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GUEST COMMENTARY-Just eighteen months prior to handing over (in a below-market private sale) the keys to an old firehouse (photo above) bordering Richard Weintraub’s proposed development site for Sportsmen’s Landing, the City slapped Mr. Weintraub with a $1.6 million lawsuit to recover several years’ worth of taxes that he, as a hotel owner, was required to but did not pay.  

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LAPD INSIDER-On January 28, 2016, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck unilaterally disbanded the Parole Compliance Units (PCU) within all divisions of the LAPD and ordered that those officers assigned to the PCU be redeployed to patrol assignments. That was the Unit that specialized in conducting checks on early release "non-violent, non-serious" offenders. 

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BUDGET DOYENNE-Surely you’ve seen the Mayor’s #SlowJam video announcing the slowdown expected as a result of the closure of the 101 this past weekend? Masterfully executed with original music by talented students of the Theodore Roosevelt High School Jazz Band, Eric Garcetti is the coolest mayor ever. 

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A THEORY ON EVERYTHING-With the passing of 79 year-old United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday one can only hope we will have a reprieve from his reactionary "originalism" legal views. This might allow us to bring our country and the Supreme Court into the 21st century and a chance of achieving liberty and justice for all under law. 

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EASTSIDER-A recent spate of CityWatch articles disinterring the Bicycle Plan controversy and the sins of Council District 1’s Gilbert Cedillo prompted my attention. There have been nine CityWatch pieces since last August, culminating in the most recent post, “What to Do about Gil Cedillo...Carpetbagger-in-Chief.” 

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ANIMAL WATCH-At the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee’s special meeting on February 3, Chair Paul Koretz pursued punishment of business owners for the fact that LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette and Best Friends Animal Society’s mercurial e-metrics still have not leveraged a rate of euthanasia that can be called “no kill.” Somebody must be blamed -- other than those leading Los Angeles animal lovers down a donation-paved, vote-assuring mythical path promising that the endless influx of homeless animals that end up in shelters can find “forever” homes if Angelenos will just make enough sacrifices for the cause. 

So Koretz is unleashing his frustration and desperation on businesses by insisting the City Council change the zoning code to allow dog kennels (more than three adult dogs -- and in this case, unlimited dogs) to be maintained within 500 feet of residences and right next door to any business in C-2 zoning (CF 11-0754.)  

The rationale is that this will allow “rescue” groups to remove unadopted (or behaviorally unadoptable) dogs from the shelters and keep them in stores in commercial districts, thus making Barnette’s “live-release” rate look better. 

These “new-model” dog kennels will be called “pet shops.” The City is pretending that adult shelter dogs do not intrusively bark, urinate on communal store/office walls, or produce objectionable odors. 

There is no requirement for outdoor space, which means that the dogs could be deprived of natural sunlight and would be exercised on adjacent sidewalks and parking lots -- increasing the possibility of escape as well as the amount of animal excretions where humans and pets are walking. 

This ordinance also assumes that shelter animals are not carriers of air-borne or contact diseases transmissible to humans and other animals. It abandons requirements for proper air circulation and space currently imposed by the Conditional Use Permit process when dog kennels are maintained in other than light-industrial zones. 

Since no provisions are included for sanitation and waste disposal, pedestrians may find dog feces washed across alleys and into storm drains. But it’s a public health risk the City has already indicated it is willing to take. 

This ordinance is scheduled for Council hearing on February 16, 2016, and upon its passage local businesses and residents will have no legal recourse. 

I asked two of my most witty, politically astute colleagues to describe this intentional desecration of the zoning code, which will turn man’s best friend into a business owner’s worst nightmare. They quipped back immediately, “Council Committee ‘Screws the Pooch’ and L.A. Businesses” or “Los Angeles Does Business Doggy Style.” 

Too funny and too true not to share! Sadly, they are good metaphors for what will happen if the Council approves the ordinance that City Attorney Mike Feuer and Deputy City Attorney Charles Sewell are assuring will absolutely bring the intended result and render the business community helpless to defend itself. 

New Councilmembers David Ryu and Marqueece Harris-Dawson (both on the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee) unquestioningly passed the motion in a unanimous vote. This is disappointing since both made pre-election promises to voters that business growth and residential protection were keystones of their campaigns.  

Koretz, who was involved personally in the selection of former dog breeder/AKC Legislative Representative Brenda Barnette, chooses to ignore that she is failing to address rampant breeding all over the city, which adds to shelter impounds and stray population. Her latest stats show that 347 Breeder’s Permits have been issued by LA Animal Services for the first half of the 2015/16 fiscal year. 

This assault on businesses by Koretz stems from his ban of puppy-mill puppies from pet stores in the City of LA. In the usual whimsical law-making we see in Los Angeles, the fact that there were reportedly only eleven such stores selling puppies in the 469 square miles of the City was not considered. 

With this action, they nullified the benefit of the existing, comprehensive and detailed State laws that protect animals offered for sale or purchased from California pet stores (Lockyer-Polanco-arr Pet Protection Act—Health And Safety Code Sections 122125 – 122220.) 

The City Council could have demanded that Brenda Barnette enforce these laws, cite or revoke permits for any pet stores that were not providing required care and/or complying with after-sale provisions, and who were engaging the media to broadcast the tragic conditions of animals from puppy mills. 

Instead, the ban caused pet stores to go underground, posting photos and contact information so that customers seeking purebred puppies can obtain them directly from puppy mills via the Internet. 

Some pet store owners also make referrals to local breeders, profiting through commissions rather than maintaining live puppies. Both of these methods allow them to completely circumvent the jurisdiction of LA Animal Services and other government regulations. But, has it reduced the number of purebred puppies being bred for profit or entering Los Angeles from puppy mills?  

Just as the well-intentioned ordinance banning the sale of puppies jeopardizes animals by removing statutory safeguards, the proposed change in the Zoning Code will similarly jeopardize countless businesses and residents. 

The City of Los Angeles has the means and ability to accomplish its goal of facilitating the new- model kennel/pet shops in commercial areas without jeopardizing public health/safety and area property values. Instead of removing all protections for surrounding residents and businesses, the City could streamline the CUP process in suitable commercial locations for this type of business by reducing fees and fast-tracking applications from those seeking to partner with the City in reducing the shelter-dog population. 

In contrast, simply exempting pet shops from the definition of kennels will lead to havoc and desperation when businesses and residents realize they have no legal recourse for nuisance noises and health/safety concerns that appear next door overnight and threaten their livelihood and their survival. 

All businesses and residents of LA need to be aware of this pending passage by Council and immediately demand that all stakeholders first have a chance to review the impact on their business or home. 

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

ANIMAL WATCH-None of the following is intended as legal advice. Information contained herein is strictly for informational purposes. If you are a landlord in Los Angeles and have specific questions or situations regarding Service/Emotional Support Animals, talk with an attorney or rental-property owners’ association, such as the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) or Apartment Owners' Association (AOA). Both tenants and landlords can find information at HCID. 

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CAUGHT IN THE ACT-Show trials aren’t what they used to be. Ask California Coastal Commission Chairman Steve Kinsey, whose hearing this Wednesday in Morro Bay to decide the fate of the Commission’s Executive Director Charles Lester was supposed to be a brief “fake-weighing” of the evidence, followed by a hearty pushing of Dr. Lester into the sea. But instead, it’s ended up as a cause celebre among environmental heavy weights and some not-at-all-grandstanding politicians who think Dr. Lester should be kept on board, if not canonized. 

The truth is that Dr. Lester should not be kept on board. In fact, the public should give Mr. Kinsey a hand when he leans over to push Dr. Lester off the ship of state. And then, once Dr. Lester is safely off the boat and Kinsey still has his back to us, we should push him overboard as well. And after that, Commissioner Wendy Mitchell should also get the heave-ho. That should do it for now. 

Why all the shoving? Because all three of these individuals recently betrayed the public’s trust in a very specific way which, unlike Mr. Kinsey’s “charges” against Dr. Lester, can be clearly detailed and explained as follows:    

Shortly after the Commission approved, on January 9, 2015, the construction of a 75 to 82 foot high automated dry stack boat storage facility with 11,600 square feet of water coverage (i.e. the structure will hang over that many square feet of water) at Basin H in Marina del Rey (permit No. 5- 14-0770), Commissioners Kinsey and Mitchell, along with Dr. Lester -- as well as the rest of the Commission -- were informed that several key representations presented to the Commission in connection with the project application were false. 

