Published in the Valley Vantage- June 17, 2021
The encampment outside the Woodland Hills Bowlero is the latest to escalate into an unacceptable mess. I share the frustration of many who call and email my office. I’ve watched fire videos, seen LAPD crime reports, and personally visited the occupant of every tent and RV at that location, near Target, and at Corbin. I wish I had a magic wand or ideal services available that people would voluntarily accept — but I don’t. So what are we doing?
For starters, while I believe everyone has a right to a roof over their head, I don’t believe that everyone has a right to encamp anywhere they want. For some activists, any restriction on encampments is “criminalizing homelessness.” I disagree. While I am working feverishly to create and incentivize temporary and permanent supportive housing for local people, a lack of ideal housing shouldn’t mean that encampments continue everywhere.
Last fall I introduced a controversial motion to prohibit camping within 500 feet of freeways or homeless services, but before people could be asked to move, they had to be offered shelter. Specifically, it amended two sections of the LA Municipal Code, 41.18 which deals with sitting, lying or sleeping in the public right of way and 56.11 which focuses on personal belongings in the public right of way. Unfortunately, even though six Councilmembers co-signed or seconded my motion, there was tremendous opposition when the ordinance drafted by the City Attorney came to the Council for a vote, and the Council President sent it back to committee for further review. I’m working to get a revised proposal to Council for a vote.
We’re opening hundreds of temporary shelter and housing units within weeks. With our two cabin communities, the Willows Bridge Housing, hotels that we bought, and other housing opportunities, we have beds for over 60% of the unhoused people on our district’s streets. That’s in addition to hundreds of units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) that I’ve approved, now under construction or soon will be. While having beds for 60% of the district’s homeless population may satisfy Judge Carter’s threshold in a pending settlement agreement, my goal remains to find beds for 100% of the unhoused population in my district. We’re opening beds faster than ever, but how do we make sure the local unhoused folks accept them?Read more
Published with the Valley News Group May 20, 2021
Last week’s Pacific Palisades fire is a reminder that in the West Valley we need to be prepared for “Fire Season” all year round. I watched the Palisades fire very nervously over the weekend, and I am grateful to the professionals at LAFD who saved the neighborhood and surrounding structures from harm. There are a few things that I would like to highlight as we look ahead to a potentially deadly fire season once again.
We all remember the Woolsey Fire, a few years ago. At that time, LAFD captains told me that if Topanga Canyon started to burn, Woodland Hills would be next and we would need to evacuate. There were fire trucks keeping an eye on Warner Center to keep the area safe during the Woolsey Fire, and we must remain vigilant and do everything we can to prevent fires.
First, everyone who lives in a high fire “Red Flag” restriction area needs to prepare to defend their home by clearing brush as required under city ordinances. If you are unable to clear your own brush, please call my office for options to help you get dangerous dry vegetation away from your home to provide a defensible space.Read more
Published with the Valley News Group on May 6, 2021
Everyday people ask what’s being done to address the homelessness emergency. The good news is new projects and interventions are coming in every corner of Los Angeles, yet it continues to be our most intense and glaring crisis. In the West Valley we have fewer unhoused people than every other community in the city but this humanitarian crisis continues on our streets and sidewalks.
Only a few years ago, we had practically no shelter options, few services and no plan to meet the need. Here’s an update on some of our progress and projects in the West Valley.
- Cabin Communities: We’ve partnered with Hope of the Valley to create two new ‘tiny home’ villages in Reseda (set to open in a few weeks) and Tarzana. This swift and more affordable model will offer over 120 units to help those transitioning from the streets to more permanent housing. Each has a bed, a locking door, A/C, heat, and electric outlets. There will be shared restrooms, laundry facilities, 24/7 security, meals, and onsite case management.
- More Permanent and Affordable Housing: Although I have approved every single unit of permanent supportive housing proposed in my district, more is desperately needed. In addition to the almost 100 existing units in Winnetka Village, the Reseda Theater senior housing and Bell Creek development in Canoga Park are now underway, and combined with the pending Palm Vista project, altogether we’ll have nearly 200 more units.
- Safe Parking: People who are living in their vehicles receive a space with restrooms, security and services, including behind my district office where safe parking has been operating for almost two years without problems. It’s the least we can do for people living in cars who may not qualify for other programs. We recently expanded safe parking to a city-owned lot in Canoga Park and are exploring other potential sites.
- Hotels/Motels: Project Homekey buys or leases hotels/motels and converts them into permanent supportive housing. Project Roomkey is a temporary leased hotel program for people at risk. In 2020 two sites added over 100 rooms for unhoused folks in our community, and we are continuing discussions with several others.
- Bridge Home/The Willows: Earlier this year we opened our Bridge Housing site in Canoga Park which has welcomed dozens of local unhoused people into transitional housing. Due to the COVID-19, it has reduced capacity but soon we’ll be able to double the occupancy.
Published with the Valley News Group on April 22, 2021
This week, Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled his draft budget for the next year and I wanted to share what it proposes for our city, and more specifically the West Valley. A budget is a statement of priorities and from expanding public works projects, bridging the digital divide, empowering local businesses and allocating unprecedented resources to address homelessness, this annual budget lays out a bold agenda.
With the help of President Joe Biden and the American Rescue Plan (ARP), much of the fiscal pain our city government has gone through over the past year has been alleviated, but we are not out of the woods yet. Soon the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, in which I serve as Vice Chair, will begin deliberations with every department head as well as the Mayor’s top finance staff. I’ll go over every line item with a fine tooth comb, but before that process begins, here are some of the highlights of Mayor Garcetti’s proposal.
