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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-cw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will cover it in greater depth.

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

-cw

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEED TO KNOW:

 

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

-cw

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional note:     

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

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

I welcome your observations and comments.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the likely Population Situation with Hollywood? 

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

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

The Millennials are Leaving, the Millennials are Leaving… 

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

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

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

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

The Right to Accurate Information 

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

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

The Public Wants Polices which is Lower Housing Costs 

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

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

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

The Recalcitrant City 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-cw

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it looks like the conversation has begun…finally. 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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PLANNING WATCH--First, the bad news. I live in the Beverly Grove neighborhood, and so far we have lost over 75 of our homes, or about 12 percent, to McMansions. The mansionization process was only dampened down recently through a new Residential Floor Area District (RFA), adopted in 2014 after a decade of hard campaigning.  

The good news is that my neighborhood is represented by the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association (BWHA), a community organization that has steadfastly represented the residents of the greater Fairfax area on land use issues for over 50 years. During the past ten years, the BWHA has also been a leader in citywide efforts to restrict McMansions in Los Angeles neighborhoods because its own neighborhoods, especially Beverly Grove, became the epicenter of mansionization. 

This is why the BWHA strongly supports Councilmember Koretz’s original Council Motion, instructing the Department of City Planning to remove all Baseline Mansionization Ordinance loopholes that promote mansionization, such as the three alternative 20 percent bonuses, as well as the inexplicable exemption for 400 square feet of attached garages.  

This is also why community organizations, such as the BWHA, consider the second version of City Planning’s BMO/HMO amendments to be a major step in the wrong direction. Be reinserting so many prior and new loopholes, City Planning’s draft amendments again ensure that mansionization will continue – despite the City Council’s unanimous and straightforward instructions to finally stop mansionization. City Planning’s job, therefore, could not be simpler: prepare amendments to the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance that remove its loopholes. In fact, the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association prepared such a simple draft ordinance, and then submitted it to both City Planning and to Council District 5 over a year ago. 

Furthermore, our neighborhood has learned through the school of hard knocks that LA’s Department of Building and Safety is either incapable or unwilling to enforce existing mansionization ordinances and code violations, such as the consistent failure of contractors to post on-site demolition and building permits. 

It should therefore be no surprise when we predict that Department of Building and Safety will not understand nor reliably implement the complicated mansionization ordinance that City Planning is now unveiling at public hearings. It will be easily gamed by contractors and realtors since they are already emboldened by the City of LA’s current blasé approach to mansionization. 

The other good news is the firm position taken by Councilmembers Paul Koretz and David Ryu in their May 4, 2016, letter to the new Director Of Planning, Vince Bertoni. They implored Mr. Bertoni to stick to the purpose of the City Council’s May 16, 2014, motion: “It is imperative that the Planning Department achieve the intent of protecting residential neighborhoods well before the patchwork of Interim Control Ordinances…expires in March 2017.”  

SPECIFIC CONCERNS OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS ABOUT THE DRAFT MANSIONIZATION AMENDMENTS: 

The Councilmembers were, in effect, responding to the express concerns of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and other kindred neighborhood organizations intent on heading off another sham mansionization ordinance at the pass. Their concerns fall into six categories: 

  • The city’s Baseline Mansionization Ordinance and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BMO/BHO) failed because they contained too many bonus and exemption loopholes.       Despite the adoption of these ordinances, mansionization has relentlessly continued to ruin neighborhoods over the entire city. In this legislative round City Planning therefore needs to draft the new amendments correctly. This means removing all old and new loopholes that promote the construction of McMansions. If the proposed ordinance fails to do this, it will be the sixth bogus attempt to stop mansionization by green lighting over-sized houses through a host of loopholes that undermine the City Council’s intention. 
  • Mansionization eliminates affordable housing in LA’s single-family neighborhoods. As a result, it contributes to the housing crisis that most Angelenos, including elected officials, are painfully aware of. The mansionizers target smaller, affordable houses for demolition.       They then quickly and cheaply replace them with McMansions that are, on average, three times the size and price of these smaller, energy-efficient demolished homes.       These investors and contractors are now eliminating about 2000 such affordable houses per year, and this loss of affordable homes will continue until it is finally stopped through an effective mansionization ordinance, not another phony one. 
  • Attached garages and uncovered or “lattice roof” patios, breezeways, and balconies should be counted as floor space. As evidenced by LA’s existing McMansions, these exempted architectural features are standard McMansions features, and they substantially increase the size of a house. The amended BMO/BHO needs to totally close these loopholes and count attached garages and all patio, deck, and breezeway features as floor space. 
  • All square footage bonuses must be deleted. The City Council directive to City Planning was clear. Any bonus that promotes mansionization should be stricken since these bonuses can add 600 square feet or more to the size of a house. In some isolated cases these additions might be warranted, but all such cases must be treated as discretionary actions. City Planning must send out notices for them and then conduct a public hearing, followed by a written and appealable determination. City Planning must also spell out its reasons for increasing the size of a house through proper legal findings.       

