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LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Boyle Heights is the center of gravity for Latinos in Los Angeles but gentrification may be a problem. Like most of Los Angeles, Boyle Heights has long been a gateway community for people from all over the world; it once was the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in LA, according to a very interesting article by Scott Garner. 

Garner says that Mexican Americans have made their homes in this neighborhood since the 1800s, and the early 20th Century saw African Americans, Japanese, Russians, Poles, Serbs, Italians and Jews from Eastern Europe also settle on or at the foot of the bluffs on the LA River’s east bank. 

What brought them there was the lack of racially restrictive covenants that dictated who could live where in much of the city of Los Angeles. Even the neighborhood cemetery was open to burials of almost all, though Chinese Americans were shamefully relegated to its potter’s field. This openness helped Boyle Heights rapidly develop, especially from 1900 to 1930, as streetcars and the river’s viaducts knitted the once-isolated neighborhood into the city. 

Boyle Heights in the years after became an important center of Chicano culture, a historical moment still preserved by the neighborhood’s many murals. Today it remains a center of gravity for Latinos in Los Angeles. 

Residents of Boyle Heights are concerned about the possibility of widespread gentrification, which has led to some friction as the market has heated up. 

Tracy Do, a realtor at Compass, told Garner that she’s increasingly bringing clients to the neighborhood as an alternative to areas such as Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Glassell Park. She listed a three-bedroom Boyle Heights single-family residence this month and received more than twenty offers in less than a week.  

“It's certainly an up-and-coming neighborhood,” Do said, “and it's rising quickly in terms of desirability due to its distance from downtown LA and the Arts District specifically." 

In a seller’s market, buyers who are finding themselves priced out of Northeast LA are “turning to Boyle Heights for the next best thing.” And she noted that buyers who can afford only a condo in another neighborhood can get a single-family residence in Boyle Heights. 

In March, the median price for single-family homes in the 90023 ZIP code was $225,000, based on two sales, according to CoreLogic. In the 90033 ZIP, based on two sales, the median price was $233,000, and in 90063, the median price was $380,000, based on thirteen sales. 

Los Angeles is becoming slowly but surely a really expensive city to live in. We have to make sure that everyone who has a full time job in Los Angeles can afford to live here. This problem is not going to be solved just by creating more affordable housing. Shane Phillips, an urban planner in LA, argues that low vacancy rates is the real problem causing the lack of affordable housing, not high-rises. It’s a problem that won’t be solved by trying to prevent change. That’s the path San Francisco chose and now a shabby one-bed-room apartment there rents for $3,000 a month. 

I couldn’t agree more with Shane Phillips when he says that to solve this problem we are going to need a more humanistic approach to housing policy. We need to realize that when we reject adding more housing to our neighborhoods, we turn away real people who want to make a better life for themselves and contribute to our region’s success.

 

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

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--For those with any understanding of the politics and psychology of transportation--and this November's half-cent sales tax measure for more transportation/transit, it's not hard to connect the success of the Expo Line with the success of the "Measure R-2" initiative.  

And for my neighbors in the San Gabriel Valley, ditto for the Foothill Gold Line.  So, while everyone is (rightfully so) in the Expo Line celebratory mode: 

1) Ridership must be high even when it's not free, and it should be done as a common sense mobility effort, not as a civic duty. 

To those of you reading this who envision transit ridership as a civic or even theological imperative, this may bother you to read this, but whether it's Chicago or San Francisco or Washington, D.C. or New York, transit ridership is ultimately a common sense/self-interested/capitalistic attraction to those who use it.  It should be a no-brainer to avoid mind-boggling traffic, and THAT is the best way to promote ridership. 

Sunday afternoon after a fun backpacking trip in the San Gabriel Mountains, the I-10 freeway was still an ugly and infuriating 40 minute trip from Downtown to the Westside, so the lengthy Expo Line transit time is still quite competitive with the freeway and/or streets of the Westside and Mid-City. 

It will please you all to know that the LADOT, Big Blue Bus and Uber/Lyft industries are very much aware of the need for connectivity--and help is on the way.  It certainly WILL be a trial and error experience with respect to buses and DASH line connections...but it should be remembered that the Green Line, which "goes from nowhere to nowhere", still has one of the highest riderships of any transit line in the nation because of bus and Blue Line connectivity. 

With more businesses and housing projects moving next to the Expo Line stations as a free market strategy (it's amazing what human ingenuity and self-interest will do outside of government interference and dictates), it's certain that the Expo Line will reach high ridership levels faster than anyone can predict.  Even the Westside neighborhoods that fought the Expo Line are seeing home prices go up, according to my friends in the real estate biz. 

And I will NEVER back down from this last statement: to the women who want to ride transit, speak up!!!  If the County Sheriffs have an insufficient presence, then raise the cry.  If nighttime businesses and eyes/ears next to the transit station are so rare that certain stations pose a safety problem, speak up!!!  But if we have enough riders to ride this train, then this will be a safe and convenient ride for ALL of us.

2) What IS your civic duty if you're a transit advocate: Speak up for betterments! 

It's not Metro's fault that the City of Santa Monica rejected the advice of the Expo Authority to have a street-running Expo Line in Downtown Santa Monica, and it's not Metro's fault that the local opposition in the Westside rejected a compromise rail bridge at Overland Avenue (it HAD to be a $300 million tunnel or nothing...so they got nothing after all their lawsuits), so the length of the ride can't be helped much in the Westside. 

But the Westside trip is fairly speedy.  It's the Downtown Los Angeles street running portion of the Expo Line that can be worked on.  It's incumbent on us all to fight for signal prioritization for trains to make the Downtown portion of the ride faster--or, for that matter, anywhere on any portion of any line where light rail trains run.  The rail crossing guards should not be overly long (drivers have rights, too), but trains should have priority at crossings. 

And with respect to parking, it's NOT inappropriate to both encourage alternative, non-automobile access to the Expo and other light rail lines, as well as to demand the private sector come up with parking, bicycle, bus and pedestrian amenities to access the line.  Bundy/Olympic, Exposition/Sepulveda, and Venice/Robertson are ripe for such private sector sponsorship.  If Culver City can do it, then so can Los Angeles and Santa Monica. 

Finally, with respect to sidewalks, it's time the rest of the City's grassroots consider following the lead of the Mar Vista Community Council:  we REJECTED the 30 year timeline the City came up with to repair our City's sidewalks.  Forget THAT nonsense--we favor a 7-10 year timeline.  Perhaps the City should prioritize the sidewalks within 1/2 mile of each of our rail/transit stations! 

3) Be a Transit Advocate, not a Transit Bully. 

After fighting the car-only culture for years, it's not appropriate to be those who demonize automobiles and their taxpaying, commuting, hard-working drivers. 

It would be doggone nice for all of us to be able to avoid using a car to get to work, but that doesn't always work out.  Ditto for groceries, dropping the kids off to soccer practice, etc.  I hardly could have gone backpacking last weekend in the San Gabriel Mountains via a bus, could I? 

So be kind--some of the things I hear freak me out, and have no business in a civilized conversation with your neighbors.  If you have a problem with white people, black people, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. then put a sock in it...especially if you want a favorable vote come this November for a half-cent sales tax to finish the job of a 21st Century transit system for L.A. County. 

The Expo Line was meant to bring us all together.  Be FOR something.  Let's DO this!

  

(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.) Photo credit: LA Times.

-cw

 

CABLE WARS-The maligned merger between Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks is complete, which means the three companies have now become the country's second-largest cable provider, despite months of warnings from consumer and open internet advocates who assailed it as the creation of a 'price-gouging' monster. 

Charter ultimately paid $55 million to purchase Time Warner Cable and $10.4 billion for Bright House Networks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the acquisition earlier this month with several caveats -- including a ban on data caps and TV exclusivity deals that would harm competition -- but opponents warn that the deal is still bad news. 

"[T]here is some solace that, if rigorously enforced, these conditions should eliminate the more egregious harms this merger could cause while creating a baseline for acceptable industry behavior," Public Knowledge senior staff attorney John Bergmayer said at the time. 

However, he added, "It is hard to cheer for further media and broadband consolidation, regardless of what conditions the FCC or DOJ might adopt." 

What does the merger mean for the average consumer? As Tim Karr, senior director of strategy at the advocacy group Free Press, wrote in a blog post earlier this month, "Charter will need to hike prices to pay down the nearly $27 billion in new debt it took on to complete its merger. That’s a burden that amounts to more than $1,000 per average Charter customer." 

Free Press president Craig Aaron also previously warned that the merger, which he called "wasteful and costly," undermines FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's "oft-stated priority of competition, competition, competition." 

"It hands far too much control over the internet's future to a cable giant with the incentive and capability to gouge its customers with higher and higher prices," Aaron said. "It gives cable monopolists like Charter and Comcast the power to throttle the nation's burgeoning video market and stifle innovation at the edges of the network."

 

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams where this report was posted earlier.) Photo: AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GUEST COMMENTARY--There was one heck of a birthday party Friday. After years of bated breath, the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority finally opened its 6.6 mile, $1.5 billion Expo line light-rail extension, which stretches westward from its previous Culver City terminus all the way to Santa Monica. Adding to the hype, there were a host of celebrations near the new Santa Monica stations and a full day of free rides. 

