As many of you may have noted by reading the headlines, the last few weeks have been full of turmoil, chaos and uncertainty in City Hall, due to a large Department of Water and Power rate increase that the DWP board of commissioners proposed at the eleventh hour, just before a looming deadline. This rate hike was rejected by the Los Angeles City Council -- the Council decided that during these economically distressed times, a rate increase should not be approved significantly beyond what is absolutely essential to the DWP's continuing operations. After the Council turned the DWP commission down, some extreme scenarios were threatened. Councilmember Koretz reports that, "The good news is that in recent days, the rhetoric has been toned down and discussions have become more amicable and realistic. There is cause for cautious optimism that the city is back on track, looking for solutions that are meaningful, fair and appropriate."
Fixing something gone wrong
City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian have co-authored two motions to correct problems caused by Senate Bill 1818 – the State Density Bonus Law.SB 1818 allows developers to build extra units and receive free variances if they include small amounts of affordable housing.
As Councilmember Koretz said, “this law has not made our City more affordable – instead, it has stolen local control of planning and zoning from the City and has created major disruption in our neighborhoods.The law may have been born of good intentions, but it has caused too many negative impacts for too little affordable housing. Oftentimes, these development projects result in a loss of affordable housing because a developer might tear down an apartment full of affordable units to build a new out-of-scale building with only a handful of affordable units." One Koretz-Krekorian motion asks the state to repeal SB 1818. In the meantime, the other Koretz-Krekorian motion would revisit the City’s density bonus implementing ordinance, to see what revisions might better protect our neighborhoods from SB 1818 abuses.
Saluting Lily Tomlin
On behalf of the City of Los Angeles, Councilmember Koretz honored actress/comedienne Lily Tomlin for her “tremendous advocacy” regarding animal welfare issues – he spoke of her courage and dedication, while noting that the city “cherishes and is inspired by her extraordinary wit and vibrant humanity.” This took place during an evening in which the Voice for the Animals Foundation was presenting a special award to Ms. Tomlin for her activism and leadership.
Major construction has begun on the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project. This key effort to transform our transportation system will add a 10-mile HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane northbound from National Blvd. to Ventura Blvd., thus finally completing our entire network of carpool lanes along the 405 linking southern Orange County and the north San Fernando Valley.
Along with the HOV lane, the project will also introduce ramp improvements, replace some bridges that cross freeways, and implement new and better sound walls to protect neighborhoods from noise. The aim is to reduce traffic congestion, decrease air pollution and increase safety.
Anyone who might be impacted by this construction is encouraged to visit the MTA Metro website, read more about this project and sign up for email news alerts, at http://www.metro.net/projects/I-405/.
The City Council has unanimously approved a resolution co-authored by Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl, calling on the federal government to end discriminatory Social Security policies that deny equal benefits to same-sex couples.
Councilmember Koretz explained, “LGBT workers pay into the system like everyone else, so the federal government has no business denying same-sex couples equal benefits. It’s unfair, it’s un-American and it must change.”
The resolution supports the goals of a large grassroots effort, called Rock for Equality. Rock for Equality will be holding an April 11 march and rally – including a rocking chair “rock-in” in front of the Hollywood Social Security office – to demand equal social security benefits for same-sex couples.
Thousands of people happily thronged Westwood Blvd. to celebrate Nowruz – the Persian New Year festival.
This year, there was a special occasion that gave many there special cause for rejoicing.
On that day, Councilmember Koretz helped the Persian community achieve one of its foremost dreams, which was to name the corner of Westwood Blvd. and Wilkins Ave. “Persian Square.” It’s at that very location that the first Persian business in the City opened. Since then there has been an influx of Persian businesses and residents into the area. Many of the businesses on Westwood Boulevard, between Wilshire Boulevard and Ohio Avenue, are owned and operated by people of Persian cultural identity.
The Councilmember worked with a coalition of community activists to make this official designation possible. Here he is pictured with Alex Helmi, a Persian community leader who helped spearhead the effort.
Good ideas can be worth their weight in gold!
The City of Los Angeles is in the midst of a major budget crisis, and one thing Councilmember Koretz is doing is listening carefully to ideas that come from the public and sharing them, along with his own ideas – and some of those ideas are already translating into savings and revenues that could help save essential programs that might otherwise get cut. One such idea was to ask companies that have contracts with the city to voluntarily accept a cut of as much as 10% in what they are slated to receive from the city for services rendered.
According to a March 15, 2010 front page article in the Los Angeles Business Journal, this idea of Councilmember Koretz is already paying big dividends! Many city vendors are doing their part for the city by willingly agreeing to give up some of what they are slated to receive from the city. For example, 107 vendors who do business with the City’s General Services Department (out of 540 contacted) have already agreed to cuts; 240 of the 255 recipients of grants from the Cultural Affairs Department have already agreed to 10 percent cuts. Some businesses cannot afford to do the full 10 percent but are able take a lesser cut – Councilmember Koretz recognizes that this may be an economic reality and still appreciates the gesture and its material benefits to the City. Other businesses have volunteered to give back as much as 15% of what they have contracted to receive.
Councilmember Koretz says, “It is very heartwarming to see so many people and businesses throughout Los Angeles exhibiting this kind of civic patriotism. Their sacrifice and commitment bode well for the city, because the funds that are saved will help us keep our priority services, but also because we are a city family that wants the best for Los Angeles in the years to come. I appreciate the generosity of spirit shown by so many in these tough times. In the meantime, I will continue to point to efficiencies and new ideas that we can use to help bring the budget back in order.”