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

An Olympics Update, a new project in Venice, and a Buscaino public meltdown.

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 11/30/21

Depending on how much time you spend on Twitter, you’ve probably heard about the 41.18 motions put forward by Joe Buscaino (for a refresher, Knock has a lot of previous coverage of 41.18). Out of the four motions that would have made it illegal to sit, lay, or sleep in 168 places, three were continued until 12/1, and one passed with only Bonin and Raman voting “no.” Buscaino and Lee also worked to banish RV parking at a few sites in their district. Some people who called in claimed the RV motions were snuck in with the 41.18 motions since those would get more attention. Both of those motions passed. Bonin had a motion to increase the RV parking in his district, which also passed.

Additional motions related to the city’s unhoused provided leases to Urban Alchemy and the Daughters of Charity Foundation. These leases would allow for them to build interim housing on the locations. We certainly need more housing, but there are questions about Urban Alchemy’s abilities to provide good services to one of our most vulnerable populations.

There was also a motion to ban “ghost guns” in LA. These are guns that are less well regulated because they lack serial numbers. They can also be bought without a background check through a loophole that allows for the buying of individual parts without a check. The motion specifically bans “the possession, purchase, sale, receipt, or transport of a non-serialized unfinished firearm frame or receiver, or non-serialized firearm.” Some callers questioned the addition of the phrase “with some exceptions” in the motion. This motion passed, although there was a little bit of back and forth between Paul Koretz and Kevin De Leon about which direction these guns are moving over the US-Mexico border.

There were four motions to support various legislation at various levels. Two motions were supporting state legislation to help street vendors and fast food workers. One supported state legislation to support building affordable housing. Another motion supported federal legislation to allow Medicaid to pay for mental health treatment. All of these passed with no pushback from the council members or the public.

One other motion that will affect people’s daily lives removed the requirement for malls to check their customers’ vaccine cards. It also lowered the age of people requiring vaccination status checks to 12 now that the vaccine is approved for them.

LA City Council Meeting 12/1/21

Most comments Wednesday were about one of two proposals: first, Mike Bonin’s plan to transform an empty parking lot in Venice into a community center with 136 housing units, all affordable and some specifically for artists. Second, Joe Buscaino’s plan to continue the assault on the unhoused by targeting 161 sites for displacement under 41.18.

On the Venice project, callers were divided. Three callers opposed it, saying it was too expensive at $1 million per unit, and raised concerns about parking and environmental issues, including flood risks. They also said it would displace four very low-income families. We heard these arguments again from an attorney representing a Venice group that strongly supports the criminalization of unhoused people, referring to them as “recreational transients.”

Three long-time residents of Venice said the project would be great for the community and foster “healthy coexistence” in  a diverse city. One caller said she appreciated that some units will specifically be for artists, and added that – as a homeowner – she thinks it will be good for the whole community, including homeowners. The project will include a café, art studio, community centers, and landscaped outdoor space. After Bonin described it in more enthusiastic detail, the council voted to approve it with 12 yes votes (Buscaino and Price declined to vote). 

Instead of voting on Joe Buscaino’s plan to displace the unhoused community at 161 sites in his district, the council voted to send it back to committee. Buscaino was furious, alternately shouting and cooing, “Children! Daycare centers! Schools!” His colleagues, O’Farrell and De León, insisted that Buscaino is surely a great guy who means well, and they just want to be sure that displacement of the poor is done in an orderly, legal way. Buscaino responded that the people and businesses in his district don’t care about order, process, or the law, so why should he? With 10 yes votes, the issue was returned to committee.

None of the public commenters supported Buscaino’s proposed assault on the unhoused, with one caller expressing anger with the council’s persistent anti-Blackness on this issue and many others. Another caller noted that, last week, the council’s redistricting plan took USC away from the district with the largest Black population in the state, and gave it to a district that already has the Staples Center. This caller was then cut off while imploring the council to not erase Black people.

Other Notes:

  • The council agreed to pay an $1.8 million settlement to Guess? Inc, a $2.4 billion company, as a refund in business taxes.
  • A caller called Buscaino a phony for pretending to care about kids when he’d previously cast the lone “no” vote on a settlement for kids abused at a police-run summer camp.
  • The meeting closed with discussion of World AIDS Day, and a memorial of Carole Keene, the neighborhood frog lady.

LA City Council Meeting 12/3/21 

For anyone who has been following our Olympic Games coverage, Friday’s city council meeting was frustrating but sadly expected. The council took the time to discuss the LA28 Game Agreement (Item 16), which many have pointed out is a hollow document full of platitudes leaving Angelenos on the fiscal hook for any overages incurred by the Games. You can read NOlympics’ breakdown of the Agreement here, but the TL;DR is:

  1. The Agreement doesn’t name any safety net should the Games go over their $6.9 billion budget. 
  2. The Agreement doesn’t name what security agencies are involved in the security costs.
  3. The Agreement doesn’t explicitly outline how it will ensure that it doesn’t accelerate the breakneck pace of displacement and gentrification in our city. 

The item was technically not up for public comment, but many callers took their minute of general comment to give their take on the Agreement. Those who called in favor of the Agreement often represented commerce and business associations like Valley Industry & Commerce Association, LA City Sports, and Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment. These representatives claimed that the Olympic Games would benefit everyone economically and build LA’s nonexistent middle class. Callers against the Agreement noted that the only advocates calling in were “predatory business groups, not actual people.”

Councilmember Mike Bonin called Item 16 special. Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso and City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo assured the council that LA28 is ready for any curveball. “There will be no surprises. You will have an opportunity to assess, comment,” Szabo said.

LA Chairperson Casey Wasserman also joined the meeting via Zoom. He repeatedly interrupted Bonin as he asked questions about any financial responsibility the city would have, what contingency is set up, and how much sway the council actually has when it comes to influencing the decisions of the LA28 committee. 

Councilmembers Krekorian, O’Farrell, Cedillo, and Koretz voiced support for the Agreement, citing economic prosperity and general city pride as reasons to push forward with the Agreement. 

Some councilmembers still had concerns. Councilmember Kevin de León wanted to make sure that ICE was not a part of the Games security costs. He also noted that the city needed to take care of the “humanitarian crisis of homelessness,” and in the same breath cited optics once the global media comes to town. 

Nithya Raman (CD 4) and Bonin continued to go back to the specifics of financial responsibility, which Szabo and Tso continuously danced around. “Why should we be putting ourselves as a city on the hook at all for cost overruns related to the event?” Raman asked, to which Szabo said that they were hoping for a surplus. 

When Bonin asked if city council has any power with the working groups putting together the Games, Szabo said the council will have “ample opportunity” to give input, but ultimately the working groups are calling the shots. 

“The thing I keep coming back to… is that we’re agreeing that we’re going to assume financial responsibility, but we’re not keeping the power to dictate on some of these value-driven issues ancillary to the Olympics but vital to our neighborhoods,” Bonin said shortly before the vote. The Item passed, with only Bonin and Raman voting no.