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.)


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.) 


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.


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.

AT LENGTH-It’s happening across the country -- a populist backlash from the right and the left -- the flames of which are nipping at the heels of marginalized communities, whether they’re immigrants, Muslim, transgender or homeless or a part of the billionaire class or the corrupt Wall Street bankers and brokers. Both sides of this populist uprising can be heard via social media and other media outlets during this presidential election cycle. 

The cacophony of narratives and counter narratives of conservative and progressive authenticity has become only slightly less chaotic with the elimination of 16 GOP rivals from our rather curious primary election system. 

It has often been said that all politics is local and it can’t get any more local than at any of the 96 neighborhood councils in Los Angeles that are also having their elections this month and next. 

There are 33 and 35 candidates respectively running for Central’s and Coastal’s Neighborhood Council’s 17 seats -- vying for the privilege to donate hours of unpaid service to democratically represent stakeholders in a body that has no more than an “advisory” role in city politics. 

In the interest of transparency, I am one of those candidates running for re-election to the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council. I have also been a target for some people who claim they are “Saving San Pedro.” This phrase sounds a similar note as Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” suggesting that San Pedro is in decline if not in some state of arrested development. In a political climate such as this, theirs is a great political slogan. 

Slogans, however, are not platforms. Nor are they an agenda that can accomplish anything. They are, at their root, a form of political propaganda intended to encapsulate an idea to motivate voters or to deceive them. 

Yet, so much of what is behind both Trump and the creators of Saving San Pedro -- a Facebook group that rose up against the San Pedro homeless advocates and then belatedly filed for non-profit status -- is a fear of all the things they don’t understand, be it immigrants or the homeless. 

Both the Trumpites and our local Savers are nativist, NIMBY reactions to serious economic conditions that are more complex and harder to solve than building a wall on a border or deploying the police to evict homeless encampments from public spaces. Anyone who knows anything on either subject will tell you that you can’t arrest your way out of illegal immigration or homelessness. Yet, that’s mostly what’s being done about the homeless in Los Angeles City Council District 15, with the exception of the work done by Harbor Interfaith Services’ workers and two LAPD quality of life officers. 

Since last August, when our Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council brought the plight of our unsheltered neighbors to the attention of the community and all of Los Angeles, Councilman Joe Buscaino quickly held a community forum on the subject and appointed a taskforce. 

Unfortunately, that task force held private meetings and didn’t include anyone from our neighborhood council and has yet to issue a report of its findings or even an action plan on dealing with our rather small, yet growing homeless population. 

Despite Buscaino’s enforcement approach and the Los Angeles City Council promising but not producing $100 million to address homelessness, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority announced May 9 that the number of homeless in Council District 15 rose from 1,544 in 2015 to 1,773 this year. 

Several of the San Pedro Savers are on Buscaino’s taskforce and as I’ve said before, they have yet to come up with a solution other than continued forced evictions and prohibiting the feeding of the homeless in public parks. 

Are you serious, you might ask? Sure, a small number of homeless people have been given assistance yet it is obvious by the increase that this clearly isn’t enough. 

The Savers have been very bold in shaming the homeless on their favorite medium, Facebook -- shouting down anyone who challenges them there and confiscating unprotected shopping carts while claiming that “all the homeless are criminals or drug addicts.” 

The statistics from the recent homeless count prove these allegations untrue, as mental illness tops the list and substance abuse comes in third just above domestic violence. Several of the Saving San Pedro folks, along with Buscaino, are in the process of being sued for harassment and one of them, Joanne Rallo, is due back in court May 20 on a restraining order. 

While the challenge of homelessness has become a greater problem all across America, with Los Angeles County being the epicenter, it is not a singular problem solved with a simple solution -- especially with the decline in affordable housing, the loss of good middle class jobs, the pressure to gentrify neighborhoods and a flat-line growth in real wages for over three decades. 

Yes, I hear that people are angry and I actually understand that anger. But I don’t go around blaming the victims just to make myself or my neighbors feel better. 

I have said this before and I’ll say it again: Conflict precedes resolution. Only after everybody is done yelling can there be any commitment to resolving a problem. I believe that for every human problem there is a humane solution. 

As for now, the lines have been drawn between progressives and nativist populists, and the one solution we have come to embrace since the American Civil War is the ballot box. As you might well suspect, I endorse both the progressive slate at the Coastal and Central neighborhood councils, as well as Bernie Sanders for president. This is the point at which you connect your local interests to the national politics and then recognize that democracy only matters if you show up and vote.


(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He was elected to the presidency of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in 2014 and has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen … and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


 ATTACK ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING-Nationwide, the middle class is shrinking in metropolitan areas, according to a Pew Research Center report, and that includes Los Angeles. We’re not surprised — when City Hall policies bring about the demolition of more than 20,000 rent-controlled units, you’re going to have an exodus of middle-income folks. Local politicians’ citywide template for a new, luxury LA that features high-end mega-projects for the affluent will only exacerbate the troubling trend.  

Making big headlines today, the Pew Research Center released a report titled, “America’s Shrinking Middle Class: A Close Look at Changes Within Metropolitan Areas.”  The Los Angeles Times noted: 

Many experts regard a shrinking middle class as worrisome for economic and social stability, and the issue — along with a related trend of skewed gains among the nation’s richest — is seen as a major factor in the anger and resentment displayed by voters during recent primaries that have fueled the campaigns of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, and on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders. 

In general, Pew found that areas with a larger middle class tended to have a smaller degree of income inequality. 

“The deeper root at what is driving inequality and really hollowing out the middle class — that is a pattern very strong in the metro areas,” said Rakesh Kochhar, associate director of the Pew Research Center. “It is cutting across all communities. No one seems immune to this widening inequality trend.” 

But LA is not one of those metropolitan areas with a larger middle class. The Pew Research Center reported: 

In about a quarter of the metropolitan areas in 2014, middle-class adults do not constitute a clear majority of the adult population. Notably, many of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas fall into this group, including Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA, where 47 percent of adults were middle income; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA (48 percent); New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (48 percent); Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH (49 percent); and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX (49 percent). 

In some of these metropolitan areas, such as the Boston and San Francisco regions, the relatively small share of the middle-income tier reflects the fact that the upper-income tier is larger than average. But in the Los Angeles region, the middle class is relatively small because the share of adults who are lower income is greater than average. 

But LA politicians seem to have a solution for having a greater than average number of lower-income citizens — just tear down rent-controlled units, build a luxury housing skyscraper and push them out of their neighborhoods. Voila! Problem solved. After all, that’s what’s happening, or will be soon underway, in Venice, Koreatown, Westlake and Hollywood, among other places. 

We’ve already seen an exodus in Hollywood between 2000 and 2010 of more than 12,000 Latinos, according to LA Weekly. And we’re seeing City Hall embrace, among many other projects, a 27-story luxury housing skyscraper in a working-class community in Koreatown. 

