A few candidates didn’t show up. A few of them refused to answer questions. At least one couldn’t stay seated and rarely sat in the seat that bore his name. Two candidates seemed like they were falling asleep during the more than two hours of questions, and some were barely understandable in their answers.
But, they did answer some important questions at the one and only Studio City Neighborhood Council Forum held Thursday night, March 17. The election starts today online, and the voting lasts through April 7, where people can vote in person at Walter Reed Middle School.
Below are quotes and answers from the people who attended as best and unvarnished as I was able to do. If there are clarifications or corrections from any of the candidates, feel free to write in below, or email me at MrStudioCity@gmail.com. See more about the candidates from their statements.
First of all, the no-shows. (I may point out that in the past, people who didn’t ever attend a meeting in the past, nor attended the forums did actually win at the poll, and in some cases even ousted incumbents, but they rarely stayed on through their two-year term and quit the council.)
The At-Large seats that are often very competitive had one person drop out, Rob Schiller, and that leaves it uncontested for architect James Becher, who didn’t show up at the forum, presumably because he didn’t need to. Becher has served on the important Land Use committee that reviews development plans and businesses for the area.
One of the more hotly contest sections of the council are the four Homeowner Seats. There are seven candidates for four seats, and two of them, Jody Kulczykcki, who said she loves her privacy, and Richard Welch, who said, “Building participation is key!” did not participate in the forum.
Homeowner candidates whose statements from the forum are below include freshman incumbent Alex Izbicki, three-year incumbent Denise Welvang, and newcomers Stuart Barry Graber, Mark. J. Fisher and Craig Radow.
In the Residential Renters race, six people are running for three seats. Emily Hibard, who at 35 said she is the youngest serving on the council after being appointed recently, and Patrick Lewis, who is a 12-year resident who just had a new baby, did not attend the forum.
Longterm Resident Renter representative Lana Shackelford, incumbent newcomer Rudy Melendez, Alex Bosschaerts and John Crotteau all showed up and their statements are below.
The Business Representative seats have three people running for three seats, so it is uncontested, and two people showed up at the forum. Longtime member Rita C. Villa attended as did appointed incumbent Lisa Karadjian, while Andrew H. Sussman who never held office on the council, didn’t attend.
Five candidates are running for two of the Employees/Independent Contractors Seats, and one failed to show up, Patrice Berlin. She is running against longtime current SCNC president Lisa Sarkin, former board member who got voted out last election Brandon Pender, longtime SCNC critic Eric Preven and newcomer Keith Schwalenberg who never held office.
Three people are vying for two Service Organization seats: incumbent Richard Niederberg, former homeowner seatholder Gail Steinberg, and newcomer Heidi MacKay, whose statements are all below.
Sarina Patel is the sole candidate for the Youth Seat. She is 16 and is a junior at North Hollywood High School, and attended the forum. (In the past, however, the youth running for the seat thought that he would get in automatically, and didn’t vote for himself, so he didn’t win the election because not a single vote was cast for him.)
Parel said, “I have been living in Studio City my whole life. I’m looking forward to representing my peers as the Youth Representative for the Studio City Neighborhood Council! I’m also very excited to be involved with the council and be apart of my hometown. I ask for your vote on April 7th.”
Elections representative Tom Meredith had to break into some controversy at the end of the meeting when questions concerned the Harvard-Westlake School bridge that is proposed across Coldwater Canyon Avenue. A few of the people answered but Lisa Sarkin suggested that it violated the Brown Act, which she takes training in every year after being on the council. Eric Preven said he was also an expert in the open meetings law and said it doesn’t apply to candidate forums. Sarkin said the discussion shouldn’t be addresses because it is a pending issue before the board. (See the discussion toward the end below.)
“The national government is a circus right now, and local government is where you can make a pretty significant change,” Meredith said introducing the candidates. He said it was great to see such a large selection of candidates.
What are the most important issues in Studio City right now, and how can you solve them. (This was a question submitted by Studio City Community Activism Examiner, but of course, in 30 seconds for each candidate, it was impossible to answer the entire question.)
John Crotteau, Residential Renters Seat: “There are too many weed shops. I’m fine with weed, there are just too many weed shops.” In his statement, he also said, “Promote reasonable nightlife in our area. Let’s not be afraid of a few more bars and restaurants north of Ventura Blvd.”
Denise Welving, Homeowners Seat: “Traffic and open space. I live near Coldwater and Ventura. It’s 24/7, and Coldwater is a pit.” She said, “I believe we need to fight for and maintain our dwindling open spaces.”
Stuart Graber, Homeowners Seat: “Noise pollution, no weedwhackers on Sundays, road safety and twinning. By twinning I mean Studio City has a good brand and a lot of people know it and we should be twinning it with another city.”
Craig Radow, Homeowners Seat: “Crime, the homeless and beautification of Studio City.”
Mark Fisher, Homeowners Seat: “Safety, traffic, technology, and traffic going through the canyons. Creating crosswalks like on Tujunga, we may need more. We also need more technogoy so that communication is better.”
Alex Izbicki, Homeowner Seat: “Traffic, there is a huge stress with traffic. I would like to instill a managed growth plan with the city, and deal with crumbling structures. It is all related.”
