on this controversial situation. 

And I wish everyone a very Happy New Year. 

 

(Dennis P.  Zine is a 33 year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, 12 year member of the Los Angeles City Council and current LAPD Reserve Officer. He writes Just the Facts for CityWatch. You can contact him at [email protected]) Photo at top: LA Times. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

What Did NOT Happen In 2015

PERSPECTIVE-The issues of utility rate increases, homelessness, street paving and sidewalk repairs dominated 2015 on our local scene.

Has anyone seen reform at the DWP?  

Mayor Garcetti was swept into office over two years ago, in part because of the blatant support for his opponent by Bryan D’Arcy, boss of  the DWP’s powerful IBEW Local 18 union.

His election raised hope for long-overdue reform at the largest municipal utility in the nation, one that has been so badly managed by City Hall appointees and corrupted by D’Arcy’s grip on elected officials.

It was false hope. His pick for the DWP’s GM, Marcie Edwards, did nothing to institute change; no one was fired for the IT atrocities that caused so much woe for many ratepayers – and has still not been resolved. She also sided with Bryan D’Arcy in the non-profit audit controversy, showing contempt and disrespect for City Controller Ron Galperin, the only one in the city who has shown resolve in dealing with the incompetence and corruption at the utility.

Galperin has received no support from other elected officials.

Dr. Fred Pickel, the Ratepayer Advocate has been no help at all.  The only advocating he has done has been on behalf of DWP’s management.   Rates are going up, but cost control is absent.  Compensation at DWP should be frozen and the surplus transfer to the city should be ended, until infrastructure is upgraded.

It won’t happen because the City Council will bend to D’Arcy in the next round of wage negotiations.

●●●

Homelessness is much talked about, but the city only knows about promising big dollars to address the spreading crisis.  The number of homeless has grown by 12% since Garcetti took office.   

A $100 million commitment for 2016’s budget will not go far if Garcetti and company pursue their pro-developer strategy that reduces affordable housing.  For every new unit created, there will likely be one eliminated. That’s not progress.

●●●

There is no commitment to attracting employers who offer middle-class jobs.  It’s all well and good to attract high-tech jobs, but most do not have the skills to fill those positions.  They are likely to employ as many outside the city as they do residents.

 

A lack of middle-class jobs will shift more people into the working class poor category.  These people will require rent subsidies to survive in an increasingly hot rental market, further undermining efforts to deal with homelessness.

●●●

The city finally made a commitment to repair streets and sidewalks, but it took a lawsuit.  The settlement requires the city to invest $1.4 billion over the next 30 years to cover repairs.  That’s not as robust as it seems since costs will escalate over that span of time, due in part to contract awards that will likely favor well-connected labor unions. That’s business as usual in LA.

Only when all of these problems boil over and directly affect the everyday lives of a majority of residents will you see pushback and a voter revolt. Even then, I wonder if that will be enough to break the cycle of apathy that passes for participation.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs atVillage to Villageand contributes toCityWatch.The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone. They should not be construed to represent the opinions of the VVHA or the residents of Valley Village, individually or as a group. He can be reached at: [email protected].)

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 105

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

 

Is It the Homeless or Homelessness?: 2015’s Intractable Problem

GELFAND’S WORLD--The public question that has inspired the hottest rhetoric this year of 2015 is what we do about the homeless. Notice the wording there -- it's not really about homelessness as an abstract problem, it's about the people, or as some would have it, those people. It's about them having encampments. It's about them pitching their tents and parking their shopping carts along the city sidewalks. Saturday's LA Times ran a front page article by an architecture critic about the use of the freeway overpass as the new skid row. 

The increase in the apparent level of public homelessness in the area inspired a firestorm of complaining, concern, debate, and just plain bickering. One concern was that offering services such as meals to the homeless is a formula for attracting even more homeless people. 

We've had public forums on the issue where the discussion got heated, to put it mildly. We've heard a lot of partial approaches. Perhaps those partial fixes are better than nothing, but a little thought should convince us that there is no single, inspired solution to the problem. That's because every approach violates some principle, either economic, moral, or aesthetic. 

We all understand at some level that allowing people to eat and sleep for free reduces their incentive to get up in the morning and go to work for money. Some people at public forums seem to treat the problem as exactly that simple. You can hear it in the complaints about how the free dinners will only serve to bring in more of the homeless. These remarks usually finish with the worry that if we invite people for free food, they will stick around. 

 The underlying message, generally unspoken but plainly not unthought, is that allowing people to live for free goes against our values, sometimes abbreviated as the free enterprise system. If people can get jobs, even low paying jobs, then they can at least pay for their next meal. Also unspoken is the obvious thought, "If I have to work for my food and shelter, then why should we as a society set aside some group to be free of these requirements?"

Of course this argument breaks down if there are few jobs to be had and too many people looking for jobs. That was the case in the great depression of the 1930s, and it was certainly the case in Los Angeles for part of the recent recession. It seems to continue as a problem even now, although the economy has been improving slowly over the past five or six years. We can insist that people try to function in a free market economy, but it is obvious that there are some who fail. At this level, avoiding the homelessness issue strikes many of us as immoral. We clash, at least intellectually, with those who would prefer to put them all on a bus and send them somewhere else. 

At the level of simple reality, most of us realize that southern California is the somewhere else that the homeless come to, when they aren't from here anyway. 

Another way that the argument breaks down is when large numbers of children are affected. In this case, the potentially hungry ones are not responsible for their own situation. They are just victims. 

