I am pleased to report that today the City Council agreed with me that a 7 story apartment building should not be built in the middle of a single family neighborhood without any public hearings and without the possibility of appeal through the City or through the Courts.
As you may be aware, this proposed project located at 8217 Winnetka was slated for about 350 units. I say ‘about’ because the proposal had an inconsistent number of units — an oversight I rarely see and that indicates how hastily the application was put together.
The developer tried to apply utilizing the Mayor’s Executive Directive 1 (ED1) process which created a streamlined approval process for 100% affordable housing projects. Under this process, the City has no discretion over ED1 projects, meaning they are automatically approved if they meet some basic criteria. Unlike the regular approval process, the ED1 process has no public hearings, no appeals, is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and therefore is not subject to CEQA lawsuits.Read more
I am worried about 7 story apartment buildings being plunked down in the middle of single family neighborhoods without any public hearings and without the possibility of appeal through the City or through the Courts! That’s why I am opposing 5 such projects which have been proposed in our community (CD3).
At the end of last year, to help address the homelessness crisis, Mayor Karen Bass issued Executive Directive 1 (ED1) which created a streamlined approval process for 100% affordable housing projects. Under this process, the City has no discretion over ED1 projects, meaning they are automatically approved if they meet some basic criteria. Unlike the regular approval process, they have no public hearings, are not appealable, are not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and therefore are not subject to lawsuits.
Months after the Mayor authored ED1, the Planning Department realized that it did not explicitly say it was meant only to be applied to areas zoned for apartments. Given our housing crisis, it makes sense to streamline in areas that are already zoned for multi-family, but it makes no sense in areas where such large buildings would stick out like a sore thumb.
A handful of developers took advantage of the ambiguity in ED1 and quickly submitted large affordable housing projects in single family areas. The Mayor’s office has, appropriately, made clear that her intent was not for the ED1 streamlining to be used in these areas. While the Mayor has now ensured that ED1 explicitly does not apply in single family neighborhoods, eight projects were submitted before she clarified her order.
Once the intent was made clear, those 8 projects were taken off the fast/no public hearing track. However, 3 developers have objected and appealed the City’s decision to follow the intent of the law. Unfortunately, the brunt of the impact of these 8 projects would be in our community (CD 3). This is a real problem and I want to be clear with you about what is happening, and what I’m doing to help ensure that our voices are not silenced.
Five of the eight properties are located in the northern part of CD3, in Reseda, Winnetka and Canoga Park. The first appeal from the eight cases was heard by the City Council on September 27th for a 200 unit, 100 percent affordable apartment building proposed in Sherman Oaks. Even though the Mayor and the Planning Department didn’t think that the project approval should be streamlined, the Councilmember for the area supported the project and urged the Council to grant the developer’s appeal to be allowed to use ED1 streamlining.
During the discussion, I pushed for that project and all 8 projects to follow a normal application process by denying the developer’s appeal. Against my legal and policy objections, the Council voted down my motion (8 votes to 5) and the seven story Sherman Oaks project was given the go ahead to be built.
On October 3, the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) addressed the second of these 8 projects, in Winnetka. The fast track/no hearing ED1 process does not require any notice to neighbors who will be impacted. This is why you probably are hearing about this project now for the first time. Located at 8217 Winnetka, they have proposed a 7-story building slated for about 350 units. I say ‘about’ because the proposal had an inconsistent number of units — an oversight I rarely see and that indicates how hastily the application was put together.
I personally testified before the Committee and urged opposition to using ED1 for this project and asked them to deny the developer’s appeal. Fortunately, the committee listened and voted to deny the appeal. The decision will be brought to the full City Council for a final vote, and even should we win that vote, the developer could still sue.
The other proposed projects in our community are located at 7745 Wilbur, 7947 Wilbur, 19448 Saticoy and 8550 Variel. I will push for them to go through the regular approval process. And to be clear- I am in favor of ED1 to speed the building of apartments in areas already zoned for apartment buildings. I cannot support 7 story buildings being approved in single family neighborhoods without public hearings and input.
Please contact me or my Planning Director, Elizabeth Ene, at [email protected], if you have any questions or concerns.
Economic and Planning Systems (EPS), a contracted economic research firm, this week released the final results of the Reseda Opportunity Site Economic Impact Study. The study, which I funded through my discretionary funds, looked to evaluate the impact of City-owned parking lots on nearby businesses.
