By Edwin Folven, 12/29/2011
Angelenos See Small Steps in Economic Recovery, Yet See Hope on Horizon in 2012
Along with slight improvements to the Los Angeles economy, there were several miracles — or milestones at least — that occurred along the Miracle Mile in 2011.
Two such milestones transpired at the Park Labrea News and Beverly Press. In April, the newspaper celebrated its 65th year of publishing with a special commemorative issue, “Our People, Our Places”. The other big announcement at the newspapers came in October, when the headquarters to moved to the Miracle Mile at 5150 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 330.
But there was plenty of news that made headlines in 2011, including the fur ban in West Hollywood, the battle between the Hollywood Farmers Market and the Los Angeles Film School in Hollywood, and the Occupy LA protest at city hall.
With the coming year also likely to be a period of change, particularly with a presidential election on the horizon, the end of the year marks an appropriate time to look back on the people and events that shaped the news in 2011.
Gov. Jerry Brown, elected in November, 2010, took office on Jan. 3 and later proposed a budget with something for everyone to hate, reflecting the economic hardships facing California. Brown first served as governor from 1974 to 1982. The City of Los Angeles approved an ordinance to block mobile billboard advertising. The council, led by Councilmember Dennis Zine, 3rd District, concluded that the signs, which are frequently attached to trailers left parked on city streets for days, presented a safety hazard and violated city sign ordinances. The West Hollywood City Council also acted on alleged safety hazards on the road in January when it ordered city staff to look into the dangers posed by party buses, limousine-like vehicles that are often more than 36 feet long and sometimes cruise the city without stopping.
January was also a solemn month as many people in the community expressed concern over the Tucson shooting rampage on Jan. 8, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and was seriously wounded, and six others were killed. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) spoke during a scheduled event at the National Council of Jewish Woman, Los Angeles on Jan. 13, and after recalling his working friendship with Giffords, called for stronger federal firearms regulations.
The beginning of the year was also election season in the 4th Council District, where incumbent Councilmember Tom LaBonge squared off against challengers Stephen Box and Tomas O’Grady; and in West Hollywood, where councilmembers Abbe Land, John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath competed against a field of newcomers. LaBonge later emerged victorious in his bid for a third and final term, and Heilman and Land took the top spots in West Hollywood, but Horvath was unseated by community advocate John D’Amico.
Protests broke out in West Hollywood in February directed at businesses that sell clothing and accessories made of animal fur. The protests led to the city council eventually passing a ban on sale of the fur products, making West Hollywood the first city in America to enact such a ban.
February also marked the beginning of a lengthy dispute between the Hollywood Film School and the Hollywood Farmers Market over a stretch of Ivar Avenue between Sunset Boulevard and Selma Avenue. The film school claimed that the weekly market was blocking access to its parking garage, and refused to sign-off on permits the market needed to operate each week. After months of negotiations between the market, film school and the Office of City Councilmember Eric Garcetti, 13th District, the school withdrew its opposition, and the market is still held on Ivar each Sunday.
Local elections were making headlines as March began, and in addition to the council races, the big news was the defeat of Measure A in West Hollywood, which would have placed a tax on billboards but would also have permitted them in more locations throughout the city. Over the border in Los Angeles, a controversial ballot initiative known as Measure M that authorized the taxation of medical marijuana was passed by voters. Officials are still in the process of figuring out how the tax will be collected, and how to implement the permitting process. Medical marijuana dispensaries continue to proliferate in the Melrose District, and throughout Los Angeles, despite an ordinance passed by the city council to limit their numbers and regulate their locations.
April also began with the West Hollywood City Council weighing the controversial issue of designating the neighborhoods near Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevard as “Historic Boystown”. The idea was not adopted after a significant number of people voiced concerns that the name is derogatory, but the proposal is still on the table and may likely be considered again in 2012.
