Zev Yaroslavsky has been a fixture of Los Angeles politics since he was 26 years old, and his decision not to join the campaign for mayor deprives the field — and the electorate — of one of the region's most enduring and respected political figures. It also threatens to narrow the debate over the city's future, as Yaroslavsky, 63, won't be in the campaign to offer his particular vision, which encompasses both the city's physical design and its fiscal health.
Among the candidates, City Councilman Eric Garcetti has emerged as a leading proponent of a certain idea of Los Angeles — one that is taller and denser, with high-rise corridors paralleling public transportation. That design would, in his view, help address traffic and the environment by favoring public transit over automobiles and by locating more housing close to workplaces. He has pushed for that in Hollywood, which he represents and where the recently adopted community plan will encourage high-density growth in certain areas. County Supervisor Yaroslavsky, on the other hand, is skeptical of that approach, arguing that Los Angeles still has large amounts of housing capacity without having to encourage denser development. Each of those is a valid concept of the city — and they overlap some, with Garcetti acknowledging a place for traditional homes and Yaroslavsky favoring much transit development — but the debate should not end just because Yaroslavsky won't be on the podium to argue it.