GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
Send us your stories, ideas, and information. Insiders welcome - confidentiality guaranteed.

stories along The Way

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

City Council opposes Lopez Canyon appeal, legal action likely next

City Council votes against the Lopez Canyon appeal 13-0, Paul Krekorian MIA.

In Lopez Canyon, a green waste facility operates at 5 times its legal size, and now a new industrial use - the truck driving academy - is being forced onto the Open Space property. Other appropriate sites exist in the Valley for this project, but Richard Alarcon wants it on Lopez Canyon

In watching the hearing, it was amazing to hear one of the top administrators of the Planning Department insist that supporters of the Lopez Canyon appeal simply don't know what they are talking about.  People who she asserts are clueless include all five County Supervisors, the Sierra Club, the Santa Monica Conservancy, more than 10 neighborhood councils, more than 40 home owners and civic associations, and everyone living around this land.

If people want a fair trial, it will take legal action outside the laughable City process. A process where the City and City employees and mayoral appointees are the applicant, researcher, judge and jury of its own unethical project.  External legal action will eventually tell whether or not the supporters of the appeal know what they are talking about.

Out of curiosity, we at GPWist want to know if Tom LaBonge, who voted to deny the appeal, would support putting the same project on Toyon Canyon Landfill in Griffith Park. He should, since he supported this project location. Or was Tom's vote simply payback to Alarcon who is supporting Tom's attempt to take neighborhood council funds to pay for council office shuttle busses?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jane Usher should run for City Council

Jane Usher should run for City Council.

As chair of the Planning Commission, she proved herself a friend to neighborhood councils and the public as she spoke up loudly against SB1818 - the State's insane high density bonus legislation and the illegal and immoral way the City of Los Angeles was attempting to implement it.

Usher has the name recognition and the respect of many people, except for perhaps a certain bloggin' buddy of ours.

Usher has the experience in the public sector, and she would likely have the support of the City Attorney's office.

Let's hear from Jane herself as to what her stand would be on certain local CD 4 hotbutton issues, and not paint her with the actions of her employers. Then decide as to whether you would vote for her.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wildflowers of Haines Canyon

The wildflower bloom in Haines Canyon was crazy this year.  I managed to catch the tail end of them ten days ago. Here are just a few of the beautiful blooms I spotted.

Click to enlarge.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Griffith Park nature hike Saturday AM

Don't forget to hike with Ranger Ernie in Griffith Park tomorrow!

Saturday June 26th: 8-11am— Beginner  to moderate level walk to Amir’s Garden starts and ends at the Ranger Station, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr. Walk covers about four miles. Hikers will get to see Shane’s Inspiration (the department’s first boundless playground, designed for use by children of all abilities), traverse part of Mineral Wells Trail, and go up about 300 steps to Amir’s Garden.  Dress appropriately and bring plenty of water and snacks.

For more information, contact Park Ranger Ernie Ybarra
at (323) 644-6661, ext. 1549,
or by e-mail at   ernie.ybarra(at)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crematorium goes live

Breaking my busy silence a moment to blog that according to the LAFD live audio feed of their radio frequency, the crematorium on Stagg avenue is on fire. It must be this place.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Curse you, Paul Krekorian

Fresh from supporting the Community Alliance for Open Space's appeal of the Planning Department's approval of a truck driving academy at Lopez Canyon, word on the street is that Councilmember Krekorian will be MIA when the issue goes before the full City Council on June 30th.

Unless supporters of the Community Alliance for Open Space lobby their own councilmembers hard between now and June 30th, Alarcon will likely get his way since councilmembers rarely vote against projects outside their district if that councilmember supports it.

That means this issue will likely be costing the City of Los Angeles court fees, attorney fees, and mitigation fees aplenty in the future. The long term debilitating health hazards this site has forced on nearby residents is not to be taken lightly. Vibroacoustic disease and exposure to airborne particulate matter and other hazardous byproducts of open landfills is well-documented. This is a major class-action laswsuit itself.

Lopez Canyon was closed from taking new garbage in 1996. Today it is 13 years behind schedule for full closure.Why? That's a darned good question and one that the City of Los Angeles could be answering in court. It has a lot to do with the addition of new industrial uses at the site while it is being "closed". A green recycling facility installed at the site, promised to be a small, local activity, has grown out of control.

It would be interesting to hear from Richard Alarcon in a moment of honest candor if "getting his way" rather than finding a truly suitable location in CD 7 is really worth the cost/fight/effort and decades of continuing ill will with members of his constituency.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hike with Park Rangers on Saturdays in June

Free Park Ranger Led Nature Walks in Griffith Park

Saturday June 19th: 8-11am— Intermediate level walk to Bee Rock starts and ends at the Ranger Station, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr. The about six miles long route includes the Old Zoo and Bee Rock trails, Vista del Valle Drive, to the Twin Towers and 5 Points, finishing with Fern Canyon Trail.  Dress appropriately and bring plenty of water and snacks.

Saturday June 26th: 8-11am— Beginner  to moderate level walk to Amir’s Garden starts and ends at the Ranger Station, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr. Walk covers about four miles. Hikers will get to see Shane’s Inspiration (the department’s first boundless playground, designed for use by children of all abilities), traverse part of Mineral Wells Trail, and go up about 300 steps to Amir’s Garden.  Dress appropriately and bring plenty of water and snacks.

For more information, contact Park Ranger Ernie Ybarra
at (323) 644-6661, ext. 1549,
or by e-mail at   ernie.ybarra(at)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is It Mayor V's Ticket?

