Zev Yaroslavsky (born 1948) is a Los Angeles County, California, politician who was on the Los Angeles City Council from 1975 through 1994 and has been a member of the County Board of Supervisors since then. He has been active in pro-Israel causes and was a leader in opposing Soviet antipathy toward Jews in the USSR.
Zev Yaroslavsky, the son of David and Minna Yaroslavsky, was born on December 21, 1948, in Los Angeles. He and his older sister, Shimona (married name: Kushner), were the children of Jewish immigrants from Russia and grew up in a Zionist household in Boyle Heights. His father was a founder of the Hebrew Teachers Union in Los Angeles, and both parents, who were born in Ukraine, were founders of Habonim of Los Angeles, a labor Zionist youth movement. Yaroslavsky recalled that his parents spoke to their children only in Hebrew to prepare them for emigrating to Israel. They took their children to that country when Shimona was thirteen and Zev was five. Shimona later emigrated permanently.
Yaroslavsky went to Melrose Avenue Elementary School, Bancroft Junior High School and Fairfax High School. He earned a bachelor of arts in history and economics from UCLA in 1971 and a master of arts in history, specializing in the British Empire, from the same school in 1972. Afterward, he taught Hebrew at temples in Pasadena and Bel Air.
He was married to Barbara Edelston, whom he met at UCLA. In 1985, when he was a City Council member, a newspaper reporter found them living in the Fairfax District, "in a drab yellow structure with peeling paint and a dirt-patched front lawn." The same reporter said that Yaroslavsky spent much of his spare time following world events on television, "scanning the networks with a remote-control device." They had two children, Mina and David.
At UCLA he was, by his own account, a "flaming liberal." In his sophomore year, Yaroslavsky was taken to visit relatives in Moscow in the USSR and learned that "life for Jews in the Soviet Union was grimly oppressive." On his return to college, he organized a group called California Students for Soviet Jews, which picketed a Russian track and field team in town for an event. In December 1969 he guided a protest march against the USSR's treatment of Jews, which attracted 5,000 people, including Mayor Sam Yorty and television performer Steve Allan.
Later he worked as executive director of the Southern California Council of Soviet Jewry, and in 1971 made news when he boated out in Los Angeles Harbor late at night to paint graffiti in favor of Russian Jews on the side of a Soviet ship. He also led demonstrations against Soviet ballet companies and orchestras. He was arrested during "an aborted stunt involving black balloons at a Bolshoi Ballet performance." He was "deeply involved" in a campaign to burn Standard Oil credit cards after the company sent a letter to 300,000 stockholders that appeared to support a pro-Arab Middle East policy. He resigned that $150-a-week job to campaign for the City Council.
As a councilman, he announced that he would go to Skokie, Illinois, in June 1978 to attend a rally protesting a planned march by American Nazis through the heavily Jewish Chicago suburb. He called the march "an insidious provocation which should shock the conscience of every American."
In 2001 Yaroslavsky was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and immediately changed his diet and lifestyle, beginning a regular exercise regimen that eventually pulled his weight down from 215 pounds to 185 in 2008.
See also List of Los Angeles municipal election returns, 1975 and after.
In 1975, Yaroslavsky ran for the Los Angeles City Council District 2 seat that had been vacated by Edmund D. Edelman when Edelman was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In the primary, he was second after Fran Savitch. Rosalind Wiener Wyman, who ran third in the primary, later endorsed him over Savitch, and in the final vote Yaroslavsky won, 23,372 votes to Savitch's 19,606.
Yaroslavsky, 26, was sworn in as Los Angeles's youngest councilman on June 10, 1975, to complete Edelman's unexpired term. After the ceremony, Mayor Bradley told him "Congratulations. Now you're part of the establishment," to which Yaroslavsky recalled that he replied, "Yes, but the establishment is not part of me."
In that era (1979), District 2 was said to represent "A mixture of wealth and earthier life-styles that reaches from the San Diego Freeway through the Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park and beyond. Communities as scattered as Atwater, North Hollywood and Los Feliz are included in it, as well as the more affluent part of Studio City and the Hollywood Hills."
Yaroslavsky was reelected thereafter until he resigned in 1994 to go to the county's Board of Supervisors, where again he succeeded Supervisor Edelman, who was retiring from the board.
His City Council colleagues called him "the most driven and most ambitious" of their members. Some of the positions he took included:
Yaroslavsky planned to run for mayor against Tom Bradley in 1988 on a "slow growth" platform, but the Los Angeles Times noted that there were two sides to that claim. The headline and blurb of a major feature that took up almost all the first page of the newspaper's Metro Section in February 1988 read:
The Two Sides of Zev Yaroslavsky: He's been a crusader for slow growth who has assailed Mayor Bradley as pro-development. But the councilman has also worked quietly in support of the same projects he has publicly criticized. This duality is expected to come under intense scrutiny during Yaroslavsky's bid for mayor.
