Election Roundup: In City’s First Race Fought over Progressive Urban Planning, Streetsie Winner Huizar Prevails

In Los Angeles’ first political race fought over progressive urban design, incumbent City Councilmember Jose Huizar gathered nearly three times as many votes as his closest opponent, former Supervisor Gloria Molina in a lopsided victory. (Full results: here)

That would be a "V" for victory. Photo: Office of Jose Huizar
That would be a “V” for victory. Photo: Office of Jose Huizar

Huizar campaigned hard on his Livable Streets record in Council District 14 (CD14) while Molina argued that bike lanes were installed throughout the district without a public process and that Downtown Los Angeles was going to lose too much car parking to make space for transit oriented development. A spreadsheet put together by “Bike the Vote” showed over 200 public meetings on bicycle issues in CD14 during Huizar’s last term.

With provisional ballots left to be counted, Huizar has 11,081 votes (66.75%) to Molina’s 4,033 (23.93%). CD14 encompasses much of Downtown Los Angeles and South Park, as well as El Sereno and Boyle Heights.

This is the first hotly contested race in Los Angeles where an incumbent was attacked over being too pro-bicycle and the numbers show that, while that campaign tactic might make for good talk radio, it doesn’t translate into electoral victory. Huizar, who won a Streetsie in 2014 in large part for his leadership in reshaping Downtown Los Angeles’ transportation grid, actually won more votes in his Streetsie contest last December than Molina won yesterday.

After the Los Angeles Times noted that a small group of bicycle and pedestrian advocates could have a big impact in the race, advocates with Bike The Vote targeted the Huizar-Molina race as a must-win. But more than just advocates for safe two-wheeled transportation backed Huizar. Members of the NO 710 committee, which is battling against plans to build a giant highway tunnel to extend the I-710, organized in El Sereno. New urbanist blogger Brigham Yen (another former Streetsie winner) also loudly backed Huizar’s campaign.

Jose Huizar is not a perfect politician, personal history aside. In her coverage of Boyle Heights, Sahra Sulaiman has found many ways that Huizar has fallen short of his ideals and goals. But last night’s election wasn’t about the quality of bike racks on 1st Street or the amount of public input in the Eastside Access Project. It was about whether or not CD14 wanted to embrace progressive urban design and transportation policy or slip backwards to the failed policies of the past.

The results speak for themselves.

While Huizar’s win was the main event, there was a lot of good electoral news for Livable Streets advocates.

Dawson

In CD 4, a small army of candidates were vying to replace the termed-out Tom LaBonge. With hundreds or thousands of provisional ballots left to be counted, David Ryu holds a slim 60-vote lead over progressive Tomas O’Grady for the second spot in the May 9 runoff (because no candidate received more than 50% of the vote).

O’Grady campaigned hard for the support of new urbanists and bicyclists, building on the work he did promoting an option for the redesign of the Hyperion-Glendale Bridge that includes sidewalks and bike lanes. By the end of the campaign, both Ryu and Ramsay agreed to support the multi-modal “option 3” for the bridge.

Joe Buscaino, who received more votes in his Streetsie race against Huizar than Molina did in her City Council race, works the phone lines yesterday.
Joe Buscaino, who received more votes in his Streetsie race against Huizar than Molina did in her City Council race, works the phone lines yesterday.

Former LaBonge chief-of-staff and open space advocate Carolyn Ramsay holds the top spot after the primary. Libertarian Jay Beeber, a legend in the L.A. Weekly Offices for campaigning against the city’s red-light camera program and car parking populist, finished well off the lead. Following the CD 4 Livable Streets Candidates Forum, Beeber took to the air on the John and Ken show to trash the “bike lobby” and mock the very forum he didn’t attend.

In CD8, the South Los Angeles district currently represented by termed-out Bernard Parks, Marqueece Harris-Dawson cruised to victory with over 60% of the vote. Harris-Dawson, long-time Executive Director of one of South L.A.’s more positive forces for change, Community Coalition, campaigned on a progressive and environmentally-friendly platform, and is expected to be more progressive on transportation and urban planning than the conservative Parks.

In other Council races, incumbents Herb Wesson, Paul Krekorian, Nury Martinez, and Mitch Englander cruised to easy victories. Martinez faced a strong challenge from Cindy Montanez, whom she upset in a special election two years ago, but still captured 60% of the vote.

  • Dan Wentzel

    On this note, I have a new blog post.