With our middle class shrinking, does LA need more luxury housing skyscrapers like this one pictured above that is proposed by developer Rick Caruso at 333 La Cienega Boulevard? 

Clearly, our middle- and working-class neighborhoods need better land-use protections, and local politicians have shown no desire to make that happen. That’s why we need the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. It will stop developer control of City Hall, which is driving the luxury housing push, and allow citizens to have more say on land-use policies in their communities. 

Right now, LA’s rigged and broken development-approval process only favors deep-pocketed developers who also want to turn LA into a luxury city. And according to the Pew Research Center and other experts, that will only cause economic and social instability — and create an LA with greater income inequality. 

Is this the kind of city that Angelenos want? 

Join the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative movement by clicking to our Act page right now, and follow and cheer our efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at [email protected]

Together, we can create the change that LA needs!


(Patrick Range McDonald writes for 2PreserveLA.org.)  Photo via Rick Caruso Affiliated. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DESIGN--For Agence Ter's redesign of Los Angeles' Pershing Square, this rendering shows a human-scale view from the middle of the square looking out.

Rarely does anything with a photovoltaic canopy, a “great lawn,” no fewer than 13 design collaborators, and an estimated $50 million budget qualify as simple. But, relative to its competitors, that’s exactly what the winning design in the Pershing Square Renew competition is.

If all goes according to plan, by 2020, Los Angeles’ Pershing Square will be flattened, scraped clean and reintroduced to a public that has long crossed the street to avoid it.

Located in the heart of downtown, Pershing Square has aspired to be one of the country’s great public spaces — and failed miserably. [[https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/los-angeles-pershing-square-design-makeover ]]   Twin forces of urban decay and atrocious, unwelcoming design have conspired to drive away would-be visitors for decades, leaving the square a notable exception in downtown’s steady revitalization. Nonprofit Pershing Square Renew was founded two years ago by developers and other stakeholders, including City Council Member Jose Huizar, who decided that enough was enough.

The organization sponsored a design competition that received submissions from a star-studded list of locally and internationally recognized design firms, each with expertise in architecture and landscape architecture. Out of 10 semifinalists, four finalists were chosen last month. Yesterday the team led by Paris-based Agence Ter was announced as the winner. 

In many ways, the choice was obvious. Agence Ter’s design was the only one that met Pershing Square Renew’s guidelines.

Pershing Square is currently encumbered by bunker-style walls and various follies that, notwithstanding the ugliness of their early-1990s neon paint jobs, physically separate the square from the surrounding streets. The competition called for the opposite in the redesign: something that would open the square up and welcome visitors rather than intimidate them.

“We’ve said very clearly: Don’t approach this as the next wonderful portfolio piece that’s going to win awards,” Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew, said in December.

That’s why it’s curious that the three other finalists submitted visions that I see as grossly over-designed. Fussy, even. The team led by James Corner Field Operations would have built an artificial hill on the square’s south side, thus creating exactly the type of barrier that Pershing Square Renew sought to eliminate. The teams of wHY with Civitas and SWA with Morphosis also operated heavily in three dimensions, with raised lawns and undulating structures.

The Agence Ter design is almost entirely flat, lowering the surface of the square so that it is flush with the encircling sidewalks. It aggressively bids adieu to the 1992 design’s purple tower and yellow walls with nothing more garish than trees and grass.

Its brilliance, or at least adequacy, is evident in a single rendering (top photo). It is not of a dramatic bird’s-eye view or of some cute feature like a grotto or miniature mountain. Rather, it is a human-scale view from the middle of the square looking out, such that the square’s grassy lawn visually blends in with the Biltmore Hotel across the street, with trees framing its Beaux-Arts entryway and a rectangular water feature lined up with the front door, as if the hotel and square had been built together. (They were, for the most part; one has just aged better than the other.)

Of the six official renderings that each of the four teams submitted, the Biltmore view is the only one of its kind — the only one that truly connects the square with the city.

The other designs also accommodated the subterranean parking garage that currently sits below the square more generously, making way for its curb cuts and protuberances. The Agence Ter design would spend a large portion of its $50 million budget to shave off the top five feet of the garage, thus achieving a double-benefit: a properly elevated square without extra funds to build ridiculous structures.

It’s hard not to speculate that the star power than went into the competition’s designs was, in fact, their undoing. Despite Pershing Square Renew’s calls for modesty, each included barriers and design flourishes that directed attention toward structures and away from people and the surrounding city.

They took their cues from the type of disembodied starchitecture that downtown Los Angeles knows so well — Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Broad Museum, and Rafael Moneo’s cathedral, to name a few — and refused to give the city what it desperately needs: an inviting vernacular streetscape in which people can live rather than another object at which they can gape.

It’s notable that Agence Ter is French and is, therefore, amply familiar with the great, and simple, public spaces of Europe.

Pershing Square will never be Hotel de Ville. It may never even be Bryant Park. Indeed, until backers come up with $50 million, the new Pershing Square may never be built at all. But, by opting for flat instead of flash, Pershing Square Renew has already elevated the prospects for public spaces in Los Angeles.

(Josh Stephens is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Planning Magazine, Sierra Magazine, the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is a contributing editor to the California Planning & Development Report and Planetizen. His website is joshrstephens.net. This review was posted originally at Next City.) 


TAXED TO DEATH--Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have suggested an income tax on millionaires dedicating the money for homelessness relief. Opening the door for local governments to impose income taxes would erode the state’s major fund raising mechanism, burden taxpayers with more paperwork, hit small businesses whose owners pay business taxes through personal income taxes, and subject more government revenue to a highly volatile revenue source. 

All in all -- a bad idea 

Last week, when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill that would have permitted local governments to levy cigarette taxes, he complained that there already are too many taxes on the coming ballot. A push for an income tax would increase the volume of tax measures facing voters. 

Yesterday, the LA Board of Supervisors put off for one week a motion to ask county lobbyists to try and convince legislators to change the law that prohibits local jurisdictions from imposing an income tax. 

Still, Pandora’s Box on local income taxes has been cracked open. If the movement persists, the consequences can be great. 

The proposal to levy local income taxes comes at a time that a statewide effort to extend the Proposition 30 state income tax levies is on-going. California’s top income tax payers already pay the highest income tax rate in the country. 

LA County wants to pile on. 

The LA County supervisors think they have a winning proposal. The press release announcing the effort said a poll showed 76% support. Advocates of the idea will point to 14 states that give permission for some local governments to raise income taxes. Of course, it’s always easy for those polled to say they are willing to raise taxes on someone else. 

But what happens when there is an economic downturn? I dealt with that concern for the state last week considering the possibility of a Shakespearean Tragedy for the State Budget. Looks like the locals want to stage a similar play. 

