AIA Mayoral Candidate Conversations: Kevin James

Kevin James (right) speaks to the audience at the American Institute of Architects Mayoral Candidate discussions with Planning Commission President Bill Roschen (middle) and Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne moderating. Photo by Kris Fortin

In the third conversation in AIA’s series with mayoral candidates, Kevin James billed himself as an outsider. James, a former radio host and the sole republican on the LA mayoral ballot, was at his best on Friday night when he was criticizing city council and proposing more power for neighborhood councils. Yet when asked about bike issues, and densification, he was constantly at odds with the moderators, and used more anecdotal evidence for his reasoning.

“In that bio . . . you did not hear two key words. Unfortunately you did not hear architect.” James said. ”Also, you did not hear two more words: city planner.”

Despite his lack of knowledge of urban planningisms, he was honest in his stances and critiques on projects such as Farmers Field, and the Hollywood Community Plan.

Yet, when James started talking about specific projects, his outsider status brought out answers that put him at odds with the moderators and much of the audience.

Though James was in support of programs that would increase the number of bicyclists, he said it’s because it would help alleviate congestion for motorists.

“More people you have on bicycles in the city of Los Angeles, the fewer people you have on cars.” James said. “ The motorist is going to have less traffic. The motorist is going to have more parking in the city of Los Angeles.”

Hawthorne quickly pointed out how research has backed the claim that clearing traffic doesn’t clear congestion, but James still disagreed.

Later, James disagreed with the passage of the Hollywood community plan, comparing the result to Hollywood becoming “Las Vegas West.” Yet when explaining why he didn’t want to see more densification that the Hollywood community plan would bring, he referenced his own home in the Hollywood Hills.

James professional experience has come from being a lawyer, and being a radio talk show host. He was the host of “The Kevin James Show” from 2007-2011 on 870 KRLA, until he decided to run for mayor.

James was at his strongest when talking about the role and importance of Neighborhood Councils in making planning and development decisions.  With his tour of nearly 50 different neighborhood councils, James argued in their favor of having a more prominent voice, specifically being able to choose city commissioners.

“What I found . . .in neighborhood councils was an incredible wealth of content,” James said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s on it’s way.”

One of James’ proposals that received the audience from the more than 20 people that attended at the  applause was to make a part-time City Council. This stance has been covered in opinion pieces he has written for the Daily News and the Los Angeles Business Journal.

When he talked about Farmers Field, his main stance was how the construction would hurt the Los Angeles Convention Center and hotel revenue from lost conventions, highlighting that there has not been one convention booked for the 2013-14 cycle.

And for the sports fan, James also said people cannot tailgate in downtown. “Tailgaters, that are serious tailgaters, cannot put their barbecue on the subway.”

Here’s a look at the remaining AIA mayoral candidate schedule:

Friday, March 9 (7pm – 9pm) - Mayoral Candidate Wendy Greuel
Friday, March 16 (7pm – 9pm) - Mayoral Candidate Eric Garcetti