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GUEST WORDS--I am often asked by exasperated residents: “How can the city approve this (8150 Sunset) project?” My answers have changed over the years because the attitude of our elected officials has changed. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when I first became involved in neighborhood work, I think city politicians like John Ferraro actually cared about residents.

Today the only thing most politicians care about is their next election – and who will fund it. And to get that funding from the deep pockets of the developer class they will approve almost any project and break every promise they make to their constituents.

The negative impacts on communities from rubber-stamping any and everything developers’ desire doesn’t concern city politicians, because they will be long gone before “it” hits the fan. Politicians are masters of musical chairs. They dance to the tune of term limits and – before the music stops – routinely shuffle on to Sacramento, Congress, the County Board of Supervisors, or maybe even run for Governor.

Sometimes they even run for mayor and pretend they had nothing to do with anything bad that happened while they were on the City Council.

If I sound angry, it’s for good reason: I am.

I finally had a chance to look at the 8150 Sunset Project and I cannot believe what I saw – and what the Planning Department recommends that the Planning Commission (and eventually the full city council) approve.

For starters, this project has been mysteriously designated as an “environmental leadership development project” – which mandates that any actions or judicial proceedings, including potential appeals, brought to challenge the approval under CEQA must be resolved within 270 days after certification of the record of proceedings supporting the approval.

This is what city hall was going to use to streamline approval for the downtown stadium if it had gone forward. How the 8150 Sunset project received such status is a complete puzzle. But, obviously, somebody must have known somebody ­– because the fix is in. This special status makes it very difficult for any person or group to challenge this project – no matter how neighborhood crushing it will be or how many rules the city manipulates or ignores to approve it.

Make no mistake about it: 8150 Sunset is a really, really bad project.

It will overwhelm the surrounding neighborhood and create problems for the City of West Hollywood, too. In a May 23, 2016 letter to the Hearing Officer the City of West Hollywood dumped a bucket of cold water on the project. 

West Hollywood is objecting to the proposed traffic light LA says it needs to mitigate the project. The problem is that where LA wants to put the new traffic light is in the City of West Hollywood at Fountain and Havenhurst Drive – and, of course, the City of Los Angeles can’t enforce a mitigation on an intersection outside their boundaries.

West Hollywood also objects to the exits from the project onto Havenhurst because the cut-through traffic will overwhelm the street. Likewise, they also object to the project connecting into their sewer line and the maintenance that would require.

There is also the matter of the City of Los Angeles granting a public easement to the developer which clearly constitutes an illegal gift of publically owned land. And to make matters worse, the city kicked in a surplus property at 8118 Sunset Boulevard to sweeten the deal.

Those of you who have been in L.A. for a long time will remember that address as the location of “Pandora’s Box.” Records show that the city tore it down in the late 1960s and turned the property into a traffic island in the middle of Crescent Heights that contains a bus stop. The public easement is the sweeping right hand turn from eastbound Sunset to southbound Crescent Heights.

The city is proposing to cement over the turn lane and unite the traffic island/bus stop with the northeast corner of 8150 Sunset. So, one day you will be able to use the right turn lane (that people have been using for generations) and the next day it will be gone. 

There will be no pesky, time consuming street vacation process to determine if the turn lane/traffic island/bus stop is needed. The city will just call in a few cement trucks to cover it over. But don’t worry, the city says it will still own the land beneath the cement – but the developer will maintain it (while using it for the benefit of their project).

What?

The wheeling and dealing between city hall and real estate speculators, the rule bending, the giveaways, the false promises to residents – this is the sort of crap that has millions of people rebelling against the political establishment all over the United States.

The 8150 Sunset project is rotten to the core and the politicians who made it possible should be ashamed of themselves. But, thanks to the game of musical chairs, politicians bet that they can move on to another office and put enough distance between themselves and the consequences of their decisions – distance that enables plausible denial and makes shame a moot point.

This project is the last straw for me.

I am finally at the place where many of my community activist friends have been for some time now. We have no confidence that city hall cares about anyone outside of what they call the “city family” – those that work for and promote the vested interests of city hall. The motto of the City of Los Angeles might as well be: “The people be damned.”

It is time for a new groundswell of opposition to business as usual in L.A. Maybe that will take another secession movement or maybe a new city charter that gives power directly to the people. But beyond ballot measures to remedy this sorry situation, I believe we need to develop a Federation of Neighborhoods with representatives from every neighborhood and community organization in the city.  We must stand as one against the corrupt power structure of city hall – otherwise, one project at a time, we will lose one neighborhood after another.  

This is a united we stand or divided we fall moment. 

As for the 8150 Sunset project, this is Councilman David Ryu’s moment. He has written that he knows the project is too tall and too dense, but he has to go beyond writing letters to the Planning Department.

Frankly, Ryu’s letter was disappointing. It was not what I expected of him – or the kind of letter John Ferraro used to write. Ryu must say no to removing the right turn lane and surrendering 8118 Sunset traffic island to this project. He must say no to the destruction of the historic Lytton Bank building just as his colleague Mike Bonin did with the Barry Building.  He must demand real mitigations and be prepared to stand up in council, vote no, and urge his colleagues to support him in opposing the project as presented. 

The city council has a long history of not opposing the vote of a councilmember on a project in their district. Ryu needs to remind his colleagues of that.

If any councilmember votes to approve the 8150 Sunset project over the wishes of Councilmember Ryu we must not forget their vote. 

If the Mayor Garcetti supports this project we must not forget his vote. 

The game of musical chair depends on the constant shuffling of offices on the part of politicians and the poor memory of the electorate. 

We must remember the votes on the 8150 Sunset project. 

A mindful and energized electorate can win against all the developer money thrown against them. Councilmember Ryu proved that when he was elected. Now he must deliver on his promises that put him in office. 

 

(James O’Sullivan is President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association and co-founder of Fix the City … a non-profit, citizen association whose stated goal is its name … to Fix the City. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-May 30 marked 28 years since I’ve moved to LA with a bunch of suitcases and ideas. What was the initial attraction? LA to me is a land of ideas and possibilities. The guy at the gas station is a member of SAG and your dentist has a screenplay. People leave hometowns and even countries for the possibilities. There’s a different kind of energy here than you might find in the bustling streets of New York. Driving through Topanga toward that first slice of the coastline or through Laurel Canyon to Sunset is unlike what you’ll experience in any other city. 

Our history is young compared to Boston or London. There are no brick buildings where colonists gathered to plan the break from England. What we do have are relics from the early days of the studio system, Spanish colonial revivals and examples of Art Moderne. As millions of veterans returned from the Second World War to create a residential housing boom in our city, Arts & Architecture Magazine commissioned major architects of the day to design the Case Study Houses, brilliant minds like Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen, A. Quincy Jones, Ralph Rapson, an experimental program that ran between 1948 and 1966. 

LA’s signature Googie architecture in the fifties and sixties was a tribute to the car culture and Jet Age futurism. Coffee shops, gas stations, car washes, and other commercial designs featured cantilevered roofs, starbursts, and hard angles. Sadly, many of the best examples of Googie architecture and significant examples of other schools of architecture have not been preserved, although the LA Conservancy works to nominate buildings for Cultural Historic Status. 

I first fell in love with our city’s unique mix of architectural styles when I was writing for a real estate website about six years ago. Since then, I’ve taken tours of the Case Study homes, Pasadena’s Bungalow District, and taken walking tours past the bungalows and apartments that were the homes of many Hollywood icons. 

There’s something uniquely special about strolling through Grand Central Market, (photo above.) where Angelenos have been buying delicacies and flowers since 1917, when Broadway was LA’s commercial and entertainment district. The history of the market reflects the city’s history and immigration patterns. Buying Bob’s Donuts, fresh fish, or peanut butter at The Farmers Market on Fairfax is another tradition that pays tribute to our city’s past. 

When I became aware of the aggressive tactics of developers who seem to have a stronghold on the City Council, I was disappointed and concerned. I’ve watched historically relevant buildings fall to ugly strip malls, boxy apartment buildings, and parking structures during the past 25 plus years since I first moved here. Would developers finish off the city, leaving only tract homes and McMansions with minimal setbacks? Is there anything that can be done to stop this takeover? 

Through a series of introductions, I began to cover the grassroots activists throughout Los Angeles who gather in offices, living rooms, and coffee shops to protect their neighborhoods. The energy of ideas in motion that first attracted me to Los Angeles is alive in every person and every group gathering recall signatures and meeting with those charged with protecting the interests of constituents to let them know the rollover in favor of developers with deep pockets is unacceptable. 

Los Angeles, like many cities, faces challenges including a lack of affordable housing and public transportation, increasing traffic and homelessness but for every challenge, there are Angelenos who are passionate, driven, and applying creative ideas toward solutions.

And that just may be what I love most about Los Angeles.

 

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

JUSTICE INTERUPTED--Just before 9 pm on Friday, May 13, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Hollenbeck Gang Enforcement Unit shot and killed 28 year old, Roberto Mark Diaz during a routine gang suppression patrol triggered by major increases in gang related shootings throughout the Hollenbeck Division. 

Diaz ran from police officers, pulling out a handgun and fired in the direction of the two police officers. The police officers returned fire and killed him. One police officer sustained a gunshot wound to his shoulder area and a second officer injured his back as he darted away in his attempt to avoid being struck by gunfire. 

