NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL BUDGET ADVOCATES--The City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on March 8th to present and discuss their White Paper for the coming city budget fiscal year 2017 – 2018. 

The White Paper will contain priorities, recommendations to improve revenue generation, collection and operations and the efficient use of our tax dollars. 

The Budget Advocates take on the arduous task and spend hundreds of hours in meetings with city department and agency General Managers, and senior staff to learn, study and analyze their departments' strategic plans, operations, budget proposals and then develop recommendations. 

The Budget Advocates will next meet with and present our findings to the City Council Budget & Finance Committee followed by a presentation to the full City Council in the coming months. 

Please contact me if you wish to receive a copy of the Budget Advocates White Paper.or more information on the white paper please visit NCBALA.com, track our progress while we wait to see how our Los Angeles City Mayor responds.

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.) 

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Less than two months after a horrific warehouse fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist colony in Oakland, city inspectors came knocking at the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles’ Fashion District.

On Jan. 18, two officials with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety showed up unannounced to the art studio and event space, which also was home to 17 artists. As the inspectors made their rounds, residents frantically posted in a community Facebook group to try to find out why two strangers with clipboards were surveying the property and asking to look inside their bedrooms.

This wasn’t the first time city officials had discovered people were living in the commercial warehouse space at 939 Maple Ave. For more than a year, in fact, the city had known Think Tank was illegally housing residents. But it wasn’t until the tragedy in Oakland that the city took more forceful action.

“We knew once the Ghost Ship fire happened, we were like, ‘This is it,’” says Think Tank Gallery executive director Jacob Patterson.

After the inspection, the LA City Attorney’s office served an order-to-comply notice to the property owners, giving the gallery until Feb. 13 to either acquire a certificate of occupancy or have residents removed under threat of a criminal complaint. By the end of the month, all of the artists had moved out.

In the wake of the fire, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer assembled a warehouse task force along with building safety officials, promising an “aggressive response” to illegal-use commercial spaces. The city’s D.I.Y. community has been on edge ever since, and the threat of a widespread crackdown on underground lofts and warehouse spaces has left many artists in fear of eviction. (Read the rest.

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NEIGHBORHOODS--From the Middle East conflicts to an incredibly divided America, religion plays a most important part in our politics and our lives … and prompts me to tell you about Venice’s Open Temple. 

I was raised until I was 10 years old in the Beverly-Fairfax area of Los Angeles. We affectionately referred to it as The Borscht Belt due to the Eastern European origins of the vast majority of its inhabitants. At 10, my upwardly mobile parents decided to move to Northridge in the northwest end of the San Fernando Valley. It was only then that I found out the rest of the world was not Jewish. 

My family wasn't religious. In fact, I wasn't even bar mitzvahed, when I turned 13. But the pervasive secular liberal Jewish culture that surrounded me, my family, and most of our friends exposed me to a unique way of looking at life- whether expressed in humor, politics or fundamental ideas of fairness- that has continued to manifest itself throughout my life with its roots in the ancient Jewish religion. 

But the dilemma that has always faced the Jews and other ethnicities that value their cultural identities of origin- be it religious or secular- is how can we maintain these religions and cultures and yet integrate ourselves into the dominant amalgamated American culture that up until recently has continued to make America great- again and again- by incorporating that which is best in its component peoples? 

If the key for our or any specie's continued viability is to continue to evolve, this unique American heterogeneous cultural integration mechanism that takes the best of what all our tribes have brought to America seems to have served our survival rather well. So, why have our religions remained so segregated? 

Up until I recently experienced going to Open Temple in Venice, I found that organized religion in general pretty much saw itself as right and other religions or atheists and agnostics as being wrong- even if the G-d of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims is historically the same G-d. 

