Candidate’s Corner: Robin Rudisill Opens Up for Local Primaries

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Los Angeles County local primary elections will take place on Tuesday, March 7th. On the Westside, Venice locals Robin Rudisill and Mark Ryavec will challenge incumbent  Councilmember Mike Bonin. Yo! Venice asked a number of questions to all three candidates. Here is Venice local, Robin Rudisill’s unedited response…

What are your top 3 priorities for CD-11? 

My top 3 priorities for CD-11 are:

1. To radically accelerate work on the Homelessness issue, with the overriding goal being to maximize the effectiveness of our bond and City land resources.

2. To stop our City Council and Mayor from their City Ethics violations and corrupt practices in working with developers, as described in Measure S, and to immediately start the update of our Community Plans.

3. Provide more affordable housing through 1) protecting and retaining it, and 2) building it.

I cannot help but add that overriding all priorities and actions is my absolute conviction that we cannot fix many of the problems and issues of the City until we change the “tone at the top,” aka culture of the City’s leadership, to one of Ethics and Integrity. We we must Demand Integrity in our City’s leadership and its decision processes by requiring that we be ever mindful of and strictly enforce the City of L.A. Code of Ethics, thereby ensuring that all City officials are devoted to the best interests of the City and that “persons in the public service shall not use…..or attempt to use their position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for themselves and others.” Public Service requires the Public Trust, and so there must be due process, fairness and transparency in the conduct of the People’s business.

Homelessness is a big issue in Venice. How do you plan to deal with it?

At the West L.A. democratic club candidate forum, on Friday, February 11th, every candidate acknowledged ending Homelessness as a priority. After I spoke of Homelessness as a serious crisis, Mike Bonin also did, calling out that it has not been treated as the crisis that it is. It sounded like an admission of guilt or maybe regret, and it is all the more regrettable given the exponential increase in the Homeless population in his district, Venice in particular.  I recognize that this is a City-wide problem and that it must be dealt with by the City Council on behalf of the entire City, but I will never understand why more has not been done. I will never understand how we could see our fellow mankind living and sleeping in the streets and not take immediate, crisis mode steps to help them.

In 2006, a federal appeals court ruled that the City’s ban on lying or sleeping on public sidewalks amounted to cruel and unusual punishment because there weren’t enough shelter beds for the City’s huge homeless population. In the settlement of the lawsuit, the City agreed to suspend police actions until it could provide a certain amount of permanent homeless housing. To my knowledge, not enough has been done to reach that goal, and all that has really been done is efforts to clean up the area. This prevents our police force from doing normal policing. We can’t even do the kind of normal policing Santa Monica and other cities do until the City lives up to court settlements to get the Homeless housed. More than that, we simply must give care to those who need it. Our goal should be to take care of the needs of all, getting the Homeless into housing and considering all residents’ quality of life. All of this must be done with respect to all. And it most certainly can be done much more quickly.

If we wait for Councilman Bonin’s well-meaning approach to build “supportive housing” (permanent homeless housing) on a few identified City parcels, that could take years. But as with all policy, we need multi-faceted approaches. Focusing on just one approach would be turning a blind eye to activities that make even more people homeless, such as landlords converting apartments into office space for tech companies or kicking elderly tenants out of rent-stabilized apartments to create short-term rentals or de facto hotels.

Instead of providing more housing, the City’s Planning and Housing (HCID) departments essentially facilitate the loss of affordable housing, which in turn leads to homelessness in many cases. It’s shocking. It’s unconscionable. Those of us who have discovered this and have seen it actually happen on an ongoing basis are incensed. We appeal and beg and plea with the powers that be to stop the loss of our affordable-income housing, which is simply allowing developers to make even more money and which also is causing the related loss of our lower income residents. It MUST be stopped! But the best we can get is a letter or two from our Council Office requesting City departments to make certain changes. But when they do not do so, there is no follow up or accountability. The result: business as usual. Affordable housing is flying out the back window while everyone knows we are in a huge crisis, one of the worst in the United States.

