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L.A. Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington Stepping Down

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Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington
Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington (right) with then-Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday that Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Chief Executive Officer Phillip A. Washington is stepping down later this year.

Washington recently informed the Metro Board that he does not plan to seek a new contract or extend his current contract, which expires in May of this year, according to Metro.

“It has been my distinct pleasure and absolute honor to serve and lead Metro’s nearly 11,000 employees for the last six years,” said Washington. “I leave with great satisfaction knowing that working together we have improved mobility and increased access to opportunity for all residents of L.A. County, and weathered the most devastating health crisis of the past century. We have quickened the sense and pace of public service and left L.A. County’s mobility space better than it was.”

As Metro’s CEO, Washington manages a balanced annual budget of $7 billion, is responsible for overseeing $18 billion to $20 billion in capital construction projects and provides oversight of the nation’s third busiest transit agency that transports 1.2 million passengers (pre-COVID) daily on a fleet of 2,200 clean-air buses and six rail lines. 

Washington is also engaged in all facets of transportation and infrastructure in L.A. County including aviation, goods movement, railroads, water, public works, housing and transit-oriented communities, according to Metro. 

“Phil Washington has provided exemplary leadership for Metro throughout his tenure, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “The past year brought a myriad of challenges for the agency in terms of budget, operations and capital projects — and Phil met the moment every time.”

Washington, who has been with Metro since May 2015, spearheaded a number of notable successes including the passage of Measure M, the largest transportation investment ballot measure in North America. L.A. County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure M by more than 71 percent, launching the nation’s largest public works program that will create an estimated 700,000 jobs in the region.

“Phil Washington has been a visionary leader, reimagining our transit network and steering our region toward an era of generational growth and lasting progress,” said Garcetti. “With Phil at the helm, Metro had a clear direction, strong steward, and champion for Measure M. He leaves this agency much better than he found it, with an expanding public transportation system that remains a force for sustainability, equity, jobs, workforce development and shared prosperity across the L.A. area.”

He was also instrumental in securing $9 billion in grant funding over the past five years by working with Metro’s federal and state partners and building their trust in Metro’s leadership and undeniable track record of success, according to the transit authority.

“I have served the public in three different cities and on countless boards over the past 48 years. Worked with some great managers and leaders…none greater than Phil Washington,” said Inglewood Mayor and immediate past Metro Board Chair James Butts. “Metro and Los Angeles County will sorely miss him. Thank you for your visionary leadership and service.”

Workforce development and advancing equity have been the hallmarks of Washington’s tenure at Metro. Under his leadership, Metro aggressively created real opportunities for small, women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses, including the first Prime contract for a minority business.

“Our Operators are frontline heroes and have remained steadfast in their commitment to service and moving essential workers during some of the toughest challenges of this country, including but not limited to the COVID-19 surges,” continued Washington.

Under Washington’s leadership, innovation flourished at Metro. He placed emphasis on not just talking about innovation but implementing it in concrete ways that help real people improve their lives. The Office of Extraordinary Innovation, Metro Micro, Mobility on Demand, the NextGen Bus Study, Metro’s TAP apps for Apple and Android phones, a partnership with the Transit app and the very real possibility of a Fareless Transit System in L.A. County are a few examples.

The Metro Board of Directors is grateful for his service to the people of Los Angeles County and to the United States of America. The Board will conduct a national search for the next CEO.

Community News

L.A. Mayor Signs Camping Ordinance Aimed At Restricting Homeless Encampments

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on Friday aimed at restricting homeless encampments in certain areas of the city.

The ordinance, which is set to take effect 30 days from the signing date, bans camping near “sensitive” facilities including within 500 feet of schools, daycares, parks and libraries, according to the  L.A. City Council agenda.

In addition, the measure also restricts sitting, lying, or sleeping as well as storing, using, maintaining and placing personal property in any public right-of-way such as ramps, driveways or bike lanes, among others.

On Wednesday, the council voted 13-2 to approve the measure before Garcetti’s signature. 

Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voiced opposition to the ordinance, with Bonin recalling his own struggle with housing.

“Some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the shop, I slept on the beach. I cannot tell you how much turmoil is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where to sleep,” Bonin said. “I cannot tell you how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep.”

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the measure helps regulate shared public spaces while “acting with compassion and purpose” to help people experiencing homelessness.

