As a member of the Commerce City Council and the current Mayor, I have been involved in discussions both internally and externally regarding significant issues relating to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s services in our City. The challenge that we have faced, along with our neighboring cities of Maywood and Cudahy, is that all the Sheriff’s personnel that work and respond to calls in our City are dispatched from the East Los Angeles Sheriffs Station, which is located approximately 2.8 miles away at the corner of Mednik and 3rd Street. On average, according to dispatch personnel at LA County, Officers spend up to anywhere between one and one-half hours to two hours each day traveling to and from the East LA Station to the City of Commerce. What this means is that we lose 20% of each officer’s workday when they travel to and from the Station. This equates to a loss of services to Commerce of approximately $1.5 million dollars per year! If an officer is required to attend a meeting held at East Los Angeles Station or deal with a mechanical malfunction during his/her shift, even more time is lost with travel time to and from the Station.
Our goal is to improve and enhance public safety while not incurring any additional annual operating costs. The proposed Substation in the City of Commerce would place the officers’ primary reporting location in Commerce. The time saved on travel to and from East LA would result in immediate deployment of officers within the City of Commerce and more immediate deployment in our surrounding Cities of Maywood and Cudahy. Officers dispatched to Maywood and Cudahy would travel our City streets to get to their destinations and therefore provide an additional deterrent benefit to the City.
Mr. Stinnett raised questions about the City’s ability to provide funding for the proposed Substation and to also have sufficient funds available to address the critical issues at Veteran’s Park. Let’s examine the facts. The preliminary discussions would have the City make a one-time payment for the land needed for the Substation. The land, which is part of a 10-acre site on the corner of Telegraph and Washington Boulevard, is owned by the Successor Agency to the City’s redevelopment agency, which took ownership of the property when the State Legislature decided to dissolve redevelopment several years ago. The City would purchase the land from the Successor Agency at the same square foot price that the other portion of the 10-acre parcel is being sold for: approximately $2.8 Million. So where will the $2.8 Million come from? As many in the City know, the 26 acres of land located along Interstate 5 freeway, across from the Citadel will be sold along with the 10-acre parcel at the corner of Telegraph and Washington Boulevard. The combined sales price from these properties will be $36 Million ($26 Million + $10 Million). The City will receive 7% of the $26 Million gross sale proceeds, which equals approximately $1.8 Million. This money has not been earmarked in any of the existing City budgets. Assuming there is no other funding sources for the Sheriff’s Substation land, the net difference between the City’s portion of the sales proceeds ($1.8 Million) and the Sheriff’s Station land purchase price ($2.8 Million) would leave a shortfall of $1 Million. This is a relatively small price to pay for the safety and security of our families and businesses! Also, with the proposed Sheriff Substation, in just over a year and a half, the City would make up the investment by recovering the lost services (approximately $1.5 Million per year).
But that is not the whole story. The City will be exploring a potential for having the land transferred to the City at no cost. The Redevelopment Dissolution Law authorizes redevelopment agency land that is used for “governmental use” to be transferred to a city, at no cost. The City of Commerce has had some properties transferred to it under this law. The City Council will be asking the State Department of Finance to allow the transfer of the Substation land to the City at no cost because the proposed Substation will be an important government use that will benefit Commerce and the entire region.
In closing, I would like to thank the Sheriff and his executive staff who have shown tremendous support, have outlined the benefits of having a Substation in Commerce and are working hard to help make this proposed Substation a reality. While the process is by no means complete, we are at the forefront of having a state-of-the art facility being built in our Model City, at a very strategic location for our residents, our business community and the region. It will send a strong message to those who might challenge the law in our City, that in Commerce, we will respond immediately. While we know the Substation will result in a much greater level of policing efficiency and deployment of existing officers, it is difficult to calculate the full impact that such a level of police presence, literally blocks away from our homes and businesses, will have on our safety. The local job opportunities that will be provided to our residents, local union members and our Veterans, are also important considerations.
In my humble opinion, the proposed Sheriff’s Substation in the City of Commerce may be one of the most important long-term initiatives that we, as Councilmembers and as a community, will undertake. My ultimate goal is to continue taking action that allows the City of Commerce to keep being the “Model City” – the safest city to live in, work in and play in, in all of Southern California.
Ivan Altamirano is mayor of the City of Commerce.