Medical Response Times Lag in L.A. Neighborhoods

By Kate Linthicum, Ben Welsh and Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2012

The Times analyzed more than a million runs by the LAFD.

Waits for 911 medical aid vary dramatically across Los Angeles and many of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods have the longest response times, according to a Times investigation.

Under national standards adopted by the Los Angeles Fire Department, rescuers are supposed to arrive within six minutes to almost all medical emergencies. But the Times analysis found that in affluent hillside communities stretching from Griffith Park to Pacific Palisades, firefighters failed to hit that mark nearly 85% of the time. Continue reading

Why are people suing the City over the Hollywood Community Plan?

There are some falsehoods floating around that the people who have sued the city are NIMBIES who do not want development in their backyards and their views from the Hills destroyed.

If people read the three lawsuits, they will see the falsity of such charges. (see side bar under Learn More and Share)

Setting aside the legalese, the core problem is corruption although that word does not appear in the lawsuits. Los Angeles in general and Hollywood in particular has been subjected to extensive corruption and incompetence over the last decade. The Hollywood Community Plan was another product of such corruption and incompetence.

The basic fraud of the Hollywood Community Plan is to state that Hollywood has been experiencing dramatic growth and we need to build for 250,000 people in 2030. That claim is completely false, but the City made it in order to deceive people into approving extremely lax zoning rules so that developers could build any project while excluding community input. Had the Hollywood Community Plan told the truth that Hollywood has experienced a 20 year decline in population and there is no fact from which to assume that the downward trend will reverse it, then building for 250,000 residents would be a fool’s goal. Building poorly planned projects is a feature of Crony Capitalism nationwide. When one builds with public funds, the losses are socialized while the profits are skimmed from the front end.

When the Hollywood Community Plan was drafted, one must remember that the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) existed and it was siphoning off hundreds of millions of incremental tax dollars each year and then underwriting these projects, none of which pay one cent in incremental property tax dollars. Thus, it did not matter if the projects harmed Hollywood as long as the developers got paid and the City was on the hook for many of the loans.

Using US Census data, Hollywood’s population will be only 190,000 or fewer people by 2030. That is 60,000 less people than the Hollywood Community Plan envisions for 2030. Had Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan told the truth about how much the CRA projects had already harmed Hollywood, people would have seen the corruption and incompetence for themselves. Thus, the Plan lied over and over and over again.

The danger of corruption cannot be understood unless one realizes the role that the CRA played. Because the CRA was diverting millions of incremental property tax dollars into its own coffers, the City was perpetually broke. In 2009, 2010, and 2011 the City would pretend that it had no funds and would declare the need to fire people and cut salaries, but all the while it had hundreds of millions of dollars in its CRA bank accounts and the City Council had the power to use these funds to keep the libraries and parks open, to keep the fire department at full force and to up-grade the fire department. (Saying that the LAFD was deficient is not a criticism of the fire fighters. They were and are victims just like us, only more so.)

Rather than taking money away from the developers by using CRA funds to improve the LAFD’s response times, Garcetti as Council President presented bogus emergency response data to the City Council saying that LAFD was doing so great that they could cut the LAFD budget by $200 Million. As the charts show, the LAFD response times have been deteriorating. Falsified response data gave the Council members “deniability” for the harm that would follow. But, we have to ask ourselves what motivation would the LAFD have to falsify statistics in order to reduce their budget? Just who was it that solicited this false data?

As a result of the response data fraud, the CRA gravy train continued, while Angelenos died. Eli Broad got $52 Million for a parking garage next to his art museum, while some father somewhere died of a heart attack because the paramedics could not reach him in time. More children are without grandmothers; others have been seriously burned. The City Council knows that we cannot point to any particular person and prove that he or she died because the paramedics reached the home in 7 minutes rather than 4 minutes. At least, the City Council hopes that we cannot pin it on them. That type of investigation would require a criminal Grand Jury with subpoena power.

We become upset when gang bangers drive by and indiscriminately shoot from car windows killing an innocent child or teenager or mother or father. There is no moral difference between reducing the ability of the emergency responders to reach people than randomly shooting at a crowd of people. The gang banger often does not know whom he killed nor does he care. The same was true for the Garcetti City Council. They did not care who died or was maimed as a result of their reckless and wanton behavior — just as long as they evade responsibility and the developers got their loot.

Unexpectedly, the citizens fought back and abolished the corrupt CRA’s (DoD 2-1-2012) and now more citizens are fighting back again by suing the City over the fraudulent Hollywood Community Plan.