Open Temple in Venice, CA, is a nascent example of a community that responds to these concerns. An engagement model for "the Jew-ishly curious and those who love us," Open Temple utilizes the mosaic of Los Angeles to breathe life into the Moses of the Bible. In recent services, Muslims and LAPD officers played the roles of G-d, Abraham, and Sarah during the Torah service. A local homeless man "disrupted" the performance artist "playing homeless" as a chastening of the Torah reading's view on expulsion (both men were hired by the rabbi for this interaction). And words from Hamilton's "My Shot" were re-written for the Yom Kippur confessional prayer. 

The community is spearheaded by its founding rabbi Lori Schneide Shapiro who also serves as the community's artistic director. She views Judaism through the lens of a pragmatic spiritual aesthetic designing her approach to melding traditional Jewish ideas with how they now can be applied to making sense in the 21st century. 

Like me, Rabbi Lori grew up with no Jewish identity or upbringing, until as a young adult she traveled around the States and the Middle East in search of meaning and found her Jewish light.

Open Temple is the realization of the constant dream she has had since that discovery of what she calls her Jewish light. She wanted to create a place where people could explore their spirituality through creativity. Rabbi Lori believes that Torah is the blueprint for us to do so. When she moved into Venice, it was clear that there was no community with which to share this vision, so she has created it with Open Temple. 

Rabbi Lori met with community organizers, like One Voice L.A. to learn how to organize. She began a grass roots effort collecting names at the Abbot Kinney Festival and meeting people in house talks and coffee dates. Today Open Temple has over 2000 people on its mailing list and has had over 1000 active participants since September 2016.

As Rabbi Lori points out, "Venice is going through a time of exciting and extreme change. Open Temple seeks to be a forum curating spiritual conversation, where people on all sides can feel safe and enter into the conversation. WE are holding space for community engagement and pluralsim; we will never discriminate based on point of view and seek to unify 'old' and 'new' Venice as we go through this adaptive change." 

Coincidentally with being taken to Open Temple by a friend, I just happened to finish reading an excellent book entitled A History of the Jews in the Modern World by Howard M. Sachar. One of the many many ideas that Sachar deals with in the book is that of Mordecai Kaplan, who developed Judaism not as a theology or legal system, but rather as a "civilization." 

Was it just a coincidence that Rabbi Lori is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College founded by Mordecai Kaplan disciples, whose work is foundational to Rabbi Lori's perspective, mission, and thought? 

Check out Open Temple if at least part of you is Jewishly inclined. Who knows, you might just find your bashert- spiritual or incarnate ... or maybe even both. 

Open Temple House 


1422 Electric Ave.

Venice, CA

(310) 821-1414

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com)

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ELECTION WATCH--I first met Doug Haines about ten years ago when my wife and I and a group of neighbors got together to set up the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. After establishing the by-laws and getting certified by the City, we held an election. Doug Haines ran for one of the seats against an affable guy from the neighborhood. Let's call him Steve. At the candidate forum before the election, Doug stood out for his intensity verging on obsession. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him. 

After the election, as the votes were being counted, my wife turned to me and said, "You know, I voted for that Doug Haines guy."  

"What?" I said. "What about Steve?" Steve lost by one vote.  

And so changed the trajectory of my life.  

Doug Haines brought to the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council a passion, commitment, and knowledge that I had never seen in anything I had ever done before. Doug researched every item on the agenda, reached out to the people affected, walked the streets handing out Notices, and brought his neighbors into the process.  

To describe Doug Haines to a person who has never met him is almost impossible without sounding a little over the top. If I were to say to you that the person in history who Doug reminds me of most is ... Gandhi, you would probably think I was off my rocker. But, if you know him, you might chuckle at the idea and then nod your head in agreement.  

Doug first got into local politics when he was working as an editor for his old college buddy Sam Raimi. I don't know much about editing, but I'm told he could have done quite well for himself. Then he found out the old Cinerama Dome was slated for demolition and he got to work. He saved the Cinerama Dome, then started looking around the neighborhood for other things to save.  

