Los Angeles City Council District 13 is the smallest, most densely populated district, with some of the most desirable real estate in the city. Perhaps because of that, the district, which stretches from Hollywood to Silver Lake and Atwater Village to Koreatown, has become ground zero for the anti-development movement, and that sentiment pervades Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s race for reelection.
O’Farrell was an early voice in City Hall warning about the city’s housing crisis, and he’s been a consistent advocate for boosting the supply of homes by building houses and apartments more densely and on more underutilized properties near transit stops — a strategy that the Times Editorial Board supports as well. Yet he represents communities that are often adamantly opposed to increasing the density of development, worried about gentrification and furious about snarled traffic.
O’Farrell faces several strong challengers. Doug Haines, Bill Zide and David de la Torre are longtime community activists who are deeply concerned with development and gentrification. Sylvie Shain has become a vocal advocate for tenants rights. And Jessica Salans wants a Bernie Sanders-style overhaul of local government. But O’Farrell has proved himself to be a thoughtful, committed representative who has his eyes on the long-term needs of the city. He deserves a second term.
If reelected, O’Farrell will have to attempt to bridge the community divide on development. He must be a nonstop advocate for updating crucial city planning documents to reflect current needs — and he’ll have to honor those plans going forward in order to end the distrust among district residents that has made development such a battle.
O’Farrell has had mixed results in moving important citywide policies. He has pushed for two years to create a special financing district along the Los Angeles River to help fund restoration projects and affordable housing, and that may become a reality this year. But other efforts haven’t panned out.
In 2014, for example, he proposed that the city require developers to provide affordable housing when they receive exemptions from land-use rules that increase the value of their projects. It was a good idea, but his council colleagues sat on it for months. (A similar rule was ultimately included in Measure JJJ and passed in November. But that initiative also forces at least some developers to pay higher wages, which may end up defeating its purpose by deterring housing construction.) And last year O’Farrell proposed an effort to streamline permitting for restaurants and small businesses, but there has been little action so far. If reelected, O’Farrell needs to do a better job building a coalition of colleagues to turn his good ideas into good policy.