The Hollywood Community Plan wanted to bring 60,000 more residents to Hollywood while degrading fire protection, while hamstringing paramedics, while leaving the LAPD under-sized with antiquated equipment, and while traffic became worse. There was no plan how to handle the extra stress on our water mains or how to provide water for 60,000 more people except to tell Hollywoodians to stop watering their lawns.

The people in the Hollywood Hills and the people in the Hollywood Flats are fighting to make certain some toddler does not die after falling into a swimming pool, so that some 70 year old woman doesn’t needlessly die of a heart attack, and so that scores of people do not lose their homes to fires because there are not enough fire trucks or firemen. It may be dramatic, but it is true. We are fighting for our lives and the lives of our loved ones against the corruption which has turned City Hall into a Temple of Crimogenics.

That is why there are three lawsuits against Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan.

LAFD Fire Data Charts

Video of Hollywood Sign Fire


It’s Time for an Alternative Vision!

Here’s the unveiling of the HOLLYWOOD COMMUNITY PLAN UPDATE – ALTERNATIVE VISION submitted by the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Planning Entitlement Review Committee. This is worth careful consideration as we go forward. What do we really want? What’s a good fit for the Hollywood of today and for years to come? Check it out!

Alternative Vision


Communication Breakdown on Mt. Lee

by George Abrahams

This Daily News article highlights the extreme vulnerability within our communication system – the very system that makes 911 calls save lives, gets fire engines to your home on time, and allows seamless communication between officers, dispatch, etc. This vital communication hub on Mt. Lee was offline for a full 12 hours on Tuesday, April 3rd due to an accident during the testing of a back-up generator. Mayor Villaraigosa attempted to downplay the significance of the communication failure, the magnitude was significant.

Councilman Mitch Englander of the 12th Council District, blamed Tony Royster, the General Services Department General Manager, for the error and is even calling for his head on some bureaucratic platter.

The real fault is with the mayor and the city council. They are responsible for the absence of a fully redundant emergency communication system. While they have been wasting money on pet projects and busy diverting the tax base increment to failed, money-losing CRA projects, our infrastructure has been badly neglected.

I suggest anyone living in Hollywood or Los Angeles, for that matter, do two things right now:

1)    Write to and tell him not to get rid of Royster! This man is being made a scapegoat. There’s no value in adding one more person to the unemployment lines. The City Council and Mayor should take full responsibility for this event.

2)    Write a letter to in the City Clerk’s office. Refer to file number 12-0303. This is one more example of why we need to oppose the increased density element of the Hollywood Community Plan Update. Our inadequate infrastructure cannot support the development we currently have.

LAPD Radio System Fails For 12 Hours

Daily News – Rick Orlov, Staff Writer

After Los Angeles Police Department radio communications went down for half the day on Tuesday, a city councilman on Wednesday demanded the firing of the official whose agency caused the problem.

Councilman Mitch Englander said he will call for the dismissal of General Services Department general manager Tony Royster for the power outage Tuesday at Mount Lee, where all LAPD radio communications equipment is housed.

Englander, who is a reserve officer, said General Services crews were sent to the Mount Lee facility – located not far from the Hollywood sign – to test a backup generator. However, he said, the test failed and knocked out all power at Mount Lee, shutting down radio communications.

“It placed the public and officers at extreme risk,” Englander said.

LAPD officials and the Mayor’s Office, however, said backup systems were used that ultimately prevented any serious breakdowns in communication.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the power failure turned into a test of the department’s emergency response operations.

“We were able to handle it without too much of a problem,” Smith said. “We run drills all the time to test our system and that’s what this turned into.”

“It was a good exercise for us. Our center was down for about 12 hours, but we still had communication from the stations to the cars and the car computers never went down.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office was informed of the problem and said backup systems were put into effect.

“When that equipment didn’t work, other redundant systems kicked in at the LAPD,” spokesman Peter Sanders said. “The LAPD successfully handled 911 calls and no emergency responses were threatened.”

Englander, however, insisted that the problem was more serious than that. The communications breakdown meant a delayed response to emergencies, as 911 calls had to be answered manually with operators then calling stations to dispatch an officer, he said.

For officers, he said, the danger came in the form of an inability to get immediate access to information, such as a driver history based on license plates.

“We weren’t able to find out if the person had a record, was being sought for anything or had violent tendencies,” Englander said. “A traffic stop can be the most dangerous stop we make.”

Because the Valley Dispatch Center was also down due to electrical problems, Englander said the department also lost communication with the main Metropolitan Communications Dispatch Center.