Alex Bosschaerts, Residential Renters: “Open space, pedestrian safety and schools.”
Lana Shackelford, Residential Renters: “Gas leaf blowers and I have had investigators assigned to our area look into it, and also traffic needs a lot of attention.”
Rudy Melendez, Residential Renters: “Litter, garbage, trash, and this is correctable behavior. It does not cost much to educate people and we want to have a clean beautiful city.”
Brandon Pender, Employees/Independent Contractors: “Public safety, preparedness and traffic jams which is why I’m on the Transportation Committee and I’m concerned with road and sidewalks and potholes that need to be fixed and the quality of life of Studio City.”
Lisa Sarkin, Employees/Independent Contractors: “We should get our fair share of money coming to the valley, there should be enforcement of ordinances. We have lots of rules but no one is enforcing them. I’m also concerned about the quality of life for everybody.”
Keith Schwalenberg, Employees/Independent Contractors: “Technology can be used in all the issues, if we are interconnected. We can use simple apps on our phones and computers, and we can make it easier to get the word out.”
Eric Preven, Employees/Independent Contractors: “Open space is critical, we have only a little space left, and there’s a big structure planned for Beeman Park and that is an outrage and we should stop it. City engagement is important, and so is outreach.”
Gail Steinberg, Service Organization: “Transportation and traffic in Studio City and safety, and how to address it, and beautification. I sit on the Land Use Committee where we make sure development is planned and safe.”
Lisa Karadjian, Business Representative: “I want to work on the Ventura Boulevard Master Plan and put a committee together to work on the forgotten part of Studio City near Lankershim.”
Rita Villa, Business Representative: “Homelessness, environmental issues and safety issues. I have participated in the homeless census and they are here and there are many and we need to help them. We also need to have smart growth.”
Heidi MacKay, Service Organization: “Open space over-development, gridlock, and homelessness are the issues I’m very sensitive to and I will participate to help with all of these issues.”
Richard Neiderberg, Service Organization: “It all comes to the quality of life. We are a destination area not pass-through area and traffic and the jaywalking have gotten worse and some of the homeless cannot not find a place to go.”
For the Business Representatives: How will you address the valet parking and jaywalking that goes on along Ventura Bouelvard, because it is hard to see them at night?
Rita Villa, Business Representative: “I 100 percent agree that there is an issue with jaywalking. I was involved with promoting and assisting with the community impact statement and concerns with valet parking, and we just got it passed. There has not been a lot follow up to make the agencies follow the rules.”
Lisa Karadjian, Business Representative: “I understand this issue, I live up the block from Sugarfish at Eureka and the valet parkers are all over, and I completely empathize. I do go and confront the owners and try to get them to enforce the rules.”
If you don’t win in the election, would you pledge to join a committee, and if so, which one?
Richard Neiderberg, Service Organization: “Land Use and the Cultural Affairs Committee which I am on. It is not likely that I won’t be around to work on those.”
Heidi MacKay, Service Organization: “The Land Use committee.”
Rita Villa, Business Representative: “I would continue to work on Government Affairs and continue getting ordinances that will help Studio City.”
Lisa Karadjian, Business Representative: “Land Use and want to create a committee for the revitalization of the forgotten part of Studio City and work with NBC Universal and with community leaders along that part of Ventura Bouelvard.”
Gail Steinberg, Service Organization: “Land Use, and Outreach and the Transportation committee, and would like to be involved in Lisa’s idea for the forgotten part of Studio City.”
Eric Preven, Employees/Independent Contractors: “We have too many committee meetings, and need more board meetings. There is no reason to have 10 committees, we need real dialogue and more decision making.”
Keith Schwalenberg, Employees/Independent Contractors: “Outreach, and getting more people involved.”
Lisa Sarkin, Employees/Independent Contractors: “I have been the vice president for five years and at some point was involved with all the committees and chaired the Land Use committee. I would try to branch out to more of them.”
Brand Pender, Employees/Independent Contractors: “I have served on every committee and at present am with the transportation committee and cultural affairs.”
Rudy Melendez, Residential Renters: “I have been working on budget and transportation and culture affairs committees.”
Lana Shackelford, Residential Renters: “I would love to bring our website up to the 21st century and create videos that will help people learn about us and get more involved. I have been involved with cultural affairs, and would like the more involved with the budget.”
Alex Bosschaerts, Residential Renters: “Any committee that would have me, I do not have agenda.”
John Crotteau, Residential Renters: “I would not be on a committee, but I will take my free time and walk around the Los Angeles River and pick up those bags of dog pooh that people leave behind.”
Alex Izbicki, Homeowner Seat: “Land us. Studio City is at a teetering point right now, we are choking here.”
Mark Fisher, Homeowners Seat: “I have been on none to date but with my skill set, I would be on the by-laws committee and outreach.”
Craig Radow, Homeowners Seat: “I would not be on committee.”
Stuart Graber, Homeowners Seat: “I need to do research on the committees. If there are problems to be solved would like to help solve them.”
Denise Welving, Homeowners Seat: “I have been on the Budget and Land Use and Bylaws and now I’m on Government Affairs. Any of those are great and you are participating in improving Studio City.”
For more information about the candidates and their statements, go to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.