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Sun, Jan

Neighborhood Politics

ELECTION WATCH--Monday evening, February 27 four Neighborhood Councils (NC): Atwater Village, Echo Park, Silver Lake, and Rampart Village hosted the last candidate forum for City Council District 13 at Mayberry Street Elementary School. Council District 13 includes all or parts of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Heights, Elysian Valley, Atwater Village, and Hollywood. 

300 attendees packed the auditorium, lining its walls. Silver Lake NC Co-Chair Anne-Marie Johnson and Vice Chair Jerome Courshon facilitated the event. Allison Cohen publisher of the Los Feliz Ledger and Kirk Hawkins from KTLA 5 News served as moderators. 

Candidates for the March 7th election Doug Haines, Sylvie Shain, Bill Zide, Jessica Salans, and David De La Torre attended. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (incumbent) missed the event. Council District 13 Senior Policy Advisor, Christine Peters declined a press interview.

The moderators asked questions of the candidates followed by questions from the audience. 

Why do you think Councilman O’Farrell is unresponsive to constituents? 

Doug Haines, President of several neighborhood associations in District 13 for over 12 years, said O’Farrell is not being responsive to his constituents in many ways. The City Review Committee meetings have been effectively opened to the public for 30 years where the public can gain knowledge of all city developments. Yet, O’Farrell has shut its doors to the public including NC representatives and neighborhood associations while doors have remained open to lobbyists and developers. 

Sylvie Chain related her eviction from her Villa Carlotta apartment in Hollywood where 17 renters were displaced and two became homeless. The owner benefited from relocation waiver, stating he would build condos but instead now plans to build a hotel. 

“I contacted the Council’s Office; they told me they’d look into the issues. I appealed the matter through a nine-month period, while continuing to call Mitch’s Office for a meeting,” He never met with us saying there was nothing he could do. As a Councilperson, you need to be thinking always of what you can do for your constituents, not what you cannot do, Shain countered.   There’s lack of response and responsible planning across the board with a multitude of issues across District 13, Shain continued. 

Bill Zide, former chair of the Hollywood NC, said that Councilman O’Farrell is making choices and he’s not involving stakeholders. He doesn’t follow the law. Instead he looks to Mayor Garcetti who said the Target Project could be built bigger, yet he did not add affordable housing to get the extra height. “If you break the [zoning] law, just change the [zoning] law. It’s soft corruption which is endemic in City Hall.”  

Jessica Salans, board member of the Atwater Village NC, said she doesn’t know why O’Farrell does not respond to the District’s needs. Salans provided statistics about the growth of homelessness in district 13 and mentioned the topic of “environmental justice.” 

David De La Torre is the founder of the Elysian Valley NC. De La Torre said that it’s beyond him why Mitch O’Farrell is not responsive to Elysian Valley and the rest of CD 13 as he is supposed to be. He should provide attention to community’s needs. “It’s clear to me that the job has gotten to him. … It’s about getting what our communities need,” he said.            

(Photo left: Candidates from left to right are Doug Haines, Sylvie Shain, moderator, Jessica Salans, and David De La Torre) 

How would you contribute to making LA a Sanctuary City? 

All candidates are in favor of working to make Los Angeles a sanctuary city. Haines said his immigrant neighbors look to him for protection and vice versa. Shain would coordinate with community organizations that protect the undocumented “especially youths who were raised here as infants and now are being shipped to a country that they do not know.” Zide said, “I will protect immigrants since they make up a lot of the work force and make it clear that ICE is not the police.”

Salans said her team will reach out to Latino immigrants and provide resources to the most vulnerable. Similarly, De La Torre will bring information that protect the immigrant community and will “work for and with them to help them stay in this city.” 

Position on Measure S 

Most candidates support Measure S, except for Salans. Haines, Shain, Zide, and De La Torre emphasized that Measure S will not impact affordable housing. 

Shain explained that Measure S stops the rampant abuse by developers that goes along with building luxury developments. These then cause collateral damage in existing, surrounding buildings that had been renting far below market rate. She adds “spot zoning is incredibly irresponsible on so many levels.” Salans added that whether Measure S passes or not, team will work for affordable housing. 

What would you do differently if elected? 

Haines explained that daily, he sweeps streets and paints over graffiti in his neighborhood; and, weekly goes to City Hall meetings to participate by expressing the peoples’ voice. He said, “Nothing will change.” Then he emphasizes he would change the way the city operates. Shain said she is running because “There is a lack of leadership in CD13. It’s a responsibility to serve the constituents.” She supports campaign finance reform at the local level. 

Zide will meet with people who complain about developments at the particular development sites. “I will have a housing deputy and small business deputy.” Salans will dedicate 50% of her salary for a progressive community fund. “I will pull in workers from inside District 13 to represent the people of CD13.” Lastly, De La Torre will use an open door policy. “I will be response to you and your needs. If an issue cannot be solved because it’s out of my control, I will tell you so,” he said. 

How would you improve and handle the disputes regarding the Silver Lake Reservoir? Not every candidate was asked this question. 

Both Zide and De La Torre acknowledged that the reservoir is a pubic city park and the land should be accessible and useable by everyone. Zide said that it’s important to strike a balance with the people who live in the area and with the people who live closest and around the lake. Similarly, De La Torre said that one group would like to turn reservoir into the next central park “and the other appreciates the passive recreational component and the nature that comes with it. I’d like to work with both sides where both get some of what they want but not all of what they want.” 

Salans described her vision of turning Silver Lake Reservoir to be like Echo Park Lake: “Walkable, bikeable, and usable for kids to play. I’d plant fruit trees and take down that fence,” she said. 

How will you contribute to “Sustainability” in the City? 

Haines would have respect for the existing zoning laws that are devised by the community over time. “A community should be a better place not a worse place as you live there longer,” he emphasized. Shain would negotiate for public benefits when there are investments to be considered like outside capital coming into the city. She will use funds from big developers for people in the community. 

Zide would simply represent his constituents and be responsive to their needs and address environmental issues. “It all starts with supporting the people, if you’re not responding to them you’re not sustaining anything,” 

Salans would support protected bike lanes, electric public transportation, walking, geo-thermal development, solar panels in every home and business, and capturing rain water. While, De La Torre will represent the people of CD13 and will improve upon services so you feel safe and have a relationship with the LAPD as well as provide youth opportunities for higher learning.” 

Small Lots Subdivisions 

All candidates find that Small Lot Subdivisions are luxury houses that surpass the affordability of the people in Los Angeles. Shain observed that Small Lots are imposing excessive stress in our infrastructure by developers building 3 toilets in each unit. ”They should be held responsible to upgrade our present worn down infrastructure,” she said. 

Zide argued that Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) need to be done independently, other than the developer. 

Haines made clear that 26% of all the City’s Small Lot Subdivisions are in Echo Park and Silver Lake with a consequence of ruining the historic quality of these communities; ”this needs to stop”. 

Homelessness 

Shain acknowledged the many vacant units in luxury, high rise buildings and suggested finding rooms for the homeless there. Zide said that homelessness has to be part of a comprehensive plan and thinking ahead. “It requires a balance. We have to take into account all the constituencies involved. It’s connected with the lack of affordable housing.” 

