Tuesday, November 29, 2005

President of the Los Angeles City Council

In a voice vote on the council floor today, I received the support of each of my colleagues on the Los Angeles City Council to become the next Council President.

Last week, my friend and colleague and the current Council President, Alex Padilla, joined with Council President Pro Tempore Wendy Greuel, to introduce a motion that allows Councilmember Padilla to step down and for me to replace him. We voted on the motion today, but it does not take effect until midnight, January 1, 2006.

I am deeply honored by my colleagues’ support. The challenges facing Los Angeles are enormous, but the body I will chair is one of incomparable talent and dedication. As Council President I will champion each member’s work in order to move an agenda of change and reform.

And you, my constituents, and all the people of Los Angeles are going to see real solutions.

As readers of the e-news and my blog, you know that my staff and I take on many projects, each larger than the one before. And I've been asked by more than one person, "How do you expect to be responsible for the whole city council and still take care of everything you're working on?"

The people of Council District 13 elected me, and my first responsibility is to you. I have always said you can't look to the stars if you don't keep an eye on the cracks in the sidewalk. (You trip.) My commitment to you is undiminished, and I intend to fix more potholes, open more parks, get more new housing put in at every affordability level and make the best public services in the world available to the neighborhoods of the 13th.

I will change my focus on legislative issues. My goal in becoming Council President is to promote the work of each of my colleagues in their specialties. I believe that as President, my role will be to unify the City Council around the most important initiatives brought by each member. My passion for the environment, for public safety, and for a vibrant and just local economy burns as bright as it ever did, and I'm going to continue championing those issues. But I hope to be able to do so by advancing the work of my colleagues and of the council as a whole.

Lastly, let me praise the work done by Alex Padilla. Under his leadership, the city fought back secession, repelled the state's attempts to take our local revenues to balance their budget, and passed Measure O to clean our waterways. The council opened itself up the public in more and better ways, and delivered four responsible, strong budgets in fiscally tenuous times.

I'm excited to get to work.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving in Chavez Ravine

The Los Angeles Dodgers (of Los Angeles) coordinated a terrific turkey giveaway, buying turkeys for 500 families in the neighborhoods around Chavez Ravine. Councilmember Ed Reyes and I brought our staff up to Dodger Stadium where we gave turkeys out to individuals and to organizations that would get the birds onto local families' tables for Thanksgiving. Tommy Lasorda joined us and wrote about it on his blog, too. If you'd like to volunteer on Thanksgiving, L.A. Works has some ideas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Day of Remembrance

With Assemblymember Paul Koretz and representatives from the Southern California Transgender Community Coalition, I spoke at a press conference to announce the Day of Remembrance for victims of hate crimes against transgendered individuals. You might not have known that:
  • the murder rate of transgendered persons is 17 times the national average and higher than any other minority group
  • 100% of recorded hate crimes against transgendered persons in LA County are violent
  • transgendered persons have a higher rate of HIV infection than any group.
The sign behind me in the picture reads "How Many Transgenders Have To Die Before You Get Involved"; one of the ways to get involved is to ask your representative to support AB 1160, introduced by Sally Lieber. Pending in the California State Assembly, AB 1160 would eliminate the “Panic Defense” so that defendants would not be eligible for a reduced “voluntary manslaughter” charge by contending that they were provoked to murder by discovering a victim’s disability, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

My highest regard goes out to those brave individuals who have fought discrimination to speak out for equality for all.

Friday, November 18, 2005

On the catwalk

There's no issue like Southern California's air quality to encapsulate both the challenges we face and the effect we can have with activist passion and intelligent regulation. It's true, and shameful, that we're back on top with the nation's worst air quality. Yet it's important to remember that air quality overall has been improving for the last three decades, as environmentalists have won key policy changes.

The Coalition for Clean Air has been a leader in calling our attention to the severity of the problem and in pushing for solutions. Plus, they know how to have a good time. For their annual fashion show fundraiser, elected officials from across Southern California don donated eco-friendly apparel and walk the catwalk as guests bid on the items they sport.

Burbank City Councilmember Todd Campbell and I have been trying to outdo each other for a couple of years now, and this year we declared a full-on , Zoolander-style catwalk battle royale. (And raised money for clean air at the same time.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Clean Money victory

Full public financing of elections is on its way! By an 11-0 vote, the City Council passed the motion that I introduced with Bill Rosendahl and Wendy Greuel. City staff have 90 days to create an opt-in system that will allow candidates to forgo private donations in exchange for a set amount of public campaign funds; then the full program will come back for another vote. Public financing gives elected officials a chance to put down the phone with fundraisers and spend more time addressing the needs of the community. And I'd rather devote my attention to our city's deep potholes than to its deep pockets.

UPDATE: An opinion piece on this subject that I co-authored with Councilmembers Greuel and Rosendahl is running in the Daily News.

Small lots, smart designs

The full name of the Los Angeles River is "El Rio de Nuestra Senora la Reyna de Los Angeles de Porciuncula". That's "The River of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Very Small Plot of Land." Most translations just leave 'Porciuncula' as it's found in the Spanish, but it refers to a very small plot of land on which St. Francis of Assisi lived in the 13th century.

When the pobladores arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1700's, they found a small plot by Los Angeles River, and there they founded our city. And for a long time, that was the last anyone thought about small plots in Los Angeles. We shared the dream of lots with big back yards, and the real availability of abundant private space led to an atrophy of our public space. Why build parks when you can have your own patch of green?

You know the rest. We thought we could prevent growth by ignoring it, but instead of building skyscrapers, we built "yardscrapers", building out over those private green spaces until parts of our city achieved Manhattan-like densities.

Fortunately, today we're coming to terms with growth and density. Last November, we passed the Small Lot Subdivisions Ordinance, which creates opportunities to build smart designs on small lots.

