Graffiti and Lemon Response

Dear Editor,

The April 9 article "Sweet and Sour Awards: Breakfast Club Hands Out Flowery Praise; Caltrans Gets Lemon Punch" (by Evan George), demonstrates public awareness and the outcry regarding graffiti vandalism on freeways and public property.

The Downtown Breakfast Club's "Lemon Award" went to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) due to supposed responsibility for "sleazy signage," particularly on Downtown area freeways. We take the message and criticism seriously. Caltrans, too, is a Downtown resident and would like to be considered a "good neighbor."

Graffiti vandalism is a crime that must be prosecuted. Caltrans, along with the California Highway Patrol and local entities have formed a task force to address this ongoing social issue with the goal of abolishing graffiti and prosecuting vandals. Those who witness acts of graffiti vandalism should call 911. We ask the public to remain diligent and vigilant as graffiti is removed within the constraints of scheduling, funding, staffing and other responsibilities.

Unfortunately, when Caltrans closes lanes to remove and replace damaged signs, graffiti vandals immediately return. The recognition graffiti vandals receive relies on frequent acts and dangerous locations, some of which require full freeway closures for graffiti removal.

The Downtown Breakfast Club and the public are invited and encouraged to help address this issue by joining us on Tuesday, May 8, for our statewide Litter Abatement and Enforcement Day in coordination with the CHP. Here in Los Angeles, all maintenance crews and executive staff will pick up trash on freeways to draw attention to litter and vandalism.

Caltrans will continue to fight graffiti on local freeways with a united front. It is our goal to one day redirect the $3 million spent yearly for graffiti removal to needed highway improvements. We know our continued efforts will be fruitful.

-Douglas Failing, director, California Department of Transportation, District 7

Care in the Figueroa Corridor

Dear Editor,

The Figueroa Partnership BID takes great care in how it relates to street vendors, low income residents and the homeless, contrary to what was stated by Gilda Haas in the article "BIDding for Renewal" (by Evan George, March 26).

First, the "Ambassadors" of the Figueroa Corridor are well trained in sensitivity issues. Their protocol is to observe, report and help those in need and never to get into an altercation of any kind. The Figueroa Corridor Ambassadors give homeless persons information on where they can go for help, or in some cases of severe distress they will call an ambulance. On several occasions our Ambassadors have intervened to prevent homeless individuals from danger and even death. Additionally, our Ambassadors do not go outside the boundaries of the district.

Second, if a street vendor has a legal permit and he/she is not blocking a business doorway or handicap ramp, that vendor is permitted to stay. Our Ambassadors only ask those vendors without valid licenses to leave.

Third, the Figueroa Corridor specifically hires Chrysalis to provide its maintenance services. Chrysalis is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping economically disadvantaged and homeless individuals become self-sufficient through employment opportunities. There are many other cleaning and maintenance companies that can provide these services, but Chrysalis does a great job and provides a great service.

-Darryl Holter, chair, Figueroa Corridor Partnership

Renting and The Right Price

Dear Editor,

I think your article "Riding the Rental Rocket" (by Kathryn Maese, April 9) is a bit optimistic. While your data on the recent rental listings is correct, it's not the listings that count, but the actual units leased that tell you what the market will pay. There has been a flood of investors trying to lease their newly purchased units. Most can't cover their monthly carrying costs on their units with the rental income. But they try, by overpricing the units. I advise my clients to price their places at market rate right off the bat rather than have it sit for six months and have to do a reduction when the property is stale. Downtown real estate is a great investment, but many are treating it like a get rich quick scheme.

-David Kean, Prudential California Realty

Dear Editor,

I've lived Downtown for the past six years, and have been frustrated by the lack of moderately priced housing in the city. My fiancée and I recently looked and there was almost nothing in our price range ($1,500 for at least 800 square feet). Finally we were fortunate enough to find a recently flipped two-bed, one-bath duplex in Chinatown with all the buzzwords (granite, stainless steel, hardwood floors).

I understand the Law of Supply and Demand, but I see a serious market that is being overlooked in the Downtown housing boom: the moderately priced loft/apartment with moderate amenities for the upwardly mobile young professional. Instead, I generally have seen two categories of housing:

1. Paying a ridiculous amount of money, getting a reasonable amount of square footage but the exterior (and sometimes interior) is left in its "original" state, i.e. dilapidated and the location is just scary.

2. Paying a ridiculous amount of money for a small space with all the amenities you could ask for, i.e. business center, cabanas, dog park, fitness center, etc., in a more desirable part of town.

It's as if the developers are building without thinking ahead. At some point, all the posh urbanites will have their investment properties and latecomers still in the construction phase today will be left with empty units. What about the recent college grads with less than $100,000 salaries who are saving to actually buy a home and not willing to essentially throw away their money to the rental market? Well, they'll go to the Westside or the South Bay. And contrary to what was said in the article, areas like Palms, Mar Vista, Culver City, Marina Del Rey and parts of West L.A. all have very reasonable rental rates. I've also noticed a trend of young professionals going to Hermosa and Redondo Beach for the surf, sun and bar scene.

I hope some of these developers are reading this and realize there is an untapped market and if you build it, we will come.

-Temi Osilaja, Downtown

Two Takes on Filming

Dear Editor

I was shocked to see your "Street Talk" about Downtown filming (March 5). The people you interviewed obviously have not been Downtown long. It's so incredibly misleading it borders on appalling! I had a studio for eight years in the Arts District and we were constantly plagued with filming, which felt like harassment. Once a film company went as far as setting their food tables up in front of our entry gate. Production crews have consistently blocked streets, kept people awake, flooded lights into residential windows, inconvenienced residents and displayed absolutely no consideration for anyone. If you ask anyone who lives or works in the Arts District I'm sure you will get a similar response. So to use comments from the six people you selected makes one wonder if the film industry put you up to it.

-Midge Lynn, Downtown

Dear Editor,

I think it's laughable that Downtown residents should be complaining about noise and crowding. One person whose letter appeared in this paper noted that she'd never taken "crowded" public transportation even though she lives close to the subway. Downtown residents also complain about film shoots that are "noisy" and "block traffic." It would seem that these people want the glamour of a hip "urban lifestyle" without the unpleasant reality of living amongst other people. They would do well to realize that spacious quiet living can be had in any of the many suburban valleys that surround the L.A. basin. Downtown living isn't all gourmet food and art galleries.

-Michael N. Escobar, Koreatown

page 5, 4/30/2007

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