Friday, March 30, 2007

Cesar Chavez

On March 31st, California honors the memory of Cesar Chavez. Chavez led the legendary grape boycott, winning union contracts for Californian farm workers for the first time ever after years of arduous and controversial struggle. His memory is invaluable to those who struggle for change today.

Last year, workers at the LAX Hilton faced numerous abuses. To lift their wages and win affordable health care, they spoke out at work. What happened next? According to charges filed by the NLRB this month, the hotel suspended 77 workers without pay for speaking up. The hotel also forbade workers from picking up their paychecks because they were wearing union T-shirts, and barred workers from accessing their cafeteria because they were going to meet about forming a union.


At the time, my colleagues and I sought to meet with the hotel to hear their side of the story. (My colleague Janice Hahn was exceptional in helping the workers get back to work.) We were, to put it mildly, rebuffed. I got as far as the hotel's driveway, and then left a message for the general manager. My colleagues and I continue to offer the resources of our offices to help resolve the situation.

Workers then took a giant step: they voted to declare a boycott on their own hotel. They knew this could mean reduced hours, wages and tips, but they saw economic pressure, in the mold of Cesar Chavez, as a strong, if risky, step. I joined dozens of local elected officials, religious leaders and community activists who, after hearing from these workers, support their actions and have decided to help them get the word out about their struggle.

How do we create a community with prosperity for all? How do we foster business investment and wide prosperity? This week, I went to Washington, D.C. with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to fight for the things that will let us create a good business environment. My colleagues and I will fight for transportation dollars to unclog our streets and housing dollars to make it possible for employees to live near where they work. We'll seek workforce development funds so workers can have careers, not just jobs. We'll cut red tape for new businesses, protect tax amnesties, protect industrial land, support catalytic developments, and continue to reach out to individual businesses that want to provide good jobs.

We've figured out a model in Los Angeles that's pro-business, pro-worker, and pro-community. You can see it in Hollywood, where our new W hotel will create mixed-income housing and living-wage jobs while revitalizing the area, and where we’ve won a state enterprise zone to help advance these efforts. You can see it in the community benefit agreements that have shaped the development of Staples Center, or our port, or the convention center hotel, or that are being hashed out for Grand Avenue. You can see it in the successful career ladder training programs we've advanced, and in the new businesses that continue to come to Los Angeles.

But when the model fails, sometimes you see conflict. An elected official must try to moderate conflict. If the contest is framed as "business" versus "labor", I reject that I have to pick a side: that's a false choice, and we know how to build a community on stronger principles than antagonism. But if workers like those at the LAX Hilton ask for my help, I remember the path of Cesar Chavez, and I am proud to walk with them.

Clinica Romero

Clinica Romero 2
Originally uploaded by CD-13.
Nearly three decades after his assassination, Msr. Oscar Romero's legacy persists in his home country of El Salvador and in hearts across the world. A champion of social justice and civil disobedience in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Msr. Romero brought international attention to the human rights abuses that he witnessed everyday while working with the poor of El Salvador. Three years after his death, the Los Angeles Salvadoran community in the Pico-Union area came together to celebrate Msr. Romero's legacy by opening Clinica Romero, dedicated to providing a safety net for the medically uninsured from throughout Los Angeles. Over the years, Clinica Romero has provided affordable health care for thousands of residents in the area, and on the 27th anniversary of Msr. Romero's death, we gathered with the community to mark another auspicious occasion. Over the past year, my office has worked with Councilmember Reyes and Mayor Villaraigosa to identify $1.5 million for Clinica Romero, the amount needed to allow the clinic to buy their building and establish a permanent home on Lake Street, just north of Beverly. This permanence will allow Clinica Romero to fulfill the missions of equality and justice for all set forth by its namesake, and continue to serve the uninsured populations of Los Angeles.

