Sunday, May 29, 2005

Silver Lake JCC

I started out the morning with a pre-shabbat party at the Silver Lake JCC. As a band played shabbat songs, the kindergartners presented me with handmade cards thanking me for helping keep the center open. Have a great Memorial Day, everyone.

JCC kids

At the JCC

Friday, May 27, 2005

Torie Osborn

At a luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, I was honored to join Councilmember Wendy Greuel in presenting Torie Osborn, the outgoing head of Los Angeles's Liberty Hill Foundation, with a city scroll honoring her dedicated, uninterrupted decades of creating community in the struggle for justice here in Los Angeles and in the United States.

After first tasting protest in an anti-war march 40 years ago, Torie has dedicated her life to social change. At Liberty Hill since 1997, she doubled the foundation's revenue. Before that, she headed the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C. as well as L.A.'s own Gay and Lesbian Center. If a community organization has contributed to grass-roots economic justice or social change in Los Angeles, it's a good bet that Liberty Hill has nurtured and funded it. What's more, Torie is a fellow blogger: you can read her work at the Huffington Post.

The luncheon, though open to all, was held to honor the contributions of women to grass-roots change. I was particularly honored to attend with my partner Amy Wakeland, a dedicated activist who organized the event and who chairs LAANE's advisory committee. The sunny banquet room at USC held women from labor, community groups, the foundation world, City Hall and the clergy. Torie quoted this passage from Marianne Williamson, which, in tribute to the wonders of the Web, is commonly misattributed to Nelson Mandela:

"...Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Torie Osborn

Wendy Greuel, Eric, Torie Osborn

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Printed crosswalks

Printed crosswalks

Because it wanted to try out the new crosswalks on the Glendale Boulevard project in Atwater Village, which is moving ahead. The Bureau of Street Services (we call it the BOSS) has begun to install the first of 21 duratherm crosswalks, starting at Seneca and ending just before Ferncroft. Each of the 21 crossings will get a crosswalk that looks like the one in the picture. The ones that cross Glendale Boulevard itself will probably be done at night to minimize the traffic impact, but you will see some signs up and some temporary lane closures while the work is in progress. What's more important is that when the work is finished, you'll see a shining new pedestrian-friendly Glendale Boulevard.

Blue Heron

Working with Friends of Atwater Village, Rafael Escamilla painted this beautiful mural of a blue heron on the Hyperion Bridge near Ferncroft. It's pretty astounding work and it looks even better (and bluer) in person.

Heron sighting, L.A. River

Heron sighting, L.A. River

Great Bond Rating News

Moody’s, one of the nation’s top bond-rating firms, has upgraded our Department of Public Works/Bureau of Sanitation's Wastewater System Revenue Bonds to a rating of Aa3. I know bond ratings sound incredibly boring and arcane on the surface, but this is actually terrific news for us. A higher bond rating means lower bond fees paid by the city on the infrastructure investments we make in our future. In their decision, the people at Moody's cited the recently enacted five-year sewer rate increase program, last year’s settlement of the Santa Monica Baykeeper lawsuit, and progress we've made in key capital improvements. They acknowledged that we've shown responsibility and strong management of the debt we carry on our sewer system, and that we've invested widely, with demonstrable improvements in the area of wet-water spills. Here's what it means: Los Angeles is getting the sewer system it paid for and more, and because we've done it right we will be able to do more in the future. See the press release from Public Works (pdf alert).

Monday, May 23, 2005

Pioneer Women: Helen Brown, Jocelyn Geaga-Rosenthal

As part of the annual Pioneer Women celebration organized by the Commission on the Status of Women, I was delighted to honor Jocelyn Geaga-Rosenthal and Helen Brown in council chambers. Jocelyn, a dedicated community activist, is one of the founders of the Historic Filipinotown Improvement Association. She is an UNTAG block captain and is the president of the board of Westlake-Temple Development Corporation. She also runs a community art gallery on Temple Street called Remy's on Temple.

