(Editor’s note: When looking at ballot measures, it is sometime helpful to see who is supporting the measure. In the case of Measure HLA, it is supported by StreetsForALL. That makes the SFA’s choice of a candidate puzzling. The story first ran in the Westside Current and is reprinted with permission.)
By ANGELA MCGREGOR
In a move that has caught many by surprise, StreetsForAll (SFA), a group advocating for cleaner air and safer streets and the initiator of the Healthy Streets LA Ballot Measure (Measure HLA), has endorsed Wendy Carrillo for the council seat currently held by Kevin de Leon. The endorsement is drawing a lot of attention due to SFA’s dedication to street safety juxtaposed with Carrillo’s recent DUI incident in Monterey Park, where she collided with parked cars.
During her DUI arrest last November, Assemblywoman Carrillo had a blood alcohol level double the legal limit, according to Los Angeles police.
Witnesses at the scene described hearing a bang from the impact which deployed Carrillo’s airbags and sent her Audi back into the middle of the road. In a video of the incident obtained by Fox11 News, Carillo — told officers she “sneezed and lost control of the car.”
In January, at her arraignment, Carrillo pleaded no contest to the charges against her and agreed to attend a three-month DUI-awareness program as well as AA meetings and community service.
Carrillo, a Democrat, represents California’s 52nd Assembly District and is running against Kevin de León for a seat on the city council. DeLeon has also been entangled in controversy after being recorded in a racist dialogue about redistricting with ex-Council member Nury Martinez. DeLeon’s predecessor, Jose Huizar, was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison due to his involvement in a corruption scandal related to real estate development.
In their endorsement, SFA stated, “We took into account her recent incident, for which she has expressed regret and vowed to do better.”
Vision Zero and SFA’s Vision
SFA last made headlines in Los Angeles with their proposition to demolish the Marina Freeway and replace it with a park, apartments, and a bike path. The proposal garnered the support of several public officials, including Mayor Bass, who reversed her stance after overwhelming community opposition.
The organization has long had an outsized political influence in Los Angeles; their involvement with the design and implementation of the so-called “Road Diet” on Venice Blvd. predated (and some would say, superseded) the input of its surrounding communities, who now have to contend with its consequences, including the closure of dozens of small businesses due to a lack of parking.
But what is drawing the most attention right now is Measure HLA, a measure that would require the City to install bike lanes and/or other improvements spelled out in the City’s Mobility Plan anytime a stretch of roadway more than 660 feet is repaved or otherwise improved.
Opponents of the measure have pointed out that it could, potentially, create an unsafe patchwork of short (1/8 mile) bike lanes throughout the city, would cost millions of dollars to implement at a time when the city has a critical budget shortfall, and would eliminate local control over traffic improvement measures.
Carrillo told LAist that she favors Vision Zero, the master plan for pedestrian safety championed by SFA, including new bus and bike lanes. However, she’s not the only candidate for CD14 who does. SFA cites her “stellar record fighting for safe streets,” but her candidate website doesn’t even list her position on pedestrian safety.
More Carrillo Controversy
Carrillo has a history of controversy which predates her DUI arrest. In 2020, she and her top aide, George Esparza, were reprimanded by the Speaker of the California State Assembly for sexually harassing two employees.
Esparza was for several years a top aide to Jose Huizar, and in 2022 testified that he was in charge of hitting up real estate developers for “political donations, hotel stays, event tickets or other benefits,” according to the L.A. Times. In 2020, Esparza pled guilty to one count of racketeering.
According to their website, SFA — which is registered as both a political lobbyist and a non-profit — receives funding from California Yimby, a pro-development group primarily funded by big tech. As L.A. Progressive pointed out last year, the group’s Marina Freeway project would have constituted one of the most massive giveaways of public land to private developers in the city’s history. Two of the top five donors to HLA, totaling more than $800,000 — are real estate developers, according to LAist.
SFA’s campaign on behalf of Measure HLA features billboards with the ominous message, “Car Crashes are the #1 Killer of Children in L.A.” According to L.A.’s Department of Public Health, 23 Angelinos under the age of 17 died as a result of motor vehicle collisions in 2022, but there is no indication in the data that those deaths were due to insufficient bike lanes or could have been prevented by installing a dedicated bus lane.
Statewide, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, “Of the total number of crash fatalities in 2020, 31.8% were alcohol-involved.”