Power to Speak: In Praise of Bill Rosendahl
The former L.A. City Councilman’s health is failing, but his legacy remains strong
By Ken Alpern
On the way to an excellent meeting with city planners about a proposed development near the future Bundy/Olympic Expo Line station, it dawned on me how the changes resulting from the election of Bill Rosendahl to the Los Angeles City Council in 2005 are alive and well.
As of this writing, Rosendahl is in hospice care at home as a result of the cancer that forced him out of office.
Although his physical health isn’t as strong as I wish it were, the “quiet revolution” of his election and his popularity on the Westside are quite healthy and strong. Whether one agreed with Rosendahl’s opinions had and still has nothing to do with the hallmark of his City Council tenure.
Simply put, Bill Rosendahl embraced everyone, conservative or liberal, and made darned sure that ordinary residents — no matter how poor or wealthy, no matter how quiet or loud — were heard and represented.
Emblematic of his initial campaign for City Council was a small, hastily-arranged meeting that a few of us transit advocates called together with Rosendahl in a hotel room in Santa Monica. We talked about transit goals and finally having a City Council representative who gave more than lip service to the idea of alternative forms of transportation.
Later a few of us had a small meeting with Rosendahl in the Mar Vista Library to talk about transit-oriented development and truly affordable housing, instead of the nonsense that normally just leads to overdevelopment, gridlock and environmental misery.
It was these kinds of gatherings that made him so reachable, so accessible and so empathetic to the goals and problems of ordinary Angelenos.
Whether it was the Santa Monica Airport and LAX, gridlock and mobility problems, or affordable housing and lack of economic opportunity, Rosendahl finally made it clear that Westsiders had someone to go to who would listen to and fight for them.
Thank you, Bill Rosendahl, for being a huge part of the fight to upgrade LAX in a manner that didn’t smash Westchester and the rest of the Westside, and for having both my back and that of the region in fighting to get a Metro Green Line to LAX and the Westside.
A movement may start with one person, but for it to have legs and endurance requires a successor, and a cadre of individuals who operate based on the principles of that movement. And the movement you started is true, indeed.
The countywide train/plane mobility effort is part of your legacy, no matter who belittled and disrespected you
along the way.
An affordable housing effort is part of your legacy, no matter how opportunistic creeps have abused your efforts to make housing for the middle class a reality on the Westside.
An effort to help the homeless, particularly veterans, is part of your legacy that began as a social worker for veterans returning from the Vietnam War.
Most importantly, the imperative that campaigns and issues be addressed transparently and honorably is certainly part of your legacy.
Bill, your Mar Vista neighbors love you and are proud of you. And I love you and am proud to have you as one of my friends. My social worker wife Celia was and still is thrilled that a social worker actually made it to the Los Angeles City Council.
Thank you so very much for being an example of how to live a life of honor and service to others.
Thank you for a life well lived.
Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone director and member of the Mar Vista Community Council. A version of this column first appeared at citywatchla.com, where Alpern is a regular contributor.