Clearing up some facts
I've taken part of an e-mail that was passed around to many northeast Los Angeles residents in an effort to clear the air.
The truth is posted below on many of the issues folks tend to blog about here.
Specifically, Mr. Pacheco stated that four very important Council District 14 community projects were fully funded when he left office and that he had “no explanation why they are not moving forward at this point.”
These projects include:
1) Garvanza Skateboard Park and Park improvements
2) Hollenbeck Police Station Tenant Relocation Funding
3) Council District 14 Dog Park
4) Moon Canyon Land Acquisition
Since Mr. Pacheco has been out of office for nearly two years, it is understandable that he did not have the up to date information regarding each of these projects. The fact of the matter is that each of these four projects has at least as much funding as there was when we first took office on July 1, 2003. Most of them are moving forward as planned – with the exception of Moon Canyon where there is a funding gap and we still do not have a willing seller.
Here are the details.
1) Garvanza Skateboard Park and general park improvements
When Mr. Pacheco left office on June 30, 2003 there was a balance of $510,000 in secured funding for the Garvanza Skateboard Park and general improvements for Garvanza Park. An additional $193,000 in unsecured Proposition 12 money was pending at that time.
Since Councilmember Villaraigosa took office on July 1, 2003, we worked to successfully secure the aforementioned $193,000 in Proposition 12 money in September of 2003 and added an additional $210,000 in Community Development Block Grant money later that year.
The current secured funding balance for the Garvanza Skateboard Park and general improvements at Garvanza Park is $913,000.
This is $403,000 more than the original secured amount of $510,000 when we first took office.
As to the status of the project, since taking office we have had a number of community meetings regarding the scope of park improvements and design of the Skateboard Park. We also initiated an Environmental Impact Report and Historical Study – both of which were mandated for this project and neither of which had been started before Councilmember Villaraigosa took office.
In June 2003, the cost of constructing a 12,000 square foot modular Skateboard Park with staff office was estimated at $350,000.
In 2004, as part of the public input process, the community overwhelmingly voted in favor of a concrete Skateboard Park as opposed to the modular Skateboard Park that had previously been proposed. Beginning in January of this year we held three consecutive weekly meetings where community members participated in designing the concrete Skateboard Park. Thereafter, plans were posted for public review at several community locations.
Phase One of the Skateboard Park calls for approximately 8,500 square feet of concrete Skateboard Park which includes bowl and street skate features. The current estimated cost of this design is approximately $420,000. The remaining balance of current funding (minus administrative and contingency costs) will go toward other park improvements as requested by members of the surrounding community.
Phase One is scheduled to go out to bid in May 2005, once community comments are reviewed and construction documents are completed.
Phase Two of the Skateboard Park calls for an additional 3,500 square feet which will cost approximately $270,000 in additional funding. Our office is actively working to secure this funding. In the meantime, Phase One will move forward as planned.
To summarize, we are proud of our efforts to secure an additional $403,000 in funding for the Garvanza Skateboard Park and general improvements at Garvanza Park since the time you left office. We are also proud of the fact that Phase One of this project – an 8,500 square foot concrete skateboard park, will become a reality in our community in the very near future.
2) Hollenbeck Police Station Tenant Relocation
Mr. Pacheco stated in his email that “there was not enough money to relocate the tenants” as part of the Hollenbeck Police Station reconstruction.
This claim is simply not true.
The Hollenbeck Station project called for the eminent domain of 57 housing units to rebuild the new and improved replacement Hollenbeck Police Station – a station that is strongly supported by our community.
To date, families from 55 out of the 57 effected housing units have been successfully relocated. The 56th unit was occupied by an elderly renter that caseworkers have just recently located through her daughter and it is anticipated that the city will be able to provide her with assistance. The final family, a family that will remain anonymous, is the last remaining family that has yet to be fully relocated. This family has secured new housing, but some special circumstances apply in this case.
Tenants that are relocated through the eminent domain process are able to obtain relocation assistance in the form of a lump sum payment. Special circumstances apply, however, to tenants that receive Section 8 funding. If these tenants decide to accept the lump sum relocation assistance, per federal guidelines, they forfeit their ability to continue to receive Section 8 assistance. These tenants are able to receive assistance with moving expenses and continue to receive Section 8 assistance, but they cannot receive both lump sum relocation assistance and remain on the Section 8 priority list.
The problem with the final family is that they already received moving expenses, but desire to continue to receive Section 8 assistance AND get one time lump sum relocation assistance. Once again, per federal guidelines, this is not possible. As we understand it, this family has retained private counsel and is exploring their legal options.
Part of the reason why the relocation of tenants has been so successful has been because of the intervention of our office. Within the first few months of our taking office, we worked closely with the Department of General Services and other city departments to make sure that case workers were assigned to each relocated family and required that these case workers be fully bilingual in order to effectively assist this predominantly Spanish speaking community.
The relocation money for these tenants came from Proposition Q funds and, by all accounts, taking into account that eminent domain is never easy, these tenants have been successfully relocated.
We are proud of the work that we have done with the tenant relocation and, quite frankly, have no idea where Mr. Pacheco came up with the claim that there is “not enough money to help relocate the tenants.”
3) Council District 14 Dog Park
When we first took office there was $77,000 set aside for the construction of a Dog Park in Hermon Park in the Arroyo Seco. There were also some initial community meetings, but no actual park designs had been made or environmental studies had been conducted. Thus, any cost estimates were purely preliminary and speculative.
When we took office we worked to initiate a Preliminary Design of the Dog Park and also initiated a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
We also initiated a motion requesting the City Attorney’s Office to draft language allowing for an off-leash ordinance at the designated site of the Dog Park.
We have worked closely with the community to ensure that the final Dog Park is sensitive to the environment and the community’s concerns, with features including a decomposed granite surface to absorb polluted runoff and keep it from entering the nearby Arroyo Seco. We have also worked to ensure that the fencing at the Dog Park has special coating that is environmentally sensitive and works to blend in with the surrounding park – another feature requested by the community.
Through working closely with the Department of Recreation and Parks, the Bureau of Engineering and the local community, we are proud of the fact that we expect to break ground on the new Dog Park within the next month.
We have seen this project through and our community will enjoy a new Dog Park that is environmentally friendly in the very near future.
4) Moon Canyon Land Acquisition
In December of 2002 the City received an appraisal of the Moon Canyon property at the request of Councilmember Pacheco.
Nearly six months later, in June of 2003, Mr. Pacheco decided to transfer money that was designated for a CD 14 constituent services center to two different projects in the district – one of those transfers included $550,000 for the acquisition of Moon Canyon. Later in June, a mere five days before he left office, Councilmember Pacheco introduced a motion asking for an eminent domain procedure on the property.
We have never had a willing seller at Moon Canyon. Therefore, over the course of the conversations with the property owner and the Department of General Services, and the various steps that needed to be undertaken in order to prepare the eminent domain paperwork for a court filing, the initial appraisal of the property became too old for submittal to the Superior Court according to the court’s own procedures. A new appraisal was then conducted – at the request of our office - and the value of the land had appreciated significantly, as should have been expected.
The key point here is that, according to the City Attorney, the Superior Court will not accept an appraisal that is more than 9 months old as part of an eminent domain filing. By waiting until the 6 month point to introduce a motion calling for eminent domain, Mr. Pacheco essentially guaranteed that the first appraisal would no longer be applicable by the time the City could complete all its internal preparations and submit the court papers (a process that takes no less than 5 months if everything goes perfectly). Since the appraisal subsequently increased by more than 100%, for any practical purpose there had never been enough money set aside to ensure that the acquisition of Moon Canyon via eminent domain could proceed.
