At last night’s annual meeting of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, est. 1948, City Council Member David Ryu spoke for nearly two hours about a wide variety of issues of interest to neighborhood homeowners.
Among the major topics of the evening were the yellow “ADA mats” at the bottom of handicapped curb cuts on neighborhood street corners. While the newly installed mats throughout the city are mostly high-visibility yellow, mats in Hancock Park are gray, to more closely comply with local HPOZ guidelines for historic compatibility. When one of the gray mats was recently replaced with a yellow one, Ryu said, he had to remind city staff of the different color policy established for Hancock Park, and was able to get the mat replaced. But then it happened again, and he and his staff had to go through the whole reminder and replacement process again, including re-arguing the basis for the color differences with the Bureau of Street Services, which said the mats had to be yellow to meet state and federal guidelines.
While this may seem like a small problem, Ryu said that it has actually taken a significant number of city staff hours to deal with (both in his own office and in the Bureau of Street Services)…and it also points out a much, much larger problem looming for the city. According to Ryu, the reason continuity was lost, and current BoSS staff did not know about the special color restrictions for the neighborhood, is that the BoSS staffer who had negotiated and managed the ADA mat installations had retired, and the knowledge specific to Hancock Park went with him. This kind of knowledge loss will become an even bigger problem next year, he predicted, when up to 47% of city staff members become eligible to retire.
Similar civic reality checks also played a part in last night’s discussions of other issues – such as concrete street repairs, sidewalk repairs and tree trimming.
For example, Ryu, who campaigned for his office two years ago on promises to repair Hancock Park’s failing concrete streets, recounted how he always discounted city claims of repairing miles and miles of streets, because he knew that the city only bothered to repair streets with condition grades of A or B, because that job could be done with relatively inexpensive slurry coating. Streets with grades of C to F (failing), however, were never addressed, because the job was just too big and expensive, and because many of the failing streets were concrete, and concrete is much more expensive to remove and replace.
Ryu said, however, than when he asked city officials for accurate cost estimates for repairing concrete streets (which are actually more durable than asphalt streets), he discovered there weren’t any reliable numbers because the city hadn’t repaired any concrete streets in the 80 years since they were first installed. So he sponsored a pilot project, using two locations in Hancock Park and funding from his District 4 discretionary funds, to help gauge the true costs and durability of such repairs. Those pilot projects recently concluded, Ryu said, and both came in ahead of schedule and under budget. (A third pilot project in the area is now in the works, and will start “soon,” perhaps by the end of the year.) As a follow-up, Ryu has also introduced a motion, approved by the City Council on October 20, asking several city agencies to prepare and report on a cost comparison of concrete street projects, including the longevity and customer satisfaction of concrete versus asphalt streets. “This motion allows us to study our road repair options, and finally address our backlog of broken streets,” Ryu said in a statement to the Buzz a few days ago.
While progress on that issue seems positive for the moment, however, Ryu noted that two other items on which he also campaigned, and which city agencies had promised him could be dealt with quickly – sidewalk repairs and tree trimming – have both also been slowed down by things like city budget cuts, money diverted to staff raises and (in the case of sidewalk repairs in particular) changes in repair priorities as a result of lawsuits. Ryu said he is still pushing for both services, however, and Hancock Park tree trimming (which has been progressing) should be finished in the next fiscal year…while a sidewalk repair project has finally received HPOZ approval and should also be moving forward now.
A presentation was also made last night on the big modernization project in the works for John Burroughs middle school. Representative Scott Singletary reported that the plans for the massive renovation is now in the design phase, and a community meeting will be held soon to present new drawings and plans to the community. Construction is scheduled to start in 2019 and should finish in 2023.
Finally, two private security companies who provide services in the Hancock Park area – ADT and SSA Security – made presentations about their offerings, and Hancock Park board members urged residents to sign up for such services, which can supplement LAPD responses and help deter local crime.