Lead Story West Edition

2018 IN REVIEW: Legalized marijuana, sidewalk vending are among top stories

 

Elected officials had a busy year in 2018, trying to solve the homeless crisis, dealing with the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana and for many of them, running for re-election.

Those were three of the top news stories over the past 12 months as reported by The Wave. Here is our annual look back at the stories of the year.

Spending begins

on homeless solutions

LOS ANGELES — City and county officials began spending money building new shelters and other housing facilities in a effort to get more people off the streets.

In his annual State of the City address in April, Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged $20 million for emergency shelters in what he called A Bridge Home program.

Garcetti said he wanted A Bridge Home facility in each of the city’s 15 council district complete with trailers, tents and other emergency shelters to “confront the greatest moral and humanitarian crisis of our time.”

Garcetti estimated that through the plan, 1,500 beds would be added to shelters, providing 6,000 people a place to sleep every night if each bed serves four people over the course of a year.

The first Bridge Home facility opened in downtown near Olvera Street. A site in Hollywood also was selected and in October, Councilman Mike Bonin suggested using part of the Westwood Veterans Administration complex for another Bridge Home.

Things didn’t go so well in City Council President’s Herb Wesson’s 10th District. A site the councilman selected on Vermont Avenue near Koreatown was shot down by residents and property owners who forced Wesson to find another site.

In September, the county Board of Supervisors approved $9 million in Measure H funding to be distributed to cities in an effort to promote community-centric solutions to homelessness.

Two-thirds of the $9 million — to be paid out over 18 months beginning in January — will fund projects to increase the supply of interim and permanent housing. The remaining $3 million will be spent on efforts to enhance homelessness services.

Phil Ansell, who heads the county’s Homeless Initiative, said each city has distinct concerns.

“Cities have an important role and a unique perspective on the solutions to homelessness, and the county values each city’s distinct resources, challenges and perspectives,” Ansell said.

A total of 41 cities submitted plans in response to the county’s call for local solutions, with ideas ranging from hiring homeless coordinators to changing local ordinances to increase local housing stock. Those cities will now be eligible to participate in a request for proposal process.

The annual homeless count is coming up at the end of January. Last year’s count

revealed a 5 percent decrease in homeless numbers for the city of Los Angeles and a 3 percent decrease in the county overall.

Officials are hoping for a bigger decrease in the upcoming count.

Water company

shut down by state

COMPTON — In April, residents of Compton and Willowbrook began complaining about the water coming out of the taps of people served by the Sativa Los Angeles County Water District.

Elected officials from Washington, Sacramento and the county Hall of Administration quickly reacted to prevent a problem like the one Flint, Michigan, endured.

“One day living with brown water is one day too many,” said U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-San Pedro, who represents the area in Congress. “Our families deserve to know that the water they drink won’t hurt them or their children. Clean water is a basic human right. For too long the residents of Compton have had doubts about their water quality. This situation is unacceptable.”

Assemblyman Mike Gipson and county Supervisors Janice Hahn and Mark Ridley-Thomas, helped lead the charge for new oversight of the Sativa Water Company.

Ridley-Thomas and Hahn had bottled water distributed to residents.

Gipson introduced a bill in Sacramento that gave the state Water Resources Control Board oversight of Sativa. Eventually, the state board approved the county Department of Public Works as overseer of the water district until new arrangements can be made.

“All residents, including within the Sativa Water District, should feel confident that when they turn on their faucet, they can expect clean, clear water. Plain and simple,” Ridley-Thomas said. “This issue is a wake-up call that not all water districts may be equipped to adequately provide this vital service, and when that is the case, the status quo should not prevail.”

Cities throughout Los Angeles County took different paths dealing with new laws that legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults. A few cities began permitting cannabis shops to open within their boundaries but most of the 88 cities in the county chose to take a wait-and-see approach. (File photo)

Reactions are mixed

on legalized cannabis

LOS ANGELES — The city was one of the few in the county to pass laws allowing the sale of recreational marijuana and related businesses. Most of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County took a wait-and-see approach.

Sales of marijuana were so high in the city of Los Angeles that the city was able to expand the number of employees in the Department of Cannabis Regulations from five to 21 in February.

The city expected to collect $3.5 million in marijuana-related fees by the end of the fiscal year in June.

West Hollywood, Long Beach, Bellflower, Maywood, Cudahy and Huntington Park were among the cities that passed ordinances allowing marijuana shops to operate.

Los Angeles County, which continues to ban the sale of recreational cannabis in unincorporated areas, spent time trying to figure out how to close shops that were operating illegally.

