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CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-Rent control won’t solve California’s enormous housing problems. But that’s not stopping many Californians from pursuing rent control policies in their hometowns. 

2016 threatens to become the Year of Rent Control, with the topic white-hot in the Bay Area, home to California’s most expensive housing. Rent control refers to laws that put limits on how much landlords may raise rents; such laws often include provisions requiring landlords to produce specific causes before evicting tenants. 

Last summer, Richmond became the first city in California in 30 years to pass a new control law (the law was later suspended, and the issue will likely be decided at the ballot.) This touched off similar legislation and ballot measures to establish or strengthen rent control in other Northern California cities, including Alameda and Santa Rosa.

And in recent months, rent control has become a top issue in the state’s biggest cities.

In San Jose, multiple proposals to tighten rent controls, perhaps by tying them to inflation, have been debated in the city council, and some could go to the ballot. A ballot initiative to cap rent increases was just filed in Oakland. Los Angeles is considering a new registry of rents and a crackdown on landlord efforts to skirt existing rent control laws. And in San Diego, a tenants’ movement and an online petition are building momentum to establish new controls. In all these places, landlords have countered with their own legislation or possible ballot measures. 

The attention to rent control is understandable, given the costs of housing, but unhelpful. Rent control is a policy that, as libraries full of research and California’s own experience demonstrates, doesn’t do much to accomplish its avowed purpose: to make more affordable housing available. The last thing California needs is a costly and time-consuming fight over rent control. 

As the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office made clear in a 2015 report, the heart of California’s housing problem is that we Californians have long failed to build anywhere close to enough new housing to accommodate the number of people who live here. The office said we’d need an additional 100,000 units a year, on top of the 100,000 units we’re building, to mitigate the problem. 

As a result, housing prices and rents have long been higher than in any other state. And the problem has been getting worse, even in this era of slower population growth. In 1970, the gap between California home prices and the rest of the country was 30 percent; today, home prices are 250 percent more expensive than the American lverage.

The shortage is strongest in the urban coastal counties where people most want to live, creating a wave of people who push inland in search of housing. So Californians devote more of their incomes to housing, live in more crowded spaces, and commute further to jobs. In a Sacramento speech last fall, Roger Sanders, former finance director for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, noted that, from 2010 through 2014, “the state population increased by 1.55 million, while throughout all of California only 312,000 permits for new housing were approved, or one unit for every five new residents.” 

Significantly, the urban counties (10 northern counties and seven southern counties) approved only 200,000 units, or only one for approximately eight new residents.” 

The reasons for the lack of building are many and related: community resistance, environmental policies, high costs of construction, a lack of fiscal incentives for local governments to approve housing, regulatory constraints on development, and the high cost of land. This is such a wickedly complex problem that it’s laughable to see rent controls as a cure. 

Since housing markets are regional, it’s especially hard to see how local rent control in one city or another could ever make any impact. To the contrary, one reason for California’s sprawl is the way that cities within regions compete with each other to claim the most desirable businesses and housing for themselves, while sticking their neighbors with needier people. 

And if rent control really works to control prices and produce stability, as its supporters claim, why are the cities with rent control -- among them Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Santa Monica, San Jose, Thousand Oaks, and West Hollywood -- so expensive? And on the other side of the question, opponents of rent control sound ridiculous when they warn that it will discourage new construction, especially since state law has exempted new construction from rent control laws since 1995. All but about 15 cities in California have no rent control -- and they have housing shortages, too.

The real import of the rent control debate is as a reminder of California’s civic disease: our long history of embracing complicated formulas as ways to dodge the hard work of democratically solving tough problems. Rent control laws often include complicated formulas for allowing rents to be raised by different percentages or in different ways depending on a host of conditions (like whether a landlord has made capital improvements or had made previous rent increases.) 

It’s instructive that rent control’s California history is deeply intertwined with the ultimate dodgy California formula, Proposition 13. That constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 1978, provided the foundation -- via its limits on property tax increases and supermajorities for state and local taxation -- upon which two generations of other fiscal formulas have been built.

One false promise of Prop. 13 was that saving property owners money on their taxes would lead to lower home prices and rents. So when home prices and rents soared after the amendment passed, liberal cities began to install rent control ordinances that, like Prop. 13, didn’t lower rents or housing prices either. 

Rent control has been -- and will be, if it expands in the near future -- just another complication in a housing world that already has too many such kludges. And it’s a particularly counterproductive one since, just as Prop. 13 keeps taxes lower the longer you stay in your home, rent control grants special privileges to the older and more stable among us, regardless of their actual financial need. 

That is the peculiar tragedy of 21st-century California: A place that once cherished and defined the new is now organized around the imperative of favoring the old and the established. It is infuriating, and odd, that people who think of themselves as progressives defend, and even seek to extend, such fundamentally conservative policies. 

The people who need protection in California are poor people who cycle through housing. The best approach here is not more housing incentives -- decades of housing incentives both to developers and renters have produced very little housing here -- but developing robust support structures (via transportation, health, child care, jobs, and cash) that follow poor people wherever they can find opportunity. And, of course, more housing.

In a state devoted to anti-tax formulas that don’t keep taxes low and education funding guarantees that don’t guarantee much money for education, it’s no surprise that rent control laws don’t make housing affordable. So let’s not pretend that rent control is anything other than just another way of pretending to address our housing problems.

 

(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. Primary editor: Andrés Martinez. Secondary editor: Paul Bisceglio.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2015 Status Report on Hunger & Homelessness, Los Angeles experienced a 12.4 percent increase in homeless families and an 11.7 increase in homeless individuals between September 2014 and August 2015. About 39 percent of LA’s homeless are living in cars or on the street because they can’t find housing. Los Angeles has had an increase in the number of added shelter beds but not enough to close the gap between supply and demand. The lack of affordable housing drives the increase in homelessness, followed by poverty, unemployment, and inaccessibility of mental health services.

Mayor Garcetti and City Council members declared a homelessness state of emergency back in September of last year. The city budget analysts have proposed nine different ideas to fund increased housing, including a proposed 15 percent sales tax on medical marijuana that could raise $16.7 million toward the $2 billion needed to supply vouchers and to construct needed housing. Several California cities, including Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs have passed fifteen cents per dollar taxes on medical marijuana cultivation and sales. 

The pot tax would be similar to taxes levied on specific products like gasoline or tobacco and would be earmarked for permanent housing, as well as support services like mobile showers, vouchers, and outreach. 

Activists are busy raising funds and gathering signatures to place the Adult Use of Marijuana Act on the November 8 ballot, which advocates the legalization of pot for adults 21 and over. The proposed initiative has already garnered over a quarter of the needed 365,880 signatures needed and has raised over $2 million, $1 million from Napster co-founder Sean Parker. Should this initiative find its way to the ballot and pass, the tax revenue could increase significantly. 

According to a poll by the OC Register, between 56-60 percent of California voters are in favor of legalization, something the LA Country Board of Supervisors seems to ignore. Last month, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to approve a motion by Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Hilda Solis to create a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Enforcement Team to crack down on dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county, including Marina Del Rey, where dispensaries were banned in 2011. City Attorney Mike Feuer has been working to shut down SpeedWeed, a delivery service to patients with valid medical marijuana cards. The City Attorney claims SpeedWeed is operating in violation of 2013’s Proposition D, set to limit the number of dispensaries in the city.

Is it fair to tax medical marijuana to help fund solutions to LA’s extensive homeless crisis? 

Taxes on alcohol, tobacco, or even that bag of chips and Big Gulp are often referred to as a “sin tax.” Although medical marijuana cards may be fairly easy to come by, many who rely on medical marijuana to ease the effects of chemo or other conditions are on fixed incomes and the extra 15 cents on a dollar could decrease the affordability of a prescribed medication. If users of medical marijuana face what could be construed as a punitive tax, why not patients who take cholesterol medication, Xanax, or Viagra? 

The funding sources proposed by the city include several sales or tax proposals that would require a 2/3 vote, as well as a billboard tax, a sales and use tax, an increase in transfer fees, and a fee in lieu of inclusionary zoning, most of which might face an impasse to approval. 

The answer might rest at least in part in the passage of the proposed November ballot initiative legalizing pot for recreational use. In Colorado, the tax revenue from recreational marijuana totaled $42 million in one fiscal year, outpacing the revenue from alcohol.

 

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

FACING AN UGLY PAST-The sign says “Welcome to Hindenburg Park,” but for much of its history, Jews, people of color, and other minorities were not welcome in this piece of greenery in La Crescenta, an unincorporated area adjacent to Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb. That’s because it was the site of Nazi rallies and a Nazi youth camp during the 1930s. 

In fact, the park’s real name is Crescenta Valley County Park and it is owned and operated by Los Angeles County. The new sign was erected last month, on the western edge of the park, by the Tricentennial Foundation, a German heritage organization based in the North Hills section of Los Angeles. The foundation did not erect the sign to remind local residents of the park’s horrifying history, but instead, to “preserve the historical integrity of the site,” Hans Eberhard, the foundation’s chairman, told the Glendale News-Press

I’m a German American and, like many others residents of Los Angeles County, whose tax dollars pay for the park, I find the new sign offensive, not simply because it honors Paul von Hindenburg (a World War One hero and Germany’s president from 1925 to 1934 who appointed Adolf Hitler as German chancellor in 1933) but because it obscures the site’s ugly past.

My family, on my father’s side, left Germany and arrived in the United States in the 1860s. But they identified more as Jews than as Germans because of the anti-Semitism they were escaping in their native country. My mother’s side of the family left Poland and Lithuania in the 1880s to flee the wave of vicious and violent anti-Jewish pogroms, but they left friends and relatives behind who were later among the six millions Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. My father served in the army in World War Two and lost many friends in battles to rid the world of Hitler and the scourge of German fascism.

Many local residents, led by the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, are demanding that the County remove the sign.

The park is located in the district of Supervisor Michael Antonovich, one of five members of the Board of Supervisors that governs sprawling LA County, the nation’s largest county with over 10 million residents. It was under Antonovich’s watch last year that the County Department of Parks and Recreation allowed the Tri-centennial Foundation to erect the 6-foot high sign at the park’s entrance near the corner of Honolulu and Dunsmore avenues. Visitors are greeted with the sign that reads “Willkommen zum,” followed by “Welcome to Hindenburg Park,” and below that “The Historic German Section of Crescenta Valley Park.” At the bottom of the sign are the county’s official seal and the words “Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.” 

Despite the official seal, the county did not pay for the sign, which cost $2,500, according to Kaye Michelson, the department’s acting public information officer. She explained that the Tricentennial Foundation worked with the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley and the Crescenta Valley Town Council to fund the sign. 

Had these organizations — or Supervisor Antonovich’s office — done their research, they might have predicted that the sign would generate controversy, given the park’s history as a gathering place for American Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. 

Some proponents of the sign argue that they heard no objections about it before the County approved it. “That’s because hardly anyone knew about it until it was put up,” explained Jason Moss, executive director of the Jewish Federation. “If it had been a public process, I’m sure people would have opposed it. Now that it’s up there, we’re voicing our concerns.” 

An article about the new sign in the Crescenta Valley Weekly last month made no mention of the Nazi rallies held at the park. 

But after several local residents brought the issue to Moss’ attention, what appeared to be a harmless historical marker became the subject of controversy. Moss and others brought their complaints to Antonovich, who tried to deflect criticism by referring them to the County Department of Parks and Recreation. 

“I think there’s a way we can honor German-American culture, but also not forget what took place at that park,” Moss told me. 

In response to the complaints, the county’s Human Relations Commission will hold a public hearing on Thursday, April 7, from 4-6 pm, at the Sparr Heights Senior Center, 1613 Glencoe Way, Glendale, CA 91208. The hearing officers will report back to the full commission, who will then make a recommendation to County Parks Department, which could then decide what to do. 

But ultimately it will depend on whether Antonovich — who has served in that post since 1980 and has a reputation for closely monitoring activities in his district — insists that the sign be removed.

The sign’s opponents are urging people to contact Sussy Nemer, a staffperson for Antonovich ([email protected]) to voice their views about the sign. 

The controversy over the sign offers a teachable moment about local history and about the dangers of ignoring bigotry in our midst. As the cliché goes, if we don’t learn from the past, we’re doomed to repeat it. 

In 1925 the German American League acquired the land, named it Hindenburg Park, and maintained it as a private gathering for local German Americans, who held dances, picnics and other events there. 

Had the park simply been a place where German Americans celebrated their rich and fascinating cultural heritage, it would hardly be contentious. But the site also has a much more troubling history.

Although the German American League may have been founded to celebrate German culture, it always had a political side. According to a 1937 article in Life magazine, the group was “the Nazi organization in the U.S.,” previously known as the Friends of the New Germany. 

This country’s major pro-Nazi group was the German-American Bund, which sought to promote a favorable view of Nazi Germany and urged Americans to boycott Jewish-owned business. Its rallies not only featured Nazi flags but also American flags, claiming that its members were patriotic Americans. In fact, the Bund claimed that George Washington was “the first Fascist.” 

As early as 1936, the Bund operated 19 Nazi-inspired youth camps across the United States. One of them was called Camp Sutter and it was located at the German-American League’s Hindenburg Park.

I spoke with Arnie Bernstein, author of the 2013 book Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund. He explained that the purpose of these Bund youth camps was to “indoctrinate children in Nazi ideology.” Like most summer camps, the children participated in sports, hikes, arts and crafts and other activities. But they also were taught about Aryan supremacy and told to be loyal to the Bund, its leader Fritz Kuhn, and Adolph Hitler. They wore uniforms similar to those worn by the Hitler Youth group in Germany. They were forced to march around in the middle of the night carrying Bund and American flags, sing the Nazi anthem, give the Nazi salute, and shout “Sieg Heil” said Bernstein. As part of their camp activities, they were inculcated with Nazi propaganda. A Congressional investigation also uncovered sexual abuse between the adults and campers, Bernstein said.

