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New City Budget Item Approved for Healthy Market Conversions

Posted by Robert Baird, Food Systems & Land Use Policy Analyst on May 28th, 2015
Photo Credit: shutterstock

The growing role of corner stores in creating healthy food access was recognized by the LA City Council on March 27, when it updated its Consolidated Plan for federal grant expenditures to include a new funding source of $250,000 for the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network. The program, which is coordinated by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, organizes local store owners in food desert communities to capitalize on investment resources for offering healthier food selections and to sustain benefits from corner store conversions for the long-term. The work of the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network evolved from initial efforts by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to transform corner stores into access points for quality produce and staple foods and, despite lacking the financing capabilities of the now-dissolved CRA, has guided market conversions in multiple neighborhoods, including Alba Snacks & Services in South Los Angeles. Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from the Consolidated Plan will empower the program to maintain and scale the outreach efforts, business training, finance referrals and technical assistance services it provides to current and potential healthy market owners. The modest budget amount also represents a launching point for growing funding commitments by City agencies to address nutrition resource needs of underserved communities, which have languished following the dissolution of the CRA in 2012. Corner markets comprise 60% or more of the food retail landscape in many parts of South LA and East LA, and are the only grocery shopping option for many people who lack reliable car transportation.  Community Health Councils, Community Coalition and Groceryships were among the organizations that supported the program’s funding in the adopted plan.

For more information, please contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Robert Baird at rbaird@chc-inc.org.

Mobility Element in Final Stages at City Planning Commission

Posted by Naomi Iwasaki, Mobility Policy Analyst on May 27th, 2015
Photo credit: Andres Ramirez, Community Liaison, CHC

After nearly four years of planning, research and public engagement, the Department of City Planning (DCP) will present the most revised draft of Mobility Plan 2035, the City of Los Angeles update to the General Plan Transportation Element, to the City Planning Commission (CPC) on May 28 at Van Nuys City Hall. This document sets a framework for the future of transportation planning and policy in Los Angeles and impacts agency priorities and direction for the next 20 years. Mobility Plan 2035 does an excellent job of prioritizing a multi-modal landscape that emphasizes safety over vehicle speed and is a welcome change from previous car-centric transportation policies. Los Angeles is increasingly embracing active and low-emission transportation alternatives.

State legislation AB 32 (2006) and SB 375 (2008) holds California to the ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. As transportation accounts for over 1/3 of the state’s emissions, it is crucial to focus on reducing pollution from this sector. Mobility Plan 2035 encourages non-motorized modes of transportation such as walking and biking but also on options that reduce emissions such as public transportation and low-emissions or electronic vehicles. While these changes will improve the air quality of Los Angeles, they also provide an unprecedented opportunity to improve public health through physical activity. Incorporating walking, biking, skateboard/scooter rolling and other people-powered transportation into the daily lives of Los Angeles travelers can greatly decrease rates of diabetes and obesity, create thriving and bustling public space, and spur economic and community development.

DCP will also be presenting details of the 5-year Implementation Strategy for Mobility Plan 2035 at the CPC hearing. Community Health Councils strongly encourage that two programs within the Implementation Strategy currently classified for “deferment” be prioritized and categorized as programs that will be implemented within the first five years after Mobility Plan 2035 adoption:

  • Subsidize Transit Passes: the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“Metro”) has recently received a peer review recommendation to enable colleges and large employers to subsidize transit use. This would support captive transit riders who are reliant on Metro’s fleet without having to impair Metro’s operations funding.
  • Sidewalk Repair: This has become a high-priority issue as the City of Los Angeles recently settled a lawsuit with the Americans Disabilities Act (ADA) to invest $1.3B in sidewalk repair over the next 30 years.

For more information on Mobility Plan 2035 visit la2b.org
To attend the CPC hearing on Mobility Plan 2035 on May 28, arrive at Van Nuys City Hall 14410 Sylvan St, Van Nuys 91401 at 8:30a.