When I write “locals,” I mean more than Los Angeles. If the legislature decides to change the restrictions on local governments imposing an income tax, does anyone think other jurisdictions will sit idly by? Los Angeles County supervisors say they want the money to help the homeless. There are a lot of other interests in communities around the state that consider the causes they believe in worthy of more economic help. 

But, what about the taxpayers? 

How long before local taxpayers who continue to get hit with increased tax rates throw up their hands and give up on Los Angeles and California? The burden continues to grow. Proposition 30 was sold as a temporary tax for seven years. Perhaps many high-end income taxpayers said they would weather the storm. However, those taxpayers are now looking at an additional twelve years of the highest income tax rate in the country BEFORE local governments jump on that gravy train. 

In the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) poll of members issued last week, the number one concern for small business owners was the income tax. 

Before anyone thinks the push for new taxes is only about the rich, consider what likely might occur if government budgets relying on increased income tax revenue are hard hit during a recession or economic slowdown. 

I remember reading about the Midwest congressman who announced on the floor of the House of Representatives in the early years of the 20th Century that he was voting for the amendment to the United States Constitution that would establish an income tax because his constituents wouldn’t pay the new tax. It was aimed at the rich. 

The income tax eventually came after his constituents, too.


(Joel Fox is the editor of Fox and Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. This column was posted first at FoxandHoundsDaily.comPrepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

BEGGING FOR RECALL-We’ve all heard about the ruckus in Hollywood about spot zoning. That is the practice of councilmembers’ taking R-1 lots with single family homes and re-zoning them for large apartment complexes, often to be built with tax dollars as Affordable Housing. 

Hollywood got so fed up that it spawned the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Well, Councilmember David Ryu isn’t going to ignore poor old Sherman Oaks. Councilman Ryu has brought Spot Zoning to the Valley. 

Claiming to be the homeowner’s friend and to protect his constituency from the developers, Councilmember Ryu has not voted NO on a large development project since he was elected. 

Councilmember Ryu did vote YES on the gigantic Palladium Towers in Hollywood, and now he has moved on to destroying single family homes in Sherman Oaks. Approving Spot Zoning is a strange way to protect his district from Spot Zoning. 

When the neighbors told the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council that they wanted to retain the R-1 zoning for their homes along Magnolia Boulevard and in the nearby neighborhood, Ryu’s response was that the community should be glad that he let them know what was happening. 

It may sound strange for a councilmember wanting praise for not concealing when a developer seeks Spot Zoning. In the culture that permeates Los Angeles City Council, however, being deceptive and closing the community completely out of any and all input to major decisions like Spot Zoning is Standard Operating Procedure. So, councilmember Ryu does seem to be a little more open than the other councilmembers. Some think that it’s the same as the difference between a polite mugger who does pistol whip you and one who needlessly whacks you on the head after stealing your wallet. 

Spot Zoning can destroy the value of a family’s major asset, the home. 

But these enterprising families are fighting back. They got the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council to reject the project despite the developer’s renting a large bus to bring his friends and employees to stack the Neighborhood Council’s audience in favor of demolishing the homes. Perhaps, the SHNC Board member resented such crass manipulation. 

And now, these neighbors may sign on to the Recall Ryu campaign which grew out of his support for the Palladium Towers and his deception over putting a professional basketball court in the wilderness of Runyon Canyon. 

We can expect Ryu’s crocodile tears any time now. Nothing makes a Councilmember tear up faster than a Recall. 

But don’t be naive, that will not stop Ryu’s Spot Zoning of R-1 homes to Multifamily Affordable Housing. Ryu has promised this R-1 neighborhood to the developer, and Ryu knows on which side his bread is ultimately buttered. 

On the other hand, Ryu’s mega support for developers is earning him a lot of enemies. Along with Krekorian and O’Farrell, Councilmember Ryu may become prey in the Recall Games.


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

The full quote goes, “Behold how good and pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity!”

…Which may not even be something to hope for. A lust for “unity” seems to lead to fascism, and whether of left or right doesn’t matter, because it is inherently oppressive. I prefer to think that what would really be good and pleasant would be solidarity: working together towards common goals, while making room for, and use of, the exhilarating diversity of thought and talents in our bustling little communities here in LA.

Sad to say, we don’t even get that, as our (sort of, in one case) elected leaders play us off into factions that fight each other over quibbles and intuitive but usually incorrect gut feelings, while the powers-that-be make their own quiet plans.

That may be changing. For now, CD 1’s Gil Cedillo (who squeaked into office by fewer than 800 votes, and then immediately backstabbed the good folks he’d pandered to in the safe streets community), gets to play tin god in the council chambers, blocking road diets and bike lanes, then grudgingly tolerating a traffic signal or two after enough bodies pile up, while keeping North Figueroa the perfect model of a modern Slaughter Alley. But opposition is rising …

As the LA Times noted a couple of days ago, not one, not two, but three candidates are gearing up to oppose him after what many in NELA hope will be his single term. They are former opponent Jesse Rosas, Miguel Amaya, and our own Josef Bray-Ali, the owner of Flying Pigeon LA, a former white-hat developer, and a tireless advocate for safe streets, local businesses, and a healthy community. Although the Times article characterizes him as a “bicycle advocate,” we all know that he is much more, and that the original road diet plan would have strengthened commerce and neighborhood solidarity and made the street safer for all—cyclists, yes, but walkers and drivers as well.

All Cedillo’s efforts have done is paint the street with blood—literally.

Meanwhile, across town, Paul Koretz is seeing opposition, as Beverly Grove lawyer Jesse Max Creed prepares a run for CD 5. Koretz has been steadfast in blocking bike lanes on Westwood, refusing even to permit an impartial study of the matter—which leads you to wonder what hidden interest he is “protecting” in his busy Westside district. Even Ryan Snyder’s plan for the street, which would have left all car lanes and parking intact, was refused consideration. 

Creed is not running on a pro-bike ticket (at least not yet), but there’s a chance he’d be more reasonable than the ever-obdurate Koretz.

So it looks like, with a little bit of solidarity, we might be able to vote a couple of neanderthals out of office, and move in folks who believe it is people, and not traffic jams, that make a city great.

Don’t forget to vote local on March 7th next year!


GUEST WORDS--“The City’s repeal proposal is bad enough, replacing meaningful neighborhood zoning protection with virtually no protection. But the way the City is processing this proposal exemplifies its continuing broken planning system and completely undermines the City’s credibility at a critical point in time.” --Carlyle W. Hall. 

To head off a proposed ballot initiative that would impose a moratorium on major construction projects throughout Los Angeles, it’s been widely reported that the City is now seeking support for a planning and zoning “reform package” that will, once more, simply update the City’s 35 community plans. This proposed “solution” overlooks the City’s fundamental credibility problem: an ever-widening gulf between what’s promised and what’s actually delivered.  