In February 1939, Kuhn, who was often called the “American Fuehrer,” spoke at a pro-Nazi Bund rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City that attracted over 20,000 people. There he repeatedly referred to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “Frank D. Rosenfeld,” called his New Deal the “Jew Deal,” and stated that “the Jews are enemies of the United States.”

Another rally was held that month at the Bund’s West Coast headquarters at 634 West 15th Street in Los Angeles in building known as the Deutsch Haus (German House). The building was a site for pro-Nazi meetings and also housed a restaurant and beer hall as well as the Aryan Bookstore, where one could purchase the Bund newspaper, Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kamp, and other Nazi literature. The Deutsch Haus also screened German anti-Semitic propaganda films with titles like “Kosher Slaughter.” 

A few months later, on April 30, 1939, the Bund held a rally in Hindenburg Park, promoted as a celebration of Hitler’s birthday ten days later. Over 2,000 German-American Bund members came to hear Kuhn and West Coast Bund leader Herman Max Schwinn.

According to the Los Angeles Times: “Clad in a gray-and-black storm trooper uniform and flanked by a dozen uniformed guards, Kuhn spoke from a stage draped in red swastika banners.” The crowd cheered Kuhn and booed as a low-flying plane, sponsored by the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, bombarded the park with thousands of anti-Hitler leaflets. 

When it was Schwimm’s turn to speak, he read a telegram he had sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Do everything in your power to quarantine the United States against alien influences which are at work to drag the nation into war.” By “alien influences” he meant Jews, whom the Bund correctly believed were trying to get the Roosevelt administration and Congress to oppose Hitler’s efforts to take over Europe. 

A two-minute clip from the documentary film Rancho La Canada includes footage of activities at Hindenburg Park, including that 1939 Nazi rally. Some of the rally’s organizers were later put on trial for sedition.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times that week, Kuhn spouted typical Nazi ideas. Jews, he claimed held 62% of the high posts in the federal government and “have plotted to get hold of almost everything, especially in New York and Hollywood.”

That event was only one of many Bund and pro-Nazi events that took place at the park. These gatherings featured speakers from other American fascist organizations -- including the Silver Shirts, White Shirts, and Khaki Shirts — as well as the Bund.

Cal State-Northridge hosts a website and archive called In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California, 1933-1945” that includes photos of Nazi rallies at Hindenburg Park. One shows members of the Bund erecting a huge swastika in the park. 

In December 1939, Fritz Kuhn was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison for embezzlement, but the Bund briefly continued without him. Two years later, after the United States entered World War II against the Nazis, the Bund disappeared. In 1943, while he was serving his prison sentence, the U.S. cancelled Kuhn’s citizenship and deported him to Germany in 1945.

After the war, Hindenburg Park continued to be the site for German festivals. Southern California’s first Oktoberfest was held there in 1956. 

While the German American League owned the park, a 5-foot bust of Hindenburg adorned the grounds. In 1957, Los Angeles County purchased the land from the German-American League for $91,000, and removed the bust. The Board of Supervisors also abandoned the name Hindenburg Park and incorporated that section of the park into the larger Crescenta Valley County Park. 

Over the next half-century, memories of the American Nazis’ presence at the park faded. By the start of this century, few people recalled that the Glendale area had not only been a stronghold of Nazi activism but also a breeding ground for other hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and the John Birch Society in the 1950s. In the 1960s, Glendale was West Coast headquarters of the American Nazi Party. In 1962, when the KKK experienced a revival in response to the burgeoning civil rights movement, the Klan paraded down Glendale’s main thoroughfare, Brand Boulevard, with a horse brigade, marching band and burning cross. As recently as 2012, a tiny hate group called the Crescenta Valley European American Society, promoting “white identity and white pride,” had a brief presence on the internet and sponsored a European American Heritage Festival at Hindenburg Park — which generated controversy at the time — but all manifestations of this group, including its website, soon disappeared.

The La Crescenta and Glendale areas are now more diverse than in earlier years, but the scars of racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and other forms of bigotry never completely heal, as reflected in the upsurge of protest after the appearance of the new “Welcome to Hindenburg Park” sign last month. 

Hans Eberhard, the Tri-Centennial Foundation’s chairman, seemed either naïve or willfully ignorant about the significance of the site’s Nazi past. 

He told the Glendale News-Press that people who hoisted flags bearing swastikas in the park did so because it was the German flag at the time, not because they were Nazis. 

Seeking to downplay the dispute, Eberhard explained, “This is a welcome to Hindenburg Park. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an indication this is a historic site.”

Kaye Michelson from the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation echoed similar sentiments. “The intent was, and is, to honor the German-American heritage of the park,” she said in an interview with the Jewish Journal

Steve Pierce, a Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce board member, agreed. “The sign is just recognizing the German culture that was in our community,” he told the Glendale News Press last month. “I think that’s important. I’m very in support of that.” 

Mike Lawler, former president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, who has documented the area’s history of racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry, has a somewhat more nuanced view. The park’s history, he told me, is part of the “simple and recurring American story of an immigrant group celebrating their heritage as they assimilate.” But Lawler also understood why the sign has triggered a protest movement. “My overall feeling is that by burying uncomfortable events in history, we risk repeating past mistakes. Obviously, I don’t have the perspective of having been the victim of a mass genocide, so I cannot relate to the Jewish Federation’s feelings of offense. But I would hope that bringing attention to the park’s history would provide an opportunity for educating future generations about the dangers of nationalism and hate groups like the Bund.” 

Bernstein, the leading historian of the German-American Bund, was quick to tell me that “most German Americans weren’t Nazis or Nazi sympathizers.” Many, he said were “ashamed of Hitler and what was going on in Germany, and strongly denounced Kuhn and his followers.”

“The Bund was a small group compared with the number of German Americans living in the United States,” he explained. “But they were loud and noisy.”

Bernstein believes that any sign or plaque erected at La Crescenta County Park should not simply celebrate local German culture but also mention that the park was the site of pro-Nazi rallies.

“This controversy isn’t about Hindenburg himself, but what the park represents,” Bernstein said. “What was going on there was pro-Hitler activity. It’s an ugly fact of history but to avoid any mention of that is to erase an important part of the park’s past, which is something that people who use the park, or whose tax dollars pay for it, should know about.”

 

(Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. This piece was first posted at HuffingtonPost.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

AT LENGTH-I remember traveling one hot July day in 1955 to the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim. For the “happiest place on earth,” that day was a disaster. 

When Disneyland’s gates opened for the first time, the park unveiling was plagued with epic traffic jams, counterfeit tickets, broken rides, food shortages and a lack of water on a 100-degree day.

