Big turnout for launch of ‘Zev’s Los Angeles’

| June 29, 2023 | 0 Comments

DAVID E. JANSSEN, former Los Angeles County CEO, came from his retirement home in San Diego for the book launch on Larchmont. Photos by Gary Leonard

The official book launch for Zev Yaroslavsky’s long-awaited memoir, “Zev’s Los Angeles,” gathered a crowd of locals and distinguished friends of Zev from across Southern California. The event took place at Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont Boulevard on May 30.

The full house included the author’s son (and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge) David Yaroslavsky, attending with his wife, Fifth District City Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, their three young children and other family members.

Also in the audience were many longtime former Yaroslavsky staff members well known to constituents who worked with the Yaroslavsky city and county offices. In addition, former County Chief Executive Officer David E. Janssen came up from San Diego. Also in the audience were former State Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, former Congressman Howard Berman, former City Councilmember Cindy Miscikowski, current County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath and many locals, including Jack Humphreville, Patty Lombard, Bill Simon, Jim Clark, Mary Nichols, Ann Reiss Lane, Jon Vein, Andy Murr, Nick Goldberg, Chevalier’s co-owner Bert Deixler (who introduced Yaroslavsky) and his wife, Judge Leslie Swain, LA Opera Music Director James Conlon and many more.

Conlon was among those who wrote short blurbs for the back of the book, including Mayor Karen Bass, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, UCLA Jewish history professor David Myers, civil rights lawyer Connie Rice, longtime executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs (and just-appointed executive director of The John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation) Raphael J. Sonenshein and Miguel Santana, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation.

Young when elected

As previewed in this newspaper last month, Yaroslavsky’s book recalls significant events in the lives of a local man and the city and county where he lives.

He became a Los Angeles City Councilmember in 1975 at age 27, with very little name recognition and confronted with a Westside establishment opponent. The book’s reports on that campaign are fun to read.

The book also recounts the periods prior, including the passage of the author’s antecedents from Belarus and Ukraine to Boyle Heights and, then, the Fairfax District, where Yaroslavsky attended Melrose Avenue Elementary, Bancroft Junior High and Fairfax High, on his way to study history at UCLA and become an activist who served a stint as executive director of the Southern California Council on Soviet Jewry before running for public office.

A teaching text

CHEVALIER’S BOOKS was the site for launching the new book, “Zev’s Los Angeles.”

Because Yaroslavsky’s book features an actual participant in evolving what today is history, and because the author is a civic actor who shares with readers the actual background behind local history — such as the need for, and adoption of, Proposition U [see accompanying story on page 22] — I strongly commend the book to the newly elected councilmembers who will be overseeing the function of local government as we move forward.

Oft quoted by writers everywhere, in various ways, is the saying attributed to writer and philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Alternatively: “Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.”

Maybe some generous person will buy 20 copies of Yaroslavsky’s book and mail one to each current member of the city council and each county supervisor. That would be a worthy contribution to quality local government (if the recipients actually read the book).
Regardless, the book has been welcomed in the local and national press. Jim Newton’s excellent piece in the Los Angeles Times is at The New York Times also wrote recently about the book at

Public transit

I have been a public transit advocate and activist for the past 50 years. I smile when Yaroslavsky writes that every one of us in Los Angeles seems to have his or her own traffic horror story. In the book, he told his story — how long it took, one day, decades ago, for him to drive from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills. My own story involves driving west to UCLA along Santa Monica Boulevard in 1972. The long-ago conclusions for each of us were the same — public transit networks, not just streets and freeways, needed improvement.

As a county supervisor and therefore a member of the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Yaroslavsky was in a position to focus his fellow leaders on effective transit improvements. Those improvements should include, as he often recounted over the years, “simple solutions.” The book describes how his consciousness of that approach emanated from his experience as a county supervisor participating in the 1999 visit to Curitiba, Brazil, organized by Martha Welborne (she a private citizen and — full disclosure — this writer’s wife), financed by the W. Alton Jones Foundation, and led by then Mayor Richard Riordan. That trip led to Bus Rapid Transit in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States and to the highly successful Orange Line Busway in the San Fernando Valley, the latter largely the result of Yaroslavsky’s leadership and persistence.

The book’s recollections of that visit to South America rekindled memories for me, because I had paid my way to tag along and saw the serious study and analysis in action (including the memorable time when Yaroslavsky held up the rest of us departing on a bus while he paced the width of the street outside, exploring how the Curitiba street measurements might relate to those of our streets in Los Angeles.

Serious but funny

COUNCILMEMBER for CD 5, Katy Yaroslavsky, seated second from left, was present with her husband and children for her father-in-law’s book launch at Chevalier’s.

Zev Yaroslavsky is an intensely serious guy, but he also is sentimental and has a sense of humor. The strength of his love for Barbara, sadly taken from him and their children and from so many others of us who loved her, is an underlying leitmotif of the book and Zev’s story because she was such a presence in his life. But also sprinkled throughout the book are bits of evidence of Zev’s sense of humor.

For example, concerning his first campaign, he describes a mailing he did at the urging of his campaign advisor, leading to the Yaroslavskys receiving back 600 Easter cards “with warm, personal handwritten messages from voters.” He continues, “I was thrilled, because I always believed that anyone who has taken the time to print the name ‘Yaroslavsky’ by hand will never forget the experience.”

Zev’s Los Angeles: From Boyle Heights to the Halls of Power. A Political Memoir,” Cherry Orchard Books, 388 pages, is available at Chevalier’s Books and elsewhere.

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