Solano Canyon Is Under Attack!
The City of Los Angeles, in 2012, adopted what is called “The Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils” (see the link here). Included in its six-point ‘goals and objectives’ is the statement that its intent is to
Promote public participation in City governance and decision making processes so that government is more responsive to local needs and requests and so that more opportunities are created to build partnerships with government to address local needs and requests
Unfortunately, the original plan did not foresee, and therefore did not address, the notion that it might be desirable in the future to subdivide an existing neighborhood council for a number of reasons, including unexpected population growth.
One such neighborhood council is the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council (HCNC), that includes the historic neighborhoods near Downtown Los Angeles of Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Victor Heights, the Arts District, El Pueblo (essentially the Olvera Street area), and Solano Canyon, the historic neighborhood that was founded in 1866 by Francisco Solano. The website of the HCNC may be found online at https://empowerla.org/hcnc/.
The Problem Facing Solano Canyon Today
A cohort from Chinatown is currently trying to subdivide the HCNC, cutting out Little Tokyo and the Arts District and consolidating the HCNC’s political power in Chinatown. The proposed subdivision would be called the Historic Cultural North Neighborhood Council (HCNNC). This blog is an attempt to document the chaotic, underhanded, and completely unprofessional manner with which the HCNNC subdivision application has been handled by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) and the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) from the beginning of this unfortunate and one-sided process and make it a matter of public record. DONE and BONC are staffed by public servants, who are bound by a set of standards that, when they are violated, may leave the individuals involved subject to administrative, civil, and sometimes even criminal, sanctions.
There is ostensibly a process (see http://empowerla.org/subdivision/) for subdivision of a neighborhood council; but the process as it is described online has either not been followed or seems to have been changed at the whim of DONE, in particular by Mike Fong, Director of Policy and Government Relations. Mr. Fong clearly has political aspirations: he was a Field Deputy for former Councilman Ed Reyes; he ran, unsuccessfully, for the California Assembly (losing to Jimmy Gomez); and he has expressed his interest in running for a Los Angeles City Council seat. The leading proponent of the HCNNC subdivision proposal is Angelica Lopez Moyes, who is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the HCNC, the host council.
Communication between Mike Fong and Angelica Lopez Moyes has been sporadic and contradictory — at least that part of their communication that is a matter of public record; Mr. Fong seems to have gone out of his way to apply existing procedural rules only when it suits or abets Ms. Moyes’ project. That Ms. Moyes is leading an effort to subdivide the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council (HCNC) is curious, since Ms. Moyes is a resident of Echo Park and not of any of the communities that are part of either the existing HCNC or the proposed HCNNC.
A case in point: On Thursday, 16 November 2017, Mr. Fong wrote to Ms. Moyes in an email, which says, in part
Hi, Angelica ... The subdivision process will open soon. Applications will be accepted until January 15, 2018.
This shows clearly that Mr. Fong was well-aware, at least by 16 November 2017, the date of this email, that Ms. Moyes intended to submit a subdivision application. While there is, on the surface, of course, nothing wrong with the fact that Mr. Fong and Ms. Moyes had communicated prior to that date, it clearly establishes the fact of their early communication. There has been a pervasive feeling on the part of some stakeholders that much of the subdivision process has been conducted ‘behind closed doors’ in an apparent effort to conceal the overall process from a large number of stakeholders in caucuses surrounding Chinatown, especially those areas where Ms. Moyes believed there was latent opposition to her proposal.
It is clear from the actions of Ms. Moyes and the HCNNC Formation Committee that the purpose of the subdivision is to consolidate political power in the Chinatown caucus. There are numerous examples, but this one is striking; this is an email from Ms. Moyes to Mr. Fong on 14 March 2018 (using one of the three email addresses she uses):
An attachment to this email included the ‘significant bylaws change’ referred to by Ms. Moyes in her email. In it, of 20 proposed board positions for the subdivided neighborhood council, three each are allotted to Victor Heights, El Pueblo, and Solano Canyon; five are allotted to Chinatown; and there are five at-large seats plus one youth representative. If the five at-large seats were to be acquired by Chinatown, then that caucus would constitute a quorum at any Board meeting, which is defined in the proposed by-laws as ten members’ being present. This means that, any time Chinatown would wish to conduct any business of the council on its own behalf and for its own benefit, that caucus would then be able to do so without the participation of any other caucus.
It appears that someone is intent on structuring the board positions for the proposed HCNC subdivision in such a way that guarantees that Chinatown will retain enough power to determine any decisions made by the new board. In an email dated 15 March 2018, three days after a BONC meeting on Monday, 12 March 2018, Ms. Moyes sent an email to Mr. Fong at DONE that stated the following:
We went ahead and inserted the language for limiting seats in a section of the Bylaws which were sent yesterday. Perhaps we may explain in more detail our concern when communicating about the other questions that we had. Hopefully, we are able to connect soon. Currently working to pull together all of the work done since the BONC meeting including correspondence with those opposing the solutions we arrived at together [Emphasis added].
One can only conclude that the first sentence of this email refers to the concern on the part of the subdivision committee that they need to structure the allocation of board member positions in such a way as to confer as much political power in Chinatown as possible so that the result will be complete control of the new neighborhood council by Chinatown.
Ms. Moyes is always quick to assert that all of her actions are for the benefit of the proposed subdivision council as a whole; notice how, in the above-referenced email, she makes that very assertion. In fact, however, the actions of the HCNNC Formation Committee demonstrate nothing of the sort. The committee has gone to great lengths not to conduct outreach in areas that it feels are not completely supportive of the subdivision process.
As a result of several California Public Records Act (CA PRA) requests, it has become clear that much of what Ms. Moyes writes is simply gratuitous nonsense and, in many cases, is simply untrue — that is, unsupported by fact. Whether that failure of truth is intentional on the part of Ms. Moyes is unclear. Ms. Moyes, however, has positioned herself as an expert in everything she says, and her attitude is clearly that the reader is expected to accept that whatever she says is unimpeachable because she says it; the email to Mr. Fong from Ms. Moyes on 14 March 2018, referred to above, is typical of her expression of that attitude. By her saying that
... [M]ost of the documentation is in response to criticism received and it demonstrates that we have engaged further with fellow Stakeholders throughout this process [Emphasis added].
This ridiculous assertion on the part of Ms. Moyes lauding the subdivision committee’s outreach again demonstrates nothing of the sort; what it shows is that Ms. Moyes’ attitude is that everything she says is always right, and that her assertion at the moment should suffice as proof of that ‘fact’.
The HCNNC subdivision application has apparently been a part of Ms. Moyes’ plan for more than a year; the actual application was put together hastily after that 16 November 2017 date. In an email from Ms. Moyes to board members of the HCNC dated 20 December 2018, Ms. Moyes states:
Further in the same email, Ms. Moyes asserts the following:
Ms. Moyes’ contention that she (or members of her committee) contacted — or at least intended to contact — all HCNC board members individually is patently false. On the basis of their statements, no HCNC board member from Solano Canyon or Victor Heights (the two neighborhoods referred to in the email quoted above) has ever been contacted by Ms. Moyes’ committee. Several HCNC board members report that they attempted to schedule a meeting through Ms. Moyes, but she made herself conveniently unavailable. This issue is but one of the many falsehoods that the subdivision committee has perpetrated.
Ms. Moyes submitted a three-page document as part of a CA PRA request that consisted of responses to comments from people who spoke on the record at the 12 March 2018 BONC meeting; a sample is provided, below.
Alejandra Flores, Los Angeles Theater Academy (Solano Canyon Stakeholder)
Ron Fong and Danny Young are HCNC board members who have stated that they were never contacted by anyone from the HCNNC formation committee, including Ms. Moyes; her response, however, is another example of the rationale she uses to convince everyone that the committee is ‘doing everything right’.
Outreach has been ongoing.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Outreach, especially in the peripheral caucuses like Victor Heights and Solano Canyon, ranged from limited to nonexistent. The emphasis from the beginning has been on Chinatown, Chinatown, and only Chinatown.
While the 15 January 2018 deadline appears, on the surface, to be a hard date for submission of subdivision applications, that date quickly became meaningless in the present instance.
Quoting from the above-referenced website,
Outreach – the outreach process used to identify stakeholders within the proposed Neighborhood Council boundaries must be described in detail and 200 to 500 signatures from stakeholders that have an interest within the proposed Neighborhood Council boundaries must be submitted and should reflect the broadest array of stakeholders who will actively participate in the proposed Neighborhood Council [Emphasis added]. Stakeholder signature petitions must include the stakeholder’s first and last name, a contact email and/or phone, type of stakeholder (live, work, own real property or community interest) and the physical address associated with their stakeholdership. The physical address cannot be a post office box. The petition should also include language that states that the stakeholders understand that they are signing to support the creation of a new Neighborhood Council via the subdivision of existing Neighborhood Councils [Emphasis added]. Please include the names of the proposed and existing Neighborhood Councils.
This section was violated repeatedly in the case of the HCNNC subdivision application. First, the stipulation of ‘200 to 500 stakeholders’ is vague as to its exact meaning: does it mean that any number between 200 and 500 is acceptable? Does it mean that 200 and 500 signatures are minimum and maximum numbers? Does it mean that 201 signatures may be acceptable in one case, but 499 may not be in another? Does it mean that DONE may accept whatever number it wishes, and if that is so, depending on what, exactly? No criteria are specified.
