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.

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