Election 2015: LA Council candidates spar over downtown housing

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Two local political heavyweights faced off Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles over how much more residential building the area can sustain.

Councilman Jose Huizar, running for a third term in the 14th District, said he wants more residential towers built.

His main opponent, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said downtown is already too crowded.

You can compare city council candidates running in L.A.'s March 3 primary election with KPCC's election guide. 

Many of the area's 53,000 residents arrived in just the past decade, as old office buildings were remade into residential towers, and new buildings, supermarkets and restaurants have added vibrant street life to the area.

Molina said she wants developers to have more oversight from the city and to add more amenities such as parking, parks and green space.

"It isn't just about putting more high-rises in town. It's making sure you're getting the tradeoffs as well," Molina said. "Do not strangle downtown."
 
Huizar said he wants to see more high-rise homes, especially those that need special permits because they are higher than current zoning rules call for.

"We are building right now either very low income or luxury condos and apartments," he said. "We have to get more housing for people in the workforce, to be able to live here."

He said those big buildings bring in extra money from developers to add quality of life improvements  downtown. He said the area needs more hotels built and the convention center expanded to increase the city's tourism business.

A third candidate, social worker Nadine Diaz, also spoke at the forum. She said all parts of the city needed better planning and more involvement from residents and businesses.

The forum was at the Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway, one of downtown's grand old renovated movie houses. Neighborhood councils representing downtown and the Arroyo Seco and UCLA hosted the forum. KNBC reporter Conan Nolan moderated.

The movie house was a natural setting for Huizar, who was elected in 2007 and has claimed credit for his Bring Broadway Back economic revitalization campaign.

Molina, a onetime member of the State Assembly and L.A.'s first Latina member of the City Council, also served 23 years as a county supervisor, overseeing a district that includes Northeast and East L.A. She left county office in December.

All three candidates agreed on one needed feature for downtown: more places for dogs to play. 

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