By Michael J. ARVIZU
Sunland and Tujunga residents turned out en masse Saturday to elect a new Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council to replace what many say is an assembly that has conducted little to no work, failed to address community issues, and has lacked in luring new businesses to the area.
Approximately 671 ballots were cast during a six-hour election at North Valley City Hall in Tujunga, an increase over the 290 ballots cast in 2012, according to a voter turnout report provided by the city of Los Angeles.
Elected were President Mark Seigel (incumbent); First Vice President Tomi Lyn Bowling; Second Vice President Outreach Brenda Fortune; Secretary Sandra Baugus (who ran unopposed); Treasurer Nina Royal (incumbent); Region 1 Representatives Pat Kramer and Jorge A. Martinez; Region 2 Representatives: “Auntie” Gail J. Carlson and Arno Akobyan; Region 3 Representatives Michael Jones and David Barron (tied) and Jim Moore; Region 4 Representatives Maureen A. O’Byrne and Charlie A. Bradley.
The elections come at a time when Sunland and Tujunga face issues regarding homelessness, blight, lack of business development along the Foothill Boulevard corridor, a high number of marijuana dispensaries, traffic and questions about what to do with a former Kmart site that has stood vacant since the discount store closed in 2004.
Residents say the current neighborhood council has failed to address issues that, without attention, have become worse over time.
“Some of these people have been here a long time. They seem to think they own this,” said Sunland resident Louis Elovitz of the current neighborhood council members. “There are a lot of businesses that are not happening [and] a lot of vacant businesses.”
According to residents, the current Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council fails to focus on issues of immediate importance to the community, and lacks transparency and outreach.
“They don’t address anything,” said Sunland resident Elaine Brown. “I would like to see a change. I am not necessarily thinking that the greatest people in the community are running. I picked the best people I thought would do the job to get rid of the entrenched incumbency.”
Only two incumbents out of four on the packed ballot were re-elected to their posts – treasurer Royal, and president Seigel. The majority of the candidates were longtime residents running for the first time.
“I voted for the people who have experience,” said Tujunga resident Abby Diamond of her choices. “I don’t think the executive candidates should be allowed to run without having had prior experience. It should be across the board. You have to have served at least one term in a group position before you can run for executive board.”
Diamond hopes the new neighborhood council will address what she feels is lack of enforcement of the Foothill Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan, a document drawn by the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission in 2001. The plan outlines specific guidelines for land uses and development.
She faults the neighborhood council for not enforcing this plan, allowing for degradation of twin cities’ landscaping and business façade infrastructure along Foothill Boulevard.
“The place is just neglected. There’s no enforcement when businesses don’t follow the plan,” Diamond said. “We have beautiful mountains here; they’re diminished because of the ugliness on Foothill.”
The new neighborhood council was scheduled to be introduced at a special meeting on Wednesday at North Valley City Hall.