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L.A. County Election Analysis: Good News for Livability and Transportation

It has been just over a week since L.A. County voters went to the polls. There are still batches of votes to be reported, but most races have been decided, so Streetsblog will run down the results as they stand right now. There are potential issues with premature election takes, but most of the dust has pretty much settled - and SBLA will update this post as needed. Percentages included are as of early Thursday, November 17.

On the whole, November 8 was a very good day, with lots of victories for candidates and measures that bode well for the transportation and livability issues that many Streetsblog readers care about.

L.A. Mayor: Karen Bass wins

Just yesterday, Karen Bass was declared the winner; she currently leads with 53.1 percent. She will be L.A.'s first female mayor, and second Black mayor. She has a long record of trailblazing leadership on equity and understands the issues facing the communities the city has historically left behind. Given her deep roots in organizing in South Central, it is likely that the staff she brings in will also share that understanding of the legacy of disenfranchisement and will help ensure voices from those communities are centered in her administration's priorities.

With her four representatives on the Metro board, a Bass mayoralty also bodes well for transit, other green transportation, and continuing to work towards ensuring transit investments benefit the communities they serve. Bass professed support for increasing transit ridership, including by providing services and housing for unhoused people taking refuge on Metro transit. Her opponent (Rick Caruso) was skeptical of Metro transit spending, and emphasized greater law enforcement on Metro.

Bass supports making major corridors walkable, bikeable, green, and safe, with bus lanes, bike lanes, and first- and last-mile access to transit. She prioritizes accessibility for the most vulnerable community members, including ensuring that their voices are heard in planning/outreach processes.

Her support for 41.18 - the code that has allowed councilmembers to designate segments of their districts as off-limits to encampments - has troubled many. The firmness of that stance - which was likely influenced to some degree by the fact that Caruso had made "cleaning up the streets" the cornerstone of his self-financed campaign - remains to be seen. Her overall approach to homelessness, like her stance on public safety, is more public-health and prevention oriented and aimed at addressing the drivers of both poverty and crime.

L.A. City Council: Young Yaroslavsky, Park, Soto-Martinez, and McOsker winning

City Council District 5 will be represented by Katy Young Yaroslavsky, a former staffer for L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Young Yaroslavsky supports affordable housing and mixed-use development for "walkable, bikeable, diverse urban neighborhoods." Her opponent (Sam Yebri) emphasized greater enforcement to get unhoused folks off the streets, and raised parking concerns to cast doubt on Westside bus/bike improvements.

City Council District 11's outcome may officially be too close to definitively call, but it is pretty clear that Traci Park, leading with 53.3 percent, beat Erin Darling. Darling ran well to the left of Park, who L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin called the most conservative member of the council, comparing her to Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Both candidates ostensibly support multimodal transportation, but Park sure seems to be a lot more cozy with Westside nimbys who have made bus and bike improvements difficult.

City Council District 13 will be represented by progressive Hugo Soto-Martinez, who unseated incumbent Mitch O'Farrell. Soto-Martinez emphasized a compassionate response to the city's homelessness crisis, while O'Farrell was the architect of some of the city's most punitive sweeps, including at Echo Park. Soto-Martinez pledged more protected bike lanes, bus lanes, increased transit frequency, and making walking easier and safer. His opponent canceled several bike/walk safety projects.

Soto-Martinez will collaborate with Eunisses Hernandez and Nithya Raman, all progressives who recently unseated centrist incumbents. Progressives - including Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Hernandez, Raman, and Soto-Martinez - do not have a majority on the 15-seat council, but their growing minority could be an antidote to the council's stodgy "culture of unanimity" that has stifled reform.

City Council District 15 will be represented by Tim McOsker, former Chief of Staff for Mayor James Hahn and former LAPD union lobbyist. He ran to the right of Danielle Sandoval, who emphasized education, environment, and community involvement.

There will be more changes coming to the council, with an April 4 special election to replace Nury Martinez, and Kevin de León continuing to be dragged downward in the same scandal that disgraced Martinez.

