GWNC Hears from LAPD and Scooter Companies; Votes on Land Use Issues

The GWNC board meeting on the stage of the Ebell theater last night came with slightly more dramatic lighting than in the group’s usual Ebell dining room location.

At its September meeting last night at the Ebell Theater, the Board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council heard a monthly crime report from LAPD, and then introductions from Bird and Lime, two of the major dockless shared scooter companies now participating in a new 120-day city pilot period for the vehicles.  The board also considered two motions from its Sustainability Committee,  weighed in on five local land use projects…and there were announcements and/or discussions of a long list of upcoming events.

LAPD Report

Wilshire Division Senior Lead Officer Hebel Rodriguez reported that in the last month, burglaries were down in his Basic Car area (only three were reported), and there were three robberies, 12 thefts, and nine car break-ins.  Among the robberies, Rodriguez provided details on two that were particularly noteworthy.

In the first, a man was attacked from behind by 10 people at once, near the World on Wheels roller rink near Midtown Crossing, and no suspects were identified.

In the second, a 60-year-old man, who was stopped at a traffic light at Rimpau and Wilshire, was flagged down by another man who said he was having car trouble.  When the first man got out of his car to help, the second man pointed a gun at him and stole his cash and Rolex watch.  The suspect was an African-American man, driving a black, 4-door Toyota Camry. He was about six feet tall, 150 pounds and 30 years of age and wearing “white over black” clothing.  Rodriguez cautioned everyone not to stop to help strangers on the street, unless you can be absolutely sure the person is harmless.

Lime and Bird Scooter Introductions

Nima Daivari, representing Lime, which operates both dockless shared scooters and bikes, spoke briefly about that company’s operations.  According to Daivari, Lime has provided more than 6 million rides to its customers both nationally and internationally in the last 18 months, and 50% of its riders say they would have used a car for their trip if the Lime bike or scooter had not been available. According to Daivari, the public’s big concerns about dockless, shared scooters are parking issues, where to ride the vehicles safely, and data sharing.

Daivari said Lime is addressing parking issues by requiring riders to view parking instructions at the beginning of their rides, and to end their ride by uploading a photo of the vehicle properly parked.  There is also a $25 surcharge for parking outside approved service areas.  Finally for parking, Daivari said, the company recently created an in-app game, in which players view photos of parked scooters and have to identify which are or are not properly parked.

Regarding safety, Daivari said that all scooter riders are encouraged to ride in street bike lanes, and not on sidewalks, and that technology will soon be available that will allow scooters to identify whether they’re being ridden on a concrete sidewalk or asphalt street.

And on the data question, Daivari said that unlike other companies, all of Lime’s shared data comes from the scooter, not the cell phone app, which protects user privacy.  And Lime’s scooter data is shared freely with the city,  he said, which helps track usage and compliance with city rules.

In conclusion, Daivari also announced that Lime is now recruiting people to earn money as scooter “juicers.” The juicers pick up parked scooters, charge them overnight and return them to the street, in return for payment of $20 per charged scooter.

Arriving a bit later in the meeting, Morgan Roth, the Community Relations Manager for Bird – the other big dockless scooter company now operating in LA – said his company is extremely concerned about safety, and even has a monitoring crew called “Bird Watchers,” who can be sent out to clear any scooters that are left obstructing streets or sidewalks.  Roth also said that his company is making a daily per-scooter contribution to the city, to be used for infrastructure improvements.

Both representatives said they would come to a future GWNC Transportation Committee meeting to discuss their operations further, and to answer more questions about this new industry.

Sustainability Committee Motions

GWNC Sustainability Committee chair Julie Stromberg put forth two motions from the committee last night, one to support the Community Forest Advisory committee’s (CFAC’s) request to implement a citywide Tree Removal Notification System, accessible to the public (similar to the Planning Department’s Early Planning Report for Land Use Projects). The system would help residents locate information about trees scheduled for removal, and to monitor the legality of tree removals.  Stromberg said the proposal has received support from the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), which oversees the Neighborhood Council system, as well as the Mayor’s Office, but it has not been supported yet by the Department of Urban Forestry.  Stromberg’s motion passed unanimously.

