I, Lucas John Junkin, a former West Hollywood Gay and Lesbian Advisory Board member, local internet entrepreneur, small business consultant and social event producer, am announcing my plans to run for West Hollywood City Council in March of 2015 to a group of friends and supporters today.
For the next year and a half, I plan to reach out to my neighbors in West Hollywood to listen to the concerns of the residents of this city and to speak openly and frankly about the issues that are important to the future direction of our city. West Hollywood is my home and I truly believe that we can preserve all that is good about our city and make it an even better community by putting the needs of our residents above all other interests.
In my run for City Council, I plan to focus mainly on the following issues:
My top priority on City Council will be to make City Hall more accessible to the community and responsive to community needs. We need to make sure that the public is civically engaged and that there is public input and involvement at all levels in issues that would affect the community.
There is a serious disconnect when the public finds out after the fact about an exclusive development deal between LA County Metro and the Cohen Brothers to develop a huge mixed use project on San Vicente and Santa Monica Boulevard with large towers and a shopping center. There is a bit of a disconnect when the public finds out about a feasibility study of hundreds of thousands of dollars to relocate City Hall to the site of the Sherriff’s station, with next to no public input into the decision for that expenditure.
It is time for business as usual in West Hollywood to change. The residents of West Hollywood should have no less influence in the decision making process than developers and lobbyists. The days of closed-door deals need to end and West Hollywood needs to be returned to the people who call this city their home.
Programs that help the elderly, those with addiction issues, those living with HIV or AIDS and the disabled need funding and support and I will make funding these programs a priority.
Our population living with HIV and AIDS should not have to travel far and wide for necessary medical assistance. I will fight to lobby the County to bring a local free clinic to West Hollywood and I will support the development of local and easily accessible urgent care and patient out-care facilities.
I support efforts to make the city more senior-friendly by reaching beyond ADA base-line standards for its public facilities. Senior housing, meal assistance and delivery, drug rehabilitation assistance, supporting the use of public facilities for AA meetings… these are quality of life issues and I will fight to make sure that they are developed, funded, and supported.
I also support efforts to make the city more family-friendly as the number of young families in West Hollywood is growing. Parents have to work a lot harder today than they ever have before and something as simple as an after school program that would shuttle kids from school to our parks until early evening when parents are off work can make a world of difference during these challenging economic times.
On the whole, the residents of West Hollywood are more health-conscious than the population at-large. For this reason, West Hollywood should be setting an example for public health standards.
Our residents and visitors need to feel safe at night and not have to worry about what will happen as they’re leaving a bar or nightclub and heading home. We need to invest in more officers on the streets at night. The biggest deterrent to the types of crimes we’ve heard about over the past few years is the presence of uniformed public safety officers. I support working with the Sherriff’s department to increase staffing to allow for more Sheriff’s deputies on bikes and on foot patrol at night.
There are plenty of tools available to our law enforcement officers in preventing crime and solving crimes, but probably the best asset we have is our community itself. I will listen to and support our neighborhood watch groups and help to promote public participation in their efforts.
Development and Smart Growth
For far too long, the interests of developers have been put ahead of the interests of the larger public and the neighborhoods that will be primarily impacted. New development is inevitable. Even if we did the impossible and gave historical landmark designation to every existing building in West Hollywood or put a complete and absolute moratorium on new development, developers would still manage to redevelop properties. And redevelopment is not a bad thing, if done right.
We need smart growth policies that take into account how each individual proposed development will fit into our larger community and whether or not the proposed scale and use of the development is appropriate and suitable to the goal of moving toward a more walkable, easily drivable, and environmentally sustainable path.
We need to preserve the character of our neighborhoods and every once in a while say no to some of the developments that would serve to completely transform the character of our streets into places that are unrecognizable. I believe that we need to give each proposed development due consideration, but not serve as a rubber stamp for developers and lobbyists. The interest of residents and the community will always be my priority.
West Hollywood was founded largely on the movement to establish rent stabilization and maintain and promote affordable housing. To give credit where credit is due, I will support and continue the policies of city founders like John Heilman and Abbe Land who fought for and authored our rent stabilization ordinance.
Unfortunately, we’re losing too much of our affordable housing stock to new condo developments. We need to find innovative ways to provide more affordable housing for both our seniors but also our younger population who are being shut out of the opportunity to live in West Hollywood because of a lack of housing options.
I will fight to put an end to entitlements being granted to developers to build affordable housing units at some far off date in the future. Affordable housing needs to be a precondition to approval and one that is non-negotiable. Not only do we need more affordable housing, I will work with owners of existing buildings to fix the aging and dilapidating housing stock that we currently have.
We need to make sure that West Hollywood does not become an extension of Beverly Hills and simply a playground for the wealthy. This is about the soul of our city to me.
Traffic & Congestion
I am proud to have proposed & successfully worked with the council to implement the WeHo Trolley. Dealing with traffic congestion in our city is going to take innovative and creative thinking, given the unique location of West Hollywood as a pass-through corridor sandwiched between Beverly Hills and Hollywood.
Much of our traffic problems are really regional problems and since the MTA decided not to allow a metro stop in West Hollywood, commuter traffic is here to stay for the foreseeable future. But what about transit options within the West Hollywood city limit? West Hollywood is a very walkable city, but it can be a pretty far walk. We need options for getting people from the east side to the west side and then back to the east side without having to get in a car and sit in traffic.
