Update- Dockless Scooters in Los Angeles

Yesterday, the City Council adopted formal regulations for a pilot program that creates rules and regulations for operators of electric scooter and bikeshare systems across Los Angeles. Except for a limited bikeshare pilot at Cal State Northridge, the West Valley hasn’t seen many of these vehicles, but that could change in the near future. Dockless scooters, as well as electric and pedal bikes, can be a game changer by providing alternatives to driving for short, local trips and enhancing connections to the Orange Line and other transit. While Los Angeles needs to embrace more mobility options, it must also work to ensure the safety of riders and pedestrians.

As Chair of the Public Works Committee, I (and my staff) spend many hours working to craft a sensible set of regulations. In recent months, two companies have flooded the Westside with thousands of scooters; I worked to ensure that companies that are playing by the rules and waiting for the City to act are not boxed out of markets but are able to obtain temporary permits. In addition, the program includes the following important elements:

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Los Angeles Must Embrace Dockless Scooters with Sensible Safety Regulations

Over the past few months, the dockless electric scooter movement has swept across Southern California. We don’t know whether this is just a fad like the Segway or a long-term addition to our transportation landscape. Like other cities, Los Angeles is grappling with how to facilitate this new alternative transport mode, while also ensuring public safety and common sense regulations. I believe that dockless scooters, as well as other personal mobility services such as electric bicycles, have a future in Los Angeles and can be an asset to our transportation network, but require strong safety regulations and accountability.

Many Angelenos are zipping around town on these scooters-and they appear to be having a lot of fun. I was recently running late for a meeting; I pulled out my phone, opened an app, rented a scooter, and rolled to my destination without using a car, without breaking a sweat, and with a smile on my face. These scooters can be a game changer.

Los Angeles needs alternatives to driving, including electric scooters. Cars generate up to a third of our greenhouse gas emissions, which concerns me as an environmentalist committed to battling climate change. We suffer from crushing traffic congestion, yet nearly half of all trips in the Los Angeles area are less than 3 miles. Scooters can take cars off the road, and can be especially useful for ‘first and last mile’ connections between transit stations and our homes, jobs and schools.

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Neighborhood Watches Help Prevent Crime and Bring Communities Closer

-Published in Valley News Group Publications Week of July 3rd, 2018-

In the West San Fernando Valley, we are fortunate to have many of the city’s safest neighborhoods. One way these communities have worked together to prevent crime is by forming neighborhood watches, locally organized residents who work with the Senior Lead Officers at LAPD and my office.  For example, last week I walked a stretch of the Los Angeles River with the Kittridge Neighborhood Watch led by Evelyn Aleman and LAPD Senior Lead Officer Bocanegra. This group literally “walks the walk” to report problems that need fixing, whether broken lights, accumulated trash, or vandalism.

In College Acres, an active group of resident volunteers make nightly rounds and have taken pride in their community. Some of their efforts are as simple as walking their dogs in the evening and keeping an eye on things. They have added visibility by wearing safety vests that say neighborhood watch. I liked that idea so much that I have purchased safety vests in bulk for other neighborhood watch groups that wish to do regular walks or patrols. If you are part of a watch group that wants to wear those vests while patrolling your neighborhood, give my office a call.

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Update on the Creation of the Warner Center Implementation Board

-Published in Valley News Group Publications Week of June 12, 2018-

I am happy to announce that on Wednesday, June 13th, the City Council voted to approve the ordinance which establishes the Warner Center 2035 Plan Implementation Board. This has been a herculean undertaking, and finally puts one of the last pieces in place to implement the vision of the Warner Center 2035 Plan (the Plan). This is long overdue.

The board, which will be made up of by a wide variety of community stakeholders, will provide a community-based entity that will ensure transparency and needed local input on how mitigations under the Plan will be identified and prioritized. This includes how funds from development within Warner Center will be utilized and leveraged to complete mitigations quickly and efficiently. The majority of these mitigations are related to necessary transit and transportation improvements required under the Plan, as well as how the area is marketed and beautification is completed and maintained.  In addition, this board will assist in establishing the Neighborhood Protection Plans for the surrounding neighborhoods, provide oversight of City Department’s implementation of the Plan, and proffer general advice on how to make sure the objectives of the Plan are met.

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LAHSA Releases New Homeless Count Statistics- What They Mean for the West Valley

-Published by the Valley News Group on 5-31-18-

Homelessness continues to be ‘the’ issue and on Thursday May 31st, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released their annual count, illuminating the evolving emergency.

The big news, according to LAHSA, is 5% fewer people live on LA’s city streets – down from 33,138 in 2017 to 31,516 in 2018. As a region, Los Angeles County reduced homelessness from 55,048 to 53,195 - a -3% change over the last year. This is the first decrease in 4 years and a step in the right direction.

In my district, the count fell from 629 to 608, again the lowest in the city, a -3% change and welcome progress. However, I share the frustrations I hear from my constituents that change isn’t happening fast enough as we see people at freeway underpasses and RV’s on commercial corridors. Panhandling or loitering seem to be growing despite the Count’s good news. Valley homelessness impacts our community’s quality of life and must be addressed. 

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Ending Blight from “Donation” Bins

-Published by the Valley New Group-

From outside convenience stores, to strip malls, to parishes, it is easy to find donation bins on private lots throughout Los Angeles fixed with the D.A.R.E logo or another from a reputable organization. Many have trash strewn about nearby or have collected items left behind by those less fortunate. These bins are not allowed in the right-of-way but these donation bins have become a prevalent blight in parking lots in the West Valley and our entire region. I have heard from concerned residents about this issue. Their concern didn’t stem from seeing donation bins in the parking lots, rather it was because they became magnets for trash, bulky items and homeless encampments growing nearby. Over the past few months, my staff and I have been investigating who exactly owns these bins, how they got there, whether the donated goods actually go to good causes, and when they are sources of blight, what can we do to remove them from private land. The results are not what many would expect.

