Los Angelezs Moves to Grant Tax Relief to Urban Farms

June 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday tentatively approved an ordinance to grant tax relief to city farmers and encourage them to transform empty lots into urban farms. The vote was 10-0 on first reading, two votes short of the number needed for immediate approval. A second vote will be taken next week.

Under the Urban Agricultural Incentive Zones Act, cities may establish agricultural zones where property owners who allow their land to be used for agricultural purposes for a minimum of five years can receive a property tax adjustment and be reassessed at the average statewide irrigated agriculture land rate.

“Creating urban agricultural zones is much more than what you see on paper. Urban ag zones will transform unsightly underutilized lots, promote a greater sense of community amongst those who participate in agricultural activities at the sites and provide ready access to fresh fruits and vegetables for everyone,” said Councilman Curren Price, who introduced the motion to create the ordinance with former Councilman Felipe Fuentes.

The county Board of Supervisors adopted the Urban Agricultural Incentive Zones Act in 2016, which cleared the way for any of the 88 cities in the county to create incentive zones.

“We see (urban agricultural zones) as a restorative measure to advance equity and justice in the city of L.A. by repurposing vacant properties in historically disenfranchised and divested communities and repurposing them towards being able to grow food, promote economic enterprises, promote economic development and support social cohesion in communities,” said Breanna Hawkins, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s policy director.


Cedillo, Bray-Ali to Face Off in May 16 Runoff

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

About 140 votes shy of what he needed for an outright victory, incumbent City Councilman Gil Cedillo will now face challenger Joe Bray-Ali in a May runoff for his First Council District seat.

According to the final March 7 Primary vote tally certified by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Tuesday, Cedillo’s initial lead dropped from a high of 51.2 percent to 49.39 percent – just below the 50 percent plus one votes needed to avoid a runoff with second place finisher Bray-Ali, who received 37.97 percent of votes cast.

In terms of actual numbers, Cedillo had 10,396 votes in his column while Bray-Ali finished with 8,000 votes.

Cedillo, a veteran politician who served in both the State Senate and Assembly before winning a seat on the city council, faced four challengers for his council seat.

The council district includes some of the city’s most densely populated and diverse neighborhoods in multiple Central and Northeast Los Angeles communities, including, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Chinatown, Echo Park, Elysian Park, Highland Park, Koreatown, Lincoln Heights, MacArthur Park, Pico Union, University Park and a section of downtown.

This is the first run for office for Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner and bicycle advocate, who has for years dogged the councilman for his part in stopping dedicated bike lanes from being installed along a portion of Figueroa Street running from Highland Park to Cypress Park.

Throughout the campaign, Cedillo touted his work on homelessness, immigration, and infrastructure improvements such as new sidewalks, streetlights and traffic signals in the district and across the city. He pointed to “innovative programs” that resulted in the removal of hundreds of tons of trash and bulky items, which Mayor Garcetti later adapted for citywide use.

During the lead up to the March 7 primary, Bray-Ali repeatedly called for new leadership. He accused Cedillo of neglecting the first council district and being unresponsive to residents.

Longtime Chicano activist Rosalio Munoz and Cedillo supporter said Tuesday he believes many Cedillo supporters failed to show up to vote, thinking their candidate would skate to an easy win.

“That won’t happen again, we’re going to work on getting people to the polls in May,” he said.

“Councilman Cedillo has deep roots and understands the needs of this community, everyone in the community, not just the newcomers,” Munoz said.

In a statement emailed Tuesday to EGP, Bray-Ali said, “There’s a reason why a young challenger and outsider candidate made it to where we did.

“But this is about more than just an upstart candidacy. This is about basic municipal services and a responsive council office. If you live in our community there are problems you deal with on a daily basis,” he said.

“We need someone in this district who is focusing on issues big and small to provide competent management to the residents of CD1.”

For his part, Cedillo remained resolute and confident Tuesday, telling EGP that he “will continue to reach out to voters, unify our district, and continue the work we have been doing to make the First District #1.”

The runoff election will be held on May 16.


Candidates Discuss Northeast L.A. Issues

February 23, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

The crowd at a city council candidate forum Monday in Lincoln Heights was a little more restrained than during a similar forum last week in Glassell Park, even though the candidates speaking and issues addressed were for the most part the same.