Salans expressed that we need to move forward with compassion. De La Torre said, “Planning has to be done carefully to also protect homeowners and businesses. Let’s prioritize our funding in the city with what matters to us. He asks “there are billions of dollars to develop the LA River when we have homelessness and infrastructure issues?” 

Affordable Housing 

Shain clarified that we’re not in a housing crisis; we’re in an affordability crisis. She would cancel the Costa-Hawkins Law. Zide would protect Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) units, our main stock of affordable housing. “We are losing them and are not being replaced. Building new luxury-units will not lower the price of affordable housing; it will push rent up,” Zide assured the audience. Salans expressed that her team will search to find a way to create socialized housing as a solution to the affordable crises. Lastly, De La Torre said that his office will facilitate information so renters will know what their rights are for protection in case of displacement.

 

(Connie Acosta participates in the neighborhood council system and frequently reports on Neighborhood Council matters. She is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Maybe there really is no there here -- not now – and maybe there never was. Did we just all fall in love with the irascible Venice of our dreams? We imagine ourselves as the unique ones, the interesting doers, basking in the idea that we are the vibrant happening town overflowing with artists, one-of-a-kind, seriously intent on cultivating the feeling of being in a real place. 

We smugly look at the “others” with sad eyes. They, who hold urgent meetings to deal with a cracked sidewalk. We, the noble ones, superior human beings determined not to be swallowed up in that “good life.” No utopia for us here! We’re Venetians! We thrive on the internecine development fights occurring on a near daily basis. We live for the latest outrage inflicted on us by the city. We beat our chests to get the LAPD to take a report about a mugging on “the coolest street in America.” 

And, we remind you, some schmo just paid eight million bucks for a tear-down. We can only guess that he thought it was worth the price of admission to drink the best wine, eat the best sushi, crow about the endless new restaurants selling one kind of faux food or another -- and who gives a damn if he has to wait a couple of days for the LAPD to get an officer out here to take a police report? 

Over there, where the sidewalks don’t have a crack, three cop cars respond at once to the most minor crime and the biggest story is the guy with his RV parked on the driveway for months. Who knows, maybe they Airbnb there too. But us unique ones, we’re tough! We’re tolerant and patient and loyal and we take all comers. One moment we grouse about the kid sleeping on a shop’s front porch, the next, we are trying to figure out if his puppy is getting its shots. 

Maybe that’s our secret. We are not a myth. You can throw anything at us and we deal with it all like conquering soldiers. We don’t quit, but just don’t make us live where all the houses are white and the roofs are red. We reject their architecture police. We crave the distinct place, the big idea! Where else will you find impromptu cocktail hours forming on a Sunday afternoon where regulars migrate like they’ve been magnetized -- all living the idea that this place is real? 

In this topsy-turvy world our craziness is almost charming. No matter how Aspen-like we are becoming, the kernel of uniqueness is alive. But we sure have to put up with a lot of **** to live this vibrant madness. We don’t want a groomed HOA-controlled neighborhood here. Please don’t clean or polish us! 

Corner lots sell for eight million, lofts rent for 40K. One creative marketing company is even renting two of them on the street now. Hot dog trucks are parked illegally for days and the line is around the block for $5 ice cream scoops and $4 donuts. And yet, they come. They come because they feel alive and that’s why we are not a myth. Where else can you say that? 

We old Venice denizens just want the cops to show up when we call them… and the Rooster truck to take a hike.

 

(Marian Crostic and Elaine Spierer are Co-founders of ImagineVenice.) Photo by Elaine Spierer. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--As a City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee hearing approaches on the proposed Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, tensions are still running high between neighborhood stakeholders who favor the HPOZ and those who don’t.  To help combat rumors and misinformation, and to try to find some common ground among the divided neighbors, City Council Member David Ryu held a town hall meeting last night, to provide facts about HPOZs, and to give stakeholders both pro and con a forum to voice their opinions. (Photo above: Forum participants stand in line to voice their views.) 

About 150 people attended the meeting, held at John Burroughs Middle School, and it was obvious from the beginning that the organizers were expecting what might politely be referred to as a “lively” discussion:  the meeting opened with a welcome and coaching on rules of decorous behavior by Kiara Nagel, a consultant hired by CD4, who specializes in “services to foster collaboration, grow healthy organizations, and support equitable community development,” according to her website. Local LAPD Senior Lead Officers were also present, unusual for a discussion of zoning and housing issues. 

After Nagel’s introduction, Council Member Ryu expressed his desire to help “restore trust” among the divided neighbors, as well as his goal of helping them find common ground.  (Read the rest.)

-cw

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Images of soccer fans waving Korean flags in the summer wind could be replaced with images of residents and shoppers snarling into parking lots at the site of one of the very few parks availble to Koreatown residents. If Jamison Properties moves forward with a skyline-altering project, a new glass tower would rise above 3700 Wilshire where Liberty Park stands today. The park was designed 50 years ago to address the scarcity of green space in Koreatown and this shortage rings truer than ever today. 

Councilmember Jose Huizar highlighted neighborhood’s desperate need for parks in his message announcing the approval for increased funding for parks. The $8 million annual funding increase for parks projects would come from a hike to the fees developers pay under the Quimby Act. These “Quimby fees” on residential projects allow developers to pay a fee in lieu of creating sufficient park space for the community where they are building. How much of this funding would go to Koreatown parks remains to be seen. 

“Green space is really important to the community,” recognizes Jamie Hwang, a deputy representing the north west region of Herb Wesson’s Council District 10. 

KOREATOWN NEEDS PARKS--Koreatown has been identified as one of the most park-poor areas in the city. It has 0.1 acres of park space available for every 1,000 people, according to a countywide ‘park needs’ assessment. The region houses 170,000 residents. The report estimates 94 percent of residents have a “Very High” need for parks. 

HISTORY TO BE BULLDOZED AWAY?--The sites historic value prompted residents to reach out to the Los Angeles Conservancy. While the park has served as a soccer viewing venue for fans of South Korea’s team, the space’s true historic value dates back to its conception. 

Beneficial Insurance Group, the original developer of the property, built an 11-story building and included the green space intentionally to address the lack of open space in a growing Koreatown 50 years ago. Since the park was (and still is) a privately owned property, the LA Times called it the nation’s “deepest setback” between city street and private office building at the time, according to the Conservancy. 

Beneficial hired award-winning landscape architect Peter Walker, who is now recognized for his work on the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, among many accolades in his extensive career. 

In addition to adding 2.5 acres of green space to the bustling Wilshire Boulevard, the park‘s design offered a futuristic, post war optimism theme. 

The objects included a replica of the Mercury, the first U.S. space capsule; a full-scale model of the Apollo space capsule; and an exact replica of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, made by the same London company as the original. This bell remains onsite to this day. 

WHAT WOULD THE DEVELOPMENT INCLUDE?--Jamison’s 36-story glass tower would contain 506 residential units ranging from one bedroom to three-bedroom penthouses, more than 40,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 22,000 square feet of restaurant space, ranging from fast food to quality dining. Four liquor licenses are in the works. The more than 530,000-square-foot building would replace the 46,000-square-foot lawn and plaza (i.e. Liberty Park) that lies next to to the 11-story Radio Korea building today. 

