fbpx

TRANSIT LA-Whether it's in preparation for the 2024 Olympics, bringing LA forward into the 21st Century, or just common sense and good old-fashioned house cleaning, LAX is getting a face lift that significantly enhances access and mobility.

While I am increasingly for the proposed City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Integrity Initiative this November that would set limits on out-of-control LA City Planning, I also find attractive the proposed countywide Measure "R-2" that is designed to establish and guarantee more funding for countywide transportation. The LAX/Metro Rail connection is one of my top reasons to vote for it.

But Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is doing its own makeover, with a $5 billion Landside Access Modernization Project (LAMP)  that will establish LAX as a world-class transportation hub.

This effort at LAX is tangentially-related to the recent kick-off of the new tunnel boring machine for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail project, named "Harriet" after Harriet Tubman in honor of Black History Month. It should be noted that another reason to support Measure "R-2" is to extend this light rail line north to the Wilshire Blvd. Subway, thereby establishing this north-south rail line as a key link from LAX to all parts of the City of Los Angeles.

But LAMP is funded by LA World Airports (LAWA), not Metro.

The 2.25 mile Automated People Mover with six stations and trains every three minutes (or less) is also funded by LAWA.

Of course, anyone who can visualize the local geography will wonder how the Crenshaw/LAX Line or the People Mover might all connect to the Rams' upcoming new stadium in Inglewood, but that's a whole other debate and effort to pursue.

When both the LAMP and Crenshaw/LAX Line are completed, motorists can be dropped off either directly in the horseshoe (as it is now), or at one of the two intermodal transportation facilities that will be funded by both LAWA and Metro -- which includes an extra 96th/Aviation station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line that, in addition to the already-planned Crenshaw/Aviation station, establishes a host of local and remote LAX dropoff/access points.

Furthermore, while rail improvements get most of the attention for this and other LAX upgrades, road improvements will also occur and allow motorists and car renters the ability to access LAX, the freeway, and a Consolidated Rental Car Facility that will dramatically change the LAX experience. 

Of course, if quality Metro Rail access is created, remote LAX access all over the Metro Rail system will, at least in theory, occur.

It's also not hard to envision increased emphasis for an eastern Metro Green Line Extension to the Metrolink station in Norwalk, thereby extending rail connections to Disneyland and Ontario Airport.

(Yet another plug from yours truly as to why on earth the proposed Metro Eastside Light Rail Extension doesn't have direct or easy connection to the Metrolink system in that portion of LA County!)

Businesses will have opportunities to help the LAMP project move forward; potential abounds for business parks and malls in the LAX area – which, like the Wilshire Blvd. Corridor and Downtown is as ripe an opportunity and location for development as any in the City of LA.

So while it's not hard to complain and point out the deficiencies -- and possibly the downright corruption -- in the way LA City does business, we do have a beautiful "LAMP" to shine a light on a potential for Los Angeles. It’s possible to do things right in the 21st Century.

And for that, both Mayor Garcetti and Westside Councilmember (and local and regional transportation leader) Mike Bonin deserve a great deal of credit. And our support.

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  Alpern@MarVista.org.   He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDITOR’S PICK--In his third State of Hollywood address, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, described his vision for the expanding neighborhood and made clear his views about future growth and development.

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground,” O’Farrell said, quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt. “There is no better metaphor for Hollywood.”

At a packed reception hall at the Taglyan Cultural Center, O’Farrell echoed past State of Hollywood addresses by saying, “Hollywood is back” as film production returns and tourism continues to thrive.

But he warned that progress could be reversed by a proposed initiative that would put a two-year moratorium on developments that require General Plan amendments – often for height, density and parking conditions – and it would force the city council to update the city’s zoning framework. As the neighborhood continues to grow and populate, the framework will determine how and where the influx will go.

“Bouncing back to one of the premier neighborhoods of the nation didn’t happen on its own,” O’Farrell explained. “Nor is our current investment of billions of dollars for construction of high-quality developments random. To that end, we will be facing a test of our resolve.”

O’Farrell said the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, proposed by the Coalition to Preserve L.A., is a “direct threat” to Los Angeles’ economy and could hinder the ability to produce affordable housing, as housing availability is “the number one crisis facing the city of Los Angeles.”

“A small group of individuals who seem likely unaware of what was once the down spiral of Hollywood, and now Hollywood’s amazing comeback, have drawn water from the same poison well of narrow-minded NIMBYism and are pushing a ballot initiative that threatens not only this community and everyone in it, but the entire city of Los Angeles,” O’Farrell said.

The coalition, initiated by AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s President Michael Weinstein, claims it is “spot zoning” that destroys affordable housing, and that overdevelopment will damage quality of life. Separately, AHF’s “Stop Manhattanwood!” three-month campaign launched in January and has posted billboards around Hollywood to raise awareness about the city’s development plans and to expose the downside of density. Community activists, neighborhood councils and former Mayor Richard Riordan, among others, have supported the movement.

“The control of zoning by these single city council members should be illegal,” Riordan said in a statement last month. “That person is being lobbied by the developers and getting campaign money or campaign promises, and this just has to end.”

The former mayor noted that traffic and congestion around “elegant density” developments near L.A. bus, rail and subway lines has worsened considerably.

“You’re going to have more and more traffic around these over-developments,” Riordan said. “You cannot put in expensive condos and rental units and hope to attract people who will use public transportation. You will have two cars for each family.”

