Strong Challenger for Yaroslavsky’s 5th District Seat Drops Out of Race

Times Staff Writer

Steve Saltzman, one of Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky’s strongest challengers for the 5th District council seat, dropped out of the race Wednesday, leaving the councilman with four opponents leading up to the April 11 election.

The strongest remaining challenger now appears to be Laura Lake, a slow-growth candidate who is receiving support from some of the people who helped Ruth Galanter defeat 18-year veteran council member Pat Russell two years ago.

Saltzman’s withdrawal from the campaign was the latest development in a race that took an unusual turn when Yaroslavsky decided not to run against Mayor Tom Bradley, believing him to be unbeatable. On Jan. 6, he announced instead that he would seek reelection to the council.

Before he made that decision, 5th District candidates had expected a competitive race for a seat that Yaroslavsky would have had to give up to run for mayor. Now, Yaroslavsky is favored to win another term.


On Saturday, Jack McGrath, who had been helping run Saltzman’s campaign, entered the race. McGrath, who managed Yaroslavsky’s first successful campaign in 1975 and served as the councilman’s chief deputy, enters the race with little money. Also running are urban planner Ryan Snyder and artist Henry Hill.

The 5th District includes the Beverly-Fairfax area, Century City, Bel-Air, Westwood, West Los Angeles and parts of Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood and Van Nuys.

Saltzman, a former co-chairman of Yaroslavsky’s 1985 reelection campaign and a former Westside deputy to Bradley, had vowed to stay in the race after Yaroslavsky decided to seek reelection.

Changed His Mind

But after assessing his chances, he changed his mind Wednesday and endorsed Yaroslavsky for reelection. “I came to the conclusion that I would have to raise an extraordinary amount of money and run a highly negative campaign,” he said. “That’s not why I went into public service.”

Some of Saltzman’s support also began to erode when Yaroslavsky decided to run for reelection.

Lake, on leave from her job as a UCLA professor of environmental sciences to campaign full time, contends that Yaroslavsky is vulnerable because he has been “on the wrong side” of several important growth battles in his district. She kicked off her campaign earlier this week with a press conference at the Westside Pavilion shopping mall, where traffic problems and a proposed expansion have generated controversy.

‘No Difference’

She said Wednesday that Saltzman’s withdrawal from the race “makes no difference.”

“The race has always been about whether we will have a council person who is willing to fight for the neighborhoods that are crowded with growth and traffic congestion and threatened with crime or a council person who is marking time until he has a safe race for mayor,” she said.

Lake’s campaign has been bolstered by a cadre of people who helped Galanter defeat Russell on a wave of homeowner discontent over Russell’s pro-development record. Among those working for Lake are Marcela Howell, who was Galanter’s campaign manager; Ben Goddard, who handled political mailings for Galanter, and Don May, a California League of Conservation Voters activist who helped organize a door-to-door campaign for Galanter, said Rick Ruiz, Galanter’s press aide who is also a volunteer on the Lake campaign.

‘Not Concerned’

Galanter endorsed Lake when Yaroslavsky was expected to run for mayor. Aides to the councilwoman, who will not return from a trip to Antarctic until Monday, said they do not know if she will continue to back Lake against a council colleague.

“I’m not concerned,” Yaroslavsky said about his reelection Wednesday, adding that he plans to wage an all-out campaign nonetheless.

“The people of the 5th District, the people of the city, know me. . . . I co-authored the most comprehensive land-use initiative, Proposition U, ever written in this country.