LAHealth4All Coalition Makes My Health LA Program Recommendations to DHS

Posted by Anulkah Thomas, Health Coverage Policy Analyst on May 26th, 2015
Photo credit: california-partnership.org

To date more than 100,000 Los Angeles county residents have enrolled in My Health LA (MHLA), a county program that provides health care to the remaining uninsured not eligible for other health coverage like Medi-Cal or Covered California.  Based on their April 8, 2015 report to the County Board of Supervisors’ health deputies, the Department of Health Services (DHS) expects enrollment to reach between 130,000 and 136,000 by the end of this fiscal year (June 30, 2015).
While the high levels of participation in the young program are encouraging – especially considering DHS did not formally market MHLA – there are several issues advocates have identified as areas for improvement heading into the 2015-2016 fiscal year. In late March, the LAHealth4All coalition sent a letter to DHS director Dr. Mitch Katz offering recommendations on how to address these issues going forward. Specifically, LAHealth4All urges DHS to: 

  • Request increased funding in order to accommodate enrollment beyond the current capacity limit (146,000) and meet the demand for medical and dental services;
  • Expand enrollment venues beyond participating clinics in order to ensure equitable access to the program;
  • Develop and execute a comprehensive plan for consumer-focused outreach and engagement;
  • Establish a data committee to determine what information should be collected, how it should be analyzed and disseminated, and ensure data collection and public reporting remain a priority; and
  • Implement program changes that will improve coordination of care.

 The full letter is available here.  A group of LAHealth4All advocates met with DHS staff who indicated that they are exploring ways to improve the program.

For insight on how the program is working for some participants, read or listen to this recent KPCC news story. For more information on MHLA, please see the My Health LA website or contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Anulkah Thomas at anulkah@chc-inc.org.

Central Avenue Getting Great Streets Treatment

Posted by Naomi Iwasaki, Mobility Policy Analyst on May 25th, 2015
Photo credit: dfwu2 user: pwright1

A corridor with both great historical significance and current relevance that connects Little Tokyo near Downtown Los Angeles through South Los Angeles, Watts and Willowbrook with the city of Carson, Central Avenue is scheduled to see the first of its Great Street treatments later this year. The street boasts many historical landmarks and monuments that harken back to the early- and mid-20th century when Central Avenue in South Los Angeles was known as the city’s paramount jazz epicenter and heart of the Los Angeles black community, including the Dunbar Hotel, Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building  and the now-closed Lincoln Theater. Today, the backbone of Historic South Central remains a bustling, thriving corridor with many local businesses, schools, residents and the home of the annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival.

The Mayor’s Office and Council District 9 selected Central Avenue as one of the City’s first Great Streets under Mayor Garcetti’s first initiative in office. Central Avenue already manages throngs of pedestrians going about their daily lives and has some of the higher pedestrian collision rates in the city. Therefore, the emphasis of these Great Streets projects will be on pedestrian improvements.

Starting as early as fall 2015, Central Avenue between Washington Blvd and Slauson Avenue will see interim treatments to extend the sidewalks by at least five feet. This will give more space for not only people who are walking but also for establishments who would like to improve the quality of life by adding street furniture such as seating, tables, or public art. To accommodate this sidewalk expansion, the street will undergo a “road diet”, which translates to replacing one travel lane with a left-turn only lane for each direction. Studies have shown safety improvements associated with road diets, particularly for rear-end vehicle crashes and pedestrian injuries.

In coordination with the road diet, a pedestrian “way finding” signage project from Los Angeles Walks, the city’s pedestrian advocacy organization, will display multi-lingual signs directing pedestrians to destinations or landmarks based on how many minutes it will take to walk. The signs will be permanent materials, similar to the aluminum of parking regulation signs, and destinations and sign locations are currently being determined by a multi-pronged community outreach process with Community Health Councils, TRUST South LA and the National Health Foundation.  

Measure R2 Countywide Transportation Convening Recap

Posted by Naomi Iwasaki, Mobility Policy Analyst on May 23rd, 2015
Move L.A.’s draft breakdown for a possible 2016 transportation funding measure. Source: Move L.A

When Los Angeles voters approved Measure R in 2008, a half-cent sales tax expected to generate $40B in funding over 30 years, they kicked off an historic rail expansion that is transforming Los Angeles. Today, there are five light rail projects currently under construction (Crenshaw/LAX, Expo Line Extension, Purple Line Extension, Gold Line Extension and the Regional Connector in Little Tokyo. Other projects expected to be funded by Measure R returns include the Green Line expansion, the I-405 Corridor transit project, as well as highway improvements.

