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PLATKIN ON PLANNING--We don’t know how future historians will assess the political careers of Governor Jerry Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and LA Councilmember Gil Cedillo, but they should at least receive a footnote for their contribution to the slow by steady descent of the Democratic Party. 

This chapter begins with Jerry Brown’s proposal to “streamline” housing production in California by forbidding local authorities from undertaking any zoning or environmental reviews of proposed housing projects that conform to local zoning. 

Just to show he means business, the Governor doubled down on his proposal with an ultimatum to the State Legislature. He would not fold $400,000,000 for existing State affordable housing programs o the State budget unless the Legislature agrees to his approve his Streamlining Affordable Housing Approvals Bill. 

Some cities, unions, and many environmental organizations oppose the Governor’s approach, but in Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Gil Cedillo, signed a joint statement of support. In Cedillos’ words, he supports the Governor because Brown’s program is a market-based approach to California’s housing crisis. (As a footnote to a footnote, Gil Cedillo was also co-chair of the Bernie Sanders’ campaign in Southern California, even though his market-based solutions to affordable housing are the antithesis of Senator Sanders’ unreconstructed New Deal political approach public policy). 

On this account, Cedillo, like Garcetti and Brown, is correct. The Governor proposal is a market-based solution to California’s housing crisis. But, otherwise, these three pols are flat out wrong about the housing proposal, such as one conspicuous detail. There is no evidence that the Governor’s bill will produce the affordable housing that California needs. While it might produce a few thousand affordable units here and there, the real beneficiaries will not be lower and middle income families that need affordable housing, but the investors and contractors building the housing, since most of the units will be sold for California’s soaring market prices.  

The profit margins of the developers will go up because in many municipalities they will no longer need to submit their projects for design review, environment review, and then be subject to lengthy public hearings, debates, and appeals that increase their costs. 

This also means that the market value of their properties will increase because the cost of pulling permits and constructing housing on it will go down. Like any formal or informal up-zoning program, property values will increase. This, not affordable housing, is the real importance of this amazing money machine. It makes money for owners of commercial property under the cover of an affordable housing program in which only five percent of their units need to be affordable. 

Furthermore, as demonstrated by John Schwada in CityWatch, the City of LA’s Housing Department is notoriously incompetent in keeping track of these affordable units. Based on the research for this article, we can expect that many of these affordable units will not be included in the City inventory of affordable housing available to the public.  

What else do we know about the Governor’s public rationale for his amazing money machine? 

We know that the boosters of all such market housing programs invoke several axioms of classical economics. They portray them as if they are irrefutable truths, rather than quasi-religious dogmas masquerading as social science “laws.” For example, these market fundamentalists, whether Democrats like Brown, Garcetti, and Cedillo, or Republican, repeatedly invoke the “law” of supply and demand. Their claim is that if market regulation of land use is removed, developers will rush in to build much more housing. They then argue that once this housing boom produces a surplus of pricey housing, the price of all housing will decline and some of it will become affordable. 

Of course, those who live in Los Angeles know their claim is utter nonsense. In Los Angeles new, expensive housing is infill housing, and it often displaces older, lower-priced housing, including certified affordable housing. Furthermore, even when the expensive housing has high vacancy rates, such as the current 12 percent, the landlords do not slash rents or purchase princes. Instead, they just hold out longer for tenants, sometimes sweetening leases with a signing bonus, microwave oven, or free cable. 

Even in the worst cases scenarios, such as the Savings and Load crisis of the 1980s and 1990s and the Great Depression that began in 200, the investors successfully turned to the Federal Government for massive bailouts when they went belly-up. The S and L crisis ended up costing the Federal Government over $132 billion, while the Great Depression financial sectorbailouts, as I have previously written, totaled about $13 trillion. 

The markets alternatives of selling building or units at a loss, or slashing condo prices and rents is hardly a wise business option when Uncle Sam offers this type of a helping hand. Likewise, the option of subsidizing borrowers so they could renegotiate delinquent mortgages hardly makes financial sense when compared to a bailout 

Another supposed iron economic “law” is filtering. According to this doctrine, today’s pricey housing will become tomorrow’s affordable housing. In the case of Los Angeles, however, when pressed to show where yesterday’s pricey housing has become today’s affordable housing, the adherents come up dry. Through CityWatch, and sometimes directly I have repeatedly asked, “Where is the affordable housing in Los Angeles that filtered down from once expensive housing?” Is it the gentrifying areas of Highland Park and Boyle Heights? The Historical Preservation Overlay Zones in the West Adams district? The once-upon-a time bohemian neighborhoods of Venice, Silverlake, and Echo Park? Trendy areas like the Arts District and Koreatown? 

(Since I post my email address at the end of every CityWatch article, just let me know where downward filtering is happening in Los Angeles.)

As we wait for these locations to be listed, it is painfully easy to document the counter-example of LA’s many gentrifying neighborhoods where previously affordable housing has filtered upward to become expensive. While gentrification now goes by many names, the best known and most controversial are spot-zoning, spot-planning, mansionization, small lot subdivisions, and Transit Oriented Development (TOD). 

Another often repeated market claim is that zoning and environmental reviews so stifle the production of affordable housing that developers must turn to the City Council for spot-zoning and spot-planning laws. Even though I have also repeatedly asked for evidence of this in my City Watch columns, so far only one person gave me an address that checked out. Like my question for evidence of filtering in Los Angeles, all lines are open and operators are waiting. 

The lack of any serious data for these repeated claims about market magic to address the housing crisisis no mystery, however, and I think this might explain why: 

Profit maximization. Investors of all types, big and small, want to make money, and affordable housing doesn't sufficiently fill their wallets. Even in a city like Los Angeles, where there is massive demand for affordable housing, and many locations where contractors could build by-right, investors are ignoring the supposed law of supply and demand. 

Political influence. Investors have substantial political influence through their donations. When they are subjected to market busts, they ask for and receive financial bailouts, even if it costs trillions of dollars and requires the government to run the printing presses 24/7. In slightly more flush times, like the present, they settle for favorable legislation, like the Governor Brown’s 

Cost of War.  The New Deal programs that built affordable housing (in theory, still championed by Bernie Sanders) through the Federal Housing Authority were sacrificed to sustain high levels of military spending. This process began during the Vietnam War and continued to the present day. Furthermore, alternative local sources for affordable housing funds in California, Community Redevelopment Agencies, were dissolved in 2012.

 

(Dick Platkin reports on city planning issues in Los Angeles for CityWatch. He is a former LA City Planner and current advocate planner.   He welcomes comments and corrections at [email protected].) 

-cw

PLANNING POLITICS--The Los Angeles Department of City Planning has done some crazy stuff in the past several years. Greenlighting skyscrapers that would be built on top of fault lines. Allowing developers to knock down affordable housing to build new luxury units. Continuing to hand out liquor permits in high-crime areas, even after LAPD Chief Beck wrote a letter asking them to cool it. I’m so used to the DCP doing things that are either irresponsible or totally irrational that I thought nothing they did could surprise me anymore. 

But I was wrong. 

At the beginning of May I was going through my inbox when I came across a hearing notice for a 21-story hotel that’s been proposed for the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga (graphic above)st. That caught my attention. I live in the area, so I know the intersection well. I scanned the hearing notice, and was surprised to see that the DCP was handling a project this large with a Mitigated Negative Declaration. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this process, here’s a quick summary. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that project applicants complete an Initial Study to determine if there will be significant impacts on the environment. There are three possibilities. If there are no significant impacts, it can be handled with a Negative Declaration. If there are significant impacts but they can be mitigated, a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) is used. If there are significant impacts that can’t be mitigated, then the project requires a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Doing an EIR is a long, complex process. It can be difficult and costly for developers, and many would rather skip it if possible. 

R.D. Olson is the developer behind this high-rise hotel, and they obviously didn’t want the hassle of doing a full EIR. Lucky for them, the DCP was only too willing to oblige, and chose to handle the process quickly with an MND. In my opinion, this was completely inappropriate for a project of this size, especially considering the entitlements the developer was requesting. Check out R.D. Olson’s wish list. They’re asking for…. 

A Vesting Zone and Height District Change and an increase in Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of up to 6 to 1. 

A Conditional Use to permit the sale and dispensing of a full line of alcoholic beverages. 

Reducing required setbacks on the sides and rear of the project to zero. 

Seems like the developer is asking for a lot. But let’s skip that for the moment, and take a look at the way the DCP has handled the approval process so far. 

The hearing to consider approving all these entitlements and the adoption of the environmental document was scheduled for May 25. On May 4, I e-mailed the staff contact to ask if I could get a copy of the MND. He replied the same day, saying that the MND wouldn’t be ready for a couple weeks. That bothered me, because it meant the public would only have a week to study the document before the hearing. I wrote back expressing my concern, and asking if I could see the Initial Study. No answer. A few days later I wrote again. Still no answer. After another few days I wrote again. This time I got a response, but the staff contact made no mention of the Initial Study.

I finally realized that e-mailing was a waste of time, and I made an appointment to go to the DCP to look at the case file. On Friday, June 20, I made the trip to City Hall and rode the elevator up to the Department’s offices. A young woman handed me the file and showed me to a conference room. I sat down and started flipping through the documents. I was hoping that since the hearing was only five days away the MND would be available. No such luck. But what really surprised me was that in looking through the file I didn’t see any sign of the Initial Study. 

Let me state this another way. In five days the DCP was going to hold a hearing to consider approval of a 21-story hotel in a busy urban area that required major entitlements, and the environmental documents required by state law were nowhere to be found in the case file. 

