04 Feb CD14 City Council Candidates Respond to River Questionnaire
In the spirit of encouraging robust participation in our local democracy, Friends of the LA River distributed a five-subject questionnaire to all certified candidates for public office in Council Districts 2, 4, 12 and 14. Find your Council District here. The following responses were received from candidates in CD14. Read their responses below.
FoLAR: 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 habitat. Public interest in seeing a vibrant restoration of the LA River is evergrowing and stretches of the River in Council District 14 will be central to restoration efforts. Please share your vision for the River’s future and what you see as the ideal balance between nature and infrastructure.
Mónica García: In the coming years, what LA does with the River will reflect who we are community. I believe we need to bring people together to restore the River’s ecology, preserve near-by communities, and provided park space for those communities and the rest of LA.
Kevin De León: I believe that we share a vision of restoration and access for the LA River. A shared vision that began for me when FOLAR and Lewis McAdams helped establish that the State of California would recognize the Los Angeles River as a river, and not just a flood control channel. As your State Senator I was proud to introduce and pass SB 1201 – the L.A. River Access bill – on behalf of FoLAR and, if elected to be your voice in city hall, I will continue to be a champion for the restoration of the LA River.
Our next step is to continue working towards the vision of an emerald necklace that would connect communities from the Sepulveda Basin to Long Beach. A vison that includes access for park-poor and disadvantaged communities that suffer the brunt of the negative effects of our poor air quality and lack of green space.
Cyndi Otteson: My vision for the river’s future sees a transformative restoration that balances new recreation opportunities, green space and parks, and development that is smart, ecologically sensitive, and is guided by a long-view, comprehensive vision that prioritizes ethics and equity.
A comprehensive vision for the river’s future must take into account that the CD14 communities along the LA River have called it home decades before “riverfront property” was a hot item. Ecological restoration cannot be a death knell for these neighborhoods, many of which are already seeing displacement of low-income residents. These are also neighborhoods that have been disproportionately burdened by pollution from the surrounding freeways (2, 5, 110), the former Taylor Switching Yard, and existing Metrolink Central Maintenance Facility. We must bring the kind of equity to these neighborhoods that organizations such as East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice have been fighting so hard for, so that needed ecological improvements can benefit existing residents and their children and grandchildren.
The Los Angeles River is a natural connector for Los Angeles, and the creation of bicycle and pedestrian bridges are enhancing the links between neighborhoods such as Atwater and Elysian Valley. And yet, the city’s overall cycling, pedestrian and transit infrastructure is hampering safe, sustainable access. Anticipating the completion of the shared bike and pedestrian path with direct connectivity to Long Beach, the city must work to ensure that actually getting to this path is safe for all modes of transit. Plenty of cyclists drive to Griffith Park, then ride the path for recreation, but what about the LA River path as real transportation? Creating complete streets with traffic calming, safe crossing, and protected bike lanes is critical so that Angelenos can connect to the river path without having to drive.
Raquel Zamora: The Vision that I have for the Los Angeles River is that it continues to be accessible to residents in the Fourteenth Council District as a natural venue where families can enjoy its history and more importantly coexist and respect the preservation of the plant and wildlife. If elected I would like to pursue future funding to upgrade the existing river and improve upon the infrastructure into more green space and walkways for residents of Council District 14 and all Angelinos to enjoy. I would also like to see a small information center where children can go on tours and learn of the type of wildlife that frequent or live on the LA River and the type of plant life that exist.
FoLAR: The City is underway designing the usage of 42 acres of open space at Taylor Yards G2. Last year, they put forward three preliminary design concepts, FoLAR published an op-ed calling for the abandonment of one of the options and supporting the two options that offer concrete removal at the site. To date, over 3,000 supporters have signed FoLAR’s petition calling for concrete removal at the G2 site. What is your preferred design option and why?
Mónica García: I am open to both the Soft Edge and Island concepts. I want to understand more about the ecological impact of each approach. I do believe the Soft Edge approach with it terraces along the River’s edge is more intriguing for park visitors.
