Well, it turns out there’s this company called AMCAL Housing, and according to their about-us page they build affordable housing in exchange for tax breaks, or some such thing. They’re building a big project at Vermont and Beverly1 called the Meridian Apartments, and they broke ground officially on February 11, 2016, with Mitch O’Farrell scheduled to speak at the ceremony.
Thus, on February 1, 2016, Paige Horn of AMCAL Housing emailed Marisol Rodriguez, Dave Cano, Juan Fregoso, all of CD13, and some people from Korean Churches for Community Development, which is working with AMCAL on this project, telling them:
Thank you all for your participation in the Meridian Groundbreaking Event on Thursday, February 11th at 11am! … There should be ample street parking, however, I have reserved VIP Parking for all speakers at the lower parking lot of Hubbard College of Administration that can be accessed from Juanita Avenue.
But local knowledge counts for a lot. The very next day, our very own Juan Fregoso emailed Victor Gutierrez (#26802) with a cc to Matthew Ziegler (#34208)2 to report:
Here is the info for the event on the 11th.
We have CSI3 scheduled for February 9th.
As you can see, VIPs will park on Juanita and will have to walk through the encampment.
Me and Marisol are working to see how to address this but wanted to flag the event.
Thanks again for all your help.
And amazingly enough, I have a copy of the lengthy email chain between Juan Fregoso, Marisol Rodriguez, and a bunch of people from the L.A. Sanitation department showing exactly what those two CD13 stalwarts were doing “to see how to address this.” You can probably guess what’s coming, because if VIPs (?!) have to walk near homeless people, something’s gotta give, and it ain’t gonna be the VIPs,4 You’d be right, and you can read the sordid details after the break!
On February 2nd, Marisol Rodriguez emailed Bureau of Sanitation bigwig Jose “Pepe” Garcia about a bunch of encampment locations to be cleaned on February 9, and added:
In addition, on February 11th, we have a groundbreaking event for a new 100% affordable housing complex and the VIP parking will be on Juanita, so we would like to add the 300 Block of N JUANITA AVE (RAMPART) on this day as well.
Such relentless politicking!5 Anyway, a couple days later, on February 4, Bureau of Sanitation employee Renee “Cecelia” Shackleford6 replied:
300 N Juanita has expired so I created a new authorization below. We will Post the 1st set of locations of Tuesday the 9th and the Juanita locations for Wednesday the 10th.
It’s worth looking at the authorization that Renee Shackleford created in response to Marisol Rodriguez’s anxiety about the VIPs and the homeless having to gaze upon one another. In particular, you might notice that the date this authorization was created was February 4, 2016. That is, the day on which Marisol and Renee were discussing the matter. Also note that the photo that’s attached to the report is dated February 4 as well. Furthermore, there’s a comment attached to the photo which states photo is good. And the Inspected by field is filled in with NOT INSPECTED BY BSS. Now, it’s just not plausible that Renee Shackleford sent someone out there to take another picture, which makes it seem pretty darn likely that she just re-uploaded the same picture, which would explain why she felt the need to state that it was good. Also the authorization states explicitly that the encampment was not reinspected.
So therefore, no one reinvestigated this encampment before the new authorization was created to replace the old one that expired. But there’s no reason to have these authorizations expire if it’s within the rules to use the old information to create a new authorization. Presumably they expire because conditions at encampments are temporary, and after a certain amount of time a new investigation and authorization is necessary. Thus Renee Shackleford certainly skirted some City procedures by reauthorizing a cleanup without reinvestigating.7
If you’ve been keeping up with my attempts to use CPRA to find out just what the heck the City does before it swoops in and throws everyone’s possessions into the trash truck, you may remember a March 8, 2016 email from CD13 intern Sean Starkey to Koreatown landlord Bryan Kim, explaining the process:
— Reported to BSS
— BSS assigns investigator to the site who visually inspects the site
— BSS contacts LAHSA
— LAHSA conducts outreach and offers services
— LAHSA makes second visit
— LAHSA signs off
— Public works signs off
— Sanitation allocates days to Council Offices
— Sanitation posts at the site 72 hours prior
— Council Office coordinates LAPD
This exchange between Renee Shackleford and Marisol Rodriguez makes it pretty clear that they skipped all but the last two steps in this process for the 300 block of North Juanita. But if VIPs might have to walk through homeless people, it might just be a small price to pay. I do wonder why they even have laws if they’re just going to trample on them, though.8
But you know, a Council Aide’s work is never done. The next day, February 5, 2016, it occurred to Marisol Rodriguez that there might be a loophole and that all her hard work would be wasted. So she emailed Jose “Pepe” Garcia:
I know you said Juanita would be done Wednesday. Juan says that the last time the CSI team was there, they asked for Oakwood (around the corner)9 to also be posted, since the transients will move to that side.
I’m not even going to discuss her use of the word “transients.”10 Instead, just note that not only does she not want her VIPs to have to walk through an encampment, she also doesn’t want an encampment around the corner from where her VIPs have to walk, even though it’s in the opposite direction. One wonders what the minimum safe distance between VIP and encampment might be.
And never fear, it is Renee Shackleford to the rescue! Just 16 minutes after Marisol’s email, she wrote back with a list of Wednesday cleanups:
1. Authorization # 2015-00150 300 N Juanita Ave @ Oakwood Ave (Sidewalk/Parkway) (Rampart Div)
2. Authorization # 2015-00898 355 N Juanita Ave @ Oakwood Ave (Sidewalk/Parkway) (Rampart Div)
3. Authorization # 2015-00897 3812 Oakwood Ave @ Madison Ave (Sidewalk/Parkway L shaped area on Juanita & Oakwood) (Rampart Div)
An interesting story is told by those authorization numbers. There’s one for Juanita which appears to be the 150th of 2015. The one linked-to and discussed above that was edited by Renee Shackleford is #2016-00150, though, which makes me think that this is actually a typographical error. Then there are two consecutive ones from later in the year’s series but still initiated in 2015.11 One of these duplicates the old one and the other takes care of Marisol’s concern that the “transients” were just going to move around the corner. Without more detailed information about how these authorization numbers are generated it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from this other than that the last two were purposely created specifically in response to Marisol Rodriguez’s concerns.
And there’s more jabbering, but that’s the framework of the plan laid out. So I know it’s been a long story. Here’s a summary of what happened: Some charity in K-Town organized a big affordable housing project on Vermont. They were going to have a groundbreaking ceremony at which Mitch O’Farrell was going to speak. The lady from the construction company found a parking lot for Mitch to park in. Mitch’s staffies Marisol Rodriguez and Juan Fregoso realized that Mitch would have to walk by homeless people to get to his speech. They spent the next four days in a conspiracy with Renee Shackleford and Jose Garcia to subvert practically every policy and procedure required for an authorized cleanup of an encampment, all because they didn’t want “their boss”12 to have to walk by them.
I’m torn between seeing this as a disgusting but not illegal display of that characteristic blend of arrogance and cluelessness displayed by this City’s power-elite and their hired flunkies like Marisol Rodriguez and Juan Fregoso13 and as an actual violation of the law. After all, the soon, I hope, to be famous LAMC 49.5.5(A) states unequivocally that:
City officials, agency employees, appointees awaiting confirmation by the City Council, and candidates for elected City office shall not misuse or attempt to misuse their positions or prospective positions to create or attempt to create a private advantage or disadvantage, financial or otherwise, for any person.