But I did find another document that was pretty interesting. The traffic analysis for the project was done by Linscott, Law and Greenspan. They studied six intersections in the vicinity, including Cahuenga at De Longpre, Cahuenga at Sunset, and Cahuenga at Hollywood. Now anybody who’s driven north on Cahuenga or east on Sunset during weekday rush hour knows how bad the congestion is. Cars are often backed up for blocks. But according to Linscott, Law and Greenspan, all three intersections get an “A” for Level of Service (LOS) during the PM rush hour. Let me give you the definition of “LOS A” from the Highway Capacity Manual: "Free-flow conditions with unimpeded maneuverability. Stopped delay at signalized intersection is minimal." 

It’s clear that the analysis offered by Linscott, Law and Greenspan has some serious problems. But you’d never guess that from the Traffic Assessment prepared by the LA Department of Transportation (DOT). They say, "....[T]he proposed development is not expected to result in any significant traffic impacts at any of the six study intersections identified for detailed analysis. The results of the traffic impact analysis, which adequately evaluated the project's traffic impacts on the surrounding community, are summarized in Attachment 1." 

The other aspect of this project that really worried me was the liquor permit. In recent years the DCP has approved numerous liquor permits for clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels in the Hollywood area, apparently unconcerned about the high-crime rate associated with local nightlife. But LAPD Chief Charlie Beck was so worried about this practice that he wrote a letter to the DCP in October 2014 to express his concern about the “oversaturation of ABC [alcoholic beverage control] locations” in the Hollywood area. In his letter, Beck said that the high number of businesses serving alcohol was putting a strain on police resources, and listed some of the problems associated with local nightlife, including robberies, thefts, fights with serious injuries, shootings and rapes. 

I wanted to talk about all these issues at the hearing, so I showed up at City Hall on May 25. I was surprised when the hearing officer opened the proceedings by announcing that they were doing things a little differently for this project. Since the MND wasn’t ready yet, this would just be a preliminary hearing. Later, when the document had actually been completed, the DCP would schedule another hearing. This was a first for me. I’d never heard of such a thing before, but I guess they finally realized that giving the public the opportunity to comment on a document before it was actually released didn’t make a lot of sense. Also, it would have made it very easy to challenge the DCP’s determination. 

So after listening to the project reps give their spiel about how great this hotel would be, I got my chance to talk. I told the hearing officer I thought an MND was inadequate; I said I believed the traffic analysis was seriously flawed and explained that I was worried about approving yet another full alcohol permit in an area that clearly had serious problems related to nightlife. 

And that sparked an interesting discussion about the permit. The project reps assured me that this hotel would not be creating undesirable impacts. The clients they wanted to attract were business travelers, not night clubbers. There would be no parties on the rooftop deck. There would be no DJs. There would be no live music. This hotel was going to be geared toward the upscale business class. Any fears about the project adding to the problems caused by the party scene were completely unfounded. 

At the time, I bought it. But then I remembered that I’d seen a post on Urbanize LA announcing the project. According to that post from August 2015, no operator had yet been named. I contacted both the developer and the DCP to ask if Olson had signed an agreement with someone to run the hotel. No response from either. Why is this a concern? Because the operator will be the one to determine who the hotel caters to and what kind of clientele they want to attract. 

R.D. Olson isn’t going to be running the show. Any promises they make about how the hotel will be run are meaningless. And the DCP knows that. Lately they’ve been making a practice of handing out liquor permits to developers instead of business owners, which means there’s no way to assess the impacts and no meaningful way to attach conditions governing the use of the permit. 

Why am I going on at such length about this proposed hotel? Because it’s a beautiful illustration of just how bad things have gotten at the Department of City Planning. We have the decision to use an MND for a project that clearly requires an EIR, the bizarre plan to hold a meeting to consider a document that wasn’t even finished, the absurdly inaccurate traffic analysis, and the approval of a full liquor permit with no clear idea of how the business owner will use or abuse it. When you add all this together, it seems to me that the Department’s highest priority is serving the developer. 

The substantial impacts this hotel could have on the community have all been brushed aside to speed the approval process. I get the impression that the folks at the DCP feel like they can just disregard state law. And even worse, it seems to me that they’re completely oblivious to the public’s interests here. I get the feeling that they just don’t care. 

This is what planning looks like in the City of LA these days. A shoddy, haphazard process driven by developers with deep pockets. This is just one hotel in Hollywood, but there are people all over LA who are frustrated by the DCP’s apparent lack of concern for their communities. 

Last Thursday, I wrote again to the staff contact to ask if the next hearing had been scheduled. You won’t be surprised when I tell you I haven’t heard back yet.

 

NOTE: If you’re interested in talking to the DCP about this project, here’s the case number: CPC-2015-2893-VZC-HDCUB-ZAA-SPR

 

(Casey Maddren was born in Los Angeles and has lived here most of his life. He tries to capture as much of the city as he can in his blog, The Horizon and the Skyline.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

JUST THE FACTS-It was Sunday morning June 12 when I learned from a radio report around 6:30 am that there was a massive shooting in Orlando, Florida. As the information was broadcast, I learned that this was possibly another terrorist attack on Americans at a soft target location. Reminding me of other recent attacks across the globe, I went to church at the 7:00 am service to offer prayers for those shot and killed and recovering from their wounds. 

Since the event was so recent, the priest did not mention the incident during the service. Following mass, I turned to my radio and learned the horrifying details as the news reports were coming in from the scene. The tragedy was now being described as the worst massive shooting in American history! 

During my 33 years of service with the LAPD, I often thought I had seen the worst of hostility and tragedy in America. Multiple shooting victims at various crime scenes, the North Hollywood B of A Bank shootout and thousands of victims killed in gang shootings over the years. 

The Orlando shooting reminded me of so many other terrorist shootings I have read about around the world. Incident after incident with innocent people including women and children killed by terrorist activity. The civil rights movement in America claimed the lives of many innocent men, women and children over the years. Riots across America claimed the lives of other innocent people. Chicago gangs have taken so many lives in turf battles. Being raised a Catholic, I have always respected people as people. It did not make a difference of the persons color, their religion or sexual orientation. It is and has always been about respect for people. All people. 

I will be saying prayers for those that have been killed and those suffering in recovery. The family members of all those impacted also need our support and prayers.

May the 49 that have died Rest in Peace in God’s hands. 

We also need to keep the police officers and sheriff deputies firefighters and paramedics in our prayers. Coming upon a scene with so many dead and injured people will have an impact on the safety personnel for many years to come.

May our elected government representatives work with our public safety personnel and establish safety and security in the lands of The United States of America. 

How many more TERRORISTS are out there looking for the next target? 

The FBI currently has hundreds of people under investigation for possible terrorist activity. We all need to support our law enforcement personnel in their mission of Protecting and Serving all of us in America. Remember that IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING. Law enforcement can’t do it without your help and assistance. 

In this particular case, the individual has been identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen. He carried out the carnage with a Sig Sauer MCX and a Glock 17.     

Terrorist activity in America and law enforcement’s ability to rescue victims that are being held in so many life-threatening situations.   

Some ignorant American government officials with no military or law enforcement experience have pressed law enforcement agencies to return surplus military equipment that was supplied for the protection of the public. To be politically correct, some agencies were forced to return the military vehicles and other specialized equipment. While public safety personnel may not use the specialized military equipment on a daily basis, when they need it to protect American people and they need it now and not later. Isis is a threat to all Americans and America. We need to push the Federal Government to supply our local public safety personnel with the military equipment they need to protect and serve our communities.               

I thank those of you that have taken the time to email me your thoughts and comments. I try and reply to each of you when time permits. Your comments are welcome at [email protected].

 

(Dennis P. Zine is a 33-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. He writes Just the Facts for CityWatch. You can contact him at [email protected].)

FINANCIAL STRUGGLE--With the demise of Air America, Current TV, and Al Jazeera America it looks like only Pacifica Radio is still standing. Here in Los Angeles many rely on KPFK 90.7 fm for information they just won't hear anywhere else. KPFK is one of the five Pacifica stations. 

Many have lamented the perpetual dysfunction and drama surrounding Pacifica. But Pacifica has somehow endured for almost 70 years. It's time to fix it. Actually, it's past time to fix it. The need for revitalization is urgent. All five stations are struggling financially but financial shortfalls at two of the stations are so severe that they are threatening the survival of the entire network. 

Also, Pacifica is currently being investigated by the California Attorney General, has lost its Corporation for Public Broadcast funding two years in a row (about $2 million lost so far) because of poor financial reporting and will probably lose CPB funding for the next fiscal year. It is also not up to date on other financial reporting to federal and state agencies. 

Pacifica's radio signal licenses are estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars. It would be tragic if they were lost. Progressive advocacy groups need media to project their messages. They court, beg and cajole mainstream media with mediocre results. Meanwhile, here is Pacifica, the naughty step child of the left, mostly abandoned by the groups and movements that could save it and build a powerful media force and, at the same time, increase their own clout. 

Here's a quote from the Pacifica Bylaws: "The Foundation is committed to peace and social justice, and seeks to involve in its governance and operations individuals committed to these principles."  

Let me say loud and clear that you are formally invited to join Pacifica governance. Yes, I mean YOU. What does that entail? Let me explain. 

Pacifica has democratically elected local boards that, in turn, elect members of the Pacifica National Board, which controls all its stations and assets. If competent and committed people are elected to these local boards there is a good chance that Pacifica could be fixed. 

Pacifica has been mismanaged and misgoverned. The Pacifica National Board has the ability to change the management of the Foundation for the better. If the Local and National boards were improved they could make the bold management changes needed and Pacifica could probably be repaired. It wouldn't be easy, but it could be done. There are elections for local boards at each of the 5 Pacifica stations. These elections began on June 1st. The local boards each elect 4 people to the Pacifica National Board. The first step is to elect competent people to the local boards who then elect their most qualified members to the National Board. It's as simple as that. 

