Valley falls short in share of services

first_imgUpon taking over as mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa began with a miles-long list of promises to fulfill. For commuters, reduce traffic. For parents, save the schools. For local communities, empower neighborhood councils. And for the San Fernando Valley, deliver a more equitable share of city resources. During his campaign, Villaraigosa reached out to Valley voters, noting that “for too long, the San Fernando Valley has been treated as the neglected stepchild of Los Angeles.” It was a radically different approach from that of former Mayor James Hahn, who maintained throughout his tenure that City Hall served the Valley just as well as the other areas of Los Angeles. Valley residents never bought into that line of argument and doubted whether Hahn really cared enough to investigate the issue. Even now, the question still remains whether the city actually knows the extent to which city services are distributed among neighborhoods in an equitable or inequitable manner. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week To address this issue, I undertook at Stanford University a study to examine and compare the level of city services in the Valley and the remaining portion of the city. (The study is available online at www.stanford.edu/~aisen.) My purpose was to focus empirically on the question: Does the Valley get its fair share? The answer, in a word: No. Social scientists differ on how to best measure “equity” in public services, so I opted for using different measurements tailored to best account for the nature of each service in question. The data used in the study came mainly from correspondence with employees of the city of Los Angeles concerning fiscal years 2002 and 2003. Only city departments that provide tangible services to the public were analyzed. My findings demonstrate that for some departments, although not all, the Valley – which contains approximately 36.8 percent of the city population – appears to not be receiving an equitable share of services. The findings of the study are as follows. Fire Department: Although the Valley possesses more uniformed personnel per fire and/or ambulatory-related incident (.965 uniformed personnel per incident citywide versus 1.2 in the Valley), response times for every type of incident are higher in the Valley, though no more than 45 seconds. This disparity can be explained by the fact that because the Valley is less densely populated, the number of fire stations per square mile is almost half as high. In short, the fire stations in the Valley are too far away from each other, and so Valley residents don’t get the same protection as the rest of the city. Department of Public Works: In the Bureau of Street Lighting, the number of repairs made per repair person in the Valley is almost twice as many, which seems to indicate that the service level in the Valley is substantially lower (494.6 repairs per repair person versus 885.6 in the Valley). That’s because every streetlight that needs repair is at some point repaired by the city, so because the workload is much higher for employees assigned to the Valley, it presumably takes longer for a streetlight to be repaired in the Valley than it does elsewhere. The Bureau of Street Services does slightly less resurfacing in the Valley relative to the miles of street the Valley contains (44.3 percent of all L.A. streets are in the Valley, but the Valley gets only 40.3 percent of total resurfacing). The bureau possesses no traffic counts, which makes it impossible to determine which streets suffer from the most wear. In the street tree division of the Bureau of Street Services, resources are allocated on the basis of City Council districts, which leads to an inequitable distribution of services as the larger number of trees in the Valley are trimmed less frequently (51.6 percent of total trees are in the Valley, but the Valley gets only 42.4 percent of total tree trimming). Department of Transportation: In the Bureau of Parking Enforcement and Intersection Control, the number of preferential parking district and preferential parking blocks per preferential parking officer is higher in the Valley, which suggests the Valley is not receiving an equitable share of services (2.1 officers per district versus .895 in the Valley and 10.35 blocks per officer, versus 12.647 in the Valley). In the Bureau of Transit Program and Franchise Regulations, ridership is higher for the non-Valley city bus lines, which is evidence that the Valley is receiving a more than equitable share of transit services (35.1 median passenger revenue hour of service versus 21.2 in the Valley). Department of Recreation and Parks: The Valley is receiving a less than equitable share in all of the measures of the department’s service levels, except for park acreage (44.6 percent of acreage, 33 percent of facilities, 26.6 percent of employees, 23.4 percent of pools, and 0 percent of museums in the Valley, which contains 36.8 percent of the city’s population). Library Department: The Valley contains fewer libraries per capita (31.3 percent of total libraries in the Valley). Furthermore, based on data prior to the recent re-openings of many libraries, the collections sizes in the Valley were smaller relative to the percent of total materials in circulation in the Valley (37.4 percent of total circulation in the Valley but only 23.2 percent of total collection). Department of Animals Services: Of the six animal shelters in the city, two are located in the Valley. Based on the geographic distribution of employees, the Valley receives an equitable share of services (36.3 percent of animal services personnel are in the Valley). Department of Cultural Affairs: There are fewer community art centers and theater complexes as well as employees per capita in the Valley (12.5 percent of city-owned facilities, 14.7 percent of employees, and 22.7 percent of city-owned or partnered facilities in the Valley). Neighborhood City Halls: The percent of neighborhood city halls is another inequity. Only 28.6 percent of neighborhood city halls and 30.43 percent of their employees are in the Valley, meaning that Valley residents must travel farther to reach a city hall. Department of Neighborhood Empowerment: The percent of neighborhood councils located in the Valley is comparable per capita (33.33 percent of total neighborhood councils in the Valley), but the populations served by each neighborhood council vary widely, from less than 8,000 residents to more than 85,000 residents. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this variance in size, the city’s policy of appropriating $50,000 a year to each certified neighborhood council is inequitable. In fact, many of the poorer areas of the city have large neighborhood council districts. A much more equitable policy would be to allocate funds on the basis of population. Police Department: The Valley receives response times almost one minute longer than the remaining portion of the city (8.93 minutes versus 9.84 in the Valley). Patrol persons in the Valley respond to more calls and offenses per patrol person (119.19 units dispatched per patrol person versus 141.36 in the Valley). However, the percent of offenses cleared by arrest is higher in the Valley (12.86 percent versus 13.85 percent in the Valley). This is likely due to a higher percentage of violent crimes committed in the remaining portion of the city, and that violent crimes require more time and resources to be cleared. It therefore cannot be concluded that the Valley is receiving an inequitable share of police services, although disparate response times have long been a source of contention. While the disparities in city services are generally not that large, there are no legitimate reasons for them to persist. Villaraigosa should instruct the heads of each department and his new city commissioners to review the distribution of city services in more detail and to take measures to achieve as much equity as possible. Adam Isen, a graduate of Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, is a senior majoring in Economics at Stanford University. Write to him by e-mail at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img