By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Valley activists are particularly worried about Krekorian’s ties to labor, which is among the most influential lobbies in California’s officially inept budgeting process. He voted against labor only twice during his first full year in the assembly. Critics warn that if voters let Krekorian jump from Burbank to L.A., he’ll put union interests first — in the face of a civic budget crisis that many say can only be fixed by going head to head with union leaders.
“Is he going to tell the public employee unions what he didn’t tell the state workers?” Kaye asks.
Essel’s life as a well-to-do, canyon-dwelling Westsider does not make her a natural candidate in CD 2, either. She is already trying to distance herself from a public record that trumpets an allegiance to developers — seen by many CD 2 residents as a threat to Valley quality of life.
Ask Valley voters to identify the most important issue in the CD 2 race and they may shoot back the obscure phrase: “S-B-eighteen-eighteen.”
Hoping to usher in more housing density, the City Council, led by the avidly pro-density Eric Garcetti, and backed by Villaraigosa, adopted a patently illegal interpretation of Senate Bill 1818, a state law intended to reward developers for including some low-rent units in their luxury complexes. A court found that city leaders went far beyond the law, allowing L.A. developers to violate hard-fought community standards, such as building-height limits.
L.A. has been tearing down rent-controlled units to build these new projects, drastically reducing affordable housing — while Villaraigosa’s team wrongly claims to be “creating” affordable housing. Colossal apartment structures built right to the sidewalk are popping up like skunk cabbage in the Valley, with, in Cleghorn’s words, “no respect for existing infrastructure. ... Why is L.A. letting it get out of control?”
Yet Essel proudly took credit for helping to pass the law when she was chairwoman of the Central City Association. “Through our results-oriented advocacy, CCA was successful in pushing forward Senate Bill 1818,” Essel wrote last year in her group’s newsletter.
Now, Essel is singing a very different tune, insisting she was required to push SB 1818 due to her job. “I personally do not support SB 1818. The organization I was a member of, did,” Essel said at a Sunland-Tujunga candidate forum. “I would work to undo the damage.”
That spin has provoked bitterness. “You hear the groans and you see the eyes roll,” says Paul Hatfield, a Valley Village resident who is blogging about the race.
Then there’s Essel’s effort to take credit for curbing runaway film production. A former Paramount executive, Essel was a leading representative of the L.A. film industry in Sacramento, as chairwoman of the California Film Commission. But during her years on the commission — 1999 to 2007 — L.A. experienced a staggering drop in production. In fact, on a number of occasions, Essel actually encouraged other film locations to be more competitive with L.A. Just last year — the worst filming year in L.A. on record, according to a nonprofit group that tracks productions — Essel praised efforts by Florida and Alaska to increase incentives for filmmakers.
According to government documents, while speaking to a government committee in each state, Essel was identified as a Paramount executive but not as a California film commissioner. After all, it might have raised eyebrows to have a Westside business leader championing L.A. film production to also be cheerleading for Florida and Alaska.
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