It was a special treat to have Helen Brown join us in council to celebrate her 90th birthday. Born and raised in the Philippines to parents who were involved in setting up the Filipino educational system under American rule, Helen Brown came to Los Angeles many years ago and founded the Filipino-American Library, now co-located with FASGI (Filipino-American Service Group Incorporated) at 135 N. Parkview. Helen has retired from public affairs so it was a special honor to have her grace us with her presence.

Helen Brown, far left; Jocelyn Geaga-Rosenthal, center holding scroll

Helen Brown, far left; Jocelyn Geaga-Rosenthal, center holding scroll

Oath of office

There were certainly bigger changes swirling through our city government last week. However, with little ado, standing in my office on the fourth floor of City Hall on Friday afternoon, I had the honor of raising my right hand and repeating the oath of office as administered to me by City Clerk Frank Martinez. I inscribed my name in the Oath Book for the second time, and was sworn in to office for my second term of City Councilmember, 13th District, City of Los Angeles, California.

I would like to celebrate with all of you all that we've accomplished together during my first term, and I'd also like to take the opportunity to set our sights on what we can accomplish in another four years. I will hold a public swearing-in ceremony on June 26th, and I hope you can join me. Mark it in your calendar today. As soon as I have a time and location, I'll let you know.

Frank Martinez uphold the Constitution of the United States

Bike To Work Day

Bike To Work Day was terrific this year. In past years, I've joined local bicyclists, other councilmembers and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition to bicycle either to City Hall or to my field office. But, as this year's events showed, bicycling is just one piece of the road-congestion/pollution puzzle. While bicycling is probably the most fun, taking the bus, carpooling and walking all get cars off the road, making it easier for everyone to breathe and get around town. So this year, I bicycled down to the corner of Sunset and Echo Park as usual. Once I was there, I loaded my bike onto a bus (see below) and headed for Good Samaritan Hospital, where, in what I thought was an only-in-LA twist, a group of clergy presided over the Blessing of the Bikes.

Bike, bus

Get your bike on the bus

Thursday, May 19, 2005

If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the (cross) walk

LADOT workers prepare the new crosswalk

LADOT workers prepare the new crosswalk

I flipped the switch on a brand-new lighted crosswalk in Hollywood today, connecting Toyota of Hollywood with the north side of Hollywood Boulevard. Installing this crosswalk and the flashing yellow light above it was a priority for my office after Toyota’s general manager Tony Chapman told me that his employees and customers had had more than one near miss crossing the street. There are 200 employees at the dealership, which was the first Toyota showroom in the United States. It’s one of Hollywood’s big sales tax generators. Business tax reform has been one of my premier projects on the city council, but one of the simplest and best things that L.A. can do for business is to keep improving our infrastructure. A city where employees and customer can safely and easily walk to your store is a business-friendly city.

Toyota workers check out new ped x-ing

Toyota workers check out new ped x-ing

The Los Angeles Superstores Ordinance

In August of last year, the City Council passed the Superstores Ordinance, a policy that deals with the entry of big-box grocery into urban areas not by barring the door but by raising the bar. I wrote a blog entry explaining the ordinance and the process of passing it for

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Small for a street lighting yard, great for a park

The Bureau of Street Lighting keeps the roads light at night. You may have seen historical examples of their fine work on display in the Rite Aid parking lot on Santa Monica near Vermont. The yard itself is just the other side of the street, at 4550 Santa Monica Boulevard.

But the yard's small size of 4 acres constrains their work. Staff there have told me that they need a fueling station for their compressed natural gas equipment, and their office space is absurdly crampled.

I've been eyeing this lot as a potential park location ever since I got into office. It makes perfect sense. It's right between an elementary school and a library. It's in the relatively park-poor neighborhood of Virgil Village. And I'm not the only one who has seen a park beneath the lampposts, either. The members of the Greater Silver Lake Parks Coalition are only a few of the neighbors who have encouraged me to pursue the greening of the yard.

The funding has started to come together. Prop K has $1.5 million set aside for this project. That may sound like a lot, but it's just a start: cobbling together the full funding for the park this community deserves will be a real challenge. From that, the LA for Kids oversight committee recently designated $15,000 for putting the environmental documentation together. And I have some ideas about where we could move the street lighting yard.