The Enterprise Foundation has posed a challenge: who can come up with a design smart enough to allow good living on a small lot? On Douglas Street in Echo Park, where I kicked off the contest with Councilmember Ed Reyes and Bill Jones from the Enterprise Foundation, housing prices are creeping over $700,000. The winner of the contest to build an affordable design for a narrow interior lot—and it's open to student or professional, newcomer or master builder—will see that design come to life on Douglas Street.

Join the contest today at www.smallbutsmart.org!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Around the Web

HealthyCity.org has relaunched its web tool. This is an invaluable application that you can use to learn about the demographics of your community and the social services you can find there. For example, you can use it to map poverty in zipcode 90026, the number of renters or owners in the area served by Selma Elementary, or a profile of all the social services available in Council District 13. And that's only the beginning. Spend some time getting creative with the tool; you're bound to find out something interesting about the place where you live. Let me know what you uncover.

Also, Elysian Valley United has put up its new website. This will be a great resource for Elysian Valley residents to learn more about the services and programs that EVU offers inside their community, and a model for other community groups to emulate. EVU has been a great partner to my office in the last four and a half years. We've worked together on park projects and I've been very proud to be able to help advance their innovative microradio project.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Allesandro Apartments

I was delighted to attend the grand opening of the Allessandro Apartments in Silver Lake. Hollywood Community Housing Corporation has developed 18 units of affordable, special-needs housing. Designed by M2A Architects, the building is an exceptional addition to a beautiful neighborhood. HCHC and M2A continue to demonstrate the kind of excellence we can achieve at the same time as we seek solutions to the housing crisis. Kyle Arndt, a Los Angeles real estate lawyer who serves as the president of the HCHC Board of Directors, spoke at the opening and reminded me how vital a talented volunteer board can be to the success of a community organization.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Land use welcomes

Atop City Hall in the Tom Bradley Room, I had the honor of welcoming the members of the Urban Land Institute to Los Angeles for their international meeting, which begins today. No other think tank in the world address issue of urban land use and development at the scale that ULI does; a few years ago, they performed a study of Hollywood, roughly bounded by the redevelopment area, and the recommendations they made have helped my office, the CRA, and the Chamber of Commerce think about the future of the area.

It's a good time for Los Angeles to host a group of creative land-use thinkers. We face enormous change and enormous possibility; the Institute's agenda will include workshops on developments planned or proposed for the Staples Center and LA Live, the Port of Los Angeles, and Century City. The Mayor and the Council are both supportive of development, and, more importantly, of development done right. There is unprecedented concentration in the city right now on new and courageous solutions to the housing crisis (which I've discussed here and here.) Mixed-use development, density on transportation corridors, and other smart-growth principles, once wild new ideas, are showing up in plans on file and buildings on the ground. We're literally "growing up"—not just maturing in our thinking about what it means to be a city, but starting to grow vertically instead of just creeping out horizontally over every available patch of dirt. And twenty-odd stories below the ULI's meeting, a new mayor is actively searching for a new planning director who can accelerate our search for solutions.

Also welcome on the land-use front is Curbed L.A., a new region-wide blog addressing real estate, transportation, and development issues. It's great to see more discussion of these issues, which are central like no others to the 21st century in Los Angeles.

Guest blogger Joe on Orange Line

The first in an occasional series of first-person views from CD13's staff and friends. First up: Historic Filipinotown and Elysian Valley field representative Joseph Bernardo.

Living in Northridge, I've always relied on my good ol' Honda Civic to take me around the city. Commuting to work in Silver Lake takes me about 45 minutes to an hour (if there is no accident on the 5 or 101). However, I now have the option of taking the newest Metro line in the City of Los Angeles to work: the Valley's Orange Line.

Last Friday, I attended the long-awaited grand opening of the Orange line. With students from the El Camino Real High School Band providing the music and the always-entertaining Huell Howser serving as master of ceremonies, the “Valley's Newest Shortcut" opened with much fanfare.

After the ceremonial speeches, I was able to take the very first test run of Orange Line with most of the councilmembers. The 60-foot Metro Liner coaches that run along the 14-mile busway provide a smooth, fast ride through the heart of the Valley, from the Red Line stop in North Hollywood to the Warner Center. Additionally, the original artworks that adorn each stop give it a unique LA flavor. As County Supervisor Yaroslavsky said, “the Orange Line truly is the wave of the future."

So once our field office moves to its new location at Hollywood and Western (the lease on our Sunset Boulevard office lease expires at the end of the year), I will be able to drive about 10 minutes to the Orange Line stop at Reseda Blvd., park my car, hop on the Orange Line, transfer to the Red Line at North Hollywood, then get off right across the street from work. Although I won't have the convenience of walking 6 blocks to work like Arsen, my new commute will save me time and money, and most important, save me from the stress I accumulate from cursing and honking at all of the bad drivers in bumper to bumper traffic.

Note: CD13 Field Representatives never, ever curse, not even in traffic.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Crosswalks in Hi-Fi. pt. II

Back in August, I teased the arrival in Historic Filipinotown of new crosswalks on Temple Street patterned after traditional Filipino weave patterns. Now the Bureau of Street Services (the BOSS) has installed patterned crosswalks designed by artist Erwin Federizo (who also designed Hi-Fi's street banners) at three Hi-Fi intersections. The kids of Burlington school, a day care school in the neighborhood, performed a short dance and helped us break in the new crosswalks. The artist himself was on hand, as was Jocelyn Geaga-Rosenthal from the Historic Filipinotown Improvement Association and a representative from the Filipino consul general. And I hear that the BOSS, whose creativity and willingness to listen to the community I must praise here, is already getting requests for the next neighborhood. See more pictures from the crosswalk dedication here.