Random Lengths News

Tripping Over the Sidewalks to Discover LA’s Problems

- By James Preston Allen, Publisher

At this point, Tim McOsker is the odds-on favorite to replace Joe Buscaino as council person representi­ng the 15th Council District in this year’s election, but he is not the only choice. However, the race is just now beginning with four other contenders for the job: Danielle Sandoval, Anthony Santich, Bryant Odega and perhaps one more.

McOsker has amassed a campaign war chest of some $500,000 (most of it from outside the district), which is about twice as much as necessary and has received more endorsemen­ts than anyone else running. He’s one of the most connected insiders-of-outsiders to the inside of City Hall that you might ever find. For those who don’t remember, he was Mayor James Hahn’s chief of staff back when the one-term mayor held the city together when secession was on the ballot. Prior to that, McOsker served with Hahn when he was city attorney.

Since that time McOsker retreated back to his hometown of San Pedro and has pretty much been the “fixer” for what’s needed fixing here, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Property owners Alliance, AltaSea and Buscaino’s own slow motion housing developmen­ts. Over that time, I have come to call him the “plumber,” the guy you call when things are broken. And there’s a lot broken around here. Yet, it was in his latest campaign newsletter that he stumbled across something we all know is broken:

Yesterday, while out on the campaign trail, I was a little too hurried, kicked a huge crack in the sidewalk, and went down. Only a little damage was done — just a few scratches, thankfully. But, my accident does highlight the need to do a better job of sidewalk, curb, and street repair. There are too many unsafe conditions for our residents. We need to prioritize resources for good, walkable communitie­s. It gave me a chance to remind everyone to download the MyLA311 app on our phones. When you see a broken curb, illegal dumping, graffiti, or a similar issue, report it! Let’s all take a part in calling for the services that a safe, livable community requires.

Now this admission is all good and well except that he doesn’t remind everybody that the City of LA has a $1.4 billion settlement to fix the sidewalks already and that the citizenry of this desert-by-the-sea shouldn’t have to call anyone to point out the liability the city faces because of trip and fall accidents. Of course, right now there seems to be a bidding war going on in the mayor’s race over who would hire the most cops, which is already the largest part of the city budget and often another major liability.

Yet, the seven-month audit by LA Controller Ron Galperin, “Repairing L.A.’s Broken Sidewalk Strategy,” concluded the city’s most hazardous sidewalks are not getting repaired fast enough, despite the city spending millions of dollars a year. “We’re spending about $30 million a year on sidewalk repair, but in the last fiscal year we spent $12 million just for settlement­s” from sidewalk claims and lawsuits.

It would take nearly 500 years to fix all of LA’s buckled and cracked sidewalks at the current pace of the city’s repair program, the audit reports.

There are also more annual claims for repairs than what can be scheduled. So what’s the point in calling in to MYLA311? However, it’s not just the sidewalks or the police department or the entire labyrinth of bureaucrac­y of this city that’s problemati­c. What’s problemati­c are candidates for office making promises to get elected, then failing to get this monolith of a city moving in the right direction once in office. That takes coordinati­on and cooperatio­n. Something the city seems incapable of doing.

So some candidates are more prone to pass ordinances to clear sidewalks of homeless encampment­s than fixing sidewalks and curbs in order to save, according to Galperin, $12 million a year in settlement­s. We can, however, spend that much on chasing the homeless off the sidewalks and then suggesting we need more police. Give that $12 million, divided among the neighborho­od councils, so that some sidewalks could start getting fixed. It’s just like with the homeless crisis, too much grandstand­ing and victimsham­ing and not enough creative solutions to start solving the problem.

The Number One Issue

Having people live on the streets doesn’t make anyone happy — not the homeless, not the homeowners and not the businesses. The LAPD knows they can’t arrest their way out of the mess, but candidates like Joe Buscaino keep inventing ways to criminaliz­e the poor. So what to do? We know there’s a shortage of affordable housing and that we can’t build enough of it fast enough or affordably enough right now.

We also know that ad hoc street encampment­s aren’t viable or healthy. What we do know is that providing safe campsites on unused public lands and safe parking all with sanitation and services can be the start to solving the problem right now. Let the unhoused have temporary safe places to live off of the public right of way while the city and county get their act coordinate­d with temporary and permanent shelter options. In the meantime, we can bring in the profession­als to sort out the mentally ill, the addicted, the medically bankrupt and the disillusio­ned.

In other words, start from the bottom of the problem and work towards the top. Not the other way around. This has been self-evident to anyone who has truly taken the time to analyze the issue, but it’s not the commonly held illusion which is that building more housing alone will solve this crisis. It’s like the refugee crisis in the Ukraine, only without the bombs falling. Deal with the immediate humanitari­an problem first!

Then you can start building more tiny home villages; initiate more adaptive reuse projects or buy motels. Finally, after we have put a decade into these approaches, we just might figure out permanent supportive housing or building more mental health and addiction clinics. And the police can go back to solving crimes and the extra cops who are no longer chasing the unhoused can go back to community policing — all without having to hire more of them.

So, to all the candidates running for office, stop tripping over LA’s broken sidewalks and focus your attention on what’s really wrong with our city.

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