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

City Councilmembers Yaroslavsky and Soto-Martinez (and Other Guest Presenters) Visit GWNC Meeting


In addition to its regular administrative business at its March meeting last Wednesday, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council welcomed two Los Angeles City Councilmembers, and a number of other guest speakers, to provide detailed updates on a variety of community issues.


City Councilmembers


The first guest speaker to weigh in at Wednesday’s meeting was CD 13 City Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez.  He provided updates on:

Staffing – Soto-Martinez reported that the field deputy originally hired for the Greater Wilshire area is no longer with his office, so CD 13 District Director Alejandra Marroquin will be local constituents’ temporary contact.  Soto-Martinez said he hopes to have a new field deputy on board soon, and that, ultimately, his office will have a total of four field deputies, with two other staffers handling specific case management.

Power Outages – Soto-Martinez, who attended a town hall forum on our local power outages just two days before the GWNC meeting, reiterated the disappointment he expressed at that meeting about the way LADWP handled the recent extended outages and communications during the event.  He said the city failed residents during the outages…but that one good thing that came out of the town hall session was that the DWP representatives provided a bit more specific information about how they work.  Soto-Martinez said he took lots of notes, and that he will be working with Yaroslavsky to introduce four or five new city council motions that could help the LADWP do a better job.  These may include things like allowing City Councilmembers to use the Notify LA emergency communications system to alert residents when there are outages, and to keep them better informed about the DWP’s work to restore power.  Soto-Martinez said he will also be looking into the federal grants LADWP has applied for, and how our Councilmembers can help direct the funding.  And he will request an analysis of our existing infrastructure, find out where it’s most outdated, and assign LADWP to work on those sections first.  Soto-Martinez did caution, however, that when the city council requests other city departments to report back with information on the feasibility of questions or proposals like this, it can take 30-60 days to get those reports before any further actions can be taken.

Sixth Street Protected Bike Lanes – Soto-Martinez said he supports creating protected bike lanes on Sixth Street, as do Yaroslavsky, and Councilmembers Heather Hutt (CD10) and Eunisses Hernandez (CD1), whose districts are also traversed by the street.  He said he hopes to join with all of them to support a joint Sixth Street bike lane project.  He also said the California Transit Association is encouraging ambitious infrastructure projects right now, so there may also be some state money available for the work.  Finally, Soto-Martinez said he’s just hired a new  planning deputy – Emma Howard (who held a similar position in former City Councilmember David Ryu’s office) – who may be able to help with this project, too.

Homelessness – Soto-Martinez said the Service Planning Area for the city of Los Angeles currently has 30 service providers for homelessness, but their work is not coordinated, which makes the services much harder to access than they should be.  To help make up for that gap, he said, he has hired three people to focus specifically on homelessness in CD 13.  Soto-Martinez said his team is now mapping all homeless encampments in the district, and team members will work with residents at each location, one by one, as well as with Mayor Karen Bass as her office moves through the city, neighborhood by neighborhood, to identify encampments that qualify for her Inside Safe program.

Next, CD 5 representative Katy Yaroslavsky provided updates from her office on some of the same issues:

Homelessness – Yaroslavsky said her office is now fully staffed, and that she, too, has created a three-person homelessness team that is visiting each encampment in CD 5 to help people find housing.  She noted that the first Inside Safe project in CD5 – involving an encampment near LACMA – has already housed everyone formerly at that location.  Yaroslavsky said she is also currently taking another look at all the city parking lots in CD5, which had previously been reviewed for potential housing but which were all found inappropriate in some way.  But this time, she said, instead of proposing new construction in those locations (which is both expensive and takes too long), she said she’s evaluating them for faster, less costly options such as safe parking or tiny home villages.  She said she also has one staff member dedicated to bringing “more beds online” as fast as possible, and they are also looking for buildings the city could buy to use as housing – including apartments, motels, or others that were not originally housing but could be converted.  Finally, in answer to a question about whether Yaroslavsky would use the provisions of the controversial Ordinance 41.18, which allows Councilmembers to declare certain areas near schools and other sensitive sites off-limits for camping, and to remove people who violate the ordinance, Yaroslavsky said she would do so only near schools and day care facilities (which are “non-negotiable”), and only when housing can be offered.  She said people camping in those areas will be asked to move voluntarily, and if they refuse, she will use 41.18 to help move them into housing.

New CD5 Clean Team – Regarding other city services, Yaroslavsky also announced (and repeated in her weekly community newsletter on Friday) that she has contracted with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps to launch a new Council District 5 Clean Team.  She said constituents “can now request neighborhood clean up services like litter, weed, and graffiti removal, as well as small-scale tree trimming.”  Yaroslavsky noted that the team does NOT clean homeless encampments (which is done by the Bureau of Sanitation), or issues on private property.  To submit a request for Clean Team service, click here.

Power Outages – Yaroslavsky, who – like Soto-Martinez – also attended last week’s town hall meeting on the outages, said her position as chair of the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee will come in handy for this issue, which can be a standing item on the group’s agenda if necessary.  She said the committee can bring in LADWP representatives to help explain what went wrong during the outages and what can be done to improve things in the future.  She also said she realizes there are huge “infrastructure deficits,” and that the city will go after federal money to help with necessary updates.   She also said, however, that at some point we do have to have a conversation about rates and about how we can create a stable grid and sustain it for the future, especially in areas where the systems are old and largely underground, such as Hancock Park.  She said there are also some other barriers to getting the work done quicky, such as rules about limited street work hours created by former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, which slowed down these kinds of repairs.  So she said she will be thinking more about how we can solve these kinds of problems together.  In the meantime, though, she said she hasn’t perceived a sense of remorse or accountability from LADPW so far, which is very frustrating for people when their power goes out…and also for City Councilmembers, who didn’t get good information from the utility during the crisis.  “Communication and customer service need to be fixed immediately,” she said.  (And later in the meeting, the GWNC board members formally agreed with her, voting unanimously to register their support for a motion Yaroslavsky, CD 4 Councilmember Nithya Raman, and Soto-Martinez introduced recently, asking LADWP to provide more information about the outages and communications issues.)