WHAT DOES THE OPPOSITION SAY?--Members of the community are concerned about the removal of green space, loss of historic value, and Jamison Properties dismal reputation as a property owner. 

As one of the largest commercial property owners in Koreatown, Solair resident Anne Kim says Jamison has a reputation in the neighborhood of running its properties to the ground, with poor maintenance and high vacancies. “The community doesn’t need more retail,” she said, noting there is a large area of empty commercial space in her building. 

“We saw that this historically significant site was not properly evaluated by the City as part of the project review,” said Marcello Vavala, preservation associate at the Conservancy. 

In a letter addressed to the planning department, local urban designer Mia Lehrer hails the park’s design as a “classic example” of Walker’s “minimalist, reductive style.” 

“Liberty Park was originally intended by Beneficial Insurance Group as a monument to the nation’s heritage and an outdoor museum of patriotic objects heralding great moments in American history,” Vavala said. 

Vavalo said the Conservancy submitted comments to also alert the planning department of Jamison’s flawed historic analysis on its proposal. City Planning representative Yeghig L. Keshishian said these historic assessments are completed by third party consultants, which are approved by the Office of Historic Resources. The original assessment determined the site is not a historic resource based on a 2009 report from the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency. Vavalo claims this survey is irrelevant, however, because it only analyzed buildings built prior to 1962, while 3700 WIlshire was completed in 1967. 

“The historic resources survey involved the visual examination of a total of 1,911 properties constructed before 1962,” states the Community Redevelopment Agency report. Therefore, the decision that the site lacks sufficient historic value was based on a report that never reviewed the property to begin with. 

AN ATTEMPT TO CHANGE THE ZONING--The city honored Beneficial’s president and CEO in 1966 for contributing open space to the community. The Conservancy says a city 1968 planning case zoned the green space under a “P,” or parking designation, which essentially precludes the space from commercial use. This designation is the closest thing the city can do to protect a property, short of purchasing land for public open space, the Conservancy says, citing key language from the case: “The interests of good zoning practices and relevant considerations of public necessity, convenience and general welfare would best be served by retaining this open space asset to the community and preclude further intensification of land use in this block.” 

In contradiction of this protection, Jamison has requested for the city to change the “P” zone on the park portion of the property to allow commercial development. 

DONATIONS TO THE CITY--Since Jamison is a large development company and owns a lot of projects in the district, the council office meets with the company to evaluate the impact of each project on the community, as it does with any other developer, she said. The company has more than $106,000 in contributions to all city candidates and officeholders on the record since 2001. In the past 13 years, more than $13,000 have gone to Council District 10 office and candidates, with more than $11,000 of that going to Wesson’s campaigns since 2005. These Ethics Commission disclosures, however, do not include possible contributions to programs promoted by the Council office or Wesson as an individual. In response to resident claims that Jamison has bribed the Council District office to usher their projects through approvals quickly, Hwang said the office has no special relationship with the company. 

CD 10's PLAN--The district has proposed to convert the parking lot at a nearby library into a park, potentially with underground parking. In an opposition letter to 3700 Wilshire, resident Keith Kresge argued the proposed park is much smaller than Liberty Park and it could be a potential illegal gift of a public asset if it is being offered as a replacement. He recommended a City Attorney investigation. 

CD 10 Deputy Hwang denies claims this park was a concession project. While the library is in close proximity to Liberty Park, she said this project has been in the works for years before Jamison submitted its proposal and is not related to the potential loss of Liberty Park. The project’s timing and proximity are “just a coincidence”. 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?--The planning department confirmed the proposal is currently on hold. A Feb. 9 planning department hearing for the project has been suspended. Jamison is currently reevaluating the site’s historic value, according to Hwang. This process could take about a month. 

The Conservancy recommends that residents interested in saving the park learn more about what they can do at savelibertypark.org, a website organized by Kim and other opponents. Vavalo also suggests contacting Councilmember Wesson’s office to express concerns. 

THANK YOU to resident Mark Lawrence for alerting TNN to this story.

 

(Carla Pineda is a staff reporter for The Neighborhood News … where this piece was first posted … and currently the site editor for Link TV Digital, after serving as associate international news editor and social media manager for other KCETLink properties. The Neighborhood News is a ‘get engaged’ partner of CityWatch)

-cw

BUDGET ADVOCATES--This Saturday, February 25, from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates will host the annual Regional Budget Day. Come out and Make your voice heard!  

The purpose of this 3 hour session is to hear your concerns about your neighborhood, and how you believe the City can better spend its funds for an improved quality of life in Los Angeles.  

Get involved by asking questions during open Q & A and enjoy informed presentations from special guest speakers and many more. Come meet some of your local City Officials, Budget Advocates and Neighborhood Counsel Members. Get involved! 

The Budget Day forum is free to the public. 

Also, after your regional Budget Day Forum you and your family can enjoy the zoo at a discounted rate with this special coupon code NBHDFEB25 for free parking, with discounted zoo entry at $12 per Child and $16 per adult. 

Budget Day Locations 

Region 1-4: 

Braude Center

6262 Van Nuys Blvd,

Van Nuys, CA 91401

Register here 

Region 5-6: 

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Griffith Park Dr,

Los Angeles, CA 90027

Register here 

Region 7-8: 

Glassell Park Community Center

3650 Verdugo Rd,

Glassell Park, CA 90065

Register here 

Region 9-10: 

Ridley Thomas Constituent Center

8475 S. Vermont Ave,

Los Angeles, CA 90044

Register here: 

Region 11: 

West LA Municipal Building

1645 Corinth Ave,

Los Angeles, CA 90049

Register here 

Region 12: 

Croatian Cultural Center

510 W. 7th Street,

San Pedro, CA 90731

Register here

 

 

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: [email protected].) 

-cw

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--A displacement study conducted on the impact of The Reef, a proposed development in historic South Central with 1,440 luxury housing units priced well above the level affordable to the surrounding residents, found that the project would put 43,756 residents at a very high to moderate risk of being  displaced. That is the impact of having just ONE mega development with so many "market-rate" units imposed on a South LA community. 

This is not academic for us. And we've seen it before locally and in other parts of the country. What we are witnessing is a form of economic violence, and no corner in South LA is safe. 

The Reef project, the proposed 30-story Cumulus skyscraper at La Cienega/Jefferson with 1,200 luxury apartments, and the nearly 1,000 all-luxury housing element of the Crenshaw Mall redevelopment in Leimert Park all break the same zoning law so that they can be built in areas that they don't belong: General Plan Amendments.  

Measure S is one solution to stop these massive traffic-causing projects from wiping out all that we have built - our community, our institutions, our relationships with our neighbors. 

RSVP now for a critical community action forum on Tuesday the 21st about Measure S, encouraging development not displacement, and addressing some of the biggest lies said by the Downtown establishment about the measure.  

On March 7th, literally our neighborhood is on the ballot.

 

(Provided by the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.)

-cw

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--In an extraordinary video posted here by the MMRA, Julia Duncan attempts to rally support for the HPOZ among renters. One of them says, “The single family owners can eat it,” and gets something close to agreement from Julia Duncan. Is that really David Ryu’s attitude to single family owners in the Miracle Mile? 

