LA City Council District 12 Election Guide: Loraine Lundquist Vs. John Lee
Voters in Los Angeles City Council District 12 — which includes the northwest San Fernando Valley communities of Chatsworth, Granada Hills, North Hills, Northridge, Porter Ranch, Reseda, Sherwood Forest and West Hills — will elect their new city council representative on Tuesday (Aug. 13).
Democrat Loraine Lundquist and Republican John Lee are vying to replace Mitch Englander, who stepped down in December to take an executive job at Oak View Group, an entertainment and sports facilities company. Englander was the lone Republican on the 15-member council.
The district has been represented by Republicans for decades. Even though the body is officially nonpartisan, a win for a Democrat would signal a significant shift.
The demographics of the area have been changing. In 2000, 49,851 residents of District 12 were registered Democrats, and 42,399 were registered Republicans. The gap has widened since then to 74,850 Democrats to 40,232 Republicans, according to the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office.
Lundquist and Lee were the top two vote-getters during a crowded primary election in June.
Lee was Englander's chief of staff, and Lundquist is a physicist and teaches sustainability at Cal State Northridge.
The winner of Tuesday's election will finish out Englanger's term, serving until December 2020.
Want to do some research on the candidates before you head to the polls? We've created a guide below to help.
Editor's Note: We sent each candidate a questionnaire. Responses were published verbatim as they were received with no edits for grammar, spelling, punctuation or clarity. Paragraph breaks were added in some cases for legibility.
Dr. Loraine Lundquist is a scientist, teacher, foster parent and working mother of three. Raised by a career army soldier and a middle school math teacher, she lived all over the country before settling in Northridge with her husband to raise their own family. She has a Ph.D. in physics from UC Berkeley and served as a Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences and a research scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Her work experience includes being stationed at JAXA (Japan's equivalent of NASA) in Tokyo, and she teaches Sustainability at Cal State, Northridge. She also served as a member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, where she was the co-chair of the homelessness committee and is a founding member of the West Valley Neighborhood Alliance on Homelessness.
While attending graduate school, Dr. Lundquist mentored women in physics through the Society of Women in the Physical Sciences. She also spent four years volunteering as a math teacher in the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison. Dr. Lundquist has fought on the frontlines of the Aliso Canyon crisis in her district since the very beginning as an avid proponent of shutting down the facility. As a scientific expert, she was twice invited to testify before the state legislature in Sacramento as an expert witness on Aliso Canyon issues.
John Lee is a father, husband, community leader, and San Fernando Valley native with nearly 20 years of experience working for and delivering results for the communities of Los Angeles' Twelfth Council District.
The son of South Korean immigrants who arrived in California during the 1960s in pursuit of the American dream, John learned from an early age the values of hard work, community, and family, and is a product of local public schools.
John began his lifelong love of public service by volunteering for various local non-profit organizations in the CD12 community while working full-time during college. John then began working as a Field Deputy for Councilmember Joel Wachs, the creator of the Neighborhood Council system. John went on to serve as Chief Legislative Deputy to former Los Angeles Councilmember Greig Smith, then as Chief of Staff to former Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch Englander. Throughout his tenure in public service, John has spearheaded innovative programs and policies on a wide range of issues from improving neighborhood services and protecting the environment, to expanding youth programs and strengthening public safety, to addressing homelessness, investing in infrastructure, and helping our local economy grow.
A long-time community leader, John has served on the board of various non-profit organizations in the San Fernando Valley, including LAPD Devonshire PALS, the North Valley Family YMCA, and the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission.
WHAT IS YOUR PITCH TO VOTERS?
I'm running to secure a future for our children and community from the climate crisis, to address the lack of affordable housing in our city, help bring an end to homelessness and to restore trust in local government.As a scientist, I want to bring an evidence-based approach to governing and end the pay-for-play politics that have dominated City Hall. I also believe that not only do we need more scientists in office, but more women. Most voters in Los Angeles are women, yet only 2 of the 15 seats on our city council are currently represented by women. I am excited to bring my perspective as a working mom to the Council so we can pass policies that will support paid family leave and gender pay equity.Los Angeles is in a unique position to serve as an example for cities around the world, paving the way and demonstrating how we can simultaneously green our economy, generate jobs, create livable communities and revive faith in politics as a conduit for good.
I grew up in this district, attended local public schools, have served this community for nearly 20 years, and am raising my family here today with my wife Sheila. I have dedicated my life to serving the Northwest Valley and working to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities I had. As a board member of a number of local non-profits and a long-time community leader, I have built a track record of delivering solutions on many of the most pressing issues in our district.