Richard Alarcón Returns to City Council

Council Chambers welcomed back a familiar face with the swearing in of Councilmember Richard Alarcón, newly elected to represent Council District 7. He began serving the city of Los Angeles as an aide to Mayor Tom Bradley before being elected to the council in 1993 - from there, he went on to serve in the California State Senate, where he championed workers' compensation reform and was instrumental in helping to rebuild the areas throughout the Valley affected by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. He now rejoins us at City Hall, where he will once again serve the residents of the 7th district and will chair the Education and Neighborhoods committee. A former teacher and long-time supporter of Neighborhood Councils, his background will serve him, and the city, tremendously as we continue to tackle education issues and work to revitalize our communities. Welcome back, Councilmember Alarcón, from all of us here at City Hall.

Jenny Lewis, Pioneer Woman

The city behind them
Originally uploaded by CD-13.
Every year, the Commission on the Status of Women and the City Council bring one woman from each of the city's 15 council districts for a special presentation honoring "outstanding community service and accomplishments in the areas of education, equal rights, professional opportunities, arts, sciences and/or humanitarian contributions that continue to expand opportunities for generations to come."

I was proud to bring to council chambers singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis, the lead singer of Rilo Kiley who has a brilliant solo career to her name as well. Jenny is a third-generation Angeleno and was well known locally before her career took off. She dedicated her award, as she put it, "to all of my neighbors who, for all these years put up with the musical racket coming from my tiny apartment in Silver Lake."

Of course, that's a racket heard the world over. The qualities in her art that have led to her global success and critical celebration have also helped place the Silver Lake and Echo Park musical scenes on the leading edge of 21st-century song. Her position as one of America’s finest singer/songwriters reflects not only her own prodigious talent but the wealth of artistry in the community she calls home.

Or, in fewer words: she writes great songs, she's got a beautiful voice, and I love the 13th Council District. (Does that make me a nerd?)

More pix.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Senior Housing at Triangle Square in Hollywood

Triangle Square
Originally uploaded by CD-13.
Making the dream of Hollywood a reality for those who call it home requires a number of simultaneous efforts. We have to create sustainable jobs, such as those that will be provided by the W hotel at Hollywood and Vine. And we have to build affordable housing where working class people can safely rest their heads at night.

I've written about how the W Hotel represents economic development with a human component. Just down the street, the 104 affordable senior units at Triangle Square will become a new standard for affordable housing for those members of society on a fixed income. Located at Selma and Ivar, the Triangle Square project is the result of a joint venture between Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing and McCormack Baron Salazar. 34% of the units are geared towards housing seniors who have HIV/AIDS or who are at risk of falling into homelessness.

The project goes beyond just providing four walls and a ceiling; Triangle Square includes an interior courtyard and community space that will provide social and recreational opportunities for its residents. Situated in the historic core of Hollywood, the project is surrounded by retail sites, easy access to public transportation, and any number of entertainment venues. By integrating our seniors into a rising community, we can be sure that they will not spend their twilight years in the shadows.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reminder: Planning 101 workshop this Saturday

Interested in learning more about planning in your neighborhood and around the city? Join staff from CD13 and the Planning Department at 10 am on Saturday, March 31st at the Edendale Branch Library, as we explore the basics of planning and engage in some of the hot planning issues in Los Angeles, including parking reform, the proposed McMansionization ordinance, and the City-wide historic resources survey.

Jane Blumenfeld, Senior Planner at the Dept. of City Planning, will be our guest speaker. Light refreshments from our local businesses will be served.

We have extended our RSVP date to Thurday, March 29th. Please call (213) 473-7013 to RSVP.

Click here for more information.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Safer Route to Grant Elementary

A Safer Route to Grant Elementary
Originally uploaded by CD-13.
In 1969, more than half of all children walked or took their bike to school; today, that number has dwindled to 15%, as busy streets and even busier drivers turn a short walk into a dangerous journey. As we continue to promote walkable communities, creating safe routes to school becomes a vital focus.

Located near one of the busiest intersections in the district, Hollywood and Western, Grant Elementary feels the effects of busy streets on a daily basis. My office worked with the Department of Transportation to identify federal funds for a smart crosswalk that would alert drivers when students cross Western. This new signal will foster security in the area while reducing the chance of an accident. A walkable Hollywood needs to be a safe Hollywood, so slow down and look for the flashing yellow lights!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Welcoming the A380

This morning, I joined the mayor, my colleauges, local aviation leaders, airplane afficionados (who surrounded the airport with cameras) and a classful of local schoolchildren to welcome the world's largest aircraft, the Airbus A380 to Los Angeles International Airport.

As promised, the A380 had an amazingly quiet landing (I captured my colleague and westside councilmember Bill Rosendahl as it landed).

While much remains to be done before we see if the A380 is a hit in the aircraft industry, it had all the makings of a star. As you will recall, I posted about the A380 last year, as the country which manufacturers the most parts for the plane is the United States, and many Southland aerospace companies are able to maintain and expand high-paying jobs because of the A380. The A380 has a better environmental footprint than its peers as well.

Kudos to all who made this day possible, including Janice Hahn, the chair of the Trade, Commerce, and Tourism Committee of the City Council, who helped shepherd its arrival with the mayor, Councilmember Rosendahl, and the Airport Commission. We have a lot of work to do to make the airport ready for a high volume of these planes, but the airport is already prepared for the first ones to arrive at Tom Bradley International Terminal starting next year.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Learning to Line Dance

First they brought us holiday cheer, then they shared Valentine's Day with students from Glenfeliz Early Education Center, and now the Glassell Park Seniors have taken up line dancing. 25 seniors attend the first class, where they learned how to chasse (one foot moving to the side, the other placed next to it, before the original moves again to the side), weave (one foot is put behind the other, then in front of the original foot, before moving to the side and touching the original foot), and triple step (taking 3 steps to only 2 beats of music). And the beat goes on . . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

National League of Cities

Hot on the heels of our very successful lobbying trip to Sacramento, I am with Councilmembers Reyes, Zine, Parks, Smith, and Hahn in Washington, D.C. as a part of the National League of Cities (NLC), which comprises city legislators in a coalition to strengthen and promote cities as centers of opportunity, leadership, and governance. My colleagues and I will meet with Congressional representatives to highlight some of the major issues facing Los Angeles, including gang violence and the need for affordable housing, and to promote some of our most innovative initiatives, such as the LA River Revitalization plan. We'll also sit down with some of our colleagues from around the country to examine strategies and programs common to urban centers around the nation, including traffic, economic development, and immigration.

I also serve as the vice-chair of the International Committee, a subgroup of the NLC that works on creating bridges with our municipal counterparts throughout North America. We will be tackling policy issues in the trade and immigration arenas and looking at sustainable economic and environmental policies in the context of ever-increasing globalization. Whether down the street or half-way across the world, local government affects people's daily lives more than any other branch of public administration, and the issues we often relegate to a global scale - economic inequality, climate change, violence - affect us on an individual basis as well. Stronger local entities can help to build better nations, and, in turn, a better world.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

CD13 Doing its Part to Keep America Beautiful

More than 300 volunteers showed up at Echo Park to participate in the city’s launch of Keep America Beautiful, the three-month-long national effort by local communities to pick up litter, paint over graffiti, and beautify their neighborhoods. One of three clean-up sites in the city, Echo Park was the nucleus of our clean-up efforts for Northeast LA. Volunteers picked up rakes and brooms at the park and radiated out towards Glendale Boulevard, Alvarado Street, and Sunset Boulevard to gather trash and report tagging. Our efforts coincided with those of cities across the country. Many thanks to our many co-sponsors, Metro Clean, Angelus Temple, Rec and Parks, the Echo Park Chamber, Echo Park Improvement Association, Echo Park Historical Society, and Echo Park Neighborhood Council, who made the day a huge success. Graffiti and trash are two of the biggest blights in our community - Keeping America Beautiful requires each of us to do our part to keep LA clean. Find out what you can do to help.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Even Chickens

I had a visit today in council from a group of students at University Elementary School, my earliest alma mater.

"What class were you in?" one asked.

"1980," I said. The students didn't seem to know exactly what this meant.

"No, what classroom were you in?"

I tried to explain how city council meetings work. At the time, we had just begun Public Comment. "This is the part of the meeting where you can talk to the City Council about anything you want to," I said.

"Even chickens?" one asked.

"Even chickens," I said.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Planning 101 Coming Your Way

Interested in learning more about planning in your neighborhood and around the city? Join staff from CD13 and the Planning Department on March 31st at the Edendale Branch Library, as we explore the basics of planning and engage in some of the hot planning issues in Los Angeles, including parking reform and the City-wide historic resources survey. Please contact our Planning Deputy, Helen Leung, at (213) 473-7013 if you are interested in attending or have more questions about Planning 101.

Guest Post: St. Vincent's Medical Center

St. Vincent's Medical Center
Originally uploaded by altscott.
LA City Nerd returns as a guest poster with a visit to...

In a tucked away corner of the 13th District, one of the top ten largest employers in the district quietly toils away saving lives. St. Vincent's Medical Center, located on the northwest corner of 3rd & Alvarado, opened in here at its 5th location in 1927, with the new building opening on the site in 1975 (a year after the name was changed from St. Vincent's Hospital to Medical Center). It is the oldest medical institution in Los Angeles, having been in operation for 151 years (that means since 1856 for those non-math nerds!). The hospital was started by the Daughters of Charity as "The Los Angeles Infirmary," and that affiliation with the Daughters still exists today. They were the first group of women to open a medical institution in the City, and their first facility was an adobe homes near the Plaza.

"How can I learn more?" you ask. Well, in 1995, St. Vincent's began to officially collect their (and Los Angeles) history. Though their website is under development (with no date of completion estimated at this time), the St. Vincent Medical Center Historical Conservancy, according to their "LA as a Subject" page, "was established in 1995 to preserve the long and storied history of St. Vincent Medical Center and of its founders, the Daughters of Charity…. Consisting of more than one hundred thousand documents and artifacts housed in a three-thousand-square-foot facility, the archive was opened to the public in November 1996." Its reference library is home to the papers of "one of Los Angeles's most influential and innovative physicians, Travis Winsor, M.D." It is open to the public, but by appointment only. According to Ken McGuire, their archivist, "it is preferred that an advanced appointment be made before coming to the Conservancy at this time. This is due to staffing and exhibit changes." Their hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 3:30pm. Ken can be reached at (213)484-7940.

Some of St. Vincent's "firsts":

  • Los Angeles Infirmary is the first hospital in California to be
    accredited by the American College of Surgeons (1913)
  • First successful open-heart surgery on the West Coast performed at St. Vincent's (1957)
  • St. Vincent's Hospital doctors the first to use the surgical microscope to operate on the inner ear. (1960)
  • St. Vincent's the first hospital to offer hemodialysis to kidney
    failure patients. (1962)

Luis Lopez joins the East LA Area Planning Commission

Congrats to Luis Lopez, who serves on the Governing Board of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, on joining the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission (APC). During the last round of charter reform, APCs were established to hear appeals of planning and land use decisions at the local level . Luis' record as a community activist situates him well to be an advocate for community-centered development on the commission. His familiarity with the issues that face East and Northeast Los Angeles - from the need for more open space and pedestrian friendly streets - will serve him well in his new capacity as Area Planning Commissioner.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Green LA Girl: Blue bins for apartment dwellers

Where's Ya Bin?
Originally uploaded by ClydeHouse.
Another guest poster joins the fold: Siel from Green LA Girl has offered to contribute occasional posts on Los Angeles's steps toward a greener city. Stop by her own blog for more.

Finally, Los Angeles apartment dwellers will get their own blue bins! Starting April 2007, the City of Los Angeles will offer free recycling services to all multifamily residences, including apartments, condos, town homes, and mobile home parks.

Participants will get blue recycling bins and free weekly recycling service pickup once a week. And the service is provided at no cost to landlords or tenants.

Blue bins will not appear automatically; residents must sign up. Either the tenant or the owner can sign up. If a tenants calls, the city will contact the owner or property manager to get owner approval to start the program.

Cathie Chavez, the Project Manager of the Multifamily Residential Recycling Program, says residents "should start calling now so they can be the first ones to receive service." Registration takes just 5 minutes, Cathie says.