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Here’s What You Missed Last Week at LA City Council

A recap of Los Angeles City Council meetings on March 1, 2, and 4.

city council recap featured image collage
Art by Sandra Markarian for Knock LA

LA City Council Meeting 3/1/22

This was a bit of an uneventful meeting. However, while a lot of the items are relatively mundane, they can have serious consequences that affect how important issues are handled at a top-down level. Sure, this stuff can seem dull, but if you’re reading this and staying engaged in other ways, you’re doing the right thing. 

This meeting had three votes to appoint people to various positions at different departments. Item 11 appointed Kristin Crowley to be the first female fire chief for LA. Besides being the first woman, several councilmembers noted her status as the first openly LGBT chief. Item 12 appointed Vahid Khorsand to the Board of Public Works. Item 28 appointed Dana Brown to be the general manager of the Personnel Department. In her remarks, Brown said that she wanted to focus on hiring within an inclusive framework, including developing potential talent.

Besides the appointments, the item that got the most discussion from the councilmembers was the state of emergency declared by Mayor Garcetti to deal with the COVID pandemic. CD 15 Councilmember Joe Buscaino said that the emergency is over, and it is time to end the state of emergency. Some of the more reasonable councilmembers stated that while they believed there is still a state of emergency, they felt that some of the ordinances originally passed were now doing more harm than good, and should be revised. CD 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin stated that the push to end the state of emergency was to end renter protections, and that didn’t sit right with him. He was in favor of considering the ordinances, but he wanted to make some of them permanent, along with ending some of them. The continuation of the state of emergency passed with only Buscaino and CD 12 Councilmember John Lee voting against it.

There were some other items that didn’t get talked about during the meeting, but seemed important. Item 10 provided financing for several improvements to be made to an educational facility in CD 4. Items 14–18 dealt with various aspects of keeping our streets clean. Some asked for report-backs about where illegal dumping occurs. Another asked for report-backs on what city properties could be used for housing and services for unhoused people, while a different item asked for a report back on how CARE and CARE+ resources are being used. The last of the group asked for a report-back about how street sweeping was being conducted.

LA City Council Meeting 3/2/22

On Wednesday, the city accepted lots of money from state and federal grants, mostly but not entirely for policing. For police: a million for an “anti-delinquency” program, $600,000 to fight counterfeit pharmaceuticals and car parts, and $150,000 to collaborate with mental health professionals. Not for police: a grant to end violence against women with disabilities via nonprofits Peace Over Violence and the Disability Community Service Resource Center. The city also accepted money from Homekey, a statewide housing program, and voted to distribute some HHH funds. 

The council voted to give money to five nonprofits: $500,000 to Alliance for Community Empowerment (not to be confused with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment!), $3 million to the Chinese American Museum, $2.6 million to Discovery Cube LA, $300,000 to the Little Tokyo Service Center, and $500,000 to the Weingart East LA YMCA. Some callers appreciated that CD 3 Councilmember Bob Blumenfield recused himself from this vote because his wife is the executive director of Discovery Cube, and one caller wondered why the Department of Sanitation was involved in the distribution of these funds. Seems fishy!

Some callers accused the city council of screening calls and censoring their friends. One caller said he waited 40 minutes to give comment, but when he tried to call with a Google voice number, he got in right away. Sam Williams, a former employee of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), was able to get through twice and give two comments imploring the council to support him in his lawsuit against LADWP for anti-Black discrimination.

The last part of the meeting was a closed session to discuss a lawsuit filed against the city and the county for their failures to address homelessness. The LA Alliance for Human Rights say their aim is a “return to clean sidewalks,” which is a very creepy way to talk about the issue. Still, their lawsuit names several unhoused people as plaintiffs and highlights the grave effects of the crisis. In Los Angeles, an average of five unhoused people die per day, and the lifespan of the unhoused is 22 years shorter than that of the housed. Despite enormous amounts of spending, the city has failed its unhoused residents in myriad ways, neglecting even to provide regular handwashing stations during a deadly pandemic.

LA City Council Meeting 3/4/22

In California, there’s only one type of construction that needs voter approval before moving forward, and that is publicly-funded low-income housing. That’s thanks to article 34 of the state constitution, which passed just two years after the U.S. Supreme Court banned racist restrictive covenants (documents explicitly prohibiting Black people from living in certain neighborhoods). State Senators Ben Allen (Santa Monica) and Scott Wiener (San Francisco) introduced legislation repealing what they call “a racist provision designed to keep people of color and poor people out of certain neighborhoods,” and on Friday, the city council voted to support them.

Officially, the council meets three times a week, but it’s been at least several months since they’ve actually shown up on a Friday.

During almost every meeting, at least a few callers from CD 10 expressed their frustration with their lack of representation ever since Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended in October following his indictment on alleged federal corruption charges. Callers generally want Herb Wesson in the position, either because they like him or just so that someone can hold the position until an election can be held. 

One caller from Save Avenue 34 in Lincoln Heights said that he recently discovered he’s living next to a toxic waste dump where developers plan to build luxury housing. He said toxic chemical levels there are 40,000 higher than safe levels, and that the current remediation plan is inadequate and only aims for industrial levels of safety, even though there’s an elementary school nearby. 

The council passed a plan to improve walking and biking paths along the LA River, and voted to support rooftop solar panels by opposing a state tax on them.