Coronavirus Updates- 3.17.2020

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, this morning the City Council convened to pass emergency legislation such as an eviction moratorium as well as to come together with city departments to discuss the collective response to the emergency. We plan to continue to meet weekly throughout this crisis and I will update you with steps taken.

Moving forward, the most important thing we can do collectively is continue to abide by social distancing and wash our hands thoroughly. Governor Newsom has advised that everyone over age 65 stay at home, and I urge you to do so if you are over 65 or are immunocompromised in any way. Even if you are young and healthy, for the sake of others and potentially someone you love please take these steps to avoid spreading this virus.

With at least weeks more of these measures projected by the CDC, one of the issues I’m worried about is loneliness among seniors. If you have an elderly family member or neighbor, please give them a call and see if they need anything. Even though my parents live across the street, one thing I’ve started doing is ‘face timing’ with them during dinner so our family can at least share that small but important slice of normalcy while avoiding direct contact.

 

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Preparing for Disasters 26 Years After the Northridge Earthquake

Twenty six years ago today our region was rocked awake by the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake which left 57 dead, almost 9,000 injured and caused billions of dollars of damage up to 90 miles from the epicenter. This event remains one of the worst natural disasters to face our city and this anniversary reminds all of us that these sorts of emergencies can happen at any time.

At the time I was working for Congressman Howard Berman and I will never forget the devastation our community faced. Our office was red-tagged and we converted an old jail into our district office so we could distribute needed supplies as we tried to coordinate multiple levels of relief efforts. From FEMA, SBA to other agencies, we successfully got assistance to help Valley residents but the quake forced us to become a better prepared city for any and all natural disasters we might face in the future.

It was not easy to get a $14 billion aid package approved by Congress- at the time there was a fight about ‘offsets’ that could have severely reduced the amount of funds that would come to our region. We have seen similar fights in Washington around natural disaster funding in recent years. While we avoided the prediction that the San Fernando Valley would become a ghost town, victims of Hurricane Katrina were not as lucky and the government was far less effective. As we have seen fire season expand to year-round in California, I still worry that we need to be more self-reliant.

As climate change continues to make our summers hotter, droughts more severe, and fires larger and unpredictable, emergencies such as fires and floods are more likely and can happen at any time with little to no warning. Every year we see situations like the Woolsey and Hill Fires. Those fires burned approximately 70,000 acres and about 250,000 people were evacuated in total. Within hours people were evacuated and many were housed in my district at locations such as Taft High School, Pierce College, and Canoga Park High School. Also several hundred animals from horses to dogs to turtles had to be rescued.

It didn’t matter that the bulk of the fire was not in the City of Los Angeles. The fire didn’t recognize City boundaries, so my staff and I joined countless volunteers and put boots on the ground to help the victims. Just like the Northridge Earthquake, we saw that a vast amount of Angelenos were under-prepared for emergencies. The ‘Big One’ shouldn’t be treated like a hypothetical- it’s not if, it’s when.
There are easy steps that all of us can take today to be more prepared such as:

• Have a ‘go bag’ in the car and in your home. This includes emergency rations for you and your pets, water, a first aid kit, extra clothes, prescription drugs, batteries and things like a transistor radio.

• Download the new ShakeAlertLA app (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/shakealertla/id1445922632) to your iPhone or Android so you are warned before impending earthquakes.

• Have phone numbers and contact information written down on paper in a safe place.

• Designate a friend or loved one who lives far away to serve as the point of contact for your family to check in with in case local communication is not working properly.

• Put some cash away just in case ATMs/the internet goes down.

If you want to learn more about how to be better prepared for natural disasters and my work on this issue, please go to http://blumenfield.lacity.org/emergency_preparedness.


Blumenfield Responds to False Accusations from Digital Billboard Robocaller

Throughout many communities in LA, a malicious hoax has been perpetrated against Angelenos. An anonymous automated caller has been spreading lies about my position on the digital billboards. To be clear, these messages are outright lies. I continue to stand against the billboard blight and there has not been any new legislation that would allow digital billboards to be put all over our community.

 

Again, this robocall was part of a massive misinformation campaign to confuse and mislead folks about digital billboards. To clear the air, no ordinance has been adopted by the Council. I have not supported allowing digital signage or billboards in our community.

