Thursday, January 31, 2008
LETTER FROM Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council's Planning and Land Use Committee January 28, 2008
Re: Baseline Mansionization Ordinance - Proposed Amendments to Ordinance
On January 23, 2008, the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council's Planning and Land Use Committee, along with the entire Council, voted to oppose the amendments proposed by Councilman Jack Weiss regarding the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance.
Whereas the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance was supported by our Neighborhood Council in 2006, we voted to oppose the amendments as follows:
1) We oppose the amendment to change the requirement of an Applicant from seeking a Variance of the FAR to an Adjustment.
The Variance process is the most comprehensive and effective process set forth in amending the FAR of the Ordinance, and should not be changed to the less rigorous Adjustment procedure. The Adjustment procedure is less comprehensive, provides less notification to the community, and does not include mandatory public hearings which are vital to our effected stakeholders and neighborhoods.
2) We oppose the amendment to include environmentally-friendly, green building practices as another option to receive a bonus.
Although we support environmentally friendly development, the inclusion of this bonus option does nothing to address the issue of the bulking and massing of homes, the removal of view-shed and light, or the important issue of neighborhood character. This should be addressed in another ordinance which would be specific to this issue.
Therefore, we moved that the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance move forward to the entire City Council without any further amendments, with provision for review in 100 days after the Ordinance has been enacted to address any further concerns or issues.
Carolyn Carradine and Carol Sidlow
Co-chairs, Planning and Land Use Committee
Steve Twining President, Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council
RESPONSE TO ABOVE LETTER FROM BEL-AIR ASSOCIATION BOARD MEMBER JEFF KAPLAN TO BEL-AIR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT:
These people (the NC) are out of control and I am outraged! I was at the NC 1/23/08 meeting, at least during the Agenda item relating to the Ordinance and there was no vote taken and no indication by anyone that the Land Use Committee had so voted., nor that any vote by the Council Board would be taken.
As to the vote action taken by the Council, it seems to me that either the 1/28/08 letter indicating that the "entire Council" voted to oppose is inaccurate or that an item was voted upon (opposing the Amendments) without proper notice (I saw the Agenda and I do not recall such an Agenda item), or at least they "sand-bagged" all of us who were there and spoke about the Ordinance and they gave us no indication that such a vote was to be taken or even considered.
It is becoming clear that the NC is not acting fairly and is willing to further some of its members desires without fair input and discussion; and is using our good name and goodwill for their our purposes without our knowledge or consent.
I would like to know exactly when (what time during the meeting) the motion was voted upon at the NC meeting on 1/23/08, who was present and who voted for, against and abstained with respect to the motions (I presume the Sec. has that info.). I would also like the Sec. to advise us as to why such motions were valid since they were not noticed on the Agenda.
While I will wait to get the info so my response is accurate; I think it is our fiduciary duty to our members in protection of our member's rights to send a letter to the NC (with a copy to the City) that unless and until we advise the NC of a specific position taken by the Bel-Air Assn. with respect to the Ordinance, they are to assume that our representatives do not approve any NC motions relating to the Ordinance, and in fact, our members did not approve the action taken on 1/23 as referred to in the 1/28/08 letter.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The proposed Ordinance would amend several provisions of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) that deal with massing, scale, and size of new construction, additions to, and remodels on single-family residential zoned lots, not located in Hillside Areas or the Coastal Zone. The proposed code amendments would protect single-family lots from mansionization, or out-of-scale development, in established neighborhoods.
The proposed amendments would:
• Reduce the existing Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for each zone from 3:1 by Buildable Area and change it to an FAR for each zone by Lot Size.
• Add a new Proportional Stories Bonus of 20% of the maximum development potential of a lot if all the other stories are less than seventy-five percent of the largest floor of the primary structure.
• Create new Single-Family Residential Floor Area and Base Floor definitions in order to address massing concerns and to determine Proportional Stories compliance, and amend the existing definitions of Buildable Area and Floor Area to address the changes proposed in this ordinance.
• Rename Subsection C of each single-family zone to Development Standards, and move the new FAR requirements to each zone.
• Revise the existing height requirements to include a lower height for structures, or portions of structures, with flat roofs:
R1, RS, RE9
25% Roof Slope or Greater: 33 feet
Less Than 25% Roof Slope: 28 feet
RE11, RE15, RA, RE20, and RE40
25% Roof Slope or Greater: 36 feet
Less Than 25% Roof Slope: 30 feet
• Add a new Single-Story Height District with a maximum height of 18 feet available only for properties zoned single-family residential. This would not be applied to any area of the City or neighborhood as part of this action. Application of this new Height District would require a full zone change process.
• Clarify that the Zoning Administrator’s Adjustment authority does not include adjustments to Single-Family Residential Floor Area.
Properties located within Hillside Areas and the Coastal Zone will not be affected by the Ordinance. With regards to Specific Plans, the strictest FAR standards would prevail.
Flat Lands in Hillside Areas
Several members of the public have expressed a concern that the proposed Baseline Mansionization Ordinance would not apply to “flat” properties located within the Hillside Area boundaries, and have requested that the provisions of this ordinance be applied to these lots. There are currently several different hillside definitions used by the City and properties may be identified as hillside by one criterion or another. These need to be reconciled and this will take collaboration between different departments and involve new mapping. It is recommended that staff be directed to proceed expeditiously with this work as a follow-up to the proposed Baseline Mansionization Ordinance.
