How to get L.A. to update its community plans—finally


Update the community plans now!

That is the good government proposal of choice in Los Angeles, the recommendation that candidates, elected officials, and blue-ribbon commissions make over and over. The theory behind the recommendation is that, without thoughtful and up-to-date community plans, the city lacks clear direction to guide decision-making about land use in our communities. And such guidance is vital at a time when many Angelenos want to create more livable neighborhoods.

The city of Los Angeles has 35 community plans—also called the “land use element” of the city’s legally required General Plan. (Cities have general plans to provide a comprehensive and long-range statement of priorities to guide public decision-making across various policy areas.) The city council adopted the current community plans in the 1980s and 1990s—meaning that they are decades out of date. L.A. was a younger and faster-growing city 30 years ago than it is today, and many of our neighborhoods have been changed by development and demography.

Our current obsession with updating the plans dates to a decade ago, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Director of Planning Gail Goldberg made updating the community plans a cornerstone of their broader approach to city planning. As conceived then, 35 separate updates, called “new community plans,” would be prepared and adopted over an eight-year period until all 35 community plans were in the hopper.

But, as of this writing, the City Council has adopted only three updated community plans—for Hollywood, Sylmar, and Granada Hills. The Hollywood plan envisioned taller buildings along major east-west boulevards and a denser core around Hollywood and Highland. But its methodology and content were so slipshod that in 2013 Superior Court Judge Alan Goodman rejected the update, as well as its voluminous “up-zoning” ordinances (which increased building densities and heights in Hollywood), its general plan amendments, and its companion environmental impact report.

To comply with Judge Goodman’s court order, the City Council reinstated the previous Hollywood community plan (1988), restored the zoning laws it had rescinded, and agreed to pay nearly $2 million in legal bills to the community groups and law firms that successfully challenged the updated plan.

Since that experience, the City Council has been reluctant to adopt additional updates, and understandably so. Why approve another round of flawed plans that could just meet the same judicial fate?

Of course, the delays haven’t stopped people from calling for updated plans. Last year, the City Council’s little noticed LA 2020 Commission’s Time For Action report criticized the delays and recommended that the Department of City Planning update all 35 community plans. Like most of the commission’s recommendations, this proposal received little traction at city hall. Instead, Planning has focused on revamping L.A.’s zoning code citywide through re:code LA in order to achieve the same goal as the community plan updates: up-zoning much of Los Angeles to permit greater density, uses, and heights.

This approach is shortsighted because community plans have great potential to change the city. They are the only parts of the General Plan that can readily amend local zoning and planning ordinances—and they are best way to enact detailed zoning and planning amendments that change local uses, densities, and heights in community plan areas.

While up-zoning is only one feature of the community plans, it happens to be the focus of most calls for updates. So city planners should not take calls for updates lightly.

But they are not a panacea. Community plans do have limits—they are not the way to make changes to emergency services, infrastructure, parks, streets, bike lanes, libraries, or schools. To update the plans that govern Los Angeles, we need to do much more. Why are there so few people demanding updates to the air quality, public safety, and conservation elements of the General Plan? Why not also update the other outdated discretionary general plan elements, such as the well-regarded framework element (a strategy for the city’s long-term growth that was last updated in 2001) or the totally forgotten 47-year-old infrastructure element (last updated in 1968)? Why not link the recently adopted mobility (transportation) element to the community plan updates, since mobility is now a high priority at city hall?

Here’s my answer to all these questions: Since the focus on updating the community plans right away hasn’t produced new community plans, why not try another approach—and update the other citywide plans first?

After all, the community plans are supposed to apply the citywide General Plan (and its various required and optional elements) to local communities. So, before you put in place community plans and apply them locally, it’d be best if the city would update that General Plan and its elements (housing, transportation, mobility, and the framework) first. It’s the logical approach.

But, big surprise, the general plan elements are also wildly out-of-date too. Why?

The official reason is lack of staff. But there also does not appear to be much interest in timely, comprehensive city planning among L.A.’s elected and appointed officials. Since real estate speculators need to move in and out of projects quickly, they prefer a deregulated environment that accommodates their abrupt investment decisions—without environmental reviews. The institutional culture of local government in Los Angeles has fully absorbed their outlook; the city planning units dealing with general plan updates are perpetually under-resourced. 

The entire city General Plan is also barely monitored. Since municipal plans are only as good as their monitoring programs, any general plan element that is not regularly and comprehensively monitored can quickly become irrelevant. In contrast, well-prepared, closely tracked general plans are invaluable tools that can smooth out the bumps of business and budget cycles through zoning and environmental regulations that meet long-term goals, rather than immediate political pressures.

Perhaps the City Council’s recent adoption of the new mobility element is an opportunity to start updating the other elements—most of which are out-of-date—before tackling the community plans. These updates should be based on current census data, not fanciful extrapolations that give the false impression that Los Angeles is on the verge of another population boom.

In addition, the city should also prepare two other optional citywide general plan elements—climate change and economic development—instead of leaving these to strictly short-term, ad hoc actions by the mayor or the City Council.  

With these in place, the City Planning Department could then prepare those spectacular local plans we keep hearing about but have not yet prepared or enacted.

This post orginally appeared on Zocalo Public Square.

Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who is now a contributor to City Watch L.A. and is on the Board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association. He welcomes questions and comments at rhplatkin@gmail.com.

Stop waiting for the bus


So much of the discussion about mass transit in Los Angeles is about the future. And it is true that Los Angeles is aggressively building out its transit system to make up for past neglect and to help meet the region’s profound growth and urbanization. It seems every other day there is a new story in the press about the Expo Line coming to Santa Monica, the Crenshaw Line to LAX, the Gold Line extension in the San Gabriel Valley or the subway to the Westside. I know because I write some of these articles.

But let’s not forget that good mass transit is already in many parts of the region. And many of those bus and rail lines serve neighborhoods that are home to large Jewish communities. Think Valley Village, which benefits from the Metro Orange Line busway on Chandler Boulevard, and Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park/Westwood, which will benefit in a year or so from the Expo Line extension. Between Metro, Metrolink, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Culver City Bus, Commuter Express and assorted other regional bus companies, Los Angeles is already well-served by mass transportation.

Still, the challenge remains getting people to ride those buses and trains. And given the economics of Los Angeles, that challenge is probably nowhere greater than in the Jewish community. With Jews in Los Angeles on the whole better off economically than other Angelenos, many still suffer from the common misperception that buses and trains are not for them. Metro’s own statistics may not help. According to the agency’s annual riders survey, bus riders have a household income of $16,377 while train riders have a household income of $22,517.