Kevin De León: I have a vested interest in the G2 parcel and helped secure half of the purchase through state funds. I would like to take a closer look at all the design concepts to ensure that we are leveraging all the available funds for ground water replenishment, treatment, and stormwater capture. I am a supporter of designs similar to the “soft edge” and have helped fund similar bio-swell and replenishment projects at Marsh Park phase I & II. I would like to continue to build innovative parks that help us adapt to climate change while diverting precious ground water back into our aquifers that have sat dormant and polluted for far too long. As they say, the solution to pollution is dilution. Our parks and open space designs need to reflect that the LA River is a river and not a stormwater channel.
Cyndi Otteson: This vital project would not be happening without FOLAR’s decades of advocacy and community engagement to restore our city’s connection to the river. As the CD14 Councilwoman, I’ll support the “soft edge” design, as it offers the most natural,
maximum climate cooling, water flow, and wildlife habitat restoration. As we get closer to the final phase, I would look directly to FOLAR for guidance. Together, we can advocate for a final design that prioritizes our current climate crisis, minimizes concrete in anticipation of hotter years to come, and allows for maximum rainwater reclamation through bioswales and the best design to replenish our diminishing water table.
Restoring the natural habitat at G2 should bring much-deserved environmental justice to Cypress Park and Elysian Valley — two neighborhoods that have taken more than their fair share of the city’s industrial and air pollution burden — that actually benefits existing residents, not prospective developers. As a grassroots, 100% clean-money candidate, who has not taken any campaign contributions from real estate developers, corporate interests, or water companies (like Cadiz, who tried to pull water from the Mojave
Desert), I will work alongside FOLAR out in the open, to seek the best design that
restores our river and its neighborhoods.
Raquel Zamora: Of the three designs that the City has put forward, I lean towards the Soft Edge design, because it prioritizes ecological restoration and removal of concrete on the east bank of the river. It also contains wetland restoration, water treatment and promotes an abundance of native plants. I especial like the prioritizing of public access to the river with recreation amenities, space for exhibitions, amphitheaters, cafes and walking trails. I believe that families and youth in Council District Fourteenth would benefit greatly from this design. I also do not want to see the loss of federal matching funds intended for river rehabilitation.
FoLAR: River advocates have successfully pushed state and city agencies to see their adjacent park lands in the mid-River a part of 100 continuous acres of open space. A private luxury development, known as Casitas Lofts, threatens access at the north end of the 100 continuous acres, and has inspired a coalition of advocates to oppose this development, as is. Please explain how you would balance the need for housing development, with environmental health and restoration, climate resilience, and equitable public access to our natural resources with respect to River-adjacent developments.
Mónica García: We need to preserve and better the working class communities along the LA River. The River should not be yet, but another opportunity for irresponsible developers. We have more than enough places to build in LA the housing we need. We do not have enough park spaces.
Kevin De León: In the midst of a homelessness and housing crisis, Luxury development is a non-starter for me. We need to balance access and preservation of green and open space with need for affordable housing. I would explore options to protect the renters, who are the most vulnerable to serious threats of displacement as property values along the river continue to rise.
Cyndi Otteson: First of all, developers who contribute to political campaigns hold too much sway over our current City Council. My commitment to an all-clean-money campaign means that I will approach any development in CD14 with a focus on putting our families and neighborhoods first, and making sure that any projects proposed and built in CD14, large or small, are a net win for residents. That includes making sure that a historically underserved and environmentally burdened community doesn’t lose out on the benefits of river restoration: The greatest drawback of Casitas Lofts is the potential for this luxury site to hamper free and fair access to a newly beautified area, and does not become a repeat of longstanding battles at the Coastal commission regarding beach access. The L.A. River can’t become Malibu East, but that takes Councilmembers who pay attention, and take the long view, with their eyes on equity and social justice.
Raquel Zamora: In the City and especially in Council District14 there is a dire need to preserve and develop open space. I for one do not support developments such as the Casitas Lofts, and it is my understanding that there is a 60% vacancy rate of existing lofts in the City. Lofts merely price families out that can’t meet market rates. If there were a need for that type of development along the river I would advocate for single-family cabins or possibly workforce development affordable single-family river homes. I do not support loft developments as the 14th Council District is already dense and there are many vacancies in Downtown Los Angeles, as folks cannot meet the market rates.
FoLAR: Los Angeles City and the US Army Corps of Engineers agreed in 2016 to an ambitious ecological restoration plan along the LA River (also known as ARBOR). Currently LA County is conducting an update to its own River Master Plan with the intention of “synthesizing more recent ideas for portions of the River and bringing a comprehensive vision to the transformation of the LA River.” Questions remain unanswered however as to how ARBOR will be realized within the County’s new updated plan. Please explain how, in your capacity as an elected city leader, you view these plans interacting, and your priority for planning City-sections of the River.
Mónica García: I would create a task force of County leaders, community leaders and city leaders that all have a stake in this restoration process. Coordination and coalition building of the different levels of government and community organizations is the inside-outside strategy that I employ for change and progress. I believe that we will be most efficient and effective when we work together, especially for this transformation project of the LA River.
Kevin De León: The Army Corp of Engineers’ “veto” power creates an inbalanced joint powers authority. We need to work with our colleagues on the Federal level that can provide the resources and guidance needed to prioritize the ARBOR. We have a fellow River Champion in Congressman Jimmy Gomez, who has endorsed my candidacy, and we will work towards prioritizing projects in sections of the river that have the greatest potential for positive transformation.
Cyndi Otteson: As a Los Angeles City Councilmember, my overarching goal is to ensure that any revitalization plan for the L.A. River benefits existing communities along the river, which are greenspace- and park-poor, and whose families deserve the hard-won benefits of the de-industrialization that such plans promise. As Councilmembers, we must make sure any proposed development compliments and revitalizes the neighborhood, rather than pushing people out.
A common first reaction to the (necessary) rewriting of the County’s 24-year-old LA River Master Plan is, “What, another plan?”. As Curbed LA put it, “The county estimates that as the river flows for 51 miles from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach, it snakes through areas already covered by some 114 community, regional, and river-related plans, as well as bike and pedestrian plans, general plans, and design guidelines .”
If I could snap my fingers, I’d conjure an independent L.A. River Czar – or at least a blue-ribbon commission of no more than 3 people – who could corral all the various river plans into an orderly and efficient system that absorbs and prioritizes public input into an ethical and intelligent course of action, one that balances private and public interests and results in an L.A. river that changes the face of our region and is a shining example for the ages.
However, the City of Los Angeles does not “own” the river, and the list of agencies and municipalities guiding its future seem to grow exponentially as the potential profit of the river’s revitalization, both financial and social, becomes apparent. It is especially concerning when blue-chip architectural firms and real estate developers get into the mix, since their interests do not necessarily intersect with the public’s.
In Council District 14 and on the City Council as a whole, we can do the next best thing to a River Czar by making sure we hire and assign experts in river issues to full-time positions that keep track of the latest developments, and who look at the river as a City-owned entity that crosses boundaries and touches other agencies, akin to an airport like LAX. That way, we in the City of Los Angeles need to focus on what we can control, and advocate for what we can influence.
Raquel Zamora: If I am elected to represent the Fourteenth Council District, I would first like to meet with the Supervisor of the First Supervisorial District to discuss the County’s Master Plan as it pertains to the Los Angeles River and those of the City. I believe that working collaboratively with the County and instructing city department to work alongside the county departments we can achieve an equitable design that both local governments and river advocates can be proud of where future generations of Angelinos can enjoy.
FoLAR: This April marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and FoLAR’s 31st annual Great LA River CleanUp. Every year, 6,000 volunteers come together to make a positive impact on our River’s health by removing plastic waste from our urban ecosystem. Individual volunteers are doing their part, but greater government action is needed. Please share your plans for reducing plastics and shifting the culture of waste in the City of Los Angeles.
