Toluca Lake residents got a new Los Angeles City Council representative for the new year, as the neighborhood switched from District 4 to District 2 in the citywide redistricting process that followed the release of new U.S. Census data. But while this change is a recent one, Paul Krekorian is far from being a stranger to the area. He’s a familiar face at local events, having represented the adjacent communities of North Hollywood, Studio City and Valley Village as a councilmember for the past 12 years. Before that, he served the district that includes Toluca Lake in the State Assembly. What’s more, he has a personal stake in the neighborhood as a Toluca Lake property owner for more than 20 years. (“I owned the house before my wife and I got married and we’ve rented it out since then,” he explains.) And Krekorian even has family history here: His mother was a waitress at Bob’s Big Boy before he was born, and his great-aunt worked at the late, great Papoo’s Hot Dog Show.
With such longstanding local links, Krekorian is enthusiastic and prepared to work on behalf of his new constituents. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have regained Toluca Lake as part of my district,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to being able to deliver the kind of attention and service to Toluca Lake that we have to other neighborhoods, and focus on the things that make life better in our communities.”
Homegrown Public Servant
A third-generation San Fernando Valley resident, Krekorian counts himself lucky to have experienced those qualities firsthand. “I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, at a time when the Valley was really seen nationally as America’s ideal suburb, and that was the kind of upbringing I had,” he shares. “It was a place where a family of modest means like mine could have a really exceptional life, and I had the benefit of a great childhood in communities that were neat and safe, and included excellent public schools and infrastructure that was well-maintained — a place of opportunity, where my dad, with a high school education, could have a small business that made enough money to help his family have a nice, comfortable life. That was because leaders in years past had invested in the kinds of services and infrastructure necessary to enable that life.”
Krekorian’s father, a World War II Marine Corps veteran, and his mother, an avid volunteer as a PTA president and Cub Scout leader, instilled in him the importance of community involvement. Interested in government from an early age, he worked for State Assemblymember Tom Bane while still in college, which further reinforced the appeal of public service. After becoming the first in his family to graduate from college, Krekorian went on to law school and practiced law for the next 20 years. In 2000, he ran for State Assembly and lost, but his path to public office continued after he married, had children who attended public school and was inspired to become involved in the local educational system. He was elected to the Burbank School Board in 2003, then became a state assemblymember three years later and won his seat on the City Council in 2010.
A Voice for the Valley
As some of the proudest achievements of his career thus far, Krekorian points to his long record of protecting public safety, especially against gun violence, including the city’s recent ban on untraceable “ghost guns.” Additionally, he cites his dedication to environmental protection and renewable energy. “I was the architect of the LA100 initiative, which is moving Los Angeles to become the first big city to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035,” he says, adding that he’s also worked to phase out single-use plastics from restaurants and pressed to eventually end oil and gas production in the city, starting by banning new drilling — a move that was unanimously approved by the Council in late January.
Meanwhile, as chair of the Council’s Budget Committee through the two worst economic crises since the Great Depression, “I’ve essentially led the city of Los Angeles back from the brink of bankruptcy twice,” Krekorian notes. “We went from facing three-quarters of a billion dollars in projected deficits to now having one of the largest reserves in the history of the city.” He’s made strides in economic development as well, including authoring the first California tax incentive to keep film and television production jobs in-state as an assemblymember, and later creating the Los Angeles Small Business Commission and authoring the city’s comprehensive job creation plan. As a board member for both Metro and Metrolink, he was instrumental in ensuring the passage of Measure M, which he calls “the most transformative investment in public transportation in the country in this generation.” Moreover, he was “the leading voice to make sure that the San Fernando Valley got its fair share of investments in Measure M, including the East Valley light rail line, the connection between North Hollywood and Pasadena, upgrades to the Orange Line and putting transit through the Sepulveda Pass” — steps that bolster the area’s economy as well as promoting environmentally friendly mass transportation.
And, of course, there’s the issue of homelessness, one of the biggest challenges facing the City Council right now. “I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done to create enough interim shelter and bridge housing in my district to house as many people as were unsheltered as of the last Homeless Count,” he says, including the construction of three tiny-home villages and the conversion of a hotel into permanent supportive housing. In addition, he opened the city’s first homeless services navigation center in North Hollywood, a drop-in site where people can get connected to housing resources, job training and social services. While making progress on housing and support, Krekorian has also worked to address the problems posed by homeless encampments, such as the ones under the Moorpark and Lankershim overpasses, by authoring revisions to the municipal code to enable the city to restrict encampments in certain areas and shut down those that have a history of serious crime, fires or other public safety threats.