O’Farrell explained that he believes projects proposed for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Kaiser Permanente, Hollywood Presbyterian, Paramount Pictures and hundreds of affordable units that were already approved would be in jeopardy. He said the city’s efforts to host the 2024 Olympics would be in question if the moratorium passes, and he added that it could have a “devastating impact” on the city’s goals to bring investment to struggling neighborhoods.

“There could be a profound hit to city revenues resulting in cutbacks for basic services such as fire, police, street resurfacing, trash collection, graffiti removal, street quieting, building and safety inspectors, the list goes on and on and on,” he said.

A moratorium into 2019 could produce a backlog into the 2020s of projects and environmental impact reviews that the city might not have resources to complete because of the predicted decline in revenue, according to the councilman.

“We have to look ahead, folks. This is very, very serious,” O’Farrell said.

Another coalition is forming in opposition to the moratorium. Members of Communities United for Jobs and Housing (CUJH) believes the moratorium will encourage sprawl and traffic and that the solution to housing affordability is increasing housing stock. The group is in the process of finalizing a supporter and member list.

“If this initiative passes, construction of affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles would grind to a halt,” said Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities, and supporter of CUJH. “This measure strips away essential and established processes and procedures for the approval of vital affordable housing developments, and would significantly contribute to the ongoing affordable housing deficit here in Los Angeles. We all have a moral imperative to reject this measure to protect homeless veterans, families with small children and aging seniors who will be left to the streets or living in poor housing conditions.”

Another supporter of CUJH, Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, said the initiative will “condemn Los Angeles to a future of multi-hour commutes.”

“If this passes, the transportation network Angelenos have spent tens of billions of dollars on will be left incomplete,” he said.

O’Farrell moved to Hollywood 34 years ago. He said in 1982, it seemed as if Hollywood had been left behind.

“It felt as though danger lurked around every corner,” he said. “There was virtually no growth, and very few quality experiences to be had. Today’s Hollywood is vastly improved, but we all know it has much to go.”

Now, O’Farrell envisions a “built environment.” He pointed to “arduous” projects such as the Target store on Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, CIM’s Sunset Gordon project and the Palladium Residences towers.

O’Farrell said getting the Hollywood Community Plan readopted in 2017 is his top priority in planning.

The councilman summed up his vision for Hollywood moving forward as a historic neighborhood with increasing significance; a mixed-income community with a thriving entertainment industry; a growing live theatre district; a place where new projects are built with inspired high-quality architecture; and a tourist destination that compels visitors from all over the world.

“Our feet are on the ground, our eyes are on the stars, we will never look away,” he said.

(Gregory Cornfield writes for Park La Brea-Beverly Press News … where this report originated.)

MY TURN-For decades Los Angeles has had a reputation for being a series of bedroom communities with no City Center. Sidewalks wrapped up at 9 pm and if you wanted a late snack or a cocktail, the places to go were few and far between. That began to change once Staples built its downtown complex. But now we hear complaints about too much congestion, too many dogs and too many cars. 

Los Angeles is taking the next steps toward becoming one of the world's great Cities. We run on international commerce and technology, as well as entertainment. But like any growth spurt, (check with your teenagers,) it hurts...and can cause problems...and worst (or best) of all, it produces change – sometimes thought of as a dreaded of human occurrence! 

Yes, tourism has reached a new high but we can't be a city for just tourists -- Las Vegas learned that bitter lesson. So how do we balance all these technological and physical advances while holding on to our unique ambience as a city? Short answer: We don't! Although “gentrification” has become a dirty word, we must incorporate the changing face of Los Angeles into our planning. 

I certainly do not hold myself up as an expert in land use, real estate design or development. And I can’t provide magical answers to what seems to be a "mishmash" of City planning. But I have a lot of questions.

Various articles and opinions pieces in CityWatch and other local newspapers and websites, as well as conversations I’ve had with members of city commissions and agencies, have provided little practical consensus. The Planning Commission has a new Manager; the Department of Transportation is busy adding to the metro lines; General Services can't keep track of the real estate owned by the City; and the mayor wants to build 100,000 new housing units. The end result seems to be that no one is happy; there are so many “anti” groups that it’s hard to determine what any group is for. 

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which may be headed toward the November 8 ballot, professes to be for something – but that “something” is more of a negative. People backing the NII want to stop all new development requiring zone variances for a period of two years. RE-Code LA is the five-year plan this is, (surprise, surprise) already behind schedule. It’s a plan to try and get our city codes in some kind of order; to define what is needed whether building a single family home or a twenty-story office complex. And the requirements all vary depending on the area. 

Many LA City plans have conflicting codes and are often more than fifteen years old. It would make sense if each department involved in infrastructure and real estate would appoint a representative to each of the various official planning groups. This would ensure that all involved would have the same information. But maybe that is too much to hope for…. 

So back to NIMBY... the anachronistic term for "Not in My Back Yard." My colleague Dick Platkin, an expert on city planning or the lack thereof, thinks "NIMBYism is an epithet used by real estate speculators to disparage local residents who oppose their projects.

I was invited by Karen Zimmerman from the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council and the force behind the "Savethegolfcourse.org.” The golf course in question is the Verdugo Hills Golf Club on Tujunga Canyon Blvd, a privately owned public golf course which has been part of the community for years. 

The current owner is considering building over 200 homes in a gated-community with all the amenities. According to Sunland Tujunga homeowners, aside from losing a beautiful green area, losing the golf course would make the already terrible traffic on Tujunga Canyon Boulevard much worse. I noticed large banners around the neighborhood saying, "This Traffic Sucks." They are wondering how the Department of Transportation could justify issuing permits without major changes. 

