At its annual town hall meeting this past Thursday, November 17, at the Ebell of Los Angeles, members of the Windsor Square Association (which represents the area bordered by Wilshire Blvd., Arden Blvd., Beverly Blvd., and Van Ness Ave.) reviewed their activities over the last year, focusing particularly on emergency preparedness and public safety. The association also elected its board of directors for the coming year…and announced the winner of its annual Squeaky Wheel award, which is presented each year to a neighbor who has spoken up persistently to bring positive changes to the neighborhood.
Emergency Preparedness with RYLAN
After welcoming members and guests to the meeting, WSA President Larry Guzin welcomed WSA board members Gary Gilbert and Steve Kazanjian, along with special guest Crisanta Gonzalez, from the city’s Ready Your Los Angeles Neighborhood (RYLAN) program, to talk about Windsor Square’s efforts to develop a neighborhood disaster preparedness program that may become a pilot for similar programs throughout the city.
RYLAN helps teach neighbors that collective action during the “golden hour” immediately following a major emergency can save lives, Gonzalez said, because city emergency responders will likely be overwhelmed elsewhere during that time, so it will be up to area residents to care for each other. Gonzalez said there are six stages to the RYLAN program, as shown above, and Windsor Square is now at the second stage – organizing and getting to know neighbors who will participate in the preparedness effort, as well as the specific resources each can bring.
This stage will be followed by a more formal drill, Gonzales said, in which participants will learn how to break up into four different teams after an emergency event, with each team focusing on a specific task such as communications, care and sheltering of neighbors, utility and safety, or neighbor wellness.
Gilbert recounted how he first joined the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council to specifically work on emergency preparedness issues, heard about the RYLAN program there, and then helped bring it to the neighborhood. And Kazanjian lauded Gilbert’s efforts, saying “I firmly, firmly, firmly believe we can save lives and be that shining star for Los Angeles.”
Next, neighbors heard from LAPD Olympic Division’s commanding officer, Aaron Ponce, who said LAPD is now shifting its focus from “community policing” to “relationship policing,” which focuses on building relationships with neighborhoods throughout the city so everyone can work together (and with groups like the WSA) to create safer communities.
Ponce also reported that among the seven general types of crimes – homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults (all violent crimes), burglary, motor vehicle thefts, robbery, and theft (all generally considered non-violent crimes) – several have increased significantly this year. For example, he said, there have been 475 robberies this year in the Olympic Division area, up from 419 in all of last year (with the greatest increase being commercial robberies)…as well as a 66% increase in car thefts this year (to a total of 1,056 so far).
The good news, though, Ponce said, is that burglaries from motor vehicles are down in the area, as are simple thefts.
Ponce said the best way to prevent most burglaries and thefts is to make sure cars and homes are fully locked, because many thefts occur when items have been left in unlocked cars, or doors and windows weren’t locked when people leave home.
Ponce also reported that seems to be a group of burglars working in the area that may be responsible for as many as 50 break-ins recently – so he urged people to be on the lookout for unfamiliar cars on their blocks, or young men with their bodies and faces completely covered, even when it’s not cold outside. Ponce told people to report such activity to the police, and also urged them to ask neighbors to keep an eye on their homes when they go out of town.
Squeaky Wheel Award
WSA President Larry Guzin and Land Use Committee Chair John Welborne presented the association’s Squeaky Wheel award this year to Windsor Square resident Louis Fantasia, who has successfully lobbied for traffic safety improvements on 6th Street in the Windsor Square area, which are now being implemented. Unfortunately, however, Welborne reported that Fantasia was unable to attend the meeting to receive his award in person, as it was his wedding anniversary.
Finally, in other business at Wednesday’s meeting:
- WSA Block Captain chair Angie Szentgyorgyi introduced the association’s block captains, but noted that there are still blocks without captains, so more are needed. She said duties of a block captain include helping neighbors get to know each other (perhaps by scheduling a party or Zoom meeting), taking calls from neighbors when something happens on the block, passing along information (e.g. about “knock knock” burglars working in the area) from neighbors to the Association, welcoming new residents, and working with the RYLAN captains to coordinate emergency preparedness activities.
- Land Use Committee chair John Welborne provided a quick description of the Wilshire Community Plan, which governs land use in the neighborhood and surrounding areas, along with the Park Mile Specific Plan, which provides special protections for the section of Wilshire Blvd. between Highland Ave. and Wilton Pl. He also noted what he called a “gross violation of the law,” involving new billboards (which are strictly prohibited under the PMSP) placed on a fence on Wilshire Blvd. between Irving and Bronson Avenues. Welborne also reported that the Land Use committee has provided a tree map to help support and keep track of the tree canopy along the commercial section of Larchmont Blvd…and that the Association recently contributed 20% of the cost of the new bistro lights that have just been strung along that stretch of Larchmont.
- Finally, in their last formal order of business last week, Association members unanimously reelected their current board members to serve for another year. They include:
About 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 is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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