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Residents Protest Sheriff’s Closure of Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station

Residents served by the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station are mobilizing to protest its closure by Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

“I find the Sheriff’s closing of the Marina del Rey station unacceptable,” said Florence Ochi of the Ladera Heights Civic Association. “The residents of Ladera Heights, View Park, Windsor Hills, Del Rey, as well as Marina del Rey, were blindsided by the Sheriff’s decision.”

“He did not have the courtesy of meeting with any of us to learn about our communities,” she added. “The closure of the station would destroy the respect and trust that has been built in all of our communities.”

The Sheriff had decided to close both Marina del Rey and Altadena stations without any independent vetting by the Los Angeles County’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and without any input from the communities that would be affected. In response, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kathryn Barger, whose districts include Marina del Rey and Altadena, directing the Sheriff to halt the closures.

“The Sheriff must achieve the necessary cost savings and budget cuts needed to address the Department’s deficit and the County’s revenue shortfall in a more transparent, collaborative and democratic way without jeopardizing service to our communities,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. He criticized not only the lack of transparency in the decision to close the stations, but also the minimal cost savings it would bring.

Residents asked why the Marina del Rey station was singled out for closure when the County CEO presented the Sheriff’s Department with numerous other cost-saving measures. They also expressed concern about the lack of analysis into how the closure would impact public safety and community wellbeing, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a lifelong resident of Windsor Hills, I feel that I speak for my neighbors when I express my displeasure and profound disappointment in the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s station closure,” Windsor Hills resident Toni Mc Donald-Tabor said. “We have always relied on Marina del Rey Sheriff’s station personnel to provide a timely response to our community’s public safety incidents, and we have enjoyed the effective impact of community-based policing. Closing the station will at the very least compromise this and, at worst, eliminate it.”

“We get very concerned any time funding for public safety becomes a battle. We believe that there are far better ways to achieve the budget reductions the Sheriff seeks without causing tragic public safety consequences in our communities,” added John W. Heath, President of the View Park United Homeowners’ Association. “If the Sheriff is seeking a 10% overall reduction in costs across all incorporated patrol areas, let’s make those reductions evenly across all stations instead of forcing our communities to disproportionately suffer from these reductions for a mere $16 million in annual savings.”

As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact communities of color, residents said increased investment in public safety is critical. They asked Sheriff Villanueva to value their input as constituents and impacted residents, and not close the station.

They also asked members of the public to join them in protesting the closure by calling the Sheriff’s Department at (213) 229-3000.

FAQ’s About the Sheriff’s Announced Closure of the Marina del Rey Station.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Sheriff’s Station Letter to Constituents.

Rental Assistance for Mom-and-Pop Property Owners and Tenant Households

Help is on the way for households struggling to pay rent and mom-and-pop property owners struggling to pay mortgage amid the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 19, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted a webinar to inform property owners about the new program and brief them on resources available through the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. The Supervisor is partnering with the Los Angeles Community Development Authority (LACDA) on a $1.8-million federally-funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program in unincorporated areas within Los Angeles County’s 2nd District, which include Athens, East and West Rancho Dominguez, Florence Firestone, Ladera Heights, Lennox, View Park, Windsor Hills and Willowbrook.

“One of the most disturbing elements of this pandemic has been its impact to the housing stability of our region and our nation at large,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “An unimaginable number of families are struggling just to feed their families. We must act with urgency and compassion to support residents and property owners weather these unspeakable circumstances. These grants will go a long way towards keeping hundreds of families housed.”

“The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program created by the Board of Supervisors will provide a dual benefit for two segments of our communities that are hurting,” said LACDA Acting Executive Director Emilio Salas.

“For income-eligible renters that were impacted by the pandemic, it will provide a lifeline to assist in paying their rent,” he added. “For our property owner community, many of whom are mom-and-pop providers of rental housing, it will provide help to meet their mortgage obligations on rental properties. The LACDA is pleased to work with the Board, our partner agencies, and 2-1-1 to kick off this vital program.”

The US Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, provides emergency rental assistance grants to income-eligible households who suffered through a job loss, furlough, or reduction in hours or pay as a result of the pandemic.

In the Second District, $1 million has been allocated to provide tenants with up to $1,000 towards their monthly rent for up to three months. LA County has contracted with the nonprofit St. Joseph Center and HOPICS to administer the program.

Tenants can apply by contacting 211 L.A., either by dialing 2-1-1 or by going to the website 211LA.org/covid-rental-help. In order to qualify, a household’s income before COVID-19 cannot exceed certain thresholds – for example, $63,100 for an individual, and $90,100 for a family of four. All applications must be received by May 31st, 2020.

An additional $800,000 has been set aside for mom-and-pop property owners to help them pay the mortgage on their rental properties. LACDA will administer the program.

The Board of Supervisors voted to extend LA County’s eviction moratorium to June 30, 2020, with consideration of additional extensions every 30 days thereafter. The moratorium will now apply to unincorporated areas countywide, as well as in jurisdictions that have not passed their own rent stabilization ordinances.

For more information, please visit rentrelief.lacda.org and dcba.lacounty.gov.

Stopping the Closures of Patrol Stations

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to direct the Sheriff to immediately cease efforts to close the Altadena and Marina del Rey stations, as recently announced by the Sheriff’s Department. These closures were announced without any independent vetting or validation by the County’s Chief Executive Office, or advance notice or input to impacted communities.

The motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kathryn Barger also directs the Sheriff, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer and Auditor-Controller, to identify appropriate budget curtailments that are properly vetted and will have limited impact on public safety.

The motion follows the Sheriff’s abrupt and unilateral announcement on May 4, 2020 of plans to close the Altadena and Marina del Rey stations. Questions remain about how and why the station closures were selected and what cost savings may be achieved.

“These station closures were announced without any vetting or advance notice, validation of cost savings, or assessment of impact on public safety. As a result, our communities are rightly concerned – as is this Board,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “The Sheriff must achieve the necessary cost savings and budget curtailments needed to address the Department’s deficit and the County’s revenue shortfall in a more transparent, collaborative and democratic way without jeopardizing service to our communities.”

“The public safety and security of our communities is critically important, now more than ever, given the public health crisis created by COVID-19,” said Supervisor Barger. “I am hopeful that through today’s Board action, the Sheriff will work with the County Chief Executive Office to identify more appropriate budget measures that will not impact our local communities, including Altadena, an unincorporated region that has relied on their Sheriff’s station for years. I remain committed to ensuring that the Sheriff’s Department maintains its core mission of public safety and meets the essential needs of residents and businesses throughout Los Angeles County.”

Since these announcements, a range of constituents and the Civilian Oversight Commission tasked with overseeing the Sheriff’s Department have expressed deep concern about the station closures and the negative impacts that they may have on community safety and service delivery. In the Second District, the unincorporated areas that are served by the Marina del Rey station and stand to be negatively impacted by this closure include Ladera Heights, View Park, Windsor Hills, and Del Rey.

“Losing the Marina del Rey station would truly be detrimental to our community. It’s not only on account of the policing and our public safety the station has provided, but also for the relationships we have worked hard to build over the years. We need this station and its deputies in close proximity to our community,” said Lorinee Jackson, lifetime resident of the unincorporated community of View Park, which is located in the Second District. “Knowing we can count on the Marina del Rey station to be there for us when we need help completes our community.”

Well before the preparation of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21 budget curtailment scenarios that were necessitated by recent revenue shortfalls, the Department had been facing significant budget overruns primarily caused by overtime expenditures and under-realization of revenues. Over the past several months, the Board has taken steps to proactively address the Department’s overspending. The Department overspent its FY 2018-29 budget by $63.4 million and is currently projected to overspend its FY 2019-20 budget $89 million. In October, the Board asked the Department to work with the CEO and A-C to formulate a deficit mitigation plan. Additionally, in April, the Board requested a reduction of academy classes, intended to realize approximately $49 million in cost savings and substantially close the budget gap.

This motion seeks to avoid unnecessary and unanticipated negative impact to services and programs that enhance public safety as the Board works to finalize the County’s FY 2020-21 budget, as well as ensure that these decisions are made in a transparent, collaborative and democratic way.

 

Pilot Program to Reduce the Court’s Failure to Appear Rate

 

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the creation of a one-year pilot program to reduce the number of failures to appear in the County of Los Angeles’ courts, directing the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender to utilize a technology-based solution to communicate information to clients to help ensure their appearance in court.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the goal of this pilot is to make courtrooms and courthouses safer and keep the jail population down in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while ultimately producing better outcomes for justice-involved individuals.

Piloting a low-cost text message-based communication and engagement tool can help low-income clients appear in court and at mandatory appointments, preventing technical violations leading to the issuance of bench warrants and resulting in costly warrant execution and incarceration.

“We must take advantage of the readily available, cost-effective, emerging technologies to help reduce failures to appear and, at the same time, continue doing all that we can to keep individuals safe during this crisis,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This is an important long-term goal in criminal justice reform and promoting alternatives to incarceration, and increasingly important given the pandemic and high volume of upcoming court dates.”

Due to the risk of COVID-19 spreading rapidly within the crowded jails, the jail population has been reduced from 17,000 to less than 12,000, a release of over 5,000 incarcerated individuals. Many of the individuals recently released have pending court dates as early as June; this expected increase in court dates adds to the urgency in reducing failures to appear, especially for those defendants from low-income communities. Moreover, reducing failures to appear is essential to avoiding re-arrests and the likely spike in the jail population that would result, which could undermine the County’s efforts to contain the virus.

“The approved pilot is a proven tool to get Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender clients back to court on time,” said Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia. “Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’s, and the Board of Supervisors’, prospective thinking will help reduce “failure to appear” warrants, decrease the number of arrests and prevent re-filling the jails with our indigent clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Other jurisdictions that have utilized similar technology have seen substantial reductions in failure to appear rates, with one study finding that text message reminders contributed to a 36 percent decrease in the failure to appear rate in New York City. Additionally, the savings associated with preventing failures to appear should prove to be considerable for Los Angeles County.

A Post-Pandemic Housing Plan for the Homeless

Several homeless people from streets encampments temporarily move into a Project Roomkey hotel. LA County is working with state, federal and local partners on Project Roomkey, an initiative to bring medically vulnerable people experiencing homelessness indoors during the COVID19 pandemic. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles County

The Board of Supervisors voted to develop a COVID-19 Recovery Plan specifically for people experiencing homelessness, with the goal of keeping all those brought indoors during the crisis housed for the long-term.

A homeless man receives a hotel room through Project Roomkey. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles County

The May 12th motion by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas directed LA County to provide an array of resources to ensure that all homeless people who have been provided with a temporary place to stay during the pandemic – including those in hotels and motels under Project Roomkey – can successfully transition to other housing opportunities and ultimately end their homelessness permanently.

The May 12th motion complements an April 14th motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn to advance a local Comprehensive Crisis Response to address homelessness and to develop post-pandemic housing plans those aged 65 and older.

Strategies to house those aged 65 and older, as well as those under 65 with chronic underlying health conditions, will be consolidated and streamlined to create a comprehensive approach that considers short, medium and long-range housing plans for the entire spectrum of need.

A homeless man receives a hotel room through Project Roomkey. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles County

“In the midst of a global pandemic, LA County has activated an unprecedented public-private partnership with cities, private hotel owners, public sector healthcare staff, disaster service worker volunteers, and community-based nonprofit service providers to house vulnerable residents across our region,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We must maintain this momentum to ensure all those brought indoors can stay indoors.”

“This motion will amplify the County’s ongoing work to secure local, state and federal revenue to implement a Comprehensive Crisis Response strategy,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “There can be no truer test of our values than this collective effort to bring our most vulnerable inside and connect them to long-term stable housing.”

“Since the pandemic began,” Supervisor Kuehl said, “LA County and City have done something remarkable. We placed nearly 5,000 medically fragile men and women who were homeless in temporary housing. With this motion, we take the next step and ask for a plan to identify and pay for permanent housing for these elderly and sick individuals, many of whom suffer from serious medical and/or mental illness. No one wants to see these very frail men and women released back to the streets.”

A homeless woman receives a hotel room through Project Roomkey. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles County

The May 12th and April 14th motions both  build on action that Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn initiated on January 21st, when the Board directed County Departments to examine the Comprehensive Crisis Response Strategy issued by Governor Gavin Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, co-chaired by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and co-chaired by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, and to develop the framework for establishing a legal obligation to provide housing.

In a report back to the Board dated March 24th, a workgroup of County Departments proposed implementing or scaling up 16 of the Comprehensive Crisis Response strategies. It also proposed a pilot program that would focus on ensuring housing for homeless people aged 65 years or older. The April 14th motion called for creating that program.

The May 12th motion will consolidate and streamline Board strategies for both those aged 65 and older, as well as those under 65 with chronic underlying health conditions.

A Los Angeles County worker helps the homeless move out of their street encampments and into hotels rooms under Project Roomkey. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles County