Homeless Advisory Group Seeking Applicants

May 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

LOS ANGELES  – The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is seeking individuals who have experienced homelessness to join an advisory group.

“The (Lived Experience Advisory Group) plays a vital role in providing the homeless lived experience perspective on much of the work we and our community partners throughout Los Angeles do with respect to ending homelessness,” according to a LAHSA statement.

LAHSA is hoping to expand the group to achieve broader geographical representation and a diverse set of perspectives, including single adults, families, transition-age youth, veterans, survivors of domestic violence, chronically homeless individuals, disabled persons and those who have re-entered the community.

The agency is also looking for demographic diversity in terms of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Candidates chosen to join the Lived Experience Advisory Group will not be paid, but will receive a transportation gift card. Light fare and beverages are offered at the group’s two-hour meetings, which are held the first Friday of each month.

New applicants chosen will be invited to attend the July 7 meeting.

The application deadline is June 6 and an application can be found online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZNFFM7K.

L.A. – 2nd Worst Place to Live if You’re Trying to Save

May 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles and Anaheim areas are among the worst places to live if you’re trying to save money, according to a study released Monday by a personal finances website.

Los Angeles was topped only by San Francisco on the list of the top five most expensive places to live, followed by Oakland, New York City and Anaheim, according to the study released by GOBankingRates.com.

Also making the least affordable cities list were Santa Ana at 13th; San Diego, 12th, and Long Beach, ranked 10th.

The top five cheapest places to live, according to the study, are Virginia Beach, Virginia; San Antonio; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Nebraska; and Arlington, Texas.

For the third year, GOBankingRates researchers examined seven factors that affect financial well-being in the 60 most populous U.S. cities, including median household income, unemployment rate, median home list price and median rent price.

They also factored in the average gas price, average monthly cost of groceries and sales tax, with all seven factors weighted equally, according to the website.

At $4,500, San Francisco has the highest median monthly rent of any city included in the study, as well as the highest average gas price ($3.16) and highest medium home listing price ($1,195,000).

Los Angeles has the second-highest median monthly rent ($3,950) and fourth-highest median home listing price ($725,000) of the cities surveyed. What secured its second-place spot was the city’s $50,205 median income, which is lower than most of the other cities ranked as the worst places to save money, according to GOBankingRates.

Anaheim home ($570,000) and rent ($2,650) prices, while still lower than Los Angeles, have risen. But median income ($60,752) is higher, which is what helps keep the home of Disneyland from ranking as high as L.A. on the list, the researchers said.

Virginia Beach has the highest median income ($66,634) of the 15 best cities for saving money. Of the cheapest cities to live, Wichita, Kansas, has the lowest median list price ($137,250). Average gas prices are lowest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at $2.10 per gallon.

Bakersfield has a 10.9 percent unemployment rate, the highest of any city in the study. Of all the cities examined, Honolulu, Hawaii, has the highest average monthly cost of groceries ($490.53).

 

Election Brings Changes to LAUSD, LAPD

May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Voters on Tuesday shook up the Los Angeles Unified School District Board, creating a four-member majority of charter school supporters with the election of Kelly Gonez and Nick Melvoin, meanwhile Los Angeles police officers facing disciplinary action will now have the choice to have their case heard by an all-civilian panel with the passage of Measure C.

 

LA Unified

A pair of candidates heavily backed by charter-school proponents will be taking over seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District board, potentially signaling a major policy shift in the nation’s second-largest school district.

Despite topping a four-candidate field in the March primary, LAUSD board president Steve Zimmer couldn’t repeat that success in Tuesday’s runoff, and he was soundly defeated by teacher/attorney Nick Melvoin.

In District 6, meanwhile, another charter-school-backed candidate, Kelly Gonez, prevailed in a much tighter race over union-backed Imelda Padilla in the battle for the vacant seat. With all precincts reporting, Gonez finished with a 748-vote advantage. According to the Los Angeles City Clerk’s Office, nearly 40,000 ballots from across the city still need to be tallied from Tuesday’s election, but it’s unknown how many of those are from LAUSD District or whether the outcome of the race might be affected.

Assuming there is no change, Gonez and Melvoin will join incumbents Monica Garcia and Ref Rodriguez to create a four-member majority of charter-school supporters on the board.

With the unions and well-heeled backers of charter-school expansion pouring big money into the races, Tuesday’s runoff became what is believed to be one of the most expensive school board elections in history, with an estimated $15 million being spent by and on behalf of the various candidates.

 

LAPD

Los Angeles police officers facing disciplinary hearings will have a choice of appearing before an all-civilian review board or a panel that includes two command-level officers, thanks to voters’ approval of a ballot measure condemned by critics as a weakening of the LAPD’s disciplinary system.

The LAPPL argued the current system is unfair because of the belief that the police chief has undue influence on sworn members of board of rights panels.

Under the just-passed measure, an officer facing disciplinary action will be able to choose whether the case will be reviewed by an all-civilian panel or a traditional board with two sworn officers and one civilian.

A host of community organizations spoke out against Measure C, saying it was an effort by the LAPPL to weaken the department’s disciplinary process. They also argued that it was crafted without any significant community input.

“Measure C creates an inconsistent disciplinary process that protects cops found guilty of serious acts of misconduct and reverses decades of work to reform LAPD,” said Karren Lane, vice president of policy at the Community Coalition.

The council placed the measure on the ballot in the face of a staff report that found civilians serving on board of rights panels have consistently voted for lighter penalties compared to officers on the panels.

 

City of L.A. Lost Thousands of ‘Rent Controlled’ Units

May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The city of Los Angeles has lost 21,200 rent-stabilized housing units since 2001, according to an interactive map released by a nonprofit tenant advocacy group.

The Coalition for Economic Survival produced the map in conjunction with the San Francisco-based Anti-Eviction Mapping Project to show where units have been lost through Ellis Act evictions that allow landlords to exit the rental market under certain conditions.

The pace of such evictions is quickening, according the CES, which reported that L.A. saw nearly 300 Ellis Act Eviction application filings by landlords and developers during the first quarter of 2017.

“After mapping Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco and analyzing their devastating effects, we have long wanted to visualize their growth in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t until we began mapping the LA Ellis Act data that we had any idea how grave the eviction crisis is in L.A., and which areas are being most impacted,” said Erin Mcel, co-director or the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project.

Numerous studies have found that due to a lack of available units, rental prices have risen steadily in recent years and the city is one of the least affordable in the country to live in.

Members of the Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have openly acknowledged the problem, and the council has passed a number of motions aimed at keeping or creating affordable housing, including an ordinance that was passed this month legalizing some previously unpermitted apartments in multi-family buildings.

“The housing crisis facing Los Angeles is one of the most severe in the nation. With this map, we are now able to visually see how the Ellis Act has ravaged our city’s affordable rent controlled housing stock,” said CED Executive Director Larry Gross.

The map can be accessed by going to http://bit.ly/EllisEvictionsLA.

 

L.A. Legalizes Unapproved Dwelling Units

May 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Hoping to boost the city’s stock of affordable housing, the City Council agreed Tuesday to legalize some previously un-permitted apartments in multi-family buildings.

Under the ordinance, which was approved on a 12-0 vote, landlords can rent out previously unapproved units, provided they offer an equal amount of affordable housing units at the same location.

The ordinance stemmed from a motion introduced by former Councilman Felipe Fuentes in 2014 directing the Department of City Planning to propose options for legalizing unapproved dwelling units.

Numerous studies have found that due to a lack of available units at all economic levels, rental prices have risen in recent years, making the city one of the least affordable in the country to live in. The approved ordinance is the latest in a series of moves the City Council has taken to address the issue.

