Ballot Box: Council candidates present ideas to turn around Atwater’s Fletcher Drive

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When it comes to Atwater Village’s main commercial streets,  Fletcher Drive has lagged way behind Glendale and Los Feliz boulevard in attracting new shops and businesses.  How can the approximately six-block stretch of Fletcher between the Los Angeles River and Casitas Avenue be revitalized and be made more attractive? That was the question posed to some of  City Council District 13 candidates*who appeared at a forum in Atwater Village last week.  Responses included the creation of business improvement districts, increased public safety and the building of a riverside street car line connecting Fletcher, Glendale and Los Feliz boulevards.

The answers also reflected the candidate’s approach to the much broader issue of economic development. Click on the link below for their responses.

John Choi, Former Board of Public Works Commissioner & union organizer.
“We need to look at what are the investments that the city can give,  things like facacde improvements, street improvements, planting more trees. These are some of the basic things that the city can provide to actually help encourage the continued growth, to encourage more folks to  come out to actually walk tthis strip of a very important commercial corridor.”

Emile Mack, LAFD Assistant Fire Chief. Candidate website
We have good businesses already there. We need to talk to them [to find out] who has the potential to grow? Who has the potential to give more jobs? What does the community need on Fletcher Drive that’s going to make it a place for the local community to shop, to eat, to really have a commercial zone and start either expanding the businesses or bringing in new businesses. And that’s part of my job …  to find the financial institutions that are willing to fund those businesses  that are coming here and obviously  working with the city on how do we unify Fletcher Drive so that it is on par with Glendale and Los Feliz

Matt Szabo, Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Villaraigosa
With the demis of the Community Redevelopment Agency, Szabo recommended creating another local agency that target investment in places like Fletcher Drive. In addition, he proposed extending a street car line north from downtown and along the Los Angeles River into Atwater Village “that would make Fletcher and Glendale and Los Feliz destinations.”

Sam Kbushyan, East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Board member.

Kbushyan said that Fletcher Drive could be revived with the creation of  a business improvement district, in which property owners tax themselves to pay for additional security, clean up and promotion, and taking advantage of a state enterprise zone, which provides tax credits for new jobs.

“We can make it like anything you want. If we can make it like Hollywood Boulevard if you want it,” he said. “The next councilman has to be the chief cheerleader in order to promote … the tucked away corners of the city, of the district.”

Alexander Cruz De Ocampo, Senior Director of Saban Family Foundation.

Ocampo stressed the need to providing  financial incentives, phasing out the city’s gross receipts tax and streamlining the permitting and zoning process to attract more businesses. He also pledges to designate a staff member as a small business director and form joint partnerships with foundations to invest and revitalize the area.

“I believe you have to be the chief salesperson of the district, and I believe that I can go to investors and say ‘Come to this area. We are open for business.'”

Jose Sigala, Former President of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council

In addition to focusing on the economic development of neighborhood commercial corridors and supporting small business, Sigala said that safety remains a paramount issue.

‘We need to make sure that people feel safe,” he said. “We need to make sure that everyone feels safe as they walk down the street, down Fletcher.”

Robert Negrete, District Director for State Senator Alex Padilla

Negrete described longtime complaints about drinking and gambling in public as well as the opening of a new restaurant that reduced parking on adjacent residential streets.

We need to make sure we look at this as a big, big approach and make sure we bring in the right  businesses to the corridor plus have a public safety perspective of cleaning up the neighborhood.”

Josh Post, State Deputy Attorney General.

“It really starts from the ground up. You have to fix the sidewalks. You have to get the things like the sofas and mattresses off the street corners quicker. You have to make sure people feel safe walking down that neighborhood. When you create a walkable community, you are going to have businesses that thrive in that community. We can in fact have what’s on Glendale [Boulevard] right on Fletcher and it’s going to be really a great thing.”

Mitch O’Farrell, Former Senior Advisor to Councilman Eric Garcetti

While serving as a staff member for Councilman Eric Garcetti, O’Farrell said he worked on a master plan for Fletcher Drive that calls for improvements to the public rights of way, including pedestrian-scale lighting, more landscaping and bump outs to improve pedestrian safety.

How do we fund this? “We need tax increment financing. We have not done that in the City of Los Angeles yet. I will pioneer that and we will do that in the 13th City Council District first.”

Want to hear more from the candidates? The  Echo Park Improvement Assn.  is hosting a forum on Thursday, Feb. 7 for candidates in Council District 1 and Council District. 13  

* Nine of the 12 candidates running in the Council District 13 race were invited to speak at the forum organized by the Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce.

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  1. Fletcher looks pretty grungy, so some regular clean ups and tag removal could help. The day laborers that congregate at U-haul also need to be addressed. I’ve seen some of them litter, drink in public and harass passerbies. Also, that stretch attracts some interesting characters at night, so more patrols and police presence is necessary to help quell crime and drug dealing.

  2. Mitch O’Farrell said that we need tax increment financing something that Los Angeles hasn’t done yet. Oops I don’t think that this former advisor to Garcetti knows that Tax Increment Financing (TI) was the financing mechanism that came from redevelopment activities. Los Angeles did this (utilized Tax Increment Financing) through the former Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. Strike against O’Farrell.

  3. For all the talk about bringing back the Red Cars and bringing streetcars to areas like Glendale Blvd & Fletcher, let’s remember what really killed off the Pacific Electric Red Car Trolleys…they travelled at grade (street level) with the flow of traffic. You might as well just add more buses. Oh, but buses don’t sell the nostalgia of streetcars to people who already live here. Streetcars mean more high density market rate and luxury housing. Streetcars are not going to come to our neighborhoods to serve the existing population. Let’s talk about the real cost that significantly increased density brings to our our communities – not just the financial cost.

  4. Boris: Remember, I worked in the Office for ten years and knew folks at the CRA. There is no “oops.” I am very aware of how the CRA functioned, utilizing Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The CRA was eliminated. As their elimination was pending, I thought ahead and worked to create a TIF for Public Infrastructure projects (at the LA River) – allowed by State Law – but never done in Los Angeles strictly for Public Infrastructure projects. In other words, we do not need the CRA in order to keep local tax increment increases (from rising property values) local. What’s great is that this is not a tax increase. It’s simply keeping more of or tax money local, with less of it going to the state. I led the way and now an evaluation is in place to create a TIF zone for public infrastructure projects at the LA River. Amazing things are going to happen there. We can do this for Fletcher Drive too; Either as part of the River TIF, or a separate zone, specific to a different geographical area. It takes much more than slogans in a campaign to improve a neighborhood. One must really dig deep and do the heavy lifting to change things in a real way. It takes hard work, innovative ideas, and a determination to make things happen. This is a real plan that will produce great results for the District and the city.

    • Mitch: that’s why we should not elect you, ten years of what ? We need new blood, people that are progresive, not regresive, Why do we need old red cars ? to mess up traffic more, and take away space from futuristic better ideas for traffic improvements ? take a rest, you did all that you could, your former boss Eric, would not support your ideas, to make that area better, consult with those that live there, have bussiness there, transit there, etc, just listen…..dont tell the folks what to do, listen to all…..not only some….good luck !

      • Ikare & Steakholder
        if you do indeed care and standing there holding your steak
        ..ooopsss..your stake…
        how have you participated to make the neighborhood better?

        taking care of our city is not just a one person job…it involves the community as a whole!

        so..maybe if you put your steak down, you might get something accomplished!

      • Ikare & Steakholder: Why weren’t you at last night’s candidate forum (Echo Park Recreation Center?) You, up there on the stage, talking crap, I needed the laugh. The dream is over, Ikare & Steakholder. …the dream is over. People know what you are.

    • Mitch O’Farrell please give me a phone number where I can set up do not call at my home number. I am tired of all of the candidates begging for my vote. Please respond back. Thank you!

    • Garcettii did it, not you!

  5. Well Mitch, there you go again, talking about raising taxes on our small businesses. Do you have any idea what small business go through to pay for their overhead costs each month? Why you are talking about raising their taxes!
    Sir, you are out of touch, businesses in Atwater are struggling to make it. The last thing that our business district needs is another politician like Mitch tell them that we need another tax. We need a candidate who will focus on making our streets safer and clean up local issues, Robert Negrete has it right, fix the local problems so families feel safe walking to our local business district. Support local business, buy in Atwater!!

