Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz is running for a third term representing Council District 5, which encompasses a mix of neighborhoods from Westwood and its sleek condo canyon east to mid-city and the aging apartments of the Fairfax neighborhood, south to Pico-Robertson and Cheviot Hills, and north to Encino in the San Fernando Valley. Development, whether of large-scale apartment buildings or single family homes, has been enormously controversial in this district.
Koretz is a painstaking decision maker who takes his time, unapologetically, weighing all aspects of an issue and talking to constituents before he makes up his mind on an issue. On this, both his supporters and critics (for the most part) agree. They also agree that he is not a firebrand and that he's not a terribly forceful leader on the council. After two terms in office, it's troubling that he hasn't been more of a leader on the important citywide issues he says he cares about — the creation of affordable housing, for example.
And he's made some boneheaded moves. After supporting developer Rick Caruso's controversial high-rise development across from the Beverly Center on La Cienega Boulevard, a story in the Los Angeles Times revealed that Koretz had received a total of $2,200 in donations from Caruso over three years (but not for his current reelection campaign). The day after the story ran, Koretz suddenly announced that he was withdrawing his support unless Caruso brought the project down in height — which Caruso eventually did, winning Koretz's support again. Koretz says he had decided two weeks earlier to ask Caruso to lower the height of the building. But announcing it the day after the story ran only made him look cynical and opportunistic.
Still, Koretz cares deeply about his district and his constituents and makes himself available to them, by almost all accounts. On balance, he serves the district well and responsibly. He should be re-elected.
He led the charge to strengthen the citywide anti-mansionization ordinance, for example — which helped his constituents who live in neighborhoods of small bungalows preserve the character of their communities and fight off an onslaught of over-sized houses. He has proposed a multi-department study on limiting the number of rent-controlled apartments that can be demolished each year. On energy issues, he wants to install 900 charging stations for electric cars. He's been a strong supporter of animal welfare; he led the successful effort to ban pet stores from selling commercially bred cats and dogs — one of the few ways to thwart the cruelty of puppy mills. He's been a consistent environmental advocate; he proposed allowing residents to install graywater systems and supported a policy requiring developers in the Hollywood Hills to provide easements on their projects for wildlife crossing.
Koretz has two challengers. The more promising one is Jesse Creed, a 31-year old attorney who is smart, ambitious and knows the basic issues that face the district. As an associate at Munger Tolles & Olson, he worked industriously on implementing the landmark settlement between the Department of Veterans Affairs and homeless veterans who sued over the department's misuse of its campus in West L.A. Since then, Creed has been appointed to the Community Veterans Oversight and Engagement Board. That involvement in an important issue is a good start for an aggressive young activist who wants to become involved in community matters, but it is not enough to merit a seat on the City Council. The other challenger, Mark Herd, has experience on a neighborhood council and has run unsuccessfully for city council and Congress in the past. He knows the basic issues but doesn't offer any compelling ideas or solutions.