It's not too late if you want a pair of great front row seats to tonight's game four of the NBA finals. Of course it will set you back the same amount of money it cost to buy our family home in 1976.  One wonders however who is selling the ticket?

Libraries considering second tax for same services

In its drive to continue to provide services to the citizens of Los Angeles, the Library Commission is planning a new $39 parcel tax to fund Library services that have been recently cut.

Don't get us wrong - we're totally pro-library, if that hasn't been evident by all of the pro articles here on GPW.

However, the Library Department is already charter-funded. It shouldn't need a parcel tax - make that another parcel tax - if the City Council and Mayor weren't already stealing their charter-mandated funding - same as they are doing to the Department of Recreation and Parks. 

Another tax is a second tax for the same services we are already paying for, and that ain't right.

Wake up people. Do not let the politicians tax us twice for the same services. Time to file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Los Angeles stopping the City Council's misappropriation of the charter-mandated funding they are already collecting for City Libraries and Parks.

Tom LaBonge is all for the second tax on the same services, by the way, which continues to reveal just how out of touch LaBonge is with the people of Los Angeles.  Just so ya know.  Remember this stuff when you are voting for your new CD 4 rep next March.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bless you, Paul Krekorian

Krekorian is voting against the Truck Driving Academy ... at Lopez Canyon. He totally supports the project, but at another location. Paul Krek repeatedly asks the for and against crowd to work together to find the win-win solution.

Mayor's union guy, Larry Frank, swears this is the only location in the entire SFV to locate. (That is truly hard to believe).

The vote is a draw - 1 for (Huizar), 1 against (Krekorian). No recommendation from PLUM.

Alarcon unfortunately will be suggesting the direction for the full council to vote on June 30th.

I totally support the project too if it is in a location that is not zoned open space, and does not continue to torment the people who are within earshot. Vibroacoustic disease is real.

Looking forward to a blow by blow analysis of the hearing by Joe B.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lopez Canyon PLUM hearing tomorrow

It's David verses the Alarcon Mafia.

GPW predicts the appeal is denied (as they usually are) and the discussion - if continued - is forced to move into the litigious realm.

Just a pleasant reminder. Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 15, 2010 is the LA City Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee hearing regarding the Lopez Canyon Zone Variance Approval Appeal and the proposed trucking school at Lopez Canyon.


WHAT TIME: 2:30pm

WHERE: Board of Public Works
Edward R. Roybal Hearing Room 350
LA City Hall
200 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Please attend if you can and if you are planning on speaking PLEASE WRITE OR TYPE your 2 minute statement beforehand and BRING TWO (2) COPIES. Attach one to your speaker card and retain the other one for use while you're speaking. Kindly include your name & address on your statement and the speaker card, for the record.

If you are just attending and do not wish to speak fill out a speaker card and state you support the appeal.

Redwoods culled in Fern Dell

Eight established California Redwoods were removed from Fern Dell late last week, bringing questions from park visitors and nearby residents.

According to an employee of the Forestry Division of the Department of Recreation and Parks, the normally long-lived trees were already under stress due to the recent drought conditions. The City's mandatory water conservation rules finished them off.

The Forestry Division supervised the removal.

In light of the loss of the Redwoods, is it wise to plant scores of new trees in every picnic area of Griffith Park when the park's well-established trees can't be properly supported?

Images courtesy Pavement Pictures

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CA Budget Challenge: NextTen takes one from Villaraigosa

Or is it the other way around?  (yes)

Hey y'all: we've been invited to take the California Budget Challenge! WhooHoo!

A lot of us LA locals have written oodles on why these "budget challenge" surveys, such as Antonio's recent version, are a poor way to make decisions since they misrepresent the problems and the solutions. Rather than addressing California's fiscal problems at the root of the issues, instead the population is asked to prioritize what cuts to programs and services we will accept. As with any on-line survey, these are subject to the will of whichever special interest group can muster the biggest outrage, and hence the biggest turnout.

NextTen states that almost 200,000 have taken this challenge since 2005. It doesn't seem to have helped with the State's budget health in the following years much. On the plus side, it may get people thinking about budget issues who would not normally think about these things.

(corrected version: 3:29pm)

Volunteers needed for Debs Park cleanup this Saturday

Our park neighbors need some extra hands this weekend. Come on out if you can.

9:00 a.m. Saturday June 12

Follow the dirt trail branching off the paved road (Debs Park Road) from the picnic parking lot and walk up to the pond .

View Larger Map

The Debs Park Advisory Board will be working on a cleanup project on the dirt trail to the pond, about halfway up from the picnic area parking lot. A huge pile of pine tree debris has sat for over a year, a perfect mess of fire hazard. City cutbacks eliminated the staff to clear this out, so the Debs PAB invites park users to help.

We need to move the debris next to the paved road. Staff will pick up whatever we can pile up there.
--Wear heavy gloves and closed shoes.
--Bring water and hand tools
--It's shady at the work site but use sunscreen if you're sensitive

Thanks for helping!

Martha Benedict
Chair, Debs Park Advisory Board

Monday, June 7, 2010

Park Ranger Hours - update


After just one day on the new 10am-8pm single shift, it looks like Ranger hours are going back to the old schedule for now (split shifts 7am-5pm and 12:30pm-10:30pm) . A new new schedule starting June 21st will be all Rangers on the same shift: 11am-9pm.

I'd guess the 9pm is because the Sierra Club made some noise, which is fine. They have hikers in the park until 9pm... in fact, they have some groups who run later than 9pm if the truth be told. Which again is fine, except to say that, not surprisingly, the 9pm time isn't hard and fast. However, a start time of 11am is nuts. On holidays, Griffith Park and other parks can already be completely out of control by 11am.

My opinion as someone who is in the darned park all day until very late many nights, and as someone who works with Rangers from time to time is:

This is nuts.
It doesn't save money.
It doesn't fix the supervision issues with any real effect.

What it does do is negatively impact constituent services.
It does negatively impact the park resources.

It's another decision to keep people off balance rather than a decision to help or improve services.

Would someone at Rec and Parks please start making some well-thought-out decisions that help the public and protect the resources rather than impact them?

Analyzing LaBonge: Of ballfields and context

Context-dropping is one of the chief psychological tools of evasion. -Ayn Rand

Selection from: Tom LaBonge, Conan, Leo D. & Me
By Gregory Downer

...On the day in question, I had been working on a computer terminal at the Los Angeles Public Library, Los Feliz Branch. I exited the computer room, and overheard some sort of a meeting session in a type of theater space nearby. In my curiosity, I (went in.)

The speaker addressing the gathered upscale patron type of an audience was none other than Los Angeles City Council Member Tom LaBonge. ...Council Member LaBonge was speaking about his efforts to purchase... the lands immediately surrounding the Hollywood Sign. To paraphrase his policy, he expressed something to the effect of; that private development too close to the Sign itself would damage the Sign's postcard worthiness.

I however, disagree with that position... I raised my hand with a question. Council Member LaBonge pointed to me in recognition of my upstretched hand. I queried, ... "why do you think that the City of Los Angeles should own that land?"

At the immediately following moment, with the decaying echo of my voice still bouncing off of the walls, nearly every, or every audience member turned his or her head away from Tom LaBonge, and depending on their relative geometric relationship to myself, give or take 180 degrees, to look at me.

Council Member LaBonge offered an answer that I frankly in no way recollect due to the fact of my shock at that moment of group attention. I conjecture that it was some form of well worn furtherance similar to a childhood referenced advancement of his. I express to you dear Reader, comments of his, that referenced a prior achieved project of his that was a little league baseball diamond. He attributed the catalyst for his motivation to accomplish same (was) his childhood complaint ... that he had not had more of them to choose from.

I continued, "I am not sure if this is the right place for this or not but... I think that people should be able to build houses up there."

Here is what he said next, and the following is the primary purpose of this article:

"That is the great thing about this country, you can say anything that you want and...Etc."  (I am sure dear Reader, that you have heard many times the conclusion of any such declaration.)...

What he indulged in is ... called context dropping. He dropped the context of the fact that he is an elected official, was functioning in an official capacity, and was addressing a group of (very agreeable save one,) constituents ... Had he and I been 2 anonymous people on the street (an entirely different context of course,) his statement would have been not only true of course but further, a cause for celebration. The first amendment I submit will and should always be considered a cause for celebration...

What his response should have been instead, and within an entirely different context as offered fictionally by me is as follows:

"Thank you Mr. Constituent ... As you yourself represent a cross section of my constituency who for whatever reason, have not made their similarly positioned expressions generally available or addressive towards me... ... I again, thank you very much for your candor and will (sincerely of course,) take it under advisement and use it in consideration as it may apply to any furtherance of this, and any other agenda that I may now or in the future undertake to advance for the general benefit of my constituency."

Unfortunately in this matter, Council Member LaBonge in no way said anything resembling ... an expression without corruption. He instead, dropped context as a means to further his agenda. The ends do not necessarily justify the means, in this or in any case for that matter. Council Member Labonge indulged in using any means necessary.

He additionally pandered to the audience via employing sundry trivial factoids which among others included that he had graduated from John Marshall High School... He said that he had been taught something or other there that I do not recollect. ...

Whenever you tear an idea from its context and treat it as though it were a self-sufficient, independent item, you invalidate the thought process involved. If you omit the context, or even a crucial aspect of it, then no matter what you say it will not be valid . . . .

A context-dropper forgets or evades any wider context. He stares at only one element, and he thinks, “I can change just this one point, and everything else will remain the same.”  

-Leonard Peikoff

Photo credit: Jim Winstead

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Final appeal: support Red Car Trail easement Thursday

Message from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy people who are leading the appeal on this development, asking for a historic trail easement to be granted.  The Red Car trail will connect Elysian Park to Griffith Park.

This is the last chance to save the trail and support the Community Plan.

Tom LaBonge opposes the trail easement or inconveniencing Menlo in any way. You may remember Menlo as the notorious LA slumlord who was ordered by a judge to spend time living in one of his hell-hole aparment buildings until he fixed major problems. Great guy, Menlo.

Lots of background, pics and maps at the Corralita's Red Car Property blog.
Dear Supporters,

The final hearing for the Menlo condos on Riverside Drive is next Wednesday, June 9, at 4:30 PM.  The East Los Angeles Planning Commission will hear the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s appeal of the zoning variance and site plan review for the project.  Granting a variance requires a finding that the project is consistent with the Silver Lake-EchoPark-Elysian Valley Community Plan, which shows a hiking and equestrian trail across the subject property.  This is the last chance to require a trail easement as a condition of project approval.  A protected trail corridor would double as a safe passage for wildlife between Griffith and Elysian Parks.

Here’s how you can help:

1. Come to the hearing.  This case is the ONLY item on the agenda, so there will be no waiting around for your item to come up.  Every member of the public will have 2 minutes to address the Commission.  Even coming to say “I support the Conservancy’s appeal” will help.

