Why are we having another election?
The April 4 election is what’s called a “special election” — it’s an election held outside the usual two-year schedule due to a unique circumstance. In this case, it’s to fill an empty City Council seat for L.A.’s Council District 6.
Last fall, an anonymous source leaked a secret recording of a private conversation capturing racist and homophobic exchanges between three city councilmembers and the president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor. One of those councilmembers was Nury Martinez, who represented District 6 and also served as city council president. Martinez resigned a few days later under intense public pressure. Since then, District 6 has had a temporary caretaker with non-voting powers.
Voters will choose a new councilmember to officially replace Martinez for the remainder of her term, which ends in 2024. Seven candidates competed on the ballot in the first round of voting, which ended on April 4. No candidate received more than 50% of the vote, so the top two vote-getters, Marisa Alcaraz and Imelda Padilla, have advanced to the runoff election that ends on June 27.
Council District 6 in the San Fernando Valley stretches from Sun Valley on the eastern edge of San Fernando Valley to Lake Balboa, west of the 405. It includes Arleta, Panorama City, Van Nuys, Sun Valley, Lake Balboa, and parts of North Hollywood and North Hills. Input your address here to find out whether you live in this district.
Like previous elections, all registered voters will get a ballot in the mail. They should start arriving on or around May 29. If you live in the district and don’t get a ballot in the mail within a week or two of this date, double check your voter registration or get in touch with the L.A. County Registrar’s office.
What does the city council do?
Those who follow city government closely say Los Angeles’ City Council is the most powerful City Council in the U.S. At just 15 members, each member represents about 260,000 residents.
How does that stack up against other big cities? Well, the two other biggest cities in the nation — New York and Chicago — have 51 and 50 city council members, respectively.
Back in 1925, when the city made the switch from at-large representation to districts, each council member represented fewer than 39,000 people. Some observers of L.A. politics, including the Los Angeles Times editorial board, argue it’s time to expand the council. But for right now, we’re talking about 15 council seats — and only one is up for election.
With so much power in relatively few hands, the relationship the mayor has with the council is particularly important. The mayor needs the council's support to enact policy. Think of the council as L.A.'s legislature. The council:
- Introduces and passes legislation that can address any number of problems on a citywide scale.
- Approves the mayor’s proposed annual budget, which allocates funding to city departments to fix some of these issues
- Chooses how to enforce — or not enforce — ordinances like L.A.’s anti-camping law, which prohibits unhoused people from camping on public property near schools, daycares, libraries, parks, and other areas
You can read more about the City Council’s powers here, and read short bios of the other 14 councilmembers.
Councilmembers also do district-specific work. They can focus on specific priorities within their district via a discretionary budget — that is, money that is not earmarked for any specific purpose.
For instance, former Councilmember Martinez used discretionary funds to pay for two full-time employees and two trucks to pick up bulky items from curbs and handle illegal dumping across District 6, rather than rely solely on city departments, which often have large service backlogs. Councilmembers can also use these funds to offer overtime pay for city departments to increase their services for a period of time.
Members also have tremendous influence over real estate development and land use in their districts, including temporary shelters and affordable housing. Since developers need councilmembers’ approval before projects can move forward, the members can negotiate over the details of those projects and even offer to advocate for tax breaks or zoning exemptions.
The new councilmember for District 6 will join the council in a time of major change. Nearly half the councilmembers are new members, having won their elections in 2022. Six are women, the most the council has ever had. And this council is poised to be the most ideologically diverse in history, with three progressive members.
What are some of the issues facing the next councilmember?
In a February survey and follow-up listening session, we asked District 6 residents to describe their top concerns about their neighborhoods. Here are some of the issues they brought up:
City services: Everyday street-level problems like potholes, bulky items left on streets, gopher holes in parks, broken street lamps, and crumbling sidewalks don’t get prompt attention from city departments, residents say. When these problems are left unaddressed for weeks or months, they build up and become even more expensive to fix — but a city councilmember can exert influence over city departments to give them more attention.
Homelessness: More than 3,200 people are unhoused in District 6, according to the most recent L.A. Homeless Count — more than any other city council district in the San Fernando Valley. Roughly half of them are unsheltered. Many people who are unhoused live in RVs, which can be fined or towed if they pose traffic or public health hazards or if they’re parked overnight on residential streets. There is a particularly high concentration of RVs parked along the 405 Freeway.