“I’m too [fill in your nationality/ethnic or religious origin here] to ride the bus.” That’s what I heard from the otherwise smart young woman having breakfast next to us at Go Get Em Tiger on Larchmont Boulevard in Hancock Park on a recent sunny weekend morning. The place was packed with well-heeled, casually dressed people, with cars to match parked up and down the block. Although some rode bikes or walked, the young woman’s sentiments about the bus seems to be the attitude of many of the better-off in Los Angeles. From Hancock Park to Bel Air, Westwood and Brentwood, those who can afford to drive don’t even consider the bus or train as an option. True or not, “It’s too slow” is another excuse. And unlike in the Bay Area, Chicago, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., many of our landsmen have no history of commuting to work by bus or train.

Although Metro Rapid (express) buses and routes such as the Orange Line — the San Fernando Valley’s popular rapid bus line, which runs on a bus-only route (a former rail line) — have helped, thanks to widespread local antipathy to the bus, Angelenos raised in the North or East or from Tehran, Moscow and Tel Aviv are more likely to consider riding transit than many locals. These transplants are used to it and know the drill.

On the positive side, L.A. has changed significantly since Mike Davis penned “City of Quartz,” an important but grim book about an almost dystopian Los Angeles scarred by racial and ethnic tensions and balkanized by de facto and de jure segregation. The 1992 riots would hardly have come as a surprise after reading Davis’ book when it came out in 1990. 

Today, the ever-expanding, often-feared city that Davis described is no longer the reality. In many neighborhoods, it has been replaced by a mostly safe, infill city whose geographic boundaries are more blurred, where development takes the form of building in already built-up areas and adaptive reuse of existing commercial, industrial and residential buildings, as seen in parts of downtown and in the Arts District. Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s investment in Koreatown, whose character is principally Latino and Korean, is an example of a major urban infill project in a part of Los Angeles that is as urban as it gets. Having completed the renovation of its landmark sanctuary, the congregation is now renovating its school buildings and constructing a new social service center on Sixth Street, which will house a food pantry and dental, vision, mental health and legal services for the neighborhood, as well as rooftop athletic facilities.

Whether you call it gentrification or the natural course of events, the desire of old and young alike to live in more urban and older areas of L.A. is transforming neighborhoods from downtown to Koreatown, Echo Park and Highland Park.

And as that urbanization continues, even for those who don’t currently count themselves transit riders, the bus and train will become a more attractive option.

If you are one of those holdouts who has not been on a bus or train in Los Angeles recently, you are doing yourself a disservice. Although the Metro system needs to do a better job keeping its bus stops tidy, most trains and buses are clean and, in many cases, new. This is particularly true of the busy lines serving higher-density routes such as Wilshire, Santa Monica, Sunset, Ventura and Chandler boulevards.

Like so many other changes that have come to L.A .in recent years, there is cause for optimism about the public’s use of public transit. Just think about two local phenomena that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. The first is CicLAvia, the highly successful bicycle and pedestrian street party that has taken L.A. by storm since its first event in October 2010. Think about it — the closing of major streets so that people can bike and walk on them. “Are you nuts? Meshugge? It will never work. It will bring the city to a standstill.” But more than 10 events later, with one in the San Fernando Valley just a couple of weeks ago, CicLAvia has become a fixture, and even a model for other cities across the country. Long Beach is having its first “Beach Streets” event June 6. Five years after the first public block party, hundreds of thousands of people have explored more than 100 miles of open streets in Los Angeles. Who knew we wanted this, until it happened?

Second is the transformation of downtown Los Angeles. Who among us believed in its rebirth more than a few years before Wexler’s Deli opened at the Grand Central Market? Developers like the Yellin Co., which owns the market and the Million Dollar Theatre, and Steve Needleman, whose family has owned the Orpheum Theatre since 1964, have long touted the merits of downtown. But the majority of us have needed more convincing.

Both of these transformative developments are about a new sense of community in Los Angeles that is resulting in Angelenos from all over the city interacting in ways they never have before. Taking the bus or train, like riding a bike in CicLAvia or exploring Broadway downtown is what we do, even if our parents out in Tarzana or Encino didn’t. And now it couldn’t be easier, with real time, transportation apps that let you know when the bus or train is arriving. I like RideScout, NextBus, L.A. Metro’s Go Metro app and Google Maps.

At an affordable $1.75 a ride with free transfers when you use a TAP transit card (for up to two hours to complete a one-way trip), Metro is a bargain compared to public transit in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York. And after all, you ride buses and trains when you travel, so why not at home? Whether you live in Pico Robertson or Hancock Park, Hollywood or downtown, the bus has arrived. It’s not a matter of waiting anymore.


Joel Epstein is a senior adviser to companies, law firms, foundations and public initiatives on communications strategy, corporate social responsibility, recruiting and outreach. His writing focuses on business, politics, public transportation, education and other critical urban issues.

Military airfield lands as alternative to banned Ben Gurion


Foreign airlines banned from using Ben Gurion Airport will be able to use a military airfield in southern Israel as an alternative, Israel’s transportation minister said.

The opening of Ovda Airport to increased commercial traffic is aimed at encouraging the resumption of flights to Israel, Yisrael Katz said Wednesday in his announcement.

Ovda, which is nearly 40 miles north of Eilat, now serves many commercial flights to the resort city.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority prohibited all U.S. airlines from flying to Israel for at least 24 hours after a rocket destroyed a house in Yehud, a city near Ben Gurion. That night, the European Aviation Safety Agency night canceled all flights to and from Europe for 36 hours.

The FAA on Wednesday extended the ban another 24 hours.

Some 160 flights in and out of Ben Gurion were canceled on Tuesday night and Wednesday, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

Passengers that arrive at Ovda would take buses to the center of Israel, Haaretz  reported. No airline that flies into Ben Gurion Airport has said it will use Ovda.

U.S. Airways and United will restart flights to Israel on Thursday, the Times of Israel reported, citing Israeli air officials. Germany’s Lufthansa suspended flights for another 24 hours, according to reports.

Among the European airlines that have continued to fly to Israel are British Airways, Azerbaijan Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, Russia Airlines, Yakutia Airlines, Bluebird Airways and Siberia Airlines, according to Haaretz.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Ben Gurion on Wednesday morning aboard a military plane. Earlier in the day, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrived aboard an El Al flight.

El Al has continued to fly in and out of Ben Gurion. Israel’s national airline has sent planes to pick up stranded passengers from other airlines.

