Newsmakers: LA City Council leaders discuss 'Families First' approach to helping homeless, Kobe Bryant memorial, Barrington Plaza fire

The new leadership of the Los Angeles City Council appeared on Newsmakers, signaling a new set of priorities for the city's agenda. Council President Nury Martinez will be focused on "Families First." The agenda is supported by President Pro Tem Joe Buscaino and Assistant President Pro Tem David Ryu.

Martinez explained how Families First will apply to the homeless and housing issue. It's expected that the just-concluded Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count will measure an increase in homelessness.

"I think it's a real call to action on behalf of the leadership to prioritize how women and children are being housed and how we're able to identify people who are on the brink of homelessness," Martinez said. "I think that's so important. Prevention is the key to solving this issue and this crisis."

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Volunteers spent several hours counting the homeless in Santa Monica into the early morning hours of Thursday as part of the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

Plans are underway for a public memorial service for Kobe Bryant. The city, the Lakers and the families of those impacted are working together. The councilmembers said it's not a matter of "if" but "where."

"We're working on a public memorial. We don't have a date yet but I assume it's somewhere in the month of February. It's just a matter of what venue we're going to use," the council president said.

Because of the expected turnout, the L.A. Coliseum may need to be considered.

"I think the Staples Center is too small, there's so much outpouring of love and support," Buscaino said.

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city is still discussing ways on how to properly memorialize Lakers great Kobe Bryant, and how to support his family in funeral planning.

This week's dramatic high-rise fire called attention to the 55 older buildings built before 1974 that are not required to have sprinkler systems. A 19-year-old man has died and more than a dozen victims suffered injury in the fire. The Council is considering a law ordering sprinkler retrofit on the older towers.

"I think it's now time, based on what took place this week in Los Angeles, the high-rise fire, is to put the price tag aside and move forward: mandatory sprinklers. Even the fire chief says we've got to do this," Buscaino said.

MORE: Barrington Plaza lacked sprinkler system. Why is it exempt?
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A West L.A. apartment that caught fire on Wednesday had no sprinklers even though the same building burned seven years ago, authorities said.

The city was on record as opposed to the controversial state measure, SB50, which has died for now. It is expected to be reworked. Opposition was based on local authorities being overridden on density plans.

The Council leadership summarized its opposition.

"I think for the city of Los Angeles, we were very clear, we opposed this bill unless it was amended." Martinez said. "I don't think this bill does enough to address the affordability. And as much as they want to get to communities that are not building anything, they're not treating communities the same. The same can be said about Los Angeles, some neighborhoods are building and some aren't."

Buscaino added, "We can't be penalized for doing the right thing and this is why we want to preserve the local zoning control in our city and beyond."

Ryu said the measure did not do much for affordable housing: "SB50 is on the right track. However, it's not doing enough. It's a land grab. It's an opportunity to just make more profit. Where is the inclusionary zoning?"
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