But after the crowds clear, the confetti is swept up, people will have to pay full price for train fares again. We’re still going to have an extended train track. In fact, if Metro stays on track – no pun intended – to complete the decades’ worth of projects it has planned, Angelenos will have a pretty extensive rail system by 2040. 

It’s great that Metro’s push to get Angelenos out of their cars is finally leaving the station, so to speak. But there’s a caveat: Transit systems cost serious money to build and maintain. The Metro expects to drop $410 million on maintenance and security in 2017, an 8.6 percent increase from this year. 

Fortunately, they’re looking for more money to fund these projects and improvements. To this end, the Metro’s Board of Directors is working on a draft plan for a referendum to go on November’s ballot. The referendum proposes to extend half-cent Measure R sales tax approved in 2008 for at least 20 years and introduce another half-cent sales tax, Measure R2, to take effect for 45 years. If all goes according to plan, the Metro will end up with $120 billion in extra cash.

Los Angeles voters need to approve Measure R2 in November if they want to see further improvements in their transit system’s accessibility and reliability. But first, the Metro needs to amend its expenditure plan and make sure it uses its money for the benefit of as many Southlanders as possible, not just the ones who live and work near rail corridors. 

To that end, Metro needs to reach more potential riders by allocating more funds toward pedestrian, biking and bus infrastructure, as well as maintenance to ensure that their system is fast and reliable. That would come at a cost, namely a lesser emphasis on new rail construction. 

Hopefully the transit gods will forgive me for saying that, but it’s no secret that rail projects are costly and take a long time to complete. Just look at the Expo line extension. Even when they’re done, they primarily serve corridors of high-density, high-wealth development. This is all well and good; trains serve these areas well. 

But Los Angeles is a diverse place, and rail wouldn’t be the most effective option for all of its areas. Anyone familiar with my Metro columns knows that I’m big on buses and multimodal transportation as ways to reach people in lower density areas who wouldn’t otherwise utilize public transportation.

Case in point: Santa Clarita Valley residents recently voiced concerns about the returns their community would receive under the current iteration of Measure R2. San Fernando Valley leaders have shared similar sentiments about the attention their communities would receive. Lower density suburban communities like these would benefit more from bicycle and pedestrian paths and improved bus infrastructure. These projects would be faster, easier and cheaper to implement than rail and would have a wider reach.

For example, the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit corridor, completed in 2010, runs through one of the busiest and most congested corridors in the city. And yet it only cost $31.5 million to install, a fraction of what the Expo extension cost. 

But try telling that to Metro. A full 35 percent, or $42 billion, of Measure R2 is currently earmarked for major rail construction projects. By comparison, only 4.5 percent, or $5.4 billion, is going toward street improvements and biking infrastructure, with another 1 percent allocated for bike paths along the LA River. Bus system extensions are only getting $350 million. That’s chump change. Let’s say that Metro reallocates $2 billion away from rail construction and gives an extra billion each for multimodal and bus expansions. That adds up to $7.75 billion, or 6.5 percent of the total sales tax revenue. 

In the shadow of big rail, that’s still chump change, but the boosts to the non-rail transit system would be anything but trivial. The extra cash could go a long way in planning new bus routes, improving street and fleet maintenance, improving the convenience and reliability of bus service and establishing more bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure.

So yes, rail systems are a worthy investment for the more urbanized areas of LA, and you can bet that I’ll be living it up at the Expo extension’s grand opening. But when that shiny new rail line starts to lose its luster, Angelenos still need a fast, reliable and convenient way to get around the city. Measure R2 can give them the option they need. But first, Metro needs to change its track.

 

(Chris Campbell writes for the Daily Bruin where this was originally posted.)  Illustration: Annie Chan/ Daily Bruin. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TALKIN’ TRASH--It was only Tuesday but it was shaping up to be another great week in LA. The transformational LA happening, CicLAvia Southeast Cities was on the books, having blessed Huntington Park, Walnut Park, Southgate, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood and Watts, with its boundless energy and the joy of ten miles of car-free streets. 

Like earlier CicLAvias, this one introduced thousands of Angelenos to neighborhoods many knew nothing about -- other than the evening news’ caricature of drug- and crime-infested areas unsafe at any time of day. 

And the beat goes on with Metro’s Expo Line opening to Santa Monica this Friday. 

At times like this, everything seems so possible in the capital of the Best Coast. 

So why is it so hard for the City of Los Angeles to take care of the little things like picking up the trash?

Last week I took a walk from my apartment near Olympic and Western in Koreatown north through the neighborhood and East Hollywood to Sunset Blvd and Normandie and back again. What I saw wasn’t pretty. In the years that I have lived in Koreatown I can’t believe the things I have seen people do with their trash. 

The rodent-infested homeless encampment under the 101 near Monroe at Normandie is emblematic of our problem. But heaps of trash and discarded furniture on Hobart, Harvard, Ardmore, Kingsley and other area streets also attest to our utter failure to conquer what should be a relatively modest challenge for City Hall. 

I love, and regularly use, MyLA 311, the City’s excellent free app for reporting bulky item pickup and other services. And it works well. But clearly, not everyone is using the simple app. 

Nor should they have to. L.A. Sanitation is out and about, or should be, all of the time. Why should Sanitation workers wait for a call that may never come telling them that some bonehead has left his transmission on the curb? If you see something, say (and DO) something should apply to LASanitation as well as transit riders and airline passengers. 

Like dogs, too many Angelenos seem to use their rubbish to mark their territory. Too many of us throw our beer cans, bottles, diapers, condoms, butts and worse out the windows of our cars and trucks onto the street. Or maybe they just open the door, dump out their trash and drive away. Or not. How do I know? I’ve witnessed it again and again. 

If only there were a special place in hell for people who don’t know how to treat Mother Earth. Are the schools in LA and in all U.S. cities and other countries we Angelenos come from really so bad that they don’t teach students to put trash in bins and not on the streets? It’s a miracle that the polluters haven’t yet killed off all of our flora and fauna with the oozing motor oil and car parts they leave behind after the lube job at Joe’s Curbside Auto Repair. 

Where is LA Sanitation, Code Enforcement and the LAPD when these “people” are dumping their auto parts and construction debris on our streets and the empty lot across the street? 

I know the dumping in KTown by locals and visitors pales in comparison to what the fracking and coal companies are doing to the world on a daily basis, but it still sucks. 

Sure, keeping our city clean is a partnership and the public has a big role to play. But it’s also a basic city service and if the government can’t take care of the little stuff like litter, how can it expect us to have any confidence in its management of the real challenges like jobs, the economy, schools, policing, homeless services, transit and infrastructure? 

I like our gifted, committed Mayor and many members of the City Council. But don’t they see what I see every day out my window? Don’t they believe in sanctioning illegal dumping and enforcing the law? Don’t they believe in accountability at LA.Sanitation? And when will we see those promised regularly serviced trash and recycling bins on our streets? 

Cleanstat, the Bureau of Sanitation’s cleanliness scoring of every street in the City (they drove all of LA’s public streets and alleys) is a work of art; but our streets aren’t. 

Now is the time to get out and pick up the trash. Garbage collection and enforcement can change our landscape and mother knows we need to. 

According to the Cleanstat website, Los Angeles is leading the way as the only big city in the U.S. conducting a regular cleanliness assessment of every city street. 

Assessments are nice, but I don’t need no stinkin’ assessment. I can smell it.

 

(Joel Epstein is a senior advisor to companies, law firms, foundations and public initiatives on communications strategy, corporate social responsibility (CSR), recruiting and outreach. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow Joel Epstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thejoelepstein.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

VOICE FOR OUR VETS--Brentwood School, the private elitist school for children of the wealthy and powerful ($37,000 tuition) has made national news that exposes its underlying racist attitude. Here are two examples: 

Brentwood School holds a privileged lease for its 25-acre athletic complex on Veterans VA property that was deeded exclusively as a National Home for disabled and homelessness Veterans.  Los Angeles is our nation's capital for homeless Veterans while Brentwood School's lease was adjudicated in Federal Court to be "unauthorized by law and therefore void." 

The VA, along with Brentwood School, appealed the Judgment.  VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald met privately behind closed doors with two of his personal wealthy and powerful friends -- Bobby Shriver and Ron Olson -- both are attorneys and neither are Veterans, and they unilaterally agreed to vacate the Judgment with a counterfeit settlement agreement that promised to end Veteran homelessness by the end of December 31, 2015.  

Los Angeles is still our nation's capital for homeless Veterans and Skid Row is the capital for all homeless in Los Angeles with more than 90% being Black, that includes countless war-injured and impoverished U.S. Military Veterans that need to be housed and cared for on this land instead of Brentwood School's athletic complex, UCLA's baseball diamond, City of Los Angeles's "rent free" public dog park, etc. 

While the federal judgment was fraudulently vacated, Brentwood School has plans to expand its athletic complex instead of being evicted.  Now the School has been embarrassingly exposed for student's racist assault on Blacks and the Los Angeles VA is complicit in all of this. 

Bobby Shriver has a very serious conflict-of-interest as he has children that attend Brentwood School and he must be banned from any participation of any nature on Los Angeles VA property. 

The VA police have special privileges to use the Brentwood School athletic complex while all Veterans in general are prohibited from entering on property deeded in their exclusive behalf, and there's a so-called "sharing agreement."  