In gearing up for an exciting election year in 2016, preliminary conversations have started around another voter-approved sales tax for the ballot next year. Experts, decision makers, advocates and elected officials came together to discuss the potential ballot measure, dubbed “Measure R2” during this pre-ballot period, for the 7th annual Transportation Conversation sponsored by MoveLA on Earth Day April 22 at Union Station. Panelists from across the County representing a variety of communities and interest groups spoke about their own priorities as well as the region’s best interests to a crowd of approximately 600 attendees. Mayor Garcetti and former Mayor Villaraigosa were both highlighted speakers. Topics including safety, sustainability, health, equity, goods movement, disabled access, rideshare, greenhouse gas emissions, affordable housing, driverless vehicles, and economic development all bolstered a recurring theme of what the “new” Los Angeles would look like.

The ballot measure has not yet been approved by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“Metro”) but a draft expenditure plan is expected to be released this June. In 2008 Measure R was placed on the ballot and passed in a relatively quick span of time, with minimal discussion or debate from the public and various stakeholders and no allocations made to active transportation. Now in 2015 a pending ballot measure has become a catalyst for differing and sometimes competing interests in how Los Angeles could—and should—look in the next 30 years. Transportation systems impact every one of us in every aspect of our lives, including housing, food, jobs, education, services and the economy. As Election Day 2016 gets closer, historically overlooked communities such as South Los Angeles will have a greater chance to input on what the Los Angeles of the future will look like and who it will serve.

First 5 LA Strategy Shift Brings an End to Healthy Kids Program

Posted by Anulkah Thomas, Health Coverage Policy Analyst on May 22nd, 2015
Source: Shutterstock

To date First 5 LA, with funds from Prop 10, has invested over $1 billion to support the healthy development of children from the womb through age 5. Recently they released a new strategic plan that shifts funding priorities to policy and systems change efforts. As a result many programs will no longer receive First 5 LA funding and potentially close, such as Healthy Kids. Healthy Kids provides comprehensive health insurance through LA Care to children ages 0 to 5, with family incomes up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), regardless of their immigration status, and who do not qualify other health coverage.

By September 2015, families with children currently in Healthy Kids will receive details about the official close date (expected to be December 31, 2015). At that point families will have other options:

  • Kaiser Child Health Plan (CHP) - same eligibility criteria but a lower income level, 300% FPL. While this program will provide comparable benefits to Healthy Kids, children will lose access to their providers and have to re-establish care within the Kaiser network.
  • My Health LA (MHLA) – similar eligibility criteria but at a much lower income level, 138% FPL.  Currently the program is only available to consumers between the ages of 6 and 64 but a request to amend this will be brought to the LA County Board of Supervisors very soon. MHLA will allow some children to continue using their same providers, but the benefits are substantially less than Healthy Kids and the Kaiser CHP.

New enrollments will be accepted through September 30, 2015.  For more information, or to enroll in Healthy Kids coverage for 2015, families can contact LA Care directly at 1-888-452-2273 or get assistance through a contracted community organization. These agencies can also provide information on other coverage options including Kaiser CHP and MHLA.

For more information, please contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Anulkah Thomas at anulkah@chc-inc.org

Los Angeles Park Needs Assessment Underway

Posted by Heather Davis, Open Space Policy Analyst on May 20th, 2015
Source: Community Health Councils photography

In response to the failure of Proposition P to gain favor with Los Angeles County voters last November, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted and approved a much needed $3.5 million county wide park needs assessment. This assessment, the first of its kind, will produce a detailed study that will center on a community-driven outreach process, with residents and stakeholders throughout the County invited to share input on the future of parks and open space.

The County Department of Parks and Recreation is leading the effort that will encompass both cities and unincorporated areas within Los Angeles County. The goal of the Park Needs Assessment is to engage all communities within the County in a collaborative process to gather data and input for future decision-making on parks and recreation with the goal of increasing understanding of existing park and recreation assets in addition to helping to determine how to improve, expand, and make parks more accessible. Specifically, the final report will determine planning areas and will identify, prioritize, and outline costs for potential park projects.

