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L.A. on the Record: Will Krekorian take the plunge?

 City Council President Paul Krekorian presides at an L.A. City Council meeting
If City Council President Paul Krekorian, center, decides to run for Congress, the decision could shake up the legislative body.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s Julia Wick and David Zahniser, with help from Dakota Smith.

The moment Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) disclosed his plan to run for U.S. Senate, a clutch of ambitious Southern California politicians stepped forward to vie for his L.A.-area congressional seat.

Within the span of a few weeks, the floodgates have opened, with state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), former City Atty. Mike Feuer and L.A. school board member Nick Melvoin, among others, all seeking to represent Schiff’s 30th Congressional District. But there’s another politician still considering a run — someone whose decision would have serious repercussions for City Hall: Council President Paul Krekorian.

Krekorian’s former Chief of Staff Areen Ibranossian, who now runs a public affairs firm, said the council president is looking at getting into the race “in a serious way.”

Such a move would almost certainly generate calls for Krekorian to step down from his leadership post, sooner rather than later. That, in turn, would throw the powerful council presidency into contention, potentially threatening the relative stability Krekorian has brought to the council chambers of late.

“This isn’t something that’s just kind of popped up,” Ibranossian said, describing Krekorian’s history of advocacy in the district and long-term ambitions. But “with congressman Schiff announcing his intention to run for the Senate seat, it really kind of accelerated his view of how to handle this decision.”

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The San Fernando Valley native took the council’s leadership post under the glare of unprecedented national scrutiny in October, as fallout from the leak scandal roiled the city. Krekorian kept the council functioning amid disruptions from protesters, who demanded the council stop meeting entirely until Councilmember Kevin de León has stepped down.

The council also kept doing business once De León returned. He has now been seated in the chamber for nearly a month, casting votes and occasionally making remarks, with his colleagues mostly remaining in their chairs.

Krekorian faces term limits in 2024, which will likely be a major factor in the veteran politician and former entertainment lawyer’s thinking. But for now, he’s staying mum. Hugh Esten, a Krekorian spokesman, said his boss is “extremely focused on the business at hand” and declined to comment further.

There would be nothing to keep Krekorian from serving as council president while also running for higher office. Under the council’s rules, presidents are chosen in December of even-numbered years and can be removed with eight votes at almost any time.

Still, recent precedent dictates that he would likely step down from his leadership post at some point, should he run in the March 5, 2024, primary.

About a decade ago, then-Council President Eric Garcetti gave up the presidency a few months after launching his mayoral bid, and more than a year before the March 2013 mayoral primary. Herb Wesson, who succeeded Garcetti as council president, gave up the position during his unsuccessful run for county supervisor. However, he stepped down only a few months before the March 2020 primary.

Several council members declined to comment on the possibility of a Krekorian congressional bid, saying they don’t want to discuss hypothetical scenarios.

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“It would definitely destabilize the council,” one senior council staffer who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly said of a potential Krekorian departure, echoing a point made by others in the building.

In L.A., council presidents do not just run meetings. They decide who gets to sit on powerful committees and determine when critical issues should be heard. But they also have the headache of managing 14 other members and unruly audience members, many of whom have been escorted out by police officers.

A decision by Krekorian to give up the presidency could finally allow Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who has had designs on the council’s top leadership position, to ascend to the post. Such a change would instantly expand the political might of the council’s left flank, who have been aligned with Harris-Dawson on some issues.

But another possible contender would be Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who briefly presided over the council as it crafted a package of new tenant protections. Blumenfield took the chair while Krekorian and Councilmember Curren Price were recused from the proceedings, since they own rental property. Price — who holds the No. 2 spot in council leadership — also vied behind the scenes for the council presidency last fall, when Krekorian was voted in by his colleagues.

State of play

— MORE MAYORAL HIRES: Mayor Karen Bass’ top leadership team is continuing to take shape, with Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission Executive Director Brian K. Williams named as deputy mayor for public safety and Tejon Ranch Co. Senior Vice President Rachel Freeman named as deputy mayor for business and economic development.