While all City owned lands, including these Reseda parking lots, are being looked at with regard to the feasibility of utilizing them for some form of homeless intervention or needed housing, and while these particular Reseda lots were identified by the CAO in 2016 for potential use, I wanted to make sure that these lots received an extra level of scrutiny before any projects would be considered. Specifically, I wanted to make sure that the economic impact upon local businesses and the local community that might result from the temporary or permanent loss of any of these parking lots would be considered. Without such a study, the impact of such a loss would not be part of the feasibility analysis that the City will do when considering potential projects.
You can read EPS’s full report at this link.
The study examined four City-owned parking lots: two adjacent lots on Baird Street north of Sherman Way (located in the study’s Parking Zone A), one lot on Baird Street south of Sherman Way (located in the study’s Parking Zone B), and one lot on Canby Avenue south of Sherman Way (located in the study’s Parking Zone C). It also looked at other parking options in the area, including on-street parking and privately-owned lots. The study consisted of two parts: data collection and stakeholder engagement. During data collection, the traffic consultants observed parking usage in City-owned lots as well as street parking. They also evaluated potential parking mitigation options that could alleviate any negative impact on businesses.
The results of the study show that businesses in the study’s Zone A and Zone B would be significantly impacted by partial or full removal of parking in the City-owned lots. Although the study also proposes several mitigation measures that could be used to help offset ramifications of parking losses, I don’t believe the proposed solutions would adequately alleviate the negative impacts to businesses within these zones.
The results of the study also reflect the feedback my office has received from community members. It is my belief that even a temporary or partial removal of off street public parking in either Zone A or Zone B could cause insurmountable harm to businesses within their respective zones and that redevelopment of the parking lots within either of these zones is inadvisable.
The study’s results for Zone C diverge from Zones A and B. Zone C has a higher availability of private and on-street parking options as well as much lower parking utilization rates, including in the City-owned off-street parking lot. Combined with parking mitigation efforts, the study shows in Table 13 that temporary removal of City-owned parking in Zone C would cause nearby businesses little to no harm.
While there are currently no proposed developments for any of the City-owned parking lots in Reseda, I believe that there is not enough evidence to eliminate the parking lot in Zone C from consideration as a future housing site so long as the development would require replacement parking and the nearby residential and commercial constituents continue to be consulted and their needs prioritized.
Combined with the recent amendment I introduced in City Council, the study provides an additional layer of protection for small businesses by ensuring that the commercial needs of the local Reseda community remain a priority in any potential housing development projects on these City owned parking lots. While the City remains in desperate need of additional housing units, development decisions should not be made to the detriment of small businesses. Pitting residential housing needs against small business needs does nothing to further the economic stability of a community or its residents.
As I promised when I commenced the study in 2019, I will use this study to inform policy decisions in a way that will promote economic growth and opportunity for Reseda.
I want to thank the Reseda community and especially our Reseda small business owners for their participation in the study. The insight and feedback provided by the community were critical in delivering a report that accurately reflects the importance of the City-owned parking lots to Reseda’s business community. I am committed to continuing open dialogue with the community. In that vein, I invite you to attend my next regularly scheduled Reseda Rising + update meeting on Tuesday, August 8 at 6:30 p.m. We will discuss the results of this study as well as provide updates on other ongoing Reseda projects. You can register for the virtual meeting by visiting https://bit.ly/resedaprojects080823.
This weekend we lost our friend and my District Director Michael Owens. The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for Michael’s family, friends and all of us on Team Blumenfield. For those who were not fortunate enough to know him, I wanted to share a few memories and let you know what he meant to us.
Michael joined Team Blumenfield back during my first term in the State Assembly, over 13 years ago. Ever since, he has been a true force for good in the West Valley and the City of LA. Starting as intern and then Director of Constituent Affairs, he built partnerships and friendships with so many residents and nonprofits and had such a unique gift for guiding residents through the civic issues and finding solutions. He truly had boundless empathy, patience and a deep passion for public service. We affectionately gave him the title of ‘constituent whisperer.’ As a former paralegal, he was undaunted by bureaucracy and knew how to turn “no” into “yes” and breakdown the barriers so that constituent problems could be solved.
He was a formidable force in our office, always elevating causes dear to him and using the tools of the state and city to make lives better for the most vulnerable. In crises like the COVID-19 emergency or Woolsey Fire, Michael was working closely with local senior organizations and groups assisting folks with disabilities to make sure they were safe and had every resource they needed. As someone who had long suffered from diabetes and physical disability caused year’s ago when he was struck by a car, Michael's empathy came from first hand experience.