Furthermore, any granted discretionary bonus should be based on the net livable footprint of the first floor, not uninhabited areas, such as garages and storage facilities. Finally, any mansionization procedure that allows the Department of Building and Safety to increase the size of a house through a secret ministerial decision must be eliminated. 

  • Interim Control Ordinances (ICO) now offer short-term protection to approximately 23 neighborhoods heavily impacted by mansionization, with other besieged neighborhoods also clamoring for similar ICO protection. In the event that the adopted BMO/BHO amendments are more restrictive than existing ICO provisions, the more restrictive provisions should prevail. This will prevent the contradictory situation of ICO neighborhoods, such as North Beverly Grove, that now have an ICO that is more permissive than the anticipated citywide mansionization amendments. 
  • Re:code LA should only proceed in residential areas once the City Council adopts simple and straightforward amendments to the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance and the Hillside Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. Folding citywide re:code zoning provisions, such as “side wall articulation” and “encroachment planes,” into the BMO and BHO amendment process slows down and undercuts the express directions of the City Council: quickly remove the loopholes from the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. 

CityWatch readers can keep informed about amendments to the City’s two mansionization ordinances through the following website: nomoremcmansionsinlosangeles.org/.  You can also become a friend of the No More McMansions in LA Facebook page, and send an email to [email protected] to receive periodic updates.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former LA City Planner who reports on planning issues for CityWatch. He is also on the Board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and welcomes questions, corrections, and comments at [email protected].) 

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 EASTSIDER-Looks like the LA City Council has started smokin’ some weed on the assumption that the Marijuana initiative will pass in November. Of course, math was never their forte even without mind altering substances. And as we know, the actual budget process is a closely held secret.  

Here’s the Problem: 

For context, we are living in the best of times if you’re an LA City politician. The developers are buying off elected officials at a record rate, housing and hi-rises are popping up all over like the giant popcorn bags at the movie theater (one refill for free), and as housing prices take off like the booster unit on a space shuttle, the city coffers haven’t seen life this good in years and years. 

So what are these math majors going to do when the economy tanks again? We all know deep in our hearts that the frothy bubble of LA’s housing market is simply unsustainable. If history is a guide, the Council will stick their collective heads in the sand like ostriches, wringing their hands in helpless angst. 

We’ve been here before in Los Angeles with the “great recession” of 2007-08 and it wasn’t pretty. The City Council was impotent and useless in their vain attempts to shift the blame and take fake actions. I see no reason it will be different this time. 

Folks will lose jobs; they will discover what these taxes look like, not to mention property tax assessments on an $800,000 home in places like Echo Park, Silverlake, Glassell Park, Eagle Rock and the other chi chi areas. That 3% interest rate on a bank loan isn’t going to do much good to reduce their property tax bills. 

And yet the Council can’t even balance this year’s budget! As Jack noted regarding the Mayor’s budget message, “on Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti characterized his $5.6 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year as a ‘strong spending plan that is balanced and responsible, with a record investment of $138 million to tackle the City’s homelessness crisis.’”  

But “spending” is the operative word since the cumulative deficit over the next four years is expected to exceed $300 million as the growth in expenditures exceeds that of revenues. This compares to last year’s projection of a four year cumulative deficit of “only” $37 million.  

When you discount the typical press conference horse puckey, the City budget doesn’t even balance in these best of times. Remember, to make this turkey fly, the City is proposing significant DWP Rate Increases, a tax to pay for the homeless that they have generated by dumping folks out of their homes to pave the way for new developments, and a tax to fix the City’s sidewalks. Read Jack’s column about Garcetti’s gee whiz speech in what the Mayor didn’t tell us.  

And this litany doesn’t even count the proposed 1/2 cent additional Metro tax for the next 30 years, an LA County storm water tax, and a County parcel tax to fund Parks. All of this is on the November ballot, along with god knows what from the State. 

While a lot of the ballot measures aren’t limited to the City of LA per se, if you add all of the City, County and Special District proposals, we are in for a lot of liability. 

So, here’s a sample of what’s in store for us: 

Rate Increases at LADWP 

LADWP Increases of about 5% a year for five years (not including MWD ‘pass throughs.’) 

While certain core rate increases are really needed to fix infrastructure problems like broken water mains and power outages, there are add-ons built into the transfer money to City Hall that pay for their pet projects. And the Council knows it.  

The problem with the LADWP is that we don’t actually get to vote on any of this stuff -- the Council does all the voting. 

LA City Sidewalk Fix

 

We don’t know exactly how much this will cost, but the City has already entered into a billion dollar plus legal settlement on the issue, while they have only set aside a token of what is needed in this year’s budget. We know they will be back for more money, be it this November or by some sleight of hand. We’ll see if they are bold enough to actually do a tax increase.

 

A Billion Dollars in Bonds for the LA River

 

This was the much-hailed plan where the Mayor went to Washington and allegedly got a whopping $1 billion to fund the project. But most of the money has disappeared, leaving the City holding the bag.

 

So it looks like a Community Redevelopment Agency style bond money coming down the road. Not a direct tax increase, but guess who’s on the hook if the math doesn’t work out? Taxpayers. Remember that LAUSD bond measure we got hit with?

