Sunday, April 05, 2009

Our Overlord Los Angeles Makes Life More Difficult! I'm Ready for a Revolt

Dear Readers: This story appeared in the March issue of San Pedro Today where my columns will now regularly appear. In addition, will use several of my stories that have appeared on this blog. Diana

By Diana L. Chapman

The other day, I figured out what I’ve received from our arrogant overlord, the kingdom of Los Angeles, in my 25 years as a San Pedro resident.

A public pool and a bottle brush tree.

It’s clearer than ever that City Hall believes we paupers here in Harbor Land can’t make decisions on our own, that it’s a task best left to our municipal overseers. Even our Neighborhood Councils, formed to fend off the “s” word—secession—are shaking their collective heads.

Sadly, decisions about our well-being are made in tall buildings farther away than Catalina and further still from our hearts and minds. It seems as if San Pedro lives in a straitjacket, barely able to breathe.

I’m tired of being a serf. I’m fed up with city officials not caring about the soul of our community. The last straw was the quadrupling of our downtown parking rates, strangling our hard-working business owners during a recession. It left me with this thought:

We need a revolt.

I’m praying for a modern-day Robin Hood. The response from our Councilwoman to complaints about the parking increase won’t cut it. First of all, she voted for it. And in a letter to the editor, she slapped our hands by telling us how we had to suck it up for the community good.

Which community, Janice? Downtown Los Angeles? The City Council? We don’t have anyone to stand up for us. Pleeease listen. Our people are starving. What more do you need to say? “Let them eat cake?”

We’re scrambling to maintain our identity. We can’t fix our own problems because L.A. makes more for us. I love San Pedro, but I despise Los Angeles, whose officials don’t care.

What locals find routinely is that just about everything we ask for turns into a tangle of meetings with bureaucrats who seem to have only one thing to say: It’s not possible. Of course anything is possible, but you’d better be prepared to battle for years with a gauntlet of city warriors whose job, it seems, is to stand in our way.

A city-owned ficus tree in front of our house was strangling our sewer line. When I called to find out if it could be removed, I knew we were in for an ordeal. The voice on the phone said environmental issues had to be considered first. And we learned from a Bureau of Street Services “information sheet” that it is a city-granted “privilege” for the homeowner to be connected to the public sewer system!

The public pool is another example. I was in the forefront of a battle to convince the city to clean up and refurbish the decades-old pool at Peck Park. Although we eventually won, the citizens on the Peck Park Advisory Board spent 10 years on the effort. Many of us thought we would die before we would ever see the pool rehabilitated. In fact, some of us did.

Now, for the bottle brush tree. The toppled ficus and its roots had left a crumpled sidewalk in its wake--a lawsuit waiting to happen. We called the city but were told nothing could be done for years because of the backlog. However, if we agreed to pay $1,500, the city would pay another $1,500 and repair the sidewalk in the next two weeks.

So we did it.

We were dismayed to wake up on a Saturday morning and find a gaggle of city employees out on the sidewalk. We watched in disgust, as did many of our neighbors, as most of the employees stood around for hours drinking coffee and chatting on their cell phones. The only people working were two guys digging a ditch.

How much did that cost the taxpayers? Who knows, but I can bet those city employees racked up some pretty good overtime. We were granted a bottle brush tree to replace the ficus.

Things are never perfect. But when my friends ask about any undertaking with Los Angeles – such as bringing in more playing fields – I ask them: “Do you have 10 years of your life to give?” That’s the minimum you need to push something through Los Angeles.

So yes, I’m saying it out loud for all to hear – I’m ready for a revolt. Because the years I’ve spent to get a bottle brush tree and a revamped pool – just aren’t worth being a serf to L.A.

Diana L. Chapman has been a writer for 30 years whose work has appeared in many publications, including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. To learn more about local issues – especially concerning children – visit her blog: