Eagle Rock has a small-town feel as well as all the benefits of being part of a big city—and much of the credit for that goes to two groups of people who gathered along with some 100 others Wednesday night at the .
The much-anticipated event was “The Eagle Rock Association State of the Town,” an annual meeting during which showcases the accomplishments of his office against the background of ’s tireless efforts to preserve Eagle Rock’s identity as a small town in a big city.
“We have a beautiful community that is one of the oldest in the City of Angeles and we have been able to preserve it only because we have active residents,” Huizar said at the start of his roughly hour-long State of the Town address and question-and-answer session.
“And not only that,” he added amid a loud applause from the audience. “We have one of the best universities—.”
Eagle Rock’s accomplishments over the past year, said Huizar, broadly include efforts made by residents in conjunction with his office to protect open spaces and to “Take Back the Boulevard” as well as address what the Council member referred to as the “over-concentration of medical marijuana dispensaries.”
Medical Marijuana—And Crime
With the help of a PowerPoint presentation—the first time one was used in a State of the Town address—Huizar offered an overview of the work that he has done regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, including his ongoing efforts in the City Council to temporarily ban all dispensaries (until the California Supreme Court decides their ultimate fate in the coming year or two).
Although he supports the voter-mandated right of patients to use medical marijuana, said Huizar, he co-authored the January 2010 ordinance that capped the total number of dispensaries in the city at 70.
“Unfortunately, we have a state law that does not provide municipalities with the appropriate tools to control for the ill effects of a medical marijuana dispensary in a neighborhood,” Huizar said, referring to an appellate court’s 2011 decision (Pack v. the City of Long Beach) preventing cities from regulating dispensaries by determining their number or distribution.
“Given how easy it is in California to get a [medical marijuana] prescription … we often see young people having access—they go around from the corner of the dispensaries, smoking in front of people’s yards,” Huizar said.
He added: “We’ve noticed increased crime around these dispensaries—cars being broken into—believe me, here in Eagle Rock I’ve heard it over and over again from locals, neighbors and those who live near the dispensaries.”
During the Q&A session that followed Huizar’s presentation, a few advocates of medical marijuana in the audience challenged Huizar’s claim about increased crime near dispensaries.
“We’ve never got a good answer about what’s wrong with medical marijuana dispensaries in Eagle Rock,” shouted Eagle Rock resident and musician Dan Henken, accusing Huizar of repeating hearsays. Henken invited LAPD Senior Lead Officer Craig Orange, who was in the audience, to present any hard evidence of crime associated with marijuana dispensaries.
Orange obliged by taking the mike and pointing out that a dispensary on Eagle Rock Boulevard was robbed last year. Although the robbery was “an inside job,” said Orange, referring to the fact that the alleged robbers were customers of the dispensary, he added that he does see violations of the law related to the operation of dispensaries in Eagle Rock.
Besides people smoking marijuana on the streets and disrupting the quality of life in the neighborhood, Orange said he has seen juveniles aged 12-16 years indulging in “secondary sales” of marijuana purchased from dispensaries, “especially with the way the economy is going." He added, referring to the juveniles: “They don’t have any type of medical issues whatsoever.”
Henken interjected that an outright ban on dispensaries would be a “total violation of the due process of law,” prompting Huizar to respond that “the state law never intended to have storefronts sell medical marijuana.” He added: “I am very concerned about larger policy issues regarding drugs in this country—let’s change the state law, let’s change the federal law.”
Presenting crime statistics over the past year, Huizar noted that violent (so-called Part 1) crimes in Eagle Rock went down from 541 in 2010 to 519 in 2011. Larceny (theft) went down 14 percent and auto theft was reduced by 12 percent, the Council member said, pointing out that there were no homicides or rapes. (Northeast L.A. ranked second in the entire City in violent crime reduction in 2011, Huizar further noted.)
Huizar also praised a number of policy initiatives, including regulation of massage parlors in Eagle Rock and the introduction of bike lanes along York Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard as part of a larger loop connected to Figueroa Street and Downtown. (Officer Orange told the audience that the LAPD had shut down two massage parlors on Colorado Boulevard and two on Eagle Rock Boulevard this past week, including one where a customer had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Orange told Patch separately that the customer had complained to the LAPD that he caught the disease while indulging in oral sex at the massage parlor.)
Addressing the hot topic of the redistricting of Los Angeles, as required by law every 10 years, Huizar pointed out that CD 14, which, at 23 square miles is about the size of Manhattan, is currently 20,000 people below its target population. (According to the newly drawn redistricting maps, CD 14 will get a little more than half of Downtown in exchange for Highland Park and almost all of Mount Washington.)
The Council member reminded members of the audience that seven regional meetings will be held to discuss the L.A. redistricting draft maps—and that a meeting to discuss the maps for Northeast L.A. is scheduled this coming Monday, February 6, at Occidental College.
The final maps will be issued February 22 and submitted to the City Council March 1, Huizar said, adding that new redistricting maps will go into effect on July 1, 2012.
Asked about the truth or falsity of rumors that he is planning to ditch Eagle Rock in lieu of all of Downtown—where the money is—Huizar replied emphatically: "False."