On May 18, the City Council approved an on-time, balanced $11.8 billion Budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23, which begins July 1. As a member of the Budget & Finance Committee, I have spent the last month reviewing Mayor Garcetti’s proposed budget, meeting with general managers and budget officers of more than 40 City departments (from Aging to Zoo), listening to stakeholder comment, and participating in more than 40 hours of public hearings to ensure that the final Budget meets the needs of the City as a whole and the West Valley in particular.
I am proud of this Budget, which funds Citywide priorities and many individual projects for the neighborhoods and people of the Third Council District.
For the past two years, the City’s Budget has been largely shaped by the COVID pandemic: steep reductions in certain City revenues, such as hotel occupancy tax and parking revenue; increased costs to respond to immediate needs, such as COVID testing and vaccine centers, and in-home meals for seniors; a 10% cut in the City’s civilian workforce, which has affected our ability to sweep streets, pick up trash, or tow abandoned vehicles; and a $1.1 billion federal bailout that kept the City afloat.
As the economy has largely recovered from the pandemic, the City’s finances have stabilized, allowing us to draft a “back to basics”budget for FY22-23 Budget. This budget focuses on core city services like public safety and infrastructure, while also tackling problems such as homelessness and climate change.
My highest budget priority has always been public safety. This year is no different. Next year, LAPD’s budget will be $3.1 billion, the highest ever. The new budget provides funding to hire 780 new officers, well above expected attrition, to increase the size of the force by June 2023 to 9,615. We also increased funding and staffing in the Personnel Department so that we can reach that number by filling every academy class with high-caliber recruits.
The budget also boosts our Fire Department budget to $967 million. It includes funding to hire 300 additional firefighters with five new academy classes. Currently LAFD has about a 18% vacancy rate in their sworn positions, and the new recruits will provide the much needed relief to our firefighters and paramedics who have been working throughout the pandemic, administering COVID tests and vaccines, in addition to their regular firefighter duties. In addition, the Budget & Finance committee added 15 civilian positions to maintain LAFD vehicles and equipment.
Because the West Valley is threatened by wildfires, I supported funding for a new “Wildland Fuel Management Crew” that will assist LAFD with brush clearance, and be available to be dispatched throughout the City and State of California during an active fire. This can start young adults on a pathway to a firefighting crew, and I initiated a special study to explore how this can dovetail with existing youth employment programs such as the LA Conservation Corps.
Events over the past couple of years have emphasized that public safety also means creating alternatives to a uniformed, armed police response. The City is expanding our alternative response programs such as CIRCLE which deploys a nonprofit to respond to homeless-related calls that come into 9-1-1 and will be investing $8M FY 22-23 to expand the program to other parts of the City. We are investing $960K to have a trained clinician respond to suicide calls that come into 9-1-1.
The Budget substantially increases funding for the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) and the Summer Night Lights programs. That includes expanding GRYD programming to Reseda Park.
In the West Valley, more people die in traffic collisions than from homicides. While I have directed $100,000 of my discretionary funds to increased LAPD traffic enforcement against street racing, we also need to build safer streets. During the budget hearings, I successfully fought to restore 32 positions to the Department of Transportation to enhance traffic safety, including our West Valley traffic engineer and workers who build, install and maintain traffic signals, signs and striping; and to add 20 positions for active transportation projects and to address the backlog in the speed hump program. The Committee added nearly $3 million toward upgrading all unsignalized crosswalks in the City.
As Chair of the Public Works Committee, I am committed to ensuring that every Angeleno enjoys safe, well-maintained streets and sidewalks. The Budget & Finance Committee added more than $7 million to address copper wire theft, including funding and positions to repair outages, make the street lighting system more theft-resistant, and install solar-powered lights. In addition, I secured $380,800 to install new solar-powered lights along the LA River Path from Mason to Vanalden.
The new budget adds more than $15 million to the street resurfacing and slurry seal program, and continues our more than $30 million annual investment in sidewalk repair. Much of our sidewalk damage is caused by poorly-maintained street trees. Over the years, I have fought to steadily increase our tree maintenance budget to get to a best-practice 7-year trimming cycle (we are currently on a 20-year cycle), and secured a $2 million increase in the tree trimming budget. The City is conducting a comprehensive analysis of street sweeping needs across the City; in the meantime, this Budget restores early morning sweeping of all our commercial corridors.
The Budget also funds additional programs to keep the City clean, including: $46 millon for the Comprehensive Cleaning and Rapid Engagement (CARE/CARE+) program that focuses on encampments and other problem areas; $1.3 million for additional sidewalk trash receptacles; $2 million more to address illegal dumping; and $1.9 million more for the Clean and Green program.
