CityWatch, Sept 18, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 75
Tuesday's City Watch article on the jurisdictional disconnect and the blight at the Hollywood & Western Red Line Station prompted a fast & furious response from the Metro's CEO, Art Leahy, who has only been in his post for a few months but who has gone on record as saying public safety and customer service are the priorities for the Metro on his watch. His performance was true to his word.
Leahy responded immediately and within hours, the Metro's Head of Rail Operations, Mike Cannell was on the phone, collecting details and that evening team of maintenance workers swarmed the Hollywood & Western Red Line station with industrial scrubbing machines, truck mounted steam cleaners, hoses, scrub brushes, mops and an abundant amount of old-fashioned elbow grease.
Hollywood and Western-BEFORE:
When the steam had cleared, Cannell led a team of a dozen Rail Execs on a victory tour of the facility, accompanied by the LASD's Red & Gold Line Supervisor, Lt. Sue Young. Mitch O'Farrell and Angela Motta of City Council President Eric Garcetti's office joined the survey and it was apparent that, at least for a couple of hours, Hollywood was again the center of the Universe.
Hollywood and Western-AFTER:
Over the two day period that followed the City Watch article it became painfully apparent that there was a real problem. Capt. Bea Girmala of the Hollywood PD didn't visit the location but instead sent Sgt. Tango who gave his impression of the jurisdictional boundaries, an opinion that was promptly contradicted as the Senior Lead Officer, Armen Sevdalian showed up and made his declaration.
Lt. Young walked the property and was joined by Sgt. Walker, the lead officer for the Red Line, and they agreed that the boundaries were irrelevant, they were law enforcement officers and they believed it was there responsibility to enforce the law.
Young was a commanding presence and I have no reason to doubt her but the fact remains, it's the boots on the street that give weight to her words and we don't see those boots or their influence much in Hollywood.
The Metro has a $67 million dollar contract with the Sheriff's Department. It's the LASD's second largest contract, after the judicial system contract, and it should count for something.
One would think that the Metro would be in a position to call the shots, to direct the LASD, to set the priorities but this is where the disconnect starts. Are the priorities fare evasion or public safety/customer service?
Are the staffing levels set for rush hour priority or are they set for late at night when stations are lonely and deserted, hospitable environments for those who favor isolation and neglect?
Is Hollywood, with a half dozen stations and huge volumes of traffic, getting its fair share of supervision?
While those macro questions work their way through the process, the immediate opportunity was evident, McCormack Baron, the property managers, had never given the LAPD or the LASD a simple Trespass Authorization Letter, a routine bit of business that allows the LAPD and the LASD to enforce trespassing violations without having to wait for the Property Manager to complain for each incident.
With a straight face, Mirna Mendoza, the Area Manager of McCormack Baron, said she had no idea that the letter was needed and then proudly stated that she has them on file for all of the other properties she manages. Both the LAPD and the LASD left her with a request for Trespass Authorization Letters.
McCormack Baron is not new to the property development and management business but one would have to wonder if they are any good at it. The Hollywood and Western location has two street level vacancies that have been empty for seven years, ever since the Metro Hollywood building opened.
The Neighborhood Council has extended a request to open one of them as a community center, an office for the NC that would have desks for the Senior Lead Officer, the community partners that offer services, the non-profits that work to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. This would keep a presence in an otherwise deserted area of the property, but those requests have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, the homeless encampment flourished and the area developed a reputation as the place to score drugs.
Metro Hollywood is a CRA project and the CRA is again working with McCormack Baron which makes one wonder what criteria is used to evaluate the potential multi-million dollar development relationships the CRA relies on as it spends our money to address blighted communities.
Mayra Rivera, the CRA's representative for Metro Hollywood, was non-committal and deferred to the CRA's development partners when complaints over the developers failure to perform came up. The CRA is actually the tenant for one of the empty spaces, a space that sits empty while the responsibility hot potato get shuffled back in forth.
In all fairness to McCormack Baron, they have bigger fish to fry and Hollywood is way off the radar.
The CRA's glowing endorsement of McCormack Baron has resulted in another project, Taylor Yard Transit Village, which comes with a check for $15,094,990. This money is to be used to develop a "Transit Oriented Development" and based on their success at Metro Hollywood, McCormack Baron is moving on, funded with our money!
Meanwhile, at Hollywood & Western, the flurry of activity included Metro executives, LASD supervisors, LAPD supervisors, CRA supervisors, McCormack Baron supervisors, City Council President Eric Garcetti's Director of Constituent Services and Area Deputy, repeated contact from Mayor Villaraigosa's Transpo lead, Borja Leon, all of which resulted in one very clean and shiny Metro station.
Missing from this huge response from everybody who has a piece of the Metro Rail is County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Emails and phone calls to the Supervisor and his staff went unanswered and there was no response from his Transportation Deputy.
Yaroslavsky sits on the Board of the Metro and one would think that he would be interested in the $67 million contract with the LASD, with public safety at Metro Stations, with homelessness issues within his district, heck with having his staff simply answer his emails or returning phone calls.
As you can see from the attached video, as Hollywood Makeover ended, the escalator is still out of order, the intercom is still out of order, the homeless encampment is still occupied, the human waste still runs freely and the Sheriff is nowhere to be found.
The East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Board convenes on Monday night at 7pm. On the agenda is the Metro's Hollywood & Western Red Line station, an action item. East Hollywood NC has three Metro Rail stations within its boundaries, more than any other Neighborhood Council.
Typically this relationship is celebrated and it should be.
The Metro's Hollywood & Western Red Line station and the TOD Development that sits above it should be the catalyst for community revitalization, not the weight that drags it down and certainly not the source of the very blight that the CRA is meant to address.
(Stephen Box stands vigil on the City of Angels and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net) ◘
EAST HOLLYWOOD NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL
COMMUNITY FORUM AND GOVERNING BOARD MEETING
Monday, September 21, 2009 – 7:00 PM
SABAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE
CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL LOS ANGELES
4661 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90029