There are some homeless people who either could get some level of employment, or would have been able to be gainfully employed had they not wrecked their lives along the way. Those who avoided education in order to play around, and those who have spent many years engaging in recreational drug abuse, fit into that category. Another group who spent years in low level crime fit the category as largely unemployable. 

There are different kinds of homeless people, from the economically unfit to the mentally ill to the wanderers. No one approach helps them all, and no approach seems to be a full solution for any one category. We're left with half solutions at best. We should admit to that fact and agree that since we have compromise solutions at best, we should get on with creating the correct compromise. Let us create a societal agreement that will help people as best we can without destroying the economic fabric, and get on with it. 

What sort of compromise shall we engage in? I think that we have some clues from a recent column here in CityWatch by General Jeff.  He asks the simple question, where do people go to wash their hands? Extended a bit, the idea of basic sanitation as a civic necessity becomes obvious. As a society, we might decide that there are certain minimal comforts that everyone should have. To start, we should begin with General Jeff's comments and decide that drinking fountains, toilets, and soap and water are available, even on the streets. It's not such a bad idea even for the rest of us who have homes to return to, because we might be out on the streets, or in a place where there is no McDonald's men's room. 

The solution, such as it is, bridges the difference between the angry authoritarian approach and its opposite. 

We might also decide that there is some minimal amount of square footage that should be available for people to put down their blankets and doze. We can debate over where such places can be allowed, and whether there should be some form of encampments, but there ought to be some place for the weary man to put his head. 

And it doesn't have to be on the local park bench or in a residential neighborhood. This limitation by itself would remedy some of the gripes by people who have homes in residential neighborhoods and by business owners who currently deal with homeless encampments right outside their front doors. Down here, the Port of Los Angeles has seven thousand acres of land and lots of old warehouses that are no longer of much use. 

Since we have lots of homeless people and they have to sleep somewhere, we ought to think long and hard, and develop the compromise that allows for sanitation in the city and sleep for the weary. 

The big compromise will necessarily have to deal with the other big question of how to limit rewarding indolence, since that is a theme we hear repeatedly at the public forums. The big compromise requires that we provide people on the margin with some level of incentive to make good. My guess is that the social decision will be to make homelessness a little more comfortable and a lot more sanitary, but not as comfortable as life for working people. That's how the society as a whole dealt with welfare over the years. Its is far from a perfect solution, but it is something. 

Meanwhile, the real heroes are the social workers who talk to the homeless every day, trying to talk them into coming indoors and every once in a while, convincing someone to accept mental and social services.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on culture and politics for CityWatch and can be reached at [email protected]

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 105

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

Public-Interest Journalism Key to Saving Our Diverse and Vibrant City

AT LENGTH--In every crucible where there are actors with competing interests, there is conflict. Without conflict there can be no resolution, let alone an end to a crisis. Random Lengths has played critical and important roles in most of the crucibles that have transformed the Los Angeles Harbor Area in the past 35 years.

The first crucible, which proved momentous in this paper’s history before it was even founded, occurred on the night of Dec. 17, 1976.

At the time, I had just moved into a new place I rented on 32nd Street, overlooking Cabrillo Beach and the West Channel, just a half mile from berth 46 at the Port of Los Angeles.

My friend Patrick was setting up my stereo in time for my birthday party. As he tinkered with the sound system, a glimpse out a living room window facing the bay caused him to excitedly call me over.

“Wow, James, you’ve got to come see this!”

He said it with such intensity that I immediately ran to see what he was witnessing.

Outside, across the channel was a ball of fire rising above a dark column of smoke, hundreds of feet into the sky as a Liberian oil tanker, called the S.S. Sansinena, exploded.

As light travels faster than sound, we stood there in awe for several seconds before we were hit by the concussion of the explosion.

All of the windows of my new apartment were turned into glass shards, barely missing my face as I ducked for cover. It was a night indelibly etched into my mind without having to go to the emergency room.

The ship was built in 1958 and had just discharged its cargo of crude oil into the tanks of Union Oil that were once located at 22nd Street and Harbor Boulevard. The Sansinena was taking on ballast and fuel when the massive explosion split the ship in half and obliterated multiple port buildings.

The blast shattered windows for miles around and triggered a fire that spread across the dock and in the water around the tanker. The LA Fire Department soon arrived on the scene to contain the blaze and rescue the survivors—casualties included six dead, three missing (but presumed dead) and 46 injured.

The Coast Guard investigation later concluded that the incident was caused by flammable vapor buildup on the deck of the ship. The ignition source was never identified.

This happened just three years before the first edition of Random Lengths hit the streets in December of 1979. The front-page headline of that edition read: “GATX Chemicals Endanger Harbor Area Residents, Government Shields Conglomerate in Effort to Bypass Zoning Regulations.”

Another crucible was when the port’s attempt to raze Knoll Hill in order to expand berths 97-102 during Mayor Richard Riordan’s administration—berths now occupied by China Shipping terminal.

The port’s continued purchase of property on this small knoll overlooking the main channel near the Vincent Thomas Bridge portended the hill’s ultimate demise. This was to be just another one in a long line of port excavations of small hills of San Pedro to accommodate port industrialization.

An off-the-record phone call by a harbor commissioner tipped me off to the coming crisis precipitated by an impending action by the Harbor Commission board.

The loss of one more hill to port expansion and the further encroachment of industrial port operations with its air pollution on the community was just the last straw for some activists.

The acting port director, Bruce Seaton, responded to community concerns with an “aw shucks- let’s go have some Busy Bee sandwiches” approach, and was seen as patronizing and was rebuffed.

