Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has appointed L.A. City Council member Katy Yaroslavsky to a seat on the board of the county’s regional transit agency, bringing the board to full strength for the first time this year.
Yaroslavsky, who was elected to City Council District 5 in November, is the fourth member of the Los Angeles city delegation on the 13-seat LA Metro Board of Directors.
The appointment, announced Thursday, March 16, solidifies Bass’s stamp on LA Metro, an agency with a $9 billion budget that runs 2,200 buses and seven rail lines and accounts for 800,000 daily boardings.
The other L.A. city members are Bass, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and L.A. City Council President Paul Krekorian, who represents the San Fernando Valley. Yaroslavsky takes the place of former councilmember Mike Bonin, who served on Metro’s board for nine years.
Yaroslavsky was an aide to former L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who retired last year, and she has worked on affordable housing, arts and environmental issues.
She is honing in on Metro’s struggles with drug overdoses on trains and station platforms, bus driver assaults and homeless passengers who ride trains and buses, using them as mobile shelters.
“Our Metro buses and trains are ground zero for our homelessness crisis, and the Metro Board has a critical role to play in our regional approach,” Yaroslavsky said in a prepared statement. “That means building housing on Metro-owned properties, ensuring true community safety on Metro buses, trains, and stations, and connecting unhoused riders directly to services.”
Yaroslavsky noted that two major rail projects are in her district, which includes the Westside from Westwood to Bel Air to Palms, plus Pico-Robertson, Greater Wilshire and Mid-City West. The two projects she referenced are the extension of the D (Purple) line to Westwood, nearing completion, and the proposed Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project that would connect the Westside to the San Fernando Valley.
Bass said in a statement that her appointee’s priorities are to build affordable, workforce housing on properties along the D (Purple) Line and include ways to get to and from the new D Line train stations, such as bike routes and safe pedestrian walkways.
“An excellent choice,” said Bart Reed, executive director of the nonprofit Transit Coalition, which advocates for additional rail and bus systems to unclog roads in Los Angeles.
Reed said Yaroslavsky will bring a renter’s perspective, less based on homeowners who often drive cars and whose groups sometimes oppose new transportation projects. In her November election to the City Council, she replaced outgoing councilmember Paul Koretz, who didn’t favor adding bus lanes to the Mid-Wilshire area, Reed said.
On homeless issues, Reed said Yaroslavsky has “more of a willingness to deal with the ongoing situation with compassion.” He described her as having a “can-do” approach.
Two groups that have lobbied the board to eliminate fares entirely wanted Bonin to stay on the board. Bonin was a strong advocate of a “fare-less” Metro system, but it was not adopted. He also pushed to de-emphasize armed law enforcement through Metro Transit Ambassadors. Launched this month, the program provides teams of greeters who help customers with directions and report trouble to authorities.
Oscar Zarate, senior organizer with Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), said the group joined with the Alliance for Community Transit (ACT LA) in asking that Bass choose from Bonin, L.A. City Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, and UCLA doctoral student Dominique Butler. Zarate said the three were acquainted with being transit riders and would be sensitive to low-income passengers.
“There has always been a concern with what we see as a disconnect on the Metro Board with riders,” Zarate said.
Bass and Yaroslavsky did not respond to requests for comment.
The 13-member board is made up of all five L.A. County supervisors, Lindsey Horvath, Janice Hahn, Hilda Solis, Holly Mitchell and Kathryn Barger; four members from the city of Los Angeles appointed by Mayor Bass; and four members appointed by the City Selection Committee from smaller cities representing four sectors — north county/San Fernando Valley; southwest corridor; southeast/Long Beach; and San Gabriel Valley.
Of the 13, eight are women and five are men.
“Now you have women on the board who want to be problem-solvers,” Reed said. Zarate said he didn’t know Yaroslavsky’s views on transit issues. “We will see how it goes. I’m eager to talk with her.”
The Metro Board’s next meeting is Thursday, March 23.