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Q&A / CITY GOVERNMENT

Wabbit Woes, Bus Lanes and a Mystery Mall

November 09, 2005|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

What do rabbits, underground shopping malls and bus lanes have in common? They're all issues involving Los Angeles city government.

Question: Does Los Angeles have a rabbit problem?

Answer: At the behest of rabbit activists -- yes, they exist -- the city's Department of Animal Services wants to raise the $15 rabbit adoption fee to $50 to create a "rabbit sterilization revolving fund."

Animal Services says that too many rabbits are being turned over to city shelters and the fund would be used to combat the consequences of rabbit romance, at least within city limits.

The proposal has been in the works for more than two years and is headed to the City Council's public safety committee, but its arrival date is unknown. It would make adopting a rabbit as expensive as adopting a monkey or a pig from the city.

The city attorney's report on the matter includes this nugget: "The attached ordinance ... deletes references to fighting cocks, as we have been advised that the department does not sell or redeem fighting cocks and has not done so for many years."

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Q: So how does Councilwoman Janice Hahn really feel about the tomb-like Los Angeles Mall across the street from City Hall?

A: In a recent motion, Hahn called it "fragmented, dilapidated and uninviting" and "drab."

Many Angelenos don't know the mall exists because the city built it below street level in the early 1970s.

Nonetheless, it serves as the retail and food anchor for thousands of Civic Center employees. Hahn is particularly galled by the food offerings, which include those twin peaks of cuisine, Carl's Jr. and Quiznos.

"The worst question my staff has to ask me is, 'What do you want to eat today?' " she said. "They draw straws over who has to ask me."

In a motion submitted in September, Hahn asked the city's General Services Department to produce whatever plan it has for improving the facility.

The city hired a consultant to offer ideas on sprucing up the mall in the late 1980s. According to Hahn, those suggestions were set aside -- and can no longer be found.

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Q: What's causing Councilman Bill Rosendahl's head to spin like a top these days?

A: The Wilshire Boulevard bus lane.

In 2004, the MTA turned the curbside lanes on a mile-long stretch of Wilshire in West L.A. into a bus-only lane. Businesses along the route have since complained that the lost parking has hurt them at the cash register.

Rosendahl introduced a motion last month to get rid of the bus lane, which is in his district. He said he was for the bus lane as long as it was extended the full length of Wilshire and provided a true benefit to the city.

"I believe in the bus-only lane if it actually works and can shave 20 to 30 minutes off the ride," Rosendahl said.

Rosendahl has been waiting several weeks for MTA and city transit officials to give him a timetable for extending the lanes. Their answer, thus far: We'll get back to you soon.

In many ways, it's the classic Los Angeles conundrum. For the bus lane to be complete, it must traverse four L.A. council districts, the cities of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and unincorporated areas.

Will officials be willing to anger their constituents over a bus lane?

And will Rosendahl light a fire under the project or perhaps get it killed?

"The clock is ticking," he said.

A compromise has been offered that would get rid of a few blocks of the lanes where traffic snarls the most. There is also the possibility that Rosendahl's motion will die in the council's transportation committee, which takes up the matter today.

MTA schedules show that during rush hours, the Rapid Bus is taking about 70 minutes to travel the roughly 13 miles from Santa Monica to downtown. Dictionaries define "rapid" as moving, acting or occurring with great speed.

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Q: The Dennis P. Zine Community Center in Canoga Park should break ground in the next several months. Isn't Zine still alive?

A: Not only is he alive, he was recently reelected to the City Council.

There are, of course, plenty of places around town named after former council members who are still alive, including the Ruth Galanter Pier in Venice, the Joel Wachs Square downtown and the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center west of downtown.

Bea Stotzer, board president of New Economics for Women, said the group chose to honor Zine because he helped secure $200,000 for pre-construction costs. The center is part of an affordable-housing complex that includes a school.

"The only thing that he requested is that we don't paint it purple," Stotzer said. "I guess he doesn't like purple."

The 3rd District councilman said he was honored but didn't request that his name be slapped on the building.

He also confirmed that he doesn't like purple.

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Q: Which council member wins the "I Kept a Promise" award this month?

A: Eric Garcetti of the 13th District.

Garcetti and then-Mayor James K. Hahn vowed in 2002 to pave the way for 500 low-cost housing units to be built in Hollywood within three years.

Through September, 363 units had residents, an additional 149 were under construction, and 120 more were in development, according to the city departments of Planning, and Building and Safety.

"It would be one of the great tragedies if some of the people who laid the foundation were kicked out of Hollywood because of the housing," Garcetti said.

Garcetti had been pushing for months for a housing bond to go before voters to help beef up the city's affordable-housing trust fund.

Last month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, much to the surprise of housing advocates and his own staff, announced his support of a $1-billion bond on the ballot either next year or in 2007.

Garcetti's prize for winning "I Kept a Promise"?

The warm, fuzzy feeling of having served Los Angeles, estimated population 3,957,875 and growing.

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