Councilman Buscaino delivers State of the 15th Council District address

Councilman Buscaino delivers State of the 15th Council District address


The 15th Council District is in a state of Renaissance.

We are in the process of bridging the gap between the communities that our parents built for us and the communities we will pass on to our children.

Times have changed and we must upgrade our neighborhoods to function for our comfort, benefit and enjoyment.

Our community is our home and our neighbors are family. I love the home that we all share and I’m here to tell you that our home needs some fixing. I am here to insist all of you help me with the work because I’ve never seen a man raise a barn by himself.

Our district is not perfect and we have many problems to solve, however, we have arrived to the most opportune time to do this work and upgrade our communities and bring joy to an entire generation of residents.

Our unique position is that we as neighbors are engaged in a conversation about how to make things function better by teaming up and working toward common goals of improving our quality of life.  

There is not much disagreement about what our most visible problems are. Whether you live in San Pedro or Watts, Harbor City, Wilmington or the Harbor Gateway, the biggest issue facing most residents are burglaries, homelessness, graffiti and trash, illegal medical marijuana dispensaries and the quality of our streets and sidewalks.

To fix our issues, we need more policing, more economic development, more parks, more partnerships, new infrastructure, and more private investment in our communities.

We need more policing because the combination of homelessness combined with addiction, medical marijuana dispensaries and crime creates a combination that is wreaking the most havoc on the quality of our lives.

To address our homeless issues, I have recently designed a pilot program coupling homeless services with a dedicated LAPD quality of life patrol.

The new dedicated Emergency Response Team from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and a new LAPD Quality of Life patrol car is a new partnership that will work together with our local service providers to engage our homeless population in the hopes of finding resources and permanent housing first, get homeless individuals reconnected to their families, find treatment if they have an addiction or mental health issues and connect them to the VA If they are veterans.  Every day this partnership will be out engaging the homeless population in the 15th District and every day they will make their best attempts at being of service to them.

When mental illness and poverty meet addiction, that is often when it becomes a police problem and that is why we have dedicated a Quality of Life patrol car to support the ERT teams with any type of enforcement when necessary.

This is not an effort to get rid of the most marginalized in our society. This is an effort to approach and offer our respect and our services in a humanistic way.

Beyond services and enforcement, there is a bigger picture. To respond to homelessness we must decentralize services. In a county with 10 million residents and 88 cities, four communities: Downtown, Venice, South Los Angeles and the Harbor Area - should not be home to the vast majority of the homeless population. We must work towards equally spreading the availability of low income supportive housing throughout the county so that we can take the pressure off the communities absorbing most of the responsibility.

To address illegal medical marijuana dispensaries, I have formed a partnership with the City Attorney and the LAPD to create an effective and sustainable enforcement model.

I am as equally frustrated as many residents with the proliferation of these shops and am taking necessary steps towards their closure.

The City Attorney's office has closed down over 400 illegal dispensaries citywide including 18 in the Harbor Area and on Tuesday made an announcement about closing seven additional dispensaries on Avalon Blvd.  We are in the process of closing as many illegal dispensaries as we can.

We can get more policing by opening the jail at the Harbor Division station.

I have talked with both Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti about the importance and value of opening up the Harbor jail. As an LAPD officer, I know that our officers are taken off the street every time they have to drive to 77th Division station to book a suspect. Opening the Harbor jail will allow the Harbor officers to spend more time in their patrol area.

However, no matter how many officers we have, we cannot have one on every street corner in the city. This is why it is important as neighbors to look after each other. We have proven that we are able to use technology and the online neighborhood watch groups to warn each other of potential dangers in our neighborhoods. This model of vigilance coupled with efficient policing can create a safer and more pleasant environment for our neighborhoods.

In order to create an environment ripe for economic development and private investment, it is important that we clean up our neighborhoods and make them safe.

This is why I am most proud of the progress that has been made in redeveloping the LA Waterfront and our strong partnership with the Port of LA and the economic Renaissance that it will trigger.

Following the recent arrival of new Port Director Gene Seroka, we have secured a $50 million commitment for infrastructure improvements necessary for the redevelopment of the the LA Waterfront Ports O’ Call. As a result, the developer has signed a letter of intent with the Port and we are expecting an agreement in the next quarter.

Last week Mayor Garcetti announced the formation of a “high-level” citywide task force to help guide the Port of Los Angeles in planning and securing funds to turn the L.A. Waterfront into a tourist draw.

We have lined up our ducks in a row, have generated necessary support and are as close as we have ever been to breaking ground on a development that will greatly increase the value of all of the Harbor Area communities.

The redevelopment of Ports O’ Call is only the first domino on our road to an economic Renaissance in the neighborhoods around the Port of Los Angeles.

The newly adopted Port of Los Angeles Waterfront Investment Plan will allocate approximately $400 million!! over the next decade. Based on community input, six projects have been identified and will be incorporated into the Port’s planning for its 10-year Capital Improvement Program.

These include: Sampson Way and 7th Street intersection improvements, construction of a Town Square at 6th Street, connecting the new Downtown Harbor to Ports O’ Call, the new LA Waterfront Promenade and parking, the Wilmington Waterfront Promenade and repurpose or demolition of the the former Catalina Freight building, Harry Bridges Blvd. beautification between Island Avenue and Avalon Blvd., and the Wilmington Waterfront Pedestrian Bridge.

The investment plan, coupled with the redevelopment of Ports O’ Call and a string of other projects and opportunities create an environment for private investment throughout the Harbor Area.

AltaSea, a new $500 Million public-private endeavor in San Pedro that brings together science, business and education to generate innovative solutions to the global challenges of sustainability announced just two weeks ago the contribution of a $20 million matching gift from Wallis Annenberg! I’m so excited about this project because it’s a perfect example of how a public-private partnership can form to further waterfront development. Because of AltaSea, the port will one day become known as a national and international leader in sustainability, taking advantage of it’s location right on the ocean, which is our most important resource. 

Speaking of waterfront resources, when the Cabrillo Way Marina reopened in 2011 with 700 recreational boat slips, it became the most beautiful marina in Los Angeles (no offense to Marina del Rey) but lacks supporting retail and commercial development. The Port has done a great job building park space, but we will not see these spaces occupied by a substantial number of people until we have other development including residential, retail and commercial on the waterfront.

Near the Marina is the Outer Harbor or Pier 46 where we most recently held the Red Bull Rallycross which was nationally broadcast on NBC. It is the same 12.5 acre property where Cirque du Soleil set up in 2013.

In the hopes of raising the profile of the potential we have in the Harbor Area, I have been touring developers and touting the opportunities available at the Marina and the Outer Harbor. Most recently, Tom Penn, president and owner of the new Los Angeles Football Club looked at Outer Harbor as a potential site for the $100 Million stadium the team is looking to build in Los Angeles.

We have never seen so much interest in the economic development of our collective waterfront. Following the success of economic redevelopment in Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, it is obvious to me that the Harbor Area is next.

This is the type of opportunity that we need at the LA Waterfront and in the Harbor Area and I know that we are headed towards impactful economic development that will leave a debris of success for anyone that chooses to do business here. We have finally been blessed with the right ingredients to create an environment which will define our community for the next generations.  

We are experiencing a Renaissance with our parks, many of which have not been used by their intended audience for decades.

A recent LA Times opinion piece talked about how there is a recession of gangs from public areas like parks that they once dominated. The story spoke of how the daily intimidation of whole neighborhoods is no longer central to how gangs operate.

This reality creates a great opportunity to take back our parks and upgrade them.

This is why in the past three years my office has worked with the Department of Recreation and Parks and its General Manager Mike Shull to build and refurbish a dozen parks in the 15th Council District.

We put $2 Million into the Harbor Sports Complex in Wilmington where children previously played football in dirt while mosquitos munched on them.

We put $6 Million into Rosecrans Park in the Harbor Gateway, a park that was barely used before and today is home to a host of activities including sports and recreation.

We built the smallest pocket park in the Harbor Gateway so that we can break up a high concentration of sex offenders who were living in the neighborhood. We named the park after Janet Shour for the resident who championed the efforts to find a solution to get rid of the sex offenders on behalf of the women who had to walk their children in front of them every day.

In one short year we turned Leland Park in San Pedro from a drug-infested sex location, into the pride of a neighborhood with a Dodger Dreamfield, basketball court and playground, trails and picnic areas.

We took a dirt lot across the street from the Drum Barracks in Wilmington and turned it into a beautifully themed one-acre pocket park accessible to hundreds of children in the neighborhood.

We built a nearly million dollar skate park at Peck Park ensuring that the temporary loss of the Channel Street Skate Park would not displace skaters into our streets.

Most recently we opened the newest and best park that the City of Los Angeles has ever seen - the $5 Million Serenity Park in Watts. We built Serenity park on a three acre piece of land where a lot of blood has been spilled in the past due to gang violence. Today young families flock to the park and play in peace and harmony, while nearby homes will certainly appreciate in value.

The creation of much of the park space in the 15th Council District can be attributed to ordinary residents working in partnership with their city to make magic happen. We can thank residents like Debbie Rouser who led the campaign to redevelop Leland Park and Kartoon Antwine who led the campaign to build Serenity Park, and Janet Shour (God rest her soul) who led the campaign to build the pocket park now named after her.

We worked together to make these parks a reality. Ordinary citizens participating and partnering in the process!

My commitment is to keep it going and we have more projects already in motion.

In Watts we are reconstructing the 109th St. Pool and are working on the Watts Towers Cultural Crescent, as well as a skate park at that location.

In the Harbor Gateway, we’re renovating Normandale Park with a $2 million investment.

In Harbor City, we are nearly halfway through the $117 million Machado Lake rehabilitation project where the entire lake is being cleaned up and a new visitor facing elements will be created in the park such as fishing piers, trails, seating areas and parks space.

In Wilmington, we’re partnering with Sharefest to upgrade the Wilmington Recreation Center, as well as make upgrades to Banning Park.

In San Pedro we just broke ground on the rehabilitation of the Gaffey Street Pool. The space which was built to service our WWII soldiers has been abandoned for decades. When it opens in the summer of 2016 it will become a community event center in addition to the pool.

Parks engage, entertain and keep our children healthy and safe. Parks make life better. We should do everything in our power not only build more parks but rehab our old parks, make them safe and make them available for everyones benefit. We get a tremendous value for every dollar we put into our parks and I am dedicated to creating more park space that will be enjoyed by our neighborhoods for generations.

Another reason we are in a unique position to problem solve and upgrade our quality of life is because there is Renaissance happening with our local organizations who have proven success in partnering with neighborhoods and working to help each other.

I feel blessed to have formed great bonds with some of the best non-profits in our district to help deliver another level of service to our neighborhoods.

Together we work to clean and beautify our communities, work that is needed and pivotal to the economic growth of our District.

The Beacon House in San Pedro has become an extremely valuable ally to so many neighborhoods in the district. Just in the past year, they’ve done 21 community clean-ups in the district.

Sharefest Inc., and its Executive Director Chad Mayer have become great friends and partners to us personally and to the communities it serves in the 15th Council District. Sharefest has stepped up to partner with us on many projects, including fundraising most recently for two banning high siblings who died in a car crash.

Clean Wilmington and its Director, the Honorary Mayor of Wilmington, Salvador Lara, have become a force in Wilmington, by cleaning streets and alleys every week and building community in the process.

We partnered with LA Mas, a non-profit focused on community building and design, which transformed a commercial corridor in Watts. They helped bring together small business owners, hired local youth for the project and created a sense of community on this small stretch of Wilmington Ave.

Our next partnership with LA Mas will be in Wilmington, working on the Avalon Blvd commercial corridor, with the goal of increasing walkability and creating a community-friendly environment for businesses to open and for people to shop and dine. We expect to launch Avalon Blvd Corridor this summer.

The key to our success is empowering groups like these non-profits to make positive change in our neighborhoods. I encourage everybody here and everybody watching to get involved with Sharefest, Beacon House, GAP and Clean Wilmington. These organizations are made up of everyday people willing to participate in community. (WHITE)

Last month I partnered with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles to evaluate the opportunity to improve the Rancho San Pedro housing development which was originally built in the 1940’s as temporary housing.

Rancho San Pedro is one of many World War II-era public housing infrastructure projects across the country that have become functionally obsolete.

I do not believe that having 478 units spread out on 22 acres of waterfront property is efficient land use. While I will always insist on one-for-one housing replacement ensuring no displacement of residents, I would like the study to explore what else can be added to the property including mixed-income housing and retail space that will align well with our vision of the waterfront redevelopment.

If you go to the newly redeveloped Harbor Village development in Harbor City or the Dana Strand development in Wilmington, you will clearly notice that they are indistinguishable from first-class, market-rate developments.

Its not just our Harbor Area that is in the midst of a Renaissance, we have developed a plan to redevelop Jordan Downs in Watts, one of the largest public housing developments (and previously most dangerous) in the City. Just this month, the City of Los Angeles and the Housing Authority for the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) submitted a $30 Million Choice Neighborhood Initiative Implementation grant application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This marks the second consecutive year that the City has submitted an application for the nationally competitive program.  Last year 44 applications were submitted by cities across the nation, but only four cities were awarded the $30 million grant - and we were not one of them.

This year’s CNI grant process promises to be even more competitive with Congress only allocating $76 million to HUD for this year’s funding cycle.  Undeterred, both the City and HACLA believe that they have learned lessons from last year’s disappointment, and submitted an updated, comprehensive and compelling application that will significantly increase the chances of securing a CNI grant for Watts and Jordan Downs. This year’s application involved much greater input from my office and the Mayor’s along with the City’s Economic Workforce Development Department , HACLA and the project’s private housing developers—Bridge Housing and Michaels Organization.

Poverty, poor housing, lack of employment and education opportunities, deteriorating infrastructure, and lack of services continue to challenge Watts five decades following the Riots. It’s anticipated that a $30 million CNI grant award would leverage additional public and private investment to create commercial/retail space, improved housing units, open park space, and family and job resource centers for the Watts community. HUD is expected to announce finalists for this year’s CNI funding cycle later this Summer. 

Improving and maintaining our infrastructure is the foundation of our work in City Hall and it must be central in the Renaissance of our district.

I have talked a lot today about issues concerning the 15th District, but I’d like to take a moment to address a citywide problem. As Chair of the Council’s Public Works Committee, it is my responsibility to show leadership and provide solutions to one of the most visible and vexing problems that all 4 million residents of Los Angeles encounter every single day:  our aging and crumbling infrastructure.

This City must commit to spending more money on infrastructure.

Perhaps the most visible example of our deteriorating infrastructure can be seen in our sidewalks.

No matter what method of transportation you use, every trip begins and ends on foot. Our sidewalks form the backbone of our most basic transportation infrastructure, and we must ensure that they are safe and accessible for all people.

It is absolutely shameful that our seniors and disabled residents are either forced to become shut-ins, unable to leave their homes, or forced go out into the street to navigate around uplifted sidewalks. A group of disabled residents felt the same way, and in 2010 filed a lawsuit against the City, alleging Los Angeles was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by not ensuring mobility for all residents.

So I directed our chief budget advisor and City Attorney to engage in settlement discussions with the plaintiffs.

Although it is a premature to make any announcement today, I can say that we are very close to reaching an agreement and before the end of the year, we will approve a sustainable, fair, long-term sidewalk repair policy which will positively affect every single neighborhood in the city.

Just two weeks weeks ago we made a down-payment on this commitment by starting a $27 million fund to start the process. 

I was born and raised in San Pedro, I was an officer at LAPD Harbor Division, my entire family lives here, my friends live throughout this district that I represent. This is my home. This is OUR home.

My parents taught me the importance of family. Whether it is your immediate family, your extended family, your friends, your neighbors, I was taught to treat people like members of my family. As your Councilmember, whether I am in Watts, Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway or San Pedro, I’m connecting with the residents the same way I was taught to connect at home. My family instilled in me the importance of working hard, the importance of giving back and doing good for others, The importance of faith and family. This is how I choose to lead this district today.

We are a family of neighbors and we should all strive for a better life together in the 15th Council District!

This is why after some careful consideration, soul searching and long discussions with Jay, my wife, and my kids, Matteo and Gia, I have decided that it is NOT worth trading everything I have spent a lifetime building here in the Harbor Area to run for Congress.

My future is here in Los Angeles, not 3,000 miles away. The projects that we have started in all of the communities of the 15th District, my family, my extended family, my friends, the residents of this district are far too important to me not to spend my days with you. You are my family and because of that,  I will NOT be running for Congress.

We have a lot of work to do. We are not perfect, nor is our district. The best we can do is to continue to build partnerships through trust and respect to build a beautiful home for our communities.