Thank you for reaching out to learn more about critical issues. I often hear from the community about the issues listed below. The answers below address certain topics, but only represent some of what I or the City are doing on the issues. If you have further questions or want more information please reach out to me and my team by email or phone (818-774-4330).
How can we get more police enforcement and patrols?
It is important that our law enforcement officers enforce all of the laws on the books. Over the years, various state laws, court decisions, and ballot propositions have changed how the City and LAPD interact with criminals, homeless people, and residents. In 2011, the California Legislature passed AB 109 which shifted parole supervision for certain offenders from the State to County. In 2014, voters passed Proposition 47 which converted many nonviolent offenses, such as drug and property offenses, from felonies to misdemeanors. In 2016, voters passed Proposition 57 which changed the parole and sentencing provisions across the state so that nonviolent prisoners can be released once they serve the full sentence for their primary criminal offense. Both of these voter-passed propositions save money and reallocate those funds to programs such as mental health and drug treatment. However, the net impact on crime rates remains contested and a concern.
Although these legal constraints do exist, I regularly meet with the LAPD’s local senior lead officers, chiefs, and even the chief of police himself to discuss quality of life issues and the best way to fight crime. Although I wish I could, I cannot direct the LAPD to allocate patrols to one area over another. However, when you report a crime it does help the LAPD determine where they should patrol. The LAPD patrols are data-driven and the police reports are a major factor in that process. Also, I encourage you to work with your senior lead officer (SLO), neighborhood watch and continue to report suspicious behavior to prevent any future attacks or other crimes. Your reporting will help assist the LAPD in determining problem areas and reallocating patrols. I helped launch a volunteer patrol to help increase police visibility and add more tools to the LAPD crime-fighting toolbox. To read about this, please see this press release. I will continue to advocate for more and better enforcement tools that the LAPD needs to respond to issues like these and I will continue to push for more funding for LAPD patrols. Every year I have been on the City Council we have not only increased funding, but successfully pushed for technology fixes and civilian hires that allow more officers to spend more time on patrol.
Why can’t the City just move people off the streets?
It is not illegal to be homeless and the City cannot force someone to move due to constitutional protections and court rulings. However, the LAPD does have the authority to issue citations or arrest people who are engaged in criminal behavior. I encourage you to call 911 when you see a crime occur to get an officer on the scene as well as make a police report. I suggest you work with your senior lead officers to let them know when crimes are occurring as they are the City’s eyes and ears regarding crime in our community.
If you do not want to see people on the streets, know that it is necessary that the City provide services in addition to having a law enforcement presence. Because of court decisions, the City must make services and housing available to the people living on the streets before it can enforce many of the rules regarding vehicle dwelling, tent dwelling, laying down on sidewalks, etc. Without available services, stricter enforcement will likely be ruled illegal by the courts. Although many people do not accept services, having these programs will provide arguments that will help the City defend itself against the lawsuits that inevitably will come when enforcement is ramped up.
How can community members engage productively to help the homeless?
Homelessness is the biggest crisis facing our city, and even though the numbers are fewer in the West Valley than every other part of the city, and my district is the second lowest out of all council districts, it is still a crisis. I am frustrated and saddened to see so many people without a home and to hear stories of how people lost their housing after a medical crisis, a lost job, or other personal misfortunes that can happen to anyone. Based on the 2019 Homeless Count there are approximately 36,300 homeless individuals in the City of Los Angeles. Due to Constitutional rights and protections, the City cannot force anyone to move or go someplace else for help. However, with persistence, we have helped people move out of homelessness and become productive community members with stable housing.
One of the ways we can engage with homeless people is through persistent outreach. LA-HOP is an important tool that you can use to help report the location of homeless people (https://www.lahsa.org/portal/apps/la-hop/). This system is designed to link City and County resources. When you put a request into this system, dedicated caseworkers are sent out to a homeless site. These caseworkers are trained in a variety of fields to adequately address all types of homeless situations, such as those who are just down on their luck as well as those with chronic addiction or mental illness issues. These caseworkers are persistent in their endeavor to connect with homeless people and will continue to visit a homeless site to establish a positive relationship with these folks.
