The controversial Los Angeles community facilities ordinance rose to the surface again after a former San Fernando Valley neighborhood council member lodged a grievance against the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa Oct. 3.
Paul Dumont, a resident of the San Fernando Valley, formally accused the local council the day after the meeting of not abiding by its bylaws when it voted on a motion not to hear a resolution opposing the proposed ordinance that would regulate sober living and residential housing, including group homes for veterans.
The ordinance seeks to redefine the definition of what constitutes a family by creating a law where all tenants living in a rental home must be on one lease and prohibits community care homes, which often include veterans, parolees and recovering addicts, in low density or residential neighborhoods.
The neighborhood council, which last year voted to support the ordinance, decided not to take a new vote on a resolution brought by the council’s Homeless and Vehicular Living Committee because of its earlier position.
“The maker of the motion and numerous speakers, including city officials, explained clearly that the prior letter of support was for a different ordinance. In fact, the prior support was not only for a different ordinance, but a different council file,” wrote Dumont, a former member of the North Hills West Valley Neighborhood Council. “The motion that was before the board was to council file Number 11- 0262 introduced to the City Council Feb. 16, 2011 (three and half months after the board took a position on the other proposal) – not the previously supported Number 07-3427.
“This final draft ordinance dated Sept. 13, 2011 was listed as a supporting document on the (neighborhood council’s) website. This was clearly a motion in line with parliamentary procedure.”
Dumont, who owns several sober living facilities, said Westchester-Playa board Vice President Geoff Maleman, who directed the meeting in place of President Cyndi Hench, claimed the board’s parliamentary procedure did not allow the council to consider the resolution. “I think this stymies the democratic process,” he said. “Why are people not allowing the democratic process to happen?”
The grievance was also reported to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), the city agency that oversees the city’s 95 neighborhood councils.
DONE Interim General Manager Grayce Liu confirmed that her department was aware of the grievance. “It will be dealt with per (the neighborhood council’s) bylaws. That is how grievances are handled. Complaints are handled by our department,” she explained.
Neighborhood council member Denny Schneider attended the meeting and feels that his council took the proper position. He took issue with Dumont’s claim that the ordinance, which has a new council file number, had been dramatically rewritten.
“It has not appreciably changed,” said Schneider, a long-term member of the council who is in favor of the proposed ordinance. “We took a positive position on it last year and (the Oct. 2 action) I think was absolutely appropriate.”
Dumont claims that after Maleman was informed that the motion before the board was not in conflict with a prior decision without any motion or vote, as required by Webster’s New World Robert’s Rules of Order, to refer the resolution to a committee.
“Again, the comparison sought was for two totally different council files and ordinances,” he wrote in his grievance. “The irony of not wanting to hear the issue because a position was supposedly already taken, and then switching reasoning for not allowing a vote to claiming an analysis of differences was necessary – after a committee had already done just that, shows the presiding officer purposely stymied the democratic process by not allowing the board to vote.”
Robert’s Rules of Order are used by many governing boards for parliamentary use.
The origins of the proposed ordinance are grounded in the area where Dumont lives, the San Fernando Valley, and its sponsor is Councilman Mitchell Englander, whose council district encompasses a large part of the Valley.
In a May 15 letter, Englander wrote about why he is sponsoring the ordinance.
“The community care ordinance is common-sense legislation that has been developed to address the proliferation of unlicensed nuisance group homes and boarding facilities, which have had a huge negative impact on single family neighborhoods in my district in the Northwest San Fernando Valley and in neighborhoods all across the city of Los Angeles,” he wrote.
“There are a great number of these unlicensed, unregulated facilities, most of which are for-profit businesses operating in residential areas.”
The Westside Regional Alliance of Councils, which is comprised of 12 neighborhood councils, supported the ordinance in a Feb. 7, 2011 letter.
“We feel that the issues addressed in this motion are not only of vital importance to the Westside, but also necessarily concern all of Los Angeles, which does not break down conveniently by district lines,” wrote WRAC President Mike Newhouse. “As such we would appreciate a formal response from each of you with respect to your positions on this issue.”
Organizations that house military veterans, homeless families and recovering addicts as well as the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce have rallied against Englander’s proposed city law.
“New Directions is very concerned about the impact of the proposed Community Care Facilities ordinance in its current draft form, and we oppose it, along with scores of other social service agencies,” New Directions Vice President of Development and Marketing Cindy Young wrote in an email.
“The ordinance, if passed, will increase homelessness, making it illegal for unrelated individuals to share a residential home unless they are all under one comprehensive lease.”
New Directions has a facility for veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in Del Rey called Chris’ Place and residences in Mar Vista for female veterans called Mitchell House and Keaveney House.
“Chris’ Place would beacome illegal under this ordinance, for example, because the men who live there are unrelated, and each has his own individual rental agreement, because each is working toward his goals of reintegration into the community at his own pace,” Young explained. “These veterans won’t all get jobs on the same day, nor find their own apartments on the same day, or finish college or job training on the same day.
“So a single lease would not work.”
Legal experts have also questioned the veracity of the proposed citywide law and contend that if passed, it could create new legal problems for the city.
Dumont speculated that the WRAC letter could be one reason that the Westchester-Playa council decided not to vote on the resolution. “I think (Maleman) wanted to save face with WRAC,” he said.
Liu said if the neighborhood council denied Dumont’s grievance, he can file a complaint with DONE.