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Council Hopefuls Aim to Beautify 7th District

Valley city candidates want North Hollywood, Sun Valley area to look more like Brentwood.

October 26, 2002|KRISTINA SAUERWEIN | Times Staff Writer

In sagging sections of Sun Valley and North Hollywood, residents want streets with sidewalks and trees as abundant as those in Brentwood. And if the Westside brims with Starbucks coffeehouses, they ask, why can't the northeast San Fernando Valley?

In the Nov. 5 secession election, the five candidates for the 7th District seat on the proposed Valley city council have vowed to bring the area everything from paved walkways to jacaranda trees to a jazz-playing java joint. The 14-member council will take office only if secession wins.

"We'd love a Starbucks," said candidate Gina G. Goldman-Ruiz, a Sun Valley resident. "I want to make this place more like Brentwood. It's an eyesore."

Of course, it's not just about a Starbucks, said Goldman-Ruiz, a 33-year-old business owner who has lived in the Valley most of her life. She said the district needs many more restaurants and shops.

The working-class neighborhoods of the 7th District are crowded with auto-repair shops, gravel pits and wrecking yards. Many of its apartment buildings are run-down.

The neighborhoods, both tidy and unkempt, also lack street lights and parks. In addition, residents have complained to the city about inadequate sewers.

"The area looks like Tijuana," said Goldman-Ruiz, the niece of the late Mexican movie star Maria Felix and a longtime civic volunteer in the Valley.

As a councilwoman, Goldman-Ruiz said, she would tackle the district's problems while being fiscally responsible. She said she would listen to constituents and attract more businesses by cleaning up the neighborhoods and reducing bureaucratic hurdles.

Candidate Jose Roy Garcia also sees neglect in the district. He said the city needs to do more to rid the area of litter. A few weeks ago, Garcia said, he got so sick of the garbage and the city's indifference to it that he rented a truck, filled it with litter himself and unloaded it into a dumpster.

"I didn't want to wait for the city," said Garcia, 47, a flooring contractor. The longtime Valley resident also founded a soccer league for underprivileged children.

In a Valley city, Garcia said, he would make sure potholes in his district were plugged immediately. He scoffed at L.A.'s recent commitment to fill potholes within 24 hours of a complaint.

"I've called for two weeks to complain about a pothole, and it's still not fixed," he said.

Garcia said he also wants to rid the area of gangs and graffiti through such measures as programs aimed at deterring crime and city cleanup crews that respond quickly. "No matter what, I will stand up and yell for the community," he said.

Candidate Carol Silver, who owns a printing business, said she often calls City Hall on behalf of customers struggling with L.A.'s bureaucracy.

"It's too big the way it is now," said Silver, 51, a civic activist who formerly worked in public relations and journalism. "I intend to treat all [constituents] like I do my customers. If they show respect and honor by voting for you, they deserve to deal with someone pleasant."

Los Angeles City Council members who have represented the northeast Valley, Silver said, "go downtown or to Sacramento and they just change. There will be no more sweetheart deals."

If elected, Silver said, one of her first priorities will be to add street lights to the area. Crime flourishes in darkness, she said.

Sparse lighting and the lack of public transit are particularly hard on older people, Silver said. "At night, they become prisoners of their homes," she said. "They're taxpayers and homeowners, but still prisoners."

If secession passes, candidate James H. Eric Freedner said he expects legal trouble between the Valley city and Los Angeles. He said his work as a Beverly Hills paralegal has prepared him to look out for a new city's interests in any battles over service contracts with Los Angeles.

"It's historic, and I think it could get messy," said Freedner, 52, who rides a motorcycle to save gas.

Freedner said he wants a new city to have a controlling stake in Burbank Airport, which is near the district. Noise and traffic generated by the airport harm the area's quality of life, he said.

Like other District 7 candidates, Freedner wants more sidewalks, street lights and trees, and a quick response for pothole repair.

"This isn't the fanciest part of the Valley," Freedner said.

Candidate Sergio F. Barreno said he, too, would like to spruce up the area.

"We need better neighborhoods," said the 62-year-old health-care worker. "We have no sidewalks. No drainage. The city does not provide a good cleaning service."

And City Hall workers don't display good manners when speaking with the public, Barreno said. "They need to show some kind of friendliness toward people," he said.

Barreno said he often works on home remodeling projects and is appalled at the "rude" inspectors "who come in like they own the place and don't respond when I say 'Hello.' "

That would never happen, Barreno said, if he were a councilman in a new city. Barreno said he also wants to make the northeast Valley friendlier to businesses by making it easier to obtain licenses and permits.

"I want any kind of business that is willing to relocate here," Barreno said.

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