There is a very short window for nominations to these boards. The nomination period has already started and ends on June 30th is scheduled to open on June 1st and only lasts for one month. It's extremely important that competent, committed people be elected to these boards. Elections are held every two out of three years. As there was an election in 2015, after this current election there won't be another one for 2 years. That means this election is crucial to the survival of Pacifica Radio! 

If you want further information, please don't hesitate to email me at [email protected]. Or you can go to Elections.Pacifica.org or to CandidateSlate.org.

 

(Grace Aaron is a Pacifica National Board Member (2008, 2009 and 2016, interim Exec Dir 2009.) The opinions expressed in this article are entirely her own and do not represent Pacifica Radio, or any faction, group or entity related or unrelated to Pacifica.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

THE CITY--While Angelenos are easily fooled, Wall Street is not. Wall Street does not buy the disinformation about a housing shortage. They know that Los Angeles has a 12% vacancy rate for apartments constructed in the last decade. Wall Street knows that means the City has been constructing too many new apartments. 

Wall Street knows that more people are moving out of the City of Los Angeles than are moving into the city, meaning, LA has a net exodus over new arrivals. The amount of empty housing increases, even if nothing new is constructed. Thus, Wall Street knows the exodus means the demand has slowed, while the number of available places has grown. 

Wall Street knows that developers with empty units cannot make their loan payments and that makes Wall Street unhappy. The developers are also upset. Like the species of sharks which must swim in order to breathe, developers must construct in order to survive. Any business facing a declining market for its product is doomed. The developers know that Los Angeles has “150 percent (5,874) of the units needed by above moderate income earners.” (11-17-2015 HCIDLA report to Mayor) 

In response to this excess capacity, the City has turned to subterfuge: 

(1) Tell Everyone That There Is a Shortage of Housing--Following the old adage, “figures don’t lie, but liars can figure,” they pretend that housing prices are soaring, therefore, there must be a shortage. Like I said, Angelenos are easily deceived, but Wall Street is not. Higher prices do not necessarily mean a shortage. And that is why Wall Street wants guaranteed bail-outs to fund additional construction. But more about the bail-outs later. 

(2) How Housing Prices Are Hyped--In calculating average prices, they throw in some super high homes such as the asking price of $85 million for Eddie Murphy’s old estate in Holmby Hills – as if mansions in Holmby Hills affect prices in East Hollywood. 

And there’s another scam on the public: the City reports the high advertised sales prices and high advertised rents as the amounts actually paid. The City gets this misleading data from real estate companies which have a vested interest in deceiving people into believing that prices are escalating. 

There are also machinations at the low end of the market. The City has torn down over 20,000 rent controlled units. Rent controlled units have lower rents and the older units with long term tenants have the lowest rents. The demolition of rent controlled units removes low end rentals from the equation. 

For example, let’s say the rent range is between the low rent of $20 and the high rent of $80. Then the average rent is $50. Tear down the $20 units, and the cheapest is now $30 so the new “average rent” is $55. Because rents have then increased by 10%, the City declares that there must be an increased demand. However, the reality is that the demand has not changed. Rather, the City has eliminated the apartments with the lowest rents.

(3) Create a Homeless Crisis--By tearing down rent controlled housing, the City throws thousands of people into the streets. Even if they could find a new rent controlled apartment, that unit’s rent would begin at market rate, which these people cannot afford.

 

Now, Wall Street sees a chance to make money on the backs of the poor. Here’s how the scam works:

 

(1) Publicize the Plight of the Homelessness--Garcetti excels at photo-ops. He may suck as a mayor, but when he’s in front of the camera, he is #1. These photo-ops then lead to a campaign to house the homeless. 

At this moment, Garcetti ignores the fact that LA has a plethora of empty apartments – where we could house all the homeless who want homes. Instead, the Mayor says that we must give hundreds of millions of dollars to his friends to build apartments for the homeless. I wonder if Garcetti’s friend and campaign fund raiser Juri Ripinsky, a federal felon who served two years in Leavenworth for real estate fraud, is in line for some of this free money. He got the lucrative Paseo Plaza Project in Hollywood back when Garcetti was City Council President. 

(2) Wall Street No Longer Likes Tax Rebates--There was a time when the City gave future taxes to the developers who would keep the sale taxes generated from the stores in their mixed-use projects. However, many of them collected no sales taxes because their retail space was vacant. Vacant retail space often means that many apartments are also unrented. The point of mixed-use projects is that the people who live in the building will shop at the stores. Wall Street knows that empty retail spaces portend disaster. As a result, Wall Street will no longer rely on sales tax rebates as providing the developer with the revenue stream to repay his loan. 

(3) The Garcetti Administration has a dilemma--The homeless are too poor to pay rents and the more affluent already have too many available apartments. Plus, each day Los Angeles is losing more and more educated and well trained people. This leaves us with a poorer population, many of them young and elderly. Neither the newborns nor the old are demanding new housing. 

Question: What can we do to keep Garcetti’s developer buddies in business? 

Answer: Pre-Arranged Wall Street Bail-Outs 

This solution is brilliant. In advance of a loan, the taxpayers will guarantee to bail out Wall Street. In this scam, the City itself borrows the money and gives it to the developers. That way, it’s the City that must repay the loans! 

Wall Street buys City’s bonds which the taxpayers repay. The developers are left out the equation -- except they get all the money. Developers form collapsible companies call LLCs and LLPs. After the developer’s company has distributed millions of dollars to the developer, his family and his friends, the company goes bankrupt. 

If the developer had borrowed the money directly from Goldman Sachs, then Goldman Sachs would be out hundreds of millions of dollars. But in this scheme, Goldman Sachs will have bought the City bonds and made no direct loans to the developers. So the City has to repay Goldman Sachs.   

That is why the City is floating bonds for projects with Affordable Housing. The public is easily fooled and doesn’t realize that it’s paying the bills. The harm here is greater than one first sees. When the City uses up its credit by issuing too many bonds, it must agree to pay higher rates of interest for additional borrowing. 

Thus, a secondary impact on the taxpayer is that the City cannot finance itself without incurring high debt. In anticipation of more of the City’s money going to pay off Wall Street, the City is already turning to rate hikes like the four year DWP rate increase, from which the City skims off 18%. The City also wants higher taxes to pay for transportation -- and eventually will want higher taxes for more police and paramedics. 

NYC is called The Big Apple. Soon, LA will be known as The Big Scam.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

WORDS FROM THE HOOD--It’s been a while since ImagineVenice had something to say. Why? …because no one likes to read an edition comprised of rants. It seems like all the action around here provokes one rant after another – so, we guess, it’s time to let it rip.

Residents often talk about how “cool” Venice is. You know, along with all the other platitudes about how much more Venice was before and how Venice has changed. We have. Many worry we are on an irreversible course towards losing our “uniqueness” … maybe even our soul. We are. In the next breath these landed gentry complain “tsk, tsk my friend still can’t find a place to live here with all these Airbnb’s taking over all our rentals.” If you are grousing about the changes around this town, you better get ready for the big one. 

Last week our local Chamber of Commerce lead its business-minded membership, along with many restaurant owners, developers and architects to the polls to vote at the Venice Neighborhood Council election. (Photo above: Voters stand in line to cast vote in Venice Neighborhood Council election.) They called in their chits and their dishwashers and Sparklett’s delivery guys marched dutifully to the polls along with anyone else who “owed” them. It was a rout. The election turnout was almost double from the last election.

Many of the newly “Venice committed” voters have absolutely nothing to do with the Venice community. They could care less about it. Their required declared “relationship” got them a ballot and they voted. That’s the way this election dumped the old team and brought in a new one.

We know it sounds ridiculous that non-residents or non-property owners could actually determine your future by voting in someone else’s local election. That’s what happened. An interpretation of the election rules allowed this corruption.

Manipulation like this of our local neighborhood council vote has never happened before. The Chamber and all of its business-interested members have utilized their group power and joined together to serve their common interests using this avenue. It doesn’t matter whether it is moral. It is legal.

You would be right to question if anyone not focused on money-making development issues in Venice needs to pay any future attention to the happenings of the VNC. With this new group running the VNC show there won’t be a development they won’t like or a rule they won’t break or change or a rent stabilized apartment they won’t want to change into a short-term rental for a buck. Whatever it is, if it puts money in their pockets or in their friend’s pockets they will approve it.

Get ready for a very different Venice.

●●

Enforcement? Not in Venice--If you want local laws enforced, better move to Brentwood. Somehow, even though we are in the same council district, trash cans are plentiful over there and homeless people are not setting up tents on their sidewalks. 

Shops don’t get to illegally expand without parking and restaurants don’t get away with adding illegal seating. Citations mean absolutely nothing around here but somehow have their intended force and effect in Brentwood. There are no driveways on San Vicente or Wilshire converted into “pop-up” shops of one stripe or another or vendors setting up businesses right on the street out of their cars, vans and even on blankets. 

In Brentwood you won’t find apartment houses with illegal structures built in their front yard selling cookies. No amplified music event is approved if it is within 500′ of residences. The ABC doesn’t approve just about every request it gets to sell alcohol. We in Venice must live in another world. 

Maybe we do. Here, anything goes. Despite a year’s worth of citations our hottest restaurant still uses the neighbor’s driveway to provide seating for a no-seating-allowed takeout. That property owner continues to ignore citations demanding the seating be removed and his driveway returned to a useful driveway. There are numerous illegal acts, too many to list. For some reason, enforcement just doesn’t happen around here, no matter how egregious the behavior. 