This is disgracefully corrupt and Mr. McDonald along with Ann Brown, executive director of the Los Angeles VA, must resign or be fired posthaste. 

The most corrupt VA in the nation continues to get more corrupt, and now it allows racist tenants on VA property with a "sharing agreement" that has been adjudicated "unauthorized by law and therefore void." 

These same corrupt co-conspirators continue to ignore their responsibility and promise to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles. 

Speak up and demand CHANGE at the Los Angeles VA. 

God Bless America and the Veterans Revolution!

(Robert Rosebrock is Director of The Veterans Revolution, Captain of the Old Veterans Guard, and Director of We the Veterans … and a occasional contributor to CityWatch)

-cw

 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-This past week, I was honored to be invited to a meeting of some of the core members of Save Valley Village, a group that has been laser-focused on ensuring neighborhood integrity and fair development. Each member is facing his or her own battles, including invasive demolition of houses or buildings in their backyards or steps away from their own homes. (Photo above: demolition of Marilyn Monroe house in Valley Village.) The support and advice the members shared with each other touched me. This is at the heart of democracy and what makes our country great. It’s easy to feel disillusioned and that we have no power when it feels like politicians in Washington, Sacramento, and City Hall rubber stamp the needs of special interests while ignoring the average voter. But activists like the folks at Save Valley Village and other groups we are profiling are proof that this doesn’t have to be the case. 

At the heart of the agenda was a rather obscure definition of “major remodel,” buried in a 1991 memo for a non-conforming project. It seems developers and contractors have been taking advantage of this loophole, submitting the wrong permits that promise to save existing houses and instead tear down the structures, saving just a couple of two by fours and nails. 

One member explained how the city eases the path for developers. The zoning administrator can give bonuses and enforcement is discretionary at best. When neighbors have called to complain that builders are “breaking laws and mandates, Building and Safety makes excuses that they’re understaffed.” 

In one case, the yard of a home next to a project was flooded and developed mold. The neighbor called 311 but the employee refused to take a report. “As per Krekorian’s MO, the developer demolished without a permit. There was to be a cultural hearing the very next day,” said the frustrated member. Although Vince Bertoni, former head of Pasadena’s Planning and Community Development Department, has replaced Michael LoGrande as planning director, little seems to have changed. 

The rash of demolitions in Valley Village and nearby areas has led to environmental concerns, a loss of oak trees and historic properties, as well as rental evictions, a dearth of affordable housing units and increased traffic, all concerns for Save Valley Village residents who were preparing for a public hearing to address the Horace Heidt Estates apartments’ proposed expansion on Magnolia and Hazeltine. 

Another project addressed was the Hermitage/Weddington project. Per Save Valley Village, Urban-Blox (Raffi Shirinian, David Dual) has decided to move forward with the planning project. 

A 21-year resident is in litigation with property owners because “their grandson tried to sell the property to developers behind her back, aware that the owners had an agreement to sell to her.” The resident “has lived, run, and breathed this property and was very close to the original owner who had built it.” 

The developers now propose to remove a public street, demolish a single family home with guest house, a rent-controlled triplex, and another five units in one of the first buildings that was developed in 1934. The ensuing project would also destroy over three dozen trees. 

Community members attended the first public hearing on March 29 in opposition. Save Valley Village turned in over 200 pages of evidence of non-compliance, requiring the developers to do a full EIR. They also turned in piles of letters in opposition from the community, historians, naturalists, arbor consultants, non-profits and “all kinds of public voices.” Each of the hearing attendees signed a pink sheet that promised delivery of a letter of determination, listing the time frame for appeal. Once that date has passed, there’s no chance for appeal. 

As of last week, not a single resident has received a letter of determination, which the city claims to have mailed. In fact, not a single resident even received notice of the initial March hearing. Save Valley Village is unable to file appeals as of yet without sending a representative to the department of planning, which is charging for copies on top of making it difficult to access the information. 

“We lost three buildings down the street, a total of 19 rent-controlled units, because nothing was posted anywhere. The city has refused to show us records and made it impossible to appeal the project,” shares a disgruntled member. “They have also destroyed 14 trees, which had bird nests in them. Birds are still circling where their home was. Urban-Blox has never actually built anything. They work with a guy named Steve Nazemmi who is in a dozen or so projects in Valley Village that he has demolished.” 

Although these skirmishes against developers seem to pop up like gophers or moles -- uphill battles with lack of transparency from developers, the city’s Planning Department and the Building and Safety departments -- Save Valley Village and other groups around the city are dedicated to continuing to protect neighborhoods and the quality of life in our city.



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

SHOCKING STUDY--In 2007, about a year before the economy crashed, the Gallup Poll found that 28 percent of Americans had at some point worried about becoming homeless.

It’s worse today. A new UCLA study found 31 percent of county residents worried about becoming homeless. Even among people earning between $90,000 and $120,000, 1 in 4 were afraid they would one day live on the street.

The fear is a symptom of a stagnant economy. If people felt confident that they would always be able to find a job, some kind of job to pay the bills, everybody would be sleeping better at night. Instead, there is widespread anxiety that unemployment could be imminent, devastating, and at an ever-younger age, permanent.

When economic stagnation is the problem, a tax increase is not the solution. Higher taxes drain away resources needed for growth and job creation. Beleaguered businesses shrink, close or leave. Poverty spreads like water on a marble floor.

So it’s particularly depressing to see the city and county of Los Angeles plotting to raise taxes in the name of helping the homeless.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposed $8.75 billion budget includes a pledge of $138 million to help get homeless people into affordable housing, but the future of Garcetti’s 10-year, $2 billion plan to house the homeless depends on persuading voters to approve a higher sales tax, more borrowing, or a new transfer tax on real estate transactions. None of those proposals reached 50 percent approval in a recent poll conducted for the city. They’d need a two-thirds vote to pass.

L.A. County’s proposed budget would spend $100 million to help the homeless, about one-fifth of what county officials say is needed. A poll on how to pay for it found 76 percent support for a half-percent tax increase on income over $1 million, about 67 percent support for a half-percent increase in the sales tax or a 15 percent sales tax on marijuana, and 47 percent approval for a $49 parcel tax added to property tax bills.

But can the problem of homelessness be solved with higher taxes?

There is reason to doubt it.

The Skid Row Housing Trust recently opened an affordable housing development to serve homeless veterans. “The Six” provides 52 units of permanent supportive housing, but it cost $16.7 million, about $321,000 per unit.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority says 46,874 people in L.A. County are without a roof over their heads. To house each of them in a place like “The Six” would cost $15 billion.

Suppose we paid it. Would Los Angeles then be free of homeless encampments? Would the sidewalks be clear for pedestrians? Would red lights be just red lights, and not a 30-second Dickens novel?

Not likely, thanks to the federal courts.

In 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city of Los Angeles over enforcement of a section of the city code that allowed police to arrest people for sleeping on the street. The city lost. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Constitution “prohibits the city from punishing involuntary sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter in the City of Los Angeles.”

The courts have also protected panhandling, calling it a First Amendment right. Last year, cities in Maine and Illinois were told they could not ban panhandling on the medians at intersections or in a busy downtown area.

So Los Angeles taxpayers could spend twice the city’s annual budget on housing the homeless and still have no legal way to stop a new wave of people from replacing them on the streets.

Homelessness is not one problem and it doesn’t have one solution, unless you’re a politician searching through polling data for a way to get voters to support another tax increase. Nobody likes homeless encampments? Bingo!

What’s needed in Los Angeles is a comprehensive effort to improve the business climate so people can find good jobs or run small businesses profitably. Every government policy that burdens businesses or consumers with higher costs reduces hiring, deepens poverty and puts more people at risk of living in vehicles, shelters or tents.

Sadly, our elected officials think of businesses not as engines of economic well-being, but as cash registers to be robbed by government do-gooders. They would rather have their picture taken in a homeless shelter than get out of the way and let people earn a living.

That should keep everybody up at night.

(Susan Shelley is an author, former television associate producer and twice a Republican candidate for the California Assembly. This piece was posted most recently at Fox and Hounds.) 

-cw

 

SPORTS POLITICS--Another lawsuit has emerged in the aftermath of the NFL's decision to move the Rams franchise from St. Louis to Los Angeles.     

Inglewood's former budget manager accused city officials of juggling the books to paint an inaccurately rosy picture of city finances to help persuade the NFL to move the Rams there, and of firing her when she blew the whistle.   

Read more ...

SECURITY POLITICS-The reason Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security lines across the country have become excruciatingly long is because TSA is not opening and staffing all of its screening checkpoints.  

The TSA has directed resources and personnel away from screening to non-screening functions including behavior detection officers (BDO), the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) program and passenger screening canine teams. 

In order to immediately reduce overall wait time for travelers, TSA must redeploy its non-screening resources-none of which have been proven effective and all of which cost exorbitant monies-and personnel back to the screening checkpoint so that all lanes are open and fully staffed ahead of the busy summer travel season.  

"On a daily basis, only a handful of the screening checkpoints at a terminal are open while the remaining checkpoints are closed," said Marshall McClain, a canine police officer at LAX, President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association and a co-founder of American Alliance of Airport Police Officers (AAAPO). 