The first fact is that the goods are not directly given to people in need. We found that organizations like D.A.R.E hold licensing agreements with consignment companies such as Unirag that sell the goods for profit. These companies have gone around to businesses, sometimes without the permission of the property owners, and placed these bins on their private property, as well as in the public right of way (without City authorization). They slap a big D.A.R.E logo on it to convey legitimacy. But there have been serious problems between these companies and business owners even if authorization to place bins was given. 

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Update on the Promenade 2035 Plan

Recently, the Department of City Planning (DCP) released the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Promenade 2035 project in Warner Center. Westfield's Promenade 2035 master plan offers great potential for the West Valley, however it is important for all of us to understand the risks and benefits that a project of this scale and breadth entails. The release of the DEIR is welcome and needed, and is a key step in evaluating how this project could impact the West Valley. There is a lot of information to digest and we are working closely with the Department of City Planning to understand the document and suggested mitigations.

It comes as no surprise that impacts on traffic and noise pollution were identified and will need to be a major part of the conversation around this project. These issues are important to address and I will continue to press Westfield to create viable and creative solutions to do so.

I encourage our community members to review the documentation and comment by June 11th on any concerns or thoughts you have related to Westfield's DEIR. This community feedback is important to the process and to me in order to ensure that your ideas are heard and taken into consideration. Robust feedback on this DEIR will enable us as a community to work closely with Westfield to make their project better for our community.

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Democracy Depends on Independent Journalism by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield

- Published by the Valley News Group -

While some people think of journalists and elected officials as rivals or ‘hunter and hunted’- the truth is we are symbiotic. Consequently, I have a front row seat and stake in what it happening to the ‘fourth estate,’ and I am very concerned.

When I was 9 years old, my life changed because I signed up to be a youth reporter with ‘Children's Express.’ Through this great opportunity, I learned so much including interview techniques, research skills, and how to investigate and report. I also learned that every story has different perspectives. Though I eventually chose a different professional path, I have always had the utmost respect for journalists and have tried to continue those values in my life. Now, as a policy maker, I rely on independent journalism to help me do my job. I fear that if the current trend continues, we will have fewer reliable sources shining the light on the critical issues of the day. This is particularly important in a city as big and sprawling as Los Angeles. Good policies happen when the electorate is informed and engaged.

Over the past few months, local journalism in Los Angeles has experienced a severe shock. From deep personnel cuts at the Southern California News Groups and LA Weekly, to the loss of the LAist and the EGP News, to chronic upheaval between the LA Times newsroom and Tronc, we have seen a steady weakening of crucial local institutions.  Though it is very hopeful to read that the LA Times is poised to return to local ownership soon, our region is losing important platforms and seasoned reporters and, if this trend continues, the health and wellbeing of our civic institutions will be at risk. We rely on local journalists to hold decision makers like me accountable and ensure transparency. Our democracy depends on it. We can’t take good, quality, independent journalism for granted because if we do, it will be gone.

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Reimagine Ventura Report is Here

Ventura Boulevard is the San Fernando Valley’s Main Street, and it’s iconic enough that it easily goes the by “the Boulevard” or just “Ventura.” But this area, specifically the western most portion, has the potential to be even better. I welcome the opportunity to help it thrive with my “Reimagine Ventura Boulevard” initiative.

The goal of the “Reimagine” efforts is to create a small town Main Street for Woodland Hills and to help support local business with additional parking, enhanced landscaping, and safer, better access for pedestrians. The idea was sparked by the members of the Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council who believed that parts of Ventura Blvd. needed a clear vision for it's small town main street and believed diagonally parking could help with that vision.

After about a year of community meetings and thorough traffic studies, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and expert consultants have released their report detailing some proposed changes to Ventura Blvd. between Royer and Sale Ave. which would create new parking, street trees, landscaping, and better protect pedestrians with new crosswalks and signals.

Over the next several months plans will be finalized, landscaping designed, and funding sought to make this community initiated project to move forward. Nothing in life is prefect so course corrections may occur to make this part of the Boulevard shine brighter. The striping and parking would be fashioned a pilot program to help insure flexibility.

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Reimagine Ventura Boulevard – The Commercial Heart of the San Fernando Valley Deserves Attention

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Ventura Boulevard holds a special place in the hearts and minds of most San Fernando Valley residents. Date night at Monty’s Steakhouse. Taking the kids for a games at Corbin Bowl or Bowlero. Ordering a custom birthday cake at Bea’s Bakery. Picking up the keys to your first new car at Vista Ford. All of these things happen on Ventura Boulevard. It is the San Fernando Valley’s Main Street, and it’s iconic enough that it easily goes the by “the Boulevard” or just “Ventura.” But this area has the potential to be even better, and I welcome the opportunity to help it thrive, both with my “Reimagine Ventura Boulevard” initiative, and eventually with appropriate updates to the area’s Ventura-Cahuenga Corridor Specific Plan.

Both “Reimagine Ventura” and opening the Specific Plan were ideas spawned by neighborhood businesses and concerned residents.  Our “Reimagine” efforts were sparked by the Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council, and the Specific Plan update request came from the Tarzana Neighborhood Council. I was more than ready to embrace these ideas, especially considering the local support driving them, and through these grassroots discussions, we can make a positive mark on our community.

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