This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
The man who will soon replace Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl in a coastal council district offered a passionate defense Thursday of the neighborhood groups that fight large-scale development projects there.
Councilman-elect Mike Bonin, who takes office July 1, called for people to “respect” residents who speak out against major construction projects on the Westside and elsewhere.
Appearing at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, Bonin voiced some skepticism about "transit-oriented development," the practice of placing large-scale residential projects, typically combined with stores and restaurants, next to rail stops. And he said critics of the multi-story Casden West L.A. residential project, which is planned next to an Expo light rail station, had been unfairly portrayed as "Westside racists.”
“That offended me a great deal,” said Bonin, speaking to a room full of lawyers, lobbyists and city employees. “Because the people I saw raising initial concerns about that project were the people who fought to get the Expo Line in the first place.”
Bonin has spent eight years as chief of staff to Rosendahl, who is leaving because of illness. He was elected in March to represent a district that stretches from Los Angeles International Airport and Westchester north to Pacific Palisades. That district, which borders the city of Santa Monica on three sides, sees a number of large development projects.
Bonin warned that too much high-density housing around transit stops could doom efforts to persuade Westside voters to extend an existing transportation tax in coming years. He also said he was troubled that opponents of key construction projects at LAX had been labeled as “NIMBYs,” an acronym for “Not in My Backyard.”
Residents of Westchester and Playa del Rey "love and appreciate" LAX, Bonin said, and are willing to support a 20% growth in passenger traffic. Bonin also took aim at those who suggest he should "show leadership" by rejecting his constituents' views on development issues.
“The city is going to grow. Neighborhoods are going to change. But too often I hear people who don’t live in dense communities … saying that’s exactly what my constituents need to have."
Bonin, who is gay, also offered his reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent rulings on gay marriage, which he described as "deeply personal." The Mar Vista resident said he got "re-engaged" to his longtime domestic partner, Sean Arian, in the wake of those decisions and had received many congratulations.
The ruling shows that "unexpected, impossible change can happen," Bonin said.
"In 1990, when Andrew Sullivan was editing the New Republic magazine, he wrote a cover story 'The Case for Gay Marriage.' I thought he was nuts. I thought he was absolutely crazy," Bonin told the audience. "I remember thinking, 'Not in my lifetime.' And the world has changed."
[For the Record, 7:21 p.m. June 27: An earlier version of this post said that Mike Bonin was a resident of Venice. He lives in Mar Vista.]
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