Number one priority is the safety of our community…always has been and always will be. With property crimes in California and Whittier increasing, many people in Whittier have personally experienced the increase in crime… thefts of packages on the front porch, car break-ins, home break-ins, etc. And all of us went through the horrendous impact of the death of Officer Keith Boyer and the wounding of Officer Patrick Hazell; crimes that should have never occurred because the perpetrator should have been behind bars. As a city, we have been extremely active in working on the crime problem in three ways. First, last year the city council invested $2.5M in the Whittier Police Department for a new problem oriented policing team (POP), new radio system, canines, and GPS theft tracking devices. Second, the police need more eyes and ears on the street and that’s us, the residents. We have emphasized residents getting involved in Neighborhood Watch (in 2016, 73 groups, in 2017, 94 groups) and we are in the process of beefing up this effective program. Third, on the Sacramento legislative front, we are doing something that other cities are joining with us… pushing for reforms/changes of the criminal “reform laws” (AB 109, Prop 47, Prop 57). In fact the statewide League of California Cities adopted Whittier’s multipronged effort which is in the form of legislation last year and this year. I am helping to push forward these reforms and testified before the Legislature. Importantly our initiative, KeepCalsafe.org, is currently circulating which if enough signatures are gathered, will be on the November 2018 ballot to restore some sanity to our criminal justice system and provide us some protection. If this proposition had been the law, Officer Boyer would not have been taken from us.
We all have felt it…it seems like traffic in Southern California is up and more congested than ever and Whittier is no exception. It is a major concern of the Mayor and we have found that much of the traffic on Whittier Blvd. (east-west), Colima Road and Norwalk Blvd (north-south) is “cut through” traffic where people are avoiding the 60 freeway or the 605 freeway. It seems that technology is causing this to happen as Waze gives alternate routes for commuters through Whittier. And this is especially true during the morning and afternoon rush hours. So what are we doing to try to mitigate the traffic? Several things… We are in the process of designing synchronization of traffic signals along Lambert Road (a great alternate to Whittier Blvd.). We are working on “hot spot” projects that take the major intersections on Whittier Blvd (Norwalk, Painter, Colima and Five Points) to redesign and widen for better traffic flow. Recently the Council directed staff to look into taking over Whittier Blvd from CalTrans which would allow us to control traffic flow through our city (with Whittier Blvd. under CalTrans control our ability to manage traffic is minimal at best). As we review potential new development, we balance the number of units to be built and the resulting traffic impacts (in addition to fire/police and other service needs).
All of us are aware of the problem of homelessness in our community. Homelessness is a regional issue and I am proud to say that Whittier is a leader in combating homelessness. Our efforts to house women and children are paying off with collaboration between the Women’s and Children’s Crisis Shelter, Salvation Army, The Whole Child and our newest organization, Imagine Whittier, which mentors homeless mothers and children to keep them from falling back into the cycle of poverty. Many of the homeless among us are mentally ill and our year-old specialized police Mental Evaluation Team (MET) has successfully intervened with more than a dozen homeless individuals who are now off the street, in supportive housing and receiving care. Whittier’s award-winning First Day continues to do exemplary work by helping to transition those homeless who desire to get off the street into housing and self-productive living. Last year the city adopted a plan for addressing homelessness and is in the process of adding teeth to that plan. And we are so fortunate to have the wholly volunteer Whittier Consortium on Homelessness, with many people from various sectors of Whittier (churches, non-profits, etc.), all working together to make a difference. If you would like to be part of the solution, let me know and we will get you linked in.
Uptown continues to grow and prosper with new restaurants and shopping opportunities coming our way. The formation of a business improvement district by the property owners holds great promise for continued revitalization. Breaking ground in 2018, the city is heavily involved with the development of a much needed new Uptown parking structure (tried parking in Uptown recently?). With the adoption of a streetscape infrastructure and beautification plan for Uptown, with improvements in security, streets, and sidewalks, this new “foodie” destination will be even more vibrant and offer more to our residents.
Shuttered Nelles Youth Facility
Dirt will be turned in April on this long awaited, 72-acre mixed use development. What has been a longstanding community eyesore/ blighted property will soon spring new life and new opportunities. The $300M project (yes, $300M!) will bring up to 750 high quality, market rate ownership and rental units, a brand new commercial shopping district and the rehabilitation of existing historic structures for a unique shopping and entertainment experience. The housing element will provide residential opportunities for multi-generations (singles, young families, active seniors), job opportunities (PIH Health Hospital is within steps) and new shopping for our residents. The former “bad boy” school promises to transform the western half of Whittier and provide synergy to the new Uptown. I will continue to push for a “people mover” transportation mode between Whittier College, Uptown, the Lincoln/Nelles development and PIH Hospital, extending later to Whittwood, the Quad and back to Whittier College/Uptown.
As a kid, I remember giving my book reports at the Whittier Central Library to volunteers as part of the Summer Reading Club which still exists for this current generation of children. But the Central Library, a circa 1959 community treasure, is in need of work. And a large majority of Whittier residents agree. Recently the council voted to look at the “bones” of the facility (portions of the structure have not been upgraded since 1959) and do what is necessary to make sure that this community asset is capable of being utilized by generations to come. But there is another aspect of the library that we need to explore… the library of the future that focuses on high-speed internet that reaches the world. We will be looking at this shortly. If you have some thoughts, let me know.
Whittier and the world are desperate for a major upgrade in communications technology. Technology marches on and 5G is one of the near term technologies that will power the information economy in the future. But how can we in Whittier become part of this exciting new development? Whittier is potentially on the cusp of a transformational high-speed internet protocol known as “5G” (the nickname is “gig in your pocket” meaning very fast yet available through your cell phone). The major carriers are getting ready to transition from the slower, 4G, to providing wireless to homes, voice, data and TV for very low prices and very high speeds… much faster than current service at a greatly reduced price. Whittier has some unique characteristics, and the major carriers who are transitioning from 4G to 5G will find our community interesting. What are those characteristics? Whittier has fibre optic cable in place, a mix of neighborhoods, schools and businesses that value fast internet and civic cooperation. Whittier College, the Nelles development, schools and city property like parks and buildings, all with a friendly business climate make it easy for the carriers to first install 5G and then gain customers. 5G will allow for both data and for TV and new entertainment like virtual reality to be delivered over the same fast connection. 5G wireless towers will be shorter, cheaper and closer to each other, but connected via optical fibre. The same fibre optic that can connect these new 5G towers can also be used to bring much higher speed internet to our schools and businesses, and Whittier has this fibre already in many places. Due to Whittier’s geography and street plan, our walking trails, parks, city landfill, and friendly businesses like PIH, Rose Hills, etc., we have the opportunity to upgrade both our wireless infrastructure, bring new high tech jobs and partner with our schools to bring further technology to the classroom. Admittedly, this is technology that is on the near horizon and visionary. But imagine Uptown, Whittwood, Quad, our schools, our libraries, all a part of a new broadband system opening up horizons that currently don’t exist for us.