East Los Angeles Planning Commission
Wednesday, June 9, 2010  4:30 PM
Ramona Hall Community Center
4580 North Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Conveniently located near the Metro Gold Line (Southwest Museum Station), and Metro 81 and 83

2. If you can’t make it to the hearing, or even if you can, you can email the Commissioners with your thoughts.  Rhonda Ketay, the Commission’s Executive Assistant will forward all emails from the public.  She can be reached at Rhonda.ketay(at)  It would be great if you could CC eric.bruins(at) as well so we can hear your thoughts too. 

If we win at this hearing, it cannot be appealed by the developer.  This is our last best chance to save the trail and wildlife corridor.

Thank you,  The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Park Rangers hours go into effect June 6

As of today, a major service change is scheduled for the Park Ranger Division this weekend.

Starting June 6th, Park Ranger hours will change so that there is no service after 8pm. Parks will continue to remain open until 10:30pm. Parks visitors needing assistance after 8pm will need to call the Office of Public Safety at 323-913-7390 and hope OPS has someone available.

This is another in a long list of questionable changes made by Rec and Parks management related to the Park Ranger Division that makes little sense from an administrative standpoint while simultaneously reducing constituent services that are already paper-thin.

Constituent services are the core mission of the Department of Recreation and Parks. When Park Rangers aren't in Griffith Park, the emergency responders who know their way around City parks best are missing from the first responder picture. This can have serious repercussions for parks visitors.

Here's a specific example of what can happen when this piece of the public safety plan has been removed.

This past March, on a weekend morning when Park Rangers aren't on duty any longer - another recent change - a call came in to 9-1-1 about a hiker in serious distress somewhere in Griffith Park. The caller was with the hiker and neither could state with certainty exactly where they were in the park. 9-1-1 and the LAFD called the Park Rangers to help them find the caller and got a recorded message. LAFD then called OPS. It is unknown as to why no one from OPS was immediately available to assist them.

LAFD looked in Griffith Park for the hiker for 30 minutes or more before they were waved down by a Department of Water and Power truck that had been doing work in the park. The DWP employees had just happened to come upon the hikers in Griffith and ended up being the ones to find LAFD and bring them to the location. OPS finally arrived at the location 40 minutes after they got the call, as paramedics were loading what turned out to be a possible heart attack victim into the ambulance and leaving for the nearest emergency ward.

No word on the condition of the hiker, however it is safe to say that a 30 minute response time is not optimum for survival in the case of a heart attack.

Weekends are the busiest times in City parks. But what about after 8pm?  
Small fire, big LAFD response in Griffith Park May 30, 2010 | 7:47 am

The Los Angeles Fire Department swarmed a small fire that broke out Saturday night in Griffith Park amid mild winds. The fire broke out at about 8:30 p.m. More than 50 firefighters converged on the area and battled the blaze for about an hour. An LAFD chopper made at least one water drop, according to the agency's Twitter feed. In the end, about half an acre burned, and no structures were damaged. The fire occurred at the end of a warm day that set several high-temperature records around Southern California. -- Shelby Grad
The reason for the hours change being proffered by the Department right now is that there isn't sufficient peace officer Park Ranger supervision with the current schedule. However, the new schedule as it stood a few days ago simply moves the supervision gap around and does nothing to alleviate it, while simultaneously decreasing constituent service hours.

Seems like a whole lot of shuffling and smoke-blowing in the name of the City's budget crisis is going on in Rec and Parks with respect to Park Rangers while not a lot of proactive decisions are being made. Public services and public safety are certainly being compromised, though.

Sad as it is to say, it may take the serious injury or death of a park visitor to wake Rec and Parks up and convince it to correct the course.

Image credit: Mike Peters 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

High-density shills infiltrate Griffith Park NC

Guest editorial by Radio LosFeliz.

Another Vote for High Density

The Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council's new deceptive duet of Tomas O'Grady and Mark Mauceri are once again supporting code violating development in Los Feliz. Shortly after being seated to their questionably-won GGPNC board positions, the dirty tricks team of O’Grady and Mauceri wasted no time in voting in favor of a developer asking for a significant variance from the city to build a massive apartment complex across three existing lots on New Hampshire avenue.

The O'Grady and Mauceri vote on May 18th was in direct opposition to the GGPNC's own internal Planning and Zoning committee. But then why should they on the board listen to the committee’s recommendation? After all, the committee had only studied the issue in depth.

The design that developers hoped to force upon the neighborhood is in gross noncompliance with section 7A of the Vermont/Western SNAP (Station Neighborhood Area Plan) which mandates new development to: "maintain the current prevailing scale and character of these blocks and improve the pedestrian environment." Sub-area A of the SNAP sets the limit of construction at two lots. This large single structure across three lots is the poster child of the type of development the sub-area A was designed to protect against.  It only invites future high density monoliths to what once was a neighborhood filled with garden apartments.

The developer’s argument to the GGPNC was if their variance wasn't granted, then the alternative would be a really ugly one.  Apparently the firm can only make nice designs if the buildings violate city codes. O’Grady actually urged the GGPNC board to “give them a break,” suggesting that going back and designing something nice for the neighborhood that followed planning rules would be just too expensive for a real estate development firm.

O’Grady and Mauceri smiled broadly and were first to raise their hands as they voted to support this gluttonous precedent-setting compound to be located just a stones' throw from Los Feliz Elementary School.

