L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin was the special guest at the Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting on July 23. About 75 people, who had questions for Bonin, were listed as attending on Zoom.
During brief opening remarks Bonin reminded residents that the City’s budget this year would be a challenge because “We are going to make, continually through the year, additional cuts.”
He said it was difficult to predict because with the Covid-19, no one knows what additional closures will be needed. “With the uncertainty, it gives each of us the ability to create something better,” Bonin said.
Community Council Chair David Card asked about wearing face masks. Bonin replied, “I’m relying on the science. I wear a mask as a courtesy. Not many people won’t cover their mouth when they sneeze, this is the same thing. Don’t think about it in terms of you but think about your grandmother.”
Reza Akef (the PPCC Area 8 representative) asked, “When are we going to enforce masks?” He noted that two 70-year-olds were seen in Ralphs who refused to wear masks. “There’s got to be a way to solve it,” Akef said.
“Forcing masks is up to the mayor,” said Bonin, asking hypothetically who would enforce it, noting it probably would not be the LAPD.
Akef suggested that Department of Transportation people could enforce it instead of giving out tickets. “I just ran into Starbuck for a drink and when I came out the DOT guy was writing a ticket. They could be writing tickets for masks rather than parking,” Akef said.
“Anything with enforcement would also need distribution,” Bonin said, noting that masks would probably need to be handed out before people could be cited.
Card wanted to know if defunding of the Police Department by the City Council would endanger Pacific Palisades continuing to keep its only assigned police car and the beach patrol that primarily works with the homeless.
“I’m confident that we will be able to do that,” Bonin said. “It’s not about the number of cops on the payroll, but the number on patrol.”
“I was calling for a reduction in the police budget before George Floyd,” Bonin continued. “There is a smaller cut in LAPD than the other departments. …every department needs to cut.
“We shouldn’t have cops responding to traffic collisions,” he said, noting that there is a discussion over policing right now, including the possibility that social workers rather than LAPD could work with the homeless.
(Editor’s note: The City Council, including Bonin, voted on July 1 to cut police funding by $150 million, which would lower staffing to 9,757 officers by the summer of 2021.That decision will cause the City to hire only half of the number of officers needed to replace those who resign or retire in the coming year.
One LAPD officer, who did not want to be identified, told Circling the News that the decision doesn’t make any sense, because it means that if extra staff is needed, officers will be working overtime, which would be more expensive than hiring new officers.
The L.A. Times reported on July 1 (“Los Angeles Cuts LAPD Spending, Taking Police Staffing to Its Lowest Level in 12 Years”) that “Of the $150 million in cuts to the LAPD, about $97 million would come from cuts to overtime pay for police officers. Council members and the city’s policy analysts cautioned that at least a portion of those overtime hours could still end up being worked by the LAPD, particularly if the city experiences a major emergency.”)
Although Pacific Palisades has one of the most successful programs in the city working with the homeless via the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, Bonin admitted that “the homeless are a big problem in the city and a big problem in my district.”
He said he has pushed for a number of years for shared housing, master leasing, bridge housing and hotels. Once the homeless are housed, “they can get a job,” he said.
Patrick Hart, who has worked with the homeless through the PPTFH since its inception in 2016, said that there has been an influx of homeless since Covid-19 because there is no cost to ride the buses. “We have more mentally ill coming into this area,” Hart said.
Bonin said the reason that buses were free was “to protect the drivers, so people board from the rear.” He said he’ll look into it.
Hart also disagreed with Bonin’s assessment that police are not needed when the social workers deal with the homeless. Hart said that part of the success of the Palisades program has been that an LAPD officer accompanies a social worker because campsite are not always safe—there could be weapons.
During the last homeless campsite cleanup on July 15, CTN observed a homeless man threatening to cut one of the volunteers with a knife. The police were called.
Hart told Bonin that without the police it wasn’t always safe for the social worker. “The homeless will just tell them to go pound sand. They have some respect for the police.”
Hart also wondered if the City could buy the Jack- in-the-Box site on west Sunset and turn it into a police substation. “We could have eight hours of policing a day, rather than six,” Hart said.
Bonin said, “LAPD are not trained as social workers; they shouldn’t be responding to the homeless. Overall, we need to move away from putting all our eggs in LAPD.
“There’s almost zero chance that the City will use the money for a police substation. We’ll put all our money into hotels for the homeless,” Bonin said.
ILLEGAL ACTIVITY ON THE BLUFFS
Several residents were concerned about the drinking, smoking, sex and fireworks that seem to be happening at the top of Lachman Lane and on the El Medio and Via de las Olas bluffs.
Bonin suggested that additional signage could be put up, limiting hours after sundown and “We’ll keep pushing LAPD and DOT with enforcement.”
THREE ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS THAT WERE NOT ASKED
Residents had three additional questions for Bonin, but he had to leave before they were asked. Circling the News sent the questions to Bonin on July 24 and if he responds, we’ll report his answers.
1) What has happened to the dog park on lower Temescal Canyon road that Bonin promised the people in Pacific Palisades?
2) Could the Palisades Library be opened for book pickup? The closest library for this service is Westwood.
3) What has happened to the parking-meter money that was promised to Pacific Palisades through the Business Improvement District?