9th District Candidate Closeup: David Roberts

imagePhoto provided by David Roberts campaign.

The Ninth Council District in South Los Angeles is up for grabs and supporters, ranging from the local community to the Los Angeles Times, claim former economic developer David Roberts is the man for the job.

“The musical chairs from Sacramento to city hall has changed the culture here for the worst,” said Roberts. “It’s very disturbing for someone who has worked in government. It sounds corny, but I’m doing it for the right reasons. I’m running [in order to] improve the quality of life here in South L.A.”

For years, Roberts watched local officials attempt to satisfy the needs of the residents living in South LA. However, the finalization of the redistricting of the Ninth was the last straw, ultimately motivating him to run.

Last year, the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission approved the removal of portions of Downtown L.A. from the Nint District, including the financial district, Little Tokyo and the Civic Center.

“They created a poverty challenged district,” said Roberts. “It was pretty obvious early on that deals had been cut and there were conflicts of interest. I don’t think we will ever recover from that. South L.A. was totally dismantled and the culture was stripped away.”

Roberts added that local officials need to bring more resources to the community and fight for those residents because “it is imperative that somebody is there to fight for them. I’m not afraid to.”

imagePhoto provided by David Roberts campaign.

Roberts was born and raised in Southern California. After graduating from high school, he went on to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Roberts eventually went on to work as the Economic Development Director for Council members Bernard C. Parks and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Roberts also serves on a number of local boards including Figueroa Corridor Partnership, Friends of Expo Center and the South LA Initiatives Working Group. Roberts hopes that his wealth of experience exhibits his potential to revitalize the Ninth District better than his opponents.

“Government can be a positive impact on people’s lives. I want to restore some credibility and confidence in city hall,” said Roberts.

His supporters recognize and understand his efforts. The Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative honored Roberts with the Outstanding City Partner Award for his expertise and passion for the community. Additionally, in a recently released campaign video, supporters describe Roberts as a man of integrity and passion.

“My support is from inside this district. [I can do this] because these folks are pushing me along and encouraging me,” said Roberts in a recently released campaign video.

Critics might pin Roberts as just another politician with conflicts of interest. Most recently, Roberts worked as the Associate Director of Local Government Affairs at the University of Southern California.

South L.A. residents could be turned off by Roberts’ ties to USC. Some residents are unhappy with USC’s Master Plan, a development project creating mixed-use spaces, including student housing, with the potential of displacing current residents.

“When I went over to USC, I was told I could not work on that plan. I have not done any work on behalf of the university for that plan. There is no contradiction with me and the university,” said Roberts.

Roberts listed the unemployment rate, education system, sidewalk repairs and average household income as some of the district’s most pressing challenges. He plans to redevelop South L.A., expand educational opportunities, ensure safer streets and create job opportunities, which he is already doing by hiring local adults to canvass neighborhoods on his behalf.

“They’re going out and registering some of their friends and family members to vote. It’s a real grassroots level,” said Roberts. “For some of these kids, it’s the first time they’ve had a real job or a real paycheck. It feels so good to be involved in that.”

Redistricting changes for South LA one step closer

imageAfter what turned into a nine-hour-long meeting on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission has moved one step closer to solidifying major changes to the city’s council districts, including those in South Los Angeles.

The commission voted Wednesday night to move the Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills area out of Councilman Bernard Park’s 8th District, and into District 10, represented by City Council President Herb Wesson.

Additionally, Councilwoman Jan Perry lost most of Downtown Los Angeles from her 9th District, including the financial district, Little Tokyo and the Civic Center. Under the new boundaries, District 9 retains only the Staples Center and L.A. Live.

The commission also moved the University of Southern California out of Park’s district and into Perry’s.

All of these moves, which were opposed by the majority of public comment at Wednesday night’s meeting, could serve to further impoverish South Los Angeles, said David Roberts, the 9th District’s representative on the commission.

“It becomes more difficult, especially in the case of Downtown, opportunities to leverage resources from a more affluent, wealthier (area) to south of the 10 Freeway,” said Roberts, who opposed the changes to Districts 8 and 9.

In short, by losing Downtown, Perry’s district becomes one of the poorest districts in the city and will no longer be able to afford much of the redevelopment she has been able to accomplish in the past.

One such example is the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park that opened last week, which was funded in part by resources generated from Downtown, Roberts said.

The case is similar in District 8, which is losing its most thriving economic area to District 10.

“(Leimert Park and Baldwin Vista) are the wealthiest parts of the district … not only economically, but politically too because this is where the Black middle class is,” said Earl Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “So you’re essentially lopping one of the parts of the district that has economic and political clout.”

Blighted communities in South Los Angeles, in both the 8th and 9th districts, are at great risk for losing resources that fund not only redevelopment of the area but social programs, as well.

“I think there is reason for deep concern on the part of the elected officials and constituents in these areas,” Hutchinson said. “The greatest concern is that we in fact will be even further marginalized at City Hall. Our needs, our wishes have not been taken into consideration by the commission.”

In an ideal world, communities like South Los Angeles, should benefit from where district lines are drawn because resources are allocated evenly, giving underserved communities a greater voice, which is crucial now that the Community Redevelopment Agency has been closed down.

“The CRA used to take care of the issues of blight and poverty, but those tools don’t exist anymore to improve the quality of life for those very vulnerable residents,” Roberts said. “And South LA is where those issues are most acute.”

The map approved last night will be available online Saturday. The next schedule hearing is Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. at Los Angeles City Hall.