"Passengers will be shocked with empty checkpoints in lines that last over an hour and a half-causing missed planes and extreme frustration.  They are wondering what the problem is.  TSA has the ability to staff these closed checkpoints but they are diverting resources and personnel to things like BDO, VIPR and passenger screening canines -programs that have shown to not enhance security, waste taxpayer dollars and take away from the TSA's core function of screening.  

"By opening and staffing all available screening checkpoints with non-screening BDO, VIPR and TSA canine personnel, wait lines could be significantly reduced.  In order to fortify security at the screening area, the TSA should simply abide by the law that's already on the books that requires an airport police officer be stationed at the screening checkpoint but should provide added flexibility and allow the officer to be within 300 feet of the checkpoint and do away with the blanket waiver to the law that the TSA Administrator can issue." 

Recent calls by those with a bully pulpit, but without the understanding of how the process works, assert that TSA's passenger-screening canines reduce wait times and improve security.  As the on-the-ground law enforcement officers, many of whom are canine handlers, that patrol some of the country's busiest airports, AAAPO police officers have seen no evidence to support this claim-we have seen quite the opposite, as has the American public and Congress.    

The stated purpose of TSA's passenger-screening canines, or vapor wake dogs, are to detect explosives but they have an extremely high rate of false-positives that result in secondary screening of these individuals which ultimately delays screening wait lines even further and requires the use of additional TSA resources.  TSA's passenger screening canine teams do not have a high degree of detection accuracy and have never positively identified explosives on a traveler.  They may look good but they are only a dog and pony show which jeopardizes safety.  Furthermore, the dog's nose goes "blind" within half an hour.  

When a TSA passenger-screening canine alerts to explosives on a passenger (which have all been false-positives to date), TSA protocol calls for that individual to continue through the crowded screening checkpoint so that TSA can conduct secondary screening. Logistically, allowing a person who is suspected of having explosive material on their body to continue through the screening area jeopardizes the safety of surrounding passengers, particularly as they are clogging up the lines and causing a chokehold with more people to potentially injure if they do indeed have explosives.  More time is lost because secondary screening involves more TSA resources.  It is a lose, lose, lose scenario. 

"The argument has been made that TSA's passenger screening canines can allow passengers to go through the screening process with shoes, belts and coats," said Frank Conti, a canine police officer and First Vice President of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association.  

"However, this does NOTHING to improve security at airports since these TSA canines are consistently yielding false positives-this process is scary and only provides a false sense of security.  Law enforcement canine teams, who have the underlying police training to immediately identify the level of a threat and respond accordingly-by isolating the suspect-and have the capability to mitigate the problem before it reaches a sterile area and/or plane, should instead be used to fortify screening at airports." 

"There is no doubt that screening wait times will surge this summer and that responsibility lies firmly with TSA," said Paul Nunziato, President of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association and co-founder of the AAAPO. 

"Over the last several years, the TSA wasted billions of dollars and has done nothing to promote safety.  The result has been that TSA has stopped focusing on its primary goal of screening and began programs such as BOD, VIPR and canines to 'spend all the money Congress gave them,' according to former TSA Administrator John Pistole.  

“TSA should screen passengers and luggage and put their money and manpower into doing this to the best of their capabilities.  They've taken their eye off the ball and we are seeing the consequences.  Right now it's just an inconvenience-soon it could be a nightmare scenario where a real threat gets through to a plane-and no one wants that to happen.  

“It is beyond clear to any traveler that all TSA needs to do is fully staff all screening lanes at terminals.  This is absolutely something they can do if they take their canine team, BDO and VIPR people and put them at the checkpoint-yes, it really is that simple."

 

(Jasmyne Cannick is a Los Angeles activist and writer and handles communications for LAAPOA.)

BILLBOARD WATCH--Billboard companies spent $507,000 lobbying Los Angeles city officials in the first quarter of 2016, according to City Ethics Commission records. Those companies and their executives also donated a total of $9,800 to seven city councilmembers running for re-election in 2017. (Photo above: Billboard company lobbyists Morrie Goldman, left, and David Gershwin. Clear Channel paid Goldman’s firm $90,000 and Gershwin’s $45,000 in the first quarter of 2016.)

As usual, the big spender was Clear Channel Outdoor, which paid four different lobbying firms a total of $240,000. The company, one of the city’s big three along with Outfront Media and Lamar Advertising, has been pushing the City Council to lift the current ban on putting up new digital billboards or converting existing billboards to digital.

Other companies with major outlays to registered lobbyists were Regency Outdoor, $56,000; Outfront Media, $53,000; and Lamar Advertising, $37,500. The three companies are also members of the L.A. Outdoor Advertising Coalition, which spent $50,000 lobbying city officials on behalf of billboard issues during the quarter.

The city councilmembers getting billboard company contributions were Bob Blumenfield, Joe Buscaino, Gil Cedillo, Mitch O’Farrell, and Curren Price. O’Farrell was the top recipient of this largesse, with $3,500 in contributions. Cedillo and Blumenfield each received $2,100, while Bonin, Buscaino, and Price each got $700 donations.

Bonin has been one of the council’s most vocal opponents of allowing more digital billboards, while Cedillo, a member of the committee that considers sign legislation, has proposed allowing new digital billboards through a conditional use permit process. The others haven’t taken a public stand on the issue, although O’Farrell and Blumenfield both represent districts with significant anti-billboard sentiment.

Registered lobbying firms are required to make quarterly reports of payments received from clients, but those reports don’t include any detailed information about lobbyist contacts with elected and appointed officials. However, the City Ethics Commission is currently studying proposed changes in the lobbying ordinance, including a requirement for much more detailed reporting.

(Dennis Hathaway is the president of the Ban Billboard Blight Coalition and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: [email protected].

-cw

There were two articles in CityWatch recently about the candidacy of Janice Kamenir-Reznik, who seeks the open seat to be vacated by termed-out Fran Pavley in Senate District 27. 

There are five candidates, including Republican Steve Fazio, who stands an almost certain chance to make it to the general election. The district is moderately competitive owing to enough Republican or decline-to-state registration to rule out a walkover by a Democrat.

But Reznik faces a formidable opponent in Democrat Henry Stern. The fact that it is an open seat makes it potentially even more competitive.

Stern is a senior advisor to Pavley. In that role, he undoubtedly has absorbed much about the workings of the district and the issues affecting the state.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was approached by a mutual acquaintance to chat with him. Even though I do not have a vested interest in the district, the potential for a competitive race got my attention. Not to mention that there are state issues in play affecting all of us.

It is likely that this will be one race I will follow besides what will be a marquee event in AD39 between Patty Lopez and Raul Bocanegra, who was taken down by Lopez in what had to be the biggest upset in modern times in California.

Stern and I sat down over coffee the other day and covered a range of subjects. It was not a Q&A; more of a discussion. And it was more process-oriented, framed by some key issues concerning both the state and local levels.

I will start by saying he impressed me by his focus on how things should get done. If you involve the public at the grassroots and level with them, there is a greater likelihood of turning out sensible legislation.

For example, he faulted the lack of transparency by the framers of Prop 47 (which allowed early prison releases)for not providing details as to when structural savings from a smaller prison population would kick in, and not dealing with funding resources localities would need to deal with the influx of former inmates. For that matter, he stated that poorly-crafted propositions were all too common.

Prop 1A, which authorized the sale of $9.5B in bonds to fund the start-up of high-speed rail, was another case where a half-baked plan was sold to the public. His boss, Fran Pavley, opposed the initial funding for constructing the controversial system in the Central Valley.

Stern and I agreed that there was nothing wrong with the concept of HSR, but the plan was unrealistic and the assumptions unsubstantiated, plus there are far more important priorities facing the state ranging from education, infrastructure and water, to the problems of homelessness. Cap-and-trade funds could be applied to considerably more effective environmental improvements (if indeed the train would even produce a measurable net effect on the clean air in our lifetimes, a criticism often cited by opponents).

On a local level, he claimed to be very supportive of Neighborhood Councils and strongly urged making the voices of residents a priority when it comes to determining development. Stern said that was a key difference he has with Resnik. He also did not support the density bonuses allowed under SB1818 due to the unintended consequences of of the bill’s implementation.

He was strongly concerned over how CEQA has been subverted in the interest of development.

Stern expressed his dismay as to how Porter Ranch was ever approved for development given the adjacent gas field. He supports a fee to be paid by Sempra- one that cannot be passed on to customers – to cover the damages suffered by the residents. He did acknowledge it would take oversight to assure the cost would be fully absorbed by the gas company.

As I mentioned earlier, this will be a race to watch in both the primary and general.

I will cover it in greater depth.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].)

-cw

 

POLITICS-California is expected to have a considerable upsurge in voter turnout in both the June primary and November elections. Over 600,000 Californians have registered to vote online or updated their registration in the past three months alone. Secretary of State Alex Padilla has warned Gov. Jerry Brown that county election agencies may be overwhelmed. Padilla is appealing to the governor and the Legislature for an extra $32 million to assist county elections officials and his agency.

The presidential primary and ensuing election in November have been capturing the interest of the previously disenfranchised voter but there’s much more at stake in the primary than seeing if Trump and Hillary can top off the delegates and “feeling the Bern.”

Following a 2014 triple threat of state legislators charged with perjury, bribery, and other violations, the state legislature has voted to place Prop 50, the California Suspension of Legislators Amendment on the ballot, which would allow the legislature to terminate the salaries and benefits of suspended legislators with a two-third vote if the provision is included in the suspension resolution.