In Glassell Park, the First Council District Candidates’ Forum was often interrupted by loud heckling and shouts. On Monday, however, the forum organized by the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council and held in the auditorium at Sacred Heart High School was a little less raucous.

All five candidates vying for the council seat took part, including the incumbent, Gil Cedillo, and challengers Josef Bray-Ali, a community advocate; Giovany Hernandez, an education advocate; Jesse Rosas, a businessman; and write-in candidate Luca Barton, a graphic designer.

The City of L.A. ‘s Primary Election takes place March 7 and includes the races for mayor, city attorney, controller and several ballot measures, as well as an L.A County sponsored Measure H to raise the sales tax a quarter-cent to pay for services for the homeless. If a single candidate does not win 50% plus one of the vote, a runoff will be held in June.

Council District 1 covers multiple Central and Northeast Los Angeles communities, including, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Chinatown, Echo Park, Elysian Park, Highland Park, Koreatown, Lincoln Heights, MacArthur Park, Pico Union, University Park and a section of downtown.

The five candidates answered questions on issues ranging from the region’s housing shortage, traffic, public safety and the homelessness epidemic, with the focus being on the challenges those issues create for Lincoln Heights’ residents and businesses.

The format did not allow for a real debate, but instead limited each candidate to making short statements in response to questions posed by the moderator and later the public.

As the incumbent, Cedillo was often the prime target of criticism from the challengers, who each said the district needs new blood.

“We need new leadership in this district or we will continue to see failure,” said Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner who has for years dogged the councilman at events and on social media for his part in stopping dedicated bike lanes from being installed along a portion of Figueroa Street running from Highland Park to Cypress Park.

Cedillo defended his record throughout the night, pointing to his 20-year record of accomplishments in elected office and 15 years in the labor movement, noting his long list of endorsements resulting from that work.

“If you want to know what people are going to do in the future, look and see what they have done in the past,” Cedillo repeated several times throughout the night, pointing to 100’s of bills he’s authored that have been signed by three different governors.

“I have a record. It’s constant, consistent and it’s measurable.”

All five candidates running for Los Angeles City Council District 1 participated in a forum Monday in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

All five candidates running for Los Angeles City Council District 1 participated in a forum Monday in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Bray-Ali attempted to paint a different picture of the councilman’s leadership and accountability.

He and the other candidates claimed Cedillo has not done enough to improve safety for pedestrian and cyclists using local streets, and accused him of simply not listening to the community.

“Time and time again we have had the door slammed in our face and been shut out of city office,” complained Bray-Ali, who has in the past used his Twitter account to blame the councilman’s failure to install bike lanes on Figueroa for nearly every pedestrian and auto accident on the street, and in surrounding areas.

Barton and Hernandez said more attention must be paid to traffic issues in Lincoln Heights, especially along North Broadway, the community’s main commercial area, and near area schools.

Hernandez proposed greater use of lighted-crosswalk markings to slow traffic, which Cedillo said are just some of the safety measures he’s implemented since taking office.

Rojas questioned why streets lights are not synchronized to better control the flow of traffic. “Everyone has a right to be safe,” he said.

The challengers said crime and the number of homeless people in Lincoln Heights has risen under Cedillo’s watch.

Bray-Ali accused the councilman and his staff of not “showing up” to reassure the community when a murder happens, or making sure police are on patrol.

Cedillo pointed out that L.A. has the fewest police officers per capita in the country, and that’s a problem, he said. He noted that he has the support of many of the city’s police and fire personnel.

Cedillo said he has long been an advocate for “fair share zoning” and that the burden of new homeless shelters and services should be spread across the city, and that’s why he stopped a plan to build homeless shelters on city-owned parking lots in Lincoln Heights.

“I’m fed up with the lies and hype,” responded Bray-Ali, claiming the councilman only took action after getting complaints from the community.

Bray-Ali said, if elected, he is committed to ensure homeless veterans have a place to shower, go to the bathroom and wash their clothes.

Cedillo responded by once again pointing to his record, reminding the audience that he helped create the city’s committee on homelessness.

Measure S, a ballot measure that if approved would place a 2-year moratorium on new developments, put the controversial issues of “gentrification” and rising housing costs in the forefront.

Rosas said large developments are not good for the community, claiming they often come at the expense of affordable housing.

“Affordable housing for who?” Rosas asked. “We don’t want people to get displaced.”

Bray-Ali, Cedillo and Hernandez all said they oppose the measure.

“I don’t think it’s the cure,” said Hernandez, a renter himself. This will mean, “halting the construction of much needed housing units,” he said.

“It’s an effort to stop change…it will take zoning in Los Angeles back to the 1950s,” said Cedillo.

Bray-Ali said with significantly more people than housing, development is needed, but blamed failed leadership for allowing developers to build without consulting with impacted communities.

“You think Measure S is going to stop them,” asked Barton. “If they can’t do new development they’ll take existing [buildings] and covert them to luxury units.”

Martha, 66, said she was a victim of just that, and blamed Cedillo for failing to help her.

Bray-Ali offered to connect her to a landlord willing to rent out to seniors being displaced from her building, garnering applause from the audience.

Hernandez pointed out the woman’s story proved “displacement is not an urban myth,” and the need for local officials to work with the state legislators to overturn the controversial Ellis Act. The 1985 Act has allowed landlords to legally evict their rent-controlled tenants if they sell or convert the building into condos.

Cedillo tried to offer reassurance that his office would help but was met with heckling from the audience, as he was much of the night and the previous forums.

“No change is going to happen in the already existing system,” argued Hernandez.

Hernandez, the youngest of the five candidates and self-proclaimed homegrown candidate, told the crowd election time is like a report card for the incumbent to find out if he or she has done a good job.

“I’m proud to give my community the option for something else,” said Hernandez.

Cedillo told the crowd they could heckle him all they want and even choose to vote for another candidate, but said he’s confident he will be reelected.

“This election is going go happen March 7 and we’re going to wake up on March 8 and I’m still going to be your council member,” he said. “We’ll see you at the election party.”


Council Moves to Counteract Trump’s Immigration Policies

February 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday approved three motions aimed at counteracting new federal policies on immigration.

In 10-0 votes, the council moved to draw up a plan preparing the city for a possible loss of federal funds; to have the city attorney draft an ordinance that would prevent city employees from participating in any program to register citizens based on their religion; and to move forward with a plan to contribute $2 million to a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation.

In light of President Donald Trump’s threat to cut federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities,” the council voted to have staff assemble a list of federal funding the city receives and also draw up a plan to address the budgetary shortfall that would result from the loss of federal funds.

While not fitting the typical definition of a sanctuary city, where immigrants residing in the country illegally are shielded from federal authorities, the Los Angeles Police Department for decades has followed Special Order 40, which states officers will not detain a person for the sole purpose of determining their immigration status.

The motion in particular mentions Special Order 40 and directs staff to prepare for the possibility that Congress and the president may act to remove federal funds from cities that have similar policies.

The council directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would prohibit city employees from participating in any program to register individuals based on their religion or spiritual faith, or that would result indiscrimination on those bases.

The council also instructed staff to prepare a report on implementing a possible $2 million contribution to a legal defense fund for immigrants in the Los Angeles area facing deportation. The idea for the fund was announced by Mayor Eric Garcetti in December and would total $10 million, with $3 million coming from L.A. County and $5 million from the private sector.

The vote on the religious registry comes in response to the idea that Trump may support or implement a registry of all Muslims in the country.

The motion, which was introduced by Councilman Paul Krekorian, states that Trump “engaged in rhetoric that suggested an unfair scapegoating of Muslim Americans based solely on their faith. Our city should take these statements and actions seriously, and we should never tolerate or accept them. We must never facilitate or cooperate with such an abrogation of our most cherished values.”

Trump was asked about a Muslim registry by reporters during the campaign and on several occasions suggested that he supported the idea.

In November 2015, when asked by an NBC reporter if he would implement a registry as president, he said, “I would certainly implement that, absolutely.”

After the election, a spokesman for Trump issued a statement maintaining that the president never advocated for the idea of a Muslim registry.

It is unclear if Los Angeles could face a loss of federal funds, since Trump’s executive order declares that sanctuary jurisdictions would be determined by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

However, Los Angeles’ status as a sanctuary city may be decided by the state, as Trump threatened in a Fox News interview last weekend to cut funding to all of California if it moves forward with pending legislation that would provide statewide sanctuary for immigrants and prevent local law enforcement
from helping federal authorities on immigration issues.

Trump’s executive order argues that sanctuary jurisdictions harm the country.

“These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic,” Trump’s executive order says.

Council Steps Up to Battle Trump on Immigration

February 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council continues to prepare for a likely battle with President Donald Trump over his aggressive executive orders on immigration.

The council voted late last week to direct the city attorney to report on how it can protect immigrants from expanded federal efforts at deportation, while Councilman Gil Cedillo introduced a motion supporting state Senate Bill 54, known as the California Values Act, which would ensure that state and local resources are not used to fuel mass deportations.

Trump recently issued a number of executive orders that would add thousands of Border Patrol Agents and immigration officers, build a wall on the Mexican border and cut funding for so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Trump has threatened to deport up to 3 million immigrants who are in the country illegally, and an estimated 850,000 of Los Angeles’ 3.8 million residents are not currently citizens.

“Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders,” Trump said Jan. 25 during a speech to employees of the Department of Homeland Security.

The council’s motion asking for the city attorney report also directs the city administrative officer and the chief legislative analyst to prepare a report on the potential economic impacts of deportations on the city’s economy, and recommendations for protecting city programs from “the negative impacts of federal actions that target immigrants.”

LA CommitteeImigration MeetingFredy Cejas

Over 350 people packed the Jan. 25 meeting, held just hours after President Donald Trump announced plans to deport millions of immigrants in the country without legal status. Photo by Fredy Ceja/Office Councilman Gil Cedillo.

The motion, which was approved 10-0, was forwarded to the full council by its Ad Hoc Committee on Immigration, attended by a packed house of more than 350 people during its inaugural meeting on Jan. 25.

About two dozen took their turns speaking to the committee against Trump’s actions announced just hours earlier.

“Our friends in immigrant detention can’t be with us tonight but I’d like to think that they would ask you to respond forcefully and bravely to the xenophobic and racist executive orders that were issued today,” said Jordan Cunnings, a lawyer with Public Counsel who works with immigrants in detention centers.

The executive orders added a significant layer of urgency to the work of the committee, which was created by the council in the days after Trump’s election win in November and is one of a number of moves it has made in opposing the president’s immigration policies.

“What we see today with the executive orders is an attempt to legislate and create laws based on a person’s class, ethnicity or religion, and that’s a dangerous path, something of which we haven’t seen since World War II when we interned a number of Japanese Americans, and we are now on that path,” Councilman Jose Huizar said during the committee’s meeting.

“And who ever would have thought it? I honestly never thought I would see it in my lifetime.”

Trump’s orders could also have significant ramifications for Los Angeles, which receives roughly $500 million in federal support annually.

While not fitting the typical definition of a “sanctuary city,” Los Angeles has a policy of separating the work of the Los Angeles Police Department from that of federal immigration officials, and it is not clear if that would put it in danger of losing its federal funding.

Trump’s orders declare that “sanctuary jurisdictions” would be determined by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Even as the meeting was ongoing, more news trickled in. Councilwoman Nury Martinez announced she received a news alert on her phone that said Trump will publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants in the country without legal permission as a way to pressure sanctuary cities.

“If that is not a declaration of war and intimidation, I don’t know what is,” Martinez said.

Representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees also addressed the committee.

LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos gave the council a report on the department’s Special Order 40, a policy dating to 1979 that states officers will not detain a person for the sole purpose of determining their immigration status.

The immigration committee passed a motion voicing support for Special Order 40, which outlines the Los Angeles Police Department’s decades-old policy of officers not instigating police activity for the sole purpose of determining an individual’s immigration status.

The committee also approved a declaration of opposition to any federal policy that would reverse immigration relief created under President Barack Obama’s administration and a request for a report from the city attorney on the legal efforts the city can take to protect the immigrant community from expanded deportations.

The council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have also committed $2 million to a $10 million legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation.

“With the County of Los Angeles home to 1 million of the estimated 11million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, and the majority of those immigrants intertwined in all levels of life here in Los Angeles — including social, civic and economic — the deportation of any sizable percentage of that community would have a devastating impact on those immigrants, their children, as well as potentially, the city’s economy,” the motion states.

Los Angeles City Council Introduces Campaign Finance Reform

January 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Four Los Angeles City Council members Tuesday introduced a motion on campaign finance reform that proposes banning developer contributions to city elected officials and candidates.

The move comes about two months after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office opened a review of campaign contributions alleged to be linked to developer Samuel Leung’s $72 million apartment complex in Harbor Gateway.

“As elected officials, we depend on the people who elected us to trust that we’ll do the right thing for our communities. But, when it comes to campaign finance, the system we have in place today is failing us all,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who introduced the motion with fellow councilmembers David Ryu, Joe Buscaino and Paul Koretz.

“The reform ideas we’re proposing are aimed at upending this by getting developer money out of City Hall and creating a more thoughtful, transparent and fair atmosphere,” Krekorian said.

The City Council commonly grants special permission, or “spot zoning,” to developers that want to construct a building outside of an area’s zoning rules, and eyebrows are often raised when those developers and their affiliates have also donated generously to the council or other elected officials.

One example was a recently proposed building near the Beverly Center by developer Rick Caruso that would be 240 feet high, well above the 45-foot limit under zoning guidelines for the neighborhood.

A Los Angeles Times investigation found that Caruso and his affiliates had contributed more than $476,000 to all but one of the city’s 17 elected officials or their causes over the last five years.

The Caruso development plan drew condemnation from the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association, and within days of the article’s publication, Koretz pulled his support for the project.

Donors identified in a Times investigation as having ties to Leung gave more than $600,000 to the city’s elected officials or independent committees associated with them.

Many of the donors were working-class residents, according to The Times. Some denied having made any contributions, and at least one woman said she had been reimbursed, which raised red flags about potential campaign finance law violations.

Leung told The Times he did not reimburse any campaign contributions.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council supported moving the project forward though planning commission officials were opposed and it requiring a change in zoning rules for the neighborhood.

When asked for comment on the newly introduced motion, a mayoral spokesman told City News Service that Garcetti “looks forward to reviewing any proposals.”

The motion would ban contributions to city elected officials and candidates for city office from developers and their principals with development projects currently or recently before the city.

A second related motion introduced by Krekorian, Ryu and Buscaino and seconded by Koretz would increase the matching fund rates from the current 2:1 match in primary elections and 4:1 match in general elections to 6:1 in both primary elections and general elections for all candidates who qualify for matching funds.

The matching fund changes are aimed at empowering small donors, according to a statement from the council members. When New York City restricted contributions from some non-individual entities, its share of campaign contributions to candidates by individuals rose from 61 percent in 1997 to 92 percent in 2013, they said.

“The best way to restore trust in government is to avoid even the appearance of a conflict,” Ryu said. “By introducing sweeping reforms, we will work to restore Angelenos’ faith in the city’s ability to fairly review and approve major development projects. We need a campaign finance system that

limits the influence of big-pocketed developers, and instead empowers thousands

of small donors to have their voices heard.”

The motions would also seek to define “developer” and cast a wide net while doing so; require campaign committees to provide additional reporting on non-individual entity contributors, including a category that denotes contributions derived from developers and their principals; require a signed

affidavit affirming, under penalty of perjury, that the contributions are being made by the contributor, who is not going to be reimbursed; and requests a report on the costs and feasibility of increasing the size of enforcement staff at the Ethics Commission, which oversees city campaign money.

The issue of developers’ influence on City Hall is the focus of Measure S, which will be on the March 7 primary election ballot.

Measure S would halt any major projects for two years that require spot zoning and call on the City Council to draw up new general plan clearly examining zoning ordinances during that time.

Opponents argue the measure would severely impact the local economy, erase thousands of jobs and restrict the supply of housing in the city.

Jill Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Preserve L.A., which is supporting Measure S, said the motions are “a quarter of a loaf, and Measure S on the March ballot provides the full, fantastic, healthy, great tasting loaf.”

A representative with the Coalition to Protect L.A. Neighborhoods and Jobs, which is opposed to Measure S, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

March Election Filing Period Opens

November 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The filing period opened Monday for people interested in running for office in Los Angeles’ March election.

Aspiring candidates will have from Nov. 7-11 to submit their declarations of intention to run, and about a month – from Nov. 12 to Dec. 7 – to submit nominating petitions.

