Over these summer months, my team and I have continued to do the work I promised you I would as your elected representative on the Los Angeles City Council. We organized community cleanups, ribbon cuttings at improved parks, and we even introduced a new and safer Roscoe Boulevard. We did some community building at our annual Valley Pride festival in support of our LGBTQIA+ community.
Looking at our efforts, I find my work always leads me back to one theme again and again: “families first.” Whether it’s a literal or figurative interpretation of that word - family - it means an awful lot to me. Council District 6 is home to some of the hardest working families in the City - people who get up early and come home late to put food on their kids’ tables. It also describes our family of distinct communities filled with individuals, groups, and organizations who go far and above to make Council District 6 so special.
It is my distinct pleasure to be part of, and work for, the families of Council District 6 - Please read on to see how we’re putting families first in our district.
Our Fair Share - Sepulveda Basin is a Public Health & Safety Issue
I want to thank our Council District 6 communities that have, for decades, stepped up to provide shelter and services to assist people experiencing homelessness. We should all be proud to say Council District 6 is home to the most Supportive Housing for formerly homeless individuals in the entire San Fernando Valley. We have more than done our fair share, and we are committed to doing more.
Still, what is occurring in the Sepulveda Basin, with hundreds of people living in homeless encampments, is a serious public health and safety issue. It is simply untenable. The fire on July 30 was proof of that. Thank God no one was injured or lost their life.
And to our residents, we hear your complaints and concerns. That is why my office, in partnership with the Department of Recreation and Parks, Sanitation, and LAPD is leading an intensive cleanup and enforcement effort with outreach provided by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
The basin is owned by the Army Corp of Engineers, and the City’s Recreation and Parks leases a large part of the land. Public access hours are sunrise to sunset and tents and camping overnight are not allowed. While we will continue to offer services and shelter to people living in the Basin, it’s clear, the City has a duty to keep its park space safe and accessible for everyone’s sake.
Simultaneously, we will continue our efforts to work with state and federal authorities for their approval to clean other areas of the basin as soon as possible.
$8.6 Million Roscoe Blvd. Upgrades a Move in the Right (& Safe) Direction
For years, drivers and residents in District 6 have known that Roscoe Boulevard can feel more like a freeway than a road. In fact, Roscoe from Woodman to the 405 is one of the most dangerous stretches of road in LA for drivers and pedestrians alike. That is why I partnered with the Mayor, the Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Engineering and the Vision Zero Initiative to improve Roscoe Blvd. as part of an $8.6 million Complete Streets upgrade.
This is a tremendous community victory.
Roscoe was chosen not just because it is documented as one of the most dangerous streets in LA, but because it lacked important safety infrastructure. Quick history review - when Los Angeles annexed the San Fernando Valley, the City chose not to improve the Valley’s infrastructure. That is why many Valley streets still lack gutters that feed into an underground sewer.
With construction costs higher than ever, improving the Valley’s roads has only become more difficult. That is why this project is so important. We installed new, safer crosswalk lines, bike lanes, and improved sidewalks, curbs and gutters, and repaved the entire 2.3 mile stretch of Roscoe from Woodman to the 405.
But most importantly, we made Roscoe a transit route that is friendly to pedestrians, public transit users, cyclists, and drivers alike. That is no small feat, especially in the San Fernando Valley.
Protecting Our Communities At the Local Level From Misguided Laws
As the city, county and state consider and adjust policy on our collective approaches to homelessness, there has been no shortage of good and bad ideas to try and get ahead of this complicated issue. While we need to move forward with the good ideas, like the City’s Measure HHH $1.2 billion supportive housing initiative, we do need to keep in check misguided policy ideas from Sacramento, such as AB 516, from San Francisco Assemblymember David Chiu.
Designed to limit the burden on homeless and working-class drivers, at first glance, AB 516 sounds reasonable. We can all agree that our government should not aggressively fine our poorest residents because of expired registration or too many parking tickets.
But instead of removing those fines, AB 516 takes away the LAPD's ability to tow or impound abandoned vehicles. AB 516 would not only limit the authority the City has to impound vehicles, but it would prevent our transportation and police departments from enforcing laws that protect the safety of our residents. If the City lost its ability to remove abandoned vehicles, our residents would be forced to deal with serious public safety, health and quality-of-life issues due to abandoned vehicles left in their neighborhoods.
To put a stop to this madness, I introduced a resolution opposing AB 516 as an official position of the City of Los Angeles.
It is serious business opposing any California state legislation, especially as a member of the LA City Council. But my colleagues on the City Council received a helpful push in the right direction when members of our CD6 communities came out all the way from Arleta, Sun Valley, and Lake Balboa to oppose this legislation and let us all know the negative effects that would certainly follow if abandoned cars were allowed to line our streets.
