Friday, February 29, 2008

The Discussion of the City's Budget Deficit Rages On

Sacred cows run wild in City Hall
By Kerry Cavanaugh, Daily News Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 02/28/2008 11:06:46 PM PST

Faced with a budget shortfall of as much as $500 million next year, Los Angeles leaders say it's time to talk about their "sacred cows."

Councilwoman Wendy Greuel first used the term last month when she warned there would be no more sacred cows - that all programs and departments would be eyed for cuts.

Shortly after, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced his own warning about sacred cows. And the phrase popped up again earlier this week in an exchange between Councilman Dennis Zine and Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller.

Zine: "We're looking at everything to save money, correct? What about the sacred cows? Have we discussed those?

Miller: "Which sacred cows are you referring to?"

Indeed, city leaders each seem to have their own ideas on what constitutes sacred cows - programs deemed untouchable for political reasons. The phrase stems from the Hindu belief that cows are sacred and therefore should not be killed.

And so far, the City Council has been hesitant to bring out the knives. After a four-hour hearing to begin trimming the budget, the council restored spending on graffiti removal and community beautification without making equal cuts elsewhere - actually increasing the deficit by about $423,000, according to the Mayor's Office.

That frustrates, but doesn't really surprise, some critics of the city's spending habits.
"The only way they're going to make progress is to be ruthless," said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

"They need to think of the interests we have in common rather than special interests."

Proposed cuts opposed

Zine took aim at the Board of Public Works Commission, whose five members each make more than $115,000 a year.

"We have a police commission, a recreation and parks commission, commissions overseeing the harbor, airport and the Department of Water and Power, and none of the commissioners get paid," Zine said.

Former Mayor Richard Riordan wanted to cut the paid commission, but the idea was nixed by the City Council and Charter Reform Commission.

Shortly after Zine called the commission a sacred cow worth corralling, commission President Cynthia Ruiz paid him a visit to reiterate the commission's role in providing an unbiased eye over contracts worth a half-billion dollars.

"I understand that in tough budget times, that everything has to be looked at," Ruiz said. "I'm fully confident that once it's reviewed they'll see our value."

Other frequently targeted, but rarely acted upon, sacred cows include the Commission on Children, Youth and their Families; the Commission on the Status of Women; the Department of Aging; and the Department on Disability - with budgets totaling $7.6million this year.

But whenever the city has considered cutting or consolidating these agencies, there have been protests.

"There are sensitivities and constituencies that cause people to come in and say, `Do you really want to do this?"' said Councilman Bernard Parks.

What's Parks' own sacred cow?

"Just Council District 8," quipped the 8th District councilman.

Other sacred cows include millions of dollars in special-event fees that City Council members waive to support community groups and, sometimes, commercial ventures.

Essential services

Officials have suggested a moratorium on such fee waivers to save money, but that idea has hit a wall with the council.

"Everything is on the table and everyone must contribute to the solution," said Matt Szabo, spokesman for Villaraigosa.

"And it starts by getting rid of luxuries like city cars for staff and ending the arbitrary practice of fee waivers for local events."

But one person's sacred cow is another person's essential city service.

Take the Los Angeles Police Department.

Several city leaders have said they can't balance the budget without trimming the LAPD's $1.2billion budget. But after a very public campaign to add 1,000 officers to the police force, few city leaders want to advocate cuts.

"When any other department is asked to cut, people don't seem to get as upset," said Councilman Tony Cardenas.

"All you need to say is `cutbacks to LAPD,' and everyone gets alarmed from Brentwood to South Los Angeles."

He cited a battle Tuesday over redeploying 22 police officers that the LAPD insists are needed at Los Angeles International Airport - despite LAX's insistence that the officers are not needed to supplement airport police.

But Villaraigosa and Councilman Jack Weiss said policing is the city's top priority, so the LAPD budget should be off the table - even if that means cutting other city services.

"Cops are first and let the chips fall where they may," Weiss said.

Greuel said she sees plenty of sacred cows, and has sought to redirect money from franchise fees and property sales out of individual council members' accounts and into the general fund.

So far, her colleagues aren't ready to slaughter that sacred cow.

Still, one silver lining to a $500million deficit is that the council and mayor would have political cover to cut spending on nonessential city services that have been added to the budget over the years.

"It's all about timing," Greuel said. "You have to seize these opportunities to go after the sacred cows."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Residents notified of plans to raze homes for 405 project

SHERMAN OAKS - Homeowners along the San Diego Freeway are bracing for the possibility that their homes could be bulldozed as Caltrans has begun quietly alerting residents of plans to move forward with a $950 million widening project.

Residents near the Valley Vista Boulevard exit said they received postcards last week from the state agency, alerting them that a plan has been finalized for a 10-mile northbound car-pool lane linking the Santa Monica and Ventura freeways.

The postcards, however, offered little detail on which homes through the Sepulveda Pass would be directly affected.

Caltrans officials on Monday would only say that the agency has chosen a less-severe option that was under consideration, although they said some changes also have been made to that plan.

Residents in the area have been anxiously awaiting news as the agency weighed two options - one that would have razed nearly three dozen homes and businesses through Brentwood Glen and one that would affect just about a half-dozen.

"There is relief in the sense that we know where we're going," said John Donaty, owner of an industrial and commercial real estate firm whose home in the 4400 block of Sherman Oaks Circle was slated to be taken under both plans proposed by Caltrans months ago.

"We've been waiting so long to know what Caltrans' decision is. It's nice to know that they can now tell us."

But even though Caltrans has sent out the notifications,

officials said Monday that they are still compiling the final environmental impact report and could provide few details to the Daily News.

Deborah Harris, Caltrans spokeswoman, said she did not know when the final report would be sent to residents and other stakeholders, who would receive it on compact discs.

Caltrans spokeswoman Judy Gish said that while the public can speak out about the final report, no changes will be made to the plan based on the comments.

"This is the final determination," Gish said.

The notification comes after months in which homeowners have awaited the state Department of Transportation's plan for the heavily used roadway.

One of the plans called for building a fifth southbound lane on the freeway in addition to the northbound car-pool lane.

