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

City Council nearly unanimously removes vaccine requirements for outdoor events, De Léon brags about his displacing 80 unhoused residents from Toriumi Plaza, and the council accepts $3.8 million more in LAPD funding.

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

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).

LA City Council Meeting 3/22/22

On March 22, City Council passed a pilot project to offer menstrual products in all city-owned buildings. Speaking on the motion, CD 2 Councilmember Paul Krekorian said that women and some transgender men would benefit from public restrooms treating menstrual products as equal to other hygiene products like soap and paper towels.

The city voted to support a program providing all LAUSD first-graders with a college savings account containing $50 each, and to remove several items from the Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP).

When landlords refuse to maintain their properties, tenants can attempt to get them to do their job by filing a complaint with the city. After a long process with many second chances for the landlord, the property could enter into REAP. If so, the tenants can pay a reduced rent and can choose to pay a city escrow account rather than continuing to pay the landlord who refuses to do their job. Since the city council voted to remove several properties from REAP on this day, presumably the necessary repairs on those buildings have finally been made.

City council passed a motion, introduced by CD 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin and CD 4 Councilmember Nithya Raman, that could make street cleaning around encampments more humane. The motion recognizes the advocacy work of the Services Not Sweeps Coalition and says that current city policy is harmful and clearing encampments in a pandemic is dangerous. Rather than the current coercive policies, the motion calls for a voluntary and communicative program with predictable cleaning schedules, and no police officers.

The city voted to give money to the SHARE! program, a cheerfully titled opportunity for low-income people to pay $500-900 to share a room, or “live like a college student!” Tenants live in single-family homes and must attend thrice-weekly self-help support groups. Landlords pay utilities, forego security deposits and credit checks, and get an extra $1,000 per month above market value and the ability to reject prospective tenants. 

The city also passed a motion to identify more funding sources for Project Roomkey, an opportunity to live in short-term housing with strict rules where you must ask permission before entering your own room (despite its name, you don’t get a key to your room).

CD 4 Councilmember Kevin de Léon congratulated himself on displacing residents of Toriumi Plaza, a community of around 80 unhoused people living on city-owned land in Little Tokyo. First, in a tactic the Nikkei Progressives call cruel and inhumane, he removed their portable toilets and hand washing stations. Then, on March 17, he sent LAPD and LA Sanitation to clear everyone out.

Before the sweep, de León bragged that he could get almost anyone to accept temporary shelter and added vaguely, “We can provide permanent housing…later on.” Despite video evidence to the contrary, on March 22 he claimed he performed the sweep and installed a fence without deploying police officers or issuing citations.

De León also claimed that anti-sweep activists had called women on his team cunts, sluts, whores, and bitches all day. Previously he accused activists of bribing unhoused people to remain on the streets.

Many callers to Monday’s city council meeting celebrated the (temporary) return of Herb Wesson and said they were happy their district (CD 10) finally had representation again.

LA City Council Meeting 3/23/22

LAPD spends 8 million taxpayer dollars per day. On top of that, the city regularly supports the department in applying for and accepting state and federal grants for more money. On March 23, the city accepted about $3.8 million in various grant funds for LAPD.

The city also voted to spend around $4 million on CARE+ cleanings of homeless encampments, and to apply for funding from the state’s Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program (HHAP).

Just a few weeks ago, city council passed a measure expressing concern over the massive utility debt Angelenos have faced since the start of the pandemic, specifically the debt owed to LADWP. On this day, they voted to deposit LADWP’s $225 surplus into the city’s discretionary fund.  

All members but Bonin voted to remove vaccine requirements for large outdoor events. All members voted to remove some COVID protections, like deferring payments for storage units, and to introduce ordinances to remove other protections, like requiring senior hours for grocery stores.

One caller with an immunocompromised family member said it’s premature to remove COVID restrictions and protections, whereas another caller with the California Apartment Association (aka landlords) said it’s past time to remove the eviction moratorium. (There was never a true eviction moratorium, but there are some COVID-related tenant protections, which vary by address. Tenants can connect with local tenant union chapters or attend a city workshop to learn more.)

City council voted to spend $200 million to plug and seal oil gas wells, and to support S 3288, the Public Lands Act, which would put about a million acres of wilderness under state protection.

Many callers expressed concern about animal abuse at the pony rides in Griffith Park. That was not on the agenda, but a caller said that Raman and CD 5 Councilmember Paul Koretz were working on a motion to address it. One caller spoke of observing the ponies for eight months and seeing their saddle sores and dental and hoof conditions that result from being chained to turnstiles and plodding in circles for seven hours a day with no water. Several callers said the ponies had depression and one mentioned a pony named Spot who has lameness. They urged the city to send the ponies to a sanctuary. 

LA City Council Meeting 3/25/22

In June, Los Angeles will host heads of state from just about every country in the Americas at the meeting of the Organization of American States, called the Summit of the Americas. On March 25, city council passed three motions to prepare for the event with security and consider how to leverage the event for foreign investment.

The city unanimously voted to designate Kyiv a sister city, with CD 15 Councilmember Joe Buscaino noting that beyond the symbolism, it will allow the city to donate supplies to Kyiv as it did for Beirut after a 2020 port explosion there. 

In 2015, a federal court found LA’s gang injunction improperly broad and a violation of teenagers’ due process. Though the plaintiffs wanted to receive settlement money directly, it went to job training and tattoo removal programs. On March 25, the city approved the transfer of $2.75 million out of the total $30 million allocated to these programs.

One caller highlighted the one-year anniversary of “sadistic, mendacious” Mitch O’Farrell’s $2 million raid on the unhoused community in Echo Park. LAPD evicted hundreds of people from their home in the park, and O’Farrell claimed to have found housing for 200 of them. Recent research found that only 17 people from Echo Park Lake are now in permanent housing, and seven people died.