Los Angeles Times
Katy Young Yaroslavsky for Los Angeles Council District 5
She is a seasoned, can-do candidate with a track record of getting complicated things done.
Los Angeles Council District 5 stretches across a far-flung geographic area, from the hills of Bel-Air down the eastern side of the 405 Freeway to Westwood and Palms, then east to Melrose Avenue and several midcity neighborhoods, including part of Hancock Park. No matter where they live, residents in this district worry about many of the same things, including crime, traffic and homelessness.
The four candidates running for the council seat in the June 7 primary are smart, thoughtful and, to varying degrees, progressive. Two stand out — Scott Epstein and Katy Young Yaroslavsky. Both have shown themselves to be capable leaders.
Epstein, who has a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown and works as a COVID-19 contact tracer at the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, spent nine years on the board of the Mid City West Neighborhood
Council and served as chairman for seven years until 2021, diversifying the board by recruiting more women and young members to run for seats. In his time, he got the neighborhood council to support much-needed housing developments and, sometimes, extract promises of affordable units from developers who came to the council for letters of support for their projects.
Epstein has championed projects to revamp city streets and sidewalks to make them more usable by bike riders and pedestrians and founded the Midtown Los Angeles Homeless Coalition. If ever there was a community leader who seems ready to move up to the next level of governance it would be Epstein. However, in this competitive race our choice is the more seasoned candidate who has a track record of forming coalitions, listening to people and negotiating complicated issues.
Yaroslavsky, a land-use attorney, has been steeped in politics for much of her life. Her mother was the district director for Sheila Kuehl during her 14 years in the state Legislature and she’s the daughter-in-law of former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. After attending UC Berkeley and UCLA School of Law, she worked at the venerable corporate law firm Latham & Watkins as a land-use and environmental attorney for nearly five years. She left the firm to concentrate on urban planning and environmental policy issues and and later became general counsel and director of government affairs at the Climate Action Reserve, an L.A.-based nonprofit.
When Kuehl was elected to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors in 2014, she tapped Yaroslavsky to be her senior policy advisor on the environment and the arts, and that’s where Yaroslavsky successfully tackled complex tasks that required dealing with local government, businesses and the community. Among them was spearheading the creation of L.A. County’s first Office of Sustainability, which coordinates efforts across the region such as the landmark ban on single-use plastic food ware passed last month by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
For three years, she worked on Measure W, the Safe, Clean Water Program, a parcel tax that was adopted by voters in November 2018 and generates $300 million a year to capture and clean storm water before it reaches beaches and oceans. People who worked with her on Measure W describe her as tenacious, tireless and smart. She spent hours meeting with property owners, developers, environmental and labor leaders and community groups to hear their concerns and enlist their help in crafting this colossal measure.
She is careful to acknowledge there is no silver bullet to miraculously eradicate homelessness. She rightly says that prevention must be emphasized, noting that it’s less expensive and more humane to keep someone housed than to try to get someone off a street into housing. She believes in a multipronged approach to housing people faster than the city has been doing it — through interim housing and use of more rental vouchers while building permanent housing and adapting existing structures.
These are not be new ideas, but they are smart ones. The challenge is implementing them in an area such as Council District 5, where real estate is expensive and there is little public land that can be borrowed for housing for homeless people. Finding buildings to readapt will be important.
On the controversial city ordinance against camping on city sidewalks and in parks, Yaroslavsky tries to walk a neutral line. She seems to understand that forcing people to move off a sidewalk (or worse, citing them if they don’t) only pushes homeless people to another sidewalk. She says of the ordinance, “If we’re not pairing it with outreach, housing that meets people’s needs and services, we’re simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
She’s right, and we will hold her to that commitment.
The other candidates are Jimmy Biblarz, a lecturer at UCLA School of Law, and Sam Yebri, an employment and business lawyer. Both understand that housing is key to preventing and stemming homelessness. But Yebri has put too much emphasis on shelters and banning encampments — neither of which will solve homelessness. Yaroslavsky is the best candidate in this race.
Read more endorsements at: latimes.com/endorsements.
She is careful to acknowledge there is no silver bullet to eradicate homelessness, but rightly says that prevention must be emphasized.