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

An ambitious plan for LAUSD improvement, controversies surrounding RV parking, and NIMBY backlash to a wellness pavilion.  

Every week, Knock LA provides live coverage of Los Angeles City Council meetings from our Twitter account. While you can follow along live, we’ve also put together this breakdown of what’s happening at the highest levels of power in our city for those who don’t have 12 hours a week to spend on City Council meetings (including regularly absent city councilmembers).

city council recap featured image collage
A collage of LA city councilmembers, art by Sandra Markarian for Knock LA

LA City Council Meeting 4/5/2022

The meeting on April 5 was fairly quick and perfunctory. There were a couple of items about cannabis regulation. Item 18 changed how licensing is handled. There were some requirements about change of location and ownership with text specifying that these changes were meant to make the process more equitable. Some of the language in the ordinance stated that it would be primarily for businesses that are approved social equity applicants

Item 26, which can be found on the supplemental agenda, is a report about how the Department of Cannabis Regulation can “reorganize, clarify, and establish necessary procedures” for the licensing and social equity programs.

There were also two items supporting various state legislation. Item 16 supports SB 914, a bill that changes laws surrounding what information homeless service providers can share. The idea is to keep better track of unaccompanied women (women without children or a partner who are experiencing homelessness) and survivors of domestic abuse. This would help the government provide services specific to those people. 

Item 23 is in support of SB 1173, a bill that would instruct all state retirement funds to divest from fossil fuels. It would also bar any new investments in fossil fuels.

LA City Council 4/6/2022

While the meeting on April 6 was pretty uneventful, there were several notable moments voters should be aware of. 

Item 1 put forward several steps to electrify the city’s fleet of vehicles, including installing more charging stations. CD 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stated that the city would need 97,000 charging stations to truly serve a city of electric vehicles. While this item didn’t require that many, it will push towards that goal.

Items 2-6 were all related to housing or homelessness:

  • Item 2 put funds toward increasing housing capacity for young people experiencing homelessness
  • Item 3 was a report about continuing to fund certain tools for service providers
  • Item 4 was a report about how data is shared between service providers
  • Item 5 put forward some money for senior housing
  • Item 6 expanded and gave more funding to a program aimed at preventing people from falling into homelessness 

Each of these things, at least on the surface, seems good, but it is clear that the city has historically failed to truly help Angelenos who are experiencing homelessness. These are initiatives worth keeping our eyes on to ensure they’re actually effective. 

Item 7 is the most directly impactful item on the agenda, and as a result received the most time during public comment. The item directed the city attorney’s office, Department of Transportation, and LAPD to work towards removing RVs parked illegally. Illegally parked RVs started being viewed as a problem when the city lifted many standing parking laws during the pandemic. As more people lost their homes, some moved into RVs.

One of the big pushes against RVs came from callers near the Ballona Wetlands, an LA County ecological reserve. Callers claimed the presence of RVs has made the area dirty and dangerous, and that some educational activities have been shut down as a result. (However, according to other sources, in-person educational programming was shut down due to COVID-19, not unhoused residents.) 

CD 15 Councilmember Joe Buscaino spoke about the item, claiming to care about people who are dying in RVs. While he spoke, he showed a slideshow of two pictures: one of an RV on fire, and another one that had been burnt out. CD 7 Councilmember Monica Rodriguez claimed she put forward the motion primarily to prevent safety hazards for drivers, which was never brought up in public comment or mentioned anywhere other than her short speech. The only council member to vote against was CD 4 Councilmember Nithya Raman, although there were some who did not vote for it because they were absent.

LA City Council Meeting 4/8/22

The majority of Friday’s meeting focused on Agenda Item 8 – the Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s verbal presentation on his 100 day plan. But, before we get to that, let’s take a look at what else was covered. 

Agenda items 1-5 unanimously passed by the 10 city council members present. Items 1 and 2 are both matters of accounting. Number 1 addressed funding for the Ready Your LA Neighborhood (RYLAN) Pilot Project from the Emergency Management Department (EMD). Number 2 regarded the innovation fund recommendation for the LA Extractive Fines and Fees Digital Platform, which will establish a new account for the city controller’s office. Items 3, 4, and 5 pertain to the renaming of two intersections and one street. 

Agenda items 6 and 7 were both in regards to the Mount Saint Mary’s Chalon Campus Wellness Pavilion Project, and resulted in some tension. The Brentwood Homeowners Association and other Brentwood residential coalitions and alliances have made appeals opposing the project for “potential fire hazard and traffic concerns.” However, on March 30, 2022, the Department of Planning decided the “appellants’ objections lack merit.” Since there was no public hearing about the project, two callers made public comments. 

The first caller was Kathleen Flanagan, president of the Brentwood Homeowners Association, who claimed she was being attacked as a “segregationist, for not liking the diversity Mount Saint Mary’s brings to the community.” Flanagan used the 2019 Getty Fire as an example of the danger posed by the projects; roads were closed and people commuting were unable to get to work while the city was wasting money in overtime pay as the LAFD took more than a week to put out the fire. However, Flanagan neglected to mention the communication breakdown that left commuters (like domestic workers, gardeners, and contractors) in the dark about evacuation protocol. Homeowners were informed immediately of this mandatory evacuation. Flanagan continued to pontificate on how damaging and traumatic the fire was to the Brentwood and Westside residents to highlight the danger of this project. Following Flanagan, the VP of administration and finance at Mount Saint Mary’s thanked the city council for their support and discussed how crucial the project is to “diversity at the college.” 

Now, onto Carvalho’s 100 day plan presentation: 

As of April 8, it was day 45 for Carvalho, giving him 55 more days to solidify his ambitious plan to address a number of issues in LAUSD. The plan aims to boost graduation rates, eliminate the achievement gap, empower students for college and career readiness, and reduce violence around schools. 

Carvalho aims to take action by June and develop a longer four year strategic plan. Carvalho believes that utilizing a “data driven analysis” is imperative to effectively assess these areas of concern. After this analysis is complete, Carvalho says it will be time to discuss it with the community. 

Carvalho’s presentation sparked several questions from councilmembers. CD 3 Councilmember Bob Blumenfield wanted to know how he would measure success and navigate potential bureaucratic roadblocks. Carvalho said he would use metrics like test scores and graduation rates, and would strive for a “happy medium” between centralization and autonomy to help manage finances. CD 5 Councilmember Paul Koretz, while excited for the plan, expressed concerns about whether English language learners may fall behind. Carvalho responded by saying English language initiatives are key to the plan. 

Two separate members of the Africa Town Coalition called in to make a public comment to support the community demands and request a meeting with CD 10 Councilmember Herb Wesson. Both callers share concern for the future of Africa Town at large, “a mecca of Black culture, in danger of being dismantled,” and specifically in regards to the Sunday Marketplace and their street vendors. Africa Town Coalition advocates for “our youth, elderly, homeless, formerly incarcerated, and victims of crime here in LA.”