Blumenfield recommendations to simplify processes impacting the food and beverage industry
LOS ANGELES,CA – Responding to the struggles of restaurant owners and operators in the economic downturn and rules from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles City Council advanced more than thirty recommendations to streamline various City processes impacting local restaurants and other food and beverage outlets. These measures authored by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield will help existing restaurants modify their conditions or add services, and should help them keep their doors open and workers employed.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blumenfield recognized that the restaurant industry would be heavily impacted by public health orders and would face a difficult recovery. He authored a motion that directed the Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) to convene meetings between various city departments and industry representatives to identify low-cost or no-cost changes to city processes and requirements to eliminate unnecessary red tape affecting the food and beverage industry.
“With COVID-19, it is not business as usual. Restaurants and other businesses have been doing everything possible to stay afloat, make payroll and keep their lights and stoves on - we need to make it easier to stay in business in LA,” said Blumenfield. “Sadly, many of these local businesses may still fail, and we need to do better for the next generation of entrepreneurs who dream of opening their own place.”
“With the decimation of the restaurant community due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, restaurants are in dire need of any government support and regulatory relief,” said David Juarez, Director of Local Government Affairs for the CA Restaurant Association. “The measure authored by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield will assist in accelerating the reopening of restaurants- once the state Stay-at-Home order lifts and the County allows restaurants to resume on-site dining- and look to the future by easing the path for new restaurants to open in the city.”
John & Kate Saffell, owners of Nicola’s Kitchen in Blumenfield’s district said, “Like nearly all restaurants in Los Angeles County, and across our nation, our lovely little Mom & Pop establishment of 30 years, Nicola's Kitchen, is barely hanging in there. Our biggest concern is the welfare of our amazing employees that have been with us for years and continue to work hard every day as truly front line workers. These are important reforms and we pray for any assistance Councilmember Blumenfield can provide to all the small businesses in LA County that are hurting so badly.”
The EWDD working group identified dozens of avenues to explore that would make it easier and faster for business owners to open new restaurants and modify existing spaces. The National Restaurant Association estimates that the industry nationwide will lose five to seven million employees and $225 billion in the next three years. Without intervention to help the industry, many more restaurants will not survive this pandemic. In the over twenty page report presented by EWDD, General Manager Carolyn Hull outlined many policy changes. This includes asking:
LA Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) to consider ‘self-certification’ for simple projects and tenant improvements, bringing LA in line with other major cities like Chicago and New York.
City Planning (DCP) to provide building permit clearance when an entitlement request has no impact on the physical construction. (such as a when a restaurant requests for permission to serve beer and wine has no impact physical building)
LADBS, DCP, the Fire Department and the Department of Water and Power to make it easier to submit applications and plans, schedule inspections, and allow various service requests to proceed concurrently rather than consecutively.
Various departments consider making permanent many of the programs adopted as temporary measures during the pandemic, including the Al Fresco outdoor dining program.
Many other recommendations can be found here as well as more information on the working group and background on the goals.
Moving forward, some recommendations won’t need another full council vote and can be implemented internally while others may need further reports and ordinances drafted.
LOS ANGELES, CA – Today LA Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced a resolution calling on the California State Legislature to provide one-time funding of $2 billion in direct assistance to local governments to help replace COVID-19 related revenue shortfalls. Due to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, many cities are facing crippling deficits with impacts that could be felt for generations.
“We can’t spend money we don't have, but our colleagues in the State are in a position to help our shared constituents,” said Blumenfield. “This isn't just about saving the jobs of hard working civil servants, this is about making sure the public is kept safe, that critical services are delivered, and that local government doesn’t get irreparably hollowed out during this historic fiscal crises.”