One of the homeowners, Theresa Weinzirl, who has lived on Tujunga Canyon Blvd all of her life, invited me to view the traffic as she tried to get out of her driveway. The game of "chicken” is alive and well. Residents are concerned that the current infrastructure will not support the additional density. Even with an increase in the number of accidents, they can't even get a stoplight or stop sign in this dangerous area.   

I felt like a tourist going through the Northeast Valley with its miles and miles of rolling hills, trees, wildlife. It is like being in another world. Housing run the economic gamut from apartments to small original bungalows to spacious single family homes. The problem is that, even with all the lawsuits and injunctions against projects in Hollywood, it’s hard to get that kind of attention in the rural part of the valley. 

Another builder wants a permit to build 250 homes in the Tujunga Wash, which becomes flooded and filled with mud and debris every time it rains. In addition, there is also only one way in and out – a situation that is very dangerous. There has been and continues to be a homeless encampment in the wash that some of the NCs are working to clean up on weekends. This hardly sounds like the best place for so many new homes. 

Meanwhile, Lake View Terrace is seeking more business development. Now that the Cube Museum is open and Hansen Dam has water, they feel their community could provide great family activities for valley residents. But the problem is lack of eating facilities, too many liquor stores, no banks and no US Post Office. Residents in the area must leave the neighborhood to purchase basic items. 

On top of all of this, the High Speed Rail Line has tentative plans to go through Shadow Hills and the City of San Fernando. David De Pinto, President of the Shadow Hills Home Owners Association, has helped form a growing opposition group called SAFE Coalition and has a well-run grassroots campaign underway. It might be moot if HSR decides to finish the Central Valley to San Francisco route first instead of connecting now to Burbank – chances are few of us will be here when they get finished with that! 

So, now what? The best compromise, is always something in which each side is satisfied and neither side is ecstatic. I think it behooves the groups that are fighting all these changes to take a realistic approach to the situation and come up with plans A, B and C. They need to include a wish of things – whether it be a community room, a park, or an athletic field -- that will make the community more livable. In exchange, they will have to agree to something on the developers’ wish lists. 

Let's face it. Even with all of growth and congestion that exists in LA, we still have acres of greenbelts, hills and mountains. We desperately need housing that middle and lower income people can afford. We need more facilities for veterans and more reasonable housing choices for seniors. But most of all, we need a plan that must have input from all relevant people involved. It should be vetted with an eye to insuring against future droughts, earthquakes, fires and other gifts from Mother Nature. 

And in the end, we can't fight progress. Do you recall the fight against freeways? Does anyone remember incinerators? Where can you buy a buggy whip? 

We’ve all seen the deadlock that occurs when parties fail to compromise -- what happens when, for instance, bond issues fail to improve schools and infrastructure. We’ve seen what happens when people don’t listen to each other. 

So above all, we must be practical, making sure that everyone benefits from our joint decisions -- the business community, our politicians, and most importantly, the people of Los Angeles. 

When it comes to planning for our City and finding the best possible outcome, we should all join forces. I say, “Let’s make a deal." 

As always comments are welcome.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

 

 

 

BILLBOARD WATCH-With the city’s legislative agenda containing such hot-button issues as allowing new digital billboards and granting amnesty to unpermitted and non-compliant signs, it’s little surprise that LA billboard companies spent almost $2.3 million last year lobbying council members and other city officials. 

As in past years, Clear Channel was the big spender. According to City Ethics Commission reports, the Texas-based billboard giant and its parent company, iHeart Media, paid $670,326 to lobbying firms in 2015 to promote its interests in City Hall. 

Second on the spending list at $413,790 was West Hollywood-based Regency Outdoor -- perhaps surprising because the company owns far fewer billboards than the city’s big three, Clear Channel, Outfront Media, and Lamar Advertising. However, Regency is embroiled in a dispute with city officials over the fate of its highly valuable billboards on city property at LAX. 

Other companies and the amounts paid to lobbying firms in 2015 are as follows: 

-Outfront Media $215,000

-Lamar Advertising $187,102

-JC Decaux $162,000

-Summit Media $146,365

-Intelligent Sign Network $90,092

-National Promotions & Advertising $20,612 

A Hollywood firm, Paramount Contractors, spent $155,962 lobbying city officials on signage issues, according to the Ethics Commission reports. Paramount Contractors isn’t a billboard company, but has been involved in legal disputes with the city over super-graphic signage on its Hollywood properties. 

The LA Outdoor Advertising Coalition, a group formed to lobby the city on billboard issues, spent $209,841 in efforts to influence city officials in 2015. Its membership includes Clear Channel, Outfront Media, and Lamar Advertising, among others.

 

(Dennis Hathaway is the president of the Ban Billboard Blight Coalition and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Dennis@banbillboardblight.org.)  Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

AT LENGTH-A few weeks ago, a 14-year-old suspect carjacked a black SUV in San Pedro at gunpoint. Within hours, the police had spotted the stolen vehicle and a chase ensued into my neighborhood. The teenager panicked, abandoned the car and ran into a family member’s home. 

The residence was eventually surrounded, while the streets covering several blocks around 11th and Mesa streets were cordoned off with yellow police tape. Police officers stopped and inspected cars traversing through the area at gunpoint in search of the suspect. 

