The residents of Los Angeles City Council District 6 in the San Fernando Valley have been without a representative since October, when then-City Council President Nury Martinez resigned in disgrace after leaked audio recordings captured her racist, divisive comments.
The special election to fill the vacant seat is a sprint to the April 4 primary, with barely enough time for the candidates to campaign and voters to learn about them. If no candidate wins 50% of the vote, the runoff will be June 27.
Perhaps because of the quick turnaround (with a regularly scheduled election next year), the race hasn’t attracted established politicians, such as state legislators or school board members, as is typical in L.A. Instead, Council District 6 voters will choose from among seven candidates who, aside from serving on neighborhood councils, would be first-time elected officials.
There’s value in bringing fresh faces and new energy to City Hall. But Council District 6, which includes Van Nuys, Panorama City, Arleta and Sun Valley, also needs a conscientious, collaborative and savvy leader to help restore trust eroded by the leaked audio and other political corruption scandals of recent years, while delivering services for communities that have been neglected by city government for decades.
Voters have several good candidates to choose from, but we think Marco Santana is the best.
Santana grew up in the district and has worked on the ground there for years, so he’s deeply familiar with the area. He comes to the campaign with passion and detailed policy proposals to address the district’s opportunities and struggles.
Santana has spent the last five years helping to move homeless individuals and families into shelter and housing as director of engagement at L.A. Family Housing. Homelessness remains the most pressing issue in Los Angeles, and Santana, who has to work constantly with city and county agencies, would bring direct insight into what does and doesn’t work.
Colleagues describe Santana as a “systems thinker” who understands the root causes behind complex problems, like homelessness, and is practical, collaborative and effective in trying to address those problems. He’s a respected leader, someone equally comfortable working with homeless clients or speaking at a conference.
Before he decided to focus on homelessness, Santana worked with residents and businesses in the Valley as a district representative for former state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and as a field representative for Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Pacoima).
Two other candidates stand out for their experience and achievements. Longtime community advocate Imelda Padilla has worked as an organizer for Pacoima Beautiful and Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and was a field deputy for Martinez from 2013 to 2014. She has a reputation for being a hard worker who cares deeply about the community, with a focus on youth.
Marisa Alcaraz, deputy chief of staff and environmental policy director for L.A. Councilmember Curren Price, is credited with helping pass significant antipoverty policies, including the $15 minimum wage, street vending regulations and universal basic income pilot project. She is described as smart, collaborative and someone who understands how City Hall works.
The other candidates include Isaac Kim, who runs a men’s skin and hair care company; Antoinette Scully, national organizer at the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation; Douglas Sierra, who recently worked as a business consultant; and Rose Grigoryan, who runs a marketing company and has been a reporter for an Armenian TV station.
There are few major differences on policy or ideology among the seven candidates. Almost all want to see more housing built in the district, which is a refreshing change from the antidevelopment fervor of years past. Santana, who is a renter and grew up in overcrowded housing, is a strong advocate for building more housing on transit corridors, letting religious institutions build homes on their underused properties and encouraging accessory dwelling units, duplexes and other small-scale developments in single-family neighborhoods.
Most of the candidates support making it easier and safer for people to take transit, bike and walk, which is a significant shift in a city that has long prioritized motorists. Many also support hiring more social workers and unarmed safety ambassadors to respond to nonviolent 911 calls, though they differed on whether that should lead to a smaller Los Angeles Police Department. Santana said he would consider moving resources from the LAPD to fund alternatives if there was no other funding available.
And there’s also agreement that CD 6 has been historically shortchanged when it comes to city services and investment.
That could change soon. The $2-billion East Valley light rail project will construct a 6.7-mile rail line along Van Nuys Boulevard, which used to be a commercial and governmental center but is now pockmarked with vacant storefronts. And the planners for the 2028 Olympics want to use the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area to host equestrian, shooting and canoe events, which will require construction of temporary or permanent facilities.
Residents and businesses need a skilled representative to ensure those big-ticket projects deliver lasting, meaningful improvement for the surrounding neighborhoods. Santana is the candidate most likely to help the district thrive.