Pollution: Air pollution from landfills, industrial plants and truck traffic on freeways has long been a problem for District 6 residents. The Van Nuys Airport has also generated complaints over exhaust fumes and jet noise from private plane traffic.
Other issues the next councilmember will have to address:
- Funding for law enforcement will continue to be a contentious issue. Some residents continue to call for cutting the LAPD budget, some call for defunding the police altogether, and others want more police hired to combat the rising crime rate.
- The city is falling far short of the goal of ending traffic deaths by 2025, with the death toll instead rising sharply. The City Council recently called for an audit of Vision Zero, the program created to meet that ambitious goal. Major streets in District 6, including Roscoe, Van Nuys and Sepulveda Boulevards, are in L.A.’s High Injury Network, a map of L.A. streets that account for more than 70% of pedestrian deaths and injuries in the city.
Two candidates, Marisa Alcaraz and Imelda Padilla, are on the ballot. Neither of them has ever held elected office before, although they have both previously worked for elected officials. Alcaraz was most recently the deputy chief of staff and environmental policy director for City Councilmember Curren Price, while Padilla spent less than a year as a field deputy for former City Councilmember Nury Martinez in 2013.
In candidate forums, interviews and public statements, both candidates supported building more housing and temporary shelters to address homelessness, adding new bike lanes in the district, and implementing the city’s Mobility Plan 2035 to install new bike, bus and pedestrian safety improvements. They also support expanding the L.A. City Council and the creation of an independent redistricting commission.
Alcaraz and Padilla both support L.A.’s anti-camping ordinance, which prohibits unhoused people from camping on public property near schools, daycares, libraries, parks, and other areas.
While backing the ordinance, Alcaraz says it should only be used as a last resort, and that outreach and street engagement should come first.
Padilla stresses her desire “to address the unintended consequences of municipal code 85.02,” which prohibits the use of vehicles as dwellings on residential streets. She says this has led to a proliferation of these vehicles in the district’s industrial areas. (More than 500 people live in more than 400 RVs and vans in the district, according to the L.A. Homeless Services Authority.)
Here are more details on the candidates’ backgrounds and stances on specific issues, sourced from their campaign websites, public statements, local news coverage and candidate forums. Some forums have been recorded, and you can watch them in full via the links at the bottom of this page.
Environmental Policy Director
Endorsements: List of endorsements (campaign website)
Campaign finance: See a list of campaign contributions and independent expenditures
Marisa Alcaraz is currently the environmental policy director and deputy chief of staff to City Councilmember Curren Price, and has worked in Price’s office since 2013. Prior to joining Price, Alcaraz developed policy on business, economic development, art/culture, health, and poverty for Richard Alarcón when he served on the city council from 2009-13.
Alcaraz points to her many years of experience in L.A. city government as something that differentiates her. According to her campaign website, Alcaraz spearheaded L.A.’s guaranteed basic income program, brought a homelessness prevention to the city, secured millions of dollars in funding to repair and upgrade parks, and worked on initiatives to raise the minimum wage, create the city’s first green alley network and provide more healthy food options to neighborhoods.
On homelessness: To bring more unhoused people into shelters and housing, Alcaraz says we need more outreach workers and multidisciplinary teams that include health care workers and they need to be paid fair wages. She points to her experience bringing the homelessness prevention program, Solid Ground, to L.A., and says she would double down on similar prevention efforts. Alcaraz supports CARE Courts, Gov. Newsom’s plan to refer people with severe mental illness to a court-ordered two- care plan, which could be followed by hospitalization or conservatorship if the care plan fails.
If elected, she says she would create a “by-right” program for L.A., in which developers who want to build certain types of housing — like affordable housing, permanent supportive housing or housing for specific workforces — could bypass certain parts of the public approval process to get their project fast-tracked.
Alcaraz supports L.A.’s anti-camping ordinance, saying that as a mother, she doesn’t think encampments should be near places like schools or daycares. However, she says the ordinance should only be used as a last resort, and that outreach and street engagement should come first. “It’s a tool in a toolbox, it’s not the first thing you use,” she said at a Feb. 15 forum.
On illegal dumping: Alcaraz says the city needs to address a staffing shortage in the L.A. sanitation department. She also supports programs like L.A.’s Clean & Green partnership with the L.A. Conservation Corps, which hires youth to work in L.A. sanitation. She says she would advocate for a pipeline to get those youth into city sanitation jobs down the line.
