L.A. may become the biggest U.S. city with a second stay-home order
by DAKOTA SMITH, RONG-GONG LIN II - Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles was one of the first major cities in the nation to impose a stay-at-home order when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Now, L.A. may soon have the dubious distinction of being the biggest U.S. city to receive a second stay-at-home order, amid a surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that so far shows few signs of slowing.
For two weeks, Mayor Eric Garcetti has warned that the city is close to returning to some type of stay-at-home order due to the new increase — which became clear in June after businesses began to rapidly reopen in May — but has held off.
On Sunday, he said a decision will probably come in the next week or two as officials determine whether restrictions imposed in late June and July — such as closing bars, indoor restaurant dining and shopping malls — slowed the rapid community spread of COVID-19.
LA City Council To Take Up Proposed Budget Cuts To LAPD
The Los Angeles City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee Monday will take up Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposal to slash up to $150 million from the L.A. Police Department’s budget in the wake of the George Floyd protests which have demanded major policy changes to policing and an end to police brutality.
On June 3, Garcetti said he would not authorize an increase to the LAPD’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and would instead look at making cuts and reapportioning money elsewhere.
He also said he would ask the City Administrative Officer to reallocate $250 million to black communities to address health and education issues.
It marked a stark turnaround from just a week prior, when, according to the L.A. Times, Garcetti had approved giving LAPD officers $41 million in bonuses and upping the department’s budget by more than 7% in the 2020-21 fiscal year despite the fact that that the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic fallout had forced the city of L.A. in April to furlough about 15,000 civilian employees because of revenue shortfalls.
City of LA’s $100M rental subsidy program would be boon to multifamily landlords
by The Real Deal
Tens of thousands of renters in the City of Los Angeles could receive help in paying the rent through a new city-run subsidy program, a big relief to multifamily landlords.
L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez is set to release details of the $100 million rent relief program on Wednesday, according to the L.A. Times.
Martinez told the Times that tenants could qualify if they prove they earn less than 80 percent of L.A. County’s area median income and were affected by economic or health effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
AMI for a family of four in L.A. County is $77,300. An individual who earns less than $63,100 would qualify for the city’s program, while a family of five would qualify if their total income is less than $97,350.
The city subsidy would be paid directly to landlords and the money would come from the $694 million the city is receiving from the federal government through its $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus program. L.A. County is formulating its own rental assistance program.
Los Angeles Council President Looks to Limit Huizar’s Legislative Activities
by NBC Los Angeles
Eighteen months after his home and offices were searched by the FBI as part of a public corruption probe, Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar hasn't been charged with a crime, but the council's president is looking to bar him from meetings and casting votes.
An aide for Council President Nury Martinez confirmed to City News Service Friday that a letter was sent to Huizar asking him not to attend council meetings or take any legislative actions.
A representative for Huizar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board broke the news in an editorial posted early Friday morning, reporting that Martinez had moved on Thursday to suspend Huizar from the council, "which would block him from attending meetings or voting on city matters."
$42 Million And Counting: Mayor's Nonprofit Plays Major Role In Pandemic Response
by Aaron Mendelson - LAist
At Mayor Eric Garcetti's nightly briefings, he often discusses case numbers, social distancing and the budget.
Garcetti also frequently namechecks the Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles, which has assumed a major role in the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The charity has raised $42 million for response efforts in recent weeks, an advisor said, blowing away its fundraising total of $4.3 million from the last fiscal year. That money has gone to efforts to support struggling residents, seniors, health care workers and domestic violence victims.
The fund is an independent nonprofit. While it has no formal affiliation with Garcetti, his elected office is in its name, he helped establish it in 2014, and the organization has offices in city hall (though staff are working from home during the pandemic). Further blurring the line, several Garcetti allies are closely involved.
Los Angeles City Council Passes Ordinances Regarding Right to Recall and Worker Retention
by National Law Review
On April 29, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council simultaneously passed two ordinances in response to COVID-19 that could potentially have long lasting and far reaching impacts on applicable businesses: the Right of Recall Ordinance and the Worker Retention Ordinance. The Mayor has until May 11, 2020, to act on both of the ordinances. These ordinances, pending approval of the Mayor, will be effective 31 days from their publication date.
