Will candidates for the highly competitive Los Angeles City Council District 13 race ever seriously talk about and offer solutions for the affordable housing crisis in Hollywood and other parts of the city? That's what Coalition for Economic Survival was wondering when it attended a candidates' forum last night in Hollywood. The tenants' rights group wasn't very pleased with what was said -- or wasn't said.
With the headline on the CES blog blaring, "LA City Council District 13 Debate Has Only One Candidate Committing to Protect Rent Controlled Affordable Housing," the advocacy group, which is run by longtime executive director Larry Gross, stated that "many candidates appeared to be pandering to the pro-business crowd" and were "non-distinguishable for most of the discussion."
L.A. City Council District 13 encompasses some of L.A.'s hippest neighborhoods, including Hollywood, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Echo Park. It's also home to a huge amount of multi-million-dollar development, especially in Hollywood. Where there's big development, there's big money for campaign contributions and a rosy political career.
Mike Woo, who ran for L.A. mayor in 1993 and was defeated in the runoff election by Richard Riordan, represented CD 13. Eric Garcetti, who's a frontrunner for mayor in the 2013 election, currently serves the council district. Former District 13 Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg moved on to serve in the state legislature.
Six candidates showed up at last night's event in Hollywood, which was sponsored by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Hollywood Chamber Political Action Committee. So business was going to be the main topic of the evening.
Those candidates included, John Choi, a former staff member of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; Alex De Ocampo, senior director of Saban Family Foundation; Emile Mack, LAFD Assistant Fire Chief; Mitch O'Farrell, former district field director to Garcetti; Josh Post, state deputy attorney general; and Matt Szabo, former deputy chief of staff for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Hollywood is home to a large number of renters. So CES was clearly disappointed that the candidates focused on such things as providing tax credits to the movie industry and tax breaks to small businesses.
CES also noted that the candidates took up the minor cause of "curbing the 'aggressiveness' of Superman, Darth Vader, Wonder Woman and the other costumed characters on Hollywood Boulevard, with many of the candidates stating that their behavior threatens tourism."
As revealed in the L.A. Weekly cover story, "Hollywood's Urban Cleansing," much bigger issues are taking place at that world-famous neighborhood, especially a mass exodus of poor and working-class Latinos due to pricey development, rising rents, and a shrinking affordable housing stock.
But CES pointed out that only two candidates, Matt Szabo and John Choi, briefly mentioned housing issues during the debate.
Szabo said, "I support density around transit. I think that's the way of the future. I think we have enough cars on the road. However I am not going to do it at the expense of low income communities, immigrants and seniors that have housing here today. I'm going to be very careful not to lose rent controlled units, affordable units. In fact, I want to use the [Hollywood] Community Plan to the greatest extent possible, to preserve and extend affordable housing to the immigrants and seniors and low income communities we have here in Hollywood."
The plan, however, which is facing lawsuits from neighborhood groups, has been written in a way to favor developer interests, not the community's, Hollywood activists say.
John Choi talked about building more housing, but, according to CES, did not address the important need to preserve existing affordable housing units.
CES and Gross still say that City Council candidates have failed "to clearly state what they would do, if elected, to ensure tenants' rights, protect the City's Rent Stabilization Ordinance and preserve rent controlled and government assisted affordable housing from being demolished and converted to luxury housing."