This action follows a long list of pro-developer voting from O’Grady and Mauceri.  These two Los Feliz newcomers call themselves green in public, but time and time again in late night GGPNC meetings, after  most stakeholders have left, they have voted to support increased development in our neighborhood.  It is still not clear how a former adult entertainment executive who once proudly boasted of bringing porn into the mainstream and his developer buddy are now in the position to vote in support of a development across the street from our elementary schools.

Voting in lockstep with the seasoned O’Grady and Mauceri were their Los Feliz Forward accolytes: newly seated GGPNC board members  Masi, Van Keuren, Nubaravacharyan, and Khanjian.

It is perhaps only luck that the motion to support the developer's massive project actually died because newly-elected NC President Ron Ostrow shockingly declined his right to vote or give an opinion. That in itself was jaw dropping.  Ostrow's unusual inaction caused a death-nail tie, demonstrating that the remaining old board members still had some ability remaining to stand up to massive, inappropriate and unwanted development.  Unfortunately, the official position that was then signed by Ostrow proclaims the GGPNC takes no position on the high density project.

It is a shame that in a matter of a few weeks the GGPNC went from opposing this type of zoning violation to having "no position", and differing to city bureaucrats. 

The logical question with respect to the GGPNC and Los Feliz Forward is: what’s next?  What sort of lucrative development project can we expect to see coming to and around Los Feliz?  And who will be there next time to stop the destruction of the character of Los Feliz?

The O’Grady and Mauceri deception machine appears well-oiled and ready to kick ass.  I just wish they would quit looking at our neighborhood like it was a wet t-shirt contest.

Late word is that facing growing community opposition, the developer has withdrawn his current proposal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lopez Canyon: Open Space battleground

Editor's note: On June 15th, the Planning and Land Use Management committee of the Los Angeles City Council will hear case number ZA-2009-3619-ZV-1A: Richard Alarcon's plan to put a Truck Driving Academy on top of a closed landfill on a hill in the middle of a residential community in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

The Truck Driving Academy will be run by a non-profit but backed by a powerful union. The plan paves 1.5 acres of the Open Space while bringing more trucks onto the closed landfill property and into the surrounding residential neighborhoods. The free land comes with a five year lease with two possible five year renewals to the school.

On the PLUM committee is Reyes, Huizar, and Alarcon's next-door neighbor, CD 2 representative Paul Krekorian. Most of Krekorian's constituents as well as constituent groups that got him elected are resoundingly against Alarcon's project. 

Also published concurrently as special to Mayor Sam.

Kagel Canyon is an idyllic community in the unincorporated County foothills behind Lopez Canyon. Mainly lower income, and rural, it is often the last to receive services on the County side. Residents put up with the constant threat of wildfires, limited water, and so-so services for what should be a quaint, quiet country lifestyle.

View Larger Map

Kagel Canyon was truly very quiet, until the City of Los Angeles opened Lopez Canyon Landfill next door in 1975. The City – as embodied by the City Council representative for the district (CD 7) has been a very rude, nasty neighbor since then. For the next 20 years Kagel Canyon residents lived with the sound of hundreds of trucks, and the smell of Los Angeles’ garbage... all without any City mitigation. None. Zero. Zilch.

Finally, some reprieve when the landfill was closed in 1996 and the closure process began. Relief was on the horizon. Or so Kagel Canyon, or any sane individual would have thought.

Today, and every day since 1996, when Los Angeles City trucks start work on Lopez Canyon, Kagel Canyon knows it’s 7am – time to get up whether you’ve had your 8 hours sleep or not. Rumbling. The ground shakes. Beep beep beep go the back-up alarms – supposedly “directional” so as not to disturb the neighbors. The grinding and scraping of backhoe buckets. There is no sleeping through the onslaught. A small window of quiet does still the vibrations around lunch break at 11:30am. True peace doesn’t come until knock-off time after 3:30pm. Then it begins again the next morning.

The landfill is supposed to be “closed”, a process by which the landfill stops taking refuse and over time is capped by a required amount of dirt and clay to limit leachate and runoff. Fourteen years after closing began, Lopez is still not completely capped, something for which the State of California’s governing body - the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery - wants an immediate explanation.

The State also want an explanation for something else:

Why is the City of Los Angeles building a truck driving academy on an uncapped landfill zoned Open Space? It is not in the approved closure plan.

The answer to why can be summed up in one man: Richard Alarcon. The “how” however, is a complex tale of decades of Mafia-esque behavior, illegal activity, and environmental injustice.

The State should also be asking why the City also built a green waste recycling facility – an industrial activity bringing 35-40 trucks a day into the facility on the same landfill – in 2002? How did that happen? 

The road to Open Space.

The hills that used to be Lopez Canyon Landfill lies in the northeast San Fernando Valley, at the 210 -118 Freeway split in Lake View Terrace. Bordered on the west by what’s left of the original Lopez Canyon that isn’t filled with garbage is a part of unincorporated L.A. County wherein lies Sky Terrace Mobile Home Park – damaged in the Marek Fire and, at last check, left without financial aid of any kind – and Hope Gardens, the Union Rescue Mission’s halfway residence for elderly women and mothers with children.

The land to the south of the landfill and north of the 210 freeway between Lopez Canyon Road and Osborne Street is a strictly residential part of Lake View Terrace, with another mobile home park, two schools, and equestrian properties at the edge of Los Angeles City Council District 7 (Alarcon) next to CD 2 (Krekorian). The northern part of the landfill adjoins the Angeles National Forest and over 100 acres owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

To the northeast lies Kagel Canyon, bearers of the brunt of landfill impacts these past three decades.