Right to Recall Ordinance:
While the true impact of the ordinance remains to be seen, the City Council’s claimed purpose behind the Right of Recall Ordinance (“Recall Ordinance” was to enact, for employees of certain limited employers, “legal protections for workers laid off due to the pandemic.” Essentially, the Recall Ordinance requires the specified businesses to attempt to rehire laid off workers before offering open positions to new employees. However, while the Recall Ordinance was ostensibly passed as a measure against the impacts of COVID-19 and the various stay-at-home orders which shuttered these businesses, the Recall Ordinance does not have a sunset clause and will remain law until the City Council repeals it.
The Recall Ordinance applies to Airport Employers, Commercial Property Employers, Event Center Employers, and Hotel Employers. The Ordinance provides specific definitions for each type of employer:
Chinese developer buys land for mega project in downtown Los Angeles
by Roger Vincent - Los Angeles Times
Chinese developer City Century has acquired a prime development site across the street from L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles where it intends to build a $1-billion housing and retail complex called Olympia.
City Century recently closed the long-pending $121-million acquisition of a site on Olympic Boulevard alongside the 110 Freeway, where it announced in 2016 that it intended to build three high-rises on the site of a former medical clinic lying between L.A. Live and the Metropolis residential and hotel complex.
The acquisition comes at a time when other big Chinese developers have pulled back from overseas investments.
Government policies put in place in 2016 have restricted the flow of money out of the country and a nearly 2-year-old trade war between the U.S. and China have taken a toll.
LA's Street Vendor Permit Program Is About To Begin. Why One City Councilman Is Already Trying To Tighten It
by Erick Galindo - LAist
It took community organizers five years to push the city of Los Angeles to create a system that would give street vendors a legal business status. Now, less than a month before the new system is set to start, Councilman John Lee has introduced a resolution that could tighten the rules.
"There are some serious public health and safety concerns I have in mind," Lee said. "And also, you know, the fairness to the brick and mortar restaurants." Lee — a Republican who won his seat in a special election in August — represents part of the San Fernando Valley, where a vocal contingent of local restaurant owners has been lobbying for tighter rules against street food vendors.
Last week, Lee introduced a motion for the city to lobby the California legislature to amend SB 946, the state rule governing L.A.'s pending permitting system, to give city officials more leeway in how they can enforce permits. The motion was seconded by Councilman Paul Krekorian, a Democrat whose district includes parts of the eastern San Fernando Valley.
L.A. limits campaign donations from real estate developers. Critics say it falls short
by Emily Alpert Reyes, David Zahniser - Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a law Wednesday that will crack down on campaign contributions from real estate developers, despite warnings from critics who said it had been too watered down to curb the power of political spending.
The idea, first proposed by council members nearly three years ago, had languished until an FBI raid at City Hall cast a fresh spotlight on long-standing concerns about developer donations and political power.
Despite the unanimous vote, some on the council made clear they were not enthusiastic about the proposal, with Councilman Mike Bonin saying the city needs to stop approving “piecemeal crap.”
Councilman David Ryu, who pushed for the new restrictions, acknowledged that the new ordinance is “not perfect” and does not go as far as he and many reformers had hoped. But he heralded it as a first step toward restoring trust in City Hall, one that would start to combat the perception that developer money drives their decisions about what gets built in Los Angeles.
Wesson to step down as City Council president to focus on county supervisor campaign
by David Zahniser - Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said Wednesday he intends to step down from the council presidency in January and is pushing for Councilwoman Nury Martinez to succeed him in the post.
Wesson, president of the 15-member council since 2012, said he is leaving the powerful post to focus on his bid for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the March election. He introduced a motion calling for a vote on his replacement to be held Tuesday. He will continue to serve on the City Council until his term expires in December 2020.