What's more, a park in that location can help the city comply with the Clean Water Act by serving as a natural filter for street runoff. Do you remember the work we did with the Bimini Slough? A larger park could offer more recreation opportunities for more people and do even more for the environment.

The opportunity is before us. With Los Angeles as desperately short of green space as it is, we can't afford to miss it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Council Presentations

Friday's Council meetings offer us an opportunity to honor great work done by members of the community. Local heroes and marching bands, performing artists and youth groups have all taken turns in front of the assembled councilmembers to receive the recognition that is their rightful due. For me, one of the most remarkable pleasures of serving on the city council comes in the opportunity to showcase the work that goes on every day, under the radar. And one of the opportunities afforded by the council-blog is to show you just a sample of the folks who we bring before the council.

After the success of La Gran Limpieza (the L.A. River clean-up), it was a good time to honor the people who have dedicated their careers and lives to improving it. Maria Lopez represents All Things River when it comes to L.A. County government: as the Los Angeles River Master Plan project manager since 2000, she has led the way on bracketing the river's concrete embankments in bright, leafy green. She's developed signage and landscaping guidelines for the river and she's developed a reputation for bringing groups into the process, a vital characteristic for a government project leader.

From left: Lewis MacAdams, Ed Reyes, Maria Lopez, me

From left: Lewis MacAdams, Ed Reyes, Maria Lopez, me

Gloria Stevenson-Clark is someone I met shortly after I took office, and she had been an important ally of the people of the 13th Council District and all of Los Angeles for many more years. In the Community Development Department, where she recently retired as an assistant general manager, Gloria designed the L.A. Bridges program that has guided so many young people away from gangs. She's also mentored countless public servants in the department. She will be sorely missed by CDD, but her effect will continue to resonate among the leaders she inspired. At the council presentation, I introduced her boss, CDD General Manager Clifford Graves, by wondering aloud just how he could possible be smiling when Gloria was leaving. His response: “I'm smiling because I have Gloria's phone number programmed into my phone.”

Gloria Stevenson-Clark, family and friends

Gloria Stevenson-Clark, family and friends

We often adjourn council meetings in memory of district residents or notable figures who have passed away. When Broadway legend John Raitt passed away earlier this year, we made a formal tribute. On Friday, his widow Rosemary, his stepdaughter Sally Lokey and his good friend Paul Gleason joined us in council chambers. (Paul runs the American Center for Music and Theater out of the John Raitt Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.) At the end of the meeting, I made one last presentation in his honor, and his family and friend each made a small tribute. We closed by having our audio technician play “Soliloquy” from Carousel, the first show Raitt starred in on Broadway.

Raitt tribute

Raitt tribute

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

EPA grant for Rockwood Park

We were informed today that the Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the city a grant of $400,000 from the federal Brownfields program, which funds the cleaning and rehabilitation of contaminated areas; "brownfields", by definition, are properties whose expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. In CD13, the grant will help assess the possibility of remediating the Rockwood Park site in Historic Filipinotown, where abandoned oil extraction wells have a history of releasing small amounts of methane and hydrogen sulfide. (Part of the grant will also go towards a remediation assessment in San Pedro.)

The obstables to locating new parks in dense, urban areas are tremendous. But my goal since I took office has been to double the number of parks in CD13. Obstacles are, if you'll pardon the expression, part of the course. And this grant puts us one step closer to knowing that Rockwood can be made safe for children at play.

For more information, check out Los Angeles's Brownfields program in the Environmental Affairs Department.

UNTAGger tags tagger as efforts expand

Disclaimer: UNTAG block captains are notencouraged to personally chase down criminal suspects. It's dangerous. Call the police! That said, three cheers for UNTAG block captain Rusty Millar, who spotted a pair of vandals defacing a wall on Hyperion in Silver Lake on Tuesday morning. He took pictures, followed the suspects as they left the area, and got a neighbor to call police, resulting in an arrest. Rusty was one of our initial UNTAG block captains, and like the more than fifty others in the district, he has taken responsibility for reporting and painting out graffiti on his block. In this case, he's gone beyond the call of duty. Thank you, Rusty!