The newest hustler on the block, Greenleaf, asked for and got a permit for an outside parking lot “beer garden” to add to the mix during our last First Friday. Never before has a restaurant or shop on the street sold alcohol from an outside parking lot or a shop received a special event permit to sell alcohol on a First Friday. 

Greenleaf has now opened the floodgates to alcohol special event sales on First Friday. Thousands of young people pack our sidewalks those nights while eating from various food trucks. Now they have the “opportunity” to walk off the sidewalk and get a beer or three and return back to the crowd. 

Imagine kids all juiced up packed in like sardines on the next First Friday. Imagine your kid at this event. If it’s a hot night, it will take just one troublemaker to make this event a disaster. The decision makers use no discretion when they give out alcohol-related permits. It will take much more than common sense to say “no” to the powerful and connected — especially if the Chamber is behind them. You would think these “deciders” were Chamber members themselves! 

We dodged a bullet last Friday. It was a cool evening. We are unlikely to be that lucky in the future. Greenleaf now has a sidewalk sandwich sign advertising their parking lot alcohol event for future First Fridays. Looks like future approvals are in the bag for our avaricious new neighbor. It is all about making money. 

Sometimes newcomers are the target of our disdain because of their disinterest in what made Venice, Venice. The new “new” matters most to them. They really don’t care if this place is turned into another Grove. But they are not villains. They are what they are. 

The real truth behind the big changes here can be found with our own “movers and shakers.” They are our villains — our very own — our super land rich. Because Venice has become a magnet drawing international businesses from all over the world, our own landed gentry are now so very rich and loving it. They never dreamed money of this magnitude would drop from the heavens right into their laps. All they had to do to get it was be here at the right time. Like a drug, they just want more, more, more. No matter the cost. 

Venice in the word of that famous song just doesn’t get any R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

 

(Marian Crostic   and Elaine Spierer are co-founders of Imagine Venice … where this commentary was first posted.)

-cw

DEEGAN ON LA-Immediate access to one-half billion dollars from the state’s Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties is the goal of a motion introduced on Tuesday, June 14 by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl seeking a resolution from the Legislature asking the Governor to declare a state of emergency due to the homeless crisis. The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the motion. 

In addition to the action by the Supervisors, the County’s multi-pronged State advocacy effort to combat homelessness includes an online petition urging Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in California to address this growing humanitarian crisis throughout the State, by indicating to lawmakers the need for a concerted effort and more resources to end homelessness. 

If the Governor declares a state of emergency, it will open the door to various funding possibilities that can immediately help LA County, where nearly half the state’s homeless population lives, deal with our homeless issues. 

The stark reality is that 115,738 homeless, or 21% of the nation’s homeless, live in California and that 41% of the state’s homeless (47,000 including over 6,000 parents and their children) live in Los Angeles County. 

Stay with CityWatch for ongoing comprehensive coverage of this developing story.

 

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

EASTSIDER-I can only say that my failure to grasp the scope of LA City politicians’ ability to rip us off was a gross underestimation of their talent. Now our very neighborhoods are under the same types of attack the Council used to reserve for commercial development. In fact, for those who care, I would point out that there are currently something like fifteen Proposed Ordinances gurgling around the Planning Department. 

Of these, four are now directly aimed at the residential neighborhoods we live in: a Small Lot Code amendment, the repeal of the Granny Flat Policy, adoption of a Home Sharing Ordinance, and our old favorite, the Airbnb type short-term rental Ordinance. Oh goody, more “help” from government even as our middle class implodes. You can find the text of all of these Ordinances and backup information here.  

  1. The Small Lot Subdivision “Code Amendment and Policy Update”--What, you

ask, is the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance? Good question. If you live in Northeast LA, there are a whole bunch of complexes that look like 3-story Leggo’s squashed together with virtually no space between them, zip setbacks, and a lack of anything that resembles design. (Example in photo above.) 

For example, as you come off the Glendale Freeway going south into Echo Park and Angeleno Heights, there’s one where the freeway ends. It’s amazing -- the freeway particulates can go directly into these units -- I guess to enhance their ambience. 

There’s another cluster of them in Silverlake/Echo Park up off of Rowena on the hill by the 5 freeway, built on a hillside that looks like a slide waiting to happen. There’s even one off of Eagle Rock Blvd. by the new Sprouts grocery store. I tell you, they’re going up like popcorn poppin’! 

What they are, according to the inventive language of the Planning Department, is “..a new hybrid housing topology that looked and functioned like row townhomes but where each unit was built independently on individual ‘small lots’. It combined the benefits of a single-family home and its full fee-simple ownership of building with the conveniences of a townhouse lifestyle.” 

I don’t know what it cost the developers to get the PLUM Committee and City Council to approve this stuff, but I can only say that they got a real bargain from the elected officials. All we and our neighborhoods got is the fuzzy end of the lollipop. 

I say “our neighborhoods,” because these new structures can be built in single-family zones. Again, to quote the Planning Department: “When Small Lot projects are proposed in a neighborhood developed with single-family homes or small duplexes, it signifies that they are within an older multi-family neighborhood zoned for multi-family uses.” 

Well gee, I feel so much better knowing that, not to mention that when they adopted this Ordinance back in 2005, they neglected to limit the number of units per project. Now the proposal is that projects of over 20 homes will have to provide stuff like open space, bike parking, and the like. And, of course, all the existing projects will be grandfathered in. 

  1. Second Dwelling Unit Repeal--Here’s the short version. In 2010, the Planning

Department adopted a Memorandum outlining the criteria for building Second Dwelling Units. This regulation was more restrictive than the State law (AB1866). These units are usually referred to by everyone I know as Granny Units, Granny Flats, or in the planning vernacular, “accessory dwelling units.” They are the add-on rentals that a lot of people build without a permit to make a few bucks toward their mortgages. 

So in 2013, a homeowner group filed a lawsuit over the issuance of such a permit in Cheviot Hills. And finally this year, a Superior Court judge overturned the City’s regulations and entered a judgment directing the City to cease using their current criteria for permitting these units, as well as requiring monthly reports back to the judge. 

Evidently this action provided an opening for the City Council to cozy up to the construction community. Instead of filing an appeal, like the City did with the Telephone Users Tax and the DWP annual transfer of funds to the City, the City Attorney and the Council used this opportunity to propose an Emergency Repeal of the existing regulations regarding Second Dwelling Units. 

Buried in the Planning Department’s Report and Recommendation is the real reason for the rush to repeal everything instead of fixing any deficiencies in existing rules: the effect of a repeal is to default to State Law and that will be a lot looser than what the City’s extant regulations were. 

For example, the Emergency Repeal would allow Granny flats of up to 1200 square feet, eliminate any lot size requirements (like the substandard lots in the hills), and let these secondary units to be built in single-family and multi-family zones. 

Don’t’ blink. This one is going through the system faster than a NASCAR race. Good to know the City Council can move so quickly, even if it’s against residential homeowners. 

The rationale, of course, is that we need more affordable housing, since Council actions have already made most housing unaffordable. 

  1. The Unapproved Dwelling Unit (UDU) Ordinance--This one is simple to

understand. Everybody knows that a ton of people have been building unpermitted granny units to make a buck or just make ends meet. This Ordinance legalizes them as long as they were in existence as of December 10, 2015. 

OK, I get that. The rationale, however, is a doozy. It turns out that those nasty Code Enforcement people have been doing their job and citing the miscreants. Goodness. As the City chooses to describe the problem, “the result is often the dislocation of low and moderate income households and the loss of existing housing stock at a time the City is facing a severe housing crisis.” 

Need I say more? 

  1. Short-Term Rental Ordinance (aka Airbnb)--Goodness knows I’ve written enough

about this divisive issue. The last post is available here.  

Since that May meeting, there was a public hearing in the auditorium next to the LAPD’s new building, and it was evidently packed with some 300 people. As usual for Airbnb hearings, it was also very contentious. As of now we are still awaiting yet another draft of the proposed Ordinance, and no one’s talking about what if any changes will be in the new draft. 

Whatever will be in the revisions, a few things are clear. First, the City Council is going to approve a short-term-rental Ordinance, because they lust for the revenue to shore up their shaky budget. Second, in the adoption of almost any Ordinance, it is virtually impossible to realistically limit the number of guests per rental. And third, without forcing the rental entities themselves such as Airbnb to responsible for providing data to the City, there is no way that LA City will have the technological ability to track and enforce what goes on. Stay tuned. 

So…What Does All This Mean?--The net effect of all of these new planning tools aimed squarely at our residential neighborhoods will be to fundamentally change the character of those very neighborhoods. You know, the places we live together that actually define what Los Angeles is, since the City is so big, sprawling, and impossible to get around in that it has no inherent character -- except for being a desert. 

Nowhere in these proposed laws is any mention of what is going to happen to parking. In my part of town, where you already can’t park since everyone seems to have at least two cars, one a big SUV or truck, and they already park them on both sides of the street, since the garages are used for other purposes. 

What’s going to happen to the existing (and crumbling) infrastructure for water, power, and streets as the load on them potentially doubles? I suspect that the current DWP plan to replace pipes on something like a 200 year schedule is going out the door, and we already have power outages in areas where the power demand is suddenly increasing dramatically. Who’s going to pay for all this stuff and how long is it going to take to ramp up? 

Most important, what is going to happen as neighbor is pitted against neighbor? We have already seen with the Airbnb proposals how bitterly divided our communities have become on this type of issue. The invective isn’t pretty, and it is inwardly directed, instead of focused on the City Council that is creating the divisiveness through their actions. 

There is a huge increase of folks out there who don’t have high paying and/or full-time employment, as our society devolves into a “sharing” or “gig” economy without fringe benefits pensions or employer paid health insurance. They need additional income to cover the outrageous costs of housing in our City, and I certainly can’t blame them for wanting to do what they can to make ends meet. 

