The Northridge Earthquake at 20: Lessons Learned From a Day Nobody Will Ever Forget

Twenty years ago, southern California was rocked by the Northridge Earthquake that stands as one of the costliest natural disasters in United States’ history. Centered in Reseda, its impact was felt across the City as freeways, hospitals, schools were closed. Ruptured gas lines sparked hundreds of fires.  Power was unavailable.

The quake’s human cost was enormous.  It caused some 57 deaths, 8,700 injuries and 1,600 hospitalizations. And more than $20 billion in damage.

No one who lived through it will ever forget it, and our collective memory of it helps define us as a City. For me, it touched off the legislative effort to bring $14 billion in federal aid to the San Fernando Valley, and a lifelong commitment to promoting disaster preparedness in my community.

A row of cars is crushed beneath a collapsed apartment building in Canoga Park. (Los Angeles Times)

It’s been said the earthquake was felt as far as Nevada. I know it was felt as far away as Washington DC.  That’s where I was when I received a call from a friend at CNN who told me “your district is collapsing.” You see, I was working for Congressman Howard Berman, who represented the San Fernando Valley at the time.

With his District Office red-tagged, Howard set up shop in the old San Fernando jail, distributing water and supplies to Valley residents in need while helping to coordinate a massive relief effort involving every level of government. A seasoned legislator, he was the point person for the San Fernando Valley relief bill, and in Washington, I dropped everything to focus on that important work. Putting the bill together was an intense and challenging experience but with the help of the late Congressman Julian Dixon, the top ranking California Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others, we prevailed.

Getting the money was just part of the equation, another quotient involved actually delivering the aid. I had the privilege of working very closely with the staff and leadership of FEMA, including former Director James Lee Witt, who I just reminisced with yesterday at the Northridge 20 Symposium. This was not the FEMA which was slow to respond to Hurricane Katrina; with Congressman Berman pulling the levers in Congress, a veritable alphabet soup of local, state and federal government agencies quickly coordinated together to ensure that predictions of gloom and doom in the San Fernando Valley would never come true, piecing together what would become the largest ever disaster relief package to that date.

We rebuilt. And we’re stronger than ever. 

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Today's Internship Leads to Tomorrow's Job Opportunity

There is no greater privilege than representing the San Fernando Valley on the Los Angeles City Council. Oftentimes I am asked what advice I have for students who are looking to make a difference in their community. The answer is simple—take advantage of the myriad opportunities to engage in the process.

Our internship program offers high school and college students a unique opportunity to experience the work of a City Council office. The program exposes students to district and legislative office operations and activities of a Councilmember's work. These experiences include working with constituents, conducting community outreach efforts, assisting community based organizations, organizing civic events and projects, databases, staffing the office, and other activities.

Many legislators and senior policy staff began their careers as interns. In my own office, many of our staff started out as interns in my Council or Assembly office, including my Community Affairs Director Michael Owens, Legislative Deputy Erik Rodriguez, and Field Deputy Safi Lodin. Our newest staff member, Arielle Bernard, who handles our Jewish Community outreach and serves as Tarzana field deputy, started as an intern just last summer. Other Team Blumenfield interns have since gone on to top colleges and have had successful careers working for State Senators, Members of Congress, and even the United States Geological Service.

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St Mel's Seniors Enjoy Holiday Outing with Blumenfield Bus

I was pleased to provide bus transportation for seniors at St. Mel Catholic Church in Woodland Hills to see a dinner theater production of "Because It's Christmas" at the Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont, CA.

Members of St. Mel Catholic Church in Woodland Hills board a bus bound for the Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont

To assist nonprofits, schools, and senior organizations in his district, I set aside a limited amount of funds each year to provide special bus transportation to events or outings. This is to encourage groups that might otherwise have access issues take advantage of educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities in the area. You can request to be a part of this program at:

Thanks to Hope C'Dealva-Lenik St. Mel's Adult Club Trip Coordinator, for sending us pictures of their outing.

More pictures after the jump:


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Blumenfield Raises Awareness as Los Angeles Becomes the Biggest City to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags

As we ring in the new year tonight, Los Angeles will become the largest city in the nation to ban single-use plastic carryout bags. Councilmember Bob Blumenfield has been working to raise awareness ahead of the ban, and encourage shoppers to use reusable bags. 

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield bags groceries at Vons Supermarket in Canoga Park on December 20, 2013.

Starting January 1, 2014, large grocery stores and pharmacies in the City of Los Angeles will no longer be able to provide customers with single-use plastic carryout bags and will charge $0.10 for each paper carryout bag requested by the customer. On July 1, 2014, small retailers that sell groceries will need to meet the same requirements. 

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Winter and Holiday Energy Saving Tips

With the holiday and winter season upon us, it's more important than ever to use energy wisely and save money in the process. Here are a few simple ways to keep electricity costs down while having a safe and festive holiday season:

  • Use LED holiday lights, which last longer and use about 70% less energy than incandescent light strings both indoors and outside. For extra savings, install a timer and set your holiday lights to automatically turn on and off at specific times.
  • Insulate your home this winter by sealing up cracks and plugging leaks to prevent heat from escaping through windows and doors. Take advantage of LADWP rebates for energy efficient windows and whole house energy retrofits.

  • In the kitchen, use the right size pot for each stove burner and check the progress of dishes in the oven by using the oven light instead of opening the door, which allows heat to escape and wastes energy.

  • Cold outside? Snuggle under blankets instead of turning up the heat.

  • Turn down your thermostat when guests come over, since all those people in your house will keep it warm.

  • Install a programmable thermostat for your heater and program it with an energy savings schedule.