Meanwhile, James O’Sullivan, embattled President of the MMRA, writes in a bizarre article in CityWatchLA.com here that rejection of the Miracle Mile HPOZ will result in the loss of 500 rent controlled apartments, with homelessness thrown in for good measure, and seems to blame Mayor Garcetti for it all! The MMRA has clearly lost all credibility with homeowners in the Miracle Mile and is now morphing into a tenant advocacy organization. 

Finally, a flyer has popped up dated February 2nd here from Councilmember Ryu's Senior Planning Deputy, Julia Duncan, asking the neighborhood to weigh in on the Miracle Mile HPOZ by Tuesday, February 14, 2017. Problem is, nobody, not even the MMRA, seems to have received it.  For the record, write and/or call Julia at [email protected], (213) 473-2346, to tell her what you think of the HPOZ.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

I M P O R T A N T     D A T E

M I R A C L E     M I L E    T O W N     H A L L     M E E T I N G

 

When: Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 7:00pm (show up at 6:30p).

Where: John Burrows Middle School located at 600 S McCadden Place in Los Angeles.

What:  David Ryu is hosting a town hall meeting specifically on the HPOZ. The purpose presumably is to try to rally support for the HPOZ.

PLEASE ARRIVE AT 6:30PM  WE WILL BE THERE

TO DEMONSTRATE THE OPPOSITE!

JOIN US SHOW COUNCILMEMBER DAVID RYU THAT PROPERTY OWNERS

IN MIRACLE MILE DON'T WANT THIS!

 

(SayNoHPOZ is a group of Miracle Mile residents who oppose an effort to create a restrictive HPOZ for the community. They can be reached at [email protected] or saynohpoz.com) 

-cw

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Parking and politics aren’t mixing well for Robertson Boulevard businesses, leaving some to question whether retailers have become pawns in the lead-up to the city’s March elections.

The recently opened campaign headquarters on Robertson Boulevard of Jesse Creed, who is running against incumbent Paul Koretz for a chance to represent the fifth district on the Los Angeles City Council, was followed with a surprise for the street’s other tenants: the removal of a two-hour free parking garage program some allege was taken away to stop Creed’s volunteers from using it.

Free parking is gold in Los Angeles, where gridlock and circling blocks to find an open metered spot is factored into all commute times. For Robertson Boulevard, it’s perhaps even more critical as some hope for a revival of the occupancy-challenged street. Offering the first two hours free in the structure — a common carrot in places such as Beverly Hills or Santa Monica — is seen as a way to woo people to the street.

“Free parking on Robertson is imperative to the success of the street and small business owners like us especially,” said Alissa Jacob, the cofounder and ceo of the multibrand concept shop Reservoir.  “We are competing with Beverly Hills’ free parking and have many customers who are incentivized to come here only if there’s available free parking for a portion of their time on the street. The street is really suffering, with many more homeless people than ever, and if the city doesn’t do something now to help businesses, then this street will continue to suffer and more businesses will shut down or relocate.”

At issue is what the city of Los Angeles calls lot 703, the parking garage it owns at 123 S. Robertson Boulevard. Between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15, the structure offered the first two hours of parking free. Business owners reported anecdotally a lift in foot traffic and sales during that time.

A two-week free parking program was approved for the holiday via a council motion, a Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesman said. The motion was done as an incentive for holiday shoppers and will not be coming back, the spokesman also confirmed.

That’s a different story than what was told to Fraser Ross, the founder of Kitson and owner of the new boutique concept Kitross on Robertson Boulevard. Ross has attempted to work with the city since May beginning with Manav Kumar, deputy counsel to Mayor Eric Garcetti, before being shuttled to Garcetti’s senior director, William Chun. He was passed on to the office of councilman Paul Koretz, who oversees the fifth district where Robertson is located, and has since been working with John Darnell, district director for Koretz.

Darnell, according to Ross, said at the onset the free parking would be extended every two weeks before swinging to full-time in March. Ross had a free parking sign made after he said he was told the city couldn’t afford to make such signage.

“Why do I have to make signs for the city? I’ve got enough to do. I have to pick up the garbage, get the tree [on the sidewalk] trimmed, get the phone booth [on the sidewalk] down. When was the last time Paul [Koretz] has walked the streets of Robertson to see the problems first hand?” Ross said.

Darnell, Koretz and Koretz’s spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

The sign’s lettering was slashed, by an unknown party, last week with the end of the free parking program.

“It looked like we possibly had his [Koretz’s] attention, but since Creed’s office [opening], I’m having difficultly talking to his office,” said one merchant on the street, requesting anonymity.

Ross on Monday started a petition to bring the free parking back and expects to get to 1,000 within a week. He also, per his style, dressed his store’s window with a hard-to-miss statement accusing Koretz of taking away the parking. “Pay for play. All talk, no action,” part of the window reads.

Creed, the incumbent running against Koretz for the council, said he moved onto the street because he had seen the thoroughfare languish and took up the space as a statement of what he said was solidarity with the other business owners. He called the sequence of events — free parking available when his headquarters moved in Jan. 1 and then no free parking Jan. 15 — “suspicious.” One other observation since his move onto the street few would argue with: “The merchants here are desperate for help,” Creed said.

“There’s no ownership and Mayor Garcetti and Paul Koretz were down at the march on Saturday and they’re saying stand up for your rights and fight the fight. Well, we’re fighting the fight against you [politicians],” Ross said, pointing to American Apparel, BCBG Max Azria Group, The Limited and other retailers shuttering doors. “I mean, come on. You can see there’s a problem in this brick-and-mortar retail business. You’ve got to invite people to stores and make common areas again.”

Instead, what people see are empty and sometimes dirty storefronts, some of that city-owned real estate.

Bob Esho, the owner of the optical and sunglass store Optx, has been on the street for some 15 years. He previously occupied the storefront, owned by the city, located next to the city-owned parking garage. He shared the space with a doctor who decided he wanted to exit Robertson in 2015. Esho said he asked if the city could re-write the lease, removing the doctor from the contract, and was told no one was available to redo the paperwork. He closed in July 2015 and inked a lease across the street a few months later at a building owned by a private individual.

Esho’s former space is still empty.

Nathan Sager, who owns Sager French Salon, has expressed interest in leasing Esho’s previous space on Robertson. It would have been a homecoming of sorts, with Sager French on the street for 17 years before relocating to Beverly Hills after losing its lease when the building underwent major renovations. Sager was told by Darnell he would have to apply for the space via a request for proposal process through the Department of Transportation.

The city expected the RFP to post by mid-August, according to e-mails between Darnell, Chun and parking and LADOT analyst Rene Sagles. Darnell followed up with Sagles in November, at which time he was told the RFP would be released the first week of December. On Dec. 2, a follow-up e-mail between Darnell and Sagles indicated what Sagles called a “small setback we need to resolve” and that the RFP would be out the following week. The RFP has not yet been posted.

“I don’t understand it,” Esho said. “Why wouldn’t you lease the space and have a tenant there paying … There’s no accountability. Who are you going to hold accountable for it? They will blame each other [at the city].”

And even as lease deals get inked, merchandising of the street’s tenants needs to be done with a more careful eye, Sager added, factoring in services and lessons learned from the street’s past boom and then bust.

