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By Veronica Mackey

 

Prompted by rumors that some residents would be kicked out to make way for the proposed L.A. Clippers arena, attendance within Inglewood City Council Chambers was wall-to-wall. People lined up on Tuesday to take their turn at the mic.

 

Many received fliers from an organization called IRATE (Inglewood Residents Against Taking and Eviction), which claimed the City of Inglewood would use eminent domain to remove families living in the vicinity of the venue, near Century and Prairie, across from the new NFL stadium, currently under construction.  Hermosa Beach attorney Douglas Carstens, filed a lawsuit against Inglewood in July on behalf of IRATE.  

 

Mayor James Butts and council members approved an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) with Clippers-controlled company Murphy’s Bowl LLC in June.  The agreement gives the Clippers 3 years to conduct feasibility studies, and decide whether to build an arena in Inglewood.  It is not an agreement to allow the Clippers to begin construction.  The vetting process includes an environmental impact report. Inglewood was paid or will be paid $1.5 million to provide City services connected with the project.  

 

Pressure from Inglewood renters and home owners has been mounting since the original ENA was signed.  It was heightened, in part, by a separate lawsuit (also filed in July) by Madison Square Garden, which owns the Forum. MSG has accused Inglewood of taking back city-owned property leased to the Forum under false pretenses, and using it to negotiate for the Clippers arena, which they see as a competing venue.

 

Since protests began, the City has taken steps to revise portions of the ENA.  The new wording specifically excludes residents and the Inglewood Southside Christian Church from eminent domain.  On Tuesday, the council approved the revised version, which will also reduce the 4-block area to 2 blocks. The site would include the arena, practice facility, team headquarters and parking.   

 

The affected area borders on Century Blvd. on the north, Prairie Ave. on the west, 102nd St. on the south and Yukon Ave. on the east.  The deal also includes about six acres of city-owned land along West 102nd St. and off Prairie Ave. The ENA was amended for the City of Inglewood, City of Inglewood as Successor Agency to the Inglewood Redevelopment Agency and the Inglewood Parking Authority.

 

A woman named Nicole said she is “concerned and excited” to have a stadium in Inglewood, but  “worried” that the City isn’t looking out for interests of residents. “It doesn’t look like our interests are prioritized.  It looks like it’s (about) money, and if you don’t have money, you don’t have a voice,” she said.

 

Construction of the football stadium—and possibly, a basketball arena—has, in part, boosted home values and rent prices. Residents are concerned they won’t be able to afford to remain in Inglewood. Rent control was a request repeated by several speakers. 

 

A man who calls himself “Brother Curry,” and who represents Uplift Inglewood, explained the group’s mission.  “We are a community coalition. We are for affordable housing and rent stabilization and rent control. We are for living wages.  But we don’t want jobs at the expense of our environment, our health or our community having what it deserves.  We are demanding that you use that land responsibly, and an arena is not responsible,” he told the council.

 

District 1 resident and business owner, Curtis Mitchell said:  “It’s outrageous that they (City) would get a lawsuit from an Hermosa Beach attorney, telling us they are representing a group in this city.  I looked it up on the website.  Who is this attorney paying all this money? If you are from Inglewood, why would you want to go against our city council?  I can’t believe Madison Square Garden would go out and try to stop (progress) in this community.  How can Madison Square Garden go on with this when they have made so much money?”

 

Chris Meany, partner at Wilson-Meany development firm, and contractor for the Hollywood Park Development surrounding the new football stadium, said, “Neither the City of Inglewood nor the L.A. Clippers (would) take action to take anyone’s home.  Since our project (began), we have seen new websites and fliers that say homes are being taken.  These are lies.  The L.A. Clippers would never participate in that.  It’s not who they are.” 

 

A woman made the point that “just because some people won’t be displaced, doesn’t mean people’s rent is not going to increase.  Unless we have a program that institutes citywide rent control we’re not going to have people living here.  We have to address this is going to affect people, working class and low income people.”

 

While protestors claim the ENA amendment is a victory, Butts said amendments to negotiations agreements are common as a project move along.  Reducing the size of the study area was a major factor in the revision. 

A Clippers representative explained the team’s position.  “The Clippers would play 40-50 home games a year. We think Inglewood would be a great home.  The ENA identified 88 acres, but 88 acres is 4 times more than we would need.  The reduced study area is still bigger than we want or need.”

 Carstens told the L.A. Times that the new ENA still leaves open the possibility of displacing local businesses, and would still have a significant impact on residents in the immediate area. 

"Even without displacing resident owners or a church, there could still be a significant disruption of long-established businesses and apartment dwellers, and the significant impacts to everyone of the large arena complex next door," Carstens wrote in an email.

The conversation about eminent domain morphed into a discussion on other possible uses of the land.  School improvements are a top priority.

 

“I don’t think we need another stadium.   Our kids are struggling to live in the neighborhood,” a long time resident said.

 

“People want to see more money going toward public schools,” Aldene Sligh said. 

 

Another woman said conditions at her child’s school are deplorable. “The bathroom was dirty on the first day of school. That needs to be taken care of before anything else gets to be addressed.”

Butts said the city has no authority over the school district, and is not allowed to turn over tax payer’s money to Inglewood schools. Further, the FAA won’t allow residences or schools to be built on the property because it is located in a flight path.  Portions of the land have lied unused for 25 years

 

Council members weighed in on public comments at the close of the meeting:

 

“We always look at what is in our city’s best interest.  We said early on that we have no intention of displacing folks,” Councilman Alex Padilla said.

 

Councilman Ralph Franklin, whose district would house the new arena, said: “There have been a number of developers wanting to come to the site.  We now have a much needed chance (to remove) blight in our community.  I’m looking forward to this project moving forward.”

 

Councilman Eloy Morales, a 40-year resident, said:  “We don’t plan on using eminent domain on any resident or any churches, period.”  

 

Morales recalled how Inglewood voters blocked Walmart from building a superstore on the same site.  “Had they won, we would not be having this conversation at all.  Folks who lived in Inglewood would not still be here...The lack of housing is not unique to the city of Inglewood.  This is a conversation that needs to be had throughout the state of California…We did what the City of Los Angeles failed to do—get a stadium built. This is a part of our success, not our failure.  One thing we cannot do is to apologize for our success.”

 

“This discussion falls into the realm of ‘are you kidding me?’  Attorneys have to convince you, they have to convince us, we shouldn’t be able to use that land that has sat there for 25 years, generating no tax revenue, generating no jobs,” Butts said.

 

“We haven’t done anything wrong.  There is no prohibition to keep us from exploring our options…We’re arguing over whether we’re going to build another arena and employ 500-600 more people? Are you kidding me? This is the transfer of wealth people, and two things men won’t give up on—that’s money and power.  The opposition has a difficult task because they have to convince you to run away from prosperity.” 

 

Inglewood May Host 2026 World Cup

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Inglewood is being considered as a potential host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, according to sources.

 

The still-under-construction stadium and future home of the L.A. Rams and L.A. Chargers is in the running, along with Pasadena’s Rose Bowl and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.  The venues are being looked at, organizers said, as part of a joint bid by the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

 

Forty-four North American cities were asked to declare if they want to be part of the hosting bid. Cities that respond by September 5, in favor of hosting, will be included in a review process and a short list will be developed by late September.  

 

If good fortune continues, Inglewood could add World Cup to its growing list of achievements in sports.  So far, Inglewood has beat out Los Angeles, St. Louis, and San Diego as the NFL’s pick to house the Rams and Chargers; won the bid to host the Super Bowl in 2022; and will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.  The city is shaping up to once again live up to its nickname as the “City of Champions.”

 

If Inglewood makes the first round of cuts, it will be among 20-25 venues to be included in the final hosting bid to soccer’s governing body, FIFA.  Bid officials said they anticipate at least 12 cities to ultimately be chosen as official host cities.

 

Stadiums are required to have at least 40,000 seats to host early “group stage” matches, and at least 80,000 seats to host the opening match and the final.

 

Although Inglewood’s stadium won’t open until 2020, plans show the $2.6 billion venue has some impressive features and benefits such as 70,000-seats—including 250 luxury suites and 20,000 club suites—enclosed by a roof, made of transparent glass, which allow for natural lighting; is freeway close and just minutes away from LAX.

 

John Kristick, United Bid Committee executive director, said response to request letters has been great, and that commitment shown by host cities to the sport of soccer “will make a positive contribution to our communities and the world.”   

 

Cities selected will be submitted to FIFA next year, and a decision will be made next June.  The North American bid faces competition from Morocco.