In a recent example, Los Angeles Neighbors in Action prevailed against the City when Superior Court Judge James Chalfant found that, since May 2010, LA’s building officials have been routinely ignoring the City’s adopted zoning standards for development of second units (sometimes called “accessory dwelling units” or “granny flats”) in single-family residential zones.  

 Under state law changes enacted in 2002, second units must be approved on a “ministerial” basis (i.e., no public hearings and no conditions of approval) if they meet a city or county’s adopted standards—no matter how negative the ensuing traffic and infrastructure impacts. Further, if a locality does not have its own adopted standards, it must approve any second unit application that meets certain state “default” standards. The Legislature specifically designed those “default” standards to be so utterly weak—providing virtually no protections for the surrounding neighborhood—that any rational city would prefer to adopt and enforce its own local second unit standards. 

The 2002 legislative changes have made strong local second unit standards, like those adopted in Los Angeles, of great importance. LA’s adopted standards, for example, strictly regulate a proposed second unit’s size (no greater than 640 square feet in floor area), location (no second units in designated hillside areas) and visibility (second units must not be visible from the street). In contrast, the disfavored state “default” standards allow second units as big as many primary residences (1,200 SF), have no restrictions on the location or visibility of second units, and contain no other meaningful protections for surrounding neighborhoods. 

Like other cities, LA’s adopted second-unit standards were originally intended to be administered on a discretionary basis through the conditional use permit process. Shortly after the 2002 state law changes, then-Chief Zoning Administrator Robert Janovici issued an administrative memo in 2003 describing how the City would thereafter administer its adopted standards on a ministerial basis. For the next seven years, the City successfully administered those standards, issuing approximately 40 second-unit permits a year. 

In 2009, however, at the city attorney’s urging, former Planning Director Gail Goldberg undertook a series of community workshops to study alternatives to the City’s adopted standards. These workshops were swamped with homeowners wanting a voice in potentially major density changes to their neighborhoods. In light of the strong outpouring of citizen opposition to the 2009 effort, Goldberg “pulled the plug” on the study and refused to send any ordinance to the City Council.  

Most citizens assumed the issue had been put to bed at that point. But in 2010, the Planning Department issued a behind-closed-doors administrative memo (ZA 120) based on the city attorney’s mistaken legal advice. The city attorney wrongly counseled that, as a result of the 2002 state law changes, the City needed to “formally amend” its adopted standards in order to provide for their ministerial administration. 

ZA 120 ordered the City’s planning and zoning officials to stop following its adopted standards and instead to follow the weak state “default” standards. For the next six years, the City issued about 75 second unit permits annually, but essentially all of the increase in permits involved unlawful permits that exceeded the City’s adopted standards. 

In 2014, Los Angeles Neighbors in Action brought its lawsuit demanding that the City set aside ZA 120 and resume following its protective local standards.  After almost two years of litigation, the Superior Court recently ruled that, since 2010, based on the city attorney’s mistaken legal advice, the City has been unlawfully ignoring its adopted second unit standards on a routine basis. As relief, the City was ordered to stop using ZA 120 and the state “default” standards, rather than its adopted standards, as the criteria for issuing second-unit permits.  

The City’s response? Perversely, it now proposes to “fast-track” a proposed repeal of its adopted second-unit standards. Without any prior community input and study, that proposal is now scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission on May 12.  

The City’s repeal proposal is bad enough, replacing meaningful neighborhood zoning protection with virtually no protection. But the way the City is processing this proposal exemplifies its continuing broken planning system and completely undermines the City’s credibility at a critical point in time: 

  • The public notice for the March 12 Commission hearing, for example, blatantly misstates that repeal of the City’s adopted second-unit standards is proposed “for the purpose of complying with state law AB 1866.” This is nonsense. Judge Chalfant ruled that the City had to stop routinely violating its adopted standards, and he specifically ruled that the City can properly continue enforcing its existing adopted standards. There is no legal need whatsoever to repeal those adopted standards and replace them with the weak “default” standards. 
  • The City has put the proposed repeal ordinance on a “fast track” as an “urgency” ordinance. But it is hardly an emergency when a City is ordered by the Superior Court, as here, simply to follow its adopted zoning standards. Beyond that, under its adopted standards, the City issued approximately 40 permits annually over a seven-year period—the same number currently projected by its 2013 housing element. No crisis there. 
  • The great majority of California cities have adopted their own local standards, rather than choosing to implement the undesirable state “default” standards. Similar to LA’s adopted standards, cities throughout Southern California enforce their local adopted restrictions to protect surrounding neighborhoods. The City’s repeal proposal would embrace the “default” standard without even first examining the alternative second unit ordinance approaches of these cities. 
  • The much-heralded re:codeLA study will include, among other things, customized second-unit zoning standards designed to take into account the undeniably different topography, density, and character of LA’s diverse neighborhoods. The study’s rhetoric strongly denounces “one size fits all” zoning practices. But instead of awaiting the re:codeLA zoning recommendations, the City’s repeal proposal would immediately replace our existing strong second-unit standards with the weak “one size fits all” state “default” standards. 

Newly updated community plans also offer an opportunity for the City to formulate effective second-unit policies to be implemented throughout its widely diverse neighborhoods. But with its proposed repeal action, the City’s planning establishment appears willing to let LA’s neighborhoods suffer the negative consequences of unwanted (and unstoppable) second-unit development without first making any meaningful effort to study alternatives and to formulate public policies that take into account differing points of view. 

The bottom line: When the City says one thing but does another -- as its second unit policies and practices continue to do -- it completely undermines potential public support for its ongoing planning and zoning efforts.


(Carlyle W. Hall is an environmental and land use lawyer in Los Angeles who founded the Center for Law in the Public Interest and litigated the well-known AB 283 litigation, in which the Superior Court ordered the City to rezone about one third of the properties within its territorial boundaries (an area the size of Chicago) to bring them into consistency with its 35 community plans. He also co-founded LA Neighbors in Action, which has recently been litigating with the City over its second dwelling unit policies and practices. This piece appeared first in PlanningReport.com.)   Illustration by Kyle T. Webster. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

SOUTH OF THE 10-Two weeks ago 2 Urban Girls discussed African-American men supporting the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and caused quite an uproar. While the article looked at why Black men are supporting HRC, commenters remarked, why would ANY Black person support her? Most articles speculate that HRC has the women’s vote sewn up.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics, in every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of eligible female adults who voted far exceeded the proportion of eligible males who voted. 

Last week, social media was ablaze with African-American women posting selfies with Hillary Clinton when she appeared at the California African-American Museum (CAAM) in Exposition Park at the request of Congresswomen Karen Bass (D-CA37) and Maxine Waters (D-CA43). (Photo above.) 

