At the quarterly meeting of the Brookside Homeowners’ Association last Wednesday, February 27, there were no major voting items, but neighbors heard informative presentations from four special guests – Miracle Mile Neighborhood Watch leader Kari Garcia, Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council President Owen Smith, and two candidates running for office in next year’s elections – Sarah Kate Levy, a newcomer running for the City Council District 4 seat, and Jan Perry, the longtime political veteran (and former Brookside resident), running for a spot on the LA County Board of Supervisors.
After a string of break-ins at her family’s Miracle Mile home (and vehicles parked in its driveway), Kari Garcia, a 26-year resident of that area, got mad…and then got organized. And she’s been working for the last few years to get her neighbors, and surrounding neighborhoods, organized, too…in the form of active neighborhood watch programs. At last week’s meeting, Garcia brought her recommendations and offers of support to Brookside. Garcia told the residents that there were more than 5,000 non-violent and more than 1,000 violent crimes in the LAPD Wilshire Divison area in 2018…but that statistics show that neighborhoods with active neighborhood watch programs tend to have far fewer crimes than adjacent neighborhoods without watches.
Garcia said that after the break-ins at her own house, she realized neighbors could help each other prevent crime, so she joined forces with the Miracle Mile Residential Association and has helped recruit block captains for more than 30 blocks in that neighborhood. Garcia said the first step to organizing a successful neighborhood watch program is to assess your local resources, and then put them to use. To get started, she recommends recruiting block captains, participating in the LAPD’s Community Police Advisory Board for Wilshire Division, building a relationship with your local LAPD Senior Lead Officers, and working with a private patrol service that residents may subscribe to. Garcia also recommended getting as much data as possible on local crime from online resources such as COMPSTAT and crimemapping.com.
Next, Garcia recommended gathering neighbors’ contact information, setting up meetings, organize a group texting system, and making sure block captains know how to contact responders when there’s a crime (e.g. report to both private security firms, your SLO, and LAPD – either through its non-emergency 1-877-ASK-LAPD number or 911 (and always call 911 first if a crime is currently in progress)). Garcia noted that all suspicious activity (such as people going door to door saying they’re selling magazines for L.A. High, which is always a scam), should be reported to the Senior Lead Officer, and neighbors can post an “Urgent Alert” on Nextdoor.com.
In addition to becoming more responsive to crime issues, Garcia noted that community emergency and disaster preparedness is also of great importance. She said the city has a great program – Ready Your LA Neighborhood (RYLAN) – which can send people out to help train neighbors. Because the program has a small staff, however, Garcia said there’s a waiting list, and representatives won’t come out unless the neighborhood is already well organized. Preparing your home for an emergency, and having people trained through the Community Emergency Response Training program is also important, said Garcia.
Finally, Garcia offered to help Brooksiders organize their neighborhood watch, and said she can even provide meeting flier templates and information forms to assist their efforts.
Sarah Kate Levy
The first of the two political candidates to speak at the meeting, Levy said she has been thinking about running for a city council seat for the last two years. During that time, she has also been working in politics, helping other women run for office.
Levy, who is married, has four children, and lives in Beachwood Canyon, said that, “One of the reasons I’m running is land use.” Housing prices, she said, have risen so far, affordability issues are affecting everyone at every level of the housing market. She noted that she was only able to buy her home because she purchased it 20 years ago, when prices were more affordable in every bracket…and that she wouldn’t be able to make the same purchase now. Levy also noted that many people who would like to move up in the housing market these days just can’t afford it now, and are leaving the city. Levy cited the lower housing costs in decades past (she paid $300 a month for her first apartment in Los Angeles) as a major factor in allowing her to study, write and participate in other formative activities here as a young adult. But, she said, today’s young people won’t be able to do that, and kids who are growing up here now will have to leave to find a more affordable place to start their adult lives. Another, related, issue Levy said she is passionate about is stemming the tide of homelessness, which she said is less about solving chronic homelessness than it is about providing more affordable housing. 500 of the 700 homeless in our area, she said, just need affordable living space to get off the streets.
Overall, said Levy, on other issues, “We have an opportunity here to re-imagine how the city works.” She said she supports a “nimble” bus program to help get people out of their cars…and “We have to take our tree canopy seriously.” “We live in a wealthy city and state,” she said, “so we can lead on these issues.”
When asked about her positions on development and neighborhood preservation, Levy said she thinks it’s important to protect the historic character of neighborhoods, and also to talk about sensible development in the non-historic parts of each area. In other words, she said, she’s in favor of adding housing where we can do it without destroying neighborhood character. She also said she’s in favor of some changes in zoning regulations, such as changing 2-unit properties to 4-units…and she said she would help protect Brookside with historic preservation efforts, such as instituting an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, if neighbors are organized and want it.
When it comes to larger zoning issues, such as the proposed Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan and the recently-instituted Transit Oriented Communities guidelines, Levy urged the residents to get involved in the ongoing discussions on those issues, but not to fall into the “NIMBY” category and oppose all new housing. And, finally, she urged the residents to pressure their current CD4 representative, David Ryu, to represent their concerns.
The evening’s third speaker was Owen Smith, the Brookside representative on the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, who also serves as president of that body. Smith reminded attendees that the biennial GWNC elections are coming up on March 31, and that he is running for re-election. Smith also noted that there may be a presentation from Ballona Creek supporters at the next GWNC board meeting on March 13…there’s a new 55-unit apartment building for homeless seniors coming at Pico/Crenshaw (the site of a longtime Christmas tree lot)…and that he would like to start a Brookside HOA Land Use Committee, to facilitate earlier discussions with developers of local projects (which are often too far along to influence significantly by the time they get to GWNC’s Land Use Committee).
The final speaker of the night was former Brookside resident Jan Perry, a longtime City Council representative in District 8, who’s now running for a spot on the LA County Board of Supervisors. Perry, who said she will return to Brookside for a longer talk soon, recounted her long history of working with mental health issues in the city, which she would like to continue as a Supervisor (the Board of Supervisors administers mental health funds for the county). Perry said other issues important to her include infrastructure (she’s currently the General Manager of the statewide Infrastructure Funding Alliance), clean water, and wetlands.
When asked about her position on the state-level SB50 bill, which could significantly upzone areas near transit lines and perhaps eliminate single family zoning in cities that don’t meet their housing production targets, Perry said she’s been working on recommendations to the governor to invest in communities and enhance housing production in ways that wouldn’t leave people feeling overrun and without a voice…but which would still result in more housing units being created, especially along commercial corridors. “We have to be self-determining, but unified in our vision” to deal with housing locally, she said.
Finally, Perry said the next big issue likely to move to the forefront is a huge wave of retired people who will still need to work – and they (especially women) will need lots of training resources. Perry said that, too, is something she would like to “get ahead of” on the regional level, as a county supervisor.