Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

GWNC Holds its First Online Board Meeting

GWNC Board Members, during their first-ever online GWNC Board meeting last night

The City of Los Angeles suspended Neighborhood Council meetings in April, due to the coronavirus emergency, but it has now allowed the groups to resume their gatherings – virtually.  And last night, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council held its very first online board meeting.

The three-hour session consisted mostly of presentations from various city officials, providing updates on city services and COVID-19 responses, as well as votes on various housekeeping tasks (minutes, budget approvals, etc.), but there were a few other significant developments, too.

City Presentations

First, among the city presentations, City Council District 4 Field Deputy Rob Fisher talked about protections the city has put in place for renters during the crisis, food programs for seniors, a program that links volunteers to seniors who may need help with shopping or deliveries, a newly-passed temporary moratorium on evictions from storage lockers, and the various programs the city and county have put in place to help the homeless during the pandemic.

Next, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment representative John Darnell talked about the $5,000 the city has allowed each neighborhood council president to donate, without board approval, to local non-profit organizations providing various kinds of community help during the crisis. (To find out how the GWNC has begun spending its share of the funds, see the President’s Report, below.)  Darnell also provided a link to a full list of COVID-19-related information DONE has shared so far with the city’s various Neighborhood Councils.

Representing the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Angie Aramayo also discussed the city’s renter protections, and added that the city has created a new initiative called LA Represents to provide legal assistance to renters.  Aramayo also reminded renters that landlords cannot evict tenants during the crisis, and that if a landlord does threaten eviction when someone can’t pay their rent, the tenant should stay put and not vacate.  Also, landlords are not allowed to intimidate tenants into turning over their federal stimulus checks, and cannot force people, at this time, into signing a repayment plan for overdue rent.  For more information and assistance on housing issues, Aramayo referred people to the website of the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department. Finally, in newer developments, Aramayo publicized a new state program that can provide up to $1,000 per household in emergency assistance to undocumented immigrants, with applications opening on May 18.  Also, as of yesterday, both the County and City have announced that all retail stores can now re-open for curbside pickup (no customers allowed inside), and beaches are once again open for active recreation (walking, running, swimming, surfing), but beach parking lots and piers remain closed…and all Los Angeles residents are now required to wear masks when they are outdoors.

Erin Seinfeld, representing the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, elaborated a bit on the retail re-opening, noting that it does not yet apply to stores in malls…and employees and patrons must also continue to adhere to strict social distancing protocols.  Also, in addition to beaches, Seinfeld noted that other recreational facilities like tennis and pickleball courts, and equestrian facilities, can also re-open.

Daniela Prowzir, from the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector (and also a GWNC board alternate), noted that the LA County Disaster Help Center, which can be reached at (833) 238-4450 or [email protected], can also help landlords who need to delay mortgage payments.

And finally, Ned Racine, from Metro, noted that the second of two Tunnel Boring Machines making their way west along Wilshire Blvd. from La Brea Ave. will reach Fairfax Ave. during the week of May 18.  The first of the two machines, which is already at the Fairfax station, will move on west toward La Cienega Blvd on May 26.  To date, Racine said, more than 75% of the tunnels have now been bored for Section 1 of the Purple Line Extension, which extends from Western Ave. to La Cienega.

Budget Advocate Report

The GWNC’s city budget liaison, Jack Humphreville, reported that due to both pension liabilities and the COVID-19 crisis, the city will have a large budget shortfall this year…and because the length of the city’s stay-at-home orders, and the extent of the economic impact, are not yet known, the city will be using a “placeholder budget,” subject to revisions as data comes in.  Overall, however, Humphreville said that important revenue sources, such as hotel, sales, business and other taxes will be far lower than originally predicted, though property taxes should still increase due to rising real estate values.  The situation will remain “very fluid,” however, Humphreville said…and he predicted the city’s financial situation will get “very ugly” in the months to come.

President’s Report

GWNC President Caronline Labiner Moser, elaborating on the community improvement grants mentioned earlier by John Darnell, reported that she has – as the city directed – chosen five local non-profits so far to receive $500 grants from the total of $5,000 allowed by the city.  The organizations receiving funds from the GWNC so far are the LA Parks Foundation (to help pay for bedding and other necessities at the city’s temporary homeless shelter at the Pan Pacific Park Recreation Center), the Anderson-Munger YMCA (to help pay for showers, snacks and toiletries the organization is providing to local homeless residents), St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels (which is providing an increasing number of freel meals in the community), Alexandria House (which has managed to re-house all of its residents after a recent fire, as well as provide additional services to other non-resident women and children who are victims of domestic abuse), and Big Sunday (which provides volunteers and a variety of resources to other local non-profits).    The board ratified Moser’s grant awards, which had been previously approved by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

Vice President’s Report

GWNC Vice President Max Kirkham reported that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed a 24% cut in Neighborhood Council budgets, across the city, to help with the city’s overall financial situation.  Kirkham noted, however, that all Neighborhood Council representatives are volunteers, who – in the current time of crisis – are putting in an increasing number of hours of free labor for the city, which carries a great deal of value and doesn’t deserve to be undermined by budget cuts.  The issue sparked the most impassioned discussion of the evening, with several other board members joining in vehement agreement.  In the end, the board unanimously passed a resolution to send a strongly worded letter to the Mayor, expressing dismay at the proposed cuts and urging him to maintain current funding for the NCs.

Treasurer’s Report

GWNC Treasurer Patricia Carroll had a long list of budgetary votes on the agenda, but because the meeting was already running long, most of them were postponed, and the board voted to hold a Special Meeting on May 27 to deal specifically with financial issues.

Outreach Committee

GWNC Outreach Committee Chair Max Kirkham discussed some of the GWNC’s new social media efforts (people can send photo submissions to [email protected]), and also noted that the GWNC will once again be offering a limited number of Neighborhood Purpose Grants for improvement projects by local non-profits and schools.  The application deadline for the grants is May 27, and awardees will be announced by June 4.  For more information, application materials and instructions, see  Interested groups can also contact [email protected] for more information.

Sustainability Committee

Acting Sustainability Committee Chair Dan Kegel was confirmed as the new permanent committee chair at last night’s meeting, and also won the board’s support for a motion to submit a comment crafted by the committee on the city’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its proposed new Safe Sidewalks LA sidewalk repair program.  In short, the letter addresses tree replacement concerns connected to sidewalk repairs, and requests that the city:  1) consider the allergenic value of new trees when removing and replacing trees after sidewalk repairs, 2) ensure that replacement trees that die before maturity are replaced, and 3) that the city develop an opt-in notification system for the public when tree removals are planned.

Public Works Liaison

GWNC Public Works Liaison Hayden Conner Ashworth reported that the city has offered the GWNC a choice between participating in either a tree-planting blitz (in which a two-block-radius area would be planted with new trees) or a street repair blitz for either concrete or asphalt streets.  While there was some debate over which was preferable, the board eventually voted (by a margin of 10 votes in favor, one opposed and six abstensions) to opt for the street repairs.  Later this year, residents will be able to nominate potholes in their neighborhoods for the repairs, and the city will choose which potholes to fill during the “blitz” period.

Finally for the night, the board voted to continuing meeting virtually, via the Zoom platform, for the time being.

This story was updated, after its initial publication, to correct the date of the upcoming Special Meeting, to add the information about the LA Disaster Recovery Help Center, and to clarify information about the community grants made by Board President Caroline Moser.

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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