Endorsement: Erin Darling is the best candidate to represent Westside L.A. on the city council
Los Angeles Council District 11 hugs the coast from Pacific Palisades to Playa Vista and ranges east to Brentwood, Mar Vista and Westchester. Its residents worry about crime, brush fires and the traffic that backs up on streets leading to the 405 freeway.
But few issues have been more of a flashpoint in this district than homelessness, particularly in Venice, where people in multimillion-dollar houses have complained bitterly about sprawling encampments. By the last 2020 homeless count, more than half the entire council district’s homeless population of 3,273 was living in Venice.
Council District 11 has had a strong and compassionate representative for eight years in Mike Bonin, but he so infuriated some of his constituents with his decisions about siting homeless shelters and housing that they launched a recall campaign against him. The recall failed to qualify for the ballot, but Bonin decided not to seek reelection, citing the need to take care of his mental health.
Eight candidates are running in the June 7 primary election to replace him. Most want more police patrolling the streets instead of sitting behind desks.
The two candidates who seem the smartest on homelessness are Erin Darling and Greg Good. Both wisely see the issue as a complex one that requires a robust approach to building housing and shelter as well as preventing people from sliding into homelessness. Both believe in renter protections and support the proposed ballot measure that would generate about $800 million a year for affordable housing and rental assistance from a tax on real estate sales over $5 million. Both are lawyers.
Darling gets our endorsement. There’s no question that Good has a lot of experience in City Hall. He served as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s chief of legislative and external affairs and later was appointed president of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works.
But this job isn’t just about knowing the quirks of City Hall. It requires someone to fight for what will make the district and the city a better place for everyone. And Darling seems to have the passion for doing that.
His whole professional life has been about protecting the rights of people who often barely have any. He represented low-income tenants during the Great Recession, then went to Public Counsel where he represented general relief recipients and the United Farm Workers. He was a deputy federal public defender for the central district of California, which includes Los Angeles, before becoming a civil rights lawyer in private practice.
He would be one of the most informed and determined advocates on the city council for renters — who make up the majority of the city. He was born and raised in Venice, where he lives now with his wife and 3-year-old son. He was elected twice to the Venice Neighborhood Council and later was appointed to the L.A. County Beach Commission.
Bonin’s detractors complained that he didn’t listen to their concerns. We think Darling will hear everyone out. As a lawyer, he says, he is accustomed to working out disagreements and finding common cause with people. He’s heard his neighbors’ concerns about sidewalks and parks that have encampments. “I think they feel frustrated with the city and that’s real. I understand … the city needs to do more,” he says.
Unlike Good and all but one of the other candidates, Darling does not believe the city should be concentrating on the enforcement of its anti-camping ordinance known as 41.18. As Darling points out, the city doesn’t have enough shelter and permanent housing for all its unhoused people, so it doesn’t make sense to talk about enforcement now. He also supports having mental health professionals respond to mental health 911 calls.
West Hollywood Council Member Lindsey Horvath has the drive and creative energy to help L.A. County realize its lofty goals for serving marginalized residents.
He believes in buying hotels and motels and adapting commercial spaces into housing for unhoused people. He says he won’t attempt to claw back money from projects funded under the city’s Proposition HHH bond measure for homeless housing, which is good because we desperately need all the permanent housing we can get.
The other six candidates support unrealistic, unworkable or inhumane policies to address homelessness or don’t have experience to suggest they would be effective council members. Allison Holdorff Polhill, a former chief advisor and district director to the vice president of the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education, talks up her experience clearing encampments near schools. Traci Park, a municipal law attorney, has emphasized clearing homeless encampments in the district and providing adequate shelter and housing. Yet she fought — unsuccessfully — to stop a Ramada Inn from being turned into housing for unhoused people.
Mike Newhouse, a lawyer, was president of the Venice Neighborhood Council for two terms. Jim Murez is the general manager of the Venice Farmers’ Market and president of the Venice Neighborhood Council. Soni Lloyd is a social studies teacher in public schools and a supporter of workers rights. Mat Smith, an Army combat veteran and small-business owner, is running on “conservative values” and would ban homeless encampments citywide.
None of these candidates have the experience, the compassion or commitment of Darling.
Read more endorsements at latimes.com/endorsements.
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