 

And by the way, the reality is that this project is only going to benefit the rich anyhow.

 

Attacking Homelessness

 

A Homeless Plan includes $100 million just for the City -- with no idea where the money will come from.

 

While the City has set aside $30 million this year, although costs will actually be around $100 million just for the City, both the City and County are looking for funding.

 

Maybe a new tax, or a fee, but the bill is going to have to be paid.

 

Metro Tax Increase

 

A Metro 1/2 cent sales tax increase

 

I particularly like this one, since they are essentially doubling down on the existing $9 billion 1/2 cent sales tax that produced a ten percent drop in usage.

 

How About a County Storm Water Tax

 

For those who track political goings on, this is the one that was laughed off the ballot in 2013 when it got tagged with a line to the effect that, “God made the rain, and it took LA County to figure out how to tax it.” Smart money says they will avoid the November ballot and go for it later.

 

The Takeaway

 

What I find galling is that all of these increases will definitely not benefit us middle and lower income folks.

 

Balanced budget? I don’t think so.

 

Here’s a thought -- hold on tight to your money, read the fine print, and don’t believe a word of the massively funded lobbyist campaigns that are going to be launched for the November ballot. AND VOTE! -- preferably for Bernie!

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TRANSIT TALK--Moving forward from the past to the future is something I advocate for everyone--memory is critical, but forcing one's self to keep focused on the future is just as important.  In my last CityWatch article, I adamantly pronounced my support for the Expo Line, but also raised a few points about the Expo Line being a good neighbor--the time it took to travel from one end of the line to the other was questionable, parking was in insultingly short supply, and bus/Uber/Lyft/rider amenities were also behind where they need to be. 

As the expression goes, "time will tell" whether the 50-55 minutes from one end of the line is accurate, or whether the 46 minute Downtown LA to Downtown Santa Monica timeframe that Metro reports is accurate.  But seven new stations and more access to both Downtowns, as well as the Mid-City and Culver City destinations along the way, can only be a good thing. 

Yet Metro also proclaims that the Expo Line is an alternative to the I-10 freeway, and so the issues of insufficient parking on the Expo Line raised by the LA Times and others threaten the perception of the benefits of the Expo Line, and even threaten whether more transit/transportation funding will pass in this November's proposed sales tax initiative if the Expo Line leaves a sour taste in taxpayers' mouths. 

Pity. 

And perhaps it's just unfair to quote the Times article when one Suja Lowenthal (who may, as the press so often does, have been quoted out of context), the planning and engagement manager for the award-winning and nationally-respected Big Blue Bus, says, "Part of the excitement of rail is figuring it out and having some uncertainty." 

Well, no ... not really.  Not at all.  Uncertainty for most people is very, very BAD. 

Having insufficient parking … 544 spaces … for a line supposed to be an alternative to the I-10 freeway, and for a line supposed to carry tens of thousands of commuters a day?  Really? 

That's akin to building a new or upgraded freeway without onramps and offramps and telling people that it's great they'll have the challenge to access the billion-dollar transportation project they paid for. 

So let's both celebrate the decades-long pursuit and success of the Expo Line while also advocating for changes and upgrades to make it a success to the majority of those who pursued and fought for it.  

And as we celebrate the halfway point of the Crenshaw/LAX Line let's not forget what's necessary to make that line a success, as well. 

Let's confront the Parking, Barking, and Marking issues, shall we?  Please?  Pretty please? 

1) PARKING:  Again, the Expo Line is supposed to be an alternative to the I-10 freeway, and we've got no car to train Metrolink in the region.  This isn't quite the same as the Crenshaw/LAX Line, but any freeway-adjacent station on either line needs parking for the widespread Southern California commuter base to access our urban/dense cores. 

So taking advantage of the two main Westside "regional" stations at Exposition/Sepulveda and Venice/Robertson is not a kooky, naive, or uninformed idea.  It's common sense.   

We've got a no-build, non-residential "dead zone" near the Casden project adjacent to the 405 freeway that's itching for a Regional Transportation Center (with parking, bus/van and bicycle amenities) to include hundreds of parking spaces.  We've also got the need for a similar center on the Los Angeles side of the Venice/Robertson station, and having Culver City do the job of Los Angeles for its residents isn't acceptable. 

Or do we just have to wait for Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Herb Wesson to be termed out of office in order for them to be FOR something with respect to their constituents on this issue?  The parking need not, and SHOULD not, be free, but dumping Expo Line commuter-focused parking on adjacent neighborhoods is just wrong on so many levels.  Make it easy, make it affordable, and make it fair for all parties involved. 

And if the Expo/Crenshaw station and the Hindry/Westchester stations need it on the Crenshaw Line, as well as any South Bay Green Line stations once that line connects to LAX, then so be it.  Just DO what the taxpayers and commuters want, OK?  Is it so hard to listen to your constituents? 