The WeHo Trolley has been a successful pilot program for Friday and Saturday nights. We need to expand the Trolley to other nights of the week and extend it further east to Fairfax and La Brea. As more and more developments crop up, the need to create transit options in our city is going to increase dramatically.
We also need strong city leadership to lobby the MTA for options to deal with regional traffic passing through Santa Monica Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. I am out in front on these issues and I will be the creative and innovative leader that West Hollywood needs to deal with traffic and congestion on our city streets.
West Hollywood should not be in the business of discouraging business. When the City Council voted in 2013 to extend the hours of parking meters, I was the most vocal critic of this move. You don’t have to look very far back to remember a time when parking on WeHo city streets was free at night, and during certain hours of the day, parking in city-owned garages was free for the first few hours. The city of Beverly Hills gets it. Having free parking encourages people to visit, shop and keep our businesses in business.
Rolling back the extension in parking meter hours is a pro-business move that will encourage people to visit and shop in West Hollywood. We shouldn’t be financing a new parking structure at the new library on the backs of the people who want to visit and shop in West Hollywood through parking tickets and parking restrictions. If we want people to use our parking structures, there are simple ways to help make this happen. More effective signage directing drivers to the garages would be a start.
Promotion of Local Business
I will always support our small businesses; both those that are thriving and those that are struggling to survive. One effective way to support our local businesses is to encourage the development of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) as a cooperative means of supporting all businesses within the BID. Another would be to increase support directed at city involvement in the promotion of West Hollywood as a place to shop, visit, dine, and enjoy.
Creative and innovative solutions are going to be key to promoting business in West Hollywood. As a member of City Council, I will not only be an innovative leader in this area, I will also support the creative initiatives introduced by other Council members. When John D’Amico proposed closing off Robertson Blvd. to weekend traffic to make it a pedestrian zone similar to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, he received no support from other Council members. Why not try this idea on a pilot basis? It will either succeed or not succeed. I believe that if creative ideas are always shot down without any support, we run the risk of stagnating.
Parks and Green Spaces
West Hollywood Park, Kings Road Park, Laurel Park, Hart Park and Plummer Park are true West Hollywood treasures, serving as green civic spaces that truly belong to the community. I believe that we need to preserve the parks that we currently have and also to identify and capture more of these kinds of green spaces, including pocket parks. Part of preservation is appreciating and saving the old growth trees in places like Laurel Park and Plummer Park.
There has to be a balance between historical preservation, the needs of the residents who use the parks daily, and the needs of the larger West Hollywood community. To find this balance, community involvement is vital. The residents of West Hollywood have been pretty vocal that they want “Terra” to maintain its architectural integrity and that the old growth trees in Laurel Park need to remain. I am in in complete support of this but I also want to listen to the community and look for ways that we can open up the park and find uses for Terra that will serve our community at large.
The same applies to Plummer Park. When the city moved forward with plans to completely revamp Plummer Park by building a new park on top of a parking structure, the citizens of the eastside (as well as the city at large) were outraged at the plans and the lack of public participation in the process. I fully support community involvement in the planning process for Plummer Park and will fight to save the old growth trees in the park that simply cannot be replaced.
WeHo’s Culture and Way of Life
West Hollywood has a very unique history as an area of Los Angeles County that had always been outside the reach of the LAPD, allowing a culture of nightlife to flourish on the Sunset Strip and offering a safe haven where a gay and lesbian population could develop and thrive.
West Hollywood is an inclusive community that finds strength in its diversity. It is a community that embraces its LGBT friends and neighbors, Russian Jewish immigrants who fled the Soviet Union, senior citizens, quite a few of whom were involved in the cityhood movement, young couples deciding to start their families here because of all that West Hollywood has to offer, and young professionals who love the freedom and lifestyle they can enjoy from living here.
The city needs to actively continue to support the diversity of our community and to work on breaking down barriers between the largely youth culture of West Hollywood’s nightlife and the senior population in the city so that West Hollywood is truly a place where everyone can feel welcome.
As a proven and vocal gay rights advocate, I want to preserve our gay community in West Hollywood. For so many, a strong and thriving gay community is what has been the defining characteristic of West Hollywood. This means supporting the historic Boystown district and LGBT establishments that are opening up in mid-city and on the east side as well.
But West Hollywood is so much more than a mecca for the LGBT culture and the flurry of activity happening on the west side of the city on any given night. I will work closely with the Russian Advisory Board and the East Side Task Force so that the interests of the east side do not fall by the wayside. I will also make the recommendations of the Senior Advisory Board a priority on City Council to ensure that we can integrate the needs and interests of our senior population into the decisions that affect our community as a whole.
I believe in supporting policies that are environmentally sustainable so we can preserve our beautiful community (and our planet!) for future generations. Ordinances like the plastic bag ban are an effective way to make a global difference on a local scale.
We also need to encourage the installation of solar panels on buildings and work in cooperation with state and federal agencies in promoting green policies. I will push for a re-assessment of all West Hollywood public facilities and a conversion to green practices, not the least of which would be the use of LED lighting.
I am proud to have been an early supporter of and social media consultant on term limits. Public service is a privilege but it should not become a permanent lifestyle open only to a very small and elite club.
To that end, we need to get developer dollars out of our politics and also look at making the Council more representative of the community as a whole with a focus on neighborhoods. I am open to the discussions on creating Council districts and possibly expanding the number of seats on the Council.
Most importantly, I will push to develop a code of ethics for West Hollywood modeled after the San Francisco code of ethics.
The interests of West Hollywood’s residents and quality of life in West Hollywood will always guide my decisions.