August 29, 2005 - From the August, 2005 issue

New L.A. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl Outlines Plans for City and CD 11

With a victory in the city election this past May, Bill Rosendahl has assumed political leadership of some of the most attractive real estate in the country. A former cable television executive and college professor, Rosendahl now represents L.A. City Council District 11. TPR was pleased to speak with Councilmember Rosendahl as he settles in to his new post and immerses himself in issues such as congestion, regional air traffic, affordable housing, and school construction.


Bill Rosendahl

Bill, a veteran journalist, you have just completed a successful run for public office. You now serve on the L.A. City Council. Share your new schedule and priorities with our readers.

Well, it has been six or seven weeks and a lot of things have happened on the council that really creates your agenda. Some things you have on your mind, others end up sitting major issues and colleague issues, so you find yourself engaged in everything. The big issue that we all were involved in as a council was what to do with our garbage, and that all has to do with Sunshine Canyon and it is obviously continued until February, a six-month continuance. In that process, I learned a lot about our recycling process, where we are, where we need to go to make the city universal. Where are we with thermo-cycling? Where are we with other options in Sunshine? And that was a major issue with all of us at the council and it is an ongoing issue.

Secondly, I got my committee assignments, and that also will tend to direct my agenda. I am chair of the neighborhood and education committee, so I will play a major role with the neighborhood councils and prepare that process for 2006 when that issue is revisited; with charter reform it gets brought up again before the council in 2006. Just yesterday, in the commerce committee, we had an issue there about the bus stops and all of these issues that they wanted the councils to act on which was then referred to my committee, and in September, one of my first items will be vetting throughout the city on the neighborhood councils, where they want the bus stops put, where they want the shelters put, and get them engaged in part of the process of doing that within the community. Also, that committee is education, and, the mayor as well as most of us in the council, strongly believe the city council needs to have a more hands on relationship to the LAUSD.

Then, I am vice-chair of the environmental committee. The environmental committee vice chair gives me greater positioning on environmental issues in my district – be it the wetlands, be it the mountains, be it the ocean, and all of those aspects that either have some land use relationships like, "Toes" Beach, the bluffs, Playa Vista. Then, as a member of the commerce committee, the proprietary departments flow under that with Cardenas as chair and Janice Hahn as vice chair, and, as a member, I will be able to move forward with my agenda regarding LAX – no expansion; regionalization. It is a shame for a city and a region of 15 to 18 million people to stuff everything into Westchester from both a safety standpoint and from a gridlock standpoint on the ground and for the community impact. So, I'll be able to exercise, with the new mayor, our positioning on regionalization, which not only includes Ontario and Palmdale, but also includes bringing the other counties into the fold of taking responsibility. If they won't, then maybe we will go for a regional airport authority that has carrot and stick that all of us have to follow.

One of the big issues I had in the district as a candidate was the gridlock we experience in the 11th district. The gridlock came over a period of years, where commercial retail happened heavily in Santa Monica, Culver City, and parts of my district in the city of L.A. that have brought traffic in the morning into the district, people coming for work leaving in the afternoon. With not enough housing for them to stay there, our streets are gridlocked.

Every one of them from 7:30 in the morning to about 9 and then again from about 4:30 to about 7 in the evening, it can take you a full hour to go from the northern part of my district to the southern part, and you can't find any easy ways to bypass the gridlock. So that is a huge challenge for me. I think now the anger the frustration is so strong among all of the citizenry that there is political will now to do something.

I must tell you that I am delighted to see that Antonio Villaraigosa has taken over as chair of the MTA. I am delighted with his appointees to that board. I have a lot of faith that all of us are going to work closely on putting a mass transit system in place, and will also be able to do minor issues, which are major to us, like left hand turn arrows, synchronizing lights. I also met with the bus riders, and I strongly feel that we can do some things to improve our bus lanes, to improve the rapid bus concepts and actually get more buses because right now we are over 1.3 or 1.4 million people riding buses, and if we enhance that then there is a short-term and a long-term solution – more buses, more cooperation on bus lanes, and making that happen.

You have long been interested in public policy and politics, much longer than your short campaign for city council would evidence. The 11th council district of LA has had accomplished councilmembers representing it. Knowing what your predecessors were able and not able to accomplish, what is a realistic agenda for your tenture?

Remember, there actually were four who have represented the 11th. There was Pat Russell, Ruth Galanter, Marvin Braude, and Cindy Miscikowski. There were four over the history of the district, which is a new district now in a new day.

The good thing is that the 11th is a contiguous piece of land. The district includes more or less the 405 on the east, the ocean on the west, the mountains on the north, and the wetlands and the airport on the south. So it is all connected. It does have three other huge governmental groups within its boundary. In the heart of our district is Santa Monica. A good sliver of Culver City runs through the district, and L.A. County governs in Marina del Rey.

One of the things that I am going to implement is a district-wide planning committee. And this planning committee will have representatives from Santa Monica, Culver City, and the county working with my planning guy, Grieg Asher, to come up with common organic understandings of development. For instance, if you are going to build the commercial, who is going to do the residential? If you are going to build the residential and commercial, how are we going to do the transportation infrastructure? Those basic issues about transportation infrastructure, housing, and commercial have never been coordinated by the communities, and, frankly, there needs to be greater coordination.