As the City of Los Angeles is facing at least a $675 million budget shortfall, other cities across California share a similar bleak reality. The City of San Diego has a projected deficit of $86 million and the City of San Francisco budget shortfall is around $116 million. Because local government services rely heavily on workers who deliver critical services, big cuts in spending invariably can mean layoffs and furloughs. Because the employees who are most at risk of losing their jobs are often the more recent and more diverse employees, the cuts have a compounding equity impact.
The City of Los Angeles Chief Administrative Officer proposed a 3% cut in every department which is on top of severe cuts already made earlier in 2020. Several departments could not achieve that percentage without layoffs, therefore LAPD, Animal Services, Engineering and City Attorney, have proposed eliminating 1,894 positions which would result in drastic service reductions and threaten public safety. Because LA is not alone in this crisis, tens of millions of Californians will see cuts to critical community services including public works projects, law enforcement, and emergency services, unless the legislature steps up to help.
When services are dramatically cut it can negatively impact business and result in even greater tax revenue losses. Blumenfield explained, “For businesses in the City and State to recover economically, they need to know that their garbage will be picked up, that the streets will function, that the sewer in front of their business will get repaired quickly, that that police and firefighters will show up when needed, and that the City will process whatever permits they need expeditiously. When these services get hollowed out, the economic engine that drives our economy gets stalled. “
The relative health of the state budget results from surprisingly strong state funding streams, the opposite of cities revenue streams which fizzled due to the stay-at-home order and travel restrictions (TOT, parking taxes, parking fines, and the SPRF transfer). Cities have been harmed indirectly by the ripple effects of impact to the economy (sales, business, property and utility user’s taxes). Reduced demand and reimbursements for City Services (department receipts) have also fallen. The City of LA has spent its own shrinking funds to fight the pandemic, some which will not be reimbursed. In December 2020, it was projected that the City had to spend at least $1.2 billion toward fighting the impacts of COVID-19, with more expenses to come in 2021.
Right now the state is beginning to allocate the current surplus of upwards of $26 billion to various projects including rental relief and much needed assistance to restaurants and local businesses. The state legislature recently reconvened for a new session and members have already begun authoring proposals of where some of this surplus should be spent. The one-time funding they have to spend could provide an essential life raft for local governments to prevent draconian budget cuts and layoffs of public safety and other city workers.
Blumenfield concluded, “As a former member of the State Assembly, and Budget Committee Chair during the previous recession, I have a firm understanding of the tough choices that must be made and I know that funding cities is outside of what is normally considered, however this crises is like no other we’ve seen before and the ripple effect of cities financially imploding will dramatically impact the entire state and can be prevented with a strategic one-time expenditure.”
LOS ANGELES, CA – Following the horrifying insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced a resolution calling on Congress to impeach President Donald Trump and calling on Vice President Michael Pence to activate Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. With only days left in his administration, President Trump has the capacity to cause further irreparable harm to the nation and the City of Los Angeles must go on the record to support the bipartisan call for his removal.
“With his continued attempts to subvert and obstruct the 2020 election results and the well documented encouragement of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, it’s clear President Trump is damaging America and meets the criteria for removal,” said Councilmember Blumenfield. “This can’t wait another minute and for the sake of national security, I want to make sure that our city, the second largest in the country, makes it clear where we stand.”
The facts are clear. Shortly before the Joint Session commenced to certify the election last week, President Trump addressed a crowd of his political supporters nearby, where he reiterated false claims about the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – imminent lawless action at the Capitol.
"In our democracy, the President of the United States must be held to the highest standard of accountability - one of allegiance to the constitution, one of leadership to all no matter their nationality, ethnicity, or background," said Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas. "In light of recent events, coupled with the President's threats to the integrity of our electoral system - something must be done. I am honored to join my colleague Councilmember Blumenfield in this resolution to hold President Trump accountable for his actions that have greatly endangered our democracy."
