A few days before Christmas
Just after Hanukkah
Something’s different this year
SoCal’s Covid symphonica
Thin crowds of shoppers
Stand apart as they nod
It’s just not the same old
Traditions fall off
Amid Covid’s chill
From Fashion Island to Melrose
South Coast Plaza to Hill
When down Santee Alley
Who should appear
But Hanukkah Harry
And a team of reindeer
He pulls up his sleigh
Says hello through his mask
He smiles and he waves
And gets ready to ask
He cannot stay long
He just stopped to say
That Santa and he
Are working away
“There’s trouble around
All through our world
Enough to be frightful
For each boy and girl
So Santa and I
Must share this year’s load
For only one person
It’s too long of a road
Covid has come and
Brought many tears
We want to bring hope
And ease some of your fears
Will you help us along?
And help yourself, too?
Wear the mask, wash your hands
’Til this virus is through?
There’s light on the way
A vaccine aimed to help
Ask God and check science—
Forget those who just yelp
Raise questions and read
Think it through as you must
The information is there
To decide what to trust
It’s been a tough year
That’s saying the least
Let’s finish up strong
For our holiday feast
Stay close in your hearts while
You keep social distance
Give up holiday hugs
In this special instance
Remember that life
Was not always like this
We’ll get back to normal
Sometime after Christmas
Or Kwanzaa or New Year
For your holiday of choice
Skip shaking hands
And greet with your voice
Do your best to hold on
Just a bit longer
And we’ll meet again next year
All the wiser and stronger”
— By Jerry Sullivan
Forward Calls Question, Galperin Whiffs on Response
The touch of lightness and hope I’ve aimed for with this year’s crafting of my annual holiday poem would be a nice place to end.
Instead, a recent discussion shaped by the local Jewish community—moderated with equal measures of hope and frankness by Rob Eshman, national editor and SoCal columnist for the Forward—compels a year-end reality check.
Eshman took to Zoom on December 15 for a panel talk under the title of “Why Can’t We Solve Homelessness Now?” The panel included Dana Cuff, a professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA; Susan Kolkowicz, a formerly homeless resident manager at the Downtown Women’s Center; Noah Farkas, Rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom and a commissioner of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority; and LA City Controller Ron Galperin.
Eshman early on gave Galperin a wide-open shot to step up as a leader with two elections to citywide office to his credit. It came in a question about why the city spends so much on housing for the homeless—currently around $540,000 per unit, on average, and $130,000 for 8-foot-by-8-foot “tiny homes” being deployed on an emergency basis.
Galperin whiffed, falling back on clichés. He noted that the City of LA’s costs top those of other locales by as much as 10-fold in some cases, and blamed an “overwhelming bureaucracy” for the disparity.
That sounds to me like a euphemism for waste or corruption or some other plain problem.
And it sounds as though Galperin needs to talk straight if he has larger ambitions in LA, where the mayor’s job is up for grabs in 2022.
That’s my view and not from Eshman, who kept an even tone and made sure the panelists got plenty of opportunity to present a forward focus, discussing possible solutions. But he also did his job as a journalist, respectfully pressing Galperin with a direct question on where the buck stops when it comes to the obvious failures on homelessness in LA.
Galperin whiffed again, citing the mix of federal, state, county and city agencies with a hand in addressing homelessness as reason for why there is “no one with whom the buck stops.”
Eshman followed up again, calling that a “recipe for disaster”—and he might have gotten an unintended jump on predictions for next year with that assessment.
You can watch the entire discussion here.
New Voice in SF Valley
A sense of pending disaster found human voice with calls I got from several homeowners in the San Fernando Valley just a couple of days after the Forward panel discussion.
It quickly became clear that voters will be stepping in to decide where the buck stops on homelessness in LA.
Expect it to come to a screeching halt on the desk of LA City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield if plans for a couple of “Cabin Communities” of those so-called tiny homes go awry in his San Fernando Valley district.
The plan calls for two supervised shelters to be established on city-owned land to host clusters of the two-person cabins, with social services on premises and meals provided daily. Both would be in the middle of residential areas, with a Reseda location expected to hold 50 units, and another 75 in Tarzana.
Credit Blumenfield with a lengthy response to many of his constituents’ questions, which you can see here.
Note also that opponents of the Cabin Community slated for Reseda want to know more, including specifics on the financials behind the project. That hits upon something that city officials are less than straightforward about when it comes to the billions of dollars in public funds that taxpayers have agreed to provide for homelessness programs.
Some Reseda residents are asking as they organize with the help of Change.org, as you can see here.
Does Uptown Newport Defy Location, Location, Location?
The legacy media continues to provide head-scratching reports on the sale of a single acre of land at the Uptown Newport development on Jamboree Road at the gob-smacking price of $26 million.
The Orange County Business Journal most recently maintained a straight face in a December 21 report that Dallas-based developer USA Infrastructure Investments has landed an $80 million construction loan and expects to price the 66 condominiums it plans for a six-story building on the site between $1.1 million and $4.3 million. OCBJ held the expression while comparing that price range with that of local builder New Home Co.’s Meridian in Newport Beach, which came online five years ago with 79 units priced from $1.5 million to $4 million.
The comp sounds about right until you realize that the proposed new development at Uptown Newport is on Jamboree Road near the Irvine boundary—about as far inland as you can get and still claim a Newport Beach address. Or that it’s adjacent to a working semiconductor plant next door. Or that dining options within easy walking distance include Wienerschnitzel and Taco Bell.
The comp starts to sound wrong when you consider the Meridian has ocean views from its location adjacent to world-class shopping at Fashion Island, with Cucina Enoteca, Fig & Olive and Caneletto Ristorante among the white-tablecloth spots within a short stroll.
You can see this column’s prior coverage of Uptown Newport here.
Masimo Not Color Blind on Device Development
A deeper look into an alarming headline that got national attention ended up shedding light on a positive aspect of SoCal’s medical device industry, which includes Masimo Corp., a major maker of pulse oximeter devices that go over a finger to measure blood-oxygen levels.
A letter to the editor published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine warned of the potential for what its authors described as an unwitting bias in some pulse oximeters. The group of doctors from the University of Michigan said they’ve conducted studies that indicate darker skin tones can lead to higher incidents of inaccurate readings for Black patients compared with Whites in some of the devices.
I’m glad to say that’s not the case with the devices made by Irvine-based Masimo, where company founder and Chief Executive Joe Kiani recently took the time to explain that not all pulse oximeters are the same.
“Masimo makes the most accurate and reliable pulse oximeter—that’s why only Masimo pulse oximetry has been shown to dramatically reduce ROP (damage to the eye, including blindness) in neonatal patients, and detect congenital heart disease in newborns,” Kiani wrote, also noting that his company includes “significant numbers of darker-skinned subjects in the calibration and validation of its pulse oximeters to minimize bias and inaccuracy due to color of the skin.”
Separated at Birth
Something on the lighter side as an often-dim 2020 draws to a close—has anyone ever seen Oscar winner Sean Penn in the same room as Mark Anderson, chief executive of Irvine-based analytics software maker Alteryx Inc.?
There will be no column next week, in observance of the year-end holidays; weekly coverage will resume on January 5.