Our parks and libraries serve everyone in Los Angeles, especially our youth. Under the City Charter, the Recreation and Parks (RAP) and Library departments are guaranteed a share of the City’s general tax revenues. While the Library’s share has proven sufficient to meet their needs, RAP is historically underfunded. The Council boosted RAPs budget by more than $14 million to enable them to fill critical positions and provide important services. Of particular interest, we added funding to reduce the cost of summer recreational programming to $10/week at parks serving disadvantaged communities, including Lanark and Reseda Parks; and added positions to ensure all Senior Centers in the City have a full time Facility Director.
Homelessness remains a focus, and the City continues to invest in homeless prevention, housing, and services. $600 million of the City’s $1.2 billion Homeless Budget will be dedicated to building 3,768 new units and beds. Solid Ground, a homeless prevention program for families will be expanded to the Canoga Park Family Source Center. And the City will continue to fund outreach workers and I will continue to fight for more funding and mental health services in the West San Fernando Valley.
As always, I work to ensure that the City funds important projects and programs in the Third District. In addition to the items mentioned above, I obtained funding for the following:
- $24.7 million to construct the Reseda Boulevard Complete Street Project
- $1.5 million to close a funding gap in the $26 million Reseda Skate Rink
- $200K for the Madrid Theater Cultural Hub/Canoga Park Stage Arts Lab Activation
- $450K to bring the Reseda Theater rehabilitation closer to realization
- $5.3 million to begin construction of the last phase of the LA River Path in the West Valley from Vanalden Avenue to the Sepulveda Basin
- $650K for the MRCA River Rangers program to help keep the River Path safe and clean
- $860K for restrooms at Serrania Park
- $500K to design improvements along the north bank of the LA River in Reseda Park
- $1 million for HVAC upgrades to the West Valley Police Station
- $2 million allocated for bulkhead projects on Mulholland Drive and Medina Road
- $125K each for the West Valley and Topanga PALS program
Every year at this time, your City government adopts its budget and I would like to hear from you before that process begins. Next week, the Mayor will unveil his proposed budget. On April 26, the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee (of which I am Vice Chair) will begin reviewing it with a fine-tooth comb, holding days of public hearings where we bring in the General Manager and budget chief of every City department to discuss their budget line-by-line.
Our budget is a statement of our values. As a steward of your tax dollars, I take these hearings very seriously to make sure our budget reflects the priorities of Los Angeles residents. The most important voice in this process is yours, so please take a few minutes and complete my annual Budget Survey and let me know your priorities.
Recently I met with the Warner Center Association (WCA) to talk about some of the exciting projects in the works, both private development and infrastructure investments in the Warner Center 2035 Plan (WC2035). This year the WCA’s dedicated group of property owners and businesses remains deeply involved in the local community and celebrated their 40th anniversary.
The most exciting recent news in Warner Center is the sale of the Westfield Promenade site. While I don’t have specifics to share, it has been widely reported that the Superbowl Champion LA Rams owner Kroenke Group has purchased the property. The Rams and Stan Kroenke are active community partners in LA, and I’m confident that they will be good neighbors if they pursue a practice facility at the stadium that is already entitled for that location.
The Promenade redevelopment plan approved by the City Council includes over 1,400 new units with the first ever affordable housing units in Warner Center, hotels, offices, retail, and over 5 acres of public open space. The approved entitlements will carry over to the new owner to guide any construction plans, and once information is available about their designs I’ll share them with you.
Warner Center has become the West San Fernando Valley’s thriving downtown and is home to about 14,000 Angelenos and businesses like Anthem Blue Cross, Farmers Insurance, Kaiser Permanente and URW/Westfield, with over 50,000 jobs. Warner Center is a great place to live and work, with thousands of new units open or under construction to help address the housing shortage. Every development pays mitigation fees to help address issues related to growth. The plan assumes that more than $160 million in such fees will be used to implement needed mitigation measures.
Warner Center is envisioned as a transit and pedestrian friendly neighborhood, but with its wide streets and long blocks we have to make some changes to realize this vision. In addition to WCA, the WC2035 Plan Implementation Board (PIB), comprised of local residents, business owners, and stakeholders in and around Warner Center serves as an advisory body that guides the investment in local infrastructure, and makes sure that mitigation measures get done to minimize potential negative impacts from development. The PIB is developing a work plan for crosswalk and signal enhancements to improve safety and walkability. Efforts like the Warner Connects Transit Management Organization will help reduce traffic and carbon emissions while improving mobility for cleaner, greener transportation options in the Valley.
