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Thu, Aug

De León the Mayoral Candidate vs De León CD14 Councilmember

THE EASTSIDER - It seems as though Kevin De León is jazzed about a recent poll which shows him closely behind Karen Bass for Mayor of Los Angeles.

As the LA Times put it, 

“Rep. Karen Bass still has a small lead in the Loyola Marymount University Center for the Study of Los Angeles poll released Wednesday, but City Councilman Kevin de León is a close second.

With the June primary just over three months away, more than 40% of self-identified registered voters remain undecided in the survey.

About 16% of respondents said they would choose Bass if the election were held today and about 12% said they would choose De León. None of the other candidates in the poll were above single digits.” 

While that’s nice for Kevin De León, what about the Angelenos who actually live in CD14?  How much attention is he paying to his constituents?  Honestly, there is still a fair amount of discussion in Northeast LA as to whether or not he really actually lives in the  Eagle Rock home he recently bought. Check it out here. 

“Initially, de León contacted members of various community groups within CD14. He told them he was residing on the 5400 block of Rangeview Avenue, located in Eagle Rock. The 5400 block of Rangeview is located in Highland Park. Now he claims to be residing (rents a room) at another location in the 4900 block of Rangeview Avenue. This location is also located in Highland Park. He does not place his head down at this location every night. He comes and goes. 

This residence, located in CD14, is owned by his former staffer Adrian Vazquez and his mother.

During the time period that de León was a state senator, he rented a room from a family in the Mt. Washington area. I might add, this is perfectly legal. But one can ask why De León never invested in a home of his own in the areas he represented. How can he now address the issues of homelessness, increased rents, increased housing costs, lack of housing, increased property taxes and increased costs of home repairs in our CD14 area? How can he honestly relate to these issues? ”  

Now, it seem like he may live in Eagle Rock. According to my sources, there was a recent purchase of a property around Laroda north of the High School. My sources tell me that the house was bought by a flipper over a year ago, but he ran into a problem. Like there were no permits issued, 

So the house went off the market for about a year while new permits were magically approved, and while the home was still off the market it appears that Kevin de León bought it well under market prices. 

As of this writing, it is not certain that he actually lives there. Perhaps someone will find out and let me know. My email address is [email protected].”  

No one who contacted me seems sure if the home is a stage prop or an actual residence. Of course this is not really a legal issue, but most of us who are not homeless actually live in a residence, usually for some extended time. 

Shifting back to De León’s Mayoral run, let’s check out a few recent issues. While I don’t want to get too snarky, the track record of CD14 is not particularly reassuring that a Mayor De León would pay any attention to the various parts of the City if elected. He sure hasn’t in CD14. 

Metro and the BRT NoHo Bus Line

This issue is serious, and gives a clue as to how an LA politician will govern as Mayor, as opposed to one Council District.  Here I can put it no better or compelling than reader Richard Patterson did in an email to me a few days ago:

“I am forwarding a letter of complaint that I sent last week to the Office of Inspector General of MTA (Metro) regarding the BRT Noho-Pasadena. I have not yet received a response. This letter outlines Fraud Waste and Abuse that Eagle Rock has endured from Metro's divisive rollout of the designs for the BRT in our town center, as well as from Metro's allies who who work at DOT -Severin Martinez, and their collusion with Road Diet activist friends at TERA and the Beautiful Boulevard group. Here is TERA's Board of Directors (Severin Martinez, Greg Meredith and Michael MacDonald are Beautiful Boulevard, Road Diet activisits) http://tera90041.org/about-us/tera-board-of-directors/ 

Here’s an excerpt from the actual Letter of Complaint itself: 

“For 3 years now the residents, business owners and other stakeholders in Eagle Rock have been pleading with Metro not to create BRT-Only Lanes in our historical shopping district on Colorado Blvd. In the next 2 weeks the BRT staff will choose between 2 harmful designs for the EIR disregarding years of thousands of emails, meetings, calls and petitions from the Eagle Rock Community.. , We have been pleading that Metro not placate the bullying Road Diet activists who have been demanding the removal of traffic lanes, removal of parking, and changing the current bike lanes to Protected Bike Lanes. They Created the "Beautiful Boulevard" website www.eaglerockforward.com and have demanded that Metro follow their unauthorized design for a Road Diet and remove cars off Colorado blvd. The Eagle Rock community has been asking for years for Metro to drive the BRT in the current mixed flow lanes, don't remove lanes, don't create gridlock, don't remove parking, don't hurt all those small businesses.” 

He’s exactly right, and echoes in real time the plight of Eagle Rock as Kevin De León buys a house there, and has his own ‘City Hall’ on the Blvd.  For those who didn’t see it, here’s the link to my article called When Metro Decides to Destroy Local Business for the Bicycle Advocates, What’s A Community to Do? 

Finally, as I wrote in another article on the matter in June of last year, De León’s answer to all of these legitimate pushbacks to having their community ripped apart: 

“A few weeks ago, a very reliable source in Eagle Rock told me that Kevin de León had talked to a key Eagle Rock resident, informing him that the fix was in -- NoHo to Pasadena was going down Colorado Blvd and “get over it.”  

Think about that attitude as the Metro monster invades your community with another of their monster, over budget and under delivering real transportation, projects. Think of input the Mayor of Los Angeles has in influencing their Board. 

The Homeless

Since De León himself has described “the homeless” as his number one priority, it’s important to see how that has played out in real time.  For example, back in February of last year, here’s his solution: 

“MOTION 

The city’s current homelessness crisis demands an “all hands on deck” approach. Currently, the city is spending tens of millions of dollars on emergency response and sanitation services to address the homelessness crisis. In order to solve this problem, the city must use all available land to house unhoused individuals. 

