Photo by Clara Harter

Seven of the eight candidates running gathered to discuss the district’s most pressing issues.

On Wednesday evening seven of the eight people running to represent L.A. City Council District 11 sat down to debate the district’s issues, and while they had differing opinions on the best solutions they held a common fury at the political status quo.

At a candidate forum hosted by the Westside Current and Circling the News, all seven candidates expressed disappointment at the direction that the progressive politics of current Councilman Mike Bonin have taken the district in, especially when it comes to the issues of homelessness and crime. Their proposed solutions share a common agreement that current funding is being used ineffectively and that immediate action is needed to move people off of the streets and strengthen public safety.  

The District they are running to represent encompasses most of the Westside, including the communities of Brentwood, Del Rey, Ladera, Mar Vista, Pacific Palisades, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Venice, West Los Angeles and Westchester.

On the more conservative end of the candidate spectrum was businessman Mat Smith, who believes that while shelter is a right, housing is earned. He said he did not support building permanent supportive housing on the Westside for unhoused individuals, believing that people who commute long distances to work in the district and current residents of the district should be prioritized for affordable housing. 

“I do not support a single permanent affordable housing unit for the people currently on the streets. I believe permanent solutions exist in more affordable areas. When people can’t afford to live in our area, they tend to move to far away places and they commute. We do need to find affordable housing for the people that match our values in District 11, but for the people on the street, absolutely not,” said Smith.

Former president of the Board of Public Works Greg Good, represented the more liberal end of the candidates present. He was the only candidate who said he did not support the recall of District Attorney George Gascon. He also indicated an openness to the controversial Venice Median affordable housing project and Ramada Inn homeless shelter, caveatting this by saying that the City needs to do a much better job at listening to and taking into consideration the concerns voiced by residents regarding these developments.

“We have a housing crisis. It is malpractice to suggest we don’t, so we have to look closely at any project. But we have got to sit down and look at this and absolutely figure out if the scope and the scale makes sense and if the cost makes sense,” said Good, referring to the Venice Median Project, a 140 unit affordable housing development to be located on the Venice Canals. 

Most other candidates voiced staunch opposition to the Venice Median Project. This includes land use attorney Mike Newhouse, attorney Traci Park, Venice Neighborhood Council President Jim Murez, LAUSD advisor Allison Holdorff Polhill and businessman Mat Smith. 

“I will squash this on day one. Not only did the VNC vote it down, over 1000 community members have objected to this… 140 units 460 square foot each; those aren’t units for families,” said Park, later adding, “It’s a waste of money. It’s wrong for the community. It’s a no go.”

Many of the candidates also said they supported increasing law enforcement funding to address public safety concerns in the district. These candidates include Greg Good, Traci Park, Mike Newhouse, Allison Holdorff Polhill and Mat Smith. 

“We don’t have enough police officers, we’re down to about 9,300 police officers and we’re losing about 350 a year. What we need to do is maximize our capacity to get cadets through the academy that’s about 60 per month,” said Newhouse. “It’ll take about four years to get ourselves up to 11,000 officers and that’s the number that I think a city our size needs.”

Holdorff Polhill said she agreed that 11,000 officers are necessary and added that another key focus for her is increasing staffing of mental health and outreach workers.

“We also need social workers on the street to deal with the mental illness and to get LAPD able to deal with crimes and solving murders. That’s what they were trained to do and social workers are trained to address mental illness,” said Holdorff Polhill.

The farthest left candidate in the race, civil rights lawyer Erin Darling, was the only candidate not to attend the forum. Nevertheless, he is a candidate to watch having racked up endorsements from several democratic politicians including Santa Monica’s State Senator Ben Allen. Darling generally supports Bonin’s approach to homelessness and opposes the enforcement of anti-camping laws, instead prioritizing the construction of permanent affordable housing. 

According to event organizer Jamie Paige of the Westside Current, Darling previously RSVPed to the event, but pulled out the afternoon of the event citing a conflict. 

Clara@smdp.com