UPDATE from Erick Lopez, LA Department of City Planning:
The Planning & Land Use Management Committee moved the proposed Baseline Mansionization Ordinance to the full Council with 3 amendments:
- A method of increasing or decreasing the maximum size limits established as a baseline by the proposed Baseline Mansionization Ordinance for individual neighborhoods;
- A third option for obtaining the 20% bonus established in the proposed ordinance when a home is constructed using environmentally responsible (or "green") building methods.
- To revise the ordinance so that the Zoning Administrator has the authority to grant minor Adjustments to the size limits established by the proposed ordinance.
The PLUM Committee also instructed the Chief Legislative Analyst to work with outside consultants to come up with a "thumbnail sketch" analysis of the potential economic impacts of the proposed ordinance (e.g. property values and property taxes).
City Planning Commission Action
Affected Properties Citywide Map (March Map)
Recommendation Report May 10, 2007
Supplemental Report - May 24, 2007
Supplemental Report June 14, 2007
Revised Recommendation Report - June 28, 2007
CITY COUNCIL ONLINE DOCUMENTS (MULTIPLE)
Friday, January 25, 2008
Dear Community Leaders and Stakeholders:
Each year, the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles must develop a budget plan that addresses the needs of the City’s diverse communities, reflects shared priorities, and moves the City toward important goals. As we begin the planning process for Fiscal Year 2008-09, I invite you to help me develop my proposed budget by sharing with me your thoughts on how we should create a balanced budget that addresses the fundamental issues of our City while remaining fiscally responsible.
To ensure that the needs of your communities are voiced, my office has created a budget survey to help guide the development of the City budget. This survey requires you to make very tough decisions regarding real issues that we face. This year, the City of Los Angeles will be challenged by many issues, none more pressing than the potential loss of $270 million or roughly 6% of the City’s General Fund. The magnitude of the potential revenue loss is enormous and could jeopardize support for public safety, transportation, recreational services, housing, economic development, and other vital services.
Given this daunting challenge, it is important to hear from community members about their budget priorities and their thoughts regarding the City’s revenues and expenditures. I urge you to participate in this very important decision making process by completing the budget survey. Your participation in this invaluable process will help ensure that budget priorities encompass the real needs of the City.
Very truly yours,
Antonio R. Villaraigosa
Link for budget survey:
Thursday, January 24, 2008
· Bush, Lawmakers Are Close to Deal on Stimulus Package - President Bush and congressional leaders moved closer to agreeing on a compromise economic rescue package yesterday, fending off fresh protests from both the right and the left as they rushed to respond to a cascading series of economic troubles and to head off a potential recession. Washington Post - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/22/AR2008012202114_pf.html
· Asian Markets Ease Higher After Rate Cut - The United States Federal Reserve’s surprise rate cut stemmed bloodletting on the Asian stock markets on Wednesday but heightened fears that a painful recession was imminent for the world’s largest economy. In early trading, stocks in Europe were down slightly…In Asia, the gains that most markets enjoyed did not erase the losses they had suffered in recent days as panic over the impact of a possible recession in the United States swept the globe. NY Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/business/worldbusiness/24asiastox2.html?_r=1&hp=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print
· Democrats Try to Delay Eavesdropping Vote - Senate Democrats concede that they probably lack the votes needed to stop a White House-backed plan to give immunity to phone utilities that helped the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping, and they are seeking to put off the vote for another month…Putting off the vote for a second time riled White House officials and Republicans on Tuesday, because they insist that national security will be put at risk if Congress does not meet a Feb. 1 deadline to amend the eavesdropping law. NY Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/washington/23nsa.html?ref=washington&pagewanted=print
· Iraq's New Law on Ex-Baathists Could Bring Another Purge - … More than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials and former Baathists here and in exile expressed concern in interviews that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for the legislation. Approved by parliament this month under pressure from U.S. officials, the law was heralded by President Bush and Iraqi leaders as a way to soothe the deep anger of many ex-Baathists…toward the Shiite-led government.Yet U.S. officials and even legislators who voted for the measure, which still requires approval by Iraq's presidency council, acknowledge that its impact is hard to assess from its text and will depend on how it is implemented. Washington Post - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/22/AR2008012203538_pf.html
· Six-nation pact takes aim at Iran - In a bid to ratchet up pressure on Iran to end its uranium enrichment program, six leading world powers agreed Tuesday to introduce a new United Nations resolution likely to tighten sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Ending months of impasse with Russia and China, the agreement clears the way for the United States, Germany, France and Britain to submit a new resolution to the Security Council to increase political and economic constraints on Tehran. LA Times - http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iran23jan23,0,301518.story?coll=la-home-center
Here are some of California’s top news headlines today:
Doubts over health plan grow: On the eve of a pivotal legislative hearing, the healthcare overhaul pushed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has won so little support in the California Senate that the Democratic leadership may have to alter a committee's makeup for the measure to pass. The $14.9-billion plan, which would require nearly all Californians to obtain insurance and would subsidize the premiums of those too poor to afford it, was approved last month in the state Assembly only after some of the state's strongest labor leaders lobbied for it. The difficulty was notable because the plan was written by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles). Doubts about the plan have intensified since then. Jordan Rau in the Los Angeles Times -- http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-health23jan23,1,7107772.story?coll=la-headlines-california