Only after a community forum—sponsored in part by this newspaper—did port staff began to realize there was significant community opposition. Private meetings were set up, but devolved when it became apparent that the port was bent on bulldozing its way through the hill and the community. The community responded with a lawsuit.

The San Pedro Home Owners Association, lead by Janet Gunter, Andy Mardesich and Noel Park with the help of the Natural Resources Defense council alerted the community and sued the port and won a game-changing appeal. That one major victory over the industrial expansion of the Port of Los Angeles ended what one harbor commissioner, John Wentworth, termed the “100-year war” with the community.

From that first story on the toxic GATX storage facility for petroleum products to the battle over the Port of Los Angeles petroleum coke export terminal to this story and most recently the redux of the China Shipping terminal dispute and settlement, Random Lengths has been on the side of the community reporting on the issues that affect this area the most, and in the process, giving voice to hundreds of community activists who have fought for years, often decades, to have economic and environmental justice issues settled, redressed or significantly mitigated.

These storylines started the 35-year editorial trajectory of this publication, going from reporting on the crisis to covering the ensuing conflicts, addressing issues of environmental injustice and the Port of Los Angeles’ responsibility of maintaining as sacrosanct local residents’ connection to their waterfront.

Along the way, Random Lengths has stood fast to its principles of free speech, open government and protecting the rights of the greater harbor area community. This has not ever been an easy job.

Also, on the front page of that inaugural issue was the paper’s mission statement, which read in part:

“What you read here you are not likely to find in other local newspapers, for we are not afraid of being controversial. On the contrary, we are committed to promoting an open dialogue on the important questions concerning our community [and] unlike other papers, we invite your participation, and in fact we depend on it.”

With the distance I now have from the writing of that mission statement and from my memory of having been at the masthead of this publication over the ensuing years, I can say with confidence that we have stayed true to that mission.

The Los Angeles Harbor Commission meeting on Dec. 17 is a crucible that brings Random Lengths full circle.

The Saving San Pedro’s Waterfront group, made up of local realtors, led by John Papadakis, is critical of Jericho Development and Ratkovich Co. The developers signed a 55-year lease with the port. It only develops 150,000 square feet of Ports O’Call Village.

During the public comment period, Papadakis remarked before the commission that, “This century began…with two great mayors in Richard Riordan and James Hahn…both had hearts of true servants when they adopted the Bridge to Breakwater promenade plan and began to plan and build it.

“They understood that our greatest resource our waterfront must be used to create prosperity, not poverty,” he said. “That the sea signifies life not the bringer of environmental crimes; that the people are the true owners and have the right of primary access to the water line, the highest and best use of the public shores that all people must economically benefit from the use of the waterline—not just one industry.”

Papadakis continued his scathing remarks. “This, the wealthiest port in the western hemisphere is housed in the only seaside slum in America,” he said. “That is a civic crime, commissioners. You’re crucifying this community on the iron cross of the cargo industry, by the orders of so-called leaders who are really public cannibals feeding on the dying carcass of the Harbor Area—for shame—by violating emission standards by intentionally choosing a deficient and unproven development team for the prime commercial opportunity at Ports O’ Call.”

Harbor Commissioner Dave Arian shot back. “It’s hard to sit up here and listen to this crap,” Arian said. “You live up there on the hill and you’re the slumlord in this town.” He then went on to say that, “If you want a fight, you got one and so do all you realtors.”

These remarks are reminiscent of those reported in the Daily Breeze almost 8years ago in an article titled “Revised LA Port plan derided at meeting” staff writer Donna Littlejohn wrote, “At last. It appears that the Port of Los Angeles has finally found consensus on its latest waterfront plan revision. Nearly everyone hates it.”

She proceeded to explain, “The new, scaled-down version unveiled at a public meeting this week drew scathing criticism, raising questions about the future of the 5-year-old dream of recreating San Pedro’s west channel with commercial and recreational uses.”

This continuing to echo what Papadakis envisioned as the grand “Bridge to Breakwater” plan.

This clearly sets the stage for the next conflict to come as the plans for the Ports O’ Call (photo above) development have not been discussed publicly for over two years. It also brings into focus the decades-long debate over the future of the Los Angeles waterfront that we have covered from the very beginning and brings some things almost full circle. The crisis of conflict continues.

(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.

 -cw  

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 105

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

FBI Moves Animal Cruelty to Top-Tier Crimes … Will LA be Left Out?

ANIMAL WATCH--On January 1, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will begin recording all animal-abuse crimes reported by local law-enforcement agencies to its national database as “top-tier”—placing them on the same level as arson, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking and murder, rather than grouping them into the “other offenses” category.  

This great news was disclosed earlier this year when the FBI announced that it was re-categorizing crimes against animals as "crimes against society.”  The animal crimes that were regrouped to Part 1 offenses are intentional abuse and torture, gross neglect, sexual abuse and organized abuse, which includes dog fighting.

Does this mean we can now call the FBI instead of LA Animal Services to report an animal being beaten or starved or a staged cockfight or dog fight in progress next door?

Unfortunately, many reports by the media and enthusiastic animal activists have been misleading. In a desperate desire to believe there is a panacea to end animal suffering, someone even commented that this decision by the FBI signals an “end to animal cruelty, because the federal government is now in charge."

So that we do not have unrealistic expectations and—more importantly--so that this FBI decision does not become a diversion from holding local agencies accountable for responding to reports of animal cruelty or neglect and for prosecuting all such crimes, it is important to accept that this change by the FBI in how animal crimes are categorized is just that. It is merely a step up in existing reporting methods.