Diaz, a hard-core gang member, had an extensive criminal arrest and conviction history having served time in state prison for Armed Robbery and Ex-felon possession of a firearm. Diaz, with his noted violent criminal history was classified as a “low- level, non-violent” criminal offender, currently supervised by the Los Angeles County Probation department under AB 109. He was last released from Los Angeles County jail on April 22, 2016 after having served 10 days for a probation violation under AB 109. 

When the “Officer Down-Officers need Assistance” call went out, Chief Charlie Beck’s mainstay, Ruby Malachi, Captain of the Community Relationships Division, wasted no time heading for the crime scene. Prior to the LAPD’s Force Investigative Division, Officer Involved Shooting Team and their Scientific Investigative Division arrival, Malachi had already breached the crime scene tape -- trampling through the crime scene. 

Malachi’s job is “community relationships.” Her latest endeavor is making videos of dancing police officers (the Running Man's New Zealand dance challenge.) Thanks to Beck, her newly created job duplicates efforts of all other Divisions (at a great waste of money to taxpayers.) Her job description does not include intrusion of crime scenes before they’re investigated. 

While Malachi’s officers were dancing in front of a camera, a woman walking through Lincoln Park in Lincoln Heights on May 9 (also in LAPD Hollenbeck Division) was approached by a Hispanic male who held a gun to her head, forced her into a public restroom and sexually assaulted her. Fortunately, the victim was able to give responding police officers an excellent physical description, including distinctive facial tattoos to police. Within a short time, Police officers from both the LAPD Hollenbeck Specialized gang unit and Detectives assigned to LAPD's elite Robbery-Homicide unit were able to identify Edgar Alexander Lobos and arrest him. Lobo is a 27 year-old hard-core gang member and ex-felon.

According to Captain William Hayes, Lobos had an extensive criminal arrest history that includes vandalism and domestic violence but was classified as a non-violent, low-level criminal offender and was under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Probation department under AB 109.

These are the most recent examples of the epic “fails” triggered by Governor Jerry Brown and his quest to empty out California State prisons.

Since the passage of AB 109, hundreds of “low- level, non-violent” offenders have killed, raped, assaulted, maimed and kidnapped innocent victims. In 2014, voters passed Prop 47 that Governor Jerry Brown touted as the Bill that would reclassify drug and theft crimes that involve less than $950 from felonies to misdemeanors. Now two years later, criminals have an easier time committing crimes because they know they’ll get no more than a “slap on the hand.” 

Both Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti have remained dreadfully silent while violent criminal offenders, hard-core gang members supervised and placed under AB 109 and Prop. 47 are being let out of prison after spending little to no time in prison and are reoffending in record numbers.

Both violent crime and property crimes rates are escalating with each and every passing day within the city of Los Angeles. 

Malachi’s Division could be just as effective with civilian clerical workers rather than $100,000 per year paid police officers who serve the City best by patrolling the streets -- not dancing in production videos. 

Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) criticized Beck for taking officers off the streets amidst a citywide rise in crime, which has seen violent crime rise 20.2%, property crime rise 10.7%, robbery rise 12.5%, and auto theft rise 17.1% from 2014 to 2015. Most or all are attributed to AB 109. In 2016, those numbers are, again, on the rise. 

On June 7, 2015, State Assemblyman Jimmie Gomez was asked if he was going to consider making amendments to AB 109. At the time, there were discussions relative to making amendments to the law in Sacramento that several deemed to be “broken.” Assemblyman Gomez's chilling response was, "Not on my watch. I will not consider making any amendments to AB 109.” 

For those who don’t know, crimes that fall under AB 109 are not always “low level, non violent” crimes. Many of the inmates' current convictions generally fit that description, but past crimes committed by some of these offenders have ranged from violent assaults to sexual offenses, child abuse and second-degree murder. 

As the November elections draw near, Governor Brown is using his campaign funds to gather signatures that would place the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” initiative on the November ballot. Brown’s duplicitous claim that his measure applies to only “non violent felony offenses” has the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), and a host of other organizations, engaging in a battle against this initiative. Brown amended the initiative that originally concerned only the reform of rules for juveniles being tried in adult court. His amendments now add inmates to the fray.

The California District Attorneys Association filed a lawsuit against the Governor in February 2016. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said Attorney General Kamala Harris should not have accepted Brown’s January 25 amendments to the proposed ballot measure filed because “the filing is not an amendment of the prior initiative draft – it is a completely different and new initiative.” 

This does not bode well for innocent people who live and work anywhere in the state of California. The effects of both Prop 47 and AB 109 have been the abysmal failures that have left hundreds of innocent victims in their wake. In Los Angeles, Chief Charlie Beck sits smiling. He gave his support to both AB 109 and Prop 47 along with his support for Brown’s half-baked ballot initiative.

From all over the City, San Pedro, Harbor, Van Nuys, Mission Hills, Sunland-Tujunga, East Los Angeles and even Northeast Los Angeles, residents, stakeholders, community groups, community Police Advisory Board members. Neighborhood Councils and Neighborhood Watch Captains are demanding more patrol officers for their areas. Currently there are over 600 police officers who do nothing but clerical work within LAPD. Malachi’s Community Relationships Division has more than 100 officers who do nothing but photo-ops and videos.

It is patently dangerous for all citizens in Los Angeles and both Beck and Garcetti know this. 

Garcetti, for his part, believes training parolees to pick up trash on roadways can rehabilitate them. Each parolee will have a shot at a 90-day employment opportunity, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. Oh, and did I mention life skills training, cognitive treatment and therapy? 

On May 27, Garcetti spoke at a Press Conference in South Central about the debt of gratitude Angeleno’s should be paying prisoners. “When people have paid their debt to society, our debt of gratitude should be, not just thanking them for serving that time but allowing them a pathway back in,” he said. 

What? Garcetti should be thanking taxpayers for shelling out more than $47,000 per year to incarcerate each inmate who violated the rights on an innocent person in the commission of a crime. Common sense dictates that victims of violent crimes deserve “at least” some of the respect Garcetti offers to parolees -- something he neglected to offer! 

Perfect timing for such a stupid statement from the Mayor of Los Angeles -- as the City cries for more police officers to patrol the streets of Los Angeles and Brown wants voters to let even more dangerous, violent felons out of prison. 

(Caroline Aguirre is a retired 24-year State of California law enforcement officer, LAPD family member, community activist and Neighborhood Watch captain. Aguirre is a CityWatch contributor.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY--Throughout the recession and the decidedly uneven recovery, Southern California has tended to lag behind, particularly in comparison to the Bay Area and other booming regions outside the state. Once the creator of a dispersed, multipolar urban model – “the original in the Xerox machine” as one observer suggested – this region seems to have lost confidence in itself, and its sense of direction.

In response, some people, notably Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, favor creating a future in historical reverse, marching back toward becoming a more conventional, central core and transit-dominated region – a kind of New York by the Pacific. Eastern media breathlessly envision our region transforming itself from “car-addicted, polluted and lacking in public transit” into a model of new-urbanist excellence.

Here’s a basic problem. Their LA of the future – the one that wins plaudits from places like GQ magazine – essentially negates the region’s traditional appeal, offering the middle and even working classes, a suburban-like lifestyle in one of the world’s great global cities.

Vive la difference

UCLA’s Michael Storper correctly notes how far the Southland has fallen behind its traditional in-state rival, the San Francisco Bay Area. Storper correctly traces much of this gap to the domination of the Los Angeles tech sector by aerospace firms and the fact that this area also had a broad base of nontech-oriented manufacturing.

Can we become a second San Francisco? Regions, like people, do not easily transform themselves into something else. For one thing, the Los Angeles area’s diverse industrial legacy tended to attract a larger share of historically poorer blacks and Hispanics than the Bay Area, whose population is 33 percent black and Hispanic. In contrast, 55 percent of the five-county Southland area’s population has either Hispanic or African American backgrounds, according to data from the 2014 American Community Survey.

Propelled by its better-educated population and more focused business community, the Bay Area’s tech sector is roughly six times larger per capita than the national average. The Bay Area’s large tech firms may move some employment to Texas, Utah, Arizona or abroad, but it’s highly unlikely that the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google will leave the Bay Area in the foreseeable future.

In contrast, Southern California’s industrial economy has faced persistent decline, and, to date, has no strong replacement source of employment. Los Angeles has lost half its manufacturing jobs since 1990, compared with a national decline of 24 percent, and 28 percent statewide. As occurred earlier in the Midwest, this has left a large stranded population with little prospects for upward mobility. No surprise that LA leads the region in percentage of people in poverty, when adjusted for housing costs, more than 25 percent, a rate higher than Mississippi.

Southern California cannot mimic the Bay Area’s economic structure any more than it can duplicate the north’s population profile. With the loss of many of its largest firms, particularly in energy and aerospace, the region’s future increasingly depends on small, often immigrant-run firms that rely on the diversity of urban form in the area. They often tap workers, logistics, and industrial space in the Inland Empire but rely on executives, designers, engineers and professional service firms that tend to concentrate along the coastal strip.

Some people, including much of the region’s political and economic leadership, see this dispersion as a prime source of Southern California’s weakness. They seem to neglect the fact that, according to Census Bureau data, the Los Angeles-Orange County area already constitutes the densest large urban area in the United States, packing in more people per square mile than either the San Francisco-San Jose area or greater New York, and about twice as many as in Portland.

Densification, often cited as the best way to lower house prices, simply does not address the issue of affordability. For example, an eight story high-rise in the Bay Area costs more than five times as much per square foot to build than a single-family house. Furthermore, Angelenos spend on average almost 50 percent of their incomes on rent, among the highest rates in the country.

