Toluca Lake CD 4 Candidate Forum

Even if you have no stake in the Council District 4 outcome, the race is a fascinating to follow. With fourteen candidates on the ballot and the race being enough of a balance that no one will get the necessary 50% to avoid a runoff, this is anyone’s game.

IMG_20150217_190454~2The diversity of the candidates alone makes this hard to guess. When you throw in the inexplicable boundaries, making sense of this is like trying to find patterns in alphabet soup.

For us valley folk, CD 4 covers Toluca Lake and Universal City while avoiding Studio City to get to Sherman Oaks. Whaa???

I came because I’m Mr. CiclaValley and I’m constantly cycling through these areas, so I have some concerns.

The Toluca Lake CD 4 debate is the second I’ve attended for the district, (here’s the first)this one with all the candidate sans vapor advocate Step Jones. With thirteen candidates on stage, it’s hard to distinguish yourself from the other.

The opening statements were not outside anything different from what every candidate has preached so far. I believe the first real question was about what is the biggest problem facing Toluca Lake, but everyone answered so similarly that it’s hard to remember what was asked. Infrastructure, mansionisation and traffic were the big three, but no strong answers on this round.

With the next question about the looming sewage construction on Riverside Drive, the candidates were asked how they would handle the traffic. Again, not a lot of strong answers. Teddy Davis made the strongest remark about handling the unions to make construction more efficient, but Tomas O’Grady, randomly selected next, took a little wind out of the sails asking why he didn’t do anything about it while in the mayor’s office.

There was then a round where each candidate had their own specific question to answer. Ross Sarkissian had the biggest softball of a question about whether LA has done a good job with development and managed only a bunt single. Wally Knox gave approval for permitted parking. Carolyn Ramsey stated she would be for or against bike lanes depending on the community. Otherwise, not much of note again.

The whole panel was then asked if they would keep the Toluca Lake field office and their staff. This was as an automatic “yes” answer, although Sarkissian, David Ryu and Fred Mariscal seemed to waiver ever so slightly on both demands. Mike Schaeffer, easily the most entertaining candidate, noted that the office stay since it’s near an Irish bar.

The worst question of the night then followed asking how the candidates would complete the Community Overlay plan facing Lankershim and Riverside. Their answers became more a referendum on the planning department than an answer itself. Carolyn Ramsey, the second out the box in this round, forgot the question and said insisting the plan gets followed would be the best method. Many of the other answers centered about making the department more efficient without any real answers. When the conversation was coming off track to the point the moderator had to restate the question again, the next speaker, Teddy Davis, went back to talking pensions.

Jay Beeber made a firm point challenging the prior leadership of the current administration. Sheila Irani, who has a strong planning background, went the opposite direction and blamed the lack of speed because of an understaffed department. I agreed with her most on this one. Joan Pelico used the opportunity to take a couple of shots at Sarkissian and Davis.

The final question asked what the candidates would do about traffic. I made sure to take good notes as this would have the greatest bearing on complete streets. Here’s what everyone had to say(in speaking order):

Ross Sarkissian: To better utilize Waze, public transportation and Uber, but gave little details.

Tomas O’Grady: Echoed most of what Sarkissian said, but gave more details on Waze and wanted LA to become a city where his daughter didn’t always have to use a car.

Wally Knox: More speed bumps where necessary and redesign the streets to make them inconvenient for passers through.

Tara Bannister: She wanted to address the traffic generated by short, medium and long trips. Better Dash lines and improved sidewalks.

Carolyn Ramsey: She pushed for voter approval of the Measure R extension in 2016 for better public transit without specifics of what to do with the money. Wants to partner with Google to solve problems and create a shuttle between the studios.

David Ryu: Work on adding street signs to limit left and right turns into the neighborhood during certain hours. Also to focus on first mile/last mile plans and to add bus cutouts.

Jay Beeber: Was against adding bike lanes if they remove a lane of traffic. Also wanted to promote telecommuting to reduce traffic. Otherwise, that’s it.

Fred Mariscal: It was unclear what he said. (Mariscal contacted me(see the comments) and clarified:
1- Need to support transit oriented development.
2- Will create a campaign to promote the use of pubic transit among youth.
3- Improve signal control and timing & Restrict curb parking on busy thoroughfares.
4- Promote ride-sharing, telecommuting, and flexible work schedules.
5- Implement a regionally connected bicycle network.)

Mike Schaeffer: Marriages last longer for those with shorter commutes! He stated how he takes the bus often because it may take a little longer than driving, but saves money and time looking for parking. Also, everyone on the bus doesn’t look like they’re from Boyz in the Hood. This guy always brings a smile to everyone’s face on the panel.

Sheila Irani: Another strong and detailed answer stating we need to reduce the number of trips people make alone. Wants to encourage telecommuting, bike lanes and traffic calming. Once again, she gave the most thorough answer of the round.

Joan Pelico: Spent half of her minute looking for Janice(I don’t know who she is) in the audience. She punted the answer to DOT.

Teddy Davis: To focus moving traffic off of Cahuenga and onto Lankershim. Also supports Measure R 2.0 to bring more parking to the Red Line stations.

Steve Veres: That we need to better handle the Red Line stations because they fill up by 7:30am. Also, to study the corridor leading into Hollywood to form better solutions.

All in all, there were few fireworks at the event. Seeing how there may be only 20,000 votes cast in this district and everyone probably only got about seven minutes to speak each, it’s like splitting hairs at this point.

The runoff election happens May 19th. Expect it to happen. If you want to blow your mind, imagine all the combinations.