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Archive for the ‘Valley Village’ Category

I had a firsthand look of the chaos bestowed on the population by the passage of Prop 47. As almost all of you know, the measure raised the threshold of a felony and led to the early release of many career criminals.

A neighbor’s house was ransacked and robbed last night.  The family was on an errand for a period of less than two hours, not a long time by most measures, but far more than enough time for criminals to do their deed.

I talked with the LAPD officers who were investigating.  When I mentioned there has been a steady increase of property crimes in the community since the passage of Prop 47, the officer piped right up, “We are seeing an influx of thieves from other states. They know the odds of going to jail are slim.”

There have been steady reports posted to Nextdoor about burglaries in Valley Village.  As president of the homeowners’ association, I am acutely aware of this growing problem, which effects many communities in Los Angeles.  I have lived here since 1986 and have never before seen such a spike in crimes.

Many of the crimes are brazen – carried out in broad daylight.  Thieves have walked all the way up driveways to break into cars, not simply satisfied to target those parked on the street. That takes some cajones…and desperation, a combination that is dangerously explosive and could indicate a propensity for violence by the perpetrators.

It is bad enough that thousands of professional burglars have flooded the streets after early release; we have also become a magnet for out-of-state talent, as the LAPD officer related.

The people of California voted for Prop 47. It was supported by the top elected officials in the state.  It even had the support of New Gingrich!

It is time for the state’s voters to reverse this truly misguided policy.  It will require a new ballot measure, and, in the short run, legislation mitigating the impact of 47.

It is also time to build new prisons.  Instead of selling bonds to construct an extraordinarily expensive  high-speed train, let’s invest in state-of-the-art prisons which have the facilities for addressing and correcting the causes of recidivism. There will always be those who do not respond to intervention – they will ultimately require a lifetime of incarceration, so the capacity must be in place to deal with them as well.

Opponents to this would claim we cannot incarcerate ourselves out of a growing, statewide crime wave.  The converse for that argument is more grounded in reality – we cannot reduce crime by rapidly increasing the supply of criminals, as Prop 47 has done.

 

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Increased TV and film location shooting in Los Angeles is a good thing, but can it cross a line?

Some residents in a very quiet neighborhood Valley Village think so….and they have good reason. They support local filming, but a certain production has turned their block into a studio backlot extension for too many days.

Five times in two years, to be exact, for multiple days per event – all at the same residence. The permits cover 3-5 days each, although there is usually an added day at the front or back end for prep and breakdown. The hours run from 6AM to 10PM. However, the crews start arriving at 5AM. Overall, this quiet residential street has been a commercial zone for approximately 25 days within the last two years (with more to come), with 10-ton trucks, trailers, canteen vehicles and porta-johns lining both sides of the street. There are no ex-LAPD officers on hand.

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Aside from noise, difficulties backing out of driveways, lack of parking or inadequate access for emergency vehicles – concerns which can be mostly overlooked if they occurred a couple of times per year – the conversion of a residential street for commercial use on a semi-regular frequency is contrary to the right to enjoy one’s property.

There are no restrictions as to how often a specific block or residence can be used as a shooting location.

There are restrictions on yard sales, however.

The owners of the residence who allowed their home to be used are gone during the filming and do not have to put up with the inconvenience. There must certainly be some form of compensation involved. If so, I hope they report it on their tax returns. According to the residents I spoke with, they have not been responsive to appeals from the neighbors.

It would seem there should be a reasonable restriction on location filming in residential neighborhoods, including limits on the number and size of vehicles, the frontage occupied, the hours and days per shoot and minimum requirements for a permit approvals from the affected residents in accordance with the nature and scope of the shoot.

The zoning laws of our city are increasingly being ignored at the expense of the residents.

In this instance, the production company may be enjoying a tax credit for filming locally, but the residents receive little or nothing, only congestion, the aroma of the honey wagons, and noise late into the night.

Not a good deal.

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Through the efforts of Valley Village Homeowners Association and Neighborhood Council Valley Village, a homeless encampment along the 170 embankment, adjacent to Valley Village Park, was cleared.

Since the camp was on Cal Trans property, we asked for and received support from our State Assembly Member. The CHP posted warnings before arranging for the removal of the personal items and trash – there was a considerable amount of the latter.

I was not around to witness the intervention, but there is every reason to believe it was handled as responsibly as possible. No complaints were filed; no reports of violence or excessive force.

The North Hollywood side of the 170 has a homeless problem of its own, too, especially along Tujunga Avenue, where a dozen or so RVs and vans have become permanent fixtures, and homeless prowl the grounds of the Amelia Earhart Regional Library.

While I am pleased by the removal of the Valley Village Park camp, I acknowledge society’s failure in dealing with the underlying problem.

The knee-jerk reaction would be to cast a vote for the city’s proposed $1.2B bond measure, the objective of which is to acquire land and construct housing. It is certainly preferable over a parcel tax, but the cost ultimately still flows through our property tax bills.

But I am not ready to support handing the City Council (or the County Supervisors, for that matter) massive amounts of money when there is no outline or plan to organize, manage and, most importantly, perform timely audits of effectiveness. I would feel a little optimistic if the activities were supervised by financially responsible officials – competent individuals, say someone comparable to City Controller Ron Galperin. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of Ron to go around.

Whatever the plan, if it does not recognize the distinct challenges posed by the two major component groups of the homeless population – economic victims and those afflicted by mental illness or substance abuse – it is doomed to fail. The plan must allow for triage: the chances of helping the former group are far greater than the latter. $1.2 Billion may sound like a lot, but is is less than $50K for each of the estimated 26,000 homeless. How much housing and services can $50K buy?

We need to focus, then, on making the maximum impact and accept the fact there will be many who are beyond assistance. I am referring to the persons who require institutionalization. Sadly, our laws prevent involuntary medical intervention.

Progress has its own issues, too. There is truth to the line from the film Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.” Even if we achieve a degree of success, there is a risk: we will create a magnet for new waves of homeless persons from other regions, which would offset, if not overwhelm, our capacity to deal with the problem.

Triage is the practical approach, then. Help the homeless in manageable increments. Also, a one-size-fits-all style of housing will not work. Everything from dormitories to well-organized, military-type camps must be considered. Experimentation will be required. We should not hand over a billion dollars until officials can provide evidence of success on a limited scale first.

Lastly, we must not dig ourselves a deeper hole. It is absolute insanity to encourage the destruction of serviceable, affordable housing units, as the city presently does. I was heartened to hear the news that the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative received many more signatures than necessary to qualify for the March 2017 ballot. Without it, our elected officials would be content to create the next generation of homeless in exchange for campaign contributions from developers.

And you are unlikely to find a homeless politician in this city or any other.

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I saw, first-hand, the reaction of a neighborhood group to the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (NII).

Jill Stewart, former managing editor of the LA Weekly and now the campaign manager for the proposed measure, delivered a crisp presentation about the initiative to the Valley Village Homeowners Association on April 20th.

It was not a one-way affair; Stewart fielded at least twenty questions from the roughly fifty members in attendance for the Association’s quarterly general meeting. The questions reflected a strong interest in the subject. Her answers were frank and there appeared to be no reservations about them from the attendees. Thirty-six signed up to receive more information about the initiative.

As with any ordinance, whether initiated by the City Council or through a ballot measure, subsequent enforcement is critical.

For example, even though I am pleased with the proposed draft ordinance to deal with the problem of short-term rentals, will the city apply adequate resources to assure compliance if the proposal becomes law? God knows there is little or none in my neck of the woods. One such rental was cited by the City Housing Department last September. It was referred to the City Attorney’s office soon after, but continues to operate today.

