Plans to Expand Homeless Outreach

September 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

(CNS) – City Councilman Jose Huizar announced an expansion of homeless outreach services in downtown Los Angeles last week, with a five-member team looking to replicate a similar program that has seen success in Skid Row.

The new team is operated by the non-profit The People Concern and is funded by the county. It consists of experts in mental health and substance abuse, a case manager, a medical provider and a peer with lived experience.

The program is based on the City-County-Community (C3) outreach program which began in Skid Row in January 2016 and will provide services throughout downtown. In the first half of this year, C3 has permanently housed 128 people directly from the streets of Skid Row, according to Huizar’s office.

“Like all of Los Angeles, downtown is in the midst of a homeless crisis and we have an incredible need — particularly for those suffering from mental illnesses — for increased services to get people real-time assistance,” Huizar said.

Huizar also called for a new approach in assisting the estimated one-third of the city’s homeless population who suffer from mental illnesses.

Teen’s ‘Empowerment’ Mural Inspires Girls, Earns High Honor

August 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A mural painted to inspire young girls to reach for their dreams was unveiled Saturday in Boyle Heights. Titled “Empowerment,” it’s the first public mural created by 15-year-old Isabel Peinado, a student at Los Angeles County High School of the Arts (LACHSA).

Peinado has earned the praise of a local councilman and the Girls Scouts of America. On Saturday, dozens of people attended a ceremony celebrating her vision and hard work to create the mural located at Ray and Roy’s Market on the corner of 4th Street and Camulos Street. The teen spent over 600 hours this summer planning, fundraising and painting her mural.

15-year-old Isabel Peinado spent over 600 hours this summer planning, fundraising and painting her mural. (Photo courtesy Office of Councilman Jose Huizar)

15-year-old Isabel Peinado spent over 600 hours this summer planning, fundraising and painting her mural. (Photo courtesy Office of Councilman Jose Huizar)

Councilman Jose Huizar called the mural a “gift” to the Boyle Heights community and, in particular, “the young girls who will look at this mural and … find incredible inspiration to follow their dreams.”

The councilman and his wife, Richelle Huizar, helped Peinado secure the space for the large mural, which includes 16 portraits of women from throughout history who have made tremendous contributions in a variety of fields and endeavors. The young artist said she wanted to stress the important role women have played in society, noting that she consulted with her mother and a small team of friends to decide which women should be included to ensure equal representation.

The goal was to encourage young girls and women of all backgrounds to find their own inspiration, and to remind people of the importance of immigrants to the U.S., she said in a statement released by Huizar’s office.

“I hope this mural inspires little girls to choose any profession or calling that they decide on,” Peinado said Saturday. “I want them to know anything is possible if you are passionate, hard-working and dedicated to doing what you love.”

Peinado has been taking art classes since the age of five and hopes her mural will also help raise awareness about the importance of art education in public schools, “so more youth can have the opportunity to express themselves artistically.”

Peinado’s work has earned her the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award, the nonprofit’s highest recognition.

“The Gold Award is the highest honor that a Girl Scout can receive … and we will be awarding her the pin next summer as a part of the class of 2018,” said Kenya Yarbrough, marketing director for the Girl Scouts of the Greater Los Angeles. “We appreciate her courage to stand up, have conversations and share the stories of these very strong women.”

Included in Peinado’s mural are: US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; Mae Jamison, the first African-American woman astronaut to travel into space; labor leader and UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta; revolutionary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; Malala Yousafzai, women’s educational rights activist who survived being shot in head by Taliban to continue her quest for women’s rights; Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, writer of “Farewell to Manzanar,” a novel depicting her experiences as a Japanese American in WWII internment camps; singer Selena Quintanilla; Mexican poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz; Princess Diana of Wales, Susan B. Anthony, women’s rights activist during the suffrage movement, and others.

Councilman Jose Huizar and Girls Scouts of America pay tribute to first time muralist, Isabel Peinado (center) during unveiling ceremony at Ray and Roy's Market in Boyle Heghts. (Photo courtesy Office of Councilman Jose Huizar)

Councilman Jose Huizar and Girls Scouts of America pay tribute to first time muralist, Isabel Peinado (center) during unveiling ceremony at Ray and Roy’s Market in Boyle Heghts. (Photo courtesy Office of Councilman Jose Huizar)

On Saturday, Huizar shared that Peinado’s inspiration came from the murals she saw and admired while walking around downtown Los Angeles with friends.