It was a bold move opening a theme park in the outer-reaches of Orange County -- an event that heralded the urban sprawl that has now become epic in Southern California. 

Gone now are the orange groves, vineyards and dairy pastures that once fanned out across the Southland from places like Torrance, Lomita, Gardena and even San Pedro. San Pedro locals still remember Lochman Farms Dairy on Western Avenue. 

Los Angeles County was once the largest agricultural region in the state. All of it has been divided and subdivided by freeways and thoroughfares, housing communities and shopping malls except for the last piece of vacant Lochman Farms land that’s to be developed known as Ponte Vista. 

This was part of the “dream” of an ever-expanding future. Disneyland and Hollywood fueled those dreams until they hit the brick wall of the Watts Riots in the summer of 1965. The hard reality set in that some parts of sunny California weren’t a part of the “happiest place on earth.” I watched the fires burn on TV from the hills of Palos Verdes and wondered. 

There is a lot more to this narrative that leads right up to Los Angeles today being the capital of homelessness that makes me believe that what we are witnessing is the demise of this dream. That all of the anger expressed by the Tea Party and the Donald Trump hostility on one side and the “enough is enough” campaign of Bernie Sanders are part of the same reaction to the squeeze.

More symbolic to this end were the recent deaths of both former First Lady Nancy Reagan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

With the first being a champion of the “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign and the latter a constitutional “originalist” appointee to the Supreme, both were extensions of President Ronald Reagan’s dubious legacy. 

The worldview of this Reagan triad that started back when he was governor of California and continued with his now discredited “trickle down economics” in the 1980s. This has persisted as a legacy up until President Barack Obama got his signature Affordable Care Act passed. 

The ACA continues to be a thorn in the side of conservative Republicans, Tea Partiers and neo-Trumpites even though it has survived three Supreme Court challenges, massively exceeded expectations, and has covered millions of Americans for whom the “dream” has slipped from their grasp along with their last middle-class job. 

What we are clearly witnessing in this curious presidential campaign year is the end of the Reaganomics era and the beginning of something else. That’s what the real debate is about. What’s the alternative to trickledown economics, free trade and inequitable wage compensation? 

Both Trump and Sanders criticize the free trade deals as a gambit that ships manufacturing jobs overseas, but clearly Sanders has the better grasp of the complexity of the issue and only recently has Hillary Clinton signed on to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. 

The TPP treaty is only understood by some 10 percent of the California electorate, but conservatives and liberals alike oppose it once it is explained. It is a curious phenomenon that, in a time in which Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much of anything, that voters both left and right oppose the TPP. This probably has something to do with the growing realization that “the dream” is slowing slipping from both hands. 

Back here in the Los Angeles Harbor Area we also have these dreams of waterfront development and of saving San Pedro. Perhaps someone will make a hat that reads “Make Pedro Great Again.” Yet, the issue of a few hundred homeless people camped out on our streets or the slow boating of waterfront development are only a veneer of the true problems that plague many parts of this great metropolis by the sea. Sustainable jobs, faster public transportation to the rest of Los Angeles and better access to capital investment for small business is the cure. 

The one key element that’s missing from the current plan to expand the MTA’s light rail system over the next 20 years is the connection from LAX to the Port of Los Angeles. 

This one change in the transportation plan would solve two of the three causes listed here for poor economics and would improve the lives of millions of county residents who live south of the 405 Freeway, as reported on in the LA Weekly. Read the story. Supervisor Don Knabe and Mayor Eric Garcetti need to hear from you. 

In the end, what’s needed for this new era is a different dream that is not predicated on more freeways, more cars or more urban sprawl as we ship jobs overseas. What is needed is for city governments to connect residents to themselves and to their city both physically and technologically.  What is needed are cities committed to being both economically and environmentally sustainable while ensuring shelter for everyone, even those who have the least.

 

(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.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING HANDICAP SCAM--Just when you think that the Mayor and the Los Angeles City Council could not sink lower, new evidence comes to light. 

We see and hear the publicity stunts by Mayor Garcetti and various councilmembers, crying for the need to construct more Affordable Housing. What has the City been doing to create Affordable Housing? According to the LA Times on April 2, 2016, It has been demolishing Affordable Units to make way for pricy apartments, condos and McMansions! 

That’s right, the City has been helping developers not only destroy affordable housing, but then through its HCIDLA Committee, the City has been giving tax money for the developers who just demolished the rent controlled properties. They justify these gifts of our money on the grounds that the poor need housing. As a result of this scam, the City Council has been voting unanimously to allow rent controlled units to be destroyed and then giving hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to the very people who tore down the homes. 

It’s like a late night Infomercial, “Wait there’s more.” While Mayor Garcetti and current Council President Herb Wesson have been shedding crocodile tears for the less fortunate, they have been abusing the City’s disabled population in order to divert more tax dollars to the billionaire developers. On camera, they speak in the name of the disabled, while screwing them off camera. 

No need to take my word for it. We have documented proof. In January 2012, while Mayor Garcetti was City Council President, the City and its now defunct Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA] was sued in federal court for systematically and knowingly cheating Los Angeles’ disabled persons. (Independent Living Center of Southern California et alia v City of Los Angeles, Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA], United States District Court for the Central District Court of California, Case Number SACV12 0062JST.) 

For at least the last decade, during which time Eric Garcetti had been Council District 13 Councilmember (2001-2014) and City Council President (2006-2012), the City and Garcetti’s beloved CRA cheated both disabled persons and the tax payers. Here’s the scam they used: 

(1) In order to receive tax money to construct affordable housing, the City had to guarantee that the developers made their apartments and condos disabled accessible. [Lawsuit ¶ 76] 

(2)   Because making apartments and condos accessible to disabled persons costs the developers more money, the City not only allowed developers not to provide the legally require handicap facilities, but Garcetti and other councilmembers also frustrated the efforts of advocates for the disabled to document the violations. [Lawsuit, ¶ ¶ 78-82] 

As a result, Mayor Garcetti and current Council President Herb Wesson, along with all the rest of the Los Angeles City Council, have helped to divert hundreds of millions of tax dollars to developers by allowing them not to make the required handicap improvements to their projects.

“By the actions described above, Defendants have engaged in, and continue to engage in a pattern or practice of discrimination against people with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Government Code § 1135. The Defendants continue to engage in such a pattern, practice, or policy of discrimination so as to constitute a continuing violation.” Lawsuit ¶ 85 

That’s right; Garcetti and Wesson are still at it! Look at how many of the projects named in the lawsuit are in Wesson’s Council District #10. 

“. . . Defendants have known that their acts and omissions create a substantial likelihood of harm to Plaintiff's federally protected rights, and Defendants have failed to act upon that likelihood.” Lawsuit¶ 86   

We are not dealing with innocent mistakes of a complicated law. The law is as simple as one could want: “This money is to be used to make the housing accessible to disabled persons.” What’s not to understand? How does this then become, “Use this tax money to buy yourself a mansion in Bel Air?” 

