Friday, July 28, 2006

Homeless Youth

True leadership requires following as much as it requires leading. By listening to community members in my district and from all over the city, I can learn the real issues facing our city and the best ways to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles. In a rare opportunity for my colleagues and me to hear directly about life on the streets, Councilmembers Jan Perry and Bill Rosendahl joined me in hosting a special meeting of the Ad Hoc Homelessness Committee dedicated to the problems faced by homeless youth, held off-site at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center in Hollywood.

We heard testimony from service providers such as My Friend's Place, the Gay and Lesbian Center, Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, Covenant House of California, the county Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Hollywood has been a destination for homeless youth for well over three decades, but their demographics have changed. Thirty years ago, Hollywood attracted homeless youth from many other parts of the country; today, the vast majority of homeless youth in the area are from Los Angeles. My Friend’s Place estimates that 80% of homeless youth have been involved with the county ward system, or DCFS. Virtually all of the homeless youth are out on the street because of a family conflict. Many have problems with stepparents, or come from homes with a history of substance abuse or mental illness.

After hearing these reports, we heard a number of recommendations from Susan Rabinovitz, the Associate Director of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital. Perhaps the most pressing need as the city combats its homeless youth problem is to find ways to coordinate the efforts of our various services providers with ongoing city projects. For example, one of the strongest tools at our disposal is our WorkSource system, made up of centers where individuals can get the training that will allow them to become productive members of the workforce.

Coordinating these programs and bringing agencies and government together to turn the lives of homeless youth around is a long-term problem with no quick fix. But the dedication on display at the special committee meeting gave me hope and inspiration that we can help these young people find jobs, homes, and better lives.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Affordable Housing Bond Goes to Ballot

After months of hard work with a coalition of religious groups, homeless services providers, affordable housing developers and lenders, and labor and business groups, my colleagues and I voted to place the Affordable Housing bond on the ballot for November. The measure would allocate $1 billion over the next ten years towards building permanent supportive housing for extremely low-income individuals and the homeless, affordable rental housing for low income individuals and families, and funds that would assist first-time homebuyers enter the housing market.


The price of buying and owning a home over the last decade has increased dramatically in Los Angeles. Demand has grown exponentially, and more and more families have been priced out of homeownership. Residents at almost every income level are fearful for their future because of the unavailability of affordable housing options. As Los Angeles continues to grow, we must ensure that every member of our society has the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the major economic expansion that has gripped the entire region. Working families shouldn't have to live with two other families in a home built for one. People should be able to find housing near their workplace, no matter what kind of job they have.

Today’s vote is a major victory for affordable housing advocates throughout the city, but our work is not yet over. In order for the bond to pass, two-thirds of the voters in November must vote yes on the proposition.

The bond includes:

  • A minimum of $250 million dedicated to affordable rental housing for extremely low income individuals, focused on getting homeless people off the street and including supportive housing solutions
  • A minimum of $350 million for affordable housing for individuals and households with between 30% and 80% of the area median income (AMI), with a maximum of $100 million to be used for households with between 60% and 80% AMI.
  • $250 million to be used to help first-time home-buyers at or below 150% of AMI

LADWP will help you install solar panels

The LADWP's solar incentive program is back on track! It couldn’t have come at a better time, either. The recent upswing in temperatures across Los Angeles demonstrates our city's increased energy demands, and our increased need for alternative sources.

In 2000, the Department began the program with $150 million and the goal of having 100,000 solar rooftops by the year 2010. In its first five years, the solar incentives were so popular that DWP had to suspend the program for a year. Now they've restructured the program to ensure enough funding to finish out the program, which I was able to use to install solar panels on the roof of my own house.


The incentive is based on the energy output of the system you install. The greater the number of kilowatts produced by your panels, the greater the amount of the rebate you can receive on your installation costs. For an installation costing $31,000 (on the high end of residential systems), the DWP incentive, when added to the tax credit received for the installation, would total nearly $16,000, taking care of 51% of the installation cost--to say nothing of your savings as your individual demands on the grid decrease.

