Last week, Gloria Molina, Nadine Momoyo Diaz, and José Huizar—three of the five candidates vying to represent the Los Angeles City Council's newly reconfigured Council District 14, which now includes virtually all of Downtown, in addition to Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Highland Park, and Eagle Rock—met for a debate at the Los Angeles Theater, on Broadway. Names were posted on the marquee outside, the lobby's many chandeliers were lit very bright, and a man costumed as Chaplin's Tramp posed for pictures with attendees.
Huizar, the incumbent, made it about thirty seconds before bringing up Bringing Back Broadway, his signature project to revive the historic street; it's been terrifically successful, at least in terms of lining the street with affluent youth and the restaurants they frequent. He also mentioned that York Boulevard in Highland Park can serve as a model for redevelopment around the country, a truly frightening prospect. All agreed that the community was the most important part. The community simply had to be heard.
While, for the most part, the candidates kept away from specifics, Huizar did offer a few novel ideas: rooftop gardens as a way to create more greenspace, multiple extensions for the Gold Line in East Los Angeles (beyond the ones already in the works or under evaluation), an expansion of the DASH shuttle bus circulators. The Downtown Streetcar, another one of his signature projects, was mentioned in passing. The hundred-million-dollar discrepancy between projected cost and projected revenue was not.
Things got chippy as the debate wore on. While Diaz faded into the background with meandering non-answers (sample quote: "In regards to the bike lanes, I've heard both that they're positive and they're negative"), Molina and Huizar became progressively more confrontational. He argued for a tall, varied skyline; she said there's "too much density already in Downtown," that we need "smart growth." He said he was "stunned and surprised … our Supervisor would have a fundamental misunderstanding of what's going on Downtown"; she said "the biggest problem with [Huizar] is that he hasn't been in touch with residents," and that he had received "a lot of special interest money from developers." He said Molina "really needs to get a better handle on what's going on in Downtown LA"; she said she will "bring back integrity and responsibility… [which] has not happened with the incumbent."
The Tramp watched from the front row, twirling his hat on his cane. A man stood aside the stage munching on popcorn. Cheers and hisses came from the crowd following each candidate's answer. Outside the marquee was still lit, "Diaz" and "Huizar" and "Molina" up in big block letters. It was fitting. —Ian Grant
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