Bush's sonar order is unconstitutional, coastal panel says: The California Coastal Commission argued in federal court Tuesday that President Bush violated the U.S. Constitution by trying to overturn a court order that restricted the Navy's use of a type of sonar linked to the deaths of marine mammals. The commission's attorneys said Bush's move to exempt the Navy sonar training exercises in Southern California waters from federal law violated the Constitution's separation-of-powers doctrine. Kenneth Weiss in the Los Angeles Times -- http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-sonar23jan23,1,4357534.story?coll=la-headlines-california
Startling jump in California foreclosures: The housing market's vicious downward cycle wreaked more havoc in 2007, as record numbers of people in California and the Bay Area lost their homes to foreclosure, according to a report released Tuesday. Coming on the heels of statistics showing home sales at record lows and prices slumping, the foreclosure information was a fresh reminder that the real estate malaise directly hurts many homeowners, particularly those with risky subprime mortgages. California, where home prices saw double-digit appreciation during the post-millennium real estate frenzy, is now seeing equally dramatic increases in foreclosures. The nation's foreclosure crisis has spread to the point where many analysts say the country is either in recession or on the brink. The Federal Reserve's major interest-rate cut on Tuesday underscored how seriously the government views the situation. Carla Said in the San Francisco Chronicle -- http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/01/23/MNTEUJN7I.DTL
Natomas levee repair project clears hurdle: State flood-control officials have approved a construction permit for the first phase of levee repairs in Natomas, but the project still awaits other approvals. Friday's action came in the first meeting of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, which was reconstituted from the state Reclamation Board in legislation adopted last year. Formerly a seven-member board, it now includes two state legislators in non-voting seats. Meeting in Sacramento, the board approved an encroachment permit for the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency to begin raising and strengthening 5.3 miles of levee on the Natomas Cross Canal, the first step in a $400 million plan to provide 100-year flood protection in Natomas, home to 70,000 people. Matt Weiser in the Sacramento Bee -- http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/654738.html
$6 tolls proposed to cross the Golden Gate Bridge: Golden Gate Bridge officials said today that a $1 toll hike is needed to help close a projected five-year, $91 million deficit, but they want to hear from the public before deciding whether to move forward with their plan to boost revenue. The bridge board of directors will be asked Friday to give the go-ahead for a public outreach process to gauge reaction to the proposal that would raise the cash toll to $6 and the electronic FasTrak toll to $5. The board is not scheduled to make a decision on the proposed toll increase until May. If approved, the earliest it would go into effect is July 1. It would be the first increase since 2002. Rachel Gordon in the San Francisco Chronicle -- http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/23/BA7TUJQSL.DTL
Friday, January 18, 2008
Hello Malibu, Goodbye Mom & Pop
Pico/Olympic Traffic Crises
By David Chudnow
I recently attended one of the public meetings held to discuss the proposed Olympic/Pico traffic plan. What an exercise in futility! Although the issues are complex and deserving of legislative-type discussion, the Mayor has chosen to avoid the City Council and has announced his intent to implement this plan by himself, over the next few months. Apparently he has the support of Jack Weiss, Council representative of the Westside, the area which will be most impacted. Although both the Mayor and Mr. Weiss had representatives at the meeting, none of them chose to engage in dialogue with their constituents to offer any insight into the issues or to answer any of the questions aimed at them. Rather, they stood cowardly in the rear and let John Fisher, on behalf of the Department of Transportation (DOT), field the questions and dodge the spears. As you may be aware, the Plan (although its particulars are somewhat fluid) desires to transform Olympic Blvd into a “predominately west” street and Pico Blvd into a “predominately east” street during “peak hours” of rush hour (also a somewhat fluid term as used by DOT, but now stated as being 7-9 am and 4-7 pm), from the 405 all the way downtown, to purportedly alleviate traffic congestion. It was clear from the meeting, however, that the Powers that Be have a hidden agenda and are merely using this as a smokescreen.
In order to achieve their stated goal, DOT proposes a three-step Plan: a) Creation of Peak Period Lanes on Olympic and Pico – this will be done through the elimination of on-street parking; while this may not be much of a factor along Olympic, given the width of the Boulevard and the fact that most establishments already have their own parking, this would greatly impact the Mom & Pop businesses along Pico, which have little or no parking of their own; essentially it would reduce their business day to 7 hours; b) Alterations in Traffic Light Signalization – under this portion, the lights would be set to encourage “continuous flow” at 25 mph; there are obvious flaws with this; for example, DOT admits there will be interruptions caused by buses stopping in the curb lane; nor does the Plan really consider the qualitative and width difference between Pico east of Beverly Drive and Pico west of there; a test trial showed no improvement in the former location; c) Preferential Direction Flow Operation – under this portion, various strategies would be employed to encourage the desired traffic pattern; for example, left turns would be reduced to only two cars per light, the number of turn lanes would be reduced (in particular, at Motor and Beverly Glen) and traffic flow would be “encouraged” to only go north/south at Centinela and Crenshaw, while being actively discouraged elsewhere, a la the “privatization” of Motor Ave. Although DOT would like us to believe that the cost of the initial phases is only $300,000 apiece, that figure does not consider the substantial human cost to the areas affected nor the impact on local businesses. In effect, the Mayor wants the Westside to bear the burden for allowing this crush of traffic by Malibu commuters who do not want to use the 10 Freeway.