“As we all know we have a housing crisis in the city of Los Angeles and it hits our low-income residents even harder. What this will do is allow us to secure affordable units across the city while still meeting all our fire, life and safety codes and bring so many of our existing stock out of the shadows and allow people to live in them with their families,” said Councilman Jose Huizar, who chairs the Planning and Land Use Management Committee and has been a supporter of the ordinance.

“This ordinance will directly benefit and protect those residents and their families while increasing our available affordable housing stock for others.”

According to Huizar’s office, as an unintended result of the city’s inspection of multi-family buildings, between 400 and 500 housing units are removed from the market each year because they were not permitted and were being rented out illegally.

“I’m so excited for this day because I have been pushing for this since I first got on the council,” Councilman Paul Koretz said. “The city has had what I view as a bad practice for years of finding these units, kicking out the tenants and vacating them and wiping out affordable housing that would have cost us hundreds of millions of dollars to build if we were trying to create it.”

For a unit to become eligible to be permitted, it must be free from other code violations and meet other standards, including having existed since before Dec. 10, 2015.

 

LMU Poll Finds Strong Support for ‘Sanctuary Cities’

April 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

More than two-thirds of Los Angeles County residents support the idea of making their hometown a “sanctuary city,” according to a new poll released Monday by Loyola Marymount University.

“With such a high level of support for sanctuary cities, ICE enforcement would be more difficult. In our survey people are sending a clear message that ICE is not welcome here,” said Fernando Guerra, professor of political science and director of the study.

The poll found that 40 percent of those surveyed said they “strongly support” a sanctuary city where they live, with 28 percent saying they “somewhat support” the idea. Fifteen percent said they “somewhat oppose” their town being a sanctuary city, and 17 percent “strongly oppose.”

The sanctuary city question was one of dozens asked by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles as part of its Forecast LA conference. The conference was held Wednesday at LMU.

Although there is no official legal definition of a sanctuary city, many cities in California have voted to declare themselves one. The city of Los Angeles has declined to take the title even though its practice of limiting its cooperation with the federal government on deportations fits the typical definition.

The issue of sanctuary cities has gained prominence in the national discussion since President Donald Trump has threatened to cut federal funding to them.

Eighty-four percent of Latinos said they strongly or somewhat supported the idea of sanctuary cities, compared to 67 percent of African-Americans, 57 percent of Asian-Americans and 51 percent of whites.

“We found as the generations get younger, the support increases,” StudyLA Associate Director Brianne Gilbert said. “While all generations were supportive of their city being a sanctuary city, millennials were the most supportive, at 74 percent.”

The survey was conducted by telephone and online in January and February, among 1,200 Los Angeles city residents and 1,200 residents in the rest of the county. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Limits on Short-Term Rentals is Reasonable

April 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Los Angeles will have to decide soon whether to limit short-stay rentals, an activity now illegal in some residential areas.

According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, the city has already started to tax these rentals, and has already collected more than $20 million this fiscal year.

The city could reap as much as $37 million a year under an agreement it reached last year with Airbnb, which uses an online platform to connect would-be vacationers and temporary renters to home and apartment owners interested in making some extra money.

Groups in some neighborhoods have loudly complained that short-term rentals are disrupting their neighborhoods and creating a public nuisance. They point out that even in areas where such rentals are illegal, there is no enforcement of the rules.

Under pressure from these groups, the city is considering a plan to limit the number of days owners can rent out their properties to no more than 180 a year.

In a letter to the city, Airbnb said limiting rentals to 180 days and only to an owner’s primary residence, would cut projected tax income by $15 million annually.

The city could be facing a $224 deficit in the new fiscal year, so the idea of losing $15 million in potential taxes weighs heavy.

That being said, we believe that setting regulations for primarily residential neighborhoods is both reasonable and needed.

Failure to do so will leave residents vulnerable to their neighborhoods becoming hotel rows, where all the hotels are single-family dwellings. It puts residents at risk of losing their right to live free from the types of activities that commercial areas are better suited to handle.

We think that allowing residents to rent their properties for short periods, for a limited number of days to earn some extra money is fine, as long as they are not allowed to turn their homes into hotels, and their residential neighborhood into tourist destinations.

 

White House Adopts Rules to Step Up Deportations

February 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The memos signed by Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly released Tuesday make sweeping changes to immigration enforcement policies, making the possibility of mass deportations of immigrants in the country without permission more likely, activists said Tuesday.

Calling the changes an effort to “enhance public safety,” Kelly’s memos put in place guidelines aimed at beefing up Pres. Donald Trump’s earlier executive actions on immigration, building on his campaign promise to deport millions of immigrants in the country illegally. Trump’s order said, “Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety.”

Lea este artículo en Español: Casa Blanca Adopta Reglas Para Aumentar Deportaciones

In a dramatic change from the Obama Administration, not only will undocumented immigrants convicted of violent crimes be subject to deportation, so will those deemed to have “abused” public benefit programs or who “pose a risk to public or national security” in the judgment of an immigration officer.

Any unauthorized immigrant even suspected of a crime could be deported under the new rules.

The orders also call for beefing up the ranks of enforcement authorities by adding 10,000 more Immigration and Custom, or ICE officers, as well as 5,000 more border patrol agents and 500 Air & Marine Agents/Officers, but congress would first have to approve funding for the new hires.

During a telephone press conference Tuesday, Jen Smyers, Associate Director for the Immigration and Refugee Policy for Church World Service, called the implementation of the memos unprecedented and unconceivable.

“All three of these executive actions go against our core values as Americans and that is why we are calling on congress to stop these memos through the appropriations process,” Smyers said.

Local advocacy groups such as The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA), one of the areas in California most affected by recent immigration raids, labeled the newly announced measures a “deeply troubling development.”

Thousands marched in Los Angeles Saturday in support of immigrant rights, and an end to deportations. (Photo by Manuel Duran Huezo)

Thousands marched in Los Angeles Saturday in support of immigrant rights, and an end to deportations. (Photo by Manuel Duran Huezo)

“Secretary Kelly has unleashed an unprecedented witch hunt on millions of immigrant families …We are categorically opposed to these measures which threaten our families, hurt our nation’s economy, and stand directly opposite to our nation’s history and values,” said CHRILA Executive Director Angelica Salas in a press statement.

The Trump Administration has however decided to leave the Deferred Action Program (DACA) program created in 2012 by Obama intact.

Under DACA, about 750,000 people brought to the country illegally as children were granted a reprieve from deportation and allowed to get work permits. These undocumented youths or “dreamers” as they are often called, will remain “unaffected,” at least for now, by the federal agency’s new orders.

During his daily press briefing Tuesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the goal of these policies, “take the shackles off” and “give more authority to the federal agency to enforce immigration laws.” He emphasized that “anyone who is here illegally can be deported at any time.”

That scares Maritza Garcia.

The Inglewood resident and mother of two U.S. born children is a DACA recipient but her husband and brother are in the country without permission or any form of protection.

Her husband Carlos and brother Tomás were brought to the U.S. as children, at ages 8 and 9 respectively, but neither of the men, now in their late 20s, applied for DACA protection, fearing one-time misdemeanor convictions in their teens for drug possession would make them targets for deportation.

“They were young and stupid, but they have never gotten in trouble again,” Garcia said. “My husband and brother both work construction jobs, they support us,” she said. “If they get deported it will hurt my kids, all of us,” she told EGP by telephone.

Under the new guidelines, her fears are not without merit.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, said “The administration’s immigration executive orders will have serious negative consequences for our country, ripping apart families and crippling our economy.”

She said the country should be working on reforming our “broken immigration system,” and “focusing on deporting those who are a threat to our country, not on those who are contributing members of our communities.”