“They should have checked with the department first and there is no way they would have allowed them to work on Mount Lee until the Valley Dispatch Center’s problem was fixed,” Englander said.

“While the system is back up and operating normally, a failure of the GSD management of this magnitude resulting in the shut down of our most critical system (demands answers),” Englander said. “Whoever is responsible for this lapse needs to be held accountable.”


Emergency Response – Truth is Being Told

Infrastructure is more than just roads and bridges, parks and potholes. It’s more than public works. It’s also emergency response. Yes, fire trucks and ambulances along with emergency medical teams that go screaming through neighborhoods to get to suffering individuals and burning homes in time to save lives and property.

As our population has dwindled in the past two decades, one would think that these emergency resources would be functioning under less stress with a better track record for response time. It would also make sense that the equipment that these heroic fire fighters and EMT’s are using would be cared for really well. All operations should be humming along.

Not so, for Los Angeles. The city council, instead of making a parade or hosting a party in celebration of the announcement of low response times, they instead decided to pull funding from our emergency response programs. True that the city council was given bad information. Their reaction to that information was irresponsible at best and criminal at worst.

But all this news, including the article below, highlights the current situation in Los Angeles. Now put that up against the proposed Hollywood Community Plan due to be rubber stamped on March 27 at the PLUM committee (if no one shows up to protest). In their own Statement of Overriding Considerations, they admit that emergency services will be overwhelmed. More so than they are today? Worse than now? This plan needs to go back to the drawing board. There should be no talk of attracting density to an area that is already receiving such poor service. With the current crumbling infrastructure (including emergency response systems) and empty coffers, how dare there be any plans put forward to upzone and add density to our community or Los Angeles in general?

Here’s the latest article from Steve Lopez (L.A. Times writer) on our Emergency Response situation:


Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Fire Chief Brian Cummings discuss response times and deployment at a March 13 news conference. (Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times / March 13, 2012)

Weary L.A. firefighters speak up

Steve Lopez, L.A. Times

Longer runs to emergencies, a dysfunctional dispatch system and aging equipment are among dangerous problems:

Last week, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the city’s fire chief said there’s no cause for worry about slower response times after severe cutbacks at LAFD.

So why am I still worried?

Partly, it’s because there still hasn’t been a good explanation for the mumbo jumbo we’ve been fed about the different formulas used to determine response times. My colleagues Kate Linthicum, Robert Lopez and Dave Zahniser have reported that the Fire Department gave misleading information to city officials, reporting that response time was within five minutes 80% of the time when the real number was closer to 60%.

Nobody was lying, we’re told. But the Fire Department has now switched to a more accurate formula for tracking response times.

How hard can this be?

Your house is on fire, you call the Fire Department, and they show up in either four minutes, five, six, 10, whatever.

Does it have to be more complicated than that?

It was on the basis of the rosier information that the mayor and council agreed to big cuts. Now Fire Chief Brian Cummings admits the department should have made clear that it had switched to a different formula, and both he and Villaraigosa tell us both formulas were accurate.


They also said public safety hasn’t been compromised by the mothballing of equipment as part of a plan to save $200 million over three years.

How could it not be compromised?

I’ve been talking to firefighters, and they tell me they’re being run ragged to cover station closures; they say the dispatch system is on the fritz; and they say routine equipment repairs can now take months because of a shrunken maintenance crew.

“This department is being held together with bubble gum, baling wire and duct tape,” says Pat McOsker, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City.

“Forty percent of the time we are not getting there in time to prevent brain death,” said McOsker, referring to the length of time it generally takes for someone who’s not breathing to suffer lasting injury.

You’d expect that argument from a union boss, but McOsker’s not the only critic here.

Austin Beutner, a former Villaraigosa deputy who’s now running for mayor, has stirred things up by digging into response times and other dirty little secrets. He said some parts of the city aren’t getting close to a five-minute response 60% of the time, and even if they were, why would that be acceptable?

“We should be talking about why we’re not at 90%,” said Beutner, who pointed out that San Francisco is pretty close to that number.

“I heard the City Council stand up and brag when they made this last round of cuts about how this was going to make us safer,” said Beutner, who ripped his former City Hall mates — some of whom he’s now running against in the mayor’s race — for not being more inclined toward critical analysis. “The buck stops … with those who were elected to oversee all of this, and what have this council and mayor been doing the last three or four years?”

Mid-City resident Mike Eveloff has been doing his own spade work, demanding Fire Department records and crunching numbers. When you remove equipment from service and shutter or partially shutter fire stations, you’re playing a game of Russian roulette, said Eveloff.

