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Beloved Westside Councilmember Bill Rosendahl Dies At 70
Bill Rosendahl, a beloved councilmember who represented the Westside for eight years and was the first openly gay man on the council, died this morning at the age of 70, according to a release from the city.
Rosendahl died after a long battle with cancer. He had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2012, and he declined to run for a third term in the 11th district. Though he went into remission, but the cancer returned. It had been announced last month that he was in hospice care at his home in Mar Vista.
A release from the city calls him the "Conscience of the City Council." A Column One profile in 2013 says he even housed some homeless people in his own Venice Beach apartment in the 1970s. A city release says:
While Rosendahl represented some of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, his proudest accomplishments involved helping the marginalized, the outsider, and the underdog. He boasted of: approving permanent supportive housing; creating a program that housed more than 100 people living in their vehicles in Venice; opening Fisher House, a home for families of veterans receiving treatment at the Veterans Administration campus in West LA; halting expansion of Los Angeles International Airport into nearby neighborhoods; and approving a citywide Bicycle Master Plan. He was perhaps most proud of securing the reburial of the remains of more than 1300 Gabrielino Tongva Native Americans discovered during the construction of Playa Vista.
Rosendahl was known as a champion and patient of medical marijuana. Though he represented some of the toniest neighborhoods in the city, he was also deeply involved in addressing homeless issues.
Before he was elected to the council, he was the host of public affairs TV shows including Local Talk, Week in Review and Beyond the Beltway. He hailed from Englewood, New Jersey, and was the sixth of eight children. He worked on the campaigns of Eugene McCarthy, Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern.
His longtime partner Christopher Lee Blauman died of complications from AIDS, and Rosendahl was outspoken about the way the Reagan and Clinton administrations failed the gay community. He began to come out in the 1970s after his mother's death. He couldn't keep the secret in any longer.
"I was self-loathing," he told the Times. "I was doing myself in."
Rosendahl is survived by his partner Hedi El-Kholti.
Garcetti, whose term as a councilmember overlapped with his, sent out condolences:
Our city & world lost a great friend & giant of social justice, Bill Rosendahl. He had the biggest heart I know & I will miss him deeply.— Eric Garcetti (@ericgarcetti) March 30, 2016
Rosendahl's successor Mike Bonin wrote on Facebook:
Heaven is alive with more life and energy than ever today, freshly blessed with the exuberant, positive, loving spirit of Bill Rosendahl. My dear friend, neighbor, predecessor, and mentor passed away quietly and peacefully at home near dawn this morning. My heart wants to ache, but instead swells with love when I think of Bill and the way he lived his life -- open, without boundary or inhibition, full of generosity and compassion. There was no heart bigger, and no smile more impressive. He has left an indelible impression on all those he knew. I love you, Bill.
One reporter says the council hasn't been the same without his booming voice:
Funeral and memorial arrangements haven't been made, but they will include a mass at St. Monica's Church in Santa Monica, as well as a memorial service in Mar Vista Park. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made to his favorite causes: Safe Place for Youth; New Directions for Veterans; and the Jeff Griffith Youth Center at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center.