Free Fares on Metro – In answer to a question from a GWNC board member, Yaroslavsky said she hasn’t heard of any recent progress toward making the Metro system fare-free, but it’s possible people are just waiting for Mayor Bass to name her new appointees to the Metro board before the topic comes up again.  Yaroslavsky said she believes a safe, connected, reliable public transit system is the most important contributor to the equality and economic justice in transit, but if Metro can do that without charging fares, it would be a good thing to do.


Other Guest Presentations


In addition to our two City Councilmembers, the GWNC also heard short presentations from several other city officials this month.  They included:

Declan Floyd – Office of State Senator Anthony Portantino – Floyd reported on the progress of SB411, the bill introduced recently by Portantino that would permanently amend the state’s Brown Act, which governs public meetings, including those of our local neighborhood councils.  Prior to 2020, the Brown Act required most public bodies (including our NCs) to meet fully in person…but that rule was suspended by pandemic emergency orders to allow online meetings instead.  With the emergency orders expiring now, however, many such bodies (again including LA’s neighborhood councils) have found that holding meetings via Zoom actually increases public participation, and have asked for amendments to the Brown Act to allow remote meetings to continue.  At the GWNC meeting, Floyd explained how individuals interested in supporting Portantino’s motion can file letters of support, using the legislature’s online comment system.  Floyd and GWNC President Conrad Starr also explained that because the state’s pandemic emergency order expired at the end of February (with a one-month extension to allow online public meetings to continue virtually in March), most bodies – including the GWNC and its committees – will have to meet in person in April, and likely May.  Even if Portantino’s bill passes, they said, it will likely take until at least June for new rules about virtual meetings to take effect, and to filter down into official city policy.

Paul Pham – LAFD Battalion 18 –  Pham reported that our ongoing rainstorms this winter increase work for the Los Angeles Fire Department as well as our utilities and other first responders.  But while storms can create big challenges for the department, Pham said, residents can help by encouraging more neighbors to participate in the LAFD’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.  Having CERT-trained emergency responders in the neighborhood, he said, can help free up the fire department during our bigger emergencies.

Andrew Soto -US Census Bureau, Los Angeles – Soto, a Data Dissemination Specialist for the Census Bureau, provided information on how to access various kinds of demographic data from the 2020 census at, as well as examples for the 90005 zip code in the GWNC area.  (You can also search our local census tracts using the My Community Explorer tool.) And for those who would like to dig even deeper and learn more about how to use census data, Soto provided information about several upcoming webinars, including:

Optimize Your Non-Profit with Census Data
Benefits of Using Census Data to Recruit Students into Liberal Arts Programs
Comparing the American Community Survey to the American Housing Survey
Planning for Community Development

Hebel Rodriguez – LAPD Senior Lead Officer – Rodriguez shared the bad news that in his Wilshire Division Basic Car area, robberies are up 37% this year over the same period last year, burglaries are up 33%, and car thefts are up 176% (with 36 cars stolen so far this year vs. 13 last year at same time).  Rodriguez said many of the car thefts are related to catalytic converter thefts, and that sometimes the thieves will just remove the converter from a stolen car and then dump the vehicle.  To help thwart catalytic converter thieves (who often work in pairs and take just minutes to remove converters and flee), Rodriguez recommended having a protective plate welded over your catalytic converter, and to invest in some sort of tracking device for your car (even if it’s just an Air Tag, though they must be charged frequently to be useful).


Other Business


Finally, in addition to all the guest presentations this month, board members did deal with their regular monthly business, including:

  • News from the ad hoc Neighborhood Purpose Grant Committee that it received 8 applications for the $4,000 in community grants the GWNC has authorized this year.  The committee will determine its recommendations for the grant awards later this month or in early April, and the board will vote on on those recommendations at its April board meeting.
  • The Quality of Life Committee reported that it recently heard a presentation on complaints from neighbors near the All Season Brewing Company (in the old Firestone building at 8th and La Brea).  The neighbors noted problems with smoking, noise, and other issues at the venue, and said they have not received a response from the business.  Committee chair Charles D’Atri said the committee was able to provide appropriate city resources to the neighbors, which may help the situation.
  • The board voted to support two recommendations presented by the GWNC Land Use Committee, including:
    • An application for the construction of a 5-story, 23-unit apartment building (with three units reserved for Very Low Income tenants) on a long-vacant lot at 600 N. Gramercy Pl.
    • A recommendation to the Department of City Planning that instead of creating separate permitting processes for al fresco dining on private property and city-owned property or rights of way, as it is currently doing, the DCP make it easier for restaurants to legalize outdoor dining spaces by working together with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Works, the Bureau of Engineering, and General Services to develop “a more cohesive, holistic Alfresco Dining ordinance that creates a single process for dining areas on private property, the public right of way and city owned properties.”

The next meeting of the GWNC Board will be held on Tuesday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m.  Since in-person meetings cannot be held after March 31, according to current regulations, the meeting is scheduled to be held in person at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.


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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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