The false information could hardly have been more material. In response to a question regarding the logistic feasibility of the proposed automated storage system, the Commission was assured by one of Dr. Lester’s deputies (with Dr. Lester himself observing) that, in effect, the technology was tried and true; specifically, that “other parts of the country use this technology” and so it’s “not unproven.” The falsity of this claim has never been disputed. 

The truth is that there is only one operational fully automated dry stack boat storage facility in the world, and that facility, far from being an argument in favor of the Marina del Rey project, makes it clear why this current project needs to be further vetted by Commissioners. To date, the commissioners have not received full and clear information about what they and their constituents are getting themselves into. 

First, the referenced operational facility (in Port Marina, Florida) doesn’t work for small boats. A wet slip (the most convenient and desirable way to store one’s boat) in the Marina del Rey market costs between $625 and $700 per month for a 34-foot boat, including hookups. Yet the rental fee for the same sized boat at the Port Marina automated facility is approximately double the cost. 

Commissioner Mitchell has stated that her support for the Marina del Rey project was, to a significant extent, based on the belief that it would increase the public’s access to the marina by offering more places for small boats to be stored. But shouldn’t learning that small boats will not be accommodated by the new structure prompt Commissioner Mitchell to ask for some clarifications on all this?   

The public and the Commissioners are owed full and accurate disclosure of what taxpayer dollars are being spent for an invaluable coastal location whose charter requires it to be safeguarded for public recreation. The most efficient way to do that would be to reconsider the item at the Coastal Commission's next meeting so that all the new information could be taken into account by the Commissioners. They would then be free to vote the same way they did the first time if they so chose. This is the kind of due diligence that the law, common sense, and good citizenship require. Chair Kinsey has several times been asked, yet still refuses, to reconsider the item. 

And by, in effect, suppressing important new evidence regarding the boat storage development, Commissioners Kinsey and Mitchell, as well as Dr. Lester, have committed much the same transgression as do lawyers who neglect to inform their clients of a settlement offer. Those lawyers get debarred. 

(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government.  He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a teacher who lives in Los Angeles. Views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. ) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DEEGAN ON LA--Last Sunday was not a day of rest for Jill Stewart, the Campaign Director of the just-launched Coalition to Preserve Los Angeles who said the same thing to a group of 45 community activists and in a video interview for the newsletter of a major residential association: “The (CPLA’s) Neighborhood Integrity Initiative ballot measure will stop the “back-room” deals between developers and council members.” 

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TRANSIT LA-Whether it's in preparation for the 2024 Olympics, bringing LA forward into the 21st Century, or just common sense and good old-fashioned house cleaning, LAX is getting a face lift that significantly enhances access and mobility.

While I am increasingly for the proposed City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Integrity Initiative this November that would set limits on out-of-control LA City Planning, I also find attractive the proposed countywide Measure "R-2" that is designed to establish and guarantee more funding for countywide transportation. The LAX/Metro Rail connection is one of my top reasons to vote for it.

But Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is doing its own makeover, with a $5 billion Landside Access Modernization Project (LAMP)  that will establish LAX as a world-class transportation hub.

This effort at LAX is tangentially-related to the recent kick-off of the new tunnel boring machine for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail project, named "Harriet" after Harriet Tubman in honor of Black History Month. It should be noted that another reason to support Measure "R-2" is to extend this light rail line north to the Wilshire Blvd. Subway, thereby establishing this north-south rail line as a key link from LAX to all parts of the City of Los Angeles.

But LAMP is funded by LA World Airports (LAWA), not Metro.

The 2.25 mile Automated People Mover with six stations and trains every three minutes (or less) is also funded by LAWA.

Of course, anyone who can visualize the local geography will wonder how the Crenshaw/LAX Line or the People Mover might all connect to the Rams' upcoming new stadium in Inglewood, but that's a whole other debate and effort to pursue.

When both the LAMP and Crenshaw/LAX Line are completed, motorists can be dropped off either directly in the horseshoe (as it is now), or at one of the two intermodal transportation facilities that will be funded by both LAWA and Metro -- which includes an extra 96th/Aviation station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line that, in addition to the already-planned Crenshaw/Aviation station, establishes a host of local and remote LAX dropoff/access points.