At the exact same time as Rusty was chasing taggers, I was encouraging an "aye" vote on item 42 on the council agenda, the expansion of UNTAG to a city-wide program. It's time to replicate our success from San Pedro to Granada Hills. Council voted 12-0 to create a version of our home-grown program for all of Los Angeles. It will be directed by Operation Clean Sweep, the agency responsible for administering graffiti eradication contracts. It will replicate our system of block captains, surveillance cameras in graffiti "hot spots", and anti-graffiti techniques such as vining to curb blight and vandalism.

Following council, the budget committee met in the afternoon. I made sure that we included $500,000 in the FY 2005-6 budget to support the citywide UNTAG program. Now we know that we'll be able to reach our goals.

Unveiling UNTAG in June 200

The 2005-6 City Budget

After more than 40 hours of deliberation, the Budget Committee of the City Council has finished making its recommendations. The budget, which consists of adjustments made to the original budget proposed by the Mayor, will next be forwarded to the entire City Council for approval. Here are some of the things that I personally fought for in this budget, that the committee passed today:

  • $500,000 to establish a citywide version of Uniting Neighborhoods To Abolish Graffiti (UNTAG), our highly successful, volunteer-based, CD13-grown initiative
  • $100,000 for the Neighborhood Land Trust, which turns small lots into community parks
  • $500,000 for Domestic Abuse Response Teams (DART), intervention teams that roll-out on domestic violence calls and help survivors of abuse extricate themselves from dangerous home situations
  • Restoration of all of the Fire Department's 10-member task forces and of a 24-hour ambulance presence in all fire station houses
  • $741,000 for the creation of a Department of Gang Violence and Youth Development, an idea, originated by my colleague Martin Ludlow, whose time has come
  • $608,000 for 9 city planners, one of whom will implement the Silver Lake-Echo Park Community Plan update
  • 23 positions and funding for illegal sign enforcement program, which will encourage creative signage in commercial areas while relieving our neighborhoods of ugly, illegal advertisements
  • $50,000 for a street light on Santa Monica Boulevard, to prevent future accidents like the one that took the life of 9-year-old Seily Rodriguez

Also of note:

  • End of the citywide hiring freeze, enabling departments to better serve the public
  • $1.5 million in new materials for our libraries (after all, what good is a brand-new library without any books?)
  • 5% increase in planning fees, which will help us hire new planners and eradicate the backlog in the planning department
  • Boosted the reserve fund to about 3.5%, the highest rate in years

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Hollywood and Vine

The Hollywood and Vine project has taken two giant steps forward. The project combines a hotel, mixed-income housing and commerical space on a transit-friendly site over the MTA station (and the rest of the surrounding block minus the Taft Building) at Hollywood and Vine. In March, the MTA board approved the deal; earlier today, the Community Redevelopment Agency signed off.

The details of this project are truly impressive, and I'm excited to watch construction go forward. Especially exciting is the community benefit agreement (CBA) that my office developed along with local residents, community groups, and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. The project and CBA include:

  • a 296-room W hotel that has an agreement with hotel workers' union UNITE HERE Local 11
  • 350 apartments, of which 74 are affordable at different levels
  • 145 condominiums
  • living wage agreement for all direct employees of the developer (hotel, security, parking, etc.)
  • hiring from the community via a “first-source” agreement
  • $30,000 to fund efforts to sign workers and neighbors up for low-cost healthcare
  • $50,000 contribution to the city's Healthcare Career Ladder training program
  • $100,000 contribution for career ladder training in the culinary industry
  • $500,000 fund for the arts at Hollywood High School, established in memory of Hollywood high alumnus John Ritter

While we're still working with the developer to perfect the design, the project, valued at $326 million overall, looks great. Construction should commence in early 2006.

