To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bicyclist dies after collision with car near Caltech


By Joe Piasecki and Robert Faturechi, June 15, 2013

A man who was struck by a car while riding a bicycle on Saturday near the Caltech campus in Pasadena has died, according to police.

The accident occurred around 6 p.m. on the 1100 block of East Del Mar Boulevard, between Wilson and Michigan avenues, said Pasadena Police Lt. Tom Delgado.

The bicyclist, a man in his 30s whose name is being withheld pending notification of family members, died from his injuries at an area hospital, Delgado said.

That section of Del Mar runs along the northern edges of Caltech.

No arrests have been made in connection with the crash, and the investigation is ongoing, Delgado said.

9 things (other than waffles) redditors want from the mayor of L.A.


By Kris Holt, June 14, 2013
bJ1ES3f.png (PNG Image, 753×434 pixels)

With such a sprawling mass of neighborhoods, communities and, of course, traffic, Los Angeles has many disparate problems to address and only one mayor to oversee them,
To hear from citizens and find out what they want to change about the city, mayor-elect Eric Garcetti took to Reddit to get the community's ideas for a better city. 

Garcetti is somewhat familiar with Reddit, having dropped by for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session druring the mayoral race. This time, he wanted answers, rather than questions, from the 28,000 members of the Los Angeles subreddit.

Reddit is, after all, a microcosm of democracy. Popular ideas bubble to the top, and it's a decent way for Garcetti to informally gauge opinion on a number of matters, albeit from a somewhat niche audience.

Here's some of the more interesting ideas, and what Garcetti had to say about them.
1) Bring Google Fiber to L.A. (wdr1)
The suggestion not only afforded redditors the chance to complain about their crappy connections, but let Garcetti break down the key roadblock to the high-speed Internet proposition. 
"This is critically important," he wrote. "Google probably won't tackle a city as big and spread out as LA initially, but we want to explore with them and other partners what we can do to upgrade our fiber infrastructure. ... [T]ech is a cornerstone of my plans to jumpstart our local economy and having the best fiber infrastructure in the country is critical to attracting and retaining tech companies and communities here."
2) If there is anyway to expand Metro Rail hours please do so. (ilikesumstuff6x)
Though one redditor pointed out it might not be workable to have trains run late into the night, since time is needed to maintain tracks, Garcetti mentioned the local economy benefitted from having trains run later.
"Trains run to 2am on weekends now. But I hear you about other nights and maybe going later on the weekends. This started with the Red Line during the holidays and it was great for business and we need to keep doing this."
3) Support the Cannabis Co-ops and lets stop wasting tax dollars on arresting, jailing people, and ruining lives for something that will be completely legal very soon. (ZappyKins)
Reddit being Reddit, there will always be those hoping for more leniency on marijuana legislation and looser enforcement of existing laws. Garcetti argued he voted to agree with court rulings in a way to "get on the ballot something that would preserve access and help us also get out the bad actors." 
He believes the government needs to reclassify cannabis, and noted that if the California electorate wanted recreational use legalized, he'd be on board.
4) What are your thoughts on the ridiculous amount of, as Adam Carolla calls them, "Chicken Shit tickets," being handed out on a daily basis by the LAPD? (thewildfish)
Again, Garcetti offered a reasonable response, claiming tickets should be used for parking management and enforcement, not as a source of revenue for the city. He also suggested including a discount on tickets for those who pay swiftly, meaning more money in the pockets of both residents and the city (from fewer unpaid tickets).
5) Will the metro rail ever connect to the airport? (elin32)
Let's face it, taking an expensive cab or coach to the airport isn't fun. Mass transit would be the ideal option for many commuters, with a metro or subway link meaning in-a-hurry travellers can skip traffic as well. That might not be workable in L.A., but Garcetti agreed there needs to be a solution.
 "Very tough to get transit to the terminals, so probably a people-mover from a close-by line, but we have to get transit into LAX. This is very important..."
6) As the new mayor, what steps are you taking to ensure that the 51,000 homeless in Los Angeles - who are now ready and prepared for work - will stop living in poverty and begin leading self-sufficient lives? (chipotlesoulmate)
The mayor-to-be noted his campaign included the idea the city could end "chronic homelessness." He has a plan in place:
We know that permanent supportive housing, a strategy that puts housing and critically-needed services together so that someone has a place to live AND the childcare, job training, substance abuse or mental health counseling that they need to stay off the street. In my district, we also took a second step that I’d like to take citywide. In Hollywood, we have had great success with Hollywood 4WRD, where we didn’t just count the number of homeless people in the neighborhood (as required by law through a homeless census), but we interviewed them individually, got to know their names, their history, and their stories and then we worked to get them off the street one at a time, building hundreds of units of permanent supportive housing and helping case manage the needs of these formerly-homeless people. We have taken 185 people off the street and 180 are still there today, an incredible rate of success. So we know how to do this, it is time to get the job done. Oh yeah—the other good reason to do this is it saves money. Keeping people on the street is very very expensive when they cost everyone hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency room visits, for instance. This is the right thing to do morally and financially.
7) On the campaign trail, you made clear that, as mayor, you would bring more clean jobs and clean air to LA by setting a strong goal for the city to install rooftop solar power. Please set those wheels in motion as soon as possible. (sbirdy)
Garcetti hopes to make L.A. "the solar capital of the US," creating 20,000 green jobs to mainly install solar panels and clean up water. He has a plan and is ready to implement it, he said.
8) Where are my free waffles? (115MRD)
One redditor remembered a joking pledge Will Ferrell made when endorsing Garcetti, suggesting that residents would get free waffles should he be elected. That's impossible to pull off, but Garcetti offered a compromise: "No joke--the owner of Roscoe's, Herb, said if I really wanted to make it happen one day, we could do it for an hour..."
There were other suggestions Garcetti didn't respond to. Redditors also want:
9) A bid for the Olympic games (ender23)
10) Not to spend money on a "stupid football stadium." (wil)
That would be a comment from actor/writer/Internet hero Wil Wheaton, who is far more likely to be seen watching an L.A. Kings hockey game in a horse mask than at an NFL game.

Pasadena gets first look at life after Macy's

A hotel and a commercial building are slated to replace old building.


PASADENA — Three months after the monolithic Macy's department store in Paseo Colorado closed its doors, the City Council got a first look at its possible replacement — a new, six-story hotel and commercial building with an elevated food court.

Councilmembers on Monday reviewed plans submitted by RTKL Associates, Inc. and had a chance to share their thoughts about the project before it heads to the planning and design commissions.

So far, council members have said they support the initial plans, which call for the demolition of the 160,000-square-foot former Macy's building, which predates the 2001 construction of the Paseo. It previously anchored the east end of the Pasadena Plaza, a mall that was built in the 1970s and demolished in 2000.

"There's very little that could be more exciting than getting rid of [the] lump of that Macy's building," said Councilman Terry Tornek. "So almost anything that would be proposed would be an improvement."

Replacing the Macy's building on the corner bounded by Colorado Boulevard, Los Robles Boulevard and Green Street would be a six-story, 175-room hotel on Green and a two-story, 44,000-square-foot commercial building fronting Colorado.

The plans did not list any proposed tenants or a hotel operator.

Tornek said he'd like to see the 114,000-square-foot hotel face Colorado so it would mirror the layout of the rest of the mall.

The project, which includes removal of one of the staircases leading up to the ArcLight Cinema, would increase the area of the Paseo by 2,000 square feet.

The proposed plans also include converting the concrete pedestrian promenade that runs through the mall into more of a park-like open space with greenery and landscaping.

Councilman Steve Madison said the project is a necessary step to revitalize an area that is important to the city.