Strengthening the Mello Act, which is supposed to protect affordable housing in the Coastal Zone, is an easy fix. In January 2015, over two years ago, Bonin submitted a Motion to City Council to prepare a permanent ordinance to implement the Mello Act, directing City departments to report back within 90 days. We were thrilled that this was finally going to be done. However, just short of a year later, there was one meeting of PLUM (the City Council’s land use committee), where the item was “continued to undetermined date.” There has been no follow up. At yesterday’s candidate forum, Bonin alluded to the audience that his Mello Act Motion had passed. A misleading statement perhaps? (You decide.)

City officials don’t like to talk about the loss of affordable housing. They only want to talk about building more affordable housing, not the affordable housing that they are not protecting and preserving as required by law. However, we must address this, as it is a truism that a city or a community cannot build their way out of an affordable housing crisis. Our City must stop the bleeding. They must protect and preserve the affordable housing that we have and in turn stop the loss of the lower-income residents from our communities. Needless to say, the loss of affordable housing in our city is by far the greatest in District 11, and it has mostly occurred on Bonin’s watch.

The homelessness issue is a true humanitarian crisis, and we must urgently maximize supportive housing and other necessary services. One area I have heard very little on is the impact of easily available addictive drugs in the areas where the Homeless frequently congregate. I see no reason why our LAPD officers can’t more strictly enforce the law in this area and will ask them to do so.

Lastly, I am action oriented and will assure that we stop talking about certain things and do them, such as truly enhancing training for LAPD to address mental illness with more knowledge and compassion. If that has been or is being done, I will be very glad to hear it, but I haven’t heard much about the progress in this area and I will put much more focus on it. We need a solution for our homeless residents with mental health issues and we need it NOW.

Measure H. Yes or No? And why?

Measure H is a County Measure for funding programs for reducing and preventing homelessness (I filled in my own words here as I cannot bring myself to say “combating homelessness,” as it says on the ballot!!). This is the “sister” ballot measure to the City’s recently passed Measure HHH. The County plans to levy a ¼ cent sales tax for ten years. The City plans to issue $1.2 billion of general obligation bonds.

The County measure states: “To fund mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, rental subsidies, emergency and affordable housing, transportation, outreach, prevention, and supportive services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors, disabled individuals, and other homeless adults.”

The City measure states: “To provide safe, clean affordable housing for the homeless and for those in danger of becoming homeless, such as battered women and their children, veterans, seniors, foster youth, and the disabled; and provide facilities to increase access to mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, and other services.”

The programs funded are very much the same. One difference between the two is that the County’s Measure H requires “independent annual audits” while the City’s Measure HHH requires only “annual financial audits.” I looked into it and the City plans for these audits to be done in house. It’s disappointing to me that the City is not providing for “independent annual audits” as is the County. Things like this make a difference and as Councilwoman I will be always watching, because as I well know, especially with this City, the devil’s in the details.

Both measures will have citizen oversight via an appointed commission. In the City’s case, it will be appointed by the Mayor and the City Council.

Yes, we should definitely support Measure H so that we can implement the full program to fund the badly needed and negligently deferred programs and housing for our homeless population, using the full turbo-charged force of funds from throughout the County and the City of Los Angeles. Need I say, the People have spoken.

As demand for high-end property in Venice continues, what needs to be done to protect affordable housing in the community and also, how can those being displaced be better helped?

First and foremost, start enforcing existing laws that are in place to protect affordable homes. The incumbent has turned a blind eye to constant abuses of the Mello Act, the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), and others that are supposed to protect tenant’s rights. We’ve lost hundreds, if not thousands, of affordable units to illegal short-term rental (STR) conversions and rogue hotels. I heard that one of my opponents has thrown long-term tenants out of apartments he owns in order to illegally convert them to STRs. The incumbent and his colleagues on the Council keep telling us they’re going to pass an ordinance to regulate STRs, but they won’t even enforce the laws already on the books. It’s simply hypocritical to say you want to solve the affordable housing crisis while, at the same time, you’re presiding over the conversion or destruction of more affordable housing than you can possibly replace.