It signifies an important new recognition at the federal level of the importance of crimes against animals—including both abuse and intentional neglect. It also indicates that the Feds are undergoing a change in attitude that mirrors the societal shift to consider pets as family members and violence against animals to be as egregious as violence against humans.

What it does NOT mean is that all animal cruelty has suddenly become a federal crime, John Sibley explains in The Myth of the FBI and Animal Cruelty. It does NOT mean that there will automatically be a change in how animal crimes are prosecuted or that sentences will become harsher.  It also does NOT mean that the FBI will now become involved in local cases—other than those that include violations of federal law. 

FBI stats capture statistical data, not individual identities of perpetrators or those accused of crimes. This means that the reports will also NOT be of help to shelters in making adoption decisions.

Wayne Pacelle of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) describes the importance of this recognition on A Humane Nation blog:

“The proper identification of animal cruelty crimes in the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, once in effect, like the tracking of hate crimes and other important categories, would be national in scope. Within the FBI system, every incident would be reported, whether or not it results in an arrest or conviction…Having proper data on where and with what frequency cruelty is occurring would help guide lawmakers on policy decisions and law enforcement and nonprofit agencies on allocation of scarce resources.”

The FBI currently tracks animal cruelty crimes in the 32 states which report their stats to the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS.) 

Since not all states are certified and participating in this database, the federal report is not a complete profile of criminal activity nationwide. Unfortunately, California is not listed as a reporting state at this time. Thus, crimes against local animals will not add to the database which will help the federal government and non-profits determine were more resources are needed.

According to the FBI, the official definition of animal cruelty will be:

Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment. Included are instances of duty to provide care, e.g., shelter, food, water, care if sick or injured, transporting or confining an animal in a manner likely to cause injury or death; causing an animal to fight with another; inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering, e.g., using objects to beat or injure an animal. This definition does not include proper maintenance of animals for show or sport; use of animals for food, lawful hunting, fishing or trapping.

The FBI has finally validated what animal lovers have long known--that animal crimes, whether solitary or organized, have a significant impact on society. However, we cannot allow this validation to lull us into silence or apathy. It must motivate us to even more vigorously report any suspicion, indication or evidence of neglect, violent or otherwise abusive behavior, abandonment, lack of food, water or adequate shelter, chaining, hoarding, animal fighting, or any mistreatment of any animal.

Owning any animal imposes a legal level of care on every owner. Owning a dog in the City of Los Angeles is a privilege, not a right. It requires a license and that certain specific standards of care and attention are met. No training, discipline or punishment may be done in such a manner that the animal is harmed.

Too often, caring observers wait until an animal is visibly injured to call L.A. Animal Services to do a welfare check.  That may be too late for the victim. It is not enough to talk to neighbors and friends. Animal Control Officers have the powers and know the legal procedure for addressing issues with owners and/or entering a property to act on behalf of the animal.

Do not give up—continue to call and report any activity in which an animal (or a human) is endangered. Contact the City Council or Mayor, if necessary. If it is important to the FBI, it should be important to them.

If you see something, say something! 

 

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

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 105

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

 

                                                                         

 

The Community Benefit Agreement: Did LA Get Screwed by AEG?

PROMISES, PROMISES-Nowadays, it’s almost impossible for developers to strike major deals with city governments without first negotiating some sort of community benefits agreement (CBA). Such agreements are typically legally binding deals involving developers, community groups and the local government in which a developer pledges funding or other assistance to a community in exchange for tax abatements, subsidies, regulatory changes or exemptions from the city for a project.

CBAs hold plenty of promise as a relatively new way for communities to hold local governments and private developers accountable. But so far, they’ve yielded a mixed track record. (One skeptical Silicon Valley city even rejected a Google CBA offer earlier this year.)

In New York City, CBAs have been a borderline calamity. See the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, or Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

There’s some hope, yet.

“At the end of the day, you can’t judge whether this process is going to be successful until 10 years from now,” West Harlem community leader Larry English told The New York Times in a 2013 story on the West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC), which got started with $76 million out of a CBA tied to Columbia University’s expansion.

For an idea of what could be ahead for CBAs, the University of California at Irvine’s Nicholas Marantz took a look back at the CBA tied to the development of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District (LASED), negotiated in 2001. The Journal of the American Planning Association recently published Marantz’s findings.

“The LASED CBA is widely regarded as the first in the U.S.,” Marantz writes.

Marantz examined two questions: First, have all the parties to the LASED CBA complied with the provisions concerning jobs, housing, and parks and recreational facilities. Second, if yes, did the developers provide benefits beyond those required under existing laws and regulations?

In the LA agreement negotiations, the community was represented by the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice. (At one point, at least 29 organizations were involved, according to Marantz, so they formed this umbrella organization to negotiate on their behalf with the developer — a tactic that’s become commonplace in hammering out CBAs.) The developer was Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG).

The talks led to a mix of binding and non-binding goals. On jobs, for example, the CBA set a non-binding goal that at least 70 percent of permanent jobs in the LASED would be “living wage jobs” as defined by the CBA, while it set a binding pledge for AEG to submit an annual report to the city on the status of meeting the 70 percent goal. AEG did not comply with this public reporting obligation until 2014.

Marantz did not report finding any penalty paid by AEG for not meeting what was supposedly a legally binding goal. Furthermore, the CBA defined any job covered by a collective bargaining agreement as a “living wage job,” regardless of actual wages paid.