More density, justifying investments in fixed-rail transit, won’t improve congestion, either. Eastern media accounts see the region morphing into the “next great transit city” But this vision has been something of a fool’s bargain. Well-connected developers, unionized construction workers and contractors who build transit systems have much to celebrate, but after spending $16 billion to build its rail and busway lines, the region’s core transit system – the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – carries fewer riders today than it did 30 years ago.

Across the five Southland counties, these and other major projects (such as Metrolink commuter rail) have failed to keep transit’s work-trip market share from slipping, while, with virtually no public expenditure, more people work from home than take buses or trains to work. The traffic congestion relief promised by rail spending has not occurred.

Back to the model?

The attempt to densify LA, and turn it into some variant of an East Coast city, was always doomed to failure. People came and settled this region in an archipelago of villages, not around a single dominant downtown. Even now, Downtown Los Angeles shows little prospects for emerging as the area’s primary economic center. Downtown LA holds barely 3 percent of the region’s jobs, less than one-third the rate for San Francisco, and almost one-seventh the level in New York City.

“The future of Downtown Los Angeles is not professional services – it’s entertainment, it’s bars, it’s restaurants,” admits José Huizar, the LA City Council member representing Downtown and one of the biggest supporters of renewed development in the area.

Without a strong urban employment core, the entire current emphasis on traditional transit makes little sense. Instead, we should focus more on allowing the various parts of the metropolis do what makes the most economic sense for each one. For example, Los Angeles, still the big enchilada, needs to shore up its powerful entertainment and design center, as well as what’s left of its blue-collar base, such as the increasingly beleaguered seaport.

LA’s grand hopes of challenging Silicon Valley faces some serious headwinds. Its tech and engineering employment numbers over the past decade have actually decreased, relative both to Orange County and the Inland Empire, according to a recent analysis by Chapman University’s Marshall Toplansky and Nate Kaspi.

Orange County may have far better prospects for become a Southland tech center, boasting a somewhat higher percentage of both engineers and tech workers and a higher proportion of tech jobs relative to its overall workforce. In terms of STEM jobs, Orange County ranks about 20 percent above the national average, while Los Angeles, once a tech haven, is 12 percent below average. Orange County’s well-educated and significantly Asian population also approximates that of Santa Clara County, home base of Silicon Valley. Although not an entertainment power on the scale of Los Angeles, Orange County has an impressive entertainment, arts and design focus that has been growing steadily.

Ultimately, the future of the Southland may rest with what happens in the Inland Empire. Riverside County, for example, is the only Southland county, according to the state Department of Finance, to enjoy both positive international and domestic migration. At a time when millennials are fleeing the coastal counties, the Inland area has had the fastest growth in California among millennials, including those with college degrees. From 2000-12, notes demographer Wendell Cox, the two Inland counties added roughly 230,000 residents ages 20 to 30, compared with 130,000 combined for Los Angeles and Orange counties, which have three times the population.

Downtown Los Angeles, by the way, said to be the prime attractor of young people, boosted its millennial population by less than 5,000 during that time span.

The Inland area, with its more affordable housing, is best-positioned to revive the diverse, middle-class economy now under severe stress closer to the coast. It serves as an “escape valve” for people, and companies, who no longer can afford, or wish to live in, an ever more congested and expensive area so appealing to an important and affluent sector of the population.

To take advantage of it unique multipolar structure, Southern California needs to focus not on centralization but building on regional diversity. With the limited prospects for converting into a traditional transit-oriented area, we need planning initiatives that exploit such strategies as expanding home-based work, dispersing jobs to where people live, and even maintaining and improving the freeways that knit the region together.

Southern California can enjoy a renaissance, but it can’t do so by trying to become something it’s not – and never will be.

(Joel Kotkin is a R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism in Houston. His newest book is “The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us.” This was first posted at newgeography.com.

-cw

ENVIRONMENT POLITICS--"This move paves the way for offshore fracking permits that were previously frozen and the dumping of toxic wastewater directly into the Pacific Ocean." 

Two federal agencies on Friday quietly finalized two reports, set for release next week, which found offshore fracking in California poses no "significant" risk to the environment -- paving the way for oil and gas companies to resume the controversial extraction method in the Santa Barbara Channel and imperiling the region's wildlife in the process, opponents said. 

The announcement Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (OEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement puts an end to a court-ordered ban on offshore fracking in federal waters off the coast of California. The moratorium was put into place in January as part of a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which challenged the Obama administration's 'rubber-stamping' of offshore drilling activity without an environmental review.

Environmental activists warned on Friday that kicking off a new round of drilling in the area puts wildlife at risk from chemical-laden wastewater and said they would be willing to file another lawsuit to keep it from happening.

"The Obama administration is once again putting California's beautiful coast in the oil industry's crosshairs," said Miyoko Sakashita, director of CBD's Oceans program. "Our beaches and wildlife face a renewed threat from fracking chemicals and oil spills. New legal action may be the only way to get federal officials to do their jobs and protect our ocean from offshore fracking." 

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch, criticized President Barack Obama for "doubling down on fracking, instead of providing climate leadership and protecting our communities and our environment." 

"This move paves the way for offshore fracking permits that were previously frozen and the dumping of toxic wastewater directly into the Pacific Ocean where Californians swim, fish, and surf," Hauter said. 

The news comes a year after a pipeline rupture in Santa Barbara sent tens of thousands of gallons of crude spilling onto public beaches and into the Pacific Ocean. The operator of the pipeline, Plains All American, has a history of wreaking environmental havoc throughout Southern California and elsewhere. 

And it also follows the recent signing of the historic deal reached in Paris last December to keep global temperature rise under 2°C, a goal that climate advocates say can only be reached by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and investing in renewal energy. 

"It's clear that Americans want an inspiring new vision for our energy system," Hauter said. "The president continues to indicate that he is not the person to fulfill that vision. It’s a vision that can only be achieved by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and moving swiftly to a system driven by energy efficiency and renewables."

 

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams  … where this was first posted.) Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

PAY FOR PLAY-Since 2000, the real-estate industry, which includes deep-pocketed developers, has shelled out at least $6 million in campaign contributions to political candidates in Los Angeles-- each election season, the industry pours hundreds of thousands into local campaign war chests. Developers expect, and receive, big favors in return. Neighborhood activists say it’s a sure sign that our city’s development-approval system is rigged and broken — and desperately needs true reform. 

“Six million dollars is just the tip of the iceberg,” says City Hall watchdog and CityWatch columnist Jack Humphreville. “When you bundle all the lobbying fees by the real estate developers, lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and all their cronies, the campaign contributions are just a drop in the bucket. And this does not include helping fund the pet projects of the Mayor and City Council.” 

In fact, developers consistently pay their lobbyists hundreds of thousands to woo City Hall politicians and bureaucrats to win approvals for mega-projects. 

For the massive NoHo West project in North Hollywood, (note aerial photo of proposed project above) employees for the development firm Merlone Geier gave $6,500 in campaign contributions to LA politicians between 2008 and 2015, and the developer paid $240,182 for a City Hall lobbyist to schmooze with the City Council, the Planning Department and the Building and Safety Department. 

In Koreatown, developer Michael Hakim, who wants to build a 27-story residential skyscraper in the middle of a low-slung, working-class neighborhood, paid $41,400 for a lobbyist to chat up LA Planning Department officials so he could get a big gift from the City Council: a special “General Plan amendment” and a “height district” change. 

Hakim also agreed to give $250,000 to City Council President Herb Wesson’s so-called “Community Benefits Trust Fund,” a kind of slush fund that Wesson can use to curry political favor and pay for his pet projects. Hakim has given $3,900 in campaign contributions. 

“Those campaign contributions over the past decade show that City Hall has been selling out our neighborhoods to developers,” says Grace Yoo, a prominent Koreatown social justice activist and attorney. “Our development-approval system is clearly rigged and broken, and we need to fix that with the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.” 

What do developers get for spreading around such eye-popping cash to win height district changes and General Plan amendments? Many of them stand to make millions in profits. At the same time, their mega-projects often bring about the demolition of affordable housing units. 

The Los Angeles Times recently found that “more than 20,000 rent-controlled units have been taken off the market since 2001, city records show. The removals peaked during the housing bubble and then bottomed out in the recession, but they have risen significantly since then.” 

The paper concluded: “Looking to cash in on a booming real estate market, Los Angeles property owners are demolishing an increasing number of rent-controlled buildings to build pricey McMansions, condos and new rentals, leading to hundreds of evictions across the city.” 

Alice Callaghan, a longtime, highly regarded homeless advocate who works in Skid Row, says such developer greed seriously impacts everyday Angelenos. “Developers are reaping huge profits by lining the pockets of City Council members and the mayor while taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill to shelter those made homeless by these greedy developers and politicians.”

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, however, looks to level the playing field, and give Angelenos more say in how their communities are developed and shaped. 

Humphreville, Yoo and Callaghan all support the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which will be placed on the March 2017 ballot. You, too, can join the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative movement by clicking onto our Act page right now, and following and cheering our efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at: [email protected]

Together, we can create the change that LA needs!

 

(Patrick Range McDonald writes for 2PreserveLA.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-My column last week detailed Prop. 50 and the slew of initiatives possibly headed for the November ballot. Election officials across the state are not only prepping for the June 7 primary but are also making decisions that will impact just how many choices you’ll have to consider for the statewide ballot come the first Tuesday in November. 

