DEEGAN ON LA—It’s got lots: prestigious neighborhoods, a collection of blue-chip museums, eventually five subway stops, the fruits of redistricting, and the future and the past rolled into one.
It’s Council District 5, where two very impressive candidates, Katy Yaroslavsky and Sam Yebri, are in a run-off election to be the next Councilmember.
Extending from Hancock Park to the beach, crawling up the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, embracing the flats of Mid-City and Pico, wrapping in Westwood, the district has a huge footprint. No wonder it drew several candidates to the March Primary that Sam Yebri and Katy Yaroslavsky emerged from for the November runoff.
City Watch was able to catch up with the candidates on the campaign trail and gain some insights into their thinking about crime in the streets, mental health and wellness outreaches to the homeless, a new and massively dense land use development, and what could be a new political spectrum in City Hall.
Interview with Sam Yebri
CW-What’s the number one issue for you?
SY-Crime, in my mind, is the top issue—-no-one feels safe. Anyone who is honest feels unsafe in virtually every neighborhood in Los Angeles. Our LAPD has shrunk to 9,200 sworn officers from 10,000. I want to get back to the 10,000 officer strong police department that I was tasked to helped recruit as a Civil Service Commissioner under Mayor Villaraigosa.
CW-What do you see as the number one job for the police?
SY-Cops are not social workers or mental health professionals. Their focus must be on the guns and gangs that are ravaging our neighborhoods.
CW-What about the perceived leniency toward perps?
SY-At the City-level, we must robustly prosecute criminal misdemeanors and work to reform Prop 47 and cash bail policies that have made it far too easy to commit crimes without consequences.
CW-What else can be done about crime suppression?
SY-In addition to more police officers, we can deter and reduce crime in every neighborhood by investing in technology (like cameras, license-plate readers, and drones), in proven crime interference programs (like job training, gang prevention, and after-school programs), and in neighborhood watch and emergency preparedness initiatives.
CW-What gives you the edge in your plans for public safety?
SY-Unlike candidates who claim to care about public safety, I actually a proven record of keeping Angelenos safe. I served on LA City's Gun Violence Prevention Task where I designed policies to get guns off the streets. I graduated from LAPD's Citizen Academy to better understand policing, served as our neighborhood's public safety chair, and fought against hate crimes as a board member of the Anti-Defamation League.
That's why the women and men we trust to keep our families safe - LA City's Police Officers, Fire Fighters, and First Responders - trusted me with their endorsement.
CW-What do you think about the new Care Court for dealing with the mentally ill homeless”
SY- We must utilize the new Care Court. It’s also imperative that we have more than 3-day psychiatric holds by lowering the threshold for “5150” holds. The Care Court system creates a non-criminal alternative path to get people help faster and for a longer period of time.
CW-Where does this ft into your list of priorities?
SY-Getting homeless people with mental illness off the streets immediately must be highest of all priorities for the City of Los Angeles.
CW-This sound like a major reform to how the mentally ill homeless may be served.
SY-California’s mental health laws are 55 years out of date. This is a common sense reform. It's not progressive or compassionate to allow homeless people to live, suffer, wither away, and die in record numbers on our streets simply because we are not providing urgent, common sense pathways to get them help faster.
CW-why is this reform so desperately needed?
SY-The opponents of anti-camping ordinance 41.18 are allowing 5 homeless Angelenos to die every night on our cold, dangerous streets. It is criminal that the career politicians running our City and County refuse to act with urgency to save people who are battling their demons and addiction on our streets. That is the opposite of progressive or compassionate. Why are we allowing people to die in our streets?
Interview with Katy Yaroslavsky
CW-Lots has been said about how poorly the city deals with land use issues, including allegations of corruption. You’ve spent time in that world—is this true?
KY-I started out my career as a land use lawyer, so I understand the development process, which is really broken in LA.
CW-One of the biggest community controversies in CD5 is the plan to redevelop the existing CBS Television City property in the Fairfax neighborhood into a massive and dense state of the art entertainment production facility. How do you feel about this?
KY-The CBS development (TVC2050 Project) is the right use for that location and the production jobs it will create are well-paying jobs. Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world, and I’m committed to partnering with the entertainment industry to keep jobs here and expand the workforce.
CW-But, do you have any hesitations about how the project impacts the community?
KY-At the same time, it’s a question of scale and density and impacts. What are the mitigations? What is the right size for the neighborhood? This is the developer’s opening shot. They can’t possibly think what they’re proposing will be approved, given the scale and neighborhood impacts.
CW-Do you see this project as a done deal?
KY-In terms of timing and process, this project is too big and significant to rush through a community stakeholder process.
CW-The political spectrum in Los Angeles now includes the centrists, moderates, the left, and the radical left. Where in this alignment do you fit in?
KY-One of the aspects of local government that I find appealing is that it’s non-partisan. The job is all about problem solving and using the tools of government to improve LA. If elected, I see myself as fitting into the middle of the political spectrum of the council.
CW-do you hav internal guidelines to how you will vote on issues? Who you will line up with?
KY-On some issues, particularly environmental issues, I may be more to the left. On others, like public safety, I’ll likely be in the middle, as I believe we should have a well-funded, well-staffed, accountable police department. I’m going to take each issue on its own merits and I’ll find ways to work with all of my future colleagues around those areas where we share priorities.
CW-In the past few days, the City Council has lost the trust of many residents. How will you help to re-establish that?
KY-I have experience in building coalitions that bring together diverse constituencies. I’m committed to working with everybody and building and fostering trust on the Council, which is so desperately needed right now.
CW-What interpersonal skills will you apply to be a uniter with council colleagues and community leaders?
KY-I have a proven track record of creating iterative, inclusive stakeholder processes and building coalitions to drive meaningful programs and policies forward. I don’t care who gets the credit, which is why I’ll keep getting hard things done.
(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose Deegan on LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appears in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at [email protected].)