Furthermore, while rail improvements get most of the attention for this and other LAX upgrades, road improvements will also occur and allow motorists and car renters the ability to access LAX, the freeway, and a Consolidated Rental Car Facility that will dramatically change the LAX experience. 

Of course, if quality Metro Rail access is created, remote LAX access all over the Metro Rail system will, at least in theory, occur.

It's also not hard to envision increased emphasis for an eastern Metro Green Line Extension to the Metrolink station in Norwalk, thereby extending rail connections to Disneyland and Ontario Airport.

(Yet another plug from yours truly as to why on earth the proposed Metro Eastside Light Rail Extension doesn't have direct or easy connection to the Metrolink system in that portion of LA County!)

Businesses will have opportunities to help the LAMP project move forward; potential abounds for business parks and malls in the LAX area – which, like the Wilshire Blvd. Corridor and Downtown is as ripe an opportunity and location for development as any in the City of LA.

So while it's not hard to complain and point out the deficiencies -- and possibly the downright corruption -- in the way LA City does business, we do have a beautiful "LAMP" to shine a light on a potential for Los Angeles. It’s possible to do things right in the 21st Century.

And for that, both Mayor Garcetti and Westside Councilmember (and local and regional transportation leader) Mike Bonin deserve a great deal of credit. And our support.

 

(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.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

WORD ON THE LA STREETS BLOG -- “Bottom line is, citizens want to be involved, they want to be engaged in the process of figuring out how we reprogram our streets, how we reprogram our communities, making it more livable, making it more desirable, making it safer.”

So said councilmember for the 9th District, Curren Price, when interviewed by KCET’s Nic Cha Kim at CicLAvia: South L.A. in December of 2014 (minute 4:20). 

It is a perspective that many who live, work, play, and move along the Central Avenue corridor in historic South Central share.

Given that the corridor communities have a median income hovering around $30,000, an average household size between of 4 and 9 people, a median age of 23, and little opportunity for economic advancement thanks to limited access to higher education, area residents are very much at the mercy of their environment. Rapidly rising rents and the lack of affordable housing around the city make it nearly impossible for them to move anywhere else. And the high dependence of many families on transit, cycling, and walking to get back and forth to work and school means that just going about their daily lives entails constant flirtations with danger.

Central Avenue, boasting the highest number of cyclists anywhere in the city during peak hours (and a very steady stream in off-peak hours), has seen nearly 300 collisions between drivers and pedestrians or cyclists over the last decade.

That we know of, that is.

Many of those who have been hit by cars have never reported the incidents to authorities, either because they preferred to handle things informally with the driver, the injuries were minor, or the incident was a hit-and-run and they saw no point.

So, even though more than three-quarters of residents are renters, the vast majority would tell you they are deeply invested in the well-being of their neighborhoods and would like nothing better than to see them become safer and healthier places for all.

Thus far, however, efforts to get Councilmember Price to sit down and have that conversation with stakeholders about their needs and aspirations have proven futile.

Over the past year, the community has been shut out of discussions about Great Streets’ and the councilmember’s plans to remake Central Avenue in the image of Broadway (downtown) and to remove the Central Avenue bike lane planned to help bike commuters get safely between Watts, historic South Central, and jobs downtown from the Mobility Plan altogether.

The Great Streets plans for the street were only made available to the public after Streetsblog published an article complaining about the blatant steamrolling of the community. When local stakeholders tried to follow up by delivering letters to the councilmember’s office and approaching the members of the Business Improvement District, they were still not able to get any response from Price to their demands for a bike lane.

Fed up with failed attempts at peaceful engagement and concerned that Price would once again try to see Central Ave. removed from the Mobility Plan at the City Planning Commission hearing, residents took action. Gathering their signs, courage, a megaphone, and a banner to be hung on Price’s building, they stormed the councilmember’s constituent center at Vernon and Central yesterday.

“We’re tired of coming to you!” said resident and safe streets advocate Samuel Bankhead.

“When are you going to come to our* office?” he continued. “I’m asking…when are you coming down to have a dialogue?…What solution do you have?” [*He was referring to the conference room a TRUST South LA, where residents, volunteers, and stakeholders regularly meet, discuss community problems and potential solutions, and plan community engagements as part of a mobility advisory council.]

Staff on site were not able to offer much in the way of reassurances.

