Thursday, September 29, 2005

New traffic light on Santa Monica

I joined officials and employees from the Department of Transportation and members of the Santa Monica/Western Residents Association to flick the switch on a new safety feature for Santa Monica Boulevard. I worked with the residents group, including Patrick Agerkop (shown here) to get this new traffic light installed at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Bronson Avenue. We switched it on in a brief ceremony today.

The intersection is very near to where Seily Rodriguez, a 3rd-grader on her way to school at Santa Monica Community Charter School, was hit by a car and killed while crossing the street. (Studies by the Department of Transportation showed that placement at Bronson would be more effective in preventing accidents than placing it at Van Ness, the site of the accident.) The need for traffic calming on this stretch of Santa Monica had been evident for a long time, but the bureaucratic tangle caused by CalTrans' authority over State Highway 2 slowed progress on the street. Legislation that clarified the street's authority was passed just weeks before the accident, too late, tragically, for the necessary changes to have been made. I was able to work with Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg to spur CalTrans not only into acting but, additionally, into paying for half of the cost of the street light. Whether you're driving that way or just crossing the street, be safe.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ribbon-cutting at the Silver Lake Reservoir Pedestrian Path

I'm sure most Silver Lake blog readers have seen the new path, but the compacted gravel has all been laid, the trees have been planted, and the cut-away where joggers once had to choose between negotiating a craggy or the street below now opens into a wide and lazy wooded slope. I joined several Silver Lake notables (see pic) to officially open the path. Special thanks to the Committee to Save Silver Lake's Reservoirs, who organized the ribbon-cutting ceremony—and more importantly, are saving Silver Lake's reservoirs. Planning for Phase II of the Reservoir plan is underway; the same day as the ribbon cutting, the Committee organized a public meeting along with Mia Lehrer and associates.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

People Assisting the Homeless

A few months ago, I stood with dozens of volunteers in East Hollywood to hit the streets of Los Angeles in order to conduct Los Angeles' first Homeless Count, to survey our streets and know exactly how many people are homeless in Los Angeles.

While we have made some important policy advances in combatting homelessness in recent years, such as making our emergency shelters open year-round, quadrupling the money from our city's General Fund that goes to homeless programs, and, of course, some $200 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the results of the Homeless Count was sobering as we found out that Los Angeles has the largest homeless population of any county in the United States. On any given night, about 90,000 of our fellow Angelenos spend the night without a home.

Working with the Hollywood community, we have been determined to help get homeless individuals off of the streets and into productive lives. After three years of work, we took another step towards ending homelessness in Los Angeles with the opening of a new 65-bed shelter in East Hollywood run by People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), a nationally-recognized homeless services organization.

Using local Block Grant funds, federal funds, and private donations, we were able to find the money to build, staff, and open this new center. It is beautiful--already the center has taken 100 new individuals off the streets of Hollywood, and in just the first few weeks, found dozens of people new jobs, helped individuals with substance abuse problems, and begun to turn around the lives of many who had lost hope in themselves.

As important as the opening of the shelter was also the launching of a new campaign to help build support for neighborhood-based solutions to homelessness with the YIMBY! (Yes! In My Backyard) campaign. Business leaders, churches and other faith-based organizations, non-profits, and neighborhood council leaders all joined elected officials in endorsing the YIMBY! principles. I encourage you to find out more about the new shelter and to get involved with the YIMBY! campaign.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pooh Park

I welcomed Winnie the Pooh to Selma Park in Hollywood. While Pooh is walking the boards at the Kodak Theater, he'll have a designated corner of Selma Park complete with his very own "Hunny Tree".

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The streets of CD13 (by the numbers)

I usually try to achieve some degree of written eloquence in my descriptions of life in and outside of the 13th district, but sometimes you just want to see the raw numbers. Courtesy of the BOSS (Bureau of Street Services, who performed all of the following), here are the statistics on street resurfacing, storm repair and tree care from the district for the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2004 to June 30th, 2005.

