downtown los angeles, guest writer

Endorsement: Re-elect Jose Huizar for Council District 14 of Los Angeles

Councilman Jose Huizar is seeking re-election in the City Council District 14 race (Photo: KCET)

Councilman Jose Huizar is seeking re-election in the City Council District 14 race (Photo: KCET)

The upcoming election for Los Angeles City Council District 14 presents voters with a stark choice about the future of Downtown LA. The leading candidates, incumbent José Huizar and former County Supervisor Gloria Molina, have very different views of what a downtown is and what it means. To frame the candidates’ positions, it’s necessary to first understand why DTLA, or any large city’s downtown, is important. It’s a lesson most of the country forgot after World War II and has had to painfully relearn, but here it is: a downtown isn’t just a plot of land in the city center, it’s a place of practical and symbolic importance. Downtown matters.

A downtown has practical importance as an employment center, often one of the city’s largest. It’s a commercial district that acts as an incubator for small businesses that keep their money circulating in the neighborhood, support community causes and create opportunities for other compatible businesses. A downtown is an entertainment center, with museums, theaters and restaurants. That activity means a downtown is a major component of a city’s tax base. A downtown helps lower sprawl by concentrating these commercial, retail and residential uses in a compact area that encourages walking, bicycling, transit and other low-impact ways of getting around. In fact, studies show urban residents tend to be healthier than suburbanites when using standard measures of health such as body-mass index and insulin resistance.

If that weren’t enough, a downtown has symbolic importance beyond its practical measures. A downtown is the face of the city, a reflection of the community’s image and pride. It’s a marker of the city’s prosperity and willingness to invest in itself, and of how the residents and business community see the future. A living, breathing, growing downtown reflects optimism, abundance, a can-do attitude and hope for the future. A stagnant or dying downtown reflects pessimism, scarcity and despair. In addition, a downtown is symbolically important as civic space, a place of coming together for celebrations (such as New Year’s Eve or July 4th) and rituals (such as swearing-in). These mass gatherings of people, in a place each person can claim as one’s own, help reinforce a sense of community and common purpose; it helps bring people together, literally and figuratively.

Los Angeles, late to realize these truths, long had a decaying downtown that was the poster child of a dystopian, dysfunctional future. However, over the past 15 years, DTLA has been experiencing a remarkable renaissance with billions of dollars of new investment, tens of thousands of new residents, nationally acclaimed restaurants and entertainment, and a growing sense of confidence and pride. For the first time in decades, it doesn’t raise eyebrows to say DTLA’s best days are ahead.

They say success has many parents, but when it comes to the DTLA renaissance, Councilmember José Huizar is a first among equals. Since joining the City Council in 2005, he has been a tireless champion of DTLA, often advancing unique or cutting-edge ideas to push Downtown to new heights. Among his accomplishments:

  • Bringing Back Broadway, a 10-year effort to reignite interest in LA’s once-premier commercial street;
  • The Adaptive Reuse Ordinance for commercial space, to revitalize empty office buildings for commercial use the way the earlier Adaptive Reuse Ordinance did for residential use;
  • The Downtown Streetcar project linking South Park, the Historic Core, Civic Center and Bunker Hill;
  • Promoting the rehabilitation of the historic theaters on Broadway;
  • Implementing a robust Downtown bicycle lane network, including the city’s first green bicycle lanes for enhanced safety;
  • Shepherding the effort to redesign and redevelop Pershing Square;
  • Bringing about the Broadway streetscape plan and roadway redesign;
  • Introduced the Sidewalk Dining program to help restaurants expedite the process for obtaining sidewalk dining permits;
  • Creating an architectural lighting grant program for historic buildings.

By these accomplishments alone, José Huizar deserves re-election. But what of his main opponent, former County Supervisor Gloria Molina? She has a long and honorable record, including invaluable work bringing Grand Park to fruition.

Sad to say, it seems Gloria Molina confuses DTLA with Murietta—she hasn’t learned the importance of a downtown or what it will take to drive DTLA’s success over the next four years. At a recent candidates’ forum, the L.A. Times reported she said DTLA has “too much density” and it is “regrettable” that new development is replacing many of the surface parking lots, asking, “Where are we all going to park?” Even worse, she proposed the city build new parking lots throughout the district. She also appears to be not very knowledgable about downtown projects such as the streetcar, referring to “…a trolly, or whatever you call it here.” These examples don’t inspire confidence in Molina’s vision or her grasp of the issues. She appears stuck in a 1950s mindset.

DTLA’s renaissance is real but still fragile. It needs a champion to nurture it, someone who understands the practical and symbolic importance of a prosperous, lively, engaging 24/7 downtown. That person is Councilmember José Huizar.

— Mark B., 4-year downtown resident

Register to vote online now if you haven’t already (deadline is Feb 16, 2015)

22 Comments

  1. pLAnner says

    Thank you for this. I cannot express how much her comments in the recent debate scared me. DTLA is the one sanctuary of urbanism in this city, only when it is fully thriving will the rest of LA take note and follow in suit. As you expressed, it is still fragile, the damage that would be done by an anti-development force such as Molina might be irreparable in terms of placing us at the forefront of the urban stage with our peer cities. Vote Huizar!

  2. aardvark says

    Everyone needs to vote or Huizar (and then downtown) will lose.

  3. John G. says

    Excellent post Mark!

    I’ll be supporting Huizar. It’s true Molina is stuck in the past. How can she be concerned about parking when we are investing billions on mass transit to get ourselves out of parking! There is still parking in downtown but this time around we need to focus on people/walkability instead of cars.

  4. Well said! Very informative while deciding who to vote for. I’m dissappointed with the Molina agenda who is against reinforcing the sustainability of DTLA through the tremendous measures to rebuild it stronger than ever before.

  5. After what Molina said at the event on Wednesday, there is no debate who I will be voting for. Molina wants to literally destroy all the hard work the downtown community has invested to get to where it is today. I mean, we are getting billions of dollars of investment and you, Molina, want to stop that? I still cannot believe she said she wants to stop development and build more parking lots! What a fat idiot! I am voting for Jose Huizar to keep downtown on track!

  6. Mike Federighe says

    Molina said per the LA Times that “”regrettable” that new development is replacing so many of downtown’s private parking lots, asking the audience: “Where are we all going to park?””

    The answer, Molina, is either take public transportation, or if you really want to drive, then park under one of the new developments that has 10 times more parking underneath it then existed before the development (when it was just a surface lot).

  7. Are you serious molina said that! Molina shoud supervise her way out of downtown in the next decade because she wont be able to find parking lots her way. And if she rides the street car and we see her we shoud tell her ” Hey molina have u regretted the ride” I’m not against her it’s just that she needs to get out of her office and be inspired and walk more. She needs it

  8. Mike federighe says

    Yes, better yet she also said downtown has “too much density”, which is even more incredible. She needs to visit other top cities in the world, come back to Dtla and realize how well it is set for growth. Please someone help, please.

  9. Mr Whitman says

    Huizar rides his bike, walks his neighborhoods, and gets a streetview that inspires him to improve what he sees around him. Gloria will get in her car, drive to her parking lot to her office, then sit and wait four years until she fattens her County pension with a City one. What would she care about DTLA and its future, she’d be a lame-duck politician without ambition.

  10. Anita Weaver says

    Great post! This is a pivotal moment in DTLA’s history. The still tenuous renaissance needs a constant influx of momentum and that takes will, energy, intelligence, creativity and vision. Molina’s comments indicate a lack of all of these.

  11. dpdapper says

    Hear, hear! My head about exploded when Molina talked about “too much density” and the “need” for more parking. What is a shame is that none of the candidates saw fit to mention the reason why neither more density nor less parking is a bad thing in DTLA: it’s the center of a multi-billion dollar public transportation system designed to ENCOURAGE density and REDUCE the need for more parking. Unbelievable!

  12. Pingback: Morning Links: Gloria Molina wonders where all the poor cars will park, and KFI’s John and Ken go on the attack | BikinginLA

  13. Andrew W. says

    We need to do everything within our power to make sure GloMo does NOT get elected.

  14. DowtownBread says

    GloMo doesn’t fit in Downtown LA. Sadly, She is a great woman! she has done so much, and yes she is an important figure in Los Angeles and to the hispanic community. I hope her beign hispanic won’t lead her to saving the swap-meet style shops on broadway.

  15. Rosemary Sova says

    Gloria Molina was truly visionary in making sure the funds to build Grand Park were set aside at the beginning, regardless of whether the adjacent mixed-use development happened (it didn’t.) But I share the concerns about the competing visions of the future of DTLA, and agree it needs to continue to grow as an urban center. I must say, though, I’m agog at the number and size of the mailings I’ve gotten from Jose Huizar–did you see the one that unfolded to be nearly the size of a table top? There is a ton of money flowing into the campaign to pay for all that, likely much of it from developers. Not all development is good development–just ask the folks in Weho about that. l want to our member of Council be responsive to all of us, the constituents, not just the big donors. Regardless of the outcome of the election, downtown residents need to stay tuned in, make our voices heard, and hold the winner accountable to us.

  16. I guess no one here cares that this guy is an admitted adulterer and sexual harasser who cost us LA taxpayers $$ to settle this lawsuit as well as the city paying 185K to settle a case against him when he crashed his city owned car back in 2013.whle the LAPD waited six hours to give him a DUI test.

    I guess as long as you are for a trolley downtown and bike lanes that inconvenience 99.8% of citizens for a few self absorbed Gen X bikers, then well lets overlook his horrible ethics and morals (he cheated on his wife folks).

    If this guy was a Republican and cheated on his wife he would be butchered, but since he brought in a Whole Foods, why lets re-elect this clown.

    Molina has a proven track record and whether you agree or not, she is nowhere near as morally challenged as Huizar.

    I bet if BY could’ve voted way back when, would have voted for NIxon because, other than Watergate, he was doing a good job.

    The quicker the city removes corrupt pols like Huizar, the sooner this city will be back on firmer ground.

    • and what does his personal business have to do with essentially jump-starting DTLA????

      NOTHING!

  17. Most of the criticism leveled at Molina is deserved, and Huizar is indeed the better candidate. But many of his ideas for downtown are foolish, and don’t acknowledge the fact that cars will still need to come here, no matter how often we bang our heads against the wall and scream about it.

    The streetcar is an indulgence for a very small slice of the people that live here now, but is not a long term solution to transportation issues, and won’t serve very many.

    If you want downtown to be a Mecca, people must be able to get here, and buses are note the future. I’m encouraged by the development of our rail system and I hope to see it expand tremendously in the future, but car traffic is a must, and affordable parking is a must – this is just reality. Broadway either needs to be shut to vehicles entirely, and bus routes need to be re-routed, or this ridiculous situation in the southbound lane must be corrected.

    Not all development is good. Think critically.

  18. Mark Waxberg says

    Huizar is the obvious choice. What’s important is that we all get out there and vote. You can all make a difference in this election!

  19. Pingback: Election Roundup: In City’s First Race Fought over Progressive Urban Planning, Streetsie Winner Huizar Prevails | Streetsblog Los Angeles

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