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Dunbar Village groundbreaking on Central Avenue

The historic Dunbar Hotel, for decades a crumbling shell, is now being renovated and returned to its former glory. The development, spearheaded by Thomas Safran & Associates, will create 83-unit mixed-use, inter-generational community housing for seniors and families, and create over 150 construction jobs. The renovations of the Dunbar Hotel will feature 41 one-bedroom units for seniors in the Dunbar Hotel and 42 two, three, and four bedroom units for families. Dunbar Village features approximately 8,000 square feet of retail space, including PACE Early Childhood Education and CD Techlink computer school.  Built in 1928, the Dunbar Hotel, originally named the Somerville Hotel, was the focal point of the Central Avenue African-American community during the 1930s and 1940s. The Hotel was built and operated by the Somervilles, a family of black pioneers in dentistry and business. After the stock market crash in 1929, Somerville was forced to sell the hotel, and in 1930, the hotel was renamed in honor of the seminal poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. It became the most prestigious hotel in L.A.’s African-American community, hosting legends such as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne and many others. At that time, it was known as the West Coast Waldorf-Astoria. It was also the gathering place for African-American literary, political and intellectual leaders, including Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, Thurgood Marshall and James Weldon Johnson.

In the 1950s, as rules and customs against segregation weakened, Dunbar clients began staying in other public lodgings. For example, Duke Ellington, who had previously kept a suite at the Dunbar, began staying at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. The Dunbar was again sold in 1968, but the hotel continued to lose money, and closed its doors in 1974. That same year, the Dunbar was designated as a Historic-Cultural Landmark by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission. Nonetheless, for most of the years between 1974 and 1987, the building was vacant and in poor condition, covered with graffiti, its window broken and its famous suites the residence of homeless people seeking shelter.

Developer Tom Safran has produced many of the finest senior and affordable housing developments in the Second District and is adept at creating affordable, attractive, and culturally significant developments. “This may be his most important project yet,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The project is set for completion in February of 2013.

New property tax assessment seminar

The County of Los Angeles is sponsoring a free 90-minute seminar in Culver City in January, 2012, to assist property owners who feel their taxes should be lowered due to a decline in the value of their property.  The seminar is intended to help taxpayers better understand the assessment appeals process, which many find confusing.  The seminar will be of value to homeowners who are interested in learning about the assessment appeals process and to those who have already filed an appeal.  The seminar will cover taxpayers appeal rights and when to file an application for reduction in assessment.  The seminar will also cover how to prepare for a hearing, what qualifies as admissible evidence, what will happen at the hearing and what to expect after the hearing.

The date, time, and second district location of the session is:

Thursday, January 26, 10 a.m.
Culver City Public Library
4975 Overland Ave
Free parking behind the library.

Persons with disabilities who believe they need reasonable accomodation in order to attend the seminar may call (213) 974-7953 or (800) 735-2922 (TDD). Schedules for seminars may be obtained by calling (213) 974-7953 or on the internet at https://lacaab.lacounty.gov/PubEdProg.aspx

Assessor John Noguez authorizes a grace period through December 31 to file a 2011 Decline-in-Value Review application

Los Angeles County Assessor John R. Noguez has authorized a grace period for 2011 Decline-in-Value Review application through December 31, 2011.  This extends the November 30, 2011 deadline to submit an application.

During this time period, the Office of the Assessor will continue to accept and process completed Decline-in-Value Review applications. The application is for property owners who believe that their property should be reviewed for a temporary adjustment for the 2011 assessed value if the property suffered a “decline-in-value” as allowed by the California Revenue and Taxation Code. Assessor Noguez stated, “I granted a grace period in an effort to offer as much assistance to taxpayers as possible during these difficult economic times. It is our public duty that we give property owners every single opportunity to have their property accurately reviewed if they believe they have suffered a decline-in-value in 2011.”

Applications will be processed if they are filed and postmarked by December 31, 2011. The application can be filed either online at http://assessor.lacounty.gov or obtained by calling the Los Angeles County Propertu Tax Information Line at 888.807.2111 to reach the Office of the Assessor.

(Courtesy of John R. Noguez)

IMPORTANT NOTE: This Assossor’s Decline-in-Value Review Application filing gace period applies only to an Assessor’s Office review. This grace period does not apply to the Los Angeles County Assessment Appeals Board filing deadline of November 30, 2011 for Regular Assessments. John R. Noguez has over 25 years of appraiser experience in the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office and was elected Assessor in November 2010 with nearly one million votes. The constitutional duty of the Assessor is to fairly and accurately appraise property. The Office of the Assessor maintains a property roll of 2.4 million homes and businesses that have a gross total appraised valuation of over $1.1 trillion dollars in 2011.

Activation of 2-1-1 Los Angeles County disaster hotline for residents to report damage caused by wind storm

The Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) announces the activation of the 211 LA County Disaster Hotline (1-800-980-4990) for residents to report damages caused by the recent wind storm event. Residents may also call 2-1-1 as well to report damages.

As the recovery efforts continue in the Los Angeles County Operational Area (OA), OEM continues to collect Initial Damage Estimates from County departments, cities and unincorporated areas to determine public and private sector damages throughout the County. OEM will continue to coordinate with the California Emergency Management Agency to secure State and Federal assistance as warranted.

On Dec. 1, Los Angeles County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich declared a state of emergency for the cities and unincorporated areas in the County.

OEM stands ready to ramp up if conditions warrant. In addition, all County departments continue to prepare and be ready to respond to any future emergencies and/or disasters.

Ujima Village community meeting

More than 250 people attended an informational meeting held by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, to receive an update on the environmental investigation into oil-related contamination at the former Ujima Village apartment complex.

Officials from the Los Angeles Regional Water Board, the Los Angeles Community Development Commission, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the County Assessor’s Office also were on hand at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook, to provide the standing-room only crowd an overview of the ongoing soil, water and air quality sampling and to answer questions and address concerns. At the meeting’s outset, the Supervisor emphasized that there will be a series of community meetings to follow and that he is focused on relocating Little Honey’s Day Care Center, which is adjacent to the Ujima Village site, as quickly as possible. The meeting was often heated, with audience members expressing strong frustration and anger about the contamination at the complex where many said they had lived for decades. The former village residents asked a variety of questions concerning their health, the longevity of the investigation, and what they individually need to do in order to ensure their statements are included in the investigation.

Among the audience members were parents of children who attend Honey’s Little Angel’s Child Care Center.

Lynwood resident Cindy Alvarado has a four-year-old daughter who attends the day care center and said she came to the meeting to have the rumors set straight. “I’m trying to find out if there are chemicals around the school,” Cindy said, “Some people are saying that its dangerous for kids to attend the daycare, others are not.”

At the meeting, Executive Officer, Samuel Unger of the Water Board said environmental testing determined that contamination was far below ground, and that air quality for the neighborhood was consistent with that of the region.

Director of Environmental Health, Angelo Bellomo of the Department of Public Health said that the contamination does not currently present a threat to human health at the daycare site or at the former site of the village, but most of the audience greeted that assertion with a high degree of skepticism.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas emphasized that the experts were on hand to provide information to residents — not to tell them what to think.

Click here to download an FAQ from the Los Angeles Water Quality Control Board.