County elections workers are busy checking the hundreds of thousands of signatures collected during the past months to determine whether or not backers collected enough valid signatures to move forward. The propositions ask voters to weigh in on everything from gun control to the salaries of hospital employees in what would be the most jam-packed ballot since 2000. Much of this hinges on random samplings of signatures. Depending on random sampling results, Secretary of State Alex Padilla could order that every signature be checked, which would not be completed by the June 30 deadline to qualify for the November ballot and would be delayed until November 2018. 

Eight measures are already headed for the November ballot, although the statewide minimum wage initiative will likely be withdrawn since Governor Brown has already signed a minimum wage law last month. Five of the ten measures checked appear to have cleared the random sampling and reports have not come in for the remaining five. 

An advisory ballot measure, which asks voters for their opinion on federal campaign finance laws could be placed on the ballot by the Legislature, which would boost the number of statewide propositions to eighteen.

Pot Legalization Initiative 

One the initiatives that appears to be headed for the November ballot would legalize recreational marijuana. According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, if passed, the measure could generate more than $1 billion annually for state and local governments. The Legislative Office Analyst’s office speculates the passage of the measure would lead to an increase in marijuana usage and thus, require additional funds spent on drug treatment. 

State lawmakers recently held a hearing on the measure, which is supported by former Facebook president Sean Parker and others. If passed, the possession, transport, and use of up to an ounce of marijuana would be decriminalized for adults over 21 if used for recreational purposes. The measure would levy a 15% tax on retail sales. According to supporters, some of the funds generated would go to increased law enforcement and drug treatment programs. Supporters also argue that the measure would reduce the cost of keeping offenders in jail or prison. 

Opponents of the bill argue that the decriminalization might increase home invasion robberies and Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) expressed concern that the proposal is an initiative instead of legislation that could be refined by legislators. The California Association of Highway Patrolman and other law enforcement groups argue that the measure could lead to an increase in DUIs and drug-related accidents related to marijuana use, which they say would not lead to a savings for law enforcement. 

Legalization of recreational marijuana may not be the tax revenue panacea it appears to be. According to Business Insider, since Colorado and Washington State first legalized pot, both states saw an upswing in medical marijuana licenses, probably as a result of the increased sales taxes on recreational marijuana. The legalization hasn’t necessarily impacted the black market for the same reason. While the increase in marijuana usage may not necessarily lead to increased need for drug treatment, the increase in driving under the influence of THC (the active ingredient in pot) has increased in both states. It’s important to take a balanced look at the potential pluses and minuses. 

Affordable Housing 

The lack of affordable housing is a pressing issue in Los Angeles County and members of the Assembly and Senate continue to urge Gov. Brown to dedicate funds toward affordable housing programs. At a budget hearing last Tuesday, Assembly Democrats asked for $650 M allocated to rental housing subsidies for low-income workers, as well as tax credits and housing for farm laborers, half of what some in the Assembly had already requested. Senators are also requesting $200 M in funding to combat homelessness. The governor has not included either request in his revised budget, stating that housing subsidies aren’t cost efficient.

Governor Brown is supporting a $2 billion bond promoted by Senate leaders that would reallocate existing funds toward services for the homeless. The governor’s housing affordability plan centers on loosening developer restrictions, a move that is unpopular with both labor and environmental groups.

The governor’s plan, supported by economists and academics, rests on the premise that the crisis reflects lack of housing to meet needs. His plan would streamline the development process but is dependent on how his plan could override local government restrictions. Exempted from detailed local government reviews are urban projects that would reserve at least 20 percent of their units for low-income residents; if the projects are near public transit, that percentage is reduced to 10 percent. The caveat is the property must already be zoned by local government for high-density residential projects. 

The Governor’s plan might be an effective strategy for adding to the housing supply, which may, in turn, decrease costs but does not take into consideration parking and traffic considerations that would impact quality of life in existing neighborhoods. Developers and those who own these buildings must be held accountable to make sure units are affordable and there needs to be a substantial net gain in the number of affordable units to counter the increased traffic and parking issues. 

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

HOMELESSNESS POLITICS--Councilmember Huizar’s call to give $1 billion to real estate developers should surprise no one. As reported here and elsewhere, the City has manufactured a homeless crisis for one purpose: to justify giving those billions to their developer buddies. 

The Bond Ploy--Don’t be fooled into thinking that the taxpayer is not paying for the bonds. The money has to be repaid. That’s the nature of a bond. Wall Street banks lend the City a billion bucks and we repay them $1.25 Billion. Sweet deal for the developers and sweeter deal for Wall Street. Not so good for taxpayers. The City is already floating hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds through its HCIDLA department to give to the real estate developers to construct apartments for the homeless. Gee, I guess that just slipped Huizar’s mind. 

Each billion we borrow for developers to build apartments for the homeless uses up the City’s credit. When we borrow too much, Wall Street raises our interest rate. We still have to pay for the $1 billion lawsuit which is forcing us to fix out sidewalks. We have billions of dollars of unfunded liability for the pension funds. The DWP just raised everyone’s rates and they will raise those rates for the next four years.   

Why So Many Homeless Now?--How did we get so many homeless? The city tore down their homes, throwing thousands of people onto the streets. 

Why did the City tear down their homes? The apartments constructed during the last decade have a 12% vacancy rate. Five percent is equilibrium. Thus, developers are in a financial squeeze. They are “building into a glut.” Also, 2015 was the top year for millennials to move to urban areas. Twenty-five years ago the birth rate for millennials peaked and ever since then it has been downhill. The demand for new apartments is steadily dropping which means each new apartment the developers build will be vacant. With that type of future market, lenders do not want to loan money to the developers, but if they do, the interest rate is a very high to reflect the escalating risk. 

The Future Looks Bad for Real Estate Developers--Things are bleak for developers. The millennials are moving away from urban areas and away from apartments. The millennials have entered the child rearing age, and like all prior American generations, they prefer single family homes with yards. Thus, they pack up and they leave their urban apartments. If you’re going to move, the time to do it is when you’re starting a family. In 2016, there is a plethora of great jobs all over the country with a rapid diminishing number of decent jobs in LA. That’s why our middle class is exiting. 

New people are not moving to LA. One reason is the migration of millennials away from all urban areas; they are the largest group on the move. We are not attracting foreign immigrants so there is no immigrant demand for apartments. Each person or family who leaves Los Angeles creates another vacancy. Thus, our housing stock increases with each departure. 

This demographic trends means financial disaster for developers. They have over-built apartments and are beyond the saturation point. 

LA Apartments at the Saturation Point--The City never tells you about the “saturation point.” We have saturation points for a variety of things like sugar in coffee, traffic congestion and housing. There comes a point when coffee can hold no more sugar and we can tolerate no more sugar. So too with traffic. When traffic congestion mounts, fear of terrible schools dooming your child’s future, the prospect of your employer moving elsewhere, and the deterioration of the city’s infrastructure and the constant threat of more taxes all find our emotional saturation point. Something’s got to give. That’s been happening to a lot of Angelenos lately. The people who can afford to leave LA move elsewhere. This is particularly true for families. 

With the 12% vacancy rate, developers realized that the saturation point has been reached. But they are powerless to prevent people from moving away; they cannot prevent employers from relocating to other states. They do, however have one group of people for whom they can construct apartments: the homeless! 

Huizar’s Plan to Bail out his Developer Buddies--The problem is that the homeless have no money. But, the taxpayers have an endless supply of cash. After all, we gave Wall Street over $3 trillion to rescue the bankers from the Crash of 2008. 

So now the people are being duped into thinking that we have to build new apartments for the homeless. Huizar is silent about immediate solutions which would eliminate the need to construct more apartments, such as: 

(1) Stop tearing down rent controlled apartments. 

(2) House the homeless in the 12% vacant apartments. That’s thousands of units into which we could move them. 

The reality of the homeless population is that some are easier to house than others. There are the mentally disabled, the drug addicted and the alcoholics. While they merit help, it is not as simple as providing a decent place to live. However, those whom the City intentionally made homeless by tearing down rent controlled apartments can have their problem solved overnight. Just give them a key to a home, and after that, provide follow-up services if needed. 

Why Huizar Wants Taxpayers to Borrow Billions--Why build more apartments when we already have more than enough vacancies? Because the purpose of the City Council is to transfer tax dollars from us to the developers. By housing the homeless in the available apartments, we would give no money to the developers. 

Thus, this entire Affordable Housing matter is a giant scam to transfer your money to the billionaire developers rather than housing the homeless in places that are vacant. In many instances, we have already given the developer millions of dollars in subsidies. 

Let’s see a City Council motion that calls for the homeless to be housed at the high rise at 5929 Sunset Boulevard. (Photo above.) It is vacant and we’ve given the developer over $20 million. The developer owes us.

 

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

BUTCHER ON LA--“The final story, the final chapter of western man, I believe, lies in Los Angeles.” – Phil Ochs 

When we bought our first house in Highland Park in 1992, I used to go outside early in the morning for a cigarette and chat with the old, old-timer who lived at the top of the street. I don’t remember his name but we were amazed to discover he grew up on the same street as my mom – Peshine Avenue in Newark, NJ. I especially loved his stories about our little northeast LA street: “That house? Long ago it was the only one on the street. This whole area here? It was a little ranchero. That house’s been here since the mid-1800s. Ever wonder why all these lots are so long and narrow? (I hadn’t.) ‘Cause there used to be a redline stop at the bottom of the street. You could hop on the train on Figueroa and ride all the way to the beach.” 

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CONNECTING CALIFORNIA—Dear Chicago … Would you kindly remove your thick, stubby hands from my beautiful state? 

C’mon -- don’t try to look all Midwestern and innocent. You know exactly what I’m talking about. For years Chicago has been grabbing signature California institutions and screwing them up. 

I get a reminder of your mismanagement every night when I turn on the television to watch my local baseball team, the LA Dodgers. Of course, the Dodgers aren’t on -- they aren’t even available on televisions in nearly 70 percent of the Los Angeles market. The reason? Mark Walter of Chicago. 

Specifically, Walter’s firm Guggenheim Partners, a financial services company with headquarters in Chicago and New York, paid too much for the Dodgers -- more than $2 billion a few years ago. And to cover that price, the Guggenheim-owned Dodgers greedily sold TV rights to Time Warner Cable for a sum so high that other cable providers, understandably, refused to pay to carry Dodger games. So the majority of Southern Californians who don’t get Time Warner have been unable to watch Dodger games for more than two years. 

Walter, the Chicagoan at the head of this toxic deal, couldn’t even manage to get the games on the air for this, the final season in the career of esteemed announcer Vin Scully, thus separating LA from its favorite voice. And there’s this irony; since this deal also blocks internet transmission of games to anyone in Southern California, people in Chicago can watch Dodger games even while people in Los Angeles can’t. 

Then, in the morning, when I go out to my driveway to find out who won the game Chicago wouldn’t let me see, I encounter another local voice badly damaged by you Chicagoans: my latest copy of the Los Angeles Times

Since Tribune Company bought the Times in 2000, California’s biggest newspaper has suffered under waves of Chicago executives who made big promises while cutting the number of reporters and pages. What’s your secret, Chicago—how exactly do you produce so many corporate mediocrities? Full disclosure: I worked at the Times for the first eight years of this ongoing Chicago occupation, before quitting after meeting Sam Zell, a Chicago real estate billionaire who is simply the most profane and dishonest person I have ever encountered in a professional setting. 

More bad media news: Chicago now also owns the San Diego Union-Tribune; the latest Tribune chairman, Michael Ferro has been boasting that he has some virtual reality machine that will magically transform local newspapers into profitable global concerns. Reportedly, it achieves perpetual motion too. (How did our engineers in Silicon Valley miss this?) 

Northern California has also seen a disturbance in the force emanating from your town, Chicago. Two years ago, Chicago lured away the great California filmmaker George Lucas, promising lakefront land for a museum housing his art and Hollywood memorabilia. This choice was inexplicable on many levels, including the meteorological -- as the author Nelson Algren put it, “Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring.” 

Fortunately for us, Chicago’s leaders are flubbing the whole deal—the project has been held up—and San Francisco seems likely to lure back Lucas’ museum by offering prime land on Treasure Island. (So shed no tears for the billionaire filmmaker.) 

Why do Chicago-California marriages go wrong? The short answer: clashing cultures. California burst on the scene quickly, with a premium on speed, while Chicago, in the words of novelist Neil Gaiman, “happened slowly, like a migraine.” 

Also consider that the defining poem of Chicago, Carl Sandburg’s 1914 masterpiece about the “City of Big Shoulders,” actually boasts that your city is “wicked” and “crooked” and “brutal.” California, requiring finesse, can’t compare to your city of butchers in these regards. (Just look at how Boeing, which moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001, has cut jobs in what’s left of California’s aerospace industry.)

Chicago’s inability to handle delicate work is perhaps most evident in the surprisingly difficult relationship between California and that Chicagoan in the White House. What should have been a natural alignment between a liberal president and a liberal state has been undermined by the deep-dish stubbornness of Obama. 

The president and his Chicago education secretary Arne Duncan should have been natural partners for California Democrats eager to do more for schools after years of cuts. Instead, California and Chicago fought bitterly, often because of Duncan’s inflexible insistence on imposing the same uniform policies on a state with so many wildly different regions. 

Obama also managed to alienate Silicon Valley, which supported his campaigns, by demanding that tech firms behave like appendages of his intelligence apparatus. And, for much of Obama’s presidency, his administration devoted more energy to deporting our undocumented friends and neighbors than to delivering on his promise of legalizing their status, so they can contribute even more to California’s success as an economy and society. 

Forgive me for also mentioning how Obama infuriated millions of California commuters who voted for him -- including yours truly-- with his knack for blocking rush-hour traffic during his endless political fundraising trips here. It’s as if he didn’t understand that our big cities don’t have an “L” elevated train like you do in Chicago to get around Secret Service roadblocks. These visits were almost always more about him taking from California (campaign dollars and Hollywood-tech cachet) than about giving anything, even his attention, to us. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and Republican governors seeking to lure our companies to their states have had more public conversations with real Californians than Obama. 

To be fair, in other contexts Chicago pig-headedness has obscured California’s own failings. No one really talks about our state budget problems anymore given the length and bitterness of the struggles over public finances in your city and state. Yes, we did elect an Austrian action star as governor, but he -- unlike a couple of your recent governors -- never went to prison. And our pension problems and a recent spike in crime don’t look nearly so daunting compared to the size of those problems in Illinois. 

All of this begs the question: Why do you keep meddling in our state’s challenges when you have so many giant problems of your own? 

Please, for our good and yours, butt out of California, and get back to doing the things you do best.

Like screwing up our connecting flights.

 

(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square ... where this column originated.) Photo: Dr. Scott M. Lieberman/AP Photo. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

POLITICAL PROFILES-Inspirational speaker, Juan Vasquez, a Data Analyst for the Mayor’s Office, competed in the District 52 Toastmasters International Speech Contest held at the Castaway Restaurant in the City of Burbank on Saturday, May 21. 

Vasquez represented Voces Latinas Toastmasters, a public speaking club that meets twice a month at the White Memorial Hospital in East Los Angeles. 

The criteria for participating in the high-level competition involved having won several prior speech competitions starting at the club level and having moved upward on the echelon, winning the area and division contests.

Vasquez competed with four other contestants, representing other Divisions in Toastmasters District 52. The winner will go to Washington DC in mid-August to the Toastmasters International Speech Contest, where this year’s World Champion will be recognized.          

Vasquez delivered an inspirational speech built around his running the 26.2-mile Los Angeles Marathon in 4 hours and 19 minutes, prized with a medal. He vividly laid out a detailed continuum -- covering from the very start of his run to the finish line. He recounts his heartfelt experience of committing to a set goal and overcoming the mental challenges that crossed his mind while running. He did not win a trophy at this speech contest. Still, I was able to interview him to expand on his 2016 LA Marathon experience. 

One day, while chatting with his colleagues at City Hall, one dared Vasquez to run the LA Marathon. “The most I had run was 6 miles. In college, I played soccer with a small team for two or three hours a week,” he said. “Not very athletic.” 

However, Vasquez said that the LA Marathon seemed like an opportunity to prove to himself that he could accomplish things that he thought were impossible. “It’s a way to show myself what I could accomplish, and challenge myself to go far beyond what I thought I could do,” he said. 

In a six-week preparation period, Vasquez explained how he started with 8 mile-runs on the weekends and scaled it up to 22 miles. On weekdays he ran three to six miles a day followed by going to the gym “to work on strength-conditioning.” He and his two colleagues from work formed a support system to run on the weekends. “Our schedules sometimes conflicted but it was always nice to talk to someone who knew what it was like to run 16 miles on a Sunday.” 

Once the Marathon started, he elaborated, “I kind of got into my pace. I started feeling very comfortable, enjoying the environment around me, the food, the families, and the music.” Thousands of people come out to support the runners, he said. “A lot of it hurt and was frustrating. There were times when I asked myself, why did I do this?” He wore his headset as an aide to move on when things got difficult. “There was a point at mile 20 that was by far the most challenging, running two-miles uphill,” he said. “It was a great experience though.” The run started at Dodgers Stadium in Elysian Park and ended in Santa Monica Beach. 

Vasquez said that his two colleagues from the Mayor’s Office also crossed the finish line within 6 hours, their common goal was to complete the run. “But, we each had our own individual goals as to how we were going to do it. It was never about a competition between the three of us,” he explained. “We wanted to accomplish the big goal and we all did.” 

Running the LA Marathon has raised his confidence in the workplace and his ability to connect with people. “It gets me to put difficult things in perspective. If I have a difficult day at work, I say it was a difficult day, but it wasn’t 26 miles,” he said with a big smile. 

“It helped me realize that I should always believe in myself and that there might be other reasons why I might fail but never because of my self-doubt.” 

Juan Vasquez is presently preparing and looking forward to run in the Long Beach Marathon on October 9th of this year with a goal to finish under four-hours.

(Connie Acosta writes about Los Angeles neighborhood councils and is a neighborhood council participant.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TRANSIT PERSPECTIVE--Math is a funny thing.

Take averaging, for example. Mark Twain observed that if you have one foot in a bucket of ice and one foot in a bucket of boiling water, on average you’re pretty comfortable.

Similarly, consider subtraction. Somehow, government officials have calculated that subtracting money from your wallet for taxes actually puts more money in your pocket.

That’s the conclusion of a recent study of the economic effects of Measure R, the 2008 increase in the L.A. County sales tax of one-half of one percent to fund transportation projects.

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation determined that over its 30-year lifespan, the Measure R sales tax will create $80.7 billion in economic output while costing each resident just $25 a year in higher taxes.

