Group responds to losing North Valley City Hall office
By: Eddie Rivera, News Editor
A small but animated crowd of stakeholders gathered Monday evening, as the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council (STNC) met in emergency session to discuss the closing of its administrative office in North Valley City Hall (NVCH) by Los Angeles City Councilman Felipe Fuentes.
The meeting was held at the Elks Lodge on Commerce Avenue in Tujunga because STNC president Mark Seigel was told by Fuentes (District 7) that the neighborhood council would not be allowed to hold anything other than general board meetings in the assembly room at NVCH, which is on Foothill Boulevard in Tujunga.
In a letter received Monday, but dated October 15, 2015, Fuentes explained that the move to evict the STNC (after 11 years in that location) was in response to the current homeless crisis, which is dramatically affecting neighborhoods, including Sunland-Tujunga, across the city.
Said Fuentes in the letter, “The solutions to lasting stability for our homeless neighbors are complex. Additional permanent supportive housing is in short supply. Coordinated Entry Systems are at the earliest stages. . . As a result, our community has demonstrated particularly high levels of engagement with this difficult issue.”
According to Fuentes, a number of city buildings were “vacant” due to city budget deficits. “I have sought partners who provide essential service delivery to our communities in order to leverage the public investment we made in these City facilities.”
Fuentes told the STNC to vacate its office and to return its keys to the city by October 15 to make room for the offices of Los Angeles Family Housing, the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, the Valley Community Care Consortium, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, City Council District 7, and the district’s food pantry.
The council office offered to pay for all moving costs, for new-office rent, and the costs of new marketing materials through the end of the fiscal year, which would end in July, 2016.
The STNC board, whose relationship with the councilmember has grown increasingly testy over the past few months, discussed several approaches suggested by board members and stakeholders in the audience. These suggestions ranged from holding firm and not leaving NVCH, to leaving as quickly as possible and finding a new meeting and office location.
Local resident Barry Ira Geller said, “He [Fuentes] has been planning this for a long time. He is playing you. Don’t you see this?” Geller suggested fighting the move and creating enough negative press and attention to perhaps thwart the move.
Local resident Roger Swart said the board should “keep the doors of communication open,” offering to “take a letter” to Fuentes’s chief of staff, Yolanda Fuentes.
In a straw vote, almost half of the board agreed to fight the expulsion, but Seigel finally announced the formation of a committee to decide how best to facilitate the move from the building. The so-called Phoenix committee will be headed by board member Jon von Gunten (Neighborhood Watch representative) and would make logistical decisions regarding the move.
Meanwhile, STNC board member Maureen O’Byrne (region 4 representative) will draft a letter to Yolanda Fuentes in a last-minute effort to “unwind “ the decision.