Section 11 of the NII enables an aggrieved person to take legal action against any violation of its provisions. Therefore, it would behoove the city to adequately staff its Planning Department to ensure thorough and timely reviews of developer requests for amendments.

Stewart told the audience that developers are not going to pack up and leave the city rather than work within NII’s rules. The city will still be a good place to build, as it has always been.

I can tell you that builders still find Valley Village desirable even though the community has a formidable Specific Plan, especially with regards to multi-unit housing, the SB 1818 density bonus notwithstanding.

What about the additional planners the city should hire?

Stewart pointed out how large the mayoral and City Council staffs are – around 500 in total, a number higher than that of the entire White House staff (I confirmed 474 from a 2015 report provided to Congress). She suggested shifting some of the budget over to Planning. Checking the Planning department’s 2015-16 budget, it has 268 authorized positions of all types. It is not typical to have executive support staff outnumber employees of a department providing a critical service.

It will be interesting to learn of the feedback from various homeowner associations and neighborhood councils around town as the NII organizers make the rounds.

If they have the same success in reaching out to them as Stewart appears to have achieved with Valley Village, then they will develop a diverse network comprised of knowledgeable people with a passion for protecting their quality of life.

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Ten and Done

Ten years are enough. I am resigning from the board of Neighborhood Council Valley Village as of the end of this calendar year.

I was part of the founding board. That was back in October 2003. I have served as Treasurer from the formation.

I was a reluctant candidate that year. As a matter of fact, I entered as a write-in at the last possible moment.

The turnout in 2003 was somewhere around 20. It exploded in 2005 when mansionization became a hot topic. A pro-development slate bent on allowing mega-homes on small lots mounted an aggressive effort to control the board. They succeeded in winning a slim majority. My at-large seat was the most competitive as I was up against the slate’s heavyweight. I won by 11 votes. My opponent and I each racked up over 400 votes.

What I recall the most from that contest was the bitterness of the third place finisher. He mustered barely 70 votes. He was an attorney and threatened to sue me for allegedly engaging in “dirty tricks.” Quite an accusation when you consider I was away for almost all of the campaign while dealing with a serious family medical emergency. Nothing ever came of it, but he did file a protest through the Independent Election Administrator. No documentation was provided as there was no cause.

Mansionization continued to dominate the council’s agendas. Heated meetings ensued. Angry and divided factions filled the Colfax School auditorium. The pro-mansionization Orthodox Jewish community engaged in rancorous exchanges with the rest of the neighborhoods. It was an ugly time for Valley Village.

The pro-mansionization faction reached too far and passed a motion that would allow different floor area ratio standards, which would create two communities with divergent objectives.

The motion, although approved, was unenforceable, but it did galvanize the residents of Valley Village to come out in force in 2007. Over 1,000 votes were cast. The pro-mansionization slate was crushed. I received around 900 votes.

Along with my allies and colleagues, we saturated the neighborhoods with flyers in the days and weeks leading up to the election. We left nothing to chance. After all, the future character of Valley Village was at stake.

Since then, election turnouts have been in the hundreds. I have earned the highest vote counts over the last three elections. Overall, Valley Village has consistently led the north and south Valley NC regions in turnout. The total population of the community is about 23,000. I would be willing to bet we have the highest average per capita turnout in the entire system and higher than experienced in some precincts in citywide elections.

Mansionization was not the only battle we faced. Our board was firmly against Measure B, the selfish scheme of IBEW’s Brian D’arcy to featherbed his local’s employment numbers. We fought for the construction of the Orange Line, one of the most useful and successful of transit projects in the city. There were many other issues as well, but our involvement always had a common denominator – sound management and constructive participation at both the board and committee levels.

I am proud to have served the stakeholders and appreciated the opportunity to work with such competent colleagues. I also respect those who held opposing views – they stepped up to represent their constituents in the true spirit of grassroots activism.