Let’s remember that in 2011, the State abolished Los Angeles CRA due to rampant corruption. Garcetti and Wesson knew about this scam as they were actively aiding and abetting the diversion of hundreds of millions of tax dollars away from disabled people to enrich their buddies, the real estate developers. (CityWatch wrote a series of articles about the corrupt CRA, especially about Garcetti’s pet project, The Cesspool on Vine.)  

Angelenos have to ask themselves: Do we want to be ruled by men who steal from the disabled in order to give more of our tax dollars to developers? That is exactly what Garcetti, Wesson and all the other councilmembers have been doing. They know that the tax dollars were to make this housing accessible to the disabled, yet they allowed the developers to pocket this money while leaving the disabled persons out in the cold.

 

(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.

ATTACK ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING-An irresponsible and complicit City Hall has sat idle in recent years as 20,000 rent-controlled apartment units in Los Angeles have been destroyed or converted, forcing working class tenants into the streets, scrambling to find replacement housing while luxury units were built to replace the affordable apartments that have been lost. 

That was the story told in part by Los AngelesTimes in a page-one investigative report. “The paper did a good job of documenting the destruction and pain caused by this housing trend,” said Jill Stewart, campaign director of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. 

“Unfortunately the Times did not go the extra mile and properly lay the blame for this tragedy at City Hall’s doorstep – as it should have,” said Stewart. “This is a crisis that City Hall has helped create because of its cozy relationship with the real estate industry, and it is a crisis that City Hall has certainly failed to correct.” 

Stewart called on Mayor Garcetti and the City Council to immediately place a moratorium on projects that will destroy affordable housing unless the new project will provide significant numbers of affordable units – at the very least replace the lost affordable units with an equal number of new affordable units. 

“Homelessness is spiking in Los Angeles as a direct result of City Hall's thoughtless behavior,” said Stewart. “Yet our elected officials have looked the other way for years as landlords and developers razed or converted building after building and wiped out our inexpensive rent-controlled apartments.” 

Since January, the Coalition to Preserve LA, sponsor of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative aiming for the March 2017 ballot, has challenged the frequent back room deals and votes by the Los Angeles City Council to place outsized luxury buildings in neighborhoods that were once affordable. 

The City Council has openly ignored critics who say the preservation of existing affordable housing is the only way to prevent a housing disaster and the spiking homelessness in LA. 

The actions and inactions of the City Council have set off a dramatic domino effect on block after block of Los Angeles: landlords jack up their rents and evict existing tenants — so they, too, can join the “luxury” density movement promoted and approved by City Hall. 

As the Coalition to Preserve LA has reported, all but one of 17 elected officials at City Hall are accepting campaign cash, gifts and/or money for their pet projects, from developers and the real estate industry. Since 2000, the City Council and mayor have accepted $6 million from real estate industry sources alone. This amount does not include contributions from an army of land-use attorneys and lobbyists who facilitate the real estate industry’s big-growth agenda at City Hall. 

In the face of this conflict of interest, Los Angeles city leaders have touted the wrong-headed idea that constructing luxury housing for the rich will help poor and low-income families. “There is no evidence to support this conclusion,” said Stewart. “Their argument is essentially that luxury housing will become over 25 or so years affordable. That’s no solace to families now who are being evicted. They need affordable housing now – not 25 years from now.”

The Los Angeles Times investigation by Ben Poston and Andrew Khouri notes: “The number of lost units is a fraction of the roughly 641,000 rent-controlled apartments in the city, but in a tight market the removals have had an outsized effect, tenant advocates say.” Most of the units were lost to demolition but some were converted into condos. 

Approval by voters of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative next March will end the most egregious actions by the City Council to uproot communities in favor of luxury housing built by their developer friends. But until voters put a halt to this, and require non-corrupt planning by City Hall — a core aspect of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative — the City Council should enact a moratorium to bar further destruction and conversion of LA's desperately needed rent-controlled units, according to Stewart. 

The initiative will impose a two-year moratorium on the biggest and worst projects that can be built only if City Hall provides developers with building exemptions and special favors. This time-out will give Los Angeles a breather from the current development frenzy now swamping LA’s streets with traffic, ruining neighborhoods, creating an environment of concrete and pollution, displacing working class families and overwhelming the city’s infrastructure. 

In addition, the initiative will empower neighbors to have a bigger say in shaping the community plans that govern growth in their neighborhoods. “Our initiative will help level the playing field so residents can have as much say or more say in how their communities are developed than the developers – who are now almost exclusively in control of the city’s growth machine,” said Stewart.


(John Schwada is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner. He is a contributor to CityWatch. His consulting firm is MediaFix Associates.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

ANIMAL WATCH-On February 1, 2016, in my CityWatch article, “Has L.A. Animal Services Brenda Barnette Crossed the Line with Questionable Fundraising MOU?”  I questioned why a nonprofit corporation created by former Villaraigosa-appointed Commissioner Maggie Neilson, Global Philanthropy CEO, as a charitable arm for LA Animal Services, was registered as “The Los Angeles Animal Rescue Foundation.”  

On January 12, 2016, LAAS GM Barnette urged the Animal Services Commission to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and stated the purpose is “…to support the work of the Department much the way the LAPD Foundation, the LAFD Foundation, the Library Foundation and others support the work of City Departments.”  

However, other City department “supporting foundations” clearly mention in their name the agency for which they are soliciting funds.  

So why wasn’t “The Los Angeles Animal Rescue Foundation” incorporated as “Los Angeles Animal Services Foundation” or “Friends of Los Angeles Animal Services?” Both were available according to the CA Secretary of State.

It is also perplexing that the Articles of Incorporation for ‘The Los Angeles Animal Rescue Foundation’ state: 

“The specific purpose of the Corporation is to ensure every animal has a home and that no adoptable animals are euthanized in Los Angeles.” 

While the official mandated Mission Statement of the Department of Animal Services, which is budgeted as a public-safety agency, is: 

To promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of animals and people.” 

Why would a nonprofit charity be set up with an idealistic statement of purpose not closely related to the realistic mission of the agency for which it purports to raise funds? There is a major difference between a municipal, taxpayer-funded public animal shelter which takes in all animals in need (regardless of condition or behavior) and a “rescue,” which is a private organization and can choose to accept only adoptable animals.  

According to the Board Report, Deputy City Attorney Dov Lesel had been working on this MOU with Ms. Neilson and LAAS staff “for the past couple of years,” indicating that City Attorney Mike Feuer is fully aware of this proposal. She also mentioned that it is supported by the Mayor.

So, if a Deputy City Attorney is preparing documents for a private company to submit to the City Council -- prior to instruction or approval by that body -- is he acting as counsel for the City or for the non-profit? And, what other City officials and/or employees have been involved? 