Second, the language regarding a certification that stakeholders understand that they are signing is critical here. How is that certification made? Of the eventual total of about 250 signatures that were submitted — and I maintain that there is ample evidence to suspect that many of those signatures were obtained fraudulently — more than 90% were Chinese names; and at the above-referenced public meeting held by BONC on Monday, 12 March 2018, Don Toy said on the record that many signatures from Cathay Manor were obtained from stakeholders who not only did not understand what they were signing, they signed because they were told to do so. (One of the reasons many of these signers did not understand what they were signing is that the subdivision application was never translated from English into Chinese or any other language for those who are not proficient in English.) Several observers at the meeting say that the advising Deputy City Attorney who is assigned to advice the HCNC, Carmen Hawkins, appeared to be signaling to Mr. Toy while he was speaking. What message was Ms. Hawkins attempting to convey to Mr. Toy? It was as if she were ‘warning’ Mr. Toy not to say too much on-the-record, thereby revealing himself.
The application process is specified in the “Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils (Plan)”. Article III, Section 2 of the above-named ‘Plan’ states, in part,
If, at any time during the processes described in this section, DONE determines that an application is incomplete, it shall return the application to the applicants along with a detailed list in writing of the missing components required in a certification application and suggestions on how to incorporate missing components. Applicants whose certification application was determined to be incomplete and returned by DONE may at any time re-submit the application after amending it to meet all the necessary criteria [Emphasis added].
A CA PRA request to DONE to determine whether this proscription was followed failed to provide evidence that such notification was ever made, which is yet another failure on the part of DONE to follow established protocol and procedure.
Third, the HCNC is the neighborhood council that would be affected by the HCNNC subdivision, were it to become finalized; yet, a number of emails provided through a CA PRA request to HCNC clearly demonstrates that there was significant communication going on between Ms. Moyes and others about the proposed subdivision well before the Board of HCNC was first notified of the subdivision. This smacks of an effort, lead by Ms. Moyes, to keep information from HCNC, while at the same time, Ms. Moyes was working with the Echo Park Neighborhood Council (EPNC) to garner support for the subdivision. This is particularly troubling, especially since Tad Yenawine, the President of EPNC, and Ms. Moyes, at least at one time, had an easily-provable romantic involvement. Mr. Yenawine should have insisted on recusing himself in all matters related to the HCNNC subdivision application because of his relationship with Ms. Moyes; yet he did not. In fact, Ms. Moyes actively solicited, and even was able to obtain, a letter of support from EPNC for the subdivision application. It was only after vigorous and vocal objection on the part of HCNC to this behind-the-scenes activity that the letter of support was eventually rescinded. All of this occurred before anyone on the HCNC board was even made aware that Ms. Moyes was preparing a subdivision application.
Fourth, there is ample reason to believe that some — perhaps many — of the signatures that were obtained in support of the subdivision application were obtained fraudulently. As a case in point, one such signature was that of Mei Lau. Ms. Lau has stated on the record that she did not sign the signature page. Her on-the-record assertion must be accepted at face value, absent proof to the contrary. This is a portion of an email from Ms. Lau that was part of a CA PRA request #20265
In the manner that has become typical of the tenor of Ms. Moyes’ response to any and all criticism, she said that she believes that the signature of Ms. Lau is genuine. It should be pointed out that what Ms. Moyes believes is of no relevance whatsoever; in point of fact, if Ms. Moyes cannot prove that Ms. Lau’s signature is genuine, then one must believe the on-the-record assertion of Ms. Lau that she did not sign the page; and the only conclusion that can be drawn from this conflicting evidence is that Ms. Lau’s signature was obtained fraudulently. If that is the case, one must wonder whether other signatures were also obtained fraudulently. Given that it was proved that signatures were obtained fraudulently for the HCNC board election two years ago, in which 430 people were registered using a single email address (the original owner of which was Don Toy) as well as from a single physical address (Cathay Manor), is it not prudent to verify the method that was used to verify signatures for something as important as a subdivision application that will physically divide the HCNC? Remember that Don Toy stated on the record at the BONC meeting12 March 2018 that he obtained signatures for the HCNNC subdivision application from the same Cathay Manor, the subject of the fraudulent signatures from the HCNC election two years previously.