Within those first few hours of this live crime drama, I saw more police officers on the block than I ever imagined were available. 

There were at least 15 patrol cars, if not more. There was a canine unit, a helicopter hovering overhead, and an armored vehicle carrying a squad of SWAT officers. Plain clothes detectives, Port Police and the Los Angeles Fire Department assisted. 

By the end of the standoff, several hours later, the Los Angeles Police Department captain in charge estimated that there were something close to 100 officers involved. To the credit of the police officers on the scene, that 14 year-old carjacker was arrested without being shot. The Jan. 30 “No Excuses” rally calling for “more police” outside of LAPD Harbor Division reminded me of this incident. For those who attended the rally, rising crime stats along with the still shuttered jail was the focal point of their collective anxiety and frustration. 

This mixed bag of concerned citizens included representatives of not one, but two groups using the moniker of “Saving San Pedro” (one that has been most vocal against the homeless and the other, older group, of anti-Rancho LPG activists.) Then, there were the opponents of the current waterfront development at Ports O’Call and some representatives of the newly reorganized NAACP. 

What was not generally recognized in this unique pro-police-open-our-jail demonstration is that it was conceived by members of the Community-Police Advisory Board, a public outreach initiative created by the LAPD, managed by the senior lead officers of Harbor Division with pro-police community members as advisors. 

The CPAB does not have elected community membership nor does it have any formally elected representatives from the Harbor Area neighborhood councils or authority to do much more than “advise” the police. 

To the point of the jail being closed, for more than two years the Harbor Area neighborhood councils have lobbied, passed motions and written to Chief Charlie Beck, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Joe Buscaino about staffing this jail, but to no avail. 

The argument is that with the jail closed, every year some 4,000-plus arrestees have to be driven from this area up to the 77th Division, the closest jail in this part of the city, at a loss of 3 to 4 hours for two officers. This equates to the annual loss of some 32,000 patrol hours for what amounts to chauffeuring criminals to a distant location for booking. Perhaps LAPD could use an Uber app or a bus? 

Like most everything in the City of Los Angeles, solutions are never simple and this one involves the city’s budget process, two human resource departments and the hiring and training of more than 29 detention officers before the jail can be opened.

According to LAPD Assistant Chief Jorge A. Villages, head of operations, of the 24 people who were recently in the detention academy, only 13 passed the training. And, the priority for placing those who did pass is to put them at the 77th Division to replace the badged officers who are working there because of the shortage of lessor paid detention officers. However, the Harbor Division jail is the next in line of priorities for staffing as it is the largest of the five LAPD jails that still remain closed. 

The frustration is that after spending $42 million to build a new jail eight years ago, we still have a pristine facility waiting to be used. This, joined with the fact that of the 21 LAPD divisions, the Harbor Area has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire city. Even with the recent rise in crime, Harbor Division is a “low priority” for an increase in officer deployment in the eyes of LAPD command. The demonstrators decry the transfer of some 40 officers out of this division some years ago. 

What few of the “No Excuses” demonstrators at Harbor Division understand is that in the Greater Los Angeles Harbor Area we have no fewer than 16 badged and/or armed police agencies. 

If you start counting, we have more police protection than almost any place except maybe the White House, and yet if you call 911 for anything less than a naked man with a gun shooting his neighbor you’re bound to wait 45 minutes to an hour for a response. This is a customer service issue complicated only by invisible jurisdiction. The LAUSD police, park rangers or Port Police aren’t going to respond to a bicycle theft on 24th Street. 

As aggravating as small property crimes are and as connected they may be to high unemployment among certain age groups and drug use by others, the Harbor historically has been a magnet for much larger crimes. 

For instance, take the nearly a-half million dollars in pistachios that were stolen from Horizon Nut Co. based in Tulare County during the past holiday season. This company learned that the theft could be the work of a sophisticated network of thieves as part of a bigger scheme. 

Who knew that a container full of nuts was worth half a million dollars? It did however end up at the Port of Los Angeles. Half of the nuts had already been shipped to the Persian Gulf before U.S. Customs and the FBI found the remainder. 

Excuse the pun, but nobody around here is going nuts over property crimes. However, in the Central Valley agriculture theft is big business. The question still remains whether the Los Angeles City Council has the nuts to keep the promise made to the Harbor Area residents and pass a budget that will allow them to open the Harbor Division jail. 

(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.

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-The nation's finest public higher education system is so strongly committed to diversity that UC officials are ramping up last fall’s pilot program that helped 12,000 students learn how to prepare to become competitive applicants, navigate the admissions process and access financial aid. 

The “Achieve UC” program will be expanded this spring to reach 60,000 additional students at 50 events held at churches, career fairs and other venues. Ultimately, officials hope to make it a year-round program. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, Janet Napolitano, President of the UC System, (photo above) spoke recently to teachers, counselors, parents and more than 100 top students of color at Manual Arts high school here in Los Angeles. "We're putting Achieve UC on steroids," Napolitano said. "We want students and their families to know that a UC education is attainable and it's affordable." 

Shortly after the 1996 passage of Proposition 209 barred the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions decisions, the proportion of black and Latino students at UC campuses took a well-publicized nose-dive. Achieve UC is the latest in a series of outreach programs designed to increase their numbers. 

The UC chief said she was stepping up recruitment efforts after noting that the number of black and Latino students at UC is still disproportionately low. 

Although the system is designed for the top 12.5% of California students, the share of black and Latino freshmen admitted to UC for fall 2014 fell thousands short of that goal, compared to the number of potential applicants. Latinos were 47% of California's high school graduates but only 28.9% of those admitted. 

"I wasn't happy with the numbers," Napolitano added. "I thought we could do more. We should be more focused. We should put some real energy into this." 

The biggest misperception about UC, she said, is that it's unaffordable to working-class families, but the Blue and Gold scholarship will cover all tuition for families earning less than $80,000. 

The new UC Dream Loan program offers aid to undocumented students, who are ineligible for federal loans. About 45% of UC students graduate debt-free, and those who don't end up owing less than $20,000 — a worthwhile investment, she said, that doesn't depreciate the way a car does. 

Napolitano is also touting a program that helps community college students make a smooth transition to UC and is telling students that grades and standardized test scores are only two of 14 criteria officials consider in making their admissions decisions. 

As part of what they call a "holistic review," admissions officers are asking whether students have special talents, contribute to their campuses or take care of their family. 

This is a very important step in making sure students don’t graduate with the kind of debt that will haunt them for decades. We should all be proud that the UC System is working on this plan for the future workforce of California and for the future workforce of Los Angeles.

 

(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: fred.gwnc@gmail.com) Photo: LA Times. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW--As we wind down from the Iowa Caucuses and candidates move on to New Hampshire, those of us in the Golden State often bemoan our last-to-the-dance-floor position in the presidential primary season. After all, one in eight U.S. residents is a Californian and our population is much more diverse than the Hawkeye and Granite states combined. Does our June primary date keep us from making an impact in the process? And how did we end up with such a late draft pick? 

For a bit of backstory, the primary system as we know it didn’t even exist until after the 1968 election when the McGovern-Fraser Commission moved the nominating decision out of the smoke-filled rooms at party conventions, giving the party rank-and-file more bang for their votes. 

The Commission created a direct link between the primary and caucus voters to the delegates who would attend the party’s national convention, binding convention delegates to particular candidates. If you’ve ever watched or attended a convention, you’ll remember seeing the roll calls leading to the formal nominations.

States differ in the decision making process as to how they elect or select delegates. For example, primaries are funded and run by state governments, while caucuses are the domain of the state party; each has different goals. Primary elections resulted from reforms during the Progressive era in order to avoid any mishandling by political parties. Since the state pays for primaries, most states prefer to hold primaries instead of caucuses. However, if a state party chooses not to follow state laws governing the process, which include the date of the primary or who may participate in the election, it may opt to pony up for a caucus. 

Each party gets to decide how many delegates are allocated to each state. In addition, conventions on both sides include “unpledged” delegates who are typically current or former office holders and party leaders. 

Primaries also differ as to which voters may participate. In a closed primary, only registered party voters can participate; in an open primary, unaffiliated voters can participate, as well. California currently has a semi-closed primary. For 2016, the Democratic, American Independent, and Libertarian parties have notified the California Secretary of State that they will allow No Party Preference voters to request their party’s presidential ballots in the June 7 Presidential primary. 

New Hampshire is an early player in the primary circuit in part due to tradition. Iowa captured the kick off because of logistics. After the 1968 primary reforms, a proposed June state convention in Des Moines wasn’t an option because there weren’t enough hotel rooms to house delegates. The earlier date didn’t have much impact in 1972 but in then 1976, Iowa pushed Jimmy Carter to the top tier of the Democratic contenders. In 2008, with a goal of introducing racial and regional diversity to the process, the Democratic Party moved the Nevada and South Carolina primaries to an earlier date. 

Still, these four states are relatively small in terms of population, which prompts the question of why the primary calendar doesn’t seem to account for that. Political scientists and pundits point to the 2012 Republican Growth and Opportunity Project Report, a post-mortem referred to as the “on-ramp.” Both the Democratic and Republican National Committees prefer a slow-building nomination process, which allows for more equal footing among candidates as they make the case to voters. They fear that starting the process in a larger state or group of states might give an advantage to the best-funded candidate. 

The politics of California, unlike Iowa, are diverse. Sure, it tends to swing towards the blue side, but the state has a wide mix of hard-right Central Valley conservatives, SoCal Republicans, Big City liberals and Berkeley socialists, as well as Humboldt County libertarians.

Given that California is such a populous and diverse state, is it fair that it typically doesn’t get much say since it has one of the latest primary dates? Perhaps this is this something that should change, depending upon the spread between the candidates. But why hasn’t there been more of a move to do that? 

If you recall, in 1996, 2000, and 2004, our primaries were held in March. Then, in 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation to move the 2008 primary to February 5. Although candidates did make appearances in California to discuss issues important to the state, 33 other states also moved their primaries to February 5 or earlier, biting into California’s influence. 

In February 2008, voter turnout was about 39 percent, only slightly better than earlier turnouts. Clinton and McCain captured most of California’s delegates but Obama eventually became the Democratic nominee. Holding the primary in February ended up costing the state $97 million during a cash-strapped time and then the state still had to hold another primary in June that year to choose state legislative and congressional seats, resulting in a turnout that was under 20 percent. 

During this election cycle, however, California could end up being a game changer. The state will send 14 percent of the total delegates needed to capture the Republican nomination to the RNC convention in Cleveland to be held July 18-21. Twenty-three percent of the delegates needed for nomination on the Democratic side will go from California to the Democratic National Convention to be held in Philadelphia on July 25-28. 

If no candidate has a substantial lead in delegate count by late spring, especially on the GOP side, California could potentially put the nominee over the top since the state’s Republican delegates are allocated by congressional district in a winner-takes-all scenario.