According to Huizar, he and his wife learned of Peinados’ desire to paint the mural from his daughter Emilia. He said the couple decided to help get the project moving by finding a site for the mural. After seeing Peinado’s sketches, Angela Yolanda Diaz – Ray and Roy’s new owner – agreed to let the teen use her store as her canvass. Diaz even agreed to pay the licensing fee required under a city mural ordinance, according to Huizar.

The teenager’s mother and co-leader of her Girl Scout troop, Judith Peinado, said the mural project was a family affair, acknowledging younger brother Daniel for keeping the first-time muralist company during the long work days. The entire family was involved throughout the process, she said.

Judith also shared her appreciation for Peinado’s Girl Scout troop and supporters who helped raise the money needed by holding  “a continental breakfast and having dinners at their homes as well as other fundraising on their own.” Together they raised about $2,500 to pay for scaffolding, paint, and other supplies.

“When you consider the hundreds of hours Isabel Peinado took to create this mural, with the help of a loyal group of family and friends, the heart and soul put into this mural is written in the dedication Isabel signs it with: ‘To you with love. Para ustedes, con mucho cariño y con todo mi corazon.’ Congratulations to all on a beautiful and empowering piece of art,” Huizar said.

Thanking her team and supporters, Peinado said they motivated her to “keep up the hard work” and to endure the long hours.

“This is an amazing community,” she said with excitement.

“Seeing the face of little girls passing by and asking questions about the mural gave me a sense of accomplishment.”

L.A. Council Committee Approves Fee on Developers

August 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A Los Angeles City Council committee Tuesday supported one of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s top priorities, requiring real estate developers to help fund the construction of affordable housing through a “linkage fee.”

Although two members had expressed some reservations about the proposal at a meeting in June, the committee approved without objection some new recommendations that would create a tiered fee structure depending on the market rate of the neighborhood.

“We are very proud here today to bring this very important proposal before the committee for action,” said Councilman Jose Huizar, who is the Planning and Land Use Management Committee’s chair, at a news conference before the meeting.

“We want to come away with as many dollars as possible with a committee and council vote and create what we have not had in the city of Los Angeles for a number of years now — a steady, funded revenue stream specifically earmarked for affordable housing.”

Garcetti first proposed the idea for a linkage fee two years ago and called on the City Council to pass it during his State of the City speech in April, but the fee has proven to be divisive.

“This is by far one of the most divided subject matters, depending on who you talk to that are in this space. Everybody’s got a different opinion,” Councilman Mitchell Englander said.

“This is like navigating a live mine field, that if we make it through it somehow, we’ll live. But if we misstep at all, we don’t, and the consequences are devastating.”

Some key business groups, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, have also come out against the linkage fee and argued it would slow the construction of affordable housing by increasing the cost of building.

“The business community strongly supports affordable and workforce housing, but this proposal will make low- and middle-class housing more expensive to build and more expensive to rent or own,” according to the chamber.

The fee approved by the city’s Planning Commission in February would have charged $5 to developers for every square foot of new commercial construction and $12 per square foot for new residential projects. On Tuesday, however, the committee instead voted to approve a tiered structure, ranging from $8 to $15 per square foot for residential and $3 to $5 for commercial, depending on the market value of the neighborhood.

The vote, if approved by the full council, directs the city attorney to craft an ordinance creating the fee. The ordinance would then need to be voted on and signed by Garcetti before it could become law.

When Garcetti first proposed the idea, he estimated the linkage fee could raise up to $100 million per year for affordable housing, but a staff report approved by the commission downgraded the estimate to $75 million to $92 million per year.

A Department of City Planning and Housing and Community Investment Department report estimated the fee could raise between $93.7 million to $114.3 million per year with the tiered structure.

Garcetti set a goal in 2014 for construction of more than 100,000 units in Los Angeles by 2021 as a way to combat a housing shortage that has contributed to rising rents and an increase in homelessness in the city.

However, not all city leaders are convinced the linkage fee will help affordable housing or that it won’t lead to other problems.

Englander in June expressed worry that the fee could end up harming low-income people because developers and landlords will just pass the cost on to tenants.