Russian lawmaker wants to strip Holocaust survivors of privileges


A Russian lawmaker from President Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party reportedly opposed making public transportation free for Holocaust survivors.  

Andrei Yershov of the Smolensk City Council in western Russia acknowledged making the comments during a free-ranging council debate Oct. 16, the French news agency AFP reported.

A recording of the meeting, which has gone viral in Russia, shows Yershov wanting to know “why is it that we owe anything” to the prisoners.

“Why? For the simple reason that they were not finished off?” he asked early in the rowdy session.  

Russian law stipulates that any Russian who was held in a concentration camp up to the age of 18 is entitled to a range of benefits, including free transport. Those affected are chiefly the victims of the Nazi persecution of Jews in World War II.

The controversy spread when the tape was posted on the website of the country's Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.  

Alexei Ostrovsky, governor of the Smolensk region, said Friday that “the fact that Yershov should not remain a representative of the people was not even subject to debate,” AFP reported. But Yershov said he would not resign until the local legislature offered free transport “to all the children of World War II,” not just the concentration camp survivors.

United Russia party officials in Moscow condemned the lawmaker's comments.

Measure J: Why you should vote ‘no’


This piece was written in response to 'Measure J: Moving today for tomorrow'

Clearly Measure J is, in reality, a magician’s slight of hand trick.   If I remember correctly Measure R, the predessor to Measure J, was a detailed proposition consisting of 34 pages describing the implementation, oversight and accountability procedures of the bill and what it was for?   However, Measure J is a one paragraph, non descriptive, non definative request for $90 billion from the taxpayers.  I have trouble understanding how it took 34 pages to definatively describe the request for $40 billion.  In Measure J the request consists of one paragraph that has no definative procedures for accountability, oversight or implementation.  Simply put it is one paragraph asking for a $90 billion slush fund to cover the hidden costs of Antonio Villaraigosa’s “Subway to the Sea” and in the process disrupt cities and communities with impunity and disregard.

This article does not state how much Measure J, $90 billion, is for or Measure R, $40 billion?  Together they total $130 billion.  When the interest is added Measure R and J will total at least $300 billion.  Only two budgets in America are significantly larger:  the total education budgets for all states combined and the Federal Department of Defense Budget. 

This is a tax increase as it is the “Permatax” until 2069.  Being a tax measure this requires a 2/3 majority for passage.  Currently this measures support is under 60% and is being promoted as a vision for the future.   This measure is actually a wellfare program for the current devolupers, real estate moguls and all of the current wealth holders and big money interests that traditionally have raped communities by putting rail lines in that did not provide needed access to address community needs.  The access that it does provide is to new projects that they control so that service services them and not the people.  Understanding that this bill is faltering in support,  Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is now attempting to court black leaders to support Measure J by telling them that they will be allotted $300 million for the Liemert Park station in return for their support on Measure J.  This black leader is not going for the hokey doke.  This mayor wants to bribe us with $300 million out of $90 billion?  I guess we come real cheap.

Does anyone know what the real transportation needs will be until 2069?  This money will be spent and when most of us are long gone you can bet your bottom dollar MTA will be back for more money.  And if you think I am wrong just look at the history that started with Proposition A in 1980 and followed up with more in 1990 and then came in with Measure R and now for Measure J.  Remember it has always been the same mantra.  This is the same message and request for more money.  They are insatiable.  And then to cap everything off they consistently reduce access to all parts of the community and then of course they raise rates.  Less service with more cost and that is efficiency?  Let’s assume that some miracle takes place and they finish these lines, do you notice something is missing here and it is glaring.  That is that there is no money set aside for operation or maintainence of these new lines. 

A perfect example of this is what is in the “Subway to the Sea” EIR where they do not include in the budget figures what they will have to do which increases the cost by $10 billion or double the stated amount.  Is should be very clear to all of us now why we are looking at a one paragraph request for $90 billion dollars without accountability, oversight or implementation parameters.

It should be noted that organizations and government entities are coming together in strong opposition to Measure J.   The diversity of the opposition to Measure J is like a true Rainbow Coalition that extends across the breadth of L.A. County.   Recently the chairman of the MTA, Supervisor Michael Antonovich along with his collegues Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas, all members of the MTA Board, have expressed strong opposition to Measure J.  Assemblyman Mike Davis, Chairman of the Select Committee on Transportation, has reassessed and is now in opposition to Measure J.   The City of Beverly Hills has passed a resolution to not support Measure J.  The Beverly Hills School Board is in strong opposition to the tunneling underneath their school campus as a result of Measure J.  Organizations from South L.A., East L.A., San Gabriel Valley, the San Fernando Valley, Beach Cities, as well as the Bus Riders Union and the Congress of Racial Equality of California (CORE-CA) have joined together with a collective voice “VOTE NO ON MEASURE J.”

Thou shall not have images … on buses … neither men nor women


Fearing costly vandalism aimed at buses carrying advertisements that include images of women; to avoid legal issues of discrimination if only images of men appear; and to side-step head-on collisions with Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community; Egged, Israel’s public bus cooperative has ordered the company handling its on-bus advertising to stop running ads with pictures or representations of either men or women. As of August 1, a “faceless” policy was put into effect.

Vandalizing public advertisements bearing women’s pictures is not a new issue. Bus shelters, for instance, were frequently damaged or destroyed going back decades. More recently, issues of discrimination against women in the capitol have become headline affairs. The present issue came to a head eight months ago when the Yerushalmim organization – an NGO advocating for a pluralistic city of Jerusalem—sued in the High Court of Justice to force Canaan, the exclusive ad agency for the Egged bus company, to run its campaign featuring “The Women of Jerusalem.” Its legal effort was supported by the Ministry of Transportation, which submitted a brief objecting to any censorship of photos of women. According to Yerushalmim CEO Rabbi Uri Ayalon, at that point it seemed that the matter was solved and the ads, replete with photos, would be running on Egged buses.

According to Ayalon, the apparent understanding fell apart when the discussion turned to the specifics of the images submitted by the NGO to the ad agency for the buses to carry. At issue was the length of the sleeves the models were shown wearing. Yerushalmim insists that when it agreed to the sleeve issue, a new request was made to replace T-shirts with long-sleeve blouses.

While the back-and-forth was continuing, Egged decided to change its policy and ban advertising in the Jerusalem market that contained any human images at all. Canaan told Yerushalmim it would honor its commitment for a ten day period, after which time the agreement to run its ads would lapse. Ayalon told The Media Line that his organization did, indeed, submit its ads in a timely manner, but Canaan differed, saying the NGO failed to get the ads in before the contract expired.

