By Anne Alvarez
Jan Perry, 9th District councilperson and mayoral candidate, caused a stir when she attended the November 15 Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting. She was greeted by local residents, who had come to voice their grievances and disapproval towards several of her stances.
Community activist Lydia Ponce unleashed her discontent towards the city council’s recent renege on the promise of establishing a park at the site of the former South Central Farm. Perry herself has been instrumental in spearheading and then obtaining the unanimous vote of the city council to revise the original deal with Ralph Horowitz, former owner, a deal mandating that “2.6 acres of land be reserved for use as a green space.”
Instead Perry suggested Horowitz allocate $2.7 million for renovations and programs at existing neighborhood parks. Perry’s reasoning for the change is that “the site is not a safe or healthy location for park space due to its industrial zoning and location along the heavy-trafficked Alameda corridor.” She urged council members to instead turn the space into much “healthier” and “safer” headquarters of a consortium for four garment makers which “will help create over 600 jobs for the community.” From a more realistic point of view, however, her plan will provide an impoverished community with exploitative low-wage jobs and working conditions on par with sweatshops.
Perry lobbied and gained approval from the city council for a proposal she had submitted regarding reforms to the South Central Farm land deal. In 2003 Horowitz, in a closed session meeting recently deemed illegal by a superior court judge, reached an agreement with the city, after a much debated and publicized battle. A battle which was spearheaded by Horowitz and backed by Perry to have the city sell back the land that had been acquired by the city via eminent domain in 1992. The 14-acre plot of land located at 41st and Alameda in South Los Angeles had been allocated to community residents for use as farmland by the city and in conjunction with the LA food bank. It became known as the South Central Farm, which at the time was the largest urban farm in the country. The deal reached in 2003 resulted in the 2006 dislocation and forced eviction of over 350 farmers, their crops bulldozed. The land has since remained vacant.
Another issue raised by local residents was a letter Perry sent out to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) members, in which she asks that they revise the proposed sign ordinance to include “a mechanism that would enable the permitting of signs, banners and off-site signs at city-owned facilities such as city parks.” This would permit fast food, soft drink, movie and TV show advertisers to place billboards and ads on boardwalk poles, benches and other public properties.
Protesters greeted Perry with their own anti-advertising ads. Alice Goldstein, a Venice resident, wrapped herself in advertisements to prove her point. Goldstein feels that allowing advertisements at Venice beach would open flood gates for the rest of the city, and no place would be spared from brainwashing bright billboard lights, super graphic wall-scapes and digital signs. “I go to the beach for solace and to get away from my day-to-day stresses, not to be bombarded with advertisements,” added Goldstein.
Perry briefly addressed the protesters, suggesting Venice residents, in conjunction with the VNC, draft an “Opt Out” form. However, no further details were provided and calls to Perry’s office were not returned.
Another issue discussed was the city council’s refusal to appropriate funds to hold elections for neighborhood council board members. The current proposal is to forgo the 2012 elections and automatically extend all terms for an additional two years, until 2014. Don Geagan, long time Venetian and Beachhead collective member, gave Perry a passionately-charged message: “You have no right to take away the right of the people to participate in a grassroots democracy. Ten million residents are represented by 5 county supervisors, which means each county supervisor represents approximately 2 million people, which is not a democracy, but a lack thereof!”
Rachel Siemons brought up ordinance 181410 (Lifeline Subsidy), which was approved and passed in December 2010, with Perry voting in its favor. Since January it has affected over 59,000 DWP customers, increasing their bill by $18-25 per month. This has been a major financial burden to those most affected, who are elderly, disabled and living on fixed incomes. “It is unconscionable how the city council, including Bill Rosendahl and Jan Perry, unilaterally determined that this vulnerable population would be able to afford an increase of this magnitude, and that these residents should single-handedly be responsible for shouldering the burden of refilling the City of Los Angeles’s General Fund, which is where the extra money collected from this fee increase goes,” added Siemons.
The only thing made clear during Perry’s participation at the November VNC meeting was the people’s disapproval of her political tactics. Perry seems to have forgotten that she holds public office, which means she is to represent the people in the community from which she was elected, not investors or real estate moguls who can afford to fatten up her mayoral race fund. As Perry recently stated when stepping down as council president pro tempore citing claims of backroom politics and behind the scenes maneuvering, “I have a First Amendment right to express my disagreement, my disbelief, my disgust.” We have the same right.
If you would like to voice your opposition to the new sign ordinance, contact Ed Reyes, Chairperson of PLUM and 1st District Councilmember at 213-485-0763 or our district Councilperson Bill Rosendahl at 310-575-8461. If you have seen your DWP bill increase or you want to get involved and support our community’s most vulnerable residents, contact: SPDs4Change@gmail.com.