Environmental activist Laura M. Lake accused Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky of running on a platform of broken promises and Yaroslavsky criticized Lake for taking money from commercial developers as the council candidates clashed before a big crowd of 5th District residents this week.
Lake drew first blood in Monday’s debate when she charged that Yaroslavsky has approved “felony ugly projects.” Lake also said the quality of life in the district has drastically deteriorated under Yaroslavsky’s leadership.
“The community expects to be protected,” Lake said. “You may have to obey the (zoning) laws. But you don’t have to roll over and play dead.”
Yaroslavsky agreed that the city’s planning process “stinks,” but added that he’s proud of his 14-year record. He then said Lake, who has been involved in negotiations over several commercial projects in the district, demanded from the developer $150,000 in return for supporting a development.
“Back room deals for cash are what’s felony ugly,” Yaroslavsky said.
Lake later said she asked for the money to cover legal fees incurred by Friends of Westwood in a lawsuit over the project, a 22-story office building at Glendon Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
But the exchange drew cheers from each side in the sometimes lively debate sponsored by the Carthay Circle Homeowners Assn. The forum also marked the first time Yaroslavsky, who is widely expected to retain his council seat in the April 11 primary, has appeared formally with Lake and his other challengers, transportation consultant Ryan Snyder and political consultant Jack McGrath.
More than 200 people crowded into La Cienega Community Center to hear the candidates responding to a wide range of questions.
The first question concerned commercial development, perhaps the most pressing issue in the congested and traffic-plagued district, which includes Westwood, Sherman Oaks, Century City, parts of West Los Angeles and the Beverly-Fairfax area.
Yaroslavsky, noting that he was the co-author Proposition U, the landmark legislation that cut building densities in half citywide, said he has done his best to protect the area from intense development pressures. But in some areas, Yaroslavsky said densities may have to be reduced even more.
Lake said that community plans must be followed and accused Yaroslavsky of ignoring them. Snyder called for better regional planning and said that a balance between commercial and residential zoning is vital. McGrath, a write-in candidate, said he would rely on common sense and community input.
On the crime question, Lake called for an unspecified trash collection fee to help pay for more police. Yaroslavsky, who has already suggested a plan to add more than 500 police officers to the department per year through 1993, said new taxes aren’t necessary. Snyder said he would attack crime at the community level by enlisting the support of worried neighbors, while McGrath called for more single-officer patrol cars.
Snyder and Lake said they opposed Metro Rail. Lake said it’s financially unfeasible, and Snyder said that other transportation methods, such as car-pooling and better bus service, would be more effective. Yaroslavsky said he supports Metro Rail, but only as part of a broader transportation strategy. He also supports light rail and better bus service. McGrath called for a $2 surcharge on parking tickets to pay for better transportation services.