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Double Bruin Ysabel Jurado runs for LA City Council ‘to represent my community’

Pictured is Los Angeles City Council District 14 candidate Ysabel Jurado. Jurado, who is also is a double Bruin, is a tenants rights attorney and affordable housing activist. (Courtesy of Alen Catolico)

By Sharla Steinman

Oct. 8, 2023 7:10 p.m.

This post was edited Oct. 8 at 10:01 p.m.

Double Bruin Ysabel Jurado is running to become District 14’s representative on the Los Angeles City Council.

Jurado received her bachelor’s in political science from UCLA in 2012 and eventually returned to earn her J.D. in UCLA’s public interest and policy and critical race studies programs in 2019. She is currently a housing rights attorney who fights against tenant evictions and assists small businesses at risk of losing their leases. Jurado sat down with the Daily Bruin to discuss her goals once elected and how her experience at UCLA has affected her journey into politics.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Daily Bruin: Can you tell me about why you want to run for city council, and then specifically why in this next election?

Ysabel Jurado: I’m running for LA City Council to represent my community. I’ve lived in this district all my life, even when I was an undergrad commuting to UCLA via bus. Through that time, we’ve had four council members – all men who have run this district down, resigned in disgrace – one is in prison, carpetbaggers, and now a guy that refuses to resign despite evidence of a shady backroom deal. I’ve always been so invested in my community, given my upbringing of working so hard to get a modicum of stability. I’m a daughter of undocumented immigrants. I was a single teen mom that transferred from Pasadena City College to UCLA and then to go to UCLA again to become an attorney for my community, defending workers against wage theft and tenants against evictions.

Just seeing how much the economic schisms that I knew so well growing up had deepened during the pandemic as an eviction defense attorney, and then also the racial reckoning that was after George Floyd’s passing – these tapes were the last straw. For me, I felt betrayed by our political leadership, especially when the LA City Council is supposed to be the bellwether of progressive politics. Yet here we are with these “progressives” that are participating in gerrymandering and racist and homophobic conversations. So feeling really disappointed and frustrated and called to be of service for my community – that’s why I’m running. You need someone who’s from and for this community that gets the struggles and isn’t a career politician.

DB: What made you want to represent your community in District 14?

YJ: This district is a working-class district made out of 70% renters. It’s multiracial. Most of this district makes $100,000 or less and the status quo politician is not in this community. It’s their failed policies that ensured that I was going to go to court and not have a great resolution for my clients. In fact, we have 50,000 eviction notices filed just between February and August of this year. So we need someone on the city council with a progressive vantage point who cares about renters in an authentic way to make sure that folks are not falling through the crack into homelessness. I view this district as a working-class district that needs a working-class representative.

DB: How will your background as a housing rights attorney allow you to work towards solving our housing crisis and alleviate constantly rising rent?

YJ: The cost of living is just constantly going up. As an eviction defense attorney during the pandemic, I was at the frontlines of our failed policies, watching folks go through the system. I used to always say it was such a sad job because I was witnessing institutional failure on a daily basis. Often, doing that work didn’t feel like winning.

That sobering experience brought me to become a community economic development attorney, where we could look at longer term solutions: Trying to take properties off the speculative market by working with community land trusts that will steward buildings and land for 99 years and committing to making them permanently affordable. Or transitioning current tenant housing into housing cooperatives where the tenants eventually become owners, and in doing so are committed to keeping this property affordable for the foreseeable future in giving low-income tenants a pathway to ownership and to some equity – maybe not the same as 100% equity, but to some, which is a marked impact and difference than what we have right now.

Those are the kinds of initiatives that I think we need to look at, especially other initiatives like social housing here in LA, which can address folks’ housing needs at multiple income levels. Even a middle-class Angeleno can’t afford to find an apartment these days, right? There’s a study that shows that a single adult that makes $75,000 is considered very low income here in LA – that’s ridiculous. Finding an apartment, feeding yourself and living with joy becomes a lot harder. I think my housing experience as an eviction defense attorney, housing rights advocate, and working closely with tenant organizers makes me the expert in this race and a housing rights and renters champion.

