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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Community Plan Updates in the West Valley

This summer the Department of City Planning (DCP) will begin a conversation with community members and stakeholders about the City’s upcoming update to the Community Plans for the West Valley. These conversations will inform and drive how the City balances needed growth with necessary protections for single family home neighborhoods. Councilmember Blumenfield is working with DCP to ensure that the community plan update process is open, transparent and inclusive. Every step of the way West Valley residents must have an opportunity to stand up and make their voices heard. Few things stir more emotion than decisions about development in our neighborhoods, and Blumenfield wants all of the communities in the West Valley to have all of the information needed to understand and shape the process. 

Blumenfield explained, “We who live in the West Valley love our communities and the updating of the plans must reflect our collective values, priorities, and vision.”

Throughout the summer there will be meetings led by the DCP in the West Valley specifically regarding the Community Plans, continuing the dialogue on the needs future of the West Valley. For more information on the community plan update process as well as tools on how to be a better advocate please go here. Below, please find the meeting in your community and click here to RSVP

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Boething Treeland Farms Proposal

I have become familiar with the Boething Treeland project since it was first proposed in fall of 2016. The process for reviewing this project has only just begun. However I have heard from many neighbors about the proposal and the potential impacts it could create for our area.

It is obvious that this project has raised red flags for me and many others within the neighborhood. As with any development project, one of my foremost concerns is that the project fit into the neighborhood. This project, as proposed, does not meet that criteria as it is out of scale for the neighborhood. The project, as currently proposed, is not acceptable, and does not have my support.

My concerns related to this project are no secret. I spoke about it at a Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization meeting back in January. I have been forthright that I believe that this project will need to be rescaled if it has any chance of fitting in with the community. It will also need to go through an open vetting process with the neighbors and an environmental review before it can gain any support from me.

The project has a long road in front of it, and many important questions to answer regarding its potential impacts. I have raised many concerns with the developer and the Department of City Planning regarding this initial proposal. I have many questions related to how traffic would be handled, what grading impacts would occur, how much open space would be maintained, and how this project would fit into the fabric of our community.

Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg and many more will need to be answered by the owner to justify such a drastic change to what has for decades been private, low impact open space. As someone deeply committed to protecting open space and who used to work for the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy, I believe drastic changes to this site or any open space site must meet a high burden of proof. 

However, I am not blind to the reality that this is private property, and that the site will be redeveloped in some way. Nonetheless, any proposed development must be done appropriately and contextually complement the existing neighborhoods it is a part of. Warner Center is the more appropriate area for density, this area should remain a cherished area of single family homes and community serving services.

I have relayed my concerns to the property owner and developer and I expect them to work with the neighborhood to come to a consensus on what is appropriate for that site. I generally refrain from taking a formal position prior to the Neighborhood Council process and other community vetting out of respect for the process and the dedicated community representative who spend their time analyzing development projects. I hope my expressions of concern about this project will not preempt or undermine their process, but rather serve as guidance to help focus it. Any proposed project must be better aligned with the type of neighborhoods it is part of. I am here to engage and work with the community to help shape a better project for our neighborhood.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to serve as your representative on the Los Angeles City Council.  Serving you and providing the highest level of constituent service is my top priority.  My staff and I always strive to resolve issues and concerns as quickly as possible. Should you have any questions please contact my Director of Planning & Land Use, Andrew Pennington, at (818) 774-4330.

The Environmental Impact Study has just begun and the DCP is taking comments on potential impacts and areas of concern. Please click this link to learn more about this process and know that the comment period lasts until July 20. Please remember this is just the beginning of the process and there will be many more opportunities to voice your opinions. Your engagement in identifying and solving problems is a key component of improving the quality of life in the San Fernando Valley. 


Photos from the Blumenfield Bike Ride

Thanks to everyone who came out for the 4th annual Blumenfield Bike Ride. Below are a few photos from the event.

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Public Safety Town Hall Questions and Answers

Recently, I hosted a Public Safety Town Hall with LAPD Deputy Chief John A. Sherman and the top brass of the West Valley and Topanga Divisions. Due to the two hour time constraint, not all of the submitted questions were able to be asked to our panel. Since I wanted to make sure that all of those questions got answered and shared with all who attended as well as our community members who couldn’t make it, my team and I have prepared written responses to all of the questions.

If you were unable to attend the event, it can be viewed here.

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