What Does Downtown Need, Hal Bastian? (copy)

Hal Bastian with his dog Scooter.

DTLA-One of Downtown’s most heavily connected residents has thrown his hat into the ring in a bid to succeed 14th District City Councilman José Huizar.

On Sunday, Oct. 13, Hal Bastian, a local consultant and real estate veteran who previously served as director of economic development for the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, tweeted that he was declaring his candidacy for the seat. The election to replace Huizar, who will be termed out next year, is in March 2020.

“What started as a crazy idea in the shower is really happening,” Bastian tweeted. “I’m entering the City Council race for CD14.”

Bastian has been a Downtown figure for the past two decades, becoming one of its most recognizable faces. A longtime executive with the Downtown Business Improvement District, Bastian has been part of the Downtown revival, aiding as the Central City’s population ballooned from just under 20,000 residents two decades ago, to nearly 80,000 residents in 2019. He was born in the San Fernando Valley and lives in Downtown.

Bastian, who said he has contemplated a run for office on multiple occasions in the past, said that he was encouraged to run after being largely underwhelmed by the showing of two of the race’s leading candidates, former State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and former Los Angeles Unified School District board president Monica Garcia. The two squared off at a candidate forum organized by the Central City Association in September.

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“When it ended, I just found myself being totally uninspired by what they had to say,” Bastian said. “I said to the group surrounding me that shoot, maybe I should run, and they said yes you should. That was the beginning.”

Bastian said that he plans to focus on addressing mental illness and homelessness in his campaign, something that he feels requires a change in strategy from local leaders. He said that during the candidates forum, he didn’t hear any real answers on how to curb the city’ rising homeless population.

“We need to be doing some things differently,” Bastian said. “If you want to bring more affordable housing to the area, if you want to address homelessness, that requires real leadership. I didn’t hear any leadership from those candidates.”

Mr. Downtown

It’s safe to say that few have experienced Downtown’s resurgence like Bastian.

Raised in the San Fernando Valley before attending the University of Los Angeles, he arrived in Downtown in 1994 to work for brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield, before joining up with then-Historic Core property owners Tom Gilmore and Jerri Perrone to take over leasing of the pair’s Old Bank District buildings.

A lover of dogs — he’s often see around Downtown with his dog Scooter — Bastian focused on attracting other dog owners to the district in a bid to enliven the streets with people walking their dogs.

In 2001, the Downtown Center Business Improvement District tapped Bastian to serve as its director of economic development. He left the DCBID in 2014, having rose to the Executive Vice President. After leaving, he formed his own consultancy firm Hal Bastian Inc.

Known by many as “Mr. Downtown” or the “Mayor of Downtown,” Bastian also created the web series “What’s Up, Downtown?” which highlights the goings-on around the Central City and is known for creating the annual dog-friendly event, Dog Day Afternoon, now held at Figat7th.

While he’s been more recently associated with the Central City, Bastian said that he has connections outside of Downtown that will help him further connect with the other communities in the 14th District.

The district includes Downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, as well as Northeastern neighborhoods like Eagle Rock and portions of Highland Park.

Bastian said that he plans to conduct outreach and fundraising events outside of Downtown to better create platforms that work for each specific community.

"One size does not fit all,” Bastian said. “The one uniform thing that affects all communities right now, is mental health and homelessness.”

Each candidate is seeking to replace Huizar, who has been under a spotlight since last fall when FBI agents searched his home and offices as part of an apparent investigation into corruption at City Hall. Although no one has been arrested and charges have not been filed, the charges have left a black mark on the seat with some questioning whether the Downtown neighborhood was without proper representation.

Bastian said that he is not too worried about that, as he feels that support will return to the seat once there is a new face in the office.

“I think that the public will embrace a new elected official and a new staff for their community,” Bastian said. “These challenges are associated with the individual, not with the office itself.”

Including Bastian, de León and Garcia, eight candidates have filed paper work to run for CD14. If no candidate receives the majority of the vote in the March primary election, the two top finishers with battle for the seat that will be decided in November.

sthomas@timespublications.com.

©Los Angeles Downtown News 2019