The declaration and petiation filings should be submitted to the Office of the City Clerk’s Election Division at the Piper Technical Center, 555 Ramirez St., Space 300, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

The March primary and May general elections include races for mayor, city attorney and city controller. Also open are the eight City Council seats representing odd-numbered districts, and the even-numbered seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District and Los Angeles Community College District boards.

LA Voters to Weigh In on Development in March

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council opted last week to place a measure on the March ballot that would temporarily halt some large developments in the city until plans for neighborhood development are updated and other changes are made.

The measure was put forward by the Coalition to Preserve L.A., whose members contend the city’s process for approving big projects ignores limits on height and density, and other guidelines, set by residents.

The measure would temporarily ban, for up to two years, projects that are denser, taller or contain more floor area than is allowed in existing zoning and land use rules for the area.

Under the city’s existing planning rules, in order to build many of the projects that are being proposed, developers must ask the city to grant exceptions, known as general plan amendments.

Proponents of the ballot measure contend the process has become standard practice and creates cozy relationships between City Council members and developers.

Opponents say the measure ignores the power of homeowners associations, and that it would worsen an existing housing crisis by preventing more units to be built. Homeless housing units would also be halted under the measure, according to its critics.

The council had the option of adopting the ordinance the way it was written by proponents, but decided instead to put the issue to voters in March.

Council President Herb Wesson said he supported placing the measure on the ballot because he does not feel “there is anything close to a consensus as to what Angelenos want to do on that.”

“It’s now up to the voters, and we’ll see what happens in March,” he said.

L.A. Councils Backs State “Emergency Declaration” on Homelessness

August 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council joined state lawmakers Tuesday in urging Gov. Jerry Brown to declare homelessness a statewide emergency, an action that would fast-track assistance and housing for indigent residents.

The council approved a resolution supporting HR 56 and SR 84, two bills in the state legislature that urges Brown to apply this tool to homelessness.

City officials say there are more than 115,000 homeless people in California, 28,000 of whom are in Los Angeles, and that homelessness is straining local government agencies’ ability to offer public safety and social services.

The city plans to spend $138 million on homelessness services and housing programs, and put a $1.2 billion bond measure on the November ballot to generate ongoing funding to fight homelessness, city officials said.

“We need real solutions to one of the biggest problems facing the residents of Los Angeles,” said Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who chairs the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee. “Our leaders in Sacramento have taken the huge step of authoring HR 56 and SR 84, and now we need to follow through and declare a state of emergency.”

“Homelessness is an all hands on deck problem that requires solutions at every level of government,” he said.

L.A. Farmers Markets Could Soon Accept ‘Food Stamps’

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Operators of farmers markets in the city of Los Angeles could soon be required to accept food stamps as payment under a plan being proposed by the Los Angeles City Council.

The council voted last Friday to request that the City Attorney’s Office draft an ordinance that would require farmers market operators on public and private property to incorporate the state’s CalFresh-issued Electronic Benefit Transfer cards as a payment method.

The ordinance was proposed by council members Nury Martinez and Jose Huizar and is aimed at bringing more fresh fruits and vegetables to “food deserts,” areas with no major supermarkets or other plentiful sources of fresh foods.

“In order to create a fair farmers market system that ensures all Angelenos, regardless of income level, have access to healthy foods, we need a policy that requires those farmers markets to accept EBT,” said Huizar. “It is a small action that will have a huge impact for individuals and families citywide. By requiring EBT at all farmers markets, we are one step closer to closing the gap in food access and addressing food insecurity for low-income Angelenos.”

Farmers market operators should be able to obtain free EBT terminals from the state, according to the Los Angeles Food Policy Council. The terminals issue “scrips” that can be used by shoppers at individual stalls and redeemed later by sellers.

“This represents a victory for a movement of advocates committed to this issue,” said Executive Director for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council Clare Fox. “Together, we are achieving collective impact by coordinating efforts between advocates, farmer markets, local, state and federal agencies to improve health, end hunger and support our local food economy.”

The ordinance will be brought back for a future council vote.

On Tuesday, Huizar and the food council hosted an event with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help farmers market operators sign up on the spot to be Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program retailers, which makes them eligible to obtain EBT technology.

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