The park needs assessment is an ambitious project that began in March 2015 and is slated to conclude in May of 2016. The resultant report from the assessment will include a visionary list of projects and cost estimates, in order of priority, for each Planning Area. It will also identify future opportunities for parks and recreation throughout the County by Planning Area, which will assist cities and unincorporated areas in future park planning. Lastly the park needs assessment may be used as a guide for potential development of future funding mechanisms in addition to leveraging Federal and State resources and guiding local funding decisions.

Given the lack of community input into the Proposition P proposal, the County Board of Supervisors is working to ensure that the needs assessment is an inclusive project.  Community members are invited to participate in addition to local agencies and organizations. CHC will actively participate in the assessment to ensure that the voice of South Los Angeles is heard and park and recreation needs are considered. Should you want to stay abreast of the assessment’s progress, the Department of Parks and Recreation has created a new website expressly dedicated for that. You can follow news and updates there because we all need parks!

For more information, please contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Heather at heather@chc-inc.org.

Martin Luther King Jr Community Hospital Opens May 14th

Posted by Ine Collins, Healthcare Systems Policy Analyst on May 13th, 2015
Photo Credit: www.mlkcommunityhospital.org

After eight years since the Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in South Los Angeles closed due to quality of care issues, the new MLK Community Hospital is finally opening on Thursday May 14, 2015. Prior to opening the hospital's inpatient services, the MLK campus has gradually opened an outpatient center and maintained preventative and community-based services throughout the years. The hospital will be undergoing a phased opening while completing its Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Joint Commission certification process. There will be six labor and delivery beds, eight ob/gyn beds, 20 med surg beds, and 10 Intensive Care Unit beds for the first phase of the opening. Every 60 days the hospital will open 20% more beds until November 2015 at which point they will be fully opened. The new hospital is smaller than the original hospital that once had 450 general acute care beds compared to the new hospital with a total of 131 beds. The emergency department is set to open in July, though there are no plans for it to include a trauma center which has been a point of contention for local residents and health advocates. However, DHS completed an analysis about what it would require to develop a trauma center at MLK in the event that the trauma center at St. Francis Medical Center, the only trauma center in South Los Angeles, closed due to its impending sale. Though the hospital has no plans for a trauma center, cardiac catheterization lab, or neonatal intensive care unit, the re-opening marks an important step forward in addressing the astounding shortage of healthcare resources in South Los Angeles, a historically under-resourced and disadvantaged community.

For more information, please contact Community Health Councils' Policy Analyst, Ine Collins at ine@chc-inc.org

Executive Immigration Order Also Good News on Healthcare Front in California

Posted by Anulkah Thomas, Health Coverage Policy Analyst on February 25th, 2015
Photo Credit flickr user Ray_from_LA (CC BY 2.0)

President Obama’s November 2014 executive order on immigration could have a profound impact on many Angelenos’ immigration status and ability to access health coverage. While federal dollars can only be used to cover restricted Medicaid coverage for undocumented immigrants--such as for emergencies and pregnancy--California opts to use state funds to provide full-scope benefits to people the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services know are present but are not moving to deport – also known as persons Permanently Residing Under the Color of Law (PRUCOL).  

Starting in May 2015, undocumented immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens or Legal Permanent Residents that have resided in the U.S. for the last five years can submit applications for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and will thus fall in the PRUCOL category. According to estimates released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), about a third of the 979,000 unauthorized immigrants residing in Los Angeles County have citizen or LPR children.  While it is unknown how many DAPA eligible parents will ultimately obtain deferred action status and enroll in Medi-Cal, it is clear that the potential gains in coverage for this population could be substantial as those with incomes up to and including 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) will be eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal benefits. However, health advocates are concerned that the cost of covering an expanded PRUCOL population was not included in Governor Jerry Brown’s 2015-16 budget proposal released in January.  CHC will monitor state budget negotiations and advocate to ensure that all of California’s residents get the health benefits for which they qualify.

For more information, please contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Anulkah Thomas at anulkah@chc-inc.org.

