It’s easy to tell that Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl really likes his job. After a year and a half in office, he still has the infectious bubbly enthusiasm about accomplishing his goals.
A lot of politicians are so fixated on policy-making that they sometimes lose sight of why they’re in office — it’s to serve the people, and the best way to do that is to actually spend time with them.
Being with his constituents is primary on Rosendahl’s agenda.
“That’s the energy and contact in a relationship,” he says.
He is definitely a “people person” and he enjoys the interaction. Face-to-face meetings help bring out issues that are part of constituent services.
“I spend a lot of time with people in the district, because they tell you what’s going on,” he says. “It’s my job to serve them.”
Recently, Rosendahl spoke at the Israel Levin Center on Ocean Front Walk in Venice. Some of the people knew him from when he first moved to Venice in 1977 and lived on Rose Avenue.
“One lady got up with a walker and said, ‘You know, for ten years we have been trying to get wheelchair ramps on the corners of Pacific and Rose,'” Rosendahl said. “To me, it was a no-brainer.
“I called Public Works and said, ‘Whatever it takes, I want this done by February 8th because that’s what I promised.’ Ten years later. Right. I hope to have the seniors who live in that area with me when we actually have it done.”
Seniors who attend the Senior Center at the Oakwood Recreation Center complained and the councilman listened.
“We will improve the meals and have more resources at the center for the kids,” he said. “I don’t think our city has done enough for seniors. This is an area that I will be taking an interest in. The budget process threw another half million to the Department of Aging.
“I said, ‘Come up with a plan.’ We spend a lot of attention on young people. Rightly so — they’re the future. But what about seniors as we are becoming an older population?
“I will support developers where they’re talking about affordable housing, low-income housing, senior housing. The high-end folks can take care of themselves. The rest need the government to assist them. So, on the housing front I’m bringing developers in who think like I do about building more affordable housing.”
AS A PRIVATE CITIZEN
As a private citizen, Rosendahl knows what it’s like to have issues that affect daily life.
After living on Rose Avenue for two years, Rosendahl returned to Washington, D.C. as chief of operations of the U.S. Trade and Development Program, as an appointee of President Jimmy Carter.
He returned to California in 1981. It was in 1986 that, on a cloudy day, the Councilman purchased a home on Dimmick Avenue north of Rose Avenue.
“Then the sun came out and boom, boom, boom,” he says, referring to the planes coming from Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica.
“We get all the noise and they [Santa Monica] get all the revenue. They put the takeoffs and landings over us, not on their side. I took them on for five years, until I started getting death threats. I did fight them, but I lost. That was the time that I decided to get a bigger piece of land.”
The move took Rosendahl to his current home in Mar Vista.
The Santa Monica Airport noise is not the only battle he lost when he lived in Venice. He also fought former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter on putting in public storage at Rose and Fourth Avenues.
“I said, ‘My God, lets do housing — senior housing — affordable housing,'” he says.
HOUSING AND HOMELESS
Housing continues to be at the top of Rosendahl’s agenda.
“Another reason I ran for office is because I don’t want to step over homeless people for the rest of my life,” he says. “It has only increased in the last 20 years.”
He serves on the Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness to aid those without shelter and protect neighborhoods impacted by homelessness.
“The committee is putting focus on homelessness for the first time in the City of Los Angeles from a City Council perspective,” he says.
Also, for the first time, the city, county and state are working together on homelessness.
“There’s now coordination with State Senator Gil Cedillo, who organized a statewide strategy with legislation,” says Rosendahl.
“Prop 63 is the first ray of hope from a statewide standpoint. It said, if you make $1 million or more a year, one percent goes into a special fund to deal with mental illness. When they initially did the formula, the state wasn’t overly sensitive to homeless mentally ill. They are now, because I co-founded the Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness.
“Now, the state knows that many of the homeless are mentally ill, and drug and alcohol addiction can be tied right into mental health to begin with.
“The good news is that the county (the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors) is with us. (Supervisor) Zev Yaroslavsky has been absolutely amazing. They have the money for health and welfare.”
All of the supervisors, with the exception of Gloria Molina, have portions of their districts included in Rosendahl’s 11th City Council District.
“So, they are all engaged with me on this,” Rosendahl said. “The ultimate long-range solution is permanent housing and supportive services, and giving these people an opportunity with dignity to get out of the situation and be productive members of society.
“The interim solution is to flush more money into social services agencies, and we have great ones in the region here.”
Rosendahl does acknowledge one missing vital support element — the federal government.
“California donates $50 billion more to Washington than we get back,” he says. “We have not gotten our fair share of federal dollars for infrastructure, for health and welfare, and all those other issues, because the politics of our country lets incumbency and tenure and geography play a bigger role than the people do.
“For instance, in the Senate there are 100 senators. We have two strong, powerful leaders. We’re 35 million people. A state like South Dakota has one million people. They have two senators. So the politics of Washington can be at the expense of the people.
“Here’s the good news ñ the Democrats have taken over both the House and Senate, so there’s going to be energy coming from Washington that we didn’t have.”
Another reason Rosendahl ran for office is out of frustration with the traffic gridlock on the Westside.
“I stood in Venice the other day at the corner of Lincoln and Venice Boulevards on purpose,” he says. “Lincoln Boulevard is one of the most congested disasters in our district.”
He then went on to name numerous east-west and north-south streets that have the same problem.
