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Hollywood has always been a place where hope springs eternal, and even in the face of a pandemic that caused tremendous hardship and adversity, the community came together in unprecedented ways, Los Angeles Council President Pro Tempore Mitch O’Farrell said.
O’Farrell, 13th District, discussed that cohesion in remarks during the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of Hollywood luncheon on Feb. 24 at the Taglyan Cultural Center. The address was not held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and O’Farrell took the opportunity to outline things he had accomplished during the past two years.
“Welcome back, Hollywood. We are back,” O’Farrell told the cheering crowd. “When the pandemic struck two years ago, no one currently living had any experience on how to manage what was about to come, and seemingly overnight, the world changed. If you are like me, you pivoted early on, adapted and just kept going. It is human nature to shift into survival mode, and that is exactly what we did.”
O’Farrell cited support for renters and employees – groups that were hard hit by the pandemic – and stated that $300 million in federal, state and city government funds were distributed. He said work also continued behind-the scenes on improvements to local attractions, including the Heart of Hollywood Initiative, a plan making its way through the city process that aims to create a more pedestrian- friendly environment along Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame.
“Our work in Hollywood and across the 13th District never skipped a beat. We continued to focus on the business of the district and the city,” O’Farrell said. “Our Heart of Hollywood Walk of Fame master plan is very much in progress. We received a $7 million grant from L.A. Metro to bring near-term improvements to the Walk of Fame before the end of next year. This is a dress rehearsal for things to come in future rounds of funding, which we are working to identify. As we invest in these improvements to the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood community will be at the center every step of the way.”
O’Farrell also cited plans currently underway for a gateway to the Little Armenia District, which will include a monument on CalTrans property on Hollywood Boulevard, near the 101 Freeway offramp.
“For years, my office has worked with the community to create the Armenian Gateway, as hundreds of thousands of motorists exit there every year. When entering or leaving Hollywood, it’s the first thing they see,” O’Farrell said. “Part of our process was bending the arc of the rigid CalTrans engineering culture, and we almost had to change state laws just to do this. The gateway structure is on the way up. This intricate design of Armenian motifs has never before been seen in other art projects anywhere in the city of Los Angeles. A festival celebrating the opening of the gateway is being planned for this year, and you will all be invited.”
The councilman said he was proud the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade was held in 2021 after a hiatus the previous year, and said he thought it was the best parade ever. He also mentioned restorations currently underway at a guest house that is part of Hollyhock House, designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in Barnsdall Art Park. Hollyhock House is among a group of buildings throughout the United States designed by Wright that have been included the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
O’Farrell also cited his efforts to make permanent the “All Black Lives Matter” message emblazoned on the middle of Hollywood Boulevard in rainbow letters following a historic June 2020 march in Hollywood that attracted more than 300,000 people.
“The ‘All Black Lives Matter’ monument is a reminder that Hollywood is and always will be an inclusive, welcoming place,” O’Farrell said.
The 13th District added new neighborhoods during the redistricting process last fall, including Sunset Square, Spaulding Square and the Larchmont Village community. O’Farrell welcomed new constituents and said he is excited to represent them.
“The 13th District is now bigger and better,” he added.
O’Farrell also outlined challenges ahead and said addressing homelessness and crime will remain top priorities.
“We have a spectrum of solutions for people experiencing homelessness in Hollywood, including three A Bridge Home sites totaling about 220 beds, another shelter at the Salvation Army accommodating 30 to 40 people, and last year, we purchased an entire building on Orchid [Avenue] near Hollywood and Highland for the state’s Project Homekey program, with a capacity to house about 30 additional individuals,” O’Farrell said.
He added that it is a misconception that only luxury housing is being built in Hollywood, and said 40% of the projects currently under construction provide affordable housing.
“These are mixed-income projects for the most part, they just look like luxury housing,” he added. “No other neighborhood in Los Angeles looks close to like what we’re doing here in Hollywood.”
The councilman closed by addressing an increase in crime. O’Farrell said he supports the Los Angeles Police Department and is confident law enforcement officials can bring crime numbers down.
“We are all aware that crime continues at unacceptable levels across the city. Hollywood is no exception. Angelenos understandably have deep anxieties due to what I would describe as a permissive environment where people with bad intentions have the impression they can get away with doing whatever they want,” O’Farrell said. “There is no such thing as a victimless crime. We must bring back enhancements in prosecuting hate related and violent crimes, and we need to ensure that people who assault others or barge in and terrorize innocent workers or store owners, destroy property and just steal whatever they want are apprehended and held accountable for the harm they cause.”
O’Farrell thanked Hollywood’s business community and others in attendance for keeping Hollywood vibrant. At the end of the address, he paid tribute to former Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who died in January 2021.
“Let’s take a moment for Mr. Tom LaBonge. It’s hard to believe we lost him a year ago in January, but don’t you all feel his presence in this room?” O’Farrell asked. “If he were here … he would have all of you on your feet. Tom had special permission because he was a special guy. He was able to say and do things the rest of us mortals just couldn’t. But now, he’s organizing things up in heaven. Be safe, be well, God bless Los Angeles, God bless Hollywood and God bless the United States of America.”
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