“This ordinance establishes fair and clearly defined rules for how sidewalks in Los Angeles are regulated — while linking those rules to a comprehensive, compassionate strategy for street engagement that will establish reasonable pathways to positive outcomes and, ultimately, permanent homes,” O’Farrell said.

In order to enforce the new order, the City Council has to take action through a resolution to designate a certain area for enforcement, according to the ordinance.

The city plans to send out “street engagement teams,” along with law enforcement, to assist those experiencing homelessness in the designated encampment by providing connection to services, including interim housing. 

Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report outlining the number of shelter beds available across the county.

The number of homeless shelter beds in the L.A. region has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity, according to the agency.

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds — less than half of the estimated 66,000 people on the street countywide. 

The previous Homeless Count was conducted before the pandemic, with many housing experts and community members reporting an increase in the unhoused population in the past 18 months. 

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Community News

L.A. Homeless Shelter Capacity Up 57% In Three Years, Still Less Than Demand

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Tiny-Home-Village-Homeless-Shelter-North-Hollywood-Los-Angeles-1-1
Devon Miller / The Valley Post

The number of homeless shelter beds in Los Angeles has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity. 

The 2021 Housing Inventory Count and Shelter Count, released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Wednesday, shows the nightly shelter capacity in the L.A. area has grown despite challenges faced by the pandemic. 

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds, a 57% increase over the last three years. The agency also reported 33,592 permanent housing options, an increase of 16% over the same period.

Through “unprecedented coordination” and a critical influx of state and federal emergency funding, the L.A. region’s rehousing system’s response to COVID-19 saved lives, according to  Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA.

“We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness,” Marston said in a statement. 

The Los Angeles region needs to build a more balanced system with more housing options. A balanced rehousing system has five permanent housing exits for each shelter bed; the Los Angeles system is closer to one-to-one, according to the executive director. 

The Housing Inventory Count is a census of all interim and permanent housing options in the homeless rehousing system at a given point-in-time. This year, the Housing Inventory Count occurred on Jan. 27.

LAHSA reported these results despite the global pandemic causing a considerable strain on its shelter supply. 

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, all of Los Angeles County’s congregate shelters had to decrease their bed count through a process called decompression. 

However, strategic investments by the federal, state, and local governments through Project Roomkey and Project Homekey helped make up for the loss of capacity, according to the agency.

The Shelter Count revealed that there were 17,225 people in a shelter on the night of the count, which is virtually unchanged from the previous year. 

LAHSA cited that without the addition of 2,357 Project Roomkey beds and 497 Project Homekey beds, there could have been a more significant drop in the shelter count due to decompression.

Following the advice of public health officials, LAHSA did not conduct an Unsheltered Count in 2021 to protect the 8,000 volunteers needed to complete the Count each year from COVID-19. The agency is planning to resume the Unsheltered Count in 2022.

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Community News

Home Prices In San Fernando Valley Reach New High, Median Nearing $1 Million

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Los Angeles Homes

The median price of San Fernando Valley homes sold during June reached a record high while sales soared 56.9% and the number of properties listed for sale lingered at low levels.

The median price was $955,000, up 28.9% from June 2020, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR).

June was the fourth consecutive month with the median above the $900,000 benchmark.

“Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that the San Fernando Valley would see the median home price inching toward $1 million,” said Diane Sydell, president of the association in a statement. “Now it seems inevitable, especially with today’s wealth of buyers, dearth of inventory, and heated competition over virtually every listing.”

The condominium median price for June was $519,000, up 12.8% from June 2020, but 3.9% below the record high $540,000 set this April.

A total of 554 single-family homes closed escrow during June, up 56.9% from a year ago and 11.5% ahead of May’s tally. It was the first month this year above 500 sales and the highest monthly total since June 2018.

The statistics for condominium sales were not as dramatic, in part because of the extremely limited supply of condominiums listed for sale, according to SRAR.

There were 725 active home and condominium listings at the end of June, the first month above 700 listings this year.

“The market has been overheated and buyer fatigue may be a factor going forward,” said Tim Johnson, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many buyers are weary of competing with unseen competitors and losing to a higher bidder even when they come to the market fully prepared to buy. ”

That may translate in buyers being a bit more cautious, which when combined with the
reopening of the economy may yield a slowdown in sales and a few more listings.

Yet Johnson stressed that a “few more listings” doesn’t go far, even if some buyers are starting to take a bit longer to jump into the market.

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