Welcome Activist U Class of 2012

October 11, 2012

Cathy Blaivas lerning the business end of a bullhorn at a Plummer Park rally with Stephanie Harker at her side.

Every few years, West Hollywood politics and land use policy harvests a new crop of government activists.

In the beginning, there was Jeanne Dobrin, who said, “Let there be light,” and there was transparency (of sorts).

Jeanne Dobrin has spoken more words at city council meetings than most of the council members who have served. Photo by WeHo News.

Ms. Dobrin celebrates her 92nd birthday this year and is a self-styled community advocate who has worked on planning, land use and other civic issues for 36 years now – pre-dating cityhood by nine – has spoken thousands of times at hundreds of public hearings.

She apparently has no use for the seventh day's rest.

In the decade before the new millennium, trash hauling in the wee hours activated Ed Buck, a retired business man and political player whose focus rested at the time on state and not local politics.

His efforts to stop the unlawful early bird trash hauling resulted in the city changing the contract – to allow the trash hauler earlier times for pick up.

Stymied there, Ed Buck has since run for council, worked on animal protection issues and helped out with land use struggles and remains a newsmaker in the Creative City.

Early last decade the Tara, or Laurel Place (or even 1343 Laurel LLC for a short period), controversy stewed over the largest city-owned and undeveloped green parcel in the densely-populated city.

Allegra Allison, Heavenly Wilson, Roy Oldenkamp and others became energized in defense of the beloved mansion, asking the question: Should residents allow the best, last hope of some much-needed green space to fall prey to a couple city council members’ desire to build senior housing (and boost the numbers of their respective electoral bases) instead?

 So, after a seven year struggle that took the city to the CA Supreme Court, they and the West Hollywood Neighbors Association (WEHONA) cohort finally won approval from a newly-constituted council for protection and parkland for Tara and beat back political plunder for the pols’ benefit.

Scott Schmidt says where there's smoke (or a lack of it), there's fire and acts on that.

WEHONA’s activists remain active members of the community, watching out for the city’s and residents’ best interests, selflessly seeking to protect historic structures such as Valentino Court, the Sunset Lanai, the Fickett Library and others.

Together with the doyenne of civic advocates, Ms. Dobrin, Ms. Allison stood firm against the “spot zoning” on the Westside, bringing a law suit that reversed a West Hollywood city council ruling allowing a five-story, 62 ft tall mixed use project called the Palm Project at 9001 Santa Monica Boulevard.

Now comes along Elyse Eisenberg, who fought the former-Tower Records project at 8801 Sunset Boulevard to its ultimate demise and has earned a spot on the city’s Public Facilities Commission.

First activated by fears that the possibility that denser development might mean slower emergency response times, especially on and around the Sunset Strip, her activism has expanded to make her a primary mover behind the term limits movement.

So too, has Scott Schmidt inserted himself into the city politic since his activation over the outdoor smoking ban. He founded Block the Ban to fight the ultimately successful measure.

He ran for council in 2011 after years of involvement with the local Log Cabin Republican club, and he joined with Ms. Eisenberg to co-create the term limits measure.

The outdoor smoking ban also activated Sheila Lightfoot. Calling the outdoor smoking ban the advance of the nanny state, Ms. Lightfoot began to engage in civic debates in debates over the fate of Tara (1343 Laurel), the General Plan, the WeHo Trolley and makes up the third primary player – and acknowledged campaign director – of the term limits campaign.

These WeHo residents do not want Plummer Park radically altered. Allegra Allison can be seen in the back row on the right in fuschia. Anson Snyder has his fist raised. Photo by WeHo News.

Others have stepped to the fore, too.

Eastsiders Cathy Blaivas and Stephanie Harker have fought the Plummer Park renovation to a standstill.

Chloe Ross has returned to action after a period of quiescence, activated by the Plummer Park renovation.

Anson Snyder has also taken an ever greater role in quality of life issues on the Eastside.

Lucas John has kept his hand in after his run for a council seat, especially in helping to shepherd along the WeHo Trolley and the Rainbow Crosswalks.

Since his semi-retirement, Victor Omelczenko has been ramping up his advocacy for bicycle improvements, becoming a leader of the West Hollywood Bicycle Task Force and the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition.

The City of West Hollywood, long a bastion of righteousness, can be proud that citizens of this caliber have decided that the city’s fate and their own are connected at the hip.

As they act to improve the city politic, as they give input into development issues, as they struggle to make life better for you, me and our neighbors who may not even be aware of their efforts, they make WeHo a shining star among municipalities.

Welcome Activist University Class of 2012.