Many of the women on hand were political movers and shakers, with many being members of an established political organization focused on grooming African-American women for a career in politics. 

The Los Angeles African-American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI) has, since June 2004, been the premier organization for women of color seeking a more active role in civic engagement. Women who join LAAWPPI have backgrounds ranging from running nonprofits to working with elected officials to serving on various boards and commissions throughout Los Angeles County. 

Curious as to why women of color are supporting Hillary, I spoke with several alumni -- “baby boomers” to “millennials” -- about their reasoning. 

Joy Atkinson, Executive Director of the Los Angeles African American Women's Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI) is no stranger to politics. Her father was the first African-American to run for Los Angeles City Council. 

“I have been around the political arena for many years and I think I know what [issues] politicians can and can't deliver. Mrs. Clinton served as an attorney for the Children's Defense Fund and helped stop the incarceration of teenagers in adult prisons and worked for the rights of disabled children in Massachusetts,” Atkinson remarked. 

“She also tackled the desegregation policies of Mississippi way after the 1954 decision to not segregate school children. She has been and still is an advocate for women's rights. As Secretary of State under President Obama, she was able to negotiate a cease fire between Israel and Hamas,” said Atkinson. 

Atkinson is also looking to separate fact from fiction when it comes to people’s perception of Hillary.

“Would somebody give me some reliable proof that Hillary Clinton is a "crook" and can't be "trusted" - I mean some evidence and not innuendo,” continued Atkinson. 

Many would think trigger words like “Whitewater” “Benghazi” “Email Server” would emit some concern in the areas of “trust”, yet that doesn’t seem to apply here. 

Hillary Clinton has also managed to finagle the support of Compton Mayor Aja Brown. Speaking at an event hosted by hosted by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in early 2015, Hillary publicly floated the idea of offering the mayor a job if elected President. 

“Don’t be surprised if you get a call,” Mrs. Clinton said after praising the Democratic mayor’s anti-gang programs. 

More than 70 percent of black women voted in 2012, out-voting white women (65.6 percent), white men (62.6 percent), and black men (61.4 percent). Exit poll data from Democratic primaries in 2016, show black women continue to make up a larger proportion of the Democratic electorate than black men.

 In 2008 and 2012, 96 percent of black women voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama. Will those same women show up for Hillary Rodham Clinton? 

Not all women of color have made Hillary Clinton their de facto choice for President.

Next week’s column will look at African-American women who are supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders.


(Melissa Hébert is an alumni of California State University Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science and a member of LAAAWPPI. She is the editor-in-chief of blog 2urbangirls.com and host of the Urban Girl Show. Melissa is also President of School Site Council in Inglewood Unified School District and is the mother of two handsome sons. She can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 


GETTING THERE FROM HERE--As discussed in my last CityWatch article), the Expo Line, after initial approval by the Metro Board in 2001, is finally opening for service on May 20th.   

You can go on a virtual ride right now via this link ...but the bigger question is "What's Next?" 

The Expo grassroots story is an amazing one, led by Darrell Clarke of Santa Monica and a host of volunteers, but the next big expansions of the L.A. County light rail system are the north-south Crenshaw/LAX line (somewhat of a north-south Expo counterpart) and a Downtown Light Rail Connector (an "Expo Phase 3" that also combines the entire countywide patchwork of lines into a true network)...but there are challenges as we move well beyond the grassroots. 

And sooner or later this transportation endeavor MUST go beyond the grassroots to become a multibillion-dollar operation...but to Metro's credit, their leadership and planning teams are as available as any governmental entity could ever be.  It is NOT hard to be plugged into the outreach meetings for Metro's expansion plans, and it's arguable that Metro is a model for governmental accountability and transparency. 

But while Metro's planners and leaders are accountable, available, and in touch with the grassroots, their political leadership need not be if they so choose.  By and large, the Garcetti-led L.A. City team works well with countywide political leaders (unlike Garcetti's predecessor), and acrimony over the paradigm of "the Wilshire Subway vs. suburban transportation efforts" is over.   

Ditto with the "getting the train to LAX".  So don't ever count me as someone who'll hurl bombs and epithets at Metro's efforts. 

Yet politicians are politicians, and planners have the ability to do great things (keep in touch with the grassroots, gather data impartially and use it to raise the bar for enhanced services).  But political, economic, and egotistic forces often lead to dogmatic and "groupthink" traps that are both self-imposed and counterproductive: 

1) The Expo Line is a welcome addition to the Metro Rail network, but its timetable is too darned long. 

Much of the problem is its streetrunning portions in Downtown LA and in Santa Monica--and it should be emphasized that it was the Santa Monica City Council which went against both common sense and the recommendations of the Expo Authority to insist on changing an elevated portion of the line to street level. 

So it's hard to know if the motorist who made an "ill-advised" left turn in front of a testing train in Santa Monica (LINK: ) is to blame, or if the City of Santa Monica is to blame, but...congratulations, Santa Monica! You've got your first car vs. train collision! 

Furthermore, while the old Air Line (the predecessor of the Expo Line that was abandoned in 1953) had an end to end travel time of approximately 70 minutes, the Expo Line has an approximately 55 minute travel time. 

So ... yes, the train is, for a host of reasons (and not too much of it is Metro's fault) too darned long. 

2) Meanwhile, parking is still being pilloried as evil and is in such short supply that it will limit usefulness of the Expo Line. 

I would love to see the day that the anti-parking zealots are either shut down, ignored, and are otherwise brought to bear--but they've got no right being a part of a city or county governmental planning team.  Parking for the Expo Line is especially critical because this line is billed as an alternative to the I-10 freeway. 

There's no Metrolink west and south of Downtown, so the Expo Line is the closest thing, and Metrolink requires parking to function well.  Does anyone really think that San Fernando Valley, Pacific Palisades, and South Bay car commuters will take a bus to the Expo Line? 

No, they clearly won't--and what they'll do is drive to the Venice/Robertson or La Cienega stations, where there is parking that's now occupied by 8-9 am, and where Downtown-bound traffic bunches up on the I-10. 

Yes, there are about five hundred parking spaces in the Westside portion of the Expo Line, but for a line that's supposed to carry tens of thousands of riders a day, that's both a slap in the face and a middle finger to the voters and taxpayers who paid for this line. 

And let's not forget that the City of Los Angeles is just as bad as the City of Santa Monica with respect to its quasi-theological and wild-eyed war on the automobile ... because unlike the City of Culver City, which is building a transit-oriented development next to the Venice/Robertson station that includes hundreds of new Expo Line parking spaces, the Casden Sepulveda project next to the Exposition/Sepulveda station in West L.A. has not ever been forced to create a new parking structure as a betterment for the Expo Line. 

3) The Expo Line is neither focusing on the present or the future with respect to bus or other "final mile" links, or to safety issues. 

