(Editor’s note: Circling the News first met Traci Park at the Ballona Wetlands in August 2021, a month after she had declared her candidacy for CD 11 to run against incumbent Mike Bonin. Several bird watchers had reached out to Bonin’s office about the environmental issue of allowing homeless to camp on the Ballona Wetlands – Bonin did not respond. Park, a Venice resident, did, and spent the next three hours with “birders” and CTN in the wetlands. To mark 100 days, this editor asked Park about achievements and challenges since taking office on December 12. This is part one. Part two will run tomorrow.)
Traci Park, who was a lawyer before stepping into public office, said one of her biggest learning curves after being sworn in was to understand the scope and scale of the city and its departments and commissions, which ultimately expedites problems solving.
“I’m still getting acquainted with our department managers and our various boards and commissioners and building relationships that I need to have to get my job done,” Park said.
Her office is also working with constituent engagement to “repair the broken relationship between Westside residents and stakeholders and the council office.
“I inherited a district that was in disarray and there’s a lot of different layers to that,” Park said. “Constituents all over the district were angry and frustrated by the lack of attention to issues such as homelessness and public safety.
“There was a pervasive sentiment in the district that the council office was non-responsive,” Park said, noting that there was a significant backlog of constituent concerns and issues that had never been adequately addressed.
“So, we have begun the process of trying to pick up those pieces and put the ship back together and really try to be more responsive and engaged going forward so that whenever my time in office comes to an end, we are going to leave our district, and our city, better than we found it,” she said.
CD 11 includes such diverse communities as Pacific Palisades, Venice, Mar Vista, Westchester and Brentwood. Park was asked what the communities had in common.
“Every single community on the Westside is impacted by homelessness and increased crime,” she said. “There has been a lot of frustration that was common across the district about the prior lack of responsiveness and engagement from the council office.
She pointed out that in the northernmost area of her district, communities are in the very high fire severity zone, and “we have real issues around development in our hillside and canyon communities.”
Park said that she heard the fire concerns expressed by Brentwood and Pacific Palisades residents. “I often heard concerns about wildfire and evacuation routes and safety issues.”
With all the rain, fire danger is not a concern, now. But Park and her staff and have been attending conferences and working closely on issues related to fire fuel management, building standards, evacuation routes, and other prevention and emergency measures.
“At the end of the day, this isn’t a question of whether it’s [fire] going to happen, it’s just a question of when,” she said.
In other areas of her district, such as Venice, Mar Vista, and Del Rey, there are challenges connected with the addition of density and its impact on traffic and infrastructure.
“In neighborhoods like Westchester, there are community impacts from modernization efforts at LAX,” Park said.
“Every neighborhood has a different story and different issues that are unique and discreet. But at the end of the day, communities have a lot in common and we have an identity as Westsiders,” Park said. “As the guardian of our beautiful coastal district, I think our commitment to sustainability is also critically important to folks on the Westside.
She continues to work to clear the Ballona of RV’s and protect the wetlands from environmental degradation. Park wants to keeping trash and pollution out of Santa Monica Bay, ensuring that our natural resources in the Santa Monica mountains are safe and accessible. “These things are important to folks on the Westside,” Park said.
One of Park’s first action as a councilmember was to partner with Mayor Karen Bass to address the homelessness that had gone unchecked on the Westside.
“We were able to house more than 80 people from the encampment around the Venice Bridge Home,” Park said. “We also housed about 50 people who were living in an encampment on the Culver Median in the Del Rey neighborhood.”
The crisis is more than trying to house the 40,000 in the City. “We are spending billions of dollars every year trying to address the homeless crisis,” Park said and noted that one of her first pieces of legislation introduced in City Council, asked for accountability via key performance indicators.
Programs, and the nonprofits running them, will be asked to show the program’s success. “We’re going to have the tools to help us make more data-driven smarter decisions on where and how we’re allocating funds to address problems,” Park said.
(Look for Part 2 of the interview tomorrow.)