Plans Emerge for Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Redevelopment

Posted by Robert Baird, Food Systems & Land Use Policy Analyst on February 24th, 2015
Photo Credit: Capri Capital Partners and RAW International

The owners of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza have submitted preliminary details to the City Planning Department for a large-scale redevelopment that would replace the site’s surface parking and peripheral commercial buildings with 2 million square feet of new building space.  The plan includes an outdoor retail village containing shops, restaurants and a bowling alley near the Crenshaw/Stocker intersection.  A 14-story office tower is proposed near the Crenshaw/39th Street intersection and a 12-story, 400-room hotel is proposed near the Stocker/Santa Rosalia intersection.  The plan’s housing component includes a 7-story complex adjacent to the Macy’s structure north of MLK Boulevard and another 5-story complex located near the Marlton/Santa Rosalia intersection, totaling 961 apartment and condominium units.  The existing grocery space occupied by Albertsons would be replaced with a new, potentially larger space at the Marlton/MLK Boulevard intersection, though it’s unclear if Albertsons will remain as the operator following the redevelopment.  Although new structures will replace much of the site’s existing parking, proposed parking facilities internal to the site will account for 7,000 spaces.  Portals to the MLK subway station would be incorporated into the site once the Metro Crenshaw line opens in 2019.  

Comments on Baldwin Hill Crenshaw Plaza Master Plan Project Draft Environmental Impact Report
The comments in this letter detail the areas in which Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) fails to meet required standards as established by California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and its enforceable agencies.

Capri Capital Partners, which renovated the current mall structure in 2011, hopes to complete the project in phases by 2020.  A series of city approvals will likely be needed before the project is fully permitted, which may include a height district change, conditional use permits, zoning amendments, transit-related reductions in parking requirements and a development agreement.  The proposal comes on the heels of a new Kaiser Permanente outpatient facility at Marlton Square and the District Square retail complex at the Crenshaw/Exposition intersection, which are scheduled for construction in the next few years.  It also aligns with regional policy goals to focus housing and commercial development along emerging transit corridors, and to bring new retail amenities and services to underserved communities.  However, redevelopment proposals often raise local concerns on issues of housing affordability, neighborhood character and contesting views of what is community-serving.  A site plan and renderings can be viewed at the Building Los Angeles blog.  The project’s Draft Environment Impact Report (DEIR) can be viewed on the City Planning Department website

Unequal Protections From the Risks of Oil Drilling

Posted by Erin Steva, Brownfields Policy Analyst on February 23rd, 2015
Photo credit: Flickr User Faces of Fracking (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The land of sunshine, celebrities, and world-famous beaches is also home to 5,000 active oil and gas wells. These wells are spread across 10 oil fields and 70 different sites embedded in neighborhoods, parks, and commercial districts throughout the City of Los Angeles. Although oil drilling occurs in diverse neighborhoods ranging from affluent Cheviot Hills to pollution-burdened Wilmington, in a new issue brief, Community Health Councils found low-income communities of color in the City have fewer protections from the risks from local oil drilling operations than more affluent, whiter neighborhoods.

What does “fewer protections” mean? When Zoning Administrators for Los Angeles determined the terms of drilling in affluent communities in the 1950s and

Oil Drilling in Los Angeles: A Story of Unequal Protections
Community Health Councils found low-income communities of color in the City of Los Angeles have fewer protections from the risks from local oil drilling operations than more affluent, whiter neighborhoods.

1960s, they noted oil drilling was an activity more suited for industrial zones, and only allowed drilling in the Wilshire and West Los Angeles areas after a strict set of precautionary measures were enacted. Precautionary measures included enclosing drilling equipment and/or sites, monitoring air quality and noise levels, creating a 24 hour hotline for complaints and concerns, and setting stringent property screening measures like tall trees and walls to block sight of unattractive equipment. As a result, the oil drilling that occurs in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods is either at least 400 feet farther away from homes than in the lower-income communities of South Los Angeles and Wilmington—where the majority of the residents are Latino and African American—or is partially or completely enclosed to protect the neighboring community from the myriad of risks.

In recent years, oil drilling operations in South Los Angeles and Wilmington have received 53 more regulatory violations than oil production in wealthier communities with half of those violations coming from the notoriously dangerous operations by AllenCo in the University Park neighborhood. All in all, the data tells us past city decisions have failed to protect low-income communities in LA from the risks of oil drilling.