“How did all these folks who were in the government allow Venice and the Westside to turn into a mass of gridlock?” he asks. “I can’t dwell on what they did or did not do. All I can deal with is what we have today and where we go.”
Where we are going is to an $11 million mass transit plan for improvements and studies that first needs to be approved through the Committee on Transportation and then the City Council. The money is coming from traffic mitigation development funds.
“It’s not general fund money,” says Rosendahl. “It’s literally there for that purpose.”
Eight million dollars will provide left-turn signals at 32 intersections, including Lincoln and Venice Boulevards, and synchronization of traffic signals, which will bring immediate relief.
Three million dollars will go to the kind of planning needed for mass transit issues, considering:
— Expo Line to Santa Monica, its route, who it is going to impact and where the stations will be.
— Green Line to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Rosendahl has been dreaming about taking a Green Line to LAX.
“We need a light rail into that airport,” he says. “I don’t care how it ends up, but I want a train into that airport that hooks into the grid system in Southern California, so a person can get on a light rail somewhere and end up at LAX and not have to deal with a car; or off a plane at LAX and get on a light rail and go wherever they need to go.”
— A Green Line extension on Lincoln Boulevard. A continuation of Rosendahl’s dream is to extend the Green Line to the Galleria in Redondo Beach and bring it up Lincoln Boulevard into the old Sears building/Third Street Promenade area in Santa Monica where the Expo Line will be.
The study money will look at the Green Line from various angles and Lincoln Boulevard from various angles.
“Both will come together because, if the vision I’d like to see happen can happen, we need to plan it, analyze it and see if it can — not talk about it,” says Rosendahl.
— Lincoln Boulevard, how do we make it more effective short term and long term?
A short-term solution is to convert the parking lanes to traffic lanes at certain hours of the day to ease the congestion.
“Going southbound on Lincoln we see an occasional car in that third lane because there is no sign that says ‘No Parking from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.’,” says Rosendahl. “So, I said to myself, ‘Well, maybe from 4 to 7, it should say no parking.’ In the morning, coming in from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., have a third lane northbound.”
To do this, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has to do a study to see how they can get it done and do widening in certain spots.
“If they can get the widening done, it’s possible that, within two years, I could have a third lane from the border of Marine Street to the airport for certain hours of the day to take some of the short term pressure off,” Rosendahl said.
But, wait a minute. How can a city official dictate what’s going to happen on a state-controlled street such as Lincoln Boulevard? Rosendahl has already thought of this.
“Ted Lieu, who is my partner in the State Assembly, is pushing action so that we can take over the street,” he says. “He’s doing the same thing for Venice Boulevard.
“I’m going to take control of the streets in our district as best I can because it’s my constituents that are obviously the ones I care about.
“When it’s finger-pointing stuff all the time, Caltrans, DOT [Los Angeles City Department of Transportation] and MTA [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] all have to work together. That collaboration and coordination is critical.
“So, for me, on a very local level, I want more to say about Lincoln Boulevard.”
In addition to building relationships with constituents and at city, county, state and federal (with Congresswoman Jane Harman on LAX) levels, Rosendahl brings another component to the table that affects his district.
The Westside Cities Council of Governments (COG) is a voluntary, cooperative effort among Beverly Hills, Culver City, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood to forge consensus on policies and programs of regional significance.
“I joined it immediately,” says Rosendahl. “It was a no-brainer for me. It’s one city, one vote. I represent 270,000 people. They all together don’t even come near us, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be in the room. If we’re not in the room together, then we’re not working together and we have to be in the room together for planning issues.”
Rosendahl is also a member of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Committee and the Southern California Regional Airport Authority. He makes this extra effort because regional issues affect his constituents.
For those who remember working on the Local Coastal Plan almost 20 years ago, well, it’s going to be that time again soon.
“We’ll come up with a public announcement as time goes on about how we look at the coastal plan and aspects of Venice that we need to look at from a planning perspective,” says Rosendahl. “But the planning perspective will be tied into the trans- portation perspective — you can’t have one without the other.”
Rosendahl may be excited about everything he has accomplished or will accomplish for his constituents, but he is absolutely thrilled about the prospects of the Local Coastal Plan bringing him together with Gail Goldberg, general manager of the Los Angeles Planning Department, and Gloria Jeff, general manager of DOT.
“Planning and transportation have to be joined at the hip,” he says. “The mayor, in his brilliance, has brought in a lot of good people into operational roles and on commission boards.
“His legacy so far, from my perspective, in part has been putting people on boards and commissions, not for pay-off or politics, but for competent talent to get things done.”
One last tidbit of Venice news. We are finally getting a skateboard park. It’s budgeted and has been on the drawing board for eight years across from the Sidewalk CafÈ.
“When I heard about it I said, ‘I don’t want it to go another day,'” says Rosendahl. “It’s an 18-month project because we need California Coastal Commission permission. I would like to complete it by the end of 2007. Kids need skateboard parks. It’s a healthy, positive interaction.”
Rosendahl says, “I don’t have the time for ‘long time’ anymore” and that could be his slogan.
“We have to accelerate things,” he says. “We have to set deadlines, timetables; and hold people accountable. I’m not going to sit ten years from now and say we’re still doing it. I want to get it done.
“What makes me happy is, I’ve got a staff of 20 people who are as dedicated and committed to being public servants as I am.”
I wonder if the staff accompanies Rosendahl on roller skates in order to keep up with his pace.