 

The conversation around allowing digital billboards has spanned over a decade and there continues to be ongoing debate about the pros and cons and potential tradeoffs. Councilmember Harris-Dawson recently proposed a framework for potentially allowing digital billboards under strict circumstances, but much will have to be hashed out before the Council even considers this proposal.

 

Removing blight from the West Valley is a priority of mine and before any motion is taken up in City Hall I will always reach out to the community to listen to residents’ thoughts and concerns. I have firmly stood in favor of removing blight from the West Valley- such as when I put a ban on unhitched trailers.

 

Furthermore see the article below by Streetsblog refuting the misinformation campaign: https://la.streetsblog.org/2019/10/18/dont-believe-the-robocalls-electronic-billboards-arent-coming-back-next-year/ 


Equal Pay LA

LOCALLY IMPLEMENTING SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS’ PROPOSAL, COUNCILMEMBER BLUMENFIELD CALLS TO CLOSE GENDER PAY GAP WITH ‘EQUAL PAY LA’

 

LOS ANGELES, CA Inspired by a bold new proposal from US Senator Kamala Harris, today Councilmember Blumenfield launched ‘Equal Pay LA,’ a new local effort, co-presented by Councilmember’s Monica Rodriguez, Mitch O’Farrell and Nury Martinez, to close the gender pay gap and hold bad actors accountable. Currently women in the United States are paid $0.80 cents to the dollar compared to what their male counterparts make and the burden of proof remains on the shoulders of the employee, rather than the employer.

“After hearing about Senator Harris’ proposal to hold corporations accountable for the gender pay gap, I knew Los Angeles should lead the way by implementing her idea locally,” said Blumenfield. “We really need to have a paradigm shift where instead of a worker having to fight for what is right, we should hold corporations accountable for continuing this injustice. Though California has the lowest pay gap compared to other states, anything short of complete equality is unacceptable.”

Councilwoman Nury Martinez said, “Since I’ve been in office, fighting for equal pay has been one of my top priorities. So much that I worked to remove all questions about salary history from City job applications to close the gender wage gap. It is ridiculous that in 2019 women across the United States are still getting paid just $0.80 cents for every dollar paid to men. As a City, taking this important step forward in ensuring women get paid equally as men for a hard day’s work, is the right direction in creating a more equitable future for the next generation. It’s the right thing to do, especially now, when women's rights are under attack.” 

"It's simple -- women deserve to be paid as much as men for equal work," said Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez. "Latinas on average make $0.53 cents for every dollar paid to men. We must close the gender pay gap to ensure that women of all backgrounds are compensated fairly."

According to a recent study on gender pay inequity from the National Partnership for Women and Families, the median annual pay for a woman who holds a full-time, year-round job is $41,977 while the median annual pay for a man who holds a full-time, year-round job is $52,146.

Pay discrepancy is abhorrent when the statistics are broken down by race. African American women are typically paid $0.61 cents, Native American women $0.58 cents and Latinas just $0.53 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Eliminating this pay gap could equate to more than a year of food, seven months of mortgage payments, ten months of rent or one year of tuition at a state college. 

Senator Harris’ proposal outlines how companies would have to obtain an “Equal Pay Certification” and disclose pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If a company is found to be paying workers with similar responsibilities different salaries based on gender, they will be fined 1% of their profits for every 1% wage gap. Those fines would then be reinvested into programs such as paid family leave or medical leave. Blumenfield’s motion specifically directs Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) and the City Attorney’s Office to explore avenues to apply Senator Harris’ proposal to hold businesses accountable on the local level. This includes having local departments report back on options to implement a citywide equal pay law for employers with more than 100 employees, to ensure companies in Los Angeles verify their workers are not paid differently based on gender and using established enforcement mechanisms to expand worker protections.

Currently city ordinances prohibit employment discrimination due to race, ethnicity, religion, marital status among other protected classes, but no city law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work by employers. CA Labor Code § 1197.5 provides a right of action for an individual who has been paid unfairly. The City of Los Angeles would go one step further and place responsibility for compliance on the employer rather than just on the employee. Inequity harms the individual and also negatively impacts the city when there are pay gaps, so it is imperative to ensure that employers comply, and the city should have the ability to take its own punitive action, to address inequity.

Blumenfield concluded, “The time is now to try and correct the institutionalization of pay inequity. Making sure people are paid fairly should not be controversial. My hope is that folks around the country listen to what Senator Harris has proposed and see what we are trying to do here in Los Angeles, so they can work toward a more equitable future in their own communities.”

