Quiet Election in Council District 5 as Koretz Faces Off with Mark Matthew Herd

(Over the next couple of weeks, Streetsblog L.A. will strive to cover all of the City Council elections that are not part of the Streetsblog TV schedule. Our next piece of election coverage will be Live Streaming the LACBC/Occidental College CD 1 Candidate Forum on Streetsblog TV this Sunday.)

Just a couple of years ago, the election to replace Jack Weiss in City Council District 5, which includes Westwood, Fairfax, Bel Air, and more was a hot one for Livable Streets advocates. On one hand,  you had former West Hollywood Mayor and AIDS Life Cycle participant Paul Koretz against David Vahedi, a lawyer who succesfully sued the City of Los Angeles for dangerous non-maintenance of bike paths. The race came down to a runoff and was close until the end. Koretz won.

A rare shot of the former Life Cycle rider and his bike. Photo:KPCC

This time, Koretz faces Mark Herd, a little known opponent who it appears designed his website in 1998. Since this race will mostly be about the incumbent, Streetsblog presents a brief look at his record.

Over the last four years, Koretz has been a dependable vote on Livability Issues, usually voting for safer streets, better pedestrian design and more bike lanes. In 2010, he was one of the Council Members who pushed the Planning Department to do more than the bare minimum when drafting the Bike Plan. His letter to City Planning earned high marks from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition who called it “Outstanding.”

More recently, Koretz backed the new Motor Avenue bike lanes that are already providing safer commutes through the western part of his district for hundreds of cyclists a day. While some in the surrounding community grumbled that the lanes created a choke point for car traffic, Koretz stood his ground.

Not only is his apointee to the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee one of the most active and engaged members, his chief transportation deputy Jay Greenstein attends nearly every meeting, the only member of L.A. City government to do so.

Koretz’s record on transit projects is perhaps more mixed.

When Westwood homeowner groups fought the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes, Koretz and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky successfully removed .8 miles from the project.

On the Westside Subway, Koretz has aggressively backed the proposed stop at Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars, the preferred route of Metro’s environmental studies and the bane of Beverly Hills. While it just so happens that many influential constituents back the route, Koretz used ridership numbers from the environmental study to back his position. For his efforts, opponents of the Constellation Boulevard stop tried to tie Koretz to  former Councilman Jack Weiss, who’s former field deputy organized a press event backing the stop.

One of the largest contributions Koretz made to Livable Streets may have happened before he took office. Both Koretz and Vehedi pledged to fight the “Pico-Olympic Plan” favored by Yaroslavsky and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The plan would have removed parking and used signalization to speed up traffic on Olympic Boulevard going west and Pico Boulevard going east at rush hour, essentially turning the two Boulevards into mini-highays. Weiss was a big supporter of the plan, but the neighboring Council Members, Bill Rosendahl and Herb Wesson opposed the plan. When Koretz and Vahedi announced their opposition as well, it became clear that once Weiss left office all of the City Council Members with parts of their district impacted by the plan would oppose it, essentially making it impossible to pass muster in City Hall.

To his credit, Herd backs “safer streets” and has made attacking billboard blight a key issue in his campaign. However, details are still short on much of the candidate’s position on transportation and livability issues. Herd is banking on a “great debate” on February 26 to get his message out. The debate will be held at St. Paul’s Church in Westwood at 7 p.m.