What he saw were his neighbors: mostly immigrants and low-income families who didn't know how to navigate the system and who felt intimidated by a coming wave of gentrification that threatened to push them out of their homes. Doug started going down to City Hall everyday. And he started cleaning up his neighborhood by picking up trash, painting over graffiti, getting to know the homeless people camped under the freeways and helping them get the services they needed. Doug's no pushover. If you want to smoke crack in the alley behind the elementary school, he's going to get LAPD involved. But, if you want help, Doug will find a way for you to get it.  

Everyone -- the gang members, the drug addicts, the cops, the developers, and the people who sit on the City Council -- respects Doug Haines. They may not agree with him, but they respect him. And they probably also like him a little bit.  

One story from just last week illustrates my point. I called Doug to ask how the campaign was going. He was busy, he said, down at City Hall everyday, working on a dozen things affecting his neighborhood. And still getting up everyday at 4 a.m. to pick up trash and paint over graffiti. "Yesterday," he told me, "I saw my 86-year-old neighbor out on the streets in his pajamas." Doug asked the man what was happening, but he wasn't very coherent. So Doug found out. Turns out the man was evicted from his long-time apartment, given $19,000 in relocation fees, and set off on his own. That was 30 days ago, and the man's been living in a hotel ever since. He's about to run out of money.  

Doug lives in a small rent-controlled apartment himself. He doesn't have a car and usually pays his rent doing jobs for people like painting or rehabbing old houses. Doug opened his home to his 86-year-old neighbor until he can find him a more permanent place to live. And Doug will find a place for this man. He won't rest until he does.  

Doug Haines. Google him and you're bound to find some bit of slander put out by some shill for the developers Doug has fought so successfully against on behalf of his neighborhood and his neighbors. They'll say he's in it for the money. But there is no money. I know. I've been working with him for ten years. And even the people he's fought against so hard -- if they really know Doug -- will say the same. Every single thing Doug Haines has goes back into the neighborhood.  

Many of us have not recovered from the presidential election. The overwhelming theme that has arisen from this moment in history is that elections matter. And they matter starting right now. Turnout in local elections in Los Angeles usually muddles in around 8%. Eight percent! Every crisis facing this City has grown out of the corruption fueled by this virulent apathy. Don't let that happen. The revolution starts now, on March 7th!  

This election has aroused a lot of passion – which I hope translates into voter turnout. The hot issue, obviously, is Measure S. Whichever way you vote on that issue, please consider that it’s the status quo that has brought us to the crisis we face today. I like Doug Haines – but any one of the candidates in CD 13 will be better than Mitch O’Farrell.

(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.)

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DENSITY DEBACLE-Over the last three years, the residents of the Miracle Mile have been fighting to obtain an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) to preserve the charm and scale of their historic neighborhood. The Miracle Mile emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as the nation’s first linear downtown – a commercial shopping district stretched along Wilshire Boulevard between La Brea and Fairfax – bounded by block after block of multi-family apartment buildings and single family homes. 

The historical continuity of the Miracle Mile was one of the key reasons why, in Autumn 2016, the Miracle Mile HPOZ was approved by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission. 

Then on December 8, 2016 the City Planning Commission weighed in. The Commission endorsed the HPOZ with one hand and gutted it with the other, cutting out historic properties along Olympic Boulevard, on South Orange Grove Avenue, and between 8th Street and Wilshire Boulevard (see map below.) Suddenly, 79 historic buildings and 500 rent-stabilized apartments were placed in jeopardy – and big-box development was given a green light. 

It is neither a coincidence nor a surprise that soon after the Commission excluded these properties from the pending Miracle Mile HPOZ, an application to demolish 744 South Ridgeley Drive was submitted to the city. Nor that, on February 20, 2017, the tenants received eviction notices. 744 South Ridgeley has the misfortune of sitting right where the Commission drew its pro-development boundaries. 

Yet, 744 S. Ridgeley epitomizes the historic character of the Miracle Mile. The six-unit apartment building was built in 1937 – during one of the city’s biggest growth spurs in which “period revival” was the rage. The apartment house was designed to resemble a French Chateau by Edith Northman (photo below,) the only licensed female architect in Los Angeles at the time. Northman designed five other residences in the Miracle Mile: 1044 S. Cloverdale Avenue (1927), 1024 S. Dunsmuir Avenue (1929), 749 S. Burnside Avenue (1931), 1031 S. Burnside Avenue (1932), 1000 S. Dunsmuir Avenue (1942) -- all of which were deemed “full contributors” to the Miracle Mile HPOZ. Now, three of Northman’s Miracle Mile buildings have been put on the chopping block by the City Planning Commission – 744 quite literally.  

With its turret and dormers and finials and steel casement windows – and elegant courtyard – 744 S. Ridgeley Drive is an apt example of what makes the Miracle Mile so livable, desirable, and culturally significant. Step inside the apartments and this judgment is only further confirmed: light, spacious, airy rooms detailed with finely crafted moldings, hardwood floors, and bronze hardware. (Photo left: Architect Edith Northman) 

What’s more, like most of the multi-family buildings in the neighborhood, 744 S. Ridgeley is rent-controlled. Long-time tenants have been able to put down roots in the neighborhood because their homes remain affordable, by law. Should this building fall to the bulldozers, six more rent stabilized (RSO) apartments will disappear forever. And, as irreplaceable as the architecture is, these apartments themselves are even more irreplaceable amidst the city’s severe, and deepening, affordability crisis (nearly sixty percent of renters pay more than 30% of their monthly income in rent.) Of course, the Miracle Mile HPOZ would have preserved the building, while protecting its rent stabilized units – and occupants. 

But the city Planning Commission decision to exclude Ridgeley north of 8th Street, along with the other redlined streets, means this historic apartment building faces imminent destruction. Why? Planning Commission chair David Ambroz – who in an appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti – argued that the Wilshire corridor needs increased residential density. That was his justification for ignoring the recommendations of his own Cultural Commission and Planning staff. Yet, not only has the boulevard experienced unabated densification in the last decade, there is still room to grow up without tearing down the small-scale, historic buildings that are the essential fabric of the Miracle Mile. 

Wilshire Boulevard has no height limits; Wilshire Boulevard has many undistinguished buildings; Wilshire Boulevard has three enormous parcels between Fairfax and La Brea, which the subway builders will convert to mega-structures when tunneling is completed. There is, in other words, ample space to accommodate new residents – without sacrificing a single rent stabilized or historic structure. 

The Miracle Mile Residential Association has made a short video to introduce the real people whose lives are about to be upended by the demolition of 744 South Ridgeley. Ultimately, it is the residents who are being asked to sacrifice their homes to David Ambroz’s and Eric Garcetti’s vision. It is time we let their voices be heard. 

Over 1000 people have signed a petition or sent messages demanding that City Hall reinstate historic properties, like this one on Ridgeley, into the Miracle Mile HPOZ. To add your support click on: Support.MiracleMileLA.com 

 

(Greg Goldin is the coauthor of Never Built Los Angeles and a curator at the A+D Museum. From 1999 to 2012, he was the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine. He is a longtime resident of the Miracle Mile and was featured in the MMRA Channel's YouTube presentation: "The Miracle Mile in Three Tenses: Past, Present, and Future."   This piece was posted first in the excellent Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Westside JCC gets second bomb threat in two weeks.

For the second time in two weeks, the Westside Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd near Fairfax Avenue received an e-mail yesterday containing a bomb threat.

After receiving the threat, which came in around noon, “We contacted the Los Angeles Police Department and followed our emergency protocols to evacuate the building. Within an hour the police had very thoroughly checked our building and gave us the “all clear” to re-enter and return to our normal day,” wrote Brian Greene, WJCC’s Executive Director, in an e-mail to WJCC families and friends later in the day.  (Read the rest.) 

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ELECTION WATCH--Monday evening, February 27 four Neighborhood Councils (NC): Atwater Village, Echo Park, Silver Lake, and Rampart Village hosted the last candidate forum for City Council District 13 at Mayberry Street Elementary School. Council District 13 includes all or parts of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Heights, Elysian Valley, Atwater Village, and Hollywood. 