What does this mean for residents living near oil production? Residents have been unable to sleep at night due to noise, lights have flooded into neighboring windows, dust and other airborne particles have made breathing difficult, and the handling of tanker trucks of chemicals has raised concerns about threats to public health. With hundreds of thousands of people living near oil drilling facilities that are inadequately regulated, especially in low-income communities of color, the City of Los Angeles has an imperative to swiftly implement citywide standards fully protective of human health and we recommend the LA City Council use their land use authority to address the issue.  Allowing oil production without protecting impacted communities is indefensible.

For more information, please contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Erin Steva at erin@chc-inc.org.

My Health L.A. Continues to Grow

Posted by Anulkah Thomas, Health Coverage Policy Analyst on February 20th, 2015
Photo credit: Flickr User Quinn Dombrowski (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With less than six months of operation, the My Health L.A. (MHLA) program has already surpassed half of the enrollment target of 146,000. MHLA is a program for low-income Los Angeles county residents who do not qualify for any other source of affordable healthcare because of their immigration status.  According to the most recent Department of Health Services (DHS) demographic report, the program enrolled 68,390 members by December 31, 2014. At the January 26, 2015 LA Access to Health Coverage Coalition meeting, Program Director Amy Luftig-Viste reported that enrollment had increased even further to about 75,000. Given that DHS estimates there are some 400,000 people in Los Angeles county that may qualify for the program (and the Migration Policy Institute’s estimates go even higher), CHC and the LAHealth4All Coalition will continue to push for increased funding in order to expand capacity and raise reimbursement rates.

The MHLA provider network has added four additional clinics after a second solicitation for proposals was released: Clinica Oscar Romero, South Central Family Health Center, Center for Family Health and Education, and AIDS Project Los Angeles.  This brings the total to 54 community clinic partners representing over 160 sites throughout the county.  In the coming months DHS will move forward with a new reimbursement model in which providers are issued a monthly payment for each enrolled participant rather than a payment for each service or visit. Implementation of this payment arrangement was delayed in order to give clinics time to build up their MHLA enrollment so that the implementation of the model would be fiscally feasible for the clinics. DHS is also working to make prescriptions accessible to members at retail pharmacies, rather than the clinic dispensaries and pharmacies most currently use.

For more information on MHLA, please see the website or contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Anulkah Thomas at anulkah@chc-inc.org

LA County to Assess Park and Open Space Needs

Posted by Heather Davis, Open Space Policy Analyst on February 19th, 2015
Photo credit: Flickr User Alan Cordova (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently approved a $3.5M study to identify County park and open space needs.

The study follows the failure of Proposition P last November, which would have assessed a $23-per-parcel flat tax--which would have generated an estimated $54 million annually--on County residents for 30 years.

Opponents of Proposition P argued that it was hastily brought to the attention of the Board in response to the imminent expiration of Proposition A, a parks tax assessment passed by the voters in 1992. The flat tax proposed by Proposition P was arguably more regressive than Proposition A, which only levied a tax on an assessed property value.

There was no assessment study completed for Proposition P, which not only weakened the argument in favor of the tax, but also could have resulted in the measure failing to generate sufficient revenue to meet County park and open space needs. Dissenters on the Board also felt that the 10% allocation for park poor communities was too low.

Though it will be time and resource intensive, Board members Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich want the study to not only “identify geographic areas with the highest need for parks and open space,” but also “identify, prioritize and outline costs for specific park and/or open space projects" ideally in time for a ballot measure in 2016. CHC supports the Board of Supervisor’s approval of the new study, and will work to make sure that the voice of the community is heard and accounted for in the process.

For more information, please contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Heather Davis at heather@chc-inc.org.

Edible Parkway Draft Ordinance Language Makes It to Committee

Posted by Hector Gutierrez, Food Systems & Urban Agriculture Policy Analyst on February 18th, 2015

Ron's Parkway Garden Recap: October, 2010

Photo credit: flickr user LAGreenGrounds (CC BY 2.0)

On Wednesday, February 4th the Public Works and Gang Reduction committee was supposed to hear draft ordinance language to allow the growing of edible plants on public parkways. Parkways are the area between the sidewalk and the curb. It is public property and, with the exception of the City street trees, it is the responsibility of homeowners to maintain. 