2) BARKING:  We've heard from the NIMBY's, the race-baiters, and the haters, about how this Expo Line will cause problems and how it's all about them.  To some degree, we've seen this about the Crenshaw/LAX Line as well, what with race and civil rights issues misused aplenty when simple transportation/planning, urban redevelopment, economic enhancement and environmental planning should have been the main focus. 

What we've not heard enough from are the greater voter electorate.  Most of the communities want an east-west Expo Line and north-south Crenshaw/LAX line...period.  They want it to enhance the economy, mobility, environment, and quality of life for the majority of residents and commuters who's use and/or benefit from these lines. 

They want the businesses preserved, more parking built if the neighborhoods and businesses cry out for it, and they want these lines to be safe, clean, and convenient for people of all ages, races, and backgrounds...and they don't want any litany of excuses on why that can't be done.   

This is true from the Westside to the Mid-City to Downtown, and from the Wilshire District to the Mid-City to the South Bay.  They're all happy to see new projects succeed...but the constant barking from the usual suspects needs to be addressed when it becomes clear that those barking are IN THE MINORITY.  Listen to all parties, and if the MAJORITY wants something contrary to the MINORITY, please follow MAJORITY RULE. 

3) MARKING:  Things will change that will "blow everyone's mind".  When the Downtown Connector is completed by 2022-23, and the Crenshaw/LAX Line is also completed, there will be several north-south lines that require renaming.  And future lines will need highlighting. 

a) Will the east/west Exposition/Eastside Light Rail Line become one big Gold Line? 

b) Will the north/south Blue Line and Pasadena (and connecting Foothill) Gold Line become one big Blue Line? 

c) Will the east-west Green Line to LAX...and beyond to the Westside become one big Green Line, or shall it be renamed? 

d) Will the north-south Crenshaw/LAX Line and the South Bay segment of the Green Line become one big new line, with a future color to be named (or shall it be the Green Line)? 

e) When we talking about finishing the Crenshaw Line, does that mean expanding it north to the Wilshire/Purple and Red Line subways, or creating a new wing from Inglewood to the Blue Line and Downtown via the Harbor Subdivision Rail Right of Way, or both? 

Let's celebrate this weekend's new light rail line.  Let's celebrate grassroots advocacy and government leadership. 

But let's not rest on any laurels while there's so much work, discussion, and leadership that glaringly remain in order to create the Exposition and Crenshaw/LAX Lines we all know, in our hearts and minds, that we all fought for...and which we deserve to have.

 

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

-cw

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-In response to the rash of demolition development disrupting their neighborhood, the members of Save Valley Village are focused on gathering signatures for a Krekorian recall petition ahead of the July 26 deadline. “Ideally, we want to get in before the deadline,” explains a representative for sVV, “There a section in the election code that allows us to assume for some mistakes in signatures or for people who aren’t registered. This gives us a time period to go back to collect additional signatures or to correct mistakes.” (Photo above: Councilman Paul Krekorian in council chambers.) 

Instead of going door to door, the group has been attending local events, doing what they can to make sure everyone signing is registered, and meeting with pockets of people throughout the city districts to circulate and spread the word.

As soon as enough signatures are collected, the group will submit the petition to the clerk, who has twenty days to review the signatures and at that point, if it’s before the deadline. Within twenty days, the petition needs to be sent to council and a special election would be organized for all voters in CD 2. February 25, the organization served a note of intent to serve, which was also sent to Councilmember Krekorian on February 29. On March 1, the notice was published in the newspaper, as required. Krekorian had twenty-one days to answer to the notice. He had not responded by the March 21 deadline. The petition was approved by March 31. 

If the petition gathers enough of the requisite signatures, a special election will be held. The sVV representative shares that a couple of people have mentioned they might run. “What we’re contemplating is how to really tell if it’s the right person for the job if we’re doing all this work to create a seat, if we’ve seriously given up our lives. This is all we do 24 hours a day and if people are waiting to know if a seat has opened up, that’s the wrong person for the job. This shows us they paid zero attention to the Recall Krekorian effort and the issues. If a candidate is really interested in the community problems, he or she wants to review our site and get involved in the recall. We hope we aren’t doing this to roll out another red carpet for an identical problem.” 

The Save Valley Village members have committed thousands of hours to fixing a problem facing their community and hope to extend that commitment to mentor other districts with similar issues. “We don’t want people to be afraid. People have a right to send back their meal when they’re served something wrong. It’s okay to speak up. It’s the only way it’s going to happen,” the sVV rep advises. “If it’s not working, we can fix it. We really think we can change things and get this back on track. It sounds really cheesy but sometimes it takes the smallest amount of effort to make the biggest impact. We have to get away from this attitude that I’m just one. Come to a meeting. Spend an hour a day informing your neighbors.”

 

ACTION INFO

 

Where can I sign the petition from Save Valley Village?

 

MAY 21 circulators will be at Fryman Canyon between 8:30am and 11:30am.

MAY 21 circulators will also be at the HOPE WALK in North Hollywood Park between 8am and 1pm.

Council District 2 covers a wide range of areas including: Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Sun Valley, La Tuna Canyon, Shadow Hills, Van Nuys, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Burbank, NoHo, Toluca Terrace and Studio City.