 

 

The Hoods are Off

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The vicious, hateful and senseless violence that took place in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend is a sad reminder of how racially divided we really are.  After having a black man occupy the White House for 8 years, the creation of more black millionaires than ever before and what appeared to be more racial tolerance all around, Ku Klux Klan members made it clear that racism is very much alive and well.  

 

And not the covert kind of racism, but the kind that gets people killed.   James Alex Fields Jr., 20, believed to be the driver of a car that plowed into a crowd of counter protestors, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death. Three people died and at least 34 were injured in Charlottesville.

 

Decades ago, Klan members waited until night to terrorize black folks.  And even then, they always showed up with hood-covered faces. Today, racists are brazen enough to walk up to people they don’t like in broad daylight and with news cameras rolling, and assault them.  They don’t seem to care at all who sees them; some even hope they will be seen.

 

I don’t have any statistics on the average income of these hate group members, but I would suspect that many are uneducated low to medium wage earners.  They are the very people who need to hang on to the Obamacare that Trump so desperately wants to eliminate.  

 

And, if my hypothesis is correct, they are working people who need their jobs.  This is where their dirty deeds could come back to haunt them.  As MSNBC host Rachel Maddow noted, this brand of white supremacists is not afraid to show their face on camera, and this boldness is playing into the hands of law enforcement.

 

It’s no secret that since the dawn of the Internet, employers have used social media to spy on current or potential employees.  Attorneys, insurance companies and law enforcement agencies use sites to gather information when building a case.  Posts that verbally attack or make fun of others aren’t just for laughs in a public forum.  They are potential pieces of evidence that could land people in jail.

 

Faces of the Charlottesville hate mongers are now forever recorded in time, and some of the people caught on video will eventually have to answer to neighbors, relatives, church members, and employers.  Friends will want to know why they were in Charlottesville, standing next to others cursing at peope and holding lanterns. They are not going to have a valid answer for their behavior when folks begin to recognize them from the news.  Their secret racism will be exposed.

 

There are some, however, who do not care who knows about their hatred and bigotry.  Some even try to justify it and say it’s God’s will.  And this willingness to be openly racist is what hate group organizers really want.  Like ISIS, domestic terrorists love media attention, and they’ll do anything to get it. Group leaders hope recruits will be rejected by their families and friends.  Being shunned by loved ones, recruits are more likely to form strong bonds with terrorist groups.  This is exactly what happens to many of our young people when they end up in gangs.

 

Now that Trump is president, racists feel safe enough to come out of hiding.  The KKK hood is off and they are willing to be seen for who they are.  But we all know there’s no way to control who sees you once the video is rolling.  So keep on smiling for the cameras, KKK, because there are many more who do care when innocent people are hurt.  They are watching, and they will come for you.

 

 

Short, Not Sweet

Thursday, August 10, 2017

By Veronica Mackey

 

Tuesday’s council meeting was cut short when a woman demanded that the council make public results of a police investigation involving the officer-involved shooting deaths of Kisha Michael and Marquintan Sandlin.  There was a brief exchange between the woman and Mayor James Butts.

 

“They were asleep… and to have the officers shoot them is unheard of in this country,” the woman said.

 

“You apparently know a lot.  So you’d know the family’s attorneys have access to all information…Maybe the family isn’t telling you,” Butts said.  

 

The woman said the families have a “gag order.”  The woman continued to speak past her allotted time.  At one point, Butts asked the guard to remove her from the meeting, then decided instead to end it.

 

The entire meeting ended shy of 15 minutes.  But before everyone cleared the room, Inglewood council members agreed to the following actions:

 

•Approval of an Associate Membership in the Golden State Finance Authority and consent to the inclusion of properties within the City’s jurisdiction in the Golden State Finance Authority Community Facilities District No. 2014-1 (Clean Energy).  The action will allow the financing of  renewable energy improvements, energy efficiency and water conservation improvements, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and other improvements. 

 

•The purchase of computer equipment from Dell Computer L.P. 

 

•Amendment of an agreement to extend the term of Hillcrest Medical to provide emergency medical treatment for in-custody prisoners through July 31, 2018  

 

•An agreement with the Los Angeles Police Department, allowing the Inglewood Police Department to enroll pre-service police recruits in their POST-certified training academy

 

•An agreement with Kane Ballmer & Berkman (KBB) for broad ranging legal advice, guidance, and representation to the City of Inglewood, Inglewood Successor Agency (formerly Inglewood Redevelopment Agency), and the Inglewood Parking Authority

 

•An ordinance amending the Inglewood Municipal Code, Chapter 3, introduced August 1, 2017, to increase certain parking penalties 

 

A public hearing was set to consider an appeal of the Planning Commission’s denial of Special Use Permit No. 2017-003 to allow a beauty salon within 300 feet of a similar use at 1413 North Centinela Avenue. 