To all of you who wrote emails, called, and came in person to share your voice on this legislation: Thank you. I hear you and I will continue fighting bad legislation that hurts our residents. Thankfully, AB 516 is stalled in committee at the moment. But stalled isn't dead, folks. Contact your State Senator and let them know that you oppose AB 516. Let’s address the homeless crisis, not overburden our neighborhoods.
Taking Pride in Valley Pride Festival in Van Nuys
Thank you to all of you who came out to show your Valley Pride in Van Nuys with us! You helped make our Valley Pride festival our largest Pride event yet! We could not have done it without a team effort with all our partners.
I would like to thank our producer Andrea Miller and her team at Go As If, the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, and the SFV LGBTQIA+ Coalition. I was thrilled to be joined by representatives from across our diverse communities, including Councilmembers Mitch O'Farrell and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Controller Ron Galperin, Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian and Luz Rivas, and State Senator Bob Hertzberg.
At a time when Washington has turned its back on many of our communities, we stand together in full support of our LGBTQIA+ community. That is what Valley Pride 2019 is all about: “One Valley, One Love.” Check out video with highlights here.
Stronger Working Together: National Night Out in Council District 6
I want to give a big shout out to our friends from LAPD and all our neighborhood organizations who put on this year’s National Night Out (NNO) events throughout Council District 6. Our residents take pride in their neighborhoods and that is on full display during National Night Out - which is about bringing law enforcement and community members together to build trust, friendship and collaboration. Each of our neighborhoods celebrates NNO in their own distinct way. This year, there were no less than seven National Night Out events: West Valley, Arleta, Panorama City, two in Sun Valley, and two in Van Nuys! That’s a lot of neighborhood pride.
Although I personally couldn’t attend all of our District’s events, I made sure that our staff assisted in whatever way was needed to ensure all our National Night Out events were special.
After a busy day of Council and Committee meetings, I was excited to sneak away from City Hall so I could catch up with folks at Arleta’s NNO event hosted by the Osborne Neighborhood Church. Led by Pastor Rayn Donnelly, Osborne Neighborhood Church has been a great friend to the District. Besides being the home of National Night Out in Arleta, Osborne Church frequently teams up with us for neighborhood cleanups.
National Night Out reminds us all that we are stronger and our communities are safer when we stand united and work together. Thank you to everyone who volunteered and participated.
Rams Join in Victory Celebration for Van Nuys Rec Center
It was a truly beautiful day in Van Nuys as we celebrated a revitalized Van Nuys Recreation Center with a little help from Recreation and Parks, LAPD Van Nuys Division and the Los Angeles Rams.
If you’ve been out to the park in recent months, you may have noticed improvements, including rubber flooring for the Children’s Playground, Synthetic Fields and Futsal Court, Synthetic Field lighting, and an outdoor Fitness Zone and picnic area. Refurbished basketball courts were made possible with support from the Los Angeles Clippers.
Revitalizing our District's parks is all part of my commitment to improving the Valley's parks and make them quality places for kids to play and thrive. I was joined by some of the exceptional people who made this project possible, including former Assistant GM of City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP), and Van Nuys native, Ramon Barajas. RAP Commission President Sylvia Patsaouras, reps from the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council, and LAPD Van Nuys Division were also in attendance.
Everyone who joined us helped make this possible.
But I have a real soft spot for Ramon, who retired from his post at Recreation and Parks this past spring. We are both valley natives, and we both have a strong passion to do right by the communities that raised us. For Ramon, who grew up in Van Nuys, completing this renovation was personal. His passion, like mine, is a big reason we were able to bring these improvements to Van Nuys Rec Center.
After the ribbon-cutting, the Rams hosted a football clinic with special guest, and Super Bowl champion, Roland Williams. Thank you to all who joined us!
Honored to be Recognized as a “Lily of the Valley”
As part of Pride Month, I was honored to be recognized at this year’s Latino Equality Alliance’s Awards ceremony with their Purple Lily Award for the hard work my office has done in providing resources for our LGBT constituents, as well as putting on Valley Pride the last five years.
The Latino Equality Alliance was founded 10 years ago in opposition to Proposition 8: the ballot measure adopted in California that made gay marriage illegal (and was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court when they ruled same-sex marriage to be constitutional in 2015).
In a room full of elected officials and advocates, I spoke of the importance of family acceptance in our communities. I am passionate about this topic because I want all youth to have what I had, and what my daughter Izzy has: A home where a child knows that no matter who they are, they have parents who will love and support them.
To learn more about the Latino Equality Alliance, visit their website here.
