As you know, homelessness remains the most critical humanitarian, health, safety, and quality-of-life crisis facing our region. I have helped launched multiple efforts to address homelessness in the West Valley including the recent opening of cabin communities in Reseda and Tarzana, a bridge home in Canoga Park as well as the construction of permanent supportive housing (PSH) in Canoga Park and Reseda which only added to the PSH I helped get established in Winnetka.
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 buildings (hotels or apartments) throughout the city to be converted into PSH. This week I learned that the Extended Stay America on Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills is officially on their application list.
Since the Project Roomkey/Homekey programs began, City agencies have been working with hotel owners to purchase sites for homelessness interventions. The Woodland Hills Extended Stay Hotel is part of a package deal with the hotel’s parent company to purchase four of their LA hotels — 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 in Committee so that ours would serve only seniors.
If the state funding is secured, the Extended Stay will be sold to become PSH. Therefore it will 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 in need of supportive services. 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 and I will make that happen by Council resolution.
More information about this proposal can be found here. I will continue to update our community as more info comes my way but as it stands now, an RFP will go out later this month to secure a service provider and the state’s funding decision will be known by the middle of March.
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.
Improving transit and mobility in the West Valley has always been a priority for Councilmember Blumenfield. As Chair of Public Works, Blumenfield is committed to restoring and expanding many core City services like street services. StreetsLA has been busy improving the streets in the West Valley and over the last few days, dedicated crews have been resurfacing various parts of the district including Corbin between Ventura and Calvert in Woodland Hills and Vanalden between Greenbriar and Charles in Tarzana.
StreetsLA also continues work on the extension of the LA River Bike Path from Mason Avenue to Owensmouth. The contractor completed construction of under crossings at DeSoto Avenue and Canoga Avenue late last year, and has begun asphalt paving of the path. Construction, including lighting, striping and fencing, should be completed by early summer 2022.
February is Black History Month and Councilmember Blumenfield is proud to recognize the contributions of African Americans who have helped shape our nation. This Black History Month, Blumenfield encourages folks to support Black owned businesses in the West Valley. Here are some of Team Blumenfield’s suggestions:
6606 Variel Ave #123, Canoga Park
9030 Owensmouth Ave, Canoga Park
22213 Sherman Way, Canoga Park
5577 Reseda Blvd, Tarzana
22817 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills
The issue of copper wire theft from streetlights has grown to epidemic proportions. The Bureau of Street Lighting (BSL) has long battled against copper wire theft that puts stretches of street lights out of commission. Over the last few years and especially over the past few months, as copper prices have reached all-time highs, the problem has increased dramatically to approximately 200 incidents per month. That has increased the average time to fix broken lights to 3-4 months, with many repairs taking much longer. For Councilmember Blumenfield, that is unacceptable.
As Chair of the Public Works Committee and a member of the Budget & Finance Committee, Councilmember Blumenfield has highlighted this issue and secured additional funding to combat it. Earlier this week in Council, Blumenfield co-authored a motion with Councilmember Paul Krekorian to address the mounting crisis. The motion instructs the Bureau of Street Lighting and the LAPD to develop strategies for combating the wave of copper wire theft, and also calls on the City Attorney to explore potential criminal and civil penalties against the scrap metal businesses that profit from receiving wire and other property stolen from the city. Blumenfield will also work to ensure that the City's budget provides BSL with the additional resources needed to keep our lights on.
The Department of City Planning is amending the Ventura-Cahuenga Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan and is asking for the community’s help confirming the accuracy of the draft maps of existing sidewalk conditions. The Department has also prepared a number of community surveys to collect input about the community’s priorities for public improvements and future fee expenditures. The goal is to modernize regulations and speed up the project review process in order to support small businesses along the Valley’s premier commercial corridor. Review the surveys here.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) has been working hard to enhance the West Valley portion of the Los Angeles River. Recently, MRCA crews replaced a 12' section of chain link fencing by the Tampa Underpass. In 2021, Blumenfield created and provided funding for a pilot project which engaged the MRCA to monitor the river paths in district 3 for maintenance needs, ensure public safety, reduce hazards, and provide outreach to homeless individuals along the LA River.
Last fall, Blumenfield launched a partnership with Pierce College to provide a paid internship for a student to work in his Reseda District Office. For four months, Pierce Fellow, Kekeli Gbewonyo, worked part time to learn about constituent services and city operations. In her own words, Kekeli shares her experience below:
After four delightful months working with Team Blumenfield, my time as Student Fellow comes to an end. I have learned so much from working with this wonderful group of people and I could not have asked for a better work experience.
As a political science major, it was interesting to see the overlap between my studies and the real life practices of government. After this endeavor, I can wholeheartedly say that working in government is much more complicated than the textbooks make it out to be. Local government is far more connected to the community than I thought it would be. A vast majority of my work with the Councilmember’s Office dealt with servicing constituents directly. I learned firsthand about what residents care most about and how to help them with those issues. I was happy to see that this office was so dedicated to the betterment and advancement of the district.
One of my favorite projects to work on would be the implementation of the 41.18, a piece of legislation that restricts the areas where homeless people may reside, but requires that outreach and services be offered before that area is made off-limits to encampment. I appreciated going into the field and talking to real people who were experiencing homelessness and learning how to better support them as members of government. It was inspiring to see the attempts taken to address the homelessness situation in the district.
Overall, I am grateful for this opportunity and all it has gifted me. Working in this office has been incredibly enriching and entertaining. I will always cherish the lessons learned and memories created here.
If you are a student interested in an internship or becoming a Pierce College fellow, please contact Seth Samuels at [email protected].
Have you registered to volunteer for the 2022 Greater LA Homeless Count? The Count was postponed to the last week of February due to the surge in positive COVID-19 cases across our region. The 2022 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count is now happening in the West Valley on Tuesday, February 22. Sign up now to volunteer with Team Blumenfield.
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield and his team have been leading the Homeless Count in the West Valley area for the last six years. The purpose of the Homeless Count is to obtain a comprehensive number of all the unhoused people in the County of Los Angeles. The numbers from the Homeless Count help to formulate many strategies to help the unhoused population in the district and region. The Homeless Count also gives insight into the necessary funding that is needed, including for mental health services, healthcare services, and housing. An accurate Count will help make sure the West Valley receives its fair share of funding for services and housing.
Blumenfield joined the LA River Walkers and Watchers and MRCA at a cleanup event in Winnetka where they collected debris, furniture, and trash. Join the next event on Saturday, February 26.
This week's photo from the Los Angeles Public Library's archives is from the Valley Times on February 4, 1959. Pictured above is Nasira Wilkins, a Howard University graduate with a master's degree in physics, working at the North American Aviation's Rocketdyne Division in Canoga Park. She spent her Rocketdyne hours studying new liquid propellant rocket engine concepts. Learn more about this photo here.