Secondly, stop giving away building entitlements and code adjustments like candy at a birthday party. This creates an incentive for owners of affordable housing to tear it down and build for the current luxury market.

Thirdly, one of the major reasons that housing has become unaffordable is that we’ve abandoned real city planning and replaced it with a corrupt system of spot zoning and other give-aways that depend on political payoffs, result in over-priced land, and result in a marketplace where an honest developer has a very tough time making projects “pencil out.” We’ve replaced the certainty of an honest planning system with a winner-take-all sort of casino for land-use speculators! That makes projects more expensive to build, and it turns communities against development, which then makes it even more expensive to build.

All these things seem to get left out of the affordable housing discussions, yet they’re creating the most immediate harm. There just aren’t a lot of developers who will pay a politician to retain the affordable housing we have. Our affordable housing system is completely broken. RSO housing is only what was built up until 1978, and it is steadily disappearing. We don’t have a program to replace it, or to build affordable housing at anything near the rate that we’re losing it.

There is another factor that no one seems to talk about. Los Angeles and other cities with international profiles are attracting huge amounts of real estate investment from around the globe. This is capital looking for a place to park, and the market it finds attractive is luxury housing, not affordable housing. This has put upward pressure on the entire market. Thus, we have simultaneously an affordable housing crisis and a luxury housing glut.

We need to build affordable housing, but the way our housing economy is working right now, we’re actually building ourselves into a deeper crisis. We need to change the incentive structure, so that the market itself will provide affordable housing, not because it has to, but because it wants to. Vancouver had a similar problem, driven by an influx of foreign real estate investment. Housing had become unaffordable to the middle class. After trying several approaches to correcting this, including housing production, they finally, in desperation, put a 15% surtax on foreign real estate investment. Housing prices settled down very quickly to affordable levels. This is not necessarily to say we could or should do the same, but it points out that the affordable housing crisis is not a simple problem of supply and demand.

Getting more cops on the streets has become an important election issue. What is the best way to allocate our LAPD resources?

Safety is a very important issue for me, as I’m a mother of three young women, now adults, I watch out for my mother, who lives with me, and I’ll be a grandmother in just two months! I am constantly looking for ways to make our neighborhoods safer. It’s also noteworthy that I’m the only woman in the race for CD-11.

That said, I found it a little amusing that Mike Bonin has been a Councilman for almost four years, as well as Chief of Staff to his predecessor for many years before that, and around 45 days before election day he determines that the LAPD needs more deployment and staffing.

Bonin’s request for more cops on the streets of L.A. at this late date in his term of office is political posturing at its worst. Did he do anything to increase our public safety budget to accommodate this request, or is this simply a campaign ploy to take away from the fact that crime is rising at disturbing rates throughout the 11th Council District?

What we need is appropriate police training, including for the mental health issues that plague many of our Homeless, and on tactics that will assist LAPD in dealing with the current homelessness crisis that Mike Bonin helped create. One only has to visit Venice at Third Street to see the unconscionable conditions that exist for the most vulnerable and forgotten citizens of Los Angeles. This situation has continued to worsen on Mike’s watch.

I was active on the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Neighborhood Committee for about six years before being elected as Chair of the Venice Land Use Committee and VNC Board member in 2013. I served on the VNC Safety Committee and the VNC Disaster Preparedness Committee, working closely with LAPD and LAFD on many projects. I’m very familiar with how the LAPD allocates their resources, and I worked with our local Senior Lead Officers and Pacific Division Captains over the past several years to improve that process.

I don’t understand why it took Bonin until almost the end of his term to figure this out. 11th hour political posturing and empty rhetoric pretty much sums up Mike’s tenure as our Councilman. We need a new approach that implements real strategies that yield real results. I will work with Mayor Garcetti, my colleagues on the City Council, and Chief Beck to ensure that we have an appropriately funded, well-trained, and well-staffed Police Department all of the time and not use the LAPD as a political football weeks before the City Council elections.

