By The Times editorial board
April 30, 2013
The March elections narrowed the hotly contested race for City Council District 13 from 12 candidates to two: Mitch O'Farrell, a former City Council aide, and John Choi, a former Board of Public Works commissioner. Both promise to push forward economic development in those areas that need it while promising to shield neighborhoods that are thriving from the kind of poor planning that creates gridlock.
The Times endorsed O'Farrell in the primary because his experience in this diverse district — reaching from East Hollywood across to Silver Lake and from Glassell Park down to Koreatown — made him the candidate best suited to represent its broad interests. He remains our choice for the job.
O'Farrell's roots in District 13 go deep. He spent nearly a decade working for Eric Garcetti, whom many credit with helping revive Hollywood during his 12 years on the council. In that time, O'Farrell became a familiar name to many residents and community groups, who praise him for his dedication and hard work, including helping restore the blighted sections of the Los Angeles River that stretch across Atwater Village's industrial zone.
Choi is smart and well connected. He's raised more money than O'Farrell, much of it from labor unions. That's fine in theory, but given the city's budget shortfalls, we worry about his ability to stand up to those unions during the next round of contract negotiations. Choi has repeatedly stressed his independence, but it was troubling during the primary when he promised at an endorsement meeting with the Service Employees International Union: "You are going to be on the inside. We are going to decide who to open the door for."
Choi's lack of history in the district is also a concern. He only moved there a year ago and wasn't involved in its issues before that.
O'Farrell must still prove that he has a bigger vision for the district and the city. For example, he says his "gut feeling" is that the controversial Millennium Hollywood project is too tall for the area. The plan calls for replacing parking lots near the Capital Records building with two enormous high-rise towers that would cover 4.47 acres of land bordering Vine Street. Given what is at stake, O'Farrell shouldn't be relying on instinct but rather on facts and principles. Choi doesn't fare much better. He opposes the project but is short on specifics.
District 13 has been improved over the last decade, but much remains to be done. O'Farrell is best positioned to ensure that this vibrant area continues to prosper and that the city tackles the economic challenges it has yet to face.
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