Our office continues to seek the additional funding necessary for the purchase of Moon Canyon, even though we still do not have a willing seller.
The goal for this property in this particular community has always been to maintain it as open space for the benefit of local residents. Nearly two years after taking office, the land remains as open space and the developer is no closer today to any sort of development than he was two years ago.
We will continue to work hard on the Moon Canyon project.
We welcome Mr. Pacheco’s efforts to contact the Controller’s office to confirm all of the figures stated in this email.
These are the responses to some specific concerns raised by Mr. Pacheco. Surely we realize that the purpose of his community-wide posted email was merely to inform others that he will be finding out answers to common questions and not to start a campaign of misinformation. He could have merely picked up the phone and asked anyone in our office to address these issues and we would have been happy to do so. He chose to post a community wide email. That was his prerogative.
I hope that this email has helped to address some of his questions and concerns.
Now, let me take the opportunity to clarify a couple of additional issues that have been circulating in the community.
Council District 14 Constituent Services Center
As previously mentioned, it was Mr. Pacheco’s decision to take $550,000 in dedicated funds for a CD 14 Constituent Services Center and transfer this money to the Moon Canyon acquisition. This was an unfortunate case of transferring money from one part of the district to another – but it was a decision that our former councilmember decided to make.
The truly regrettable decision that Mr. Pacheco decided to make came literally in his final days in office on June 24, 2003 when he authored a motion to transfer an additional $3,000,000 in Municipal Improvement Corporation of Los Angeles (MICLA) funds designated for a CD 14 Constituent Services Center to build a new library in Silver Lake. For your reference, this was Council File Number 03-1354, authored by Pacheco, seconded by Garcetti.
Seven days before leaving office Mr. Pacheco authored a motion to take $3 million dollars out of Council District 14 and put it in Silver Lake. While we support the efforts of our adjacent Council Districts (in this case, Council District 13), this move was truly inexplicable and we are glad that we worked to stop this motion in our first days in office.
Through the retrieval of this $3,000,000 and the aggressive acquisition of additional funds, our office is proud of the fact that we will soon be going out to bid for a brand new, multi-million dollar Constituent Service Center right in the heart of Council District 14 in the community of El Sereno. This Constituent Service Center will truly be the pride of Council District 14 once completed.
Central Los Angeles Recycling and Transfer Station
The Central Los Angeles Recycling and Transfer Station (also knows as CLARTS) has existed in the southern industrial portion of Council District 14 for decades. This transfer station has been fully permitted, owned and operated by a private company.
When we took office we worked with the Chief Legislative Analyst (CLA) and the Bureau of Sanitation to purchase this transfer station in order to realize a long term cost savings to the city and gain control of the day-to-day operations of the site.
As part of the negotiations related to the city purchase of the CLARTS, our office demanded that a $1 per ton “amenity fee” be established in the terms of the contract. Now, Council District 14 will receive additional funds to benefit community-based projects throughout the life of this transfer station.
The terms of this agreement were adopted on April 23, 2004 and all negotiations, from start to finish, were conducted by Councilmember Villaraigosa’s office.
We are proud of the fact that CD 14 will now benefit from additional revenue to support community based projects in perpetuity – long after Councilmember Villaraigosa leaves office.
An additional point of clarification, the ONLY funds spent from this account thus far amounted to $50,000 for Para Los Ninos, a Council District 14 based CBO that worked with our office to sponsor the following functions with this funding:
1) The distribution of more than 1,100 turkeys for needy families throughout Council District 14 during Thanksgiving of 2004.
2) The distribution of more than 6,500 new toys for needy families at three separate holiday toy distributions throughout CD 14 during the end of 2004.
3) The special 1st Street Bridge lighting ceremony in December of 2004 where hundreds of local residents enjoyed free food, music, snow, and lights on the historic 1st Street Bridge.
4) A special Thanksgiving meal for the families of Para Los Ninos – the primary services provider for the youth and families of Skid Row.