Council District 14 has the largest concentration of unhoused individuals of any City Council District. In fact, Council District 14 alone is home to more unhoused individuals than in the entire City of San Jose or the City of San Diego. Due to the large number of unhoused people within the district, all available properties must be used to house our unhoused constituents. In Northeast Los Angeles, two locations have been identified that can provide temporary housing to the homeless of Eagle Rock and Highland Park. 

I THEREFORE MOVE that the Bureau of Engineering, in coordination with the City Administrative Officer, Chief Legislative Analyst, and Department of Recreation and Parks be instructed to initiate the design process for temporary homeless housing on the parking lot located at 7541 N. Figueroa Street as well as the unused section of Arroyo Drive located adjacent to Assessor Parcel Number 5492021900. 

I FURTHER MOVE that the City Administrative Officer and the Department of Recreation and Parks be authorized to execute any agreements with SoCal Edison and the County of Los Angeles for the property located at 7541 N. Figueroa Street in order to effectuate the construction of temporary homeless housing. 

I FURTHER MOVE that the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners be requested to hear this matter within 30 days for consideration of approval of the usage of the parking lot at 7541 N. Figueroa Street for temporary interim housing for people experiencing homelessness. 

I FURTHER MOVE that upon completion of construction, priority for all units shall be given to unhoused individuals in Council District 14, starting with the neighborhoods that each site is located within; 

I FURTHER MOVE that the City Administrative Officer and the Housing & Community Investment Department be instructed to modify any necessary contracts with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to ensure that homeless individuals in Eagle Rock and Highland Park are given right of first refusal for the new units to be constructed at both sites. 

I FURTHER MOVE that the City Administrative Officer be instructed to identify the necessary funding to construct temporary homeless housing on the aforementioned sites.”  

By January of 2022, I think his actual idea was pretty clear: 

“It seems that there are two different runaway bureaucracies at play, and neither seems to have a coherent policy. First, of course, is the LA City Council, which seems to operate in a separate universe. I’ve put in a Public Records Act request to try and track all the pieces of how De León went from a Tiny Houses motion to what we now have in front of us, and what it’s cost.

Like, by what sleight of hand does LA City magically find a few million bucks here and there to suddenly pop up a “Tiny Village” in Highland Park? You know, the one we are talking about? Evidently first you slide over to the “Homelessness and Poverty Committee”, which no one ever heard about or follows, and simply make a motion.

We don’t need the details of LA’s ‘screw the unhoused’, since the Municipal Code is already a part of this article.

We do still need to figure out who and how the Providers are chosen for projects, as well as where/how the County 1/2 cent sales tax is actually spent to provide supportive services to get the homeless reintegrated into our society. Both of these issues seem to belong to LAHSA (the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority), and you can find their website here.

I thought that the County was going to do away with them, but they seem to still be alive and intact. Since their doings are opaque at best, I have reached out with a request to talk to staff. We’ll see how that works out.” 

About those Developers

As we have seen with the Metro BRT to NoHo project, De León does seem to love his developers. Contrary to his comments to the effect that he really, really cares what happens to the communities in CD 14, the latest giveaway is right in Highland Park, where his Tiny Village produces havoc and pain. 

For this one, hat tip to The Eastsider, as the area called Garvanza in the northeast part of Highland Park gets gentrified; it’s a great read: 

“Last September, the City Planning Department approved plans by Skya Ventures to build a three-story, nearly 60,000-square-foot project with 33 units and ground floor-retail on the site of a former Rite Aid overflow parking lot at 141 North Avenue 64.

Skya was allowed to build a taller and denser project than would usually be permitted because it includes some affordable housing -- three units -- and is located on or near major transit lines.

The same developer irked many residents and anti-gentrification activists several years ago when it purchased the 60-unit Marmion Royal Apartments in Highland Park and began hiking rents. Tenants responded with a rent strike but lost in court. According to the Historic Garvanza Coalition, 57 tenants were evicted”. 

and... 

After the Garvanza project was approved, an appeal was filed on behalf of community groups and residents. A public hearing will be held on March 10 to review the appeal.

The appeal focuses on the incentives Skya was granted under the city’s Transit Oriented Communities Incentive Program or TOC. In return for building affordable housing near transit lines, that program allows for more dense development and also loosens requirements, such as the minimum amount of parking and space between buildings.

The appeal contends that the nearby bus lines do not run in the 15-minute intervals required under the TOC rules and also disputed the development’s affordable housing credentials. 

You will note that Garvanza is one of those areas of LA which have a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, which you can find here. 

Too bad that evidently the Planning Department views HPOZ’s as some quaint old idea ready for the garbage heap.  The silence from CD14 and Kevin De León is deafening.  Sorta like the Metro BRT project in Eagle Rock. 

The Takeaway

As most of our Citywatch authors have pointed out again and again, the 15-0 LA City Council is for sale to developers. Not to mention the Mayor.  Many CityWatch writers have described this whole scheme of governance as a criminal enterprise, going through the deals project by project to prove their point. 

So I say, why not give the biggest, richest developer in Los Angeles a shot? 

Cut out the middlemen, as it were.   Nobody is going to bribe Rick Caruso, he doesn’t need the money. Offers to take no salary, might even appoint people who aren’t simply  brokers between the developers and the Council.  Could maybe even lighten the load of the District Attorney’s office. 

The only wild card in this equation is Karen Bass, who brings the taint of a long time professional politician, but not the provable criminality of the City Council and the Mayor.  

Stay tuned

 

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