“The street’s lost so much of the retail and we understand that you cannot support retail without services,” Sager said.

It didn’t help that big brands — Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Lululemon, among others — moved in years ago, boosted rents and later left with the recession and rise of competing streets offering cheaper prices. It wasn’t good for real estate and it wasn’t good for a street aimed at trendsetters and neighborhood shoppers, some would say.

“These people [big brands] don’t really look at recessions,” Sager said. “These people have an agency that is looking for them and what is the hottest location. None of these owners stand on the street and see what people are walking them. They have location scouters.”

“I’ve been here for 20 years. This street, I’ve never seen it so bad,” said Sylvia Diaz, owner of the restaurant Cuvée. “Any little thing we can get that would increase our business, I’m shocked that the city doesn’t get it.”

Diaz said longtime customers come in and regularly ask her what happened to the street, referencing the heyday when celebrities shopped there and tour buses rolled through. Today, she’s contemplating whether she should relocate following a rough six months capped by a November and December that were the worst months the business has had during its run on the street.

“It’s never been this bad,” she said. “I’m working harder. I’m trying to come up with new ways of drawing in business and it’s hard. I’ve never had to cut [employee] hours before. These employees of mine, it really breaks my heart.”

(Kari Hamanaka writes for WWD.com … where this piece was first posted.)

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-----The effort to legalize street vendors is moving forward at City Hall.  The proposal has proven controversial in the past, with many residents as well as brick-and-mortar business owners opposed to the idea.  But most of the business owners and managers who were interviewed by The Eastsider were open to but cautious about the measure

“If it’s a taco stand, of course it’s competition,” said Miguel Perez, the manager at Acapulco restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, near Virgil Avenue in East Hollywood. But, “as long as [vendors] keep it nice and clean, that would fine.” 

Perez’s answer was typical among [business owners] but so was his surprise to hear that the city was considering the matter; Perez, like most of the other businesses owners and employees who were interviewed, had not heard about the renewed efforts to legalize vendors. 

The latest push comes as advocates are concerned that undocumented immigrants who are cited for illegal vending may face deportation under a Trump presidency. Under a proposal that came out last week from a Council committee, each block could have up to four vendors – two on each side of the street. Adjacent businesses owners would also have the power to approve their presence. The plan goes to the full City Council for review next spring. 

“I know people who are against vendors,” said Meghan Dhaliwal, a manager at Caffe Vita in Los Feliz. “But I think cheap street food is great.” 

Dhaliwal said vendors nearby probably wouldn’t create much competition with her store, since Caffe Vita doesn’t serve hot food. 

Christian Chavez, owner of Echoes Under Sunset on Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park, had heard of the recent vendor proposal and unabashedly supported it. 

“I got no problem with street vendors. They’re convenient,” said Chavez, whose business is primarily a comedy venue – selling drinks, but not much food. “So it’s kind of cool for us to have the street vendors.” 

He added that the vendors are clean and don’t take away from other businesses, since his neighborhood sees so many people. 

“Some people come out of a club or bar get something to eat and keep running,” he said.

The City Council is scheduled to take up the most recent street vendor proposal early 2017.

 

(Barry Lank posts at The East Sider where this report originated.)  Photo of Boyle Heights Vendor by Ana Facio-Krajcer.

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS—Vernon--State environmental regulators issued guidelines Thursday that will allow expedited cleanups of high-risk homes near the shuttered Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon even before a full mitigation plan and environmental review are completed. 

The Department of Toxic Substances Control released a draft cleanup plan and environmental impact report for public review in December, with cleanup operations to mitigate lead-contaminated soil and properties near the plant anticipated to begin this summer. 

That schedule, however, sparked criticism from some residents and area officials who said some properties near the plant are at particularly high risk. 

DTSC officials said Thursday they will move forward with cleanups on a “case-by-case basis” at a limited number of properties “with high levels of lead in the soil and the greatest exposures to sensitive populations.” 

“We are utilizing all of the resources at our disposal to ensure that we are able to take action to protect the most sensitive populations impacted by the presence of lead in the soil from the Exide operations,” DTSC Director Barbara Lee said.

The agency plans to consider for expedited cleanup properties that have soil with lead levels of 1,000 parts per million or more. 

The agency will also consider cleanups at properties where a resident “has a blood-lead level at or above five micrograms per deciliter, which is the level used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify children with elevated blood-lead levels.” 

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup. 

Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year signed legislation providing $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered plant. 

State officials said the funding would pay for testing of residential properties, schools, day care centers and parks within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant, and fund cleaning of as many as 2,500 properties with the highest lead levels.

 

(This report originated at City New Service.)

NEIGHBORHOOD P­­OLITICS--ECHO PARK – A cluster of classic, Spanish-Revival style bungalows on Echo Park Avenue could be demolished to make way for as many as a dozen new homes, according to city records. 

An application filed by the developer with the Planning Department seeks permission to carve up the property at 1456 Echo Park Avenue to build up to 12 single-family homes under the city’s small-lot development ordinance, which allows for more dense development of single-family homes. The project, proposed by Bixel House LLC, would require the demolition of 7 apartments and the removal of nearly 4,000 cubic feet of earth. 

This project of 3-story homes would have a big impact on this section of the avenue, where most of the surrounding one- and two-story buildings date back to the 1920s or earlier and there has not been much in the way of new construction during the past 30 years. 

The request to subdivide the property would be subject to public hearings and additional reviews. Stay tuned. 

Update: In response to the developer’s application, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell issued the following response through his spokesman, Tony Arranaga: “This proposal flies in the face of historic preservation and the Councilmember’s efforts at revising the Small Lot Subdivision ordinance …. In addition, the proposal does not align with the Councilmember’s goals to maintain the historic character of our Echo Park neighborhood.”

 

(This report was first published at The Eastsider)

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--LA City Council candidate Jesse Creed hosted a press conference to call for safety improvements on Westwood Boulevard. Creed is running for the Westside’s Council District Five. 

Creed declared that, due to more than 300 injury collisions over the past five years, Westwood Boulevard is “virtually a deathtrap.” According to Creed, despite Westwood being among the 15 mayoral Great Streets Initiative sites for the past two years, “virtually nothing” has changed. Due to high rates of collisions and death, Westwood Blvd. is part of the city’s Vision Zero High Injury Network, streets that experience more than their share of deadly crashes. Creed stressed that his priority is to “make Westwood Boulevard safe for everyone” and pledged that “one of his first actions as councilmember” will be to commission a safety study for Westwood. 

Creed was joined by Westwood residents, academics, and business leaders, all of whom called for greater safety features, including bike lanes, on Westwood Boulevard. Residents and business leaders criticized a lack of representation. UCLA professor Michael Jerrett, a bicycle commuter himself, criticized bike lane opponents as “putting peoples’ lives at risk.” Many speakers emphasized connections between UCLA, which is implementing a bike-share system this year, and Metro rail stations, including the existing Expo Line station and the future Purple Line subway station.

Creed is drawing a clear distinction between his platform and the record of Fifth District incumbent Councilmember Paul Koretz. Koretz quashed an earlier study of designated bike lanes for Westwood Boulevard,  and further undermined the city’s Mobility Plan by yanking Westwood from the city’s Bicycle Enhanced Network

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

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--According to Greg Monfette, of Tree Case Management, an arborist hired by the Larchmont Business Improvement District (BID), the ficus trees planted on Larchmont almost sixty years ago have outlived their welcome (photo above) on the street, and it’s time for them to be replaced through a process of rotational management.

The BID, a consortium of property owners on Larchmont, is trying to address the broken plumbing and sidewalks caused by the tree roots for several years. According to BID Co-spokesperson Rebecca Hutchinson, the BID needs to replace the ficus trees because it will lose its insurance if it gets sued one more time by someone who has been injured falling on a broken sidewalk. (Read the rest.

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--"Do you hear me ... Do you hear me now?" How many times did one hear the Verizon ad man ask that question in response to obtaining adequate service? The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) is now asking this of Councilman Mike Bonin.

Projects affecting Venice are being approved by the City and they have never been thru the Venice Neighborhood Council. (Photo above: Ira Koslow, president of the Venice Neighborhood Council.)

In August the VNC sent a letter to Councilman Mike Bonin asking him to present all current projects to the VNC rather than skirting the system. They did not receive an answer to the letter. In the December meeting, Matt Shaw presented a motion that all projects affecting Venice, in whatever state, be presented to the neighborhood council and "stop taking any actions until such time as our council and stakeholders have had a chance to voice our opinion on any and all proposals."

Councils Created to Provide Grassroots Input

The neighborhood councils were created by Charter amendment in 1999 to provide grassroots vetting and input to the governing bodies. "To promote public participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs by creating, nurturing, and supporting a citywide system of grass-roots, independent, and participatory neighborhood councils."

There are 96 councils and Venice, one of the first 4 or 5 to be certified, has outshone all councils with its professional participation and voting record at the polls. The VNC has the largest turnout of any neighborhood council each year.   Last year the governing body had to print extra ballots three times.  Other neighborhood councils visit the Venice council to see how it is done. Former Land Use and Planning committee (LUPC) Chair Challis Macpherson wrote the book on LUPC and taught other councils how it should be done.

The Board is Heavy with Talent

The people on the board are businessmen, attorneys, architects, professionals and some are retired professionals. They have all been trained to address a problem and provide solutions. Because of their broad backgrounds, many times the suggestions, solutions are varied prior to consensus. 

Ira Koslow, president of the Venice Neighborhood Council, says "I have been on the board a long time before becoming president. These people who have never served before just do not understand the lack of cooperation from the CD11 council office," he said. "I don't understand it."

Koslow, now retired, is no lightweight in the field of accomplishments. He worked 25 years in the music business as a talent manager with Peter Asher management. Before that he was an associate professor at California State University, Long Beach for four years. His last job was with the LAUSD where he was a math teacher for 10 years and taught economics for 12 and for five years was Dean of Discipline.

Examples of No Vetting

Koslow started reciting in rapid fashion the latest instances he could remember regarding the preempting of the Venice Neighborhood Council.

"Bonin brought an "ice rink" to be put at the park on Windward to the neighborhood council," he said. "No one wanted it. Then he wanted to bring it back thru the Venice council again. Normally, we do not hear a case twice but he said he had altered the plans enough for it all to be considered new. The Venice council voted it down again. Bonin then went over the Venice council to the California Coastal Commission and got it approved in spite of the Venice council members testifying against the project at the Commission hearing. Whatever happened to the project after that, we do not know.

"The three homeless projects--Westminster Senior Center, Venice Median, and Thatcher Yard have never been thru the Venice Neighborhood Council. Bonin claims that he had a town hall and that was sufficient. Hardly. Telling Venetians what he plans to do is not vetting a case.

"The Business Investment District (BID) that was so controversial and had to be redone, It never went thru the Venice council. Had Bonin not thrown in 25 percent of the city land, it would never have passed. Now the City has to pay $480,000 in fees.

"Lava Mae, the mobile shower service, was new to us. It was mentioned as a project but never presented with details until our December meeting when everything was a fait accompli. There are Board members who live on Third who could have given valuable input at some point.

"This is why we are here."

(Reta Moser writes for Venice Update] … where this perspective was first posted.) Photo credit: Yolanda Gonzalez.

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Controversial plans to build a massive housing, hotel, and retail project with a skyscraper on a parking lot in South LA was unanimously approved by the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday. More than 1,400 apartments and condos will be built, but many will be unaffordable for South LA residents 

City leaders have said the development, called The Reef, has the potential to transform the neighborhood, which has been overlooked by developers until now. It may bring job opportunities and quality restaurants to a neglected area, but it has drawn fierce opposition over fears it will drive up living costs and displace thousands of residents. 

Streetsblog LA has followed the plans closely and offered this critique today: While it sounds like “livability wet dream” it “caters to a well-heeled clientele;” it is “situated on the edge of a neighborhood that is both one of the poorest in the city and the most overcrowded in the entire country.” 

Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price, who reps South LA, told the Los Angeles Times: “It is new … and we have not seen this in the 9th District or South Los Angeles and there’s certainly some uncertainty about it but definitely some excitement and enthusiasm.” 

With the city’s approval, physicians Avedis and Ara Tavitian will develop a parking lot and warehouse at South Broadway and Washington Boulevard with 1,444 condos and apartments, a grocery store, a gallery, a hotel with 208 rooms, outdoor plazas, and more than 67,000 square feet of shops and restaurants in buildings ranging in height from 77 to 420 feet. 

Opponents have speculated the city was swift in approving the project ahead of the implementation of a ballot measure approved by Los Angeles voters earlier this month that will require residential developers to make 20 percent of all condos and 11-25 percent of apartments in their buildings affordable. 

The Tavitian brothers agreed to designate just 5 percent of the 549 apartments for tenants earning very low incomes. (None of the condos will be designated affordable). But they did agree to pay the city $15 million for affordable housing off-site, but within Council District 9. 

But with The Reef, affordability isn’t the only concern. Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman says residents fear gentrification in the neighborhood will make their lives more difficult in other ways. She quotes Alfredo Gama of the Central Alameda Neighborhood Council: “I get stopped by police going out to my car at two a.m. to get my books!” Then she writes, “How much more frequently would he and others like him be harassed once higher-income residents moved in and sought protection from their “suspicious-looking” lower-income neighbors?” Those types of tactics, she says, are not uncommon in gentrifying neighborhoods.

All images via Department of City Planning except photo of protesters - Credit: Angel Jennings / Los Angeles Times)

 

(Jenna Handler posts at Curbed LA ….where this commentary originated) Prepped for CityWatch by Dianne Lawrence.

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GUEST COMMENTARY--It’s hard to overestimate the enormous implications of the City’s total failure on New Year’s in Hollywoodland. The last remaining thread of trust in the City has finally been cut for most of us who live here. We have communicated to the City on numerous occasions about the lax (a very generous word) enforcement on top of Mt. Lee. Its response is always the same: we are wrong and they have it secured. Still, we thought that, at least on New Year's Eve, when the entire world increases enforcement and is on alert, extra care would be taken in our neighborhood. 

Instead, not only was there nothing extra -- there was nothing! How long does it take for someone to change the Hollywood Sign? Certainly longer than I imagine it would take to leave bombs there. And after an initial blast, a subsequent fire could have devastating consequences. The whole world would have seen what a farce the City enforcement is.

Since 9/11, it’s no longer a prank to change the sign. It’s a serious breach of security that threatens our lives and homes. 

Our previous councilmember, on his own, went against decades of precedent (when the top of Mt. Lee was off limits to the public for good reasons) and without studies, hearings or process, recently opened it up and created a new activity of "walking to the Sign,” inviting tens of millions of people to come up here. The present Councilmember has continued and thereby supports these policies. 

Anyone can come up here carrying anything -- huge backpacks used for weeks of camping, metal suitcases and various equipment. We've seen it. Everything is allowed. Nothing is checked. The lack of security takes one's breath away.

And what is atop of Mt. Lee? There are multiple terrorist targets and any one of them should the sound alarm:

  • The famous Hollywood Sign known worldwide as a symbol of Western Culture, one of the biggest tourist magnets in Southern California.
  • The emergency communication tower for first responders in the entire City of Los Angeles. 
  • 8000 gallons of stored fuel.
  • Hundreds of nearby homes built on narrow, winding substandard streets (so narrow that a resident died in a house fire because a fire truck could not get up the narrow street.) It’s a fragile neighborhood placed in a bottle neck surrounded on three sides by Griffith Park. 
  • All of this in a very high fire hazard zone in the midst of a drought. 

These are incredibly easy, vulnerable targets -- all in one location. And the probability of hundreds or thousands of residents and visitors being stuck on gridlocked streets as they try to evacuate could be turned into a certainty by the placing of just a few vehicles at key locations.

At this point it has gone beyond ignorance, incompetency or neglect. Over and over again, the City has chosen to disregard our warnings. Over and over again, the City has shown that safety is not its top priority. It scrambles to react rather than to prevent. Such conditions would be unacceptable anywhere else. 

We need and are entitled to protection. The City failed us on New Year’s Eve and we greatly fear what the next failure will bring.

(Sarajane Schwartz is a 40-year resident of Hollywoodland, a founder of Homeowners on Beachwood Drive United, and a former president of the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association.

Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Lauri Burns (Photo above, center), the founder and president of The Teen Project in Venice, reports that antibiotic resistant bacteria are not the only health threat incubating in the homeless encampments along Venice Beach. 

Alerted by the recent report by Lava-Mae of six – and possibly nine – apparent MRSA cases at 3rd and Rose, Ms. Burns called the VSA to tell of her own experience with insects carried by the population. 

“I took a young homeless woman into my home for one night on an emergency basis and it resulted in an infection of sand mites that took over half a year to eradicate,” She said. 

“Both I and my boyfriend received bites for months, which were very painful,” she said. 

“We tented the house, we had exterminators back regularly, we washed the bedding every day,” she said, “but it still took a long time to eradicate the mites.” 

“I don’t think the public understands that the unsanitary conditions in which these people are forced to live, and in very close proximity, are a very favorable breeding ground for disease and insects.” 

“It’s a ticking time bomb and should drive more sanitation measures than we are currently seeing and quicker re-housing where the homeless can get away from these unsanitary conditions and get treated,” Burns said.  “The homeless people want a chance at life. They don't want to stay homeless.” 

Burns, who was homeless herself as a young woman, notes that eradicating disease and infection is the first priority for her clients at FREEHAB, the free drug treatment facility for homeless young women that she opened in 2015 in Sun Valley. Burns says the facility has hosted 442 women with a 90% success rate at getting them off drugs and keeping them off the street with both drug treatment and vocational training.

 

(The Venice Stakeholders Association is dedicated to civic improvement. The VSA supports slow growth, protection of the limits of the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan, neighborhood safety, better traffic circulation, increased parking for residents, neighborhood beautification projects, historic preservation and protection of coastal waters.)

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GUEST WORDS--As an immigrant myself, I understand the situation and appreciate the City's effort to protect the immigrant community by not actively participating in the federal's deportation effort but, if the City's intention is to protect the undocumented community, will the vending permits be issued "only" to them? Will the City be providing work permits in the form of vending permits? (See story, “LA Council Committee Moves Street Vending Legalization Forward”)  

How would they determine the cost and requirements for the permits? Will the County wave their requirements? Will the State wave their regulations? Street vending also generates "unreported" income, why would anyone pay for a permit that might force them to report the income and/or pay taxes? 

There is no easy solution to the problem but providing vending permits will only worsen the situation. 

The City cannot currently enforce those Municipal codes and City ordinances that prohibit Street vending, the County cannot monitor, regulate or enforce health requirements and the State is not even trying to collect sales taxes. What will be the plan to monitor and enforce those with or without permits? 

They are considering two vendors per block but what will happen when there are four vendors on a block? Vending permits will increase the number of street vendors, some will have permits and others will not! The City, the County and the State will still have the same "limited" enforcement resources, why would they want a bigger headache? 

Street vending is a custom in third world countries because they do not have social services. For the vendors it is the only way to make a living and for their customers it is the only thing they can afford with their salaries. Every elected official in city government promised to deliver a world class and a safer Los Angeles. Are they telling us now that a third world status is the best that they will do? 

Restaurants and stores pay rent, business licenses, occupancy permits, utilities, employees, payroll and sales taxes; they are expected to meet City, County, State and Federal labor, health and income reports requirements and liability insurance. 

Is it fair to them that street vendors pay less for a permit and use City Streets to conduct business at no cost and being a cash business, income and sales taxes are none existent! Will they City carry the liability insurance for those permitted vendors? 

If the city of Los Angeles, or any other city, wishes to help the undocumented population and act against federal mandates, they should just eliminate, within the city limits, the need to ask and/or prove immigration status at any job. The only thing needed should be the willingness and ability to do the work and the job opening! The federal government already provides them with a tax ID number for the purpose of filing income taxes and the City has already set a minimum wage within city limits.

((Edwin Ramirez is a long time activist and co-publisher of Pacoima Today.)

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TENANTS RIGHTS-Wednesday the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Tenant Buyout Protection Ordinance. This was a culmination of months of effort by the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) to win passage of this necessary tenant protection.

The need for the law came out of the growing tactics being used by unscrupulous landlords attempting to coerce tenants living in rent controlled units to move by offering them “cash for keys.” This then allows the landlord the ability to jack up rents once the tenant vacates the unit.

In addition, landlords are using these buyouts to avoid having to go through the Ellis Act Eviction Process or filing a Tenant Habitability Plan, two programs that provide tenants some safeguards against abuse. By avoiding these processes landlords can obtain higher rents without paying correct relocation amounts, providing tenants the legal amount of time to move, providing tenants temporary relocation housing while the building is being renovated, being limited in raising rents and being prohibited from re-renting the units for 5 years, depending on what their intentions are for the property.

CES Affordable Housing Lead Organizer Joel Montano, testifying before the City Council prior to the vote stated, “Many tenants don’t know they rights, believe they have no choice and opt to take the money and leave. The longer you delay, the more tenants will be illegally forced out of their homes. We urge your vote to pass this ordinance today.”