Kevin Keller, Garcetti’s economic development deputy mayor, will remain a senior advisor, according to the mayor’s office.

BIG HYDROGEN: City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward with an $800-million plan to convert the city’s largest gas-fired power plant to green hydrogen. As our colleague Sammy Roth reports, it’s a first-of-its-kind project that was hailed by supporters as an important step to solve the climate crisis but slammed by critics as a greenwashing boondoggle that will harm vulnerable communities.

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FINAL TENANT VOTE: City Council finalized the last of its new tenant protections Tuesday, with only minor changes from the package unanimously approved in late January. Here’s a closer look at what all the new laws will do and when various aspects of the package take effect.

— FINANCIAL IMPLOSION: Skid Row Housing Trust, a pioneer in the decades-old movement to revive aging downtown real estate as homeless housing, is on the verge of financial collapse and seeking a lifeline to keep its doors open for more than a thousand low-income tenants.

— LOOKING FOR A LEAKER: The LAPD opened an investigation into who leaked information about a call to police made by an aide to Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez. Critics of Soto-Martinez seized on the phone call, pointing out that the council member is an abolitionist who has called for the eventual elimination of existing policing systems. Soto-Martinez said he welcomed the probe, saying he expects to see “accountability” at the department.

— MORE TINY HOMES: L.A. officials celebrated the opening of the city’s 11th tiny home village — this one in the Sun Valley section of what used to be former Council President Nury Martinez’s district. Because Martinez resigned in October during the leak scandal, Thursday’s event was arranged by Council District 6 — currently overseen by a caretaker — and featured Alexis Wesson, the district’s chief of staff. The facility is expected to house as many as 161 homeless people, many of them living on the streets of Sun Valley.

FILLING NURY’S SEAT: Meanwhile, the April 4 special election for Council District 6 is fast approaching, with a few updates this week. The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters launched an independent committee to support candidate Marisa Alcaraz. So far, the group has reported nearly $46,000 on canvassing efforts. The Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley endorsed candidate Marco Santana in the race.

— SERVING THE SUPE: Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, who took office in December, has selected a new chief of staff: Estevan Montemayor, a well-known figure from City Hall. Montemayor spent 5½ years as a high-level advisor to former Councilmember David Ryu, who lost his reelection in 2020. Montemayor played a major role in the independent expenditure campaign that supported Bass’ mayoral bid, which received major funding from Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg. Montemayor was Horvath’s campaign manager and has been leading her transition team.

Hurtling toward ’24

Candidates are already lining up for next year’s election, when seven City Council seats will be up for grabs. Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Heather Hutt and John Lee have already begun raising money for the March 2024 campaign. For now, others are holding back.

Councilmember Kevin de León, who has faced calls to resign over his involvement in a secretly recorded conversation featuring racist remarks, has not yet indicated to the Ethics Commission whether he will raise money for a reelection bid. Councilmember Nithya Raman also has not divulged her plans but recently told The Times she is planning an announcement.

One lawyer in the city attorney’s office has decided not to wait. Ethan Weaver, a neighborhood prosecutor assigned to oversee Hollywood and several Westside neighborhoods, filed paperwork saying he’ll be running for council in Raman’s district, which stretches from Silver Lake to Reseda.

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In an interview, he told The Times he is looking to “redesign” the Los Angeles Police Department — modernizing its operations and adding far more mental health workers — and restructure the bureaucracy assigned to fight homelessness. Weaver, a resident of Los Feliz, also wants to remove barriers to small businesses and obstacles to new housing construction. “We’re in the middle of a housing crisis, and yet this city has made it impossible to build,” he said.

And over in County Land, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) — son of former state senator and L.A. City Councilmember Nate Holden — is considering a run for the Board of Supes, per campaign finance paperwork filed this week. (H/T to Politico’s Jeremy B. White for spotting the filing.)

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QUICK HITS

  • Who’s running the city? Still Karen Bass.
  • On the docket for next week: Sunday is the Super Bowl and Tuesday is Valentine’s Day. Council business expected as normal.

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