Supervisor Hilda Solis urged law enforcement agencies to get tough on businesses operating in defiance of the ban.

“For the past year and a half I have been working closely with many community members from my district to combat illegally operating marijuana businesses,” Solis said. “Before the county considers recommendations for expanding marijuana businesses, we must put into place effective measures to end illegal operators.”

Solis called efforts to shut down illegal businesses amounted to a “countywide game of whack-a-mole,” with a new operator popping up in place of every closed business.

And, to no one’s surprise, a report from the county Department of Public Health found that marijuana use was increasing with 12 percent of adults 18 and older using the drug recreationally.

Among adults 21-29, almost 50 percent used pot. The report also indicated that people born in the U.S. were more likely to smoke pot that foreign-born residents.

Triple homicide

shakes Leimert Park

LEIMERT PARK — A triple homicide shook up a quiet neighborhood in May. Three people, Philip White, William Carter and Orsie Carter, were found dead in a house on South Bronson Avenue. All three had been shot and bludgeoned in what a police called a “senseless and brutal” attack.

A day after the killings, Nancy Amelia Jackson was arrested and charged with the murders. Jackson had been a longtime acquaintance of White, who had been living at the house for several weeks.

White’s mother, Orsie Carter, and stepfather apparently were concerned that Jackson was manipulating White and taking advantage of him,” LAPD Capt. Peter Willingham said.

“This was a case where somebody who was down on their luck [Jackson], it appears, found somebody, a kind-hearted, giving person to provide help and support and give her a chance to get off the street,” Whittingham said. “But in doing so, she also used that opportunity, in my view, a chance to manipulate Mr. White, who as we know was disabled, and take unfair advantage of him and his kindness, and what we see at the location is a result of that kindness that was extended to [her] by Mr. White.”

Jackson is in jail awaiting trial on three murder charges.

Plans for a 42-acre project, which would include restaurants, retail stores and residential housing, were revealed this year for the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The project, which still needs City Council approval, is expected to be completed by 2021.
(File photo)

Renovations planned

for Crenshaw mall

CRENSHAW — One of the better news stories of the year involves the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza project. When it comes to discussions being held on the revitalization of the area, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition held an important meeting about the fears of gentrification in the area and what could be done to liven up the community.

Well, for one, there is the matter of the black-owned investment firm Capri Capital Partners, which dropped $750 million towards the upgrade of the 42-acre project, which would include restaurants, retail stores and residential housing. The project is expected to be completed by 2021.

“We have an understanding of what we want in this community, we have an understanding of what this project can do to the community, and now we’re trying to get to a space where we make recommendations as to what this project should be,” said Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

The project was approved June 5 by the Los Angeles City Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

It will include a retail space, a 400-room hotel, a 10-story office building, 410 apartments and 551 condominiums.

“The passion and commitment to South Los Angeles by our community runs deep,” said City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “This community has been waiting on this development for 10 to 12 years and it will provide the kind of investment that South Los Angeles deserves.”

Skipp Townsend — co-founder and executive director of 2nd Call, a gang-intervention nonprofit in South Los Angeles –– believes the renovations will open doors for overlooked residents.

“I am in favor of this project because the local hiring requirements will create employment opportunities for the people who are normally never considered for work,” Townsend said.

“I helped place former gang members at the Kaiser Permanente construction site in South Los Angeles because of the local hiring requirement for that project and now those folks are able to buy homes,” he added. “This project can help create opportunities for people that have been thrown away.”

Lawsuits target

proposed arena

INGLEWOOD — The city is fast becoming the epicenter of titanic happenings. Already blessed with the arrival of two NFL teams (Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers) set to make Inglewood home by 2020, the city went out and swung for the fences in trying to land an NBA team to replace the Lakers, who moved to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles in 1999.

Because of the way Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts has been able to nurture relationships to make the city appealing to the NFL, Steve Ballmer and the Los Angeles Clippers have hopped on the bandwagon as well. Since Ballmer, the Clippers and city began negotiating to get a new arena built near the football stadium, there have been lawsuits filed by Uplift Inglewood Coalition and Madison Square Gardens to block the project. The city of Inglewood, of course, countered those lawsuits with legal action of its own.

“The Inglewood City Council’s first responsibility is to its residents and their quality of life while ensuring continued progress, opportunities for employment, and improved public safety,” Butts said. “I still believe that we will be able to come together and find an amicable resolution.

“To that end, the city of Inglewood has a policy of not discussing pending litigation because ultimately that is for the court to decide, but I do want to say that life goes on unabated for both the Forum and the city of Inglewood.”

