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NRI Nithya Raman

After Helping India, NRI Nithya Raman, urban planner &
Councilmembe like to help Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, Sep. 2, 2021 A.Gary Singh

In Nov. 2020, NRI Nithya Raman, urban planner, elected Los Angeles City Councilmember, beat out former City Councilmember David Ryu for the seat in the 4th District. 

  • The district encompasses parts of the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, both Hancock and Griffith Parks, and more.

Raman tells Inside the Issues she won the seat by building a campaign that was designed to attract people who were already planning to vote in the general election and were interested in voting down-ballot.

  • When urban planner Nithya Raman ran for Los Angeles City Council in November, she pledged to take on a herculean task: finding permanent dwelling for the city’s more than 41,000 unhoused residents.
  • California is home to nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population. But the progressive policies Raman advocated for — defund the police and build a half-million units of government-owned housing — seemed radical to many residents in the district she won, which stretches from the neighborhoods of Silver Lake to North Hollywood and has some of the highest homeownership rates in L.A.

Nithya Raman wrote about her:
I am an urban planner, working mom of preschool aged twins, and an immigrant to America. I want to bring my expertise as an urban planner, my skill in building and managing teams, and my ability to build coalitions to bear on the challenges ahead for LA.

  • I’m also proud to be the only candidate in this race endorsed by Bernie Sanders.
  • I was born in Kerala, India. When I was very young, my grandparents cared for me when my father emigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities, and my mother had to move for work. My mother and I finally moved to the US to join my father when I was six, first living in Louisiana, then settling in the suburbs of Boston. My experience as a young immigrant to this country, and as one of the only people of color in my classrooms, shaped my decision later in life to focus on social justice in my work.
  • After graduating from public schools, I attended Harvard and later got my Masters in Urban Planning at MIT. 
  • I worked in India before and after my graduate studies. While living in Delhi, I witnessed the destruction of an enormous slum, where over 100,000 people’s homes were leveled — and was shocked to find that this mass displacement barely made the headlines. I spent more than seven years working in both Delhi and Chennai on issues facing slum-dwellers and informal sector workers, who were fighting for basic services like running water, toilets, protection from evictions, and better working conditions. As part of this work, I started Transparent Chennai, which created maps and data about urban poverty that helped to improve service delivery. 
  • In 2013, I moved from India to Los Angeles to be with my husband. I took a job with the City Administrative Officer of Los Angeles, where I was assigned to write a report detailing city spending on homelessness. What I found in my research shocked me. My report concluded that the city was spending over $100 million on homelessness — and almost 90% of that money was being spent on jailing people experiencing homelessness. Very little, meanwhile, was going toward services, outreach, treatment, and other effective paths to stable housing.

I left the workforce temporarily:

  • When I had twins, but stayed active in addressing homelessness in my own community, joining the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council’s Homelessness Committee as Co-Chair.
  • Stunned by rising homelessness in our part of the city, I and a group of neighbors started SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition in 2017, and grew it into one of the most active all-volunteer homeless services nonprofits in the city.
    • SELAH now conducts weekly outreach programs, and operates access centers providing hot meals, case management, showers, clothes, and other services to a region of the city severely lacking in resources for people who are homeless. The organization has enabled hundreds of volunteers to get involved and educated about homelessness in their neighborhoods, and regularly supports participants in accessing services and housing.

Most recently, I served as the first executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment, the organization that grew out of #MeToo activism, and was focused on equity and safety for women in the entertainment industry.

  • Under my leadership, our team launched a mentorship program for the executive and producer pipeline, published comprehensive Know your Rights resources related to sexual misconduct in the workplace, built a critics database, and created regular opportunities to build community among women in Hollywood.
  • I continued serving as President of SELAH while working at Time’s Up, and eventually found that LA’s homelessness crisis was pulling more and more of my focus.

 I spent nights and weekends trying to expand services in my community, and grew more and more frustrated by how little help we were getting from our elected officials.

 I often thought that if they felt as passionately about ending this crisis as I and my fellow volunteers did, we’d be living in a very different city today.

So I decided to do something about it. I’m running for this seat to implement transformative policies that can help guide LA out of our intersecting housing and climate crises.

I want to bring my expertise as an urban planner, my skill in building and managing teams, and my ability to build coalitions to bear on the challenges ahead for LA. 

Together, I truly believe we can build a more just, sustainable city where everyone can thrive.