With both parties supporting a later primary date for states like California, it may be that the primary date is unlikely to change. In spite of this, if the top two or three contenders in both parties continue their current status, then perhaps in this election, California primary voters will have a say. 

Come November, though, if history repeats itself, the state’s 55 electoral votes are unlikely to go to the Republican candidate. The last GOP candidate to win the state was George H.W. Bush in 1988.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles-based writer and writes for CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-A Bit of Background: Years ago, I used to live in Lincoln Heights, in a loft at the Brewery, over by the San Antonio Winery. It was there that I got sucked into LA politics, and even hosted an event for Tony Villaraigosa for CD 14, helping him dump incumbent Nick Pacheco. In retrospect, I apologize for that lapse. 

Anyhow, that was at the beginning of the Neighborhood Council movement and it became my entry into the world of “planning” by our political class. Just after Nick Pacheco was on his way out, beaten by Tony V, the ink was hardly dry when the Brewery and a bunch of other folks were gerrymandered (I mean, “redistricted”) into CD1 run by Councilmember Ed Reyes. Hello City politics…and hello Ed. 

Reyes came in with a city planning background so he naturally gravitated to the PLUM Committee. And there he reigned supreme until he was termed-out in 2013. Ed was famous for running the PLUM Committee as a “Committee of One” -- a fancy way of saying that his other two committee members couldn’t be bothered to show up for a lot of the meetings. 

Council Rules to the rescue -- you only need one committee member to conduct business. This was especially helpful when the other two members were folks like Jack Weiss and Jose Huizar. 

Along with Reyes came a big picture vision of “transit corridors” and “mixed use high density housing” to get us out of our cars (bad) and into the City’s version of “the wave of the future” (good.) I had never heard all those PLUM buzz words like “Adaptive Re-use” or “Residential and Accessory Services,” so it was pretty hard to figure out what they were talking about -- until it was too late to stop the steamroller. 

From the ground level, it seems that this stuff boiled down to warehousing public and private land –making it possible for the Council to (1) sell off and build all these transit-corridor, high-density, so-called affordable housing projects along the rail and bus lines; and (2) sell or resell the big old downtown buildings to their favorite real estate developers to be turned into condos and apartments. 

Evidently, this started a movement since we now see that the building of all this high density housing continues like a brush fire going through the Gorman pass on a high wind day – complete with all kinds of tax breaks, building waivers, and the elimination of parking to the “tune” of the rap song, “No one will need a car in the new LA.” 

Of course, in the real world we know now that there ain’t no affordable housing in LA. The Council “proponents” of affordable housing have largely destroyed it and the very idea of “affordable” is so laughable it should be a punch line on the Jimmy Fallon Show

I discovered the hard way that not one blade of grass, not one liquor permit, and not one single substandard plot of land was touched in districts controlled by the PLUM Committee without the personal say-so of Committee Members. And boy, oh boy, did they have the necessary control tools -- Interim Control Ordinances, Community Design Overlays, redefinition of various zoning codes, variances, and granting approvals of some projects while secretly allowing the building of entirely different projects with virtually no public input or notice. 

The Times Article

Does any of this sound familiar? What got me thinking about all these not-so-wonderful memories was the recent article in the LA Times about transportation funding – in which we see proof of the lies they told us. 

So, after approving Measure B in 2008, designed to be a thirty-year 1/2 cent sales tax to help build a wonderful transportation infrastructure necessary to serve all those smarmy crammed-in-like-lab-rats high density projects, we now discover that transit ridership is down. It’s not only down, it’s in a downward trend that is actually accelerating. 

So in exchange for something like $9 billion dollars of infrastructure investment, we’re seeing a ten percent decline in the use of that investment. This tells me that all the professional planning designed to get people out of their cars and onto public transportation was nothing but hype. 

Read the Ballots, Follow the Money

We must pay attention to the history our political elite – something they hope we will forget – and look at the City’s Mobility Plan 2035 (as re-amended). Here, again, is another project that doesn’t add up. The $9 billion spent to “get LA out of its cars” did just the opposite. Only in LA, right? 

So go ahead and have a good cry over the destruction of the City of Angels by those in search of hot money and fast exits. 

And get worried, get very, very worried. Remember this article when the next tax hike scam hits the ballot. Also, please read Jack Humphreville’s article,  “…Kicking the Can Down the Road.” 

Revisit the history. It seems the 30 year tax provided by Measure B wasn’t enough. No sir, even as we were spending that tax money for declining use public transit, Tony V and his pal Herb Wesson were running around in 2012 hawking Measure J, designed to extend the 30-year sales tax from Measure B for another 30 years! Honest, folks, even I don’t have the imagination to make this stuff up. In the end, Measure J’s necessary 2/3 majority was defeated by only a cat’s whisker – Yes, 66.11% and No, 33.89% – and that should scare the daylights out of everyone. 

Finally, let’s not forget Prop A, the last City power grab, when they tried to pass a 1/2 cent LA City sales tax to help balance the budget – a budget that was a train wreck, largely due to giveaways and waivers given to developers who were busy densifying and restructuring our City in the hope of getting rid of cars and reducing traffic congestion, greenhouse gas, and our reliance on fossil fuels. Fortunately for us, voters didn’t buy into all the doom and gloom predictions from the political elite. People didn’t believe that the City would be broke if that tax didn’t pass -- and it failed by a vote of about 55% No to 45% Yes. 