Reseda Projects Updates: A Community Engagement Initiative of Councilmember Bob Blumenfield
On the evening of March 29th, Team Blumenfield held a virtual event to share updates on projects happening in Reseda. Information included news on Aliso Creek Confluence Park and preliminary results on the Economic Planning Systems report on the economic development study. Renderings for the Reseda skating facility were shared as well. Construction on the project started in August of 2022. The skating facility is expected to open by the first quarter of 2024.
Additionally, Vanessa Delgado President at Azure Development shared information regarding the Reseda Theatre, which includes a Public Market Concept as well as next steps for the project. Below you will find part of the presentation Delgado shared with the community during the meeting. Azure is currently doing community outreach to share their vision for the theatre. Additionally they are taking preliminary steps to seek local food businesses who may be interested in leasing one of the restaurant spaces. For more information please contact [email protected]
To learn more about all the Reseda project updates shared you can watch the hour long recorded event here.
Economic and Planning Systems, a contracted economic research firm, last week released preliminary results of their Reseda Microeconomic Study evaluating the impact of public parking lots on nearby businesses. Preliminary results showed that either partial or full removal of City-owned parking lots would have a negative economic impact on area businesses. I commissioned the study in 2019 in order to provide support for local businesses and so that I could require data-driven mitigation measures in the event that development was proposed for any one of these lots, as all City properties are being scoured as potential locations for affordable housing projects.
In 2019, The Mayor’s Office and City Administrative Office identified four parking lots in Reseda that meet basic standards for potential redevelopment opportunities, including low income housing or permanent supportive housing developments. Understanding that the four identified lots are critical infrastructure to many Third District small businesses, I introduced a motion to fund the study to learn exactly how the lots are utilized by businesses and how partial or full removal of the parking lots would impact area businesses.
The City Administrative Office contracted with Economic and Planning Systems, an economic research firm, and Nelson/Nygaard, a transportation planning firm to conduct the study. While some initial research was conducted in 2019 and early 2020, much of the work was delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid skewed results. Research resumed in the fall of 2022.
The study examined four City-owned parking lots: two adjacent lots on Baird Street north of Sherman Way, one lot on Baird Street south of Sherman Way, and one lot on Canby Avenue south of Sherman Way (see Image 1). It also looked at other parking options in the area, including on-street parking and privately-owned lots.
The consultant team divided the studied area into three separate zones, as depicted in Image 2 and studied how either partial or full removal of the City-owned lots would impact nearby businesses.
The study consisted of two parts: data collection and stakeholder engagement. During data collection, the hired consultants observed parking usage in City-owned lots as well as street parking. They also evaluated potential parking mitigation options that could alleviate any negative impact on businesses.
Economic and Planning Systems released the results during a virtual town hall on Wednesday, March 15, where business owners and residents were invited to provide feedback. Prior to the event, my staff went door-to-door to invite nearby businesses to attend the meeting and offer their input. Under my direction, staff delivered fliers to more than 200 businesses in the vicinity of the four parking lots.
According to the Economic and Planning Systems preliminary results, the current parking supply in all three zones is sufficient; however, off-street parking options, including the City-owned lots, are over capacity during peak utilization hours. However, the study showed that a scenario where 50 percent of City-owned parking was eliminated would create a parking deficit during peak hours in Zones A and B. Meanwhile, elimination of 100 percent of City-owned parking would create parking deficits in all three zones, with Zones A and B being hardest hit, having parking deficits throughout nearly the entire day.
For businesses, a parking deficit could translate into a loss of customers. The study’s preliminary results found that a 50 percent parking reduction in City-owned lots would create a two to four percent loss for businesses in Zones A and B, while a 100 percent parking reduction in City-owned lots could mean a 2 percent loss for businesses in Zone C, a 37 percent loss for businesses in Zone A, and a 38 percent loss for businesses in Zone B. Such a significant impact would be insurmountable for many small businesses.
While Economic and Planning Systems also found that utilizing parking mitigation efforts could help reduce the negative impact to businesses; even taking advantage of mitigation efforts such as shared parking agreements and increased parking enforcement techniques would not completely alleviate the impact on businesses.