It is also unacceptable to expect us to live in neighborhoods which are flooded with too many people, where parking is nonexistent, streets crumbling, increased broken pipes and power outages, and oh yes, where we get to pay for the sidewalks that the City messed up by planting the wrong type of trees. 

This is not good governance. This is not good public policy. If our elected City officials are incapable of bringing us together, I can see only one short term solution. Support Jill Stewart and the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative

 

(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.

TRANSPORTATION POLITICS-We live in conflicted times.  Whether it's presidential politics, state politics, or local politics, the ambivalence and anger seem to be at historic levels. Ditto with transportation and planning here in the City of the Angels.  I've heard many impassioned, if not infuriated, individuals who are all over the place with respect to transit/transportation efforts, but one common sentiment appears universal: overdevelopment is neither economically nor environmentally smart or safe ... and if LA City transit leads to overdevelopment, then sentiment for more transit will certainly drop. 

So whether it's the proposed half-cent transportation tax ("Measure R-2") scheduled for this November's ballot, or the troubled California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) project, ambivalence and conflicted sentiments abound.  I'm not the only transit/transportation advocate who recognizes BOTH the benefits and shortfalls of mass transit, and who NEVER wanted the blatant overdevelopment we're seeing in LA. 

And I'm not the only transit/transportation advocate favoring passage of BOTH Measure R-2 this fall as well as the Neighborhood Intregrity Initiative next spring.  Expediting rail to our airports and suburbs, as well as funding transportation operations, is in no way mutually exclusive to delivering the legal and political smackdown that overly-empowered developers and their political puppets so richly deserve. 

In my last CityWatch article, I emphasized how the City of LA--which has a huge hunk of county voters--is undermining the county's efforts to pass Measure R-2 by the City's corruption, poor planning, horrific abuse of environmental and planning laws, and belittling of its City's residents' rights. 

But then ... we had Bill Rosendahl show up, and now we have Mike Bonin. 

Visionary goals, prudent planning, a focus on credibility, and no B.S. allowed in CD11 with respect to development and obeying the law. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the City Hall too often provides milquetoast, or aloof, or even downright corrupt leadership with respect to appropriate economic, environmental and quality of life issues.   

Garcetti's record is mixed with positive new initiatives and an appalling record of overdevelopment from his City Council days.  And as for City Council President/Boss Wesson...well, let's just be grateful for term limits. 

In my last article, I mentioned the imperfect but overall-favorable approach to the Martin Cadillac project adjacent to the only CD11 Expo Line station at Bundy/Olympic that Mike Bonin could influence--he and his team are fighting for a transit-oriented project with community benefits and affordable housing. 

Ditto for the LAX Northside Plan Update on Westchester Parkway, and sandwiched between LAX and Westchester/Playa Del Rey.  The City Council passed it, and it's an example of community participation and more appropriate and sustainable planning the City sorely needs. 

As articulated by Argonaut newspaper journalist extraordinaire Gary Walker, the originally-approved 4.5 million square feet of commercial land use was cut in half.  Westchester residents will have a virtual extension of the Downtown Westchester Business District, and will have Westchester Parkway buffered to protect local neighborhoods.  Green space, open space, community/civic land use, and even a dog park is planned.  And, of course, it's transit-friendly. 

Mike Bonin and both the Westchester and LAX leaderships worked together on this plan, which shows that--as with the LAX/Green Line/Crenshaw Line effort--former foes can work together to come up with compromise that best serves all parties. 

Unfortunately, Mike Bonin isn't mayor...yet.  But he does show that honor, credibility, and compromise can get the job done during an era where citizens are so used to getting the heave-ho that they presume government will never serve him. 

Maybe there's hope for Measure R-2 after all ... but, of course, that doesn't mean we shouldn't also pass the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.  Not everyone is as well-represented as folks are in CD11.

 

(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  [email protected]. 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.)

-cw

 

LA PULSE: Mischa Haider writes in today’s CityWatch in response to the Orlando shooting tragedy: ‘My heart is exploding with love and grief for those who have died and are dying, and it is also burning with anger at those who perpetrate, encourage, and enable these atrocities. I am left wondering, amid all the prayers and mourning, wherein lies the responsibility and who is to blame?’

Angelenos … and other Americans … are left wondering in the Orlando aftermath, WHO IS TO BLAME?

You are invited to provide your thoughts in this CityWatch LA Pulse survey.

Orlando … Who Do You Blame?
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VOX POP--In certain circles in Los Angeles, William Witte, chairman and CEO of Related California, is known as the “mega-developer.” It’s easy to understand why. He and his outfit, which is part of the nationwide development firm Related Companies, have contributed an eye-popping $118,550 to LA political candidates since 2000, according to the city’s Ethics Commission. It’s the way development is done in Los Angeles — spread around major cash at City Hall to get big favors in return. 

Witte, in fact, has personally contributed $51,500 out of the $118,550 — the rest was given by Related employees. In addition, since 2003, Related has paid City Hall lobbyists a whopping $837,381 to schmooze City Council members and bureaucrats at city agencies such as the planning department, according to the city’s Ethics Commission. 

In all, Related has shelled out $955,931 to win over politicians and bureaucrats at LA City Hall.

It should come as no surprise then that the LA City Council recently voted, unanimously, to give Related and Witte a financial aid package worth $198.5 million so the mega-developer could finish a “high-profile” downtown LA hotel project, according to the Los Angeles Times

That move by LA politicians didn’t come without controversy. Related Companies has a massive operating portfolio worth more than $20 billion. The city, on the other hand, has an annual budget of around $8.6 billion. 

Regardless, elected officials decided to give Witte and Related a $198.5-million aid deal in the form of subsidies and loans so it can build two towers, which includes the hotel, across the street from Walt Disney Concert Hall. 

Related is a major player in the glitzy Grand Avenue Project, which seeks to turn that part of downtown into a play zone for the extremely wealthy. The hotel that Related wants to build will be geared towards the super rich. The developer has already contributed tens of millions to the city for the construction of Grand Park, a fancy public space that’s part of the Grand Avenue Project. 

In the end, Related stands to make millions upon millions in profits from the Grand Avenue Project.

Still, when a developer throws around $118,550 in campaign contributions at City Hall, a huge favor like the $198.5-million financial boost is almost expected in return from LA politicians. 

Clearly, LA’s development system is broken, and it’s one that needs honest, meaningful reform. That’s what the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative

Through the measure, which will appear on the March 2017 ballot, citizens will finally be given the tools that will level the playing field when it comes to how LA’s neighborhoods will be developed. Greedy developers will no longer have outsized influence on City Hall’s rigged development-approval process. 

But with so much money on the line, developers will do everything they can to beat down our community-based movement and try to defeat the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. So join our cause by clicking to our Act page right now, and following and cheering our efforts on Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at [email protected] for more information. 

Together, we can create the change that LA needs! 

(Patrick Range McDonald writes for 2PreserveLA.org ... currently spearheading the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

VOICES FROM THE SQUARE--A good part of what was so distressing about this month’s active shooter episode at UCLA was the familiarity of it all.

The death of William Klug, a brilliant and affable young professor, at the hands of a mad former graduate student, was the chief tragedy. But as our campus was taken over June 1 by a veritable army of armed law enforcement personnel in helicopters, police cars, and trucks, I couldn’t help but think: Here we go again.

The sight of high school and college campuses in lockdown, with one or more active shooters terrorizing hundreds or thousands of students, has become normal. Since 2013, there have been 186 school shooting incidents, according to the Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that began compiling school shooting statistics after the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, massacre in 2012. Last year alone saw more than 50 school shooting incidents, 23 of which were on college campuses. 

In a society facing an epidemic of gun violence, universities are, at their best, havens of freedom—sites of the free exchange of ideas, free and open interchange between diverse groups, and free movement across the sovereign campus island. But our freedom is being eroded as we hunker down in preparation for the next burst of deadly fire. Indeed, the vigilance with which we act on our campuses today takes a toll on that exhilarating sense of liberation—from ignorance, bias, and convention—that the university once offered.

I remember well the sad realization I had after Sandy Hook, that it now made sense to introduce active shooter preparation training for the UCLA History Department, of which I served as chair from 2010 to 2015. In 2013, we had our first preparedness session with an officer from the University of California Police Department. The announcement to our faculty, staff, and students noted that:

An “Active Shooter” is defined as a situation where one or more suspects participate in a random or systematic shooting spree, demonstrating intent to continuously harm others.

It’s an unfortunate sign of the times that we need to think this way, but it is very important that we be as prepared as possible for such an event. In that kind of situation, there are specific things we can do to protect ourselves and those around us.

In point of fact, the randomness of these acts constrains our ability to protect ourselves. If we are in the wrong place at the wrong time or are the intended target, there is little to be done. Nonetheless, the active shooter trainer tried to prepare those in attendance for what to do: run from open spaces, closet yourself in your classroom or office, lock the door, turn off the lights, and keep silent.

These are all sensible suggestions. But I was struck, after a second preparedness session, by the indeterminacy of what to do in a situation in which you find yourself in the same room as shooters. The options, as the UCLA Emergency Management webpage tells us, are three-fold: “Stay still and hope they don’t shoot you, run for an exit while zigzaging [sic], or attack the shooter.” 

Fortunately, most of us never have and never will have to face that rather harrowing set of choices. In the meantime, we on college campuses usually put this prospect out of our minds. The more vigilant among us may pay increased attention to our immediate environs, locate exits in rooms, or even run through versions of game theory as we contemplate escape scenarios in our minds.

My own sense of vigilance was heightened during the time I served as department chair, especially when I would meet with irate and sometimes disturbed students. I would ask staff colleagues adjacent to me to pay special attention to any abrupt noises. I would also sit relatively close to the students and follow their hand movements in order to be able to act quickly if they took out a weapon.

I chided myself for engaging in this kind of suspicion-ridden activity, for it seemed to violate the basic trust that underlies the teacher-student relationship. And yet, I couldn’t stop myself from going through a mental checklist of preventative measures.

This is our reality now. Of course, we should follow the Australians and set in place tighter regulation of gun ownership. And of course, we should develop far better strategies and devote far more resources to help those with mental illness. These are absolute no-brainers. What more needs to happen to demonstrate their necessity?

Active shooter preparedness sessions are highly imperfect. They reveal that emergency management is an art, not a science. But these sessions are the best we have at present. And it is all the more important to undergo such training in the absence of far-reaching policy changes necessary to reduce the number of shootings.

In the meantime, even as we know that there will be more episodes, we must fight against the understandable impulse to constrain ourselves even further by censoring our words or altogether altering the ways we interact with colleagues and students out of fear. Difficult as it may be, we must endeavor to preserve that essential freedom of mind and movement that propels the university to do its important work for students and society alike.

(David N. Myers is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA. This piece was posted first at Zocalo Public Square.) 

-cw

PERSPECTIVE--I am all for saving everything that is left of historic Hollywood. But the Hollywood sign is an exception.

The original sign read Hollywoodland and was known as the Hollywoodland sign. It was constructed to encourage homeowners to live in Hollywoodland beginning in 1923. It’s gone.

The Hollywoodland sign fell down so many times they removed the “land” part forever in 1949 and rebuilt only the “Hollywood” part.  Ever since then, it has been attached and represents another area directly south of the sign led by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. In 1973, this sign was declared a Los Angeles Cultural Monument. This sign is gone too because it fell into disrepair.

The Hollywood Chamber requested and received permission to rebuild the sign with private donations in 1978. The Hollywood sign was demolished completely and rebuilt on a new foundation. For three months the crown of Mt. Lee had no sign. It completely disappeared off the hillside.

The current sign has nothing original nor historic to it. It’s a billboard that sells a brand that is not associated with Hollywoodland. By 1986, it was so covered in graffiti that the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association had to force the city to clean it up regularly.

The sign represents the Hollywood business district to the south where much of the historic fabric has disappeared since 1986– especially around Highland and Vine. The current sign represents this “new” Hollywood, our local ‘Manahttan’ where no one can see the sign because of all the over-development. (Although I suppose if you move into one of the new luxury apartments you could pay for a great view of the sign.)

It makes more sense to move this sign where people can access and see it safely and more easily. Especially since it no longer represents the neighborhood it is destroying. Why not move it near a local subway stop? Visitors can even climb on it if they sign a release. We could dedicate the hole it leaves on the hill to parkland for our precious wildlife.

Or if we keep the sign, let’s add the “land” so it at least it replicates the original sign and reads the historically correct “Hollywoodland.” Visitors will learn a little of LA’s history when they come through here.

(Gregory P. Williams has written and self-published two books on Los Angeles history, The Story of Hollywood (winner of National Best Books 2007) and The Story of Hollywoodland. He wrote his first book in 1980 for Jim Henson’s Muppet Press, The Case of Missing Hat, published by Random House. A native of Hollywood, Greg’s paternal grandparents came to Hollywood from Greece in the early part to the twentieth century and ran a grocery store at Sunset Boulevard at Gordon. Greg was born and raised in Hollywoodland.)

TRANSPORTATION POLITICS--I was impressed (and a little saddened) over the past few months with both the optimism and the disappointment being generated by the opening of the Exposition Light Rail Line to Santa Monica.   

There is, overall, an excitement that enhanced mobility and alternative commuting now exists in the Westside, but the lack of parking and access to the Line, coupled with the perception of overdevelopment that might even be enabled by the Line, raises all sorts of concerns and cynicism as well. 

In my last CityWatch article, where I raised the alarm over the insulting and woefully insufficient City of LA's sidewalk "fix", there has been a remarkable consensus among my grassroots colleagues that this "fix" has really hurt the cred that the City needs more than ever. 

Enter the upcoming November countywide transportation tax initiative, and the unresolved and even worsening budgetary problems that the City of LA has, that leaves us with the following key points that will be critical for the transportation efforts of ten years ago to continue this November and for years to come: 

1) Credibility is key, and transparency is key.  Lose them, and you've lost the voters/taxpayers of the City and County of LA. 

The 2008 Measure R countywide sales tax was as credible and transparent as any tax initiative I have ever seen in my life.  We were told what we were going to get with that money, and it was fairly straightforward to learn which city and project would be funded by a given amount of money. 

"Measure R-2", as this November measure is being called by its backers, must do the same.  Overall, it has created the same sense of transparency as its predecessor by its backers, but questions to the broader electorate still remains.  What are the freeway/road projects that will be expedited by the November measure...or is it all rail projects?  And which projects will be prioritized first? 

For those of us who know the difference between Measure R-2 and what a Metro Long Range Transportation Plan is, that's an easy question to answer:  funding and prioritization of projects (and the .awarding of project planning and construction to contractors) are different things.  But we can do better in explaining that to taxpayers and community leaders who aren't transportation wonks. 

And while we're on the subject of transparency and credibility, let's underline a key point that Friends4Expo Transit leaders learned quickly:  the Expo Line CANNOT be promised to reduce traffic--it can only offer commuters another alternative to getting to where they want to go.  The same can and should always be said for other rail lines. 

2) The inefficient, if not downright corrupt, politics of the City of LA is undermining the credibility of the County's transportation efforts. 

It's not worth dragging old issues into the weeds, but it is worth mentioning that the City and County of LA are two separate levels of government...and is a reality that by far too many Angelenos and other County residents don't get.  Ask a City resident who their "supe" is, and he/she might tell you that he/she prefers salads to soups.  Ask a resident of a South Bay or Southeast LA County City who their mayor is, and he/she might respond that it's Eric Garcetti. 

So the best thing that local (and big) cities can do is to make sure that their city's transportation needs will be met.  As a Long Beach kid who now lives in LA, I understand and respect different perspectives within our county...and in our City of LA, it's the sidewalk fix (some stretches done in 2 years, some in 5 years, but the whole enchilada in 10 years) that has to be funded and lionized by any Measure R-2. 

Furthermore, the need for Planning and developers to create projects that are truly legal (yes, following environmental and engineering laws aren't just an old-fashioned fad, but it's supposed to be mandatory), and to fund transportation impacts that big (and even small) projects create, will be necessary to avoid souring tax-weary voters this November.   

It's not perfect, but the Bundy/Olympic development planned for the current Martin Cadillac site is an example of both good will on the part of its developers (compared to Mr. Alan Casden, they're angels), and the demands of Mike Bonin and the CD11 office to derive a project that's truly transit-oriented, has affordable housing, and has transportation mitigation efforts funded to improve the community.  It's still too darned big for many local residents, but at least Mike Bonin "gets it" with respect to credibility and transparency. 

But does Herb Wesson and the rest of the LA City Council "get it" with respect to credibility and transparency? 

3) Not all development has to be on the Westside and West Valley--and suburban work/home commutes need to be reduced for the betterment of all LA County residents. 

Issues raised by those promoting the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative--which has its core paradigms the insistence that the City of LA follow its own laws with regards to Planning and Development--include the big question of why there isn't more development south of the I-10 freeway.  After all, if Downtown LA is undergoing a housing and business renaissance, then why can't South LA? 

Similarly, why shouldn't LA City, as well as the San Gabriel Valley, take advantage of the Foothill Gold Line to create more jobs and transit-oriented development along its major new commercial/residential corridor?  Do all jobs need to be within LA City limits? Can't rail commuting allow suburban commuters better new options if they do work within LA City limits? 

When the planned Metro Rail/LAX People Mover connects LAX to the countywide rail system, the unfinished Green Line segments in the South Bay and Norwalk will be potentially explosive new regions that want "in" to the Metro Rail network. 

So not only should City Planning recognize the need to avoid undermining transportation efforts with unsustainable overdevelopment, but we all need to recognize that trying to cram or redo more housing/development in the Westside and other congested regions is the same as rotating chairs on a sinking Titanic.  There is a LIMIT to what we can build in certain overbuilt portions of the City...so the need to develop south of the I-10 and outside City limits is immediate and mandatory. 

Funding and construction efforts come in cycles and waves, and it's possible that the desire for more transportation initiatives is very different than what it was ten years ago. Yet the opportunity very much exists if both hope and credibility are adhered to by those truly seeking transportation/mobility enhancements as a vehicle to improve all of our lives...and by those willing to really do what it takes to sell that hope and credibility to their fellow LA City and County taxpayers.

 

(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  [email protected]. 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.)

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THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-I woke up to a CNN notification this morning that a gunman had opened fire and taken hostages in an Orlando nightclub, the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States. As most know by now, Omar Mateen stormed Pulse Nightclub at about 2 am with an automatic rifle and a handgun that he had purchased legally only last week, according to Bureau of Alcohol Assistant Special Agent Trevor Velinor.

Three hours later, a SWAT team had entered the nightclub and Mateen was shot dead after an exchange of fire with eleven Orlando police officers and three Orange County sheriff’s deputies. About 300 people were in the club at the time of the shooting. 

According to NBC News, the New York-born Mateen had sworn allegiance to the leader of ISIS during a 911 call right shortly before the shooting and the massacre is being investigated as an act of terrorism. Seddique Mir Mateen, the shooter’s father said his son had become angered after seeing two men kissing a couple of months ago and he believes that may be related to the shooting.

