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Attorney Jesse Max Creed knocked on a door on North Vista Street near West First Street on Tuesday, and a resident answered who said he does not yet know who to vote for in the upcoming municipal election.
“Well, I’d be honored to get your vote,” Creed said, who is running for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council to represent the 5th District.
Creed, an attorney who lives in Beverly Grove, said his favorite part about campaigning has been canvassing – “the part that people don’t always get to see.” He said he’s very optimistic in his bid to replace Councilman Paul Koretz, who is running for his third term.
“These people, they’re talking basic city services that are not happening,” Creed said.
Creed and Koretz both acknowledge that issues such as homelessness and housing continue to dominate the conversation in the district. But Creed said he will be different because he is not taking donations from developers or lobbyists – a similar strategy to the one that worked for Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, in 2015.
“Votes shouldn’t be determined by someone’s pocketbook,” Creed said. “People are fed up with special interests winning at city hall.”
Creed went to the next house, and met David Genut who said he only knows that he does not want to vote for Koretz again.
“He’s been around long enough and he’s approving all these monsters,” Genut said, referring to large-scale development.
Immediately, Creed saw an opening.
“I’m for more responsible development,” Creed told his potential constituent.
He said he wants to show that elected officials aren’t bound to their offices at city hall, and that he would be someone who would take each development to the community. Creed and Genut discussed development in the city – “one of the most controversial issues” – and the candidate pledged that he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests.
Genut said Creed won his vote. But he warned “you’re running against a machine,” referencing Koretz’s longstanding ties in the community.
“That’s why I’m out here today,” Creed responded.
Creed said he also supports a proposal made by Councilman Mike Bonin, 11th District, that could establish full public funding for city campaigns. Creed said that model could be used for the city and then be expanded to reform campaign financing at the state level, and eventually for the country.
Creed criticizes Koretz as a “career politician” and argues that Koretz has not done enough on citywide issues like housing and homelessness. Creed said he would support long-term solutions, while also making sure the city focuses on permanent supportive housing.
Koretz said he is also going door-to-door to learn about constituent concerns for his reelection campaign. He said he hears different opinions – depending on what street he is on – that they are happy about a neighborhood improvement that was made, or they’re unhappy that improvements have not been made yet, such as uneven sidewalks or congested traffic.
“But I think we’ve done a pretty good job,” Koretz said. “We’re on a multi-decade cycle of repair for some of these things.”
Koretz also said development and homelessness issues dominate the conversations he has with residents. But the councilman contests Creed’s assertions that he has not been active enough on those issues, and even echoed similar sentiments as his opponents in terms of community involvement. Koretz pointed to the successful citywide Baseline Mansionization Ordinance reform that he led to close loopholes that favor developers. And he said communities in his district are now working to further customize their neighborhoods in terms of flexibility for development.
“I’m taking all that in as well,” he said. “I think the key has been that I have a responsible approach to development. There are large projects, but with every one of them I try to bring the community and the developer together.”
Koretz said he took that approach to the proposal by developer Rick Caruso for a project at 333 La Cienega Blvd. – the development that Creed points to most as a reason why he should replace Koretz.
After media reports revealed that Caruso donated to past campaigns for Koretz, the councilman withdrew his support for the project. But Koretz said the timeline went back much further than that.
Koretz explained that Caruso’s team was working with four area neighborhood groups. He said the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association (BWHA) dropped out of those discussions, but that the remaining three groups worked with developers “all through the project” and supported the proposal, which is why Koretz decided to support it.
Koretz said he changed his mind during the approval process for the project in late December when BWHA submitted a petition with 1,000 signatures in opposition. Koretz said that’s when he decided to pull his support.
Since then, the project has been downsized from 20 stories to 16 stories, and Koretz said it won’t set a new precedent because it will not be taller than the other buildings in the vicinity. He added that it was a successful compromise considering the city was also able to secure $500,000 for affordable housing, and reduce the height.
Koretz added that he has been working on homelessness for 25 years, dating back to when he was a council member in West Hollywood.
“Back then there were a lot of homeless folks living in Plummer Park. We decided to do our share, and create transitional housing with a program called “Foundation House,” which later merged with the PATH program. And that became their PATH transitional programming … it was very successful.”
More recently, Koretz was supportive of Measure HHH – a tax on residents to pay for homeless housing. He also supports Measure H on the county ballot, which is another tax to provide for homeless services. Koretz also championed his efforts to secure more funding to address homelessness in the most recent city budget as a member of the budget committee.
Koretz said he has never been attacked in a campaign so aggressively as he has this year, or as “falsely,” but he said his campaign is going well.
“I don’t feel like the attacks are resonating very far,” he said.
Koretz has also advocated for gun control, climate control and transportation improvement.
A third candidate, Mark Herd, did not respond to calls for comment.
The election will be held on March 7.
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