Peggy Stevenson dies at 90; councilwoman helped revitalize Hollywood

Peggy Stevenson dies at 90; councilwoman helped revitalize Hollywood
Peggy Stevenson is sworn in as an L.A. city counclwoman on June 9, 1975, by Judge James Harvey as Mayor Tom Bradley looks on. In 1985, she lost a bitter contest to Mike Woo. (Los Angeles Times)

Peggy Stevenson, who spent 10 years on the Los Angeles City Council beginning in 1975, representing Hollywood and other areas, died Oct. 16 at an assisted-living facility in Fountain Valley. She was 90.

The cause was heart failure, said her son, Bruce. Her death was not widely publicized at the time.


Stevenson, who worked toward the revitalization of Hollywood, had not held public office before winning a special election to the council seat that had been held by her late husband, Robert Stevenson.

She knew she had won in large part because of name recognition. Two years later, she ran for reelection on her own record. "The first time I ran, they thought I was just a little widow." she told The Times in 1977. Voters re-elected her "because we accomplished things."

She was born Jan. 29, 1924, in New York City to Greek immigrant parents. The family moved to Los Angeles where her father worked at several restaurants, including the Brown Derby in Beverly Hills as a manager.

She graduated from Fairfax High School and earned a bachelor's degree at UCLA.

When she was in her mid-20s, she and Robert Stevenson were married. She managed his 1969 City Council campaign and often attended meetings with him. "I wasn't one of those women who sit there and never say anything," she said.

He died of a heart attack in 1975 after several months of illness. She had the support of labor and women's organizations when she ran against a crowded field for the council seat.

Once in office, she became chairwoman of the Police, Fire and Civil Defense Committee. "Historically, it's been a men's committee," Stevenson said. "I wanted it because it's important to my district. We have a lot of crime problems, juvenile delinquency, the exploitation of illegal aliens."

During her time on the council, redevelopment projects for Hollywood were approved. Although some of her major proposed projects, including turning part of Hollywood Boulevard into a pedestrian mall, did not go through, Stevenson said Hollywood became more economically vibrant during her time in office. "I am proud of the role I have played in helping Hollywood turn the corner," she told The Times in 1985.

Other highlights of her political career were being part of the delegation that traveled to Greece to secure L. A. as the home of the 1984 Olympic Games and her support of gay rights, "although I paid the price in hate mail," she said.

In 1985, Stevenson lost a bitterly fought reelection bid to Michael Woo. In a Times interview after the defeat, she lashed out at elected officials who supported her opponent. But she said she was looking forward to a less stress-filled life. "I'm not interested in being a politician anymore," she said.

In addition to her son, who lives in Los Angeles, she is survived by her sister, Katherine Nicolay of Los Angeles, and a granddaughter.

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