People may not even know they CAN sign a petition to stop corruption.

They can easily find out what Council District they fall under by typing in their address here

Petitions are also available Monday through Saturday during business hours at PINK PRINTERS in Studio City and The Candy Factory in Valley Village.

If folks are out running errands this is a great way to stop in and sign at a small local business.

Petitions are also available on the Save Valley Village website, should anyone prefer to print out their own and sign that way. Take the petition to neighbors.

Just send us an email and we will send someone right over to pick up the signed petition.

Most importantly, even if folks think they are registered, signatures are useless unless the signers are registered in Council District 2.

This is easily checked by going to this site

 

 

 

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

Tags: Beth Cone Kramer, This is What I Know, Save Valley Village, Recall petitions, Paul Krekorian, LA City Council, developers, vote trading

 

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--LA’s Mobility Plan 2035 suffered a potential setback at today’s meeting of the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee. Today’s action likely sends the plan back to the Planning Commission for further decisions. (Photo above: Ten-year-old Rachel Lee (center) speaking in favor of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard and throughout Los Angeles.)

Mobility Plan 2035 was approved by the City Council in August 2015, then challenged in court. Due to the legal case, the plan was then re-approved and then re-re-approval got underway.

On the Transportation Committee agenda today was a modest set of minor plan amendments, most notable for what they did not include. Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Curren Price had requested that the City Planning Department (DCP) amend the approved plan to remove bike facilities designated for Westwood Boulevard and Central Avenue, respectively. Koretz and Price’s anti-bike amendments were rejected by DCP staff and by the City Planning Commission in February.

Attending today’s Transportation Committee meeting were Chair Mike Bonin and committee members David Ryu, Jose Huizar, and Koretz.

Public testimony at today’s hearing was near-unanimous in urging the committee to “keep the network intact” by approving DCP’s minor amendments as is. TRUST South LA representatives and others focused on keeping Central Avenue in the bike network. UCLA and other Westwood community interests emphasized keeping Westwood Boulevard in the bike network. The loudest applause came for 10-year-old Rachel Lee who gathered over 200 signatures in favor of implementing bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard. Additional speakers in support of an intact plan included representatives of AARP, Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and Pacoima Beautiful.

After public comment, a lot of committee discussion was focused on procedures for any potential plan amendments. The lawsuit that attacked the plan criticized the process by which the plan had been amended. Under the city charter, any amendments made by the City Council must go back to the City Planning Commission for approval. City staff appeared somewhat nervous to respond committally to process questions, given the prior lawsuit. 

Koretz proposed a plan amendment to remove bike facilities planned for Westwood Boulevard and Central Avenue. In the past, Koretz and Price had requested that these facilities just be deleted from the plan. Today, Koretz proposed that the bikeways be shifted to alternative parallel streets: Westwood Blvd to Gailey Avenue and Midvale Avenue, Central Avenue to Avalon Boulevard and San Pedro Street. DCP responded that they had only studied (and recommended against) removal of facilities from the plan, not modifying them, though, theoretically, alternate parallel facilities could be evaluated and implemented as part of the project implementation process.

Surprisingly, Councilmember Huizar, a stalwart supporter of bicycling and multi-modal mobility, seconded Koretz’ motion, saying that he supported alternatives getting a fair hearing. The Koretz motion passed 3-1, with only Bonin opposing. This means that the anti-bike motion passed out of committee and will be heard by the full City Council at its 10 a.m. meeting this Friday. Both the Koretz anti-bike motion and the DCP minor amendments go to council.

If the City Council approves the Koretz motion, then the new Koretz anti-bike amendments will need to go back to the City Planning Commission. If the CPC rejects the amendments, then it is possible for the City Council to override the CPC. Though much of the approved plan should be proceeding to the implementation phase, overall re-re-approval remains bogged down by the hostility of Koretz and Price.

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

SAME LA, DIFFERENT VISION--Endorsers of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative warned Monday that a counter-plan financed by labor, Build Better LA (BBLA), will boost gridlock and hasten demolitions in rent-stabilized communities, all while accelerating LA's price-gouging luxury housing craze.  

 “This Build Better LA measure will fuel the city’s development frenzy,” said veteran Westwood community leader Sandy Brown, who is endorsing a reform-minded March ballot measure that aims to end the very backroom dealing by the City Council that Build Better is embracing.

 Brown backs the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which repairs L.A.'s broken system of development, currently driven by closed-door deals between developers and individual city council members who take money from those developers. The desires of communities and residents are pushed aside.

 “The situation is bad enough now,” Brown said. “But if this measure passes we’ll have a nightmare on our hands. No neighborhood will be safe” if BBLA is approved in November. Brown, a respected expert on city land use and development, says LA  needs the reforms contained in the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, heading for the March ballot.

 Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association president Richard Close said today that “Public concerns about overdevelopment and the widespread perception that the City Hall land-use approval system is rigged for developers are the big issues in Los Angeles. The Build Better LA initiative fails to address these issues.”