Economic and Planning Systems will be reviewing feedback from the virtual townhall and incorporating feedback into their final report. I expect the final report is to be completed by early summer 2023. I will make sure the final report will be available to the public and I will welcome additional feedback from the community as well.
Although Mayor Bass is taking inventory of City-owned properties to explore for development opportunities; it is important to remember that there are currently no proposed development plans for any of the City-owned parking lots in Reseda. I will use the results of the study, along with additional community feedback, to advocate for the needs of small business owners and support mitigation efforts should there be any proposed plans in the future. I will continue to oppose any potential project that would have a negative impact on Reseda businesses.
If you weren’t able to make it to the town hall, you can view Economic & Planning Systems’ presentation and discussion here. You can also download their slideshow here.
Today the LA City Council passed new, permanent tenant protections that will help keep thousands of Angelenos housed. When the pandemic began, the City Council had to act fast to protect renters. Every industry was hit hard, people were losing their jobs and the risk of sickness and death was a constant reality. Early on we passed a COVID emergency order and as part of that effort, we enacted unprecedented tenant protections which essentially halted evictions and offered millions of dollars in rental relief.
We are no longer in that incredibly dark place. Many of those protections were entwined in that emergency order. Possibly the last City in the country to let its order end — LA’s COVID protections will expire at the end of this month. However, we are still in a housing crisis and we want to make sure that when these COVID protections sunset, vulnerable renters are protected from evictions. Consequently, we needed to enact new, non-COVID specific renter protections right away that will keep people housed while ensuring property owners get payments they are owed.
If you live in a Rent Stabilized (RSO) unit (generally means your building was built before 1978), you already have wide ranging protections against harassment and eviction. Whether an apartment, house, ADU etc, these rules apply. The new legislation really focuses on folks who live in non-rent stabilized units and who currently have no lease.
One of the big protections is referred to as ‘Just Cause,’ meaning a property owner can’t evict a tenant if rent is paid and lease terms are not violated. With the passage of this new law, Just Cause protections now extend to most non-RSO units. Relocation assistance also expanded to cover more renters if they are evicted. With the extensive expansion of Just Cause protection, short term leases (less than 6 months) are not included, hoping to encourage property owners to take a chance on folks who might not have good credit or be a good risk from their perspective. These tenants should be given a chance to prove that they would be good long term tenants. The short term carve out also allows people who are away for months (traveling nurses, actors and others) to rent out their units without fear that they will have to prove Just Cause and pay relocation costs if their temporary tenant doesn’t move out as promised.
While we will continue to look at other ways to help people rebuild after the height of the pandemic, this is a big step.
Thank you to my colleagues for a unanimous vote. Reaching consensus wasn’t easy, but time was of the essence and together we were able to provide permanent tenant protections for the first time in the City of Los Angeles. Today was a banner day for renter protection!
The City of Los Angeles faces a housing and homelessness crisis. To meet that challenge, various entities have evaluated all municipally-owned parcels across the City to determine which are potentially feasible for affordable or supportive housing projects. Both the City Administrative Officer (CAO) and City Controller have identified the five Department of Transportation (LADOT) surface parking lots near Reseda Blvd and Sherman Way as potential housing sites. There is currently no conceptual or actual project proposed for any of these lots.
Given the magnitude of the housing and homelessness crisis, Councilmember Blumenfield believes that no option should be taken off the table. Many local businesses rely on the LADOT parking lots for customer parking so Blumenfield has requested an in-depth analysis of the economic impact of any temporary or permanent loss of parking. An economic study will take place over the next few months and your input is critical to provide a comprehensive and accurate analysis of the economic impact of redevelopment of any of the five parking lots. Read more about the study below.
Last Thursday, the first round of data from LAHSA’s latest Homeless Count was announced and it highlights progress as well as challenges. Based on these preliminary numbers, homelessness has barely increased city-wide (1.7%), but in the West Valley, specifically in John Lee’s and my districts, the unsheltered homeless population has increased by about 300 people in each of our areas.
On the positive side, we have seen a 200% increase in people being sheltered in CD3 (meaning people who are no longer on the street, but are in temporary/interim housing where they have access to case workers and services). This is because we were able to quickly utilize state/federal funding opportunities to build cabin communities, Bridge Housing, hotel conversions and more. In the coming months, several new Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)/Affordable sites will open in the third district and more hotel conversions are underway. But, even more housing and services of all kinds are desperately needed. It’s not about PSH vs transitional housing or mental health care vs homeless outreach- we need more of everything but we have to be strategic — we can’t just throw money at the problem. Also, to achieve progress we need to be more efficient in cutting through red tape with better accountability and oversight.
