Mike Newhouse. Courtesy photo

CD-11 candidate Mike Newhouse did not plan on running for LA City Council. According to him he has spent the last ten years politely dodging requests to declare his candidacy, until now.

As the March filing deadline approached and he perceived the state of the Westside to only be worsening, Newhouse bit the bullet and launched his campaign on the belief that he is the most qualified candidate to create action on homelessness and other priorities in a politically divided City Council. 

“There’s nobody in this race that has the skill set I have,” said Newhouse. “I think right now what we need throughout City Hall and even at a mayoral level is that sort of moderate personality, with centrist-type leadership, who can bring people together and find a way to come up with solutions.”

Newhouse owns a small law firm specializing in land use and planning. He has served two terms as the president of the Venice Neighborhood Council, founded and chaired the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils, was appointed as president of the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission and has served on the board of several Venice community organizations.

The field that he enters is at once crowded and a free-for-all. While eight candidates vie for a single spot, the lack of an incumbent has so far meant there is no clear front-runner. 

Current CD-11 Councilman Mike Bonin, who recently narrowly escaped a recall effort, announced in late January that he would not be seeking reelection, citing a need to focus on his mental health. Council District 11 encompasses the communities of Brentwood, Del Rey, Ladera, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Sawtelle, Westchester, Venice and the Palisades.

Venice based attorney Traci Park was the first CD-11 hopeful to declare her candidacy in July 2021 and is running on a platform of ending encampments and increasing public safety. Newhouse and Park have similar, but not identical, policy platforms. 

“The issue here is that we don’t have time for on the job training,” said Newhouse, when asked why he jumped into the race given his similarities to Park. “While I do, in principle, agree with many of Traci’s positions, I think it’s very difficult for somebody who has only been a candidate and doesn’t have close to 20 years of experience working within and outside of it (government) at the grassroots level of government to come in and hit the ground running on day one.”

On the other side of the policy spectrum is progressive candidate Erin Darling, who supports a housing first approach to homelessness and believes the best long-term solution to the current crisis is a massive investment in affordable housing. 

Newhouse disagrees with parts of Darling’s platform, such as a reluctance to utilize the anti-camping ordinance LA City Municipal Code 48.18 to clear encampments (Darling says this only pushes the problem to another area). Newhouse said his plan for clearing encampments entails spending thirty days performing intensive outreach to individuals living in encampments—which includes building trust, offering services and ensuring everyone is offered a shelter placement—and then enforcing 41.18. 

“I would not want my family and friends living in these encampments in these situations where they’re being preyed on by drug dealers and violence and crime, and just ultimately being sentenced to die early. There’s no two ways about it,” said Newhouse.

Newhouse believes it should be a political priority to rapidly ramp up short-term shelter capacity, so that people can be immediately moved off the street and the City has the legal ability to enforce anti-camping ordinances. According to his team’s calculations this will require around 6,000 new beds. He is exploring placing around half of those in the Los Angeles World Airport owned land east of LAX and renting out land in other less densely populated cities in LA County. 

“What we’ve got to do is utilize some of the outlying cities, the 88 cities in LA County, that have a lot more land and have a lot more ability to site shelter facilities where they are not close to residents in those cities or communities… a lot of these cities would like the revenue of the City of Los Angeles and be happy to be able to rent out land to do that,” said Newhouse. 

While his day one priority is to rapidly increase shelter capacity, Newhouse is also looking at ways to increase permanent housing capacity and is interested in solutions that also provide such housing rapidly such as converting vacant office buildings into apartments. 

When it comes to public safety, Newhouse supports hiring more LAPD officers. He also supports increasing staffing at LA Sanitation to better maintain the City’s streets and increase trash collection. Newhouse likened the state of dirty and encampment filled streets to the broken windows theory of policing, positing that this sense of negligence and disorder creates an environment that encourages crime. 

Newhouse got his start in local politics back in 2006 over a similar issue: the amount of trash on Venice’s streets. He was successfully elected to Venice Neighborhood Council as a write-in candidate and secured City funding for 100 new trash receptacles. He then established a partnership with non-profit organization Chrysalis for trash collection as, at the time, LA Sanitation did not have the funding to absorb the additional responsibility into its regular collection routes. Now, Newhouse hopes he can bring this track record of generating results in neighborhood politics to the big city stage.