Los Angeles City Council District 4 sprawls from Sherman Oaks to the Hollywood Hills, Griffith Park, Los Feliz and parts of Silver Lake. It includes the Miracle Mile and the historic neighborhoods of Hancock Park and Windsor Square, the Hollywood sign, the Greek Theater and the L.A. Zoo, Despite the geographic spread, its residents — at least those who turn out for debates and forums — are passionately united on the issues that bedevil them: traffic-choked, pothole-pitted streets, large-scale developments that block views and transform neighborhoods, and smaller-scale projects that replace bungalows with McMansions.
The district’s longtime councilman, Tom LaBonge, is retiring because of term limits, and there are now 14 candidates competing for his seat. LaBonge was the consummate retail politician, energetic and popular, never missing a neighborhood meeting, known to all — but seemingly uninterested in solving the city’s deeper, systemic problems.
His replacement must be able to manage constituent complaints like LaBonge, but must also deal with bigger-picture challenges: reforming the city employee pension system; attracting and keeping businesses; providing more affordable housing; normalizing and standardizing the zoning process; and standing up to domineering council colleagues, labor leaders and business groups.
Our endorsement goes to Sheila Irani.
Irani is intelligent, quick on her feet and has a background in business, real estate investment, city government and volunteer community work, all of which would serve her well on the council. Armed with an MBA from UCLA, she launched a small marketing business that helped public-sector clients across the country promote congestion-easing transportation initiatives. She has a sense of the hurdles faced by small-business owners in L.A. Like most of the candidates in the race, she favors business tax relief, although she’s not willing to drain the city budget to do it.
Irani worked for LaBonge for two years as a field deputy and special projects director, interacting with neighborhoods and the city bureaucracy to address safety, transportation and quality-of-life concerns. The occasional head-bumping with community groups taught her to listen but not to pander, she says. In candidates’ forums, Irani has demonstrated independence and a commitment to fiscal prudence. She has intriguing ideas about disciplining development, recovering infrastructure costs from developers and increasing mass-transit ridership.
Earlier this week, Irani was served with a lawsuit — dramatically, in the middle of a candidate debate — by a neighbor accusing her of cutting down trees on his property. The facts are still emerging and we will be following them as the campaign continues.
Irani is not the only strong candidate. Teddy Davis has a law degree from Catholic University of America and has had a varied career in government, journalism and labor. He has worked for two governors — as a special assistant to California’s Gray Davis and briefly as head of communications for Maryland’s Martin O’Malley — and as press secretary to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He’s smart about policy and City Hall politics. Like Irani, he wants developers to do more to upgrade the infrastructure their projects affect. He also wants to increase density in the district, not through high-rise projects but by replacing more two-story buildings with four- to six-story ones. He supports pension reform for L.A. employees and criticizes the rate-payer advocate at the Department of Water and Power for not being aggressive enough.
There are other credible candidates in the race, including Wally Knox, Joan Pelico, Carolyn Ramsay, Tomas O’Grady and Jay Beeber. None is perfect; most bring strengths as well as weaknesses. But on balance, The Times urges a vote for Irani.
FOR THE RECORD
Feb. 19, 7:12 p.m.: An earlier version of this editorial said that Teddy Davis has a law degree from Georgetown University. His law degree is from Catholic University of America.