I am proud to have helped build the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission in Northridge. This is a 90-bed family housing facility serving those in our community experiencing homelessness. As a long-time advocate for local youth, I helped build the LAPD Devonshire PALS center in Northridge, a program that offers tutoring, mentorship, and sports programs for at-risk youth.
As an aide to two former councilmembers, I have also helped increase police patrols, expand park space, improve traffic safety, built Porter Ranch Community School, and delivered millions of dollars to the district. I have the experience, proven record of results, and passion for this community that is needed to be an effective voice and advocate for the Northwest Valley at City Hall.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM FACING THE DISTRICT?
As part of the bigger picture, our climate emergency is a catastrophe that has had and will continue to have very real impacts across the globe, including in the 12th District. Zooming into specifically local issues, homlessness and the lack of affordable housing are the most immediate and pressing concerns for our community.
I think there are a lot of policies and programs coming out of City Hall that are not living up to expectations. There is a great deal of concern and frustration within the community over the homelessness crisis we are facing. I believe that a strong law enforcement component as well as clean-ups must be part of our strategy on homelessness. Small business owners and residents are frustrated with the focus on housing. Yes, we do need housing, that is absolutely an essential part of the solution. However, I believe that law enforcement is also critical.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ARE THE BIGGEST CONCERNS THAT CONSTITUENTS HAVE?
Homelessness and housing affordability are the biggest issues of concern voters speak to me about. The second most common issue people bring up is education. Lastly, voters consistently tell me they are worried about what's happening at our national level and how it impacts us locally. People are concerned about hatred, violence, and racism in our society. I will work to protect all Angelenos and bring our community together.
The biggest concerns constituents have are addressing the homelessness crisis, the cost of living, and protecting the overall quality of life in their neighborhoods. The Northwest Valley is a collection of very unique neighborhoods, each one of them with a strong sense of community pride. Residents care deeply about their neighborhood and its future. As someone who grew up here and has spent my professional life working in these communities, I understand their unique issues, concerns, and needs.
HOW DO YOU PROPOSE REDUCING HOMELESSNESS IN THE AREA?
Address root causes: The root causes of poverty and homelessness are as varied and unique as the individuals who struggle to make ends meet in Los Angeles. As such, I believe we need to take a broad and holistic approach to addressing poverty and lifting those struggling to put a roof over their head out of homelessness.
Spend existing money for supportive housing: On homelessness, the lowest hanging fruit is to spend the money taxpayers are already funding for supportive housing from measures H and HHH — that is, housing with wraparound services including mental health services, substance abuse treatment programs, job placement, and other supportive services to help address the barriers people face to being able to escape homelessness. I will [also] work to reduce the cost of these supportive units so we can spend our taxpayer money more effectively to house more people.
Coordinate service providers: I intend to make my Council District office a communication and coordination hub for homeless service providers. We in the Northwest valley are relatively far from most of the service providers such as LA Family Housing, mental health service providers, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence crisis centers, senior services, etc. I will coordinate daily with these service providers and convene them regularly in my office in order to (a) improve communication between the different providers, and (b) provide more localized outreach for people living on the street in our neighborhood.
Keep people in their homes before they become homeless: We need to also address the most common upstream causes of homelessness to help keep people in their homes before they become homeless. I want to provide legal counsel for those facing (too often illegal) eviction, use some of our existing linkage fee fund to make existing units more affordable and help keep people in their homes before they become homeless, and do more inreach to jails and hospitals to ensure those being discharged have somewhere to go and support services in place.
Make housing more affordable: I will pursue policies to make housing attainable for all different kinds of people: empty-nesters, young people starting out, seniors, people with families, people with and without cars, people interested in living in accessory dwelling units or mobile tiny homes, etc. I will endeavor to facilitate affordable and attainable housing developments in my district that make sense for the community and serve everyone. I will work to streamline the permitting and building department processes for the most critically needed affordable housing stock.
We need to take a comprehensive approach that includes housing, law enforcement, mental health and addiction treatment, job training and placement programs, and neighborhood clean ups. I have outlined an 8 point plan to address homelessness, which you can read on my website. I don't believe that we will truly solve this crisis unless we take a comprehensive approach.
We need to bring more housing online, however, these projects must have the support and buy-in from the community. I am the only candidate in this race with a record of bringing housing online and doing it the right way - by engaging the community and making them part of the process. I plan to do the same as City Councilmember. Beyond housing, I believe that law enforcement and neighborhood clean ups are essential in order to address the public health and safety issues encampments raise.
HOW WOULD YOU IMPROVE PUBLIC SAFETY IN THE DISTRICT?
