Note from Councilmember Blumenfield- Hate and Bigotry in Our Own Backyard
Over the past few weeks, our community experienced several hate crimes targeting different institutions. On the morning of January 29th, an unknown individual donning dark clothing hung Turkish flags on the gates of two Armenian schools—one of which was in Canoga Park-- in an effort to stoke fear in the Armenian Community a century after the Armenian Genocide. The following day, another unknown individual approached Tarzana Synagogue, Mishkan Torah, and spray-painted expletive language against the Jewish people onto part of the exterior wall exposed to the public.
In each instance, a person driven by bigotry and ignorance tried to use symbols to intimidate and make a minority group feel threatened. Even when perpetrators do not rely on physical violence to spread their hate, hurtful language or symbols aimed at a group still have the power to damage a community’s sense of safety and belonging. I, like many of the Armenians and Jews who witnessed these desecrations, felt personally attacked by these incidents. Our community is better than this and we all must be more accepting and welcoming of everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion, race, or financial security. Simple tolerance is not much to ask. In fact, it is an extremely low bar—we should strive for embracing one another and celebrating our differences.
Instances of hate speech and crimes are becoming more frequent and are something we cannot and will not tolerate in Los Angeles. The FBI has said that between 2016 and 2017, hate crimes in the US increased by 17%, and these are just the ones that are reported. Specifically they reported that there was a 23% increase in religious-base hate crimes and 18% hike in race-based crimes. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said that in 2017 anti-Semitic incidents rose 57%, the single largest annual increase since they started measuring the late 1970s.
My office and I are committed to assisting the LAPD with its ongoing efforts to find the perpetrators who committed these vile acts and bring them to justice. As a former board member of the ADL as your Councilmember and as a person who is fed up with intolerance and bigotry, I stand side by side with our congregations, churches, schools, and families, strongly united against hate.
If you have any tips for the LAPD, please visit their website at: http://www.lapdonline.org/report_a_crime.
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield
Below: Blumenfield joined City Attorney Mike Feuer, Councilmember Koretz and local faith leaders to condemn the vile attacks against the Armenian community.
Public Works Committee Unanimously Supports Blumenfield's Plan to Reinstate Hundreds of Streets Removed from City Grid
On February 6, Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield led the Public Works and Gang Reduction (PWGR) Committee to approve a new ordinance that would reinstate over three hundred streets back into our City grid. Many of these streets were inappropriately removed from public use between 1936 and 1970.
“Since becoming chair of this committee a little over a year ago, this has been one of the many key issues that I’ve tried to tackle because the residents of our City deserve better,” said Blumenfield. “It is absurd that we have streets in the City of Los Angeles that haven’t been serviced since the Great Depression.”
In many cases, there has been housing built on the streets that were removed from the grid and local residents and Angelenos have continued to drive these streets every day. Of the 374 streets that were removed from public use over the last 80 years, 84 are in Blumenfield’s district, the most of any district in the City.
Until Blumenfield spearheaded this issue, the City claimed for decades that its duty was merely to ensure these streets were physically passable rather than maintaining, fixing and updating them like it does every other street in Los Angeles. But this made little sense as many of the removed streets are entwined with streets on the grid and most residents had no idea that their street was any different than others.
To learn more about this issue and Blumenfield’s history on crafting a solution, please click here.
Blumenfield Continues to Lead Effort Against Rogue 'Donation Bins'
On January 29, Councilmember Blumenfield helped shepherd new regulations through the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee to regulate ‘donation bins’ that are placed on private property and attract massive amounts of garbage and mislead well-intentioned donors.
“Many constituents have raised concerns about these bins, many of which are run by companies that sell off the donations and pocket the money for themselves. Not only are they misleading donors about their causes, these bins attract trash and are extremely difficult to move,” Blumenfield said.
Above all else, these donation bins pose a real danger to people who are trying to take donations out of the bins. Over a year ago, a homeless person who was prying the bin open to find a warm coat got stuck inside and died.
Blumenfield and his team have been hard at work to remedy the problem. “My staff and I have worked with store owners to try to get rid of the unwanted bins but sadly, it often took pressure along with the threat of fines to force these bin companies to comply with the law – and even then some still ignore the request for removal,” Blumenfield said.
