July 1, 2001 - From the July, 2001 issue

New Councilman Garcetti Champions Joint-Use; Urges City To End Reaction-Oriented Planning

The recent citywide election has brought fresh blood and a new agenda to L.A.'s governance structure. Eric Garcetti, newly elected Councilmember from the 13th District, embodies that progressive mindset. He sat down with TPR early this month to argue for comprehensive planning to deal not merely with our current problems, but actually planning for the future.

Eric Garcetti

Eric, it's estimated that a population the size of 2 Chicagos will descend upon us in the next decade. That growth is going to place an undue burden on our already aging infrastructure. How do you as a representative from one of the densest parts of Los Angeles envision the City coping with these challenges during your tenure?

Los Angeles is locked in a defensive mindset. Most of the things that have been proposed-whether it's fast buses or the Housing Trust Fund-are simply means of stemming the tide, they're not going to turn it.

With this new administration and the turn over on the City Council, we have an opportunity to stop being on the defensive and make some bold moves. While the aforementioned projects were important, our challenge now will be to shift our focus away from merely dealing with the effects of present day crises and attempt to control some of the driving factors behind them.

Are there any projects in the Thirteenth that have attracted your attention and relate to this effort to do some more thoughtful planning for the growth forces that are upon us?

Obviously, Hollywood is an incredible laboratory right now. But in order for it to progress, we need to make sure that the present and the future are not about development for development's sake, but really soulful development that serves the surrounding community.

The Hollywood & Highland development is obviously going to test this idea, although it is really geared more towards the tourist trade of yesteryear.

But, there are two projects currently underway-one at Hollywood and Vine and the other at Sunset and Vine-that have the potential to address this soulful development paradigm. If they can be completed without having a gentrifying effect on the neighborhood and truly make a connection between the existing transit corridors and residential uses, they will help keep that community together. But that won't be easy.

Some of the debate around Charter reform and its passage is that the focus on neighborhoods is institutionalized to the exclusion of a focus on how these neighborhoods fit into a region. How do you react to that kind of criticism?

Some of that criticism is well grounded. But truly effective planning must be done on both poles of the spectrum.


People feel so disconnected from government that we do need greater local control. And while that leads to talk of increased NIMBYism and parochialism, it's important for people to be able to dictate what happens in the communities that they live.

However larger projects, such as dealing with our air transit infrastructure or airport expansion need to be made by representatives capable of thinking about the greater good. I don't see those two poles as mutually exclusive and I truly believe that we can give greater local control and still make the case for regional infrastructure planning.

The young nature of the incoming Council class combined with a new City Attorney, Controller and Mayor may offer you the chance to, in a sense, reinvent L.A.'s governance paradigm. With that in mind, what issues do you want to champion? And what role do you want to play?

One of the items I want to champion is integrated planning--really thinking about parks, education, transportation, and housing holistically. If I can have an impact on unifying the Council's thought process and the Council's formal structure--specifically bringing housing and community and economic development together--I think that would be a very healthy step forward.

Second, I want to bring the Council closer to the neighborhoods and to young people. We need to make sure that we develop neighborhood councils so that they function effectively. And we need to help the school district plan with the City for school siting and construction.

I think you'll see a new generation of leadership taking over in Los Angeles, whether it's Caprice Young at the School Board or Alex Padilla on the Council, a lot of us are really like minded in terms of going beyond ideology and showing some results very quickly. I think that within the first 100 days you will see some very important symbolic and structural changes within the Council.

In order to advance the agenda that you speak of, what Council Committees will you seek membership on?

I anticipate that I will be involved in housing and economic development issues, whether they are two separate committees or whether they are merged into a single one. My interests in park space, green space and the arts seems like a logically fit with the Arts, Health and Humanities Committee. And perhaps budget and finance, to make sure some of the reforms that I want to see get the fiscal resources necessary for implementation.


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