Lopez Canyon landfill stopped accepting trash in July1996 and began the 30-year process of closing and sealing off the former landfill areas. Known as “decks”, Deck A , Deck B, Deck AB and Deck C, together with their respective slopes have dirt packed to a certain level above the garbage, sealing it from rainwater and limiting leaching and ground water contamination as the garbage decomposes and settles.The Truck Driving Academy would be built on A-Deck, the deck closest to Kagel Canyon residences.

From the landfill’s opening in 1975 until its closure in July, 1996, trash was deposited into canyons, now filled and closed became the currently visible flat, clay and dirt-covered areas. According to State law, all former trash sites must be monitored for settling and methane gas emissions.

The monitored decks total 166 acres of the 399 acre Lopez Canyon Landfill property. But the entire 399 acres was zoned as Open Space in 2007, by Alarcon’s very own council motion. This is what Alarcon said then about the Open Space zoning:
Eleven years after the closure of the Lopez Canyon Landfill, Lopez Canyon today has the potential to re-emerge as a location where children and families can enjoy a safe and clean place for active and passive recreation as well as open space. Lopez Canyon Landfill yields revenues that have been placed in various funds, thus, providing seed funding for the rebirth of Lopez Canyon as an open space and recreational gem.

The City of Los Angeles has an opportunity to make good on its commitment to the Northeast San Fernando Valley community to mitigate the impact of the landfill and other environmentally hazardous land uses by using Lopez Canyon as a location that can serve the recreational and open space needs of residents.
The zoning came with formal plans for recreation on the site (scroll down). The community would like to think that Richard Alarcon meant what he said in this motion, passed unanimously by the Los Angeles City Council. Knowing Alarcon’s usual modus operandi, however, the Foothill Trails District Neighborhood Council, within whose boundaries Lopez Canyon lies, filed the following Community Impact Statement on this council file:
At its regular meeting tonight, the General Board of Foothill Trails District Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to request that the City Council notify the public via mailings to all City And County residents within 1/4 mile and surrounding Neighborhood Councils of any new proposed uses for Lopez Canyon Landfill that are different than that adopted by Council File # 07-1660

Like torture.

One Kagel Canyon homeowner expresses their frustration with the ridiculously slow pace of the closure, and the new industrial uses in an Open Space zone.

“We bought house in 1997, two years after the supposed “closure”. If we thought this thing wouldn’t shut down, we’d never have bought here. My mother’s home in the heart of Van Nuys is much quieter than here.”

Another resident likens living with the noise pollution “like water torture”.

All in the family.

The neighborhood council representing all of Lake View Terrace, the Foothill Trails District NC, too have often been the recipient of Alarcon’s subtle tactics in the Lopez Canyon matter. From Mayor Sam at the time:
Alarcon Aide Issues 'Warning' to NC Board

…Tonight the Foothill Trails District Neighborhood Council had two items on their agenda directly related to Zorro Marxist’s council motion (08-0481) taking $100,000 from the Hansen Dam Environmental Awareness Center fund to pay for truck driver training.

1. presentation by Alarcon aide John De La Rosa on the truck driver training program
2. community impact statement opposing 08-0481 (because) the Hansen Dam fund is not for this purpose.

First De la Rosa, who used to run Lopez Canyon Landfill when it was open by the way, gave his own version of the history of the Fund…. De La Rosa saying that it did not matter what the City Administrative Code says about this fund. Alarcon could and will spend it any way Alarcon wants. He told the board to forget what the City Administrative Code says, end of story. ‘It’s (o8-0481) going to happen no matter what’. Also, Alarcon will be moving the money to a new fund of some kind.

… when FTDNC board were about to pass the CIS, De La Rosa in his best Sopranos voice - “(if you vote for the CIS) …you will be pitting community against community.”
Alarcon’s favorite field deputy and hit man, John De La Rosa, receives a healthy stipend granted by City Council motion for personal services – to provide expertise the Councilmember needs relative to his Council Office that is not otherwise available. What might those be?

De La Rosa is Richard Alarcon’s cousin. He has a long history with Lopez Canyon and the impacted communities. In fact, De La Rosa used to manage the entire Lopez Canyon Landfill as a Bureau of Sanitation employee when the dump was open for garbage. In fact, after years of alleged funny-business such as falsifying employee records, De La Rosa was basically forced to resign or be fired and lose his job and pension. He resigned, and his personnel file was successfully sealed. De La Rosa ran Lopez Canyon the same way Alarcon wields control over the site and the people surrounding it – with the same tactics. It is oddly fitting that the old dump manager is now Alarcon’s special community contact.

Lopez Canyon lies within the Rim of the Valley Trail Corridor, providing both a buffer and an open space trail linkage between Rim of the Valley elements. It is now part of the Federal Consolidated Natural Resources Act (P.L. 110-229, section 327).  With industrial uses firmly entrenched where they shouldn’t be, the Rim of the Valley connections and uses at Lopez Canyon are now at risk.

Alarcon could not care less. The words “Rim of the Valley” might as well be “have a nice day”.

Lopez Mitigation funds: play money.

Again, from Mayor Sam at the time:
There are three or four (community mitigation) funds associated with the closed landfill in the northeast San Fernando Valley, all of which receive incoming monies from sales of methane which is a byproduct of the decades of decomposing City garbage underground. The Lopez Canyon Landfill Community Amenities Fund is supposed to benefit the people who have been highly impacted by the landfill. This area includes the parts of Lake View Terrace and Pacoima nearest Lopez Canyon, and most of unincorporated Kagel Canyon. Kagel has borne the majority of the landfill's impacts while receiving effectively none of the millions that have passed through the funds since Ernani Bernardi introduced the original motion with the best of intentions in the early 1990s.