 Close, who endorses the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, is a respected voice for intelligent development in the Valley. He helped lead efforts to save Sherman Oaks from a massive “community redevelopment” plan and misguided developer-backed projects aimed at paving over one of LA's most livable neighborhoods.

 Close added that the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative heading for the March ballot is a carefully written citizen movement to reform City Hall while allowing healthy development and construction jobs to flower. “The LA labor movement also should not fear the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative,” Close advised. He noted that under the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative “Most building projects in Los Angeles can be built 'by right' and won't be affected by the initiative. Labor will do fine under our initiative.”

 Richard Riordan, who has endorsed the reform-aimed Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, says BBLA “Will never produce the kind of affordable housing its backers are promising. That plan will create overdevelopment all over Los Angeles, and a lot of apartments that rent for $3,000 a month. We're seeing people displaced and homeless pushed out, and this idea just makes things worse.”

Riordan noted that any plan that hands the City Council even more power to alter the zoning of a single piece of land for a developer friend is bad news for neighborhoods fighting congestion, displacement of residents  and destruction of neighborhood character.

A key endorser of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, former Los Angeles city  planner Dick Platkin, says the amount money changing hands at Los Angeles City Hall will explode if voters approve BBLA. “In effect, the exact pay-to-play practices that have prompted the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will continue through the Build Better LA Initiative,” says Platkin. “The power of the City Council to enact parcel-levels legislative ordinances will be increased, not reduced, through the BBLA loophole.”

Platkin points to BBLA's key loophole that lets the City Council decide if developers are getting a “reasonable return on investment.” If a majority thinks a developer isn't getting rich enough, BBLA lets the city council slash the promised affordable housing.

The City Council and mayor have accepted $6 million in campaign donations from the real estate industry since 2000, creating a clear conflict of interest.

Platkin warns of BBLA: “Thanks to the lack of any precise threshold of profitability, the non-existent standards of financial evidence, the missing formal review process, and the failure to hold public hearings and appeals on developers’ requests for the City Council to waive affordable housing requirements on a project-by-project level, this loophole well deserves the title, “The Backroom Bonanza Initiative.”

Endorsers of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative are attached to this press release.

Labor groups and others backing Build Better LA say they want to increase the city's affordable housing supply – by encouraging luxury developments that tower over neighborhoods zoned only for low-rise buildings.

But the BBLA measure is misguided, giving far too much new power to the city council to help developers get around zoning rules, destroy neighborhood character, and ignore the limits of local infrastructure — including roads, water mains and safety services that can't handle the proposed major new density.

BBLA is swimming against a popular tide. From the Los Angeles Times to veteran lawmaker Zev Yaroslavsky, who led a popular 1980s slow-growth initiative, the momentum to fix the broken City Hall planning system and give residents more say  is growing – and it is being led by the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.

Unlike the BBLA measure, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative ends the controversial LA City Council practice of granting exceptions, special favors and exemptions to let developers get around the rules.

 

(John Schwada is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner and is the Communications Director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. He is a contributor to CityWatch. His consulting firm is MediaFix Associates.)

-cw

SAME LA, DIFFERENT VISIONS—On Monday, a coalition of labor and affordable housing advocates delivered petitions signed by nearly 100,000 City of Los Angeles residents who support the Build Better LA initiative going on the November 2016 ballot. A chain of workers in uniform delivered one box at a time directly to the City Clerk's office. The measure would have needed approximately 62,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, but volunteers collected nearly 100,000 signatures total. Volunteers reached thousands of voters through door-to-door outreach, at storefronts, and around transit hubs.   

The Build Better LA initiative, which was launched in February 2016, would incentivize developers to create more housing residents can afford near transit, and it will ensure that a percentage of residential units are set aside for low-income residents in Los Angeles on projects that receive discretionary zone changes or General Plan amendments. The initiative also includes a local hire provision that ensures a living wage with good job standards. 

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

"Build Better LA is crucial to move LA in the right direction. Too many residents are getting priced out of their homes, and too many are struggling to find a good job. This is an issue that impacts all Angelenos from every corner of our City," said Laura Raymond, Campaign Director for Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles and member of the Build Better LA Coalition. 

"LA keeps growing, but there is not enough housing that's affordable to keep people in their communities. Build Better LA ensures that more people have access to high-wage jobs and housing that's affordable. It also ensures that the residents who have created such a strong and vibrant Los Angeles can remain in the communities they call home," said José Eduardo Sánchez, Director of Organizing with Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance.

"Growing up in LA, I always assumed that I would continue to live and raise my family here, but with the way rents have skyrocketed, I had no choice but to move away from the City that I called my home. Build Better LA will give me and other hard working people the opportunity to find affordable homes close to work," said Lyn Landers, Sheet Metal Worker with SMART Sheet Metal Local Union 105. 

"We believe that every resident in the City of LA should have equal opportunity to not only survive, but to live with dignity and thrive in our communities," said Reverend Oliver Buie, pastor at Holman United Methodist Church and member with ACT-LA. 

Through November, the Build Better LA Coalition will continue to speak to every voter in the City of LA to bring a shared vision of healthy, accessible housing and good, local jobs.

