President Barack Obama is coming to town again on Monday, October 24, and as always, whenever a president arrives in Los Angeles, final details are kept secret until the last minute as to his travel timetable. It has been publicly announced that he will be attending an event hosted by Eva Longoria and held at the home of Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas in Hancock Park, and that the president may land by helicopter in West LA and motorcade down Wilshire Blvd. LAPD and DOT have worked with Secret Service on a new traffic plan that will, hopefully, reduce the impact on traffic on Wilshire that occurred last year.
Apron Parking Update
Councilmember Koretz and his staff have been very busy, for many months now, doing what it takes to encourage the City to develop an apron parking system that fully protects the access rights of the disabled while addressing the legitimate parking needs of neighborhood residents (some of whom are in fact disabled). Most recently, Councilmember Koretz presented a motion to Council requesting that, in light of the inconsistency of the definition of “parkway” in the Los Angeles Municipal Code, enforcement of apron parking be suspended unless and until the City adopts other laws regulating apron parking. Because of this motion by the Councilmember, and advice from the Office of the City Attorney, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has released an official statement announcing that it is no longer issuing parking citations under Los Angeles Municipal Code section 80.53 for those vehicles parked fully in a driveway apron. HOWEVER, if you park your vehicle on the apron and your vehicle encroaches onto the sidewalk or street, this may be grounds for a citation.
We know this does not address all problems throughout the City because of locations where aprons are smaller than the full length of a car, but it does allow relief for some and is a big first step. Councilmember Koretz continues to advocate for more changes to help with all remaining aspects of the apron parking issue.
The Councilmember sends his profound thanks to all who called, emailed, wrote in, protested, showed up, or signed a petition for this issue! The commitment and passion of constituents truly helped show many Councilmembers, the City Attorney's Office and the Department of Transportation that this was an important issue which needed to be addressed quickly.
Bath salts and why the ban
The City Council has unanimously approved a motion by Councilmember Koretz banning the sale or possession of the incredibly dangerous designer drugs misleadingly labeled as “bath salts.” A rising tide of such substances has been sweeping across the nation and heading toward California, though to date, the worst reports of horrific violent incidents and increased usage relate to incidents in the southern and central states. Of particular concern throughout the U.S. has been the lack of applicable laws, contributing to the easy and legal availability of the drugs, which have been marketed deceptively and sold at head shops and convenience stores, including to the unwary. Here in Los Angeles, as bath salts have started to appear, news reports even told of bath salts being given away as samples to innocent pedestrians passing by on Hollywood Boulevard.
The Council voted its approval two weeks ago, following moving testimony by Keith Evans (pictured here), a San Fernando Valley parent who had heard about the motion and felt compelled to come and tell the Council of his own family’s predicament, including the plight of a daughter given bath salts by her boyfriend, who was easily able to do so with impunity as long as the drug stayed legal. Mr. Evans fought back tears while speaking movingly of his daughter – the good news is that his family's situation has brightened since then. In the meantime, Mayor Villaraigosa signed the ordinance into law, and now law enforcement, treatment providers and those who use or sell will all be on alert as to what the usage of bath salts entails, including the symptoms, hazards and penalties.
A BID for greatness
A great new Business Improvement District is off to a great start! The Westwood Village Improvement Association (WVIA) just started and already it’s helping to revitalize the Village at a fast and furious pace, including by trimming trees, repairing old infrastructure and pressure washing sidewalks to make the area sparking clean. The WVIA has also sent out a team of blue-shirted friendly Ambassadors to talk and work with local businesses and the public at large to help boost the beauty and safety of the Village and to make this world-renowned area shine anew.
In the midst of the BID’s determined activities, the Executive Director for WVIA, Andrew Thomas, said, “we're so thrilled to have these services on the streets of our District. They've been sorely needed and the positive response to these efforts has been amazing. We can already see the difference on our streets and sidewalks, and we're only on Day 3. The best is yet to come!”
SORO NC supports Koretz single-use bag effort
The South Robertson Neighborhoods Council (SORO) has announced its support for a Paul Koretz motion to ban single use carry-out bags at specified retailers (with some exemptions, such as containers for meat, fish and vegetable items). The Koretz proposal reflects the suggestions of the City’s Bureau of Sanitation, as well as the wishes of major environmental groups. SORO said to Councilmember Koretz, “Given the impact these single-use bags continue to have on the environment and wildlife, we support your efforts in passing this legislation.” Back in November of 2010, SORO had urged City Council action addressing “the environmental and economic problems posed by single-use plastic bags.” The Koretz motion will undergo a review process allowing for much study and public input.
Getting One’s Fill
Joining City Street Services workers are (from left to right) Board of Public Works President Andrea Alarcon, CD 5 Field Deputy Jeff Ebenstein, Councilmember Paul Koretz, Bureau of Street Services Interim Director Nazario Sauceda and Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council President Jill Banks Barad.
It would be wonderful if every last one of our potholes could be filled, and quickly so, but that’s a tall order in a city as large as Los Angeles, especially when tough economic times strain all governmental services. That’s why the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC) generously stepped forward to partner with the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services, using some of its own funds to help pay to repair the worst potholes in Sherman Oaks as chosen in a process that included substantial public input. The very first to be filled were on Rayneta Drive, and while the expert repair work was mostly left to Bureau of Street Services employees, happily helping were Councilmember Koretz, SONC President Jill Banks Barad and Vice President Jeffrey Ebenstein (aka CD 5 deputy extraordinaire), Street Services Interim Director Nazario Saucedo and Andrea Alarcon, the President of the Board of Public Works. More of this invaluable street repair is to come in the near future, thanks to the innovative partnership arranged by the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council!
Take Me Home Day
Councilmember Koretz joined Westside Neighborhood Council and LA Animal Services for a "Take Me Home" day at the Westside Pavilion. The Westside Neighborhood Council has been working with various shelters and rescues throughout the district to hold weekend adoption events in the mall to find homes for dogs and cats. The adoption events have been tremendously successful, with several dogs and cats finding permanent homes.
Subway to the sea
Councilmember Koretz has been a strong advocate for selecting the alignment with a Century City stop at Constellation Blvd. & Avenue of the Stars, because it makes so much sense in terms of maximizing usage of the subway. The Councilmember has also asserted that any final decision must be dictated by safety studies and the data they might contain. The breaking news is that the results are in from a study conducted by a team of engineering and seismic experts, assembled by the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, that included independent specialists: the proposed station at Constellation, the one supported by the Councilmember, is indeed the safe choice because there is no evidence of faulting at the location, whereas the alternative proposal is fault-ridden.
Councilmember Koretz (far left) joins CA State Assemblymember Mike Feuer (far right) and Bob Cohen, President of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce (kneeling in front) in honoring local teachers.
The 21st annual Sherman Oaks Street Fair was a terrific success, pleasing everyone in attendance -- which is to be expected, since the Fair is always a smash hit, as community groups and the public at large come together to rejoice in their spirit of community and to just have fun. Councilmember Koretz showed up and had a great time, as he does every year, and presented a certificate of commendation to the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce for the Chamber's tremendous leadership in organizing this event. In addition, the Councilmember handed out "Educator of the Year" award recipients selected by the Chamber, and, joined by Congressmember Brad Sherman, distributed certificates of appreciation to Los Angeles Police Department Officers who have also served in the United States military.
Sadly, right here and now in Southern California, two out of every six families go to sleep hungry every night – a grim reality that is particularly hard to fix during a dismal economy. That’s why Councilmember Koretz was pleased to honor Help Feed the Hungry, a fantastic group of dedicated volunteers and professionals who are doing what they can to end hunger in the United States in our lifetime. At the Councilmember’s request, the City declared November 4th through the 6th, “Help Feed the Hungry Weekend.” During that weekend, and in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday, Help Feed the Hungry will be especially active in crucial efforts aimed at collecting food items, feeding the hungry and assisting countless individuals and families in need.
Tower Lane Update
Good News. The proposal to build a megamansion compound on Tower Lane received a significant setback. As Councilmember Koretz and many local residents strongly urged, the Los Angeles Building Department denied the applicant’s request for modification regarding an extension of time, which would have allowed those permits to remain valid despite no work being completed in the past 180 days. Also, Building & Safety concluded that Planning Departments sign-off is needed for the project, and that a full environmental review will be necessary. Councilmember Koretz has called for full environmental review since the inception of this project; this recent ruling is a significant win for the environment and for the neighborhood.
Saving the Westwood FlyAway
The Westwood FlyAway is a great service for many 5th Council constituents, but it has remained endangered because it does not yet achieve the desired level of ridership in tough economic times. That’s why, after meeting with concerned community partners regarding the possibility that the Westwood FlyAway service would be discontinued, Councilmember Koretz co-presented a motion with Councilmember Rosendahl. In it, they requested that the Airport Commissioners (BOAC) direct Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) to meet with a working group of UCLA and community and transit stakeholders to develop a plan to save the Westwood FlyAway service, and that the review period for the service be extended to one year to allow for implementation of that new plan and the completion of UCLA's efforts to increase ridership. The motion passed in a committee and will go before the full City Council in the upcoming weeks.
The Councilmember will continue to fight for the Westwood FlyAway, but the public will have to do its part as well! Use the FlyAway and show LAWA just how great this service is to UCLA, Westwood residents, and the entire surrounding West LA community. Click on the following link for the Westwood FlyAway bus prices, scheduling, parking availability, etc. and head over to the Village for your direct trip to our City’s travel hub! http://www.lawa.org/popup.aspx?id=300
Fixing Our Sidewalks
While the City certainly faces a crisis in the condition of its sidewalks, Councilmember Koretz has strongly opposed trying to force this crisis onto the residents of our neighborhoods. The matter was heard most recently in a joint committee meeting of Budget & Finance and Public Works. As the process moves forward, Councilmember Koretz has fought and will continue to fight those who wish to make neighboring property owners responsible for the City’s failure to maintain sidewalks.
Keeping Traffic Flowing
Councilmember Koretz and his staff recently visited ATSAC headquarters – the extraordinary home to the City’s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control System, or ATSAC, which is based on the Coliseum area ATSAC that proved so successful during the 1984 Olympics. In the City’s greatly expanded and technologically advanced current version, computers and video feeds from many of the City’s most daunting intersections are carefully monitored by Department of Transportation engineers who use sophisticated programming to help facilitate the flow of traffic and oversee the timely passage of Metro buses. Given the amount of automobiles in use here, it’s impossible to make traffic congestion disappear from major Los Angeles arteries, but ATSAC plays a major role in reducing the inclination of motorists to use local neighborhood sidestreets. The ATSAC computer programs, designed in-house by DOT engineers, are envied and sought after by other jurisdictions and may soon be introduced in Long Beach.
The Great California Shakeout 2011 was held on Thursday, October 20 – and it was a great reminder of what we need to keep in mind throughout the year, which is that we should all be well-prepared for the inevitable earthquakes, large and small. Councilmember Koretz and his staff thank all people and organizations participating in this effort and in all earthquake preparedness, response and relief endeavors.
FREE Green Living Workshops
Councilmember Koretz secured a $45,000 grant through funding provided by the LA Department of Water and Power and the US Department of Energy to enable the South Robertson NC Green Team to offer FREE Green Living Workshops to residents of Council District 5. The six-week workshop meets once a week for 90 minutes and is designed to educate participants on water and energy conservation and their relation to waste reduction, chemical safety, transportation alternatives, consumerism and food production. Thanks to SORO NC and especially Paula Waxman, Chair of SORO's Green Team (pictured here), for once again leading the way. For information regarding registration, please visit this link
Free at Last
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was freed this week! Shalit had been kidnapped from his native land and held hostage for five years and four months, so much celebration ensued following his liberation and throughout his homecoming. More than a year ago, at Councilmember Koretz’s prompting, the City of Los Angeles declared June 25, 2010 “Gilad Shalit Day” in order to issue a firm call for freedom for Shalit and to raise awareness of situation. Welcome home and Shalom, Gilad!
Hal David turns 90!
A treasured 5th Council District luminary, lyricist Hal David was honored as he turned 90 with a star on the Walk of Fame. He wa also celebrated with an incredible gala performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that featured Dionne Warwick, Herb Alpert, Stevie Wonder, Jackie DeShannon, Smokey Robinson (pictured below), B.J. Thomas, Steve Tyrell, Dwight Yaokam, Michelle Lee, Lani Hall, Albert Hammond, LACHSA Vocal Jazz Ensemble, and Mr. David's longtime collaborator, composer Burt Bacharach. The music that resulted that night was magical -- as has been the music that Hal David has made possible over the years: his artistry and humanity have brought joy to countless people, year after year after year.