In what might have been its longest and most contentious meeting ever, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council spent five hours this past Wednesday evening debating – among its usual wide-ranging community issues – several administrative business items, and a set of motions, agendized at the very end of the meeting, introduced by one of the board’s newest members, Joseph Suh, who represents the Western-Wilton neighborhood.
At the beginning of the meeting, held online via the Zoom platform, representatives for several city, state and county officials presented news from their offices. A couple of noteworthy items included information about the new L.A. Al Fresco initiative, which allows local restaurants to apply for permission to use adjacent sidewalks and parking spaces as outdoor dining areas (the idea is to provide the businesses with more room for social distancing, so they can re-open and operate more safely during the COVID-19 crisis)…and news that the California Department of Motor Vehicles re-opened this week for individual appointments (see the link for online appointment registration).
Moving on to Board business, one of the first voting items on the agenda was a motion to create a new, permanent Bylaws and Rules Committee for the board. After a lengthy discussion (the first of many in the evening), the item was tabled after John Darnell, representing the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees the City’s Neighborhood Councils, confirmed that DONE has declared a moratorium on bylaws changes until after the Councils’ 2021 elections.
Next, the Board considered nominations of four new committee members for the GWNC Transportation Committee. One of the most locally contentious issues handled by the committee in recent months has been the city’s proposal to create a “Greenway” along 4th Street, between Rossmore and Highland Aves. Two of the proposed new committee members, Cindy Chvatal and Jon Vein, are members of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, which has formally opposed the Greenway project…and the other two proposed committee members, Chris Palencia and Jonah Bliss, are members of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, which has formally supported the 4th Street project. Board members grilled both sets of candidates about why they’re interested in joining the committee, but in the end, all four were voted in.
In other administrative business, Treasurer Patti Carroll reminded everyone that Neighborhood Councils across the city are having their operating budgets cut from $44,000 this fiscal year (which ends on June 30), to just $32, 000 for the coming fiscal year (which begins on July 1). According to Carroll, the GWNC will meet the fiscal challenge by cutting some of the official hours of its two part-time employees, adminstrator Shirlee Fuqua and minutes writer David Levin, and reducing expenditures for printing, business cards, advertising, and Neighborhood Purpose Grants to community organizations.
Speaking of those Neighborhood Purpose Grants, for which the Council collected applications in May, NPG committee members Max Kirkham and Jen DeVore announced that the grant committee decided to divide its roughly $2,000 grant budget among four recipients – Parents, Educators/Teachers & Students in Action, the Koreatown Youth and Community Center, First in Fire, and the Anderson-Munger YMCA, all of which applied for funds to aid programs directly related to the COVID-19 crisis and/or homelessness. The committee further announced, however, that because the Board has less money remaining in the current fiscal year than expected, the grant awards will not be made until after the new fiscal year begins in July.
The board’s Outreach Committee presented a motion by which the Board would officially recognize June, 2020 as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ Pride Month,” which passed unanimously. A second Outreach motion, to update a letter GWNC previously sent to the city about the value of Neighborhood Council funding, especially in these trying times, and to re-send it to the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, also passed unanimously.
Conrad Starr, chair of the GWNC Transportation Committee, announced that the Committee’s regularly scheduled meetings have been changed to the 4th Monday of odd-numbered months. A special meeting will be held, however, on Wednesday, June 17, to discuss the 4th Street Greenway project. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom (meeting ID #965 7828 7954).
GWNC Sustainability Committee chair Dan Kegel reported that:
- The Committee will soon publish a flier to promote the Council’s biodiversity project.
- A recent LADWP renewable energy study showed that most apartment buildings with fewer than 50 units can hold enough rooftop solar panels to offset their entire annual electicity use
- LADWP also said that it may be able to achieve 90% renewable electricity by adding power from sources such as solar, wind, and batteries (though converting local power plants to burn solar-produced hydrogen might work better than batteries for that last 10%).
GWNC Land Use Committee chair Philip Farha presented three motions from the committee for the Board’s approval.