In listening to the DOT’s responses to resident questions it became clear that the Mayor does not simply want to move traffic. If DOT sincerely wanted to do that, they could concentrate traffic flow to and from downtown onto Venice Blvd., a substantially wider street and one far better suited to handle a high influx of cars without disruption of its neighborhoods.
Rather, the Powers that Be really desire to use this to achieve urban renewal of an area they see as “blighted,” the eastern portion of Pico, without engaging in appropriate eminent domain proceedings or paying compensation as required by law. For example, when asked if the Plan included funds to compensate owners for taking of their properties, the answer was a simple no. When asked about the impact on neighborhoods, Mr. Fisher replied that the areas “would adjust,” citing the area of Pico near the Apple Pan as a sterling example. Apparently Mr. Fisher does not recall or chooses to ignore that there were formerly many Mom and Pop stores on Pico east of Westwood Blvd. When the City implemented their new parking restrictions in the 70’s almost all of them were forced out of business. The City compensated no one. They have now been replaced by larger sleeker stores like Circuit City which was able to construct above-ground parking. The Apple Pan survived only due to the tenacity of its owners, its ability to service customers for longer hours and the fact that it has a small parking lot of its own. Mr. Fisher also told us that residents could “adjust their schedules” to the new regime; for example, they could do their shopping on weekends rather than during the week. This is simply unrealistic and impractical. Finally, the Mayor intends to rush the Plan through without any Environmental Impact Report even though it will have huge impact on thousands of residents and have significant adverse impact on numerous businesses. When asked about this, Mr. Fisher stated they see the Plan as simply implementing “parking restrictions.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
In short, if you are a business owner on Pico east or Beverwil, you will have two choices. Either organize or prepare now to close your business and move. There’s an express train bearing down on you and you are in the way. If you are resident, be prepared for substantial disruption and alteration to your lives for the foreseeable future. The Big Boys are ignoring you. (David Chudnow is a 35-year resident of the Westside and an attorney specializing in real estate and business law.)Need to know: the DOT Plan summary can be found at www.wncla.org. For more perspective on the Pico West/ Olympic East debate, see Alan Mittelstaedt’s opinion piece … “Scream if you hate traffic” … at www.LACityBeat.com . _
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The California deadline is fast approaching to register to vote in the February 5, 2008 Presidential Primary Election. If you have moved, changed your name, or would like to change your party affiliation since the last election, be sure to re-register with your updated
Visit the CA Department of State online at http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm - Here you can download a voter registration form and mail directly to:
Registrar - Recorder/County Clerk
P O Box 1024
Norwalk, CA 90651-1024
Paper Forms - Forms are available throughout Los Angeles County at most county buildings, city halls, fire stations, libraries, State Motor Vehicle Offices, Public Assistance Offices (DPSS, WIC), and post offices. Voter information and/or registration forms can be obtained at the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Norwalk headquarters and all RR/CC district offices. Registration-by-mail forms may be requested during regular business hours by calling the Election Information Section in Norwalk, or district offices, or the Voter Registration Request Line (800) 481-VOTE (8683), which is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit RR/CC online at http://www.lavote.net/VOTER/Voter_Registration.cfm for locations and numbers of branch offices.
Note - Your registration must be postmarked by January 22, 2008.
Absentee Ballots - You can request an absentee ballot online http://www.lavote.net/Voter/PDFS/VBM_BALLOT_APP_02052008.pdf. Application must be received by January 29, 2008.
Questions - If you have any questions, or experience any difficulties with your registration, please be sure to contact the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's Office at:
Pollworkers Needed - Find out how you can participate by visiting http://www.lavote.net/VOTER/POLLWORKER/Default.cfm
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
For Immediate Release: Contact: Aaron McLear
Tuesday, January 8, 2008 Rachel Cameron
Governor Schwarzenegger Tackles California’s Challenges, Proposes Budget Reforms in State of the State Address
Delivering his annual State of the State address before a joint session of the California State Legislature today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger asked legislators to work with him to tackle some of California’s most pressing challenges including reforming the state budget system that has failed the people of the Golden State too many times.
“This coming year will test us in very hard ways. In any number of areas, we’ve tackled politically risky things that no one in the past wanted to touch. To me, this is progress. And now, we must make progress on another problem that’s been put off for many years,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “We cannot continue to put people through the binge and purge of our budget process. It is not fair. It is not reasonable. It is not in the best interests of anyone. So I am again proposing a constitutional amendment so that our spending has some relationship to our revenues.”
During the speech, the Governor discussed his bold proposals to reform the state budget system that will ensure greater financial stability in the future and addressed why health care reform is critical to fixing our failing budget. He also discussed why the current budget challenge does not change California’s critical need for infrastructure investment and how the most needed education reforms are still possible.
“Government can work, it can be efficient and it can lead. California has proven this in so many areas including climate change, low carbon fuels, energy efficiency and on clean, green technology,” the Governor added. “But, our work has only just begun. I cannot fix the budget, build the roads and bridges or improve education alone. We have to work together if we are going to fix these problems and give the people of California what they deserve.”