Over the weekend, a growing chorus erupted asking the vice president to mobilize the cabinet and invoke the 25th Amendment and on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats introduced articles of impeachment. The measure has more than 200 democratic sponsors and many republicans have also called for the immediate removal of the president including Governors Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey, as well as Congressmember Adam Kinzinger. Furthermore, former Trump Chief of Staff and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said if he still served in the cabinet he would remove him if the 25th was invoked. Many other Trump appointees have either resigned or voiced their disgust in the wake of the president’s role in the attack on the Capitol. An initial vote on the article of impeachment is expected in the coming days.
Blumenfield stated, “Trump’s incitement of the insurrection wasn’t unbelievable - the problem is that it was all too believable after the rhetoric and actions we’ve seen from him before and following the election. If encouraging violent mobs to destroy our Capitol and constant attempts to interfere with the election are not enough reasons to impeach, what would be?”
The seditious acts and desecration of the U.S. Capitol not only led to serious property damage to the center of government but also caused the deaths of five Americans, including Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol police officer. Active pipe bombs were also found at surrounding sites and there have been reported plans of further similar events in the days leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson also introduced similar legislation.
In March of 2017, Blumenfield authored a resolution asking the United States Congress to investigate whether President Trump has violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution or committed any other high crime or misdemeanor sufficient to warrant commencement of impeachment proceedings. In the subsequent years, the president has continued to act in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.
LOS ANGELES,CA – Joined by LA Family Housing at a small celebration under COVID-19 protocols, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield announced today that the City of Los Angeles has purchased two hotels for unhoused Angelenos in his district. These are the first two hotels in Los Angeles that will transition from being temporarily leased sites in Project Roomkey to permanent sites as part of Project Homekey.
“With the temporary nature of Project Roomkey, I wanted to make sure that no one who entered the program in the West Valley experienced gaps in service or returned to the street. Today we've been able to make that goal a reality and have these buildings forever,” said Blumenfield. “The only way we will be able to solve the homelessness emergency is by continuing to invest in diverse housing options with services.”
These hotels will help local unsheltered people get into stable housing. With the purchase of the Howard Johnson in Reseda (75 rooms) and the Super 8 in Canoga Park (52 rooms), these sites will serve formerly homeless people on a permanent basis. The Howard Johnson will continue to be transitional housing with residents relocated as appropriate housing is found and more permanent supportive housing is built. The Super 8 will be converted to permanent housing with the installation of kitchenettes in each room, while serving as an interim housing facility for now.
Purchased by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) and transferred to LA Family Housing (LAFH) to own and operate, these acquisitions are the result of the successful partnership between the City and State to bring unsheltered residents indoors and prevent the vulnerable from exposure to COVID-19. The purchase of the two hotels was done with the State of California Homekey Program and CARES Act funding approved by the City Council.
“Project Homekey is allowing us to quickly expand available interim and permanent housing in the City of LA and is an example of solution-oriented leadership,” said Douglas Guthrie, Chief Executive Officer of HACLA. “We are so pleased to have a long-term stake in this community with our project in partnership with LA Family Housing and want to acknowledge that none of this would be possible without cooperative leadership at the State and local level, including City leaders like Councilmember Blumenfield.”
Project Roomkey has been a collaborative effort between multiple levels of government and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to swiftly provide local unhoused people with rooms, and supportive services, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As LAHSA has been closing down some hotels and finding other living assistance for the formerly homeless, Blumenfield fought to ensure that the two Roomkey sites in his district were formally purchased to create new, permanent housing opportunities for the West Valley’s homeless.
To celebrate the occasion, Blumenfield joined Stephanie Klasky Gamer, CEO of LA Family Housing, and a formerly homeless resident named Michael to hand over a ceremonial key and drop off care packages comprised of reusable masks and personal hand sanitizers for each of the residents. Photos are attached and a Facebook Live video of the event can be found here.