Madison Square Gardens, which owns and operates the Forum, claims it had a lease on the property where the new arena will be built as a parking option for people attending the Forum, but city officials talked them out of that property in favor of another site, without letting them know a new arena might be built there.

Madison Square Gardens said a new arena that close to the Forum would compete for concerts and other events with the Forum.

The Clippers have a lease with Staples Center that runs through 2024, but it is well known that Ballmer wants his own arena that he won’t have to share with the Lakers.

New sheriff made

electoral history

LOS ANGELES — There weren’t a lot of surprises on Election Day in Los Angeles County, Most incumbents won re-election easily.

The biggest surprise was in the race for Los Angeles County sheriff where incumbent Jim McDonnell became the first incumbent county sheriff in more than a century to be defeated.

Retired sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva defeated McDonnell, who served for 28 years with the Los Angeles Police Department before becoming Long Beach’s chief of police in 2010.

McDonnell was elected county sheriff in 2014 after Sheriff Lee Baca resigned. He defeated Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Baca’s top aide.

But four years later, McDonnell was defeated by Villanueva, who was supported by the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the union representing rank-and-file sheriff deputies.

Villanueva ran on a platform of “reform, rebuild and restore” the sheriff’s department, which had been tainted by scandal that resulted in Baca, Tanaka and other deputies going to jail after being convicted of federal charges related to violence in county jails.

He quickly made changes at the command level, relieving of duty an undersheriff, four assistant sheriffs, eight chiefs, a communications director and a community outreach director,

He also reiterated a promise to remove federal immigration agents from county jails and announced he would cut down the list of roughly 150 misdemeanor offenses that trigger department cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Also on Election Day, several longtime Republican districts in Orange and San Diego went Democratic as the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives in Washington.

In Sacramento, all constitutional officers remained Democrats, led by former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who replaced the retiring Jerry Brown as governor.

Sidewalk vending

becomes legal

LOS ANGELES — Until Nov. 28, Los Angeles was the only large city in the United States where sidewalk vending was against the law.

That changed when the City Council ended years of debate by finalizing an ordinance that legalizes and regulates sidewalk vending. The council action came before a new state law that takes effect Jan. 1 that took much of the decision-making regarding sidewalk vendors out of the hands of local municipalities.

The state law only allow cities to impose vending restrictions based on health, welfare or safety concerns, and also prevents cities from enforcing vending regulations if they do not have a local system in place that conforms with the state law.

Los Angeles will implement a permit system that allows vendors to sell their wares on a certain block or in a certain zone, instead of a regulatory system that would have created a set of rules and standards but would not have granted site-specific permission to vendors.

The council also established no-vending zones — based on health, welfare or safety concerns — at Dodger Stadium, the Hollywood Bowl, Universal Studios, Staples Center, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and other major tourist attractions.

The law requires vendors to be located at least three feet apart from each other, but does not restrict how many vendors can be on an individual block.

The state law prohibits any rule requiring vendors to obtain the permission of nearby brick-and-mortar businesses — something that had been strongly opposed by industry advocates. The City Council considered such a restriction, but abandoned the idea in April.

As 2018 drew to a close, many cities outside Los Angeles were considering their own rules and regulations.

Both South Gate and Huntington Park adopted ordinances requiring permits for sidewalk vendors to conform with the new state law.

Beck replaced by

Moore at LAPD

LOS ANGELES — When 2018 began, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck had two more years to serve out his second and final five-year term as chief.

Thus, it came as a surprise at the end of January when Beck announced he would be stepping down as polic chief June 27.

Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Michel Moore, who was a finalist for the chief’s position in 2010, to replace Beck.

“The department is ready for fresh eyes to take our organization to even higher levels,” Beck said at a news conference that was called to discuss 2017 crime statistics.

Beck joined the department as a reserve officer in March 1975. He became a full-time officer in March 1977. He was promoted to sergeant in 1984, to lieutenant in 1993, to captain in 1999 and commander in 2005. He became a deputy chief in 2006.

Garcetti called Beck “a man who has led with his heart. This is a man who has been forged in steel, whose family lives and breathes policing, and yet he is one of the most humanistic people I know.”

Garcetti chose Moore, a 36-year LAPD veteran, over Deputy Chief Robert Arcos, and Bill Scott, a former LAPD officer who is now the chief of the San Francisco Police Department.

“One of the most important questions of the moment may be, ‘Why do I want to be the next chief of police of this great city?’ And it’s pretty simple,” Moore said at the press conference announcing his selection. “I wish to continue the momentum in building trust, particularly in communities of color, and improving public safety.”

He added that he wants to make the LAPD “more diverse and representative” while continuing to support those who work for it.

By Dennis J. Freeman

Contributing Writer