Movies in the (Skate) Park
My annual Movies in the Park program got off to a great start at Sheldon Skate Park in Sun Valley for a very special screening of the roller-derby comedy Whip it. Who better to join us then Los Anarchists, LA’s own youth roller derby team!
Starbucks Arrives in Panorama City - Welcome to the Neighborhood!
All our communities deserve quality stores, name brand retail, and services. For Panorama City, we are seeing improvements on that front. The latest national brand to open shop is the new Starbucks on Roscoe and Tobias. My office and CD6 welcome Starbucks to the neighborhood. Stop by for a Cup O' Joe soon!
We Are Going to Keep On Cleaning the District
In addition to the dozens of cleanups and bulky item pickups my team organizes and implements, each month my office also directs Sanitation and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to conduct a comprehensive cleanup and outreach effort at our District’s most intense encampments, where trash, waste and sometimes, drug paraphernalia, are a huge issue. I know what some of you are thinking because you’ve told it to me and my staff: “They’re just going to come back. What’s the point?” It’s an understandable reaction, but it misses why we do these monthly cleanups.
We don’t do these monthly cleanups to kick folks out. LAHSA is out there offering services ahead of the cleanups - we all want people to get the assistance they need. But it is also true that the Courts have ruled that the City cannot arbitrarily remove homeless individuals or their property from our sidewalks. I’ve spoken on the record quite a bit on this topic. I understand the sentiment that many share - that preventing people from living on the sidewalk is disrespectful. Personally, I do not believe that letting people live in filth on our streets is respectful - not to them or anyone else. It is certainly not respectful to the kids forced to walk past these encampments on their way to school. Yet, here we are.
Council District 6 is home to the most Supportive Housing sites for formerly homeless individuals in the San Fernando Valley, and we are committed to doing more. In the meantime, we will continue to conduct cleanups at these high-need locations. Left unchecked, they present a serious health risk to everyone - homeless individuals, as well as the general public. We will continue our efforts.
Kids Get New PALs at North Hills Park
If you have been reading this newsletter and following my work on social media, you know that we have been working hard on improving our local parks. For years, residents of North Hills avoided North Hills Community Park due to its outdated equipment and - especially - the presence of gangs. But in just the last year, North Hill Community Park has been transformed. The old, dusty field has been replaced with beautiful new turf and the outdated equipment has been replaced.
But we know that changing the culture of a public place takes time and a little creativity. That is why I was thrilled when Captain Natalie Cortez introduced me to the PALs program. PAL or Police Activities League is a program designed to give girls and boys a safe place to learn and play in their community while building and improving the relationship between young people and their local law enforcement.
It is all part of my commitment to improve our Valley's parks and make them great places for children and families to play, learn and thrive. Our kids deserve it!
Thank you to everyone who joined us including North Valley Caring Services, Communities In Schools of San Fernando Valley & Greater Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley Partnership Inc., Penny Lane Centers, the North Hills East Neighborhood Council, and everyone else who came out!
Fighting Human Trafficking Through Legislation and Police Stings in the District
Recently, I was joined by Dr. Stephany Powell of Journey Out, City Attorney Mike Feuer, and District Attorney Jackie Lacey to recognize United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Together, we introduced the launch of the Human Trafficking Posting Project (HTPP). Led by Journey Out, the HTPP builds on previous outreach efforts to better serve victims and survivors by empowering local governments to enforce posting emergency resource signs and targeting establishments where human trafficking is prevalent.
By posting signs in businesses and bus stations, victims and anyone who suspects human trafficking is taking place will have greater access to 24-hour hotlines and be better positioned to report a potential incident of human trafficking. Of course, we hope that businesses will voluntarily comply. But, we are prepared to secure compliance through other legal means, if necessary. When a girl doesn’t know who to call, simply seeing a poster with the right number on it gives her a little window of opportunity to escape. That is why I introduced a motion to ask the City Attorney to draft an ordinance to ensure that local businesses display these emergency service posters.
I also joined the LAPD's Valley Bureau and Vice Unit in July for a sting operation where undercover women officers helped arrest pimps and Johns who still frequent Sepulveda Boulevard. KTLA’s Christina Pascucci joined us for the operation as well. You can check out her segment on my Facebook here. It was a busy evening.
In the few hours I was there, undercover officers nabbed two men trying to pay them for sex. For me, it was a stark reminder of how important our work on human trafficking is. Since I was elected, I have worked with LAPD to change the way law enforcement approaches human trafficking. Before my time on the City Council, law enforcement often focused their energy towards cracking down on women selling themselves for sex on the street. Since then, LAPD has moved away from primarily cracking down on women and instead focuses more on the pimps and johns. These are the individuals responsible for this vicious cycle - not the women and girls caught in the middle.