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2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: Homeless crisis and legal pot are top 2018 stories

Elected officials had a busy year in 2018, trying to solve the homeless crisis, dealing with the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana and for many of them, running for re-election.

Those were three of the top news stories over the past 12 months as reported by The Independent. Here is our annual look back at the stories of the year.

Spending begins

on homeless solutions

LOS ANGELES — City and county officials began spending money building new shelters and other housing facilities in a effort to get more people off the streets.

In his annual State of the City address in April, Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged $20 million for emergency shelters in what he called A Bridge Home program.

Garcetti said he wanted A Bridge Home facility in each of the city’s 15 council district complete with trailers, tents and other emergency shelters to “confront the greatest moral and humanitarian crisis of our time.”

Garcetti estimated that through the plan, 1,500 beds would be added to shelters, providing 6,000 people a place to sleep every night if each bed serves four people over the course of a year.

The first Bridge Home facility opened in downtown near Olvera Street. A site in Hollywood also was selected and in October, Councilman Mike Bonin suggested using part of the Westwood Veterans Administration complex for another Bridge Home.

Things didn’t go so well in City Council President’s Herb Wesson’s 10th District. A site the councilman selected on Vermont Avenue near Koreatown was shot down by residents and property owners who forced Wesson to find another site.

In September, the county Board of Supervisors approved $9 million in Measure H funding to be distributed to cities in an effort to promote community-centric solutions to homelessness.

Two-thirds of the $9 million — to be paid out over 18 months beginning in January — will fund projects to increase the supply of interim and permanent housing. The remaining $3 million will be spent on efforts to enhance homelessness services.

Phil Ansell, who heads the county’s Homeless Initiative, said each city has distinct concerns.

“Cities have an important role and a unique perspective on the solutions to homelessness, and the county values each city’s distinct resources, challenges and perspectives,” Ansell said.

A total of 41 cities submitted plans in response to the county’s call for local solutions, with ideas ranging from hiring homeless coordinators to changing local ordinances to increase local housing stock. Those cities will now be eligible to participate in a request for proposal process.

The annual homeless count is coming up at the end of January. Last year’s count

revealed a 5 percent decrease in homeless numbers for the city of Los Angeles and a 3 percent decrease in the county overall.

Officials are hoping for a bigger decrease in the upcoming count.

Reactions are mixed

on legalized cannabis

LOS ANGELES — The city was one of the few in the county to pass laws allowing the sale of recreational marijuana and related businesses. Most of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County took a wait-and-see approach.

Cities throughout Los Angeles County took different paths dealing with new laws that legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults. A few cities began permitting cannabis shops to open within their boundaries but most of the 88 cities in the county chose to take a wait-and-see approach. (File photo)

Cities throughout Los Angeles County took different paths dealing with new laws that legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults. A few cities began permitting cannabis shops to open within their boundaries but most of the 88 cities in the county chose to take a wait-and-see approach. (File photo)

Sales of marijuana were so high in the city of Los Angeles that the city was able to expand the number of employees in the Department of Cannabis Regulations from five to 21 in February.

The city expected to collect $3.5 million in marijuana-related fees by the end of the fiscal year in June.

West Hollywood, Long Beach, Bellflower, Maywood, Cudahy and Huntington Park were among the cities that passed ordinances allowing marijuana shops to operate.

Los Angeles County, which continues to ban the sale of recreational cannabis in unincorporated areas, spent time trying to figure out how to close shops that were operating illegally.

Supervisor Hilda Solis urged law enforcement agencies to get tough on businesses operating in defiance of the ban.

“For the past year and a half I have been working closely with many community members from my district to combat illegally operating marijuana businesses,” Solis said. “Before the county considers recommendations for expanding marijuana businesses, we must put into place effective measures to end illegal operators.”

Solis called efforts to shut down illegal businesses amounted to a “countywide game of whack-a-mole,” with a new operator popping up in place of every closed business.

And, to no one’s surprise, a report from the county Department of Public Health found that marijuana use was increasing with 12 percent of adults 18 and older using the drug recreationally.

