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Decision '93 / A Look at the Elections in Los Angeles County : Los Angeles City Council : Two races are wide open because the incumbents have quit to run for mayor. Some members seeking reelection are in tough fights. : 5TH DISTRICT : Mutual Disregard Puts Sparks in Yaroslavsky vs. Lake Rematch

April 11, 1993|RON RUSSELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who has represented the affluent 5th District for 18 years, is the heavy favorite to win again.

Yaroslavsky, 44, has the support of a broad coalition of neighborhood leaders, environmentalists and political activists.

The veteran councilman, chairman of the powerful Budget and Finance Committee, has stressed his experience, his support for more police officers and his efforts to attract and keep jobs.

Two challengers argue that Yaroslavsky shares the blame for the city's budget problems and that he has not done enough to promote business and protect the quality of life in the heavily congested district.

Environmental activist Laura Lake, 46, is making a second effort to unseat Yaroslavsky. She won 32% of the vote in 1989.

City building inspector Michael Rosenberg, 37, of North Hollywood is conducting a low-budget campaign.

The district cuts a wide swath from the Fairfax district and Westwood on the Westside to Sherman Oaks and North Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley.

The "Zev vs. Laura" rematch has generated some excitement, if for no other reason than the low esteem in which they hold each other.

To campaign against Yaroslavsky this year, Lake had to move into a Westwood Village apartment. The house she and her husband own is in a neighborhood that was lopped off the district last year when the City Council redrew the boundaries.

In February, Lake accused Yaroslavsky of spying on the house to see where she really lived.

Yaroslavsky called the allegations ridiculous, saying an aide went to the neighborhood to deliver a planning document. He accused Lake of being obsessed with him.

That led Lake to accuse Yaroslavsky of sexism, setting the tone for other exchanges.

Asked at a public forum why she decided to run again, the former UCLA professor confidently told a group of senior citizens that she was "blessed with long legs that enable me to kick ass better."

Even her own supporters acknowledge that defeating the veteran councilman is a tall order. Halfway through the campaign, Lake's polling showed her with barely 12% name recognition.

Lake has picked up her share of endorsements from environmentalists and, as one of the founders of Heal the Bay, has campaigned on quality-of-life issues.

But she was a Westside slow-growth advocate during the go-go 1980s and her positions are a tougher sell at a time of widespread unemployment and almost no development.

Lake has tried to shed her slow-growth image, substituting the term planned growth when referring to development issues.

But she clashes directly with Yaroslavsky over Fox Studio's planned $200-million expansion in Century City.

Lake opposes the expansion, taking the side of residents who fear more traffic.

Yaroslavsky supports it on the condition that it be scaled back slightly. His emphasis is on preserving jobs.

In the campaign, Lake is counting on reaching out to voters who are receptive to women candidates and tired of incumbents.

She has been endorsed by Women For: and the National Women's Political Caucus, which is sponsoring a phone bank on her behalf.

Yaroslavsky remains a popular, powerful figure with a knack for knowing how and when to pounce on an issue, observers say.

Within hours of a fatal shooting at Reseda High School in February, he was on the radio demanding that metal detectors be installed for the entire Los Angeles Unified School District. He had made the same demand after a shooting at Fairfax High.

Besides trying to inoculate himself against Lake's anti-incumbency rhetoric by painting her as being anti-growth and anti-jobs, Yaroslavsky has also made strides in protecting himself from harm on the gender issue.

Within days after Lake announced the women's phone bank, Yaroslavsky was endorsed by the National Organization for Women.

The Candidates Laura Lake, 46, most recently was a professor of environmental science and engineering at UCLA. She has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin and master's and doctoral degrees in political science from Tufts University. She is married and has two children.

Michael Loren Rosenberg, 37, is a city building inspector working in the West Los Angeles office. He has a bachelor's degree in anthropology and sociology from Santa Clara University. He attended Santa Clara University Law School. He is married and has four children.

Zev Yaroslavsky, 44, was first elected to the council in 1975. He has a bachelor's degree in history and economics and a master's degree in history from UCLA. He is married and has two children.

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