Meet Nithya Raman, running for City Council in Los Angeles, District 4
The 4th district includes parts of Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire, Miracle Mile, Fairfax, Hollywood Hills, Sherman Oaks, Hollywood, Cahuenga Pass, North Hollywood, Los Feliz, Griffith Park and Silver Lake.
Nithya is a current City Council member running for re-election. She is an urban planner by training, so she has been a long time observer of cities. Before becoming a City Council member, her love of urban areas and Los Angeles led her to follow LA politics and to stay informed and engaged with current issues. Over time, Nithya saw that there were so many more people experiencing homelessness in her own neighborhood than before. She began volunteering and joined her neighborhood council’s homelessness committee and even started her own volunteer group. Her group would go out and meet people living in tents and try to connect them to helpful services. This is what made her realize that the city could be doing much more to tackle this issue— so she decided to run for office. Her platform focuses on homelessness, housing costs, tenant protection, and environmental issues.
We learned from Nithya that in Los Angeles, there are only 15 council members for a city of 4 million— making these districts the largest in the country with about 260,000 residents in each one. Within these districts, council members use legislative power to craft policies that shape the lives of the residents around them. Nithya also told us that Los Angeles has what is known as a “Weak Mayor System” in which the council members actually hold a significantly higher amount of legislative power than in a typical city council.
Nithya mentioned that since her district is so big, she is working to create council expansion to break up some of these districts into more manageable areas. This would make sure that people in these communities could have a much closer connection with their local elected representatives. She believes that the number of city council members should be at least doubled to account for the amount of people in the city.
Along with making standard city level decisions, council members make decisions about what types of things can or cannot be built in each district— this is called land use control. As a current City Council member, Nithya told us that part of her job involves placing and funding affordable housing projects. She says that since Los Angeles does not have a citywide response on homelessness, council members typically handle a lot of that response on their own.
Nithya believes that the best way to tackle homelessness is to focus on the dignity of unhoused people. She sees her campaign as a source of empowerment for people who feel helpless about the current homelessness crisis. In this spirit of empowerment, Nithya’s volunteer group has become the community and advocates for so many unhoused people throughout the years. She mentioned to us that many of her volunteers also benefited from this program as they were able to make a positive impact on a situation that felt very overwhelming to many. Nithya says her people-centric approach naturally draws people in and has helped her create so much positive momentum towards reshaping the city for the better.
To Nithya, success would mean that there is more affordable housing in Los Angeles and residents are actually given the rights and resources needed to stay in their neighborhoods without getting priced out. Preventing displacement and keeping communities whole is one of her priorities. Another one of her ultimate goals is to reduce the number of people on the streets by creating a stronger web of tenant protections and preventing homelessness before it happens. Nithya says that she is ready to be bold and set big goals at a time where we need that the most.
Riding off the success of her last election, Nithya is running for City Council again in 2024. She officially launched her campaign on May 20th and got to have a moment of celebration where numerous elected officials— including the current mayor, stood beside her in support. She says that this campaign already has positive momentum behind it and that she’s excited to be getting back out and telling important stories about Los Angeles.
Nithya has 7 year old twins and says that a core part of her identity is being a mother. She carries this identity with her throughout her work as a city council member and is motivated to create a better world for her children. She also believes that it is important to redefine what the image of an elected official typically looks like and to get people to start thinking more openly about who really represents Angeleno’s. She is excited to be one of those people who is representing her community members and working to make people’s lives better.