Among adults 21-29, almost 50 percent used pot. The report also indicated that people born in the U.S. were more likely to smoke pot that foreign-born residents.

New sheriff made

electoral history

LOS ANGELES — There weren’t a lot of surprises on Election Day in Los Angeles County, Most incumbents won re-election easily.

The biggest surprise was in the race for Los Angeles County sheriff where incumbent Jim McDonnell became the first incumbent county sheriff in more than a century to be defeated.

New Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks during his swearing in ceremony Dec. 4 at East Los Angeles College. In November, Villanueva became the first person to defeat an incumbent sheriff in Los Angeles County in more than a century.  (Photo by Mario Villegas)

New Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks during his swearing in ceremony Dec. 4 at East Los Angeles College. In November, Villanueva became the first person to defeat an incumbent sheriff in Los Angeles County in more than a century.
(Photo by Mario Villegas)

Retired sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva defeated McDonnell, who served for 28 years with the Los Angeles Police Department before becoming Long Beach’s chief of police in 2010.

McDonnell was elected county sheriff in 2014 after Sheriff Lee Baca resigned. He defeated Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Baca’s top aide.

But four years later, McDonnell was defeated by Villanueva, who was supported by the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the union representing rank-and-file sheriff deputies.

Villanueva ran on a platform of “reform, rebuild and restore” the sheriff’s department, which had been tainted by scandal that resulted in Baca, Tanaka and other deputies going to jail after being convicted of federal charges related to violence in county jails.

He quickly made changes at the command level, relieving an undersheriff, four assistant sheriffs, eight chiefs, a communications director and a community outreach director of duty.

He also reiterated a promise to remove federal immigration agents from county jails and announced he would cut down the list of roughly 150 misdemeanor offenses that trigger department cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Also on Election Day, several longtime Republican districts in Orange and San Diego went Democratic as the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives in Washington.

In Sacramento, all constitutional officers remained Democrats, led by former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who replaced the retiring Jerry Brown as governor.

Beck replaced by

Moore at LAPD

LOS ANGELES — When 2018 began, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck had two more years to serve out his second and final five-year term as chief.

Thus, it came as a surprise at the end of January when Beck announced he would be stepping down as police

Mayor Eric Garcetti announces the appointment of new Police Chief Michel Moore, left, during a June press conference. At right is former Police Commission President Matt Johnson. (Courtesy photo)

Mayor Eric Garcetti announces the appointment of new Police Chief Michel Moore, left, during a June press conference. At right is former Police Commission President Matt Johnson. (Courtesy photo)

chief June 27.

 

Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Michel Moore, who was a finalist for the chief’s position in 2010, to replace Beck.

“The department is ready for fresh eyes to take our organization to even higher levels,” Beck said at a news conference that was called to discuss 2017 crime statistics.

Beck joined the department as a reserve officer in March 1975. He became a full-time officer in March 1977. He was promoted to sergeant in 1984, to lieutenant in 1993, to captain in 1999 and commander in 2005. He became a deputy chief in 2006.

Garcetti called Beck “a man who has led with his heart. This is a man who has been forged in steel, whose family lives and breathes policing, and yet he is one of the most humanistic people I know.”

Garcetti chose Moore, a 36-year LAPD veteran, over Deputy Chief Robert Arcos, and Bill Scott, a former LAPD officer who is now the chief of the San Francisco Police Department.

“One of the most important questions of the moment may be, ‘Why do I want to be the next chief of police of this great city?’ And it’s pretty simple,” Moore said at the press conference announcing his selection. “I wish to continue the momentum in building trust, particularly in communities of color, and improving public safety.”

He added that he wants to make the LAPD “more diverse and representative” while continuing to support those who work for it.

Sidewalk vending

becomes legal

LOS ANGELES — Until Nov. 28, Los Angeles was the only large city in the United States where sidewalk vending was against the law.

That changed when the City Council ended years of debate by finalizing an ordinance that legalizes and regulates sidewalk vending. The council action came before a new state law that takes effect Jan. 1 that took much of the decision-making regarding sidewalk vendors out of the hands of local municipalities.

The state law only allow cities to impose vending restrictions based on health, welfare or safety concerns, and also prevents cities from enforcing vending regulations if they do not have a local system in place that conforms with the state law.