 The June primary includes a Top Two Primary election for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat. State Attorney General Kamala Harris, endorsed by the California Democratic Party, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Orange) are expected to capture the top two spots. The June ballot will also include Top Two primaries for congressional, state senate, and local races to advance to the general election.

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The November ballot is expected to have as many as 18 ballot initiatives, seven of which have already gathered enough signatures to make it to the ballot. One of the most prominent proposals is Gov. Brown’s measure to revamp prison parole and juvenile justice laws, pending the completion of signature gathering this week and the California Supreme Court removes a legal obstacle.

Other measures include an initiative to fully legalize marijuana that is backed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Facebook co-founder Sean Parker, and others. Newsom is also behind a measure that would place new background checks for the sale of firearm ammunition and is also a supporter of a measure to raise California’s tobacco tax by $2 per pack.

In addition to Prop 50, legislators have contributed to the ballot measures with a repeal of Proposition 227, a 1998 initiative that limited bilingual education in the state. As of last week, lawmakers have also moved ahead an advisory measure on whether Congress should overturn the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which loosened campaign finance laws.

M*A*S*H actor Mike Farrell and other death penalty opponents seem to have gathered enough signatures to place a measure to repeal capital punishment on the ballot, while pro-death penalty proponents may qualify a measure to expedite cases through the legal system.  

One of the first initiatives to qualify for the November ballot is a proposed state law that would require condom usage by actors performing sex scenes in adult films, a measure written by LA-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Continue to follow CityWatch for California and Los Angeles news regarding both the June primaries and November election.

NEED TO KNOW:

 

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

-cw

 

JUST THE FACTS-From the San Fernando Valley to San Pedro to West Los Angeles to Downtown, more and more homeless people occupy our local streets. In the meantime, “Emergency Declarations” made many months ago by elected officials to address the matter remain stalled due to lack of funding. All we get are empty promises to remedy the situation, followed by media releases containing lots of smoke with little action. We still lack the money to actually begin to remedy this situation that impacts thousands of lives, including many women and children. 

A recent visit to the Sepulveda Basin and a drive along Woodley Ave between Victory and Burbank Blvds., illustrates the number of cars, trucks and motor homes permanently parked along the eastside of the roadway adjacent to the park. These vehicles comprise yet another of the hundreds of homeless encampments throughout our region. Men, women and children are living in conditions that resemble a struggling third world country. 

It’s an understatement to say how sad it is that people exist like this. It is criminal for our elected officials to permit the situation to continue to grow, offering little relief or solutions beyond the taxes and fees imposed on responsible members of our diverse population. 

Like many of you, I am tired of seeing the city’s proposed $8.7 billion 2016-2017 budget go for administrative salaries and benefits. Too much money is spent on pet projects and too little remains for homeless programs, street paving or enhanced public safety programs to protect our communities where increasing crime is trending and the quality of life in our neighborhoods is deteriorating. 

There is much political talk from elected officials about what will be done to address the homeless situation. But, as they say, talk is cheap. Rather than establish priorities and work in a unified fashion, our elected officials on all levels of government rely on additional fees and taxes. While raising taxes and fees may be a likely answer, they need to be imposed on the rich and on developers. 

Of course, we are already seeing the push for more taxes for public transit operations and the expansion of transit lines, especially the 40-year sales tax increase for bus and rail transit. Soon, we will have an almost 10% sales tax in our region. But will this bring about real change and a reduction in homelessness? Or will it just add to the pot of cash that will be washed away, disappearing down the financial black hole at City Hall. Time will tell. You should watch this closely. I for one am not supporting any new fees or taxes without an ironclad plan that includes oversight by credible people with a history of dedicated community service and who have the ability to say no to a plan that wastes our hard earned money. 

I am doing my part to help with organizations dealing with mental illness and the homeless, serving on the Board of Directors of the San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center, Inc. and on the Board of Directors of the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. While I may rant and rave about the homeless situation in our communities, I am also working with groups that are dedicated to impacting the situation on a personal level. 

If you have the time, if you are tired of seeing your community fall apart, then I urge you to get involved in any group dealing with the homeless problem. They can all use additional people who are dedicated to creating a better Los Angeles for all of us. 

Additional note:     

Even a marriage made in heaven sometimes has a few bumps in the road. But when those bumps become too severe, divorce is sometimes considered the only solution. Many of us have found ourselves in this situation. But before you decide to become “single” (and maybe happy again,) you should consider all of the options carefully. The only people who truly make a profit in a divorce are the attorneys handling the case. 

Attorney Ronald M. Supancic, who has been practicing family law since 1970, contacted me and asked that I let readers know that he provides a free service to those considering a divorce. It is called “Divorce Workshop” and is conducted on the 2nd Saturday and 4th Wednesday of each month at 21051 Warner Center Lane, Suite 100 in Woodland Hills. Areas discussed include protecting yourself in court,child custody, spousal and child support guidelines and the divorce process and related costs. For additional information please go to: The LawCollaborative.com or call 888 852 9961. 

I welcome your observations and comments.

 

(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].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Fraudywood #1--On March 1, 2012 CityWatch published, “Hollywood Becomes Fraudywood” explaining that the City was using bogus population data for its update to the Hollywood Community Plan. But even after the city attorney advised then Councilmember Garcetti that the Community Pan was based on false data and should be re-done, he refused to make corrections. 

Fraudywood #2--A year later on June 23, 2013, CityWatch revisited the issue in “Hollywood Becomes Fraudywood, Part 2.” CityWatch made clear that the population data being used by the city was fatally defective, that the city should stop any litigation before the court ordered a new update. Valuable time was squandered through Garcetti’s insistence that the litigation continue when everyone “knew” that the court would reject the Plan. 

The City of LA was adamant in its use of false data. Just as CityWatch predicted, Judge Alan Goodman threw out the Hollywood Community Plan in January 2014. 

As a result, the city reverted to the 1988 Hollywood Community Plan [1988 HCP] which was based on data from the 1970's and 1980's. Thus, we are now evaluating projects based on demographic studies that are between three and four decades old. It is ludicrous to approve projects in 2016 based on population data from 1980. 

Fraudywood #3--On April 29, 2016, the City of LA began work on a new Update to the Hollywood Community Plan, and once again used bogus data. The city says that its population figures come from the Southern California Association of Government’s 2016 RTP. As we reported earlier this month, the SCAG 2016 RTP has no population information for Hollywood. 

The public has the unqualified right to know the data upon which the city relies. The city is urging the public to approve massive construction projects while concealing the truth from everyone. 

Just as some grassroots organizations were correct in 2005 about what the official data would eventually say about Hollywood’s population, those same groups have a good idea what is happening at this time.   

What is the likely Population Situation with Hollywood? 

This time around, Hollywoodians Encouraging Logical Planning [HELP] (which sued the city over the 2012 Hollywood Community Plan) says that it expects to see Hollywood have a slight increase in population -- limited to primarily millennials, a blip in the population count that is temporary. It also expects to see fewer families in CD 13, while CD 4, north of Franklin Avenue, should be doing well except for the impacts from the various “disasters” in the Flats (CD13.) 

Millennials are the generation born between 1980 and 1999. They have been lingering in urban areas longer than prior generations, due to high student debt, a depressed job market since 2008, and high housing costs. A significant number are living a kind of post-college dorm life existence by sharing expensive apartments in higher density neighborhoods. They are found in DTLA, and it seems that they are found in Hollywood, for instance, along La Brea in the new mixed use projects. 

The Millennials are Leaving, the Millennials are Leaving… 

The Millennials are departing and last year was probably their zenith. According to Dowell Myers from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, the number of new-born Millennials dropped 25 years ago and continued to decline. Thus, two important demographic factors are at play. 

(1) There will be fewer Millennials in future years. In fact, their generation ends in 2019, so planning for them to be around to play out the “dorm life scenario” until 2040 is not prudent.           

(2) The Millennials tend to move away from urban areas in droves when they start families. They are reaching the family rearing age and starting to move away. 

The claim that Millennials would prefer to permanently live Dorm Style has been obviously bogus. When young adults transition to family life, major life style changes always occur. The demographic data showed that Millennials would desert the urban cores when starting families. For the upwardly mobile college educated Millennial, it is okay for “other people” to raise their families in apartments in DTLA or Hollywood, but they themselves tend to opt for a single family home with a yard in Austin, Texas. (They are more likely to gentrify and mansionize South Central than to remain in a tiny Hollywood apartment.) 

The Right to Accurate Information 

It is crucial for the public to have detailed and reliable population data about the composition of the Hollywood’s population and the trends which will play out in the next decades. If HELP is correct, then these mixed-use apartments are a glut on the market. It will be economic folly to construct more urban high rises in Hollywood. 

Also, construction in these Transit Oriented Districts is more expensive than locating apartments elsewhere. Land costs the most in these TODs. In addition, the taller a project is, the more stringent the building codes and the more expensive the construction costs. The mere fact that the city wants to concentrate apartments in TODs guarantees that housing prices will rise. 

The Public Wants Polices which is Lower Housing Costs 

Most people in Los Angeles think that housing prices should decease. Yet, the Hollywood Community Plan is based on bogus data which misleads the public to believe that we’ve got thousands of avid apartment dwellers descending on Hollywood. This type of construction significantly increases housing costs. 

