Alpert Elected Neighborhood Panel President


Los Angeles may need to create more than 100 neighborhood councils to give residents adequate control over local issues, according to Northridge attorney Lee Kanon Alpert, who Monday became the first head of a city panel that will oversee creation of a councils system.

Alpert was elected Monday by members of the new Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners to serve as the panel’s president as it begins to develop a system of neighborhood councils approved in concept by city voters this year.

The Valley activist, formerly involved with the secession group Valley VOTE, said many councils will be needed so that each represents a small enough part of the city to allow good public involvement.


Recommendations include either one neighborhood council for each of the 15 City Council districts or one for each of the 35 planning areas, while Councilman Joel Wachs has proposed one for each of the 103 identifiable communities in the city.

“My guess would be there may well be more than 103,” Alpert told reporters Monday, “because if you have a large area you have defeated your own purpose.”

The new board has 12 months, by law, to submit its plan for creating the neighborhood council system to the City Council, which then has six months to revise and finalize it.

Alpert said his goal is to make city government more responsive and effective. The neighborhood councils, he said, will “flip government on its head.” As opposed to the directives coming down from the City Council, where each member represents over a quarter of a million people, the new system would allow local communities to provide direction to City Hall, he said.

The board will look to successful neighborhood council systems in Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis for models in drafting Los Angeles’ program, Alpert said.

One challenge will be to persuade residents to become involved in the councils.

“That’s a real concern,” Alpert said. “If the people don’t get involved, there will be no neighborhood councils.”


To foster involvement, the new Department of Neighborhood Empowerment will hold community hearings and work to interest residents in serving on the councils.

The neighborhood councils will be advisory and are likely to focus on “quality of life issues,” he said.

Alpert said groups can get involved in local issues, such as crime problems, the need to fix potholes and nuisance liquor stores.

There is deep frustration with the way City Hall is dealing with local problems now, Alpert said. At least three areas of the city are threatening secession: the Valley, the Harbor area and Hollywood. Alpert quit the Valley VOTE board last year because it took up too much of his time, he said. Although he supports the study of Valley secession, he said he wants to see the results before taking a position on Valley cityhood.


Alpert acknowledged the neighborhood council plan’s success or failure could have an effect on whether the city breaks apart.

“If it’s not successful, or people in the Valley or Harbor or Hollywood still want to be their own city despite its success, they will vote to secede,” Alpert said.