“We are incredibly grateful for the State and City’s efforts to end homelessness in people’s lives and greatly appreciate the opportunity to house more Angelenos through Project Homekey”, said Stephanie Klasky-Gamer. “We are in unprecedented times. With far too many Angelenos without work, facing dwindling unemployment benefits, and rents they can no longer afford, the already staggering rate of homelessness in our city will without question increase. Through Project Homekey, LA Family Housing is poised to meet the growing need for safe and stable interim and permanent supportive housing for our city’s most vulnerable residents.”
Blumenfield has been pushing to create many other West Valley homeless projects in his district that currently are in the works or expanding. In January 2021, the 80-bed Bridge Housing facility will open in Canoga Park and two Cabin Communities with 125 tiny homes are projected to open in March/April. He is also expanding Safe Parking lots in the district and helping shepherd permanent supportive housing and other developments. Additionally, he secured $450,000 to grow the capacity for the drug addiction and mental health program for unhoused people that he started with Providence-Cedars Medical Center and Tarzana Treatment Center.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –
December 2, 2020
Contact: Jake Flynn, 213.473.7003, cell: 310.663.3770
CITY COUNCIL SUPPORTS BLUMENFIELD’S EFFORT TO DIVEST CITY PENSION FUNDS FROM FOSSIL FUELS AND SHIFT INVESTMENTS TOWARDS GREEN, PROGRESSIVE COMPANIES
LOS ANGELES,CA – Taking a bold step to reduce the City’s investments in fossil fuels, today the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to support Councilmember Bob Blumenfield’s legislation to craft a comprehensive framework to divest city pensions from companies perpetuating and expanding the effects of climate change.
“Since I introduced this measure one year ago, we have seen the hottest day on record in my district, a nearly endless barrage of wildfires, and destructive hurricanes throughout this country. We need to do so much more to help reverse climate change starting with putting our money where our mouth is,” said Blumenfield. “We can have profitable secure investments without embracing climate change enablers.”
Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System (LACERS) is responsible for managing City pensioners’ retirement dollars, which as of June 2020 totals to $17.7 billion. LACERS has invested more than $100 million in oil companies, many of which have shown no interest in moving towards renewable energy. Consistent with its commitment to combating climate change, the City has a responsibility to divest LACERS pension holdings from fossil fuel companies that are unwilling to turn away from the production of oil. It is time for the leadership of Los Angeles to divest from oil companies that are actively contributing to the global problem of climate change and subjecting Los Angeles to unnecessary risk, both environmentally and financially.
Climate change is not only a global environmental threat- it also presents a significant financial risk to shareholders of the companies contributing to environmental catastrophes. From financial losses because of extreme weather to asset re-pricing as the global economy moves towards a low-carbon economy, investments in fossil fuel companies pose a climate-transition risk that may endanger the financial vitality of retirees’ investments.
Some major cities such as San Francisco have already initiated a coordinated effort to divest their pension funds from fossil fuel companies. On October 10, 2018 the board of the $25.5 billion San Francisco Employees Retirement System (SFERS) voted to divest its shares in seven fossil fuel companies because they posed the highest climate transition risk according the SFERS’ Climate Transition Risk Framework that is based on 1) Fossil Fuel Reserves, 2) Operational Emissions, 3) Climate Policy Approach, and 4) Financial Health.
Blumenfield’s motion specifically directs LACERS and city departments to craft:
“Now that Los Angeles 'fire season' has become a year-round event, and coastal cities are faced with unprecedented storms, there truly is no time to waste, and no strategy we shouldn’t try, we must do everything we can as a City to turn back the tide of climate change,” concluded Blumenfield.
Blumenfield successfully gets LAHSA to commit to date and to expand pilot effort to include Corbin Underpass as well as Winnetka
LOS ANGELES, CA- Today Councilmember Bob Blumenfield announced that the new Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) pilot program currently underway aiming to geographically target resources and housing opportunities will include an additional West Valley freeway underpass. Also, November 16 has been set as the date to move all people experiencing homelessness (PEH) at these two underpasses into newly available rapid re-housing.
