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A Coastal Commission upgrade, the Dodgers on TV, a green light for Angels Flight and other hopes for 2017

Something you might not have guessed about me is that I’m a sucker for a good musical, but don’t tell anybody. It’s a little embarrassing.

So I went to see “La La Land,” and liked it so much that I might leap out of my car in traffic jams from now on and start dancing like they do in the opening scene.

But it was more than a little frustrating to see Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone enjoying a tender moment on the Angels Flight trolley, which to the rest of us is indefinitely closed for business.

If I were to draw up a wish list of things I’d like to see in 2017, a fix for Angels Flight would be near the top.

Come on, already. This is a 298-foot funicular with just two cars, Olivet and Sinai. How hard can it be to satisfy state regulators, who insist on an escape route in the event of a derailment or accident, of which there have been a few over the years?

The last time I wrote about this two years ago, the trolley — which began running in 1901 between Bunker Hill and the flats and now is operated by the Angels Flight Railway Foundation — had been idle for nearly a year and a half.  Let’s get City Hall on the case, or the MTA, or a philanthropist, or the makers of “La La Land.”

The Downtown News reported that the state Public Utilities Commission had notified Angels Flight that using the funicular in the movie was a no-no. What’s really unacceptable is that we can’t use it. Here’s hoping that before 2018 rolls around, Olivet and Sinai can get back to work rather than rust on the tracks, twin examples of municipal ineptitude.

What else would I like to see in 2017?

How about televised Dodgers games?

No self-respecting major league city goes three years with a baseball blackout because of, as my colleague Bill Plaschke put it, “battling billionaires.”

The Dodgers have made a fortune off the TV rights, but some of the local carriers refused to pony up for the privilege of broadcasting the games. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit two months ago against AT&T, Charter, Cox and DirecTV, so there’s hope of a breakthrough.

As things stand, we’ve got no Vin Scully, no TV, no Angels Flight.

And no excuses.

Now, on to something of greater import: the California Coastal Commission.

The year 2016, which marked the 40th anniversary of the Coastal Act, was not a proud one for the powerful agency charged with regulating coastal development and ensuring maximum preservation and public access.

The problem, in my humble opinion, was not with the professional staff but with the appointed commissioners — some of whom were so feckless, arrogant, unprofessional and cozy with the development lobby that lawsuits were filed and legislative reforms introduced.

And yet Gov. Jerry Brown’s Finance Department decided, in what whiffed of politics from Day One, to conduct an expensive, months-long review of staff operations based on the trumped-up argument that an emergency loan to the agency (standard procedure in state government) was cause for alarm.

It seemed, then and now, that the real reason for the review was retaliation for the public backlash that followed the February firing of beloved staff leader and Executive Director Charles Lester — a blow that marked a battle for control of the agency.

On Friday, we got the results of the witch hunt, and there wasn’t much there. As with any government bureaucracy, there appears to be room for some tighter management and better bean-counting. But greater efficiency is hard to come by when the state has plenty of money for audits but no money to hire more employees at the long-understaffed agency.

To repeat, it was the commissioners who needed the scrub, not the staff.

So here’s my suggested agenda for 2017:

Brown and state leaders need to appoint a higher class of commissioners, whose first duty is to the Coastal Act and the public. The media need to vet every one of those appointments. Commissioners who don’t report full accounts of private meetings must be publicly flogged. And the next executive director has to uphold a tradition of independence and protect the agency, and the coast, from political pressure.

The sudden resignation Friday of Commissioner Wendy Mitchell — who voted on a project involving a client of her consulting agency and apologized to U2 guitarist David “the Edge” Evans for how long it took to approve his habitat-damaging Malibu development, among many other highlights — is not a bad thing for California. We can do better.

One last item.

In 2016, we got lots of political promises and a new stash of voter-approved funding to address homelessness here in the national capital of sprawling encampments. So in 2017, we need to see better results.

As I’ve said before, it’s not as if we don’t know how to get things right.

On Thursday, I spent a few hours with a 73-year-old woman who this holiday season is in her own home for the first time in years.

She told me she had been hanging out at stores by day and riding buses by night, trying her best to catch a few hours of sleep. Then a friend suggested she visit the Women’s Room, a Pasadena nonprofit staffed by volunteers and sponsored by Friends in Deed. There she ate square meals, bathed, became an amateur painter and was connected with Union Station, a homeless services agency.

In November, with help from the nonprofits, she moved into an apartment in West Hollywood.

“I’m still in disbelief,” she told me as I drove her to her apartment from downtown L.A., where she was looking into volunteering for a homeless agency. “It’s like I hit the jackpot or won the lottery.”

She was the third client helped into housing this season by the Women’s Room, which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The woman, who did not want to be identified, told me she seldom misses a Rose Parade and intends to leave home early, by bus, to catch Monday’s.

To her, and to all of you, Happy New Year. And here’s hoping we get a few things done around here.

 

Get more of Steve Lopez's work and follow him on Twitter @LATstevelopez

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