“You see them on longer and longer runs because they don’t have as many firefighters. As an example, my station, 92, they were sent 14 miles away to the eastern part of Hollywood with red lights and siren. It’s happening all the time,” said Eveloff.

“If you look into the eyes of these guys, they are beat to death.”

And so, they tell me, is the equipment.

Tony Mastrolia, senior heavy duty mechanic, said a hiring freeze, early retirement and defections to the Department of Water and Power — which inexplicably pays mechanics far more, thanks to the agency’s union clout with elected officials — have slashed his staff by about 30%. Also, a heavy equipment repair unit in the Valley was shut down, so those trucks now have to schlep all the way downtown.

So it takes longer for trucks to get serviced, said Mastrolia. And when they’re down, it means the much older reserve fleet is rolled out, “and now those are breaking down.”

E. Max Hengst, a 28-year veteran and now a captain at Station 76 in the Cahuenga Pass area, said the troops are still professionals with a lot of pride, but “morale in this department is as low as it’s ever been.” His crew has answered calls as far away as Woodland Hills, he said, and the busy pace and long runs take their toll. Hengst wrote a book, “LAFD FF/PM, Memoirs of an Outside Dog,” in which he makes a sad observation:

“When I first came on, retirement was a sad day for the retiree. Now it seems like the retiree can’t leave soon enough.”

I decided to call a recently retired captain I met under difficult circumstances. It was way back on March 5, 2004, when a cyclist took a nasty fall near the L.A. Zoo.

“You were conscious,” said Ed Banda, the now-retired captain from Station 76, whose crew rushed to my aid in about five minutes as he recalls. “But you were making repetitive statements indicating some sort of head trauma.”

They put me on a board, collared my neck, immobilized my head, and I was whipped over to County-USC Medical Center, where I suffered two seizures in ER but lived to write about it.

Banda said 76 often rolled far from home in later years, thanks to the cutbacks, so 2004 was a good year to fall off a bike.

As for me, I’ve had a full recovery, except for a throbbing pain in my head every time the mayor says don’t worry.


L.A.F.D. Admits Exaggerating Response Times

Los Angeles Fire Department officials on Friday admitted to The Times that for years the agency put out data that made it appear that firefighters were arriving at the scene of emergencies faster than they actually were.

L.A. Times 3-10-2012

The statistics snafu comes as the department is facing increased scrutiny over how budget reductions have affected service.

The dust-up began Thursday, when candidate Austin Beutner complained in a Huffington Post column that recent Fire Department budget cuts have sent response times for medical emergencies soaring. Beutner laid the blame on the City Council members who approved the cuts, singling out mayoral rivals Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry. He also criticized another opponent, City Controller Wendy Greuel, for failing to scrutinize the effect of the cuts.

Relying on Fire Department reports presented to lawmakers, Beutner said that in 2008 the department responded to medical emergencies within five minutes 86% of the time. After the cuts, the department last year met that standard just 59% of the time, he said.

Following Beutner’s critique — and a Times inquiry — the department made an awkward admission: Data showing it did so well in the past were simply wrong.

Federal guidelines call for first responders to arrive on scene in under five minutes 90% of the time. But a former department statistician counted all responses within six minutes, officials explained, which improved the record. Retired Capt. Billy Wells, who crunched the data with a hand calculator, said he followed the department’s long tradition of using a six-minute response standard.

Wells’ successor, Capt. Mark Woolf, said he reluctantly continued using the flawed formula for a time because he didn’t want to be blamed for a sudden drop in department performance. “I didn’t want to touch that [extra] minute because I knew the data would take a dump,” he said.

Corrected data generated by a new computer system shows that in 2008, the department actually hit the five-minute goal only 64% of the time, officials said. By last year, that number had fallen to about 60%.

Fire Chief Brian Cummings said his department’s performance is pretty good, given the 16% reduction to its budget in recent years, which has led to the elimination of firetrucks or ambulances at about one-fourth of the city’s 106 fire stations.

LAFD Deployment Plan Under Fire

Response time ideally in Los Angeles is 5 minutes. That first 5 minutes are critical to save a life, prevent the roof from collapsing and to halt a brush fire. Yet the City of Los Angeles has cut back on fire fighting resources and manpower causing many fire stations to close and fire trucks to go off line. Watch the video below to see how far Los Angeles is slipping from its stated response goal.

This is the first of a three part segment on NBC Los Angeles, Robert Kovacik Reports