By Aaron Blevins, 2/14/2013
Public safety, economic development among top priorities
A total of nine candidates are running in the March 5 election for two seats on the West Hollywood City Council that are currently held by incumbents Jeffrey Prang and John Duran.
Last week, Park Labrea News and Beverly Press profiled five of the candidates, and this week, the newspaper is publishing interviews with the remaining four.
Duran, who wouldn’t specify his age but said he is over 40, has been on the council for 12 years, and he has served as mayor of the city three times. He said he’s running for re-election to continue his efforts from his past three terms.
“There’s a lot of interesting projects the city is engaged in that I want to see to completion,” Duran said.
He referenced the restoration of the city’s eastside, the creation of business improvement districts along the city’s major corridors and economic development that the city is undergoing.
Duran said one of his biggest priorities would be addressing the city’s housing infrastructure. With some properties developed in the 1950s, infrastructure is failing, but some rent-controlled units have made it difficult for owners to afford upgrades and renovations, he said.
“It’s a big challenge,” Duran said, adding that there are senior housing and rent-controlled properties across the city that need to be upgraded and maintained without increasing rent for tenants. “It’s a big challenge.”
He said his proudest achievement during his time on the council was facilitating the opening of the West Hollywood Recovery Center’s current location. Duran said substance abuse, especially crystal methamphetamine abuse, continues to be a problem in the city, and he would like to expand the city’s efforts to combat the issue.
The councilman said he also wants to continue to address parking and transportation. He said the nighttime shuttle he introduced will likely be discussed by the council again in April, and 1,300 parking spaces have been added in his time on the council, but there are opportunities to address the issue further.
Additionally, Duran said he would like to continue animal welfare efforts, help the city determine its “urban dynamic” and help steer the proposed project at the bus lot on San Vicente and Santa Monica boulevards.
“I know that historically … people seem to either love or hate me. And maybe that’s just part of being an elected official. But I think I’ve always been a straight-shooter,” he said, adding that he was often the swing vote on the council.
Garzilli, 35, said he is an entrepreneur who works with two companies, JPods and ET3, both of which offer innovative transport technologies. However, there is currently no market for what he calls “great technology,” Garzilli said.
“I’m running to legalize innovation in transportation,” he said.
Garzilli said he is looking to increase public transit options in Los Angeles and West Hollywood by allowing private entities to create mass transit systems.
He said the region needs a free market in transportation, and he feels that JPods and ET3 could provide viable solutions. JPods are car-sized vehicles that would travel on suspended rails, and ET3 is a system of car-sized passenger capsules that run on light rail at speeds of 370 miles per hour.
“Transportation is a necessity, and one’s freedom of movement, I think, is a constitutional right,” Garzilli said. “Imagine going places and not needing to find a parking space. It changes everything.”
He said he would also like to hire three more librarians to ensure that the new West Hollywood Library is open full-time. The library is “beautiful” but not fully staffed, yet the city is in the black, Garzilli said.
The one-year West Hollywood resident said he would like to take a look at West Hollywood’s streets — in hopes of finding ways to deter speeders — such as solar powered radar speed signs — and drunk driving.
He said he would strive to put a lot of major development on hold, as there has not been enough proper planning for traffic in some cases. Garzilli said he is particularly concerned about the city’s eastside, where six or seven “huge” developments are underway.
He also hopes to make government more transparent, protect residents’ privacy, create a concealed carry group to increase public safety, promote a business-friendly city, cut taxes and generally improve residents’ quality of life.
“I like thinking from outside the box. I don’t like playing in the sandbox,” Garzilli, a Los Angeles native, said. “If West Hollywood elects me, I’m going to shake things up. I’m going to bring a fresh perspective. …I’m not just going to do what people tell me I have to do.”
Landavazo, 37, is a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy, with the special problems unit in South L.A. He said he’s been with the department for six years, and he spent more than a year at the West Hollywood Station.
“West Hollywood needs a fresh start, and it needs leaders that are ready to listen to the needs of the community,” Landavazo said.
A Southern California resident of 28 years, he said his top priority would be public safety. Landavazo said he would like to set up beats and promote community-oriented policing in West Hollywood.
“Essentially, what that allows us to do on our deployment [is] deploy the same officers in the same area so they’re more aware of the problems facing the city,” he said. “They’re going to get to know the residents. They’re going to get to know the business owners.”
Landavazo said designating beats would offer the sheriff’s department a more uniform approach in West Hollywood, while helping response times. With the city only being 1.9 square miles, such a plan could be a good fit for West Hollywood, he said.
Part of his proposed 20-page community plan, which outlines his vision for the city, deals with civic engagement. Landavazo said the city council’s decisions should reflect the wants and desires of the community.
“One of my chief responsibilities … will be ensuring that I am a voice for the community,” he said.
Landavazo said he hopes to incorporate technology into the decision-making process — by using online resources to keep residents informed. The sheriff’s deputy, who wrote the evacuation plan for West Hollywood, said he believes online notification services could be helpful in emergencies as well.
“In times of crisis … our ability to message and get information out to people in real-time will be crucial,” Landavazo said, adding that the online tool could inform residents about any public meetings that could affect their livability.
He said he would also strive to increase housing options in the city, require developers to build affordable housing at a quicker pace by creating or extending incentives, incorporate smarter growth principles, pursue green initiatives, help the homeless, improve traffic and offer more health and wellness programs and social services.
Schukraft, 33, owns and operates ID90, an e-ticketing service for the airline industry that was created 12 years ago. He has lived in West Hollywood for three years, and said he is running for council to better the city — especially in terms of efficiency and community involvement.
“As I spent more time here … I realized there were opportunities for improvement,” Schukraft said.
He said he would like to leverage technology to further engage the community. Schukraft proposed an app that would allow members of the community to express their opinion on city council agenda items while seeing how the rest of the community feels about a particular issue.
“It would bring transparency, accountability and engage the community,” he added.
Schukraft referenced a group of women who have attended several consecutive meetings in an attempt to get streetlights fixed. He suggested another app that would allow residents to report broken sidewalks, potholes and malfunctioning streetlights using a simple ticket system. The app would provide status reports on such repairs.
Schukraft said he would like to improve parking in the city by implementing angled parking in some areas, ensuring the enforcement of proper parking and offering two free hours of parking at city structures.
“There is a lot of parking in West Hollywood,” he said. “It’s just not utilized.”
Another top priority would be promoting sensible development, Schukraft said. He referenced the Hancock Lofts, which provide eight units of affordable housing, parking and retail.
“I think it’s a smart development that we need to continue in the city,” Schukraft said, adding that he supports mixed-use projects.
The Agoura Hills native said he would also like to add more dog parks in the city, increase street cleaning, evaluate rent controlled units to encourage property owners to make upgrades to their properties, promote diversity and support businesses.