Local experts weigh in on what the future may hold for Westside communities

Booker Pearson

Will homelessness increase or decrease in Westside communities this year?

By Booker Pearson

There are more reasons to be optimistic about our chances to reduce homelessness on the Westside in 2018. Measure H and Proposition HHH are just beginning to show results. The $355 million per year from the Measure H sales started being collected in October 2017 and is flowing to well established, highly regarded Westside agencies that were already operating local programs producing real results.

Virtually all of the local elected leaders for the Westside — L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, and L.A. County Supervisors Janice Hahn, Shelia Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas — are on record pledging to do whatever it takes to eliminate homelessness. Moreover, they are enacting programs that provide housing for our homeless neighbors, which will result in a huge increase in quality of life for our housed and unhoused residents alike.

New regulations now allow for faith-based institutions to provide safe parking lots on their premises for those who have no other place to live except for their vehicles. Santa Monica, Del Rey and some West L.A. communities have embraced affordable housing. However, until all neighborhoods agree to allow safe parking as well as crisis, bridge and permanent housing for our unhoused residents, we will not make a dent in homelessness.

The No. 1 impediment to reducing homelessness is us. Despite defeating Measure S and approving H and HHH by overwhelming margins, many Westside communities vehemently oppose any facility or program that assists the homeless. Little progress will occur unless and until we accept that we all must do our share in reducing homelessness in our neighborhoods. But I remain hopeful that in 2018 we will replace our fear of the destitute with compassion.

Booker Pearson is a Playa del Rey resident and is a member of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority board.

Oliver Seil

What are some of the biggest tech trends to expect in 2018?

By Oliver Seil

Now that wireless charging capabilities have been integrated into the latest iPhones, wireless chargers will start showing up all over the place, though it’s a technology that has been around for years. Wireless charging is going to be the most convenient choice in public settings and anywhere else that plugging in is inconvenient. The Qi Wireless charging standard works across different operating systems, meaning we can all hope to have more opportunities to charge our devices in public places this year.

Internet-connected smart home devices using natural language technology from the likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are becoming ubiquitous in our living rooms. Their loudspeakers respond to our commands in pleasant, nearly human-quality voices. These devices may not be able to do very much yet, but this artificial intelligence (AI) technology is truly still in its infancy. These devices will become assistants that can tap into the world’s knowledge while helping us manage our schedules, connected home devices, personal communications and media choices. But this technology also requires users to get smart about privacy management, as each manufacturer handles our personal information differently. Privacy will therefore become a major subject of discussion in the coming year.

Augmented reality (AR) will add new dimensions to the ways people interact with machines. This technology relies on superimposing digital information or images on top of what we see naturally, allowing users to view the physical environment while interact with other people — much different than the more isolated virtual reality (VR) experience. The consumer electronics industry will offer up plenty of new AR headgear for us to try in the coming year. However, the jury is still out on what kinds of AR experiences the public will want to engage with in the long run.

Oliver Seil is Vice President of Design for Playa Vista-based Belkin International, a leading global manufacturer of consumer electronics that specializes in connectivity devices.

Ellen Aprill

How will the new tax laws impact local charitable giving?

By Ellen Aprill

Due to the nearly doubling of the standard deduction and the new limits on deductions for state and local taxes, far fewer taxpayers — maybe as few as 5% — will itemize deductions. Without the benefit of the itemized charitable contribution deduction, those taxpayers may give less to charities. How much less remains to be seen.

Also, charities that have at least five employees with compensation greater than $1 million will have to pay a 20% excise tax on that excess. And charities will now have to pay income tax on certain benefits provided to employees, such as parking and other transportation fringe benefits. Charities that have unrelated businesses will now have to pay income tax on each unrelated business income calculated separately for each unrelated activity; that is, losses in one unrelated business can no longer offset gains in other unrelated businesses.

Meanwhile, universities with at least 500 student endowments greater than $500,000 per student will have to pay a 1.4% excise tax on investment income. There are a number of uncertainties about the meaning of various terms in this provision, such as what assets are included in the endowment.

Professor Ellen Aprill is John E. Anderson Chair in Tax Law at Loyola Law School.