So was it worth it to fight for such goals around wages, binding or non-binding? According to Marantz, the answer may be yes, but not for the reason you might expect.

“Although the living wage goal was reportedly attained by 2013, the role of the CBA in attaining that goal is ambiguous,” Marantz writes. “The CBA, however, may have served as an important symbol in a long-term labor campaign that resulted in a stronger living wage law and the city’s 2015 adoption of an ordinance that would increase the citywide minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.”

On affordable housing, another common CBA focus area, the LASED CBA required AEG to provide $650,000 in interest-free three-year loans to specified affordable housing developers. It also required all residential developers in the LASED to either develop or subsidize one affordable unit for every five housing units in the LASED.

The development devil is in the details.

“Ambiguous language in the CBA ultimately allowed the LASED developers to fulfill the latter requirement in a way that covered only a fraction of the development cost for each required affordable unit,” writes Marantz.

Furthermore, Marantz reports, even though the CBA prioritized affordable housing for families, most of the affordable units completed in fulfillment of the CBA ended up being part of a college dormitory.

It’s worth noting that the LASED CBA isn’t just the first CBA in the U.S., it’s also widely cited as a model for many others, including a family of CBAs in the Los Angeles area (SunQuest Industrial Park, NoHo Commons, Marlton Square, and the CBA for the Los Angeles International Airport’s $11 billion modernization plan.)

All of those, in turn, have been cited by others: “Efforts in New York to replicate meaningful CBAs have been disappointing,” writes Good Jobs First NY. “Atlantic Yards, Columbia University’s expansion and Yankee Stadium attempted to implement CBAs but fell short of those modeled after the landmark agreements in California.”

Yet, as Marantz writes, “it is not clear that the LASED CBA yielded jobs, affordable housing units, or parks and recreation facilities beyond those that would have resulted from municipal mandates, federal regulations, and agreements between unions and employers.”

The real bottom line for CBAs may lie in their (generally) unintended effect of galvanizing marginalized communities to influence policies and resources beyond those tied directly to development projects. Like the living wage example above, for instance.

Marantz also points out that LASED developers provided only a fraction of the funds needed to construct the affordable housing, and parks and recreation projects in the neighborhoods surrounding the project. Most of the remaining funds came from multiple public sources as well as banks fulfilling obligations under the federal Community Reinvestment Act

“The LASED case thus demonstrates that a CBA can help direct resources to underserved communities,” he writes. “But only a small share of those resources may come from the developers who are subject to the CBA.”

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation

(Oscar Perry Abello is a Next City 2015-2016 equitable cities fellow. A New York City-based journalist writes about impact investing, microfinance, fair trade, entrepreneurship and more for publications such as Fast Company and NextBillion.net. This piece was posted originally at Next City) Photo by Steve Jurvetson.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

  

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 105

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

 

 

Quality of Life vs. Mansionization: The Real Issue

OTHER WORDS—(Of all the issues we shine light on here at CityWatch, ‘mansionization’ sparks some of the biggest firestorms. Robert Eisele is a homeowner association officer in the LaBrea – Hancock community and provides yet another perspective.)

 

In Charles Tarlow’s CityWatch article  “The Other Side of the Mansionization Debate” (24 Dec 2015), Tarlow attacks former city planner and anti-mansionization activist Dick Platkin by saying that the proposed amendments to the city’s Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) “will do nothing to enhance the quality of life in our city. If Dick Platkin and his ilk really cared about Los Angeles, they would stop trying to impose their idea of a proper single family home on their neighbors…”

Actually, if Mr. Tarlow lived next to a McMansion he might have quite a different opinion. In our La Brea Hancock neighborhood, houses of 4700 square feet have been built on 6700 square foot lots, spanning almost to the back fence of the property. These monstrosities not only peer into nearby backyards and destroy their neighbors’ right to privacy, they are also out-of-scale in terms of height, and their shadows often rob enough sunlight to kill portions of their neighbors’ gardens.

Quality of life? McMansion developers in our neighborhood have been cited by the Southern California Air Quality Management District for asbestos pollution while demolishing older homes, as well as for lead contamination. Not a single resident homeowner in La Brea Hancock has chosen to build a boxy, gigantic McMansion when enlarging or remodeling their home.

McMansions are the creations of real estate speculators and developers, and are not occupied by “more than one generation living together and sometimes even three,” as Mr. Tarlow suggests. In our neighborhood, they are usually occupied by couples or couples with one or two children. Sometimes, they’re even the second residence for affluent individuals who do not call Los Angeles their home.

Our neighbors organized against mansionization for one reason – to maintain their quality of life. It is a grassroots movement that sprang up in living rooms, not boardrooms or council chambers. Anti-mansionization activists are your neighbors, not your enemies. They are not out to dictate the style of your home, nor to stop you from expanding or building anew. All they are asking for is reasonable scale. Yes, you have the right to build a larger home.

In La Brea Hancock, on some of our corner lots, you could build a 3500 square foot home according to the proposed BMO Amendments. That is a large house. But if you – or more likely a spec builder – want to construct a monolith that robs your neighbors of privacy and sunlight, why not move to a neighborhood with larger lots where such homes are appropriate?

Property rights are important and they include the right for neighborhoods to organize and ask for changes in zoning laws. You can’t build a 7-11 in the middle of an R-1-1 neighborhood for a reason: It affects the quality of life in the neighborhood. In a like manner, the infestation of McMansions in neighborhoods with smaller lots destroys quality of life and, therefore, defeats the basic intent of zoning. That’s why, when polled, over 66% of La Brea Hancock’s residents supported zoning change to end mansionization. And that’s why, if the will of the people and not the developers is heard, the Baseline Mansionization Amendments will prevail.

