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Neighborhood Council Candidates Include a Few Actors, a Husband-Wife Team and a Fake Pot Plant

The Studio City Neighborhood Council race offers a colorful array of candidates.

There was a Marine, a husband-and-wife team running against each other, a few actors, a Studio City resident who has lived here six decades and many others with a wide variety of interests.

One of them brought his 5-year-old daughter, who earned applause for being good. One of them brought a plastic pot plant that was almost as tall as him. 

The held a meet-and-greet session Tuesday night, and held at the CBS Studios Radford lot, it was predictably a colorful crowd.

“I will be working here tomorrow on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” said actor Geoffrey Going. “This is my first time getting involved in the Council.”

The Neighborhood Council is an advisory committee to the Los Angeles City Council. It’s not a paid position, but it controls some money that is doled out to the community and used for community events. Kevin Taylor, of Empower LA who is running the elections for the area, emceed the event and allowed each candidate to talk about their concerns for Studio City.

Sam Humeid, of medical marijuana distributor, said his running for a Neighborhood Council position “is a sure sign of the Apocalypse.” He brought a prop—a life-sized plastic pot plant that was a movie prop in the 2008 comedy Pineapple Express. He explained that with the city’s recent “gentle ban” of companies like his, he would have to grow 16 of the tall plants year-round.

“The idea of the ‘gentle ban’ is totally flawed, and I’m mad as hell about that,” Humeid said.

He said he was also mad as hell about the staircase on the other side of the Colfax Bridge wasn’t completed, and mad as hell that people have to “play the human version of Frogger” to make it across the street at Ventura Boulevard because of the traffic.

He is running against Lisa Cahan Davis for the At-Large seat which every stakeholder can vote in. Davis has worked for more than three years on committees at the council doing projects like the Republic Pictures 75th Anniversary celebration and the SCNC banners throughout the area.

“And has anyone else here fallen and been hurt by the broken sidewalks?” Davis said. “Is it just me? I want to be able to walk around the area.”

The most competitive race is the nine candidates running for four spots in the Residential Homeowners positions. There, the husband-and-wife team of attorney Sarah Angel and Dan Nieman, who works for an education nonprofit. 

“We are not running against each other, but with each other,” Nieman said. They have a one-year-old daughter and joked that if they both make it on the Council they have a lot of relatives nearby to babysit. “This is my first Neighborhood Council meeting.”

Of course, it wasn’t quite a regular meeting, that usually goes into the late hours of the night. This meeting was finished in less than two hours.

His wife, Angel, said she kept up with the Council activities by reading Studio City Patch, and said she enjoys a lot of the neighborhood community activities. She hoped to see more concerts in the park, or movies on the roof of the parking garage and activities like that.

Lifelong local and vice president of the Council, Lisa Sarkin, discussed her work as the Land Use chair, and also being part of the Ventura-Cahuenga Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan board. 

Sarkin said she is concerned that all development have a permit, and that fees owed through code enforcement be collected by the city.

“I have enjoyed working for the community and hope to continue to do so,” Sarkin said.

Present Council President John Walker said, “I don’t have a personal agenda.” He talked about how he lived in the Studio City hills and in 1999 his house slid down the hill and no insurance covered it. Then, he bought a house in the flats of Studio City. “It was a devastating experience,” he said. He also ticked off the list of Council accomplishments and offered credit to many of his colleagues for things like the detailed environmental report response to the Universal Studios Evolution Plan.

Denise Welvang, who was appointed to the board by Walker, said she was concerned about the “crumbling infrastructure in the area.” She is one of the few homeowners who has a house right on Ventura Boulevard and has the unique perspective of dealing with businesses nearby and the residential issues.

Matt Pyken, also running for a homeowner’s seat, is a TV writer (Castle, Queer as Folk, NCIS) who went to school at Walter Reed Middle School (“when it was called a junior high”) and has worked in politics as a consultant. Now, he wants to get more involved in the community and said he has specific plans for alleviating traffic. He said he was also concerned in school overcrowding and that Carpenter Community Charter is meeting the residency requirements. He introduced his wife and 5-year-old daughter in the audience, and mentioned his dog Cashmere, who was not in the audience. 

The residential renters position has three positions opened, and six people running, including Lana Shackelford and Ron Taylor who are now on the council.

“Stalled traffic and the Universal Expansion Project are the two biggest concerns for Studio City,” Shackelford said.  “The more we can have more places to walk to in Studio City, the better.”

Taylor said he has the unique position of being a homeowner and now a renter in his quarter-century of living in Studio City.  He said it is important to offer suggestions for Land Use, especially to curb some of the traffic problems.