Yerushalmim was established in 2009 by Jerusalem residents advocating a pluralistic city. Opposing the exclusion of women from the public sphere, the organization kicked-off its campaign one-year ago in response to the censorship of an ad campaign of women. It included ads displayed on balconies and street stands throughout the city of Jerusalem that featured images of women. Yerushalmim claims bus ads have been free of female images for the past eight years; and five years in the case of posters.

Nissim Zohar, director of marketing for Zohar advertising company, told The Media Line that “for years” his agency had been trying to place ads in Jerusalem that included images of women.  Zohar credited Mayor Nir Barkat with raising the issue six months ago, resulting in media coverage of the issue and subsequently, more than 500 posters were displayed around the city.

Advertisements that feature women have found a home on Jerusalem bridges, though.

Uri Neter, CEO of Rapid Vision, franchise-holder for billboards affixed to bridges in Jerusalem, told The Media Line that, “We divided advertising on bridges in large formats across the platforms. Currently we don’t have any ads with women, but [when we did] we didn’t have a problem because it is hard to get to the bridges and cause damage because of the height.”

Canaan CEO Ohad Gibli told The Media Line the “faceless” policy instituted by Egged and prompted by the Yerushalmim fracas has cost him his Jerusalem offices which he recently closed, citing a loss of more than $60,000 month. Gibli said for Egged, it’s just a business decision stemming from the financial costs the bus company has sustained in the past due to acts of vandalism.

A spokesperson for Canaan said that there is a lot of provocation around this story,  but since there is no problem of discrimination now, no decision is expected.

Ayalon, though, disagreed and told The Media Line that not publishing any human images in Jerusalem while allowing it everywhere else is also an act of discrimination, and that Yerushalmim will continue to pursue the issue. The group’s attorney, Aviad Hacohen, told The Media Line that, “It’s not only an act against women, but it’s an act against men – it’s against freedom of speech and equality.”

Egged reportedly to forego human images on Jerusalem bus ads


The Egged bus company will not use images of either men or women in advertisements on its Jerusalem buses.

The decision comes after controversy over featuring women in ads, Haaretz reported Monday.

The Canaan Media advertising company had appeared to drop plans to place advertisements for the Yerushalmim movement on Egged buses in Jerusalem featuring photos of women and the slogans “Jerusalem women, pleased to meet you” and “Because Jerusalem belongs to all of us.”

Israel’s Supreme Court had ordered the bus and advertising companies to go ahead with the ad campaign, despite fears that the buses would be vandalized in haredi Orthodox neighborhoods.

Egged reportedly decided not to feature any people in ads so as not to be accused of excluding women.

Haaretz reported that in a late July letter to Canaan Media’s CEO, Egged marketing manager Eyal Yehiel wrote that “Jerusalem-area advertising will be only on the rear of buses, there will be no advertising on buses’ side panels. In the Jerusalem area there will be no human images at all, though in other parts of the country it will be possible to use such images.”

Tel Aviv seeks approval to run buses on Shabbat


The Tel Aviv City Council approved a resolution to allow public transportation to run on Shabbat.

The measure was approved Monday evening by a vote of 13-7.

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality must now seek a permit from the Israeli Transportation Ministry, but the ministry said in a statement that “There is a decades-old status quo regarding operation of public transportation on Shabbat, and the Transportation Ministry does not intend to violate it.”

If the ministry rejects the request, the resolution provides for the creation of an independent transportation service.

In general, public transportation does not operate on the Sabbath in Israel, except in Haifa and Eilat on a limited basis. It is part of the “status quo,” a doctrine that regulates the public relationship between the religious and secular positions in Israel.

In a public letter released Tuesday morning addressed to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who supports the measure, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau called for the decision to be reversed.

“This is a severe blow to the holiness of the Shabbat, which is a remnant of Creation, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt, a day of rest for every worker and a day of spiritual ascension and the unity of the family,” Lau said in the letter.

In an interview on Israel Radio, Lau said that Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, pledged that Shabbat would be publicly observed in the “first Hebrew city” and that the decision harms the status quo.

Egged must pay woman forced to sit in back of bus


Israel’s largest bus company, Egged, was fined for forcing a woman to sit in the back of a bus, a small claims court ruled.

Egged was fined approximately $1,070 on Wednesday for gender discrimination and violating the High Court of Justice’s ruling opposing forced segregation of men and women in the public sphere, according to the Israel Hayom website.

In the suit, filed in July by the Israel Religious Action Center in Rishon Lezion Magistrate Court, the complainant said that a driver employed by Egged made her sit in the back while the bus was traveling to the haredi Orthodox area of Bnei Brak.

“I explained to the driver that the line was not a segregated line, but the driver dismissed my argument and said that only the rabbis can decide whether a bus is segregated or not. It was humiliating and insulting,” the complainant, who is Orthodox, said in court, Israel Hayom reported.

Egged issued a statement arguing that the driver was not representing the company’s views.

The bus company has been accused before of discrimination. In October, Egged was ordered to pay approximately $16,000 in compensation after driver Ben Yakar told a young female student that he “doesn’t let blacks ride on the bus.”

In 2006, Miriam Shear, an American-Israeli woman, reportedly was beaten by a gang of haredi Orthodox when she refused to move to the back of the bus while traveling to the Wailing Wall.

Wednesday’s ruling came a week after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a closed-session question-and-answer session that she is concerned about the direction of Israel’s democracy, prompting Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to accuse Clinton in a radio interview of having “no real knowledge of a Jewish woman’s modesty.”

“The Jewish people respect women and treat them like queens and princesses,” Amar said.

Checklist: What to do when someone dies


Make sure to contact the hospital or mortuary so that you can fill out any paperwork, i.e., death certificate, as soon after the death as possible.

If you have preplanned:

  1. Contact the doctor to fill out any paperwork.
  2. Contact the funeral director (who should have a list of arrangements).
  3. Call your synagogue and speak with the rabbi about possible times for the service.
  4. Register the death with the synagogue.
  5. Re-contact the funeral home/mortuary to arrange for a funeral time.
  6. Contact close friends and family/chavurah so they can help relay funeral time and information.
  7. Decide for how many days you will sit shiva. Your friends/chavurah can arrange for people to sit shiva with you and your family.

If you have not preplanned:

  1. Contact the doctor to fill out any paperwork.
  2. Call a Jewish funeral director to arrange for someone to pick up the body and to discuss available times for the funeral at a Jewish cemetery.
  3. Call your synagogue and speak with the rabbi about possible times for the service.
  4. Register the death with the synagogue.
  5. After speaking with both the director of the cemetery and the rabbi, arrange for a funeral time.
  6. Call a mortuary that may or may not be affiliated with the cemetery (depending upon which cemetery you use). Set up a service time that is convenient both for the rabbi and the mortuary.
  7. Have your friends/family/chavurah make calls to friends/family/loved ones to relay funeral time and information.
  8. Decide for how many days you will sit shiva. Your friends/chavurah can arrange for people to sit shiva with you and your family.



ALTTEXT
Resources

Web sites:

Jewish Funerals, Burial and Mourning, published by Kavod v’Nichum and the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington

“My Jewish Learning Death and Funeral Practices

“A Guide to Jewish Burial and Mourning Practices” published by the Funeral Practices Committee of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California

A Guide to Jewish Mourning and Condolence” by Jerry Rabow, Valley Beth Shalom

Funerals: A Consumer Guide (Federal Trade Commission)

Consumer Guide to Funeral & Cemetery Purchases (California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery & Funeral Bureau)

Funeral Consumers Alliance

The Green Funeral Site

Books

“Mourning & Mitzvah: A Guided Journey for Walking the Mourner’s Path Through Grief to Healing” by Anne Brener (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2001)

“The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning” by Maurice Lamm (Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)

“So That Your Values Live on: Ethical Wills and How to Prepare Them” by Jack Riemer and Nathan Stampfer (Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994)

“A Time to Mourn, a Time to Comfort: A Guide to Jewish Bereavement” Ron Wolfson (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2005)

— Jane Ulman



JEWISH CEMETERIES AND MORTUARIES IN LOS ANGELES

CEMETERIES

AGUDATH ACHIM CEMETERY
1022 S. Downey Road
Los Angeles, CA 90023
323 653-8886
800 654-6772

Opened in 1919. Owned and operated by Chevra Kadisha Mortuary.

BETH ISRAEL CEMETERY
1068 S. Downey Road
Los Angeles, CA 90023
213 653-8886
800 654-6772

Opened in 1907. Owned and operated by Chevra Kadisha Mortuary.

BETH OLAM CEMETERY OF HOLLYWOOD
900 N. Gower Street
Hollywood, CA 90038
323 469-2322
877 238-4652
www.betholam.com

Opened around 1927. Organized as the Jewish section within the larger Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, now called Hollywood Forever.

EASTERN COMMUNITY JEWISH CEMETERY
15270 Woodcrest Dr.
Whittier, CA 90604
310 943-3170

Opened in 1987.

EDEN MEMORIAL PARK
11500 Sepulveda Blvd.
Mission Hills, CA 91345
818 361-7161
800 441-7161

Opened in 1954. Acquired by Service Corporation International (SCI) in 1985.

HILLSIDE MEMORIAL PARK
6001 Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(800) 576-1994
www.hillsidememorial.org

Opened in 1946. Owned by Temple Israel of Hollywood since the 1950s.

HOME OF PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
4334 Whittier Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90023
323 261-6135
800 300-0223
www.homeofpeacememorialpark.com

Opened in 1902 in current location. Owned and operated by Rose Hills Memorial Park.

MOUNT CARMEL CEMETERY
6505 E. Gage Ave.
City of Commerce, CA 90040
(323) 653-8886
(800) 654-6772

Opened in 1931. Owned and operated by Chevra Kadisha Mortuary.

MOUNT OLIVE MEMORIAL PARK
7231 E. Slauson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90040
323 721-4729

Opened in 1948. Donated to Chabad of California in the 1980s.

MOUNT SINAI MEMORIAL PARKS
5950 Forest Lawn Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90068
(800) 600-0076
(323) 469-6000
www.mt-sinai.com

Originally founded by Forest Lawn in 1953 and exclusively Jewish since 1959. Owned by Sinai Temple since 1967.

6150 Mount Sinai Drive
Simi Valley, CA 93063
(800) 600-0076
www.mt-sinai.com

160-acre site purchased in 1997 and opened in 2002. Owned by Sinai Temple.

MOUNT ZION CEMETERY
1030 S. Downey Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Opened in 1916. Currently owned by Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles and operated by Rose Hills Memorial Park, which owns Home of Peace.

SHOLOM MEMORIAL PARK
13017 N. Lopez Canyon Road
San Fernando, CA 91342
818 899-5216

Founded in 1951. Privately owned.

YOUNG ISRAEL CEMETERY
13622 Curtis and King Road
Norwalk, CA 90650
(213) 653-8886

Opened in 1938. Owned and operated by Chevra Kadisha Mortuary.

JEWISH MORTUARIES

CHEVRA KADISHA MORTUAR
7832 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
800 654-6772
323 653-8886
www.chevrakadisha.com

Founded in 1976 as a private organization and not a traditional “chevra kadisha.”

R.L. MALINOW GLASBAND WEINSTEIN MORTUARIES
7700 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
800 300-0223
323 656-6260

GROMAN EDEN MORTUARIES
11500 Sepulveda Blvd,
Mission Hills, CA 91345
800 522-4875
www.gromaneden.com

GROMAN MORTUARIES
830 W. Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90015
213 748-2201

HILLSIDE MORTUARY
6001 W. Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90045
800 576-1994
310 641-0707
www.hillsidememorial.org

Founded in 1946 in association with Hillside Memorial Park.

MOUNT SINAI MORTUARIES
5950 Forest Lawn Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90068
800 600-0076
323 469-6000
www.mt-sinai.com

6150 Mount Sinai Drive
Simi Valley, CA 93063
800 600-0076
323 469-6000
www.mt-sinai.com

Associated with Mount Sinai Memorial Parks.

MALINOW AND SILVERMAN MORTUARY
7366 S. Osage Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(800) 710-7100

SHOLOM MEMORIAL PARK MORTUARIES
8629 W. Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
310 659-3055
www.sholomchapels.com

13017 N. Lopez Canyon Road
San Fernando, CA 91342
818 899-5211
www.sholomchapels.com

Founded in 1951. Associated with Sholom Memorial Park

# # #

Compiled by Molly Binenfeld and Jane Ulman

These Dems Could Help Unlock Gridlock


With the Democratic primary victories of Debra Bowen for secretary of state, and Mike Feuer and Alex Padilla for State Legislature, Los Angeles — of all places — is playing a role in whether Sacramento becomes a less incendiary and gridlocked place.

Bowen, who has been a member of the state legislature since 1992, in November faces the popular moderate Republican Secretary of State Bruce McPherson in a bid for his job. She is one of the few liberal legislators who resists the hyper-partisan flame throwing that has long gripped the statehouse. Bowen works instead to get things done, including her 2001 law making it harder to get access to Social Security numbers.

