The run-up to the midterm elections has hit Hollywood close to home. The industry is split between candidates Rick Caruso and Karen Bass for the office of Los Angeles mayor, and smaller races are being watched just as closely. One such contest that has many industry types taling is the city council race in District 11.
The Westside joins many other areas in L.A. looking for significant solutions and action this election cycle. Traci Park, a Southern California native running for the seat, spoke with Variety about what she hopes to bring to the table as a candidate in District 11, which encompasses neighborhoods including Pacific Palisades, Playa del Rey, Mar Vista, Venice and Brentwood.
A career attorney who has represented cities, counties and agencies throughout the state, she’s got a surprising connection to Hollywood sitting at home — her partner, an editor of movie trailers. Park said she witnessed the devastating impact of the pandemic on the industry and the larger community firsthand. She also discussed the continued importance of keeping film and TV productions in Hollywood’s backyard (District 11 attracted 22.6% of reality TV and 17.5% of series dramas shot in Los Angeles last quarter, according to FilmLA). Read excerpts from our conversation:
The Westside is home to many show business workers — talent, executives, artisans and others. How would you describe their needs this election cycle?
The Westside is in many ways, a home outside of Hollywood to the entertainment industry. I think we probably have one of the highest concentrations of talent and people who work in and adjacent to the business. So many of my friends across districts work in the business. I personally live in an entertainment household. My partner makes movie trailers. We’re an IATSE house! All of this hits home in a lot of ways. Think about something like LAX being the entry point for tens of millions of visitors every year — and our ties to Hollywood as a landmark, as well as the travel and tourism culture around the studios in our city. These things are really important. The Westside is also a site-rich location for productions, and that’s really important to me.
What is the biggest priority for the voter in your district?
Homelessness and public safety are consistently the two top-of-mind issues for voters this cycle. There are a lot of other important things, but those are consistently top of mind.
The conversation around the unhoused crisis has been getting louder and louder approaching the election. There’s never a simple way in, but how would you combat it?
This is a human crisis and tragedy unfolding in front of us. Often times, that means very complex, human solutions are required. To fix it will take a thoughtful, data-driven, multi-pronged approach. On the prevention side, insuring that people have access to adequate to social safety support systems, and financial programs to help weather hard times, particularly after the pandemic. We’ve seen how folks were impacted, including Hollywood. My partner lost his job during the pandemic. There are far too many thousands of Angelenos who are one financial setback away from housing insecurity. We must ensure that people have resources to remain housed. Prevention also means investing in adequate, affordable, permanent supportive, workforce housing across our entire city.
The fate of homeless encampments has become increasingly debated in Los Angeles at large.
That’s moving to the problems in front of us, the encampments all over our city. We have got to, as a community and a city, come together and do the hard work of responding with the compassionate urgency that is necessary to get people off the streets and into safe settings. We have been focused on longterm new housing as the sole solution to this problem. Frankly, we’re at least a decade away from having enough new housing to even make a dent in the population currently living on the streets. We need to pivot to some shorter-term steps like safe sleeping sites, and safe camping and parking with services available. We need to have adaptive reuse of existing infrastructure, and do modular construction like tiny homes and container villages. I think it’s important as we approach this problem to be mindful of who is in the population we’re trying to serve, and understanding that there are different kinds of needs. For example, seniors 55 and up require a different settings than youth aging out of foster care or women who are victims of domestic violence. We also must address mental health and addiction issues.
Hollywood has had a complicated relationship with law enforcement over the past few years. You mentioned public safety as a prime concern, how do you seen our communities evolving in their relationships with law enforcement?
Assuring public safety is one of the most fundamental obligations that local government has to communities. At a time when we’ve seen crime increases year after year — and efforts to defund our police in 2020, which resulted in a loss of more than 800 police officers — there’s a sense that our city isn’t safe anymore. We all want our police to engage in constitutionally-based best practices, we all want them to be well trained, we want bad actors to be held accountable. I recognize that different communities have different relationships with the police. Every community ought to have a say in what kind of police programs they want. Based on thousands of conversations I have had over the last year and a half on the Westside, [voters] want to see more patrol units in our neighborhoods. There’s also widespread desire to have more foot patrols, a dedicated beach detail and closer relationships between police and the business community — which has been hard-hit by rampant crime. There’s interest in supplementing police work with mental health and social workers.