In order to make meaning comments on the NOP, the public must be provided accurate population data and links to demographic studies which reliably forecast the future population changes. The City has had over two years since Judge Goodman’s January 2014 decision to provide this information. Right now the NOP does one thing – it misleads the public to support real estate developers’ desires to aggrandize their profits while harming everyone else. 

The City needs to retract its NOP and issue a new one with reliable data. The NOP has to also reveal its data sources and it has link them to the NOP so that the public can double check the information. 

The Recalcitrant City 

The City will refuse and here’s why. The demographic data shows that TODs are a disaster; they overburden infrastructure, they deteriorate neighborhoods, they attract so many cars that the traffic congestion becomes significantly worse, and the City has a habit of giving tax dollars to developers. 

Unless the City corrects itself now, the court will reject this new Hollywood Community Plan so that we will be stuck with the 1988 HCP until 2022.

The Los Angeles City Council, despite having no team, modern stadium or apparently, self-respect, voted unanimously on Wednesday to let the National Football League know that it would like to host a future Super Bowl. Lots o’ luck with that … 

With the next two Super Bowls already scheduled for Houston and Minneapolis, the three that will take place in 2019-2021 will almost certainly soon be awarded to Miami, Tampa, Atlanta or New Orleans, each of which has a team, modern stadium and fan base. 

When the Rams (formerly of Cleveland, Los Angeles and St. Louis) move back to Southern California this fall, they will temporarily play in the renovated-but-still-crumbling ruins known as the LA Memorial Coliseum, where the Super Bowl was last played in 1973. When their new stadium in the mighty City of Inglewood opens -- most likely for the 2019 season -- it will be the venue to which the NFL eventually grants the Super Bowl hosting honors, once the facility has a few full seasons under its belt. 

The Super Bowl will not be awarded to the City of Los Angeles and what will then be the 97-year old Coliseum when there is a toddler-aged stadium a few miles down the 10 Freeway, a venue closer to the airport, the ocean and all that the Westside has to offer. 

The NFL is not averse to holding its big event in colder, more remote, unglamorous locations or even ones that do not have a team of their own. Super Bowl XLVIII took place outdoors in New Jersey in 2014. It was the third coldest in Super Bowl history. Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Pontiac landed the game despite not being hubs of comfort, celebrity, affluence or fun. And Pasadena, which hosted five Super Bowls, though none since 1993, was not a regular NFL city but still has the chops to host enormous events.   

As is so often the case with the City of Los Angeles, it is a perennial pigskin patsy or, as Pink Floyd sang, “it wants its pudding without eating its meat.” 

The last time a professional football was tossed anywhere near LA City Hall was a few years ago when now-former Councilman and Court Jester Tom LaBonge whipped one across the lawmakers’ horseshoe seating arrangement, boasting with certitude that Farmer’s Field would soon be built (read: wedged into) downtown LA to attract perhaps multiple teams and tourists to LA like flies to a dumpster. And you know how that turned out. 

Since Inglewood is about to become Southern California’s professional football destination, with the latest and greatest in stadium luxury, as well as immediate transportation access from the 405 and 105 freeways, LA’s and the Coliseum’s odds of landing a Super Bowl are optimistically somewhere between diddly squat and goose egg. 

Given all this, you have to wonder what LA City Council, the hallmark of integrity that promised to end veterans’ homelessness by last December only to realize that the problem was twice as bad as it thought, is thinking. Perhaps it just wants good press from those media outlets that blindly regurgitate its press releases. And it’s probably counting on the faith of constituents who always believe them when they do.

Like its seemingly futile pursuit of its third Olympics, which takes place in 2024, City Hall’s inability to get the NFL back to LA must be eating at them. It’s still seeking opportunities to congratulate itself for a job that it didn’t get done. A few months ago, when it honored Inglewood officials for “our” success in bringing the League back to Southern California, it became clear that the NFL is LA’s elusive, unaffordable ex-girlfriend for which city officials maintain a figurative (and perhaps literal, save Councilwoman Nury Martinez) priapism. 

It is time for LA to ease its grip on that fantasy and get back to work.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a writer who lives in Los Angeles and blogs on humane issues at ericgarcetti.blogspot.com.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

RETROSPECTACULAR--When news broke that the Sport Chalet chain of stores was closing, it might have sounded to you like just another failure in a retail sector—sporting goods—that has seen more than its share of carnage.

But Sport Chalet had been different, in a way that embodied Southern California, and drew in people like me—athletes and outdoorspeople who needed a reliable source for sometimes hard-to-find gear and expertise.

One story goes that Sport Chalet founder Norbert Olberz, began his mountaineering and ski supply store by loaning customers equipment and asking them to return it, at which point they would pay a fair rate for the privilege. The first store was a converted furniture store on Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada, just down the mountain from some of Southern California’s busiest hiking trails. A second location soon followed, across the street in an old supermarket, where the dive shop was housed in the meat locker. Third was a former gas station nearby that, presumably, after Olberz decided to charge fees upfront, rented ski equipment.

This motley campus would be unimaginable today. But for the inexperienced merchant in 1959 it seemed a reasonable approach. Sport Chalet oozed idiosyncrasy. It was years ahead of other retailers in selling and renting oddities such as mountaineering gear, scuba equipment, and surfboards. That adventurous, spirit endured for decades. The centerpiece of the original store was a 20-foot-tall fiberglass snow-painted mountain peak that demonstrated “Cliff Cabanas” and “Portaledges,” the cantilevered sleeping bag harness system used by extreme rock climbers.

In the 1980s, when I first encountered Sport Chalet as an outdoors-minded kid in the San Gabriel Valley, that feel was the “closer” for me, a place that had anything I could ever want without it feeling sterile or anonymous.

I soon learned that the people who worked there actually used the things they sold! Sport Chalet was the retail equivalent of the local watering hole. Half the time a visit there was a visit, not necessarily a purchase. With the more unusual equipment came the conversations. Where was the customer going on his or her next trip into the outdoors? Had they been there before? Much of it predicated on adventure, not just a new pair of Nikes.

About 15 years ago, I was shopping for a new pair of hiking boots for a backpacking trip in the Sierras. Quickly I was interrogated, albeit in a friendly tone. “Are you going to be crossing streams? If so, that changes everything—you won’t want those, your feet will freeze. Unless you’re going later in the season. And ignore the advertising by the manufacturer, they’re all water repellent.” I was chastened, but educated and well prepared.

As a Sport Chalet loyalist, I was barely aware that other sports retailers existed. Yes, in a fit of madness, I once bought an air rifle at Big 5—and the guilt still haunts me 28 years later.

Someone can buy a basketball, a baseball glove, workout clothes, or weights anywhere, but the SC people actually knew what they were selling, knew how it worked, and why you should or, crucially, should not buy it. Employees were assigned certain departments and had expertise in their areas.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the scuba department where Sport Chalet staffers have served as retailers, instructors, dive masters, dive club sponsors, and dive buddies since the store’s inception. In scuba, Sport Chalet eventually had official authority. It has been the largest single certifier of scuba divers in California for decades.

Perhaps nowhere would expertise be more critical. If soccer cleats don’t fit, you exchange them; you can trade in the purple tracksuit for whatever is more fashionable. But buy the wrong-sized buoyancy control device and it’s a possible trip to the hyperbaric chamber. Wrong regulator or improper instruction of how to use it, say hi to the chamber staff again and say goodbye to a few thousand dollars.

Fifteen years ago, I enrolled in Sport Chalet’s Open Water Diver course, the entry-level scuba certification program. It was my deepest connection to the place, and I still treasure the experience. One instructor of mine had been with the company 20 years and brought with him years of experience as a Navy underwater explosive ordnance disposal diver, more than sufficient for this wandering underwater tourist. Other dive staff had years of commercial diving experience, and all were dedicated to sharing their love of the ocean. I witnessed a similar worker loyalty in the dive shop itself, where several employees stayed on for years.

Things started to change a few years ago when their flagship store in La Cañada moved from the converted supermarket to a brand new, big-box monstrosity a block away.

No longer was the dive shop in the old market’s meat locker; it was suddenly adjacent to the on-site pool. Okay, to be fair, that pool was a nice touch. The new place felt a step closer to Acme Sporting Goods, but it remained our one-stop shop for anything athletic. And as it finishes off a going-out-of-business sale, it’s still the only retail store where I recognize staff year after year. There won’t be its equivalent again. Amazon has seen to that.

Yes, it’s true that we can find anything SC had online, but that is cold comfort. I will miss the conversations and human connections that SC provided. Goodbye to Mr. Olberz’s faithful former furniture store.

(Dan Cunningham is a psychologist in Pasadena. This retrospective was posted originally at the excellent Zocalo Public Square.

-cw

 

GUEST WORDS-As we craft our state’s spending priorities for the next year through the budget process, one proposal deserves special attention: clearing the statewide backlog of rape test kits. 

“Rape test kit” is the term used for the combined hair, tissue and fluid samples collected by medical professionals following reported sexual assaults. This is not a quick process, but an invasive and potentially humiliating process which victims of rape willingly endure in order to assist law enforcement professionals in bringing their attackers to justice. 

Results of rape test kits reveal a tremendous wealth of information about the attacker, including the rapist’s DNA. They provide valuable information and evidence leading to the investigation and arrest of those who rape, as well as their prosecution and appropriate punishment.  

