Since taking office in 2005, outgoing Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huizar has proven himself a dependable, leading ally of L.A.’s active transportation movement, championing infrastructure improvements across the 14th District for people who walk, roll and bike. Business districts in Northeast Los Angeles, Downtown, and Boyle Heights have seen critical investments in safe streets on Spring St, York Blvd, First St, Broadway, Colorado Blvd. and more. With Huizar termed out at the end of this year, the 2020 election will help determine whether the district continues to set the tone for the rest of Los Angeles on progressive transportation efforts.
After three months of engagement with the candidates for Council District 14 in the March 2020 primary election—including a questionnaire and in-person interviews—Bike The Vote L.A. can report that there is a solid field of potential leaders for voters to consider, with widespread support for safe streets from the major contenders. Among other encouraging signs, all of the leading candidates gave us a pledge to refuse campaign donations from the fossil fuel lobby. See below for our grades of CD14 candidates, statements on each candidate, and links to each candidate’s response to Bike The Vote L.A.’s questionnaire. UPDATE 2/14/2020: Bike The Vote L.A.’s CD14 committee has decided to revise the grades of two candidates based on updates to their transportation positions. See below for further explanations.
CD14 Candidate: Cyndi Otteson
Cyndi Otteson has a long track record of impassioned community advocacy that includes helping to launch Miry’s List, a group that advocates for refugees and works to protect them from xenophobia. Otteson also has a record of supporting safe streets as vice president of the progressive Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. However, what stands out to Bike The Vote is her determined effort to build an equitable and forward-thinking transportation platform by engaging with local advocates, participating in community-driven projects like Slow Yosemite, and speaking out at a recent Vision Zero call to action at City Hall organized by safe streets advocates Andres Quinche and Tom Carroll.
In her strong response to Bike The Vote’s questionnaire, Otteson demonstrates that she clearly understands what is at stake when it comes to making streets safer, and who is to blame for L.A.’s lack of progress. Her response on an ongoing discussion around bus rapid transit (BRT) in Eagle Rock was a little less determined than we would have hoped for, but she has publicly supported quality transit and taken on the difficult task of engaging with BRT-skeptics in Eagle Rock’s business community. Bike The Vote feels strongly that Otteson will make for a bold and thoughtful leader that will value the voices of the safe streets community and prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable in decisions about our transportation system.
UPDATE 2/14/2020: Acknowledging Otteson’s development of her transportation platform over the past month, her announcement of support for an on-street alignment of BRT within Eagle Rock, and her effective communication of the benefits of active transportation at numerous candidate forums, Bike The Vote L.A.’s CD14 committee has decided to raise Cyndi Otteson’s grade to an “A.” We thank her for her continued engagement and development of her transportation platform.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: A
CD14 Candidate: Kevin de León
Kevin de León is the former President pro tempore of the California Senate. Under his leadership, the Senate regularly passed important and progressive transportation legislation, including the Three Feet For Safety Act as well as SB 1, which generated important funding for transit, bikeway, and pedestrian improvements.
De León’s response to Bike The Vote was strong, stressing the importance of working aggressively to implement Vision Zero and building out a safe, comfortable, useful network of bike lanes. We also applaud de León’s statement in favor of a dense network of bike and bus lanes in Downtown. De León’s response that he is undecided regarding on-street bus rapid transit in Eagle Rock is disappointing. Moving forward, we would like to hear that he sets transit-rider experience as a top priority, but do appreciate that he is framing his position on the project around the experience of those on foot and on bikes.
Past experience has shown that progressive State electeds who become local councilmembers don’t always carry over their progressive values as they face local opposition and struggle to navigate city politics. In developing his campaign platform, de León appears to have engaged some former CD14 staff members who are familiar allies to the safe streets advocacy community. This on-the-ground experience and understanding of how to navigate political challenges is invaluable, and makes us hopeful that de León would continue or even ramp up the district’s recent progress on complete streets.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: A-
CD14 Candidate: Raquel Zamora
Raquel Zamora is a social worker and Los Angeles Unified School District counselor from Boyle Heights with a passion for community advocacy and environmental justice. Her response to Bike The Vote was solid, prioritizing student safety in getting to and from class, along with a call for reduced price transit passes for students. We were encouraged by her commitment to include road diets as part of efforts to implement Vision Zero. We were left with questions, however, regarding her statement expressing doubt about the feasibility of a road diet on North Figueroa between York and Colorado Boulevards. We were additionally disappointed that, of all the CD14 candidates who provided responses, Zamora’s statement regarding bus rapid transit service for Eagle Rock was the most non-committal.
Altogether, Zamora appears to be a strong candidate with a thoughtful and compassionate approach to considering policy issues, and we are confident that she will use empathy and equity to guide decision making around improving transportation options in Los Angeles.
UPDATE 2/14/2020: On February 7th, Zamora communicated that she does not support on-street dedicated bus lanes within Eagle Rock and instead supports an on-freeway alignment for Metro’s Noho-Pasadena BRT project that would serve fewer Angelenos and subject people who ride buses to high levels of air and noise pollution. Bike The Vote L.A. reached out to Zamora for clarification but has not received a response to-date. In consideration of this change from the position Zamora communicated in response to Bike The Vote L.A.’s questionnaire, our CD14 committee has decided to revise Raquel Zamora’s grade to a B-.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: B-
CD14 Candidate: Mónica García
Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Mónica García was up front with Bike The Vote’s interview committee that she did not have a depth of experience on active transportation issues, describing herself as a “car person” based on her need to travel around the district that she represents. We appreciate her candor and it became clear early in our conversation that issues of equity in transportation planning and transit access resonate very strongly with García’s career of advocating for equity in education.
While García provided some promising responses to Bike The Vote’s questionnaire, we would be more confident in her determination had her statements included more detail. For example, García contradicted what appeared to be bold support for on-street bus rapid transit in Eagle Rock with a statement of no preference that she subsequently provided to the Boulevard Sentinel. Nevertheless, it is apparent that García has already significantly improved her stance on transportation issues as a result of listening to us and other advocates during the campaign. We hope that she will continue to engage with safe streets advocates and we can see her developing into a stronger ally over time.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: B-
CD14 Candidate: John Jimenez
John Jimenez declined to respond to Bike The Vote L.A.’s questionnaire, but provided a statement that, without evidence, painted people who bike with a wide brush as scofflaws. Additionally, he has expressed support for relocating bus rapid transit away from the Eagle Rock community on the 134 Freeway in a statement to the Boulevard Sentinel.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: D