"It's one of those things where I think you have to go through worse to get better.... With a vacant Macy's and some of the tenant mix, it's not an extremely positive location," he said. "This is obviously an extremely important project."
"There's very little that could be more exciting than getting rid of [the] lump of that Macy's building," said Councilman Terry Tornek. "So almost anything that would be proposed would be an improvement."
Replacing the Macy's building on the corner bounded by Colorado Boulevard, Los Robles Boulevard and Green Street would be a six-story, 175-room hotel on Green and a two-story, 44,000-square-foot commercial building fronting Colorado.
The plans did not list any proposed tenants or a hotel operator.
Tornek said he'd like to see the 114,000-square-foot hotel face Colorado so it would mirror the layout of the rest of the mall.
The project, which includes removal of one of the staircases leading up to the ArcLight Cinema, would increase the area of the Paseo by 2,000 square feet.
The proposed plans also include converting the concrete pedestrian promenade that runs through the mall into more of a park-like open space with greenery and landscaping.
Councilman Steve Madison said the project is a necessary step to revitalize an area that is important to the city.
"It's one of those things where I think you have to go through worse to get better.... With a vacant Macy's and some of the tenant mix, it's not an extremely positive location," he said. "This is obviously an extremely important project."
- See more at: http://www.pasadenasun.com/news/tn-pas-me-pasadena-gets-first-look-at-life-after-macys-20130615,0,3331585.story#sthash.QdbB1DK9.dpuf

Nextrip for Metro Rail now available; please let us know what you think


By Kim Upton, June 4, 2013




The Nextrip program that currently provides real-time arrival information for bus service has been expanded to include real-time arrivals for Metro Rail.

There are multiple ways to access the Nextrip real-time train arrival information. It can be viewed on the web, via smart phone browser, by texting a Metro bus stop ID number to 41411 and via telephone by dialing 511 and saying, “Nextrip.” (A Nextrip Rail app is in development.) And coming up soon, electronic signs on the train platforms will show real-time arrival information rather than the scheduled arrival times displayed now.

While the program continues to roll out, riders should give themselves extra time to ensure they don’t miss the train. The service is brand new and still being tweaked. As always, let us know what you think. Is it working for you?

If using a smart phone to access real-time rail info, remember to enable Nextrip to use your current location if it asks. The Nextrip mobile site also allows you how to look up arrival times at all rail stations: on a smartphone, click on “menu,” then “select specific stop” and then select “Los Angeles Rail” from the next list. At that point, select the Metro Rail line and then select a station.


Metro staff report on new project acceleration plan to be considered by agency’s Board of Directors this month


By Steve Hymon, June 14, 2013

 Metro project acceleration plan


The Metro Board of Directors this month will consider a project acceleration plan that, on average, would lop an average of 10 years off the time it takes to build second and third decade Measure R transit and road projects. It’s a big deal for many reasons — the foremost being that it could allow the taxpaying public to enjoy the investments they’ve made in local transportation a lot sooner than originally planned.

The Metro staff report that explains the plan is above.

In order to best explain the plan being proposed by Metro staff, it helps first to understand two fundamental truths about Measure R, the half-penny sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The plus side of Measure R was that it provided funding to a long list of transit and road projects, many of which were long sought by the region but lacked funding. Measure R remedied that — and is the reason that five new rail lines will be under construction simultaneously by the middle of this decade along with a host of highway projects, including the widening of the I-5 between the 605 and the Orange County line.

Measure R, however, also posed a challenge. The sales tax would last for 30 years — from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2039 – and the construction of projects it funded were staggered over that three decade span. The third phase of the Purple Line Extension, for example, is currently scheduled to open in the mid-2030s, meaning the future children of current Bruins may be able take the train to campus. In other words, it’s a long time from now. The is true not just for the Purple Line, but for other lines to the Eastside, the South Bay, Southern L.A. County, the Westside and the San Fernando Valley as well.

It’s precisely for this reason that the Metro Board of Directors adopted a policy in 2010 to accelerate projects if possible under the America Fast Forward plan, which proposed an expansion of low cost federal loans for transportation nationwide. Besides the obvious benefit of getting to ride or drive on projects earlier, acceleration may also allow Metro to save on construction and borrowing costs (recently both have been at historic lows due the Great Recession but may now be starting to rise) and to create much-needed jobs.

I’ll better explain the new acceleration plan in a moment, but first a very important caveat: Approval by the Board doesn’t guarantee that any transit or road project would be accelerated. Ultimately, the plan will depend on Metro’s ability to secure loans and bonds from the federal America Fast Forward program, as well as federal New Starts money. In other words, Congress and President Obama must act to expand the amount of loans and bonds available to transit agencies around the United States and to provide federal New Starts to Los Angeles County.

The required two-thirds vote of the Metro Board (nine votes of the 13) is no sure thing — it’s a big step and attempts at acceleration have raised questions in the past. I’m guessing the Board will likely raise questions about the funding of current projects and whether the agency can afford to accelerate new ones.

That said, Board approval is a critical first step in that process. It shows lawmakers in Washington D.C. that Metro is serious about fulfilling its Measure R program sooner rather than later and has a plan to do so. And it shows exactly how increased federal investments in transportation would be spent in Los Angeles County.

The new acceleration plan has a lot of moving parts and is a bit complicated. I hope the following Q&A is helpful.

What exactly is the Board considering?

Two basic items:

The first item asks the Board to amend Measure R’s expenditure plan so that five transit projects are eligible to receive funds earlier than in the current plan. It’s a legal requirement that must be fulfilled.
The second item asks the Board to adopt a financial strategy that seeks to accelerate transit and highway projects, plug any shortfalls that may occur in current projects, set aside enough money to operate all projects and to pay for keeping and/or returning Metro’s infrastructure and equipment in a state of good repair.

In total, the strategy guides the investment in about $66 billion dollars in the coming decades. Yes, it’s a lot of money but it’s not money that is just vanishing into the ether — it’s going to workers and firms that would build, operate and maintain Metro projects, meaning a lot of those dollars would be recirculated throughout the Southern California economy that you and me depend on.

Which transit projects would Metro try to accelerate under the plan?

The Purple Line Extension’s second and third phases (from La Cienega to Westwood), the South Bay Green Line Extension, the Eastside Gold Line Extension, the West Santa Ana Branch Corridor and the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor. Under Metro’s current long-range plan, the Airport Metro Connector project at LAX is already eligible to be accelerated though Metro can’t do so on its own without the America Fast Forward loans and a contribution from LAX. The new plan would seek to complete it within the next decade instead of the late 2020s.

It’s important to note that the plan preserves the order that the projects were to be built under Metro’s long-range plan adopted by the Board in 2010. That’s something that Board Members have asked for as a way of preserving the the original intent of Measure R and preventing one project from leapfrogging over another due to shifts in the political winds.

One other important caveat: while this plan moves forward the dates that each transit project can get its allotment of Measure R funds, the plan does not expand those funds. Ongoing environmental studies still must be completed for most of the project to be accelerated (only the Purple Line Extension’s study is complete) and those studies will determine the type of project to be built — i.e. rail, bus rapid transit, etc. The bottom line  is that some of the transit projects will likely need additional funds in order for the most expensive alternatives to be built. That money may come through federal grants or, in the case of the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, possibly a public-private partnership.

Which highway projects would be accelerated?

It is to be determined, based on decisions by sub-regions in the county. In plain English, elected officials from different cities will have to collectively make those decisions. As is the case with some transit projects, many highway programs would likely need to find additional funds in order to be fully realized.

How is Metro proposing to pay for transit and highway project acceleration?

The agency would borrow $9.4 billion using a variety of loans and bonds. The weighted average of the money borrowed would be paid back within 30 years. However, up to 15 percent could take until 2069 to pay back. The plan assumes this longer term borrowing to be no more than $1.37 billion of the $9.4 billion.  Since this longer term borrowing costs more, it will be the first borrowing Metro will seek to avoid over time as we implement the plan.

Again, the policy argument returns to this fundamental question: is it better to borrow to build now so that the region can improve its mobility or would it be better to build slower to avoid borrowing?

What has to happen at the federal level to make the acceleration plan a reality?

Three things:

1. Metro needs to sign a “Full Funding Grant Agreement” for New Starts funding for the Regional Connector and Purple Line Subway Extension’s first phase from the Federal Transit Administration. The grant has been in the works for quite some time and is expected to be completed and signed in late 2013 or early 2014.

2. Metro needs to secure about $4.5 billion from the low-interest TIFIA loan program that was expanded by Congress last year as part of the multi-year federal transportation spending bill. This was the first part of America Fast Forward legislation.