A pro-immigrants’ rights march was held in downtown Los Angeles Saturday. (Photo by Manuel Duran Huezo)

A pro-immigrants’ rights march was held in downtown Los Angeles Saturday. (Photo by Manuel Duran Huezo)

Petra Falcon, Executive Director of Promise Arizona, PAZ (part of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement), said during the telephone press conference that her organization has witnessed a change in morale within the immigrant communities they serve.

“Families are beginning to save money and are continuing to send their children to school but are paying close attention to the news and going to our offices to ask for help,” Falcon said.

In Los Angeles, groups like CHIRLA are also being proactive, educating the immigrant community through “Know Your Rights” sessions and by offering counseling services.

“We have been anticipating this,” said CHRILA’s political director, Apolonio Morales. He said the group has been holding “informational sessions to ensure folks understand that if they are detained they still have to go through their due process. They have rights to an attorney, to speak to family members … and don’t need to sign anything before speaking to a lawyer,” Morales said.

Morales also advises the community to stay alert and to demand to be told whether the official knocking at their door id an LAPD officer, or really an ICE agent.

“We’ve already seen ICE knocking on doors saying they’re police … so people open their doors and end up getting deported. We need to know that the distinction is being made clear,” Morales said.

On Saturday, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is hosting a “Know Your Rights!” informative forum that will offer free consultations with immigration attorneys. It will be held at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College – South Tent from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information you contact his district office at (213) 483-9300 or visit their page here.

Information from EFE and City News Service used in this report.

Causes to Unite at Inauguration Day Protests

January 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Donald Trump will be inaugurated Friday as the 45th president of the United States following a long and contentious fight for the White House.

Across the country, activists representing a wide array of political and social views and causes have been gearing up to send the new president a message: We will not stand idly by as attacks are made on our or our neighbors’ civil liberties.

Rallies and marches on inauguration day and the day following are expected to draw thousands of protesters to the nation’s capital and in major cities like Los Angeles where the protests got underway last Saturday. Over 90 different groups, ranging from immigrant rights and environmental justice advocates, to women’s rights activists, labor groups and others, are scheduled to take part.

For Segovia Amigon of Los Angeles, talk of building a wall between the United States and Mexico, deporting 3 million undocumented immigrants and Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act feel all too personal.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

On Saturday, Amigon joined hundreds of people at a rally organized by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles.

The rally was one of at least a half dozen local demonstrations scheduled to take place this week to protest Trump’s swearing-in Jan. 20.

Originally from Mexico, Amigon, 60, and her three children emigrated illegally to the U.S. over 30 years ago, but gained legal residency under an amnesty law signed into law in 1986 by former president Ronald Reagan. Six years later she became a citizen.

Amigon no longer lives in the shadows or fears deportation but believes she still has a lot to lose if Trump makes good on promises he made during the presidential campaign and since.

On Saturday, she recalled juggling multiple jobs — including joining the ranks of street vendors selling tamales and flowers during the holidays — to make ends meet. Today she works as a caregiver and is a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which should afford her a certain amount of job protection, yet she fears her job could be at risk if Trump’s proposed policies lead to cuts in federally funded programs that help pay workers like her.

It was a sentiment echoed repeatedly Saturday as speaker after speaker emphasized the importance of standing together even as they fight for their individual causes.

There is power in numbers, many of the speakers pointed out during the rally that happened to coincide with the annual observance of the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

“A lesson [King] taught us is that a threat to justice to anyone is a threat to justice to everyone,” said Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU ULTCW, which represents 180,000 in-home caregivers and nursing home workers.

Butler argued that when the new administration goes after issues that matter to labor unions, environmentalists or immigrant and women’s rights activists, they are in fact, “coming after all us.”

“We have to be clear, there’s no space between our fights,” Butler stressed.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Melissa Minkin of Culver City attended the rally to show support and unity for all the advances in policy that could be at risk under a Trump Administration.

“I’m freaked out by everything that Donald Trump has said,” Minkin told EGP, adding she’s been making phone calls to family and friends to encourage them to attend the Women’s March Saturday at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.

“He’s a provocateur and bully and I’m troubled by his vindictive behavior,” added Minka’s friend Shifra Titelbaum, who predicted, “There are some dark times ahead.”

Billionaire and co-founder of the political advocacy group NextGen Climate, Tom Steyer, said he believes there will be an aggressive attempt to come after individual groups in order to divide them.

That’s why it’s vital for all communities to come together, said L.A. Councilman Curren Price.

“If we don’t do it now, we know we’re going to be in trouble later,” Price said.

Many in the crowd said they fear that Trump and the Republican-controlled congress will quickly eradicate Obamacare, the landmark legislation that has resulted in millions of previously uninsured people getting health insurance. They also fear Trump will reverse Pres. Obama’s executive order that has protected over 750,000 young adults from deportation. Trump has repeatedly stated he will repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with his own plan, but has yet to provide and real details. Much of his campaign also revolved around his promise to deport 8 million undocumented immigrants.

Susana Duarte, a Riverside resident and member of Homecare Providers Unions Local 3930, traveled to Los Angeles for the Jan. 14 rally. She told EGP she plans to attend more marches this coming weekend to show her disapproval for what she believes a Trump presidency will look like.

“There’s going to be a lot of changes with Trump, especially for Latinos,” she warned.

“I can’t tell you what he will do,” admitted Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) “But I can tell you what we will do: We will fight for you, we will protect you.”

At 3.6 million, Los Angeles County is home to the largest number of immigrants in the country, according to Supervisor Hilda Solis, who estimates that approximately 1 million of them are undocumented.

Newly-elected Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) believes the tone in Washington may be changing and that more and more people are beginning to see the value immigrants bring to the country.

That’s especially true in California, said State Controller Betty Yee. “We’re the 6th largest economy. Why? Because of the contributions of our immigrant brothers and sisters,” she said.

“We’re not taking away jobs, we’re not criminals. Lets speak truths,” Yee said.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) acknowledged that with state lawmakers leading the resistance to Trump, Californians have less to fear than those in other more conservative states. He reminded the crowd that Martin Luther King Jr. did not stay in the comforts of the north, but instead traveled to the south to protest injustice and fight for civil rights.

“Our fights are easy compared to the rest of the country,” Gomez opined.

Mayors across California and school districts have vowed their cities will protect the undocumented community by not taking on the enforcement of federal immigration laws. State leaders have gone so far as to hire former Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as outside counsel to the legislature and defend the state’s constitution against Trump.

CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas says the country is ready to fight back.

“The day Donald Trump won wasn’t the day our civil rights were lost,” she told the protesters.

“When they say they’re going to roll back on our progress we have to say no!”

Rallies are not the only way to be heard, said Correa. y.”

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he told the crowd, which included a large number of union members carrying signs reading, “stop the hate” and “we are here to stay.”

“Become citizens, register to vote – and please vote,” urged Steyer, who has poured millions of dollars of his own money into political causes, most notably to protect the environment.

“We know voting matters, but it’s what happens between elections that matters more.”

 

Weekend Downtown Street Closures Start Friday

December 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Stretches of Spring Street and Second Street in downtown Los Angeles will be closed beginning Friday as construction work continues on the $1.55 billion Regional Connector Transit Project, Metro announced Tuesday.

A series of weekend closures will see Spring Street blocked to traffic between First and Third streets and Second Street between Broadway and Main Street, according to Metro.

The closures begin at 6 p.m. Friday and will remain in place until 5 a.m. Monday and will recur each weekend through March, officials say.

The closures will not be in effect, however, during the Christmas and New Year’s weekends.

Businesses and residences will be accessible and bus service will be detoured around the closures.

The 1.9-mile underground connection will give Metro riders the ability to take light-rail trips between Azusa and Long Beach, and from the San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles to Santa Monica, without transferring.

The project is expected to be completed by 2021.

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