Local

Former LA Councilman Bill Rosendahl dies

In this file photo, L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl speaks to the council chambers during a council meeting at City Hall on June 1, 2012. Rosendahl died at 70 after a four-year battle with cancer, Councilman Mike Bonin's office said Wednesday.
In this file photo, L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl speaks to the council chambers during a council meeting at City Hall on June 1, 2012. Rosendahl died at 70 after a four-year battle with cancer, Councilman Mike Bonin's office said Wednesday.
Andres Aguila/KPCC

Bill Rosendahl, who served on the Los Angeles City Council from 2005 to 2013 and was the first openly gay man elected, died early Wednesday after a battle with cancer. He was 70.

Rosendahl, who served the city's Westside, was a staunch advocate of the LGBT and medical marijuana communities.

He was first diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and stepped down from office in 2013 to focus on his health.

Former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called him "the conscience of the city council" because his decisions always seemed to be guided by his heart, Councilman Mike Bonin told Take Two.

Rosendahl represented some of the most affluent communities in the city but focused on social justice issues like homelessness, income inequality and drug laws, said Bonin, who served as the former councilman's campaign manager and later his chief of staff for his full eight years in office.

"Bill was just totally motivated by social justice and was unafraid to call people out about that and call for a greater possibility of having a better city and a better society everywhere he went," Bonin said.

Before his political career took off, Rosendahl was a local journalist and broadcaster, creating a number of public affairs series over 17 years, Bonin said.

"Bill was a very fierce, staunch progressive, but you wouldn't have known that until after he left his journalism career, because he kept his opinions out of the studio, and he really drew people out and allowed them to finish their sentences and their thoughts," Bonin said.

Toward the end of his life, Rosendahl championed access for medical marijuana patients. He himself made use of the drug to help him cope with diabetes and later with the side effects of his cancer treatment.

Rosendahl was part of a city council majority that put a measure on the May 2013 ballot to help regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

“I was able to get six hours of sleep a night uninterrupted with no pain,” Rosendahl said in a video to constituents. "That came from the medical marijuana. Without it, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

The measure was ultimately approved by voters.

"I think he was really very proud that he got to play the role of role model to the LGBT community and outspoken advocate for the medical marijuana community," Bonin said.

This story has been updated.