Secondly, in our district, because of the value of the land, the renters – 58 percent of my people are renters who depend on affordable housing - are threatened by the bulldozer today. We approved the Getty grant plus the match that lets the Conservancy go in and do a historic resources study. We have never had, in the 11th district, a survey done of what we might call historical or culturally or socially relevant properties in the '50s or '60s and catalog them and get a understanding of this.

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What I intend to do, different from my predecessors, is to make every effort to preserve the affordable middle class housing that has some historical overtones and cultural overtones to it so that we can continue to have a mixed community both ethnically and economically and culturally in our district. Only 15 percent of L.A. has been surveyed to begin with, but nothing in the 11th district. So, I have asked them to come into my district and help me with the survey, and when I get a handle on what we have in our district, I am going to propose an ordinance before my colleagues on the council that hopefully will address my need to keep historical, affordable, and cultural properties that people are enjoying now that could be threatened by high-end condos and bulldozers.

Bill, it is clear that local issues will have the heart of your attention. But you are also the council chair of the neighborhood and education committee. The largest developer in metropolitan Los Angeles is LAUSD. Some have said that in the quest for new seats, LAUSD has disregarded the need to rebuild and revitalize our neighborhoods as healthy learning environments. Will you use your chairmanship of the council committee to encourage better collaboration with the school district on their building program?

There are people in the 11th district who have come to me when I was a candidate who have great ideas on how we can take a piece of property that might be a library, might be a park, and might be some other government facilities that tie into schools and make them a facility of multipurpose uses.

I am also interested in existing sites where schools are that I am getting partnerships with community groups around these schools to do certain things to improve those schools. There was Walgrove Preschool, where a piece of land was connected to the school, and the community went in and planted trees and put in other things.

But yes, the answer is yes. The neighborhood councils are going to have to reach out, and I am going to encourage them to reach out, to the school system and, in partnership, find the best land that makes the most sense from a community village standpoint- that gives us the opportunity to use a scarce space for multipurpose uses, that better uses our tax dollars, and that is also more friendly to the neighborhood and to the community.

I intend to challenge neighborhood councils on what a stakeholder is, so that they become more representative of the residents who live in the area. I mean the renters and the homeowners – the registered voters. If the neighborhood council is going to be top-heavy from one skewed standpoint like we have experienced in some of the neighborhood councils, they will have political power with me because they are usually powerful with the community representative groups, but they are not going to have land use power with me. If they are more transparent, and more generally a fair representation of the community, they will get more consideration from me on land use issues. So, we are going define what a stakeholder is in 2006.

From education, let's turn to transportation and the new Expo Line. Phase one is moving forward; the MTA will be building a new 9.6-mile light rail line. Phase two of that light rail line will run through the 11th district, from Culver City to either Venice or Santa Monica. What are your views on the best route for the Expo Line?

Well, I must tell you that I am thrilled with the progress that we have made in the last year as a city and a county and the MTA on going forward with the Expo Line. I am thrilled at the funds, the $640 million. It is not all there, but people could see how it could be there. I am very impressed with how fast they intend to move on it. At the same time both supervisor Yaroslavsky, and myself, and councilman Jack Weiss have been talking about when does it start and how it is routed. We want to get the environmental impact report going on phase two now so that the timing of building phase two and complementing phase one becomes just seamless. They can simultaneously be moving forward. And I am very hopeful, and so is Supervisor Yaroslavsky, that we can complete the entire Expo Line in ten years. There is a lot of political will now, but we obviously need to get more funds to do phase two. With phase two there is also my interest in Venice and Playa del Rey and how they fit in on phase two. I am thrilled with how Santa Monica has taken leadership over the years to have the route go to Santa Monica, but at the same time I want to be able to look at the Green Line tying into the Expo Line along Venice Boulevard so that we have an organic Westside light rail mass transit system.

Let's conclude with your views on LAX modernization. You made yourself clear in the campaign and in this interview that you have some concerns about the LAX plan, the green-lighted and yellow-lighted projects. Elaborate, please.

Number one, we need to reinvest in our infrastructure now. I feel comfortable that in the next 24 to 36 months we will be able to get that piece of Runway 2 so it is safer and also to prepare for the big jets. We need, number one, to move forward on investing in the infrastructure of the airport. Those are the "yellow lights," and like I said in the campaign, hopefully there will be no lights. They will be gone, and we will be looking at that second action as a regional action. We will look at Ontario and doing some kind of a light rail out there and Palmdale, looking at the regional picture. I don't believe that the Manchester Square, knocking down those three terminals and some of those other parts are even talkable anymore, and they need to be out of everybody's brain, and the word expansion doesn't need to be used anymore. What we need is to reinvest in the infrastructure and look for other places within this megalopolis of Southern California where it makes sense to have more air transport. I have made pledges and commitments to the people of Westchester and the district, that we're going to see, over the next six months, an aggressive approach to the modernization of the airport, the security aspects of the airport and hopefully get the support of my colleagues on the council and other folks in the region to move to another plan.

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