300 attendees packed the auditorium, lining its walls. Silver Lake NC Co-Chair Anne-Marie Johnson and Vice Chair Jerome Courshon facilitated the event. Allison Cohen publisher of the Los Feliz Ledger and Kirk Hawkins from KTLA 5 News served as moderators. 

Candidates for the March 7th election Doug Haines, Sylvie Shain, Bill Zide, Jessica Salans, and David De La Torre attended. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (incumbent) missed the event. Council District 13 Senior Policy Advisor, Christine Peters declined a press interview.

The moderators asked questions of the candidates followed by questions from the audience. 

Why do you think Councilman O’Farrell is unresponsive to constituents? 

Doug Haines, President of several neighborhood associations in District 13 for over 12 years, said O’Farrell is not being responsive to his constituents in many ways. The City Review Committee meetings have been effectively opened to the public for 30 years where the public can gain knowledge of all city developments. Yet, O’Farrell has shut its doors to the public including NC representatives and neighborhood associations while doors have remained open to lobbyists and developers. 

Sylvie Chain related her eviction from her Villa Carlotta apartment in Hollywood where 17 renters were displaced and two became homeless. The owner benefited from relocation waiver, stating he would build condos but instead now plans to build a hotel. 

“I contacted the Council’s Office; they told me they’d look into the issues. I appealed the matter through a nine-month period, while continuing to call Mitch’s Office for a meeting,” He never met with us saying there was nothing he could do. As a Councilperson, you need to be thinking always of what you can do for your constituents, not what you cannot do, Shain countered.   There’s lack of response and responsible planning across the board with a multitude of issues across District 13, Shain continued. 

Bill Zide, former chair of the Hollywood NC, said that Councilman O’Farrell is making choices and he’s not involving stakeholders. He doesn’t follow the law. Instead he looks to Mayor Garcetti who said the Target Project could be built bigger, yet he did not add affordable housing to get the extra height. “If you break the [zoning] law, just change the [zoning] law. It’s soft corruption which is endemic in City Hall.”  

Jessica Salans, board member of the Atwater Village NC, said she doesn’t know why O’Farrell does not respond to the District’s needs. Salans provided statistics about the growth of homelessness in district 13 and mentioned the topic of “environmental justice.” 

David De La Torre is the founder of the Elysian Valley NC. De La Torre said that it’s beyond him why Mitch O’Farrell is not responsive to Elysian Valley and the rest of CD 13 as he is supposed to be. He should provide attention to community’s needs. “It’s clear to me that the job has gotten to him. … It’s about getting what our communities need,” he said.            

(Photo left: Candidates from left to right are Doug Haines, Sylvie Shain, moderator, Jessica Salans, and David De La Torre) 

How would you contribute to making LA a Sanctuary City? 

All candidates are in favor of working to make Los Angeles a sanctuary city. Haines said his immigrant neighbors look to him for protection and vice versa. Shain would coordinate with community organizations that protect the undocumented “especially youths who were raised here as infants and now are being shipped to a country that they do not know.” Zide said, “I will protect immigrants since they make up a lot of the work force and make it clear that ICE is not the police.”

Salans said her team will reach out to Latino immigrants and provide resources to the most vulnerable. Similarly, De La Torre will bring information that protect the immigrant community and will “work for and with them to help them stay in this city.” 

Position on Measure S 

Most candidates support Measure S, except for Salans. Haines, Shain, Zide, and De La Torre emphasized that Measure S will not impact affordable housing. 

Shain explained that Measure S stops the rampant abuse by developers that goes along with building luxury developments. These then cause collateral damage in existing, surrounding buildings that had been renting far below market rate. She adds “spot zoning is incredibly irresponsible on so many levels.” Salans added that whether Measure S passes or not, team will work for affordable housing. 

What would you do differently if elected? 

