As you know, Los Angeles is in the middle of a terrible surge of COVID-19 cases and every day we are hitting record numbers in terms of new cases, hospitalizations, and tragic deaths. Even Mayor Garcetti’s 9-year old daughter has contracted COVID-19 and the Mayor and his wife are quarantining -- thankfully, Maya has a mild case and so far her parents have tested negative -- this in a family that has been extremely careful about following Public Health guidelines. The good news for everyone is that the first vaccines have arrived in Los Angeles and the first front line medical workers have begun to receive doses and more are on their way.
The United States is losing more than one person to COVID-19 every minute and at the LA County level we are losing an average of 2 neighbors every hour. In the City of Los Angeles, we have now recorded the worst day with one person dying every 15 minutes from COVID-19. And cases are double what they were last week and six times higher than last month. Our ICU beds are at 0% capacity and our healthcare workers are stretched and succumbing to COVID in record numbers.
As the Mayor stated Thursday in his press conference from home where he and his wife are quarantined with their daughter Maya, “What you do is more powerful than anything we can do in government, and what you do is even more powerful than the vaccine -- we need you to cooperate with public health guidance -- we need you to wear masks --AND we need you to stay home. This is an emergency.”
Councilmember Paul Koretz, Fifth District
The Third Time Around - Threatening Single-Family Homes Again
Over the past two years, State Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), have taken the lead in the state legislature to try to impose one-size-fits-all solutions to California’s housing issues. Each time, Councilmember Koretz has played a major role in rallying opposition to the most egregious of these bills in communities up and down the state and within the legislature itself. For that reason, on December 15th, he introduced motions in City Council to oppose this year’s models.
On December 7th, Wiener and Atkins introduced Senate Bills 9 and 10 which propose for the third time zoning overrides that allow multi-unit, multi-story housing projects in single family neighborhoods, and which provide incentives for developers to create large developments without making a meaningful commitment to the one kind of housing most of California’s cities really need, affordable housing. Koretz’s resolutions would position the City in opposition to these bills and, he hopes, lead to a dialogue with the authors that will involve local jurisdictions in the conceptualizing of such proposals, both now and in the future.
“They keep trying to convince us that this is about meeting Southern California Association of Governments regional housing needs and that it’s the most direct way to overcome NIMBY opposition,” said the Councilmember. “But existing state and local laws already allow doubling the density in single-family zones and we have plenty of under-utilized zoning capacity along our commercial corridors. In the emerging post-COVID work-at-home era, a fair amount of commercial property is likely to become ripe for conversion to housing without giving away the store as these bills propose to do.”
Koretz and his staff are working on practical, non-invasive concepts for providing more housing without busting up our neighborhoods. The first of his concepts was introduced on the 15th via a Council motion calling for an adaptive reuse incentive that could provide more moderate income (workforce) housing, which is a niche that has gone overlooked for years in L.A. and can avoid the disruptive demolition of existing rent-controlled housing.
“There’s no doubt that we need more affordable housing,” Koretz added, “but creating rules that favor new luxury and market-rate housing is not going to provide it. I want to preserve our existing housing stock and place more focus on building the kind of units we really need while preserving our classic neighborhoods.”
Councilmember Koretz Leads Successful Effort to Reverse Decision by LA District Attorney Gascón to Stop Seeking Sentencing Enhancements in Hate Crime Cases
Councilmember Paul Koretz introduced a resolution, this week, in opposition to District Attorney George Gascón recent Special Directive to remove sentence enhancements when prosecuting hate crimes. Councilmember Bob Blumenfield provided the second for the Resolution.
On December 7th, the new DA issued a set of Special Directives designed to reduce recidivism and the number of people incarcerated in our prisons. One of those Special Directives put forth a policy to eliminate all sentence enhancements, which he believes are a relic of the “tough on crime” period in California in the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, this policy would have also applied to hate crimes, which are those crimes committed because of the victim’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.
Hate crimes, including violent hate crimes, have increased significantly over recent years across the United States in general and in Los Angeles in particular. Pointing to the annual 2019 Hate Crimes Report released by the County of Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations, Councilmember Koretz underscores that 2019 saw the highest number of violent hate crimes in Los Angeles in a decade, with white supremacist crimes jumping 38 percent, and those targeting the transgender community increasing by 64 percent from 2018. In addition, 24 percent of all hate crimes committed in the County during 2019 targeted African Americans, with the majority of these crimes being violent in nature, which is the most targeted group and is disproportionate to the percent African Americans are part of the County’s population, which is 9%. Hate crimes targeting Jewish individuals and institutions have also increased significantly in recent years, as well.
