Coalition to Preserve LA, a citywide organization of several thousand residents who advocate for transparent government, filed on January 14, 2019 a request with the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury to open a wide-ranging investigation into corruption in L.A. City Hall’s land-development approval process.
The Coalition is asking the panel to probe unusually large projects proposed or approved in Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and South L.A. amidst unusual circumstances, including the seeking of, or receiving of, city approvals for exemptions from existing zoning laws, state environmental laws and local planning standards.
We urge the Los Angeles City Council PLUM Committee, which denies or approves major projects, to delay highly questionable projects before it in which large cash donations are being made to city officials, including a proposal scheduled for a City Hall hearing tomorrow, January 15 — the Crossroads triple-skyscraper in Hollywood.
We also urge the City’s Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) and the Los Angeles City Planning Commission to delay placing on the calendar the controversial Millennium towers (Hollywood Center), being proposed atop the Hollywood Earthquake Fault by the very developers who built San Francisco’s infamous Millennium skyscraper. That tower is now significantly tilting and is the subject of 80 lawsuits.
“Our own investigation of pay-to-play shows that Crossroads and other projects ride through approvals on a river of cash donations, and wining and dining of officials including Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Curren Price who are under investigation — as well as officials not yet named in the investigation,” said Coalition to Preserve LA executive director Jill Stewart.
Huizar was stripped of his chairmanship of the PLUM Committee in November after his home and office were raided by the FBI. Now, PLUM member Curren Price has also been swept into the FBI probe, which is seeking information on possible bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes.
Also named in the FBI investigation was Garcetti’s former Deputy Mayor Ray Chan, a controversial figure whose son landed an internship with lobbyists for Millennium towers, proposed atop the Hollywood Earthquake Fault. Chan told an interviewer with The Planning Report that in Los Angeles, “developers are the customer.”
How far will developers go in L.A.?
The Coalition to Preserve LA has been the subject of an intimidation attempt by Councilman Curren Price’s wife Del Richardson, whose company works closely with developers to remove tenants to make way for gentrification projects.
Del Richardson’s attorney, Clifton Albright, in 2018 threatened the Coalition in writing if it continued to criticize Richardson for pressuring Latino families to move out of an 80-unit community that stands in the way of the Crossroads skyscrapers.
Albright demanded that “Preserve L.A. cease and desist from further publishing and making similar assertions that place Del Richardson Associates in a false light.”
But in fact, Stewart notes, “The Coalition is protected under freedom of speech and California’s anti-SLAPP laws, to unmask the behavior of public figures such as Price’s wife as it fights for equitable housing, non-corrupt planning and government transparency.”
PLUM Committee member Price’s wife, Richardson, moved her operations inside the historic apartment complex of 80 Latino families who have lived there for decades, obtained their phone numbers without their permission, and pressured them to accept as little as $800 as “cash for keys.”
Under the state Ellis Act, the families are due at least $8,000 each for relocation.
Los Angeles Tenants Union verified that Crossroads tenants were forced to sign cash-for-keys agreements in English, even if English was not their first language; were not informed of their Ellis Act rights; and were followed by a Del Richardson employee as tenants walked to a tenant-organizing meeting.
The historic Latino community that would be wiped out by Crossroads, known as the Las Palmas Courtyard Apartments, has thrived for decades, and its multi-generational families have pushed back against gangs.
Yet their community was dismissed by Garcetti-appointed City Planning Commissioner Marc Mitchell in a racially toned criticism as “a dormant area of Hollywood — and it doesn’t need to be.”
From 2013 through 2016 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and his staff held multiple private meetings with Morton La Kretz, founder of Crossroads Management; Crossroads executive Linda Duttenhaver, Crossroads Management attorney, Jerry Neuman; Harridge executive David Schwartzman and developer lobbyist Kyndra Casper.
During that period, Crossroads developers showered key Councilmembers and Garcetti with $16,500 in campaign cash — and far more in lobbying wining and dining, according to city records obtained by the Coalition.
On Saturday, the story of the expanding FBI investigation into pay-to-play was broken by a Georgetown University professor on Twitter. Seamus Hughes named nine high-ranking current and former Los Angeles officials under investigation in a growing “pay-to-play” corruption probe of land deals. They include City Councilman Jose Huizar; Eric Garcetti’s recently retired Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, City Councilman Curren Price; Board of Public Works Commissioner Joel Jacinto and his wife Ave Jacintino; Huizar’s Planning Director Shawn Kuk and Huizar’s former Special Assistant George Esparza.
Esparza lashed out at Jose Huizar in the Los Angeles Times today, saying that he quit as Huizar’s assistant a year ago after Huizar “wielded his political power in ways in which, while he apparently had normalized, I did not feel aligned with how I wanted to live my political and personal life … so I got out before I became collateral damage, and I took steps to protect myself.”
Numerous projects are surrounded by controversy and pay-to-play issues, and a few of those projects are:
– Bunker Hill Hotel, the proposed tallest building on the West Coast;
– the $2 billion City Hall Office Tower spearheaded by Huizar to provide questionable high-end luxury offices to city workers on the current site of Parker Center;
– proposed Warner Center luxury housing projects that include zero affordable housing;
– the NoHo West mall and luxury housing development, whose towering digital billboards will shine through curtains of homes up to a quarter-mile away.
– a 26-floor skyscraper on the site of Amoeba Records that would spew extensive pollutants into L.A. but is being called by L.A. officials “a sustainable community” to ease and speed up its approvals.
The ShakeAlertLA app can provide you with critical seconds of warning that an earthquake has begun and shaking is imminent. Alerts are issued when an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or larger is detected by a regional sensor network and shaking is expected to be felt in the Los Angeles area.
Getting a few seconds heads-up can make a big difference if you need to pull to the side of the road, get out of an elevator, or drop, cover, and hold on. Download the app now!
Watch this video of the Mayor announcing ShakeAlertLA app on Facebook:
The Southern California Association of Governments is coordinating with Caltrans & Metro to conduct the I-105 Corridor Sustainability Study. The overall goals include improving mobility, accessability & equity, safety, sustainability and keeping systems in good repair.
They have held some community meetings and have a webinar on the project:
Find out more on the I 105 Corridor Project Website
Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council (HGNNC) teamed with Councilmember Joe Buscaino (Dist. 15) to sponsor 54 fifth grade students and two teachers from Gardena Elementary School for an educational site visit to City Hall on November 30, 2018.
Students visited City Council Chambers, where the Councilman introduced them and took a group photo, then on to the Board of Public Works Hearing Room where they saw the Commissioners in action at their regular meeting. They got an introduction to how city government works and how they can help improve the quality of life in their neighborhood as good citizens. The visit included a tour of the Tom Bradley Room, where students learned about and saw photographs of every Mayor of the City of Los Angeles.
Lunch and recreation at Grand Park near City Hall ended the visit. Students will submit reports on lessons learned to HGNNC before the holiday break. Many thanks for your support to Councilmember Buscaino’s staff and Aksel Palacios, Planning Deputy, Kevin James, Public Works Board President, Octaviano Rios, of EmpowerLA, Pamela Thornton, HGNNC President, Richard Lee, HGNNC Youth Advocate, Dr. (s) Blanca Cantu and Elda Pech, Gardena Elementary Principal and Assistant Principal, respectively, and 5th grade teachers Mrs. Valenzuela and Ms. Perez.
Audio of Public Works Commission Meeting Students are introduced around 00:34
On November 28, 2018 Councilmember Buscaino held a press conference in Harbor Gateway North at the El Segundo Apartments calling for volunteers for January’s Homeless Count. Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council Recording Secretary Rosalie Preston was at the press conference (front left). Hear his comments in this Facebook video:
Councilmember Buscaino reports that there are 32 homeless students at his daughter’s middle school in San Pedro. Student are asking for money or trying to sell products to earn money. There are over 15,000 homeless students across LAUSD. The conversation today about homelessness focuses on the most visible, those on the streets. Students are not as visible.
Supply in housing at all income levels is the only solution that will work. His district is home to the largest public housing developments in the city. In Wilmington they recently opened 176 new units of low income housing. In Watts they are doubling the size of Jordan Downs from 700 to 1,400 units without displacing people. We need to build more housing, but it takes time. What do we do in the meantime?
Our city’s answer is Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Bridge Home Housing. Buscaino has committed to building three bridge homes in Watts, San Pedro and Wilmington. Imagine having to sleep with your child in car. How safe would you feel and how well would you do at work and your child at school the next day? This is why Councilmember Buscaino supports safe parking programs, which include security guards, bathroom facilities and case workers. He is glad that LAUSD is looking at how to provide safe parking at every school with homeless students.
Everyone is invited to volunteer at the Homeless Count on January 23 at 802 W. Gardena Blvd, Gardena. Sign Up Now.
Metro has commissioned a study to explore the potential to roll out an on-demand transit pilot in locations throughout LA County. This is an opportunity to reimagine mobility on a small-scale, and we want you to help us design your ideal service for your community. Check out https://www.gometroondemand.com/ to learn more about the zones we’re looking at and take our survey (the zone closest to us is the greater Watts area, encompassing two of our Green Line stations and the Manchester freeway Silverline station–see map below).
Here are some highlights of what you can expect from this service:
A Personal Touch: In addition to using an app to book a ride, riders also have the option to use a call center to schedule a ride – either on-demand or in advance.
Short Distance: The service will be available in identified service zones, and will provide access for short trips – around 20 minutes or less.
Accessible: While vehicles will be smaller than traditional Metro buses, all vehicles will provide access for wheelchairs and other disabled riders.
TAP-Friendly: Customers will be able to link their Transit Access Pass (TAP) card, which can be used across all other transit service in LA County, to pay for the service.
Help us design your ideal mobility future by learning more about our zones and sharing your input through our survey.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Laura Muna-Landa at 909-627-2974, or LMuna-Landa@ArellanoAssociates.com.
KPCC reported September 30, 2018 on the problem of those who are homeless and employed. They are working, but the cost of housing takes up too much of their income, they have not saved enough for rent deposits, and may have poor credit scores impeding their ability to get housing. Because of the need to look professional for work, they don’t look homeless and they don’t quite know where to turn for assistance. Further, many fear that if their employers knew they were homeless, it might negatively impact their job.
“Los Angeles County has more than 50,000 residents who are homeless. Eight percent of adults surveyed in 2017 said they were working to some degree, mostly in part-time, seasonal or temporary work. Among homeless adults with children, 27 percent said they were working either part or full time,” KPCC reports.
On September 12, 2018, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined with leaders from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and the Department of Health Services to cut the ribbon on the newly constructed KIDS Hub Clinic at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The KIDS Hub provides services to children from birth through age 18 who involved with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
“Today, we recognize, honor, and celebrate the critical services provided by our Pediatric Hub system for vulnerable children throughout the County,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Simply stated: children matter, children come first, and our duty is to be there for them.”
The KIDS Hub provides state-of-the-art expert assessment while reducing trauma to the child victims and their families and evaluates. “The expert medical, forensic evaluations and developmental assessments we provide to identify child abuse and neglect for children involved with DCFS, are key to identifying and protecting at-risk children,” said Kelly Callahan, MD, KIDS Hub Medical Director.
The Harbor-UCLA Medical Center KIDS Hub provides services to children from birth up to age 18, who involved with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). It is part of a Los Angeles County Department of Health Services network of Hub clinics, designed to serve this particularly vulnerable population.
“We are thrilled to recognize the completion of the newest of DHS’ six Hub Clinics. Through our partnerships with the Departments of Mental Health and Children and Family Services, the Hub Clinics provide a vital link to medical care, forensic exams and other health services for the most vulnerable children in our communities,” said Christina Ghaly, MD, Acting Director of Health Services.
The KIDS Hub operates in partnership with the Los Angeles County Departments of Children and Family Services and Mental Health. “DMH is very excited about the expansion and enrichment of the KIDS Hub,” said Jon Sherin, MD, Director of Mental Health. “This additional resource is a critical component of our foster care network and will be an essential part of our ongoing work to prevent and mitigate trauma for children and their families. “
September 5, 2018: It’s a big day for Los Angeles — we’re taking a major step forward in our City’s work to find homes for unsheltered Angelenos, and I wanted you to know.
Today, we are excited to announce the opening of L.A.’s first bridge housing site at El Pueblo, which will open its doors to homeless Angelenos in just a few short days. It is the first facility to open under my plan for temporary emergency housing, A Bridge Home.
A Bridge Home sites are built to be safe and welcoming — offering not just warm beds, meals and hot showers, but also access to mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment, and pet accommodations — as well as around-the-clock, on-site care. Our goal is to help homeless Angelenos recover from the trauma and poverty that forced them onto the streets and put them on a path to supportive housing.
This video explains how the facilities in this program will work:
The housing at El Pueblo will be occupied by people living in encampments in the immediate surrounding area. Residents were identified by outreach teams who have walked the neighborhood’s streets every day for months to connect with homeless Angelenos already living in the community, and prepare them to move indoors.
Today, we have one message for the men and women who will soon move into this facility: Welcome home.
You can read more at LAMayor.org/ABridgeHome.