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Raman’s Re-election Campaign: A Test for Progressives

As Nithya Raman fights for reelection in a test for progressives, the race for the Hollywood Hills on the Los Angeles City Council has become the center of attention once again. Four years ago, Raman and her opponent sparred over who had the strongest credentials as political progressives, with Raman eventually emerging victorious as the first member of the Democratic Socialists of America to oust an incumbent at City Hall.

Now, as she seeks a second term in Tuesday’s election, Raman faces a more complex political landscape. Two opponents are challenging her, some activists criticize her from the left, and a surge of outside money has made it the most expensive L.A. City Council contest this year. The outcome of the race, with over $2.6 million in total spending, will impact the future of the progressive vision embraced by Raman and her allies at City Hall.

Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez noted that this vision includes measures to reduce evictions, expand renter relocation payments, and launch transportation initiatives. Raman, a self-proclaimed “pragmatic progressive,” has supported all these efforts and has been a champion on tenant issues, homelessness, and housing.

On the other hand, her opponent, Deputy City Atty. Ethan Weaver, describes himself as a “pragmatic Democrat” and criticizes Raman for being too far left on key issues like homelessness and public safety. Weaver emphasizes his support for laws against homeless encampments near schools and police raises to boost recruitment.

Despite criticism, Raman continues to support Inside Safe and other compassionate efforts while focusing on making LAHSA more effective in addressing homelessness. The race has attracted unprecedented financial support, with police and firefighter unions backing Weaver and Raman being targeted for her stance against special interests.

As the election nears, both candidates are making their case to voters. Raman highlights her record on tenant protections and homelessness reduction, citing drops in crime rates in her district. Weaver, however, paints a different picture, pointing out ongoing concerns about homelessness and personal safety.

The presence of a third candidate, Levon Baronian, adds another dimension to the race, making a November runoff more likely. While the campaigns have been marked by heavy spending and outside influences, each candidate is striving to connect with voters and secure their support.

Ultimately, the election will determine the course of progressive politics in L.A. and the future of the Hollywood Hills district. As Raman fights to retain her seat, the outcome will have far-reaching implications for the city and its residents. Whether voters opt for continuity with Raman or a change with Weaver, the decision will shape the trajectory of the council and its policies for the years to come.

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Forest Lawn Drive now free of RV encampment and parking

Nancy Sexton was thrilled when city crews cleared out more than 50 RVs in December that had been parked near her business for months, blocking parking spots and leaving behind trash and waste on Forest Lawn Drive.

Then she realized the long stretch of road near Barham Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills was suddenly off limits for not just parked RVs, but all parked vehicles. Much of the curb was painted red. No parking signs lined the sidewalk.

“It’s a dumb decision,” said Sexton, who owns the Muse Rooms, which offers leased office spaces. “It’s frustrating.”

The more than 50 RVs, which had been stationed along the winding road for months as a semi-permanent living encampment, were removed in December as part of the city’s operation known as Inside Safe. One goal of the program, which is part of Mayor Karen Bass’ initiative to bring people living on the streets indoors, is to end the cycle of homeless encampments being cleared by the city only to return a few weeks later.

But days after the RVs were removed, Sexton said, the curb was painted red and parking was limited. The new red zone is about a quarter mile long, running between Warner Bros. Studios’ Gate 9 entrance and North Coyote Canyon Drive.

The areas that do allow parking, meanwhile, have two-hour limits.

City officials also said the decision to restrict parking was done out of fire safety concerns, not to keep the RVs from resettling along the road. Sexton has her doubts.

The lack of parking along the street suddenly imposed a new, unexpected expense on her clients, prompting some to look elsewhere. The red curb has also become an irritation for some students and workers at the New York Film Academy and businesses nearby.

A road with RVs lining its right side.

RVs are parked on Forest Lawn Drive on June 27, 2023, in Burbank.

(David McNew/Getty Images)

Since the no-parking signs went up, Sexton said, she’s lost two regular members and two potential clients. All of them had aired concern about the lack of street parking and the added expense of paying $12 a day at the parking structure on site.

The parking fee, Sexton said, doubled the monthly costs for some members.

“I didn’t know how much of a problem it was going to be until there were people saying, ‘I can’t pay $12 a day,’ ” she said. “I’m really feeling it now.”

The situation highlights some of the unintended results as city officials look to address homelessness and the concerns of businesses and homeowners affected by makeshift encampments, whether they involve tents, vehicles, or both.

RV encampments have sprung up across the city amid a housing crisis that has left many people priced out of permanent homes. Local officials have looked for ways to address the issue, including new regulations that have targeted overnight RV parking.

According to the mayor’s office, the Inside Safe program has addressed 39 encampments so far, moving more than 2,400 people into interim housing and an additional 440 into permanent housing since December 2022.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said the RVs that were removed from Forest Lawn Drive were themselves causing parking issues in the area, as well as raising other significant safety and public health concerns.

Members of the surrounding community have said removing the RVs “has helped on all three fronts,” Seidl said in a statement. “This operation has saved lives.

Stella Stahl, spokesperson for Councilmember Nithya Raman, said the city has helped many of the RV residents along Forest Lawn Drive to find housing indoors.

In a statement, Stahl credited the decision to limit parking to a request by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which called the area a “high fire severity zone.” A 2019 brush fire in the area burned more than 30 acres and threatened homes and businesses.

In a Sept. 19, 2023, letter, LAFD Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman asked the city Department of Transportation to install “Tow Away No Stopping Any Time” restrictions on the road due to the stopped and parked vehicles there.

To avoid the hassle of looking for parking, cinematography students Sanchin Vinay, Yifan Xiang, and Davide Picci carpool to their classes at the New York Film Academy, which shares a building with the Muse Rooms. Eliminating the RVs has opened some spots to them, although Picci said they’d been able to find spaces on the street before — “really far down.”

A couch on a sidewalk near an RV.

The curb along Forest Lawn Drive, where someone has left a couch.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Sometimes they pay the $12 for the daily parking to avoid being late for class. Carpooling helps cushion the cost.

Leslie Bates, a film production instructor, said she heard of students and faculty members having “volatile” interactions with the RV residents.

Now that the RVs have

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