Although it’s good that Interim Control Ordinances (ICOs) have temporarily stopped mansionization in certain neighborhoods, they’ve also had a counter-productive effect. The voices of many anti-mansionization advocates have been quelled by the effectiveness of the ICOs. But their efficacy is only temporary.

And now, realtors and developers – a tiny minority when compared to the citywide anti-mansionization movement – are roaring at City Planning meetings. If homeowners want the BMO Amendments enacted, it’s time to email their Council people and City Planning staff. Comments will be heard till January 11th.

And the developers’ lobbyists are growing louder, since they now see potential barriers to the speculative building of McMansions.

(Robert Eisele is a resident homeowner in the La Brea Hancock neighborhood, and serves as Vice-President of the La Brea Hancock Homeowners Association. He can be reached here.)  Photo credit: LarchmontBuzz.com.

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 105

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

 

We Need a National Plan to Stop Active Shooters

PROACTIVE PREPAREDNESS-Once again, the world has witnessed a mass shooting. Predictably, people across the nation feel the need to do something when such things happen. Soon after the tragedy in San Bernardino, armchair experts were having policy debates on gun control, immigration and mental health, even before all the facts of the incident were fully known.

But these debates divert our attention from immediate strategies that can and should be enacted now.

As a police officer with 35 years of experience, and one of the developers of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Multiple Assault Counter Terrorism Action Capability  (MACTAC) plan for situations like the San Bernardino shooting, I offer up some strategies to deal with the reality that faces us.

We must prepare because the threat isn’t “coming.” It’s already here.

It is time for a national action plan involving law enforcement, educators, firefighters, paramedics, medical personnel and the security industry on how to deal with active shooter events—not only to address the incidents that have happened in this country, but the kinds of events we’ve seen in Mumbai in 2008 and in Paris last month. In Mumbai, ten shooters killed 172 people in coordinated multiple attacks. Over 120 persons were killed in similar planned attacks in Paris.

We need a national standardized response platform, much like what the National Incident Management System does for handling long-term disasters, on how to prepare, prevent and interdict multiple location attacks.

This plan, developed by an expert working group, has to be driven at the national level to ensure the same uniformity that we have in our responses to other disasters. We should look at the successes of Israel, the outstanding work by first responders in San Bernardino, and other security experts to, once and for all, develop a standardized response.

Right now, there is no standardized plan that takes in coordination with fire and medical response in hot zones, universally accepted terminology for all responders, and so many other important issues.

As noted author Col. Dave Grossman points out, we have entire fire codes designed to protect children in schools; yet few, if any, children have perished in school fires in the last 50 years. Just as schools practice fire drills, they must conduct active threat drills. Each school should have an active threat emergency plan that is clear and practiced.

Schools should be designed (or updated) to allow teachers to reasonably block and prevent an attacker from entering classrooms. Security systems should be layered and redundant. Doors should be secure and reinforced; alarm systems should be updated to include warnings about other dangers. Each school should have trauma kits that provide life-saving first aid equipment for serious injuries, not just skinned knees. Teachers should be taught basic casualty-care procedures.

On weekends, local law enforcement should train on the very campuses they may be called upon to defend. Persons responsible for other facilities, such as governmental offices, should follow the same planning and preparation steps.

It is time for law enforcement and first responders to be more resolute than ever in confronting and stopping this evil. Legislation is needed to mandate that law enforcement first aid curricula are updated, giving responding law enforcement cutting edge first aid skills to deal with gunshot and other traumatic wounds. Best practices developed by our military in casualty care are slow to be implemented by law enforcement.

Officers should be issued individual first aid kits that provide them with such things as tourniquets, chest seals and clotting gauze. Tactical training should be mandated for cops not only on confronting a deadly attacker, but how to provide medical care under fire.

Law enforcement agencies within cities and municipalities must train together. Without working out tactical challenges ahead of time, chaos would hamper response. For instance, at an attack at a school, it is critical to team up school police officers as guides for other law enforcement personnel because school officers have essential knowledge such as the campus layout, access to keys, whereabouts of personnel and children.

We have all seen photos of hundreds of police officers at the scene of a shooting. Since there may be attacks in multiple locations, law enforcement and other first responders must have disciplined deployment schemes to avoid over-deployment of personnel at one incident leaving the remainder of the city unprotected from another potential attack.

The plan has to be in place and practiced. Precious time is lost organizing when bullets are flying.

Emergency managers must leverage the resources of the entire first responder community.  Educators, medical, firefighters, law enforcement and security industry personnel need to work out details ahead of time in the event of a shooting disaster. In some jurisdictions, fire and police do not even agree on common terminologies during victim rescues.

Venues that claim to be gun-free should either enact viable common-sense security measures or quit wasting time and resources on feel-good but unproductive practices. My wife (also a cop) and I conduct our own security test do this when we go to venues where they search bags for guns. They have never found the Beretta 9mm pistol in her purse. Meanwhile, I walk through security, fully armed, and I’m never searched.

However, many venues with metal detectors prevent anyone, including off-duty police officers, from entering carrying a concealed firearm. Police officers are trained to protect people. Their firearm is a tool of the trade. An FBI report on 160 active-shooter events found that off-duty police officers, as well as other armed persons, have interrupted the active shootings in at least seven instances.

Amateurish security measures are insufficient. Security at major gathering places needs to be seriously escalated to protect against the legitimate threat of active shooters.