  • Turn off your outdoor and indoor holiday lights when you’re not home. This is also a good safety precaution to prevent an electrical fire and use a power strip for electronics and holiday lights, and be sure to turn it off when not in use.

LADWP offers a variety of rebates and programs for our residential customers including ebates and incentives for appliances, building products, heating & cooling, landscape & irrigation, pool pumps, and toilets. You can learn more here.

Central City Association on Councilmember Blumenfield: Good Governance Personified

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield was profiled in the most recent edition of "Advocacy & Action", a newsletter published by the Central City Association of Los Angeles, highlighting a September talk with CCA's Executive Committee:

In September, newly-elected Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield addressed CCA’s Executive Committee on his priorities in office and his overall philosophical approach to good governance. In his introductory remarks, Councilmember Blumenfield stressed that the “essence of good government” means “getting to yes.”

Sean Foley, U.S. Bank; Rob Jernigan, Gensler; Carol Schatz, CCA; Councilmember Bob Blumenfield; Martha Escutia, USC; Tim McOsker, Mayer Brown.

Sean Foley, U.S. Bank; Rob Jernigan, Gensler; Carol Schatz, CCA; Councilmember Bob Blumenfield; Martha Escutia, USC; Tim McOsker, Mayer Brown.

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Operation Gratitude: Giving Back to Our Troops All Year Long

This past weekend I had the opportunity to join my friends at Operation Gratitude as they passed their millionth care-package milestone--a significant accomplishment for this organization that does so much to give back to the men and women of our military.

I've had the opportunity to work with Operation Gratitude for many years, dating back to my time working on veterans issues as Congressman Howard Berman's District Director. Since 2003, Operation Gratitude has sent more than 100,000 care packages each year to our service men and women deployed in hostile regions, to their children and to our veterans, first responders, wounded warriors and their care givers. Care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation have lifted morale and brought countless smiles to the faces of those who have sacrificed for our Nation.

My friend and Veterans Community Action Team (CAT) Chairman, Art Sherman, was given the important honor of laying down a memorial wreath to honor fallen Vietnam veterans at the ceremonial wall exhibit. Another Veterans CAT member, Angel Cuevas serves as Director of Strategic Operations for Operation Gratitude, and I’m excited to continue to work with Art and Angel and our entire Veterans CAT to ensure that LA leads the way on veterans’ issues.

It’s been my honor to have been involved with this initiative for many years, now. Thank you to Operation Gratitude’s founder and president Carolyn Blashek for inviting me to participate in this milestone achievement.

Cilck here for more information on how you can get involved in our Veterans Community Action Team, or call my Emergency Preparedness Field Deputy, Erik Rodriguez at (818) 774-4330.

Check out a photo gallery from the event after the jump:

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LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS: Why L.A. must build a Wi-Fi network

That same day, the Los Angeles City Council took an important step toward making a critical investment in our city’s virtual infrastructure that will ensure Los Angeles’s competitiveness in the 21st century. The council voted unanimously to move my proposal to bring community broadband with potential for fiber and wireless capability forward by inviting the private sector to submit plans for partnering with the city on this project.

Citywide broadband presents an enormous opportunity for L.A. to bridge the digital divide, create economic opportunity and attract new tourism dollars. It has the potential to transform the city, create jobs and make us economically competitive.

Other cities, from Philadelphia, and from Corpus Christi, Texas, are already experimenting with their own versions of wireless community broadband. L.A. would be by far the biggest city to do this and we would set the standard.

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Traffic Advisory for Presidential Visit

8077383256_79d474f6ea_o.jpgPresident Obama will be touching down in Los Angeles Monday afternoon for a two-day swing through Southern California. Although the President is not expected to be in the West Valley, please note expected traffic delays across the City. 

From the LAPD: 

Los Angeles.  Los Angeles Police Department advises Los Angeles motorists to expect traffic delays during the anticipated visit of the President of the United States.

On Monday, Nov. 25, President Barack Obama will arrive in Los Angeles for two days in order to attend several functions in the area.  Although specific details about his destinations are not available for security reasons, the following information is provided to assist community members who may have a need to travel in areas where the President may be traveling. 

Every effort to minimize traffic impacts will be employed while the President travels through the City.  It is anticipated that the following streets may be affected and may experience temporary closures to facilitate the safe passage of the President.  Motorists are encouraged to review the following information and make necessary plans to avoid those areas during time periods where traffic may be stopped or congested due to the Presidential motorcade.

The dates, times and areas on the second page of this advisory are provided as a general guide and are subject to change without notice.  It is our intent to provide the best possible information to the public without compromising the safety of the President.  The public’s cooperation is greatly appreciated.

Street issues:

On Monday, Nov. 25, from 4 -5 p.m., the streets surrounding Los Angeles International (LAX) Airport are likely to be affected.  

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TIME Magazine Covers Councilmember Blumenfield's Citywide Broadband Initiative

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield's proposal to bring citywide broadband to Los Angeles is featured in the November 25th issue of TIME Magazine, on newsstands now:

Los Angeles has a plan to speed up its traffic, but it doesn't involve any freeways. The city is launching an ambitious project to bring broadband Internet service to its residents and businesses that's roughly 100 times as fast as the average U.S. connection.

Doing so requires running fiber-optic lines--which transmit data much faster than copper cables--throughout the city. The proposal's cost, estimated at $3 billion to $5 billion, would be picked up by the company that wins the right to provide gigabit-speed Internet, TV and phone service. "This effort is hugely important for our economy," says L.A. city council member Bob Blumenfield, who is spearheading the effort.

Read more: Broadband Boost - TIME (login required)

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