More basic police patrols: Well-trained, well-informed police officers who have the trust and support of the community are of paramount importance. We need to free up as many resources as possible to ensure basic patrols are prioritized. This includes reducing the use of overtime and instead using that money to hire more officers and more civilian staff to do clerical work so our trained officers don't have to do desk work. We also need to modernize our database and clerical systems to reduce needless paperwork and time sinks that often bog down our officers.
Improve police recruitment and close the recruitment age gap: Recruitment is one of our biggest challenges right now as we lose officers to retirement. Because so many popular cadet programs end at age 18 while you have to be 21 to join the police force, we often lose interested young recruits to other professions when they turn 18. I will close this age gap and provide more cadet programs and apprenticeship opportunities for young recruits between the ages of 18 and 21.
Reduce homelessness and free up our officers to fight crime: We ask so much of our men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line each and every day, and too often, we also expect them to serve as social workers as they interact with homeless people on a daily basis. I will work to reduce homelessness as well as ensuring outreach is done using trained social workers, freeing up our police officers to do what they are so well-trained to do: fight crime.
Address hate crimes, domestic terrorism, and gun violence: As we mark the 20th anniversary of the North Valley Jewish Community Center shooting, our district has much left to do to reduce hate and violence. Hate crimes at local schools, swastikas found painted at Chatsworth Park South and at CSUN, and recent mass shootings throughout the country have people on edge. We must fight domestic terrorism, promote intervention programs to help peel individuals away from radicalization on the internet and in local hate groups, and address hate in our local schools. I will also support the continuation of city gun buybacks to reduce the number of guns on our streets.
Reduce recidivism and improve rehabilitation: Lastly, in order to reduce recidivism, we need to take a comprehensive approach to rehabilitation measures for former inmates, including job placement programs, mental health services where necessary, and similar initiatives to reintegrate former inmates who have served their time back into society.
Public safety is my top priority and I am proud to be the only candidate endorsed by our Los Angeles police officers and firefighters. As a community leader, I have built a strong track record of delivering on public safety issues. I helped bring new technology and equipment to our first responders to help reduce 911 emergency response times, worked to strengthen neighborhood watch groups, and brought more resources to the district to preserve and increase police patrols.
As a City Councilmember, I want to work towards increasing the size of the City's police force. Los Angeles has one of the lowest ratios of police officers to residents among big cities in the country. We simply do not have enough officers on the streets. We need to not only expand the number of sworn officers, but also work aggressively to hire more civilians to fill administrative positions in order to move more officers onto the streets.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE SHOULD BE DONE WITH THE ALISO CANYON GAS FACILITY, AND HOW WOULD YOU ACCOMPLISH IT?
Shut it down immediately and save ratepayers $40 million/year: I believe the facility, which sits directly on an active earthquake fault, should be shut down immediately, and I have been working together alongside the community to accomplish this from the very beginning of the blowout disaster. In fact, we've barely used the facility in the nearly four years since the disaster, yet ratepayers are paying $40 million per year to keep it open unnecessarily.
Daily balancing has already eliminated the need for storage: The good news is we don't need Aliso Canyon. SoCalGas was using an antiquated monthly balancing procedure that required them to keep substantially more gas in reserve than was really necessary. Thanks to pressure for regulators following the blowout, they have now switched to daily balancing. Our new understanding of the true storage requirements will allow us to close facilities such as Aliso immediately.
Reduce long-term dependence on natural gas: The Aliso disaster has illuminated the need to reduce our dependence on natural gas. I have advocated for switching our electricity generation systems over to clean energy and avoid paying the $2.2 billion dollars the LADWP had slated for repowering our coastal gas plants. Sinking money into fossil fuel plants at a time when renewables are now cheaper than alternatives is like investing in Blockbuster Video when Netflix is on the horizon.
I was on the front lines during the Aliso Canyon gas leak. My family was evacuated and at the time I worked in the Council office helping coordinate the response. I worked day and night to help evacuate families, relocate schools, keep the community updated, and fight to get answers from So Cal Gas. I strongly support shutting down the facility. It is simply too dangerous to have a facility of that size so close to a major population center.
At the time of the leak, former Governor Brown laid out a 10-year timeline to shut down the facility, which would provide enough time to make the necessary transition to other safer energy sources to replace the production of this facility. We are now two years in, but no significant progress has been made. I support sticking to that timeline. As a City Councilmember, I will work to hold So Cal Gas and the state agencies overseeing the facility accountable to that timeline in order to permanently shut down the facility.
HOW WOULD YOU WORK WITH LOCAL BUSINESSES, AND BE SURE THAT THEIR CONCERNS ARE REPRESENTED AT CITY HALL?
Reduce red tape and permitting waits: As I've campaigned throughout the district, so many small business owners have spoken with me about the difficulty of doing business in Los Angeles as compared to surrounding cities. While some of this is due to good protection programs, way too much of it is due to needless red tape, slow permitting processes, lack of adequate staffing, and unreasonable requirements. I will dig into the systemic causes of the bureaucracy that costs businesses so much unnecessary time and money, as well as providing a council office that acts as a resource to help businesses get their needs met in a timely manner.
Promote small business: Most city economic development efforts are focused on large corporations, while small business is the real engine of economic opportunity, particularly in CD 12. I will direct more economic development opportunities towards family-owned businesses, make city code and regulations more transparent and accessible to all business owners, work with local Business Improvement Districts to make business corridors more inviting to customers and enjoyable to the public, and showcase local small businesses.
Improve efficiency and sustainability: I will be working with local business leaders closely to introduce measures that incentivize environmentally sustainable business practices, which can save businesses thousands of dollars annually through the reduction of energy costs and other cost savings that will keep prices low and positively impact their bottom lines.
I am proud to have the support of the LA Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles County Business Federation, and hundreds of small businesses in the district. They are supporting my candidacy because I will work to make our city more business friendly. The fact is that City Hall has made Los Angeles an unattractive place to do business, particularly for small businesses. The taxes, fees, and regulations that are coming out of City Hall are putting us at a competitive disadvantage with other cities in the region.
In order to address the high cost of living in Los Angeles and growing income disparities, we need to do more to attract and retain employers that create good paying jobs. We need to make it easier for small businesses to grow and create jobs. On the City Council, I plan to work with the local business community, particularly small businesses, to identify areas where we can streamline regulations, make the city a resource not an obstacle for small businesses, and create tax incentives or credits to help jump start growth and investment.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO ENSURE THAT CD 12 RECEIVES ITS FAIR SHARE OF CITY SERVICES?
Housing and Homelessness: Council District 12 is the only district that hasn't spent any Measure H and HHH monies to address homelessness. I will ensure we bring homeless solutions such as supportive housing and safe parking to our district with money that is already available.
Fair share of economic development and city services: District 12 has always been most successful when it has embraced forward looking industries like aerospace. Likewise, today the city must be prepared to leverage our economy's transition away from fossil fuels. I will be focused on making our region a hub of future economic growth by attracting green technology jobs. Key to enticing the talent and businesses needed to accomplish this goal will be improving our roads and public transit corridors, addressing the housing crisis, and ensuring residents have access to effective and efficient public services.
Improve efficiency and effectiveness of city services: Streets are resurfaced or rebuilt twice when repairs are made by different departments without communication and coordination. Trees are trimmed too infrequently and damaged when they are trimmed. Lawsuits proliferate, and some departments spend more money settling suits than actually providing services. I will work to correct these inefficiencies and deliver better services throughout the city
Enhance 311: The MyLA311 app and 311 services are a great City resource, but they can use further improvement. One change I will initiate is to mandate that requests never get deleted or closed without providing a detailed explanation of the resolution to the original submitter. And while a range of services are provided and dispatched through the app, we can add additional City Departments and services.
Transportation: I will work to provide excellent transportation alternatives to all in the district, improve mobility, and reduce traffic.
The most important way to ensure CD12 receives its fair share is having a strong understanding and command of the city budget process. I have over 15 years of experience working with the city budget and delivering resources to this district. I know how to plan for the future to ensure that we do not get short-changed. During my time serving this district, I have delivered millions in funding for after-school programs and local schools. I've secured funding to ensure our streets and sidewalks are well maintained. In fact, CD12 has had more miles of street repaving than any other district in the city.
I have successfully found funding for our Neighborhoods FIRST team. While other districts are lucky to have monthly neighborhood clean ups, we have a dedicated team that conducts multiple clean ups per week. The same goes for homeless outreach. I secured funding to have a dedicated LAPD HOPE team to conduct outreach every week to our homeless neighbors. I have a proven record of delivering the Valley's fair share and the experience to do even more as our next City Councilmember.
Lundquist: Los Angeles Times, the National Women's Political Caucus - CA, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and The Sierra Club, among others.
Lee: Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles City Councilmember Greig Smith and Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, among others.
MORE COVERAGE ON THE RACE:
- LA City Council District 12 forum heats up as candidates debate solutions to northwest Valley issues - like homelessness, public transit (Los Angeles Daily News)
- Fossil fuel money flows into council race in Valley area hit by Aliso Canyon methane disaster (Los Angeles Times)
- Valley City Council August 13 Election Presents Stark Contrast Between Lee and Lundquist (StreetsblogLA)
- Breaking up the status quo at L.A. City Hall? Both of these candidates argue they'll do it (Los Angeles Times)
- LA's Newest City Councilmember Is... Being Decided In August (LAist)