Geoffrey Going, who is also running for a Residential Renter position, detailed many specific ideas such as getting speed bumps added in some neighborhoods and making the area a “greener” community. He proposed shared bicycle locations and more bike paths.

Shoshona Raphael talked about going to school locally in and working with her family at. She also owns a condo in Studio City. 

“Studio City is a great place to live, and I want to keep it as the gem that it is,” Raphael said.

John Lawler, who served four years in the Marines, is an independent contractor who lives and works locally.  “I want to give back to the community and I think I can be being on the Neighborhood Council,” he said.

The two Service positions are uncontested and will keep Remy Kessler and Richard Niederberg in their seats.

“We are an advisory board to the City Council and I want to encourage those of you who don’t get elected to stay involved,” said Kessler, who served as treasurer for the council, is also on the Park Advisory Board that oversees four local parks. The first time he ran for office seven years before, he lost.

Niederberg is president of the local Optimists Club and he discussed the many projects he helped spearhead, including the Luminaria.

Scott Ouellette said he bought a house in the Colfax Meadows area when he finally could afford it. He said, “I’m very concerned about the Universal Evolution Project because the traffic ramifications would be bad.”

Rita Villa, an accountant, has served as the secretary for the Council. She pointed out that businesses can thrive while not affecting traffic.

“It is our local businesses who contribute so greatly to the village atmosphere that makes Studio City a great place to live, work, and play,” Villa said.

Pasha Vafaee is a senior high school student, spending his last year at the Oakwood School, and is running uncontested for the Youth seat. 

“Most of my friends live and work here and, and over the next year I hope to get more youth involved,” Vafaee said.

Most of the speakers were concerned about traffic and the Universal project.

Some of the candidates: Arthur Hughes, Jane Drucker, Eric Feder, Lisa Yacoubian, Karen Eisenberg and Gail Steinberg were not on the panel at the public meet and greet. You can read their statements at the Council site: http://studiocitync.org/2012/08/meet-the-candidates

Kevin Taylor, of Empower LA, said there are 95 councils throughout the city and some of those members have gone on to run for other political offices. He said, "I am impressed with the quality and professionalism of the candidates that are on the ballot in Studio City."

Also, any candidate can add additional information to please consider adding your statement to Studio City Patch. Click on START A BLOG above under the photos on the front page or, for detailed video instructions

most of the day held at Walter Reed Middle School

KDogg September 12, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Karen Eisenberg (candidate for residential renter) was there! I was actually in attendance at the meet and greet last night. I sat in the audience with my 7 year old daughter and mother. Unfortunately I was about a half an hour late because I attended Back to School night at Carpenter Avenue Elementary, which did not let out until 7:10pm. I am also currently 9 months pregnant and was experiencing contractions so was not able to stay for the entire event or sit at my spot at the table with the rest of the candidates.
Sam Humeid September 12, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Again the Patch managed to quote me out of context. The actual campaign statement made was: ".....Many of you [the audience] see a medical cannabis dispensary operator running for public office as a sure sign of the apocalypse. I assure you it is NOT. The reason I am campaigning for an unpaid, 2 year commitment to civic duty is, I AM MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!" Being misquoted by an organization that is relied upon as a factual news source, makes me madder than anyone would like to see. Please visit my campaign website www.Sam4SCNC.com. You will see medical cannabis is not a vital part of my platform. Studio City and Los Angeles at large is suffering from mismanagement and differed maintenance. Although medical cannabis is an important issue that I will keep working on, our daily quality of life is being impacted by a failing economy and corrupt political practices. PATCH.com you do such a good job of reporting on local issues, please do an equally good job of quoting people properly.
Scott Ouellette September 12, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Best wishes for a safe delivery of your new child. I hope you and the baby do very well.
Mike Szymanski September 12, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Read Karen's statements on Patch, too: http://patch.com/B-cnV3
Scott Ouellette September 12, 2012 at 05:22 PM
For those candidates who share my concern over traffic, you're welcome to attend the Transportation Committee meetings which are held on the first Thursday of every month at 8pm at the SCNC office. Ben di Benedetto and I co-chair the committee.
Lisa Cahan Davis September 13, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Thanks, Scott, for reminding the folks reading this article as to how to get involved. And...for those candidates and stakeholders who want to help promote the SCNC and it's initiatives or develop programs that create a more cohesive community, please join the monthly Outreach Committee (2nd Monday of month @ 6:30 pm). Info at www.studiocitync.org. NEXT SCNC BOARD MEETING is Weds., September 19 @ CBS - 6:30 light dinner, 7:00 start. As our street banners say "Make a Difference. Get Involved."
Sam Humeid September 16, 2012 at 03:05 AM
The video of my commentary can be found at https://www.facebook.com/perennial.hwc For more information on my candidacy, please visit www.Sam4SCNC.com
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