2015 Los Angeles CD4 Endorsement: Carolyn Ramsay

Election day: Tuesday, May 19, 7am-8pm
Find your polling place: http://lavote.net/locator

While the boundaries of Los Angeles Council District 4 may look ridiculous on a map, it is nonetheless a critical district in terms of L.A.’s bicycle transportation network. Sweeping through Mid-Wilshire, Hollywood, a sizable chunk of the San Fernando Valley, the Cahuenga Pass, and the spectacular landscape of Griffith Park, the district provides key connections – to the Los Angeles River, across the Hollywood Hills, and between dense Central L.A. neighborhoods and business corridors. The district has seen one livable streets project after another stalled under outgoing and bike-unfriendly Councilmember Tom LaBonge, making the race for a replacement that much more important.

Very early in the lead-up to the March primary, engaging voices emerged to provide an opportunity for much-needed progress. Carolyn Ramsay quickly articulated a thoughtful platform on mobility and livable streets, and was an early supporter for a reworking of the Hyperion Bridge with full sidewalks and buffered bike lanes, labeled “Option 3” by City staff and consultants (link).

This is not to imply that Ramsay had to go out on a limb: before going on-record with her decision, she rightly took the time to meet with community members and understand the overwhelming resident, business, and neighborhood council support for this forward-thinking solution. She was the first of the race’s top fundraising candidates to give ‘Option 3’ a thumbs-up, and after her lead, several other other candidates followed. Providing a safe connection by bike and on foot between Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Atwater Village, and the L.A. River is of critical importance and her early support is a testament to her priorities.

Ramsay continued to communicate an interest – based on personal experience – in making the district more accessible by bike by implementing better infrastructure that works for all ages and abilities. Her response to the LACBC questionnaire (link) offered a thoughtful consensus-building approach, which was reinforced by her support at a February candidate forum for a number of long-overdue bike lane projects: San Vicente, 6th Street, Lankershim, and the Cahuenga Pass. One of the most important things that Ramsay brings to in this election, however, is her extensive experience in the district as a former CD4 deputy and chief of staff, including learning from past failures in implementation of the City’s Bicycle Master Plan.

We’ve heard some encouraging things from the other candidate in this run-off election, David Ryu. But Ryu’s reluctance to communicate solutions for the area’s mobility problems, or take a stand in support of long-overdue improvements, gives us pause. Ramsay knows the district, and has solid ideas for how to bring consensus on projects that will improve its livability.

While we do have some concerns with some of Ramsay’s statements regarding improvements that would make Hollywood Boulevard and Hillhurst Avenue more vibrant, people-friendly streets to support thriving businesses, we are encouraged by her willingness to listen and to engage with her constituents towards finding solutions (link). There are lots of people, with lots of opinions – and so long as we keep an open dialogue, we are confident that any project that improves safety will prevail. We look forward to working with Carolyn Ramsay to improve mobility options for all Angelenos, and support her bid to represent the 4th District on the L.A. City Council.

[Editor’s note: On February 5th, 2015, well over a hundred concerned residents and safe streets advocates attended the CD4 Livable Streets Forum, hosted by L.A. Streetsblog, Los Angeles Walks, and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Bike The Vote L.A. and many other attendees live-tweeted from the event under the hashtag, #CD4Streets. Zachary Rynew blogs at CICLAVALLEY, and put together thoughtful and timely reflections of the eight Los Angeles City Council District 4 candidates who participated in the event. Below is his report, originally posted on CicLAvalley HERE.]



If you went to the Livable Forums event, you had a lot to absorb even without a full slate of candidates.

First some general notes:

  • Thanks to Don Ward of WOLFPACK HUSTLE lore for putting a pre-ride together from Sunset Triangle. I’m not as comfortable riding at night time, but riding in big groups is a very pleasant experience. Plus, I got a t-shirt too!
  • The crowd was probably around 200. They were very well behaved except for one moment. I tried clapping, but it just hurt my neck.
  • All the candidates supported option 3 (bike lanes!) for the Hyperion Bridge redo, although a couple of them seemed like they were copying other’s responses without knowing what it meant.
  • There was a couple lightning rounds where everyone could answer “No” or “Go” to bike lanes along specific streets. There was very little valley talk, but all supported bike lanes on Lankershim.
  • And big thanks to LACBC, LOS ANGELES WALKS and STREETSBLOG LA for putting on this event in such a setting at the Hollywood United Methodist Church. The interior was beautifully distracting.
  • As for the candidates, you had to read between what they were saying and what they believed. The connectivity between the two varied greatly from candidate to candidate. I think they all believe that LA has to be more street friendly for all people who walk or bike, but not all of them understand the reasoning behind it.


Here are some quick thoughts on the candidates (seated from left to right):

Sheila Irani: By far the most knowledgeable on transit issues and sounded like the most trustworthy candidate there. Even when she disagreed with the Cahuegna Pass bike lanes, I agreed with her reasoning that regular bike lanes would be insufficient and something requiring more infrastructure, like a bridge or tunnel would have to be added. [Irani response to LACBC Questionnaire]

Rostom “Ross” Sarkissian: After a night of questioning, I did not really get a feel for him. He was against the Hillhurst bike lanes because the locals he’s heard from think they would be too dangerous. Um…how bad is it now? Also, saying that decisions would be based on metrics makes it sound like numbers could be used as excuses. [Sarkissian did NOT respond to the LACBC Questionnaire]

Carolyn Ramsay: My vibe is that she’s a Tom LaBonge 2.0. Maybe a bike more bike savvy than him, but not a game changer. She wanted bike lanes on Sunset over Hollywood Blvd., but didn’t quite put together good logic why. [Ramsay response to LACBC Questionnaire]

Tomas O’Grady: Definitely a shot of hot coffee. He’s strongly pro bike lanes. I think he passed on one question in lightning round because he didn’t know the parameters (I was sitting midway back). I don’t think he’s as knowledgable as Irani on this front, but he seems to be the most excitable. [O’Grady response to LACBC Questionnaire]

Tara Bannister: She said yes to all bike lanes, but I might question her resolve and understanding. In her closing statements, she wanted to bring LA’s streets back to where they were twenty years ago. I didn’t know we were safer in 1995 than we were now. [Bannister did NOT respond to the LACBC Questionnaire]

Steve Veres: He probably said no most to bike lanes when the lightning rounds happened. I don’t think he’s a curmudgeon, but he gave a pragmatist response from his position of knowledge. When he referred that this may be a thirty year project, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be the champion of great streets. [Veres response to LACBC Questionnaire]

Fred Mariscal: He supported bike lanes in all cases, but seemed lukewarm in his opinions. When you believe that you have to see as it goes, then that doesn’t instill confidence that you’re behind reworking our streets. I also learned he has a dog. [Mariscal response to LACBC Questionnaire]

Mike Schaefer: Schaefer has the most experience of all the candidates (he brought it up, not me). He goes with the slogan “Safer with Schaefer.” With all this in his arsenal, I still don’t know if he truly understands safe streets. He brought up there’s people cycling all over in San Diego (where he was a councilman), but I have no idea what he had to do with it. He also said he’d hire a staffer who’d have to bike to work so he could tell him about it. So there’s that. [Schaefer did NOT respond to the LACBC Questionnaire]

These are my quick reads here. I encourage people to read the LACBC VOTER SURVEYS to get a better feel on the candidates, as well as checking out the remaining debates. Just remember to get out there and bike the vote!

-Zachary Rynew