Why the various bus lines that link to the Expo Line were "caught off guard" by the Expo Line, but costs and operations could have, and should have, been addressed years ago.  It's not like the Expo Line was a secret. 

Fortunately, human ingenuity isn't dead.  Ever heard of Uber or Lyft?  Perhaps a more cost-effective method is to establish more automobile connections/drop-offs when the trains are operating later than any connecting buses...because it's really scary to be stuck at an empty train station after dark waiting 20-30 minutes for a bus that might never come. 

Furthermore, howza 'bout establishing food truck and similar private sector services for those commuters wanting to eat or shop and otherwise have something to do--and with more eyes and ears in the vicinity--while waiting for the next train to arrive.  It's hoped that Metro and local cities will recognize these real-world issues and resolve them. 

Because the Expo Line was always supposed to be a good neighbor, and an overall boon to the neighborhoods through which it traverses. 

And it will be, provided that the same innovative and energetic grassroots that started this train rolling aren't thrown off that train merely because they've pointed out a few obvious and glaring problems that might be coming our way.


(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.)


GUEST COMMENTARY--The criminal justice system, burdened with being the de facto forum for dealing with the mentally ill population in Los Angeles County, has now becoming the forum of last resort to deal with the homeless population of which the mentally ill are a subset.  

For three decades the Central City East Association (CCEA) has been warning that drugs, criminality, and mental health issues would converge at the epicenter of homelessness on skid row.  Add into the mix Prop. 47, which in essence decriminalized theft and drug offenses, and a series of court rulings which have allowed the homeless to take over public streets and sidewalks, and you have an ungovernable mess.  Yet homeless advocates and the attorneys they employ call it a civil right to live in squalor, and judges render decisions from their sterile courtrooms that play out far differently on the streets. Perhaps it would be considered untoward of us to suggest that the City sponsor a new homeless encampment on the sidewalks of 312 North Spring Street Los Angeles, the location of the Federal courthouse. 

The street population is at nearly 2,000 in skid row alone.  Businesses that remain do so despite the public safety and public health threat, wanting to stay in an area that is centrally located and to provide much-needed industrial jobs.  However, an increasing wave of crime makes victims of area workers, residents and the homeless themselves.  The violent nature of these crimes is escalating.  

CCEA has released a powerful 5-minute video  that allows the voices of the law enforcement, residents, and business community speak for themselves.  "Emergency" is an intense tour of the daily gauntlet that is Skid Row



It contains disturbing images of inhumane conditions on public sidewalks with vivid descriptions of Skid Row as told by the people who live and work there.  We urge everyone to watch the moving video and listen to the police officers who work on Skid Row. The question that is posed is one the leadership of Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County need to answer - how long will this nightmare be tolerated? 

It is well-documented that support for the mentally ill in our society has declined over the years and that a significant number of the homeless living on our streets are mentally ill. When they cause a disturbance in the community, the police are the first to be called. If and when an arrest is made, it then is deposited in the laps of Deputy District Attorneys and Deputy City Attorneys to decide if charges will be filed - with the low expectation that any misdemeanor charge will result in a meaningful sentence. 

Despite law enforcement's extensive training and new resources, the problems of homelessness and mental illness are vast.  Last year, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey presented a comprehensive plan to the Board of Supervisors that recommends enhanced treatment and services to safely divert mentally ill offenders from the county jail.  In Los Angeles, the Sheriff's Department and the LAPD are constantly collaborating with the various public and private sector organizations to better address the behavior of mentally ill individuals.  However, at the end of the day, it is the community of Los Angeles that must demand of our elected leaders at both the state and local level a comprehensive plan to combat the true roots of homelessness. 

As Oliver Wendell Holmes famously stated, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."  In the skid row area of Los Angeles, the homeless population is now not just swinging, but connecting, into the body of the law abiding residents who wish to walk the sidewalks or work in downtown Los Angeles.


(Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. Views expressed by Ms. Hanisee are her own and the association’s.)


TRANSIT TALK--A Streetcar Named Santa Monica? OK, not exactly. It’s actually something better. A light rail line from downtown Los Angeles to within blocks of the sea. And if we do things right, in November the Expo Line could become one of several sorely needed (and accelerated) public transportation projects -- like a line through the Sepulveda Pass -- that Los Angeles is trying to make a reality. Vote early and often as they say in Chicago. 

What is so important about our new rail line to the beach? It came to me yesterday as I sat on the Expo Line to Santa Monica. 

We have broken the 63 year curse that no train would ever again pierce the sacred veil of LA’s far West Side. True, Boston’s 86 year long Curse of the Bambino is longer, but given our size, the Curse of the West Side impacted more Dodgers fans than Red Sox losers. 

“I am riding the train to Santa Monica!” I nearly shouted as we pulled into Bergamot Station.  I had the honor, thanks to a press tour with Mayor Garcetti and other elected, to preview the line which opens to the public on Friday, May 20. 

In any other city, the lightbulb that went off in my head that I was riding a train to the beach might not mean much. For example, riders of San Francisco’s N Judah light rail line have long been able to take the train to Ocean Beach -- since 1928, to be exact, when the route opened as a streetcar line. 

But this isn’t any other city. This is Los Angeles where the car was once king and small numbers of haters have long dictated what will, and won’t be, built. 

Now, at least as far as traffic-free driving goes, those days are long gone. And in its place are the famous Los Angeles parking lots, otherwise known as freeways that have sliced up dozens of perfectly nice neighborhoods and communities. 

Aside from the train’s arrival in downtown Santa Monica, perhaps the sweetest part of the ride for me was when the train chugged past the 10 Freeway close to the new Palms station. I also felt a pleasant whoosh of pride, and relief, when the train passed through Cheviot Hills where a handful of NIMBYs tried, and thankfully failed, to stop the Expo Line in its tracks. 

Ironically, it was, similarly, not in my back yard-minded Angelenos who more often than not allowed the freeway to come in, ruining neighborhoods for what sometimes seems like forever more.  

Reminders of our foolish addiction to the car abound along the route. As Neal Broverman put it in Los Angeles Magazine, “Views at the Palms, Bundy, and, especially, Sepulveda stations are kind of, ugh. The aerial views really show the auto-centric city planning that happened here -- tons of gas stations, liquor stores, and billboard blight. Hopefully, politicians like [Councilmember Mike] Bonin can help create more of a sense of place and really incentivize the Expo investment.” 

Now is the time to end the “no growthers’” stranglehold in Los Angeles and Santa Monica on sensible transit-oriented development and proceed with the building of projects worthy of our environment. 

Other public amenities I am hoping for with the opening of the Expo Line? That: 

  • Metro, Culver City Bus and Big Blue Bus got it right with their redesign of the feeder bus routes, and riders can get to the train car free. 
  • There is enough bike parking and bike share at the stations to accommodate all of the area’s active transportation and transit enthusiasts. 
  • Pedestrian improvements including sidewalks spreading out from the train line are inviting enough to encourage pedestrians to make their commute part of their 10,000 steps or bike ride a day. 

Kudos to Santa Monica which seems to have gotten things right, with Colorado Esplanade, the city’s attractive and WIDE pedestrian gateway and protected bike lane from the Expo Line station to Tongva Park, the Santa Monica Pier and beyond. 

Let’s also hope that Santa Monica will be measuring the benefits of the new train to downtown, including an off-the-charts bump for businesses in the area. For area merchants in downtown Santa Monica and at the other new stops along the line, it will be like CicLAvia all of the time with shoppers galore. 

Speaking of which, don’t forget the sure to be awesome bike and pedestrian streetfest, CicLAvia Southeast Cities, this Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm. 

Of course Expo to the beach will not be without its hiccups. Look out for the inevitable idiot drivers who think they can make it across the tracks ahead of the train, even though the light has changed. Others will whine about the noise and the increased foot and bike traffic around the stations and along the new protected bike path Metro has built adjacent to much of the line. Yay! 

And what about parking for transit riders who want to ride but simply can’t or won’t take the bus, walk or bike to the new stations? The new lot at Sepulveda and smaller lots at other stations just won’t be enough for the expected demand. This is why I am hoping Metro gets cracking on cutting deals with Caltrans and other land owners for more parking at underused locations like beneath the freeway at Pico and at churches and businesses along the remainder of the route. 

Metro has wisely done this at its Expo Line Crenshaw station where 400 spaces are available on weekdays in the garage belonging to the neighboring West Angeles Church of God in Christ

Lastly, consider signing the petition urging LADOT to provide signal preemption for the Expo Line through downtown Los Angeles and give priority to longer trains. 

With trains carrying hundreds of passengers versus cars carrying no more than a few, the choice is clear. 

See you soon on Expo and the rest of our growing transit system!


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

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Depending on which side of the issue you rest, gun control (or Second Amendment Rights) are hot button issues in the presidential race. Closer to home, Temple Isaiah in Beverly Hills, has formed a Gun Legislation Advocacy Committee, which has joined other faith-based organizations to form the Interfaith Coalition to End Gun Violence in the Los Angeles area.

Two months ago, sixty concerned people from all over Los Angeles filled an auditorium at Holman United Methodist Church with one common goal: keep their communities safe. Amy Phillips, a member of the GLAC, Moms Demand Action and other groups, share a philosophy, “Gun violence knows no geographic boundaries; no ethnic, gender, or age limits. From schools to movie theaters, from churches to street corners, a bullet finds its victim.” 

Phillips says, “I couldn’t comprehend after Newtown that this was going on. People were getting shot and our policy makers refused to do anything about it. I thought I can’t just sit here and complain or post on Facebook. My little involvement won’t change the whole system but if I didn’t, there would be one less person doing it.” 

When Phillips joined GLAC two years ago, one of the first actions she took was to get involved in creating an arts and advocacy program for 9th and 10th grade students in the religious school, all of whom had experienced a lockdown. Phillips thought kids could create posters with social messages. She showed the students a clip reel of new stories from the past decade which impacted them. 

This past year, the students used their phones to create videos on topics ranging from the gun issue to save the earth and Cast LA, an organization that works with women who are enslaved sexually or for labor. “The kids got to choose the topic and there was no budget, other than paper. They came up with creative videos, which they intend to tweet to candidates. The kids who chose the gun issue really got it,” she says. “We wanted to teach them advocacy through the arts.” 

GLAC is part of the Interfaith Coalition to End Gun Violence, with representatives from different temples, churches, and nondenominational groups – all of whom, as Phillips explains, are “fighting the same battle, getting everyone on the same page.” Phillips says meeting people who deal with gun violence on a daily basis was eye-opening. One of the steps her group wants to take is to bring the arts advocacy program to Holman United Methodist Church. 

While Phillips encourages people to consider choosing candidates who have positive records or stances on gun restrictions, she says GLAC and other groups focus on community-based activism. She believes most law-abiding gun owners want better gun laws, to make sure guns are locked up so that three-year olds can’t go around shooting, but they may be intimidated to share their stance with the NRA.

By getting involved on the local and state level with groups like the Interfaith Coalition and Moms Demand Action, Phillips says we can make a difference. “Gun violence is everyone’s issue. I don’t just want to be involved. I need to be involved. I cannot be idle and continue to see innocent people die and families ruined. The Interfaith Coalition to End Gun Violence is my pathway in,” she says. 

Action Info: For more information on GLAC at Temple Isaiah and the Interfaith Coalition to End Gun Violence, contact Karen Sloan at [email protected].


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

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES- The Los Angeles Police Department commonly arrests people for “resisting arrest.” A deeper look into this process by questioning its legalities sheds new light on an old law enforcement excuse. Legal experts should question this, including both the City Attorney and the District Attorney. (FULL DISCLOSURE- I am NOT a legal expert, nor do I play one on TV!) 

Penal Code section 148 (a) is commonly known as “resisting arrest.” Clearly, this language is what requires immediate challenge. The presumption is that a person being arrested for a criminal act(s) who then resists, should receive the additional charge of “resisting.” 

The problem is that LAPD and many other law enforcement agencies across the nation wrongfully use resisting arrest as a “primary” charge when its legal language strongly implies that it is a “secondary charge.” 

People who have been arrested for “resisting” as a primary charge have claimed the Fourth Amendment as their legal defense. There are lots of cases that have achieved successful outcomes utilizing this formidable strategy. 

The Fourth Amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.” 

While there are elements within this definition that seemingly apply only to search warrants, there are other elements which seem to apply only to the protection of one’s self from unlawful seizure. 

In Skid Row (commonly known as the Homeless Capital of America,) LAPD often partakes in the action of arresting homeless persons for having tents on the sidewalk during the day. They follow this by completely seizing the tent and all of its contents. A Federal judge ruled against LAPD and the City of Los Angeles in the form of a preliminary injunction barring them from any further illegal seizures. 

The question that can be raised is, “Does LAPD need a search warrant before seizing a homeless person’s tent/encampment?” According to the Fourth Amendment, there would be a whole lot of judges signatures needed for the confiscation of tens of thousands of homeless people’s belongings all across LA County. 

As it relates to seizing property, the Fourth Amendment seems clear, but in regard to “the right of the people to be secure in their persons”, the Fourth Amendment has a lot of gray areas -- meaning room for interpretation. 

Can law enforcement simply walk up to people and arrest them? Can they simply walk up and arrest them for “resisting arrest?” 

There is a strong hint of abuse of authority/abuse of power every single time resisting arrest is used as a primary charge. 