A few hours later, I received another push notification that the Santa Monica police had found weapons, ammunition, and the materials to build a pipe bomb in the trunk of James Howell, an Indiana man who planned to attend the LA Pride festival in West Hollywood. Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks tweeted that the suspect had told an officer that he wanted to harm the “Gay Pride event.” 

Santa Monica police were responding to a call about a suspected prowler in the vicinity of Olympic and 11th Street when they encountered Howell, who said he was waiting for a friend. Officers found three rifles, including an assault rifle, ammunition, and a five-gallon bucket of tannerite, an ingredient that could be used to make a pipe bomb when they inspected his car. 

Federal and local law enforcement made the decision not to cancel the annual parade, which was held under tightened security. It is not believed this incident and the Orlando massacre are connected. 

LA Pride went on, colored by the sadness surrounding Sunday morning’s massacre but with hope, a celebration of pride and acceptance. From the Super Bowl and the Oscars to events like Pride, large gatherings garner worries that terrorists, ISIS sympathizers, or a lone domestic terrorist will strike. We can’t put our lives on hold because then fear and hatred win. So, we’ll move forward, acknowledging and shedding a tear as we do for each massacre and murder. We can hope that we never get so immune to death by violence, that it no longer means anything, while at the same time, refusing to put a stop on our lives because of potential threats of violence. We cannot accept violence, whether by an ISIS sympathizer, a lone perpetrator of hate crimes, a disenfranchised person, or anyone else.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

VOICES-The post began “A very important election is coming up and we need a change. I am talking about the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council election.” 

As a sitting board member, I sighed. The allegations went on providing more than a little misinformation about what has transpired in terms of current board activities and Tiny Houses in particular. 

I should not be surprised or dismayed by the blatant misrepresentations being passed along as truth, but I am. 

Still, I am even more concerned that the skills (technical and soft) and resourcefulness of the candidates seeking board membership are seen as irrelevant in this selection cycle. 

The City defines the role of neighborhood councils as bodies in which “Neighborhood Council participants are empowered to advocate directly for real change in their communities.” 

The key word in that definition is ADVOCACY. In fact, it should be clear that the councils have almost no formal power beyond: 

  1. Acting to influence the policy decisions/votes of the elected and salaried officials who represent the citizens of Los Angeles and
  2. Disseminating information to the community to increase overall civic engagement. 

The level of personal vitriol directed at the current board (comprised of pure volunteers) makes absolutely no sense in light of the very limited power and minimal budget given the neighborhood councils. 

The board is also not authorized to behave as personal henchman carrying out the agenda of any singular constituency. The commitment must be to effectively advocate for solutions and services in this very diverse community. 

Advocacy requires more than emotional responses to the challenges that face this community. The work should be pragmatic and involve recommending solutions that address root problem(s) rather than simply assuaging individual feelings. Real skills and resourcefulness is needed. 

Given the upcoming urban renewal plans for this community, board members who understand recent innovations in community development, business, transportation, quality of life improvements and social services are needed. They should be people who are more thoughtful than incendiary. 

“Thoughtful” is less exciting, but it will certainly lead to better long term results. 

A key attribute of an effective board member is the willingness to help this community face the changes that are coming and do so in a way that moves the community forward as one rather than as polarized factions. 

Board members must be able to see from more than one point of view, analyze data to support information based decision-making and communicate complex policies in simple terms. 

This is indeed an important election….I have been in San Pedro for 10 years now and have heard many times how neglectful the city is with regard to this community. 

Clearly, angry protests and emotional pleas for respect, change and attention are not being heard by City Hall. Take a chance on different results by doing something different. 

Vote based on actual candidate qualifications and a correct understanding of the role of your neighborhood council. Then get involved and stay involved. 

Help your neighborhood council agendas not be hijacked by single issue constituencies. There is much to do and the future can truly be bright.

 

(Debra Hunter is a member and a candidate for Central Neighborhood Council. This article was posted originally at Random Lengths.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

REALITY POLITICS, LA COUNTY STYLE--Election campaigns contain a bit of Shakespearean drama as they deal with many aspects of human nature, but the fractured headline of this piece refers not to Shakespeare’s play but the question labor faces because of an unusual outcome in a Los Angeles County supervisorial race. 

In the Fifth Supervisorial District overseen by Republican Michael Antonovich for 36 years, most political experts thought that Antonovich’s successor would be a Republican. Labor agreed and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and public employee unions stacked dollars behind their preferred Republican candidate, Kathryn Barger, Antonovich’s Chief of Staff. So much mail was sent out on behalf of Barger by the unions that she could direct her campaign cash to buying expensive Los Angeles television. 

Barger finished first on primary day. The surprise was who probably finished second and made the run-off. 

While five fairly well-known Republicans were vying for the seat, one Democrat also was invited to the debates because he was endorsed by the LA Democratic Party. On Election Day, Democrat Darrell Park grabbed the second spot—for now at least. He only leads Republican state senator Bob Huff by 417 votes with all the precincts counted, but there are outstanding ballots. 

Labor backed Barger because they worked with her during her stint with Antonovich creating compensation packages among other things. 

During a debate for supervisor, the five Republicans and one Democrat were asked how they would handle their responsibilities given that there would probably be four liberal Democrats on the five-member board serving with the winner of the Fifth District. The Republicans all gave an answer along the lines that they can work across the aisle. When it was Park’s turn he said, ‘If I win there will be five liberal Democrats on the Board of Supervisors.’ 

What is labor going to do if Park holds onto the second spot? 

Much media attention has been focused on business’ decision to search out moderate Democrats in hopes of coming up with an acceptable alternative to a liberal Democrat in races certain to be won by a Democrat. In LA, labor attempted the reverse, looking for a Republican they could work with. 

Labor wasn’t the only one that attempted to make a pragmatic decision. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the most liberal supervisor on the board also backed Barger, as did Barger’s boss, Antonovich. 

Now labor faces the possibility that a Democrat more to their liking is in the finals. Rusty Hicks, head of the labor federation told the Los Angeles Times that it was too soon to decide whether the federation would change horses for the November election. 

As for candidate Park, his good fortune could put him in a position of honorificabilitudinitatibus, a term meaning “the state of being able to achieve honors,” the longest word Shakespeare ever used, which appears in the play, Love’s Labour’s Lost.

 

(Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds … where this piece was first posted … and President of the Small Business Action Committee.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

LATINO PERSPECTIVE--A growing number of new Latino voters in Los Angeles and California are registering as “Non-Party Participants,” in a rebuke of the Democratic Party. 

I found a really interesting article written by Amanda Gomez from PBS last week in which she argues that the Democratic Party is relying on Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to drive up Latino turnout this fall. But while conventional wisdom holds that most new Latino voters will register as Democrats, an increasing number in California and I have to add Los Angeles — a key state in the battle over immigration — are actually opting out of the two-party system altogether, a troubling sign for a Democratic Party that has long taken the Latino vote for granted, Gomez suggests. 

Since 2008, California — which holds its Democratic and Republican primaries on Tuesday — has seen a 35 percent spike in people registering as “No Party Preference” voters, instead of as Democrats or Republicans. California’s new nonpartisan or no-party voters are primarily young and Latino, according to Paul Mitchell of Political Data, a California voter information and political campaign management group. 

“As cities get more heavily Latino or Asian, [the] rate of nonpartisan registration rises significantly, while Democratic registration is flat-lined and Republicans are losing voters,” Mitchell said. 

The surge of Latino no-party voters in California isn’t surprising, given that many come from families whose parents do not have strong ties to either major political party. Often, their parents were born outside of the country or are less interested and involved in U.S. politics, said Mark DiCamillo, a senior vice president at Field Research, a California-based polling firm. 

Still, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Latino turnout this election is less of a pledge of allegiance to the Democratic Party, and more of a vote against Trump. And beyond the implications for 2016, the no-party voter surge reveals an important generational divide among Latinos like Betsy Avila, which could impact Democratic candidates for years to come.

Avila, a 28-year-old artist in Los Angeles, says she updates her Mexican-born parents regularly on the state of the presidential election. There isn’t a dinner-table discussion that goes by without election talk, Avila said. 

But in these discussions, Avila said she often finds herself explaining the intricacies of U.S. politics to her parents. “It goes beyond English to Spanish. I provide nuance,” she said. 

Avila cited Sanders, who relies on numbers and catchphrases like “the 99 percent” and “the 1 percent” that can mean little for immigrants without being placed in historical context. 

That disconnect is readily apparent in Los Angeles County, which has the largest Latino voter bloc in the state. More than one-third of the residents in the county are immigrants. The number of new no-party voters in Los Angeles is growing daily, according to Diana Colin, the director of civic engagement at the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, a nonprofit that runs a voter registration program. 

“California has come a long way since Prop 187,” said Colin. “But Latinos in California have not forgotten.” 

Still, Democrats are going to have to work harder to convince Latinos to remain in the party. Until that happens, the number of no-party voters could keep growing. 

“The Democratic party should have California Latinos’ unwavering support,” said Jose Parra, the CEO of Prospero Latino, a left-leaning political consulting firm in Washington, D.C., “but it doesn’t because the party has not [done enough] to sustain it.”

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

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PLATKIN ON PLANNING-As a former Los Angeles City Planner who was part of the team that prepared the General Plan Framework element, I offer an alternative work program with ten basic steps to properly update LA’s General Plan. If followed, it would reliably prepare, adopt, implement, and monitor the City’s General Plan according to State of California law and regulations, as well as professional city planning standards. 

My alternative work program is based on two assumptions: 

First, the “no money” claim for avoiding this important work is pure bunk. For example, only last week the City Council unanimously voted in favor of $200 million in subsidies and fee waivers for a new downtown hotel.  This is obviously a great deal of money, but still much less than the $519 million that former LA City Councilmember Jan Perry boasted about in her efforts to financially support companies like AEG through City Council largess. 