Wesson, who represents neighborhoods stretching from Koreatown to the Crenshaw Corridor, touted a list of his accomplishments as president, including multiple increases in the city’s minimum wage, passage of a $1.2-billion bond measure to battle homelessness and a shift in the city’s election schedule to even-numbered years, a step aimed at boosting voter turnout.
Flint to Step Down as CEO of Los Angeles World Airports
by Howard Fine - Los Angeles Business Journal
Deborah Flint, chief executive of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs Los Angeles International and Van Nuys airports, will step down in March to take the helm of Toronto’s airport authority.
While Flint did not offer any reason for her move, which was announced by LAWA on Nov. 27, it will be a sort of homecoming for the executive. Flint was born in Hamilton, Ontario, which is about 40 miles southwest of Toronto.
LAWA’s Board of Airport Commissioners said it would soon begin a search for Flint’s replacement. The board will send recommendations to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who will then submit his nominated candidate to the City Council for approval.
Los Angeles controller releases report about LADWP wildfire prevention plan
by MARTÍN BILBAO - Daily Bruin
The Los Angeles controller recommended new measures to monitor and prevent wildfires with causes related to power utilities.
Ron Galperin, the LA controller or chief accounting officer, released his report assessing the fire safety efforts of the LA Department of Water and Power, the largest publicly owned utility company in the country, on Wednesday.
Power lines caused six of the last 10 most destructive wildfires in California since 2015, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More recently, a flying tree branch hit power lines along the 405 Freeway and sparked the Getty fire, which burned 745 acres and destroyed 10 residencies.
LADWP has 15% of its service territory and 18% of its transmission towers and power lines in high-risk wildfire areas, according to the report. Their infrastructure in these areas includes 49,000 utility poles. Most of those utility poles are wooden and 30% of them are at least 65 years old, the report read.
The report also found that LADWP has a backlog of over 1,000 maintenance orders related to fire safety. Although LADWP has taken steps to improve its infrastructure and plan for wildfire contingencies, the report recommends they take additional measures to monitor and prevent wildfires.
L.A. should suspend vetting applications for pot shops amid concerns, Wesson urges
by Emily Alpert Reyes - Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has called on the city to suspend the approval process for new shops selling cannabis products, arguing that the latest round of the licensing process was “compromised” by some people gaining early access to the application system.
In a letter to the Department of Cannabis Regulation, Wesson urged the department to stop processing applications for new marijuana retailers, refund the latest round of cannabis applicants, and get an independent audit of the process, “unless there are other options like processing every application” that would assure people that the process is untainted. Under the existing system, only a limited number of applications are slated to be reviewed, not every application that was submitted.
“These are the only options that will provide the clarity and time we need to ensure that the ... process is fair, transparent, and has integrity,” Wesson wrote in his letter.
Department of Cannabis Regulation spokeswoman Michelle Garakian said the department “is committed to the most fair and transparent process possible” and would meet with Wesson’s office soon “to discuss their recommendations.”
So far, the city has granted approval to more than 300 existing cannabis businesses, including both retailers and their suppliers, according to the Department of Cannabis Regulation. It has faced a torrent of criticism over the latest round of the approval process, a first-come, first-served system for applicants seeking to open new pot shops that could grant approval to 100 more businesses.
Can Los Angeles blend new housing with river restoration? This is the first big test
by Louis Sahagun - Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles’s twin challenges of building more housing while restoring its namesake waterway are clashing along a shady 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River between downtown and the hills of Griffith Park.
On a 7-acre parcel in that stretch, a developer wants to build the riverfront’s first major development, Casitas Lofts, a 419-unit mix of mostly upscale apartments, offices and restaurants bordering neighborhoods on the east side of the river, Glassell Park and Atwater Village.
Proponents tout it as a potential gateway to the new Bowtie State Park and a catalyst for enlivening more of the river with snazzy development and bike trails. It would also result in the cleanup of an industrial site where Casitas Lofts would be constructed.