Solar panels are an essential part of Los Angeles’ effort to have 20% renewable energy by 2010. In an age where we all strive to think globally and act locally, solar panels provides residents, businesses, and the city a means to become more energy independent, a concrete step that many of us can take on an individual basis to make LA a greener city and stem the use of fossil fuels. My own panels meets upwards of 80% of my energy needs (and that includes charging the electric car I use for city business).

The program will officially be re-opened on August 14. More information is available at the DWP website.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Wendy Greuel, Superhero

You may remember that, a few years ago, my colleague and friend Wendy Greuel with her deputy Leslie Pollner were dubbed the Cagney and Lacey of City Hall when they witnessed a hit-and-run and pursued the driver, who had left his vehicle on foot. Now comes an email from Police Commissioner Shelley Freeman, who witnessed Councilmember Greuel spring into action for justice while having lunch downtown.


[...]Crime fighting Councilmember Wendy Greuel was at it again today. We were having lunch at Pete's @ 4th and Main when she looked out the window, saw one woman assaulting another across the street and katty-corner, and got up from her chair to run across the street and break up the fight.

On her way out the door, she hollered over her shoulder to me to call 911, which I did, while I followed her outside. Upon her approach, the woman doing the assault took off with her two male companions, whose description I gave to the 911 operator. The victim was shirtless, so Wendy ran to her car to get a spare shirt (really!) while I explained to the arriving sergeant what was going on.

The victim, evidently wanted on an arrest warrant of her own, expressed her desire to turn herself in, and Wendy and I left the victim in the good and caring hands of Sergeant Halliburton, and returned to lunch.

Just another day in the life of Councilmember Wendy Greuel!

I'm speechless, but not at all surprised.

Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council

I've been reporting the development of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council online for two years now, and I'm pleased to announce that CD13's newest NC made it through its inaugural elections and has become a fully operating neighborhood council. Congratulations to newly elected President Bob Blue, Vice-President Samir Srivastava and the whole elected board. If you live between Hollywood on the north, Melrose on the south, El Centro on the west and the 101 freeway or Western Avenue on the east, please get involved with the council and bring your neighbors along. (.pdf link to map)

Tourist map

My friend Shane Green of The Map Network told me a long time ago of his interest in developing an interactive map of Los Angeles, and now it's up at USA Today. More importantly, Shane is working with LA, Inc., our tourist bureau, to develop a much more detailed tourist map of the whole region. In the meantime, check out the USA Today map, especially if you have a guest in town (or want to be a tourist in your own city).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Neighborhood Council Review Commission

I had the chance to address the inaugural meeting of the Neighborhood Council Review Commission, which gathered in the Tom Bradley Chamber atop City Hall. The 29 commissioners were sworn in by City Clerk Frank Martinez, and set about deciding on their meeting schedule, rules and protocols. I had the opportunity to address them and to watch the proceedings as a member of the public, and I look forward to bold action from the commission that advances the role of grassroots democracy in Los Angeles.

I was also pleased to see that my appointment, Rev. Altagracia Perez, was elected by the commissioners as Chair of the Commission, and CD13 local leader and Neighborhood Councilmember Jason Lyon (appointed by the Mayor) was elected First Vice-Chair.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

LA City Nerd on Echo Park

Did you know that before the Lotus Festival, Echo Park was home to the "Becky Thatcher-Tom Sawyer Fishing Rodeo"? No, you didn't. But LA City Nerd did! Learn more about the lake and its park from the inimitable Nerd.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

$1B for housing

Angelenos hope for a future where working men and women can afford to rent or buy a home with the wages they earn. We hope for a future where housing rises next to jobs and commute times fall. We hope for a solution to the plight of the tens of thousands of people who have no home at all. The bond that advanced in council today is an investment in our hopes.