Second, the purpose of updating, implementing, and monitoring LA’s General Plan is to improve the overall quality of life in Los Angeles, not to facilitate real estate speculation or reduce public health and safety to policing.


Step 1 - Demographics: The first step is to produce accurate citywide neighborhood demographic forecasts. This is because Los Angeles relies on the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and its inflated demographic projections for Los Angeles, especially the Hollywood Community Plan Update. These exaggerated forecasts resulted in Superior Court Judge Alan Goodman’s 2013 total rejection of the Hollywood plan’s text, EIR, zone changes, height district changes, and General Plan amendments. Furthermore, SCAG’s previous demographic forecasts for the General Plan Framework were 500,000 people too high for the element’s 2010 horizon year. 

Since this blunder, City officials have not yet bothered to investigate why this citywide forecast was so inflated. As for SCAG, its only explanation was an in-house paper that blamed its erroneous numbers on a failure to consider the business cycle, including the Great Recession, in its demographic methodology.  

Step 2 - Monitoring: Next, City Planning needs to establish the General Plan Monitoring Unit required by the Framework. Its tasks include accurate periodic measurements of employment, housing, population, infrastructure (maintenance, capacity, and user need), zoning buildout, and plan implementation. Without this information, it is impossible to know if or when existing or future plans perform as intended or require mid-course corrections. 

Step 3 - Re:code LA: City Planning should also freeze the current re:code LA rezoning program since the City of Los Angeles should not legally change the zone for every piece of property in Los Angeles before it updates its General Plan elements. General Plan implementation, such as zoning, should follow, not precede, the update of the entire General Plan. 

Step 4 - Update all General Plan Elements: After these steps, City Planning should address the six citywide, non-Land Use elements that the State of California legally requires, beginning with the four oldest ones: Conservation, Open Space, Public Safety, and Noise. The remaining two citywide elements that are up-to-date, Housing and Mobility, must then be amended to assure consistency with the updates of the other General Plan elements.                                                                                                                                 

Step 5 - Update Existing Optional Elements: The next step is to review and update existing optional elements to make sure that they, too, become fully consistent with the mandatory elements. The General Plan Framework and Air Quality elements are the most high profile, but older optional elements should also be included, especially Service Systems and Infrastructure, which are now celebrating their 50th birthday. 

Step 6 - New Optional Elements: After that, City Planning should prepare two new optional elements that many California cities have already pursued: Climate Change and Economic Development. The Governor’s Office for Research and Planning has already prepared extensive guidelines for these optional elements. 

Step 7 - Update Community Plans: Then, with those previous six steps concluded, City Planning should address the Land Use element, more specifically LA’s 35 Community Plans and two District Plans. The city’s current proposal, to update the Community Plan elements before City Planning updates the citywide General Plan elements, is clearly out-of-sequence. This is because it is impossible to accurately update local plans without fully understanding citywide trends in Los Angeles related to infrastructure, services, zoning capacity, and demographic trends. 

Step 8 - Local Zone Changes: With this process well underway, City Planning should determine what local zoning should be changed as a result of a properly sequenced planning process. To undertake these comprehensive zone changes first, which is the City of LA’s current approach through re:code LA, is also obviously out-of-sequence. 

Step 9 - Infrastructure Spending: Like all other California cities, Los Angeles has a five year Capital Improvement Program (CIP).  The CIP lists all proposed public improvements, and the City Planning Commission is charged with confirming that these infrastructure investments faithfully implement the policies of the General Plan. This never happens, and it must become one of the CPC’s major recurring tasks. 

Step 10 - Annual Monitoring Reports: Finally, with these nine work program steps completed, the General Plan Monitoring Unit must prepare thorough annual reports that measure housing, employment, and population changes, and then recommend how these data should result in amendments to the General Plan's various elements, as well as all implementing programs. 

It is many years since the City of Los Angeles has taken on even some of this work program, but the necessity, expertise, and potential financial resources are all available. As already directed by the City Council in its April 14, 2016, resolution, let’s get this process underway.

 

(Dick Platkin reports on city planning issues in Los Angeles for CityWatch. He is a former LA City Planner and current advocate planner.   He welcomes comments and corrections at [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Last week, 28-year-old Jasmine Richards, the founder of Pasadena’s Black Lives Matter movement, was convicted of ‘felony lynching’. The California penal code refers to lynching as “the taking by means of riot of another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer,” though the term brings up visions of KKK hangings in the southern states. Tuesday of this week, Judge Elaine Lu sentenced Richards to 90 days in jail with 18 days served, three years of probation, and one year of anger management.

What led up to this conviction and sentencing? On August 29 of last year, police had responded to a 911 call at a local park. The owner of a nearby restaurant had told the police that an unidentified black woman had skipped out on her check. Richards and other Black Lives Matter supporters were already in the park for a peaceful protest for Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old unarmed black teen killed by Pasadena police in 2012.

Richards and other Black Lives Matters supporters rushed to the woman’s side when the police were in the process of arresting her. Two days later, Richards was arrested for her attempt to pull the woman from the police.

The initial charges brought against Richards included inciting a riot, child endangerment, delaying and obstructing police officers, and felony lynching. By the June 1 trial date, the other charges were dropped and only the lynching charge remained.

Richards isn’t the first activist to be charged with lynching. Maile Hampton was arrested last April for “lynching” during a Sacramento rally against police brutality. Occupy Oakland activists Tiffany Tran and Alex Brown were charged with “lynching” in 2011 and the following year, Sergio Ballesteros of Occupy Los Angeles was charged with “lynching” when he intervened during an arrest.

However, in all of these other cases, the charges were eventually dropped.

Jasmine Richards is the first African American to be convicted of lynching in the United States, which her attorney Nana Gyami characterizes as politically motivated to stop activists from organizing and from speaking out to challenge the system.

At first notice, the existence of lynching laws in California seems out of character. Most of us think of lynching as the Jim Crow-era terrorizing of black communities in the southern states. Governor Jerry Brown removed the term from the California criminal code in 2015, probably at least in part due to the racist associations.

The state’s anti-lynching laws enacted in1933 when a vigilante mob of 10,000 stormed a San Jose jail to seize two white prisoners who had been confessed to the kidnapping and murder of a 22-year-old son of a store owner. Police guards were attacked by the crowds and in what reads like a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird, the two prisoners were hanged from trees in a nearby park. No one was charged for the deaths but Gov. James Rolph, Jr. was prompted to sign an anti-lynching law.

The federal government had a pretty egregious record during the 1920s through 1930s until a national anti-lynching bill was passed in 1937 but that bill was squashed. California’s law was seen as progressive when the federal government has failed to act.

The lynching charges against activists like Richards seem exploitive and aimed at stopping social change. Violence certainly is not a preferred or legal way to impact social change but it appears that the members of the Black Lives Matter movement are the targets of intimidation, much like earlier civil rights activists.

Additionally, the legal precedent in this case is troubling. People v. Jones (1971) expanded lynching to include a riot of two or more people leading to their own escape. This has been exploited to include activists who resist their arrests, which are often unlawful. It’s important to note that California law states that interfering with police, which is how Deputy District Attorney Christine Kee described Richard’s actions, is a misdemeanor. To charge Richards with the lynching felony sends a message to activists and organizers that protesting is unlawful.

Black Lives Matter organizer Melina Abdullah comments, convicting Richards of lynching is “disgusting and ironic.” It’s hard to argue with that sentiment.

(Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)

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VOICE OF THE PEOPLE--The Los Angeles City Clerk's office has verified that a ballot initiative sponsored by Build Better LA has qualified, with a whopping 94,238 signatures that have been obtained -- far more than the 61,487 valid signatures required. Voters can expect to see the Affordable Housing and Labor Standards Ballot Measure on the ballot at the November 8 election, unless the City Council adopts the proposed ordinance, without alteration, within the next three weeks, as allowed by Charter Section 452. However, Build Better LA references the November election in their press release announcing the validation of the signatures. (Photo above: Training for BBLA signature gatherers.) 

The decision to be made now is either to go to the public for an up or down vote on November 8, or to let a majority of the LA City Council members vote the proposal into a law that can be signed by the Mayor. Will it be a few voices at City Hall, or thousands of voices at the ballot box? That is the choice. The decision must be made within the next three weeks by the City Council. 

The measure would incentivize developers to create more housing that residents can afford near transit, and to ensure that a percentage of residential units are set aside for low-income residents in Los Angeles on projects that receive discretionary zone changes or General Plan amendments. The measure also includes a local hire provision that ensures a living wage with good job standards. It’s sponsored by Build Better LA, a coalition of business, labor, affordable housing and community leaders. 

"City of LA residents agree that the City is getting more and more expensive to live in each day. By having our proposal on the November ballot, Angelenos will have the best possible chance to vote on a measure that brings housing people can actually afford and good, local jobs they could rely on. Build Better LA puts our City on a path to a brighter future," said Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and convener of Build Better LA. 

Another ballot measure, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, being driven by Campaign Director Jill Stewart and underwritten by Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is being circulated by the Coalition to Preserve LA, which hopes to have it before voters at the March 2017 elections. 

It’s a simple three-point ballot measure attacking the current system with these key objectives: (1) it stops developers from hiring consultants to do their own EIR (Environmental Impact Report). The city would hire the consultants, but developers would continue to pay for them; (2) it prevents developers from making huge slashes in the parking requirements for their projects; (3) it calls for a two-year “time out” on all developments that do not conform to the city’s zoning. 

Both measures relate to the affordable housing crisis and zoning, two important issues that need as much public discourse as possible. This is why having them on the November and March ballots so important.

 

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

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