She’ll now engage in a spirited race with McPherson for a job that — more than any other statewide post — must be filled by somebody committed to being equally fair to both Democratic and Republican voters in California.

State Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), whom Bowen badly beat on June 6, would have faced a far tougher race against the fair-minded McPherson, who was appointed by Schwarzenegger to fill the job after the resignation of disgraced Democrat Kevin Shelley.

The “two Debbies” didn’t look much different on paper leading up to June 6. Both are liberal Democrats who consistently vote against business and for organized labor, for instance.

But Bowen, who represents an affluent Los Angeles region including West Los Angeles, Cheviot Hills, Marina del Rey, Palms, Venice and every beach city from Manhattan Beach to Long Beach, brings to the race an easy style, a reputation for fairness, and an expertise in computer science that are key to competing with the impressive McPherson.

Although a liberal, Bowen has refrained from the excessive behavior that earned Ortiz and other angry Sacramento partisans a lot of free media coverage — but that also led to further gridlock. With Bowen’s decisive victory, especially in voter-rich Southern California, the race now pits a reasonable and smart Republican against a reasonable and smart Democrat.

That’s something we rarely see in California politics anymore, and voters can only benefit.

At the same time, another Westside political leader — former Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer — is now widely seen as the predetermined winner in the Westside’s 42nd Assembly District, a safe seat created by political gerrymandering that cannot be won by a Republican.

Feuer, an attorney and former director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, was at one time in his political career closer to Ortiz than to Bowen in temperament. When I first covered Feuer as a city councilman, early in his career, he insulted colleagues who disagreed with him, acted like he was superior and made his share of enemies.

But over the years, Feuer mellowed, not losing his sometimes-haughty manner, but gradually developing an appreciation for those who were not his natural allies, including the Westside business community.

What a contrast to the person Feuer will replace, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, an outspoken Democratic Party attack dog who spends more of his time slamming the minority Republicans than working on any legislation of merit. Koretz earned recent headlines calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, but in his several years in Sacramento he has done Los Angeles very little good.

Feuer not only will replace Koretz, but in the June 6 primary he beat West Hollywood’s Abbe Land, a liberal Democrat who in her political career has arguably been even more steeped in micro-legislating than was the highly ineffective Koretz.

Feuer gained broad expertise on the regional troubles facing Southern California during his time on the L.A. City Council, and he is likely, if he overcomes his tendency to preach, to bring a level of rational discussion to Sacramento that the state Assembly often lacks.

Another victory that will help the cause of bipartisanship and getting things done in Sacramento is that of City Councilman Alex Padilla, former president of the L.A. City Council, who beat State Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez for the job representing state Senate District 20 in the San Fernando Valley.

Montanez, an emotional hyper-partisan like Koretz, proved incapable of working with both sides of the aisle in Sacramento. She also often did a disservice to her many Latino constituents by continually backing labor-sponsored laws that would have further hurt and restricted small business — a sector in which Latinos make up a large percentage of owners.

Padilla, an MIT graduate who I only half-jokingly say will significantly boost the intelligence level of the unpopular state Senate, will stand out as a rational liberal-to-moderate Democrat who isn’t necessarily owned by big labor.

Padilla learns quickly, as evidenced by his achievement in becoming the youngest City Council president in Los Angeles history. He’ll rise quickly in Sacramento, too, although he may not be able to fill the shoes of outgoing moderate Democratic superstars like Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg.

Like Feuer’s, Padilla’s victory is a done deal, even though the 2006 general election is months away, because his is another gerrymandered legislative seat that cannot be won by Republicans.

The Bowen-McPherson race for secretary of state, however, will be hard-fought. It will almost certainly involve claims on both sides that the other cannot be trusted to preside over California elections — or the modernizing and regulating of voting machines.

The Democrats will trot out their bogeyman, Diebold Election Systems, which is frequently attacked by Democrats for leaving no paper trail, and the Republicans will trot out their bogeyman, scandal-tainted former secretary of state and prominent Democrat Kevin Shelley. But the truth is, both Bowen and McPherson would do solid jobs in this crucial position.

Sadly, Los Angeles has done its share over the years to send angry hyper-partisan politicians to the statehouse. It’s a welcome respite from all that, to see the region put forth promising Sacramento leaders like Feuer, Padilla and Bowen.

Jill Stewart is a syndicated political columnist and can be reached at www.jillstewart.net.

 

Santa Monica Tries to Tread Lightly


How many trees does it take to absorb the emissions from your car’s commute? How much land does it take to feed and raise the beef you eat for dinner? How much space on earth does your trash take up?

The city of Santa Monica has taken up the task of answering those questions in “Santa Monica’s Ecological Footprint, 1990-2000,” released in March. The report measures the amount of land used to produce everyday products and services like electricity, transportation, garbage disposal and housing. That land use is called the ecological footprint, and it can be measured individually or citywide.

“If we are taking more from nature than can be provided indefinitely, we are on an unsustainable track,” the report notes.

“[The footprint] seemed to us it would make an educational tool to help people understand how to visualize their impacts on the face of the earth,” Brian Johnson, manager of the environmental division of the city of Santa Monica told The Journal.

Jewish environmental activists are extremely pleased.

“The city of Los Angeles and cities across the country could learn a valuable lesson from the city of Santa Monica,” said Lee Wallach of the Coalition on the Environment in Jewish Life. “They truly do make a real effort.”

The report found that between 1990 and 2000, Santa Monica managed to decrease its footprint by 5.7 percent, or about 65,000 acres. That decrease notwithstanding, Santa Monica, a city of 8.3 square miles, still has an ecological footprint of 2,747 square miles, an area approximately the size of Los Angeles County.

“Now that we have [the footprint], we must ask what lessons are learned and how can we implement them in a manner that’s good for residents, business and the economy,” Wallach said.

According to Johnson, the gains came from the city’s efforts to be more environmentally conscious between 1990 and 2000. He noted one area where government has taken the lead and business may want to follow: All public city facilities in Santa Monica are now based on 100 percent renewable energy, which is in large part where the 65,000 acres in savings came from.

“I think the experience the city had during [the California energy crisis] further confirms the decision the city had made in looking for opportunities for alternative energy generation,” Johnson said.

Those resource savings from alternative energy sources (in Santa Monica’s case, the city purchased geothermal energy) are particularly important: Energy and recycling are actually the only two categories of its footprint that the city managed to significantly shrink.