No accusation of wrongdoing has been alleged, but inquiring minds want (and deserve) to know.

To that end, on February 23, 2016, I sent California Public Records Act requests to City Attorney Mike Feuer, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Paul Koretz and LAAS GM Brenda Barnette, which can be read at CF16-0070 in the City Clerk’s file. Certified receipts show the letters arrived on February 25.

Those familiar with the process know that the agency has ten days to either respond and provide the information, deny that they have such documents, or ask for a 14-day extension of time. Councilman Koretz and Mayor Garcetti were informed that a copy of each of their letters was also being sent to the City Attorney as the City’s legal advisor. 

Not one of these officials responded -- including City Attorney Mike Feuer. 

Is it possible nothing was done in writing? According to Brenda Barnette’s report, a number of City officials collaborated and this is essentially a fait accompli. Could a several-year project simply have been conducted by phone, with not a single person writing a note or sending even one e-mail? 

Or did they possibly use private e-mail accounts -- a la Hillary Clinton? 

Although we don’t want to believe steps would intentionally be taken by the City to limit transparency, Jim Bickhart, former aide to Mayor Villaraigosa, sent a very rambling e-mail to the LA Animal Services Commissioners on January 14, 2012 which appears to be an effort to do just that. (Bickhart is now under contract to Councilman Paul Koretz as Speedway Policy Associates.) 

Jim Bickhart oversaw the Department of Animal Services and the Commission for the Mayor. He coordinated the appointment of animal issue-neophyte Maggie Neilson, CEO of Global Philanthropy, in April 2013 to replace the very popular, knowledgeable and independent Commissioner Kathleen Riordan  (who had recently been appointed to a new term.) 

I am providing the lengthy e-mail from Bickhart to the Commission in its entirety (below) to assure full disclosure. However, I direct your attention to the bolded areas (emphasis added)--especially the first paragraph, which begins, “You’ll note that I’m e-mailing you from my personal e-mail address.”

Then in a later sentence Bickhart writes: So I would suggest that you take the this [sic] precaution: If you don't want what you say to be subject to possible public disclosure, don't put something in writing to a public official's work e-mail account.”  

(Ironically, I received this e-mail in a response to a CPRA on an unrelated topic.) 

 

Note: All emphasis in the following e-mail is added.

From: [email protected]
To: [email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected]
CC: [email protected]
Sent: 1/14/2012 5:03:22 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subj: some notes on use of correspondence in the public sector

Dear Commissioners,

You'll note that I'm e-mailing you from my personal e-mail address.  I'm doing so by way of providing an example, even though I believe it would have been fully appropriate to send this to you from work.

Because of all the stir being created relative to your work by a certain member of the public, I am reminded that I owe you all an apology for a couple of things.

First, I apologize for not checking with each of you during your appointment processes to be sure you were not overlooking any paperwork-related situations that someone with an agenda might later be able to exploit in efforts to embarrass you. I don't think I have to belabor the point that in contemporary politics, there are people looking to say "Gotcha!" at the slightest provocation and a variety of tools have been provided to them for doing so.

Much as one of my jobs as a staffer for an elected official is to try to eliminate opportunities for people to do that to my boss, it's also my obligation to do that for those of you who are volunteering your valuable time, along with your reputations, to help us all try to do a
better job on behalf of the people (and, in this case, the animals).  By not doing that due diligence with you when I should have, I let you, and my boss, down.  So, again, I apologize.

Second, my other sin of omission was to fail to make it known that EVERY kind of written correspondence that emanates from or is received by a public sector official (elected or otherwise), is subject to public disclosure via either the state Public Records Act or the federal Freedom of Information Act.

That means your e-mails, memos and letters to anyone working in government are potentially subject to being revealed to the media or other individuals if they request it in accordance with the procedures set forth in those laws.  For sure there are limitations - usually comparable to those applied to evidence being excluded in court procedures - but in general we all need to keep in mind that anything we send to each other might end up being seen by people we didn't expect would ever see it.

During my tenure in the Mayor's office I've been subjected to no fewer than a half dozen Public Records Act requests for my City e-mails and other documents.  I can attest that it's a royal pain to be forced to comb through hundreds of e-mails at the behest of someone who's on a "fishing expedition" for one reason or another.  I certainly understand the motive behind these disclosure laws and support transparency in government, but I highly doubt that those who created these laws properly anticipated how they might be employed in ways that shed more nuisance than they do sunlight.

A key rule we in the Mayor's office are told early on is, "Don't put anything in an e-mail you wouldn't want to see in the newspaper later on."  It's good advice that I should have told you a long time ago (and should remind myself of way more often than I do).  Not that it's been a
problem with 99.9% of your e-mails to City Hall, but you just never know when that 0.1% might be sitting around in somebody's in-box when a PRA request comes in. 
Believe me, I know, because I'm a way bigger offender than any of you will ever be.

So I would suggest that you take the this [sic] precaution: If you don't want what you say to be subject to possible public disclosure, don't put something in writing to a public official's work e-mail account.  This doesn't need to apply to simple communications such as, "I can't attend the next meeting," or "Can you call me this afternoon?"  Messages that don't contain opinions or potentially problematic revelations are not the issue.  None of us really cares if someone else is bored (or disappointed) by them after they're disclosed.

As we've seen in the last few months, it doesn't take much for certain kinds of people to go out of their way to make you, as volunteers who are trying to do something positive, wonder why you bothered in the first place.  To be frank, I feel that way regularly, but I'm being paid.  You're not (at least not for this).  I owe it to you to do what I can to protect you from being placed in that position and I should have taken steps to do so earlier.  Once we've made an error, there's not much any of us can do to avoid taking some lumps, and our ethical obligation is to make sure we're treated like anyone else would be in the same circumstances.  So it's best to be doubly sure we're staying out of harm's way in the first place.

On that sobering note, I hope everyone is having a good MLK weekend.

Jim 

 

The Mayor, City Attorney, Councilman Paul Koretz, and Brenda Barnette have another chance to respond to my CPRA about the proposed Global Philanthropy MOU before any further action is considered. 

On March 23, a letter advising them of their Failure to Respond to the CPRA was sent and also placed in the City Clerk’s file CF16-0070. It provides the opportunity to rectify this matter promptly. I hope they will do so.

 

(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.

  

CA’s ‘FORGOTTEN’ RACE-The California Attorney General Kamala Harris has won a $1.2 billion judgment against the for-profit Corinthian Colleges for predatory practices that left tens of thousands of students with large debts and useless degrees. Students whom Corinthian had targeted for their “special characteristics” like "isolated", "impatient", "low self-esteem" folks "who have few people in their lives who care about them" according to documents Harris' office discovered.  

Does the case reveal any special characteristics of Kamala Harris? (photo right above) That's especially important since she's running for US Senate. 

She’s in the lead for the retiring Barbara Boxer's seat. In a race that not enough of us are watching, she handily beat out Orange County’s Loretta Sanchez for the State Democratic Party’s endorsement last month. 