Rape is an absolutely indefensible act that affects victims from all walks of life. Rapists are cowards and bullies who attack without regard to race, class or gender. It is a crime of the depraved. 

Civilized societies have a fundamental obligation to protect the vulnerable, and it is the vulnerable among us who rapists target. It is a primary function of government to perform the jobs which are beyond the scope of the individual. Providing public safety must always be among the top priorities of government. How well we protect the vulnerable is a measure of who we are as a society. It is the crucial test of whether or not we consider ourselves to be a civilized people. 

Los Angeles has been a national leader in addressing the problem of untested rape kits. It wasn’t always this way, but the county has done an admirable job of clearing its own backlog. It’s time for other cities and counties to do the same.

This is why it’s so disturbing that we keep hearing reports about backlogs of thousands of untested rape kits throughout California. There are some legitimate reasons why a small percentage of rape kits aren’t tested, such as purported victims recanting accounts of their assault after rape kit samples have been collected.  But more often, law enforcement officials report that budgetary constraints force them to pick and choose among which rape kits are most worthy of being tested. This should never be the case. 

So at the time we shape our state spending plan for the next year, shouldn’t the analysis of back-logged rape test kits be a priority? The decisions we make reveal what we value and who we are as a people. 

The good news is that there’s bipartisan support to test these kits. I also support policies which will stop a backlog of rape test kits from accumulating again. It’s time to close the procedural loopholes which allow local law enforcement officials too much broad discretion when they assume results from rape kit testing will not reveal new evidence. 

Testing of all kits can reveal results that don’t match such assumptions. Moreover, processing this backlog of rape kits can help law enforcement establish a DNA database and see patterns of criminal behavior not evident from a single case. 

Criminal convictions for rape can help validate the suffering of victims and contribute to their emotional recovery. As it is with gratitude, justice not delivered is meaningless. Justice delayed is justice denied. It’s time to clear up the backlog of rape test kits in California. I have requested $10 million to be added to the state budget to clear this backlog. Let’s hope this budget item sees the light of day in the budget and is signed into law in June.

 

(Senator Huff represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. Follow Senator Huff on Twitter @bobhuff99.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

Metro’s Expo Line Phase 2 opens this Friday. Though there is a lot of excitement and praise for the line, the Expo extension from Culver City to Downtown Santa Monica has also received some criticism. Note that Expo Phase 1 weathered its own criticism, and exceeded expectations.

Some critics are suggesting the line could be “doomed” due to a lack of parking. When Angeleno drivers say “parking” they tend to mean “free parking.”

Here’s an example from Laura Nelson’s Los Angeles Times article The Expo Line is finally coming to the Westside, but limited parking raises concerns:

“So how do I get to the station?” Liesel Friedreich, 64, of Pacific Palisades, asked when she learned the downtown Santa Monica station wouldn’t include dedicated parking for transit riders. “Isn’t the point to get more people with more money to ride the train?”

(Nelson’s article is overall a very good read and overall balanced. She goes on to quote a Metro official stating that “hulking garages and expansive lots can be unsightly, expensive, and ultimately not a tool for encouraging people to stop driving.”)

My first reaction to this quote is that it is just not news. Yes, some people are saying this, but the first question for the reporter is: how valid, applicable, or newsworthy is it? Yes, people who never rode transit and who will probably never ride transit regularly will spout off lots of self-serving rationalizations for why they’re not riding. If it is not the parking, it could be the time, the frequency, the location, the walk, the homeless people, the noise, or the yadda yadda. As a transit rider (cyclist and pedestrian), I hear these excuses all the time, and I don’t think they are news. They are a dog bites man story.

But let’s take a look at the question of how Metro should build parking so “people with more money” will ride the train.

Nelson and Metro call these monied folks “choice riders.” Theoretically this means that there are two big groups of transit riders: poor “captive riders” who have no other transportation choice, and rich “choice riders” who typically drive. Transit expert Jarrett Walker (at minute 26 in this video) calls this false dichotomy the single most destructive fantasy about transit. In real life, people form a broad spectrum, so “When we incrementally improve transit service a little bit – we improve frequency, we get a payoff. We get a ridership improvement.” Walker advises agencies to forget about the mythical “choice rider” and instead focus on the “middle 90 percent.”

Building parking to lure choice riders out of the Palisades is an expensive proposition. Parking spaces run $10,000 to $25,000+ each. Expo Line phase 2 does include quite a few paid Metro parking lots (from The Source): 

  • 17th St./Santa Monica College: 67 spaces,  of which 13 are monthly permits.
  • Expo/Bundy: 217 spaces, of which 131 are monthly permits.
  • Expo/Sepulveda: 260 spaces, of which 77 are monthly permits.

There are 544 new parking spaces. At a conservative estimate, that is at least a half-million dollars and probably closer to a million dollars’ worth of parking. Drivers who ride Expo regularly will purchase monthly parking permits, and Metro can and should adjust the price to ensure availability.

It is also important to ask: whom does investment in parking serve? According to experts doing Metro’s recent APTA review, investing in park-and-ride serves neither the environment nor low-income riders. From SBLA’s coverage:

APTA panel member Michael Connelley, of the Chicago Transit Authority, responded that easy parking encourages driving that first/last mile, and that it would be better to re-direct parking resources to instead fund convenient, frequent bus service. He also recommended that stations would be better served in the long run if parking were replaced by mini-village transit-oriented development. APTA panel member Brian D. Taylor, of UCLA, further responded that park-and-ride subsidizes higher income riders, decreases transit’s air quality benefits, and that charging [for parking] would help the agency’s bottom line, with revenues available even to build more parking if the demand indicates.

Look closer at the Downtown Santa Monica Station, which the L.A. Times references. There are 7,000 public car parking spaces nearby. They’re not free, and they’re not built by Metro, but they’re well-managed and available to Ms. Friedreich. There are also great Big Blue Bus connections and nearby Breeze bike-share hubs, the Expo bike path, and Santa Monica’s Esplanade walk/bike connection to the pier. In fact, Big Blue Bus in the process of implementing the biggest service realignment in the agency’s seven-decade history specifically to provide better connections for riders to the Expo stations. If these options aren’t enough, there are also taxis and ride-hailing companies, including Lyft and Uber, available and they operate 24-hours a day.

Metro has a limited budget and, in the words of CEO Phil Washington, needs to create a balanced transportation system. Investing heavily in parking would be at the expense of other things, such as bus service, bike-share, or walk or bike facilities. I think Metro has done a good job of balancing its investments in access to the Expo Line. By investing in parking, bus service, bike and walk facilities, Metro is giving Angelenos plenty of great choices.

The Expo Line is not doomed, but will be a great mobility addition for Southern California. Will more work be needed to optimize access to the line? Probably. Will the new line get Pacific Palisades drivers out of their cars? Probably only occasionally. I expect that it will serve tens of thousands of riders, improve Angelenos lives, health, and the environment.

(Joe Linton is the editor of StreetsblogLA. He founded the LA River Ride, co-founded the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, worked in key early leadership roles at CicLAvia and C.I.C.L.E., served on the board of directors of Friends of the LA River, Southern California Streets Initiative, and LA Eco-Village. This report was posted originally at LA Streetsblog)

-cw

DEEGAN ON LA-The critical mass of frustration, distrust, a general unease about how zoning works, along with some successful lawsuits against building projects, has put “zoning” in the spotlight. Concern about fixing our broken city zoning process is what’s driving two ballot initiatives that may go before the voters in November and March. 

We’ve got to end what Gail Goldberg, Executive Director of the Urban Land Institute and a longtime city planner in San Diego and Los Angeles, identifies as “the developer’s mantra,” recited whenever a developer goes to the city planning department: “The councilperson loves my project.” Goldberg adds, “…which is code for it’s going to get adopted, so don’t bother.” 

Two ballot measures may change this. In November, voters will be given a chance to vote for Build Better LA’s loophole allowing “hardship” cases to get zoning variances. In March, voters can weigh in on the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative – a measure to put a moratorium on variances. Whichever ballot measure gets the most votes will be the ultimate winner. 

But first, each measure must qualify for the November and March ballots by amassing 65,000 registered voter signatures. Build Better LA, backed by a coalition of labor and housing advocates, just announced they have gathered over 100,000 signatures; they presented their package to the City Clerk on Monday, May 15 for verification in order to qualify for the November 7 ballot. The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, led by the Coalition to Preserve LA, is still gathering signatures, but has still has some time before their filing deadline in November for the March 7, 2017 ballot. 

These two initiatives offer different slants on the cause of and proposed remedies to recognized zoning issues. 

The Build Better LA ballot initiative ensures that more people will have access to high-wage construction jobs and to housing that's affordable, according to Rusty Hicks, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and convener of Build Better LA. 

Zoning variances would be allowed on a case-by-case basis following a “hardship” appeal to the relevant Councilmember. If a developer gets a variance, they can either include affordable housing on the project’s site or provide it off site. A developer can also choose to write a check to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  

Said Hicks, "On behalf of the Build Better LA Coalition, we are grateful to the nearly 100,000 Angelenos who signed and have faith that our City can do better. The voters in Los Angeles will soon not only get the opportunity to vote on the future of our country, but they will vote on an initiative that brings housing people can actually afford and good, local jobs they could rely on.” 