“While many of his Special Directives are well-intentioned, I believe he missed the mark when he eliminated special enhancements for hate crimes being prosecuted in the County,” said Councilmember Koretz. “One of the real-life consequences is that the DA will no longer be seeking to add an enhancement to any sentence prosecutors obtain in the case of a vicious anti-transgender attack (robbery and assault) that occurred in Hollywood in late August, at a time when we are seeing a record number of hate crimes directed towards this community.”
“That is why I introduced a Resolution asking that we oppose the Special Directive unless amended to reinstate sentencing enhancements for hate crimes,” said Koretz. “Ending the use of hate crime enhancements by prosecutors, I believe, would have far-reaching effects and likely result in a majority of serious hate crimes perpetrated in Los Angeles county being charged as if only the underlying crime mattered, and not the motivation for which the crime was committed. Thank you to D.A. George Gascón for listening to concerns of the community and making this change.”
Councilmember Koretz Looks to Slash the Cost of Tiny Houses for the Homeless
Councilmember Paul Koretz introduced a motion this week asking the City Administrative Officer and the Bureau of Engineering to find ways to cut the cost per unit of its Pallet Shelter tiny house village program in a citywide effort to more quickly and efficiently provide interim housing for people experiencing homelessness.
Tiny houses are prefab 64-square-foot composite sheds that are intended to be quick and inexpensive emergency shelters for homeless individuals. However, a cost-analysis has revealed that the City of Los Angeles may intend to implement these more expensively than other cities with similar installations.
“Our City’s homelessness crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, has too often been burdened with cost-overruns and a lack of a sense of urgency,” said Koretz. “It took us more than two years to figure that out with HHH projects, but we don't have the luxury of doing that with these tiny homes. We don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. In this case, the good has to be functional, practical, and affordable.”
One reason for the sharp increase is the City’s addition of a variety of expensive amenities which may not serve the basic mission of the tiny home villages efficiently. Koretz’ motion calls for the City’s Bureau of Engineering and City Administrative Officer, the two departments responsible for planning the tiny house village program, to “value engineer” the program to see how appropriate accommodations can be provided at a reasonable cost and to report back with recommendations in 30 days. It cites the experiences of Riverside, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz, where similar facilities have been created for as little as $12,000-$17,000 per unit. Koretz has a history of seeking economical ways to house the homeless, with one of the first less expensive modular HHH housing projects approved for his district. He also proposed that the City look at creating “safe camping” sites to better manage and accommodate the city’s street- and sidewalk-dwellers.
The motion was referred to the City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee for consideration after the holiday recess.
Serial Rapist Apprehended
The West Los Angeles Area is safer and more secure due to the diligent work and commitment of the Los Angeles Police Department. For weeks the Councilmember’s office has been in close communication with LAPD Command, monitoring the ongoing investigation into a serial sexual predator that had been wreaking havoc in the Fifth District. This past Tuesday, our office received the news that police officers had apprehended the suspect, a serial sexual predator operating in the area around UCLA and Westwood Plaza, and that the search was over.
The suspect has reportedly committed (as reported thus far) 23 misdemeanor sexual batteries in the West LA area. In almost all of the reported crimes, the suspect approached lone females from behind and subsequently assaulted them. The suspect typically wore a hooded sweatshirt and a surgical type mask that concealed his face.
Undercover detectives from West LA’s Narcotics Enforcement Detail began to surveil the possible suspect, who was a 32-year-old Los Angeles resident. In the last few days, he was observed attacking a 50-year-old female transient and was immediately taken into custody and booked at the Valley Jail section where he remains with a bail of $575,000.
The police do believe that there are more victims who have not yet come forward. They are encouraged to call the Robbery-Homicide Division, to report what occurred.
It is critical to recognize the heroes who helped bring this to a conclusion, including West Los Angeles Area Commanding Officer Captain Jonathan Tom, the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division Detectives, the West Los Angeles Narcotics Enforcement Detail, and UCLA’s Detectives. Thank you to all involved. Our streets are safer today because of these law enforcement professionals. We salute them.
Ways to Give During This Holiday Season
Our community partners and officers at the West LA Police Station are collecting toys for their annual Toy Giveaway to children in the surrounding communities, so please consider donating a new toy and spreading some holiday joy this season.
You can email Officer Brian Espin to set up a drop off appointment at email@example.com. Drop off days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at 1645 Corinth Ave.
*Please bring a new and unopened gift that can be easily sanitized*
The Toy Giveaway will be on Tuesday, December 22 from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. in the parking lot behind the Police Station. Thank you to the West LA Community Police Station for putting some smiles on the children's faces this holiday season.
Donate to A Food Pantry in CD5
If you are looking for places to donate time or money during this holiday season, Councilmember Koretz has supported the following food banks over many years that service the CD5 community and beyond. Please take a moment to visit their websites and help them accomplish the incredible work they are doing in our communities. In this difficult year that has brought distress to many from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic hardships, the holiday season presents a special opportunity to extend a hand and embody the spirit of giving by being kind to one another and helping those in need. Learn where to give by downloading the attached flyer.
Honoring Crossroads Kitchen as CD5 Good Food Champion
The Los Angeles Food Policy Council celebrates its 10 year anniversary by launching a digital campaign "Good Food Season" in lieu of Food Day this year. Each year, during our annual Food Day celebration, Councilmember Koretz joins his fellow Councilmembers in honoring a Good Food Champion from his district. This year has presented everyone with some extra challenges, and the holiday season is the perfect time to launch a Good Food Season. Therefore, Councilmember Koretz and the LA Food Policy Council are proud to highlight and recognize Crossroads Kitchen, located at 8284 Melrose Ave. in the Fifth Council District.
"We know the economic struggles our local restaurants have been having, so I'm pleased to recognize Crossroads Kitchen, as this year's Council District Five Good Food Champion. Crossroads Kitchen is not just one of the best vegan restaurants in LA, it's one of the best restaurants overall. Also, with the ongoing climate emergency still burning in the background of 2020, I'm pleased to honor a plant-based restaurant. Eating plant-based foods helps dramatically decrease a person's climate emissions footprint. Plus, Crossroads has just launched its Pizza Popup, making takeout easier and tastier than ever. I'm hoping folks will follow the Targeted Safer-at-Home Orders and order take out from all our local favorite restaurants across the Southland."
Crossroads Kitchen has transitioned during the Covid crisis to delivery and pick up services. They’ve also partnered with Support & Feed which provides plant-based meals prepared by local restaurants and businesses to people experiencing food insecurity to nourish those in need, provide education, support the small business community, and positively impact the climate crisis. This occurs weekly and has been a very rewarding project for many people in need. Crossroads also created Meal Kits which are prepared foods that will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator for people during this very challenging time as well. We want to thank all our CD5 restaurants like Crossroads, for doing what they can to make a difference during the COVID crisis.
Visit www.crossroadskitchen.com to order online for pickup.
Westwood Kehilla Drive-Through Chanukah Celebration
Thank you to the Westwood Kehilla for organizing a festive and socially-distanced drive-through Channukah celebration this year. Westwood Kehilla is an Orthodox synagogue committed to a halachic approach to life and communal affairs while remaining engaged in the modern world.
Adopt Some Love
It’s the most wonderful time of the year to add a furry friend to your family as The Paula Kent Meehan Pet Care Foundation sponsors the Whisker Wonderland adoption event from Saturday, December 19 through Sunday, December 20. Find your new animal companion by going online at laanimalservices.com to view all of our amazing cats, kittens, and dogs. And as an added bonus during Whisker Wonderland, adoption fees will be reduced for dogs by $50. Also, adoption fees for cats will be waived by the Paula Kent Meehan Pet Care Foundation and adoption fees for kittens will be waived through a generous grant from the ASPCA.
To proceed with your adoption, please:
Pets of the Week
Looking for something sweet? Honey is your gal!
She walks great on a leash, knows her sit command, and is treat motivated. Honey is 6-years-old and weighs 82-lbs. If you are interested in Honey, please contact our East Valley Animal Services Center at 888-452-7381 and provide Honey's animal ID #A1591082.
This beautiful little girl is 11-months-old and weighs 5-lbs. If you are interested in adopting Mocha, please contact our East Valley Animal Services Center at 888-452-7381 and provide Mocha's animal ID #A1960456.
Precious is looking for her person! Is it you?
This sweetheart is calm and welcoming to affection and other pets. Precious is ten-years-old and weighs 13-lbs. If you are interested in adopting or fostering Precious, please contact our West LA Animal Services Center at 888-452-7381 and provide her animal ID #A1652182.
In need of a workout buddy? Meet Anderson!
This handsome fella loves to play fetch and is super active! Anderson is one-year-old and weighs 74-lbs. If you are interested in adopting or fostering Anderson, please contact our West LA Animal Services Center and provide Anderson's animal ID #A1958522.
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: