So, we all woke up this morning to the news that Eric Garcetti – longtime city council president, councilmember from Hollywood, and son of former L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti – will almost certainly be the next mayor of Los Angeles. What does this mean for planning and development in L.A.?
Well, first of all, far more than his opponent Wendy Greuel, Garcetti has been a high-profile political figure on planning generally and smart growth and infill in particular. At the same time, however, his reputation around town has always been that he's not as much of a policy heavyweight as Greuel. And, of course, he's got to compete with the legacy of Antonio Villaraigosa – the politician who can legitimately go down in history the guy who changed L.A. from a car town to a transit town and set the table for "elegant density".
So what does the guy do?
Garcetti has always been an eloquent and forceful advocate for a truly urban Los Angeles. And while it's made him the darling of the planners, it hasn't always gone down well with his constituents, which has caused him to straddle the issue on occasion.
Witness his approach to the controversial, 55-story Millenium Towers project in Hollywood. On the one hand, Garcetti has held out Hollywood as the "template" for the new Los Angeles. On the other hand, after he finished first in the primary, he came out against the Millenium project.
The practical reality is that as mayor he'll have to straddle more than ever. That's what big-city politicians have to do.
But Garcetti's got a great opportunity here to push L.A. in the right direction. He's a charismatic young politician who talks about this issue in a winning way – maybe the first truly urban mayor the city has ever had. He's not saddled with the baggage of controversy that always followed Villaraigosa around and, thanks to Measure R, he doesn't have to fight the battle to actually build the transit. Villaraigosa already won that battle for him.
What Garcetti has to do is seize the moment. The city is changing. The transit is getting built. A lot of people are already bought into the idea of "elegant density". Even as he straddles, Garcetti can bring his constituents along by pushing the idea that new development in L.A. must revolve around the rail transit stations – responding to emerging market demand, improving those neighborhoods, and protecting existing single-family neighborhoods all at the same time.
Eric, it's your moment. Jump on the train and get moving this morning.