Road diet opponents are going all-in on bid to remove Bonin from office

By Gary Walker

Alexis Edelstein, Demetrios Mavromichalis and Alix Gucovsky
launched their Recall Bonin campaign on Friday outside the Venice Grind Coffee Company
Photo by Gary Walker

Rhetoric surrounding the nascent recall campaign targeting L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin over traffic lane reductions in Mar Vista and Playa del Rey is already escalating, with recall proponents accusing Bonin of personal betrayal and Bonin’s camp accusing one of the recall’s organizers of peddling lies.

At the Sept. 14 Recall Bonin kickoff rally outside the Venice Grind Coffee Company — along the commercial stretch of Venice Boulevard where protected bicycle lanes have displaced one lane of vehicle traffic in each direction — recall organizers told an audience of about 25 people that traffic congestion from the road diet is the driving force behind their effort.

The group plans to file a letter with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission so they can start collecting signatures for a recall petition as early as November. To trigger a recall election, they must gather about 27,000 signatures from voters in Bonin’s West L.A. council district (10% of total voter registration) over a period of 120 days.

Recall Bonin organizer Alexis Edelstein says they’ve already raised $40,000 and have opened a political action committee, Committee to Support the Recall of Mike Bonin, to raise more.

Bonin won reelection in March with 71% of the vote and estimates a recall election would cost taxpayers at least $500,000.

“To try and overturn the results of that election is unfair to the electorate and to the taxpayers of Los Angeles,” Bonin said.

Local business owners complain that traffic congestion from the road diet is having a deleterious impact on their bottom lines.

Demetrios Mavromichalis, who owns the Venice Grind and other Mar Vista businesses, has gone from hosting Bonin’s reelection headquarters to publicly condemning Bonin during last week’s rally. He initially backed new crosswalks, parklets and other pedestrian-friendly upgrades to Venice Boulevard as part of the city’s Great Streets project, but says he’s become disillusioned with the road diet — and with Bonin.

“It’s killing our neighborhoods and it’s killing our businesses,” Mavromichalis said. “I can’t take my business going down every day. Where’s Mike? He’s nowhere to be found.”

Mavromichalis said Bonin turned a deaf ear to his concerns and, in lieu of having a conversation, Bonin publicly accused the business owner of betraying him.

“I tried to go through the proper protocols with my councilman, and it’s gotten me nowhere. Now they call me a traitor. Mike, you betrayed me, you betrayed your whole community and everyone who voted for you,” Mavromichalis said.

Bonin denied accusing Mavromichalis of betrayal and expressed confidence that voters in his district know him and what he stands for.

“People know that I’ve been accessible and open with my constituents, who know that even if they disagree with me that I’m always willing to meet with them at farmers markets, in their homes, in my office and at community events,” Bonin said.

Edelstein, California Democratic Party Assembly District 62 delegate who founded Berniecrats of California, said during the rally that Bonin had refused to meet with him to discuss the Venice Boulevard road diet.

“Before I started this I reached out to Bonin and he refused to meet with me. He refused to meet with a lot of us,” Edelstein said.

Bonin said he offered to meet with Edelstein, and his office produced a July 15 email suggesting a July 24 lunch meeting. It reads, in part: “Alexis, great to meet you on Tuesday night. As I said, I would be happy to get together.”

Edelstein said he met Bonin at an open house in Mar Vista and Bonin gave him the cold shoulder.

“He didn’t really respond to my greeting. He was shaking angrily and just responded, ‘I saw your website,’” Edelstein said.

Bonin said Edelstein launched the recall effort two days after Bonin extended the lunch invitation, and at that point saw no reason to meet with him.

Local governance expert Robert Stern, who formerly headed the Center for Governmental Studies, said most attempts to recall lawmakers are unsuccessful because organizers don’t have the resources to get them on the ballot.

“If the recall qualifies for the ballot it has a pretty good chance of succeeding, but the hard part is getting enough signatures. It usually takes a lot of money, and most groups don’t have the resources to pay for the signature gatherers needed to make it to the ballot,” Stern said.