“Everybody wants to stick it to the developer,” Englander said. “Hey, that would be a great option. At the end of the day we are sticking it to the nurse, the teacher, the firefighter and they can’t afford it and they are moving out of Los Angeles and they are commuting two hours.”

Councilman Curren Price said at the same meeting that a “one size fits all” fee could end up harming low-income neighborhoods.

However, Englander and Price both ended up supporting the new tiered fee, and Englander said he has always supported a linkage fee, it has just been a question of finding the right “sweet spot” that doesn’t slow development.

The fee would have various exemptions, and the committee recommended adding a few more, including exemptions for all hospitals and nonprofits, although it asked staff to report back on what the fiscal impact would be.

Although he is not on the committee, Councilman Gil Cedillo, who chairs the Housing Committee, has also expressed doubts about the fee.

“If we think this is the whole solution we are really making a mistake,” Cedillo told City News Service in June

“There’s a sense — and I’ve said this publicly and in forums — I don’t want people to think we are solving the problem. And people get attached to process and to the battle and they’re not looking at how we should approach the war.”

The report from the departments of planning and housing and community investment concluded that the fee would not result in a significant increase in housing prices.

The report also concluded that developers are unable to pass on the costs of new housing impact fees to tenants and home buyers because most developers are introducing a relatively small number of units into a community, where the price has already been set by the marketplace.

The idea for a linkage fee to fund affordable housing is not new. Other California cities such as Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco have one, as do other cities around the nation.

“I’m from New England. I went to school in Boston,” Councilman Mike Bonin said at the news conference.

“When I was in college, Boston established an affordable housing linkage fee. When they were talking about it, I remember the headlines in The Boston Globe — the sky was going to fall and the world was going to end, housing would stop and the boom in Boston would end. It didn’t happen.”

Community Calendar August 10 – August 12

August 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Today, Thursday August 10

4:30-6pm–Meeting of the Teen Volunteer Board at East Los Angeles Library. Join the board and help shape future of teen activities. Ages 12-17. Library is located at 4837 E. 3rd St. LA 90022. For more information contact Teen Service Librarian  (323) 264-0155.

6:30pm–Public Hearing On Proposals for the Lincoln Heights Jail. The city’s Community Advisory Panel will present information on three proposals received during the RFP process and under review. Time for an open discussion with members of the panel and the public will be assigned. Hearing will take place at Goodwill Industries Auditorium, 342 N. San Fernando Rd. Los Angeles 90031. For more information contact Gerald Gubatan at (213) 473-7001 or via email at gerald.gubatan@lacity.org

Friday, August 11

7:30pm–El Centro Del Pueblo presents outdoor of showing of Willoughby in Los Angeles. Directed by Ruben Soto and Herbert Megurk enjoy this thriller based on a true story. Donations will be accepted to benefit Arturo Aguayo Jr. and the Boxing Club at El Centro Del Pueblo. Showing will take place at El Centro Playground, 1155 Lemoyne Street, Los Angeles 90026. For more info contact Ruben Soto at (213) 393-4215 or Robert Aguayo at (213) 483-6335.

Saturday, Aug. 12

2-6pm–100% Solar Powered Art & Music Festival- Eastside Sol. Enjoy live music, entertainment and giveaways as your learn about energy saving alternatives. Fun for all ages. Festival will take place at Mariachi Plaza, 1817 E 1st St, Boyle Heights, 90033. For more information, follow Eastside Sol on Twitter @EastSol.

3:30 & 5:30pm–Arroyo Arts Collective and Teatro Arroyo present world premier of Alicia in Arroyoland at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. The classic story of Wonderland is re-imagined with the merging of colorful characters and local icons including Tongva medicine woman Toypurina, Charles Lummis, and Chicken Boy in this free-to-attend rollicking music and dance-driven salute to the diverse people of Highland Park. Additional performances on Aug. 13, 19 and 20th. Center is located at Debs Park, 4700 North Griffin Ave, LA 90042. For free ticket info, go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com. For more info, visit www.teatroarroyo.com.

8pm–Casa 0101 Theater presents Flamenco Flavor in Boyle Heights. Indulge in the exciting heel stomping rhythms of flamenco dancers and the cry of the Spanish guitar. General admission is $25; students, seniors & local residents pay $20. Location: Little Casa, 2009 E. 1st, LA 90033. For more info, call (323) 263-7664 or visit www.csa0101.org.

Upcoming

Councilmember Jose Huizar’s Monthly Boyle Heights Bulky Item Program on Sunday, Aug. 20. If you have furniture you don’t want, come in dump in containers.City containers will be in the following locations 6th & Euclid Ave., Fickett & Malabar St., 3rd & St. Louis St. and in Gabriel Garcia Marquez St. & Park Paseo. For more information contact the Boyle Heights office at (323) 526-9332.

Play Music on the Porch Day Sat., Aug. 26 from 5-7pm in Highland Park. All are invited to take part in a free family event filled with music & activities for kids of all ages. Event will take place at the Highland Park Senior Center, 6152 N. Figueroa St. LA 90042. For more information or if you’re a musician, contact monica@playmusicontheporchday.com or checkout their Facebook page @playmusicontheporchday.

Donation Drive for the Homeless Sunday in Eagle Rock

August 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Recycled Resources for the Homeless and 14th District Councilmember Jose Huizar will host a sleeping bag donation drive on Sunday at Eagle Rock City Hall.

The nonprofit group is asking for donations of not just sleeping bags, but also underwear, summer clothing and toiletries for both men and women.

The goal is to replenish supplies for the local homeless population, said Recycled Resources Community Relations and Housing Coordinator Monica Alcaraz.

Homelessness in the community has increased, according to Alcaraz, who said they are committed to holding donation drive on an ongoing basis with Huizar’s support.

“We have a good working relations with them [Huizar’s office],” Alcaraz said. “They advocate for us and help find ways to bring services.”

The donation drive is a way that everyone can help those in need because most are from the Northeast L.A. area, Huizar told EGP in an email.

“Studies have shown that people who fall into homelessness tend to remain in the neighborhoods they grew up in or were living in, and that is the case in Northeast LA,” the councilman’s statement pointed out.

“The work of Recycled Resources and the scores of volunteers, residents, and stakeholders who support them are proof that we can make a difference,” Huizar said.

Alcaraz said Huizar’s office wants to hold donation drives at least twice a year, one in the summer and one in winter, to help replenish supplies for the homeless.

“During the summer months, we hand out water and Gatorade … because it has been so hot and people can become dehydrated,” Alcaraz said, explaining some of the seasonal differences in their collection goals.

Recycled Resources is based in Highland Park and provides everyday necessities like toothpaste, deodorant, sanitary napkins and socks to people experiencing homelessness in the Northeast Los Angeles community.

The organization, founded in 2008 by Rebecca Prine, works to create trusting and supportive relationships with people experiencing homelessness.

The group also provides meals at their drop in center located at All Saints Episcopal Church in Highland Park. Showers of Hope, a mobile shower organization for homeless people, provides the opportunity to bathe.

The center also provides information on resources their homeless clients can use to get started on the path to housing, Alcaraz says.

Donations for the current drive can be dropped off today through Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at Eagle Rock City Hall, and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Donations can also be dropped off every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

People experiencing homelessness can call or text (323) 999-4816 for information on resources or visit the drop in center at All Saints Episcopal Church, located at 5619 Monte Vista St. Los Angeles, CA 90042.

Volunteers Plant Trees at Hollenbeck Park

May 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Councilmember Jose Huizar (center) celebrates Arbor Day with volunteers at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights. The event, held earlier this month, kicked off a series of tree plantings planned for eight city parks, including several serving residents in the 14th Council District. The addition of more trees will help make our community parks greener and a place for everyone to enjoy, said Huizar, who thanked Sup. Hilda Solis, City Plants and other partners for their participation.

(Office of Councilman Jose Huizar)

(Office of Councilman Jose Huizar)

Residents Are the Heroes In Exide Victory

February 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The unrelenting efforts of residents and community activists deserve credit for California Gov. Brown and state legislators securing nearly $177 million for testing and cleanup of properties contaminated by the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, state and local Latino leaders said today during a news conference at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights.

“This is what community looks like,” proclaimed Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, pointing to the group of residents and activist at his side and in the audience.

“This is a watershed moment for all, but there is still much to do.”