Los Angeles will implement a permit system that allows vendors to sell their wares on a certain block or in a certain zone, instead of a regulatory system that would have created a set of rules and standards but would not have granted site-specific permission to vendors.

The council also established no-vending zones — based on health, welfare or safety concerns — at Dodger Stadium, the Hollywood Bowl, Universal Studios, Staples Center, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and other major tourist attractions.

The law requires vendors to be located at least three feet apart from each other, but does not restrict how many vendors can be on an individual block.

The state law prohibits any rule requiring vendors to obtain the permission of nearby brick-and-mortar businesses — something that had been strongly opposed by industry advocates. The City Council considered such a restriction, but abandoned the idea in April.

As 2018 drew to a close, many cities outside Los Angeles were considering their own rules and regulations.

Both South Gate and Huntington Park adopted ordinances requiring permits for sidewalk vendors to conform with the new state law.

Tram proposed

for Hollywood sign

HOLLYWOOD — The most visible landmark in Hollywood — the Hollywood sign — will be easier to reach in the future if an aerial tram is built to transport tourists to the sign.

An aerial tram was one of 29 suggestions submitted by Dixon Resources Unlimited, a transportation consulting firm hired by the city of Los Angeles to conduct a comprehensive analysis on how to enhance the visitor experience at the sign and address problems created in surrounding neighborhoods by the thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year.

The City Council voted in October to explore the tram as well as constructing a visitor’s center near the sign and 17 other suggestions made by the consultant.

“For far too long, our city has gone without a comprehensive plan to address safety, access and mobility around the Hollywood sign and Griffith Park,” City Councilman David Ryu said.

“The Hollywood sign is the icon of our city,” Ryu added. “And the resources it has for safety and access should reflect that. We cannot stand by as visitors continue to struggle with access to this world-renowned icon, and neighbors continue to suffer the impacts of lost tourists. We can and we must take action that prioritizes both public safety and park access.”

One of the consultant’s suggestions rejected by the council was building a second Hollywood sign on the other side of the mountain.

“To develop and install a second Hollywood sign on the opposite side of Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains will be extremely problematic,” a report presented to the council in June said. “The opposite side of Mount Lee overlooks Forest Lawn Memorial Park Hollywood Hills and Mount Sinai Memorial Park and Mortuaries. Parking in this area, other than at both memorial parks, is scarce and there are no established hiking trails in the vicinity of this proposed location. The environmental impact of a second sign are unknown and would likely require extensive study.”

In March, the council approved a plan to increase police patrols and other security around the Hollywood Sign during the spring break period.

“With tourism increasing in Los Angeles, we must be proactive in ensuring the safety of our neighborhoods, hillsides and iconic Hollywood sign,” said Ryu, whose motion dedicates $51,320 of his office’s discretionary funds for the increased patrols by traffic enforcement and police officers.

Store employee

killed in shootout

SILVER LAKE — A tragedy occurred in July when an assistant manager at a Trader Joe’s market was killed during a shootout between Los Angeles police and a gunman at the end of a police pursuit.

Melyda Maricela Corado, 27, was fatally wounded in front of the market in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue when struck by a bullet fired by a Los Angeles police officer.

Police pursued a car driven by Gene Evin Atkins, 28, of South Los Angeles. Atkins apparently had shot his grandmother in her South Los Angeles home and also shot a 17-year-old girl who he took hostage. He was driving in Hollywood when police tried to pull him over. He fled and a brief pursuit began.

It ended when Atkins hit a light pole outside the Trader Joe’s. He exited the car and began running toward the Trader Joe’s, turning to fire at pursuing officers. They fired back and one of the bullets struck Corado. She died at the scene.

Atkins is facing 51 counts, including six counts of attempted murder — including of four police officers — and 26 counts of hostage-taking stemming from the July 21 incident.

Atkins is representing himself against the charges, but at his arraignment Dec. 17 he tried to plead insanity, causing the judge to enter a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Appearing in a downtown courtroom, Atkins objected to a media request to photograph the arraignment, telling the judge he believed one victim drew conclusions from footage seen on television.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sullivan overruled the objection.