    THE PINK LINE: Silliest Question of the Election Season: “Where are we going to park (in Downtown L.A.)”? – Gloria Molina

    http://ridethepinkline.blogspot.com/2015/03/silliest-question-of-election-season.html

  • Los Angeles Bikes

    What I don’t understand is why there was so little attention paid over the course of the whole election cycle to the races in districts other than 4 and 14. I don’t mean to single out SBLA, because it seems like all the other local livable streets forums got tunnel vision too, but I’m genuinely at a loss as to how these other races can warrant so little coverage given that the winners of those elections will have just as much voting power on the council as the winners from CD 4 and 14.

    I get that CD 4 and 14’s races were important and probably deserved the lion’s share of the coverage, but ALL the coverage? That’s the issue for me.

    As a resident of CD 10, I had the hardest time doing research to find out who the best livable streets candidate was. The “Bike the Vote” folks didn’t even mention my district in their guide!

  • The_Herman_Cains

    “But last night’s election wasn’t about the quality of bike racks on 1st Street or the amount of public input in the Eastside Access Project.”

    Umm, it kind of was. Not to say that Molina/Diaz were suitable alternatives or that Huizar didn’t deserve another term, but that kind phrase would only come from someone that doesn’t live in Boyle Heights.

  • Biked the vote

    Fairly certain “Bike the Vote” did not exclusively compile that list so they should not get exclusive credit for doing so. Heard Huizar supporters compiled it but they are not necessarily affiliated with BtV

  • With only so many resources in the world, we decided to focus on the races where the outcome was in doubt. I spent time monitoring the races in CD’s 6 and 8 in case there was some movement as 8 had an open seat and 6 was a rematch of a close race. The other three races were pretty much over before they began.

  • Fair enough. It’s pretty clear that I don’t live in Boyle Heights, but I was trying to make the point that the two candidates offered very different visions for urban design. I would bet that most voters in the district were more concerned with that than the details. I was also hinting at my perception that Huizar is viewed more positively in DTLA and El Sereno than Boyle Heights, although that view isn’t based on any data or polling, just my observations and what I read on Streetsblog.

  • Alex Brideau III

    As soon as I saw that quote appear a couple weeks ago, I knew GloMo had sealed her fate in the election. That said, it was much more of a blowout than I had expected! Good news for complete streets.

  • davistrain

    Although I don’t live in the in the City of Los Angeles, I have seen Ms. Molina at LA Metro board meetings, and I think she does rub some folks the wrong way.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The CD 4 race was full of candidates who raised a lot of money and have a niche of supporters. Five of the six top finishers had raised well over $100,000 each. Its very unlikely in a one-on-one runoff election that any of them can beat a sitting council member’s chief of staff for the district. The overwhelming majority of these losing candidate supporters will gravitate over to the chief of staff in a runoff. If one of these candidates had a qualification of being a former state office holder, then they would stand a good shot of winning against a chief of staff.

    Los Angeles has just gone through the biggest recession since the Great Depression in which the city severely cut back services. Even with that situation none of the council members lost their seats in an election during this time period. The county almost went bankrupt in the 1990’s. Did any of the county supervisor’s lose their jobs because of that? Nope. They also are rarely defeated when they run for reelection.

    Living in the CD 4 area of Toluca Lake, I am amazed at how residents are so accepting of not having the most basic of city services like sidewalks and street lights. The arterial street of Riverside Dr east of Cahuenga Blvd doesn’t have sidewalks on either side of the street for about a block, nor does Cahuenga Blvd south of Riverside Dr. One candidate had a big picture on the front of one of his campaign brochures of a woman in a wheelchair being pushed by a man along a buckled sidewalk. Try moving a wheelchair where there isn’t any sidewalk. There are people who are blind needing a sidewalk to guide them and some who have to use a stick in their mouth to maneuver their wheelchair due to not having functioning arms or legs. How are these people expected to move around on their own when there isn’t any sidewalk?

    The sidewalks on Lankershim Blvd and Vineland Ave on the south side of the intersection with Camarillo St are a dead-end. You cannot continue north, nor can you walk cross either Lankershim Blvd or Vineland Ave. I stood out there for a couple of hours a few months back counting traffic flow heading north on Lankershim Blvd to see how much disruption to traffic at peak hours it would be to take away a travel lane and put in bike lanes. I had two pedestrians ask me how they are supposed to get across the street. I responded that I saw one guy run across the street when there was a break in traffic. How does a council member expect people to walk north on either street to get to the subway transit hub or for that matter to simply go to a business on Lankershim Blvd without driving?

    I started more closely observing what the condition of residential streets are like when I’ve bicycled around the Valley in the last 3 to 4 years. Its obvious that most of these areas have gotten a slurry seal on their streets fairly regularly, but its amazing how many of the very nice single family streets do not have street lights. Residents along these streets have resorted to having their own lights installed on their property next to the sidewalk to provide some illumination. How in the world do council members keep their jobs when residents are lacking such basic services? What does it take for people to get riled up enough to throw a council member out of office and elect someone else?

    I also rode my bicycle along the recently opened bike path along San Fernando Rd. To my knowledge there was no sidewalk on that side of the street previous to that, nor was there one where the Orange Line bike path is along Canoga Ave. Riding back the other way, I tried riding my bike on the sidewalk for part of the way along San Fernando Rd on the other side of the street. Wouldn’t you know it there are sections where there is no sidewalk and that the transition to get back on the sidewalk was so sharp that I had to resort to traveling along the street. During this trip I had seen someone who had to manipulate the movement of his wheelchair by using a stick in his mouth (I’ve seen several people in the valley who use a wheelchair in that manner) to wait for a bus on the side of the street that had the new bike path. How was this person expected to travel along this street on his own previous to the mixed use path? Sidewalks on major streets should be considered the most important and basic need for transportation. No one should be denied the opportunity to travel somewhere on their own. I don’t know of any street where you couldn’t easily drive a car.

    In the last twenty years, Antionio Villaraigosa was the only person to defeat an incumbent LA council member in a election. Villaraigosa had been a state senator and raised $700,000 for his campaign to become a council member for CD 14.

    I was curious to see if people were mainly basing who to vote for simply by the qualification listed below each candidate on the ballot. For CD 4, both Carolyn Ramsey and Joan Pelico had Councilmember’s Staff Chief under their names on the ballot. I was pretty confident that these two would be in a runoff if most voters were simply basing their votes on qualifications listed under the candidates name. Carolyn Ramsey did not get an endorsement from either the Los Angeles Times or the Daily News and yet she got the most votes. Its pretty clear to me that a lot of people knew she was the chief of staff for the current councilmember in CD4. Joan Pelico (council member Paul Koretz’s chief of staff) only got enough votes to obtain eighth place.

    Another reason why people will vote for current councilmember’s and their chief of staffs is the millions of dollars of city money that they have spent in the council district and the twenty staff members that are on hand to respond to complaints from constituents. I’ve read that council member Tom LaBonge has funded his own city truck to go around the district filling potholes, etc. Why not elect someone who has the foresight to reduce the odds of potholes from occurring by maintaining the streets, installing sidewalks and street lights? Instead we’ve got someone who runs this office like its mainly a complaint department constantly trying to put out small fires.

  • El Donaldo

    The silent / gigglish reaction to Gloria Molina at the DTLA candidate forum after she turned to the crowd and said “but where are we going to park?”

  • Fakey McFakename
  • michael macdonald

    Bike the Vote is all-volunteer, and those involved did their best to research and understand candidates’ positions. Was there a livable streets-friendly candidate that you think was overlooked? We didn’t make recommendations where we didn’t have meaningful info to inform us. The voter guide is only one piece of the work we did.

    In our first organizing meeting for this race last year, we determined that CD4 & CD14 were the races where we could have the most impact, and the best focus of our volunteer time. Even those of us who live in CD10 didn’t see it as a competitive race or worthy of our time. We welcome your input, and if you were involved, maybe we would have. Don’t just sit back, get involved next time.

  • rudy

    Huizar is the lesser of two evils, an evil nevertheless.

  • Rockhead

    DTLA and Boyle Heights are part of a very complicated and diverse CD14. It’s also Northeast LA – Highland Park, Glassell Park and Eagle Rock. The latter has a longstanding reputation as a powerful activist community, especially on election day. We really pay attention and demand alot from our Councilmembers. It’s not an easy place to lead, and you must navigate carefully. Her team was horribly rude and contentious, online and in person. Glo Mo should never had allowed such behavior. IMHO, she really blew it as a veteran campaigner here. Apparently, she thought BH/ELA was going carry her. She was always attacking Huizar and never cited her accomplishments in NELA. (Does she have any?) Here’s a revealing tidbit: When asked an innocuous question at our candidates’ forum: ‘What do you think of Eagle Rock?’ All she could say with her chin sticking out: “It’s one of several communities I’ll be representing when I’m elected.” Really? Was that the best she could before a packed house of voters who LOVE their neighborhood? She couldn’t even name a favorite restaurant here. Guess she really didn’t respect us. Big mistake. Don’t EVER knock the Rock and hope to win! Ms. Gloria, please retire and take the Molinistas with you.

  • Los Angeles Bikes

    Fair enough. Any suggestions as to how to be more involved?

  • michael macdonald

    If you haven’t already, join the group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bikethevote/

    The next group meeting is scheduled for 3/16 and will be in CD10. Hope you can make it.

  • Donde Dinero

    Did anyone ask Huizar where is the missing money?

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