On law enforcement and public safety: Alcaraz supports hiring more officers for the LAPD, and says we need to find ways to retain the officers we have. She also supports investing in “alternative models of policing,” citing two city programs, CIRCLE and SMART, which allow trained outreach or mental health professionals to respond to non-violent and mental health specific calls instead of law enforcement. Alcaraz also wants to expand the LAPD’s community policing program, known as Community Safety Partnerships.
On pollution and the Van Nuys Airport: Alcaraz supports expanding the Quieter Nights Program, which calls for the decrease of flights at night, and transitioning the airport to solar panels and cleaner fuel. She says Los Angeles World Airports, the authority that operates the Van Nuys airport, needs to conduct community engagement roundtables with residents in Van Nuys in the same way it’s done with residents near LAX to find out what they need.
- CD6 Candidate Spotlight: Marisa Alcaraz (What’s Next, Los Angeles? with Mike Bonin)
Community Relations Manager
Endorsements: List of endorsements (campaign website)
Campaign finance: See a list of campaign contributions
Imelda Padilla, a lifelong Sun Valley resident, describes herself as a community organizer whose work history includes jobs with L.A. city, L.A. County and a number of nonprofit organizations. She’s worked in community engagement with the L.A. County’s Women and Girls Initiative, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and environmental justice organization Pacoima Beautiful, where former District 6 councilmember Nury Martinez used to serve as executive director. (Padilla’s sister is Pacoima Beautiful’s current executive director.) She also spent over a year as a field deputy for Martinez’s council office. In 2016, Padilla unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the L.A. Unified School District board. She is president of the L.A. Valley College Foundation board.
Padilla says the combination of her experience in city and county government, as well as her work “in the trenches” with District 6 communities, makes her well positioned for the council seat.
On homelessness: Along with calling for more action to house the unsheltered, Padilla says on her website she would “address the unintended consequences of municipal code 85.02 [which regulates where people can live in their vehicles], which pushed RVs into our industrial corridors, causing a lack of parking for business owners, customers and workers.”
She has been critical of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). Padilla calls for an audit of the agency, and suggests that rather than reallocating LAPD funding for mental health professionals to do outreach to unhoused people, the money could be redirected from LAHSA instead.
She also supports L.A.’s anti-camping ordinance, while saying the city is forced to utilize it because of lack of accountability from LAHSA. “If people felt like agencies in charge of homelessness were doing their jobs, people wouldn’t call LAPD,” she said at a Feb. 8 forum.
On city services and illegal dumping: Padilla said during a Feb. 18 forum that the district needs to be more aggressive in reducing illegal dumping, especially by construction companies. She says when she was a field deputy in Panorama City, she brought together apartment managers to create a neighborhood watch and learn how to report bulky items on the street to be taken away.
Padilla told LAist that for immediate concerns like potholes and trash, she would work to find funding to repave roads, and use discretionary funds for sanitation trucks dedicated to District 6 to make bulky item pickup more efficient. She said when it comes to streetlight repair, she would work to address "rising theft of copper wire in the streetlight poles," which has been causing a backlog. Overall, however, Padilla said she wants to increase the power of constituents by creating a community-based council and business council that can notify the city council office when the city is not being quick enough to respond to service requests.
On law enforcement and public safety: Padilla supports increasing the number of LAPD officers but says they should focus on violent crimes and human trafficking cases and not on mental health calls, truancy or noise complaints. She also said at a March 1 forum that the best way to keep people safe is to “invest in young people” through after school programming, anti-drug education, employment opportunities and more.
On pollution and the Van Nuys Airport: Padilla says she would bring different stakeholders around the airport together to figure out how to balance the economic benefits of the airport with its environmental effects and make sure everyone feels heard. She also supports measures like residential soundproofing programs that the Los Angeles World Airports has for communities near LAX.
- CD6 Candidate Spotlight: Imelda Padilla (What’s Next, Los Angeles? with Mike Bonin)
- Candidate endorsement questionnaire (Streets For All)
Watch the candidate forums
Here’s where you can watch several of the CD6 candidate forums in full. We’ve also included a list of specific questions asked and their corresponding time markers.