It is time for action by those who can invoke change. The federal government should place heavy emphasis on developing a national response plan for multiple active shooter scenarios. The LAPD’s Multiple Assault Counter Terrorism Action Capability could be the stepping-off point for that discussion. States should mandate that care under fire be a part of every law enforcement curriculum. School districts must concern themselves with active threats as much as they do fire drills. Emergency managers should focus on active-threat scenarios and mobilize the emergency response community plan and train together so that when the day comes, they are ready to roll.

As we have seen time and time again, the threat is real. Evil will visit again. We should make preparations to meet it.

(Richard Webb is a Retired LAPD Commander and one of the creators of the Multiple Assault Counter Terrorism Action Capability (MACTAC) program and author of LAPD’s guiding documents to deal with multiple location active shooters. Since his retirement, Rick created Peak Policing Strategies LLC. He welcomes comments from readers.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

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CityWatch

 

Vol 13 Issue 105

 

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

2015: The Year We Finally Started to Care about Working Parents

THE BUSINESS OF FAMILY LEAVE-Kirsten Calkins was about five months pregnant with her first child, working as an executive coordinator at a small nonprofit in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Like many working parents in the U.S., she worried about how she’d manage having less money coming in while she cared for a new infant.

Her employer, the International Association of Privacy Professionals, offered four weeks fully paid leave, then five weeks at 60 percent pay and then, if you could swing it, an additional three weeks unpaid.

But Calkins was lucky to become pregnant in 2015: the year companies, particularly in tech, woke up and realized that you can’t strand workers facing huge personal challenges.

In January, IAPP -- which counts many tech companies as members -- started giving all its workers 12 weeks fully paid leave after the arrival of a new child.

“The level of excitement is hard to put into words,” Calkins told The Huffington Post. “Not having to juggle a life altering experience like having a baby with budgeting for a new expense with less income. It was like a weight was lifted.”

The U.S. is one of a handful of countries that offers mothers no paid maternity leave. It is the only developed country without a paid leave policy. The lack of support causes a significant percentage of working parents to fall into poverty. It puts the health of parents and infants at risk.

Finally, in 2015, policymakers and companies started to pay attention -- we may someday look back and see this past year as a tipping point in the movement toward paid leave for all. 

A significant number of businesses -- from Adobe to Netflix to Microsoft to Goldman Sachs -- announced they would expand paid benefits for their employees. Twenty-one percent of companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management were offering paid maternity leave in 2015, up from 16 percent in 2011.

And, for the first time a U.S. President got serious about paid parental leave and sick leave. “Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers,” Obama said in January’s State of the Union address. “And that forces too many parents to make [a] gut-wrenching choice.” 

The Department of Labor started offering grants to states looking to study how paid family leave would work. Three states currently have paid family leave policies in place: California, Rhode Island and New Jersey -- where the policy is so popular that Republican governor Chris Christie never followed through on his promise to get rid of it when he was voted into office. Eighteen other states are considering paid leave initiatives.

Political candidates, on both sides of the aisle, now find they can no longer ignore the issue. Hillary Clinton called for paid leave in her first major economic speech as a presidential candidate this year. She’d never pushed for it as a senator. One Republican candidate, Marco Rubio, is calling for a company tax credit for offering paid leave.

Candidates who support paid leave, were eight percent more likely to win, according to projections from The National Partnership for Women & Families, cited in a New Republic piece earlier this year. In Connecticut, Dan Malloy is believed to have won the race for governor on the back of his support for paid sick leave.

“It’s kind of a new thing. We’ve always pushed to increase quality of life for our members, but the spotlight has fallen on leave,” Robert Daraio, a local representative of the News Guild of New York, told HuffPost. Daraio helped negotiate four months' paid parental leave for employees at the liberal magazine The Nation in December. “We’re pushing for this in all contracts going forward,” he said.

It seems almost daily a company issues a press release announcing more time for parents and caretakers.

“It was a good year,” said Ellen Bravo, the director of Family Values @ Work, a nonprofit coalition of groups pushing for paid parental and sick leave in the U.S.

Perhaps one of the most outspoken proponents of paid leave, Bravo said that family leave came to prominence thanks to a spiral of factors -- most notably the Obama administration, as well as the many states and municipalities taking action on this. She credits “millennials,” -- young adults -- who are demanding employers give them paid time off to care for children and family members.

Some companies have always had this benefit, Bravo said. “The interest in making announcements public is what’s new. Part of that comes from their desire to say to millennials come here, we’re paying attention to this.”

In the business sector, tech companies fell over themselves in 2015 offering more generous benefits. When Netflix this summer announced it would offer 12 months of leave to new parents, regardless of gender, the news was widely picked up and a flurry of other companies raced to improve their offerings -- including Microsoft and Amazon.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is right now taking a highly publicized paternity leave that Bravo said set a great example for fathers, who are seen as a crucial part of the paid leave movement.

Banks got in on the trend, too. Private equity shop KKR and Credit Suisse both beefed up their offerings for parents this year.

“We knew it started in tech, but then we started seeing businesses in financial services and banking, which are typically conservative, saying we need to do this, too,” said Melinda Figely, who consults on human resource issues as a vice-president at NFP, an insurance brokerage with clients in banking. "As employers adopt it what they see is people actually come back to work in higher numbers and they're happier and less stressed."

One thing critical about the new momentum on leave: It's not just for birth mothers, but for adoptive parents, for fathers, and for those who need time off to take care of loved ones. Paid parental leave -- not "maternity" leave -- is the hot new thing for companies, Figely said.

