It was one of those rare Monday mornings when people wanted news coverage all over City Hall. The mayor‘s folk and Councilman Mike Feuer hunted media fame in the precincts of the Third Floor press room. Controller Rick Tuttle had launched his own informal presentation on the 12th Floor: all for ink and soundbites on a day when usually, in our local government, nothing happens.
But, perhaps in the holiday spirit, the Monday after Thanksgiving was an exception: Officials virtually pranced before reporters and even tried to upstage one another. You saw this particularly in City Councilman Mike Feuer and senior mayoral deputy Rocky Delgadillo’s announcement of the (they hoped) imminent legislative passage of an omnibus city business-tax measure. Gil Cedillo is supposed to re-introduce his bill this month. The package was inclusive enough to have the partial support of the governor, the screenwriters, the business people, the Legislature, and, of course, the mayor and council members. Most of these parties, however, had variously opposed previous incarnations of this tax for, lo, most of a decade. The only agency that worked all those years to rationalize Los Angeles‘ unwieldy tax system was the City Controller’s Office, which was not represented. “Maybe they forgot to invite us,” one controller official said.
Also not present was Richard Riordan; Delgadillo was his delegate. More inside politicking: Delgadillo is supported by Riordan for city attorney next year against Mike Feuer. Co-starring the pair in support of this single reform was not without awkwardness — including, I was told, a backstage dialogue between the two as to which got to speak first. Feuer apparently won.
Controller Rick Tuttle got the most headlines anyway, with the release of his complete audit of the near-bankrupt Community Redevelopment Agency‘s recent overspending on properties acquisition and sole-source consultant contracts.
Tuttle’s general assessment of the perennially bedeviled agency followed his earlier report on the apparent scandal of the CRA‘s recently paying almost double the $795,000 assessed value for a Hollywood parking lot.
Councilmanmayoral-hopeful Joel Wachs also got his brand on this one’s rump two weeks ago, when he referred the matter to the grand jury. The single weirdest detail of the imbroglio was CRA administrator Jerry A. Scharlin‘s hiring a private detective agency to investigate his own agency’s activities.
A councilman named Nate Holden raged that this violated employee privacy. But there actually doesn‘t seem to be a constitutional prohibition against the hiring of private eyes.
Thus began a busy week for Tuttle; he released at least four major departmental audits, an amazing performance for a lame-duck, termed-out official who isn’t even running for another office. My favorite Tuttle report was the last of the week: the one that found that our police chief, Bernard Parks, still hasn‘t installed long-mandated surveillance video cameras in Parker Center. Particularly outside the Safe Vault, where firearms and narcotics are customarily held. For what it tells about our chief of police, it may be one of the most important assessments ever to come out of the Controller’s Office.
It is now two and a half years since Tuttle‘s office released its first audit on just how bad the LAPD headquarters’ security is. Tuttle‘s administrative deputy, Louisa Lund, noted last week that some people in the department had actually been skeptical of the need to recheck LAPD headquarters security so long after the original audit. “We thought they’d have been sure to fix everything. It was a no-brainer,” she said. But according to the report, not only have video cameras still not been installed in several key high-risk areas, but “An additional area of concern has come to our attention: Some of the security systems [formerly operating] in the Police Department property rooms are not working.”
In other words, things got worse, rather than better, since the last report.
Which is certainly significant. As Parks ought to know better than anyone else, it took just one notorious Safe Vault security breech to kick off the entire Rampart scandal; this was in 1998, when Officer Rafael Perez was able to sneak out a large package of cocaine just as Tuttle first told Parks to beef up security. The appropriate surveillance camera, Tuttle notes in his recent report, “might have deterred Perez from signing out drugs under another officer‘s name.” Even if it hadn’t deterred him, it would have made it much easier to convict Perez. And protected the reputation of the cop whose name Perez signed.
Okay, this is 20-20 hindsight. We can‘t put that glue back in the can, that toothpaste back in the tube. All things considered, however, isn’t it amazing that Bernard Parks can‘t even get around to fixing the problem that led to the disclosure of Rafael Perez and his colleagues’ criminality?
Parks is the man who has promised to clean up his entire Police Department. He is also the man who, out of either neglect, intransigence or simple obstinacy, has yet — 30 months after it was drawn to his attention — to fix the lapse that dumped the entire Rampart apple cart and grievously damaged his chances for another term as chief. What can you possibly add to that?
Not at all in the holiday spirit, the City Council last week voted to kill one of our last inner-city bowling alleys: Holiday Bowl on Crenshaw Boulevard.
Holiday Bowl‘s long, convivial and important local history has been well-chronicled in these pages by my colleague Erin Aubry and elsewhere in the media (but last week’s vote not to save it was reported only in City News). As the Times further said of Holiday Bowl: “Might be the only place on the planet where you can have your eggs with Chinese char siu pork or Louisiana hot links . . . if it‘s not, it’s probably the only place you can eat like that and bowl.”
But Holiday did far more than provide exotic fare for an evening of strikes and spares; it also anchored an entire community: It survived the 1965 and 1992 riots — its own patrons defended it in the latter unrest. Founded by Nisei partners, the Googie-moderne, rambling structure‘s 1958 opening encouraged black and Asian harmony in the diverse, formerly lily-white neighborhood. Holiday remained a key social center until it was finally shut down last May.
Early this year, local developer and owner Marshall Siskin, who in these pages termed the facility outdated and rundown, offered it to developers. Whatever replaces Holiday will not include bowling, which Siskin has termed passe.
Instead, it’s likely to include your strip-mall basics — like a thousand similar locations throughout the city; unfortunately, on Crenshaw, such malls have replaced larger, higher-waged businesses.
All that will remain of Holiday Bowl, the City Council decreed, is the building‘s colorful facade. This is the result of a compromise. The council voted to save this single most superficial aspect of the entire building because it couldn’t figure out another way to save anything. The consensus was that bowling just isn‘t a happening thing anymore in mid-Crenshaw.
“There was no business,” as Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski put it. Or more forcefully, Nate Holden said, “It is not going to be a bowling alley, come hell or high water, no matter what you do.” He sounded quite pleased. The pending development is in his district.
But the 9-3 vote for the facade recommendation means the matter must return to the council for another consideration after it goes to the Cultural Heritage Commission for further review. Meanwhile, Jacqueline Sowell, who once worked at Holiday and is now with the Coalition To Save Holiday Bowl, insists that there is still a chance for a renewed Holiday bowling venue. “I hope that Holden has to eat his words,” she said.
Sowell says she still believes that an entrepreneur will be found who is willing to put the property back to its proper use: accommodating America’s most popular sport. She claims that the real reason that the South Crenshaw operation lost business was not so much lack of consumer demand, but haphazard management and low investment in upkeep.
Sharing her hope for a bowling renewal were Councilman Mike Feuer and Nick Pacheco, plus Councilwoman Laura Chick. And Mike Hernandez, who got the motion amended so that the bowling lanes can‘t be demolished until a new tenant signs a lease.
“What doesn’t make sense to me is the urgency to tear [this] thing down,” Hernandez said. It does make sense, of course, if you want to make sure no one ever bowls there again.