#DearCandidate: Let's gentrify, but not too much — and other things Westsiders want

KPCC's political reporter Sharon McNary interviews Venice resident Jena Goodman Wednesday, October 15.
KPCC's political reporter Sharon McNary interviews Venice resident Jena Goodman Wednesday, October 15.
Kristen Lepore

What do Westsiders want? 

Or to be more specific, what questions do they want candidates  Ted Lieu and Elan Carr to answer when they meet at our USC co-sponsored debate October 22?

We hung out in Venice last week to get local Angelenos' insights on the upcoming election in the 33rd Congressional District. Carr and Lieu are vying for the seat held for nearly 30 years by Henry Waxman.

Westsiders gave us an earful — on neighborhood gentrification, helping the homeless, reforming election funding, the future of Santa Monica Airport and land use at the VA Medical Center in Westwood.

Overall, we spoke to more than 30 Angelenos outside 3 Square Cafe on Abbot Kinney Wednesday.

We asked people to get specific: If you could ask Elan Carr and Ted Lieu one question, what would it be? 

Here's what they had to say: 

Video: #DearCandidate ____________________________

What local issues matter to you most? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #DearCandidate. And in the meantime, here's a look at what's top of mind for your fellow Angelenos. 

Gentrify — but not too much

We spoke with many longtime residents of Venice who said they've seen the neighborhood dramatically change over the years. 

"I think gentrification is good; but I think it's gone a little too far," said Susan Lynch. "I think we've lost the sense of the funkiness of the neighborhood."

Luis Gigliotti also expressed mixed feelings toward changes in his 'hood.

"[With gentrification] there's some really bad things that happen. But at the same time, there's a lifestyle here that a lot of people enjoy, which is walking up and down Abbot Kinney," he said.

John Stanley thinks Venice is less diverse because of it. 

(Photo: Kristen Lepore)

"It feels to me like most of the zoning and the construction codes are basically in favor of the developers — and so it would be nice to tilt the tables a little bit more in favor of the people who are already residents in the neighborhoods," said Stanley. 

Who's benefitting from Santa Monica Airport? 

Jay Yu says he wants more details on the economic impact of the Santa Monica Airport.

"It's a small airport; it doesn't seem like it has much economic value; it's more for leisure, and it causes a lot of noise pollution," he said. 

Another resident told us she wants to know more about its connection to the stakeholders. 

"I would like to hear: Who's going to benefit if it stays open? Who's going to benefit if it closes? ... What stacked interests are in there?" she said. 

(Photo: Kristen Lepore)

Gigliotti felt the same way as his neighbors. He said he's not aware of anyone in Santa Monica who uses the airport.

Schools need more than Common Core testing

How do we improve education for our youth? That's what Keith Berglund wants to know. 

He's interested in seeing more after-school programs for kids and teenagers. 

(Photo: Gabriel Bernadett-Shapiro)

"Because oftentimes — particularly in the more urban areas — people don't have an outlet to do things after school," he said.

Former educator Robin Lithgow would also like to see more support for public arts education. 

"I think Common Core is terrific, but I think high stakes testing overall is just a revenue stream for corporations and it's not doing anything to help student learning," she said. 

Tackling outside money coming in to campaigns

Elaine Spierer's question for the candidates: "Election reform: 'Where do you stand on that?'" 

"The biggest threat in this country is outside money coming into these elections and really buying them," she said. 

There can't be any action when the wealthy control the gavel of power, said Geoffrey Martin. He wants to know if candidates would support an amendment to limit campaign contributions from wealthy individuals. 

(Photo: Kristen Lepore)

How can government help homeless people?

Many are worried about the increasing number of homeless people in the 33rd Congressional District. 

"What are [the candidates'] plans to make it better for everybody?" asked Jena Goodman. "We're not trying to throw anybody out; we're trying to help them."  

Eli Bauman said he's always curious about what's being done to help the homeless population.

"It doesn't look like it's changed that much since I was a kid growing up here," he said. "In some ways, it almost seems worst."

And what about affordable housing?

"The housing market has gotten ridiculous here," said Marcella Kroll. "It's become so bad that there is no low income housing." 

Kroll recently moved to Venice from Echo Park so she could live closer to work. Luckily, she knew someone on the Westside who had a room available.

"It's impossible to live here and make a living; I'm seeing people being pushed out left and right," she said. "As a single adult woman, I also want to feel safe in my place; I don't want to be living in some sketchy neighborhood for the sake of it being affordable."

Are short-term rentals ruining the neighborhood?

Linda Lucks would like to see something done about the proliferation of short-term rentals. She said the increase in services like Airbnb in Venice and along the beach have resulted in a lack of neighborhood watch.

"Venice has always prided itself on community; that's what makes it special; and on my block, I've always known every person — and that's your safety net," she said. 

But that's no longer the case, she continued. 

"...People have been turned out of their rent-stabilized apartments because the owners want to make more money by having short-term renters," she said.

Remember: We're in a drought 

Eli Bauman wants to know what he should be doing to really conserve water. 

"[The drought is] a big issue that I don't see anyone really changing their lifestyles about," he said. "I'm certainly doing small things, but I don't know, I feel like I'm not doing enough."

Paul Fleiner echoed his concerns.

(Photo: Gabriel Bernadett-Shapiro)

"I still see people watering sidewalks and trees and succulents like everyday when I walk by," he said.

But also, will my vote even make a difference? 

While everyone had an opinion, not everyone was sure they would cast a vote November 4. 

Marcella Kroll says she's really conflicted on whether she'll come out to the polls. 

"I don't know if it will make a difference," she said. "It's a mixture of wanting to look away from it and ignore it completely and wanting to dive in head first and fully engage." 

Luis Gigliotti says local politics can be really complicated. 

"Just zoning alone is the most convoluted mess; it's kind of confusing to understand how these politicians are going to have an impact to everyday people who are a part of this community," he said. 

Do you think politicians affect your everyday life? What issues are you most passionate about? Fill in the blank, and let us know on Twitter. #DearCandidate: ____________________________ .