Blumenfield has been a major supporter of businesses hoping to remove these bins from their properties. For years he has brought the bins to the attention of the City Council. Recently, Blumenfield was able to pass a series of recommendations that he hopes will bring substantial change. The recommendations that were moved forward include:
- Only allowing bin operators that can prove they are legitimate nonprofits.
- Ensuring they have an actual contract to operate with the property owner.
- Develop fines and other enforcement options to address bad actors.
- If place in the public right of way (which is illegal to do), make sure the fines are high enough to cover removal and all related costs.
- Require that the contents of the bins be picked up in a timely manner.
- Require that every Council office get a copy of the collection bin application permit in their district.
- Insist that owners lose their ability to operate these bins after getting multiple violations.
Currently, Blumenfield is waiting for a Council vote for this motion to become law.
Blumenfield Introduces Motion to Prohibit Blinding Digital Billboards on Cars
On the streets of LA, drivers have noticed an increasing number of digital billboards attached to the top of some Uber and Lyft ridesharing vehicles and have brought it to the City’s attention. On January 30, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced a motion that would prohibit digital billboards on top of personal vehicles and taxicabs.
“It was not too long ago that the Valley was blanketed with unhitched mobile billboards advertising everything you can imagine and I am proud to have helped rid our communities of that blight,” said Blumenfield. “Constituents would come up to me all the time and ask ‘what can we do to get rid of those awful mobile billboards?’ We learned then that some companies will go to extreme lengths to circumvent regulations. Digital billboards on cars are just the next generation of advertising blight on our streets. They enable companies to use, for free, our public rights of way to profit at the expense of our quality of life. Furthermore, they can be a dangerous distraction for drivers. We need a clear law to prevent this problem from becoming an epidemic.”
The first of these dynamic message signs (DMS) came from a company called Firefly, which installs the billboard devices on top of cars using Thule roof racks and power from the car battery. At 52 inches long by 17 inches high, the boxes holding the screens are bigger than most rooftop cargo carriers.
In November 2018, the City Attorney's Office told Firefly that installation and operation of its devices in the City is illegal under State and City law. Regardless, Firefly continues to flout the law by placing its devices on rideshare vehicles operating in the City. Although Firefly has appealed to the Board of Taxicab Commissioners, currently there is no official support from the taxi community to support these billboards.
Throughout his career, Blumenfield has been a fervent supporter of strict restrictions on mobile billboards and advertisements designed to distract drivers or blight communities. While a member of the State Assembly representing the San Fernando Valley, Blumenfield authored AB 1298 to allow local jurisdictions to ban or regulate mobile billboard advertising displays parked or left on a public street. Mobile billboards were defined as advertising displays attached to a mobile, non-motorized vehicle, device or bicycle that carries, pulls or transports a sign for the primary purpose of advertising. Prior to this law, unhitched trailers advertising a wide array of products and services were frequently seen on streets throughout the Valley and City of Los Angeles, frustrating local residents and businesses, particularly because they reduced available street parking. Until Blumenfield changed State law, local authorities were unable to remove or cite the mobile billboard companies.
“The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has expressed safety concerns with mobile billboards because they may distract drivers from being aware of first responders’ emergency vehicle lighting when they need to rush to an emergency. These billboards pose a serious threat to public safety,” Blumenfield said.
Blumenfield’s motion will make the prohibition crystal clear and instruct LADOT and the LAPD to take enforcement action against persons who operate vehicles with billboards on top of cars.
Blumenfield’s motion will be heard in the City Council’s Transportation Committee.
Community Members Consider Winnetka Ave. Street Improvement Project
On January 29, dozens of local residents joined Councilmember Blumenfield and the Department of Transportation (LADOT) at their Open House on the Winnetka Avenue Street Improvements Project. This project would add a bicycle lane on Winnetka Avenue between Vanowen and Oxnard Streets, and connect existing bike lanes on Winnetka and Oxnard to the LA River Path, the Orange Line station and bike path, Pierce College, and the West Valley Occupational Center.
Since the Winnetka Ave. Bridge was widened several years ago, the Winnetka Neighborhood Council has fought to extend bicycle lanes, a discussion that began too late for Ignacio Sanchez Navarro who was struck and killed on the road in May 2017, while riding home from his job at a Ventura Blvd restaurant.
