14 Nov AD51 Candidates answer FoLAR’s River Questionnaire
Read responses to FoLAR’s AD51 River Questionnaire
Next month voters in Assembly District 51 will choose who will represent our community in Sacramento. Our next representative will serve a vital district that spans the Los Angeles River. Friends of the Los Angeles River circulated a questionnaire to both candidates in the runoff, Wendy Carrillo and Luis Lopez. Both Carrillo and Lopez submitted their responses laying out their vision for River restoration. Read their responses below, find your polling station, and mark your calendar for Election Day, December 5th, 2017.
FoLAR is a community co-sponsor of the AD51 Community Debate on Wednesday, November 15th. Find the event details here and join us on Wednesday!
1. In 30 years, dramatic changes have occurred on the Los Angeles River that have created new spaces for public to gather, and for plant and wildlife to habitat. Public interest in seeing a vibrant restoration of the LA River is ever-growing, and stretches of the River in AD51 will be central to restoration efforts. Please share your vision for the River’s future.
WENDY CARRILLO: I strongly support restoring the LA River’s ecology to enhance local habitat, improve water quality and watershed health, reduce stormwater runoff and increase recreational opportunities as a key strategy for local climate-resilience, ecosystem restoration and increased recreational and open space opportunities for all Angelenos. Transforming the LA River to a more natural state and awe-inspiring beauty is critical to protecting the River’s fragile ecosystem while preserving this key piece of our history, flood protection and local identity for current and future generations. It is essential that we work together to implement anti-displacement strategies, public access, and ecosystem enhancements to ensure the maximum benefits to local residents and the community. As a legislator, I will fight for increased funding to invest in the planning, implementation, and protection of outdoor spaces along the L.A. River corridor and take a leadership role in ensuring the success of financing options such as through an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District. I believe the full length of the river and greenway should be fully restored, and support unlocking the approximately 2,100 acres of land within the flood control channel for the public’s use and benefit. However, I will prioritize the 11-mile ARBOR area that runs through the 51st Assembly District. I support Alternative 20 of the ARBOR Study for the LA River. Alt. 20 calls for the most habitat restoration and connectivity while thoughtfully balancing passive recreation needs and wants. Working for the River is not just about “in- channel” needs but also its banks and the people, plant and wildlife communities that live in, adjacent to and along the 51-mile river.
LUIS LOPEZ: Angelenos and visitors to our great city will have an opportunity over the coming decades to experience and enjoy the river from which our city derives its name. Steadily the awe and natural splendor of the river that captured the imagination of Juan Crespi in 1769 and led to the city’s placement on its banks in 1781 are coming back to life. The days of turning our backs on this urban riparian ecosystem, caging it out of public view and interaction, and treating it as a dumping ground while choking it with plastic waste are over, once and for all.
I view the river as a valuable but vulnerable asset of the local urban environment. It is a vehicle for experiencing nature, connecting diverse communities, and measuring our progress in eliminating pollution. I view the protection and refinement of this asset as a defining project of our civic life and my own civic leadership. As a resident, I have run and walked along the river, participated in its cleanup, and explored the civic and cultural renewal happening along its banks. As an advocate, I have built coalitions around the river and the concerns of longtime river community leaders, including working to pass the citywide and statewide bans on throwaway plastic bags, thousands of which still line its riverbed and banks. As Assemblymember, I will continue to be a voice for the L.A. River, ensure investment and allocation of resources for its revitalization and health, and lead by example in sponsoring and supporting river-focused events that build firsthand enjoyment and active, informed respect for this namesake asset of our city.
2. This year the state cut the ribbon for the Los Angeles State Historic Park. This was a great example of how the State can create green, river adjacent, publicly accessible spaces for the community to enjoy. As the River momentum continues to build, several ideas on river development have become main topics of conversation. Discuss your opinion on public access and how you envision this being carried out along the River.
LUIS LOPEZ: Public access is not only a touchstone for proposed outcomes of river development and outdoor recreation on and along the river. But also access and input by the public, and transparent public decision-making about river planning, are equally precious assets. The product and the process–the goal and the getting-there–require attention to public access. I share some of the concerns of FoLAR founder Lewis MacAdams about the peremptory naming in 2015 of Frank Gehry to oversee redesign of a large stretch of the rivera. I am also concerned that redevelopment along the river may irrevocably alter the character of some river communities, such as Elysian Valley, and, occurring amidst a crisis in affordable housing, could displace longtime residents, who might this lose access to the river just at the moment when years of investment and care by neighbors are paying dividends.
WENDY CARRILLO: I believe that any plan to develop green, river adjacent spaces should make public access a top priority, and fully support increased public access in these spaces. I believe soliciting and utilizing the input of key stakeholder groups like the Friends of the LA River is critical to advocating for the preservation and improvement of public access to these spaces. This year the State also allocated nearly $100m to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and River & Mountains Conservancy and I plan on being an active voice for how those funds are spent to improve access to the river.
Given FOLAR’s long-time leadership and community support, I expect us to work closely together to ensure increased community engagement as we implement ecological, recreational, economic development, affordable housing and other plans along the LA River and its watershed.
3. Los Angeles is recognized as a park-poor metropolitan area and water quality issues plague the region, disproportionately impacting underserved communities. SB 5 (de Leon), the California Clean Water, Climate, and Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access For All Act authorizes $4 billion to fund parks, water, climate adaptation, coastal protection and outdoor access programs. Please explain if you support or oppose this measure, and how you will work for its passage or defeat.
WENDY CARRILLO: I proudly supported Senate Bill 5 (de Leon) and was pleased to see the measure approved by Governor Brown and will work fiercely towards its implementation. I strongly support this investment in our parks, climate and water infrastructure to ensure Angelenos and all Californians have safe and increased access to these spaces. As a legislator, I will defend this funding and will explore ways in which we can make even greater, targeted investments in areas with the greatest need through the state budget process. Senator De Leon and Assemblymember Gomez did well to encourage the State’s Cap and Trade program to consider funding projects in polluted urban areas. I want to build on those efforts and drive funding to the River as part of a climate change solution. Much of the River runs alongside freeways where air pollution from cars and trucks are amongst the worst in the region. There’s a great opportunity to combat this pollution using the restored habitat of the River. Issues of climate justice, access to clean, safe water for drinking and recreational purposes, open space and urban parks and urban environmental issues will be among my top priorities in the Legislature.
LUIS LOPEZ: I know firsthand how the lack of greenspace and parks in Los Angeles degrades lives and hurts our communities, especially many of the underserved neighborhoods on the Eastside of L.A. I have experience in leading on this issue repeatedly as chair of the RVNOC (oversight panel for distribution of city Prop K funds), chosen by my peers to lead decision-making on modernization and refurbishment of parks for Eastside residents. Facing the worst scarcity of greenspace of any city in the U.S., and the health hazards such denial inflicts, my neighbors and I built coalitions to create open space and improve access to parks and facilities for exercise and recreation.
As Assemblymember for the Eastside of L.A., now that SB 5 has passed and the parks funding ballot measure will appear on Californians’ 2018 fall ballot, I will work mightily for its passage and then maximize the funds needed for local parks through bonds to invest in parks, water, climate adaptation, coastal protection, and more.
4. California’s recent drought and the devastating hurricanes in other parts of the US have highlighted some of the major challenges climate change will exacerbate in our region. With California getting ready to spend billions of dollars on water, park, and housing infrastructure how will you determine or prioritize the best use of those funds, and in your perspective, what role does LA River restoration play in those investments?
LUIS LOPEZ: I believe the LA River can serve multiple purposes. It is and can be a flooding overflow, but it cannot be a repository for human waste or other contaminants, which recently occurred, exposing a breakdown in regulatory responsibility for enforcement, river cleanliness, and public warning. It is and can be a resource to replenish our aquifers, though we must also monitor and prevent its poisoning by leaching compounds from nearby eco-hotspots, such as the Scholl Canyon dump.
It is and can furnish much needed public greenspace for the communities it touches, but the resilience of this verdant oasis cannot by taken for granted. In the long term, I would love to see our river a greater part of the identity of Los Angeles, like the Thames, Arno, Seine, and so many other rivers are for cultural capitals of the world.
WENDY CARRILLO: I believe climate change is the greatest existential threat faced by our species, and communities in the 51st Assembly District are among those most impacted. Given that climate change is accelerated by human-made actions, it is our moral obligation to take urgent action to make communities more climate-resilient and water-secure. I will fight for targeted investments in the types of technological and environmental policies and projects that will curb and reverse the life-threatening and devastating effects of climate change. The ecological restoration of the LA River is a critical piece of improving our local and statewide ecosystem, and I will fight to make its restoration a top funding priority in the state budget. Although I support restoration plans along the entire river, I will fight to prioritize funding for the ARBOR area given the importance of that 11-mile stretch to the entire system.
5. The State of California now lists glyphosate – an active ingredient in commercial herbicide – on the Prop 65 list of carcinogens. Glyphosate is currently utilized by Army Corps of Engineers to reduce vegetation in and around the LA River and connecting tributaries. Glyphosate is not only carcinogenic but can cause major adverse effects on wildlife and water quality. How will your office work to reduce and eliminate the usage of a known carcinogen on behalf of the public and the wildlife?
LUIS LOPEZ: As your Assemblymember, I will introduce legislation to eliminate glyphosate from use in California and work with California’s Congressional delegation to put pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers to stop using this deadly product. Also, I will use the bully pulpit to spread the word about the disastrous effects this caustic chemical has on our lives and environment. The combination of state legislation, federal pressure, and public embarrassment is a proven recipe for change in this regard. The Army Corp of Engineers will change their behavior.
WENDY CARRILLO: Not only do we need to ensure greater public access to a restored LA River, we need to also ensure that it is a safe place for our families and children. I will fight to protect our state’s wildlife and water quality from known carcinogens, and will oppose the use of these substances in public spaces like the LA River. As a legislator, I would welcome the opportunity to work with FOLAR in crafting legislation to reduce and eliminate the use of known carcinogens in these spaces.
6. This year a ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam), SB-705, failed to pass in the California Senate. In response, there have been numerous calls for cities and counties to pass their own bans, however piecemeal implementation is unlikely to reduce waste in the Los Angeles River that carries Styrofoam out to the ocean, where as it breaks down can be harmful to wildlife species. Do you support a Styrofoam ban at the State level? What actions will you take to ensure Californians reduce waste and ensure water quality in our natural environments?
WENDY CARRILLO: Yes, I strongly support reducing waste and protecting our natural environment. That’s why I supported the ban on plastic bags and support a statewide ban on polystyrene. I believe there is room to further improve our water quality and natural environment, and will be a strong advocate for policies that do so.
LUIS LOPEZ: I will lead efforts to ban polystyrene. In doing so, I will apply lessons from the victories we won through grassroots organizing, coalition advocacy, earned media to frame the policy issue for ordinary voters, and bringing the platform and strength of the Democratic Party to bear on this effort. One key step is to present to the public and highlight to policy-makers the alternative to non biodegradable waste like styrofoam. In 2013, amidst the crisis of plastic blight choking the L.A. River, our Eastside neighborhoods, and California’s marine ecosystems, I worked with local Latino and other community activists to support the L.A. city ban on throwaway plastic bags. Drawing on the leadership of former County Supervisor Gloria Molina, we not only won approval of the citywide ban, but also advanced the statewide ban in Sacramento.
Building on sustained advocacy from Latino leaders and allies I helped recruit throughout the state, we reframed the issue of plastic waste to focus on the costs of blight in our neighborhoods and to taxpayers for cleanup as well as the economic opportunities created by consumers’ transformed awareness and ongoing transition to reusable bags. We won the epic fight to pass SB 270 in 2014, the first statewide ban on throwaway bags in the country. Through the recruitment and deployment of Latino spokespeople, such as Dolores Huerta and the astronaut Jose Hernandez, we beat the out-of-state plastic polluters that sought to thwart us and protected our policy victory by winning two statewide ballot measures on the Nov. 2016 statewide ballot, No on 65 and Yes on 67. As our Assemblymember, I would like to lead the charge in banning polystyrene.
7. In the past decade, the rate of project proposals and development along the River has increased dramatically. Throughout this increase in activity and development, some projects have a more transparent process than others. Would you support any projects or plans along the River without public process or outreach?
LUIS LOPEZ: A public process with community outreach is vital for a successful planning process. I managed such a process firsthand as the Chair of the East Area Planning Commission, for five years from 2008 to 2013. I will only support projects and plans that have a public process, with public meetings, community outreach, and stakeholder input.
WENDY CARRILLO: No. Development projects along the LA River should be subject to an open and transparent process, especially with the unacceptable amount of displacement that will take place and increasing missed opportunities for the best ecological restoration. Given the importance of the LA River, the delicate nature of its wildlife and ecosystem, and the role it plays as a public recreation point, I support intense public participation and scrutiny of all development along the LA River. Additionally, I would be open to a conversation about creating a specific set of protections for River Communities whether through a planning overlay zone in Los Angeles, a Joint Powers Authority or even an act similar to the Coastal Protection Act.
8. The California Coastal Commission was created to ensure habitat protection and public access along the coast as private development began dominating coastal land. To prevent a privatized Riverfront, what will you do to ensure that riverfront property provides public access while preserving the integrity of the riparian ecosystem?
WENDY CARRILLO: As stated previously, I strongly believe increasing and protecting public access to the LA River should be a top priority for any proposed development or restoration plan. I do not support a privatized riverfront that would eliminate public access or deteriorate the riverfront’s fragile ecosystem. To the extent private development occurs on the riverfront, I strongly support clearly defined public ways of access that do not deteriorate the integrity of the riparian ecosystem.
LUIS LOPEZ: One of the most freeing feelings I experience as an Angeleno is running alongside the L.A. River. And one of the most gratifying contacts with nature is being able to walk directly along the water, savoring the company of an egret or heron. This cannot go extinct. Thank As your Assemblymember I will fight to protect the public’s access to the river and preserve the integrity of the river’s ecosystem. This includes application of my direct legislative authority. Direct interaction with this urban waterway and participation in its cleanup reinforce a shared sense of its value and vulnerability. Only through preserving this prized asset will we honor our history. Only by protecting our land and resources will California continue to be a leader in developing the green industries of the 21st Century, which are bringing and new jobs here. Only by ensuring that current and future generations can gain firsthand exposure to the river will we foster sustainability of the ecosystem.
Friends of the Los Angeles River is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission since 1986 has been to ensure a publicly accessible and ecologically sustainable Los Angeles River by inspiring River stewardship through community engagement, education, advocacy, and thought leadership. FOLAR is a leading powerful force guiding policy and connecting communities to the River, nationally respected as a leader in urban river revitalization with a membership of 35,000.