3. Metro would also need about $1.35 billion from an America Fast Forward bond program that Congress has yet to adopt. Here is a recent post on the Source about how the bonds work — the gist of it is that transportation agencies would use revenue from interest-free bonds while investors in those bonds would receive valuable federal tax credits. It’s a big ask of Congress, for sure, but there has been some bipartisan support for the concept thus far. The challenge for Metro and other supporters will be getting approvals from Congressional committees overseeing transportation and taxes, respectively.

How is this the new acceleration plan different than Measure J?

Measure J proposed to extend the Measure R sales tax by 30 more years — from its current expiration date of mid-2039 to mid-2069. Over time, Measure R revenues would have been used to pay back loans needed to accelerate projects. As you know, Measure J narrowly lost at the polls in November despite 66.1 percent of voters approving it; it needed 66.7 for passage.

With Measure R still scheduled to end in 2039, the new acceleration plan will rely on revenues from Prop A and Prop C to pay back loans and bonds after 2039.

Prop A and Prop C were the two half-cent sales taxes approved by L.A. County voters in 1980 and 1990, respectively. Unlike Measure R, both A and C had no sunset date — i.e. they would continue in perpetuity.

Which transit projects don’t get accelerated?

The ones scheduled to be completed in the first decade or so of Measure R. The list includes the Orange Line Extension (opened in 2012), the second phase of the Expo Line (under construction), the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa (under construction), the Regional Connector (utility relocations underway) and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension (utility relocations underway).
The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor is currently under study and scheduled to be complete in 2018 under Metro’s long-range plan. Therefore, it’s not included in the acceleration plan.

The project acceleration plan is scheduled to be considered by the Metro Board’s Finance, Budget and Audit Committee at noon on Wednesday, June 19, at Metro headquarters adjacent to Los Angeles Union Station. The item is also scheduled to be considered by the Executive Management and Audit Committee on Thursday, June 20, at 11:30 a.m. at Metro HQ. The full Board of Directors is scheduled to consider the item at its meeting on Thursday, June 27, at 9 a.m., also at Metro HQ.
If Drivers Won’t Pay to Bypass Congestion, Why Should Taxpayers?


By Angie Schmitt, June 14, 2013

A pilot project to bring high occupancy/toll lanes to State Route 167 in metro Seattle has grossly deviated from projections, raising questions about the value of added road capacity.
High-occupancy toll lanes outside Seattle aren't attracting as many drivers and as much money as expected.

The 10 miles of priced lanes — the only “HOT” lanes in the Pacific Northwest — were converted from HOV lanes in 2008 and cost $18 million to implement. Five years later, Seattle-based sustainability think tank Sightline Institute reports that usage and toll revenue on the lanes are far lower than anticipated. Last year, the lanes collected about one-third the revenue of the most conservative predictions from the Washington Department of Transportation. The state had planned to expand “hot” lanes around the state, but the experience with SR 167 could change that, the News Tribune reports.

Two factors seem to be at play: People are driving less, and they aren’t as willing to pay their way out of congestion as was assumed.

Sightline’s Zachary Howard and Clark Williams-Derry report that in 2006, planners predicted that traffic on 167 would rise 2.5 percent a year. Instead, it fell three out of the following five years, including a 5 percent dip in 2008.

Less congestion means less incentive to pay for 167′s HOT lanes. But there’s more going on than that: Not only are fewer people choosing to use the priced lanes than expected, those who do are paying lower prices than expected. The lanes are dynamically priced, with the costs rising — and falling — based on demand. Sightline reports:
According to WSDOT figures for 2011, northbound drivers during peak morning hours paid an average toll of $1.75 to enter the HOT lane, saving about nine minutes in the process. Southbound evening peak-hour travelers paid $1.25 for about six minutes of time savings. Given those values, peak hour HOT lane toll payers apparently are willing to spend about $12 for every hour they save in traffic.
The prevailing theory about HOT pricing is that people would be willing to pay half their hourly wage rate to avoid sitting in traffic. But based on income data from WSDOT, far more commuters earn more than $24 per hour than are opting for the priced lanes, reports Sightline.