Specifically, the Governor’s proposals include:
California’s economy continues to grow, in spite of the current housing downturn, and the state continues to enjoy overall job growth. Yet while Governor Schwarzenegger prudently increased our rainy day reserve to historic highs in 2006 and 2007, California still faces a projected $14 billion budget gap in the 2008-09 fiscal year that requires across-the-board-cuts. In December, the Governor announced that he will declare a fiscal emergency to address the current year budget shortfall. Today, Governor Schwarzenegger proposes the Budget Stabilization Act, a Constitutional amendment to fundamentally reform the state budget process. This reform requires a vote of the people.
The Budget Stabilization Act:
1. Establishes a Revenue Stabilization Fund (RSF), which is simply a savings account for excess revenues taken in by California during a prosperous year. This will allow the state to transfer the difference from the RSF into the General Fund in years when tax revenues are below average and California cannot meet its spending obligations.
2. Allows California to reduce spending when necessary. Right now, California doesn’t have this flexibility. Once the Governor signs the budget, spending is locked in unless he declares a fiscal state of emergency and calls a special session. Under this act, state agencies must reduce their spending if a year-end deficit is projected by the Department of Finance.
3. Requires the legislature to enact a statute specifying how the state will reduce spending to meet Budget Stabilization Act requirements as soon as a deficit is projected. If the legislature does not specify the reductions—or if their reductions are insufficient—the amendment allows the Governor to waive state law and regulations in order to achieve the savings needed to bring California's budget into balance.
If the Budget Stabilization Act had been in effect since 1998, the state would not have developed a structural budget deficit. In years where a deficit emerged, the Budget Stabilization Act would have triggered moderate cuts automatically to avoid draconian cuts later.
Strategic Growth Plan
California’s economic growth and environmental leadership are still closely tied to improving how infrastructure is built, operated and maintained. The Department of Finance estimates that California needs $500 billion worth of infrastructure over the next two decades. Governor Schwarzenegger is committed to further boosting economic growth, preserving our environment, enhancing services for citizens and getting taxpayers the most for their money by strengthening how California plans, finances and delivers infrastructure projects.
Governor Schwarzenegger proposes a set of new policies to leverage partnerships with the private sector, increase synergy between public agencies and educate thousands of new engineers to build the California of tomorrow. To achieve this, the Governor proposes:
1. Establishing a Strategic Growth Council to coordinate SGP projects and spending. The five-member Council will help state agencies allocate SGP money in ways that best promote efficiency, sustainability and support the Governor’s economic and environmental goals.
2. Expanding the types of projects, services and government entities that can enter into Performance Based Infrastructure (PBI) arrangements.
3. Establishing “PBI California,” a center for excellence to help determine which state projects can benefit from PBI – also known as public-private partnerships – to represent the state in negotiations with PBI participants, ensure transparency and monitor performance. This will empower California to build, operate and maintain infrastructure better, faster and for less.
4. Bringing approximately 20,000 new engineers into California's workforce over the next decade by expanding existing educational programs and building new partnerships between our schools, the military and the private sector.
While school funding in California has reached historic new highs under his administration, Governor Schwarzenegger has always maintained that our education system needs more than money to succeed. Our system must ensure that students have the skills and knowledge needed for success; that parents, teachers and policymakers have access to accurate educational data; and that classrooms have highly qualified teachers to educate the next generation of Californians.
To achieve these goals, the Governor has announced:
1. California will be the first state to use the powers given under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to turn challenged districts around. The Governor’s proposal includes allocating a higher percentage of NCLB funds in districts that need the greatest assistance and intervention.
2. Reforms that value local control and assist school districts based on their needs. The problems driving underachievement in each school district are different, so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. In determining the state’s response, the administration has used a “differentiated assistance” model to analyze each district individually and assign it the most appropriate intervention to improve student achievement and progress.
3. High-performing schools and districts have the opportunity to apply to the State Board of Education for waivers from provisions of the Education Code. Waivers granted by the State Board of Education will give these schools and districts flexibility to budget and operate in ways that continue to improve student achievement. "
4. Immediate actions to improve the quality and accessibility of information available to parents, educators and policymakers and address critical shortages of teachers in California’s classrooms.
The Governor’s administration is working with teachers, administrators, parents, elected officials and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a sustainable architecture for accountability that helps school districts meet federal standards and improve student achievement.
Health Care Reform
The Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act, introduced by the Governor and approved by the California Assembly, is a landmark reform that strengthens our health care system when we need it most. It will take pressure off of the state budget to finance the Medi-Cal rate hikes that drive some of our most significant budgetary spending growth. The Act is fully funded, budget neutral and includes mechanisms to ensure strong oversight, evaluation and flexibility to prevent auto-pilot spending.
The Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act:
1. Increase the role of the federal government in paying for medical costs of our population. It secures $4 billion in new federal funds that California is eligible for under current law and right now is leaving on the table.
2. Reduces pressure on the state General Fund and addresses the structural budget problems that drive deficits. The Act finances higher reimbursements with new hospital revenues and federal funds and funds programs to improve the health of current Medi-Cal beneficiaries. It also includes built-in mechanisms to ensure that health care reforms are financially self-sustaining.
3. Contains costs and lowers health care spending by addressing chronic illnesses and providing broad access to preventive care.
4. Will create a positive impact on the economy by increasing productivity, wages and tax revenues.
Tax Town Hall
Plummer Park (Rooms 5 & 6)
January 17, 2007
Mike FeuerAssemblymember, 42nd District
In co-operation with
Mayor John Duran and Mayor Pro-Tem Jeffrey Prang
Presentation and Information provided by:
California Franchise Tax Board
California Board of Equalization
NEW CALIFORNIA TAX LAWS FOR 2008
To RSVP or for additional information, Please contact TalinMaghakian in Assemblymember Feuer's Office at (310) 285-5490 or (818) 902-0521
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Education & Neighborhood Committee Takes Up Controversial File # Issue
By Sara Epstein
One of the hot-button recommendations in the NC Review Commission’s final proposes that neighborhood councils be afforded the ability to file a motion on the City Council record the same as City Council members and some departments and agencies do. As the Education and Neighborhoods Committee heads into the more controversial NCRC recommendations, the Council File Number issue comes up first. The committee will address it Tuesday morning at 8:45.
The City Council split (6-6 … eight votes needed) on a similar motion some months ago. It returns in slightly different form Tuesday, as a recommendation by the NCRC.
More than 50 neighborhood councils have provided Community Impact Statements … more than on any other issue … in support of Council File Numbers for NCs.
It will likely be approved, in some form, by the committee but not without some friction. Some business organizations oppose the recommendation saying that it provides neighborhood councils with too much power. If approved by E & N, it will move to full council for a vote. (Info: Education & Neighborhoods Committee-Tuesday, January 8 at 8:45 a.m. City Hall-Room 1060. Agenda at: www.lacity.org .)
___Here is a reprint of two sides of the NC Council File Number issue, published earlier in CityWatch.
Point-Council File Rights not all Upside
By Mark Siegel
Neighborhood Council members attending a meeting last year of the Neighborhood Council Review Commission (NCRC) were jubilant over the unanimous vote endorsing the motion to allow Neighborhood Councils the right to initiate a council file but they should be careful what they wish for.
On the surface it looks like a major victory for the Neighborhood Council movement, frustrated by the City Council sending the motion to give NCs file creation rights back to the Education and Neighborhoods and Rules Committees. The “Council File” supporters, which number over 50 of the 86 NCs, were angered by the council’s action which occurred right around the time the City Council placed Proposition R on the ballot. The vote at the NCRC was a vindication for the organizers of this effort.
If the city Council relents and adopts a policy of allowing Neighborhood Councils to open up council files, without obtaining the support of a City Council member, what, in fact, have they fought so hard to win?
The right to create an official Council file has little or no substance. If, as the proposal is currently written, three NCs agree on the need to create a council file, they would send a letter to the City Clerk, who would staple it to a blue folder, log its receipt and refer it to the appropriate Committee for whatever action the chair of the committee deems proper action. The general subject matter will appear on the City Council referral calendar which is only read by a few city hall staffers. If the Committee chair wants to ignore it and never put it on a committee agenda he or she may. In two years the file would be sent to the archives. To move it forward you would need the support of at least two City Council members. One to bring it and one to second it. So there is no real power attached to this proposal.
On the downside, it could lead to some undesirable consequences. The underlying sentiment is clearly anti-City Council. The implication of any NC initiated file is that the Council member is not doing his or her job leaving the NC no choice but to create a file. The right to create a council file could easily undermine NCs collaborating and building a working relationships with their elected officials and department heads which are necessary for NCs to be effective. It would be counter productive to be in an adversarial relationship with the City Council.
While the ability to create a Council File has some symbolic value, the real power of Neighborhood Councils comes from their ability to organize and expand the participation of the diverse communities within their boundaries. Perhaps the time spent rounding up three Neighborhood Councils to create a council file would be better spent on meeting with the local chamber or other community leaders. As the councils grow and succeed in brining all the parties together to reach a consensus, then there will be no need to create a Council file, one will be created by the Council member’s motion.
After stating those concerns, I voted in favor of the Council File motion because of its symbolic importance that has been vested in it by the Neighborhood Councils in the 4th district which I represent on the NCRC. (Mark Siegel has been active in the Neighborhood Council movement since its inception and was appointed to the NC Review Commission by 4th District Councilmember Tom LaBonge.)
CounterPoint-Council Files More than a Symbol
By Jason Lyon
I appreciate my esteemed colleague’s concerns, yet I am troubled by some of his conclusions about the proposal to assign council file numbers to Neighborhood Council initiatives. Particularly disturbing is his assertion that the proposal is “clearly anti-City Council.” If that were the case, it is doubtful it would have earned the fervent support of the Council President, the President Pro Tem, and the current and former chairs of the Education & Neighborhoods Committee. Instead, they see this proposal for what it is: a way for NCs to be proactive rather than reactive. Generating council files will allow NCs to avoid the rut of just saying “no” by encouraging positive dialogue over negative. This can only improve relations with the Council.
Flatly declaring this proposal to be adversarial is cynical, because it assumes that every idea generated by Neighborhood Councils will be intended as a stick in the eye to some member of city government. I have more faith in Neighborhood Councils than that. Fortunately, participatory democracy is not a zero-sum game, with winners and losers, but rather a consensus-building process where everyone has a place at the table. The winner/loser scenario may be the reality of the political realm, but it need not – indeed, it should not – exist in the arena of grassroots participation. Here, the goal is simply to foster a free exchange of ideas that lead to more responsive government. I believe Neighborhood Councils will use this tool to suggest creative solutions to the problems facing our city.
