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Rosendahl Announces Retirement at L.A. City Hall

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By Paul Chavez, Venice Dispatch

With his staff and chosen successor flanked behind him, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl in a voice whittled to a rasp told his City Hall colleagues Tuesday that he would beat the cancer forcing his retirement and would return to national public affairs television.

Rosendahl, 67, opened his nearly 20-minute announcement at the regular City Council meeting downtown by relaying an upbeat update on his condition. Rosendahl said he was diagnosed with stage-four cancer in the pelvic area July 20 and was not given much of a chance. His oncologist’s phone call Monday night gave him hope, he said, with news that recent tests had come back positive and her pronouncement that he was on the way to recovery.

Rosendahl has represented the 11th Council District, which includes Venice, since 2005.

In a wide-ranging address, Rosendahl said he had recruited Los Angeles multibillionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong to help lure two new National Football League teams to the proposed downtown stadium in order to create more jobs and would work on the project during his last eight months in office. Rosendahl, a Vietnam War veteran, donned an American Legion hat and said he also would work to find more housing for veterans. He also vowed to keep up the fight to close Santa Monica Airport.

As for Venice, Rosendahl said he wanted to see the zip line project installed on Venice Beach to keep beach bathrooms clean as part of a public-private partnership. He also said a project was in the works to provide 20 transitional housing units for the homeless on 3rd Avenue near Rose Avenue and that a major developer was embarking on a 124-unit complex mostly for poor senior citizens that also would provide housing for 30 to 50 homeless people with services. About 100 people also have participated in a program administered by People Assisting the Homeless to move the homeless living in campers to transitional housing, Rosendahl said.

“When I’m said and done, as I work through my last eight months, I hope to have roughly 200 people in permanent housing and supportive services that would not be there in Venice,” Rosendahl said.

He also lauded the Los Angeles Police Department for reducing gang and violent crime in Venice.

“I’m just very pleased that the good Lord is bringing me to a better position of strength, so I can take the next eight months and not only finish the term, but do meaningful things that are at the deepest of my heart,” Rosendahl said.

Rosendahl, who will retire next June 30 at the end of his term, said he wanted to seek a third term to help guide younger council members and any newcomers. Eight of the council’s 15 seats (3-year term and nearly $180,000 annual salary) will be contested in a March 5 primary election, followed by a May 21 general election.

Rosendahl in a retirement message sent Monday night to constituents said he was endorsing his chief of staff, Mike Bonin, to replace him on the City Council.

“I want him to win and I want him to win big,” Rosendahl said Tuesday during a press conference after his announcement.

Bonin, 45, announced his campaign Tuesday and launched a Web site that showed an early endorsement from City Council President Herb Wesson and a union representing hotel workers. His campaign co-chairs are former 14-year Westside state legislator Sheila Kuehl and Steve Soboroff, former CEO of Playa Vista and a principle behind the project to bring the Space Shuttle Endeavour to Los Angeles.

Bonin, who lived in Venice for 16 years before moving to Mar Vista two years ago, said Tuesday outside City Hall that he and Rosendahl started working together during a 2003 meeting at the Firehouse Restaurant in Venice. They both shared similar stances during that meeting on improving mass transit, favoring modernization over expansion of Los Angeles International Airport, a passion for improving the homelessness problem, creating affordable housing and for providing critical neighborhood services, Bonin said.

“We’re on the same page with all the major issues and sort of philosophically inline with how you do government in a way that benefits the constituents of the city and the district,” Bonin said.

Bonin, who moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s and was a reporter with the Wave newspaper in Compton, said he was undaunted by the city’s fiscal mess and looming renegotiations with city unions.

“I’m looking forward to continue to work in every neighborhood in the district and meet as many people as possible,” Bonin said. “I love the city of Los Angeles. I think this is a city with unparalleled talent and resources and energy and creativity. And, I think the 11th District is the epicenter of all that.”

Rosendahl in his final remarks before the council thanked his staff and said that he would be back with a progressive “Bobby Kennedy-era” public affairs television show. In a 2003 interview with Television Week, Rosendahl said he quit grad school to work for Kennedy’s campaign and was in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in June 1968 when Kennedy was assassinated.

Rosendahl, who has been moving with the aid of a walker, said afterward that he wanted to create public affairs programming to inform the country on critical issues and to make some money to buy houses in Los Angeles that he will convert into low-income housing.

He said that his chemotherapy will continue until it is no longer needed and it’s been working.

“I want to get back to the date I want to die, which happens to be when I’m 96, not 68,” Rosendahl said.

He also thanked everyone who has offered him support.

“You have to have love in your heart in order to make it,” he said.

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