Election 2023: Meet the candidates for LA City Council District 6’s special April 4 vote

Election 2023: Meet the candidates for LA City Council District 6’s special April 4 vote

It’s been nearly five months since San Fernando Valley residents in District 6 have had an elected official represent them on the Los Angeles City Council due to the resignation of former Council President Nury Martinez last October.

Then-Councilmember Nury Martinez addresses the Los Angeles City Council on Dec. 3, 2019. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Then-Councilmember Nury Martinez addresses the Los Angeles City Council on Dec. 3, 2019. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Vote-by-mail ballots have started going out this week to residents in Arleta, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sun Valley and Van Nuys for the April 4 special election to choose a new council representative.

Seven names are on the ballot in the following order: Isaac Kim, Imelda Padilla, Rose Grigoryan, Marisa Alcaraz, Antoinette Scully, Douglas Sierra and Marco Santana.

If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in April, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff election on June 27. The winner will finish out what was Martinez’ term, ending in December 2024.

Below are the candidates’ views on a few pressing issues based on statements they made to the Los Angeles Daily News, on their websites, or at a candidate forum hosted by the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (VANC).

Housing and homelessness

Every candidate identified homelessness or the region’s housing affordability crisis as a priority issue and said more mental health and substance abuse treatment services are needed.

Marco Santana, director of engagement for LA Family Housing, a nonprofit that provides housing and services to the homeless, wants more coordination between councilmembers. “L.A. city leaders must work together; having 15 different councilmembers with 15 different plans which stop at the council borders have made our homelessness crisis worse,” he said.

While permanent housing is being built, Santana said the city must quickly build temporary shelters. He proposed interim “safe parking” sites and overnight parking for RVs. He supports bringing to  District 6 a pilot program in Council District 7 in which people living in RVs are housed if they give up their vehicles.

Douglas Sierra wants to centralize the process for obtaining emergency housing vouchers and mortgage assistance by collaborating with the county. To speed up construction of housing stock, he’d make the permitting process easier for developers, including those who build market-rate housing.

Antoinette Scully, who’s worked as an outreach worker and housing navigator supporting the homeless, wants more sanitation services at encampments. She also wants to open more drop-in spaces, such as one she helped open through NoHO Home Alliance in Studio City, so the homeless have a place to pick up mail and receive food benefits.

Marisa Alcaraz said she’d make the construction of affordable and workforce housing a priority, along with expanding outreach teams and mental health workers to engage with those on the streets. She’d like to create a “by-right program” so developers who include affordable, workforce or permanent supportive housing in their projects can get fast-tracked approvals. As a staffer for Councilmember Curren Price, Alcaraz worked to bring Solid Ground, a homelessness prevention project, to L.A.

Rose Grigoryan wants incentives for developers and property owners to build or provide affordable housing, streamline the approval process for affordable housing projects, build more tiny home villages as interim housing and work with small businesses to create jobs for the homeless to help reintegrate them into society.

Imelda Padilla wants to hold the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority accountable and to find out from the agency details such as the number of homeless in District 6 who are veterans, seniors, have experienced domestic violence or had been incarcerated so that the city can apply for funding specifically earmarked to serve those populations.

Isaac Kim endorses Services Not Sweeps, a coalition of community organizations that advocates for regularly scheduled street and sidewalk cleanings, as well as a secure place where unhoused people can leave their belongings during the cleanups. The coalition also advocates for the removal of law enforcement from such environments. Additionally, he supports the expansion of rent stabilization in the city.

When it comes to the city’s anti-camping law known as 41.18, which prohibits homeless encampments near schools, daycare centers, parks and other designated areas, Scully and Kim want the ordinance repealed, and Santana said he would “definitely look at repealing it.”

“The idea was to enforce city beautification, but in reality, it can be deadly to already vulnerable Angelenos without cover from rain, heat, and wind,” Scully said of 41.18, adding that the policy “criminalizes” the homeless.

Sierra said he would not enforce the 41.18 ordinance unless housing was available to offer to a person living on the street. Otherwise, the unhoused person would simply move their tent to another street, he said. He wants to amend 41.18 to require the City Council to consider how enforcement in one area may impact nearby districts.

Padilla said she’d only enforce the anti-camping law if the community demanded it, or if a large encampment blocked sidewalks or walking paths near a school. She stressed that she’d work to get the homeless into housing with support services immediately.

Alcaraz expressed support for 41.18, though she also noted the importance of providing mental health and other services for those experiencing homelessness.

“When paired with our street engagement strategy, (41.18) can help people experiencing homelessness get connected to services and shelter,” Alcaraz said. “As a mom, I support its enforcement around sensitive areas where our children are, like daycare centers, schools, parks, and libraries.”

Grigoryan said she would enforce 41.18 “with discretion and compassion.” If an unhoused person is suffering from a mental health or substance abuse issue, she would deploy a mental health team to provide services. But if a person chose to remain unhoused, law enforcement should move them into shelters, she said. It may also be necessary for a mental health professional to take additional actions if an individual might harm themselves, she said.

“Should we leave the person (alone) and do nothing? No, it’s not criminalizing. We have to help the people,” she said.

Police and public safety

There was less consensus among the candidates about the role of police and whether certain calls that LAPD officers respond to, such as when someone is experiencing a mental health episode, would be better left to social workers or other trained experts.

Kim said he’d review LAPD’s budget and eliminate services that aren’t working, and reinvest the money in  housing, homelessness, youth development and education, “to really solve more of the problems in our city than just putting a Band-Aid on it.” He said he’s leaning toward reducing the officers on the force, though he’d want to conduct a comprehensive review of the department and its needs before taking a final position.

He also said that generally speaking, armed officers should not respond to non-violent calls. “If it’s a non-lethal, non-violent type of call, I’m much in support of sending non-lethal personnel,” he said.

Scully said the number of officers on the streets should be reduced and funds should be reallocated to mental health “and other care services.” She wants to fully defund the police department.

Grigoryan wants to look at data to identify high-crime areas and deploy resources depending on need, including potentially increasing patrols. She also wants to invest in youth programs to keep young people out of trouble.

Padilla and Alcaraz support increasing the LAPD force, while Sierra said the department should at least fill positions lost due to attrition. He’d be “comfortable” increasing the force from about 9,200 officers to 9,500.

Padilla and Alcaraz both said additional civilian officers should be hired to free up more sworn officers to work the streets.

A staffer to Councilmember Curren Price, Alcaraz noted she helped launch a Community Safety Partnership pilot program that emphasizes relationship-building between officers and community members. She wants to expand such programs to the Valley.

Padilla said sworn officers should focus on responding to “true crimes” while moving away from responding to calls like mental health episodes or noise complaints. She also wants to work with local police captains to increase emergency response times.

Santana, likewise, wants police officers to focus more on violent crimes and crime prevention and said he’d divert them from traffic enforcement and minor non-violent disturbances. He said the city should analyze the types of 911 calls it receives and staff accordingly based on need.

Sierra said the city should audit LAPD and scrutinize expenditures. For example, he said requests to purchase more helicopters, which he estimated cost about $20 million each, or robot dogs – valued at about $250,000 or more per robot – should be justified first.

Trust in local government

In October, District 6 lost its representative on the City Council after Council President Nury Martinez resigned in disgrace. She had been caught in a conversation secretly recorded a year earlier with two other councilmembers – one of whom is no longer on the council — as they discussed with a powerful labor leader how they could rig the city’s redistricting process in their favor. In that backroom conversation, Martinez made racist and demeaning remarks about Blacks and other groups.

The backlash was swift, and the public called for reforms including increasing the number of representatives on the City Council and creating an independent redistricting commission. For decades, the council has had 15 seats even though L.A. has ballooned in population. By increasing the seats, each councilmember would represent fewer Angelenos, reducing each councilmember’s individual power.

The City Council appoints commissioners to its redistricting board and gets final say on how council districts are redrawn, a process that typically takes place every 10 years based on updated U.S. Census data. Many critics have called for an independent redistricting commission to remove such power from the councilmembers.

The audio leak was the latest in a string of scandals and corruption cases that have plagued City Hall in recent years.

All six candidates who attended the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils candidates forum said they supported expanding the City Council beyond 15 seats, and  an independent redistricting commission. Grigoryan was not present at that forum.

Two candidates – Padilla and Alcaraz – have worked in City Hall, and a third, Santana, has worked in politics. The other candidates call themselves political outsiders, which they see as an asset in restoring public faith in city government.

Padilla has worked for the city and county of L.A. in the past, including in Nury Martinez’s council district office as a field deputy from 2013 to 2014. She has denounced the comments made by her former boss and views her various experiences in local government as an asset.

“My experience in local government doesn’t just stem from working in City Hall or for the county,” she wrote in an email. “It also stems from serving on my neighborhood council and the L.A. Youth Council. These experiences give me the ability to hit the ground running with both community-based knowledge and governmental expertise.”

She’d like to hold town halls with focus groups to discuss race relations. To improve the public’s trust in City Hall, Padilla said she’d establish committees with business leaders, members of the LGBTQ+ community, nonprofits and families and she’d meet with them monthly or bi-monthly.

Alcaraz proposed taking some power away from council offices, especially when it comes to deciding on affordable or workforce housing projects, as a check-and-balance on City Hall. She also wants to reopen Van Nuys City Hall to re-engage residents in the Valley.

Santana said he wants to have a public advocate, an independent inspector general and wants to reform the city’s ethics commission to make it independent of political pressures.

Sierra said some council meetings should be held in Van Nuys. The council should have at least 25 seats instead of 15, he said. And as a candidate who has never worked in politics, Sierra views that as a good thing.

“I am not a politician and I have never worked for a politician – and I say that proudly,” he said during the VANC forum. “The same type of people get elected, and you see the same type of results. So part of the reason I decided to run for City Council is because I believe that we need a new voice that has no political experience.”

Kim proposed weekly virtual town halls to improve transparency and accessibility and pledged to hire a team that would be diverse in race and age.

Scully said the string of City Hall scandals speaks to why it’s important to elect someone without ties to City Hall.

To build trust and improve transparency, Grigoryan said it’s important for the next councilmember to engage with community members by sharing what they’re doing, what their plans are — and by listening to the community.

Candidates at a glance

Candidates for Los Angeles City Council District 6, in the order in which they appear on the ballot:

Isaac Kim, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Isaac Kim)
Isaac Kim, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Isaac Kim)


  • Age: 34
  • Residence: Van Nuys
  • Occupation: Owner of a men’s grooming and skincare company.
  • Volunteer work: Volunteers at church, in the neighborhood and with homeless resource groups.
  • Quote: “I am running to strengthen our democracy and bring a different perspective to the role. I have not been in the same political circles and I don’t owe anybody anything except my neighbors and people of CD6 to do the best job for all.”
  • Priorities: Regain community’s trust, redefine role of councilmember “to get the small things done right” and restore health and wellbeing of District 6 and the city.
  • Website: isaacforthevalley.com
Imelda Padilla, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Imelda Padilla)
Imelda Padilla, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Imelda Padilla)


  • Age: 35
  • Residence: Sun Valley
  • Occupation: Community engagement manager on leave from Sierra Heritage Medical Group.
  • Other work/volunteer experience: Worked at Pacoima Beautiful and Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, to raise the county’ minimum wage to $15 per hour. Was a field deputy in former Councilmember Martinez’s office and in County of L.A.’s chief executive office. Volunteer work includes serving on Los Angeles Youth Council and Sun Valley Neighborhood Council. Founded Adelante Hombre Latino Youth Summit.
  • Quote: “I have spent the last 20 years advocating for the residents of the San Fernando Valley and bringing home results.”
  • Priorities: Homelessness, public safety and local infrastructure/economic development
  • Website: imeldapadilla.com
Rose Grigoryan, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Rose Grigoryan)
Rose Grigoryan, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Rose Grigoryan)