Even if we were paying attention to this important election, education advocates know that an election for national office is not exactly the best venue to find out a candidate's stand on public education. With so little campaign emphasis on our cause, candidates’ actions and occasional words are open to interpretation. So what do the tea leaves say about Kamala Harris? 

The bulk of the judgment in this case is loan forgiveness for former students. The rest is to punish the shyster Corinthian and try to deter other profiteers from creating business models that prey on hopeful students. That's a good sign. 

The win shows Harris to be a fighter for pupils over profits, something that should help her distinguish herself to voters concerned about the privatization of public education.  

One of Harris’ Republican opponents is cringe-worthy to education voters. Ron Unz is a Palo Alto software executive whose interest in education stems from his effort to obliterate bilingual education in our state. He successfully championed the 1998 “English only” ballot initiative, which the state legislature has nearly finished repealing. This has so ticked off Unz that he decided to throw his hat in the ring for the Senate seat. 

So Unz can make some anti-immigrant noise, which apparently is a selling point in this reality-TV-based election season, though he has little chance of winning against either Democrat. 

The Democrats are having their own difficulty breaking through the cacophony of the presidential election. An LA Times article this week reported one third of California voters are still undecided in the Senate race that includes four Democrats. Harris polls first, ahead of Sanchez among registered voters and Harris’ take doubles Sanchez's among likely voters. 

There’s no poll of education voters, but if there was, this shellacking of for-profit colleges by Kamala Harris surely would put her at the front of the class.

 

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect  and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Photo: AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

 

Tags: Karen Wolfe, CA state election, US Senate race, Kamala Harris, Barbara Boxer, Corinthian Colleges, predatory education practices

BILLBOARD WATCH-Seven years ago, just a few days before Christmas, a construction crew pulled up to a lot on the north side of the 110 freeway in downtown LA and proceeded to erect a 60 ft. high, double sided billboard. (Photo above, left on Plumbers’s Union property.) Less than 50 ft. from the freeway in the Staples Center/L.A. Live area, its two 700 sq. ft. faces would broadcast ads for such products as fast food, computers, and financial services to nearly 300,000 motorists every day. 

City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who brokered the backroom deal two years earlier to allow Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor to convert hundreds of their billboards to digital, was certainly no hero to anti-billboard activists. But on the day after Christmas he announced the filing of criminal charges against the owner of the construction company that put up that billboard and two others along the freeway in the same vicinity. Criminal charges were also filed against all three property owners. 

Everyone knows the wheels of justice often turn slowly, and despite the absence of any credible defense against a brazen defiance of city laws, those three billboards displayed a variety of ads to motorists for more than seven years. Just this month construction crews again appeared, this time to yank them from the ground and cart them away. (Photo above, right after billboard removal.)

Why so long? Suffice to say that lawsuits were filed, and with them a variety of motions and other tactics designed, it seems, to postpone the inevitable as opposed to resolving serious legal questions.

But all’s well that ends well. Or so it would seem, if one overlooks another fundamental question, which is: How much money did those property owners and the company that put up the billboards make by displaying ads for seven years to motorists on one of the most heavily-traveled sections of freeway in the city? 

In other words, what about those ill-gotten gains? One of the property owners was Local 78 of the Plumbers Union. How much did they pocket from what was, essentially, a criminal enterprise? And why shouldn’t they be forced to disgorge those tainted funds? 

That question is particularly relevant to that union, because it had been lobbying for city permission to put up a new digital billboard on that property. Just months before the illegal billboard appeared, City Councilman Ed Reyes had introduced a City Council motion to allow an exception to the sign code provision that prohibited any new billboards. 

That motion died in committee, ostensibly because such an exception for a single billboard could never be justified on legal grounds. Yet the Plumbers Union leaders, who certainly had full knowledge of this, allowed a billboard company renegade to come along and put up the billboard without so much as a shred of official approval. 

In short, we can applaud the City Attorneys -- first Delgadillo, then Carmen Trutanich, now Mike Feuer -- who pursued the ultimate removal of those billboards. We can also ask that people who profited from blatant nose-thumbing at city laws be made to pay. 

If you agree, we suggest sending an email to Mike Feuer ([email protected]).  Something like, “Good work, but now go after those ill-gotten gains.” And be sure to send a copy of that message to your City Councilperson, because some political pressure always helps.

 

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

 

GETTING THERE FROM HERE-This is hardly a shocker, but according to a study by INRIX, Inc. the Los Angeles metro area has the worst congestion in the nation, and the second-worst congestion in the world (LINK: ).  Certainly, the "good reason" for more traffic of an improving economy (which is improving with lousy part-time jobs and not good career jobs, but improving, nevertheless) has a major role to play here, but we also have the "bad reasons" for traffic that must be addressed--and we have the ability to fix both of them.

The bad reasons are two-fold, and they are best addressed with the analogy of tying Transportation and Planning together as a form of "Mobility Budget", with Transportation funding being the equivalent of "income", and with Planning being the equivalent of "spending".

To the apologists at City Hall who defend unsustainable, environmentally-unfriendly overdevelopment for whatever political or economic reasons they can muster, this analogy is just silly, and with condescending contempt they'll want to pat us all on the head and deny the rest of us what is blatantly obvious:

WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH MOBILITY INCOME (more transportation funding for projects and operations), AND EVEN IF WE GET A RAISE, WE SPEND MORE THAN WE CAN EVER TAKE IN.

(In other words, we overdevelop, and develop in neighborhoods that have never, and will never, accommodate such overdevelopment, faster than our transportation improvements can keep up with).

So we need to get more income, and we need to spend better: 

  • Our best bet to achieve more income is the upcoming "Measure R-2" initiative this November.  In short, it extends the previous Measure R (half-cent sales tax passed in 2008) another 20 years, and creates yet another half-cent sales tax for 40 years.

Arguably, this is the "second half" of what should have been been the original Measure R passed in 2008.  It's not hard to conclude that former LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl was right in suggesting Measure R should have been a whole cent sales tax that was passed in 2008.

Unless, of course, you think that it's acceptable and A-OK for the rail and freeway fixes funded by Measure R to be completed in 2036 or later. 

Is this talk of Measure R and R-2 expensive?  YES, IT IS.

But it's paid by everyone, and it's the price we pay for having blown off transportation funding for decades since the 1970's.

Furthermore, we are getting more matching federal funding in ways L.A. has almost never seen--our "self-help" efforts have caught Washington's eyes and rewarded us grants and low-interest loans in almost unheard-of levels.

And if it turns out that the November elections will be between Trump and Clinton (as it appears to be), we will have not one but both major presidential candidates being as pro-transportation/infrastructure as any we've seen in decades.

On a final note, the need for operations and maintenance of both car-based and rail/bus-based transportation are as vital as any new construction, and Measure R-2 addresses that in earnest.