 

Silicon Beach and the Digital Divide

Thursday, August 10, 2017

By Veronica Mackey

 

Silicon Beach.  If you haven’t yet heard of it, you should know that this hotspot for tech-driven companies it is closer in distance than you think.  It is driving up property values and creating thousands of new jobs, and is being blamed for displacing renters and small businesses. 

 

Unlike Silicon Valley in Northern California, home of Google and Facebook, Silicon Beach is not overwhelmingly geared toward technology jobs.  Rather, the area tends to have a more diversified economy where tourism, finance, and/or other industries also play a major role.  

 

According to Wikipedia, Silicon Beach is the Westside region of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, home to over 500 tech startup companies, with emphasis on the coastal strip north of LAX to the Santa Monica Mountains.   Major technology companies like Google,  Yahoo!, YouTube, BuzzFeed, Facebook, and AOL have opened offices in the region. 

 

While the rapid growth of tech companies has boosted the quality of life in such areas as Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, pockets of Downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood, cities to the south and east are lagging behind. 

 

The tendency of companies to congregate in these centrally-located, high income areas has raised concerns about the feasibility of racial minorities joining the workforce, as they tend to live in further outlying areas.

 

One of the biggest reasons for the digital divide has to do with the uneven distribution of fiber optic lines, which is the gold standard of Internet connectivity. A new study has found that fast, high-capacity fiber-optic lines are hard to find in areas south and east of Playa Vista, Playa del Rey, Westchester, Santa Monica, Culver City, Venice and Manhattan Beach.  

 

Some smaller, poorer cities cannot afford fiber optics because it is expensive to install.  So it’s no coincidence that these cities are not up to speed with smart technology.  And until more investments are made in areas like South Los Angeles, richer cities will become richer and poorer cities will become poorer.  

 

There is technology available today that can download 25 songs in 1 second.  Without equal access to high speed data, Manhattan Beach might be forewarned against an energy crisis while Compton residents could be literally in the dark.

 

Understanding the need for fiber optics to meeting future demands and building a stronger workforce in less affluent cities requires a shift in thinking. Cities have to think of fiber optics as a necessity, like air and water. 

 

Inglewood, Redondo Beach, and El Segundo are working quickly to lay down extensive fiber networks, along with Riverside County, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Huntington Beach, Carlsbad, Ontario and Culver City, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

 

While Google, Snapchat, Yahoo!, Facebook and other major companies in Silicon Beach can afford to buy their own broadband communication systems, small local governments need to work together so they, too, can afford to build the technology infrastructure.

 

Broadband Internet providers like Spectrum and AT&T continue to compete for customers, while some cities have begun to install their own fiber optic lines and provide direct access to residents.  Beverly Hills, for example, provides fiber optic technology to homes. 

 

In the future, and even now Southern California will become a cluster of “smart cities” using technology to operate self-driving cars and to find parking spaces that double as car charging ports. 

 

Silicon Beach will obviously benefit local communities, as cities will profit from investments, and tax revenues.  But there is a downside.  Since Snapchat moved to Venice, rents in the already pricy area have risen out of control.  

 

 

According to an article in L.A. Curbed (March 31, 2015):  “In this single wave of growth, Snapchat will displace about three dozen renters in the multiple buildings they're moving into.  It's not clear which addresses and suite numbers exactly Snapchat is going to occupy, but at the complex on Abbot Kinney, they're snatching up about 40,000 square feet, leaving roughly 6,700 square feet of the space alone.”

 

Snapchat bought ocean view property in the area, which was rented to their employees. Rising rents forced some residents and mom–and-pop proprietors out.  Residents complain about not having enough parking.

 

It’s hard for city officials to argue with “progress” when technology from Silicon Beach companies can potentially create tens of thousands of new jobs, enhance crime fighting and bring major economic investments.  Casualties of displaced renters and small businesses, and an even wider digital divide are realities that deserve attention.  

 

At the lightning-fast pace in which technology is growing, the sooner, the better.

 

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