When District Director James Westbrooks was asked by Bankhead if he would be willing to tell the kids standing there — kids that are regularly transported back and forth to school by bike along Central Avenue — that “we’re not gonna have a bike lane,” there was not much Westbrooks could say.

Price made up his mind on the subject a long time ago.

Sadly, the logic used to reach that decision — detailed in a statement emailed in response to stakeholders’ action — seems rather questionable. 

For one, Price says that safety is the key reason it would be difficult to add lanes to Central Avenue. Arguing it is “too narrow, has significant cut-through traffic all day, and has no pocket lane for left-hand turns,” he says there is no space for a lane.

But the narrowness of the street would really only be an issue in the context of the extension of the sidewalks, as suggested in the Great Streets plan, for the very brief section of Central between Vernon and Adams. That plan would put the street on a road diet and, instead of using valuable road real estate to carve out space for cyclists, install planters and bollards to make it feel like the pedestrian space had been extended.

The reconfiguration of Central Avenue, as proposed by Great Streets, includes a road diet, extended sidewalks, and the shifting of the bike lane planned to run from Watts to Little Tokyo over to Avalon. Source: Great Streets

The concrete sidewalks themselves would only be extended if funding should become available — something not likely to happen for several years, at the earliest. Meaning that most of the street space “reclaimed” by Great Streets would likely go underutilized, possibly for years.

Meanwhile, instead of taking the option to head a half-mile east to Avalon or a parallel side street (as suggested by Price and the Great Streets program), cyclists would likely continue to ride on the narrow and crowded sidewalks they ride on now (antagonizing business owners hoping to create an enticing pedestrian environment) or further slowing traffic by riding in the single traffic lane created by the road diet.

No one wins in that scenario.

But it’s Price’s other point that really drives stakeholders crazy.

“As a grandfather of small children,” his statement continues, “I would feel uneasy riding our bikes along this busy thoroughfare knowing the dangerous implications.”

Yes!

Exactly!

This is exactly the reason stakeholders finally stormed his office yesterday!

They are tired of being uneasy and they are tired of feeling that they are constantly in danger!

Unlike Price, however, because they are lower-income, are patrons of shops on Central, have kids in schools along the corridor, work along the corridor, and reside along the corridor, they don’t have a choice about where to ride.

As explained in depth here, gang activity makes the side streets a very difficult proposition for youth, lone commuter cyclists, and families. Busy thoroughfares like Central Avenue offer lots of eyes, familiar faces, and potential safe havens. And, it is one of the few streets in the area that offers a straight shot between the downtown warehouses (where many of the commuters work), historic South Central, and Watts.

For folks who are trying to get to work on bikes that are in questionable condition because they can’t afford better ones or who have kids in tow, having to travel as much as a mile out of their way just to access a short stretch of bike infrastructure can also constitute a real hardship. The city would never ask drivers to make such a detour or to take the least safe route. It makes no sense to put that burden on the shoulders of the most vulnerable of LA’s citizens.

Gang territories in Historic South Central; Central Ave. is the border on the right edge of the lopsided figure. The borders between gang territories — generally main streets — are often where you have a lot of activity between rivals, but civilians are generally able to pass. Gangs’ occupation of neighborhoods means that side streets are where gang members tend to feel they can act with impunity. People who don’t live on those streets tend to avoid them. Source: Coalition for Responsible Community Development

South Central cyclists are the economic engine of the community.

The vast majority are riding out of necessity: they can’t afford transit, work off-peak hours, are making deliveries between small businesses, or have to get to several sites in a short space of time.

Their existence is already precarious.

The least the city can do is offer them slightly safer passage so they can bring home a salary to their families, get their kids to school safely, patronize local businesses, and continue to build a stronger community.

If, as Price contends, he takes seriously his responsibility “to make the best…decision on behalf of the entire community,” then hopefully he will rethink his effort to see the Central Avenue bike lane removed from the Mobility Plan.

Disadvantaging his constituents who struggle the most does not uplift the community.

It undermines it.

(Sahra Sulaiman writes for LA Streets Blog … where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

 

TRANSIT TRAVELER-Ridership for Metro is down ten percent, causing an onslaught of debates, advice, admonishments and calls for change to the transit network. This collective outburst is rather strange considering that, only seven to ten percent of the people use transit, and the rest don’t. This means everyone else is a driver. 

