Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lights over Elysian Valley

Originally uploaded by CD-13.
When I first walked through the neighborhood of Elysian Valley in 2001 as a candidate for the district, residents told me two things: fix the sidewalks and give us new lights.

Six years and $1.5 million later, I gathered with the Elysian Valley community in celebration as we activated 135 new lights near the intersection of the 2 and 5 freeways, the first installation in a three-step process that will illuminate a wide swath of the area. We enlisted the support of the Bureau of Street Lighting and worked with the community to identify the darkest corners of Elysian Valley, seeking to light safe passages for families and children and prevent crime in those very same spots. We then went to the office of Congressmember Xavier Becerra, who found federal dollars to match the city's investment. Street Lighting erected uniquely designed lights and installed more than 26,000 feet of underground conduit.

With the first phase complete, the only thing left to do was to turn the lights on. More than 100 Elysian Valley-ites, including scores of students from Allesandro Elementary, turned out in the pouring rain to partake in the official activation of the lights. The lights represent more than safe places for our community at night, more than just another tool in our effort to fight crime that has already seen a 33% drop over the last two years. They stand as 135 new symbols of the resurgence of Elysian Valley, and will light the way for a new generation of children who will thrive in a safer and brighter community.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Two Big Prop O Projects Begin

The City Council approved six projects under Prop O, the half-billion-dollar water-quality bond that Los Angeles voters approved by a 74% margin in 2004. Two of the projects were Machado Lake (the once and ? home of Reggie the caiman/gator) and Echo Park Lake.

I'm excited about the two lake projects. A great deal of the water that flows into our rivers, onto our beaches and into our bay sit in Echo Park Lake and Machado Lake. Clean them and clean the whole region. In CD13, our accomplishment in Echo Park Lake will be four-fold: we'll cut our bacteria count, get into compliance with federal pollution regulations, we'll eliminate pollution from downstream, and we'll improve the park with beautiful, environmental amenities like replacing the lawn grass with grassy swales that filter runoff before it even hits the water.

The next phase for the lake is a design stage; construction should begin towards the end of 2010. There will be a very active public input process for the design phase, and I will let you know more in this space as it progresses.

Fair Share for L.A.

Originally uploaded by CD-13.
I spent a day in Sacramento with Mayor Villaraigosa and my colleagues on the council Tony Cardenas, Wendy Greuel, Ed Reyes and Greig Smith. You've probably already read about our push to get L.A. its fair share of transportation dollars from last year's Prop 1B bond. I feel confident that, between our work and having both a governor and speaker from Los Angeles, we will persuade the commission to change its recommendation in favor of an accelerated start for some of our most important projects.

There are many other reasons for Los Angeles to lobby Sacramento. And we have a lot of room to improve when it comes to getting our fair share of funds from the state. (Our strong record with affordable housing dollars is an exception). Lobbying days like the one we spent are helping turn that around. We can't afford not to.

For my part, I spoke to Assemblymembers Kevin DeLeon, Ted Lieu, and Julia Brownley; and Senators Alan Lowenthal, Darrell Steinberg, and our own City Council alumnus Alex Padilla.

I had many issues to discuss with our legislators: the revitalization of the Los Angeles River, funding for new urban parks (including the Hollywood Cap Park), funds to supplement our Prop O water quality projects, and the policy problems that result from Los Angeles's Area Median Income being so much lower than that of Northern California. I also met with Dick Schermerhorn, the governor's point person on homelessness, to talk about the unfortunate reduction by $55 million of the budget for services for mentally ill adults.

I'm hopeful that our city government's relationship with our state government will flourish. Our delegation is strong in quality as well as quantity, and our proposals were met with interest and understanding by legislators who represent other parts of the state as well. I'll let you know what develops.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Oscars street closures

all glowing
Originally uploaded by jclushlife.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has posted a helpful guide to the Hollywood Boulevard street closures around Oscar time here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Serenade
Originally uploaded by CD-13.
Reports from my field office in Glassell Park have confirmed that students from the Glenfeliz Early Education Center paid a surprise singalong visit to the Glassell Park Seniors today at lunchtime. Cards were given, the Barney theme song was sung, and a cross-generational round of the Hokey Pokey was played. We may have to do this one again.

Stars of Hollywood and Vine

Stars of Hollywood and Vine
Originally uploaded by CD-13.
A decade ago, the corner of Hollywood and Vine was synonymous with blight, crime and neglect. The patina of yesteryear’s glamour still clung to it, anchored barely by the nearby attractions of the Capitol Records building and the Pantages Theater, but it couldn’t begin to live up to its status as viably the most famous intersection in the world.

Almost immediately after I took office in 2001, I began meeting with the Community Redevelopment Agency on their plans to join with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to develop the site. We believed that between Metro’s considerable property and the CRA’s economic development powers, a developer would propose a plan that would bookend the mile-long Walk of Fame, taking advantage of the Red Line station and the changes afoot on the boulevard to create something worthy of the fame.

Watching the plans take shape was exciting. After selecting Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners to combine a W Hotel with a mixed commercial-residential project over a transit hub, we asked them to meet with community leaders to develop a community benefits agreement. LAANE, LA VOICE, members of the nearby Yucca Group and the hotel workers union put together a package that funded health care career development and arts education, raised the number of affordable units at the project, and included the developers’ assurance that they would pay living wages and would not fight union organizing efforts at the hotel.

After the project won approval from the MTA, the CRA, and the council, a final hurdle appeared. The developers had been unable to come to an agreement with Bob Blue, the owner of a multi-generational business that had stood at the site through Hollywood’s mean years. The storied intersection had become a crossroads for Hollywood’s past and its future, and no one knew quite how to navigate the intersection. I brought all parties together in a series of long meetings at my field office in the old Louis B. Mayer building, and many pizzas and much midnight oil later, we reached an agreement that would keep Bernard’s Luggage in the project and move it forward.

At Hollywood and Vine, a mixed-income community of five hundred apartments and condominiums will rise; the future occupants will include the hotel workers who work at the W and the men and women whose names appear on the stars in the sidewalk alike.

Just a few years ago, in the 2000 census, people in this neighborhood reported family incomes of nineteen to twenty-three thousand dollars; soon, two hundred permanent living-wage, union hotel jobs will be held by men and women struggling to realize their own Hollywood dreams.

Construction has now begun at Hollywood and Vine, and the project will open in 2009. Los Angeles will see the blueprint for its future.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gang Violence in Glassell Park

Glasell Park Community Meeting
Originally uploaded by CD-13.
Though Los Angeles is the safest that it has been in over half a century, gang violence is on the rise throughout the city. Glassell Park was recently touched by this violence. 16-year-old Melissa Paul was shot a few blocks away from the Rec Center while walking home with a few friends. Despite our best efforts in the area - including increased lighting along the street and the installation of security cameras - gang violence continues to hurt our community.

In response, Councilmember Jose Huizar and I met with almost two hundred concerned residents and the LAPD at the Recreation Center to discuss the on-going safety measures and gang intervention programs at work in the city. Residents spoke about how violence and crime still affected their lives, whether they'd heard gunshots at night, had their homes vandalized, or known someone who'd been shot. We heard from two Aztec Fire Crew members, former gang members who have turned their lives around and now fight fires, clear brush, and clean up graffiti. Their example can serve as an inspiration to those caught in the web of gang life, but it is up to us to bring these services to the individuals that need them most.

Every time we make progress against violence and lower crime rates, you’ll hear us say that even one life lost is too many. It's sincere and it's true. It's time to stamp out the last murder.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Day at the Opera

Cecil Castelluci is an L.A.-based writer of young adult fiction who volunteers at Mayberry Elementary School in CD13. She recently took students from the school to the Los Angeles Opera. And another opera singer is born...

Friday, February 02, 2007

This was the week that was

The most exciting Internet news this week was far and wide the capture by CD13's own Mitch O'Farrell of the LA City Nerd Elected Official award. It's a great honor. Everything the mysterious Nerd says about Mitch is true.

Here's the rest of the week in CD13 according to the LA blogosphere:

"The lesson here is you can have the force with you," Vernon said. "You just can't use illegal force."

The LA Weekly reports on a murder trial that spans CD13 from Lemon Grove Park to Echo Park to Silver Lake. The victim was found only a few blocks from where I live.

Changes in clubland. Does CD13 still like to dance?

Artisanal coffee comes to Silver Lake?

Hyperion Bridge plans move ahead.

Dogs, blogs, the LA Times and the Echo Park Animal Alliance.

Have a nice weekend!