Yaroslavsky on the Hammer Museum as a ‘Living Organism’

A New York Times article on the $90 million renovation of UCLA’s Hammer Museum cited Zev Yaroslavsky, the longtime civil servant and patron of the arts who now directs the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “For a museum to really have longer-term impact on the community, it has to be a living organism,” said Yaroslavsky, who served on the L.A. City Council in the 1980s when the museum project was approved. “Annie and UCLA have ensured that this is a 21st-century space, not just a 1980s space,” he added, referring to Ann Philbin, who commissioned the renovation soon after she arrived in 1999 to assume the role of museum director. The New York Times said the renovation is part of a building boom that is transforming the vibrant Los Angeles museum world and caps the Hammer’s emergence as one of the more influential museums in the country.


Yaroslavsky on L.A.’s Neighborhood Councils

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to LAist’s AirTalk about how Los Angeles’ neighborhood councils work and whether they make a difference within their communities. Los Angeles has almost 100 neighborhood councils, which function in an advisory capacity to provide a direct mode of communication between residents and the City Council members who represent them. The system “has brought communities closer to municipal government,” Yaroslavsky said. “How much impact it’s had is not clear.” He said a big strength of the councils is that they bring together a cross-section of community members who are actively involved in local issues. But there is also a risk that the councils be asked to endorse projects from special interests without complete and transparent information, leading to unintended consequences. “That, to me, is a weakness,” he said.


Yaroslavsky on the Evolution of L.A. Governance

Zev Yaroslavsky, who served as city councilman and county supervisor in Los Angeles for 40 years, spoke with the California Sun about the evolution of L.A. governance. Politics today is “much more coarse, meaner … less of ‘how do we solve the problem’ and more of ‘how do I score a political point,’ ” he said. But he expressed faith in the county’s young, energetic voters who are holding officials accountable. “Voters are not as foolish as the political class thinks they are. They have a pretty good B.S.-sniffing meter, they’re attuned to what’s going on, and they know what they want,” he said. Now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, Yaroslavsky shared results of the annual Quality of Life Index, which identified housing costs as residents’ top concern. Homelessness, he said, is “one of the great stains on our society,” caused by a wealth gap that lies at the root of most of our social problems.


Yaroslavsky on Standing Up Against Hate

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KPCC’s “AirTalk” about a new report on hate crimes in Los Angeles County. In 2021, the number of reported hate crimes rose from 641 to 786, the highest since 2002, according to the county’s Commission on Human Relations. The most targeted groups were the Black, LGBTQ, Latino and Jewish communities. Yaroslavsky said public officials must use their positions of authority to stand up against hate. “You speak up. You make it socially unacceptable to behave in bigoted ways, not just antisemitism but racism, sexism, homophobia,” said Yaroslavsky, who served as a Los Angeles councilman and supervisor for 40 years. “One of the most important roles an elected official can perform is to set the bar high when it comes to human relations, and to give no quarter to anyone who advocates persecution, who traffics in bigotry and antisemitic or racist tropes.”


Yaroslavsky on New Faces at L.A. City Hall

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to LAist about recent upheaval in local government. In the 15-person L.A. City Council, one member has been suspended, two were defeated in reelection bids, two others left to run for other offices, and one resigned amid the scandal over a leaked recording of a racist conversation. As a result, several new faces will join the council, including a community activist, a labor organizer and six women — the most the council has ever had. Yaroslavsky, who served on the City Council and county Board of Supervisors for decades, praised the range of life backgrounds brought by the newcomers. “It is not good for the City Council to be a homogenous entity where everybody has the same career and life experiences,” Yaroslavsky said. “That’s not been healthy. And I think it’s part of the reason that there’s a malaise in City Hall.”


Yaroslavsky on What’s Next for Los Angeles

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, weighed in on big issues facing greater Los Angeles in the aftermath of recent elections. A Los Angeles Times op-ed asked civic leaders for ideas on how to improve local governance. Yaroslavsky, who served for decades as an L.A. city councilman and county supervisor, recommended appointing a homelessness czar empowered to “cut through the thicket of bureaucracies that too often slows or prevents progress.” He wrote, “The unhoused don’t have time to wait for a complete overhaul of this broken system. … The creation of a homelessness czar would be a departure from the norm, but a radical departure is what we need.” Yaroslavsky was also cited in an L.A. Times article about county Measure A, which would empower the Board of Supervisors to fire an elected sheriff who commits a serious infraction. “It really needs to be a slam-dunk kind of transgression,” Yaroslavsky said.


Yaroslavsky on the Scandal Shaking L.A.

Zev Yaroslavsky, the longtime city councilman and county supervisor who now directs the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to several media outlets about the scandal shaking L.A. City Hall. The release of a recording that captured racist and disturbing comments by city officials is a sign that the governance system is profoundly broken, Yaroslavsky said. “I don’t think there’s been anything like this in city government since the ’30s and ’40s, the corruption heyday of Los Angeles,” he told Politico. “As much as it was a racist, racial, ethnic disparagement of everyone in town, it was more about power. It was a raw power grab,” he told the New York Times. The prospect that three members of the City Council would be forced to step down has no precedent, “but this whole crisis is without precedent,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Yaroslavsky also spoke to the Los Angeles Daily News, KCRW’s “Press Play” and KPCC’s “Air Talk.”


Yaroslavsky on Concern Over Angelenos’ Mental Health

A Los Angeles Times article on rising concern about Angelenos’ mental health cited the work of Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. In the last few years, residents have endured skyrocketing inflation, extreme heat and drought, an alarming rise in hate crimes and the lingering effects of a devastating global pandemic. This year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index, which measures Los Angeles County residents’ satisfaction with their lives, found the lowest score since the survey was launched in 2016. “What it said to us is that county residents aren’t happy. There is an anxiety level here that is unprecedented in my lifetime,” said Yaroslavsky, director of the survey and a longtime public servant in Los Angeles. He noted that one-quarter of respondents said they go to bed each night worrying they will end up living on the street — all part of a “perfect storm” of mental health stressors afflicting Angelenos today.


Yaroslavsky Assesses Candidates’ Plans for Tackling Homelessness

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about plans to combat homelessness put forth by Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, who are vying to become L.A.’s next mayor. With Election Day two months away, the candidates have offered details about their ambitious proposals for sheltering the city’s unhoused, including cost estimates and strategies for clearing bureaucratic hurdles. “I don’t think either of those plans will accomplish what they say they are going to accomplish in a year … but I think it’s good to set the goal,” said Yaroslavsky, who served as a city councilman and county supervisor in his decades of public service. Yaroslavsky proposed a single, countywide homelessness executive empowered to budget money and make land-use decisions. “Let the city and the county create a new paradigm, set a new template of political collaboration and cooperation and effectiveness,” he said.