He was referring to the people from Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Maywood and other southeast communities who have spent decades fighting for the state to hear their pleas for justice for the men, women and children being poisoned by high levels of lead, arsenic and other contaminants from the now closed acid-lead battery recycling plant.

“These are reparations,” pointed out Gladys Limon, attorney for Communities for Better Environment. “While Governor Brown proposed this, it took a long time for him to do so.”

After years of silence, Gov. Brown publicly acknowledged the Exide contamination for the first time Wednesday when he asked state legislators to allocate $176.6 million from the general fund for testing and cleanup on the eastside.

The funds, once approved by the California State Senate and Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee, will come in the form of a loan. The state will then go after Exide and any other parties responsible for contamination to recover the costs.

“I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Boyle Heights resident Terry Cano, who lives in a home with high levels of lead in the soil, during the event. “This is long overdue and we can’t stop fighting until the last house is clean.”

The funds will expedite and expand testing for up to 10,000 homes and remove lead-tainted soil from 2,500 residential properties, schools, daycare centers and parks in the 1.7-mile radius surrounding plant. The multi-million spending plan would increase the number of crews assigned to the week-long cleanups from 2 to 40, according to Barbara Lee, director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Many residents have told EGP over the years they are frustrated with inept oversight by the DTSC, and today, many still say they do not trust the agency to handle the funds or the cleanup moving forward.

DTSC allowed Exide to operate for decades on a temporary permit, even after repeatedly being found to have exposed more than 100,000 people to dangerous levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals and collecting dozens of hazardous waste violations.

“Let me clear, there is no safe level of lead,” de Leon said today.

Local elected officials came together at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights Friday to praise Eastside residents and environmental activist for pushing the state to  address Exide contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Local elected officials came together at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights Friday to praise Eastside residents and environmental activist for pushing the state to address Exide contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Boyle Heights, one of the most severely impacted communities, said he’s anxious to see a timeline for the testing and cleanup process, now that funds will finally be available. He wants strict oversight of state regulators, who have moved slowly to protect the community.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia noted that the funds are “just a down payment, not just in funding but the work from elected officials.” Estimates put the entire cleanup at $400 million, possibly making it the costliest environmental catastrophe in California history.

De Leon told EGP that he has serious concerns about the toxics substances control agency’s ability to handle the cleanup, and said that question would be part of his negotiations with governor’s office moving forward.

As EGP first reported, residents and community activists had grown increasingly frustrated and angry over the “double standard” they observed in the treatment of the mostly-white, affluent Porter Ranch gas leak and the blue collar, and the predominately Latino communities affected by Exide’s lead contamination.

They were angry that there had been no public statement from Brown, and the slow pace of the decontamination process.

It was just a few weeks ago that L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said she had tried to reach the governor to ask him to allocate $70 million for the cleanup, but he was unresponsive.

“I called the governor and thanked him for the funds,” she said today about his turnaround.

“I also invited him to come and see what’s going on,” she said in Spanish. “He said ‘we’ll see,’” she said.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said pressure from the community made the difference.

“The community kept elected officials on task,” said Lara.

“I want to personally thank EGP and the Eastside Sun for their incredible investigative journalism for bringing bright sunshine to residents of Boyle Heights and to this incredible environmental crisis,” said de Leon.

Rev. Monsignor John Moretta earlier in the week told EGP that when the community gathered to celebrate the closure of the Exide plant last year, they thought it was a victory. They have since realized that the real work was still ahead.

The same can be said about the state’s funding now, he said. Moretta and several other people said they want an investigation into state regulators and for Los Angeles’ city attorney and the state attorney to bring legal action against Exide, which has abandoned toxic waste sites in five other parts of the country.

This is not the end, he said.

In the end, the event was intended to be a recognition of the community’s activism.

U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra said holding the celebration at Resurrection Church was fitting.

“Folks had to rise from the ashes again,” he said. “Residents had to each add their grain of sand for years, now the governor has added his.”

Boyle Heights: Homeless Seen as Safety Issue

October 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In the past, public safety forums in Boyle Heights mostly focused on issues related to gang violence and crime. But it seems these days that the homeless, illegal dumping and unsanitary conditions at area parks may pose the greatest threat to public safety.

At least that was the view of many residents and stakeholders at a Public Safety Symposium last week hosted by the Hollenbeck Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Lea este artículo en Español: Residentes Exponen Sus Preocupaciones de Seguridad en Boyle Heights

A panel of speakers – representing the City Attorney’s Office, LA Sanitation, Northeast Homeless Housing Coalition, Council District 14 and LAPD Hollenbeck officers – was ready to answer questions about issues related to medical marijuana dispensaries and the homeless. They quickly learned, however, that residents are just as concerned about other quality of life issues like illegal dumping and alcohol sales, nuisance vacant properties, graffiti and dirty parks.

Throughout the evening, speakers tied trash and illegal dumping to increased vagrancy and crime, a problem that has Boyle Heights resident Nidia Gonzalez worried about her family’s safety. She told the panel that the constant flow of old mattresses and other illegally dumped furniture on her block has attracted more homeless people to her neighborhood.

Several people criticized sanitation workers for not acting on the problem fast enough, causing conditions to get out of control.

BH3

Two mattresses located under the fwy at Hollenbeck Park becomes homeless’ personal property that the city can’t remove. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“What does the city do? Are they just relying on the community [to call]? Or do they drive around the blocks to see if there are any bulky items,” one resident asked. The speaker suggested the problem could be solved if city workers identified “hot spots” where bulky items are repeatedly dumped and clean them once or twice a month.

However, Steven Pedersen with the Bureau of Sanitation said sending city crews up and down every street to look for items dumped illegally would be an unwise use of department resources. He said the department instead relies heavily on the public “to be our eyes and ears.”

Pederson encouraged calling the public works department at (800) 974-9794 to report bulky items left on city streets or using the MyLA 311 smart phone app to request a bulky item pick up, to report illegal dumping, graffiti, dead animals, street repairs or non-working street lights.

Neighborhood Prosecutor Cynthia Gonzalez told the audience that the City Attorney’s Office will prosecute people caught illegally dumping. “We will go after them and we will let them know that if they continue illegally dumping they will go to jail.”

Several people also took the city to task for its poor upkeep of neighborhood parks.

Juaquin Castellanos, a local resident and anti-alcohol licensing activist, blamed the rise in the number of homeless at Hollenbeck Park for its deteriorated conditions. “We don’t want to live in a filthy neighborhood,” he complained.

Maria Aguilera lives near the park and said the public restrooms there are now so unsanitary they aren’t safe for children to use, which causes families to spend less time at the park. The restrooms “are in horrendous condition,” Aguilera informed the forum panel.

People complain that restrooms in Hollenbeck Park are in unsanitary conditions. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

People complain that restrooms in Hollenbeck Park are in unsanitary conditions. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Raquel Roman thinks adding more lights could help. She’s been pushing to get more lights installed since March 2014, following a woman being found dead in the park’s lake, but said she just gets the run-a-round.

“We called [Councilman] Huizar, we also called the city and Huizar says it’s Caltrans [job].” They just keep bouncing us back and forth, she complained.

Evelyn Ortiz thinks the city’s lax enforcement of area liquor stores is adding to the problem. She said the retailers sell alcohol to people already intoxicated and that hurts her neighborhood. The single mother says she doesn’t want her two daughters to see drunken “men exposing themselves on the street. I have to cover my daughters’ eyes” when we’re out walking, she said in frustration.

On Monday, Castellanos took EGP on a walking tour of Hollenbeck Park to get a closer look at the unsafe and dirty areas where he said the homeless go to get drunk and sleep at night. He said the homeless men, women don’t clean up their trash, and will leave old bulky items, like a mattress, behind in the park, and it “becomes property that can’t be removed.” He was referring to court decisions that prevent police and city workers from removing property belonging to the homeless without advanced notice and requires the items be stored for a designated amount of time.

“People are afraid to run [here] at night because big groups of homeless are here,” Castellanos observed in frustration.

At the public safety symposium, residents complained of similar issues at Hazard Park and Prospect Park.

Councilman Jose Huizar’s spokesperson Rick Coca was not at the public safety event but told EGP Tuesday that the city “has been handcuffed by legal decisions” when it comes to removing the homeless and their belongings, but did note $2 million in improvements are in the works for Hollenbeck Park. Improvements will include a new playground and filtration system for the lake, remodeled restrooms on the St. Louis Street side and new landscaping.

Hollenbeck Capt. Martin Baeza said people should keep a record, and evidence if available, of nuisance situations because it helps police open a case and come up with “sustainable solutions.”

“We need to work together to find a solution,” emphasized Baeza. “Let us know what’s going on in your neighborhood.”

 —-
Twitter @jackiereporter
jgarcia@egpnews.com

L.A Moves to Make Removal of Homeless Encampments Easier

June 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday gave tentative approval to rules for dismantling homeless encampments and removing personal property left on sidewalks and in city parks.

Under the current process, the city gives 72 hours notice before removing personal items. The two ordinances tentatively backed by the council Tuesday would shorten the notice period to 24 hours, and the city would be required to store the belongings for 90 days.

If the items are not claimed, the property may be discarded.

No notice would be needed for the removal of bulky items from sidewalks and parks, under the rules.

One of the ordinances applies specifically to items left at city parks. It would allow officials to remove personal items that remain at city parks — including beaches — past closing time and when there is already a sign at the park stating that leaving behind items is prohibited.

If there is no sign, the city would need to give 24 hours notice before items are removed.

A second ordinance for sidewalks would ban tents from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. but would allow the homeless to set up tents to use as shelter at night.

If the city does not have enough space to store the items left on sidewalks, officials would not be allowed to remove them, city attorneys said.

Under both ordinances, any item that is a health or safety risk — such as something that could spread disease, contains vermin, or is a dangerous weapon — would be discarded without any advance notice. Items considered contraband or evidence of a crime could also be removed by the city without notice, under the rules.

The ordinances are being considered as city officials work to reach a settlement in an ongoing lawsuit filed against the city by several homeless people. The case led to an injunction that prevents the city from removing the belongings of the homeless.

Councilman Jose Huizar said getting rid of the injunction “is a critical piece in getting a better handle” on homelessness in the city. The city has also put more money into homelessness response teams and sanitation crews, he said, adding that “we’ve got to build more housing.”

“But in the meantime it’s important for us to move forward and settle (the lawsuit), and get a better ordinance that would deal with items improperly left on public rights of way,” Huizar said.

He added that he is “not too comfortable with the timing” of the ordinances, “but we do have court requirements, settlement discussions that are happening, so we have to move forward with something.”

“I don’t think it’s a perfect ordinance,” he said, and he hopes to further discuss the rules in the City Council’s newly formed homeless committee, which will hold its first meeting later this month.

He said the rules adopted Tuesday would “establish some conditions” so the city can reach a settlement in the lawsuit, but he hopes to adjust them to “strike a better balance” between the rights of the homeless and residents concerned about safety and cleanliness.

Last month, Assistant City Attorney Valerie Flores told the city’s Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee the current rules for removing items are too broad, and make it a “crime to leave personal belongings on a sidewalk.”

Flores said the new rules would “strike a balance by decriminalizing certain homeless individuals who need to set their belongings down, versus … the current ordinance which makes every placing of the items on the sidewalk considered a crime.”

Councilman Mike Bonin, who will chair the homelessness committee, said that because of the city’s inability to deal with homelessness over the past 10 years, “we are now a city of encampments.”

City officials said the latest homeless count in Los Angeles County found there was a 12 percent increase in the homeless population, and an 85 percent jump in the “number of tents, makeshift encampments” and “vehicles occupied by homeless people.”

Bonin said the new rules succeed in that they shorten the notification period and no longer make it a crime just to set an item down in public.

But he said the ordinance fails because it makes it “too easy to seize someone’s personal belongings, such as prescriptions and their personal documents,” while also not being strong enough to allow the city to clear public walkways in order to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Since the votes were not unanimous, with Councilman Gil Cedillo casting the lone dissenting vote, the ordinances backed Tuesday must return to the council for a final vote.

Council members also introduced amendments to the ordinances Tuesday, mostly to refine them and further define what is considered a “bulky item,” which the city would be allowed to remove immediately, under the rules.

Those proposals will be considered by the homelessness committee.

Homeless advocates who gathered outside Los Angeles City Hall Tuesday spoke out against the new rules, saying the city should do more to provide housing instead of spending money to build storage facilities to hold the belongings of the homeless.

The city currently stores confiscated items in downtown’s Skid Row area.

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