I will remain an active stakeholder and continue to write about local and NC developments – there will never be a shortage of topics.

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I always use metro rail whenever I have business somewhere along the Red Line; the same for the Orange Line, too.

I recently started a route of epic proportions – from North Hollywood to El Segundo – the Red Line to the Blue Line to the Green Line.

In a way, this commute tops the one I did back in 2001 when I traveled from North Hollywood to Irvine via the Red Line and Amtrak….three lines vs. two.

My one way door-to-door trip is 90 minutes. That’s literally from my front door to the client’s office. However, there are occasional delays which lengthen the traveling time, but no more than 15 minutes. That was true until today.

There was police action that shut down the Red Line segment between Hollywood/Highland and Hollywood/Vine today. It cost me 30 minutes, but that wasn’t the worst of it. It was how MTA failed to deal with the fiasco that followed.

I swiped my TAP card and proceeded down the stairs to the NoHo station platform about 7AM. It seemed more crowded than usual.

There were no messages on the video screen, only a muffled announcement about the police action. It took a few times, but I was able to finally learn the full extent of the problem and the proposed workaround. Metro would transfer passengers from Highland to Vine via regular bus service. Actually, it’s a fairly short walk, so that is what I planned to do.

It sounded like a decent plan. There was only one problem – it didn’t happen.

Instead, a train sat with its doors closed. No announcements were made as to when it might be leaving. Patrons were getting frustrated.

All the while, more bodies piled on to the platform as the Orange Line emptied its loads on the surface.

Another train pulled in. This one kept its doors open and people boarded en masse. Still no announcement from Metro as to which train would pull away.

After the cars filled up, there was still a throng on the platform. Finally the doors opened on the empty train. It was then people sensed it could be the first one out. That triggered a mad rush as the passengers from the other consist pushed and shoved through the doors and surged across the platform. More people streamed down the stairs from above. It reminded me of a scene from World War Z where hordes of zombies rush through crowded streets in pursuit of live human beings.

It was then that I finally heard a muted announcement about regular service being restored.

The overcrowded train finally pulled away.

Throughout the entire event, there were no MTA personnel or County sheriffs in sight.

It was a total failure in crowd control.

To my knowledge, no one was hurt, but another ten minutes could have changed the picture as more riders entered the station.

I complained to County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office. I received a call from an MTA representative the very next day. The person promised it would be investigated.

I also complained about the lack of parking at the NoHo Red Line station. A few years ago, Yaroslavsky promised additional parking. If anything, more spots were switched to permit status, meaning that average working people were crowded out from the lot.

Before MTA spends a dime on the subway to the sea, East Valley residents should insist that Measure R funds are used to double the size of the unrestricted parking at the station.

It would be nice if Zev addresses this before he leaves office.

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We joined DWP’s CEO Ron Nichols and community representatives for a walk around the Lake Hollywood Reservoir this morning.

Lake Hollywood with the Hollywood sign in the background.

Lake Hollywood with the Hollywood sign in the background.

The setting is a hidden gem. It is hard to believe it is nearly surrounded by urban sprawl.

We learned a little history along the way. The dam was built in the 1920s under the supervision of William Mulholland. The ill-fated St. Francis Dam was a sister facility. The water depth is around 150 feet, but none of the supply comes from the Owens Valley – it is all local. Owens Valley water is stored in adjacent underground tanks.

The reservoir is for emergency use only. It would have to undergo chlorination treatment before distribution. The water is readily available for fighting fires.

The walk is about 3 miles over a level service road, but there is no access to the shoreline due to the presence of a chain link security fence topped with barbed wire. However, the fence does not obstruct the fine views. There are plenty of mature trees offering shade.

The gates open at 6:30 AM. The best access is from Barham. You can also approach the lake off Cahuenga near the Ford Amphitheater, but be prepared to drive up very narrow and winding residential streets.

Access near Barham Blvd.

Access near Barham Blvd.

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