Nevertheless, Santa Monica has shown that it can make progress toward “sustainability,” which is that enlightened scenario where humanity does not consume any more than the earth can replace.

To compare, Santa Monica’s new per capita footprint is 20.9 acres. The U.S. average is 24 acres per person. A sustainable level would be a far more modest 4.5 acres per person.

To reach that goal, Wallach emphasized the importance of community working with politicians and businesspeople to create an environmental vision that is not overly idealistic.

“It takes a combination of political and communal will,” he said. “It can’t happen with only one and not the other.”

Doing that, Wallach said, is part of the Jewish duty to future generations, to leave the world in better shape than we inherited it. Santa Monica’s footprint is a tool designed to help measure progress in that endeavor.

Santa Monica is a relatively small place, and its report indicates that it has a significant, albeit shrinking, footprint. One cannot help but imagine what the ecological footprint for the city of Los Angeles would look like.

“There have been presentations and discussion at the Westside Council of Governments about sustainability and Los Angeles has been a part of that dialogue,” Johnson said. “As of yet we don’t have any direct relationships with their programs or planning, but we’re certainly hoping that the 800-pound gorilla comes along with us,” Johnson said of the second-largest city in the United States sitting next door.

To measure your “footprint,” take the quiz at

Road Rage


Let’s say it’s Friday night and I want to see the guy I’ve been dating for four months or so. Let’s call him Romeo.

I leave Koreatown full of romantic anticipation. I’m listening to some old-school disco on the car radio. I turn it up. I’m thinking maybe we’ll see a movie, grab a burrito, sit on his couch drinking Scotch and making up stupid nicknames for each other.

La Brea is a little clogged. I see road construction lights ahead and a closed lane. Four lights go by, and I’m still on the same street. I turn down the radio.

They say women forget the pain of childbirth so they’ll want to have another child. Similarly, I forget just how long it takes to get to the 10 West from Hollywood. I forget just how awful Friday night traffic is so I can leave my house again the next Friday night. Road amnesia protects me from becoming the type of shut-in that gets into fights with some guy named Sassytrousers14 on an Internet message board dedicated to world cheeses.

It all comes back to me as I sit in my car on the freeway, trapped like a hostage. The festive music is jarring now. I switch to NPR and take to sighing.

I get off the freeway only to find the streets of Santa Monica bustling. Marauding gangs seem to be wandering by foot all around the Third Street Promenade.

I look for parking, circling and circling until the sound of NPR becomes like a knife in my brain, and I turn it off. Finally, I decide to park in a nearby hotel lot, risking a tow.

I’m meeting a friend the next morning for Pilates in Laurel Canyon, and I suddenly realize I’ve forgotten my workout clothes. Life is a complicated fiasco, and it’s all Romeo’s fault.

By the time I get to his door, I’m not happy, and I’m not even neutral. I’m starting the evening in a goodwill deficit. One wrong move and the resentment bomb I’ve built over months of this crazy commute will detonate.

Location is a huge relationship issue in this vast city with no feasible public transportation. It must be taken into account. Can a couple separated by freeways and 45 minutes survive? Allow me to submit that urban sprawl isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s brutal on dating.

Take Romeo and me. We’re star-crossed lovers from two different area codes, perhaps doomed. He can’t just cruise by on foot and scale my balcony in the moonlight. He’s got to sit in traffic just like I do, mumbling, "It is the 10 East, and Juliet is the sun."

Every date brings questions: Whose apartment will it be? (My friend Anne says it should always be the one with the nicest sheets.) How often do you see each other when the convenience barriers are so plentiful? Is someone keeping score of who commutes the most?

What’s more, the dating timeline is thrown off by distance. You end up spending entire weekends together just to avoid a few extra trips across town. The whole thing intensifies unnaturally.

And don’t be seduced by the fantasy of the midpoint. You say, "Let’s meet in the middle," and it sounds like a good idea, but there’s never anything in the middle. Beware the sort of compromise that leads to nights driving around Culver City looking for signs of life.

It seems petty, the problem of a few extra miles and some traffic, but believe me, the issue becomes epic. If I start slacking on my Santa Monica duty, Romeo is convinced the relationship means nothing to me.

It’s not just a drive anymore. It’s a vehicle for proving I’m not his selfish ex-girlfriend who couldn’t be bothered to spend the night at his place. It’s a battleground where feelings get hurt and parking tickets multiply. It’s coming home to a surly cat who has registered his disapproval of my absence by leaving me the gift of feline waste on my pillow.

If it’s meant to be, all of this shouldn’t matter, right? It’s just difficult to gauge whether someone is your destiny in a fog of nuisance-filled voyages.

There’s a Yiddish saying, "If a man is destined to drown, he will drown even in a spoonful of water." I guess the converse of that axiom would be, "If a couple is meant to swim, they will do so even in a bucket full of bother." I believe that.

If you’re trying to have a relationship across the 405 or the 101, maybe waking up to rush hour is a sort of love crucible. If you can walk through that and not blame each other, you might be on to something.

Taking on the MTA


Imagine a sunny Saturday afternoon. Families walking home from shul along quiet streets cross a well-worn thoroughfare, once the site of a rail system running through the neighborhood like a gentle stream, now transformed into a freeway for high-speed buses. The light changes and the families begin their journey across the street — but not fast enough.

Suddenly, the peace of the day is shattered by an oncoming bus. A mother pushing a heavy stroller struggles to get out of the way, but there is barely time to scramble back onto the curb to avoid the oncoming vehicle.

This is the scenario at the heart of the controversy over Chandler Boulevard. For more than a decade, a battle has been building in the East San Fernando Valley that threatens to make the story of David and Goliath look like a ping-pong match. On the one side stand the neighborhoods of Valley Village and North Hollywood, on the other the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. At stake are both the future of mass transit in the San Fernando Valley and the fate of the second largest Orthodox Jewish community in Los Angeles. The two sides are at war over the possible conversion of Chandler Boulevard to a segment of the proposed East-West Transit Corridor busway.

The debate at the MTA is whether to use the median on Chandler — once a part of the old Southern Pacific rail line, now a mess of abandoned track and weeds — as part of the dedicated route for the high-speed busway or to continue the busway on nearby Oxnard Street mixed with traffic from other commuter vehicles. To put the busway on Oxnard would be less expensive, but it would slow down buses and increase congestion on a busy street; to put it on Chandler would mean establishing a nightmarish labyrinth of pedestrian walkways and sound walls that would physically, if not psychologically, divide a close-knit residential community.

