Katy Young Yaroslavsky will face off against Sam Yebri in the November 9 vote to represent residents in the Los Angeles Council District 5, left open by longtime council member Paul Koretz who is running for Los Angeles City Controller.
Council District 5, a Westside district of well-off and working-class communities that meanders from Bel Air to Palms, Pico-Robertson, Greater Wilshire and Mid-City West, is up for grabs. In the June primary, Yaroslavsky got 28,000 votes to Yebri’s 17,000.
Yaroslavsky, the daughter-in-law of Zev Yaroslavsky, who is director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, had raised $1 million as of Sept. 24, while Yebri had raised $1.14 million, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Yaroslavsky earned her law degree at UCLA Law School. She coordinated voter access and election integrity efforts in the 2008 presidential election, and coordinated local law firms to build Habitat for Humanity homes through a nonprofit. In recent years, as a staffer to Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, she led development of Measure W in 2018, approved in landslide by voters, to provides $300 million yearly for clean water supplies and more parks. If elected, Yaroslavsky would become the fifth woman on the 15-seat city council.
She is on a leave of absence from her job in Kuehl’s office, where Yaroslavsky is senior policy director for the environment and for the arts.
Yebri, a nonprofit director and business owner, served on the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force under Mike Feuer nine years ago, has participated in an 11-week LAPD’s Community Citizen Academy, was a civil service commissioner under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and chaired his neighborhood public safety committee in Westwood. Yebri says he has fought hate crime and bigotry as a board member of the Anti-Defamation League.
Differences between the candidates center on their approaches to public safety, the unhoused, and affordable housing, but neither of them supports the calls to defund the police.
Yaroslavsky said Yebri is a private-sector litigator who “doesn’t have real experience working in government.” She would call for more officers on the streets to deter crime and to respond more quickly and effectively when crime occurs. She says this would mean hiring more LAPD officers as well as moving existing officers “from administrative jobs into patrol and police response.”
She supports the city’s 41.18 ordinance as a backstop strategy, if paired with street-level outreach connecting individuals to housing and services. The ordinance, Section 41.18 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, makes it illegal to set up encampments on public property including streets, sidewalks and other “public ways.”
She would focus on an array of solutions to alleviating poverty more broadly, including adaptive reuse of buildings to create affordable housing, rent subsidies, tenant protections, better coordination between the county and city, regional coordination and the need for mental health and addiction beds.
Yebri says he would rebuild the 9,200 person force to 10,000 by tapping officers in desk jobs, and hopes to add mental health professionals “so our sworn armed officers can focus on the guns and gangs that are ravaging our city,” Yebri said.
He says that as civil service commissioner under Villaraigosa, “I had the experience of meeting the 10,000 mark.”
Yebri strongly supports city ordinance 41.18. He wants to eliminate street encampments near sensitive sites. “Near our parks, near our schools and next to our libraries,” Yebri said during a telephone interview. “I strongly support (city ordinance) 41.18. I will use it, I support it, I’ll enforce the law.”
Both candidates see the need to invest in interim housing and mental health options to reduce the unhoused population crisis.
“Homelessness is not a resource issue, it’s a management issue,” Yerbi said. “It’s not progressive or compassionate to allow five Angelenos to die on the streets every single night, increasingly from overdoses, while we build brand-new construction housing very sensibly and very slowly. That’s a recipe for more Angelenos dying every day.”
Yaroslavsky spent a decade in the private sector, starting as a land-use attorney and then as general counsel for a climate-change nonprofit. She said in a recent telephone interview, before the Nury Martinez scandal arose, “The in-fighting on the council, where everyone acts like a little king or queen of their own fiefdom, is not how we are going to solve these citywide problems. … We need to develop a plan and actually carry it out and build it the way we say we are going to do it.”
“I spent six and a half years as a senior policy advisor focused on climate and resilience, and arts, in a creative economy and public health at the beginning of COVID,” she said. “It’s a good background to this job because the big challenges we are facing on homelessness, poverty, public safety, climate resilience, sustainability — these are all regional challenges that require regional collaboration and leveraging money from different places. And I know how to do that work.”
She added, “It’s incumbent upon our elected leaders to lead from a place of kindness and compassion and empathy and find areas where there is overlap, instead of looking for division.”