It is extremely discouraging to see the homeless count numbers in CD3 still rise during a period of unprecedented investment in shelter/housing and services. While I’m very grateful to all the LAHSA workers and service providers who, day in and day out, work with my team to bring people indoors, I am also frustrated with the overall system. We simply are not getting the help we need to make a permanent improvement for people on the streets and sidewalks because the system is still too cumbersome and opaque.
When the emergency COVID and special state funds are exhausted, we will not be able to keep allocating the same level of funding year we have these past years, especially if we are not seeing visible improvements to move unsheltered people indoors permanently. Hopefully, the major investments we have been making will ultimately prove to be the foundation for more serious progress moving forward.
To say we need more help from the County is a huge understatement. More than half of the unsheltered population in CD3 suffers from serious mental illness and/or drug addiction and the crisis has dramatically increased the need for services and access to their programs. In the West Valley, I’ve had to redirect district specific city funds to bring in district specific professional assistance, including crisis response teams from the San Fernando Valley Mental Health Care Center as well as SHARE! to help house people faster. This is because many of our service providers say they don't have the resources for more intensive services to help address the crisis in our community. For the billions that we are collectively putting into solving our homelessness emergency, we urgently need help for people with unmet needs for health services including substance abuse treatment and mental health care.
It’s important to remember that the projections are based on the visible population on one night and that a continued review is critical. At the request of LAHSA, prior to the count my office prohibited any comprehensive clean ups of encampments in the immediate weeks leading up to the event. This was done to avoid artificially displacing people which might cause an underestimate of the count. This was not done in some other parts of the city and may have contributed to skewed results. Another contributing factor may relate to the difficulty of removing tents from the street even when they are unoccupied. There are a significant number of people who have beds in interim sites but still keep their RVs or tents on the sidewalk or street for storage or discretionary use. A count of RVs and tents can’t assess if the owner also has a shelter bed. I hope more work will be done to make sure these numbers are the best reflection of what’s happening in the West Valley.
Homelessness continues to be the most critical issue facing our region. Rents are high, wages aren’t rising as fast as inflation, and critical health services are out of reach for many- the pandemic just compounded these existing societal problems. My team and I are committed to staying focused on housing, growing our network of assistance and finding out where our systems can be more efficient. Angelenos in need must receive the health, drug addiction and mental health services they deserve and are due. In the short run, we need better transparency between agencies, better data and we need to streamline and cut costs for building affordable housing.
The numbers revealed by LAHSA are helpful clues as to what is happening around homelessness. However, the numbers deserve further scrutiny, and require other data and interpretation to truly understand where we are headed and how to best adjust our course when it comes to effectively preventing, reducing and solving for homelessness.
To help local students enter the workforce, Councilmember Blumenfield is partnering with Pierce College and the West Valley Warner Center Chamber of Commerce for a Professional Clothing Drive. From now to August 26, 2022, you can make a real difference by donating office appropriate clothing to the Brahma Career Closet. This is a new resource for students who need professional attire for interviews, career fairs, and job placements. Your generous donations will allow job seekers to feel confident to successfully enter the workplace and launch their careers. Most Pierce College students and alumni are from the San Fernando Valley and nearby communities, and this clothing drive will help them connect with employers to succeed in their job searches.
Instructions to donate:
Hours and Location Dropoff: Monday-Friday, 8AM- 4PM, until Friday, August 26.
LA Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka Ave, Woodland Hills
From Winnetka Ave entrance, follow Brahma Drive and continue to Student Dropoff / Flagpole. Staff will meet you there to receive donations.
Please email - [email protected] with your expected day and time of arrival, along with how many items you have (for example: 1 suit, 1 box, 2 bags, etc.)
We are accepting new or lightly used professional or business casual attire including clothes, shoes, and accessories (including sealed make-up). All adult sizes are needed. Undergarments are not accepted. Additionally, we ask that you please wash all the clothes you intend to donate before drop-off.
For any questions, please contact Mirna Ezquivel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Diana Williams from the WVWC Chamber and Team Blumenfield’s Kekeli Gbewonyo, who is also a Pierce College student and Peer Mentor, for their support to collect donations and spread the word to support this effort.
Acceptable Items for Donations:
- New or VERY lightly used
- Sealed Make-Up
- Clothes Racks