For those homeless folks living in tents on the sidewalk, the City policy is guided by court rulings which have restricted many options. LAPD can request or order a homeless person to move if they violate certain laws such as the ADA requirements for sidewalks. If a tent or encampment is blocking the sidewalk then the City can enforce Ordinance 56.11 (http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2014/14-1656_misc_05-21-2015.pdf), but it does not allow for the immediate removal of property. Court related compromises have established that the City must first provide 72 hours of notice and allow a person on the street to keep a 60-gallon container’s worth of personal belongings before addressing an encampment. Nonetheless, I regularly pay for extra HOPE teams from my limited office budget. HOPE teams are comprised of Sanitation workers, LAHSA caseworkers, and LAPD officers to conduct extra encampment cleanups in the West Valley. This allows them to supplement regular work with overtime work so we can have more cleanups in our area.
There are also many great non-profits that work with the homeless as well as religious institutions. I encourage you to reach out to them as they can often use donations and volunteers. Some organizations include Los Angeles Family Housing, Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, and the West Valley Food Pantry.
Why aren’t LAHSA caseworkers based in the West Valley?
I have successfully pushed to relocate Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) caseworkers who serve the West Valley into my office in Reseda to prevent them from being based only in a downtown office. Previously, these caseworkers had to go downtown or out to Mission Hills where they were based before returning to the West Valley to conduct outreach. Now they have several extra hours each day to conduct outreach. The constant contact is a very important part of our outreach strategy and, although it is true that many homeless people do not want help at first, we have noticed that repeat contact is necessary before a homeless person is likely to accept help. Often, many homeless people do indeed accept services after several contacts by social workers.
How can we address drug addicted and mentally ill people on the streets?
I recently helped create a new partnership between the Providence Tarzana Hospital and the Tarzana Treatment Center. This partnership, established late-2018, helps connect homeless individuals admitted to the emergency room (ER) with housing and services. Due to the initial success, this program has already expanded to two other Providence Hospitals – Burbank and Santa Monica. These are also some of the hardest to reach folks in our community, as they are often resistant to services. The new program involves trained patient navigators working in the ER and special group housing where they can heal both physically and mentally from addiction or other mental ailments.
The goal is to connect 135 homeless individuals, who enter the ER at the Providence Hospitals with needed services. The services provided vary depending on the need of the homeless individual. The program emphasizes substance abuse recovery treatment, transitional housing, primary care services, and other means to provide stability and a path to recovery for homeless people. The early metrics indicate a very successful program; the majority of patients accept some form the program’s services. Those who do not accept the program’s services often take advantage of other services such as mental health referrals and emergency shelter.
Of the 348 patients screened for the entire program so far, 139 patients enrolled in the navigation and benefits enrollment program, 20 patients started the substance use disorder treatment program, 16 patients completed the residential treatment program. A further 86 patients were linked to mental health services. 79 patients obtained emergency housing. Also, 102 patients received referrals for primary care and supportive services.
For the Tarzana-based program 63 of 141 patients screened enrolled as a participant. 13 patients completed residential treatment. 35 more patients were linked to mental health services. 27 obtained emergency housing. And 23 patients received referrals for primary care and supportive services.
In 2018, the State Legislature passed SB 1045. That bill allows the County of Los Angeles to establish a one-year conservatorship for a person who is chronically homeless and incapable of caring for his or her own health and well-being due to serious mental illness and substance use disorder. This bill was supported by the LA City Council unanimously in March of 2018. Health programs, drug and alcohol programs, mental health programs, and social services are administered by the County or State and are not directly funded or administered by the City.
What is Bridge Housing and how is it different than a shelter?
The traditional shelter model does not allow homeless people to bring their property into the shelter nor does it allow people to reside during daytime hours. However, the Bridge Home model does make space for some personal property and is available around the clock to residents. These two changes alone increase the likelihood that a homeless person will accept this temporary housing, which means we are more likely to connect them with social services. The Bridge Housing program does not bring homeless people from across the city into our neighborhood. It is designed to serve the homeless people currently living in our neighborhood. Further, the primary qualification to move into a Bridge Home site is proximity to the property.
Part of the Bridge Home program is the augmentation of both sanitation and enforcement services for the neighborhoods in close proximity to the site. Each Bridge Home site is promised a dedicated Rapid Response Team which is comprised of Department of Sanitation workers and LAPD officers. These teams are sent to the surrounding neighborhood to address encampments. This will mean that once we have an operational Bridge Home location the West Valley, will receive an additional Rapid Response Team to clean our streets and enforce the law. Also, the site itself will be staffed with 24/7 on-site security. To read about the program generally use this link or read about my plans for a location in the 3rd district click here.