My colleagues voted unanimously today to instruct the City Attorney to prepare bond language for inclusion on the November 2006 ballot for a $1-billion housing bond. The bond would generate $100 million per year from 2007 through 2016, funds that could be used to help solve homelessness, build affordable workforce housing, and help first-time homebuyers. Passage of the bond would complement the strides that we've made together in turning around the housing crisis over the past five years, from passing and fully funding our $100-million Affordable Housing Trust Fund to streamlining our planning coded to accommodate new construction and conversions.

Details after the jump...

The bond would have minimum percentages of each year’s funds that would be spent on specific priorities:
• No less than 25% of the bond should be spent on creating affordable rental housing opportunities for extremely low income tenants, ranging from no income to 30% area median income (AMI), including the formerly homeless.
• No less than 25% of the bond should be spent on affordable rental housing opportunities for households at 60% or below or AMI
• No less than 10% of the bond should be spent on mixed-income developments providing affordable rental housing opportunities for individuals at 60% to 80% of AMI
• No less than 20% of the bond should be spent on first time homeownership assistance to households at or below 150% AMI. 15% of this 20% should be targeted to serve households at or below 80% of AMI, if feasible.

The bond would be repaid over a 20-year period by way of a tax assessment that would average $14.66 annually on each $100,000 of assessed property value.

The City Attorney will return with final language that must be approved by Council for placement on the November ballot by August 4th, 2006.

Gateways Housing

Affordabe housing developer A Community of Friends opened the long-awaited Gateways complex on Hoover at London Street, and I was proud to join the developer and the community at the grand opening.

The handsome $5 million project was envisioned in a real partnership between ACOF and the neighbors. With 90,000 people living on the streets throughout our county, we cannot afford to let the pace of developing new affordable housing slack even the slightest bit.

Permanent supportive housing facilities like Gateways elaborate our most successful model for ending homelessness. The New York Times recently reported success rates of 80% and higher for homeless individuals entering permanent supportive housing. Thanks to ACOF, 29 formerly homeless individuals can live at Gateways in an area with one of the fastest rising property values in the city.

ACOF has been steady and committed, keeping the project on schedule while navigating bureaucratic errors at the federal level and initial resistance from neighbors with questions about the project. The result—reached by responding to the community and incorporating its concerns—is part of the solution to the regional crisis of homelessness.

CD13's first art opening: Clowns without Borders

You're invited to our first CD13 District Office art opening!

7:00 pm, Thursday, July 13
5500 Hollywood Boulevard, Fourth Floor
Photographs from Project Njabulo of Clowns Without Borders

Led by former Silver Lake resident Jamie McLaren Lachman, Project Njabulo of Clowns without Borders brings laughter to children throughout Southern Africa who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. Join Jamie at this reception for the work of photographer Ellen van den Bouwhuysen documenting Project Njabulo's expedition last year in KwaZulu-Natal. RSVP to Kabira Stokes at (323) 957-4500 or via email.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Well rowed, rowers

Congratulations are in order to the Becerra Bombers, whose furious rowing won them the top spot in the elected officials' category on Echo Park Lake this weekend. The crown passes to Washington, D.C. We'll get it back next year! Winning the day overall was the Department of Transporation's Valley Gators, led by CD13 hero Brian Gallagher.

My hat is also off to the team fielded (laked?) by Not bad for a nascent medium.

I also commend my council-neighbor Ed Reyes, whose team pulled to within one second's difference of CD13's own crew.

Lastly, hats off to the CD13 Pirates, who rowed bravely and fiercely in my absence. Three-hundred sixty-three practice days left until next year, friends.

And for everyone: keep in mind the three key principles of championship rowing:
  • Take personal responsibility for the direction of the boat
  • Always follow the oar in front of you
  • Listen to your captain's voice

Friday, July 07, 2006

Lotus Festival 2006: Tomorrow!

Team CD13 races at 4:00. Good luck, crew!

I'm back from Beirut!

And I've got a proclamation signed by Beirut's Mayor Abdel Mounimariss and Vice Mayor Twafik Kfuri. Councilmember Zine and I also had the privilege of meeting with Prime Minister Fouad Seiora and Minister of the Interior Ahmand Fatfa among others. See the rest of my pics at my Flickr page.