The committee instead delayed hearing on the item until a future meeting (to be determined) to gather more information from the City Attorneys Office on liability issues.

Under the new draft ordinance language, property owners will not be required to obtain a permit to plant for areas zoned for residential use. Owners will be able to remove existing shrubs and plants, but not trees, and replace the shrubs and plants with landscaping, including edible plant materials, in the owner’s parkway. All plants must comply with the Residential Parkways Landscaping Guidelines adopted by the Department of Public Works. The guidelines document primarily apply to parkway areas found on streets servicing single family homes and/or low density multi-family residential housing.

The adoption of these guidelines will identify the types of landscaping, including edible plants materials that will be planted without a permit, as well as planting, siting and maintenance requirements for landscaping. For more information, please see the Edible Parkway Council File: 13-0478 or contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Hector Gutierrez at hector@chc-inc.org.

Oil Drilling Proposal in West Adams Withdrawn

Posted by Erin Steva, Brownfields Policy Analyst on February 17th, 2015
Photo credit: Flicker User Faces of Fracking (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A controversial proposal to drill and redrill three wells at a West Adams oil production site on Jefferson Boulevard at Budlong Street was withdrawn last month. In November, approximately 100 people attended a hearing on the application with most attendees opposed to the proposal. Speakers expressed concern about the lack of protections for residents of neighboring homes, some as close as 60 feet away, and requested a full environmental review. CHC testified and submitted a letter in support of the community’s request for full environmental review.

The oil producer Freeport-McMoRan reportedly withdrew the drilling application due to the sharp drop in the price of oil. Although residents are relieved to hear that the proposal for new drilling has been withdrawn, they remain committed to updating restrictions on the site’s existing operations to provide better protections for the surrounding community.

For more information, please contact Community Health Councils’ Policy Analyst, Erin Steva at erin@chc-inc.org.

South Los Angeles Transportation Investment Forum

Posted by Naomi Iwasaki, Mobility Policy Analyst on February 13th, 2015

Metro buses @ South Bay Galleria layover 2008

Photo credit: flickr user Jonathan Riley (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

Over the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend Move LA, a public transportation advocacy organization, and Southwestern College co-hosted a South Los Angeles (SLA) Forum about regional transportation investment that drew 150 residents, students, elected officials, public agency staff and community-based organizations from across the County. The forum provided participants a space to discuss  the best way to invest transportation dollars to meet the needs of South Los Angeles.

In 2008 Move LA worked to get Measure R approved by LA County voters, which imposed a half-cent sales tax to generate an estimated $40 billion for transportation projects over 30 years (expiring in 2039). Measure R funds have initiated and expedited many of the major recent transportation infrastructure improvements in Los Angeles, including an unprecedented spate of light rail construction such as the Expo and Crenshaw light rail lines. While the construction of new infrastructure can be seen and felt, ensuring equitable distribution of investment has not been quite as transparent.

Participants at the SLA forum expressed concerns about both belonging to communities that might get left out of initial transportation investments as well as being displaced from communities where investment may lead to increased costs of rent, services and other living expenses that could price out existing residents and businesses owners. Measure R did not feature any equity-based formulas for investment allocation, which would have greatly benefited underserved communities that are more likely to be reliant on transit and active transportation. The SLA forum was the first widespread convening of major stakeholders in South Los Angeles to begin conversations about the most effective ways to allocate transportation revenues should a similar sales tax measure (currently dubbed “Measure R2”) be placed on future ballots—as early as 2016.
Other potential discussion points include new and innovative ways to generate important revenues aside from another sales tax. While often effective in raising funds, sales taxes are regressive and can negatively impact low-income residents and communities at a disproportionate rate.

While no official measure for a transportation sales tax has been proposed for Los Angeles County, gatherings like this SLA Forum present critical opportunities for local stakeholders to become involved in voicing the priorities and needs of historically marginalized communities. As a region, our roads are over-capacity and finding alternatives to driving will be important to long-term sustainability. Neighborhoods like South Los Angeles that already have higher rates of households with no vehicles are in an important position to envision an equitable distribution of transportation investment for the future of Los Angeles.

