In February, The Times noted that we sought a candidate for the open 5th Council District seat who would balance a citywide vision with the demands of district residents that their quality of life be protected. With that balance in mind, we endorsed Ron Galperin in the primary. Voters preferred neighborhood activist David T. Vahedi and former Assemblyman Paul Koretz, and we took a fresh look at both in advance of the May 19 runoff. It's a close call, and one that voters will make, but we recommend a vote for Vahedi.
Vahedi is often portrayed, for good and for ill, as the outsider candidate. He makes much of the fact that he hasn't held elective office before, although he did run four years ago in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Councilman Jack Weiss. But for an outsider, Vahedi impresses with his encyclopedic knowledge of even the most obscure zoning regulations, Environmental Quality Act provisions and parking policies. He is among the breed of homeowner activists who can match wits and quote Municipal Code passages with any elected official or bureaucrat.
Our biggest concern about Vahedi is his willingness to cater to the no-growth, no-change homeowner groups that sometimes appear bent on freezing the district into its current condition. That's ironic, given that its current condition includes the clutter of electronic billboards and the crush of poorly circulating traffic. The district will benefit from growth, and from a council member who will work to ensure that inevitable growth occurs with foresight and with sensitivity to neighborhoods, from the areas of Los Angeles adjoining Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, south past the Santa Monica Freeway, north to Century City and Westwood, over the Hollywood Hills and along Ventura Boulevard through Encino and Sherman Oaks.
The Times sees in Vahedi enough understanding of the district's future to shepherd development that brings positive change. He and the rest of the district must recognize that growth will continue and that they have a choice between directing that growth or being directed by it.
The district would also be well served by Koretz, whose experience on the West Hollywood City Council could provide fresh ideas and different perspectives. But West Hollywood has a manageable scale and an activist history that may well keep its lessons from being of more than moderate use in the barely governable sprawl that is Los Angeles. Vahedi, the outsider whose grasp of civic concerns and City Hall minutiae make him perhaps the ultimate insider, stands a better chance, if voters give it to him, of making government work for 5th District residents and Angelenos citywide.