“I am thrilled that LAHSA has expanded the program to include the Corbin underpass as it is inextricably linked to the Winnetka underpass. — LAHSA has identified 33 people who live at these two encampments and many of them move back and forth between them,” stated Blumenfield. “The goal is to house folks and then, pursuant to Judge Carter’s determination that it is unsafe to live under the freeways, make sure that these underpasses remain off-limits to future encampments.”
The details about what the posted signage will look like and how the City will insure that the area remains off limits is still being worked through with the City Attorney and others, but other cities that have settled cases in Judge Carter’s Court on this topic provide a possible roadmap. Blumenfield’s program will be one of the first, if not the first, to house everyone in an underpass/geographic area and then keep that area off-limits to camping.
LAHSA is continuing to conduct needs assessments for the people at these locations with a comprehensive and holistic analysis of what resources they need to be housed. This includes wrap around services for people and eliminating barriers that often get in the way of people obtaining resources (e.g. documentation requirements, identification, health care eligibility and treatment needs). Following the assessment, outreach teams and housing navigators have been connecting encampment residents to the best and most immediate housing pathway solution.
Over the weekend, residents were warned to stay inside due to dangerous air quality, leaving thousands of vulnerable people with no refuge
LOS ANGELES, CA- Today Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced legislation to develop comprehensive protocols for how and when to open ‘smoke relief’ centers as well as expand accessibility across Los Angeles. Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic and excessive heat, heavy toxic smoke from the Bobcat and El Dorado fires is the latest crisis to impact local residents, leaving unhoused people and other vulnerable Angelenos with no place to seek refuge.
“If public health officials are telling people to stay home because the air is too dangerous, we need to step up to help the over 36,000 homeless people on the streets of LA with nowhere to safely breathe,” said Blumenfield. “We can’t just open a handful of small sites and call it a day. A plan is desperately needed to include air quality emergencies, increase the number of open centers, and improve the outreach around the city.”
When temperatures become too extreme, ‘cooling centers’ are opened but a similar protocol does not exist for when air quality is dangerous. Even with ‘cooling centers,’ there are not enough and often they are too far away to be fully useful. For example, on September 6th, when temperatures surged in Woodland Hills to 121 degrees, there was only one city ‘cooling center’ open in the West Valley with space for only ten people. It was miles away from most CD3 encampments, leaving 700 homeless people in the district to suffer in the extreme elements with no relief. Additionally, tens of thousands of housed residents of all ages and health histories don't have, or can't afford to use air conditioning or air filtrations systems.
LOS ANGELES, CA- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dramatically impact the local economy, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously supported Councilmember Bob Blumenfield’s motion to temporarily suspend certain signage laws so local businesses can promote their services without fear of fines or penalties. Fourteen business owners were cited by the Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) over the past few months for having illegal signage, often due to simple signs hung on their property expressing that they are open and their operating hours.
“This is a common sense step to help empower local businesses in the wake of a devastating emergency,” said Blumenfield. “Neighborhood business owners continue to face mounting economic fears and signs should be the last thing they should be worried about.”
"Since the early days of the pandemic," said Councilmember Paul Krekorian, who seconded the motion, "I have worked with my Council colleagues to help ensure that businesses are not penalized for using innovative ways to attract customers. This motion is an important and necessary part of that effort."
This motion helps codify Mayor Garcetti’s recent executive action into law but it also goes further and was coordinated closely with LADBS and Marqueece Harris Dawson, Chair of the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee. It suspends the requirement for businesses to obtain a permit for ‘temporary’ signs that are tacked, pasted or otherwise temporarily affixed to windows and/or on the walls of buildings, barns, sheds or fences, as defined by Municipal Code Section 14.4.16.
Blumenfield stated, “Now more than ever it’s imperative to shop and support community restaurants and businesses. Many establishments are at a make or break moment and it’s critical that as a city, and as consumers, we help uplift these stores and keep the local economy as healthy as possible.”