The Society of American Magicians prohibits them from revealing how this trick is done, but they can’t stop me from exposing the secret.

It’s done with mirrors. A typical dollar spent by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is counted three times: once when Metro hands it to a contractor, once when the contractor hands it to a union construction worker, and once when the worker spends it on rent, food, car payments or entertainment. They call these reflections the “direct,” “indirect” and “induced” effects of spending.

This “multiplier effect” would work if the money spent by Metro was earned by Metro. But it’s not. It’s earned by you, and then taken from you with a higher sales tax.

The study uses another trick, division, to determine that this higher tax costs each resident only $25 per year. Using multiplication instead, the 30-year cost of Measure R comes out to $3,000 for a family of four.

Figured another way, if the 10 million residents of L.A. County didn’t have to pay that $25 per year in extra taxes, they would have an extra $250 million annually, $7.5 billion over 30 years, to spend on whatever they personally find useful. Add the multiplier effect to those numbers, without government middlemen, for a true picture of what’s lost to higher taxes.

Now Metro wants taxpayers to cough up another $120 billion for more transit projects. The money would come from adding more years to the 30-year Measure R tax and hiking the sales tax by another half-cent per dollar, raising L.A. County’s sales tax rate to 9.5 percent for 40 years.

The transit agency would then borrow against the future sales tax revenues to start spending the $120 billion immediately.

Just how much is $120 billion?

It’s enough to pay for the repairs and deferred maintenance of every freeway in California for the next 10 years, twice.

It’s enough to build 120 desalinization plants like the one in Carlsbad that’s supplying 7 percent of San Diego’s water.

It’s enough to pay off the student debt of everyone who was enrolled in a four-year college or university in California in 2014. Seven times.

But Metro wants to spend $120 billion on a long list of public transit projects, even though ridership on public transit is declining. Metro boardings are down 10 percent since 2006 despite $9 billion of spending on rail.

Metro CEO Philip Washington says ridership will increase when the system is fully built out. “We’re not building for today,” he said recently, “We’re building for 100 years down the road.”

A hundred years ago, a telephone looked like a black candlestick. It didn’t have GPS or a camera. It didn’t have a keypad, or a dial, or Angry Birds. It didn’t even have a ringtone unless you count the bell in the box on the wall.

If the people of 1916 had designed a communications system for “100 years down the road” and racked up $120 billion in debt to pay for it, we’d still be paying taxes for something that was long gone; and we’d be wondering why our taxes are so high, and why there’s never enough money for road repair or water projects or education.

That’s what happens when governments run up too much debt, as ours already have—local, state and federal alike.

Multiply that by your children’s future, and then by your grandchildren’s future.

And when you see Metro’s sales tax increase for transit projects on your November ballot, don’t get taken for a ride.

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

-cw

ANIMAL WATCH-A Pit Bull named Sammy with a prior record of repeated aggression and who had just bitten a Los Angeles Animal Services kennel worker in the abdomen, was released on April 28 to NovaStar Rescue, at the personal instruction of LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette. NovaStar states on its site that it started in 2012, lists only a PO Box address in Ola, Arkansas, and describes itself as “[a] small rescue in Ola, Arkansas. The main focus of NovaStar is to . . . save the pitties, the most loyal yet most misunderstood dogs.” 

“Sammy” was the name given to the dog by kennel staff. He was “Sodom” when he was surrendered to the shelter on January 28 by his owner, who reportedly gave the reason that the dog had “tried to bite him.” A behavioral memo that same day by an Animal Care Technician states, “dog growled and snapped more with acd [animal control device] and according to owner dog is a guard dog.” 

Sammy was described as a Male, Unaltered, Black and White American Staffordshire Terrier, Age: 5 yrs. Weight: 69 lbs. (Impound #A1608123) on PetHarbor.com, where he was listed for adoption to the public. 

During the time Sammy was being offered to a “forever” home, he was chalking up warnings by shelter personnel -- warnings such as: “dog attempted to bite through the kennel when I was lowering the guillotine door on the kennel next to his. be careful when anywhere near this dog;” “this dog is getting worse. lunges at kennel door, growling, barking, biting at door;” “THIS DOG IS VERY AGGRESSIVE. WHEN I GOT NEAR KENNEL DOG LUNGED TOWARDS FACE AND WAS TRYING TO BITE THROUGH KENNEL CAGE. USE CAUTION WHEN HANDLING THIS DOG….”

LA PULSE 

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Then on April 14, the memo reads, “DOG BIT AN ACT. RABIES OBSERVATION.” The rabies observation is a standard procedure required by the County Department of Public Health (DPH) when a dog bite breaks the skin. The dog is quarantined for ten days. (This is mandated whether or not the dog has a current rabies vaccination.) 

On April 24, at 4:28 PM, an e-mail from a private g-mail account was sent to Brenda Barnette, stating: 

“Attention Brenda and Mario: 

“I am providing you notice prior to the euthanasia of ID number A1608123 [North Central] that he has rescue interest. Pursuant to California Food and Agricultural Code section

31108 (b) you are prohibited by law to kill him/her. This is your official notice of rescue interest for ID number A16081234. DO NOT KILL HIM! 

“If you do, you will be in direct violation of FEDERAL CODE and will be prosecuted by intent policy and California Animal Networks will press charges. 

“Pursuant to section 31108 (b) of the California Food And Agriculture Code: 

“(b) Except as provided in Section 17006, any stray dog that is impounded pursuant to this division shall, prior to euthanasia of that animal, be released to a nonprofit, as defined in Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, animal rescue or adoption organization if requested by the organization prior to the scheduled euthanasia of that animal. 

“Paperwork was sent in from NovaStar Rescue placing a hold on this dog. “PLEASE ADVISE. 

“Tiffany” 

At 4:53 pm, April 24, Brenda Barnette responded, with cc’s to three LAAS staff/shelter personnel: 

“Tiffany,

Will the rescue pick him up Monday? I do not know if this dog is in danger, but you can’t put an indefinite hold on an animal. Please check, I notice that you gave two different “A” numbers.

“Brenda” 

It is surprising that -- considering the documented history of this dog -- -the GM would release it for adoption, first to the public (before it bit the Animal Care Technician) and then to a ‘rescue.’ Ms. Barnette could have easily determined that the above Fd. & Ag. Section did not apply, because this dog was not a “stray.” Additionally, according to legal experts, there are no federal laws governing this issue. 

So, was Brenda unsure of the law, or intimidated by the threats of an individual who does not appear -- nor claim -- to have a formal association with either of the groups she identifies in her email? 

Secondly, GM Barnette acknowledged that it was a dangerous animal by requiring under the condition of release, according to reports, that Sammy leave the state and be taken to Arkansas. 

Here is the LAMC Section that describes how an animal can be declared dangerous: 

SEC 53.34.4. DANGEROUS ANIMAL – PROCEDURES. 

(b) Dangerous Animal-Declared. The Department, after a hearing, may declare any dog or other animal to be a dangerous animal whenever it has bitten, attacked or caused injury to any human being or other animal. 

Apparently the GM’s order was not taken seriously by the local rescuer, because on May 15, Los Angeles Fire Department and LAPD responded to a small, unkempt older house on White Knoll Drive, Los Angeles 90012, (near downtown LA) at approximately 9 pm, where a pit bull was attacking a woman who “was visiting dog to determine if she wants to adopt from the rescue who had been fostering the dog.” That dog was later identified by LA Animal Services as Impound #1608123, “Sammy.” 

The victim was unidentified in the LAFD report, except for the first name, “Melanie,” at a 760-485-XXXX phone number. 

“Sammy” was alive but had been stabbed 19 times by a neighbor who heard the victim screaming. He was transported to an emergency clinic, where he was euthanized, according to the County Dept. of Public Health report.  

Ironically, on May 16, NovaStar Animal Rescue posted on Facebook: 

“For those of you who follow this rescue you probably saw the writing on the wall. Terre has been taking in more dogs than we have been able to place. NOVASTAR IS FULL. We cannot take any more pups. Please help!” 

So who is “Tiffany?” Is she a qualified rescuer under LA Animal Services criteria? Did she sign a release form that she was aware that the pit bull had attacked a human, causing bodily harm, and that he had exhibited a pattern of aggressive behavior? 

Since he was not transported out of Los Angeles, is the City potentially liable for injuries to the victim? 

If Tiffany was designated as a legitimate member of NovaStar Animal Rescue in Arkansas for the purposes of “pulling” Sammy, can that organization or the California Animal Networks, which Tiffany claimed would “press charges” if Sammy was not released, be held legally and/or financially responsible for the attack? 

Or is this just a symptom of a greater quandary? There is no state or federal law governing “rescuers.” There is no prior experience or training mandated, nor are there maintenance, health and sanitation requirements for privately housing multiple animals for adoption. There is also no prescribed inspection or monitoring of care and condition of the animals and no mandate for insurance or standards for temperament of animals sold/adopted to the public by rescuers. In California there is no permit or license issued to establish accountability. To become a “rescue,” all that is necessary is a nonprofit tax status, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

The safety and lives of not only adopters and their families and pets, but also the dedicated people who care for animals in shelters and humane societies -- and the rescuers, themselves -- need to be given more thoughtful consideration. At least five shelter employees at LA Animal Services have reportedly been injured in dog attacks in the last three months, two sustaining possibly permanent damage.