“Most drivers, even those from high-income households, would simply prefer to sit in traffic, rather than pay for a little speed,” Howard and Williams-Derry conclude. “Which raises a question: given that drivers may not be all that willing to pay for a quicker trip, does it really make sense for taxpayers to invest so much in trying to give them what they won’t pay for themselves?”
“I Have a Very Strong Feminine Side”: LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s LGBT Legacy


By Karen Ocamb, June 14, 2013


 FIRST PERSON - Before and after his enthusiastic participation in the LGBT Heritage Month/LA Pride kick-off weekend, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa engaged in intense “friendship diplomacy” with new Chinese President Xi Jinping. Chinese TV reported that Villaraigosa’s visit to Beijing last month was  “to lay the groundwork for President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Barack Obama in LA” The two presidents met in Palm Springs June 7 and 8. 

Villaraigosa told CCTV that President Xi “called Los Angeles the epicenter of the sub-national relationship between the United States and China.” China is the top trading partner for the Port of Los Angeles, which sees imports and exports to the tune of $120 billion, according to the Daily Breeze.
And yet when reporting on that business trip—paid for by the Port of LA and the Los Angeles World Airports—KPCC’s blog headline read, “Lame duck LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa travels to China on a trade mission.” 

That headline is an example of how the press has often derided Villaraigosa since his 2007 affair with a Telemundo reporter and the subsequent end of his 20-year marriage. Villaraigosa has often acknowledged that affair as a personal “failure,” and he is aware of how much it hurt people who expected more from him as the tough kid from Boyle Heights who got elected in 2005 as LA’s first Latino mayor in 130 years.

“I think that disappointed a lot of people,” Villaraigosa told the New York Times last year.  “I think that was probably the biggest thing. People just felt let down. I had to work to regain their trust.”
Many in the LGBT community were also disappointed, and some even agreed with critics who claimed the mayor had been seduced by the glamour of Hollywood. But when Villaraigosa’s legacy is finally written in the context of the worst economy since the Great Depression and the disinclination of President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to help cities, his accomplishments may find greater acclaim.

“We grew our police force, tackled our gang problem and made LA safer than it’s been since the 1950s,” says Villaraigosa’s gay senior advisor and deputy chief of staff Matt Szabo. “We doubled the size of our rail network and are putting 410,000 people to work over the next 30 years. We cleaned up our port, greened our city and opened 650 acres of new parks. We took on education reform and have seen tremendous improvement. We pushed for changes at LAUSD and have doubled the number of schools reaching the state's academic goals."

So far stories about Villaraigosa’s legacy have not included his substantial work on behalf of the LGBT community. He came to LGBT attention in 1994 as a candidate for the California Assembly (A.D. 45) seeking the Stonewall Democratic Club endorsement.

Once elected, Villaraigosa, who was soon appointed Democratic Assembly Whip and Majority Leader, and Shelia Kuehl—the first openly gay person elected to the state legislature—joined forces to form the first Gay and Lesbian Legislative Caucus. That year he also announced his support for the freedom to marry.

In his interview, Villaraigosa said:

“I had been president of the ACLU and we represented the LGBT community in many, many battles, but I can’t say I was an activist per se. I was generally a progressive, so I was tangentially involved with those issues—very supportive. 

“But I can’t say I was someone known to take up that cause. But I remember going to Stonewall and being asked about—at the time, civil unions and anti-gay discrimination—all the things that were happening. This was 1994 and I was running for the Assembly. 

“And I was supportive, of course, of all of the issues they raised. And then, as I was walking out, someone said, ‘What would you think about marriage?’ And I stopped for a second and said, ‘You know, I never thought about it. But, yeah, I’m for it.’ 

And I think why I’ve been so strongly in support has a lot to do with my upbringing, this notion of right and wrong, tolerance, embracing all people—that my mother gave us. So, if it was a new issue, it wasn’t difficult for me to resolve.”   (Read the rest … including what was behind his LGBT activism and some of the bumps he experienced along the Mayoral journey … here.
LA 6/7/13: Four Men, Four Machines, and a Timeline of Shame


By Joseph Mailander, June 14, 2013


 MAILANDER’S LA - That day, all eyes looked to the 5 p.m. start of CelebrateLA, an annual downtown event that this year celebrated the outgoing Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, as his dreamily messy term of office neared its merciful end.