The “guts” of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, scheduled for the March election, says Coalition to Preserve LA campaign director Jill Stewart, “is to force them (city council) to update the General Plan. One of the elements that is now fifty years old is infrastructure, and police and fire services that is 60 years old. We need to link these and the housing element together with growth, in the General Plan.” 

Stewart added that the “the moratorium (on variances to the General Plan zoning rules now in effect) is a wake up slap in the face. It will only affect 3-5% of projects in LA.” 

The “moratorium” on variances sought by the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative has been widely attacked as a halt to all building. That is both untrue and a sign of how desperate opponents are to derail the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. There are thousands of projects in development that will not be affected because they are “by right,” or otherwise meet zoning requirements without requiring a variance. 

That’s thousands of projects in the pipeline that the labor federation can hopefully fill with their union construction crews to help meet their goal of better paying local jobs for their members. Even if Build Better LA is not passed by the voters in November, they stand to make considerable gains in employment from the building boom underway as the city densifies. Their risk in losing the measure is not jobs – it’s that developers might be unable to plead “hardship” to their councilmembers to get zoning exemptions or variances. 

Controlling exemptions and zoning variances is at the heart of both measures. Build Better LA has a mechanism for obtaining variances if the developer can successfully plead his case to his councilmember that not to have an exemption would cause a “hardship.” The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative says that the 3-5% of projects that are currently out of zoning compliance must be put on hold -- the demonized “moratorium” -- until the General Plan is updated. 

It’s up to the electorate in November and March to understand the stakes. The wild card here is that the Mayor may induce the City Council to resolve the issues in order to pre-empt the ballot box. While they can do that, it could end up being wildly unpopular to remove the public’s voice from such a sensitive issue -- especially coming from the developer-centric Mayor and, with the exception of David Ryu, the developer-dependent city councilmembers. Politically, the Mayor and half the City Council (odd-numbered districts) are up for re-election in March 2017. They will need to face the voters on many development issues. 

Another important voice in the debate is Michael Weinstein, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation leader, who is marking his 50th year as an advocate, dating back to the anti-war protests in the Vietnam era. He is the initial backer of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. 

His take on Build Better LA is that “The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative supports union labor on projects; it’s not against the drive to get more union representation on job sites, but the problem with their initiative is that it essentially says that if the council decides there is a hardship, they can override the requirements of affordable housing. Such a huge loophole undermines the effort to control exemptions.” 

Weinstein continues, “What’s happening now that’s great in the city is that the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative could really help to empower different voices across the city. I see that happening. Individual communities get discouraged until there is strength in numbers

In this campaign there is a consensus that the current system is broken. The Mayor has said so, the LA Times has editorialized. Those are steps in the right direction. It’s unfortunate that the Mayor and City Council put forward the skimpiest of fig leafs for reform of the current system. I’m not impressed at all with that very faint attempt to remedy a problem that we’ve identified. People will not ultimately be fooled by that

The bottom line is that we have recast the issue of development and spot zoning (variances) over the last six months in a way that has a profound impact on dialogue around these issues,” Weinstein emphasized. 

So it looks like the conversation has begun…finally. 

On April 27, UCLA's Ziman Center and the Urban Land Institute sponsored a conference during which several representatives (including Stewart and Hicks) spent 90 minutes in a thoughtful and revealing panel discussion about planning in Los Angeles.

Panelist Zev Yaroslovsky, a former County Supervisor and City Councilmember with decades of experience dealing with land use and development, who is now Director of LA Initiative at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, has not announced a formal position for or against either ballot initiative. However, he did go as far as to say during the panel that the Build Better LA ballot proposition will “weaken zoning laws.” 

Several days later another politico, CM David Ryu (CD4), led the rollback of a development project in his district by saying, “We must work to restore trust in government…what we have before us is the kind of action and the reason why the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is looming over our head. Lack of trust. Lack of transparency.” 

Between now and November when the Build Better LA measure should be on the November 7 ballot, and then between November and March 7 when the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative should appear on the March ballot, there will be many other voices in the conversation. This will be a great start to fixing the planning process and clarifying what we want Los Angeles to be. Do we want to continue our tropical suburban feel or continue on a growth trajectory toward becoming a more urban metropolis? We must decide how we are going to get to either destination.

 

(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.

MILESTONES AND GRATITUDE--After 15 years of transportation advocacy--and, in particular, for the creation of a modern Southern California rapid transit system--there are times when nothing but "Thank You!" comes to mind.  With the arrival of the Expo Line for operational service to the Westside, this long-overdue light rail has been the result of years of struggle and sacrifice.  To all those who deserve it (and might or might not hear it), Thank You! 

To my wife and teenage son, the biggest Thank You of all is needed.  How many nights, weekends, and daytime meetings were needed for the leadership of Friends4Expo (who were, are, and always will be, truly my friends) to get the Board of Supervisors, and Mayor of LA, and state/federal reps, and the many neighborhood associations, to come together to support this line?   

For any sacrifices involved with having your husband, or your dad, missing in action at "some meeting"...Thank You.  And for my little girl--who was either not yet born, or too young, when the real battles for the Expo Line was fought)--who asked me a few months ago, "Daddy, I heard you had something to do with the Expo Line...right?" I hope my thanks to you as well will always be remembered. 

To a large degree, I'd like to think that the Expo Line was fought by so many Westside and Mid-City private citizens because (for those who remember the LA riots and racial unrest of the 1990's) they wanted a better future for their families, for their neighbors, and for their city and county...and maybe make a small difference for others to emulate to make LA County a world-class city. 

So, a big Thank You! is needed for Darrell Clarke, Kathy and Jim Seal, Julia Maher, Faith and Presley Burroughs, Bob Cheeseboro, Jonathan Weiss, the late Ken Ruben, Cathy Flanigan, Bart Reed and Roger Rudick.  If I forgot to mention any others in the central Friends4Expo leadership community, than my apologies.  You taught me a lot, and I thank you for putting up with me as I did what I could to bring West LA on board with Expo. 

And similarly, the neighborhood associations, the LA Neighborhood Councils, the nonprofit groups of Culver City and Santa Monica also deserve a big Thank You!  Ditto for the Crenshaw/Mid-City groups who--like the Westside--had to put up with and get past the grandstanders, the race-baiters, the racists, the elitists, and the opportunists to make the no-brainer-of-a-line become a reality. 

Thank You! also to those heroes of Metro who hung out with us during the years when no one would touch us with a ten-foot pole--in particular, David Mieger and Tony Loui.  Metro really is an example of "government that listens to, and works with, its constituents"...so don't go blaming them if their political bosses screw up. 

Thank You! To those many government officials and politicians that Friends4Expo (of which I was certainly one of the loudest and most pushy advocates) kept nagging to do the right thing.  Some of you jumped on board right away, and some of you had to be dragged...but it's clear that this was the right thing to do--including those who got into power opposing the line, and then changing their mind when it was obvious something had to change. 

Among those who particularly deserve our thanks are Councilmember Mike Bonin (and his predecessor, the late Bill Rosendahl), House Rep. Ted Lieu, and a host of politicians who now support, and not vigorously fight, for improved transportation as part of our normal budget/operations at a local and federal level.  Thank You! 

Perhaps yet another Thank You! goes to the supportive Mar Vista Community Council and Westside Village Homeowners Association, to say nothing of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee, who played key and critical roles in the routing and features of the line.  The innumerable motions and meetings clearly were a series of group efforts.  I can only hope you all realize how grateful I am to you all. 

And to those Friends of the Green Line, a group formed along the lines of the Friends4Expo Transit, which began the increasingly loud advocacy to FINALLY finish the LAX/Metro connection...Thank You!  Bob Leabow, Matthew Hetz, Kent Strumpell, Daniel Walker, Alan Weeks, and a host of other heroes and thought leaders also taught me and the region so much.   

And for those who aren't here to celebrate (the late Bill Rosendahl and Ken Ruben come to mind), I'm hoping you died knowing this would happen...and if there's a Heaven then I'm sure there's celebration for all your exhaustive efforts there, too.  Thank You! 

Finally, for all those friends and family I might have lost touch with while working with so many wonderful people these last 1-2 decades...Thank You! and Sorry!  I hope you can forgive me.  No, I never forgot you--each and every one of you from school, college, work, etc. who I used to hang out with but got caught up with this noble endeavor to advocate for the Expo Line and for greater transportation/planning, in general. 

But...I won't be attending the celebrations this weekend, I'm afraid.  I am taking a day off to teach dermatology to middle students all day Friday, and will be with my son's awesome Boy Scout troop backpacking this weekend. These commitments are as important to me (particularly devoting my life to my family) as was the Expo Line effort which took over my life in 2000-2010, and still does, to some degree. 

To conclude, this piece is really NOT about me (it probably looks that way, but it's NOT).  Think about all the names mentioned here.  Think about your neighborhood association, neighborhood council, non-profit grassroots advocacy group, or other selfless leaders who throw their time, money, and even health at goals that are so much bigger than themselves, and never get thanked. 

So perhaps a Thank You! is in order for that next dogged, devoted, and dedicated volunteer who strives to do something greater than him/herself, and really leave something better for future generations. 

Because one person can, and does, make a difference by being FOR something.  And maybe that one person is YOU.

 

(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

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