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Prop F Meeting Report
Fire Station 82 - Scaled down but still moving away! 

Hollywood, Ca., January 28, 2003 — Many neighbors in fear of being displaced by the relocation of Fire Station 82 into their neighborhood marched and chanted last night. Back and forth on Hollywood Blvd. between Gramercy and Garfield, over 50 neighbors and their supporters marched with placards to oppose this intrusion into their community. 

We are in a housing crisis. The plan to build a regional facility under the guidelines of Proposition F would call for demolition of a large apartment building housing over 200 low-income people and bungalows housing at least 30 people. 

The Franklin-Hollywood Hills Community Council in partnership with the newly formed Eastwood Coalition created a strategy with the neighbors to block this. They appeared before the Prop F representatives in November to be heard on this matter. Many people from the hillside neighborhoods appeared as well. Their particular issue was the lengthening of response time due to moving Fire Station 82 AWAY from their hillside homes. More on that later. 

“Fight Fire — Not People!” was the chant raised by the men, women and children as they made their way up to Immaculate Heart High School to attend the meeting called by the Prop F representatives. Upon entering with placards chanting all the while, it was obvious that had this crowd not shown up the attendance would have been very poor. 

The outreach that Franklin-Hollywood Hills Community Council (an independent neighborhood council) and the Eastwood Coalition had done was exhaustive. Both organizations raised their voices strongly at the November meeting and were prepared to do this again in this meeting. 

However, the first thing Allen Kowaguchi told the group was the best news that their ears could hear. He said that after the November meeting and hearing their concerns over being displaced, he and other Prop F folks along with Chief William Bamattre decided to scale back the project. They are eliminating the meeting room and storage facility that had been planned as part of the regional facility. Basically, this Fire Station 82 will NOT be a regional facility after all. The people in the apartment building can relax, as they are now not being displaced. Unfortunately for the people in the bungalows, they will be “relocated”. Kowaguchi did not elaborate on the meaning of that word. 

A collective sigh of relief came over most of the folks in attendance. The others, hillside residents, were concerned over the added response time moving Fire Station 82 would cause. Captain Roy Prince said that it was his job to look at all the alternative sites both Prop F’s and the ones that the people had suggested. There were many reasons for rejecting the other sites but most were cost related. Passionate voices were raised about the cost to human lives when fires cannot be addressed to the hills in time. The response from Both Fire Chief Bamattre and Captain Prince was that they must be fair to the entire service area. When people reminded the LAFD reps at several points during the meeting that the LAFD already serves the area (except the Hollywood Hills) within 5 minutes (This is the LAFD’s stated goal.), didn’t respond to that point. Instead, they continued to argue with the folks that were passionate about the issue saying that fair is fair – that most of the fires and medical emergencies happen in the eastern part of the service area. “So we’re expendable?” asked one very angry hillside homeowner. “No, but we have to look at the entire area.” 

When the Hollyridge fire was mentioned, the fact that the only fire truck at Fire Station 82 was responding to a medical emergency at the time was used as the reason for the lengthy response time. The LAFD reps further stressed that the hillside homes will be better off with the new station relocated AWAY from their homes because there will be more room for emergency vehicles at the new site. Currently there is just that one fire truck on Bronson. However, when pressed, they reluctantly shared that there is NO additional fire equipment planned for that new site. The only additional equipment planned is one emergency medical response vehicle. These responses sound contradictory. 

Shortly after that Hollyridge Fire, LAFD reps told neighbors that it took more than 20 minutes to reach that fire. They even admitted that they had to knock on several doors to get residents to move their vehicles so that they could pass. In this meeting on Tuesday night, Chief Bamattre told the attendees that the fire was reached in 14 minutes and that he has the official records to prove it. 

Credible sources say that it could have taken up to 40 minutes to respond since the first call came in with a Bronson Canyon address. The first response vehicle went straight up Bronson to the top before realizing that they were under the fire, not at the fire. That fire truck came from the Hillhurst station quite a distance away. A not-so-funny comedy of errors began at that point. The fire truck, not familiar with our neighborhood, took Hollyridge from Bronson instead of coming around to Beachwood and going straight up. This caused the extra effort to get folks to move their cars. Yet Chief Bamattre wants you to believe that the first response vehicle arrived on the scene 17 minutes after the call came in. 

The same folks that had no problem giving mixed messages to the people on Tuesday night, including Tom LaBonge, also said that they would research what it would take to get a small substation positioned at upper Beachwood. That would be the right thing to do. Unfortunately if cost is involved during a state budget crisis, this idea becomes no more than words to calm the people in the hills. 

Several activists from Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association and from Hollywoodland Homeowner’s Association reminded the Chief and the Councilman that people who voted for Prop F did so because they read the following: “To protect public health/safety, improve paramedic/firefighting response time….”. They insisted that adding response time to the Hollywood Hills when Fire Station 82 already meets or beats response time in all other parts of the service area is a blatant violation of this key element of Prop F. Tom Labonge said that he would have to read that for himself and then he would ask the City Attorney about it. One activist brought the copy up to him to help this process along. Councilman Labonge told the room that he would personally see to it that the City Attorney reviewed this information and would get an official statement. This appears to be like the city inspecting itself to search for possible malfeasance. 

The bottom line? 

1) The efforts of the Franklin-Hollywood Hills Community Council and the new neighborhood association, Eastwood Coalition resulted in over 200 people maintaining their currently residences on Gramercy! From that standpoint, no other “city certified” neighborhood council can claim such a victory reflected in real human lives protected from the wrecking ball. 

2) Fire Station 82 will become a storage facility and a place to hold meetings and classes for fire fighters and possibly C.E.R.T. training opportunities. During brush season, there may be a fire truck or some such apparatus parked there for quicker response. This is a sad situation since hillside homeowners pay higher property insurance due to living in a fire hazard area. These rates are not higher during brush season only. They are high all year long. Now that the Prop F people have reduced the area that they need for Fire Station 82, why not acquire a very few properties around the existing site on Bronson to expand the current facility? They don’t have an answer to that suggestion either. 

3) Prop F tried to get the word out about this meeting on Tuesday night. Their public relations rep. explained to the crowd how they had sent out a mailer to everyone within 1,000 feet of the proposed site and to all who attended the meeting in November, outreached to the Assistance League, the Chamber of Commerce, and asked certified neighborhood councils throughout Hollywood (even one that doesn’t exist – ViVe Hollywood) to place their names on the flyer to help bring people out. Yet most of the people that attended did so because of the outreach of FHHCC, an independent neighborhood council working with the Eastwood Coalition, a newly formed neighborhood association representing the area below Franklin, north of Hollywood, east of the freeway to Western. Without this collaboration and activism from the people, there would have been no more than 20 people in the room for this meeting other than LAFD and city reps. 

4) Members of the interim board of Hollywood United Neighborhood Council (HUNC), the certified arm of the city, were at this meeting and said nothing regarding this issue. Before the meeting, one of the interim board members of HUNC suggested to a local activist that the people don’t understand the issue. This is not a surprising sentiment since HUNC has been lobbied by the Prop F coordinators in two of their recent interim board meetings. This was the first of many tests to see if neighborhood councils are truly representative of the people or if they are simply a mechanism to filter public concerns in order to facilitate the goals of city bureaucrats. Many are beginning to wonder if the pesky voices of the people aren’t just a bit too harsh for the tender ears of the city. 

Watch and see if an arm of the city – part of the city family, is capable of fairly representing the will of the true stakeholders in this community. If HUNC is capable of empowering neighbors, Tuesday night was not an indication of that. Better luck next time.
                        — Theresa Foster, Beachwood VOICE political journalist

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