According to Alarcon aide (and coincidentally also his cousin) John De La Rosa, the Lopez Canyon fund is supposed to be used '...for the area north of San Fernando Boulevard to Foothill Boulevard; east of Paxton Street to Osborne Street.' Completely contrary to Bernardi's original motion, De La Rosa's description of the impacted area tellingly leaves Kagel Canyon, the area most impacted by the landfill, 100% out of the picture. (There are historic reasons to believe that Bernardi envisioned the fund benefiting Kagel Canyon as well.)

When questioned last year as to why Alarcon was taking $100,000 from another of the landfill community funds (the Hansen Dam Environmental Awareness Center Fund) and using it to build a truck driving academy on the landfill property now slated to be a City park, Alarcon simply dissolved the Environmental Awareness Center fund and moved the money into the Community Amenities Fund where the motion states that the funds are to be spent at the discretion of the councilman.
Alarcon successfully completed the termination of the Hansen Dam Environmental Awareness Fund and placed the remaining cash in the Lopez Canyon Community Amenities Fund in October 2009.  Today the Community Amenities Fund has for all intents and purposes gone from a community mitigation fund to a second discretionary fund for Alarcon, leaving the people impacted most by the landfill once again without a true democratic voice in how the funds are spent. Meanwhile, Alarcon's friends profit from the community's loss.

Community amenities seem like they should be permastructures, like basketball courts or playground equipment. Something those directly affected by the landfill - people in '...the area north of San Fernando Boulevard to Foothill Boulevard; east of Paxton Street to Osborne Street', and Kagel Canyon obviously - can use and enjoy.

The Lopez Canyon Community Amenities Fund is Alarcon’s play thing now, and the spending is mainly in Pacoima on items one could hardly call an amenity. His spending spree, basically unchecked, includes the following:
None of the money has ever gone to Kagel Canyon, and very little has gone to the City portion of the community most impacted by the landfill.

“Free Land”

At a time when many truckers are out of work and the trucking jobs promised by Alarcon to academy graduates are nowhere in sight, independent truckers are fighting the City of Los Angeles tooth and nail to bypass expensive new environmental laws enacted at the Port of Los Angeles last year. Yet the Teamsters Union – profferers of the Truck Driving Academy – aren’t exactly fighting the new environmental laws. They, along with associated organized trucking companies, can afford to upgrade their trucks to meet the new environmental criteria at the Port… on the taxpayer dime. Many of their members were recipients of $44 million in taxpayer money to do so, and not surprisingly, they’re not keeping up their end of the bargain nor are they being made to do so, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal. 

Authorities in the field say that the 1.5 acres being forced upon Lopez Canyon is too small for proper truck driver training. Although flush with more taxpayer money than we could possibly know about, it appears that the Teamsters do not want to pay a nominal fee to rent industrial property in CD 7 on flat land that is actually suitable for a truck driving school.

Although opinionated, one Mayor Sam commenter recently summarized this aspect of Alarcon's plan fairly well:
“There is only one reason this City is poised to grant a horrible zoning variance in the middle of Open Space in Lopez Canyon to allow an industrial diesel spewing truck driving school-- the … AFL-CIO ... does not want to use its federal grant funds to pay rent at a more appropriate location!

The Lopez Canyon Truck Driving School is ALL ABOUT Villaraigosa and Alarcon HANDING CITY ASSETS OVER to political cronies in the unions and in this case it's free use of taxpayer-owned City land for this school…All of this has been orchestrated from the Mayor's office by Deputy Mayor Larry Frank -- himself a former union attorney flack -- steering the federal job training money to enrich the Mayor's union buddies.

After enduring years of garbage trucks running up and down residential streets near Lopez Canyon, the community understandably is ready to fight for some environmental justice. The Mayor and Alarcon are ...trying to make the community's children be exposed to 5, 10 or 15 more years of diesel and harmful truck noise when they just finished enduring more than 20 years of a sanitary landfill jammed down their throats… The residents of Lopez and other areas nearby need the unified voice of Neighborhood Councils and community groups from all over the City writing to the Mayor and Alarcon saying:

No economic downturn justifies you to ignore the fundamental zoning and federal grant rules to site a semi-truck driving school in the hillside open space zone of Lopez Canyon. Tell your union buddies to locate some more appropriate commercial/industrial land in an proper land use zone and pay the damn rent!"
What Alarcon says to those who actually listen to the aging demagogue about opposition to his land grab runs along these lines. Paraphrased: It’s all about jobs for people in Pacoima, and those people who live around the landfill are just selfish NIMBYs.

“Infrasound” and Vibroacoustic Disease.
Infrasound is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz (Hertz) or cycles per second, the normal limit of human hearing. Hearing becomes gradually less sensitive as frequency decreases, so for humans to perceive infrasound, the sound pressure must be sufficiently high. The ear is the primary organ for sensing infrasound, but at higher levels it is possible to feel infrasound vibrations in various parts of the body.

Vibroacoustic Disease is a cumulative and chronic disease caused by exposure to infrasound. Infrasound is low frequency sound energy that affects the nervous system and prolonged exposure can lead to progressive medical conditions. Noise pollution is unwanted human-created sound that has the effect of being annoying, distracting, painful, or physically harmful. Sound triggers an involuntary stress response commonly known as "flight or flight." This results in the secretion of adrenaline, with ensuing spikes in cardio-respiratory rates, muscle tension, and elevated blood pressure.