Where are RVs allowed to park, why, and when?
Previously, vehicle dwelling was prohibited by law everywhere in Los Angeles. A court case forced the city to open up non-residential areas to vehicular living, please read about this via this link. You can see the map of streets where vehicle dwelling is allowed with this link. A street is designated as a green zone because the adjacent properties are zoned as commercial or industrial lots, not because they have been chosen as a good location for vehicle dwelling. Since the development of residential buildings in commercial and industrial areas is happening to help address the housing crisis, I am pushing to have the next iteration of this parking map take into account such development, rather than merely extant zoning alone. The overwhelming majority of our community is residential and these vehicle dwelling maps were designed to prohibit vehicle dwelling in our residential neighborhoods. You will also see this reflected on the map where most streets are red or yellow, meaning vehicle dwelling is either prohibited or restricted by parking regulations that are applied to all vehicles.
Now, it is possible to place parking restrictions on a green zone street, however, this will need to be supported by crime statistics provided by the LAPD. If enough crimes are reported to the LAPD then a case can be made to place parking restrictions for the sake of public safety. It is not legal to base parking restrictions on homelessness, so it is important never to even attempt to justify such a restriction on such grounds. Such a restriction would get overturned by the courts.
What is the 72-hour parking rule?
Any vehicle parked on a public street is required to move every 72 hours. We do have a problem with parking enforcement resources. I am told the West Valley Parking Enforcement office receives several hundred requests per day and there are not enough inspectors to manage all of the cases immediately – this is not acceptable. I am working with the Department of Transportation to increase patrolling in my district on a more regular basis. During deliberations for the 2019-202 fiscal year budget I was a strong advocate to provide more resources for the Department of Transportation, including parking enforcement. As a result, the Department of Transportation is receiving an additional $20 million which will help alleviate the problem.
Also, if you know of vehicles which have been reported and marked, but have not moved within the time limit, please notify my office at (818) 774-4330. The problem is compounded because many RV owners ignore these tickets until enforcement is escalated. And, unfortunately, the City does not have enough towing companies as contractors to enforce all of those who flout repeated citations. Further, if vehicles are moving even a little bit, they are not considered abandoned even if they appear as run down. I am pushing the Department of Transportation to use available technologies that could enable them to enforce much faster and at a lower cost.
How do I get a sidewalk repaired?
The Sidewalk Repair Program (SRP) is tasked with evaluating and repairing sidewalks. Currently, there are over 30,000 service requests for sidewalks across the city and approximately 11,000 miles of sidewalks. To manage the evaluation and prioritization, the SRP schedules sidewalks with request for ADA improvements first. Residents in need of ADA access can make a request.
You can request all sidewalk repairs through the MyLA311 app or by using this link. The Access Request Program is specifically for people with, or on the behalf of people with, a mobility disability who encounter issues caused by broken sidewalk and barriers. This is the type of request prioritized by the SRP. The general sidewalk repair program is also available for reporting non-ADA issues with our sidewalks. Also, the City’s Sidewalk Rebate Program provides reimbursement for property owners who fix their adjacent sidewalk, however, at this time the application period is closed due to the immense number of applications.
After a sidewalk request is made, the SRP will evaluate and assign a score to the sidewalk. This score is based on several factors including damage severity, ADA compliance, and the volume of pedestrian traffic, among other factors. A maximum score of 45 indicates a sidewalk is in need of immediate repair. Due to the overall backlog of requests, sidewalks with a score of 45/45 are prioritized first. To learn more about the scoring system check out the Council Report on the prioritization and scoring system for the Sidewalk Repair Program.
As Chair of the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee and a member of the Budget Committee I have been advocating for increasing funds for sidewalks and maintenance and will continue to search for creative solutions to address the issue of broken sidewalks. Creative solutions include meandering sidewalks that avoid the problem of overgrown roots, sidewalks constructed with alternative materials, removable tile sidewalks etc. Also, I successfully pushed for additional funds in the 2019-2020 City budget which would be allocated to the general sidewalk repair program – above and beyond the $30 million per year for the ADA-related repairs which the City has committed to fund for 30 years.
These general sidewalk repair funds enable the City to use techniques such as diamond cutting, concrete grinding, and apply other technologies to repair sidewalks quickly without rebuilding them to full ADA standards. This will expedite simple sidewalk repairs, improve the passability of many sidewalks, and allow the City to maximize efficiency.
Who is responsible for sidewalk repair?
