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

What’s on Deck for Local Civic Issues in 2024

A very quiet Larchmont Blvd. during the early days of COVID-19 in May, 2020.  Last year saw the city come back to life in a big way as pandemic emergency policies explired…and 2024 promises much more civic news.

2023 saw the sunset of the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the dawn of a new post-emergency era in which COVID-19 will likely remain with us on a much more manageable level, and city life changing in many ways.  Here are some of the civic issues we covered last year, and how the conversations are queued up to continue in 2024.

Public Health – As COVID-19 emergency policies began to expire early in 2023 and new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all remained at much lower levels throughout the year, the city (and the Buzz) transitioned from big weekly public health updates to messaging that focused more on where to find the latest respiratory illness information, news about updated vaccines (and the importance of getting them), and continuing reminders that while the emergency phase of the pandemic is no longer with us, COVID definitely is.  These days, it looks like COVID (along with flu and RSV) will continue to wax and wane seasonally, so there are still plenty of times when it will be good to remind people that “common sense precautions” such as masking, making sure you’re up to date with your vaccines, and staying home when you’re sick are still important to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and to keep our resident viruses from ramping up severely again.  (Just this week, in fact, LA County responded to the current uptick in respiratory illnesses – including flu, RSV, and COVID – by reinstating mandatory masking at health care facilities.)

Winter Storms and Infrastructure Issues – The first few months of 2023 brought a number of big winter storms, which had both good and terrible results.  On the positive side, the record-setting rainfall fed our water-starved plants and trees and replenished local water supplies to the point where most watering restrictions were removed and our severe drought – both locally and statewide – was declared over.  On the negative side, though, flooding and extended power outages caused by the storms exposed a great many weaknesses in Los Angeles’ infrastructure and communications systems.  Those issues sparked anger and complaints from both local residents and city councilmembers, and at least one lawsuit.  Meanwhile, by the end of the year, LADWP did put $830 million into both infrastructure and communcations improvements, so we’ll definitely be watching to see if this year’s storm season goes a bit more smoothly. Also, with the LA Times reporting just today that we already have a “snow drought” this year, it will be interesting to see whether last year’s weather patterns hold and we can maintain a healthly level of precipitation this year, or whether we quickly slip back into drought conditions.

City Governance Reform – After a number of scandals in 2022, 2023 was the year in which both constituents and city councilmembers themselves pushed hard for several kinds of reforms to our city government.  A new City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Governance Reform deliberated throughout the year on how to create a truly independent city council redistricting commission, whether or not to expand the size of the city council, and what kinds of ethics reforms might also be needed to prevent the kinds of corruption that have emerged within city government in the last few years.  By the end of the year, the committee had forwarded recommendations for a redistricting commission ballot measure to the full city council (which voted unanimously to support the recommendations), and several other motions were made to improve funding and support for the City’s Ethics Commission. The Ad Hoc Committee did not, however, reach consensus on whether or not to expand the City Council, so that topic will be front and center in 2024, with an eye toward creating another November 2024 ballot measure on that topic.

Land Use Projects – In 2023, there were major neighborhood debates over the proposed Pawn Shop sports bar/restaurant on Melrose Ave., and the huge Television City expansion at Beverly and Fairfax, both of which will certainly continue in 2024. Also, new proposals for 100% affordable housing developments will likely become prominent this year after 2023’s passage of an ordinance to fast-track approvals for such projects.  In fact, two applications 100% affordable building in our general Greater Wilshire area have been filed in the last few weeks – one at 507 N. Larchmont Blvd., and one at 800 S. Lorraine Blvd. You can read about them here…and they will definitely be much discussed in the coming months.

Homelessness and interim housing – This is, arguably, the number one ongoing topic of discussion in our local area, the city as a whole, and – increasingly – at the state and national levels, too.  And it encompasses a variety of sub-issues, including increasing the number of interim housing, supportive housing, and long-term affordable housing solutions both locally and beyond, discussions of the Housing Element of the City’s General Plan and protection of single-family neighborhoods, the city’s proposed new Adaptive Re-Use Ordinance…and many other tactics for providing reasonably-priced shelter for all of our residents while also maintaining the historic character of our neighborhoods.

Upper Larchmont Planning – In 2023, a working group formed by the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council began looking at options for helping to guide the long-term planning and development for “upper” Larchmont Blvd. (between Beverly Blvd. and Melrose Ave.). The goal is to help ensure that new development contributes in a positive way to the overall character of the street instead of creating a more random patchwork of buildings and ideas.  The group has been looking at options such as a Community Plan Implementation Overlay zone for the area, and will continue to discuss ideas with both neighbors and city officials in the new year.

Al Fresco Dining – During the pandemic emergency, the City of Los Angeles threw a lifeline to local restaurants in the form of temporary permits that allowed new outdoor dining spaces on both public and private property adjacent to eateries. The spaces proved so popular that the city spent most of 2023, as the temporary permits were expiring, coming up with a package of new rules and procedures to make the temporary al fresco spaces permanent, and to allow new restaurants to apply for them, too.  As our local restaurants settle in to the new regulatory system in 2024, we’ll be watching to see how things shake out on Larchmont Blvd. – how many parking spaces will continue to be taken by al fresco dining areas…how many spaces that have been devoted to outdoor dining for the last few years will revert to parking…and whether or not any other spaces (such as the city-owned surface parking lot) could be turned into additional outdoor dining space.  And, finally, just how will all these changes affect business at our local restaurants?

Neighborhood Nuisances – In 2023, City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto announced that she was reorganizing her office and sunsetting the popular Neighborhood Prosecutor program that helped resolve many community nuisance issues such as party houses and unprotected vacant homes.  Later in the year, however, Feldstein Soto announced the creation of the new Community Law Corps, which deal with the same kinds of issues, but with a different staffing system (using non-prosecutorial staff to engage and investigate at the grass roots level, and then involving actual prosecuting attorneys only after a decision to prosecute has been made).  The group is already involved with party house complaints at 300 N. Plymouth Blvd., and could potentially get involved with other local issues this year, such as a residential property now being used as a synagogue at 200 N. Orange Dr.

Traffic and Transit – As the clock begins its final countdown down to the Metro D (Purple) Line Subway Extension opening in 2025, local residents willl see more street and sidewalk restoration on stretches of Wilshire Blvd., and less above-ground construction activity.  We’ll also see how the newly created bus priority lanes play out on La Brea Ave., and we’ll undoubtedly hear more about planning for the K (Crenshaw) Line Northern Extension that should someday connect the territory between Exposition Blvd. and Hollywood.  Meanwhile, there are ongoing conversations about traffic safety and control at various local intersections, as well as questions about how and where to create better protected passage for bikers on local streets.

Finally, of course, these are the issues that are on our radar so far…but, as always, we’re sure there will be new issues, too.  Let’s just hope they’re not as big or as devastating as either 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, or even last year’s winter storms!

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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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