People exposed to noise pollution suffer from hearing loss, sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue, anxiety, hostility, depression and hypertension. The World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, United Nations and numerous scientific and medical publications recognize noise pollution and its deleterious effects. The City of Los Angeles, however, doesn’t give a damn if its planning policies and practices are any indication.

Those NIMBYs, as Alarcon calls them, are people who have varying degrees of Vibroacoustic Disease, and who desperately need some relief from the Infrasound and the rank odors emanating from the tons of green waste mixture of yard trimmings and horse manure as it is turned and mixed daily.

It's about what Richard wants.
It’s 2002 and enter the first new industrial use installed on Lopez Canyon land, the Green Waste Recycling Facility by Alarcon’s then heir apparent: Alex Padilla. It goes by the innocuous name of The Lopez Canyon Environmental Center. Entirely out of keeping with other landfills undergoing closure in Los Angeles, this is precedent-setting. It will be used against the community when the Truck Driving Academy appears on Alarcon’s radar in 2009. Does this sound familiar?
A task force of Lopez Canyon Landfill neighbors (individuals, neighborhood associations, local non-profits) sic was formed to meet with Bureau of Sanitation representatives to determine the feasibility of siting a composting facility at the closed landfill and to advise the Bureau on (the Green waste recycling facility). Meetings were held for 9 months discussing topics that included noise, odor and traffic concerns and mitigations, site design, composting methods, and landscaping. As a result of these meetings Sanitation redesigned portions of the proposed facility, made changes to the originally proposed operations, hired a noise consultant to design noise mitigation measures and brought in a Bureau landscape architect to develop the landscaping plan. A Mitigated Negative Declaration was prepared and approved, a Memorandum of Understanding was written and signed by the Task Force and the facility became a reality in December 2003.
Alarcon always stacks the deck when he wants something, something Padilla learned well. Alarcon hand-picks his individuals, neighborhood associations, and local favored non-profits to get the result he wants. The “Lopez Canyon Community Advisory Committee” is just one example of a hand-picked committee Alarcon uses to rubber stamp his activities there.

If handpicking committees isn’t enough, Alarcon buses “stakeholders” in to meetings, as this author witnessed in a community fight to keep a major league sized baseball stadium from being built in a residential community. He also controls media perception. When reporters visit Kagel Canyon, if Alarcon knows about it in advance, he orders all work stopped at Lopez so that the trucks can’t be heard: the Kagel community sounds like liars. Last Tuesday in Council during the confirmation hearing of Irma Munoz to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy board, while other councilmembers asked Ms. Munoz her plans/qualifications/goals, Alarcon instead went on the offensive, overtly attempting to intimidate her with respect to the SMMC's opposition of the Truck Driving Academy.

Improper use of a Variance.

Zoning variances are are for residential use primarily, in neighborhoods where the majority have a certain amenity but some in the neighborhood do not enjoy the same property rights as neighbors because they don’t quite meet a zoning requirement. That is when a variance might be granted. They are not for use by the City in an attempt to re purpose open space such as what is happening now.

Reading the Zoning Hearing Administrator’s Findings of Fact shows you how hard she had to work to make the language try to fit this project. There are no perceived property rights from nearby zones to compare with. The zoning administrator tries to make significant comparisons, but over all fails, making some key mistakes in her findings. For example:

“The use of Open Space property for non-recreational use is not uncommon as exemplified by gravel mining operations around Hansen Dam…”

Fact of the matter is that Hansen Dam is not City land, but Federal Land, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Dept of Recreation and Parks leases Hansen Dam for use as Open Space. At the time the mining activity was taking place, the land where mining was taking place was not leased by the City as it is today. Other comparisons to strips of land under power lines are just plain silly. The variance criteria falls on its face right here.

There are other things to take issue with in the Zoning Administrator's certification of the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Truck Driving Academy. An alternative site wasn’t even named or studied as required by a mitigated negative declaration. That in itself is lawsuit material. All supporters speaking at the hearing (besides Alarcon, giving the benefit of the doubt) have some form of material interest in the Academy. CEQA regarding the truck driver rural training section was ignored in the MND.

There is also the question of how some support letters were obtained by Council District 7 for the application. At least one claiming to represent a major local community entity did not go through official channels and does not represent the position of the entity in question. How the letter was obtained, and by whom is under investigation at the time of the publication of this article.

David verses Big Brother.

With the deck perpetually stacked by Alarcon, Kagel Canyon and its concerned neighbors, collectively known as the Community Alliance for Open Space (email to: lopezopenspace(at) ) will likely have to sue the City in open court to force it to obey its own laws and to achieve environmental justice at last.

On their side, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors – all five of them, and more than ten neighborhood councils.

Standing between them and peace and quiet, and good health – the demagogue of CD 7 and his extended family, his two favorite neighborhood councils (Pacoima and Mission Hills) who are, not surprisingly, well-stocked with favored operatives, and a union who has in the past no doubt made many contributions to Alarcon's political career.

Lawsuits cost money, something that is not in abundance in the modest community. So for now, the pancake breakfasts and car washes continue while hoping beyond hope that on June 15th, the PLUM committee will somehow decide to do what is right over what Richard Alarcon wants.

Perhaps the ultimate irony in the struggle over Lopez Canyon is that the fate of Open Spaces across the City may rest in the hands of a community group whose core constituency doesn't even live in the City.