Open Letter From Our NC President

Our Neighborhood Council President, Paula Gerez, read the statement below to the City Council this morning, in opposition to our Councilman’s proposal to create homeless encampments at our parks and beaches. This verbatim statement has been shared with permission.

May 26, 2021

Open Letter from Paula Gerez, President of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester / Playa to Los Angeles City Council on May 25, 2021 during public comment on Agenda item 16 (Reference: Council File 21-0350)

Good morning Council President Martinez and Council Members and thank you for the opportunity to speak.

My name is Paula Gerez, and I am the president of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester Playa, whose footprint includes many of the areas discussed in the motion before you. I am here today to express the outrage and concern of thousands of local residents who have been negatively impacted by the failed policies related to homelessness in CD11. But I am also here to express the community’s disgust with the way the needs of the unhoused are being ignored in our community.

First, let me say that our Neighborhood Council has supported Councilman Bonin’s Safe Parking program not once, but twice. We also voted to support the exploration of a limited safe camping zone within Westchester Park that includes access to restrooms, showers and security.

Today, however, you are being asked to vote on a broad and far-reaching motion that hopes to create so-called safe camping areas throughout our parks and beaches, on airport land and even in areas that are privately owned. While just a study at this point, it is clear that Councilman Bonin intends to allow encampments on as many spaces as possible. He says public land is all he controls and he’s ready to offer that up to the unhoused without guaranteeing security, resources, sanitation or the other many critical elements of actually getting people off the streets.

Simply providing land on which the unhoused can camp, does nothing to address the root cause of homelessness. Our community has been appalled by the way Councilman Bonin has handled the homeless crisis in other parts of his district, most notably in Venice. Looking at how he has chosen to confront the homeless issue there, we have ZERO confidence that his plan, or lack thereof, in Westchester will fare any better.

Furthermore, more than 1,000 people have reached out to the Neighborhood Council to express their concerns about the safety of children in the park; the loss of access to park and beach space in a community that is park-poor; the disenfranchisement of the seniors who used to come to the senior center but no longer feel safe enough to do so; the increasing instances of crime, public nudity and human excrement and urination in the park; the environmental and health issues associated with expanding encampments; the visual blight and more.

Residents and business owners in our community are desperate to save our community from the fate that has befallen Venice, where violence is commonplace, and parents are afraid to let their children walk to school or go to the beach in an area that used to be the envy of the entire nation. Councilman Bonin promised that the area around the Bridge Housing project in Venice would be well-maintained and that the project would not serve as a magnet for more encampments, but the opposite is true. Venice residents have come to our Neighborhood Council meetings begging us not to allow in our community what has already happened in theirs. They implore us not to believe Councilman Bonin when he says the city can keep the area around these new zones for the unhoused safe and clean because those promises have certainly gone unfulfilled in Venice. We don’t believe him. We have seen what he has done, or rather what he has not done, already. While no one deserves to live on the street, it is also true that no one deserves to fear to their life when walking to their car. No one deserves to step in human feces when walking along the beach. No one deserves to have the very few recreational areas in our community destroyed by people who simply don’t care. No one deserves fires in the wetlands. No one deserves to live in a city where clear and obvious crimes do not have repercussions. No one deserves to have their children exposed to blatant drug use and nudity while walking to school.

But what is truly concerning is how this proposal and Councilman Bonin’s current policies related to the unhoused ignore the welfare of the unhoused themselves. Especially as the result of the pandemic, the unhoused population is growing and now, more than ever, filled with people who don’t want to be on the streets. Many are women and many are single mothers with children. I shudder to think how these families would fare in the midst of unregulated “safe camping” areas Councilman Bonin hopes to spread across Westchester Park or Dockweiler Beach. It is not hard to imagine these folks being the victims of sexual or physical abuse, theft and worse. And while Councilman Bonin has often talked about the need for security, resources and services among the unhoused, we have yet to see that done by him and the city in other parts of his district where encampments continue to grow. Rather than spending his time promulgating the expansion of the failed policy he has used to ruin Venice, he, and all of you, should be pushing the county, state and federal government to provide more funding and more resources to address the crime, mental and physical health issues and sanitation and disease concerns that are rampant in the kinds of encampments he is now exploring in Westchester. The city should be seeking out public-private partnerships with corporations and with non-profit agencies to create programs that really work.