A city auditor was investigating DWP contracts. She says she was warned not to be ‘thorough’
by Dakota Smith - Los Angeles Times
As a high-level government auditor, Beth Kennedy has investigated or reviewed the spending of many city of Los Angeles departments without serious incident, she says.
But now, Kennedy, a chief internal auditor for City Controller Ron Galperin, is alleging that she was warned not to delve too deeply into controversial contracts awarded by the Department of Water and Power, according to a legal claim she filed against the city last month.
In her claim, she says city officials failed to protect her after she began investigating several contracts, including a $30-million, no-bid consulting contract to fix the DWP’s billing system — an agreement that is now under scrutiny by the FBI.
Kennedy claims that a superior in her office told her in May that, for personal safety reasons, she should “not be as thorough” with her audit. Then in June, someone smashed a glass patio door at Kennedy’s home in Orange County, according to La Habra police.
HUD, City of Los Angeles reach "landmark" settlement in accessible housing dispute
by Jessica Guerin - HousingWire
The Department of Housing and Urban Development reached a settlement with the City of Los Angeles Friday that will put an end to a years-long battle between the two over the city’s obligation to provide accessible housing for the disabled.
According to the “landmark” agreement, the city will pay what will eventually amount to hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance handicap accessibility for residents living in its low-income housing.
The exact sum will depend on how long it takes the city to complete the requirements spelled out in the agreement, which states that the value will average a minimum of $20 million per year.
The work includes the development of 10,000 units of new affordable housing over the next 10 years, including 1,500 accessible units for the disabilities – a number that exceeds current state and federal requirements.
The city will also retrofit existing housing developments that do not meet accessibility standards to create an additional 3,100 housing units for individuals with disabilities. And, it will participate in program with HUD that will explore innovative ways to enhance accessibility in affordable housing developments.
U.S. housing officials withhold $80 million from Los Angeles, alleging discrimination
by Harriet Ryan, David Zahniser - Los Angeles Times
In an unwelcome turn for a city suffering from a homelessness crisis, federal housing officials said they have denied Los Angeles $80 million in funds, citing long-standing failures by local leaders to ensure that properties built with government money are accessible to those who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson informed Mayor Eric Garcetti in a letter Friday that his agency was rebuffing funding proposals submitted by city officials last month.
“As you have been notified time and again, the city is unlawfully discriminating against individuals with disabilities in its affordable housing program, under federal accessibility laws ... and has refused to take the steps necessary to remedy this discrimination,” Carson wrote. He said a more detailed explanation for the rejection would be sent to the city within 15 days.
Local officials will have 45 days to resubmit or rework their funding application or may seek to obtain the funding by entering into an agreement that addresses the city’s outstanding violations on disabled housing, Carson said in his letter.
L.A. is suing the FAA as residents are fed up with noisy planes in their neighborhoods
by Dakota Smith - Los Angeles Times
Citing concerns about airplane noise for residents in West Adams, Mid-City and surrounding neighborhoods, the city of L.A. is suing the Federal Aviation Administration to get a court to invalidate the routes jets now use to access Los Angeles International Airport.
The lawsuit follows complaints from residents in those neighborhoods who say planes are bearing down on their homes, causing a thunderous and constant commotion.
The city’s three-page petition challenges the FAA’s May 2018 publication and subsequent implementation of its “North Downwind” approach procedures to LAX.
The city pushing back on what it describes as a new policy to limit public comment on flight paths. Comments submitted to the FAA’s website on the proposed flight procedures now aren’t taken into account, the city claims.
APA Los Angeles Award Gala
Join APA Los Angeles as we celebrate the region’s most outstanding planning work, its hard-won victories, best practices, and thought leaders dedicated to the place-making profession. The award winners have been voted on by a panel of experienced judges dedicated to highlighting the projects, plans, or people that demonstrate the power of great planning. The evening highlights the award winners and celebrates the wonderful work being done across the LA region to create more livable, vibrant, and inclusive communities.
6-7 pm: Cocktails and Hors d'oeuvres
7-8:00 pm: Awards Ceremony
8:00 pm: Networking Reception