How much would this cost and where would the city find the money?

This would need to be discussed in great detail with Chief Beck. But based on the research I’ve done, I’m optimistic that an allocation of resources within the department could help pay for a good part of the additional cops on the street. I support a change to have more ‘civilians’ in LAPD desk jobs, while keeping some level of LAPD officer experience in each main department, particularly the specialized units such as gang violence, narcotics, and domestic violence. This will lower overall cost of those back office departments. As civilians become even better trained to support our officers, further reallocations in personnel can occur, which will continue to help fund the additional resources on the streets.

Measure S. Yes or No? And why?

I’m 100% FOR Measure S, also called the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.” We must restore integrity to our city’s Land Use process. The City of L.A. simply does not update its General Plan and Community Plans, and then it uses their age as an excuse to skip due process and give developers what they want in terms of zoning and height exceptions and General Plan amendments, no matter what the impact is to the communities involved. Obviously, this completely undermines the entire planning process as well as the purpose and role of the City’s General Plan as the “constitution” for development in the City, and it also undermines the role of the related Community Plans as the “blue print” for planning decisions in the City’s individual communities.

Measure S essentially says: Follow the law! I agree that Measure S is the only clear way to break this alleged “pay-to-play” system that is literally destroying our neighborhoods and handicapping our City’s ability to plan effectively for the future. Measure S also ends the unethical practice of letting developers handpick the “experts” who produce the reports about the environment and traffic impacts of their projects.

Unfortunately, there is a huge campaign of misinformation on Measure S by those who stand to benefit from the practices it would curtail, so it’s really about reaching as many people as possible with the TRUTH. Opponents of Measure S are spending millions fighting it, as it will stand in the way of them making hundreds of millions from the current practices of “spot zoning” as well as giving height district exceptions and General Plan amendments, all of which they so egregiously benefit from.

To address one of the most common misconceptions on Measure S—it is NOT a moratorium on all development. In fact, the Measure will impact a very small percentage of development projects.

Also, projects with 100% affordable housing are allowed zone changes or General Plan amendments.

Measure S is bringing the communities of Los Angeles together! We’re talking, we’re comparing notes, and we’re finding common concerns and gaining leverage in fighting for integrity in the City’s development processes. In the process of working on the issues on which Measure S shines a spotlight, we ARE taking back control of our City, because, as we all know, we have completely lost control. Land Use in L.A. really has become the “Wild, Wild West.”

The developers and politicians don’t get to decide the planning rules and make the decisions on how our communities should be built.

WE do!

We who LIVE in the communities and neighborhoods and whose quality of life is affected get to decide!

We MUST take back control of planning for our own communities. Land Use decisions should not be in the hands of the City Council and the Developers who gain their favor for spot zoning and worse.

In any case, what’s so bad about following the law for two years? Measure S is not about demonizing developers; it’s about changing the culture of our City leadership in order to have Integrity in the City’s land use processes and decisions.

Mike Bonin is against Measure S. He has filled his campaign chest with contributions from developers, as well as from their lawyers, lobbyists, architects, contractors, construction unions, and on and on and on. His campaign Co-Chair in the last election was one of L.A.’s biggest, “insider” developers. I have heard that Mark Ryavec has worked for developers including Donald Trump and BFI, a waste disposal company, in opposition to neighborhoods’ concerns for their quality of life. Each of our records speaks for itself. I have an unblemished record in a 25+ year career of being a CPA/Auditor and a CFO/Controller, where Integrity and Accountability were absolutely required. As a CFO I had responsibility for billions of dollars of assets. I will also note that my activism on behalf of my community and the coast has never been done for money.

Anything else you’d like to add?

There are some very important issues that tend to get lost in the shuffle because we have so many huge crises on our hands. One of those issues is protecting the environment. I hope you will ask about that in the future!

Robin Rudisill Election

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