That would have involved razing 37 homes and apartment buildings, a landmark Lutheran church and two commercial properties in Brentwood Glen along with taking land from seven lots in Sherman Oaks.

Outraged homeowners and Getty Center officials loudly protested the extensive expansion last year during public hearings.

Using $730 million from the 2006 voter-approved Proposition 1B, the car-pool-lane project also involves $90 million in state money and $130 million more from the feds.

However, the federal money is contingent on construction beginning by 2009. Gish said the project is expected to open for bid this summer and should be awarded by year's end.

"We feel some relief after receiving the postcard, because we were in that gray area of not knowing," said Roy Rimbach, who has lived for 30 years in an area home with his wife, Marsha.

"So we should have some answers."

Homeowners are not the only ones waiting for answers.

Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss has not seen the report or the postcards sent to residents, said Lisa Hansen, Weiss' deputy chief of staff.

While improvements are needed for the San Diego Freeway, Weiss is concerned about taking homes and the impact of future options for Sepulveda Boulevard, Hansen said.

"This proposal may be better than the original and may address some concerns," said Hansen.

"But we need to see the details before making judgments."

Construction of the car-pool lane could take up to five years. Adding the lane would save motorists one minute for every mile driven, Caltrans officials have said.

The transit agency typically offers fair-market value for properties taken through eminent domain. However, with the housing market declining, today's pricing could be lower than homeowners expected last year.

A for-sale sign stands in the yard of one homeowner in the 4400 block of Sherman Oaks Circle who could lose a chunk of property in the deal.

After Marcella Tyler first learned of plans to knock down homes and expand the freeway during one of two public information meetings hosted by Caltrans last March, the Sherman Oaks woman started a fight against any expansion.

Posting a sign in her yard stating "Save our neighborhood," Tyler began alerting other residents and even launched a Web site to spread the word.

Tyler, who has lived in Sherman Oaks for 30 years, said she was disgusted Monday to hear that Caltrans plans to pursue the freeway widening.

"It seems like they didn't hear us at all," Tyler said. "Big powerful Brentwood - they prevailed. But little Sherman Oaks - they did not."

Living a block from homes that could be razed, Wayne Williams echoed Tyler's opposition.

Williams has long fought widening the freeway and says that in the long run it will do little to improve traffic congestion.

"What astounds me about this entire proposal is figuring out a way to squeak in a car-pool lane, which doesn't really work to fix traffic," Williams said, "instead of building another southbound (lane), which would work."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Neighborhood Council Meeting Agenda for February 27, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fact Sheet for Sepulevard Boulevard Reversible Lane Project

As a way to improve traffic through the Sepulveda pass, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is undertaking a traffic improvement project to help alleviate traffic congestion along this major transportation corridor.

This project is not part of the proposed CalTrans 405 HOV lane expansion although transportation officials hope these two project will compliment each other and ease commuter drive time.

A message from our Assemblyman

Dear Constituents,

This year California faces its most challenging budget in recent memory, with a shortfall of $3.3 billion through June, and an estimated $16 billion deficit separating revenue and spending in 2008-09. Closing that gap will undoubtedly mean painful cuts to state services for all of us. As your Assemblymember, this year I'll be offering and voting on difficult budgeting decisions, working to balance the needs of our state with the belt tightening needed to stay fiscally responsible. You can help me set priorities and make these tough choices by clicking to fill out my "California's Fiscal Emergency Questionnaire."

I look forward to receiving your input.


Assemblymember Mike Feuer
42nd Assembly District

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Who should cover the cost of sidewalk repairs?

Overall the impact of this issue to the Bel-Air community is small because there are very few properties that have traditional sidewalks in Bel-Air. Most of the properties have fences or hedges which come all the way to the curb.

We are curious to know what the community thinks, so please let the Association know if you have an opinion on this issue by posting a comment on the blog.

City to Pass the bucks on Sidewalks?

To address a repair backlog, the L.A. council studies charging homeowners when property sells
By David Zahniser
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 21, 2008

Faced with more than 4,000 miles of broken sidewalks and scarce money to make repairs, Los Angeles officials are weighing a proposal to put responsibility for making the fixes squarely on homeowners.

Under the proposal, homeowners would be forced to replace the damaged pavement -- or pay the city a fee -- when they sell their property, before the close of escrow.

The City Council's Public Works Committee got its first look Wednesday at the "point of sale" plan, which could cost the average homeowner as much as $15 for each square foot of sidewalk, and dramatically shift the burden for such repairs from city government to the private sector.

The proposal is backed by Service Employees International Union Local 721, which said it would address a growing backlog of repairs while boosting economic development in the city.

"It's probably the only way of addressing the problem in a comprehensive way," said SEIU policy coordinator Teresa Sanchez, whose union represents about 11,000 city employees.

Several members of Southern California's real estate lobby hate the idea, saying it would complicate a real estate market already gripped by foreclosures and "short sales" -- sellers unloading their property at a loss.

"To put an additional burden on property owners when they're already suffering is pretty insensitive," said Mel Wilson, legislative advocate for the Southland Regional Assn. of Realtors.

Los Angeles spends $9 million annually on sidewalk repairs, enough to replace a little more than 50 miles each year, said Bill Robertson, general manager of the Bureau of Street Services.

At that rate, the city will fix its current 4,600 miles of broken sidewalks around 2091, he said.Los Angeles has 6,000 additional miles of sidewalk considered in good condition.

The city also spends about $3 million annually on lawsuits and legal claims stemming from injuries blamed on uneven sidewalks.

Although city inspectors can issue citations to property owners with broken sidewalks -- forcing them to make the necessary repairs -- they have not done so since 1973.

That year the City Council passed an ordinance that said private property owners were not responsible for sidewalks damaged by tree roots.

The legal view turned out to be incorrect, and city officials began putting money toward sidewalk repairs shortly after 2000, Robertson said.

But it never recovered from the backlog that accrued over 35 years, he said.

"The question is, do we want to bear the $1.2-billion burden of those repairs, or do we want to...have the property owners share that cost when they sell their homes?" he asked.