  6. Mitch,
    you have my vote!!
    You are leading the way in this campaign, just with your presence.

    That is why those simple minded people who impose their comments to speak ill about you, are just only trying to ruin your untouchable reputation.

    But remember trying is only lying and that is what those negative individuals are only trying to do.

    There is truly no competition in this race.
    Mitch, keep on being you as you have always been and continue to be our Awesome Mitch.

    Those bunch of jealous fakes who choose to focus on false accusations; they are only being silly and dramas, digging their own hole to failure.

    Sad for those who choose to lie about you or those vested individuals who’s only job is to win at whatever cost.

    Don’t sweat it Mitch, it is all good, as that says
    You Are On Track To Winning This Race, lets face it, you have already won the position.

    I and many of us know for a fact what you are made of…
    Your integrity,
    Your honesty
    Your track record of success,
    The fact you do understand our communities
    and the simplicity that you do speak do represent us the voters,
    the residence,
    our town,
    the homeowners,
    the rentals,
    the business owners
    and of every and each individual in existence.

    You have always been and still are for
    Better communities,
    Safer streets,
    Enhancing the quality of life of every community
    and much more.

    Thank You Mitch, for taking the step to leap forward and to run and represent us -the voice of the real community- that is you Mitch!!

    Proud to support Mitch O’Farrell, you have my vote all the way.

    Negative Individuals it is truly interesting to see how much lower you might want to try to get. Continue being disrespectful, dishonest,
    speaking ill of people, the only thing you are just doing is demonstrating who you truly are and Making Mitch Number One (#1).

    Thank you negative people, for showing your true colors; as your sorry souls are only making Mitch Light With Greatness with every ill word you speak.


    • Carmen, my dear, you’re on spot! Good for you. Mitch O’Farrell IS the only one that deserves our vote.

      • I would like to add that whenever I have had cause to contact the Garcetti office for anything: Mitch always returned my emails and made himself available and as helpful as one could hope. Wish I could have attended this event, a few questions I would like to ask. Maybe there will be another opportunity.

        • There will be a CD1 & CD13 candidate forum this Thursday (02.07.13) at Williams Hall (Barlow Hospital), 7 p.m. Hope it will accomodate your schedule.

  7. To LA Native: This is the link for National Do Not Call Registry: https://www.donotcall.gov/register/reg.aspx
    To Alex: From my post this morning; “What’s great is that this (TIF) is not a tax increase. It’s simply keeping more of our tax money local, with less of it going to the state.” This is not raising taxes. It’s keeping some of the money already being paid, put to better use for the people who are already paying.

  8. I’m a new CD-13 constituent. I just voted against LaBonge a year ago now due to redistricting voting in a new CD, so I’m not familiar with Garcetti’s office and his deputies. Only 1 candidate touched on what I think is a problem with Fletcher and Glendale. You have a lot of cut through fast vehicular traffic on each blvd. Rarely do any of these motorists stop and shop on either blvd. If you did a survey you would discover most shoppers arrive by foot or by bike. Slowing down the traffic and making it safe for everyone on those 2 blvd would go a long way to attracting businesses and foot traffic.

    As Mitch mention we have a jewel, LA River, that has no safe infrastructure leading to it. Most drive there use the path and drive out. The LA River is a destination for many people who wish to work out safely, but once you leave there maybe to get a bite to eat, there isn’t any safe way to walk or ride from the River.

    So far Josh Post was the only one mentioning walkability. He’s closer to getting my vote than any of the others.

    • As I understand it, Fletcher (just like Los Feliz Blvd on the other side of the river, but not in Atwater) is basically just a car sewer designed to flush as many vehicles into the highways as possible. Fixing it will require doing something to get the cars away. That can either mean turning up the volume on one of the other car sewers (maybe Glendale or Alvarado, heading to the 2) or turning down the volume on the drains leading into it.

      I would normally suggest better biking and transit connections, but unfortunately this area is very hilly, and it’s really difficult to cross the river for either a bike or a transit vehicle, so I don’t know what to suggest. This car sewer might be here to stay, even as we try to fix up the others.

  9. Hurry, the run down Shim’s finally went out of business. Everyone was so used to seeing the ugly thing people stopped noticing how awful it looked. Now that they are out of business everyone can see how ulgy it really was.

    Hope some new businesses can come in. The beef bowl looks great and is a great addition to the neighborhood.

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