Los Angeles got a new mayor this morning: City Councilmember Eric Garcetti beat City Controller Wendy Greuel, a fellow Democrat, more handily than expected in a historically low-turnout race (a pathetic 19 percent of L.A. voters cast ballots). He takes office July 1.
Garcetti, a Rhodes scholar and L.A.’s first Jewish mayor, has big shoes to fill: Will he carry on current Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s celebrated efforts to combat L.A.’s image as a smog-choked, car-worshipping, freeway-entangled sprawlsville?
So far, the signs point in that direction. Some have criticized Garcetti for being too friendly to business interests, but he sees working with developers as a necessary component of the smart-growth strategy he’s pursued to revitalize once-blighted areas of Hollywood, Echo Park, and Silver Lake, his home turf.
Villaraigosa did not endorse a candidate in the race. But Garcetti earned the support of the Sierra Club, which called his environmental record “unmatched”:
He authored the nation’s largest green building ordinance, the nation’s largest local clean water initiative, and legislation making L.A. the nation’s largest city with a solar feed-in-tariff. He nearly tripled the number of parks in his district by finding innovative ways to create 31 new neighborhood parks. He led the effort to pass the plastic bag ban and Low Impact Development Ordinance.
In an interview with Zócalo (in which he also revealed that the chupacabra fills him with terror), Garcetti said the toughest political fight he’s endured was a failed campaign to create veloways, bicycle lanes along the freeway: “Probably would have been a really bad idea for asthma and health to have bike lanes alongside five-lane freeways … It’s a wonder I’m in politics.”
But he’s still a big backer of bike culture. At a mayoral forum last year, Garcetti pledged his commitment to CicLAvia, a recurring event that closes miles of L.A. streets to cars. He said he hopes to make it a permanent monthly tradition. At the same forum, “Garcetti thanked cyclists for introducing bike culture, urban farmers for introducing community gardens, [and] business owners for repurposing dead alleys” and “reiterated his commitment to the human experience, pointing to mass transit as an opportunity to embrace geographical equity so that bus riders in South L.A. have the same opportunity to enjoy public art, comfortable transit stops, and shade as other passengers.”
So far, so good to our ears.