The change stems from the country's opening up to gay couples in recent years and people of various gender identities, Figely said. "The barriers are coming down and people aren't so narrow in their thinking that there's one kind of family or only one way to do maternity leave."

Yet for all the positive momentum on leave, the data still looks bleak. An overwhelming majority of employers don’t offer paid leave. Most states don’t offer paid leave. The U.S. unpaid leave law -- the Family and Medical Leave Act  -- only covers 60 percent of workers.

About nine percent of workers who take time off to care for a family member end up on public assistance, according to Labor Department data cited by The New Republic. The Family Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D – Conn.) that would pay for federally mandated leave by taking a few cents out of employee paychecks, is stalled out.

“We haven’t yet reached a polio moment or a moonshot moment where the country comes together and says we can’t let this go on anymore,” Bravo said. “The good news is we don’t need a vaccine. We know the solution. It’s a social insurance fund that can make this possible.”

Bravo hopes that by 2020, the U.S. will make this happen. “We need to do it.”

(Emily Peck is Executive Business & Technology Editor of The Huffington Post where this piece was originally posted.)  CSA Images via Getty Images.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 105

Pub: Dec 29, 2015

City’s Surplus Disposal - Another Self-Inflicted Wound

EASTSIDER-Over the holidays is a great time for politicians to announce things that would normally get greater scrutiny during the year. After all, everyone is making family get together plans, traveling, and/or hiding from year end duties. In that context, along comes a Report from the City Controller with the spiffy name “Disposition of City’s Surplus or Obsolete Items and Equipment” and I lick my chops because I just know that there’s going to be some real gems buried within. 

The Controller’s audit report does not disappoint. The headlines in it say that the City isn’t monitoring its fleet vehicle system, and is spending more money than many of the vehicles are worth in maintenance. For cars there is a photo of a Civic Hybrid that cost $24,000 (new) but they have spent $44,000 to maintain and repair it. On the big iron Street Sweeper side, there’s a photo of one that cost $232,000 to buy -- but another $360,000 to maintain. 

Buried in the document, however, is a story that really interests me: back in 2011, Tony V’s City was broke due to the Mayor and the Council’s incompetent fiscal policies. They were desperate to make the budget look balanced. So, through a series of cuts, early retirements, and shifting employees to DWP and the like, they cooked the books enough to get a bond measure through and stay “solvent.” 

One of the brilliant ideas the Council had was to disband the General Services Department’s Salvage Section -- the folks who monitored the disposCWal of the City’s surplus and/or obsolete items. So guess what happened? Not much, and that’s the essential finding of how and why the City has no real system and has lost a bunch of money. Gee. 

The audit misses a fundamental understanding of how and why LA City’s bureaucracy operates the way it does, and the implications therein. At the top of the food chain are the elected officials, who, by current definition, make political decisions regarding oversight of the City. They do not make business decisions, unless you count getting developers, billboard companies, and the like to make campaign contributions to their coffers. 

I point this out to explain the impact of the City Council’s actions as they axed or crippled, year after year, every request by City Departments for vehicle replacement – and abandoned all oversight. 

So when these half-baked mandates trickle down to the troops, there is one lesson that almost every vested City employee has learned well:  as long as you “go along to get along” and don’t make waves, you will have a fine future and a pension with the City of Los Angeles. On the other hand, if you make waves, take risks, or (god forbid) make the elected officials look bad, your life will be very unpleasant indeed. 

Consequently, no one said anything

Looking at the guts of the audit, there are two fundamental lessons to be learned. First, over 80% of the money we are talking about comes from cars -- vehicle fleet maintenance, which represents 83% of all auction income, to be exact.  

Second, outside of vehicles, no one department or agency has responsibility or understanding of exactly what, if any, policy the City has regarding the sale or disposal of obsolete property. Thus it is hard to quantify the rest of the items discussed in the audit; they aren’t even tracked internally, or if they are, it’s by happenstance. 

For example, electronic equipment has its own website (CitiMAX) which almost no one uses. Most of the stuff that gets donated through it (surprise) is because of City Council requests, and even then, the amount of paperwork involving formal Council action is not cost effective. 

I am personally aware of this and remember well when the Glassell Park NC tried to get the City to cough up a computer for our use. No deal. And when the NC used its own funds to buy one, we had to comply with all the CitiMAX requirements of inventory, serial numbers and other information and justification. And now we know all this data went nowhere. So, well done, DONE, BONC and Council offices – thanks a lot. 

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

The final report has a six point series of recommendations that require action by the Council and City Departments, although there is no reason to believe those points will survive the City Council budget process. For a copy of the full report, click here

For those of you with a mathematical bent, Pareto’s Principle is alive and well – 80% of the dollars comes from about 20% of the stuff. In line with this concept, I propose a variation on this idea -- two simple recommendations that would fix 80% of the problems identified in the audit: 

1) Reconstitute the Salvage Unit, staff it with competent people, give them citywide authority and responsibility. 

2) Hire a couple of “freelance” thirty-somethings or their equivalent (that is, no regular full-time employment), pay them enough to cover wages and benefits, then have them develop a simple, web based, data management system for centralizing everything that needs to be kept track of. Then make everybody use it. 

This would be simple and quick with a provable return on investment model. I suggest this be done immediately because, given their mind set, City Council is likely to come up with some stupid major IT project that they would then bid out to the usual “big name/bad result” corporate consultants…who contribute to their campaigns. 

Stay tuned...

 

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

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015

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