DB: How has UCLA impacted or influenced your career path, whether it’s as a lawyer or going into politics now?

YJ: I picked UCLA because it had a public interest program, and I knew I wanted to be of service to my community. It also had the critical race studies program, which is one of the best in the country with leading scholars in the field. I got to learn under Professor Cheryl Harris and Kimberlé Crenshaw, and that is so deeply ingrained into all of the work that I do and the lens that I bring to lawyering or even to politicking. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today, fighting these fights across the spectrum, without that education. It’s definitely left an indelible impact on me. I bring that insight from my education and mentors into lawyering and in the political arena.

DB: Have you had a notable experience at UCLA that really made you want to go into politics?

YJ: I never thought I was going into politics, really. I had worked in city government for a while, but I was jaded by what we were doing. Then I went to law school and committed myself to being in community spaces and being a community lawyer. I think my advocacy has never ended. There was one time when we had met with Janet Napolitano when we were at UCLA Law School at a closed round table. I think she was a UC Regent at the time, and putting her on task with one of my law school colleagues who was also in the public interest program, talking about – what about undocumented immigrants and scholars’ rights on campus and their safety? I always kept that advocacy going on in whatever spaces I’m in.

DB: Can you name any challenges you faced at UCLA or in your career thus far, as a lawyer and now going into politics?

YJ: I’m a proud transfer student from Pasadena City College. They always tell you the transition is really tough, and it really was. I was a transfer and a commuter. My daughter was three years old and just started to bite me. It was really tough transitioning because of the caliber of education, the competitiveness amongst the students. Figuring out how to balance it and still trying to work and then realizing that I needed to focus on my education and really absorb all the things I could– that meant sometimes I had to sleep in my car in between classes because I was commuting, or sleeping in the library. Charles Young Library (Young Research Library) was my favorite place.

I don’t know if I ever got the hang of it, but there were just so many opportunities that opened up for me in terms of internships. I did a JusticeCorps internship, which is unique to some campuses. I worked at the LA County Superior Courthouse doing family law and helping litigants fill out their forms. Previously, I had worked at small law firms as an assistant for personal injury and estate planning. I was interested in going to law school, but was not really interested in that, but it was paying the bills.

It was my experience in family law that made me figure out what I wanted to be doing. I was going through my own custodial issues with my family life and being a teen mom. I was meeting with folks who had a fifth-grade education or were monolingual, multi-children, unable to see their kids and they relied on me to help them for legal help. I remember thinking that our legal system was so inaccessible and inequitable. These were the communities I wanted to serve and l just set out to continue doing that ever since.

DB: LA City Council has had quite a past in the last couple of years with stability. What do you think you can bring to the board that others haven’t been able to?

YJ: If you look at the past three years, we have had four council members indicted for federal charges, some have already been in prison, and some of them come from Sacramento down to LA. I think there’s something to be said about the Sacramento career politician coming to City Hall – they’re not really here to serve the community.

I think the stability that I hope to bring to the district is someone that people already know – someone they already trust – and really helping to build the progressive bloc on the LA City Council so that we can fight for stronger renter protections and get more affordable housing into the district in communication with community groups already doing that work. The community groups that I work with feel like they’re excluded from the process. What if the city council member actually listened to them and gave them resources to do the work, instead of replicating it and not doing it as well? When I’ve talked to people to vote and knocked on doors, their baseline is, “We just want someone who’s honest and who we can trust to respond to services, like the streetlight getting fixed, the trash getting picked up and the curb getting fixed.” Those are the city services that people in the district really want addressed. They also want us to address what we can on the city council level, such as housing and affordability issues, or changes to our budget, so that we can make sure we take care of our communities.

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Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
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