So Marisol Rodriguez and her co-conspirators are custodians of the City’s power to clean up homeless encampments. They are allowed to wield it on the City’s behalf. But instead of sticking to procedures so that the City’s (presumably) democratically determined goals can be attained, they use that power for the benefit of Mitch O’Farrell, maybe so that he doesn’t have to look at homeless people, maybe so that his fellow “VIPs” don’t have to come to grips with the fact that Mitch O’Farrell has homeless people in his district, maybe, probably, something I haven’t thought of. Maybe they’re using it on their own behalf. They might well gain some advantage from their boss never seeing homeless people in his district. It makes it look like they’re doing their jobs or something? We may never know what advantages were created by this conspiracy, but we can be sure that the City’s official goals don’t include cleaning up homeless people who find themselves in Mitch O’Farrell’s path, which means that a private advantage was created here. But of course, I’m not a lawyer. Maybe I’m imagining the whole thing. It’s happened before, sadly. We’ll let the City Ethics Commission tell us for sure, shall we?
And finally, you may well be wondering what this encampment looked like. It’s hard to say at this point, but interestingly, Google Street View photographed it in March 2015. It probably looked different a year later, but probably not that different. Anyway, that’s tonight’s story, friends.
Image of housing project is from a plan filed with the City by the developer, probably making it a public record, although it was colorized by Urbanize.LA, although that’s certainly not sufficiently transformative to create an intellectual property interest for them, but just in case it is I’m also claiming fair use. Anyway, I got this from Archive.Org and you can too! Satellite imagery is ©2016 Google, and I got it from here. Photo of Mitch O’Farrell at the groundbreaking ceremony appears under a claim of fair use, and I got it here.
- The City side of this project is in Council File 15-0377 if you want to read the wonky details.
- These fellows seem to be Senior Lead Officers at Rampart Division.
- Clean Streets Initiative; as Orwellian as it sounds.
- Because, as the old but in this case exceptionally appropriate joke would have it, they gave at the office.
- That is, why is she telling the Sanitation folks that it’s “100% affordable”? Like anyone cares? But I suppose that once you start talking in press releases it’s hard to stop.
- I don’t know what it is about Bureau of Sanitation employees and these AKAs, but I’m not making them up, I swear!
- And if the City has procedures, you can bet that they were put in place in response to some kind of liability. Left to its own devices the City of Los Angeles would have shipped all our homeless citizens off to Slab City in the middle of the night. Carol Sobel keeps them from doing that, so there’s essentially no chance that it’s not Carol Sobel or the threat of Carol Sobel (I can only imagine the scary stories that Deputy City Attorneys tell one another around the campfire at Mike Feuer’s team-building retreats… that caused those procedures to be implemented. Which makes it pretty likely that, in violating these procedures, Renee Shackleford was also violating someone’s constitutional rights. But when VIPs are going to have to look at homeless people, I suppose that’s a small price to pay.
- It’s probably something mundane like the fact that the State of California requires cities to have laws if they want to continue to be a city (instead of ending up like freaking Bell, California).
- Oakwood Avenue is the first East/West street North of Beverly.
- It’s more cop-talk. All these people, Marisol Rodriguez, Kerry Morrison, Fabio freaking Conti, all of them, adopt this weirdo cop language and use it in the course of their ongoing displays of submission to their objects of worship on the LAPD. They don’t seem to know they’re doing it, and they don’t seem to have any feeling for why cops use the weirdo vocabulary that they do, which makes it doubly irritating to anyone who cares about language as a thing in itself, but somehow there is always much too much pressing material for us to write about to allow us the time to write about that. I keep hoping some social linguist will take up the matter.
- Assuming that 2016-00150 is the correct number for the one created on February 4, 2016 in response to Marisol Rodriguez’s request, we’re looking at about 4.2 authorizations per day. If this held in 2015, then numbers 897 and 898 would have been created around the beginning of August, 2015. Without information about how long it takes authorizations to expire, which I’m seeking but don’t yet have, it’s hard to draw conclusions from these numbers.
- I still can’t get over how freaking CUTE it is that all these councilstaffies call their boss their boss.
- And Mitch O’Farrell, for that matter, but that’s an argument for another day.