Next time, let’s ignore the rhetoric and follow the money trail before we approve any more spending.

And if you’re feeling proactive, try checking out the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a ballot measure campaign run by Jill Stewart, formerly of the LA Weekly. This measure is also supported by our own Jack Humphreville.

 

(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.

 

LA’S BOYS CLUB--Los Angeles’ city council is the best paid but the least gender-balanced of 15 major U.S. city councils analyzed recently by Pew.   (Photo above: Nury Martinez, only woman on LA’s 15 member City Council.)

The report looks at the average tenure, salary, and percentage of men and women on the city councils of the country’s most populous cities, plus five other cities chosen for their similarity and/or proximity to Philadelphia, where Pew is based.

Compared to 2011, when Pew last examined the makeups of these same councils, average tenure has dropped, share of women has declined and salaries are up, at least modestly, in most cities. 

According to the report, councils in cities with higher costs of living do tend to have higher salaries, but historical pay rates, the council’s level of responsibility and the political mechanism to raise council salaries also play a role.

The report also notes that there is no clear correlation between members’ salaries and their status as full- or part-time employees, or their right to outside employment. Washington, D.C.’s council members are part-time, but have the second-highest salaries. Despite their low wages, San Antonio’s council members are full-time.

Across all councils, average length of term declined from 7.9 years to 6.2. Baltimore’s council members remain in office an average of 14.2 years, the longest in the study. The average Houston council member serves just 2.1 years, the shortest.

In 2011, Philadelphia had the longest-serving membership, with an average tenure of 15.5 years among its 17 members. A confluence of retirements, defeats and resignations dropped that average to 8.2 years currently — still the third longest average tenure in the study. The report notes that membership longevity can be seen as positive, negative or both: Longtime members may be seen as experienced and influential, or as resistant to change.

Men are in the majority on all councils studied, though by a relatively small margin in D.C. (where the council is 46 percent female) and in San Diego, Pittsburgh and Detroit (all 44 percent). With just 7 percent female members, Los Angeles has worst gender imbalance by far. The second most imbalanced council, in San Jose, has an 18 percent female membership.

Because most councils in the study have 17 or fewer seats, the loss or gain of one female member makes a big percentage difference. Overall, the share of women city council members declined from 33 percent in 2010 to 30 percent today.

(Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Satellite Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. See her work at jakinney.com. This piece originated at Next City.

-cw

LET’S TALK NELA--A regular topic of discussion in North East LA (NELA) is what to do about rogue councilmember and carpetbagger-in-chief Gil Cedillo. His obstructionism famously keeps Figueroa Street a slaughter alley lined by scattered shops struggling vainly against economic desolation … while José Huizar’s York Boulevard, nurtured by its road diet and bike lanes, thrives. York’s shops and eateries host crowds that often spill out onto the sidewalks, where folks can actually dine, stroll, and window shop without feeling hemmed in by manic traffic. Meanwhile, Cedillo’s Figueroa sees firefighters mopping blood off the streets all too regularly, while his cabal of NIMBY ranters keeps him bloated with the odd turbulent pride of stubbornness.

Although the man has his supporters, the community, by and large, would love to see Cedillo replaced. The man squeaked in by around 800 votes, after a campaign whose promises he discarded like so much used toilet paper once in office. His campaign funds came almost entirely from outside the district, and real-estate developers of the more rapacious sort figured largely in his financing. His tenure in office has been marked by photo ops and “No” votes, though he did add some plastic trash bins to the streets…and now he wants to amend the city’s Mobility Plan 2035 to make it more of a Mobility Plan 1955, at least in CD1.

Clearly, Cedillo is not acting in the best interests of the district, or of the city as a while, and is perhaps in violation of the state’s Complete Streets Act.

But few locals want to run against him and his well-financed machine. The community may have to draft someone…and I won’t be the first to suggest that that someone could be Josef Bray-Ali, publisher of this blog.

True, Bray-Ali has written and said some immoderate things in the last couple of years—an understandable reaction to the betrayals and frustrations imposed on the community by Cedillo (watch this video of Cedillo, while in full prevarication mode, touting “real bike lanes,” Copenhagen-style, as a must for LA—even as he prepared to backstab us). One can understand a few flashes of verbal temper under the circumstances.

More to the point is Bray-Ali’s position in the community: he has lived in CD1 for over ten years, owns a small business on Figueroa, and was even a developer himself—not the sort building outsized megablock monstrosities, but partner in a firm dedicated to intimate, low-impact neighborhood-scale projects. He has even written about parking and development for the Los Angeles Business Journal (unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall). 

He is the son of an immigrant, speaks usable if inelegant Spanish, has plenty of contacts at City Hall, and truly cares about the community and all its stakeholders. It would be an uphill battle, but he would be a very good council member, one who would keep the best interests of the district, the city, and the region (which are all, of course, tied together) always in mind. He’s far from being “just a bike guy”—I’d say he knows LA’s municipal code better than most people currently in the administration. Small business, traffic safety, neighborhood health, beneficial development, parking and transportation—Bray-Ali sees them all in the context of community . CD1 could do worse—and has.

Josef, do you feel a draft?

(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are centered on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.) 

-cw

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-In the dystopian movie about Los Angeles, “Blade Runner,” the lead character, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), was an expert at sleuthing out Replicants. They are androids so human that only an expert can detect them with 20 to 30 questions triggering an emotional response through a "Voight-Kampff" machine. 