Early in the morning, within hours of the start of this celebration, the incoming Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, told a local TV station that he wasn't even sure yet whether he was going to attend CelebrateLA or not.
It's not for nothing, then, that Garcetti's critics might call him The Prince.  This coy, princely pose from our incoming junior Mayor struck everyone who heard the comment--even if not many hear such comments on local TV news these days--as purely disingenuous, especially as Garcetti's own name was on the issuing invitation to the event.

It was also within hours of the arrival to Los Angeles of not one but two Presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, in town to pat the two Mayors on the back and looking for what they usually look for when they come to Los Angeles: money for their machines, money for the future.

And that day, while both Presidents were here to sing for cash and let LA's generous donors jockey for imagined status and agency--does anyone in politics from out of town visit us for any other reason?--the city's two Mayors, who maintain near-filial senses of obsequiousness to these two politely warring Presidents, went running to shake and fist-bump their two top mentors.

Mimicry gets you somewhere in politics and the degree to which Villaraigosa has absorbed the style of Clinton while Garcetti prefers to replicate the success of the Obama machine is transparent and astonishing.  For instance, Clinton has always had a vindictive streak miles long--The Washington Post, for instance, recently ran a piece on how, when choosing between two Democrats in a given race, Clinton's first litmus is to check if one of them supported Hillary in 2008 or not.  Villaraigosa has not shown a similar Clintonian vindictive streak until recently when, snubbed by the Obama White House for a meaningful appointment after carrying much water on behalf of Obama 2012, he suddenly began making noises about a good relationship he is maintaining with Obama's 2012 opponent Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, Garcetti's own machine, sometimes to the concern of top shot-caller Bill Carrick, adopted the community-organizer retail politics style of the Obama machine  wholesale, and why shouldn't they?  After all, Shepard Fairey's fabled Obama 2008 poster was conceived in a studio along Glendale, halfway between the core of Garcetti's own district and City Hall.
Thus, with four of the top names in Democratic machine politics on the ground, all looking for something out of LA on a particular day, the stage was set for something supercharged to happen.

Far from the way anyone intended, a madman in Santa Monica obliged a little after 11:30 a.m.

At 11:52 a.m., California Highway Patrol received a report of shots fired in Santa Monica.  Right around noon, police responding to the call found a house on fire at 2036 Yorkshire Avenue, Santa Monica, a home tucked into a cul-de-sac ending at the Santa Monica Freeway and within half a mile of the City of Los Angeles city limit.

Meanwhile, other reports streamed in to law enforcement everywhere.  One woman was shot on the street.  A car was jacked to Santa Monica City College.  Shots were fired at a city bus.  A gunman armed to the teeth then entered the Santa Monica campus Library.

The gunman is killed after killing four (one additional soul would die later) and wounding many.

KCRW, the much vaunted Santa Monica campus station that extends throughout the whole LA basin, goes off the air 12:31 p.m.  Back on at 3:30.

And at 5:00 Celebrate LA kicks off promptly.  No changes to the program.  Not even a moment of silence from the stage honoring the fallen in Santa Monica.

At last, at around 6:20 p.m. last Friday, Mayor Villaraigosa greeted Mayor-Elect Garcetti downtown, in the midst of the unchanged, uncancelled, and unaltered CelebrateLA event.

President Clinton also came downtown and greeted Mayor Villaraigosa and wished him godspeed.  President Obama, having briefly met Garcetti early in the day, was long in Palm Springs; a rep from his Secret Service called the killings "a local police matter."

Among these four men of tremendous political agency, all on the ground in LA at the same time, all throughout a harrowing mass murder that left the Westside of Los Angeles gripped in fear and even knocked a radio station off the air for three hours--none of them took a great amount of pause to honor the dead in Santa Monica, let alone worked to change any plans for Celebrate LA that afternoon. 

The amiable riff between Garcetti and Villaraigosa measures up well against the amiable riff between Clinton and Obama, and fairly directly: the two younger men like to feign grassroots gestures, while the older hands love drama and the bright lights.  Garcetti and Obama occasionally speak their true minds with carefully-sculpted, koan-like snide remarks, while Villaraigosa like Clinton, the perpetual slobbering lap-dog, wants to be loved by everyone; Garcetti like Obama has a wife who is a little aloof but a partner and an asset nonetheless, Villaraigosa like Clinton has had plenty of girl trouble but persistently shrugs about it and shakes it off and insists  you like him anyway.