LADOT reported at the Open House on the benefits and drawbacks of extending the bicycle lane into this area. While the project would close a critical gap in the West Valley bike network and provide safety benefits, it could affect traffic at the Victory/Winnetka intersection during morning and evening rush hours. Blumenfield heard loud and clear from a number of constituents who had concerns about the segment between Victory and Oxnard.
At the moment, Team Blumenfield and LADOT are thoroughly analyzing public comments before they make a decision about the project. Road safety for bicyclists is an issue Councilmember Blumenfield takes very seriously and he is looking forward to making a decision that is fair and smart for the entire neighborhood.
For more information on the traffic impact analysis, please click here.
Local Business Spotlight-Daglas Drive-In
For 40 years, families have been eating at the Daglas Drive-In restaurant in Winnetka. This family owned restaurant is run by Becky Kokkinos, who prides herself on selling delicious, quality food. When asked about their most popular items, Kokkinos pointed out her famous fries and pastrami.
Above all else, Kokkinos enjoys serving people from the West Valley and beyond. She is always excited seeing a familiar face and the opportunity to meet and greet new customers.
To learn more about the Daglas Drive-in, please visit their website: www.daglasdrivein.com
20036 Vanowen Street
Winnetka, California 91306
West Valley Animal Shelter Pets of the Week
"Milo" ID# A1835750- Dogs are amazing, and darling Milo is a perfect example! He is blind, yet although Milo has no sight, he is so full of love and good cheer that he easily steals your heart instantly. Milo is 7, gets along great with people, and has a soothingly, calm personality. Milo walks well on his leash and he also gets along very nicely with his little dog kennel mates.
"Luke" ID# A1834878- Luke is an adorable Orange Tabby Tuxedo with big white gloves and bright, inquisitive eyes. He will roll over onto his side for pets and onto his back requesting you to give him soft belly rubs. Luke is 6, with a delightfully moderate energy level. Luke must be an indoor-only cat, so he can stay safe always, and so you can share his happiness as he enjoys your tummy rubs, and cuddling cozy in your lap forever.
Bring home forever love, smiles, purrs and wags -- come adopt a shelter pet today! Dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, bunnies, all sizes, types and fur lengths, from playful youngsters to gentle, loving seniors -- they are waiting for you at your local CD 3 Animal Shelter! Come fall in love at the West Valley (L.A. city) Animal Shelter at 20655 Plummer St., Chatsworth, (818) 756-9325. See all the L.A. City Shelter animals at http://www.laanimalservices.com/.
Cleveland Charter High School’s 'Lady Cavaliers' Golf Team won their second consecutive CIF Championship and Blumenfield celebrated their victory at Van Nuys City Hall on February 1. From the greens, to the classroom, they are all inspiring young women and the West Valley couldn't be prouder.
Blumenfield joined Assistant General Manager Ramon Barajas, Park Director Lee Marks, and the Department of Recreation and Parks team at the Woodland Hills Rec Center to check out the brand new, energy efficient, LED field lighting system. Over the past few years, Blumenfield has led a variety of improvements to this park including the complete transformation of the Rec Center and Aquatic Center. This lighting system is one of the first systems like it in the Valley and Blumenfield is proud to welcome this new improvement to the community.
As a major advocate for parks and conservation, Blumenfield has been part of the Aliso Confluence Park in Reseda since its inception. When he represented the West Valley as an Assemblymember, he fought to secure state funding to build it, and as an LA Councilmember he helped take the project over the finish line.
Recently, he recognized several students from the Heschel Day School who designed an educational sign for the park. With the support of their parents and teachers, the students created the monument to educate park-goers about local ecosystems and conservation.
On January 31, Councilmember Blumenfield presented longtime city policy expert Roy Morales with a certificate from the City of Los Angeles to thank him for his 25 years of hard work and leadership in the Chief Legislative Analyst Office.
Morales worked as an advisor to various Council Committees, including Personnel, Budget and Finance, and Arts-Parks and provided invaluable advice to Team Blumenfield.
Morales was also in charge of retro-fitting City Hall to make sure the building is ready to withstand any major earthquakes in the future. We thank him for his leadership and congratulate him on entering his retirement. Morales looks forward to spending more time with his family as well as focusing on his golf game.