Stand Up To Cancer
On Friday, September 9th, at 8pm Pacific Standard Time, the biannual “Stand Up To Cancer” telecast will air, live and commercial free, on a vast array of major broadcast and cable TV networks. It is certain to be well worth watching.
As has happened in years’ past, Councilmember Koretz invited Stand Up To Cancer leadership to come to City Hall, days prior to the star-filled telecast, so that he could thank them for their incredible volunteerism and devoted effort. A September 7th press conference was held that included members of the Stand Up To Cancer Council of Founders, joined by former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, actress Brittany Daniel, former L.A. Dodger Ron Cey, former L.A. King Luc Robitaille, former Laker and Clipper Brian Cook, Los Angeles Kings mascot Bailey, and members of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer cyclists. The Los Angeles City Council then approved a resolution authored by Councilmember Koretz, declaring September 9th – the day of the telecast – “Stand Up To Cancer Day in the City of Los Angeles."
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) was founded in May 2008, and since then its telecasts have been viewed in more than 190 countries, raising awareness while generating an amazing amount of funding contributions which have enabled a dazzling surge of cancer research.
What's especially exciting is that SU2C research is often of a high-risk, high-reward nature meant to deliver results quickly, so that we all might benefit speedily, and so that other breakthroughs might be sparked synergistically as we leapfrog toward the most effective therapies, remedies and cures.
So much of the volunteer effort that makes this vital research possible is undertaken and accomplished by people and businesses right here in Southern California, including, in particular, the entertainment industry. We often discuss how much this great industry means to our city and region artistically, culturally and economically, but the industry's volunteer contribution through SU2C is absolutely breathtaking. Of course, everyone can and should applaud the stars who take part in the telecast, but there are also the behind-the-scenes executives and networks and studios and frankly everyone from all ranks of the industry who give of their time, effort and resources. Whether it's the scientists and medical experts, or the entertainment industry, or founding donors like Major League Baseball, or other crucially significant donors, this is a team effort.
Councilmember Koretz noted, “Probably all of us have had our lives, or those of our families and friends, touched, destructively, by cancer. And so we not only respect, but strongly support Stand Up to Cancer, for it has provided remarkable efforts and leadership in seeking to end the scourge of cancer. Stand Up To Cancer raises immense funds, and supports and leads extraordinarily dynamic, scientific collaborations and boldly innovative research – in so doing, offering hope, easing pain and anguish, and ultimately saving untold numbers of lives.”
Saluting a hero
Councilmember Koretz was privileged to be a co-presenter at a recent City Hall ceremony saluting LAPD Officer Donald Thompson. Councilmember Mitchell Englander led the City Council presentation, with Councilmembers Koretz and Nury Martinez co-presenting.
This was not the first public recognition for Officer Thompson: back in May, he received one of the nation’s most prestigious honors, the public safety officer Medal of Valor, from President Barack Obama.
The President was commemorating that in December of 2013, Officer Thompson – a bomb technician with the LAPD – rescued an unconscious person from a burning car on a busy freeway: the 405. He did so by placing himself squarely in harm’s way, at tremendous risk to his life. He vaulted over two concrete freeway barriers, and then sustained burns in order to open the car door and pull out the 72-year-old victim, who was seat-belted in. One can only imagine what a nightmare it must have been, to take on that risk – that fearsome fire, that toxic smoke, that red-hot metal and that explosive chaos, all while struggling to unbuckle and hoist out the unconscious man. Yet Officer Thompson unflinchingly and without hesitation did the courageous thing and did it with spectacular ability and sure-handed efficiency, saving a life in the process. Perhaps even more amazing, after Officer Thompson was taken to the hospital and received treatment for his burns, he checked out in order to finish his shift.
The public safety officer Medal of Valor is presented to heroes selected from police organizations from all across the nation. President Obama selected 13 honorees from what must have been hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of heroes. The honorees included three other Southland honorees – Officer Jason Salas and Robert Sparks, and Captain Raymond Bottenfield – who together helped end a murderous shooting rampage at Santa Monica College.
At the City Council meeting, Officer Thompson (who was also honored at this year's SORO festival!) spoke movingly about how any and all of us might step forward and help another person in time of grave need. Hopefully that is so – what Don Thompson did speaks not only to the very best of policing practices but also to the very best of human character, and so he is an example not just to his fellow law enforcement officers, but to all of us.
Wear your love like heaven
On September 2nd Councilmember Koretz led the City Council in declaring “Donovan Day” in Los Angeles. The occasion honored the 50th anniversary of the release of the British singer-songwriter’s breakthrough single and album, “Sunshine Superman.”
Donovan was present in Council, accompanied by his wife, Linda, and several other family members and friends. He was awarded a ceremonial resolution and rewarded the Council and audience with brief renditions of “Sunshine Superman” and his first hit, “Catch the Wind.” Later, back in the Councilmember’s office, he serenaded his young grandson with an impromptu rendition of “Mellow Yellow.”
Addressing the full Council, Donovan, who was enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, made it clear that the idea for “Sunshine Superman” was born at Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades, where he and his wife (then girlfriend) went to the beach at the western end of Sunset Boulevard. They enjoyed the weather and scenery, with the songwriter gathering imagery that later turned up in lyrics such as, “We walked on the beach at Sunset.”
Koretz calls for state and feds to help tenants with tax breaks
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz has introduced City Council resolutions to provide tenants with an additional cushion against the impact of being evicted from their apartments. They call on Congress and the State Legislature to pass legislation to offer dislocated tenants a tax exemption on any relocation assistance they receive from landlords. The resolutions, which were referred to the Council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, urge the City Council to make seeking the tax exemptions a formal part of the City’s legislative program.
“In today’s overheated real estate market, evictions are an unfortunate fact of life,” Koretz said. “While the Council is looking for more ways to preserve existing housing in the context of respecting the constitutional property rights of apartment owners, we should be doing more to ease the transition for dislocated tenants. Between the state and federal rates, taxing legally-mandated relocation assistance reduces its buying power by upwards of 40%.”
The City’s current relocation assistance rates range from $7,900 to $19,700, depending upon a tenant’s age, income status and/or length of tenancy. In addition to tax consequences, for seniors who have their taxable incomes inflated by relocation payments this also can lead to their Medicare premiums being raised, imposing yet another financial burden on them.
Current law offers tax deductions only for job-related moving expenses and evictions from federally-funded housing. But with thousands of L.A. tenants losing their homes as developers take advantage of laws that allow them to close down the buildings using the state Ellis Act, or negotiate lease buyouts to persuade tenants to voluntarily vacate their units, tenants are thrust into a hostile rental market that has become too expensive for them to find new housing in. Even with L.A.’s relatively generous relocation assistance or negotiated lease buyouts, many tenants often can’t afford comparable units in their neighborhoods because market-rate rents have risen dramatically in recent years.
Koretz’s resolutions instruct the City’s lobbyists to pursue legislation in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, respectively, which would provide tax breaks for relocated tenants. The resolutions were referred to the Council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Committee for further consideration.
“If we can make this happen,” Koretz concluded, “we can help dislocated tenants in effect get the full value of their relocation assistance. We owe it to people having their lives disrupted this way to make sure their relocation dollars can stretch as far as possible.”
Take another look at renters' rights
A few weeks ago Hi5 published a short piece on the new “Home for Renters” program put together to provide the City’s many apartment tenants with information they need to protect their rights in a challenging rental housing market.
Since it has been estimated that most of L.A.’s more than a million-and-a-half renters are mostly unfamiliar with the local and state laws that impact their tenancies, Councilmember Paul Koretz wants to remind everyone again to take a look at the resources provided by the program and keep them handy in case you ever find yourself in need of help.
Home for Renters was created by the City to help protect renters from displacement by arming them with information about their rights under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (more familiarly known as “rent control”). It aims to close the information gap by, among other things, providing online resources that make detailed information about the RSO accessible to both tenants and landlords.
To connect with Home for Renters, visit www.HomeForLARenters.org.
Getting a handle on Granny Flats
Councilmember Paul Koretz recently played a key role in forging an important compromise that allowed the City to comply with state law and avoid litigation while retaining strong protections for the City’s single-family neighborhoods.
For years, the California state legislature has mandated that local jurisdictions such as Los Angeles allow property owners to add “accessory dwelling units” (aka, “Granny Flats”) on their single-family-zoned lots. The City responded by passing an ordinance allowing accessory units up to 640 square feet provided they’re not in hillside areas and a conditional use permit is obtained to allow them.
However, about a decade ago, the legislature changed the mandate to allow the units to be as large as 1200 square feet and require that they be allowed by right, with just a ministerial sign-off required for permits. The City’s Chief Zoning Administrator issued what is called a “Zoning Administrator Interpretation” (ZAI) to override the previous Code requirements and reflect the new state regulations. An average of fewer than 100 homeowners a year have been taking advantage of the ZAI.
Then, in 2014, a homeowner in Cheviot Hills (in the Fifth Council District) objected to the size and visibility of an accessory unit planned in his neighborhood and filed suit against the City to block it. This led to the ZAI being voided by the court and leaving some 300 permitted but unfinished accessory units in legal limbo and several hundred other legally filed applications in a similar fix.
The Department of City Planning proposed to grandfather the limbo projects and write the state regulations into City law. That proposal arrived on the Council floor on August 29th.
Councilmember Paul Koretz, along with several of his colleagues, successfully proposed a compromise they felt would improve upon the Planning Department proposal.
Their amendment followed through on the grandfathering of ongoing projects and encoded the ministerial approval process, but instead of encoding the state’s large 1200 square foot prescription, it defaulted to the stricter size and location regulations already in place. It also called on the Planning Department to review the current regulations and hold a public process to determine whether they needed to be tweaked.
“Allowing a second unit of up to 1200 square feet by right in single family zones and on hillsides is a giant invitation to trouble,” said Koretz in his remarks to the Council. “In essence it’s a massive doubling of the density in single family zones in a way that allowing a 640 square foot accessory unit is not. 1200 square feet is a full second house that could be bigger than many existing homes in many neighborhoods of the city.”
“If we as a Council want to rezone our R1 neighborhoods to R2,” Koretz added, “that’s an issue we should take to our constituents and have an open and honest debate. We should not sneak it in the back door just because the state allows it and it’s an easy thing to do.”
The Planning Department was required to develop a new ZAI reflecting the Council’s action and also initiate a new public process to discuss any changes to the Municipal Code deemed necessary. The ZAI is expected by the end of September 2016, while the public process could stretch well into 2017, with the issue next in Council on Tuesday, September 13.
Koretz takes on Pharmaceutical Price-gouging
Councilmember Paul Koretz has teamed with Councilmember David Ryu to call on Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and other agencies to immediately investigate the sudden and unjustified increase in the price of EpiPen medical devices and to take action that would prevent pharmaceutical price-gouging in the future.
When the drug manufacturer Mylan recently announced a staggering 5000% increase in the price of EpiPens, the potentially life-saving devices pre-loaded with injections of the important anti-allergen drug epinephrine, the news sent shockwaves nationwide.That news hit close to home with Councilmember Koretz, who uses EpiPens to deal with his own allergy attacks.
“The EpiPen is just the latest poster child for a situation that never should have happened in the first place,” said Koretz.“To blame price-gouging on the Affordable Care Act is beneath contempt, but the fact is that this has been going on for years before Obamacare. The industry locked price-gouging into its arrangement with the federal government and will keep exploiting it until Congress can be persuaded to do right by the American people.”
Mylan claims the price increase was necessary to recover the costs of developing the EpiPen, yet the device remains unchanged since its introduction in 2008.Mylan also claims that the Affordable Care Act forces the public to pay full price for the product, which abruptly went from $100 to $600 in August. The reality is that, even with the price set at $100 for eight years, Mylan saw fit to raise the salary of its CEO from $2.5 million per year to $19 million. Obviously the company has not been hurting.
After the negative reaction to the price increase, Mylan quickly announced that it would introduce a generic version of the EpiPen at half of the new price, but still three times as expensive as the device was just a few weeks ago.
During the last decade, under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry’s influential lobbyists, Congress constrained the Medicare Part D program from negotiating drug prices with the industry. This placed the public at the whim of firms such as Mylan.
The resolution co-presented by Koretz and Ryu, and seconded by Council President Wesson, was introduced on August 31st and referred to the Council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee for further consideration.
Pet of the week
This adorable kitten, named Riley, was being fostered and is now ready for a home of his own. He is three months old and the ideal kitten, super-friendly and loves to play. Riley's ID number is A1647018 and he is available for adoption this Saturday, 9/10. His adoption fee is reduced this weekend along with his other furry friends. All dog adoption fees are $83.50, all kitten adoption fees are $50.50 and all cat (over 4 months old) adoption fees are waived at the West Valley Animal Shelter, located at 20655 Plummer Street, Chatsworth, 91311. For more information, visit LAAnimalServices.com or call 888-452-7381.