The Transit Authority’s intentions, of course, have been to solve a problem, not create one. The East-West Transit Corridor is meant to provide a badly needed alternative route for commuters between the MTA’s Red Line subway station in North Hollywood and Warner Center in Woodland Hills. But the MTA might as well be building the reincarnation of the Berlin Wall as far as East Valley residents like Howard Feigenbaum are concerned.

“I’m very worried about the effects on our community,” Feigenbaum said. “How are elderly people going to be able to cross the street within certain time limits? How will the kids be able to go to programs after shul? How will this busway help our community grow rather than stagnate? If this project goes through, we will not be able to enjoy the same growth of the past 30 years.”

Feigenbaum’s remarks echo those of many residents in the neighborhood surrounding Chandler Boulevard. The area contains a high number of pedestrians, primarily Orthodox Jews who walk to the many synagogues and religious schools lining the wide, divided road. On Saturdays, hundreds of people, many of them parents pushing strollers or holding toddlers’ hands, walk to services at shuls such as Shaarey Zedek and Toras Hashem. Services are often followed in the afternoon by youth group meetings, after which children walk home in large groups sans adults.

The possibility of buses driving through here at speeds as high as 55 miles per hour and hitting one of these groups of children terrifies local parents and is at the heart of their resistance to the busway.

“I cross Chandler every day about four times, walking my child and another child to and from school,” said Anne Greenfield, a local realtor and mother of five children ranging in age from four to 19. “[The MTA] has talked about putting in a pedestrian walkway, but what if you can’t make it across in time? What happens when your toddler decides they want to take their shoe off in the middle [of crossing] and you’re stuck?”

In addition to the Orthodox presence, the area has attracted students attending nearby Valley College as well as retirees who enjoy riding their bikes, walking or jogging to the nearby health club. These folks, too, would be adversely affected by the stream of buses coming through every few minutes, Greenfield said.

“It’s not just a Jewish issue,” she said. “Because of the nature of the community and the layout, we all know our neighbors. Jews and non-Jews alike, everybody is concerned about this issue.”

In order to air their concerns formally, Greenfield and other residents created the Concerned Citizens Transit Coalition (CCTC), which aims to persuade lawmakers and the MTA Board of Directors to abandon Chandler Boulevard as part of the busway and seek other alternatives. Toward that end, the coalition will hold a rally on Sunday, June 17 at 10 a.m. at Shaarey Zedek, 12800 Chandler Boulevard.

The coalition has been able to draw some support from local politicians, most notably Rep. Howard Berman, who in a letter to a CCTC member noted that he knew from personal experience the unique characteristics of the neighborhood. “As one who fought hard to support and maintain a vibrant Orthodox Jewish community in North Hollywood, I am keenly aware of the disruptions that could be caused by the proposed busway,” he wrote.

Shaarey Zedek’s Rabbi Aron Tendler has also been a strong supporter of the Coalition. As a community leader and as a parent himself, he worries both about the dangers the busway presents and also its effect on the growth of the Jewish community. In the six years since he became leader of the congregation, the number of member families increased from 280 to 360 “with no end in sight,” he said. But talk of the busway has had a chilling effect on this growth.

“People who were considering moving into the community have reconsidered,” Tendler said. “We had one couple, former students of mine who live closer to Woodman Avenue, who wanted to move closer to the synagogue. They turned down what would have been their dream house and are now reconsidering where they should live. We get a lot of people visiting, [but] I’ve been reluctant to speak out forcefully against the busway because people who are thinking about moving to the community may not do so.”

The suspense will be over soon. The MTA is slated to hold several public hearings this month and take a final vote by the end of July. During a recent interview, MTA board member and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky declined to say in which direction he or the board is leaning — to use Chandler or to move to an alternate route on Oxnard (which nearby residents are also organizing to protest), but said he anticipated no further delays to their decision.

“All I will say is I am determined and committed to approving a route,” the supervisor said. “We’re evaluating the pros and cons of both of them, serious and substantive pros and cons, but this very short segment will not and should not nullify the larger objective, which is to have a cross-Valley busway.”

Yaroslavsky acknowledged that using Oxnard would actually cost taxpayers less. According to a June 2 Daily News report, what the MTA calls the Lankershim-Oxnard alternative would cost $245 million versus $285 million for the Chandler-Burbank route.

“On the other hand, Chandler is the more direct route and has a right-of-way the public has paid thousands of dollars for,” Yaroslavsky said. “Even if we go down Oxnard now, that doesn’t mean the MTA couldn’t revisit the Chandler corridor later.”

That’s exactly what local residents fear most. “We suspect that eventually the MTA would like to convert the Burbank-Chandler route into a light rail system, because the original bond that the public voted on a number of years ago [Proposition A] was for a light rail system, not buses,” said Tom Herman, former president of the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center who fought putting in such a rail system back in the early 1990s. “There is a real suspicion here that this is the camel’s nose in the tent.”

Herman said the community understands the need for mass transit and would not have the same objections to a subway system.

“The concern is that anything put in at grade-level would impact the community significantly. We would support a deep-bore subway,” Herman said. “The Valley deserves the same kind of services the city gets, and it is odd to many of us that the city deserves a first-class subway system but the Valley is only considered for a light rail or bus system. There’s a very basic issue of justice here, that the Valley continues to be treated like a distant cousin.”

Ironically, it was Yaroslavsky who killed any possibility of a Valley subway by authoring Proposition A. The measure, which passed overwhelmingly in 1998, prevented the use of sales tax dollars to plan, design, build or operate any new subway lines once Metro Rail reached the San Fernando Valley. Valley voters approved the measure by over 65 percent.

As for the safety concerns of residents, Yaroslavsky’s response was blunt. “There are things we can and will do to make things safer. This is not going to exacerbate safety problems,” he said. “What’s the alternative — to have safety through gridlock? If people don’t want to take a chance on getting run over, the logical extension is don’t ever come out of your house. One of the best things about the busway is it’s on a fixed guideway separated from traffic. That is why it is safer to put it on Chandler.”

Still, the opposition maintains there must be better choices than the current ones being offered by the MTA.

“The community is very much in support of an east-west corridor,” Tendler said. “The only reason the MTA is considering this is because they bought the right-of-way, not because it is the best place to put it. There are alternatives that make more sense.”

The MTA will hold two public hearings to discuss the East-West Busway routes: Thurs., June 21, 5-8 p.m. at the Pierce College Campus Center, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. Tues., June 26, 5-8 p.m. at Valley College’s Monarch Hall, 5800 Fulton Ave., Valley Glen. For information, contact the MTA at (213) 620-RAIL or visit its Web site at
http://www.mta.net.