Why are we considering the wide-scale expansion of policies that have already failed in CD 11? I am not naive, and I know that despite the opposition of hundreds and even thousands of nearby residents, this motion is likely to pass. But I implore you not to dive into a policy that cannot be reversed when it does not work.

In the real world, new ideas require a proof of concept. Our community demands that the city and Councilman Bonin PROVE that they can really accomplish what they say they can on a small scale before subjecting residents and the unhoused to sprawling encampments with no resources, no security and no hope of real help to get off the street. Councilman Bonin should be exploring changes to the law to allow mandatory intervention for members of the unhoused community who are violent, mentally ill or in some way pose a risk to those around them. Councilman Bonin should be working hard to get people who want to get off the streets the services and resources they need to actually get off the streets, not just move into a tiny house. Councilman Bonin should be exploring a no camping ordinance – one that is actively enforced – to allow residents to use the parks and beaches in our community for their intended purposes. In his zeal to look like the guy who is solving homelessness, he is neglecting the social and psychological impacts his failed policies are having on our community’s children, seniors and families.

Children who once enjoyed our park for lacrosse, baseball, frisbee, basketball and more no longer feel safe going to the park. That fear and that inability to use our city’s recreational spaces has consequences. Families who once celebrated milestone events with parties in the park or relaxed with a weekend picnic, no longer feel safe going to the park. Those family moments being stolen from our community has consequences. Seniors who relied on the senior center for socialization and even daily meals, no longer feel safe using the center because of the aggressive people Councilman Bonin has allowed to live encircling the center. Seniors living in fear or trapped at home with no social interaction has consequences.

Councilman Bonin’s new plan is dangerous – dangerous for the unhoused who he expects to live in these encampments, dangerous for the residents and business owners who will be negatively impacted by these encampments and dangerous for public policy that encourages the bringing together of the unhoused in a place where they will have no help and no hope of getting off the streets.

I believe Councilman Bonin thinks his plan is a positive one. I know he has a huge and empathetic heart and I know he wants his plan to work. Our community simply disagrees that it can. His policies have been an abject failure in Venice, and it’s time to try something more thoughtful, more multi-jurisdictional, and more effective that places the needs of the unhoused at the forefront. A plan that provides REAL solutions and REAL assistance. A plan that is uniformly supported in words and dollars by every level of government. And a plan that can be proven effective in small, pilot programs before it is scaled at such proportions that it cannot be unwound if it doesn’t work.

It is criminal that our city and our nation has allowed the unhoused population to explode for so long without coming up with meaningful and effective solutions. But surrendering our parks and our beaches to the unhoused with no real plan to actually get them off the streets is a disastrous way of addressing the problem. We do not need a feasibility study to see if people should be allowed to camp in our parks and beaches. We have real life case studies that demonstrate that it is a terrible idea with unacceptable consequences. It is not safe, humane or compassionate and it is not housing.

The city created the Neighborhood Council system to give a voice to the neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Will you listen to the Neighborhood Councils from these affected neighborhoods? On behalf of the thousands of residents who have contacted us and
the thousands more who suffer in silence, I urge you to vote against this motion.

Thank you kindly,
Paula Gerez, President
http://www.ncwpdr.org

Act Now To Voice Your Opinion About Our Park Situation

Hi Friends!! Mike Bonin’s motion to the City Council asking for a feasibility study regarding homeless camping in Westchester Park is up for a vote on Wednesday. It sailed through the Homeless Committee last week and that was the last chance for verbal public comment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak up as the matter makes its way to the full Council on Wednesday’s agenda.

Our Neighborhood Council’s position if you want to support it specifically is to ask that Westchester Park be removed from the motion. This petition against the Mar Vista Park being in the motion makes great points if you want some ideas for more specific arguments. Please emphasize the safety issues and not the more NIMBY issues like “our kids need parks.”

When contacting councilmembers in other districts, they will discount non-constituents, so you would want to leave a more generic message like “homeless encampments don’t belong in our parks and near residential neighborhoods.” USE VERY OBVIOUS SUBJECT LINES in emails in case your message is not opened – PLEASE DON’T GIVE OUR PUBLIC PARKS OVER TO HOUSING ENCAMPMENTS. It is critical that we contact ALL councilmembers because they will all vote on the motion.