Haines explained that daily, he sweeps streets and paints over graffiti in his neighborhood; and, weekly goes to City Hall meetings to participate by expressing the peoples’ voice. He said, “Nothing will change.” Then he emphasizes he would change the way the city operates. Shain said she is running because “There is a lack of leadership in CD13. It’s a responsibility to serve the constituents.” She supports campaign finance reform at the local level. 

Zide will meet with people who complain about developments at the particular development sites. “I will have a housing deputy and small business deputy.” Salans will dedicate 50% of her salary for a progressive community fund. “I will pull in workers from inside District 13 to represent the people of CD13.” Lastly, De La Torre will use an open door policy. “I will be response to you and your needs. If an issue cannot be solved because it’s out of my control, I will tell you so,” he said. 

How would you improve and handle the disputes regarding the Silver Lake Reservoir? Not every candidate was asked this question. 

Both Zide and De La Torre acknowledged that the reservoir is a pubic city park and the land should be accessible and useable by everyone. Zide said that it’s important to strike a balance with the people who live in the area and with the people who live closest and around the lake. Similarly, De La Torre said that one group would like to turn reservoir into the next central park “and the other appreciates the passive recreational component and the nature that comes with it. I’d like to work with both sides where both get some of what they want but not all of what they want.” 

Salans described her vision of turning Silver Lake Reservoir to be like Echo Park Lake: “Walkable, bikeable, and usable for kids to play. I’d plant fruit trees and take down that fence,” she said. 

How will you contribute to “Sustainability” in the City? 

Haines would have respect for the existing zoning laws that are devised by the community over time. “A community should be a better place not a worse place as you live there longer,” he emphasized. Shain would negotiate for public benefits when there are investments to be considered like outside capital coming into the city. She will use funds from big developers for people in the community. 

Zide would simply represent his constituents and be responsive to their needs and address environmental issues. “It all starts with supporting the people, if you’re not responding to them you’re not sustaining anything,” 

Salans would support protected bike lanes, electric public transportation, walking, geo-thermal development, solar panels in every home and business, and capturing rain water. While, De La Torre will represent the people of CD13 and will improve upon services so you feel safe and have a relationship with the LAPD as well as provide youth opportunities for higher learning.” 

Small Lots Subdivisions 

All candidates find that Small Lot Subdivisions are luxury houses that surpass the affordability of the people in Los Angeles. Shain observed that Small Lots are imposing excessive stress in our infrastructure by developers building 3 toilets in each unit. ”They should be held responsible to upgrade our present worn down infrastructure,” she said. 

Zide argued that Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) need to be done independently, other than the developer. 

Haines made clear that 26% of all the City’s Small Lot Subdivisions are in Echo Park and Silver Lake with a consequence of ruining the historic quality of these communities; ”this needs to stop”. 

Homelessness 

Shain acknowledged the many vacant units in luxury, high rise buildings and suggested finding rooms for the homeless there. Zide said that homelessness has to be part of a comprehensive plan and thinking ahead. “It requires a balance. We have to take into account all the constituencies involved. It’s connected with the lack of affordable housing.” 

Salans expressed that we need to move forward with compassion. De La Torre said, “Planning has to be done carefully to also protect homeowners and businesses. Let’s prioritize our funding in the city with what matters to us. He asks “there are billions of dollars to develop the LA River when we have homelessness and infrastructure issues?” 

Affordable Housing 

Shain clarified that we’re not in a housing crisis; we’re in an affordability crisis. She would cancel the Costa-Hawkins Law. Zide would protect Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) units, our main stock of affordable housing. “We are losing them and are not being replaced. Building new luxury-units will not lower the price of affordable housing; it will push rent up,” Zide assured the audience. Salans expressed that her team will search to find a way to create socialized housing as a solution to the affordable crises. Lastly, De La Torre said that his office will facilitate information so renters will know what their rights are for protection in case of displacement.

 

(Connie Acosta participates in the neighborhood council system and frequently reports on Neighborhood Council matters. She is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

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