For more information about Measure R, visit:[http://www.metro.net/projects/measurer]. For more information about Move LA, visit: [http://www.movela.org]

LA County Proposes Merger between Three Health Departments

Posted by Ine Collins, Healthcare Systems Policy Analyst on February 12th, 2015

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, John Ferraro Building (LADWP Headquarters), and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Services building

Photo credit: flickr user jann_on (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In an unforeseen move at the January 13th board meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved the concept of unifying the Department of Health Services (DHS), Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Department of Mental Health (DMH) into an agency model. Unbeknownst to the public, in December 2014 Dr. Mitch Kitz of DHS was tasked with developing an initial model. In his memo he favored full integration of the three departments into one department, but conceded the logistical challenges that it involved. Instead he proposed an agency model in which all three departments maintained their executive, mission, and independent budgets and select administrative functions and service delivery would be integrated. The three department heads would report to the agency director who would report to the Chief Executive’s Office, and the CEO in turn to the Board of Supervisors.

Many people have expressed concern about DMH and DPH losing their voice in this effort to integrate because they wield a smaller budget than DHS. The County previously operated with all three departments combined and separated them in 2006 in order to give DPH and DMH more autonomy. At the same time, some proponents of the agency model have pointed out the cost-savings opportunities and ability to deliver more seamless, comprehensive care especially between DMH and DHS through an integrated agency model.  It is important that whatever the County decides that the end result be an improved provision of care to the people the County serves, and that DMH and DPH‘s priorities and mission carry equal weight as DHS’.

The Office of Health Care Integration has been established for the planning effort and is led by Christy Ghaly [cghaly@ceo.lacounty.gov]. There is an internal stakeholder process which consists of interdepartmental workgroups and also an external stakeholder process which is still being developed. However, they have made it known they will not be meeting with individual providers, only umbrella organizations, e.g. CCALAC, etc. After the draft report is submitted on March 13, 2015, a 30-day public comment period will commence until April 13th. The final report taking into account the public comments will be submitted May 12, 2015 to the Board of Supervisors. Information regarding integration will be updated regularly at priorities.lacounty.gov.

Assistance for Small Businesses on Crenshaw Boulevard

Posted by Naomi Iwasaki, Mobility Policy Analyst on February 11th, 2015

Photo credit: Metro Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project

With the ongoing construction of the $2.1 billion Metro Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, business as usual on Crenshaw Boulevard and surrounding areas has been interrupted. In response to concerns from local businesses Metro has opened a new Business Solution Center (BSC) to provide free case management services and business assistance for small businesses along the Crenshaw Corridor. The BSC program also includes a Business Interruption Fund (BIF) that provides financial assistance to small businesses that may suffer financial losses due to project construction. Qualifying businesses with 25 or fewer employees can be awarded up to $50,000 annually in financial assistance.

The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Transit light rail line is expected to open in 2019. It will feature eight new Metro stations, connect the existing Expo and Green light rail lines, and finally create a transit connection to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The project represents a rare infrastructure investment in South Los Angeles and will continue the region’s efforts to provide alternative transportation options for residents and workers. While the light rail line is expected to reduce traffic congestion and bolster economic and community development along the route, the BSC and BIF are efforts to prevent commercial displacement and retain the local culture and businesses of South Los Angeles.

The BSC is located at 3450 Mount Vernon Drive and open Monday – Friday, 9:00a – 5:00p. A satellite office is located at 510 S. La Brea Avenue in Inglewood.

For more information, visit the Business Solution Center new web page at: [www.metrobsc.net/crenshaw]. For more information on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit light rail, visit: [http://www.metro.net/projects/crenshaw_corridor]

Vice President Biden's Healthcare Roundtable in Los Angeles

Posted by Nancy B. Duan, Communications Director on February 6th, 2015

At a round-table meeting in Los Angeles on January 23rd, Vice President Joe Biden met with representatives from health organizations including our very own Sonya Vasquez, Covered California’s Executive Director Peter Lee, Visión y Compromiso, Maternal and Child Health Access, Neighborhood Legal Services, and The California Endowment.

Vice President Biden encouraged Latinos and young people to apply for health coverage before the February 15 deadline and praised enrollment efforts in California. The conversation also focused on the CHIP renewal and Biden’s role in the Violence Against Women Act.