The spread of COVID-19 has unfortunately increased drastically as opening activities have proceeded apace around the country. There has been a 69% rise in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles over the past few days, and after a week of record numbers Johns Hopkins University indicated on Thursday that Los Angeles now has the highest number of coronavirus cases of any county in the nation. While it is not a surprise, it is very alarming.
That is why Gov. Gavin Newsom today ordered all bars and nightlife to close in Los Angeles County, and recommended that six other counties close their nightlife. Los Angeles County is heeding that directive by requiring all bars, breweries, brew pubs, pubs, wineries and tasting rooms in L.A. County close unless they are offering sit-down dine-in meals. This includes closing bar areas in restaurants.
The California Department of Public Health had already released guidance requiring all Californians to wear face coverings in most settings when outside the home. Additionally, Governor Newsom has included mask-wearing among his requirements for reopening cities, noting that people often let their guard down going into the weekend, and urged Californians not to do so but continue to stay home as much as possible.
According to the County, forty-one percent of cases are now among individuals between the ages of 18 and 40. And since roughly one in four people are presymptomatic or asymptomatic, they may be spreading the disease unknowingly to people they know and strangers. This is why everyone needs to follow the Public Health directives to keep from overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death.
The best defense against spread remains properly worn masks covering the nose and the mouth. I was pleased that Mayor Garcetti instituted mask-wearing several weeks ago. I originally introduced a motion during the first week of April calling on all Angelenos to wear masks while outside the home. This past Friday, the City Council’s Health Committee heard an update on my motion to require mask-wearing to protect us all from COVID-19 infections. Today, for the first time, Vice President Mike Pence, "Wear a mask."
Another very important tool to help slow the spread of COVID-19 is Contact Tracing. It can help identify and slow Covid-19 spread through a simple and confidential process. Those who test positive for COVID-19, or those who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, will receive a phone call from LA Public Health. Please answer the call. Please also be aware that there are phishing and other types of scams using contact tracing as a means to obtain personal information. Therefore, please note that a contact tracer will never ask you for your social security number, for your documented status, or request any money. With that in mind, if you miss a call from Los Angeles Public Health, they will leave a message, and we ask that you return the call as soon as possible. Please see the following flyer for more information:
Emerging research shows a link between vitamin D deficiency and the worst of COVID-19 cases. Vitamin D, which naturally comes from the sun, is crucial for general health, protects bone density, and can boost one’s immune system. In fact, current research has shown that many of the people who succumbed to COVID-19 had low levels of vitamin "D" in their bodies. Please note: Vitamin D can be toxic and can cause health concerns from nausea to kidney failure so it is advisable to consult your health practitioner to determine your current levels and an appropriate dosage level. Please remember that taking Vitamin D supplements can never replace your need to practice physical distancing and wear a mask.
In the News
FROM THE DESK OF JEFF EBENSTEIN
DIRECTOR OF POLICY & LEGISLATION
Emergency Renter Assistance Program Approved
The City Council has completed the approval process to launch the coronavirus-related Emergency Renter Assistance Program that will provide low-income renters with up to $1000 a month (or $2000 for a two-adult household) for three months to help subsidize their apartment rents. The program is intended to address the suspension of rent payments during the coronavirus emergency period that will create problematic rent repayment obligations and could lead to a spate of evictions at the end of the emergency.
One of the most important aspects of the program is that it also provides a rental income stream for so-called "mom-and-pop" landlords who can ill-afford to not be receiving rents on their properties which still have outstanding mortgages.
Now that the Council has approved the program, the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID) is working on setting up the mechanics of the program and has said they will formally launch it in early July.
According to the department's website, the Los Angeles Emergency Rental Assistance Subsidy Program will provide a temporary rent subsidy for tenants who live in the City of Los Angeles and are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible tenants are those whose household income is at or below 80% of the Area Median Income which is $83,500 for a family of four. The rent subsidy will be paid directly to the tenant’s landlord on the tenant’s behalf.
The program has been provided more than $100 million to cover what is expected to be a high demand for the subsidy. Councilmember Koretz has contributed funds that are reserved for CD5 low-income tenants, but CD5 tenants also will have access to citywide funds as well. Interested tenants should check the HCID website for news on when the application period will open up.
Vacancy Tax Update
The City Council voted this week to postpone placing a "vacancy tax" proposal on the November 2020 election ballot. This concept, which has been adopted in Vancouver, British Columbia, Oakland, CA, and elsewhere in various forms, is intended to provide an incentive for landlords to not leave apartment units vacant by applying a tax to units that are vacant for more than some designated period of time. This is targeted toward developers who build large market-rate multi-family buildings and then leave them vacant to trade as a commodity. Allowing thousands of units to remain empty only exacerbates our terrible housing shortage in Los Angeles.
Councilmember Koretz is a strong supporter of the concept. However, in the end, the proposal was not able to be prepared in time to meet the statutory deadlines for placing it on the ballot.
The City Council will continue to work on the issue with an eye toward preparing the measure for the ballot in 2022.
Climate Emergency Mobilization Office Moves Forward
Councilmember Koretz is pleased to note that the City Council approved refunding the effort that Councilmember Blumenfield and he initiated in 2018 to create an Office of Climate Emergency Mobilization in the city.
While the city has been appropriately focused on the coronavirus and protests, the worldwide climate situation has continued to worsen. For example, on May 20, Cyclone Amphan became the strongest cyclone to hit the Bay of Bengal and devastated coastal cities in India and Bangladesh, which infinitely worsened each country's efforts to address COVID-19.
And we must not forget our own fires in California -- the Camp Fire, the Woolsey Fire, the Thomas Fire, and the Getty/ Bel-Air Fire, just to name a few -- not to mention the wildfires last fall that seemed to be burning down all of Australia, the horrific fires in the Brazilian rainforest, Indonesia, and Siberia and the record-breaking wildfires burning right now in Arizona and elsewhere.
The Office is designed to lead the city's mobilization efforts by first initiating community assemblies in the most polluted communities in the region to gain leadership from people who are suffering the worst impacts from toxic pollution and climate warming. In turn, this would create an implementation plan that works for all Angelenos, while emphasizing support for displaced workers, job creation and a just transition away from fossil fuels.
Organic Landscaping Park Pilot Project Moves Out of Committee
Councilmember Koretz is pleased to note that his motion to launch a three-location organic landscaping park pilot project was moved forward by the Heath, Education, Neighborhoods, Parks, Arts, and River Committee.
The motion is intended to select three parks in Los Angeles that will be maintained with only organic landscaping free of toxic chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides.
Other local municipalities like Ventura County, Burbank, Irvine, and San Juan Capistrano have taken similar steps to protect children and residents from exposure to toxic chemicals in pesticides and herbicides.
Community Impact Statements can be directed to Council File #18-0788.
Fireworks Are Illegal and Very Dangerous
As if it hasn't caused enough inconvenience already, the current global coronavirus pandemic appears to have set off an accompanying global illegal fireworks pandemic that is bothering humans, frightening pets, and creating fire hazards in cities across the world. Los Angeles’ hillsides and High Fire Severity Zones are no less vulnerable from sparks that start wildfires. And, please be aware that fireworks kill on average 40 people per year. More than 3,000 people are hospitalized. More than half of those victims are children.
In past years LA has had its share of fireworks complaints in the weeks leading up to and following July 4th, but this year is already experiencing one of the biggest "explosions" of fireworks we have ever seen.
With the exception of professionally-staged and permitted fireworks shows, fireworks are completely illegal in L.A., but that has never stopped people from obtaining them in neighboring cities where they are legal and setting them off within our city limits. The unfortunate reality is that LAPD's efforts to enforce the City prohibition is made more difficult by the fact that police have to catch somebody in the act of lighting the fireworks in order to cite them for breaking the law. In a 470-square mile city, it's impossible for the police to be everywhere at once.
That isn't stopping MySafeLA from leading a coordinated crusade to help residents aid the City government battle the onslaught of fireworks. The group's website, which has the support of Councilmember Paul Koretz, the LAPD, the LA Fire Department, and others, provides a wealth of helpful information on how to combat illegal fireworks usage.
Additionally, Councilmember Koretz is working with some of his colleagues on other ways to deal with the epidemic of illegal fireworks. One idea is to work with the County government to seek a uniform prohibition across all of the cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County so that would-be lawbreakers can't go to a neighboring city to obtain fireworks.
In the meantime, with July 4th only a week away, everyone should be a part of the effort to discourage the use of fireworks in L.A. We don't yet know whether large, professional fireworks displays will play their usual role for Independence Day, but we do know that our neighborhoods should be free of illegal fireworks. To combat illegal fireworks usage in our City, residents can call (877) ASK-LAPD, or file a complaint online. If you decide that using fireworks you may have in your possession is not a good idea (and it isn’t), you may turn them in to the LAPD without any penalty.
MySafe:LA has plenty of great information and resources about fireworks on their website here. They have also developed a community survey, where you can express your concerns and opinions about fireworks usage here.
CWLC Offers Free Legal Housing Clinic
The California Women's Law Center (CWLC) is hosting free legal housing clinics that connect attorneys with tenants who have questions about their legal rights, and we invite you to share this information with anyone who might benefit.
Every two weeks, on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., attorneys specialized in housing law will be available to discuss tenants' unique legal housing situations via phone and online video platforms. This is a continuation of the clinics that CWLC was holding for renters in Venice, Santa Monica, and other beach communities. As the COVID-19 emergency exacerbates housing challenges for many people, this legal assistance is being offered more broadly to anyone in Los Angeles County.
Los Angeles Al Fresco Helps Businesses Reopen
Mayor Garcetti has launched the Los Angeles Al Fresco program to support outdoor dining opportunities for restaurants in coordination with the L.A. County Department of Public Health allowing dine-in service at restaurants.
L.A. Al Fresco aims to help businesses reopen while allowing customers and employees to maintain the physical distance recommended by public health officials by temporarily relaxing the rules that regulate outdoor dining.
Through LA Al Fresco, the City offers streamlined, no-fee, immediate approval for eligible restaurants to provide outdoor dining in the following areas:
Private Parking Lots
- Closed Streets
Traffic Advisory Scheduled on Sepulveda Blvd. Starting June 28th
Sepulveda Blvd. (from Mountaingate Dr. to San Diego Fwy. underpass) is scheduled for cold planing beginning Sunday, June 28th through Wednesday, July 1st followed by resurfacing from Sunday, July 5th through Tuesday, July 7th from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. The public is advised to use Beverly Glen Dr. or other alternate routes due to full closures during scheduled work hours. If you have any questions, please contact Aida Valencia, Tobias Cristales or Orlando Maxwell at 818-756-8651.
L.A. Department of Transportation to Resume Parking Enforcement
LADOT Parking Enforcement announced that beginning on July 6th it will resume enforcement of certain parking regulations that were relaxed during the Safer at Home orders.
Enforcement CONTINUES for:
Time limits within preferential parking districts for vehicles without a valid or recently-expired permit
Posted repaving, street repair, and utility work
Posted time limit zones in residential and commercial areas
All posted Temporary No-Parking signs
No blocking emergency access (alleyways, fire hydrants, etc.)
Colored curb zones
Parking restrictions for City-owned lots
For a full list of details regarding enforcement visit the LADOT Coronavirus Updates webpage
People who can document that they are unemployed are eligible to have late penalties waived if they pay the base citation by the end of the 2020 calendar year.
People who want to fill out an “unemployment waiver” can contact LADOT’s customer care hotline at 866-561-9742.
People who have experienced financial hardship are eligible for a payment plan and can contact LADOT at the same number.
Safe Summer Youth Programs Available This Summer Throughout LA
This summer, the City is providing physical distancing, safe, and fun programs for youth ages 6 to 14 at forty-six LA City Parks. Enroll your child in affordable programming with activities such as non-contact sports, fitness programs, arts and crafts, and more. All programs follow guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the American Camping Association.
Summer Play LA will run weekly from July 6th through August 14th. The fee varies by location. Please see the attached flyers for more information or visit https://www.laparks.org/SummerPlayLA.
Here to Serve
My office, like all City of Los Angeles offices, is following recommended protocols such as social distancing and working remotely to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That said, my staff and I are always readily available to help with your questions, concerns, and needs during this difficult period. We can be reached by phone at 213-473-7005, 323-866-1828 (West LA), or 818-971-3088 (Encino) and through email firstname.lastname@example.org. Since we are experiencing a higher-than-normal volume of calls, feel free to email the staff member you wish to contact directly. The accompanying link contains those e-mail addresses.
I know these are really confusing times and that new information is changing quickly, so please continue to check and verify official information through these credible resources: