New Egos and Agendas

Even though only one City Council seat was up for grabs in Tuesday’s election, the change in the Mayor’s Office will also mean changes on the council, some of them immediate, others six weeks or more down the road.

The most obvious will be the departure of seniormost member Cindy Miscikowski on July 1 in favor of former public-affairs TV host and cable executive Bill Rosendahl in the 11th District. Rosendahl is generally seen as slightly more liberal on labor and development issues than Miscikowski and is expected to try applying the brakes to commercial construction in the district, which covers the wealthy Westside communities of Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, the funky beach towns of Playa del Rey and Venice, and Westchester, the area hit hardest by traffic and jet noise from Los Angeles International Airport.

But in at least one area — the affordable-housing mandate known as inclusionary zoning — Rosendahl is more cautious than the outgoing councilwoman. Miscikowski was counted as a solid vote in favor of the proposal, which would require any builder of housing to reserve a set percentage of the new units for below-market sale or rental.

I.Z. has been knocking around City Hall for two years, but has until recently fallen just short of the eight votes it needs to pass, and well short of the 10 votes it would need to override a threatened veto by Mayor James Hahn. Councilman Ed Reyes has been negotiating an I.Z. package with the help of Eric Garcetti, Alex Padilla and Miscikowski, but the various proposals put on the table so far have only garnered another three votes, not the necessary four.

But proponents in the last month have put together enough votes to pass a modest measure that calls for a 10 percent affordable mandate and allows residents to weigh in on where in their neighborhoods denser affordable developments should be constructed.

They have to move fast to get Miscikowski’s vote, as well as Antonio Villaraigosa’s, and hope that this version of I.Z. is veto-proof — or that Hahn will allow it to take effect with or without his signature. Look for the measure to hit the council floor in May or June.

If they wait until after July 1, Villaraigosa will be in the Mayor’s Office and his 14th District will be without a vote until a replacement is appointed or elected. Miscikowski will be gone, and Rosendahl will have to be sold on the idea. On the other hand, if Reyes can still cobble together eight votes, it will be enough. That’s because, unlike Hahn, Villaraigosa is expected to sign I.Z. into law.

Rosendahl’s presence on the council means trouble for the revamp of LAX under a plan hammered out by Hahn and Miscikowski. Both Rosendahl and the candidate he defeated in the runoff, Flora Gil Krisiloff, vowed to oppose the LAX plan, but many voters seemed to believe Rosendahl would fight a tougher battle. Campaign contributions told an interesting story, with the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters donating thousands of dollars in independent expenditures to Krisiloff, and other supporters of airport construction contributing money directly to Krisiloff’s campaign.

Villaraigosa, too, has vigorously opposed the LAX revamp and as mayor will enjoy new clout to stop the project through oversight of a lawsuit brought against the city by Los Angeles County and other opponents. He and Rosendahl are expected to be close allies on curbing the LAX plan, along with Councilmen Jack Weiss and Bernard Parks, who joined with Villaraigosa in voting to oppose it several months ago. With Villaraigosa in the Mayor’s Office and Rosendahl on the council, and with trade and construction unions reeling from their costly and unsuccessful campaigns to elect LAX supporters, it would not be surprising to see other council members reconsider their positions on LAX.

A lawsuit is also pending over construction of Phase II of Playa Vista, the controversial mixed-use project that abuts the Ballona Wetlands. As with LAX, Rosendahl and Krisiloff both opposed the project, but Rosendahl was seen as the more unyielding opponent, and the campaign-donor records bore that out. Krisiloff got independent funds from developers Robert Maguire and James Thomas, who were part of the original development and have expressed interest in re-entering the project’s commercial construction phase. It remains to be seen whether Villaraigosa will let the lawsuit play out or work toward a settlement.

As Villaraigosa prepares to leave
the Eastside’s 14th Council District, which covers Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Eagle Rock, Mount Washington and parts of Highland Park, candidates are preparing to take his place. School-board President Jose Huizar has expressed strong interest, and Nick Pacheco enjoys support for a return to action after his defeat by Villaraigosa two years ago. Victor Griego, whom Pacheco defeated in 1999, has said he isn’t ruling anything out, and Alvin Parra, who also once ran for the office, has supporters as well.

Just when a replacement would take office is an open question. The council could appoint someone to fill the seat until the next city election in 2007. Or it could call a special election to fill Villaraigosa’s unexpired term.

The council generally will tilt strongly toward Villaraigosa, affording him at the very least a comfortable honeymoon period. Villaraigosa’s victory was so sweeping that he will likely command a supportive council majority that includes even his political and personal opponents.

For example, Dennis Zine, a San Fernando Valley Republican who was backing Hahn, defected to Villaraigosa after the primary. Bernard Parks, one of the council’s most conservative members on several key housing issues, went with Villaraigosa after his own challenge to Hahn fell short. Council President Alex Padilla, a Hahn backer from 2001, stayed neutral for several months before throwing in with Villaraigosa this time out, and just last Friday, Tony Cardenas, a longtime Villaraigosa antagonist from the days both served in the state Legislature, saw the writing on the wall and endorsed his old foe at the last minute.

Two members who stayed with Hahn, Ed Reyes and Eric Garcetti, will find themselves on the same page with Villaraigosa on most policy matters.

Martin Ludlow has long been a Villaraigosa ally. After Ludlow, Jack Weiss was Villaraigosa’s earliest and most loyal backer, and will expect new clout on a council where Weiss often found it difficult to craft alliances. Wendy Greuel remained neutral throughout. Bill Rosendahl would likely get on well with Villaraigosa, with whom he shares a generally progressive political stance.

That leaves Jan Perry, Tom LaBonge, Greig Smith and the outgoing mayor’s sister, Janice Hahn, to try to come to terms with their soon-to-be-former council colleague.

Then there is the question of who will be council president. Padilla has made it clear he wants to keep the job. Villaraigosa has no official say in the matter but may have the political juice now to throw his support elsewhere. Still, Padilla’s carefully timed endorsement of the new mayor may keep that threat at bay.

But Padilla could have trouble from Rosendahl, who would be open, at the very least, to supporting an insurgent. Padilla endorsed Krisiloff because, he said, he believed she would be best for the people of her district. But the incumbent council president certainly knew as well that Rosendahl would be bringing with him Mike Bonin, his top campaign official and the former chief of staff to Councilwoman Ruth Galanter. Galanter, as council watchers recall, had a lock on succeeding John Ferraro as council president on Ferraro’s death — until Padilla mounted a quiet campaign to wrest the job from her. Rosendahl will spell trouble for Padilla, and will be in a position to command a high-profile committee chairmanship from a presidential contender.

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