In May 2015 the City Council approved a ‘Fix and Release’ new policy which accelerates sidewalk repairs and makes the repair process permanent and ongoing. After the City repairs a sidewalk it will give the property owner a 20 year warranty, then release the responsibility for that sidewalk’s maintenance and future repairs reverts to the property owner.
For the last decade most sidewalks have not been getting repaired, in part because the liability for repairing was ambiguous. Most cities place the burden for maintenance and repairs on the property owner. Los Angeles used to do this, but began repairing sidewalks in the 1970s when federal money was available to do so. Also, the City permitted developers to plant ficus and other trees that rip up the sidewalk and therefore many felt the City should be responsible for the repairs. In 2012, the Council proposed that property owners be responsible. I did not think that was fair to change the rules mid-stream to the detriment of unlucky property owners who had a broken sidewalk because of a street tree and authored state legislation to prevent this. Upon becoming a councilmember I worked to create a compromise. This compromise is known as ‘Fix and Release’ and it allows homeowners to get their sidewalks fixed, maintained, and warrantied for 20 years. Ultimately this removes the ambiguity by giving responsibility back to the adjacent property owner after the sidewalk has been properly repaired.
How fast do potholes get repaired?
When it comes to actual potholes – holes in the street that can be repaired with an asphalt patch, the City’s record is actually very good. I helped champion and push for a grant through the Innovation Fund (the Innovation Fund is a program run through a committee I chair) that provides the repair drivers Ipads. That, along with significant improvements in our MyLA311 system, resulted in the fact that potholes are now fixed on average, when our weather is not inclement, within 48 hours once they are reported!
When you report the pothole using your smart phone and the MyLA311 app, you can send the geo-location or nearest address of that pothole to the City instantly and it gets integrated into the repair driver’s route in real time. This has resulted in the remarkably fast repairs we are now seeing.
Of course, the clock only starts ticking when someone reports the pothole. That is why I always encourage members of our community to use the app and make a report.
How do I get my street repaired?
Tri-annually the Bureau of Street Services (BSS) conducts a survey of our streets. The resulting score is known as the pavement condition index (PCI). This score takes into account several variables which include visible street condition, the frequency of traffic, and the weight of traffic loads. Typically, an asphalt road on a major street is expected to last 15 to 20 years. For residential streets, the life expectancy is between 30 and 35 years. This life expectancy requires ongoing maintenance and is negatively impacted when utilities cut into the road.
The PCI score is important because it determines which solution is appropriate for a repair. For moderate and high scoring streets, a slurry seal will likely restore the street. Most instances of resurfacing are, in fact, slurry seals. The seal is not as invasive as a resurfacing, yet, it provides more years of passability and resolves many of the immediate safety concerns. The BSS spends approximately 80% of their resurfacing funds on normal resurfacing projects and 20% on failed streets. This allocation helps promote the longevity of more streets and prevent them from becoming failed streets. However, to address the large number of failed streets in the West Valley I have worked with BSS to address more of the failed streets in my district. As a result, in 2018 approximately 51% of the funding for my district went to fix failed streets.
The estimated cost to repair all of the streets in the city is approximately $4 billion, whereas the City has a budget for street reconstruction and resurfacing of approximately $180 million per year spread out across all Council districts and 6,500 miles of streets. Unfortunately, the Great Recession reduced the amount of resources the City had, including for street maintenance. This caused a backlog of deferred maintenance that the City is allocating more resources each year to address. Thanks to the voters’ decision to fund Measure M, the City now has additional funding to pay for road repairs. Some of these additional funds include the gas tax (also called SB 1) and sales tax (from country measures M and R). As chair of the Public Works and Gang Reduction committee, I am working to ensure that these funds are spent effectively to address the backlog of deferred maintenance, including your street.
At the start of 2019, I met with the City of Los Angeles’ Standards Division where our engineers test new materials for use on our streets. Specifically, I was speaking with the engineers and scientists who have been testing the efficacy of an innovative new material called “1781” that will dramatically lower the cost to repair poor or failed streets by approximately ten times. You can read more about the “1781 mix” in this report from the Bureau of Street Services. When we repave smarter and more cost effectively we can repave more of our streets.
If you want to know the PCI score of your street, want to find out if it is on the list of streets to be repaired this year, or want to urge that your street be on a future repair list, please contact Mirna Esquivel in my office at Mirna.Esquivel@LACity.org or call 818-774-4330.