Rescuer Rebecca Carey, 23, was killed in her home in 2012 by dogs she had ‘saved.’ And, an 18-month-old pit bull, named Lily, viciously attacked her adopter and rescuer Patricia Agnello as she was placed in the car with her new “fur mom.” Lily was stabbed-death by a neighbor to save the women. 

Although there are highly responsible and competent rescuers all over the country who maintain high standards for both themselves and adopters, there are also those who act on emotion and make poor decisions as to how many animals they can adequately care for and which animals may not be safe to rehome. 

Based upon the rapidly increasing number of tragic attacks by adopted dogs (including the April 22 killing of a three-day-old baby in San Diego by a recently adopted Pit Bull,) isn’t it time the CA Food and Agricultural Code that mandates unsafe animals “shall” be released to rescues upon request be reconsidered by California lawmakers?

                                                           

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com.  She lives in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TRUMP DOUBLE’S DOWN--Donald Trump has doubled down on his challenge to debate Bernie Sanders, telling reporters in Bismarck, North Dakota on Thursday that he would agree to a one-on-one with the Vermont senator for "something over $10 million."

"If we can raise for maybe women's health issues or something, if we can raise $10 or $15 million for charity," he said. "We have had a couple of calls from the networks already and we'll see."

Sanders responded by tweeting that he was "delighted" Trump had agreed to debate.

"Let's do it in the biggest stadium possible," he wrote.

The comments come after talk show host Jimmy Kimmel asked Trump on air Wednesday if he would debate Sanders ahead of California's June 7 primary—a question submitted by Sanders himself—to which Trump responded, "If I debated him it would have such high ratings. Take that money and give it to some worthy charity."

Sanders immediately responded, "Game on."

On Thursday, Sanders' campaign spokesman Michael Briggs told USA Today, "Of course we're interested. It was Bernie's suggestion."

The senator's campaign manager Jeff Weaver also told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that it would be "great for the American people to be able to see these two candidates on stage debating the important issues... I have to believe that this would be one of the most widely-watched debates ever in presidential politics."

"I hope... [Trump] doesn't chicken out on this," Weaver said.

Watch the interview:

Earlier:

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have seemingly agreed to a one-on-one debate ahead of California's primary on June 7—or, as Politico puts it, "the debate the world has been waiting for."

Appearing on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Wednesday night, Trump said he would debate Sanders if the proceeds from the event went to charity.

"If I debated him it would have such high ratings," the presumptive Republican nominee said.

Minutes later, Sanders tweeted, "Game on." [[https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/735689625407131648 ]]

"I look forward to debating Trump in California before the June 7 primary," he wrote.

Sanders' campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs added Thursday that the Vermont senator "thinks a debate is very important to California voters." The news comes shortly after Sanders' Democratic rival Hillary Clinton reneged on a promise to debate him again ahead of the state's primary, which Sanders called an "insult" to voters there.

Writing for CNBC on Thursday, news columnist Jake Novak argues such a debate would be nothing less than Hillary's Clinton's "worst nightmare":

A Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders debate in the coming days before the June 7th California primary is getting closer to becoming a reality. If this happens, it will likely be a huge boost for Sanders, a mild aid to Trump, and -- to borrow the key buzz word of this election so far – a YUGE pain in the neck for Hillary Clinton.

For Sanders, this entire election has been a "nothing to lose" proposition. He was given no chance to even make a dent in Mrs. Clinton's inevitable coronation, er presidential nomination, by the Democrats. And as a lifetime Senate backbencher, he was not in danger of losing a chairmanship or leadership position. While it's basically impossible for Sanders to overtake Clinton in the delegate battle, the latest PPIC poll shows Sanders trails her by just two percentage points among likely California primary voters.

As of Thursday morning, no formal debate between Trump and Sanders had been arranged. However, Politico notes that Sanders is scheduled to appear on Kimmel's show Thursday night.

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams… where this was first posted.)

-cw

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--Queen of Hearts: Now... are you ready for your sentence? Alice: Sentence? But there has to be a verdict first... Queen of Hearts: Sentence first! Verdict afterwards. Alice: But that just isn't the way... Queen of Hearts: [shouting] All ways are...! Alice: ...your ways, your Majesty. 

Just when you think that the broken planning process in Los Angeles is back on track, obviously pushed by the likely voter approval of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative in March 2017, another foolish planning initiative sneaks up on you. Apparently oblivious to the April 2016 pronouncements from the Mayor and the City Council to begin an immediate and thorough update of the entire General Plan and Community Plans, on May 17 City Planning held a scoping meeting for the ”new” Hollywood Community Plan’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) .

Never mind that there is no actual project for the DEIR to evaluate. And never mind that local plans should follow, not proceed, the updating of the mandatory and optional citywide General Plan elements. Like the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” City Planning has decided to first prepare a DEIR to evaluate the future plan, then a detailed zoning ordinance to implement the future plan, then a new text to retroactively shape these implementation ordinances, and finally updates of the citywide General Plan elements in order to carefully guide each local Community Plan long after it has been prepared and presumably adopted

This approach to City Planning would sit well with the Queen of Hearts, who decided on death sentences before she rendered verdicts! In City Planning’s case it is implementing a Community Plan Update before it has been prepared. 

So, at least for CityWatch readers, let me describe how professional planners would and should proceed with the Update of the Hollywood Community Plan, as well as what should be considered in the environmental impact for this Update. 

Correct sequencing is of paramount importance. Common sense, as well as professional planning standards, leads to an inevitable conclusion. You cannot update local plans until you have updated the required and optional citywide General Plan elements. At present, only two of Los Angeles’ mandatory citywide General Plan elements are up-to-date: Housing and Mobility (Transportation). Four other legally required elements are seriously out-of-date: Noise, Public Safety, Open Space, and Conservation. Still other optional but absolutely important elements are woefully out-of-date. 

For example, the General Plan Framework Element, which ties all other citywide elements together, was prepared in the early 1990s, and it is based on 1990 U.S. census data. Its population forecasts for the year 2010 exceeded LA’s actual 2010 population by over 500,000 people. Other important elements, especially Infrastructure, Public Recreation, and Service Systems, date back to the 1960s. They are now a half-century old and, to say the least, ought to be updated before the grandchildren of the planners who drafted these documents are hired to implement them. 

There are very compelling reasons for correct sequencing, for looking at Los Angeles as a whole before burrowing into fine-grained local planning and zoning. Only citywide General Plan elements can answer such obvious questions as: 

  • How much realistic population growth will LA actually experience – as opposed to the grandiose thinking of the Southern California Association of Government, real estate developers run wild, and their ever-faithful City Hall enthusiasts? 
  • If there is population growth in Los Angeles and adjacent areas, when and where will it appear? 
  • What user demands on local infrastructure and public services will result from this population growth? 
  • What is the existing and anticipated capacity of local public infrastructure and services in these areas based on the City of Los Angeles’ Capital Improvement Program and other public budgets? 
  • How will these infrastructure and services systems deteriorate over time, and what are reliable maintenance programs have been funded to keep them operational? 
  • Where in Los Angeles is there sufficient residential, commercial, and industrial zoning capacity for existing and future residents of all socio-economic strata? 
  • What environmental concerns, especially the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, affect the nature and location of future public and private development? 
  • What esthetic considerations, especially the character and scale of existing neighborhoods, should be considered in local land use decisions for public and private investment? 

To ignore the answers to these questions, and to just blindly up-zone and up-plan local private parcels, as is happening again in Hollywood, is the height of folly. It is the obvious path to ensure that LA’s legacy of shoddy city planning, toxic air, polluted water, pot-holed and rutted roads, cracked and uneven sidewalks, and record traffic congestion will only get worse. 

The current approach also reveals the same hubris that blind-sided the City of Los Angeles with three lawsuits that in 2013 totally overturned the previous Hollywood Community Plan Update. In that case Superior Court Judge Alan Goodman threw out the entire Hollywood Plan, including the plan’s text, its Environmental Impact Report, and its lengthy ordinances to densify much of Hollywood through zone changes and general plan amendments. Judge Goodman’s decision also directed the City of Los Angeles to start anew, and it also resulted in the reinstatement of the even older 1988 Hollywood Community Plan. 

Now, apparently dusting off these discredited planning documents, City Planning is undertaking a comprehensive environmental analysis on a “new” Update of the Hollywood Community Plan that does not even exist. City Planning’s website still features the plan text rejected by Judge Goodman four years ago. The only new documents are two tentative, indecipherable maps of proposed plan designations, proposed zones, and a 33-page ordinance matrix of these zone and plan changes.  They are labeled, “Subject to change.” In other words, there is no actual project for the Draft Environmental Impact Report to evaluate and then compare to such alternatives as the existing 1988 plan, a downzoning plan reflecting Hollywood’s dwindling population, and the Alternative Hollywood Community Plan Update prepared by the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. 

Environmental Impact Report: Once the citywide General Plan elements are updated and once there is a detailed, carefully defined Community Plan Update for Hollywood, what questions should the Draft Environmental Impact Report carefully answer? This is my first cut at those categories: 

  • What do Hollywood’s residents want for their community over the next several decades? 
  • What is the capacity of local commercial, industrial, and residential zoning? More specifically, what is the projected population of Hollywood if existing residential zoning is built out to its full legal capacity, without any discretionary actions to boost density? 
  • What are the actual population trends in Hollywood, as opposed to notoriously inaccurate and inflated forecasts from the Southern California Association of Governments? 
  • How much existing residential, commercial, and industrial space has been lost in Hollywood through demolitions to clear building sites for new projects? In terms of residential, what were the cost factors for this lost housing? How will these trends be continued or slowed by the draft Update’s zone changes and plan amendments? 
  • What is the status of major infrastructure and service categories in Hollywood in terms of existing capacity, forecast capacity based on incremental degradation, secured funding for maintenance and repairs, and changes in user demand for infrastructure and services? 
  • To what extent does the existing plan, proposed plan, and the DEIR’s alternatives address adaptation to climate change and the mitigation of the Green House Gases responsible for global warming and climate change? 