The motion also asks for recommendations on which codes present life safety concerns and should continue to be enforced during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.
LOS ANGELES, CA- This week the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved $450,000 to help continue and grow an innovative drug treatment program created last year by Councilmember Blumenfield, Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center and Tarzana Treatment Center (TTC). In response to the growing number of ER cases involving homeless people struggling with drug addiction, Blumenfield developed the Homeless Housing and Recovery Project (HHRP) with leaders from Providence and TTC so instead of simply treating overdoses and discharging patients, further intervention and treatment are offered.
“Addiction recovery is hard enough for people with housing and means but it’s an unfathomably difficult path for unhoused residents,” said Blumenfield. “The HHRP offers a realistic opportunity to truly help our city’s most vulnerable, providing a substantive chance turn their lives around.”
The HHRP functions by deploying Patient Navigators on site at hospital emergency rooms to enroll recently admitted unhoused people with drug issues into the program. Services offered include being assigned a general practitioner, connection to TTC medical clinics where they continue to receive care after hospital discharge, and in some cases temporary housing through a shared housing model. Since the start of this program, it has also expanded to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.
The program reaches unsheltered people in the hospital ER which has proven to be an opportune time to offer services. They are more receptive, perhaps because they have hit a rock bottom or because the medical setting is more conducive to acceptance of help than an outreach effort on the street. The partnership of the medical professionals and streamlined access to a substance abuse program seems to give unsheltered people with substance abuse or mental health disorders a better chance to turn their lives around.
In order to continue and expand this successful program, additional funding was needed before the end of August, as the leases for the housing units are set to expire in September. The total cost of the program is $950,000. Providence and TTC are providing $500,000 in funding and services, but these additional funds were needed. Among other services, this funding will help add an additional house to TTC’s treatment long-term capacity so they will have three homes with almost twenty beds available.
“We thank Council Member Blumenfield for his continuing support of this vital program that addresses two critical and often intertwined crises – homelessness and addiction,” said Dale Surowitz, chief executive, Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. “Our navigators at both hospitals have been successful in linking these patients to temporary housing, addiction treatment and other resources.”
According to Providence and TCC, during the first 14 months of the program, 697 patients were screened for admission, of which:
363 enrolled in the program
168 have been connected to mental health services
40 started outpatient substance use disorder treatment
191 connected with emergency housing
72 are no longer homeless and are living on their own or with family
Blumenfield stated, “Not everyone is going to accept the help or stick with the program but we have already proven that this program is more successful than most traditional services. It’s our hope that other cities and hospitals pay attention to the success of this program because the lack of drug addiction and mental health services is far too prevalent in practically every corner of the country.”
Focused effort underway to rehouse all the people living under 101 freeway
LOS ANGELES, CA- Bringing new resources to the effort to shelter people living in the Winnetka underpass beneath the 101 freeway, Councilmember Bob Blumenfeld today announced a new pilot project to house unsheltered residents at that encampment, in partnership with. the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). During the pilot, LAHSA will identify service needs and housing/shelter resources for each of the estimated 24 people currently living at this location. This new infusion of outreach and services stems from the ongoing litigation and conversations with federal Judge David O. Carter. Finding it unsafe and unhealthy to live near freeways, Judge Carter has been facilitating an agreement between the City and County of Los Angeles to create new shelter beds for people living within 500 feet of freeways throughout the region.
“I’m encouraged to see LAHSA focus attention on what it will take to house the people living in the Winnetka underpass both to give them somewhere better to be and to clear the underpass for pedestrians,” said Blumenfield. “After many visits and conversations with homeless folks living in these areas, I know that some need substance abuse treatment and others just need a helping hand to get back to a safe home, so this pilot should help get each person the right mix of assistance to move on with their lives quickly.”
The Winnetka underpass is one of several freeway locations that LAHSA has prioritized for rapid rehousing efforts.