The issue of an insufficient number of signatures — some likely fraudulent or, at best, fraudulently-acquired — was addressed by several people at the 12 March 2018 BONC meeting; here is a sample, including Ms. Moyes’ response:
Lydia Moreno, HCNC Board Member (Solano Canyon)
This is a blatant falsehood. The fact is that there were many, many pages of signatures that were not submitted to DONE until 30 January 2018, which is evidenced by the following email, and which date is two weeks after the 15 January 2018 deadline. This is a portion of an email from DONE dated 16 February 2018 in response to CA PRA Request 20265 that was submitted 10 February 2018:
In other words, Ms. Moyes assertion that “... all pages [were] sent to DONE before January 16, 2018” is not simply a falsehood; it should be called for what it is: a lie. It is a statement that is used intentionally for the purpose of deception. And ‘... before January 16, 2018” means that the signature pages had to have been submitted at least by the day before, which was 15 January 2018, the ostensible deadline for submission of the subdivision application; yet the initial subdivision application was submitted at 9:17 pm on 15 January 2018 by Ms. Moyes. The document was incomplete in that it contained only 128 signatures, 12 of which were from EPNC board members who were ineligible to sign and were subsequently invalidated. The ‘bottom line’ here is that, by any standard, the subdivision application was incomplete as of 15 January 2018.
As stated above, a CA PRA request provided no evidence that DONE rejected the initial submission or sent the required letter of explanation to the formation committee to explain the nature of the deficiency or deficiencies. A separate CA PRA request to DONE on 22 January 2018 requested all attachments to the HCNNC subdivision application. The request was answered the following day, 23 January 2018. The requestor, Lydia Moreno (HCNC Board member and Treasurer) then asked, by email,
Is this all the pages? I’m interested in the signature pages? Is this all there is[?]
This query was answered by DONE on 24 January 2018:
I confirmed with staff that everything that was attached to the application was forwarded to you.
In short, Ms. Moyes’ statement,
All signatures gathered through January 15, 2018, and pages sent to DONE before January 16, 2018 [Emphasis added].
was a lie.
Finally, this statement by Ms. Moyes is staggering in its falsity. Falsity is ‘the fact of being untrue, incorrect, or insincere’.
Speaker (name to be confirmed)
Ms. Moyes, once again, is employing her tactic of assertion in the face of any challenge in an attempt to dominate opinion — even if her assertions are, in fact, lies or at best inaccuracies — and it is clear that one of the primary reasons, and perhaps the only reason, for the current HCNNC subdivision application is that Chinatown wishes to be its own neighborhood council — at least, that is what Ms. Moyes has asserted.
The relevant statement is
... a group has gathered in Chinatown to organize a campaign to separate from the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council (HCNC), and form its own Council.
Notice that the contact person is none other than Ms. Moyes. Since Ms. Moyes asserts that Chinatown wishes to become its own neighborhood council, then what is the need for the deceptive tactics and falsehoods surrounding the fraudulent HCNNC application? Would Ms. Moyes not be better-served if she were simply to submit an application to create a stand-alone Chinatown Neighborhood Council?
One of the primary objectives in Ms. Moyes desperate attempt to force the ill-conceived HCNNC subdivision application through the process, aside from the obvious attempt at a power-grab by Chinatown at the expense of the surrounding neighborhood caucuses, is to paint a derogatory and altogether false picture of the state of the HCNC:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this Application for Subdivision of the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council. We, The Committee, place our trust that you will thoroughly consider not only the Application, but also the current state of our neighborhood and the ongoing problems we have neither overcome nor addressed for many years [Emphasis added].
Collusion, Dereliction Of Duty, and Denial Of Due Process
This entire subdivision application process is so fraught with dishonesty, outright lies, fraud, and likely collusion between Ms. Moyes and Mr Fong that it deserves nothing more than to be dismissed out-of-hand in its entirety.
Finally, one must ask: Why has Carmen Hawkins, as the advising Deputy City Attorney, not addressed these many obvious problems and clear violations of protocol and procedure with the HCNNC, DONE, and BONC during this process; it seems that the City had taken the position simply to turn its head and blindly allow this fraud to be perpetrated on the HCNC. In the end, it may be likely that litigation is the only remedy that the stakeholders of the HCNC have left to them to correct this atrocity.Here, Ms. Moyes is, once again, attempting to assert her clear authority to determine what is, and what is not, either important or true. Were it not so potentially damaging to the neighborhood caucuses of the HCNC, her patently self-serving attempts would be pathetic.
About the Author
Lawrence Bouett is a retired research scientist and registered professional engineer who now conducts historical and genealogical research full-time. A ninth-generation Californian, his primary historical research interests are Los Angeles in general and the Stone Quarry Hills in particular. His ancestors arrived in California with Portolá in 1769 and came to Los Angeles from Mission San Gabriel with the pobladores on September 4, 1781.
Lawrence Bouett may be contacted directly here.