There are some who advocate for this “feasibility” study, but we don’t need some expensive study to tell us that camping at the park is not working for the park’s inhabitants and it’s not working for our community. Alternative locations have been suggested.

If you care about this issue, take 15 minutes right now to leave/send as many messages as possible. Numbers matter. Legislators hate scrutiny and they need to know we are watching and that we vote.

Usually, the council rubberstamps committee recommendations. That is no reason not to loudly send the message that the community does not support the motion. You can already see that many Neighborhood Council’s have submitted Community Impact Statements and most oppose the motion. You’ll find the council file here.

I created a series of tweets tagging the councilmembers and I’ve emailed all their offices. Today I’m going to submit a public comment card.

This is what you need to do to help create a lot of noise:

1. Fill out the Public Comment Form at https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/. The file number is 21-0350.

2. Call and email ALL councilmembers:

DISTRICT 1 — GIL CEDILLO
City Hall: (213) 473-7001
Westlake Office: (323) 276-7177
Highland Park Office: (323) 550-1538
Glassell Park Office: (323) 341-5671
Gilbert.Cedillo@lacity.org
councilmember.cedillo@lacity.org
@CMGilCedillo

DISTRICT 2 — PAUL KREKORIAN
City Hall: (213) 473-7002
North Hollywood Office: (818) 755-7676
councilmember.Krekorian@lacity.org
@PaulKrekorian

DISTRICT 3 — BOB BLUMENFIELD
City Hall: (213) 473-7003
Reseda Office: (818) 774-4330
councilmember.blumenfield@lacity.org
@BobBlumenfield

DISTRICT 4 — NITHYA RAMAN
City Hall: (213) 473-7004
Hollywood Office: (323) 957-6415
Sherman Oaks Office: (818) 728-9924
contactCD4@lacity.org
@cd4losangeles

DISTRICT 5 — PAUL KORETZ
City Hall: (213) 473-7005
Beverly Grove Office: (323) 866-1828
Encino Office: (818) 971-3088
paul.koretz@lacity.org
@PaulKoretz

CD5 DISTRICT 6 — COUNCIL PRESIDENT NURY MARTINEZ
City Hall: (213) 473-7006
Van Nuys Office: (818) 778-4999
Sun Valley Office: (818) 771-0236
councilmember.martinez@lacity.org
@CD6Nury

DISTRICT 7 — MONICA RODRIGUEZ
City Hall: (213) 473-7007
Sylmar Office: (818) 756-8409
Pacoima Office: (818) 485-0600
Sunland-Tujunga Office: (818) 352-3287
councilmember.rodriguez@lacity.org
@MRodCD7

DISTRICT 8 — MARQUEECE HARRIS DAWSON
City Hall: (213) 473-7008
South Central Office: (213) 485-7616
councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org
@MHDCD8

DISTRICT 9 — CURREN PRICE
City Hall: (213) 473-7009
Downtown Office: (323) 846-2651
councilmember.price@lacity.org
@CurrenDPriceJr

DISTRICT 10 — MARK RIDLEY-THOMAS
City Hall: (213) 473-7010
Koreatown Office: (323) 733-8233
Mark.ridley-thomas@lacity.org
@mridleythomas

DISTRICT 11 — MIKE BONIN (OUR DISTRICT)
City Hall: (213) 473-7011
Temporary Central COVID Number: (213) 444-3508
West LA Office: (310) 575-8461
Westchester Office: (310) 568-8772
councilmember.bonin@lacity.org
@MikeBoninLA

DISTRICT 12 — JOHN LEE
City Hall: (213) 473-7012
Chatsworth Office: (818) 882-1212
councilmember.Lee@lacity.org
@CD12LA

DISTRICT 13 — MITCH O’FARRELL
City Hall: (213) 473-7013
Echo Park Office: (213) 207-3015
Hollywood Office: (213) 207-3015
councilmember.ofarrell@lacity.org
@MitchOFarrell

DISTRICT 14 — KEVIN DE LEON
City Hall: (213) 473-7014
Boyle Heights Office: (323) 526-9332
El Sereno Office: (323) 226-1646
Northeast Los Angeles Office: (323) 254-5295
councilmember.kevindeleon@lacity.org
@KdeLeon

DISTRICT 15 — JOE BUSCAINO
City Hall: (213) 473-7015
Harbor Office: (310) 732-4515
Watts Office: (323)-568-2083
councilmember.buscaino@lacity.org
@JoeBuscaino

Thank you for reading! Please act. Silence at this point can get drowned out by opposing voices.