The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a steep decline in City revenues, which forced the City to make deep cuts in basic services such as street paving, street sweeping and upkeep of trees. Much of the ARP funding is budgeted for restoring City services to pre-pandemic levels.Read more
Published in with the Valley News Group on March 13, 2021
The Woodland Hills and Warner Center community will never forget the devastation of the Woolsey Fire which burned portions of Malibu to the ground. While we are grateful that it didn’t jump the fire line at Topanga, it was a painful reminder for me and others to take action now to prevent devastation of large fires in our neighborhoods. Facing the reality of climate change, fires like Woolsey may become the new normal. While we may hope for the best, we need to plan for the worst.
Even before the Woolsey Fire, I was working with experts to make construction more fire-resistant. I first introduced new building standards legislation after the 2014 downtown Da Vinci arson fire that leveled a three-story apartment building under construction. That fire cost $70 million in property damage to nearby buildings, including the adjacent LADWP building. Luckily no lives were lost.
In 2018 Supervisor Sheila Kuehl asked me to serve on the County’s Woolsey Fire Task Force with leaders from the Los Angeles Fire Department, LA County, and others to analyze and produce an after-action report with recommendations to make our region safer from inevitable future fires. Among the conclusions of the report is that local governments need to update building codes to “harden the target” in fire prone areas. I take this recommendation seriously and do not want it to simply sit on the proverbial shelf waiting to say “I told you so” when the next tragedy occurs.Read more
Published with the Valley News Group on February 18, 2021
As the City works to build new shelter, housing and services for homeless Angelenos, we face a number of complex and uncomfortable policy questions that arise when people leave the streets. How do we store or remove people’s possessions that remain on public property after they have moved into a shelter?
My district is finally on its way toward getting a fair share of help for its homeless population, in part thanks to federal Judge David O. Carter’s proceedings in the LA Alliance case. We’ve opened the Willows Bridge Housing in Canoga Park in partnership with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl guaranteeing 15 years of County services, and purchased two hotels to convert into housing. Also we will open two tiny home cabin communities and a new Safe Parking lot.
At the Willows, Kevin’s troubling situation raised some glaring problems right away. I first met Kevin a few years ago at the farmer’s market and we’ve been checking in ever since. A long time Canoga Park resident, he attended Canoga Park High School over 30 years ago. For years he’s been living in the public right of way just blocks from the Willows.
His encampment was the largest on the block with bicycles stored on the curb and a lot of stuff. Kevin is a talented artist/mechanic who built interesting custom bikes for people. Trained as a machinist, he treasures his custom tools.
I have been fighting to ensure that this new West Valley shelter actually houses people from our community, and Kevin was a perfect match. He was very excited and was literally the first in on opening day. However, the Willows allows clients to store some belongings, but they don’t have room for all of Kevin’s possessions. He had a plan and was loading his property into an RV and a pickup truck that he borrowed.Read more
Seven day COVID-19 cases averages have nearly doubled since the beginning of November and hospitalizations have increased from an average of about 900 a day to well over 1,000 a day in the same time period. On Thursday, November 18, over 5,000 new cases were reported in LA County.
The first measures, effective today, are:
- For non-essential businesses permitted to operate indoors - including retail stores, offices, personal care services - occupancy will be limited to 25% maximum capacity.
- The number of patrons at outdoor restaurants, breweries and wineries will be limited to 50% max outdoor capacity
- The number of customers at cardrooms, outdoor mini-golf, go-karts and batting cages will be limited to 50% maximum outdoor capacity.
Services at personal care establishments may only be provided by appointment to customers wearing face coverings by staff wearing face coverings.
- Services that require either the customer of the staff to remove their face covering, such as facials and shaves, are not permitted.
- Food and drinks cannot be served at these establishments to customers
- Restaurants, breweries, wineries, bars, and all other non-essential retail establishments must close from 10:00PM to 6:00AM
- Outdoor gatherings remain the only gatherings permitted, and they must only include 15 people maximum who are members of no more than 3 households
More restrictions could be on the way if the number of daily cases increases.
If the five-day average of cases in LA County becomes 4,000 or more or hospitalizations are more than 1,750 per day, the following restriction will be added:
- Outdoor and indoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will be prohibited and these businesses will only be able to offer pick-up and delivery. Businesses in this sector are being notified via email by the Department of Public Health, which will work with them to ensure a smooth transition.
If the five-day average of cases in LA County becomes 4,500 or more or hospitalizations are more than 2,000 per day, (LA County reported more than 5,000 new cases on Thursday, November 18) the following restrictions will be added:
- A Safer at Home order will be instituted for three weeks. The Order would only allow essential workers and those securing essential services to leave their homes.
- A 10:00PM to 6:00AM curfew will be mandated, with essential workers exempt.
For the latest news and developments, please use the LA County Health Department's page on COVID-19
The Underpasses are Cleared, But for How Long?
If you’re no longer seeing people camping under the 101, it’s the successful result of an intensive location-based LAHSA pilot project to provide housing to everyone living along the freeway in my district. Alternative walkways are far away and these critical pedestrian corridors connect homes with schools, stores, houses of worship, and jobs. I’ve spent several months working in underpasses with my staff, LAHSA, LA Family Housing, and Volunteers of America. Through our efforts, those unhoused voluntarily accepted shelter without any LAPD presence.
Now the challenge is to keep these underpasses clear. Lawsuits and the lack of constitutional, enforceable, humane anti-camping ordinances have prevented the City from being able to keep these areas clear now that everyone has been given and accepted shelter.
The time is now to put an enforceable law on the books. Federal Judge David O. Carter has found that freeway underpasses are unsafe and unhealthy places to live and that the homeless people encamped there must be relocated. The City must do its part to pass a humane ordinance that will prevent camping in these underpasses after offering an appropriate alternative.Read more