Councilmember Blumenfield will host a media availability tomorrow, May 23, at noon in the Media Room behind the Council Chamber. Details to follow.

 

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The Need for 85.02

Yesterday the City Council voted unanimously to extend LA Municipal Code 85.02, the law that guides where people can live in their vehicles and prohibits doing so in a residential zone. This law had been in effect for the past few years, but it has to be extended every six months. Unfortunately, it had lapsed for a few weeks during the Council recess because it wasn’t scheduled for its extension vote prior to the recess.

The law itself, 85.02, was a necessity given by a court ruling that vacated the City’s prohibition about dwelling anywhere in the city in one’s vehicle. A few years ago the courts ruled against the city in Desertain v. City of Los Angeles. In response, the Council was forced to draft an ordinance (85.02) to allow people living in vehicles some legal places to go. This was the only way to maintain a prohibition in residential areas. It was meant to be a temporary fix until either enough housing was available to legally allow the city to reinstall its citywide prohibition against vehicle living or until another solution could be found.

According to the most recent LAHSA Homeless Count, there are over 16,000 people across LA County living in their vehicles, many of whom have jobs and are struggling to maintain a sliver of stability. 85.02 isn’t about criminalizing homelessness, it is about making sure that our communities have some basic health and safety protections. Living in one’s vehicle should never be normalized — people need housing and our streets shouldn't be campgrounds. Though the West Valley has fewer homeless people when compared to other communities in the City, my staff and I receive calls about encampments, RV dumped waste, and problematic issues related to people living in vehicles. We also see real people struggling without viable alternatives other than living in their vehicles.

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LAHSA 2019 Homeless Count Results Unveiled- What it Means for the West Valley

Published in Valley News Group Papers June 6, 2019

Anyone who drives Ventura Boulevard, rides the LA River Bike Path, or walks their neighborhood knows that the West Valley is in the midst of a homelessness emergency. Even though the area has fewer homeless people than any other part of the city, it is still a human tragedy for those experiencing homelessness, a quality of life issue for the entire community, and a moral issue that tears at our collective soul.

The 2019 LAHSA Homeless Count results released this week are both awful and frustrating, but they reflect some progress that we must continue to build on.  Homelessness increased 12% in the County to 59,000 people, and 16% in the City to 36,000.  Ventura, Orange and Kern Counties saw double, triple and quadruple the increases we saw in LA County. Throughout the City there was an 8% increase in homeless families and youth homelessness rose 24%. More seniors became homelessness with a 7% increase and folks 55-61 went up almost 20%. Also, the number of homeless women increased 14%. Since 2018, a whopping 63% of homeless people are homeless for the first time and 29% have a serious mental illness or substance abuse disorder. In my district there was a substantial increase from 607 to 885 people on our streets. One of the most shocking facts is that homeless people who have experienced domestic violence (DV) spiked 42%, with well over 12,000 DV victims on our streets.

At the same time, more than 20,000 formerly homeless people now have homes, and 90% of folks who enter Rapid Re-Housing are staying housed. LAHSA has expanded their legal services, helping avoid evictions and mediating with landlords to prevent tenants from becoming homeless. With Prop HHH funds, 10,000 units are in the pipeline and 1,400 supportive units will open this year. But, right now more people are falling into homelessness for the first-time and we must continue to push for more innovative policies that will both help lift people out of homelessness and help prevent people from losing their homes in the first place.

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Are you Interested in Serving our City as a Commissioner or Adviser? Let Us Know

Are you interested in serving as a commissioner or adviser? The City of Los Angeles has many appointed boards that oversee or advise various departments. Most are appointed by the Mayor, but some are appointed by Councilmembers for specific areas or roles.

For example, I am currently reviewing nominations for an appointee for the City of Los Angeles Health Commission which has a mission to determine the health needs of the people of the City of Los Angeles, find out whether those needs are being met, and to help determine the best and most cost effective ways of meeting those needs.

I am also looking to appoint someone to the Community Forest Advisory Committee (CFAC), a committee that works with the City to promote and improve the urban forest, and advises on best practices regarding planting, maintaining and replacing trees.

The Department of Aging seeks older Angelenos to serve on their Advisory Council. When called upon for appointments by the Mayor, I will be happy to recommend residents from the 3rd Council District. A full list of commissions and their members can be found here.

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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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