A few years ago we launched the Metro Warner Center Shuttle which replaced the Orange Line Stop at the Canoga Station with a new line connecting riders to 10 new stops including Westfield Topanga, Warner Center Corporate Park, and Kaiser. This local circulator assists with traffic as it helps local residents and workers get around without cars.
We can also bridge the transportation gaps that exist in Warner Center, with help from the State of California’s first-ever Transportation and Technology Innovation Zone (TTIZ). In November 2020, the City Council passed my motion to designate the Warner Center as a TTIZ to support the testing and development of innovative and potentially automated technologies for movement of goods and people. I reached out to Senator Henry Stern who secured a budget earmark for the Innovation Zone, allocating $250,000 toward this effort. The TTIZ encourages transportation-related businesses to start up, locate, and hire locally, with many diverse jobs, spurring investments needed to reduce vehicle miles traveled and GHG emissions from transportation.
Warner Center is a major local asset and my goal is to make the area safer, greener, and the most welcoming destination in all of Los Angeles.
We recently hit a milestone in the West Valley as right now there are no people living in the 101 underpasses throughout the Third District. If you have been through an underpass recently you may have noticed new signs that prohibit camping in these locations. With these signs up, we are now able to better enforce the 41.18 anti-camping restrictions that became law last year. Enforcement will improve as workers and police receive additional training. Not too long ago, there were many unhoused people and tents, but they have been given shelter and both their suffering and local nuisances have been greatly reduced. This has been a longtime community goal, to provide better alternatives to sheltering under the 101. By creating those better alternatives, we are moving toward keeping these locations and other designated places clear and passable.
I’m continuing to grow services and housing opportunities to build on the unprecedented resources and humane laws on the books that are helping keep major public rights of way clear. I’d like to share where we are in the newest projects to address homelessness on the streets of the West Valley.
Our next step is creating more interim and permanent housing to bring people indoors, provide the services they need to stay off the street, and deliver solutions with urgency to address the crisis. Although about 20,000 people were brought indoors last year in the City, what we have done is not enough to meet the growing need. Building is not enough, we need to deal with all of the root causes.
Much more still needs to be done to help fill the gaps to do what we can to stop people from falling into homelessness and bring people indoors to get the help they need. With the recent announcement of a large state budget surplus, Governor Newsom made more funds available for converting hotels into housing. As I’ve written before, throughout the past few months city and county finance staff negotiated with hundreds of hotel owners to see who would be interested in selling their properties.
They submitted separate funding proposals to the state with the county’s package of nineteen potential sites throughout the region and the city’s proposal with nine more hotels to purchase. Two of these sites are in CD3, including the 818 Hotel and Extended Stay America on Ventura Blvd., which if funded, would serve families and seniors respectfully. The 818 is specifically for families because, in part, I pushed the County to designate it as such and the Extended Stay is for seniors because I amended the City’s proposal in committee to have that focus. And a third new apartment building is also being considered in Canoga Park for the next round of state funding.
As we’ve been talking about these two sites, I’ve heard several times from people who asked about how big the need is for homeless families and seniors in our district. Per the last LAHSA Homeless Count, there were over 100 homeless seniors in this district alone and another hundred people who were part of families (meaning folks who were homeless together with someone under the age of 18). But the reality is that they are often grossly under-counted as many are living in vehicles, in unregulated garage-type units, or temporary, and unstable living arrangements.
Just last week, my team and I got several people housed in one of our cabin communities including a 67 year old former local neighborhood councilmember who just lost his housing. He came to us asking what resources were available as he couldn’t afford an apartment with his limited social security check and was living in his vehicle. Without more ample housing for unhoused seniors, there are very few options right now for the many older Angelenos in his position.
Last year, as new funds became available for transitional housing, I helped build over 600 beds for homeless people in our district in Canoga Park, Reseda, and Tarzana. These beds were prioritized for local people on our streets and that is where many of the people who were at our underpasses went. This incredible progress is rooted in the fact that we created more beds in CD3 in 2021 than folks counted in the previous LAHSA Homeless Count. This year we are set to open 200 units of Prop HHH funded permanent supportive and affordable housing with more projects on the way.
As we find out more about funding for the Homekey sites and other projects in the West Valley, I will keep the community informed on all these projects in the Valley News Group as well as in my newsletter and on social media. Always feel free to send me questions and comments at [email protected] or call our district office at 818.774.4330.
Recently, the City of LA’s Housing Department started the process of submitting a proposal to the state for Project Homekey funding to purchase 9 hotels, or new apartment buildings, throughout the city to be converted into Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). This week I learned that the Extended Stay America on Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills is officially on their list. Since the Project Roomkey/Homekey programs began, City agencies have been working with hotel owners to purchase sites for homelessness interventions. This Extended Stay Hotel is part of a wider deal with the parent company to purchase four of their LA sites — including one north of our community in Council District 12. But a key difference is that with the CD3 site I was able to amend the proposal so ours would only serve seniors.
On February 10, the Homelessness and Poverty Committee approved matching funds for all of the Homekey applications, meaning that if any or all of these projects are approved by the State that the City officially promises to provide needed matching dollars. In Committee, I also added an amendment to the proposal to make our site 100% for seniors who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless. The full proposal will be heard by the full City Council soon but this was a critical step.
The City’s Extended Stay-Woodland Hills Homekey proposal is separate from the recent one submitted by the County of LA that included using the nearby 818 Hotel for interim housing for families. Coincidentally, these two hotels, owned by separate private parties, desired to sell their property at the same time. It’s important to note however, that they are being sold for very different purposes. While the 818 is being sold to be used exclusively for families in need of transitional housing, the Extended Stay is being sold to be used for PSH. The Extended Stay would therefore no longer be a place zoned and used for transient housing as it is now, but it would become a place of stability where people would permanently reside — specifically seniors who are in need of supportive services.
Throughout the pandemic, my staff and I have reached out to every hotel owner in our district and until now few in the West Valley wanted to be leased or sold, although we did successfully convert one in Canoga Park and one in Reseda. So between these two sites we will potentially be able to serve two of the most vulnerable homeless populations, families and seniors.
It’s no secret that between these two sites, there has been a long history of serious crime issues. A few years ago I remember getting the report of several people overdosing on fentanyl at the Extended Stay leaving toxic materials littered around the area. That was one of many troubling stories. The conversion of the Extended Stay will serve clients who are already on their road to stability and who were referred by our service providers because they’re ready to be placed into PSH. My goal is that with 24/7 security and wrap-around, on-site, services — including mental health/drug counseling for those who need it — we can bring a level of safety and cleanliness to this area that hasn’t been seen in a long time. A 1000 foot, no encampment 41.18 buffer zone will help tremendously as well.
Again, the Committee’s action is just a first step. We won’t know if funding is approved until mid-March. When a service provider is chosen, I will make sure they do thorough outreach to our community and answer all our concerns. I will also set up a community advisory committee to work directly with the service provider as I have done with the cabin communities located in Tarzana and Reseda.
I understand that many will have fears about the site, but I hope those fears can be allayed and replaced with pride. We are in a crisis and we all, including all five communities of the 3rd district, need to create options for people that help prevent homelessness. All I ask at this point is for people to be open to the possibility of making this opportunity into one that is positive for both people in need and the surrounding community.
Recently, the City of LA’s Housing Department started the process of submitting a proposal to the state for Project Homekey funding to purchase 10 hotels, or new apartment buildings, throughout the city to be converted into Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). This week I learned that the Extended Stay America on Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills is on their list. Since the Project Roomkey/Homekey programs began, city agencies have been working with hotel owners to purchase sites for homelessness interventions. This Extended Stay Hotel is part of a wider deal with the parent company to purchase four of their LA sites — including one north of our community in Council District 12.
On February 10, the Homelessness and Poverty Committee will vote to match funds for all of the Homekey applications, meaning that if any or all of these projects are approved by the state that the City will be prepared to provide needed matching dollars. RFPs will be issued by the end of February to secure a service provider for each of the projects and the approval of state funding will not be known until the middle of March.
This proposal is separate from the recent one submitted by the County of LA that included using the nearby 818 Hotel for interim housing for families. Throughout the pandemic, my staff and I have reached out to every hotel owner in our district and until now few in the West Valley wanted to be leased or sold, although we did successfully convert one in Canoga Park and one in Reseda. Coincidentally, these two hotels, owned by separate private parties, desired to sell their property at the same time.Read more
On Wednesday, January 26, my staff and I saw some misinformation about a potential homeless project for families in Woodland Hills and I want to share what exactly is going on.
This week the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to send a list of 19 sites from throughout the region to the state for potential funding with the goal of converting those locations into homeless housing. One of those 19 sites is the 818 Hotel (on Ventura Blvd. off of Winnetka Ave.). Recently, when they confirmed this plan to my staff and I, I successfully got them, and the pending service provider Hope of the Valley, to agree that this site would serve families. This is a key component for me as over 17,000 LAUSD students experience homeless and there are very few locations where families can live together and get the services they need.
Supervisor Kuehl’s staff told me that they will know if funding is approved by the middle of March. So right now, all that has been done is the County submitted a list of sites to the state requesting funds to convert them to permanent housing. I got the parties to agree that this would be for families, and we’ll know if funding is approved in a few months. I’m incredibly heartened by the fact that the County is partnering with Hope of the Valley on this, as they has been an incredible partner in other efforts in CD3 to get folks off the street.
Tonight, I’ll be talking with the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization about a variety of issues and the County’s plan will be one of them. Both Supervisor Kuehl and our friends at Hope of the Valley have told us that they will soon be scheduling open houses in our community to further discuss this idea.
41.18 Update- Outreach and Housing Placements Continue as Some Key Locations Become Off Limits for Encampments
Published in the Valley Vantage on December 2, 2021
This year I’ve been updating our community on my ongoing efforts to expand housing and shelter opportunities, and I’ve been helping lead our city to adopt humane, constitutional laws that allow for encampment restrictions along certain critical corridors. Progress has been intensely slow, but over the past year we’ve created more transitional housing opportunities than people on our CD3 streets (according to the last LAHSA Homeless Count in 2020) and this week our “41.18” ‘no encampment zones’ took effect at three key locations. The underpasses at Corbin and De Soto as well as the area surrounding Winnetka Park are now officially off-limits to encampments. The other 23 locations approved for 41.18 designation will follow shortly.
First and foremost, we have led with services and available housing, consistent with the law and my sincere belief that while everyone deserves a roof over their head, that does not mean they are entitled to occupy anywhere along the public right of way. We have talked with people at these locations over the course of the year and have been offering shelter to people at the 101 freeway locations repeatedly since our first ‘cabin community’ opened in June.
On December 1st, we became the first district in LA to officially have some ‘no encampment zones’ in effect— specifically two underpasses along the 101 freeway (where we housed 70 people in fall 2020 working with federal Judge David O. Carter) and one at Winnetka Park. While there are many other locations that community members have proposed for encampment prohibition, we must move deliberately, thoughtfully, and constitutionally so these new rules can both withstand legal scrutiny by the Courts and be implemented fairly, humanely and in a manner that is beyond reproach.
Our goal is to move people indoors and onto a path toward permanent housing, targeting our outreach teams at these specific locations so they can better connect with each person. This focus is key as we want people to really hear us, trust us, and understand both how life changing our housing opportunities can be and how serious we are about keeping certain critical corridors free of encampments.Read more
On Friday the LA City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Redistricting, of which I’m a member, convened to review the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission’s final report/map and deliberate on the almost 40 motions that were introduced for changes. Three maps were presented including the one put forward by the LACCRC, a different map that was designed to cause the most minimal population adjustments to current district boundaries and a hybrid map of the two. The committee adopted the latter with a few additional changes. I am pleased to report that we maintained my district communities mostly intact, and a small adjustment in population was made by slightly changing the existing split in Reseda without splitting any other communities.
The map that the committee adopted keeps much of the progress made by the LACCRC, for example ensuring that Koreatown is in one district and the westside Jewish community is unified. The hybrid also makes Valley seats more equitable and avoids the creation of an entirely new district with a new councilmember from another area of the city who hadn’t represented any of those communities before. These specific issues were paramount in the West Valley.Read more
This week Council President Nury Martinez asked me to serve on the Ad Hoc Committee on Redistricting to review and finalize district maps for both LAUSD and the City Council. I commend LAUSD Commission Chair Luis Sanchez, LA City Council Redistricting Commission Chair Fred Ali, and all the commissioners and staff who spent the better part of a year working with stakeholders to craft their maps and reports. As our charter makes clear, the final responsibilities lie with the City Council for district lines, and I take this responsibility very seriously.
While the LACCRC’s map helps solve some long standing issues regarding equity and communities of interest, my colleagues and I will work diligently to further this work over the coming weeks. If it were up to me, I’d keep the borders of the district I represent just the way they are. But this process isn’t about what I want and with the substantial growth in LA over the last decade, there are many components that must guide our decisions. This process is about creating equitable City Council districts in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and as we consider options, that will be at the forefront of my mind. I recognize that it is an extremely complicated puzzle because not only do the pieces have to fit together, but every time you move one piece of the puzzle it changes all of the other pieces. When you solve one equity issue you sometimes create others and every change has political implications.Read more