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AT LENGTH-A few weeks ago, a 14-year-old suspect carjacked a black SUV in San Pedro at gunpoint. Within hours, the police had spotted the stolen vehicle and a chase ensued into my neighborhood. The teenager panicked, abandoned the car and ran into a family member’s home. 

The residence was eventually surrounded, while the streets covering several blocks around 11th and Mesa streets were cordoned off with yellow police tape. Police officers stopped and inspected cars traversing through the area at gunpoint in search of the suspect. 

Within those first few hours of this live crime drama, I saw more police officers on the block than I ever imagined were available. 

There were at least 15 patrol cars, if not more. There was a canine unit, a helicopter hovering overhead, and an armored vehicle carrying a squad of SWAT officers. Plain clothes detectives, Port Police and the Los Angeles Fire Department assisted. 

By the end of the standoff, several hours later, the Los Angeles Police Department captain in charge estimated that there were something close to 100 officers involved. To the credit of the police officers on the scene, that 14 year-old carjacker was arrested without being shot. The Jan. 30 “No Excuses” rally calling for “more police” outside of LAPD Harbor Division reminded me of this incident. For those who attended the rally, rising crime stats along with the still shuttered jail was the focal point of their collective anxiety and frustration. 

This mixed bag of concerned citizens included representatives of not one, but two groups using the moniker of “Saving San Pedro” (one that has been most vocal against the homeless and the other, older group, of anti-Rancho LPG activists.) Then, there were the opponents of the current waterfront development at Ports O’Call and some representatives of the newly reorganized NAACP. 

What was not generally recognized in this unique pro-police-open-our-jail demonstration is that it was conceived by members of the Community-Police Advisory Board, a public outreach initiative created by the LAPD, managed by the senior lead officers of Harbor Division with pro-police community members as advisors. 

The CPAB does not have elected community membership nor does it have any formally elected representatives from the Harbor Area neighborhood councils or authority to do much more than “advise” the police. 

To the point of the jail being closed, for more than two years the Harbor Area neighborhood councils have lobbied, passed motions and written to Chief Charlie Beck, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Joe Buscaino about staffing this jail, but to no avail. 

The argument is that with the jail closed, every year some 4,000-plus arrestees have to be driven from this area up to the 77th Division, the closest jail in this part of the city, at a loss of 3 to 4 hours for two officers. This equates to the annual loss of some 32,000 patrol hours for what amounts to chauffeuring criminals to a distant location for booking. Perhaps LAPD could use an Uber app or a bus? 

Like most everything in the City of Los Angeles, solutions are never simple and this one involves the city’s budget process, two human resource departments and the hiring and training of more than 29 detention officers before the jail can be opened.

According to LAPD Assistant Chief Jorge A. Villages, head of operations, of the 24 people who were recently in the detention academy, only 13 passed the training. And, the priority for placing those who did pass is to put them at the 77th Division to replace the badged officers who are working there because of the shortage of lessor paid detention officers. However, the Harbor Division jail is the next in line of priorities for staffing as it is the largest of the five LAPD jails that still remain closed. 

The frustration is that after spending $42 million to build a new jail eight years ago, we still have a pristine facility waiting to be used. This, joined with the fact that of the 21 LAPD divisions, the Harbor Area has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire city. Even with the recent rise in crime, Harbor Division is a “low priority” for an increase in officer deployment in the eyes of LAPD command. The demonstrators decry the transfer of some 40 officers out of this division some years ago. 

What few of the “No Excuses” demonstrators at Harbor Division understand is that in the Greater Los Angeles Harbor Area we have no fewer than 16 badged and/or armed police agencies. 

If you start counting, we have more police protection than almost any place except maybe the White House, and yet if you call 911 for anything less than a naked man with a gun shooting his neighbor you’re bound to wait 45 minutes to an hour for a response. This is a customer service issue complicated only by invisible jurisdiction. The LAUSD police, park rangers or Port Police aren’t going to respond to a bicycle theft on 24th Street. 

As aggravating as small property crimes are and as connected they may be to high unemployment among certain age groups and drug use by others, the Harbor historically has been a magnet for much larger crimes. 