These questions are obviously a tiny part of what the eventual Draft EIR will investigate, but these are all important categories that were hardly considered in the 1988 plan restored by the Los Angeles County Superior Court, as well as in the 2012 Hollywood Update rejected by the same Court.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. He welcomes questions, comments, and corrections at [email protected].)

 

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES-Legitimate cases of racism can be big and galvanizing. They can also be small, subtle and potentially cause greater harm to more people. You probably heard of the big one swirling around City Hall last week, and most likely missed the small one on your morning commute. 

The Los Angeles City Hall speaker card, at 5½ x 8½, is the stuff of mundane bureaucracy. It is used by members of the public to let city officials presiding over their many daily Council, Committee and Commission meetings know that someone wants to be heard on a given agenda item, or many agenda items, sometimes in confrontational but Constitutionally protected tones.  

While Herb Wesson, the City Council president with a genuinely warm soul, has implemented dictatorial, and perhaps illegal, ways to suppress public criticism (a subject about which I may write in the future), neither he nor anyone else deserves what happened to him a week ago.

One of those cards was intentionally submitted with brutally hurtful, racially tinged words and images at a Committee meeting chaired by Wesson, the first African-American to serve in that capacity. It was submitted by a vociferous gadfly infamous around City Hall for expressed opinions consistent with this sentiment over the past few years, although this appears to be the first time that any were labeled by city officials as a threat. Whether the gadfly committed a crime in doing this will be determined by LA District Attorney Jackie Lackey, also an African-American. 

Hurtful as the content may be, its author is an attorney well-versed in pushing the limits of free speech -- a subject in which the city has a losing record in recent civil cases. So making that case may be more challenging for Lacey than it appears. Regardless, the author immediately became the subject of negative media exposure, scathing social media criticism and potentially, a review by the California Bar Association. 

On the red line subway, several hundred feet below City Hall, is where you will find a more subtle, and possibly more harmful, long-lasting racist message. And it jumps at you if you take a second look. 

Depicted in an advertisement from American Career College are three good looking young faces. In the first photo on the left is an African American male, under whose image is “medical assistant – 9 months.” The center photo is an African American female, with “vocational nurse – 13 months.” And on the right is either a white or Latina female that says “registered nurse – 20 months.”

While this messaging, under the banner, “your time to change,” was probably not intended to suggest a limited potential for black men, it does precisely that because the ad’s progression shows both a black woman and a woman of another race going further in their education. This is what the phrase the soft bigotry of low expectations, is all about. It’s a term whose coining is attributed to Michael Gerson, ironically a white, Evangelical conservative Republican with Jewish roots, and speechwriter for George W. Bush, who used it in a 2000 speech to the NAACP. 

It is more likely a case of ill-conceived branding. Really bad branding. But someone looking at it and reading it, perhaps a young person of color, or not of color, might internalize its message forever. This could cause far greater harm than a City Hall speaker card. 

While American Career College could not be reached for comment, its Yelp reviews and cost, topping out at a whopping $66,525 for some Associates degrees, suggest that it is also a really bad choice for anyone seeking a better future. For a sliver of that money, they may find doors can open more widely by pursuing their education at Pierce College, Los Angeles Valley College and Los Angeles City College.

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a writer who lives in Los Angeles and blogs on humane issues at ericgarcetti.blogspot.com. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch. The views expressed are those of Mr. Guss.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES-In what can simply be described as “an eye-opening reminder of American history,” any modern-day behaviors that resemble the hateful acts of the Ku Klux Klan create more controversy than a group of Black Lives Matters protesters at a Donald Trump campaign event in 2016. 

Only days ago, LA City Council President Herb Wesson was troubled by one of the many speaker cards he receives for public comment. A speaker card with racially-charged drawings on it stood out from the rest that usually only have identifying information for each speaker and the governing body they wish to address. But this time, a speaker card with drawings of a Klan hat with arms and legs holding a noose in one hand and, in the other hand, a picket sign with the words “Herb = N*gger” along with a primitive drawing of a man being lynched from a tree was on the front. On the back were the large words “F*ck Herb”-- obviously directing all this negative energy directly at the Council President and no one else.

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The lone wolf in this matter is a City Hall regular who self-identifies “Wayne from Encino” (I can’t help but wonder how the community of Encino feels about its newfound attention.) 

As an outspoken activist who also frequents City Hall to address many Skid Row issues, including homelessness, I have come to recognize “Wayne from Encino” by face and demeanor. Almost every time he speaks during public comment (hiding behind freedom of speech protections,) he delivers a constant onslaught of vulgarity wearing his usual “uniform”-- dingy tan khakis and an equally dingy stripped t-shirt. Combined with his verbal undertone, he has always pointed out his displeasures about how the poor and homeless are treated in Los Angeles. I thought he himself may have been homeless or formerly was. 

To hear reports of him being described as “an attorney” following his arrest was shocking, to say the least. My immediate thought was, “If he’s an attorney and is always at City Hall commenting during various public comments in City Council and council committee meetings, when does he practice law and how many clients does he have?” 

Once the “speaker card-gate” situation had become public, all eyes were lasered on Wesson. How he responded would set the tone for everyone else. Would he be angered to the point where suddenly Black Lives Matter, the NAACP and others would swarm City Hall to take over any and all public meetings with loud, continuous dominating outbursts that would drown out all civic discourse? Would Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or other prominent Black leaders and clergy hold press conferences demanding “action”? While some may think this would be unnecessary acts of disruption, in this case, it all would be warranted

History has shown that when tensions are high and the potential for a sudden “release of bottled up energy” by the masses is present, those who exhibit natural acts of class are recognized for such. This is unlike former President George W. Bush who was ridiculed for his quirky demeanor immediately following news of planes flying into New York’s World Trade Towers during the tragic September 9/11 event. 

In this case, Herb Wesson should be publicly recognized for his uber-classy demeanor. Of course, he publicly blasted “Wayne from Encino” during a no-nonsense press conference that had to be done, but he didn’t take the City of Los Angeles down such a negative path that the entire city would come to a screeching halt. This is something that should be duly noted by Mayor Garcetti and the other City Council members -- whether they do it publicly or privately is up to them, but it should be done! 

Then, as other City business needs to be handled, Wesson respectfully returned his focus to his duty as a public servant and council president…. SMOOTH! 

An already scheduled City Council town hall-style meeting in South LA (in Wesson’s district) happened only days after this racial madness at City Hall. Wesson conducted business as usual. Instead of using the platform to spew hatred towards the Klan (or “Wayne”), which would have probably resonated with the majority African-American audience, he stayed on-agenda, including the controversial DWP rate hike possibility. 

The only mention Wesson made to the “other” issue was a simple joke about hoping not to receive any speaker cards with drawings on them. This generated resounding laughter from the hundreds of attendees. 

At the end of the meeting, however, Wesson did receive one speaker card with a drawing on it. It was a heart with the caption: “We got luv 4 you, Herb!” 

A fitting end and transition to what could have been an uncomfortable and distracting spectacle for the entire City of Los Angeles. 

It’s moments such as these that reinforce my love for my city, knowing that with class we can voice our displeasures, debate the issues and reach compromises in the best interest of the greater good, all in the same demeanor. 

Thank you, Herb Wesson, for showing us how it’s done! You’re a true leader…leading by example. 

And to those who don’t agree with me, just say something negative out loud about any of this and watch the city “turn up”! 

You have been warned! Show some respect….Or hate with class. Whichever choice you make, just know that Wesson has given us all an example to follow. 

Thanks, Herb.

 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles. Jeff’s views are his own. ) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Are you immortal? If so, you might take some time to read and consider Prop 50. But if there’s a good chance you might die some day, don’t waste another precious second on this earth thinking about Prop 50, which appears on the June ballot here in California. 

Seriously, leave that part of the ballot blank. Or vote for it. Or against it. It doesn’t matter. 

You can stop reading now. 

For those who might want an explanation of why they shouldn’t care, I wasted my time reading the measure and ballot arguments. 

And here is a very abridged argument – hey, I have better things to be doing – of why Prop 50 doesn’t matter. 

It only applies in the rare circumstances when a legislator has broken the law or been indicted for a crime and the legislature wants to kick them out. (Photos above: Indicted CA State Senators Leland Yee, Ron Calderon, Rod Wright.) Vote yes, and it would take 2/3 to suspend a legislator, and the legislature could stop paying them. Vote no, and the status quo prevails: it takes a majority vote to suspend the legislature, and there is no provision to get rid of their salary. 

I guess you could argue about which is better -- but both sets of rules seem OK for me. I suppose I prefer the status quo -- maybe some legislature might try to make mischief and suspend the pay of someone they didn’t like in a Prop 50 world -- but really, why should this matter? 

The legislature put this on the ballot to show that it was responding at a time when three state senators were facing very different charges. But it’s pretty meaningless. 

And if you’re still reading this post here, you might think about getting a life.

 

(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. This was originally posted at Fox and Hounds. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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.

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