  • 4.3 miles of streets resurfaced
  • 19.06 miles slurry sealed
  • 7,940 pot holes repaired
  • 1,372 storm-related repairs conducted
  • 3,402 trees trimmed
  • 233 tree stumps removed
  • 235 trees removed
  • 140 trees pruned
  • 4.72 miles of sidewalks replaced
  • 64 ADA sidewalk ramps constructed
Thank the BOSS—as well as those of yourselves who called in needed repairs to 3-1-1 or to my field office.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Good luck, Officer Franco

Senior lead officer Juan Franco has been promoted and will be leaving CD13 for a new post in South Los Angeles. Officer Franco has been critical in establishing relationships between the police department and the Rampart United Group (RUG), Rosewood Congregation, the Community in Action group, and the nascent Rampart Village Neighborhood Council. He was well known for his dedication to community involvement and improvement and we will miss him in the neighborhoods. Congratulations and good luck, Officer Franco.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A River Runs Through Us

I joined Mayor Villaraigosa, Ad Hoc Committee on the Los Angeles River Chair Councilmember Ed Reyes, and my colleagues Tom LaBonge, Jan Perry, and Wendy Greuel at the "Not A Cornfield" site to announce that our dreams for the Los Angeles River are heading into a stronger current. Over the next several months, the city will host 18 public meetings to set the scope of our recognition of the river's place as the spine of our city. Can we take out concrete and extend the green river-bottom of the Glendale Narrows through any or all of the river's 51 miles of concrete channels? Can we follow the examples of dozens of American cities—Providence, San Antonio, even Pueblo, Colorado—and turn towards, instead of away from, this resource in our backyard? At the same time as we answer these questions, we'll be seeking support from all levels of government: Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg joined us for the announcement, and the city has been in constant discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers, who originally instituted the rivers flood controls and are responsible for them.

The river was part of our city's founding. In 1769, Father Juan Crespi led an expedition to its green banks just north of downtown, and envisioned a mission and a city right there. In the intervening centuries, the river has caused tragedy and attracted ridicule. We're ready to see it in our city, and to see our city's future in it, once again.

See a flickr set from the L.A. River announcement


Friday, September 09, 2005

Job Fair for Displaced Katrina Survivors

Our new neighbors, piecing back together their lives in the hurricane's wake, don't know what the future holds for them. They may not return to New Orleans in the near future; they may or may not return at all. In order to help the more-than-150 Katrina survivors living at the Dream Center restore some order and stability to their lives, I organized a job fair Friday morning. My staff and I called local employers of all shapes and sizes all day yesterday in order to make the event a success.

And a success it was. The business community made a strong showing at the Dream Center, demonstrating that community spirit is still guiding reaction to Katrina. Federal Express, Albertson's, Ralphs's and Starbucks were eager to help people get back on their feet. The Hollywood and Northeast Worksource Centers, the state Employment Development Department, the Social Security Administration, L.A. County, L.A. Bridges II and the DMV all pitched in. And CD13's outstanding generosity was on full display: Cheryl Revkin of the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce got the word out that the Dream Center needed
a copy machine in order to keep processing new arrivals and job-seekers, and Netty's Restaurant and the Hollywood Free Clinic each donated copy machines in response. Cannon Business Solutions also donated a pair of copy machines for use at the Dream Center.

In addition to half a dozen employment agencies, these businesses came to the Dream Center to conduct interviews: Harbor House Restaurant, Willie's King Shop, Lacer Ranch, Sewing Art Center, Pacific Protection
Services, Central Refrigeration, Burbank Towne Center, Another Level Hair Salon, Stephan Plumbing & Heating, and Vulcan Material Company. Thank you to all.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Temple Street Plan

If you live, work or own property on Temple Street between Reno and Rosemont, you may have met or missed my indomitable intern crew out gathering permission forms for tree plantings. The Temple Streetscape Project provides for dozens of new trees along Temple Street, and Helen and Lucas (who are now, sadly for us, back in school) did a great job, getting permission from eight property owners out of a total of two dozen. We've mailed the remaining property owners, but if you know anyone who owns property on those blocks, please have them call or email Historic Filipinotown field deputy Joe Bernardo at (323) 913 4693.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Our New Neighbors

On Labor Day, following the annual mass at the Cathedral Center, I sat down with the mayor, fellow councilmembers, and other city staff to help coordinate some of the city response to Hurricane Katrina. State officials recognized the City of Los Angeles for its emergency preparedness and there has been a quick response to Katrina from Mayor Villaraigosa and a number of councilmembers, notably Jan Perry and Bernard Parks, who represent many residents with families in the areas hit by the devastation.