Natural responses often are, “Why am I being arrested?” and, “What was I resisting?” Common law enforcement replies are, “You’re being arrested for resisting.” The conversation can go around in circles without any true and/or valid explanation by law enforcement for detention, sometimes for no good reason. Some officers and deputies even go as far as to say, “Am I supposed to explain (and possibly debate) everything to you before I put handcuffs on you?” 

Law enforcement has a “comfort zone” of zero culpability because they conveniently defer to the justice system with the mindset, “We can arrest you for anything….It’s up to the court system to either enforce or reject the case.” 

And in the case of “resisting arrest” used as a primary charge, what protections do “We, the People” really have? 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-On Saturday, the LA City Planning Department visited the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) for the second time to talk about the proposed Draft Short Term Rental Ordinance, along with another proposed Ordinance change over second dwelling units (aka ‘granny units’). As readers may remember, the first visit was not a resounding success. 

This time, we were visited by no less than Claire Bowin, Senior Planner from the City Planning Department. As Streetsblog reported, “Bowin has had her finger in a lot of pots in her tenure with Planning, working on the Bike Plan, the Mobility Element, the Housing Plan, the Cornfield Arroyo-Seco Plan, and Bike Plan Implementation.” 

Lately, she has been intimately involved with both the repeal of the second dwelling units issue and with the short term rental ordinance. Unfortunately for the LANCC group, before leaving due to scheduling difficulties, she only had time to go over a draft ordinance to repeal the rules over granny units. Then she took just a couple of questions regarding the short-term rental ordinance. 

The Second Dwelling Unit Repeal draft ordinance, regarding granny units, is being offered on an emergency basis, and will be over by the time you read this article, which is a shame. More on this issue in another column. 

Regarding the Short Term Rental Ordinance, Claire Bowin only took a couple of questions, referred us to the upcoming Saturday May 21 Hearing at the Deaton Auditorium (next to the new LAPD building), 100 W. 1st Street, LA 90012. The public hearing starts at 10 am, and I urge everyone who can to be there. 

Anyhow, back to the real issues. As you may remember, I was enthusiastic when the draft ordinance came out and urged folks to weigh in. 

Well, we’ve had some time to kick the tires on the proposal and a number of people have found some holes in the City’s Draft. For example, Raymond Klein, from the Brentwood Homeowners Assn., weighed in with the problems regarding enforcement, the no guest limit for hosts, and essentially, the running of hotels in residential neighborhoods. 

Next, a hat tip to Lucy Han, (a founding member of Community Above Profit, or CAP,) for pointing out the obvious flaw in the Draft Ordinance. It’s simple. There is an 800 pound gorilla lurking in the draft: there is absolutely no way that the City of Los Angeles can enforce this Ordinance unless the dot.com platforms like Airbnb and their like are responsible for maintaining the data and reporting it to the City of Los Angeles. If you don’t believe me, remember an earlier CityWatch article regarding the debacle over the City’s Surplus Disposal.  

City Controller Ron Galperin was brutal in his dissection of the absolute failure of this program, and it should pose a warning to elected officials in crafting the upcoming Short Term Rental Ordinance. The City simply can’t handle IT projects. This Ordinance won’t work unless LA City builds a massive database to handle the registrations that are going to be required. As I wrote regarding the Surplus Disposal mess: 

“If there is a single takeaway moment in the report, for me it is the following: the auditor complained that, as they tried to obtain data, they were reduced to looking at individual employees’ Excel spreadsheets that didn’t even have a common template. Clearly, the Mayor’s “World Class City” is an emperor without clothes.” 

So, what do you think the chances are that LA City will have a robust database up and running to actually try and implement the Ordinance? You guessed it: none…zip…nil. 

There is only one way to obtain the data to enforce this type of ordinance, and that is to require the platforms themselves, like Airbnb, to cough up the data. I covered this some time ago in an article about the absolute requirement of honest reporting to make any of these ordinances workable. 

Think about it. Airbnb is essentially a computer app hooked to a really solid, scalable, database. And they have spent millions of dollars developing this app and database. The rest is their claim of intellectual property -- a really good smoke and mirrors sales campaign to investors and hosts who need money. If it cost Airbnb millions to do their computer work, what are the chances that LA City can ramp up something to track what they do by chasing the individual hosts? gain, none…zip...nil. 

This is the biggest single issue that needs to be addressed prior to the next draft of the short-term rental ordinance. I hope the Planning Department and the City Council take heed. If this issue is not addressed, the inspectors who have to enforce the ordinance won’t stand a chance. They are already understaffed and simply cannot cover thousands of hosts one by one. The data is the key to any prosecution and/or fine for nonpayment of the TOT. 

So, urge lawmakers to stand up and get this ordinance amended the way it needs to be. Require honest reporting from the platforms themselves, like Airbnb. Otherwise, it won’t make any difference what they pass because the City can’t enforce it. And City Attorney Mike Feuer will be unable to even pretend to do his job of enforcement in court. 

Do we want all of our efforts to be one more LA City Special Debacle?


(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.

VOICES-The Department of City Planning recently unveiled its second draft of amendments to the city’s toothless mansionization ordinances, the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO.) Consternation ensued. 

Their first draft of amendments, put forward for comment late last year, drew more than 600 responses. By almost 4 to 1, people asked for tighter limits on home size. But the latest draft seems to address developers’ demands, not the needs of our communities.

We asked for meaningful reform. Instead, it preserves loopholes that undermined the ordinance in the first place. To name just two, these include the exemption for attached garage space (even in “the flats”) and bonuses in non-R1 zones that increase house size by 20 percent with no public notification or oversight. 

The exemption for attached garages adds a whopping 400 square feet of bloat to houses, and the bonuses add hundreds of square feet more with no transparency or accountability whatsoever. And hillside neighborhoods are understandably concerned about inadequate conditions applied to grading and hauling, as well.

The Council Motion provided the blueprint for a simple, effective fix. Instead, the latest draft borrows elements from Re:Code LA that make the ordinance harder to understand and harder to enforce. These include “encroachment planes” and “side wall articulation.” 

City planners note that neighboring communities like Pasadena employ design standards of this type. Adopting best practices of other communities is great. In fact, LA should do much more of that – if and when we have the resources to implement them properly. Angelenos who have seen the inability or unwillingness of the Department of Building and Safety to enforce even simple floor area ratios may be excused for having their reservations.

The city sought input on the first draft of amendments and then ignored the concerns of an overwhelming majority. Six months have passed, and reckless development continues to threaten neighborhoods all over Los Angeles. We need to stop mansionization in the simplest, most effective and timeliest way. That’s what residents and homeowners want and what the Council Motion calls for. 

It’s time for Los Angeles to put stable communities and neighborhood character ahead of real estate speculation.  


(Shelley Wagers is a homeowner and community activist in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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