Welcome to the Neighborhood
With his extensive local knowledge and vast experience, Krekorian is confident he’ll be able to make Toluca Lake’s transition to his district smooth and productive. Among the specific issues that matter to residents, he knows safety is a primary one. “Everybody is concerned that we’ve had an uptick in crime, particularly in property crimes, over the last couple years,” he says, though noting for context that the rise comes after decades of declining rates. “Especially in communities like we have in Toluca Lake, people are living here because they want that experience of feeling secure and safe in a place where you know your neighbors and you can walk your dog, and everybody knows one another. And so this is going to be one of my big focuses, by making sure that we have visible patrol and the police have the resources that they need to be able to address those concerns.”
Krekorian is also focused on the post-pandemic economic recovery, and believes his history as a leading advocate for the local film and television industry and small businesses is a perfect fit for Toluca Lake’s needs. He’s been a particular supporter of restaurants, promoting their survival through the pandemic with measures such as the L.A. Al Fresco program in North Hollywood, which partially closed streets to promote outdoor dining, and creating the Restaurant Beverage Program to streamline the alcohol permitting process for new restaurants if they meet certain requirements that protect the surrounding neighborhoods. And as the councilmember representing the NoHo Arts District, understanding the importance of local live theater to maintaining the character of the area, he created a grant program to keep theaters afloat during the pandemic. “I’m continually looking for other ways to be able to lift up the arts and culture sector of our local economy, and also our restaurants, so this neighborhood will continue to have that kind of vitality that makes people want to live here, and makes it a great place to walk and to bike and to visit,” he says.
Another asset Krekorian brings to Toluca Lake is the understanding that “constituent service is vitally important in order to retain the great character that this community has,” he says. “Residents expect our Council office to deal with constituent services efficiently and quickly, and that’s been a hallmark of my office in the entire time that I’ve been in public life.” When he was in the Assembly, his office started a program called Government at Your Doorstep, where staff members would go door to door throughout the district to introduce themselves and ask what they could help with. “What was very educational to me about that was that the vast majority of things that people mentioned really had nothing to do with the State Legislature or with state laws; they had to do with things that were happening in their neighborhood: ‘I’ve got standing water on the corner and I can’t get anybody to fix it,’ ‘My streetlight doesn’t work,’ ‘We need a stop sign here because people are speeding.’ That really convinced me how critically important it is to take care of those kinds of concerns, and how important the City Council is to everybody’s everyday quality of life. That’s why people know who their city councilmember is when maybe they don’t know who their state senator is, or their county supervisor. They want someone who they can call to take care of an issue that bothers them every single day when they drive home from work.” He took that lesson to heart when he became a councilmember, funding community beautification teams and hiring two staff members whose sole job is to handle issues like weed clearance and illegal dumping, ensuring that his office can respond to and resolve quality-of-life concerns quickly and effectively.
Krekorian acknowledges that in many ways, today’s Valley is significantly different from the one he grew up in. Some of the changes are positive: “It’s certainly a place that’s a lot more diverse now, and it has much more of its own economic base, so it’s not just a bedroom community, and it’s more vibrant that way.” On the downside, however, he knows it’s much harder for many families to buy homes and give their children the kind of upbringing he had. District 2 encompasses a quarter-million residents and runs the gamut from prosperous areas to struggling ones, with each community having its own distinct character and concerns, and Krekorian cautions that it’s difficult to articulate a single vision for an area so vast and diverse. Yet, it’s clear he believes strongly in the importance of investing in programs that can not only sustain the kind of lifestyle he and his family have enjoyed in the Valley, but also make it achievable for more residents. “I think no matter where you are on the socioeconomic spectrum, you have certain things in common,” he says. “People want to live in a community that’s safe, that’s clean and where people feel invested in it and care about it. People want to know that their kids are going to have an opportunity to succeed by getting decent jobs and decent housing that’s near those jobs. Those are the priorities that need to guide the policymaking that we engage in.”