  • Age: 37
  • Residence: North Hollywood
  • Occupation: Owner of business specializing in marketing and investments.
  • Prior jobs/volunteer experiences: Worked as journalist for Armenian television stations. Social activist; volunteers with tenant rights groups and in the community.
  • Quote: “I stand out as being a woman immigrant who came (to) this country alone. I was able to serve my community, create job opportunities, serve the community .. and now I am ready to invest all my experiences, potential, time and resources to serve my district and the city.”
  • Priorities: Provide affordable housing, prevent and reduce crime, and support small businesses.
  • Website: www.rose4la.com
Marisa Alcaraz, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Marisa Alcaraz)
Marisa Alcaraz, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Marisa Alcaraz)


  • Age: 38
  • Residence: Lake Balboa
  • Occupation: Environmental policy director and deputy chief of staff to City Councilmember Curren Price.
  • Experience: Employed at City Hall for 15 years, worked on $15 minimum wage and Ban the Box campaigns. She also worked on policies promoting a living wage for hotel workers, hero pay, a fair work week, the nation’s largest Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program, and legalizing sidewalk vending.
  • Quote: “I’m the only candidate in this race with significant experience and specific accomplishments in local government. Throughout my career, I have focused my attention on developing and implementing policies that address environmental, social, and economic justice.”
  • Priorities: Address homelessness and affordable housing crises; promote social, economic and environmental equity and justice; and restore public trust in government.
  • Website: MarisaForLA.com
Antoinette Scully, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo by Harry Lang)
Antoinette Scully, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo by Harry Lang)


  • Age: 38
  • Residence: Lake Balboa
  • Occupation: National organizer for Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation and a racial justice educator.
  • Prior work: Helped start a NoHo Home Alliance satellite drop-in program for the homeless. Has worked as a field case worker and housing coordinator.
  • Quote: “Our elected officials should be dedicated to anti-racism work. They should be explicitly committed to uplifting marginalized voices and creating laws that work for all of our constituents.”
  • Priorities: Address homelessness and repeal 41.18, the city’s anti-camping ordinance, expand public transit and its accessibility, and address climate justice issues.
  • Website: antoinetteforla.com
Douglas Sierra, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo by Steven Ty)
Douglas Sierra, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo by Steven Ty)


  • Age: 37
  • Residence: Sun Valley
  • Occupation: Management consultant
  • Prior work: Worked at non-profit A Place Called Home and the Child Care Resource Center, then in corporate finance at Gilead Sciences and Monitor Deloitte. Also tutored low-income students through AmeriCorps.
  • Quote: “I can bring a unique perspective to the position as a father, a true political outsider, and the only candidate that has both nonprofit and corporate experience. I am not a career politician. I am an invested constituent.”
  • Priorities: Address housing affordability and homelessness crises, invest in public transportation and infrastructure, and promote economic growth.
  • Website: votedouglas.com
Marco Santana, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Marco Santana)
Marco Santana, candidate for L.A. City Council District 6. (Photo courtesy Marco Santana)


  • Age: 32
  • Residence: Van Nuys
  • Occupation: Director of engagement and regional coordination, LA Family Housing.
  • Prior work: District and policy representative for state Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg and field representative for U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas.
  • Quote: “I will put my experiences of working with constituents, local non-profits, and community-based coalitions to work for everyone in CD 6, and the city as a whole. I will bring proven solutions that house the unhoused and fight to create better and more inclusive neighborhoods for all.”
  • Priorities: Address homelessness, improve neighborhoods by investing in businesses and public transit, and make government reforms.
  • Website: www.MarcoForLA.com