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L.A. City Council District 11 election guide: Traci Park vs. Erin Darling

Side-by-side photos of L.A. City Council candidates Traci Park, left, and Erin Darling
Traci Park, left, and Erin Darling are running for City Council in District 11, serving Venice and other coastal areas.
(Los Angeles Times)
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The Westside of Los Angeles will get a new City Council member in the Nov. 8 election, with Councilman Mike Bonin stepping down after two terms, saying he wanted to tend to his mental health.

Competing to replace Bonin are two lawyers, Erin Darling, 41, and Traci Park, 46. Darling finished first among eight candidates in the June primary, with nearly 35% of the vote. Park took 29%, earning the second spot in the November runoff election.

Rick Caruso and Karen Bass are running for Los Angeles mayor. Here is your guide to the race.

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Who are the candidates?

Darling, the married father of a young son, lives in Venice, where he grew up. Darling’s legal career has focused on civil rights, tenant protection and criminal defense. He served on the Venice Neighborhood Council and on the commission that oversees the county’s beaches and harbors.

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Park is married and also lives in Venice. As a lawyer, she has represented cities and other government entities on employee relations and other issues. She has also led worker training sessions and defended government agencies against lawsuits. Her local activism increased when a shelter for the homeless opened across the street from her home.

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Erin Darling vs. Traci Park

The two candidates occupy markedly different places on the political spectrum. As a young person, Park was a registered Republican before switching to the Democratic Party. She supported two failed recalls — of Bonin and Dist. Atty. George Gascón.

Darling is an outspoken progressive who once registered with the Green Party and is now a Democrat. When Bonin announced he would not run for a third term, an alliance of liberal political organizations encouraged Darling to run.

Darling has won the support of the county Democratic Party, the Sierra Club, state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Assemblymembers Isaac Bryan, Laura Friedman and Tina McKinnor, along with county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and a host of unions, including those representing carpenters and healthcare workers.

Park has endorsements from former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and state Treasurer Fiona Ma. She also has the support of business organizations and some unions, including ones representing nurses and electrical workers and many that represent police and firefighters.

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An independent expenditure committee, funded largely by the city’s police union and by real estate interests, has poured nearly $1.4 million into the campaign to elect Park. Darling also has an independent campaign backing him — with its $120,000 coming from a carpenters union.

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Where is District 11?

The 11th Council District stretches along the coast, from Pacific Palisades to Los Angeles International Airport and generally as far inland as the 405 Freeway. Among the communities in the district are Venice, Mar Vista, Playa del Rey, Westchester, Brentwood and West Los Angeles.

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Where Darling and Park stand on homelessness

Like Bonin, Darling opposed a Los Angeles city ordinance that allows council members to designate parks, libraries and other areas as off-limits to homeless encampments. He said too much emphasis has been put on moving people around, without creating the temporary and permanent homes that will help get them off the streets.

Darling did not take a position on another L.A. ordinance, which banned camping close to all schools and day-care centers. He said he would not fight enforcement of those new restrictions.

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The Venice resident has supported a number of proposals for new housing construction, including one that would put 140 units for homeless and low-income people on the center median of Venice Boulevard in Venice. He has criticized Park for opposing that plan and for failing to specify new housing projects that she would support.

The law now heads to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s desk for his signature. How heavily it will be enforced is far from clear.

Park said she would use the anti-camping ordinance to block people from moving to certain public spaces, like around parks and libraries. She also supported the City Council in banning camping close to schools.

Park said she would put an emphasis on returning public spaces to all of the public, rather than let it be taken over solely by unhoused people.

The attorney supported police, outreach workers and others who in June shut down an encampment of about 60 tents that had mushroomed in Centennial Park, which occupies the Venice Boulevard median. Park said homeless people from the camp were given humane alternatives.

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Darling said the Centennial Park cleanup was done prematurely, without adequate care and preparation for the people who lived there, some of whom ended up moving to nearby public places.

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Where Park and Darling stand on policing and public safety

Park wants to beef up the Los Angeles Police Department, increasing the force from its current level of less than 9,300 to a minimum of 10,000. (Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso has called for an LAPD of 11,000 sworn officers.)

Darling says that too much of the city’s budget has been funneled to police and that more money should go to other services, including mental health workers. He has not named the right size for the LAPD.

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Past coverage

Councilmember Mike Bonin declined to run for a third term representing the Westside. Those vying to replace him fight over his legacy.

An increasingly fierce race for the City Council seat on L.A.'s Westside features a fight over a $400,000 donation by the owner of a high-rise apartment complex.

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City Council candidate Erin Darling claims Traci Park defended powerful interests and “racism” by a city worker. Park counters that Darling represented unsavory criminals.

Erin Darling and Traci Park are vying for the Westside City Council seat held by Mike Bonin. Venice encampments and police funding are top issues.

But one key battleground is Venice, where debates over the homeless crisis have divided residents and sparked failed recall effort against current Councilman Mike Bonin.

One candidate would carry on the progressive ways of retiring incumbent Mike Bonin. But most others in L.A.'s Council District 11 say they would increase policing and remove homeless encampments.

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L.A. Times editorial board endorsement

The Times’ editorial page publishes endorsements based on candidate interviews and independent reporting. The editorial board operates independently of the newsroom — reporters covering these races have no say in the endorsements.

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The L.A. Times’ editorial board endorsements for statewide ballot measures, elected offices in Los Angeles city and county, L.A. Unified School District board, L.A. county superior court, statewide offices, the state Legislature and U.S. House and Senate seats.

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How and where to vote

Ballots will be in the mail to all 22 million registered voters in the state no later than Oct. 10. Californians can return ballots by mail, drop them at collection boxes or turn them in at voting centers. They can also cast ballots early at voting centers or wait until Nov. 8 to vote at their neighborhood polling places.

Californians can register to vote or check their status at https://registertovote.ca.gov/.

Here’s how to vote in the California midterm election, how to register, what to do if you didn’t get mail ballot or if you made a mistake on your ballot.

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Follow more election coverage

California voters head to the polls Nov. 8 to vote for U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, and races for U.S. representative in Congress, state senator and state Assemblymember. Local races include who will be the Los Angeles mayor and L.A. County sheriff. There are seven ballot propositions for voters to decide on the table.

In the November midterm election, California is one of the battlefields as Democrats and Republicans fight over control of Congress.

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More News

Bass holds a narrow edge, but tens of millions of dollars in negative ads have powered Caruso into striking distance.

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