Last week, Damien Newton sat down separately with the two winners of the Los Angeles City Council’s District 11 primary: Erin Darling and Traci Park. The story below is taken from these interviews. Interested readers can find the full interviews published online: Darling audio or transcript, and Record audio or transcript.
It’s called a battle for the soul of the Westside. The campaign to replace Mike Bonin as a member of the CD 11 City Council has been a surprising and relentless campaign. Two candidates came out of a crowded primary: Traci Park and Erin Darling. Park was the first candidate to announce her candidacy before Bonin’s recall campaign failed and Bonin announced that he was not running for office. Darling jumped into the race days after Bonin’s announcement.
Essentially, the defining issue in the race is the city’s response to homelessness and how each candidate would improve it. Due to the city’s dysfunctional response, both candidates claimed the mantle of foreign reformer. Park promises enforcement of city encampment laws that Bonin did not approve or enforce. Darling promises more resources and housing options after years of town hall dragging his feet. Park is a favorite of neighborhood activists and has been endorsed by police unions and the restaurant association. Darling is the candidate for the Progressives and Tenants and has been endorsed by left-leaning advocacy groups and Bonin himself.
Due to an oddity in the schedule, I had the chance to speak with both candidates last Friday. Darling and I met next to the Venice Boulevard bike path (yes, that bike path) at Alana’s Coffee (no, not this cafe). Later that day, I walked a block from my house to meet Park at his campaign headquarters.
Although the campaign was a hard-hitting affair, both candidates were optimistic, cheerful and largely in agreement when it came to discussing transportation reform: Los Angeles needs to expand its transportation options by increasing transit by common and by building a network of interconnected bicycles. This is what happens when you have two job candidates who both choose the bike not only for recreation, but also frequently for transportation.
The two candidates detailed how their lived experiences as cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles impacted their transportation platforms, Darling explaining how interconnecting routes could lead to a bicycle boom, while Park said. underlined that it was necessary to build infrastructures which allow cyclists to feel and to be really safe. . Darling also peppered in references to the impact of transport policy on the climate, access to food and increased access to community resources for the elderly, while Park focused more on the impact the city’s lack of mobility options and poor communication about residents in the west.
While both see the opportunities LA presents, neither is looking forward to a protracted, protracted battle over that infrastructure that Bonin has had for the past six years. Park said she is still hearing complaints about Venice Boulevard Great Streets facilities during his campaign. This project was installed in mid-2017.
“VSVoters were angry enough that it led to the initial recall effort against the council member,” Park recalled. “I’ve certainly heard often over the past year and campaigned…that people remain concerned about this.”
“Cutting traffic, idling causing air quality issues, impact on businesses… There have been concerns. At the heart of it all was the lack of community engagement and input and a pervasive saying that this was something that was meant to be a pilot program and it was done without much input.
Darling seemed more positive about the outcome of the Venice Boulevard project, pointing to the thriving business community surrounding Alana’s and noting both that our interview was interrupted by a Culver City well-wisher and later, much more briefly, by a cyclist. who sounded a salute as he passed. But even so, Darling echoed the fact that the community surrounding the project did not feel sufficiently involved in the planning of the project.
“I think generally public awareness needs to be deepened. The design cannot be predetermined. People need to feel they have a say. The scope is still huge. So there needs to be flexibility, but there also needs to be communication that with climate change there is an emergency that we need to act on,” he said.
“Let’s recognize that in Los Angeles, when you walk down a lane, people react viscerally as if you’ve taken something away from them. But here we’re looking at it, and I don’t see massive congestion.
Venice Boulevard is back in people’s minds due to the city’s planned extension of the protected bike path west to Lincoln Boulevard and east to La Cienega Boulevard. Some of this work has already been completed and outreach is underway with a demonstration planned for the end of the month. Both candidates expressed support for the idea in general, but refrained from endorsing the plan as proposed. Darling seemed more positive overall.
“Whether it’s on a street or not, I’m ambivalent about it. I think we need an interconnecting road to downtown. I haven’t seen the exact design. If I understand correctly, there are different models. This part I don’t have a strong opinion on, but it makes sense to continue [gesturing to the protected lane]“, continued Darling.
Park expressed concern that people living on or near Venice Boulevard did not have enough opportunity to weigh in on the plan, and that ultimately it could lead to another row. extension similar to that which Mar Vista had/has on the Big Streets Project.
“I haven’t had a chance to delve into the details,” Park said, pointing to what appeared to be proposed street layout plans on his desk. “My biggest concern is the lack of community engagement and involvement. It won’t surprise you, when I point out how controversial Mar Vista’s road diet was… I guess there will be a lot of backlash from the community, and it’s not the best way to get buying- from the community which I think would be important to help it succeed. ”
In 2017, when improvements to the Venice road diet were put in place, the design raised concerns among various road users. Some drivers expressed anger that their lane was stolen. Some cyclists pointed out that the design made for “blind turns” as cars parked close to intersections meant that it was not easy for drivers to see oncoming cyclists. Right after our interview was over, Darling asked me some questions about the design, based on what he had heard from riders. Park expressed a few other concerns about Venice: She heard firefighters say they were caught in traffic on Diet Road and neighbors on Venice Boulevard saw an increase in through traffic.
After Park’s taped interview was over, we briefly discussed the Slow Streets program. My neighbors and I volunteered to use the program to reduce through traffic in our area of Mar Vista. I left feeling like Slow Streets would be part of Park’s neighborhood toolkit if she was the next councilwoman.
At the end of the interview, Park noted that in her travels she had seen many different types of transit systems and transportation networks. She and Darling both agree that LA’s transportation networks are underdeveloped and in need of an overhaul — to provide both greater mobility options and cleaner air.
Park concluded his interview by encouraging “more robust crosswalks and speed calming measures and things like that” as long as they “don’t get in the way of emergency vehicles.” “I think we can really do a lot to make this city more sustainable and really help people transition from vehicles to other modes of transportation.”
Darling concluded his interview with a broader call for city-wide climate action and clean energy.
“Overview, the day I entered this race, I was talking about climate change,” Darling points out. “Transportation is important, but so is electricity. We have a utility in this town, most towns can’t boast of that. Angelenos can elect a city council that can push the utility towards 100% renewable energy. Most cities cannot do this. In this city of nearly four million people, essentially a small country, in the face of federal inaction and quite frankly with the Supreme Court handcuffing federal action on this issue, the city of Los Angeles must push the DWP to achieve 100% as soon as possible.