An Open Letter To Our Councilman About Development of the Grinder Lot

Word is out in the development community that Westchester is commutable to Silicon Beach and property is cheap (ok, compared to other westside communities). The proliferation of multi-family units is mind-boggling.

I’ve been following one such proposed development extra closely because it falls within the boundaries of Kentwood Home Guardians, the HOA whose Board of Directors I sit on. The project, proposed for 8521 Sepulveda Blvd. (the site of the former Grinder restaurant), has been making the rounds of the neighborhood groups, trying to drum up support for the project ahead of City review.

Do I think the project is too tall for the neighborhood? Yes. Do I think this is a project to block? In the current political climate, no.

Let me explain.

In recent years, our State legislators have taken it upon themselves to legislate zoning density at the city level, ostensibly to alleviate California’s housing shortage. The problem is they sit in Sacramento and couldn’t possibly know what is going on in every city in the State. One recent law gives developers rights Continue reading “An Open Letter To Our Councilman About Development of the Grinder Lot”

An Open Letter To Our Councilman

This is the text of an email I sent to our Councilman and his staff today, following last night’s Public Hearing on the ICO.**

Subject: Last Night’s Public Hearing On The ICO

Hi Team Mike! I wanted to share a couple of observations from last night’s public hearing. As Mike knows, I live in Kentwood, but my real estate business covers Silicon Beach and I pay particular attention to Venice and Mar Vista, so I stayed for all of those comments.

My biggest take away from the comments was that the ICO areas are too generally drawn. I hadn’t thought about it myself, but North Kentwood and South Kentwood are significantly different. Many of the North Kentwood homes were built large in the 1980’s by UCLA or have already been enlarged. I thought that was an interesting enough observation, but the Mar Vista and East Venice neighbors spoke next and said the same thing about their communities having different pockets.

My second observation is that it’s nice to see another option thrown in (the R1new), but it’s causing confusion.

My third observation is that several people spoke about wanting to go “back” to where we were before the ICO, without Continue reading “An Open Letter To Our Councilman”

What Happens When Kentwood’s ICO Expires?

Kentwood ICO, say no to unreasonable restrictions on single family homes, R1V1 for KentwoodThis post has been updated at the bottom to reflect information provided at the September 13th public hearing on the ICO.

____________________________________

Much has happened in the 18 months since I first wrote about Kentwood’s ICO. The City of LA has been very busy cooking up restrictions for the entire City on what we can do with our Single Family Homes. Every time a restriction tightens, it means less that you can do to enhance your home and, consequently, a loss in potential value.

Historical R-1 Restrictions

Single Family Homes in Westchester and the rest of the City of LA are subject to zoning restrictions that limit size and use. First adopted in 1946, the current Zoning Code has grown from a simple 84-page document to an unwieldy 600+ page book. Even as recently as 2008, LA’s Code was very permissive. Height, floor area and required yard setbacks were the only provisions that addressed building mass and placement.

The BMO Is Born

The early zoning restrictions worked until land values started rising in the 1990’s. Then homeowners Continue reading “What Happens When Kentwood’s ICO Expires?”

We’re Not Fans of Mansionization But Here Are 6 Reasons My Family Opposes The Kentwood ICO

Say NO to the Kentwood ICO

Update on 12/3/2015: A version of the new proposed citywide Baseline Mansionization Ordinance has been drafted and is currently the subject of public hearings. While I haven’t yet taken a deep dive into the proposed BMO, my preliminary read finds it to be similar but more restrictive than the ICO. The arguments in my original post below still apply. 🙂

——————————————–

I love Westchester. My family has called Kentwood our home since my daughter was born almost 13 years ago. We love our home and we love the sense of community here. I don’t want to see oversized houses ruin the character of our neighborhood, but my family opposes the Kentwood ICO.