Yes, Metro is listening, and while we should be continue to hold Metro's feet to the fire it does appear that they are not tone-deaf.

  • But we need to control our spending--particularly in the City of Los Angeles, where being tone-deaf has been a way of life for the last two decades.

Unlike other cities, which respect their citizenry and taxpayers, the City of LA is run and influenced (controlled, really) by very wealthy and connected developers who don't give a rip about the citizens playing by the rules, and are supported by a host of "useful idiots" that dismiss discussion of transportation/planning balances as "NIMBY-talk".

Where else but Los Angeles would we see developers allowed to fund and influence the City Council to encourage and force LA City Planning to slam through prima facie bad development, allow them to get away with underfunding parking and other mitigation measures, and call it "progressive" and "transit-friendly"?

Where else but Los Angeles would we have transit advocates and bicycling advocates proclaim that parking is bad, but look the other way when no equivalent financial requirements for developers to pay for bus stop improvements, rail improvements, bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, etc. are appropriately funded?

Where else but Los Angeles would we have Planning and other City agencies ignore legally-mandated Community Plan updates to emphasize more density on major thoroughfares and preserve neighborhoods, and call it "progressive"?

Next spring, the City will have the chance to elect a better City Council, while also creating a Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, or NII, to demand that legally-required Planning efforts be taken seriously.

If the NII passes, Community Plans will be expedited, developers will be required to fund EIR's but not control who writes them and what they say, and an emphasis on legal and affordable housing will be allowed to start playing a role in the City of the Angels.

Unlike the City Hall developer/true believer types, who have all sorts of time and money to buy and influence City Councilmembers, the NII is a grassroots- and citizen-funded effort, with its primary focus on having the City of LA finally obey its civic, environmental, and legal requirements to its citizenry.

And for those wishing to donate to or be part of this historic effort, please go to 2preservela.org/ 

It shouldn't be too hard for anyone to figure out that our "Mobility Budget" needs more income and better spending habits. 

But for those happy and content to pull the wool over our eyes, and who are used to doing just that for decades, it's up to LA City and County residents to make sure that both Vision and Common Sense prevail.

Either that, or be prepared to hand these Mobility "income" and "spending" endeavors to the next generation or three.

 

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

-cw

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--An email sent this morning to all registered candidates running for the upcoming Studio City Neighborhood Council revealed that Empower LA Elections Committee head Jay Handal had emailed registered voters’ confidential information to the existing SCNC board and council members. The email contained registered voters’ private email, passwords and sensitive documents such as driver’s license, passports, 1099’s, property and tax documents. 

The email leak was sent out Wednesday from Studio City Neighborhood Council incumbent Lisa Sarkin notifying members that there had been "a violation of privacy rights," asking them to immediately delete the documents. “We must not participate in this breach of security”. 

“It is concerning that the current reigning council would have access to all the online voters’ private information and passwords. They could have gone in at any time and changed their vote. This is why I and other concerned community stakeholders are running for this year’s council. We have witnessed and protested the corrupt actions of Lisa Sarkin and the existing SCNC committee, and want to be a transparent, fair and just voice for our community, not big developers and special interest groups.”  said Patrice Berlin running for the board position for the 2016 SCNC.  

Eric Preven, another candidate running for office says, “This is a serious breach of trust, verging on Electoral Fraud. We are demanding that the city investigate this matter and suspend the election until all of this is out in the open and rectified. Voters have a right to know that their private information and voting rights were compromised. Voters who have been notified of the breach are greatly concerned and are demanding that the City Attorney, election authorities and the Mayor’s office get involved.” 

In a second e-mail following the release of confidential voter information, Mr. Handal wrote: "The Studio City Neighborhood Council elections are documentation, they are online, and there are 7 ballots with voters able to qualify for up to 5 ballots. This scenario is unique to SCNC and the difficulties that voters are experiencing are specific to SCNC." 

Richard Welsh SCNC candidate for Homeowners seat says “After all I have seen and read on this topic, I can only conclude that the system for voter qualification as established by the SCNC is fatally flawed. 

The fact that confidential evidence is required to prove voter eligibility inherently creates a situation where an election under this system cannot be fairly and transparently administered. 

It is my strong feeling that the election should be postponed indefinitely until which time an emergency task force can be convened to reestablish the parameters of the process using a more conventional and inclusive model as should be readily available in the form of other Neighborhood Council procedures.” 

For more information on Studio City Neighborhood Empowerment go to www.ourstudiocity.org

 

If you have registered for on-line voting and have concerns over privacy and/or election transparency issues write to: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

 

(This report was provided by Eric Preven, Patrice Berlin and Richard Welsh, all candidates in this year’s Studio City Neighborhood Council election.)

-cw

 

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-(CityWatch reported this disturbing story … an example of how money blinds, how greedy green can overwhelm green parks and wildlife … earlier this month. This is a sad follow to that story.) The Make Good Group LLC, a marketing agency that bills itself as The Social Impact Company, is behind the three-day, multi-stage AngelFest that could bring 65,000 visitors per day to the Sepulveda Basin (photo above) this October, but not without continued pushback from neighbors and conservation groups including the Audubon Society. 

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EASTSIDER-In lieu of my normal straight reporting job on these events, let me just say my take-away from Tuesday evening’s DWP Reform Forum, organized by the Pat Brown Institute and CSULA, is all in the headline above -- after attending this forum, trying to put DWP Governance Reform on this year’s ballot would be a colossal mistake. 

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PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Sometimes it is important to step back from the weighty city planning and environmental issues confronting Los Angeles to focus on the small, personal steps we can take to make LA a more attractive and sustainable city. This is why I want to focus on drought tolerant gardens, something the minority of Angelenos who live in single-family homes can act on. 

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DEATH POLITICS--When California’s aid-in-dying law takes effect this June, terminally ill patients who decide to end their lives could be faced with a hefty bill for the lethal medication. It retails for more than $3,000. Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes the drug most commonly used in physician-assisted suicide, doubled the drug’s price last year, one month after California lawmakers proposed legalizing the practice.  

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A LIFE POSTSCRIPT--Whether it's common sense, common decency, or common courtesy, there is just often too little of such "common" commoditites.  But sometimes there are individuals who stand out and show that YES, those sorts of things can be achieved ... with honesty to boot.  As my friend and colleague Gary Walker of the Argonaut reported so well, we've lost a great man who's earned a cherished and lasting memory within our hearts:  Bill Rosendahl. 

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MY TURN-Many people have described Richard Alarcon as a great example of the “professional politician.” He prefers to think of himself as the advocate for community service, having been involved in the political arena most of his adult life. In the last three years, though, it has been mostly on the dark side. 

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RETIREMENT POLITICS--More than seven million people—over one-fifth of California’s population—work without a path to retirement. They have neither a 401(k) — the so-called “roller-coaster plan” tied to the stock market — nor a traditional pension that was once considered a worker’s right and which is now a rare species outside of government employment or the public education system.

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