 

(Gabriella Landeros is a spokesperson for Build Better LA.) 

-cw

ANIMAL WATCH-The good news for National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 15-21) is that Los Angeles is no longer the USPS ‘Dog-Bite Capital,” a distinction garnered in 2014 from 77 dog bites to US Postal Service mail carriers. L.A. descended to fourth place in 2015 at 55 bites. Still too many, but we are trending in the right direction. 

The bad news is that more than one-third of the $570 million paid nationally in homeowners’ insurance liability claims in 2015 were for dog bites and dog-related injuries, and Californians filed 1,684--the largest number in the country, according to State Farm.  

More disturbing information for ratepayers (whether or not they own a dog), is the Insurance Information Institute report that:         

  • While the number of dog-bite claims decreased 7.2 percent nationwide in 2015, the average cost per claim was up 16 percent. 
  • The average cost per dog-related claim nationally rose more than 94 percent from 2003 to 2015, with costs skyrocketing this past year. 
  • The national average payout per claim rose from $32,072 in 2014 to $37 214 in 2015.
  • California dog-bite claims cost an average of $44,983 each--topped only by Arizona, with only 393 claims, but an astounding average payout of $56,654. 

This does not bode well for the future of dog-bite insurance for Californians. 

LA Animal Services’ GM Brenda Barnette instituted what some consider an overly stringent “dangerous dog policy” after a February 2, 2015, exposé, LA Puts Dangerous Dogs Back on the Streets, by NBC News Investigator Joel Grover on laxness in LAAS handling of dog (and people) maulings in the city, and the current Commission has taken a much stronger stand on revoking the license of dogs where the owner has appealed a “dangerous dog” declaration. 

But, it will take several years to determine if that has actually influenced the decrease in attacks on mail carriers (or residents in general) -- because LA Animal Services does not keep a record of dog-bite reports within the city. 

Nationwide attacks on US Postal Service’s carriers are definitely not headed in the right direction, with stats showing: 5,581 bites in 2013; 5,767 in 2014; and a staggering leap to 6,549 in 2015. 

Safe mail delivery is important to us personally and to our national economy. Along with electronic bill-paying, communicating by e-mail, and other technical advances, more and more Angelenos (made captive in our own homes by traffic congestion) and shoppers everywhere, are enjoying the convenience and stress reduction of shopping on-line. 

This requires home delivery by USPS and other carriers, until drones have replaced humans. And, unlike letters, most parcel deliveries must be made directly to the door, not just a mail box. This requires entering the property and adds to the responsibility of dog owners to assure safety. 

Dog owners who believe their pet loves everybody must come to the realization that their “furry family member” can bite and cause serious or fatal damage. Liability is not limited to harmful, deliberate attacks. 

Dog owners are liable for any injuries and damages caused by their dog if they have been negligent in confining the dog or keeping it under control. This includes an over-exuberant dog who knocks someone down after escaping from the inside of a home or yard or chases a person who falls and is seriously hurt, or a dog that runs into the street and causes an accident. 

California is a strict-liability state, and does not have a “one-free-bite” rule. This means that a person injured by a dog attack or bite does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent or that the owner had knowledge of the dog’s vicious or aggressive tendencies…the injured victim only needs to establish that the bite or injury resulted in damages. 

The dog owner is automatically deemed responsible for expenses and damages to the victim, whether or not the dog has previously bitten or attacked another individual. (The only exception to this strict liability is if the individual bitten was trespassing on the dog owner’s property.) 

Under California’s dog bite statute, a dog owner is liable for any and all damages and injuries suffered by the individual bitten by the dog, as long as the individual was on public property or was lawfully in a private place. A person is considered to be lawfully on private property if his or her presence was performing a duty enforced by state laws or the postal regulations of the United States, or if the dog bite victim was on the property upon the dog owner’s implied or expressed invitation,Los Angeles Dog Bite Lawyer explains. 

Dog-bite cases are receiving increasing empathy toward victims. This created what Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals/24-7, calls, “legal and political history” on January 12, 2015, when Erin Ingram, an eight-year-old victim of a pit bull attack which resulted in loss of part of one of her arms, losing partial use of the other arm and serious injuries to both ankles, was awarded $72 million by the jury. (DeKalb County, GA, senior judge Matthew Robins overruled the award of $72 million and instead awarded Ingram and her family almost $37-million, Clifton reports.) 

It is obvious from the tremendous upswing in costs, that insurance companies will increasingly be raising rates and/or placing restrictions on issuing policies, which is another incentive to be sure pets are well-trained and carefully confined or controlled. Many attacks occur in homes and involve someone the dog already knows. The highest numbers of bites are to children. Experts agree that no child should be left alone or unsupervised with any dog. 

The Insurance Information Institute advises that the dog owner is responsible for all damages exceeding the liability limits of a homeowner or renter policy (typically $100,000/$300,000) and addresses the issue of dog breeds: 

Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, non-renew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.

“Some insurers are taking steps to limit their exposure to such losses. Some companies require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, while others charge more for owners of breeds such as pit bulls and Rottweilers and others are not offering insurance to dog owners at all,” III.org explains.