LA City Council Member Gilbert Cedillo, who chairs the Council Housing Committee, was instrumental in guiding the proposal, developed by Los Angeles Housing + Community Development Department (HCIDLA), though the Council to its eventual adoption.

The new law will do the following:

  • Require that landlords provide tenants with a written disclosure notice of the tenant’s rights under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) with regard to eviction and relocation assistance, including contact information for the HCIDLA landlord/tenant hotline.
  • Allow tenants to rescind buyout agreements for any reason for up to 30 days after the agreements are fully executed.
  • Further provide that agreements that do not satisfy the stipulated requirements may be rescinded by the tenant at any time.
  • Require that landlords file copies of all buyout agreements with HCIDLA.
  • Provide tenants with an affirmative defense to an unlawful detainer and a civil remedy for actual damages and civil penalties against landlords who fail to comply with the buyout agreement regulations.

(Larry Gross is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival and an occasional CityWatch contributor.)

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PLATKIN ON PLANNING-The opposition to the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative pawns itself off as a grass roots coalition, but it is, in fact, an astroturf organization funded by four major Big Real Estate players.  These large enterprises have a global reach, with billions of assets stretching far beyond their Los Angeles operations. 

  • Westfield Group, based in Australia, owns and operates shopping centers throughout the world, including 38 malls in the United States. In Los Angeles their malls include Century City and Warner Center. 
  • Crescent Heights, based in Miami, builds and operates up-scale commercial and residential projects throughout the United States, including the proposed Palladium high-rise tower in Hollywood. 
  • Lowe Enterprises is headquartered in Los Angeles and invests in commercial and residential real estate projects throughout the United States. 
  • Eli Broad, based in Los Angeles, has not completely moved on from insurance and tract housing to philanthropy and museums.  He did find time to donate $25,000 to oppose the Initiative. 

Last week CityWatch republished a Real Deal (real estate site) article, “How did LA’s Planning Process become such a Mess,” that went after the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative with a vengeance. But, this article was so filled with inaccuracies that my annotated notes had 31 separate corrections. Let me present the most egregious errors and corrections: (Anyone who wants to see the full 31 can shoot me an email at [email protected].) 

Claim: “The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is an effort by NIMBYs to put the breaks on most development in Los Angeles.” 

Correction. NIMBY is a pejorative term used by Big Real Estate to smear their critics when they raise legitimate zoning, planning, design, and environmental objections to their mega-projects. The critics’ objections are based on violations of legally adopted policies, laws, and regulations. Furthermore, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative only impedes a small percentage of real estate projects, about 3-5 percent, because they require parcel level legislative actions (e.g., spot-zoning) from the Department of City Planning and the City Council to turn illegal projects into legal ones. As for the rest, the Department of Building and Safety quickly issues building permits to 90 percent of applications because they are by-right projects. As for the remaining five percent of building permits, the Department of City Planning internally reviews and approves them since they do not require City Council legislative actions. 

Claim: “…The County’s zoning code itself has not been updated since 1946.”  

Correction: Location, location, location. The General Plan addresses the City of Los Angeles, not Los Angeles County. They share the name, Los Angeles, but that is it because the County’s General Plan only applies to unincorporated areas. 

Claim: “29 of LA’s 35 plans are currently more than 15 years old. Beyond money, updating the plan would entail heavy input from the community and approval from City Council.”

Correction: Thirty-five plans refer to the Community Plans, not the entire General Plan. But, short-staffing only explains some of the delays in updating the General Plan’s elements, including the Community Plans. A bigger part of the explanation is LA’s elected officials. They have little interest in planning since they view Los Angeles through a project-by-project, contribution-by-contribution lens.

A comprehensive, long-term perspective would gum up their system of campaign contributions, shakedowns, and political influence. 

Finally, the biggest impediment to timely updates was the City’s misuse of the Hollywood Community Plan update. Its not-so-hidden agenda was to promote real estate speculation, regardless of underlying demographic trends and public comments. As a result, the City lost three legal challenges, and the courts threw out the entire Hollywood update, its EIR, and its implementing zoning ordinances and planning amendments. Since the Hollywood Update was the up-zoning, up-planning template for the remaining 34 Community Plans, the Planning Department was left high and dry for many years as it regrouped from this major legal defeat. 

Claim: “Up until 1960, LA had a residential capacity of 10 million people … But as real estate politics shifted toward the stronghold of homeowners associations, capacity diminished. Between the 60s and the early 2000s, LA was effectively “downzoned” by 60 percent …”  

Correction: The one major planning and zoning program during the 1980s and early 1990s was AB 283. It resulted from local lawsuits and California State Assembly legislation that required the City of Los Angeles to ensure consistency between its plans and its zones. When this project concluded in 1991, the AB 283 staff calculated that LA’s amended zoning could accommodate another 5 million people. Several years later the General Plan Framework’s technical consultants confirmed these findings. They determined that Los Angeles had enough remaining commercial zoning (which can also be used for apartments) for all conceivable growth scenarios in the entire 21st century. Their technical reports also reported that the build-out of the city’s residential zones would transform Los Angeles into a city of 8,000,000 people.

Since Los Angeles has had virtually no population gain over the past two decades, and only tiny amounts of down-zoning, the city still has sufficient zoning for all foreseeable growth scenarios. What it does not have, however, is the exact zoning that a few high stakes real estate investors require to build luxury high-rise towers at the most lucrative locations. 

Claims: “The Coalition to Preserve LA … believes a two-year moratorium on all developments seeking a zone change will light a fire under the Council.” 

Correction: The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative’s two-year moratorium is on General Plan Amendments, Height District changes, AND zone changes. But, 100 percent affordable housing projects would be exempt from the spot-zoning ban. After this two-year hiatus, legislative land use actions would then be allowed for entire Community Plan areas, Specific Plan areas, and for local areas that are 15 acres or larger. This approach is also consistent with the City of Los Angeles City Charter, which states that these legislative actions must be for geographic areas that have significant social, economic, and physical identity. Spot-zoning and spot-planning, therefore, does not conform to the City Charter. 

Charter Section 555 (a)   Amendment in Whole or in Part. The General Plan may be amended in its entirety, by subject elements or parts of subject elements, or by geographic areas, provided that the part or area involved has significant social, economic or physical identity. 

Claim: “While developers may be gung-ho for higher building capacities, density alone will not heal LA. It takes community discussions, which are easier when the rules are clear. The real need, planners say, is just a little bit of certainty, from which both community members and builders can benefit.” 

Correction: The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative provides absolute certainty by stopping legislative actions that allow mega-project developers to define their own rules for separate parcels, usually in tandem with their campaign contributions. But, as should already be obvious, Big Real Estate has NO interest in such certainty. It is anathema to them. They want total flexibility to build whatever they want, wherever they want, as long as it pencils out to their advantage. That is why they oppose the certainty created by the Neighborhood Integrity Ordinance. It also explains why they are spending vast sums to defeat it, including planting info-mercials in real estate trade journals and City Watch..

A LESSON: Is there a lesson in this list of corrections? Yes, the bigger they come, the harder they fall. Money can buy you lots of things, but so far, basic facts are not for sale.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angele city planner who reports on local planning issues for City Watch. Please send any comments or corrections to [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.