Atkins replied, “I plead insanity … I’m pleading insanity.”

The judge answered, “You’ve been found competent to be your own attorney.”

At a Nov. 7 hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gustavo Sztraicher granted Atkins’ request to act as his own attorney after warning the defendant that it was, in his opinion, “almost always an unwise decision to represent yourself.”

The judge ordered Atkins to return to court on Feb. 15, when a date is expected to be set for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

Relatives of Corado sued the city of Los Angeles Nov. 29, saying they are still seeking answers about the shooting that the city and police department have refused to answer.

The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint brought by Albert Corado and Albert Corado Jr., the father and brother of Corado, also names as defendants Los Angeles Police Department officers Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans, who fired the shots at the Traders Joe’s store.

The suit alleges wrongful death, negligence civil rights violations and battery. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.

Gubler retires from

Hollywood Chamber

HOLLYWOOD — The president/CEO of the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce has been named to the same post with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which will have its first change in leadership in a quarter-century.

Rana Ghadban, who previously worked with the Calabasas andChatsworth/Porter Ranch chambers, will officially become the Hollywood Chamber president/CEO on Jan. 1, but she joined the organization in December for a one-month transition period under outgoing President Leron Gubler.

Gubler informed the chamber board in January he would be stepping down at the end of the year.

Gubler has served as the president and CEO of the chamber since 1992, which makes him the longest-serving CEO in the history of the 97-year old organization. In September 2017, he was honored for his 25 years of leadership.

“Over a quarter century ago, Leron was hired during Hollywood’s darkest hours, when hope for great leadership was only a dream for the chamber board,” said Jeff Zarrinnam, chair of the board of the Hollywood Chamber. “For 20 years, I’ve attended a countless number of meetings with Leron, where I witnessed his wisdom, small-town values, great character, positive will, enthusiasm and patience to push things constantly forward toward a successful action. We thank him for his service to Hollywood and we wish him the very best.”

In announcing his retirement, Gubler noted that the chamber is in sound financial shape, has relocated to an office in the heart of the new commercial district of Hollywood, and has strong business leadership and a committed staff.

Zarrinnam said the chamber conducted a nine-month worldwide search and interviewed a wide variety of qualified candidates. The committee reviewed more than 350 candidates’ resumes.

“As the interview committee went through the lengthy search process, Rana rose to the top as the best candidate,” said Donelle Dadigan, chair of the chamber’s board of directors. “She met and exceeded all of the attributes and qualifications the committee liked to see in our next chamber president.”

Gubler is perhaps best known to the public for his role as the emcee for the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an assignment he assumed 10 years ago at the passing of longtime Hollywood Honorary Mayor Johnny Grant. He has emceed about 300 Walk of Fame ceremonies during that time, but has participated in more than 600 ceremonies during his tenure at the chamber.

Walk of Fame

honors 29 more

HOLLYWOOD — The Hollywood Walk of Fame added 29 stars during 2018, including an honorary star for the cast of the 1970s television show “Love Boat, which was presented in May.

Others receiving stars during the year were actress Gillian Anderson, star of “The X Files,” singer Mary J. Blige and cartoon character Minnie Mouse during January; actress Gina Lollobrigida and actor Mandy Patinkin in February and actor Mark Hamill and television personality RuPaul in March

In April television’s “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter was honored along with comedian Tracy Morgan and actress Eva Longoria.

May inductees included television’s crocodile hunter Steve Irwin (posthumously) and actress Zoe Saldana.

In June, actor Jeff Goldblum was inducted followed by actress Niecy Nash and Cedric the Entertainer in July.

In August, actress Jennifer Garner, song parody star “Weird Al” Yankovic and television personality Simon Cowell received stars followed by actor Eric McCormack, singer Carrie Underwood and actor Jack Black in September.

Sir Richard Branson was inducted in October for his contributions to the recording industry. Actor Michael Douglas, actress Sarah Silverman, singer Michael Buble, rapper Snoop Dogg and Broadway creator Lin Manuel Miranda were honored in November.

Director Ryan Murphy rounded out the year by receiving a star in December

 

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