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José Adelante

Councilman José Huizar is relaxed, but in a hurry too

"I'm getting impatient," the relaxed man in the blue blazer, who never seems impatient, tells me.

After addressing a neighborhood watch group in University Hills, Councilman José Huizar grabs a corner window seat with me and watches the crowd disperse. He has brought his wife, sitting on the other side of the room, waiting patiently, and his political consultant, Mike Trujillo, and left his tie and any trace of concern about his coming election at home.

But mention CRA failures in his district or affordable housing, and the Councilman indeed professes that he's a lot less than relaxed.

"You know, Garcetti and Reyes have taken up the restructuring of affordable housing, and are supposed to be issuing a report. It's taken them quite a while," Huizar says. "It's been too long."

With forty days left before the 2011 elections, the Councilman has been subjected to a hotter spotlight than at any point in his preceding five years as Councilman. And he returned the favor, in an exclusive sit-down with street-hassle, with more than a few observations on how the City does business.

The community of University Hills abuts Cal State LA, and it's also adjacent to one of Huizar's best hopes for redevelopment in his District: the Biotech Corridor, visualized five years ago, that might someday stretch along Valley Boulevard from USC's health care complex to the newly-dedicated property added by the County of Los Angeles.

Huizar has told the community earlier that now, thanks to an agreement between the City and County, earnest hopes for development at the long idle site can now begin.

He also tells me that the Adelante project in Boyle Heights has been slow-and-go, but promises to break ground on two more projects in the zone within a year.

And about that would-be deal that fell through three years ago for the Sears Center, with Oscar de la Hoya?

"The great problem with that deal is that the Sears property was part of a New York hedge fund," Huizar explains. "It was next to impossible to deal with them."

A part of the City's powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, the Councilman isn't too concerned about the controversies surrounding CPIO Zones.

"We're bringing it back to Council with a few [modifications]," he says. He considers public opposition slight.

While the Councilman has recently taken some lumps in media, he also remains absorbed by what scribes and pundits say. It even turns out that Jose Huizar is a big Jon Regardie fan.

"I love his columns," the Councilman says of the Downtown News's executive editor, who often lampoons Huizar and the Mayor's civic actions and private lives too. "He's just funny. Even when I'm his target."

"The Downtown News does as good a job as the Times, sometimes even better," he says. "It's amazing because obviously they don't have near the resources."

While Regardie may be really good at stitching satire into current events, Huizar may also be throwing more than a little shade towards the other significant fishwrap downtown: the The Los Angeles Times. Times scribe David Zahniser has been on the Councilman's back the past few days.

Last week, Zahniser broke a story about the Councilman's office maintaining lists that monitored influence--a story whose source was Huizar's opponent's mother. Yesterday, Zahniser amplified Council President Eric Garcetti's concerns about forming a quorum yesterday; for the first time in recent memory, the Council President singled out two Councilmen, Huizar and westsider Paul Koretz, and admonished them publicly.

"I was in the building," Huizar says, still beaming a grin. "I don't think Paul was. Our staffs were talking to each other...we were, what, two minutes late?"

Was it a stunt? A new Garcetti, trying to prove he has a backbone after all? The Council President has all but declared his intentions to run for Mayor in 2013...

Huizar smiles all the more broadly. "I don't know. Maybe." He wears the grin of a man who now appreciates a good political stunt, even when he's at the receiving end of it.

This is how José Huizar is most markedly different from the candidate for Council I interviewed five years ago. He's always been easy going, but now he seems to enjoy the give-and-take of political life far more.

Earlier, as the neighborhood watch meeting ends, a woman shouts "Who are you running against?"

After five years, the Councilman has perfected a comedian's sense of timing.

He pauses and grins sheepishly; he may answer, he may not. He simply keeps grinning.

"Uh...nobody," he says at last.

The room explodes with laughter.

"His name is Rudy Martinez," Huizar says at last. "He has a restaurant and a bar in the district."

"I'm not voting for him--I don't trust his face!" a woman cries out in a heavy Spanish accent, and the room is full of laughter again. This, the Councilman's twenty-fourth community meeting of this election cycle, is José Huizar's crowd, and José Huizar's night.