In the case of an experimental android model named Rachael, Ford/Deckard ultimately determines that she, too, is a Replicant…but it takes him 100 questions to do this. Nevertheless, he falls in love with her. 

While I cannot promise that you will fall in love with the flacks and shills promoting unsustainable, luxury high-rise buildings in LA, I can at least give you a list of my own “Voight-Kampff” questions. Then you, too, can quickly get to work revealing their secret identities. I can also assure you that it won’t take the 20 to 30 questions necessary to expose the Replicants of “Blade Runner,” or even the 100 questions Deckard required for Rachael, the super-Replicant. 

Six questions should do the job just fine. 

Q1. What are the addresses of affordable housing projects in Los Angles that required legislative actions by the City Council (zone changes, General Plan amendments, or both) to be built? 

Over the past week I have repeatedly posed this question to opponents of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (NII) since they claimed that the NII would block the construction of affordable housing in Los Angeles. So far, no one has coughed up a single address, much less a list of affordable housing projects stymied by LA’s current zoning code and General Plan. 

Q2. Should Los Angeles update its General Plan elements prior to any legislative actions by the City Council to approve zone changes and/or Plan Amendments for specific parcels? 

Since most of LA’s General Plan elements are out-of-date, it is now impossible to know where future demand for housing, infrastructure, and services will appear. Likewise, it is impossible to know the status of the public facilities and services that future residents will need in these areas. To step into this mess with City Council legislative actions that will up-end the General Plan through amendments based on antiquated data opens the door to stunningly bad legislative decisions. 

Q3. Should Los Angeles carefully monitor its General Plan Elements prior to any legislative actions that amend them for single parcels? 

State of California planning guidelines and the provisions of the General Plan Framework Element and its Environmental Impact Report require a rigorous monitoring program and annual report. This report should examine the status of the LA’s infrastructure and services, including maintenance, as well as forecasts of changes in user demand. It also needs to determine which of the General Plan’s demographic assumptions have changed and which implementation programs have been rolled out, including their effectiveness. Until this happens, decades-old planning documents cannot be reliably used for legislative actions determining LA’s future land uses at the level of a single parcel. 

Q4. Should any legislative actions approving otherwise illegal projects for individual parcels, based on an applicant’s promises of future job creation and transit ridership, require regular reports confirming these promises? 

At present, applicants can promise the sky and the moon to the City Planning Commission and the City Council in order to get the legislative approvals that their mega-projects require. But the same applicants do not then need to conduct any subsequent studies to determine if the jobs or transit ridership they promised actually appear. If they do not appear, which is usually the case, there are no consequences, such as the revocation of building permits, zone changes, and General Plan Amendments. 

Q5. Should projects that promise the creation of jobs and generation of transit ridership be approved in separate, conditional phases? 

If the City Planning Commission and City Council’s legislative actions to approve special laws for individual parcels were broken into phases, the second or later stages could be rejected or postponed until the promised jobs and/or transit ridership appeared. In this way, liars and shady consultants would get their just rewards. 

Q6.  Should Proposition 13 be reformed by splitting the roles so cities can properly fund public services, such as affordable housing trust funds? 

Since single-family homes sell about every six years, while commercial properties, including apartment buildings, are rarely sold, the latter are the true beneficiaries of Proposition 13. The victims are not just owners of single-family homes, nearly all of whom bought their homes since 1978 and, therefore, pay high property taxes, but also the users of public facilities and services. Since many of these public facilities and services (e.g., affordable housing) have been downsized by perpetual public sector budget crises since California’s voters approved Prop. 13, splitting the roles would make sure that commercial properties were properly reassessed and then required to pay their fair share of property taxes. 

If these six questions are not sufficient enough for you to uncover the Rachael-style Replicants hiding among the advocates and pundits promoting otherwise illegal high-rise luxury apartments in the name of affordable housing, then I will happily provide you another six questions. 

Just remember to keep a hand on your wallet.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on planning issues in Los Angeles for CityWatch. He welcomes comments, questions, and corrections at rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-Who is going to win the Super Bowl, Denver or Carolina? I don’t know, but we already know the identity of the loser: San Francisco. The city of San Francisco, already facing a deficit, is realizing two weeks before the big game that Super Bowl festivities will leave them with more than $4.3 million in costs. 

To cover it, a city analysis shows, the mayor’s office has asked departments to identify millions in surplus moneys, or to redirect staff time and other resources from projects to support the Super Bowl.

The departments have found those surpluses, the analysis found, and that’s not good news – because they weren’t supposed to have surpluses, at least according to what they told the Board of Supervisors during the budget review for this fiscal year. 

Even worse, San Francisco had no written agreement with the NFL or the Super Bowl host committee, or the city’s fire, police and emergency management departments when the Bay Area bid on the game and signed letters promising not to seek reimbursement from the NFL for public safety services in support of Super Bowl-related events. 

And the game itself isn’t even in San Francisco—it’s in Santa Clara (which did get a written agreement on costs.) 

This state of affairs is more than an embarrassment to San Francisco. It’s a reminder that only fools court professional football. Sadly, there’s a new NFL team in California – the Rams have moved to Los Angeles. And worse still, the Rams are building a new stadium that is supposed to host Super Bowls. 

Let’s hope that Inglewood, a much less prosperous place than San Francisco, makes sure to get its costs reimbursed.

 

(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It [UC Press, 2010]. This column was posted first at Fox & Hounds … connecting people and ideas.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

More Articles ...