I do not believe, as my colleague suggests, that any council member who declines to submit a motion on behalf of a Neighborhood Council “is not doing his or her job.” Any number of considerations – conscience, political expedience, a relative sense of priority – could lead a member to fairly conclude that a particular proposal is not a good fit. Since elected officials are ultimately accountable to the voters, they can only take actions for which they are willing to be accountable. But it does not follow that a constituent NC should have to abandon an idea because it doesn’t appeal to one council member. The council file proposal offers an alternate route to facilitate discussion. It is a tool that should be used in addition to – rather than instead of – partnering with one or more city council members.
At its core, this proposal is about transparency in government. The Council File is the single organizing principle of business in City Hall. If an issue or action isn’t linked to a file number, then for all practical purposes, it does not exist. Only after the Clerk has created a file can an issue turn from idea into action. More importantly, it is only after establishment of a file that members of the public can get involved. Far from being merely a symbolic gesture, assigning file numbers to NC Initiatives signifies City Hall’s recognition that public participation is essential. Without it, our system of government would quickly cease to be representative.
Where Commissioner Siegel and I fully agree is that the real power of Neighborhood Councils will come from their ability to organize their communities. I am convinced that authorizing them to generate council files is entirely complementary with that goal. Any successful organizer will confirm that communities coalesce around a cause, an idea, a call to action. In that sense, the council file is a very real tool of empowerment, because it offers a central principle around which to rally our neighbors. Far from being mutually exclusive with community engagement, granting NCs access to council files might be the missing link that helps stakeholders believe in the efficacy of the Neighborhood Council system. (Jason Lyon is a former member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, authored the Council Files proposal and was appointed to the NC Review Commission by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.)
Who Will Represent the DWP Rate Payers?
Analysis By Jack Humphreville
DWP Rate Payers are a disparate, diverse and unorganized group consisting of 1,400,000 power customers and 640,000 water customers. But who watches out for their wallets when DWP proposes a massive Rate Increase? Theoretically, the Board of Commissioners, the Mayor, the City Council, and Controller would assume that responsibility. Unfortunately, there are massive, well organized, well funded money hungry constituencies whose agendas do not necessarily coincide with those of the Rate Payers: DWP and its Board of Commissioners; City Hall, the Mayor, the City Council and the Controller; and DWP’s union.
As a result of this imbalance and in order to create a more open and transparent environment, the DWP Oversight Committee, which consists of 74 certified Neighborhood Councils, recommends the formation of an independent Rate Payers Advocate (“RPA”), funded by DWP, to provide additional oversight of DWP. This is not the only call for additional oversight. Others include Antonio Villaraigosa and Jack Weiss, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Greig Smith. In many ways, it is similar to the Public Utilities Commission that monitors investor owned utilities.
The RPA would have timely access to information regarding DWP’s operations, finances, and management as well as monitor the reliability of its operations. It would also disseminate this information and its findings to the Rate Payers, City Hall and the public. Importantly, the RPA would be independent of City Hall and other parties that have conflicts of interest. However, the RPA would not be involved in management or have the right to veto management decisions or set rates.
The RPA’s members would be knowledgeable about utilities, finance, and the management of large complex enterprises like DWP and would not have ties to the political establishment. The RPA would have liaisons with senior members of DWP management, including operational and financial management.
Additional oversight is certainly needed. The reliability of the power system has deteriorated. There is over $2,000,000,000 of deferred maintenance. There is a $2,000,000,000 unfunded retirement liability related to post retirement medical benefits and pensions that is not disclosed on the balance sheet, but is buried in the footnotes of the financial statements. DWP has failed to implement the money saving recommendations of the Huron Consulting Group that relate to work force management, project management, Shared Services, Customer Service, outsourcing, and information technology, among others.
While DWP has been more open about its operations and finances, it has been unwilling to disclose the non core projects (often referred to as public benefit, special or pet projects) and their substantial cost. Nor has DWP been forth coming about the history of transfers to the City’s General Fund. Nor has DWP disclosed that its first quarter profits were $70,000,000 over budget, about the amount of the requested annual increase!
DWP has also misled the public about the size of the proposed Rate Action. The Water increase has been advertised as 6.2%. However, the DWP Oversight Committee concluded that the base rate revenues are projected to increase over 16%, pass through revenues at 11%, and overall revenues about 14%. We did not consider the increase in purchased water since this is outside the control of DWP.
Likewise, DWP advertised the increase in power rates as “fairly modest,” “$1.75 a month,” and 8.5% over the three year period. Again, the DWP Oversight Committee arrived at different conclusions. We do not consider a $655,000,000 increase in our power bills as “fairly modest.” Rather, base rates are projected to increase almost 16%, pass through rates 57%, and the average cost per kwh increases 23% and rates for single family residences about 30%.
The DWP Oversight Committee believes that the RPA needs to be independent of City Hall since the City receives over $500,000,000 a year from DWP as a result of the 10% City Utility Tax, the 7% levy on power revenues, the 5% levy on water revenues, and the funding of special projects by DWP that are the responsibility of the City. If the proposed Rate Action is approved, the City’s General Fund would benefit by another $100,000,000.
Nor has the Controller been vigilant. The City Charter requires that an audit be conducted every five years. However, the last audit was done in 2002 and we have not even seen an RFP for the new audit.