There are 18 LA precincts that surround the City of Santa Monica; all 18 voted for Eric Garcetti in greater numbers than they voted for Clinton's other notable friend in town, Wendy Greuel.  Many are left feeling dishonored.

Around the country, people are even more puzzled.  A mass murder, followed quickly by a civic celebration, four top leaders on the ground, and no cathartic moment commemorating the harrowing day?

Local media failed the puzzled too.  Beginning the next day, there was no real news analysis examining the two events--the Santa Monica rampage and Celebrate LA--in concert, nor editorials expressing concern for the decisions of the four power players to ignore the event nearly entirely, nor even any commentary exploring this odd, unfortunate convergence of tragic rampage and political jockeyings.
Four top Democratic leaders in LA, four dead in Santa Monica, and no dialog between leaders and bereaved--leaving  the City of Santa Monica feeling even now that there has been no real discharging of grief, no requisite acknowledgment of loss, no adequate mourning of its dead.
Campaign Contributions Cause Council Commotion


By Jack Humphreville, June 14, 2013

 LA WATCHDOG - What happens when you have a less than transparent real estate deal that is being sponsored by a termed out Councilman Ed Reyes, where the buyer, KIA of Glendale, is a large contributor to Jose Gardea’s losing campaign to succeed his boss in Council District 1, where the Councilman-Elect Gil Cedillo “reluctantly” requests a delay until he is sworn in on July 1, and where termed out Councilman Richard Alarcon wonders about increased public cynicism if this deal is approved so close to the $20,000 campaign contribution by the buyer? 

On June 4, the City Council considered a motion that calls for a direct sale of a 7,765 square foot lot at 2210-2214 North San Fernando Road to KIA of Glendale. Located at the corner of Division Street, this parcel is at the entrance to the new $240 million, 23 acre Sonia Sotomayor Learning Center and just up the street from the new 45 acre Rio De Los Angeles State Park.

However, the details of this transaction are unknown, although previous documents indicate a price of over $300,000 for this corner lot. As this point, there is no appraisal of the property that appears to be a parking lot for the unattractive looking KIA dealership.

Furthermore, there is no discussion or analysis about the impact of this proposed sale on the remaining 35,719 square feet of the property that is owned by the City, of which 22,629 square feet are leased to the KIA dealership pursuant to a favorable lease that expires on August 1, 2015.

Nor has KIA of Glendale shared any of its operational or financial plans on the redevelopment of this and the adjoining properties that it claims would result in an expansion of its business, more jobs, improved pedestrian safety, and an enhancement of the aesthetics and economic viability of this gritty industrial area. Fortunately, this neighborhood is undergoing significant change as the result of the development of 247 acres associated with Taylor Yards that adjoin the Los Angeles River. 
There is even some confusion as to the exact address of this property.

But the details of this highly suspect transaction were not discussed.  Rather, Cedillo and Alarcon stirred up the City Council by questioning the integrity of the steaming Reyes. 
But neither Cedillo nor Alarcon have clean hands.

In 2009, Cedillo was outted for using over $125,000 of his campaign funds on “shopping excursions, gourmet meals, entertainment, and upscale hotels around the globe.” 
As for Alarcon, who was recently trounced in his bid for a seat in the State Assembly, he is currently under indictment for 23 counts of perjury and voter fraud.

Despite the protests of other indignant members of the Council, Alarcon was correct in his observation about increasing public cynicism regarding the fiscally irresponsible City Council and its campaign funding cronies.  But it involves much more than a dirty $300,000 real estate deal.
There are $1 a year leases to politically connected organizations; zoning variances for campaign funding real estate developers who want to construct oversized, gridlocking developments such as the Hollywood Millennium and the Casden Sepulveda monstrosities; the looting of our Department of Water and Power for over $1 billion a year; the giving away the store to the campaign funding union bosses; and the failure to balance the budget, fund our pension plans, and fix our streets and sidewalks
But needless to say, on June 4, it was business as usual as the ethically challenged City Council under the leadership of the cool, calm, and collected Herb Wesson approved the Reyes motion by a vote of 10 to 1.