News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.
Photo: We honored Shawn Landres for his leadership of the Quality and Productivity Commission at this week’s Board meeting, and for his commitment to advancing the commission’s vision of innovation and impact during his tenure as Chair.
Recognizing Peter Lynn and Monique King-Viehland
This week we recognized two people who have been instrumental in helping us combat the housing and homelessness crisis, former Director of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Peter Lynn and former Director of the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA) Monique King-Viehland.
Five years ago, we committed to greatly increasing the job of building the political and public will to address the homeless crisis. We had neither a comprehensive plan nor the resources to implement such a plan. In 2015 and ’16, Peter Lynn helped create those landmark, integrated LA City/LA County homeless plans. Under his leadership, LAHSA implemented the Coordinated Entry System, began the Homeless Count, dramatically expanded the opportunities for community service providers to compete for government contracts, and helped us house more than 80,000 people, doubling the number of people who were placed in housing each year. We are tremendously grateful for the foundation Peter has established so we can continue to build on his work.
Monique King-Viehland is the first woman and first African American to serve as the Director of LACDA. Monique guided the merger of the Community Development Commission and Housing Authority into one unified agency, repositioning it as a forward-thinking, industry leader in affordable housing and community and economic development. Under her leadership, we saw an increase in the number of affordable and supportive housing units funded, and rental voucher commitments for supportive housing developments increased by more than 100%.
Pet-Friendly Housing Ordinance
For people experiencing homelessness, a beloved pet can be a source of strength to carry on in an incredibly difficult situation. However, in addition to an affordable housing shortage, there is a distinct lack of pet-friendly housing, meaning responsible pet owners are extremely limited in their options and can even be forced to make the gut-wrenching decision to give up their four-legged friends.
But animal lovers in Los Angeles County can rejoice, because this week, the Board passed the Pet-Friendly Housing Ordinance, which stipulates that county-funded developments must have a pet-friendly policy. The ordinance allows for tenants to have at least one pet, provided it is cared for in accordance with State, Federal, and local laws. These requirements align with a similar LA City ordinance and a statewide bill signed into law in 2017.
This ordinance will help remove one more barrier to housing, allow more renters to keep their pets in their homes, and set a policy so that fewer people experiencing homelessness will have to choose between their pet and a safe place to sleep.
Beach Emergency Evacuation Lights System
Los Angeles County strives to incorporate accessibility for people with disabilities in all facets of our services, so I am very pleased that the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Janice Hahn to implement the Beach Emergency Evacuation Lights System (BEELS) pilot at Torrance Beach, with the goal of expanding to all Beaches and Harbors operated public beaches. This action was inspired by an employee who is the parent of a hearing-impaired child, who noticed that the current system, which uses audible alarms like whistles, sirens, and announcements, might be ineffective to adequately warn deaf or hearing impaired swimmers of a potential emergency. BEELS utilizes visual cues like lights, in addition to the standard alarm system.
Developed in consultation with the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, BEELS will be monitored, controlled, and activated by the Fire Department’s Lifeguards via a remote wireless system, which will be able to control the areas and range of lights activated during an emergency. For example, if there is a tsunami warning, BEELS can be activated at all beaches along the LA County coastline, or if there is a shark sighting at a local beach, BEELS activation can be isolated to the affected area. This state of the art system will make our beaches safer and more inclusive for all visitors.
Women in Tech
I am very happy that the Board passed my motion for a “Women in Tech” hiring and professional development initiative!
There is a serious lack of women in computer tech jobs, a high-paying and in-demand job sector. Even the County, an entity that works hard to correct gender imbalances, has a shortage of women in Information Technology roles, particularly in strategically important IT positions. Women make up over 59% of all County employees. However, the IT Department is only 28.9% women. And in IT, the higher ranking the position, the less likely it is held by a woman. We can and must do better.
This motion directs several departments to work together to develop a program proposal for a career pipeline for women into County IT jobs, and to report back to the Board in 4 months. The program will be tailored to women, but any interested individuals can take advantage of it. The plan would create a new focus in IT for the County’s Youth Workers, a program for at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 24 that provides a “foot in the door” for a career at the County. The program will include training, mentorship, professional and skills development workshops, and on-the-job experience with County IT Vendors that can translate into full-time positions as an IT aide. Since the County largely promotes from within, this also provides the opportunity for a long and fulfilling career in IT.
I am very hopeful that the Women in Tech Hiring Initiative will help us in our broader mission to close the gender pay gap and empower a new generation of women to “go for IT!”
Santa Susana Field Lab
For decades I have been advocating for a full cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Lab. This week, the Board passed my motion to make that position formal and ask NASA to do right by the residents affected by the contamination at this site by moving forward with a full cleanup.
The Santa Susana Field Lab is the site of the United State’s worst nuclear meltdown as well as other toxic events throughout its more than 50-year history. Although the facilities at Santa Susana Field Lab have been inactive for several years, various serious incidents have left radioactive and chemical contaminants in the soil, in airborne dust particulates, and in stormwater runoff. The alarming consequences of these episodes have affected residents in the third and fifth districts for decades, including health risks, such as potential clusters of rare cancers.
Recently, NASA has released a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for public comment. It includes additional alternative cleanup proposals, ones that propose to leave a majority of contamination in place. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of a legally binding, 2010 agreement between the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), NASA, and the Department of Energy. This motion formalizes the Board of Supervisors’ stance that a full cleanup is necessary and agreed upon, and calls on NASA to advance the cleanup as proposed.