The Board of Commissioners have not looked out for the Rate Payers as witnessed when they rubber stamped the DWP Rate Action on October 2, 2007. DWP was given hours to make their case while members of the Oversight Committee were allowed three minutes each to make their points. But then again, the Commissioners are political appointees that serve at the will of the mayor and do not have the experience with large revenue generating organizations.
Likewise, the RPA should be independent of the DWP union. The union enjoys compensation levels that are significantly higher than other city workers and other regional utility workers. Some estimate this premium to be $200,000,000 per year. As a “first installment,” the union mailed, at great expense, over 30,000 DVD’s in order to apply political pressure on City Hall. The union has also been a significant contributor to local political campaigns. Other city workers are interested in high DWP compensation levels since it sets a benchmark for city workers.
The DWP Oversight Committee does not recommend the current Rate Action. DWP does not need an increase in base rates. For example, since the transfer from the water system to the City’s General Fund is not legally permitted, there is no need for any increase. Likewise, the power system does not need an increase in base rates. Power had $450,000,000 in unrestricted cash at year’s end and profits in the first quarter were $70,000,000 over budget. DWP has not “earned” this increase since it has not implemented the many money saving recommendations proposed by the Huron Consulting Group which was hired by the City to review the rate increases.
No wonder we are recommending an independent Rate Payers Advocate. (Jack Humphreville serves on the NC/DWP Oversight Committee. Humphreville is a businessman, community activist and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)
Thursday, January 3, 2008
On Wednesday December 19, 2007, Congress passed HR 2764, the omnibus budget bill that included long-sought legislative provisions protecting the 380-acre West Los Angeles Department of Veterans Affairs property against sale, exchange, long-term lease and commercial development. That night, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky addressed a rally outside the VA to celebrate the historic vote. President Bush signed the bill into law on December 26, 2007.
Yaroslavsky worked closely with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Henry Waxman to win passage of this legislation. "Today's action caps a years-long struggle to protect the VA site in West Los Angeles from the kind of development schemes that would have transformed these hallowed grounds into a real estate speculator's dream," Yaroslavsky said. "This legislation will permanently protect the site from such plans. It ensures that it will be preserved for the benefit of veterans in perpetuity."
The West Los Angeles VA site was donated by private land owners in the late 19th century for an Old Soldiers Home to serve veterans of the Civil War. The VA facilities have served the needs of veterans of every war since then.
Praising Feinstein and Waxman's efforts, Yaroslavsky said that "Our Washington representatives used their skill and political clout to protect this vital institution." He added, "In doing so, they answered the call of our veterans who deserved no less."
Perhaps the single most significant development this past year has been the change in our government structure and the hiring of our new CEO, Bill Fujioka - and the retirement of David Janssen, one of the great public administrators that I've ever had the pleasure of working with.
Thanks to David's fiscal stewardship and our Board's committed spending discipline, the County will save millions of dollars in lower borrowing costs since Standard & Poor's Rating Services raised our credit ratings in June. Taxpayers will be reaping the benefits for years to come. For his part, Bill quickly stepped in to fill those shoes and hit the ground running. At the same time, we've implemented a new governance structure to evolve the way we do business into a more organized and efficient fashion, and while it's a work in progress, I think we're moving in the right direction.
The closure of King-Harbor Hospital was a very painful experience for all of us. But there's a silver lining to that cloud, and we are hopeful that the work now being done to bring new leadership there ultimately will enable us to reopen that hospital sooner rather than later under competent management.
In the environmental arena, we have taken steps here to construct our new buildings in a manner that meets "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" (LEED) standards, emphasizing renewable energy resources to make us part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
We've made strides this year in our efforts to address the problems of homelessness. Earlier this year, the Board approved a framework in which all 88 of our cities can plug into the County's human resources delivery system if they want to, and we'll provide the vital human services that are necessary to bring people out of homelessness and into permanent supportive housing.
The County of Los Angeles has demonstrated that there are a lot of things it does right and does well, and among them is emergency response. In my own district, I've had two major fires since late October. We have been victimized by high Santa Ana winds and dry conditions and brushfires, but we have also been blessed with incredible response from our fire department and neighboring fire departments from all over the region, as well as our law enforcement personnel.
On a more positive note, we have some exciting projects underway. The new Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will open February 9th. The new leadership of Museum president Michael Govan has been spectacular. He has attracted new people to the Museum family who have a stake in it and will elevate it into one of the finest institutions of its kind in the world.
Arts and culture, as we all know, are vitally important to our region. The Hollywood Bowl attained its highest attendance ever this past summer, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall remains an outstanding success. Los Angeles continues to be one of the premier locations in the world for cutting edge arts and culture. For several years now, we have employed more people in the arts than we employ in the defense industry. These are truly the golden years of the arts in Los Angeles, and we're very fortunate as a Board and as residents of this County to be living in them.
Finally, I'm thrilled that in her last year, Supervisor Yvonne Burke - who has served with great distinction as a member of this Board - will serve out the final year of her term as Chair of the Board. She is a historic figure in this country, and we are all privileged to have served with her on this Board. She has served with great distinction as a member of the State Legislature and as a member of Congress. I look forward to the coming year, and I know that we're all excited about capping her career in this way. She's a great conciliator and a great leader, and we all wish her well. Thank you again for allowing me to chair this Board during the past year.