For instance, take the nearly a-half million dollars in pistachios that were stolen from Horizon Nut Co. based in Tulare County during the past holiday season. This company learned that the theft could be the work of a sophisticated network of thieves as part of a bigger scheme. 

Who knew that a container full of nuts was worth half a million dollars? It did however end up at the Port of Los Angeles. Half of the nuts had already been shipped to the Persian Gulf before U.S. Customs and the FBI found the remainder. 

Excuse the pun, but nobody around here is going nuts over property crimes. However, in the Central Valley agriculture theft is big business. The question still remains whether the Los Angeles City Council has the nuts to keep the promise made to the Harbor Area residents and pass a budget that will allow them to open the Harbor Division jail. 

(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.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--There’s little argument that inequality, and the depressed prospects for the middle class, will be a dominant issue this year’s election. Yet the most powerful force shaping this reality—the rising cost of housing—has barely emerged as political issue.

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LA’S BOYS CLUB--Los Angeles’ city council is the best paid but the least gender-balanced of 15 major U.S. city councils analyzed recently by Pew.   (Photo above: Nury Martinez, only woman on LA’s 15 member City Council.)

The report looks at the average tenure, salary, and percentage of men and women on the city councils of the country’s most populous cities, plus five other cities chosen for their similarity and/or proximity to Philadelphia, where Pew is based.

Compared to 2011, when Pew last examined the makeups of these same councils, average tenure has dropped, share of women has declined and salaries are up, at least modestly, in most cities. 

According to the report, councils in cities with higher costs of living do tend to have higher salaries, but historical pay rates, the council’s level of responsibility and the political mechanism to raise council salaries also play a role.

The report also notes that there is no clear correlation between members’ salaries and their status as full- or part-time employees, or their right to outside employment. Washington, D.C.’s council members are part-time, but have the second-highest salaries. Despite their low wages, San Antonio’s council members are full-time.

Across all councils, average length of term declined from 7.9 years to 6.2. Baltimore’s council members remain in office an average of 14.2 years, the longest in the study. The average Houston council member serves just 2.1 years, the shortest.

In 2011, Philadelphia had the longest-serving membership, with an average tenure of 15.5 years among its 17 members. A confluence of retirements, defeats and resignations dropped that average to 8.2 years currently — still the third longest average tenure in the study. The report notes that membership longevity can be seen as positive, negative or both: Longtime members may be seen as experienced and influential, or as resistant to change.

Men are in the majority on all councils studied, though by a relatively small margin in D.C. (where the council is 46 percent female) and in San Diego, Pittsburgh and Detroit (all 44 percent). With just 7 percent female members, Los Angeles has worst gender imbalance by far. The second most imbalanced council, in San Jose, has an 18 percent female membership.

Because most councils in the study have 17 or fewer seats, the loss or gain of one female member makes a big percentage difference. Overall, the share of women city council members declined from 33 percent in 2010 to 30 percent today.

(Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Satellite Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. See her work at jakinney.com. This piece originated at Next City.

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LET’S TALK NELA, CONT.--Dissatisfaction with the imperious ways of do-nothing district boss Gil Cedillo is spreading…though perhaps it’s unfair to call him a “do nothing.” He has, after all, cancelled the Figueroa Street redo that would have boosted business and quite likely prevented the four deaths that have occurred on that street since his election; he has, after all, kept Reyes Park at Humboldt Street effectively closed (a narrow gate is open at each end, but the foreboding jail-like fences blocking the main entryways effectively keep the park deserted); and he has, after all, gotten the city to place a few of the same plastic trash bins it is placing everywhere else along Fig as well, generating one of Cedillo’s precious photo ops. (Photo above.)

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EDITOR’S PICK--In his third State of Hollywood address, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, described his vision for the expanding neighborhood and made clear his views about future growth and development.

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground,” O’Farrell said, quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt. “There is no better metaphor for Hollywood.”

At a packed reception hall at the Taglyan Cultural Center, O’Farrell echoed past State of Hollywood addresses by saying, “Hollywood is back” as film production returns and tourism continues to thrive.

But he warned that progress could be reversed by a proposed initiative that would put a two-year moratorium on developments that require General Plan amendments – often for height, density and parking conditions – and it would force the city council to update the city’s zoning framework. As the neighborhood continues to grow and populate, the framework will determine how and where the influx will go.

“Bouncing back to one of the premier neighborhoods of the nation didn’t happen on its own,” O’Farrell explained. “Nor is our current investment of billions of dollars for construction of high-quality developments random. To that end, we will be facing a test of our resolve.”

O’Farrell said the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, proposed by the Coalition to Preserve L.A., is a “direct threat” to Los Angeles’ economy and could hinder the ability to produce affordable housing, as housing availability is “the number one crisis facing the city of Los Angeles.”

“A small group of individuals who seem likely unaware of what was once the down spiral of Hollywood, and now Hollywood’s amazing comeback, have drawn water from the same poison well of narrow-minded NIMBYism and are pushing a ballot initiative that threatens not only this community and everyone in it, but the entire city of Los Angeles,” O’Farrell said.

The coalition, initiated by AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s President Michael Weinstein, claims it is “spot zoning” that destroys affordable housing, and that overdevelopment will damage quality of life. Separately, AHF’s “Stop Manhattanwood!” three-month campaign launched in January and has posted billboards around Hollywood to raise awareness about the city’s development plans and to expose the downside of density. Community activists, neighborhood councils and former Mayor Richard Riordan, among others, have supported the movement.

“The control of zoning by these single city council members should be illegal,” Riordan said in a statement last month. “That person is being lobbied by the developers and getting campaign money or campaign promises, and this just has to end.”

The former mayor noted that traffic and congestion around “elegant density” developments near L.A. bus, rail and subway lines has worsened considerably.

“You’re going to have more and more traffic around these over-developments,” Riordan said. “You cannot put in expensive condos and rental units and hope to attract people who will use public transportation. You will have two cars for each family.”

O’Farrell explained that he believes projects proposed for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Kaiser Permanente, Hollywood Presbyterian, Paramount Pictures and hundreds of affordable units that were already approved would be in jeopardy. He said the city’s efforts to host the 2024 Olympics would be in question if the moratorium passes, and he added that it could have a “devastating impact” on the city’s goals to bring investment to struggling neighborhoods.

“There could be a profound hit to city revenues resulting in cutbacks for basic services such as fire, police, street resurfacing, trash collection, graffiti removal, street quieting, building and safety inspectors, the list goes on and on and on,” he said.

A moratorium into 2019 could produce a backlog into the 2020s of projects and environmental impact reviews that the city might not have resources to complete because of the predicted decline in revenue, according to the councilman.

“We have to look ahead, folks. This is very, very serious,” O’Farrell said.

Another coalition is forming in opposition to the moratorium. Members of Communities United for Jobs and Housing (CUJH) believes the moratorium will encourage sprawl and traffic and that the solution to housing affordability is increasing housing stock. The group is in the process of finalizing a supporter and member list.

“If this initiative passes, construction of affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles would grind to a halt,” said Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities, and supporter of CUJH. “This measure strips away essential and established processes and procedures for the approval of vital affordable housing developments, and would significantly contribute to the ongoing affordable housing deficit here in Los Angeles. We all have a moral imperative to reject this measure to protect homeless veterans, families with small children and aging seniors who will be left to the streets or living in poor housing conditions.”

Another supporter of CUJH, Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, said the initiative will “condemn Los Angeles to a future of multi-hour commutes.”

“If this passes, the transportation network Angelenos have spent tens of billions of dollars on will be left incomplete,” he said.

O’Farrell moved to Hollywood 34 years ago. He said in 1982, it seemed as if Hollywood had been left behind.

“It felt as though danger lurked around every corner,” he said. “There was virtually no growth, and very few quality experiences to be had. Today’s Hollywood is vastly improved, but we all know it has much to go.”

Now, O’Farrell envisions a “built environment.” He pointed to “arduous” projects such as the Target store on Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, CIM’s Sunset Gordon project and the Palladium Residences towers.

O’Farrell said getting the Hollywood Community Plan readopted in 2017 is his top priority in planning.

The councilman summed up his vision for Hollywood moving forward as a historic neighborhood with increasing significance; a mixed-income community with a thriving entertainment industry; a growing live theatre district; a place where new projects are built with inspired high-quality architecture; and a tourist destination that compels visitors from all over the world.

“Our feet are on the ground, our eyes are on the stars, we will never look away,” he said.

(Gregory Cornfield writes for Park La Brea-Beverly Press News … where this report originated.)

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