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Studio City Neighborhood Council candidates answer questions, if they can

Richard Adams, Lana Shackelford, Sako Karakozian, Scott Ouellette, Lisa Sarkin
Richard Adams, Lana Shackelford, Sako Karakozian, Scott Ouellette, Lisa Sarkin
Lee Davis

It wasn’t supposed to be a trick question, but it was one of the few non-political questions that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment folk read at the one-and-only meet-and-greet forum for those running for Studio City Neighborhood Council.

Council candidates answer questions at forum
Lee Davis

The council is a volunteer organization that is elected by the locals of a community, and is a strong advisory board that gives advice to the local City Councilman and city officials on neighborhood issues, from zoning to new businesses, home construction to local variances and more. About 50 people attended the forum last week held at the CBS Radford Studios lot.

The Studio City election has the most contenders running for its board, and the most interest in the entire city of nearly 100 neighborhood councils.

In my four years of covering the council as a journalist, and attending about 90 percent of the meetings, I was surprised that many of the people running have never been seen at a meeting. And, some of them who have run before and seemed to be strong contenders have never come back to even attend a meeting.

My question, which didn’t seem controversial, was:

“What do you think some of the biggest successes of the Studio City Neighborhood Council has been in the past, and what do you think two of the most important issues for the community are now?”

A trick question? No. Even people who have never been on the council before were able to rattle off a few of the successes of the council. There is a whole page devoted to those successes:

They are listed by year, by committee studiocitync.org/about-us/scnc-accomplishments

The Harvard-Westlake expansion issue (see story here examiner.com/article/pros-and-cons-of-building-wildlife-area-for-harvard-westlake-s-parking-lot ) is one of the most pressing issues at the moment, which is why some people have run for the office. You would think that anyone running for an office like this would at least do a bit of research on the group they’re running for, but apparently, some of them did not.

Here are summaries of some of their answers:

Anthony Lopez (Residential Renters seat): “I’m new to this, so I don’t know the accomplishments [of the SCNC] but I will try to find out what the most important issues are to the community.”

George Weisenfeld (Residential Homeowner seat): He wasn’t sure about the past accomplishments, but answered the two most important issues of the community:

“Land use, and Land Use.”

Remy Kessler (Service Organization seat/ incumbent): “In the eight to nine years I have been on this board, we have been able to reduce development, and decreased the size of the NBC Universal projects. Continuing problem includes traffic congestion and continued vertical development.”

Steve Vincent (Residential Renters seat): “The neighborhood council is welcoming and friendly.” He said that parking was an issue that needed to be addressed and has brought this issue to the council in the past.

Alex Izbicki (Employee/Independent Contractor seat): For five years, he said he has seen the empowerment of the SCNC being the “eyes and ears of the city council” and has been impressed.

He sees the Harvard-Westlake expansion program and “the overall preservation of open space and managed growth” as the biggest issues facing the community.

Lawrence Beer (Employee/Independent Contractor seat): The Republic Pictures 75th Anniversary event and sustainable development has been some of the past successes.

He named “fair and affordable water” and traffic congestion as two major ongoing problems.

Jane Drucker (Residential Renters seat/ incumbent): “This council has become a strong voice for Studio City to downtown Los Angeles. This board is really listened to.”

She lists the Harvard-Westlake proposed expansion and traffic development as two pressing issues.

Howard W. Gillingham (Residential Renters seat): “The credibility that this body has with officials is great. This council is very respected.”

The preservation of the Weddington Golf & Tennis property and traffic issues are important ongoing concerns.

Richard Niederberg (Service Organization seat/ incumbent): He mentioned the Outreach Committee’s work (which he is involved with) such as the 75th Republic Studios anniversary and the Universal Expansion project involvement as accomplishments.

The proliferation of pot shops and increased development as major issues.

Lisa Cahan Davis (At-Large Stakeholder/ incumbent): “We have an elevated awareness with the community and a major voice downtown. The NBC Universal project was a major accomplishment.”

Smart business growth and quality of life and safety are the most important issues.

Denise Welvang (Residential Homeowner seat/ incumbent): “There has been good outreach to the neighborhood and there is credibility now on a citywide level.”

Traffic, development and the Harvard-Westlake proposal are the most important issues now facing the area, she said.

Lisa Sarkin (Residential Homeowner seat/ incumbent): Controlling overdevelopment, changing the district so that it is under one council district rather than three and getting rid of the large development plan at the Universal Metro Station were major accomplishments she said she was proud of.

Maintaining the Studio City quality of life and the Harvard-Westlake expansion are the important issues of the day, she said.

Scott Ouellette (Business Representative/ incumbent): “I was very critical of this board, but the reputation is only getting better. The council person we are working with here (Paul Krekorian) is great.”

On the Transportation Committee, he cited traffic issues and the Harvard-Westlake project as major issues.

Sako H. Karakozian (Business Representative/ incumbent): “The beautification of Studio City has been great,” he claimed.

Parking reform and open space with better land usage are the biggest issues of the day, he said.

Lana Shackelford (Residential Renters seat/ incumbent): The Residential Floor Area agreement hammered out by the SCNC, redistricting, the Cultural Affairs outreach with projects like the Luminaria are all some of the greatest accomplishments, she said.

The increase in pot shops, the Harvard-Westlake expansion and ongoing growth issues are the most important issues of the day.

Richard C. Adams, (Service Organization seat): The SCNC gets a lot of respect from the city.

Local issues of importance include the Weddington Golf Course and keeping it green, the Harvard-Westlake expansion which he is against, infrastructure growth and public safety.

Those not in attendance at the public meeting which had about 50 people, include:

John T. Walker, (Residential Homeowner seat/ incumbent)

Gail Steinberg (Residential Homeowner seat/ incumbent)

Farid Enrique Ben Amore (Residential Renters seat)

Brian Mahoney (Residential Renters seat/ incumbent)

Rita Clare Villa (Business Representative/ incumbent)

Steven Quat (Business Representative)

Brandon D. Pender (Employee/ Independent Contractor seat/ incumbent)

Jon K. Epstein (Youth Representative/ incumbent)

Seraphine Segal (Residential Homeowner) has withdrawn from the race due to personal reasons, but will be on the ballot because it was too late to take her off.

Rita Villa was at the hospital with an emergency for her grandson.

See all of the candidate’s statements on the DONE website: empowerla.org/scnc/studio-city-nc-2014-election

The election takes place on Thursday, March 20 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Walter Reed Middle School in Studio City at 4525 Irvine Ave.