Second, Stromberg moved that the GWNC support the CFAC’s request to the bureau of Street Services to change BSS’s policies and procedures regarding bees and bee hives in street trees. (Stromberg said current BSS policy is to remove a hive, but if it cannot be removed, then the tree itself is removed.)  This motion, too, passed unanimously.

Land Use Issues

In Land Use business last night, although the board’s Land Use Committee had recommended a motion of opposition to a proposed development at 250 N. Wilton Pl., the Board decided that a previous motion to oppose (passed in January) still stands, and sent the matter back to the committee for further discussion on how to deal with recently discovered information that suggests the developers may have made deliberately false statements in their demolition permit application, which resulted in the removal of a contributing structure in an official historic district.

The Board did recommend to oppose, as currently presented, an application for a new 7-Eleven store at 5784 Melrose Ave., at least until the applicants do more outreach to the nearby Larchmont Village and Hancock Park neighborhood associations.

The Board also voted to ask the owners of an illegal parking lot at 644 Irving Blvd./4155 Wilshire Blvd. to restore the lot to its original , unpaved condition, to request that the illegal fencing and driveways be removed, and to further request that the parcel be used, moving forward,  in accordance with the applicable building and zoning codes.

The Board voted to oppose the demolition of a school at 845 S. St. Andrews Place, and replace it with a new 6-story, 25-unit apartment building, as the developers did not attend a recent Land Use Committee meeting, after confirming that they would attend and make a presentation about the project.

The Board voted to oppose the conversion of a duplex at 6123 W. Clinton Ave. into two condominiums (construction is already underway).

The Board also discussed, but did not yet take action on, efforts underway to create a set of recommendations and policies for legal tree removals in the city, as well as an enforcement plan that would help to penalize violators who remove trees illegally and without proper notice or permits.

And finally in Land Use, the Board voted to notify city officials that a project recently built at 117 N. Manhattan Place followed an early version of  the plans that was not supported by the Neighborhood Council, and the resulting building does not conform to modifications agreed to by the developers and supported by the Council.

Upcoming Meetings and Events

Much of the rest of last night’s meeting – before, during and after the items above – was taken up with discussions and announcements of upcoming meetings and events, which included:

Wednesday, September 19, 4 p.m. – the Wilshire Branch Library will host a special program by the L. A. county Department of Public Health, called “Connect, Prepare, Respond: Emergency Preparedness for Communities.”

Saturday, September 22, 7 a.m., – The Los Angeles Congress of Neighborhoods at City Hall.  This annual event features speakers, workshops and information about civic involvement, city processes and services, and more…and is open to Neighborhood Council members, other neighborhood leaders, and all stakeholders.

Tuesday, September 25, 6:30 p.m.GWNC Land Use Committee meeting – Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave.

Thursday, September 27, 10 a.m.Dedication ceremony officially marking the intersection of La Brea and Melrose as “Historic Pink’s Square,” after the famous hot dog stand.

Saturday, October 6, 9 a.m.GWNC Outreach Committee meeting, Bricks and Scones Cafe, 403 N. Larchmont Blvd.

Tuesday, October 9, 7 p.m.  GWNC Sustainability Committee meeting, Marlborough School, Collins Room, D-200, 250 S. Rossmore Ave.

Monday, October 15, 7 p.m.GWNC Transportation Committee meeting, Marlborough School, 250 S. Rossmore Ave.

Saturday, October 22, 10 a.m. – The GWNC will hold a rain barrel workshop with Rain Barrels, International, at Memorial Branch Library, 4625 Wilshire Blvd.

Sunday, October 28, 12 p.m. – The GWNC will have a booth at the Larchmont Family Fair, on Larchmont Blvd.

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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