In Council District 13, people have opened up their hearts, wallets, and their doors to hurricane survivors. The first large group of displaced persons to arrive in Los Angeles is staying in Echo Park, in the old Queen of Angels Hospital that is now the Dream Center, a church and social services complex affiliated with Angelus Temple.

Earlier in the day, I had spoken on the phone with my friends Pastor Matthew Barnett and Associate Pastor Aaron Jayne, who run the Dream Center and minister at Angelus Temple. I spoke to Aaron on the ground with a team in Baton Rouge, LA, where he is working with local churches to identify Katrina survivors that can be brought to Los Angeles. In LA, Matthew, local residents, and Dream Center staff are working around the clock to house, feed, and provide some calm for dozens of displaced families coming from Mississippi and Louisiana.

I went by the Dream Center in the afternoon, where spirits were weary but uplifted. Most of the staff had only slept a few hours in the last three days, and cars full of donations had been rolling into the parking lot, sometimes in lines three cars wide.

CD13 Deputy Chief of Staff Ana Guerrero and I began helping to coordinate with the Dream Center to provide for our new neighbors in Echo Park. The new residents included a baby who needed prescription medicine. Despite having the prescription, no local pharmacy would take the baby's medical card from Louisiana. Carol Meyer from the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency had also stopped by the Dream Center and she said that she would do what she could to take care of this.

I made calls to help locate more planes to bring the remaining folks in Louisiana to Los Angeles and to help connect services, food, and hopefully jobs to the new residents. After about an hour, the Dream Center asked if Ana and I would join some staff on a bus going out to the nearby airport where the latest planeload was landing. Since donated private jets are ferrying the displaced persons, about a dozen come on any plane. We stopped to get some Krispy Kreme donuts on the way and were soon at the terminal parking lot where we saw the 13 arrivals. They were mostly children and women, from both Mississippi and Louisiana, black and white, single and in families. Some were excited to be in Los Angeles, others pretty dazed still. There were smiles, tears, and disbelief as we talked on the way back from the airport. One woman I talked to had been in the Superdome for a number of days and had seen horrible things that made it difficult to sleep. Another two passengers on the bus were from Gulfport, Mississippi, and could not believe that they were in Los Angeles. Kids, as kids do, ran up and down the aisles or slept in their mothers' arms.

Soon, we drove into the Dream Center, where a huge greeting line of cheers awaited us and many of the arrivals began to cry. Some spoke to the press that was there so that they could get the word out about what was happening on the ground in Louisiana. We immediately moved them into their rooms with what belongings they had with them. On their doors were welcome signs with their names on them. After about thirty minutes of helping settle them in, I spent some time with Pastor Matthew and we agreed to coordinate local efforts in the Silver Lake/Echo Park area to help support the new arrivals (more on this to come in a special e*news appeal in the next couple of days).

On the way out of the building, a woman came up to me to thank me for helping her baby get some medicine. We hugged and she told me that Carol Meyer from the county was able to call an ambulance, which picked up the prescription, took it to County-USC Hospital, got it filled, and got the baby a Medical card as well. It was a small act of extraordinary kindness by

She also pointed out that the baby's cousin, Christopher, who also made it to Echo Park, is a 15 year-old resident of New Orleans who has not seen his mother in more than a week, so I got a television camera to come tape his plea to his mother with the hope that she or someone might recognize him and help him. Like any 15 year-old boy, he acted tough, but was on the verge of tears as he spoke.

Half a million lives ripped apart had been a difficult number to wrap my head around--it is almost too big to comprehend. But thirteen people later, through the joy, the continuing agony, and the courage of our new neighbors, I could begin to see sinews of a fragile hope that remains with us in Katrina's aftermath.