February 2, 2023 forum hosted by Streets For All
- What do you make of the city’s lack of progress on Vision Zero? What changes would you make in CD-6 to make Vision Zero a reality? Feel free to list specific streets or projects if you have them in mind. (14:42)
- As councilmember, will you seek a seat on the Metro board? Whether or not you’re on the Metro board, how do you intend to support bus riders in the district and make the bus a more attractive option? (22:34)
- Will you commit to implementing a network of safe, physically protected bike lanes in CD-6, even if car space has to be taken to make room for them? How will you deal with pushback from Angelenos that don’t want to give up car space and could never see themselves on a bike? (30:06)
- Will you be willing to intervene and ask Metro to implement a protected bike lane on Van Nuys Blvd. in tandem with the light rail project, even if it requires taking space away from cars to make room? (38:37)
- Would you support bike trails and lanes both to the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area and through it? Would you support closing the recreation area to cut-through traffic (which currently runs on Woodley, Burbank, and Balboa) to make it a safe space for people to enjoy the outdoors? (46:16)
- Will you commit to publicly supporting Healthy Streets LA at the ballot box, and will you personally vote for it? (54:30)
- What do you see as the relationship between transportation and housing, particularly in light of the ongoing housing crisis in Los Angeles? Do you favor upzoning in CD-6 to allow denser housing, particularly near major transit hubs? (1:02:20)
- Going forward, will you commit to forgo fundraising money from real estate, lobbyist and police interests? (1:09:05)
- Will you help ensure that the Sepulveda transit corridor will be a heavy rail and not a monorail?
- What are your opinions on parking minimums and how it relates to affordability in new developments?
- How would you expand the free Metro plan from K-12 through college students throughout Los Angeles and how committed are you to create free Metro for all?
Feb. 15, 2023 forum hosted by Black Los Angeles Young Democrats, Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles County Young Democrats and San Fernando Valley Young Democrats
- If elected, what would be the first priority or policy you will advocate for at City Council? (06:21 and 14:19)
- Do you support the 41.18 ordinance? Would you commit to halting sweeps of encampments? Can you share your plan to shelter unhoused in the district? (18:51)
- Do you support expanding the size of the City Council, reducing the size of City Council districts, and tying the number of seats to population growth? (24:34)
- If elected, what would be your plan to address these real environmental concerns stemming from Van Nuys Airport and what would you do to mitigate its impact on the surrounding community? (29:17)
- If elected, what will you do to fast-track [street] safety improvements, such as protected bicycle lanes, and enhance mobility access to all? (35:48)
- If elected, what would you do to address the rise in hate crimes and ensure that CD-6 is a welcoming place for all its residents? (42:00)
- If elected, what can you do to move this district forward [from the City Hall tapes scandal]? What concrete actions will you take within the district to begin the needed healing and to bridge trust between City Hall and this community? (48:30)
- How will you use your role to address anti-Blackness and build solidarity and power alongside Black communities? (55:17)
- How will you use your role to address growing police violence against communities of color? (1:02:03)
- (Alcaraz) You said there should be more accountability for the LAPD bombing. What more do you think Councilmember Price can do to bring accountability and justice to the community? (1:08:36)
- (Kim) What organizations in CD-6 are you actively involved/volunteering in? (1:09:32)
- (Santana) How are you going to [increase] mental health resources while working with law enforcement to reduce the increasing number of incident police shootings? (1:10:23)
- (Scully) One of the major concerns of [parents] is the safety of children as they have to walk around encampments to get to their school entrance. Not supporting 41.18, what do you say to those parents? (1:11:10)
- (Padilla) Will you defund LAPD? What does that mean to you and how will you do it? Are you taking money from [the L.A. Police Protective League]? (1:12:20)
- (Alcaraz, Padilla) At the Streets For All debate you were asked to forego contributions from lobbyists and special interest groups. However, it was revealed that you have received monies from the spouses of lobbyists. How would you respond to Angelenos who would refer to this as taking money from these entities? (1:13:25)
- (Kim) How will you ensure that your office involves community members and community organizations in decision-making process to promote holistic, equitable policies and programs in the district? (1:15:30)
- (Santana) Our local animal shelters are understaffed and under-resourced. What is your plan to address this issue? (1:16:18)
- (Scully) How will you represent not just your CD-6 constituents but the rest of the diverse communities of the San Fernando Valley? (1:07:07)
- (Padilla) Nonprofits are struggling. As city councilmember, how will your office work with them to continue to provide social services for all? (1:17:53)
- (Alcaraz) Can you talk about your leadership style and what strategies you would employ to both stand up to your colleagues with integrity and work collaboratively to get the work done? (1:18:50)
- (Kim) What more can be done to protect renters? Do you support stronger rent control? (1:19:50)
- (Santana) What would it take for you to support a progressive Black Democrat to be elected as our councilmember? (1:20:34)
- (Scully) Is there monies from certain groups that you will not accept? (1:21:33)
- (Padilla) What can you do to improve LADWP’s responsiveness to their customers? (1:22:07)
- (Alcaraz) What do you plan to do about the pollution in Sun Valley? (1:22:58)
- (Kim) You’re the only entrepreneur running for Council District 6. What skills from a business background do you believe can translate to City Hall? (1:23:57)
- (All) If you don’t win, how will you continue to support the district? (1:24:50)
Feb. 18, 2023 forum hosted by the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils
- What is your stance on Whiteman Airport? Do you support closing it or keeping it open, and why? (18:34)
- Do you support increasing the number of police officers, keeping it as it is now, or decreasing it? Why? (24:10)
- Do you have any specific ideas of how you would be more transparent to your constituents or put in more checks and balances? (30:46)
- How would you handle the issue of street vending in the district? (37:30)
- After the racist remarks made by Nury Martinez, how will you help to heal the community and rebuild trust, especially with the Black community? (43:39)
- Nury Martinez focused heavily on two topics when she was first elected: illegal dumping and sex trafficking. Some people really praised her for her work on those issues. How would you tackle those issues? (50:53)
- If elected, will you use public transportation to get to L.A. City Council meetings? (57:37)
- If elected to City Council, what would you do to support businesses in CD-6? (1:03:30)
- The City Council recently voted to expand tenant protections. What about mom and pop landlords? How do you plan to extend those protections to those landlords who count on rent to pay their mortgage or to cover their own living expenses? (1:10:37)
- How are you different from the other candidates? (1:17:19)
- What would you do as councilperson to improve the system of regulating neighborhood councils to give them more power and respect? (1:23:40)
- Show of hands: Who supports expanding the number of councils past the 15 that we have? (1:30:17)
- Do you have the support of any unions in your campaign, and if so, which ones? (1:30:31)
- Show of hands: How many of you support a city charter change that would create a truly independent redistricting commission? (1:33:17)
- Do you have any ideas to do things to help the homeless that we aren’t seeing the city doing right now? (1:33:28)
- Do you support the reallocation of LAPD funds for mental health professionals to do outreach to the unhoused? (1:40:28)
- Many of the communities in CD-6, including Van Nuys, are rated as having a high need for moer parks and green space. What are your plans to help address this problem? (1:46:36)
- What are your plans for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety? (1:53:03)
- What will you do for the Black community? And did you put out a press statement calling out the former CD-6 councilmember? (2:00:33)
March 1, 2023 forum hosted by L.A. New Liberals
- If elected as CD6 city councilmember, would you enforce [L.A. Municipal Code 41.18]? (20:05)
- Mayor Bass stated that her priorities for LAPD reform are in order: crime reduction, personnel reform, alternative response, and community policing. If elected as city councilmember, what priorities would you set for enforcement in your district? (25:29)
- Do you believe market rate housing furthers the goal of having affordable housing in L.A. or goes against it? (31:10)
- L.A. City Council just passed a new package of tenant protections that make it harder for tenants to remove their tenants unless there is a just cause. What’s your opinion on these protections, and would you support them going forward? (36:51)
- [Community question with regards to 41.18] What do you do when somebody doesn’t want to be helped? Why should the 6th District surrender its community just to make the rest of the districts safer? (53:14)
- What is your plan to address the lack of protected bike lanes in CD6, lack of shade trees, and Vision Zero generally? (1:00:36)
- What is your general opinion on rent control in CD6? (1:12:30)
- If elected, what would you like community members to do to support your role on city council? What organizations or nonprofits would you be willing to fund or support? (1:17:00)
- What are your thoughts on the animal shelters scandal in LA? (1:23:05)
Ex-Councilmember Martinez Opposed Healthy Streets LA Plan. Candidates To Replace Her Say She Was WrongAt a forum focused on transit issues, no one mentioned the disgraced former councilmember.
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