"I lead a dual life," Yaroslavsky told a reporter. "I have to deal with the practical, day-to-day monotony of negotiations between contesting parties. . . . I can't lock myself in a closet and say, 'I'm a crusader.' "
The investigative feature was accompanied by a chart that listed nineteen buildings of eight stories or more, or of comparable size, that were opened during Yaroslavsky's term in office to that time, including the Beverly Center a "shopping-restaurant-movie mall built on the site of a popular pony ride and amusement park," Westside Pavilion and Fox Plaza complexes and two structures at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. On the other hand:
Yaroslavsky and fellow Councilman Marvin Braude, also from the affluent Westside, had joined in 1986 to push the passage of Proposition U, a successful initiative measure that aimed to slow down or halt the building of commercial high-rise districts near residential areas. He also, for the first time anywhere, insisted on factoring in the effects of increased traffic caused by commercial development, which "is now used as a standard measurement in gauging the impact of growth."
He also drove ordinances that imposed height limits on single-family homes and small businesses, which saved the Pico-Robertson area from being overrun with tall buildings. Yaroslavsky countered that, in the case of the Westside Pavilion, he did not want to "spot-zone a piece of property and go after somebody."
The Times, however, found that Yaroslavsky had taken "unpublicized official actions to help projects he either criticized or outright opposed," including writing ordinances favoring two large projects that he later said he was against. He also received strong financial support from major developers.
In September 1978 Yaroslavsky and Councilman David S. Cunningham, Jr. called for investigating the Police Department's controversial Public Disorder and Intelligence Unit, saying the unit's guidelines are "overly broad, and permit extensive political, as opposed to criminal, surveillance." He said that the LAPD kept files on nearly 200 organizations, including the National Council of Churches and the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews, of which he had been executive director. He later made a written request to Police Chief Daryl Gates asking how much was being spent on secret intelligence gathering while the LAPD was being "faced with a reduced total force and rising street crime." He did so after an assistant chief refused to provide the information to the council, even in a closed meeting.
Yaroslavsky later authored a successful freedom-of-information ordinance that, among other things, required the police department to furnish citizens access to their police intelligence files, or else explain why it couldn't do so. The department balked, with Assistant Police Chief Robert Vernon saying it would be "stupid" to tell a potential terrorist that it has no file on him and that Yaroslavsky had a "lack of integrity" by voicing unfounded charges against the department.
He also campaigned against the LAPD's supposed use of "choke holds" while making arrests and the paucity of women and minorities on the force.
Board of Supervisors
Yaroslavsky represents the Third Supervisorial District of Los Angeles County, which encompasses the cities of Malibu, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Calabasas, as well as most of the western San Fernando Valley and other portions of the City of Los Angeles.
Yaroslavsky won his first term on the Los Angeles Board of Superviors when Edmund D. Edelman did not seek re-election in 1994. In his 2006 re-election race he ran against David Hernandez, a Republican and retired insurance adjuster who campaigned to keep the cross on the Los Angeles County Seal, and Randy Springer. Yaroslavsky won the election, receiving 70.49% of the vote in the primary.
Yaroslavsky has taken controversial stances on transportation issues in Los Angeles County. He wrote and sponsored the MTA Reform and Accountability Act of 1998 (Los Angeles County Proposition A), which banned the use of county sales tax revenue for the planning or building of subways, a law which is a significant barrier to the construction of the Metro Purple Line subway extension to the Westside. However, he has championed bus rapid transit investment in general and the Metro Orange Line busway in the San Fernando Valley in particular.
The supervisor was also an early proponent of easing Westside traffic by converting Pico and Olympic Boulevards into complementary one-way thoroughfares.
Yaroslavsky is one of five Los Angeles county supervisors, an office with much more power than mayor of Los Angeles. Zev got his start in politics demonstrating in behalf of Soviet Jewry. Now he is chief executive of the part of Los Angeles county that includes Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Hollywood, Malibu and much of the nicest parts of the San Fernando Valley.
60s radical activist who had a great sense of humor. Co-founder of "Yippies". Chicago Eight Defendant (3, maybe 4 were Jewish). Called the grotesquely unfair trial Judge-(Julius Hoffman-Jewish) a "shonda for the g-yim". Annoyed him by claiming to be his illegitimate son. Abbie was fun.