The first was in support of a proposal for a new 64-unit, 100% affordable housing development at 525 N. Western Ave. (though the committee also expressed concerns with the project’s small number of parking spaces, overall height, effects on the adjacent Oakwood-Maplewood-St. Andrews neighborhood directly to the west of the project, the overall “uninspired” design, and “confusing” drawings of the building’s first floor).
The second and third motions were to oppose, as currently presented, a large, multi-building residential and retail project involving two sites at 3323 W. Olympic Blvd/970-996 S. Manhattan Place, and 975-987 S. Manhattan Pl. The properties involved have recently changed hands, and the new developers have not yet presented their updated plans to the Committee, so the motion was considered a formality to hold options open until project updates are received.
All three motions passed unanimously.
Finally, at least four hours into the meeting, several motions from Board Member Joseph Suh were introduced under the heading of New Business.
The first of these was to adopt a lengthy Resolution Condemning All forms of Anti-Asian Sentiment as Related to COVID-19. The motion, which Suh reported was originally authored by members of the U.S. Congress (House Resolution #908 and Senate Resolution #580) and has also been passed by a number of cities around the country, sparked a lengthy discussion. Board Members asked that more specifics about the bill’s original authors and adopters be provided, and whether or not the specific actions requested in the motion were overly broad or ambitious for a neighborhood council. In the end, however, the resolution passed with 10 voted in favor, no votes opposed, and three abstentions.
The second of Suh’s motions was another highly detailed Resolution Condemning All Acts of Police Brutality, Racial Profiling, and Excessive Force and Promoting Trust and Accountability Between Law
Enforcement and Communities They Are Sworn to Serve. This motion contained six statements regarding specific aspects of police policies and procedures, which several board members said were generally “laudable,” but which might be better considered and possibly refined in a committee discussion before a vote by the full board. Suh noted that he did work with other board and committee members to shorten the resolution (which was originally longer still) before bringing it to the board…and after another lengthy discussion, the motion passed by a vote of 7 in favor, 6 opposed and 1 abstention.
The third motion Suh proposed under New Business was a shorter request that the Board “Commemorate the 155th Anniversary of Juneteenth on June 19, 2020.” While the motion was similar to the one passed earlier in the meeting, recognizing the month of June as Pride Month, Board Members wrestled a bit with the term “commemorate” in this request, asking if it committed the group to more specific commemorative activities, and – if so – what those activities might be. In the end, however, support for the implied sentiment of the motion prevailed over discomfort with specific terminology, and the motion passed…though with a number of Board Members abstaining from the vote.
Finally, Suh’s fourth New Business motion was actually a set of multiple suggestions: that the GWNC improve its inclusivity by adding two new board members (Disability and Youth representatives…that it lower the official voting age for board elections…and that it create both Disability and Youth Committees to deal with issues of interest in those arenas. Despite Board Members’ obvious fatigue by this point in the meeting, the motion sparked another vigorous debate in which members disagreed with the specific approach more than they did with the intent of the motion. Several board members said the matter would be more appropriately assigned to a committee to initially discuss the ideas and make recommendations for possible approaches. Others noted that adding board members is a Bylaws issue and not appropriate for a quick board vote before any larger discussion of the issue has occurred. And still others said that the sheer number of requests in the motion made it impossible to tackle with just a single vote. In turn, Suh repeatedly expressed frustration that there currently is no Bylaws Committee at which to discuss matters like this (hence his motion earlier in the meeting to create such a committee), as well as dissatisfaction with other Board Members’ suggestions that an ad hoc Bylaws Committee could be created if and when larger board or committee discussions/votes determine whether or not an amendment to the Board’s structure is appropriate for this purpose. In the end, however, the same truth about DONE’s current bylaws moratorium ended this argument as it had the earlier one about creating a Bylaws Committee…and the Board voted to postpone the vote until further discussions could be agendized.
[Note: this story was updated after publication to correct information about the introduction of new candidates for the Transportation Committee.]
I do believe that meeting tried to fit ten gallons of water into a five gallon hat 🙂
Coincidentally, a study from UC Berkeley was just released that says adding a combination of solar, wind, and batteries can achieve 90% renewable electricity… and save money. The dang things just keep getting cheaper.