USPS Goes Tech with ‘Bytes vs. Bites’ 

USPS is introducing technology to keep carriers safe. As part of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the Postal Service announced two measures to prevent dog attacks, an issue that affected more than 6,500 employees last year. 

The program, called “Bytes vs. Bites,” was introduced by USPS Safety Director Linda De Carlo, who outlined that, effective May 13 on usps.com’s Package Pickup application, customers will be asked to indicate whether there is a dog at their address when they schedule a package pickup. 

A second step goes into effect later this spring. 

“The Mobile Delivery Devices that letter carriers use to scan packages to confirm delivery will include a feature that allows carriers to indicate the presence of a dog at an individual address. This is especially helpful to substitutes who fill-in for letter carriers on their days off,” she states. 

The Postal Service provides these tips for safe and uninterrupted delivery: 

If a letter carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers. 

Parents should remind their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet, as the dog may view the letter carrier handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture. 

DeCarlo stressed that employee safety is a priority for USPS, “If a letter carrier feels threatened by a vicious dog or if a dog is running loose, the owner may be asked to pick up the mail at the Post Office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors may be asked to pick up their mail at the Post Office as well.” 

Owning a dog is an on-going, serious responsibility. Los Angeles, the self-proclaimed ‘humane capital,’ should not be on the national USPS dog-bite list! These tips are not just important for safety of delivery personnel but good reminders for keeping pets safe and reducing the chance of your dog becoming another insurance statistic with potentially devastating consequences for all.

(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.

-cw

SAVE VV … A SIT DOWN--Save Valley Village is an unincorporated association of concerned residents who are taking action … and other groups are taking notice. In an unprecedented move, sVV is suing all 15 LA City Council members, setting the standard for recall efforts in other SoCal communities. The group is also collecting signatures from Council District 2 voters for a petition to recall Councilmember Paul Krekorian. 

I sat down with a sVV member to get the backstory. All members have a policy of anonymity for fear of retaliation. 

Valley Village has been in the forefront of slash and burn development that leads to demolition of historic properties at the cusp of receiving protective status, over-densification of neighborhoods, and the erosion of neighborhood character. The City Council has been cozy with developers, approving developer-initiated zone changing. The dedicated members of sVV are aiming to put an end to that. 

“Everybody’s jaw dropped that they’re getting away with it. Nobody can wrap their head around what we have,” the sVV member explains. “We are supposed to bring our concerns to City Hall and our concerns to Krekorian when all they do is rubber stamp projects. There’s no enforcement. Nobody checks. If the developers do a demolition, they just pay the demolition fee. It’s unbelievable!” 

“It’s a sensitive subject. What the media has grabbed onto is the application for the property. The media was so intrigued by the information that was found about the back bungalow where Marilyn Monroe once lived. The front property turned out to the last and oldest building, built in 1903. The architecture of the house included stone and represented everything from the time period, an excellent example of that period,” she says. “It wasn’t so much what happened but how Krekorian handled it. Once that (demolition) happened, we’d go to other neighborhood council meetings and see another family with a piece of paper, crying about what is happening as a result of the property next door to them, how the family’s life was completely turned upside down as a result.” 

“Planning Deputy Karo Torossian was at one meeting when a woman was crying about her son, who had gotten sick during an illegal demolition. That’s what did it for me. Nobody blinked an eye. This illegal demolition released asbestos, killing the neighbors’ landscaping, and knocked down a fence that separated the two properties. A Caterpillar was halfway parked in their yard! We sent pictures to Krekorian every day but he didn’t respond once.” 

“We started going to neighborhood council meetings and connected with others with similar stories. The meetings were more and more crowded, with more stories. Nobody was saying anything and they wouldn’t let us talk for more than a minute. There was no dialogue back and forth to say, ‘Here is the problem and here is the proposed solution. How do we get the family and their son safe again?’” 

The concerned neighbors started to hold meetings by themselves. The sVV representative says as the stories kept coming, they did more research about Krekorian, from campaign contributions to land use entitlements. The information was buried in websites. The group spent almost a third of a year, day and night, going through data to make sure it was consistent with census data and helping neighbors who had nowhere to go. The sVV representative says Krekorian was non-responsive to a series of construction and developments approvals that were harmful to residents.

Another issue resulting from the rash of development is the lack of affordable housing resulting from gentrification. “These places aren’t even for sale but people are coming to doors, harassing the owners and offering cash. They aren’t selling to families as single family homes, although there’s also the McMansion issue. Our group is a collaborative effort of homeowners and renters,” she says. “It’s all the same battle about subdivisions that are incompatible with the general plan.” 

“Look at all demolitions. We have the highest demolition rate of all other districts. Why is that?” she questions. “Krekorian allows every project. Karo shows up at all the hearings and gives full support to developers, even when there are forty people there opposing. We realized this guy we put where he is to serve the community is not looking out for our best interests. The neighborhood is going through pure identity theft!” 

For more information on how you can support Save Valley Village, visit the website

 

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

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