The council took a stab at addressing cracked sidewalks three years ago when it created the "50-50" program, allowing homeowners to get repairs done on a priority basis as long as they paid half the cost.

That program now has its own backlog, with more than 400 property owners waiting to qualify for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Because the city spends about $7,000 to replace a sidewalk in front of the average single-family home, participants in the 50-50 program pay an average of $3,500, according to city officials.

If approved, the sidewalk plan could apply to every property owner, depending on how it is written.

Backers say the city already requires that homeowners install low-flush toilets and gas shut-off valves each time a property changes hands.

Sanchez, the policy coordinator for SEIU, said the program would allow the city to focus on other needs.

And she said the repair bill would represent a "minimal cost" to property owners.

Highland Park real estate agent Eric Toro disagreed, saying low- and middle-income buyers would find even $3,500 in repairs to be a burden.

The plan will receive another airing in 60 days.

Although Councilman Greig Smith asked for other ways of getting property owners to cover sidewalk costs, Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he was keeping an open mind.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Academy Award Street Closures

City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation
100 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 972-8406 Fax (213)972-8410


February 19, 2008 - Hollywood, CA — Street closures and restricted parking to facilitate the production needs of the 80th annual Academy Awards, as well as security strategies and public safety, have been finalized by the City of Los Angeles.

Numerous agencies, including the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Caltrans and the Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments were consulted in the planning process and agree that the finalized plan is the best way to accommodate all of the parties involved.

The City of Los Angeles, Department of Transportation will begin to strictly enforce the restricted no-parking policy for the Academy Awards on the dates and times listed below. This will include the citing and impounding of vehicles parked on these temporary restricted no-parking streets. Vehicles parked on the following streets will be towed to the Official Police Garage, Hollywood Tow located at 1015 N. Mansfield Ave. in Hollywood at the request of the City of Los Angeles, Department of Transportation. Motorists are advised to call LADOT at 1-866-TOWAWAY or Hollywood Tow (323) 466-8583 to redeem their vehicles.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tow-Away No Stopping Anytime Sunday Only – 8am to Midnight
1. Franklin Avenue between La Brea Ave. and Cahuenga Blvd. – Bothsides
2. Hollywood Blvd. between Cahuenga and Vine – Northside
3. Hollywood Blvd. between Highland & Cahuenga - Bothsides
4. Hollywood Blvd. between Highland & La Brea- Bothsides
5. Highland Ave. between Franklin and Sunset - Bothsides
6. Hawthorn Ave. between La Brea and Highland – Bothsides
7. Orange Drive between Hollywood & Sunset – Bothsides
8. Sunset Blvd. between Detroit & Vine – Bothsides
9. Cole Ave. between Fountain Ave. & Cahuenga Blvd. – Bothsides
10. Wilcox Ave. between Sunset & Franklin – Bothsides
11. McCadden Pl. between Yucca St. Hollywood Blvd.– Bothsides
12. Yucca St. between Highland & Las Palmas – Bothsides
13. Highland Ave. between Sunset & Santa Monica – Eastside
14. Outpost Dr. between Franklin Ave. & La Presa Drive
15. Outpost Circle between Outpost Dr. & Hillside Avenue

Tow-Away No Stopping Anytime, Sunday Only – 11am to 6:00pm
1. Santa Monica Blvd. between Highland a& McCadden – North side
2. Santa Monica between Highland & Mansfield – South side
3. Highland Ave. between Santa Monica & Sunset – East side
4. Highland Ave. between Sunset & DeLongpre – East side
5. Cahuenga Blvd. between Sunset & Hollywood – Both sides
6. Cahuenga Blvd. between Hollywood & 101 FWY – West side
7. Vine St. between 101 SB FWY & Sunset – West side
8. Vine St. between Homewood & Fountain – West side
9. Vine St. between Lexington & Santa Monica – West side
10. Fountain Ave. between Vine & Highland – North side
11. La Brea Ave. between Lexington & Santa Monica – Both sides
12. La Brea Ave. between Sunset & Franklin – Both sides

No Stopping 8am – Midnight
1. Outpost Dr. between Franklin Ave. & La Pressa Dr. – Both sides
2. Outpost Circle between Outpost Dr. & Hillside Ave. – Both sides
3. El Cerrito Pl. between Outpost Dr. & Hillside Ave. – Both sides

Additional streets will be closed on the day of the show, Sunday, February 24 including Highland Avenue from Sunset Boulevard to Franklin Avenue, and Hollywood Boulevard from Cahuenga Boulevard to La Brea Avenue. Also closed on the day of the show will be the southbound Highland Avenue off-ramp from the 101 Freeway.

Details of the closures and maps of affected areas are available from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Thirteenth District City Council field offices and are posted on the Academy's website,

For general information about LADOT transit services, call (213, 310, 323, 818) 808-2273 or visit the LADOT website at Area commuters can visit for real-time traffic information. Real-time traffic reports are a product of LADOT, innovators of Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control System (ATSAC) technology.

Area residents are urged to use public transit. For more information call Metro at (800) 266-6883 or visit their web site at:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

News from CityWatch

DWP GM to NC OSC Panel: Advocacy Not Your Job
Breaking News
By Ken Draper

The Neighborhood Council DWP/MOU Oversight Committee has spent much of the last eight months in an attack and accusatory mode regarding proposed DWP rate increases and the accuracy of the Department’s claims. The Memorandum of Understanding oversight panel found itself on the receiving end on Friday.

In a letter to the DWP/MOU Oversight Committee Chair, new LADWP GM, H. David Nahai, charges the committee with overstepping its MOU responsibilities and says they have been less than factual in their claim that 74 neighborhood councils unanimously approved a resolution requesting that the department delay rate increases pending an overdue Industrial, Economic and Administrative (IEA) survey.

In his February 12 letter to Soledad Garcia, Chair of the Oversight Committee, Nahai reminds her that the “MOU Oversight Committee, as provided for in the MOU and agreed to by LADWP and ALL 74 neighborhood council signatures, was never intended to be, nor is authorized to function as and advocacy group.”

“The role of the MOU OSC,” he says, “is to ensure that the LADWP is following the spirit of the MOU.”

The general manager also accused the NC committee of playing loose with the facts: “The language in the (MOU OSC) resolution would lead the reader to believe that 74 neighborhood councils have voiced their support for it when in fact that is not the case.”

And, Nahai’s was not the only complaint on this subject. Jeffrey Jacobberger, who drafted the original NC/DWP MOU and currently serves on the Mid City WEST Community Council Board, put his objections in and e-memo to Garcia: “I appreciate all the work that the OSC has put into this. However, all of the OSC e-mails give the impression that opposition is unanimous. It is not. The Mid City West Community Council voted to support the proposed rate increase because we believe the infrastructure upgrades are necessary, and won't be free. I had thought that the whole point of having a group collect responses from NCs (whether it be the OSC, LANCC or anything else) would be that they collect and report ALL of the responses from member NCs, not just the responses they like.”

LADWP’s Nahai also reminded the MOU Oversight Committee that agreement requires the department to be notified in advance and given a chance to present its position whenever an NC or neighborhood council committee agendizes an official action. He notes that the DWP was not notified or invited to the meeting where the Committee voted on the Resolution.

Garcia’s announcement following the Nahai letter, said that she had received the letter and would respond “as soon as you all (neighborhood councils) have received it and are apprised of the circumstances.” She asked councils to refrain from responding individually until “I have the opportunity to respond first.”

The DWP rate action proposals … along with GM Nahai’s responses to the Energy Committee’s questions … are due back in the Budget and Finance and Energy and Environment Committees soon. However, no date has yet been set.

INFO—To read the Memorandum of Understanding and the sections referred to by H. David Nahai, visit

The General Manager’s complete letter to the MOU Oversight Committee and the OSC's Resolution at _

Pico/Olympic Traffic War

Westside Coalition Filing Suite to Stop Mayor's Plan

By David Lowell

LA’s Mayor is fond of saying that he was elected to make the tough calls and that he’s up to the task. Seldom, however, have his decisions been as in-your-face as his order Thursday to start implementation of his Pico East-Olympic West traffic plan in spite of heavy opposition from hundreds of businesses, community organizations and even City Council members.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who had asked that the plan be delayed until the Planning Department could become involved, said he might remove his district from the plan. He called the Mayor’s action “disrespectful to my constituents and an insult.” Rosendahl’s response was the tip of the iceberg. Jay Handal, Chair of the Greater West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has announced that “a coalition of businesses and residents will file suit to stop the Mayor’s ill-conceived plan.”

“The actions of Villaraigosa and (Jack) Weiss have made a mockery of the neighborhood council process and even the democratic process.” Handal said, “Every neighborhood council along the route has opposed the plan until key issues have been addressed. The two other City council members whose districts will be impacted have opposed the plan. The Beverly Hills City Council hasn’t even been given the respect of discussing the matter prior to its implementation – even though Olympic passes through their city.”

The Mayor’s response to all of this, through spokesman Matt Szabo, “The Department of Transportation reports to the mayor.”

“Of course,” noted Hancock Park’s Keith Bright, “the Mayor is supposed to report to the people. It would appear that he didn’t get the memo.”

The Mayor’s Pico/Olympic Plan calls for increased parking restrictions to begin on March 8; traffic signals timed to favor Pico east and Olympic West traffic by April 28 and after a test period of six months or so, restriped streets providing four lanes going east on Pico and four lanes going west on Olympic.

Bright also reminded that just because the Mayor is willing to make tough decisions in the face of serious opposition doesn’t make his decision. “Villaraigosa’s decision to bypass the public and try to get his great education plan by playing the Sacramento card,” Bright said, “is an example of one of those so called tough decisions gone awry.”


Businesses and Residential Communities to Fight Back with Lawsuit

Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Jack Weiss have short-circuited the democratic process and plan to force the Pico/Olympic plan on the City over the objections of just about everyone – including other City Council members.

Jay Handal, Chair of the Greater West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce announced today that a coalition of businesses and residents will file suit to stop the Mayor’s ill-conceived plan.

Handal stated “The actions of Villaraigosa and Weiss have made a mockery of the Neighborhood Council process and even the democratic process. Every neighborhood council along the route has opposed the plan until key issues have been addressed. The two other City council members whose districts will be impacted have opposed the plan. The Beverly Hills City Council hasn’t even been given the respect of discussing the matter prior to its implementation – even though Olympic passes through their city.”

Jon Liberman, Chair of the South Robertson Neighborhood Council Safety Committee said “We are supposed to have a system of representative democracy. Unfortunately, Mayor Villaraigosa and Jack Weiss seemed to have missed that civics class. Instead, the Mayor seems to believe that the City Council is unnecessary and doesn’t need to be involved.”

The Mayor’s action came after dozens of business owners and residents alike attended a transportation meeting this last Wednesday to discuss the proposed plan. The committee heard the testimony and voted to table the matter until critical questions could be addressed. The issues raised at the hearing? Little ones like:
• How does the City pay for the mitigations they have been promising given the City’s money problems?
• Why do the Mayor and Jack Weiss believe they are above the law and can avoid a legally-mandated environmental review?
• How will small businesses and the tax revenue they generate be impacted by increased traffic and a loss of parking?
• How will the plan impact kids who cross Pico and Olympic to get to school?
• How will fire trucks and police cars navigate through the north/south congestion that will be created by the plan?

After hearing of the Mayor’s actions, Scott McNeely of FixTheCity.Org stated “Apparently, the members of that committee and the dozens of community members were simply wasting their time. Hearings don’t matter. Democratic processes don’t matter. Representation doesn’t matter. Only the Mayor’s dictatorial tendencies and Weiss’ ambitions to be the Mayor’s City Attorney matter. Only their downtown lobbyist and developer friends matter. What a slap in the face to the members of the Transportation Committee.”

In response to that slap in the face, Councilman Rosendahl stated: “You just don't bowl over the community like that. You have to appreciate who's there. It's disrespectful to my constituents, and it's an insult to my constituents."

Marilyn Cohen, a board member of the Westwood South of Santa Monica HOA echoed that sentiment at the Transportation Committee hearing calling Weiss’ constituents “CD5 Orphans,” and asked Councilman Rosendahl to annex the district away from Weiss so that there could be actual representation.

Judy Bowen, VP of the South Carthay Neighborhood Association commented on the Mayor’s actions. She said: ”The Mayor and Jack Weiss negotiated in bad faith with the Neighborhood Councils, businesses and residents. The Mayor’s actions prove that he was never interested in anything other than pushing this dangerous plan through. He never had any intention of listening to the people.”

Albert Olson, Mar Vista Community Council member, summed it up by saying :”When it comes right down to the bare facts, the Mayor doesn’t seem to care about the democratic process and Jack Weiss doesn’t seem to mind carrying the Mayor’s water – even if he does so over the objections of just about everyone else. The City of Los Angeles is getting a taste of what happens when an executive branch starts believing it is all-powerful and starts abusing its power. We can only hope the City Council has the nerve to stand up to this raw grab for power and abuse of process.”

James O’Sullivan of the Miracle Mile Residential Association had a word of warning for the rest of the City who may not be paying attention: “Pay close attention. The Mayor has stated that he wants to bring this plan to you – whether you want it or not. He has stated that he is going to model other streets on this ill-conceived Pico/Olympic plan. If you think you will have input, that your opinions will matter or even that your councilperson will matter, think again. The Villaraigosa/Weiss team will walk over you just as they have done to our area.”

Story re-printed from

Community Meeting for Los Angeles State Historic Park

Join California State Parks and Hargreaves Associates design team for a Community Meeting about the current phase of work for Los Angeles State Historic Park.

Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 6:30 pm
Goodwill Southern California Auditorium
342 N San Fernando Road
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Friday, February 15, 2008

Food for thought on Neighborhood Councils

Out of the discussion regarding the City's proposed mansionization ordinance, questions and concerns have been raised about the Bel-Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council (BABCNC).

There have also been questions about the neighborhood council system as well as the purpose and function of a neighborhood council.

Some of these discussions have also centered on the role of the Bel-Air Association representatives who are representing the interests of the Bel-Air community on the BABCNC.

The following article is from CityWatch and was written by the former General Manager for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and gives a viewpoint on this meaty topic.

People with Power Don’t want to Share It
Empowerment Report
Greg Nelson

“Neighborhood councils have become tools of obstructionists.”—Harold Katz

If I hear this one more time, my acid reflux will go off the chart.

It was the warning heard most often during the charter reform process from those in the business community who didn’t want to see neighborhood councils created in any way, shape, or form. I

n a recent Los Angeles Business Journal op ed story Westside businessman Harold Katz slammed the neighborhood councils for having become the very thorns in the sides of the developers that he predicted they would become during the charter deliberations years ago.

There are two “golden” rules of politics. One is what Deep Throat in All the President’s Men told us, “Follow the money.” The second is what we knew to be true from earliest discussions about the neighborhood council system, “People who have power don’t want to share it.” Developers have power.

Neighborhood councils, or any group of concerned people, will not agree with every project proposed by developers. That doesn’t make them obstructionists. It simply means that not every development is a good one.

There are legitimate reasons for neighborhood councils to question the size, density, and effects of some projects. What’s good for General Motors isn’t necessarily good for the USA.

I’d like to see neighborhood councils ask the million dollar question: How many people can this city hold anyway? That’s a discussion worth having, not being an obstructionist.

Or do we just keep building higher, bigger, denser, and wider with no regard to the cumulative impacts on each community, or to the capacity of the roads, parking, sewers, water supply, and the infrastructure?

Certainly, I would like neighborhood councils evolve to the point that they are proposing alternative solutions to the city’s problems. They shouldn’t have to, but since the City Council isn’t all that active legislatively, it seems necessary.

I have always felt that neighborhood councils and governmental agencies will become, if they aren’t there already, the only place where objective and balanced long-term thinking will occur.

One of the disadvantages of term limits is that “long term” for elected officials is up to the point of their last re-election. Lengthy solutions become less attractive when the politician knows that he or she won’t be around to turn the first spade of dirt or cut the ribbon while the photographer snaps photos that impress nobody and are quickly forgotten.

But for neighborhood councils to reach this point, five things need to happen.

1. Government needs to stop preoccupying the limited volunteer time of the neighborhood council members with bad proposals and projects that require a response.

2. Neighborhood councils need better access to government’s staff experts. If City Council members, for instance, didn’t have the assistance of city departmental staff, next to nothing would ever get done.

3. City Hall needs to be more open and transparent. It isn’t fair for city hall to wheel out a proposal at the last minute, not involve neighborhood councils in its development, and then criticize them for not rubber-stamping it. We’re beginning to forget that the City Charter guarantees that neighborhood councils be given enough time to weigh in before votes are taken. City hall shouldn’t be able to get around that by developing plans in private and then releasing them when the deadline nears.

4. Leaders need to emerge from the neighborhood councils who will take responsibility for disseminating information on the major issues.

5. DONE needs to ensure that neighborhood councils have the skills and resources to accomplish this. It’s not going to happen through osmosis. DONE’s job is to promote empowerment.

(Greg Nelson participated in the birth and development of the LA Neighborhood Council system and most recently served as the General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. Nelson now provides news and issues analysis to CityWatch.)

Pico/Olympic Traffic Plan to be Implemented

As a Council District 5 and Westside resident, this "traffic mitigation" plan could affect your travel patterns and habits.

Antonio Villaraigosa orders lane and parking changes to ease Westside gridlock, despite opposition from two councilmen.

By Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer February 15, 2008

Despite fierce opposition from residents and concerns by two City Council members, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has ordered Los Angeles transportation officials to implement a plan to make Pico Boulevard mostly one-way eastbound, and Olympic Boulevard mostly one-way westbound.

Under the mayor's plan, which had stalled earlier this week in a City Council committee, parking would be forbidden on all but a few stretches of Pico and Olympic during rush hour beginning March 8.

Traffic signals would be timed to favor faster eastbound traffic on Pico and westbound traffic on Olympic by April 28. After six months to a year, the two streets probably would be restriped so that Pico would have four lanes going east and two going west, while Olympic would have four lanes going west and two going east, a spokesman for the mayor said Thursday.

The move comes a day after Councilmen Bill Rosendahl and Herb Wesson said they might remove their districts from the proposal because of concerns from local businesses and residents that the changes would harm shops and restaurants by making it impossible for customers to park.

On Thursday, the mayor, backed by Westside Councilman Jack Weiss, overrode the council's Transportation Committee, which had postponed action on the plan, saying through a spokesman that the council did not have jurisdiction over such issues as parking regulations or whether streets were one-way.

"The Department of Transportation reports to the mayor," said Matt Szabo, a spokesman for Villaraigosa.

The mayor reduced the size of the project by more than a mile.

It was initially supposed to run from the Santa Monica city limits to La Brea Avenue. Now, the idea is for it to end at Fairfax Avenue. The change is apparently a nod to Wesson, because the project no longer goes through a part of his district for which he expressed concern.

Weiss' strong support for the idea has come despite some heated opposition from merchants in the Pico-Robertson district.

The mayor's end-run around those council members underscores his effort to do something about Los Angeles' traffic, particularly on the Westside.

A spokesman for Wesson said the councilman did not know about the mayor's move late Thursday and could not comment.

Wesson just Wednesday said he would submit a motion to make the program's eastern terminus Fairfax Avenue -- effectively removing most of his district. Villaraigosa's plan seems to address that issue.

But the mayor did not address the concerns raised by Rosendahl, who had demanded Wednesday that the Department of Transportation confer with city planners before moving forward on such a drastic reordering of streets. Rosendahl had threatened to remove his district -- which is west of the San Diego Freeway -- from the proposal if city planners were not consulted.

"It's unfortunate that the planning department is not going to be engaged," Rosendahl said. "Planning and transportation should be joined at the hip. . . . You just don't bowl over the community like that. You have to appreciate who's there. It's disrespectful to my constituents, and it's an insult to my constituents."

Hundreds of residents and businesses along the two streets oppose the plan.

Anticipating the protest, transportation officials scaled back the hours of the proposal and have offered to allow some parking -- mostly in the districts of two councilmen who have opposed the plan.

Transportation officials Thursday hustled to restart the plan, and by day's end Villaraigosa deputy Jaime De La Vega had sent a memo to transportation chief Rita Robinson ordering her to begin implementing it.

Word of the mayor's order spread quickly among residents and business owners who oppose it."We were promised answers to our questions," said Mike Eveloff, president of Tract 7260, a homeowners group near Century City. "We have not gotten those answers. There has been no meaningful input, and now the plan is happening anyway."

Weiss' support of the plan has generated significant ire among constituents, who styled themselves as "District 5 Orphans" at a City Council committee hearing on the matter Wednesday.

Weiss also received a veiled jab from Rosendahl at the hearing: If both he and Wesson pulled out, Rosendahl told transportation officials, "You can keep it in the 5th District."

Weiss struck back Thursday, saying that the changes were for the good of the city as a whole."

The quarter-million people of my district and the 4 million people of this city want immediate traffic relief," Weiss said. "So this should not be about the parochial interests of a few -- it should be about what's good for the whole city."

Under the current plan, Pico would have three eastbound lanes during rush hour because the parking lane on that side would become a traffic lane. Parts of the northern side of the street -- used by westbound traffic -- would continue to have parking, so there would only be two lanes in that direction in some spots.

Olympic would gain an extra westbound lane in the same manner. Both streets already have significant parking restrictions in some stretches, but not along the entire route.

Times staff writer Martha Groves contributed to this report.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

For Those Who Want to Learn How to Reduce Waste

Another Candidate Declares to Run for Vacated CD5 Seat

Activist Simon to run for Weiss' council seat
Daily News
Article Last Updated: 02/11/2008 09:22:02 PM PST

Robyn Ritter Simon, a longtime political activist on the Westside, announced Monday that she plans to join the field of candidates seeking to replace Councilman Jack Weiss on the Los Angeles City Council.

With Weiss having said he plans to run for city attorney, three other candidates have announced their intention to run for the seat in the 2009 election.

Simon, 46, who is president of the West Los Angeles National Womens Political Caucus and who ran against Weiss in 2001, said she has always wanted to serve on the City Council and believes the opportunity is this coming election.

"I learned a lot when I ran in 2006 and I have been more involved since then and believe I understand the district," said Simon, who served on the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission for five years.

"I think there is one major issue facing the district, whether it's the Westside part or the San Fernando Valley portion, and that is land use. And that means development and traffic."

Other candidates who have announced for the race are former Assemblyman Paul Koretz, who represented West Hollywood and also served on the West Hollywood City Council before moving to Los Angeles; land-use attorney Ron Galperin; and businessman David T. Vahedi, who ran against Weiss four years ago.

Simon is married and has three sons. Prior to her post at the NWPC, she worked at the Century City Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Monday, February 11, 2008


By Daniel Costello
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 11, 2008

More than 740,000 Verizon customers in Southern California who lost access to their home voice mail accounts for several days last week got back in early Saturday and will be receiving rebates of $5 to $15 on their upcoming bills, the second-largest U.S. phone company said.

A database error in a central server in Ontario froze the software for all land-line customers subscribing to Verizon's voice mail beginning early Wednesday.

The problem prevented customers from accessing their voice mail and some callers from being able to leave messages.

The company said unretrieved voice mails during the three-day period were recovered and are now available to customers. However, voice mails from Tuesday, Feb. 5, could not be restored. The outage did not affect Verizon Wireless customers.

Jonathan Davies, a Verizon spokesman, said the root cause of the problem had been fixed and the company had launched an investigation into how it occurred. "We're taking a detailed look at how the system failed to make sure it doesn't happen again," Davies said.

In 2005, at least 150,000 customers over a large swath of Southern California lost their phone and Internet service for as much as 12 hours because of a computer glitch at a Verizon central switching plant.

That outage, which also cut off 911 service from many land lines, struck communities from Hermosa Beach to Newport Beach along the coast and as far inland as Whittier and Garden Grove. Some cellphone service was also lost, though on a more limited basis.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Mayor's Office Seeking Participants for the Budget Survey

Hello BABCNC members,

I hope you are all having a great Friday.

I would like to inform you that the deadline for the Mayor's Budget Survey is on February 12, 2008. We are less than a week away from the deadline and we need your help!!!

Currently, we only have around 200 Neighborhood Council Board members that have filled out our Budget Survey. With such a low number of participants from the NC Board, it will be difficult to have data that is representative of the entire City. As the NC Board Members represent a much larger constituency in the various communities in LA, we need all board members to fill out a survey so that the groups and individuals they represent can be heard in the budget process.

I would like to ask each and every board to commit to fill out the budget survey, and to encourage all your constituencies to fill out the survey as well.

Please do not miss the opportunity to let the Mayor know where you stand on these critical issues facing the City. The deadline is February 12, 2008.

Thank you very much,

Stephen Cheung, M.S.W.
West Area Director
Neighborhood and Community Services
Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WLA Traffic Meeting Guest Speaker New DOT General Manager

Every month there is a WLA Traffic meeting where community members who have specific traffics issues and concerns can come and state their traffic case.

Invited to the meeting are field representatives for the Council Offices (5, 10 and 11), DOT representatives, CalTrans representatives, MTA representatives, LAPD traffic officers, LAPD patrol officers, city parking enforcement, etc. Although they are always invited and most of them do attend, sometimes they miss a meeting.

This meeting is open to the public and anyone living in the Bel-Air community is invited to attend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Wilshire / Santa Monica Blvds Subway Meetings

The last two second-round Westside Extension Transit Corridor Study (Wilshire and/or Santa Monica Blvd. subway) public meetings are tonight and tomorrow, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Westwood: Tues., Feb. 5, Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Bl.
West Hollywood: Wed., Feb. 6, Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Bl.

Los Angeles City - FY 2008-2009 Budget Deliberations

A message from the Mayor's office.

Dear Community Members,

The City's Budget and Finance Committee will be holding public hearings to consider comments and recommendations from Angelenos concerning implementation of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. These hearings will be held in regional locations and will generally begin at 6 pm:

February 25th - West Los Angeles Municipal Bldg.
1645 Corinth Ave.
2nd Floor Hearing Rm.
Los Angeles, CA 90025

March 17th - El Sereno Senior Center
4818 Klamath Pl. (c/w Eastern Ave.)
Los Angeles, CA 90032

March 24th - The Expo Center
2980-3990 S. Menlo Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90037

This is also a reminder to complete the Mayor's Budget Survey. This year's survey includes questions about the key issues and decisions that the Mayor and City Council will have to make to balance a budget in times of great financial challenges. The Mayor is requesting your feedback on key City services that impact our communities and on how to safeguard and/or attain new revenue for essential services.

Please complete the Budget Survey by February 12th which can be found at:

Fighting the Phone Tax

The significance about this story is less about the phone tax and more about the growing momentum of neighborhood council's and their voice on city-wide polic issues.

LA Times
Op Ed story

Are the neighborhood councils' problems with Proposition S the start of a revolt against City Hall?

By Joel Kotkin February 3, 2008

With the faltering economy doubling its budget shortfall, the city of Los Angeles cannot afford to lose any tax revenue, which is why a telephone users utility tax, Proposition S, will appear on Tuesday's ballot.

Many neighborhood council members across the city oppose the tax. Their opposition is less about Proposition S than an inchoate cry in the dark against what many perceive as City Hall's relentless drive to subsidize dense developments, particularly downtown, and to provide lavish contracts for city workers while largely ignoring the needs of neighborhoods and the overall L.A. economy.

The defeat of the telephone tax measure, which is unlikely, would not end subsidies for developers or force the city to reopen union contracts. But a grass-roots movement spearheaded by neighborhood councils could blunt the city's attempts to hand out new subsidies, or expand existing ones, on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars it has already given to powerful developers.

The city has taxed telephone services since 1967, and as wireless technology evolved, it extended the tax to cellphones, among other modern services. Wireless companies objected and sued the city to block the cellphone tax. With the courts siding with the companies, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pressed for the ballot measure that would keep the tax alive and bring in $243 million.

Proposition S has the support of L.A.'s highest officials, and the campaign for it has the financial backing of the city's unions and big developers.

Greg Nelson, former director of the city's Department of Neighborhood Councils, sees something potentially politically far-reaching in the councils' opposition to the telephone tax. He says that most of the members of the councils cite larger issues for their coolness toward it. Most notably, he says, they object to the city's willingness to pay ever-larger wages and benefits to its workers -- labor costs have surged 53% since 2000 -- and to hand out subsidies to downtown developers.

Jill Barad, president of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council and founder of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, echoed Nelson. "There's tremendous distrust of the city" and "a sense that the city is controlled by downtown power-brokers," she said.

"People here ask, why put money into a hotel next to Staples Center," she continued. City Hall "keeps asking for money from the Valley, but we get very little in return." She noted that other members of her neighborhood council were losing faith in the City Council's ability to control costs, wondering why it didn't better prepare for the economic downturn caused by the housing meltdown. After all, it was no great secret that the real estate market was vastly overinflated and in need of a correction.

Similar sentiments can be heard in other parts of the city. "We pay a lot of attention to the big [union] raises, the subsidies, Villaraigosa's fundraising, Proposition S. Some of us realize we need to organize against these things," Doug Epperhart, former president of the San Pedro Neighborhood Council, told me.

Daymond Johnson, former secretary of the South Central Neighborhood Council, says his group has little enthusiasm for Proposition S because its passage would allow City Hall to keep on handing out subsidies for downtown development that has offered little economic opportunity to poorer minority residents. "It doesn't really matter if it's the Valley or South Central," Johnson told me. "The majority of everything goes downtown, but nothing is happening south of the 10 Freeway. All we get is more liquor stores.

"Three factors may intensify neighborhood council opposition to City Hall.

One, councils have a new power that could make them a more consistent voice in city policy: They can now introduce proposals in city government and no longer have to rely on City Council members to do it for them.

The second factor is the city's darkening financial prospects. Last week, Villaraigosa revealed that the city is facing a $155-million budget shortfall because of the economic downturn. The larger-than-expected drop in sales and real estate-related taxes portends steep budget cuts, including the possibility of unpaid vacations for city workers in order to save money. When you add in the possibility that balancing the state's $14.5-billion deficit could result in less money for the city, the budget picture could get even gloomier.Even if Proposition S passes, the city will need to find new revenue. One source is the city's Department of Water and Power, which is seeking rate hikes for both water and power.

The problem is that many L.A. residents are already financially pinched by falling home values and the credit crunch. Higher DWP rates or a new tax would further strain their budgets. That could help fuel a grass-roots anti-tax movement that could strengthen the hand of neighborhood councils.

Finally, there may be renewed focus on the long-ignored, broad-based L.A. economy. Indeed, as the full extent of the real estate market collapse becomes evident, the very logic behind subsidized development -- that it will increase property values and create enough jobs to justify the subsidies -- may begin to fall apart. Now that some condo developers have to hand out Mini Coopers to lure potential buyers, the issue of whether the highly subsidized downtown "boom" has been a good investment is open for debate. Just last month, the third postponement of the groundbreaking for the $3-billion Grand Avenue project -- another beneficiary of huge public subsidies -- should raise questions about the development's viability in the current market.

"If they think it's so hot, why do they need subsidies?" City Controller Laura Chick asked. "And if it is not, what is it about, but a few developers getting rich while the rest of us get little?"

Chick reluctantly supports Proposition S because the city's deficit would grow by another $243 million if it fails at the polls. But she shares the disdain of many neighborhood councils for the Villaraigosa administration's focus on downtown real estate development. It would be better, she said, if the city instead spent more time on fostering private-sector job growth.

"We don't have an economic development program in this city," Chick told me. "Instead, we have a feel-good development program run by the developers."

Perhaps some people downtown are recognizing this reality. The mayor's Los Angeles Economy & Jobs Committee recently reported that the city's economy is increasingly shaky. About 30,000 jobs have been lost since 1995, and more than 106,000 manufacturing jobs over the last 17 years, many of them in aerospace. The group of business and civic leaders called for a virtual "Marshall Plan" to revive Los Angeles' economy.

But to bring about significant change, Chick said the city will need a new political movement. "If the neighborhood councils get together effectively," she said, "we could have a revolution."

Given the dismal record of L.A.'s recent economic development efforts, and the financial hole the municipality is now in, such a revolution may be what this city needs.

Joel Kotkin is a presidential fellow at Chapman University and the author of "The City: A Global History."

Contentious Density Bonus Bill in Council on February 6th

The City of Los Angeles has many ordinances which dictates development such as the hillside ordinance, the retaining wall ordinance, the slope density ordinance, etc. The following is information on proposed legislation known as a "density bonus." This is one perspective however as with most issues, there are those who support and those who oppose. In case anyone has been following this issue or has an interest, it is going to City Council tomorrow.

Land Use
Edited by Sara Epstein

The controversial and so-called Density Bonus bill lands on City Council desks on Wednesday. The long-running debate on this ordinance (AB1818) is expected to continue in council chambers. The following information may help prep you for attending or watching the show.

Council File Number: 05-1345
What: Density Bonus and Incentives Ordinance (AB1818)
When: Wednesday, February 6, 2008-10 a.m.
Where: City Hall-Council ChambersCouncil

Some perspective from CityWatch reader Yuval Kramer... The Los Angeles City Council will vote on the Density Bonus and Developer Incentives Ordinance, otherwise known as the SB 1818 implementing ordinance this Wednesday, February 6, at their 10 AM meeting.

Only a fraction of the changes that County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky wanted were included. In fact, Councilman Reyes only gave Zev's representative ONE minute to speak at PLUM! It should be noted that Garcetti's amendments (that occurred after Zev's statements) do primarily the following: 1) limit the height incentive to 11 ADDITIONAL feet or one ADDITIONAL story, 2) prohibit the HEIGHT incentive ONLY for that portion of a project that is WITHIN 50 FEET of R1 and R2 and more restrictively zoned lots (note that R3 lots do not receive this protection), and 3) prohibit all incentives for projects located on a substandard street in a Hillside Area or a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (this could be legally challenged in the future by developers, because the state law mandates certain entitlements, and does not create this exception).

This ordinance is NOT narrowly tailored to comply with the state law, SB 1818, but rather is even more generous to the developers (and, by the way, SB 1818 is a scam: over development in the name of affordable housing, a giant gift to the developers in this State that takes away control over city planning from Cities). The city ordinance also REDUCES NOTICE to neighbors (less people are notified, and the time period in which they have to respond is compressed, as is the time involved for the whole process, in order to benefit developers and put the residents at a disadvantage) of projects and REDUCES their ability to APPEAL to the City Council, which the state law does NOT require.

The City is choosing to help developers, and residents will often only be able to have a hearing IF they appeal the Planning Department's decision, and will only be able to appeal to Commissions, NOT to the City Council (the State law of course does not mandate these deprivations of Procedural Due Process). Finally, SB 1818 enumerates instances where the City could deny density bonuses or incentives (i.e., worse-case scenario applications), but the LA city ordinance eliminates these; in other words, the City is tying its own hands!

Councilmembers will also lose the ability to weigh-in on projects in their own districts (because appeals will not be able to reach the City Council in many instances and because the Planning Department will not get to weigh-in at all in some instances), as will the Planning Department! Meanwhile, Weiss will parachute out to become City Attorney and the Mayor will parachute out to a state or national position, while our neighborhoods are destroyed by the developers.

Most neighborhood councils and residential associations are not up to speed on this ordinance, as it is complicated (SB 1818 is complicated, too) and the city has not made a real effort to inform them and seek their input, for obvious reasons. Some Councilmembers also do not fully understand the ordinance and its implications, and some would appear to be catering to the developers who fund their campaigns.

Story reprinted from