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LA City’s Safer at Home Order: What About the Neighborhood Councils?

EASTSIDER-While most of us are suddenly huddled in our homes for the duration, yet there is a great need to help one another, how did the Neighborhood Councils get left out of the program? And what can we do about it? 

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his Public Order Under City of Los Angeles Emergency Authority on March 15. 

It was pretty much in line with similar edicts by Governor Newsom and the LA County Supervisors, with the following key points: 

  1. All bars and nightclubs in the City of Los Angeles that do not serve food shall be closed to the public. 
  1. Any bars or nightclubs in the City of Los Angeles that serve food may remain open only for purposes of continuing to prepare and offer food to customers via delivery service or to be picked up. Dine-in food service is prohibited. 
  1. All restaurants and retail food facilities in the City of Los Angeles shall be prohibited from serving food for consumption on premises. Restaurants and retail food facilities may continue to operate for purposes of preparing and offering food to customers via delivery service, to be picked up or for drive-thru. For those establishments offering food pick-up options, proprietors are directed to establish social distancing practices for those patrons in the queue for pick-up. 
  1. The following are exempt from this Order: 
  • Cafeterias, commissaries, and restaurants located within hospitals, nursing homes, or similar facilities. 
  • Grocery stores. 
  • Pharmacies. 
  • Food banks. 
  • Los Angeles World Airports concessionaires. 
  1. Trucks and other vehicles engaged in the delivery of grocery items to grocery stores, when such items are to be made available for sale to the public, are hereby exempt from having to comply with any City rules and regulations that limit the hours for such deliveries, including, without limitation, Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 12.22

A.23(b)(3) and Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 114.03. 

  1. All movie theaters, live performance venues, bowling alleys and arcades shall be closed to the public. 
  1. All gyms and fitness centers shall be closed to the public. 

So, there you have it. Staying at home for 10-15 days, six feet of space between each of us, as well as the above restrictions. And honestly, with no real end in sight after the 10 days. 

Oh My God! 

Hey, this is all really scary. Not to mention that staying housebound in a small apartment can get downright claustrophobic, much less people getting on each other’s nerves over time (not me, of course). 

Here in Glassell Park and neighboring communities, which consists mostly of small businesses, it was like the lights got turned off. 

Our dentist had to close because she was not on the exempt list, ditto for our hairdresser, laundry, and worst of all, restaurants, who once closed may well be gone forever. 

For example, where I live in Glassell Park we have a joint called Troy Burger, which caters to less affluent clientele. Within two days of the Emergency Orders, even with the ability for takeout, the place was empty except for the occasional car. Hanging on by a string. 

Troy Burger is a place where folks who aren’t making much money love to go (large portions, good food, decent prices). When all those people lost their jobs, there was simply no money. Plus, on Sundays, you couldn’t have the family dine together after going to church. Instant economic success to virtually nothing. Bam. 

There’s another joint, Delia’s, that most of the Occidental College folks jam all day long. Closed. Multiply these small businesses by an order of magnitude, and we are in trouble. Add in (thank god) empty streets, and it’s like a war zone. Which I suppose is exactly what we are all in. 

Of course, there are anomalies. At our local Sprouts, the parking lot is always full, despite a lot of empty shelves. Believe it or not, when I recently went there less than 1/3 of the shoppers had either gloves or masks on, even as they handled the goods. Proof that common sense has yet to fully sink in. 

Helping Out 

For the Internet connected, it’s not quite as bad, but there is only so many Netflix or Amazon Prime movies you can watch, and the commercial channels are full of gloom and doom as the President refuses to believe in the reality that this disaster is going to be with us for a long time and a lot of people will get sick and some will die. 

People are freaked out, and many have already gone through that last weekly check or will soon with rent coming due. And no ding on our government, government help is not generally soft and fuzzy.  People need to network and help each other. 

Hey, it can be tough staying at home even without the News, with children and nowhere to play, tech problems with the LAUSD online classes, seniors living alone and/or folks with health conditions, you name it. And then there’s the homeless. 

I thought that the Neighborhood Councils would be a valuable asset in these troubled times, with their thousands of volunteer members who are in the 98 Neighborhood Councils.  

They are already into volunteerism, know their communities because they live there, and would be available to perform the outreach that underlies their very formation. 

Yet in a recent email blast called “How to help our communities through the COVID-19 crisis,” the Mayor called for people to go sign up on the VolunteerLA website.  

Guess what? There was not a single mention of the Neighborhood Councils. Nada. As for DONE (remember them?), what we got was an order informing us that All Neighborhood Council meetings and events are SUSPENDED until further notice. Check it out on the EmpowerLA website here.  

The Takeaway 

Although it is bizarre that the Neighborhood Councils would have to assert themselves to provide free help to Angelenos, all is not lost. Thanks to LANCC and its Chair, Terence Gomes, we recently discovered that they are working with David Ryu’s Neighborhood Council Committee to have the City step up to help the Neighborhood Councils help all of our stakeholders. 

One hopes. 

We shall see. As it stands now, Mayor Garcetti is silent, and DONE is doing a yeoman’s job in suppressing the Neighborhood Councils’ ability to do anything, including to meet. 

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.) Photo:  AFP via Getty Images. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.