The national election was at the forefront at the end of April when President Barack Obama made two campaign stops in the Los Angeles to get an early start on fundraising for 2012. A few weeks later in May, the West Hollywood City Council approved a plan to build an automated parking structure behind city hall that will feature spaces for 200 cars to be hoisted up and down on mechanical lifts. West Hollywood’s state-of-the-art library was also nearing completion and was given a boost in May when local developers, the Mani Family, pledged a $1 million gift for its construction. The city itself began a new chapter when the library opened in October near San Vicente Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.
As summer approached, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation marked the 30th anniversary of the first diagnoses of HIV. The disease was first identified by doctors in the local area, including Dr. Michael Gottlieb, of UCLA and later Olympia Medical Center, and the anniversary was observed at a candlelight vigil on June 5 at the Matthew Sheppard Memorial Triangle in West Hollywood.
June was also a big month for Fairfax High School, where a project to renovate the athletic field got underway. The $6 million project includes a new track and field, and new bleachers and a scoreboard, and is expected to be completed in time for the 2012 football season.
The gay and lesbian community was also celebrating in July when New York became the seventh state to approve same-sex marriage. The ruling provided a boost to local couples wishing to marry. California’s same-sex couples are still awaiting a decision in federal court in the battle over Proposition 8, which prohibits same-sex marriage.
Youth sports also got a boost in July, when the Los Angeles Dodgers opened a Dodgers Dreamfield at Pan Pacific Park, renovating the baseball field and scoreboard, and hosting a baseball clinic for little leaguers.
A near-riot broke out in Hollywood in August when a DJ associated with the “Electric Daisy Carnival” raves tweeted that he was going to perform outside the Chinese Theatre as part of the premier of a documentary about the festival. The tweet prompted thousands of people to swarm Hollywood Boulevard. Police arrested three people, but the crowd was eventually dispersed without any major injuries occurring. The incident prompted Los Angeles Police Department officials to examine policies on monitoring social media and coordinating responses to flash mobs.
Redistricting was also a hot topic in August, when a state commission approved new boundaries for the local assembly district. District 42, which is currently represented by Assemblymember Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), will become District 50 in 2012. It will still include West Hollywood, Hollywood, Hancock Park and the Wilshire area, but will be much larger, extending northwest to Agoura Hills. Feuer is termed out in 2012, and the a group of candidates that includes former L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center CEO Torie Osborn and current State Assemblymember Betsy Butler will be competing in a June election to represent the 50th District. Redistricting also became an issue in September when the County Board of Supervisors wrangled over a proposal to create a new, heavily Latino-populated District in Los Angeles. The Board later voted to reject the plan and adopted districts that only slightly adjusted the existing boundaries.
September was also a special time for the Jewish community, when in addition to celebrating the start of the High Holy Days, the Jewish Federation marked its 100th anniversary by hosting its third community day of service with thousands of volunteers participating.
Many local politicians were also in the news in September, with Assemblymember Feuer announcing plans to run for city attorney, and Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District, announcing plans for a mayoral bid in 2013. President Obama also visited West Hollywood in September for a highly-publicized fundraiser at the House of Blues, and a second fundraiser at the Fig & Olive restaurant on Melrose Place.
Occupy LA occupied the headlines in October when the group set up camp on the lawn at Los Angeles City Hall. City officials, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, initially told the demonstrators they could stay as long as they wanted, but as the weeks passed by and the lawn was damaged, the city removed the encampment. The removal effort was largely peaceful, however, with approximately 292 people being arrested, but no major injuries reported.
In the LGBT community, opponents of Proposition 8 announced they would not seek a ballot initiative in 2012 to overturn the controversial law. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation also called for more funding for AIDS programs as President Obama returned to Hancock Park for a pair of fundraisers.
The coming year also promises to be a period of continuous change, with the installment in January of new City Council President Herb Wesson, 10th District, and new Council President Pro Tempore, Ed Reyes, 1st District. State budget cuts are also likely to continue to threaten school districts and city programs on a regional level, and issues such as new limits on mansionization in the Beverly Grove neighborhood and a city-wide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags will continue to be contentious locally. Nationally, 2012 is shaping up to be a controversial election year, and the local communities will continue to play a role in the contest. With all of the changes that occurred in 2011, it appears that change will continue to be the one constant in the area in the coming year.