L.A. City Controller: Mejia soundly won

Kenneth Mejia (62.2 percent) soundly beat Paul Koretz, an anathema of many Streetsblog readers due to his hypocrisy in killing several city bike/walk safety projects. Mejia is an unabashed progressive who pledged to "fix climate change and end air pollution by decarbonizing public transit, increasing transit ridership, biking, walking, and making driving obsolete." His campaign successfully banked on people wanting to learn more about how the city budget worked and used billboards and social media to supply them with data that made it more legible. That kind of transparency, particularly around issues like policing, allowed for Angelenos to see who and what were prioritized, and to think about where they'd like to see change.

L.A. City Measure ULA won

Streetsblog-endorsed United to House L.A. (Measure ULA) has passed with 56.4 percent voter approval, in the face of sizable expenditures by L.A. real estate interests. ULA enacts a new tax on high-end property sales - to generate an estimated $8 billion over ten years - to combat homelessness and foster affordable housing. This represents a huge victory for well-organized grassroots reformers, including the Alliance for Community Transit, which played a prominent role in the coalition that gathered signatures and got this measure passed.

ULA will be helped by voter approval of Measure LH, which lifts some limits on L.A. affordable housing (due to a racist state law that requires voter approval for these projects).

L.A. County Supervisor: Horvath winning

Former West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath is currently in the lead with 51.8 percent, over State Senator Robert Hertzberg. Horvath has long supported Metro rail expansion, and calls for the decarbonization of personal transportation. Her progressive transportation stances contrast sharply with those of Hertzberg who has been an oil industry shill, and recently joined rich Westside nimbys in opposing Metro subway tunneling.

L.A. County Sheriff: Luna wins over Villanueva

Former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna (60.3 percent) won over incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva (39.7 percent). Villanueva's Trump-like transgressions are too numerous to recap, though they include coddling LASD gangs, high-profile conflicts with progressive county supervisors and city councilmembers, public attacks on journalists, wildly stonewalling small steps toward Metro policing reform, and rejecting accountability as a general rule. Luna has pledged a “180-degree difference” from Villanueva that will include a new era of openness and cooperation.

Voters also approved county Measure A (70.51 percent) which gives the Board of Supervisors the power to remove a sitting sheriff.

Some addition transportation/livability election briefs from around L.A. County:

    • The city of Baldwin Park re-elected Mayor Emmanuel Estrada who has been very supportive of active transportation and new parks, including along Big Dalton Wash.
    • The city of Burbank elected Tamala Takahashi to City Council. She supports a more multimodal Burbank, including endorsing parking reform.
    • Voters returned former city of Claremont Mayor Jed Leano to the City Council. Leano has a progressive record, including support for affordable housing, compassionate homeless services, and complete streets.
    • The city of Cudahy re-elected Mayor Elizabeth Alcantar, who has long championed livability and green transportation.
    • Two seats on the five-seat Culver City council are up for grabs, and though the right-wing backlash-drenched election remains somewhat close, signs are not good. The council had a solid progressive 3-2 majority that enacted parking reform and prioritized multi-modal mobility. Strongly pro-bus/bike incumbent Alex Fisch is currently losing his seat. Progressive Freddy Puza is in second place, very likely to be elected. Streets for All endorsed both Fisch and Puza. First place is currently Dan O'Brien, who is openly critical of MOVE Culver City bike/bus improvements. If the current results hold, progressives would be reduced to just two of five council seats.
    • The city of El Monte re-elected Mayor Jessica Ancona, who has been supportive of ActiveSGV programs.
    • The city of Long Beach elected Rex Richardson as its mayor. Current City Councilmember Richardson will be Long Beach's first Black mayor; he has championed equity, safer streets, health, and sustainability. He defeated suburban City Councilmember Suzie Price, who has been critical of the Metro A Line, viewing it as a prime cause of Long Beach homelessness issues. Current Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who was a strong pro-transit pro-livability voice at Metro, was elected to Congress.
    • The city of Monterey Park elected Thomas Wong as a new city councilmember. Wong is very supportive of prioritizing pedestrian safety over increasing car lanes.
    • The city of Pasadena narrowly passed Measure H enacting rent control. Progressive tenant groups prevailed over much better funded landlord and real estate interests.
    • Thanks to a recently passed term limits ballot measure, there was only one incumbent running for one of three open council seats in Santa Monica. The conservative member won re-election while a pair of more progressive candidates claimed the other two spots. For more on Santa Monica's election, visit Santa Monica Next.

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