This view is going to be unpopular with some of our neighbors, but let me explain.

First, by way of background, I am an attorney and I practiced law for over 10 years. I can read a municipal ordinance at least as well as the next person. More recently, I’m a Coldwell Banker realtor focused on the beach cities, including Westchester. I fully understand the changes brought about by the growth of “Silicon Beach” and why our community is a target for developers. In fact, I understand the evolution of Silicon Beach better than most.

Also, my husband is a 30-year civil engineer who spent the early part of his career in land development. He, too, can read an ordinance.

Together, we poured over the language of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance ICO as it pertains to Kentwood and we see at least 6 reasons Continue reading “We’re Not Fans of Mansionization But Here Are 6 Reasons My Family Opposes The Kentwood ICO”

Let’s Get The Vote Out For Sunday’s NCWP Election

vote 3Local neighbors and business owners want to help get the vote out!

To enjoy a free beer or Playa Punch at Mo’s Place At The Beach in Playa del Rey or a free beer at Tompkins Square Bar & Grill, stop in at the My Vote Counts table on your way in to vote to get your sticker.

Look for the table in the park on your way in to vote.

Please note that because this offer is not sanctioned by EmpowerLA (the group that oversees NCWP elections), the table will be at least 100 feet from polling in the Municipal Building at at 7166 W. Manchester Ave (next door to the Library).

Polling hours are 10 am to 4 pm. Don’t forget to bring evidence that you live, work or own property in Westchester, Playa del Rey or Playa Vista. A list of acceptable documentation can be found here.

If you’re in Playa del Rey, there is a shuttle running between Mo’s and the polls from 10:30 to 3:30.

Thank You To My Neighbors For Endorsing Me For NCWP

Thank you neighbors!

Click To Enlarge
Click To Enlarge

Thank you to my neighbors for endorsing my run for the Neighborhood Council Westchester Playa! Please know that your confidence is well-placed. I am completely committed to:

  • Being a voice for our community to City Hall
  • Putting my community’s interests first and above my own interests
  • Protecting and preserving the unique character of each of our constituent communities
  • Being a leader for change and transparent communication
  • Putting families and safety first

I also plan on supporting these candidates who stand for my same principles: Continue reading “Thank You To My Neighbors For Endorsing Me For NCWP”

Guess Who’s Running For Neighborhood Council?

welcome to westchester, ca

Why Me? Why Now?

My family and I have lived in Westchester for almost 12 years. I still remember when our realtor suggested we consider the neighborhood. Despite years of business travel and taking taxis between the Marina and LAX, I had no idea the neighborhood even existed, hidden as it was behind all those big, beautiful mature trees along Sepulveda Boulevard.

At first, we were reluctant to look at anything so “far” south. I’d always worked in Westwood and Century City, and my idea of “south” was Mar Vista. Comparing Mar Vista to Westchester, we quickly learned that the houses and lots are considerably larger for the same money, so Westchester it was.

We found ourselves a beautiful little updated bungalow in South Kentwood that we had all of 20 minutes to consider before writing our offer in the real estate frenzy of 2002.

It was a crazy time. Our closing kept getting pushed out and the NICU release date of uber-preemie baby kept creeping up (we definitely had no complaints on the latter event). We finally got our keys with one week to outfit the house before our very tiny bundle of joy came home.

We’ve loved Westchester and have been so happy that we landed here. Watching families walk the neighborhood with small children and dogs still brings Continue reading “Guess Who’s Running For Neighborhood Council?”

Playa del Rey Animal Shelter Drive


Saturday, Dec. 3rd 2011
9a-2p
Triangle Park
@ Waterview & Trask

Please bring: new or gently used blankets, beds, towels, washable cat & dog toys (large KONG toys are great), assorted treats for cats & dogs (avoid rawhide & pig ears), grooming items, travel crates, cat litter, unopened bags of dog & cat food, canned food, new collars and leashes.

Blankets and beds provide shelter animals warmth, comfort, security and a cozy place to snuggle, especially during freezing months in outdoor shelters. Questions? Call Donna @ 310 890-3881