Come Clean The River

Promoting the cleanup

Promoting the cleanup

Come clean up the Los Angeles River with me on Saturday! I will join the Pacific American Volunteer Association (PAVA) at 9:00 am where Fletcher meets the river. I'd love to see you there. If you can't make it to that site, this page at the Friends of the Los Angeles River website can help you pick another one. Our city's history is bound to the river's path and its movements. Taking care of it is fun, it's ecological good sense, and it represents a profound and necessary shift in attitudes: turning back to the river after we've turned our backs to it for so long a time. also wants you to clean up the river. And just to be clear, I will not be wearing a tie to clean up the river—the above picture was from an event promoting the clean-up last year

Madeline Janis Aparicio in the Daily News

The Hollywood and Vine development (see below) is what happens when you ask the right questions about a city's growth: what kind of jobs are we creating? Are we locating them close to transit? Are we putting density in the right places? In an opinion piece published in today's Daily News, CRA commissioner Madeline Janis Aparicio explains why it's so important to ask every development how it will help the neighborhood in which it locates, and how the city can work smarter—not just harder—to attract business to Los Angeles.

Cutting Down on Cutting Through

Are you concerned about traffic congestion on the residential streets bounded by Silver Lake Boulevard, Glendale Boulevard, and Sunset Boulevard?

At my request, the city's Department of Transportation (DOT) is conducting a neighborhood Traffic Management study to figure out how to prevent commuters from using residential streets as "cut-throughs". Many residents in that neighborhood have been troubled by smog, noise and public safety problems resulting from cut-through traffic during rush hours.

My office will host a community meeting in early autumn to discuss the results of the DOT study. This meeting will be an opportunity for you to participate in the process and help determine what types of traffic mitigations the city will implement. If you'd like to learn more about the study in advance of the autumn meeting (date to be announced), contact Shane Goldsmith, my Silver Lake Deputy, via email or at (323) 913 4693. Thanks go to the members of the Duane Street Association in Silver Lake, who have taken a very active role in this process and they are eager to meet other concerned residents. Shane can put you in touch with them.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Silver Lake Jewish Community Center Lives

The Silver Lake Jewish Community Center will keep its doors open! Due to financial problems and disagreements between the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Los Angeles, the center's existence was in doubt. Nothing would hurt Silver Lake quite like the loss of the popular SLJCC, which offers day-care and interesting classes, open to all community members. At a time when the city is trying to increase the amount of available day care, it would mean a public policy loss as well.

For much of my first term in office, I was involved in “shuttle diplomacy” between all of the parties involved, seeking a solution. (I had the excellent help of Jenny Isaacson and Julie Shullman, two concerned members of the center.) Things started to look bad; developers started to wonder about converting the site into other uses entirely. Meanwhile, the offerings at the center grew more robust: while facing closure, the center added ballet and flamenco dancing classes and the day-care center's waiting list surged.

Finally, help came from an unlikely source. Bishop Jon Bruno, the head of the L.A. Diocese of the Episcopal Church, stepped forward and offered to rescue the Jewish Community Center! The deal that the Episcopal Diocese and the center struck gives the Diocese 49% ownership of the facility, which they will use for community services and classes in conjunction with the JCC. (I asked the Federation to support the deal.) Bishop Bruno has emerged in all this as a real hero – as I told the L.A. Times, I think they'll make him an honorary rabbi.

Read more about this exciting victory in the Jewish Journal and in the Los Angeles Times.

Photo by Jacob Shavit for the Jewish Journal

Photo by Jacob Shavit for the Jewish Journal

Beautification Day

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Beautification Committee was out in full force at Saturday's Silver Lake Beautification Day. I joined 150 volunteers turned out by Emily Johnson and the Beautification Committee to the area around Laurel and Hardy park. We picked up more than 130 bags of trash! After three hours of hard work the volunteers returned to hot dogs, musical entertainment, and the satisfaction of a job very well done.

Eric and Emily sling soil for Silver Lake

Eric and Emily sling soil for Silver Lake

Silver Lake Town Hall and Community Fair

Addie Daddio did a fantastic job organizing the Silver Lake Town Hall and Community Fair at Bellevue Park. A relative newcomer to Silver Lake, Addie brought energy and commitment that produced an informative, festive event which will hopefully return as an annual celebration. Michael Locke covered the event on his Silver Lake News. Check out his write-up here—you have to scroll down a little. Thank you, Addie!

Photo credit: Michael Locke

Photo credit: Michael Locke