Mónica García: We have as a city made progress banning bags and straws. The rest of the state is poised to follow our lead. A non-plastic future is possible. We need to continue to work to eliminate single use plastics.
Kevin De León: I have had the honor of participating in “La Gran Limpieza” and the LA river cleanup throughout my career and I look forward to many more.
Times have changed from the first cleanups that would haul in shopping carts and entire vehicles from the river. We are now facing the scourge of smaller particles and microplastics that pollute or ecosystem and get into our food supply.
I was the co-author of the statewide single-use plastic bag ban and would consider similar efforts for other single use products. We also need to explore treating storm water runoff before it gets into the river and cultivating biological filters can break down some pollutants.
Cyndi Otteson: Single-use plastics are the next big battle on the zero-waste horizon. For strategy, the City of L.A. can look to the non-profit 5 Gyres and their “TrashBlitz,” which functions as a brand audit, shifting the burden of plastic pollution from the individual consumer back to the producer. In other words, “If you make something with plastic, you’ve got to have a lifecycle plan for it.” We can also do what Santa Monica and San Francisco have already done, getting city entities off of single-use plastic water bottles and making sure we aren’t inventing a new industry of lingering “greenwashed” plastic items.
The City Council as a whole can advocate for current proposed legislation on closing the recycling loop in Los Angeles, including SB54 and AB1080. We should also celebrate — and advertise — the fact that the plastic bag ban is working; groups who do river and beach cleanups see demonstrably fewer of them. The plastic bag ban would be working even better were it not for the loopholes provided to plastic bag manufacturers to make “reusable” plastic bags.
The City of LA can also fast-track a ban on polystyrene — but only if we elect Councilmembers who don’t take money from polystyrene companies and the fossil fuel industry, which wants to see a rise in plastic product creation to secure a need for petroleum as electric and other no-emission vehicles come on line. Note that the fossil fuel industry’s tentacles touch even “green” candidates in the CD14 race, who have taken money from car-parking companies and their CEOs, including a job-killing automated car parking company. As a clean-money Councilwoman, I will work with integrity and clear focus to solve our city’s problems, and to help transform L.A. into the national ecological leader it aspires to be.
Raquel Zamora: Because I am a public school teacher and Counselor I believe that education and engagement are two key factors in changing the culture and habits. I would like to work in collaborations with our public schools in educating students on Earth day but actually becoming active participants in clean up efforts with Los Angeles river advocates. I would also like to start an aggressive campaign for residents of the Fourteenth Council District on the need to recycle and reduce waste. I would also like to have a dedicated bulky item pick-up crew in the district to retrieve bulky items within 48 hours.
John Jimenez: After reading what the FOLAR does it seems that its a great task and challenging! “IF” I am voted into the Council District 14, as a City Councilman all resources at my hands would be right behind you in ensuring we work together to make it a better place and cleaner environment as it should of been done way before this FOLAR put their stake into these challenges! Keeping clean has been a great task for everyone coming together to make it a better site than it was before and as time passes on it would all have been rewarding!
If, I took to long to reply please forgive me. I had to read and see with my very own eyes before I could come to terms with this wondeerful project! What touched my heart was the little ones kids being part of this challenges in trying to keep it clean! I say you got my support to be part of this project because there are revenues which can be allocated just need to cut the fat from wasteful City revenues by senseless spending by some elected Official!
Our City Mayor just endorsed Kevin de Leon whom had the opportunity to help out with every single City problem when he was a State Assemblyman then later became a State Senator etc. I see another coming years of a repeated Antonio V. all over again if he becomes Elected. A self-serving Candidate!
Monica G. is part of the Antonio Klan because Antonio knew his backup had to be his “PEOPLE”, not for the “PEOPLES” interest. I was born and raised in the CD 14. (Vote4JohnJimenez4CD14) I am a Senior Citizen with 15 years as a volunteer without pay and 30 years with pay as the Executive ProjectDirector of a nonprofit organization dealing with multiple tasks! I am with 45 years of experience serving the General Public! Share it with others for us to “WIN”.